OF BUTTERFLIES AND STEAMROLLERS
To the Vagabond, all life is one great Reading Period in which to first with frivolity and dodge the unpleasant actualities. To him all life is a prelude to the possible disaster which may lurk around any approaching corner. By sad experience he now knows there is always an examination or some other cruel testing period impending which will inscribe an icy circle around his moon or draw a thick cloud over his sunset. Life for him does not strike with fury or with the suddenness of lightning. There is no swift piercing of the heart by savage arrow. Rather it is a slow process, cumulative, ponderous, relentless.
It rumbles tediously into full view, like a steamroller, blocks away. At once the Vagabond is aware of the menace, but it seems silly to be worried at so remote a doom. So he continues to flirt with frivolity, chasing his gaudy butterflies, granting full audience to every thought which whimpers: "Rest sleep, dream, doze--you are secure, you must not recover too quickly from the rigors of the holidays, you have ten days yet--rest, all will be well."
Suddenly he is aware of the steamroller again. Unhurriedly it has traversed the blocks, giving to all equal and fair opportunity to scramble to safety. Now it looms over him, and the Vagabond looks at it and does not move. he knows he could perhaps move his head and body out of the way by a frantic effort. But he also knows he is certain to lose a stray arm or leg under that inhuman pressure. Somehow it doesn't seem worth the trouble to him. Maybe it will stop. Maybe it will go away or melt like a fog. Anyhow, why die by inches? Why this flurry of self-preservation at such a cost? No, 'tis better to die there calmly--to be run over in one quick piece--with quiet dignity to undergo the roller and come out on the other side a mere blob of jelly but retaining still a spark of self respect.
Yes, to the Vagabond life is like the Reading Period, and the Reading Period like the hard, glistening road the examination steamroller is even now traversing. Later, when his jelly has been once more remoulded into human from, and some activity, by a shot in the arm from potent University Hall doctors, he knows there will be more butterflies to chase, and there will be other steamrollers, too, grunting along under assumed names like "Termbill" and "Divisional" and "Thesis," and then one jokingly called "Final," which is never really final at all. Like streetcars, there will always be another one coming to make a jelly of the innocent loafer.
But the Vagabond does not beat his head against the wall and rave. He does not fling his pretty butterflies into the fireplace and swear reform. He does not sob plaintively under the heavy roller: "Why? Why? Why?" Instead he says, "Neither it is good, nor it is bad; but only--it is here," and he marks on his calendar with large red crosses the four days of his doom, which are now less than a fortnight hence.