The Vagabond


It was a hot late August day on one of those Southern New England trains which are in the habit of slowly running from Boston to Woods Hole. The train being in mid-journey and no immediate prospect of things quickly becoming either better or worse, the Vagabond was perhaps justified in assuming his habitual vacant air, which is to say neither better nor worse, glad nor sad.

Somewhere south of Brockton, however, he suddenly began to feel communicative. Turning slightly from the window, he bespoke the elderly portly man beside him.

"I see by the Crimson that they've got another crop of Freshmen coming up to Harvard."

This the portly man took in, slowly opening wide his big brown eyes. "Harvard?" he said, at length, "What's Harvard?"

"W-W-What? What's Harvard! You mean to say you don't know about Harvard? You've never read any of Samuel Eliot Morison's books? Why, everybody knows about Harvard. Even the professors at the Law School have heard." The Vagabond had been thrown for a terrible loss. He was apparently all for continuing in much the same exhorting strain, but the man with the big brown eyes broke in, quietly, sibilently.

"I hadn't heard. Suppose you tell me!"

"Certainly," and the Vagabond cleared his throat. "Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in this country. It was founded in 1636 for the training of clergymen. It is now--"

"Almost perfect mechanically. How stupid of me to forget. Now it all comes back. Harvard, of course. I used to teach there. Well, what's the Crimson?"

Now the Vagabond was afraid he had met with a most extraordinary person. If this fellow had really taught at Harvard, he must know about the Crimson. The Confidential Guide would have called the Crimson to his attention, or he would have called the Confidential guide to the Crimson's attention. The Vagabond would be wary.

"The Crimson, sir, is the student newspaper of Harvard, run entirely by undergraduates in the College and entirely uncensored by the University."

"What silly students! Don't they know there's never any news worth printing? Why do they have a newspaper?"

"All large colleges have newspapers. Particularly in a large college, it forms the only daily reminder to a student, it is the only visible evidence, of a bond to make of so many scattered personalities one integrated whole."

"Oh, yes. And now, what are Freshmen?"

Pulling his leg again? Well, the Vagabond would fix that. He would himself talk in riddles. So, "Freshmen," he replied, "are future alumni. They are students in their first year, who are called Freshmen to distinguish them from the other future alumni, the students who have already attended college for a year or more."

"Why can't they all be called Freshmen?"