Old Gus wasn't really a cynic. The boys thought he was, but they were prejudiced. Gus was just the janitor, and all janitors are queer ducks to college men.
Gus had a dollar bet with Brady, the drug clerk, that Swanson would defeat Grayside on Thanksgiving Day. Gus had lost a dollar each year for the past six years on that game. But, as he always confided to Nelly, a team can't win every time. Gus was still grateful for that six bits he cleaned up back in '28 when Swanson won by a safety.
So you understand, one couldn't exactly call Gus a cynic. The Dead-bones thought he was because he laughed when they said "Brute" Howell had school spirit.
It wasn't that Gus was skeptical concerning school spirit. He knew that that was what caused the boys to nearly fall off the bleachers in their enthusiasm every Saturday afternoon during November.
Nor did he dislike "Brute" Howell. Quite to the contrary, he was counting on "The Brute" to bring back his dollar from Brady. It was just funny, that's all. Gus had to laugh.
It never would have happened it the Dead-bones had not decided to hold their annual "smoker" on Tuesday night at least Gus wouldn't have known about it. But that was Gus' night to work.
The Dead-bones had over twenty rushees there that night. Fellows who were outstanding. Denham, the school editor. Starns, an honor man. "Brute" H o w e l l, Swanson's triple-threat star. Dead-bones was a select crowd.
Gus sat out in the dark hall and watched them through the half-open door. Several of the faculty were there; and Michaels, one of Swanson's most illustrious sons, the man who made the safety against Grayside in '28, was an honored guest.
Gus loved to watch them. It made tears come into his eyes when they stood up and softly sung of alma mater. Gus, though he had never passed out of the eighth grade, always felt as if he were a Swanson man.
He wasn't the only one that showed emotion. Michaels sobbed openly when he had finished his speech, and Denham, the editor, could not speak for the tears that choked his voice. Gus felt awfully sorry for him. He had always suspected Denham of being something of a snob.
Rather than show any emotion, "Brute" Howell covered his face with his hands and staggered through the door. Sympathetic hands patted him gently on the shoulder as he p a s s e d. Howell was overwhelmed with feeling in spite of himself.
Gus followed him down the stairs to see that he found the door without accident.
He could hear "The Brute" groaning as he hurried down the hall And he was muttering, "These cigars . . . these damned cigars!"
Gus wasn't really a cynic. It might have been school spirit. But he couldn't help laughing. You see . . . he had to clean it up!