WE were in the best of spirits, Will and I. He had received, that afternoon, a substantial check from his father's ample exchequer; and the same mail had brought me several interesting numbers of Words of Good Cheer from my former Sunday-school teacher.
So we were both considerably elated, and deeming the occasion one for a celebration of some sort, we decided on the theatre. Accordingly, at eight o'clock we swung down the aisle to our seats, and, adjusting our respective eyeglasses, began to take in the situation.
Now it happened that in the two seats directly in front of ours there were two as blooming maidens as ever appealed to the aesthetic nature of an appreciative undergraduate. In a word, they were girls not to be sneezed at; but rather to be smiled at, if occasion allowed.
I think it would be very difficult to find two more painfully proper young men than Will and I; but there were the two charming damsels right within arm's reach, as it were; and not to show some recognition of the fact seemed like flying in the very face of Fate. We are both naturally very modest, and not at all given to making advances to strangers, particularly to strangers of the gentler sort, but it seemed to be a clear case of foreordination, and we meekly acquiesced.
We accepted the situation: the girls' affections must be won, but how? A sight that had met our wandering gaze suggested the modus. Just in front of the girls, and consequently but two seats in front of us, there was one of those honest, real old-fashioned bald-heads, with about five hairs above each ear and all the rest a glittering expanse. Now, it has always been a theory of mine that if you can get a young lady to smile at what you say, you can soon get her to smile at you.
Hence we resolved facetiousness, both original and plagiarized, should be the weapon of our aggression, and that same bald-head the battleground.
Will was the first to let fly a shaft: "Say, Ned, do you see that effulgent bald-head two seats in front?" "Yes." "Well, do you know why that's like our college bell?" I gave it up. "Because it's got a good open clear(r)ing, and is probably not easily turned." We thought this a pretty good shot, and watched the effect. It certainly made an impression, but there wasn't that encouraging ripple of merriment that we desired. It was now my turn: "Can you tell me, Will, why that bald-head is a bad debtor?" "Why, because it produces no hair for its owner, though it must be hair owing to him." Still there was no evidence of hilarity in the seat in front; but I acknowledged that my effort was not irresistibly convulsive in its nature, and accordingly I did not feel greatly discouraged that it made no deep impression.
But far from being depressed by our want of success, we pressed zealously forward, and for fifteen minutes we centred the mighty energies of our intellects upon that bald-head.
Will conjectured that the baldness was owing to the probable fact that the gentleman had at some previous date boarded a month or two at Memorial, where the richness of the diet had shown such marked results, that he grew right up through his hair. It was also suggested that should he paint a face on the back of his head, he would reap a twofold advantage: one in that never, no matter what his position, could he be open to the accusation of turning his back on a friend; the other, in being able to boast in time of war that all his wounds were in front, no matter how often he was struck while beating a retreat.
It occurred to me that he was a man of very great culture. He certainly had a capital finish about him; it looked very much as if put on with sandpaper and oil. And no man had a better claim to general polish, for he needed only to remove his hat to show it.
Will said that the bald-head was like the north star, inasmuch as it was a polar luminary. It was also like a glass tube in a vessel of mercury, as it had no capillary attraction. Remembering my experience previous to the semi-annuals, I ventured the comparison, that a bald-head was like a high mark in N. H. 3; it made a fellow groan to get it, but once his, he would not part with it for the world.
Will, having taken third-year honors in History, suggested that our hairless friend was like the Chevalier St. George of England, all bal(le)d up on the crown.
But all this without the slightest visible effect on our neighbors in front. We were getting desperate. As a last resort, Will produced the time-honored simile of a bald-head and Heaven.
But 'twas no go. In an agony of exhaustion and chagrin, I gasped: "Why is that bald-head like centre-field in a ball-game?" "Because you hardly expect to see a foul(a) light there, though it's a magnificent place for flies."
The spell was broken; there was a sudden movement. One of the pretty heads was bent low over the back of the seat in front. Had the terrible tension at last given way? Would she roll off the seat with merriment? Would it be necessary for me gently to hold her in her place?
She leaned further forward, close to the gleaming bald-head, and said in tones clear and distinct: "Isn't it about time for the curtain to rise, father?" . . . I have n't been to the theatre since. I don't enjoy it as much as some folks do. I don't think it's quite moral.