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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
IN the year 19 - a new weathercock was placed upon the Lawrence Scientific School. Under the impetus given by this important improvement the school was fast becoming a large and flourishing institution. That year three men presented themselves for admission; and about two thirds of the applicants were successful. The Faculty were pleased beyond measure. This was the largest class known for years. But soon a difficulty arose. A close examination of the books of the successful candidates showed that either A had copied from B, or B from A. This was a serious dilemma; but the Faculty were equal to the occasion. They selected the man whose coat fitted him best, and heroically dismissed one half of the Freshman class.
The remaining half of the class was Davidson McClure, of Philadelphia. He was an unlucky youth, awkward and clumsy, always hurting himself; in fact, it was a constant matter of wonder to all his relations how Davidson had managed to live so long. McClure was a hard student; and for a while all went well. But on an unlucky day he stumbled over a chair in a recitation-room, and, where any common man would merely have barked his shin, McClure broke his right arm and two fingers of his left hand. Recitations were postponed. Hardly had McClure recovered, when he was seized with an attack of typhoid fever, and recitations were again postponed. The Faculty thought that things were looking pretty serious; but hoped that the fever would end the list of catastrophies.
In due time McClure returned to the school; but in hurrying to his first recitation he slipped on the icy walks of the college, and fractured his leg, so that it was necessary to amputate it above the knee. The Faculty became alarmed. They could not but be deeply grieved to see their Freshman class leaving them by pieces, knowing as they did that it could not last forever under this disastrous process of reduction. McClure quickly recovered, and the Faculty were happy once again. In a few days the unlucky youth lost an eye by over-study. Recitations were once more postponed.
The Faculty now considered that they had already put up with more than could be reasonably expected of them, and came very near insisting that the young man should leave the school. But one of their number, with a generous spirit that did him credit, said he had reflected calmly upon the matter and could not discover that the class was to blame. So they let him return once more, and what was left of the Freshman class immediately broke its other leg. The Faculty were furious. They thought it would have been a happy conceit on the part of the class if it had started with its neck, and had broken that first instead of stringing itself out in this provoking manner. And again the generous-spirited man spoke up, and said that they ought not to upbraid the class, if the class had enjoyed it. So they let McClure return once again.
For three months McClure managed to hold on to himself; what was left of him stuck by him. The Annuals were half over; and, perhaps, as a Sophomore, he might have seen the error of his ways, and checked his infernal propensity. One unlucky afternoon he was hard at work in the laboratory, where suddenly, alas! an explosion, a sound of breaking glass - the Freshman class, O where was it? Ask of the fulminating silver that far around with fragments strews the new Gymnasium. Examinations were postponed.
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