A Blow for Freedom

Cabbages and Kings

This is the true tale of how one brave man (Henry Fordyce, Jr.*) fought a great university (this one) to a standstill.

The agon of Henry Fordyce, Jr. took place in the leafy shadow of the world tree in the Harkness Commons Dining room, where the flower of the graduate schools daily acquires its breakfast.

If Henry had liked coffee for breakfast, there would have been no agon. If not for his fateful passion for fruit juice, Harkness Commons would never have been darkened by the dragon-wing of history. Henry's greatness was thrust upon him. All he wished to do was to exchange his breakfast coffee (his legal right by contract) for a second fruit juice.

"You can't do that," they said to Henry, tearing his second fruit juice from him with an angry gesture. "You can have one coffee and one fruit juice, but not no coffee and two fruit juices. It's against the rules."

Henry said nothing, but the heart within his shaggy breast was distended with rage.

"I decided,"he recounted modestly, days after the event, "that after all they may as well lose a little money," and he advanced with measured stride to the jam table.

Firmly he dipped his teaspoon into the apple jelly. Spoonful by spoonful he spooned it out of its bowl, placing it, as he says, "on the space on my tray where the fruit juice would have been on." When this was completely covered, he went on spooning apple jelly anyway.

Suddenly a figure hove up from behind the counter. "You can't do that," she said, resolving into a lady with a ladle. "It's against the rules."

Henry turned. "Are you trying to tell me I can't have jelly with my toast?" he said. He continued spooning apple jelly, calmly and deliberately, and when there wasn't any more apple jelly he began on the peanut butter.

"It's against the rules," she repeated. "You can have one coffee and one fruit juice, but not no coffee and two fruit juices and not two coffees and--"

Henry silenced her with a wave of the hand. "Sue me," he said, scraping the bottom of the peanut butter bowl and starting on the marmalade.

The ladle lady resumed her expostulations, but Henry expostulated right back, and finally she retreated whence she came, muttering balefully under her breath.

"And you went on, calmly spooning jelly onto your tray?" I ask.

"No," says Henry. "I went and had breakfast. I had taken all the jelly."

That day, a group of Henry's compeers gather triumphantly at the scene of his victory. It was a great occasion. One man had stood up alone before the forces of Authority, and had escaped not only unchastened, but with vast quantities of jelly at his complete disposal. They voted that October 15 should be declared Henry Fordyce, Jr. Day unto all perpetuity. They drank a toast to him with the two beverages permitted by contract at lunch. The plans for a suitable memorial are not complete, but it is rumored that they plan to incise his name into that hallowed jelly table with a wood-burning pencil.

And Henry himself? In the quiet of his laboratory he looks at the floor and grins a little. "I got two fruit juices this morning, actually."

*This name and a few details have been changed to protect Henry Fordyce, Jr.