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MY connection with my class was interrupted last year by what the bible terms "a temporary separation from College." I have been obliged, therefore, to make up this year some of the work which I lost by this absence, and, among other things, to write a theme on one of the following subjects: "A Personal Experience," or "A Criticism on the Late Discussion." I thought over my eventful career, but could not recall any episode which seemed likely to edify my instructor, and so, although not knowing what the "Late Discussion" was about, I decided to take the second alternative. But as I ground up on the subject, I became deeply interested in it, - a thing which had never happened before. As I only read the Advocate articles, I became dreadfully alarmed about the state of affairs existing here. The subject weighed on my mind even after the theme was handed in. I took a personal view of it too, and one day I found myself soliloquizing about as follows: "Yes; I am pretty far down. I never had an idea which did n't come from the Nation. I don't know anything about the great questions of philosophy. What is culture to me? I spend my time in playing cards for beer, and lately General Schenck has almost become my patron saint. 'Fine clothes and cigarette outside,' the writer in the Advocate says. There is one thing in my favor; I am not open to the fine-clothes charge, - though for a very good reason. But then I have smoked enough cigarettes to counterbalance that. I must reform. I will begin immediately." And I laid out plans for extensive readings on deep subjects, and determined to be a diligent searcher after truth.
That afternoon I divided between Kant and Hegel. I cannot say that I enjoyed or even understood a word I read, but I felt that I was doing my duty, and so was happy. When evening came I was too tired to continue my reading, and, being afraid some friend would happen around and suggest a game of billiards or cards, I hurried away to make a call in town, thinking that I might be aided in my reform by the elevating influence of society. The conductor on the car passed me by in collecting the fares. Usually I could not be better pleased than by cheating the conductor; but upon this occasion I stepped up and gave him my ticket. A Sophomore called out aloud, "Freshman." A mucker whispered audibly, "Guess he stole it, so anxious to get rid of it." But I did not care what a Sophomore or a mucker thought. I was rather pleased that such characters had so poor an opinion of me. I was cordially received by the family where I called. I aired some of my newly acquired philosophical knowledge to two young ladies who were kind enough to listen to me. Thus my call was passing pleasantly and profitably, when, unfortunately, a cousin of the family chanced to come in. He was a gentleman of uncertain age, but evidently desired to be considered younger than he really was; he was of a cynical temperament; although he had always lived in Boston, he did not in his youth go to college, and for this he was profoundly thankful; he openly declared that he had never known any good to come from Harvard College and never expected to, and as for philosophy, he pronounced it mere twaddle. Of course this ended our conversation on philosophical topics, and whatever else I attempted to remark he took pains to deprecate. At last a little girl of the family came in complaining that she wanted to open a bottle of colored ink for her drawing, and no corkscrew could be found to fit. I offered to try to open it with a common screw and a string, as I had seen a friend do here at college. I tried and succeeded. "Thank you," cried the little girl. "O, how nice!" said her older sisters. The cousin smiled contemptuously, and observed, "Quite an undergraduate accomplishment, - opening bottles!" The little girl did not understand his drift; the older sisters did, and looked compassionately towards me. I felt and looked guilty, and very soon took my leave.
Still I was not disheartened. I went bravely by my favorite resting-places in former times, Schoendorff's and Parker's, and, although I had always made it a matter of principle not to come out before the last car and it was still early, I started immediately for Cambridge. As soon as I was seated in the horse-car I returned to my philosophical cogitations. I labored mentally on many deep metaphysical themes; I reasoned with myself whether I existed or not; I reflected on such subjects as abstract truth, and the immensity of space. So lost was I in my ponderings that I was surprised when the conductor called out "Harvard Square." I started up, and was going out, when I heard a young lady opposite me say (once or twice on the way out I had freed myself from my meditations so far as to think her pretty, but how ugly does she seem to me as I remember her now!) - I accidentally overheard her say to a friend, "You talk about the intellectual face of a student; that one looked like a dolt. I should say he had stopped thinking." And I had been thinking about abstract truth and the immensity of space! I groaned, reeled, and staggered out of the car. A pedantic classmate met me at the door. "O my friend, you have committed the fallacy of composition; having empirically learned that you can carry a beer, a straight, or a Tom and Jerry singly, you do wrong in reasoning that you can carry them together. By Jupiter, you must have imbibed enough to bridge the infernal regions for the space of eight stades," - I fear he meant enough to patch - a mile, but am not certain; "in fact," he continued, "your symmetrical form is in jeopardy."
This was too much. I had been trying to reform, and in one evening I had been taken for a Freshman, a thief, an idiot, and twice for a drunkard. I rushed wildly around to Brighton St. As I turned the corner, I ran into a friend, who accosted me, "Hallo, old boy! I thought you had reformed." "Troja fuit," I merely replied, feeling a little ashamed of giving up so soon; but a minute later, when Carl's flaxen-haired Ganymede brought me a schooner, all shame had left me, and alone by myself I drank down a toast which my classmate who met me at the car would probably translate in this way: "Reform to the other side of the Styx!"
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