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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
IT was three o'clock, - not the enticing hour when the men of crimson stockings wend their way to Jarvis Field, and the Juniors who have lost their privilege of voluntary recitations sorrowfully take notes at lectures, - it was the deadest hour of night. I folded my completed forensic, and went down for a few minute; of fresh air before going to bed.
The Yard is as deserted as a recitation in Logic. No, some one is awake; there is a light in a window of the fourth story of Weld; how bright it is! Great Heavens!
"Fire! Fire! FIRE! FIRE!"
Out of the doors and lower windows comes a crush of men half dressed, each grasping his most precious possession, - one, a photograph-album; another, a bundle of letters; a third, a prize cup; one Freshman convulsively clutches his Borsair's certificate.
What is that cry? Across the roof creeps a figure, and a face of deathly paleness looks down - so far down - upon the crowd.
Room for the hooks and ladders! The firemen dash up and raise their longest ladder. It is twenty feet too short!
See that stalwart man with a base-ball bat; give him room! He ties the end of a packthread to a ball, which he tosses up, strikes with his bat, and in a graceful parabola it sweeps over the heads of the crowd, and - see! the man on the roof has caught it. A burst of applause greets this brilliant play. Alas! he is on the Nine; an instinct stronger than that of preserving life seizes him; quick as thought, he throws it to second! It has hardly left his hands before he realizes that he has made an error more startling than ever appeared upon his score before.
An officer of the Finance Club steps out before the crowd. "Twenty dollars, in gold eagles, legal-tender coin, on a monometallic basis, to the man who saves that Freshman!"
A law student eagerly steps forward. "If he were only in Matthews, now," says he, "he could get down on all fours, crawl through the entry, break in two doors, and so reach the fire-escape."
"Suppose the doors were too strong, you fool!" says a student of fine arts. "What we want is good architecture; our College dormitories are not suitable for men of culture -"
He is knocked down by a party of Sophomores carrying a blanket. "Jump, boy, jump far out into the wave!" they shout. The unhappy man looks down at the swaying surface, and mournfully shakes his head; perhaps he has seen that blanket before. Nothing can now save him.
Stay! What is this band of men who come charging down the Yard, leaping over the heads of the crowd, and brandishing aloft curiously shaped sticks? "The Lacrosse Club!" shouts the assembled multitude. Before the words are out of their mouths the players have already stationed themselves, some at the foot of the ladder, others distributed along it.
"Play!" says the Captain; from the topmost round he holds up his bat invitingly. "Jump!" he says; and the danger-stricken man hangs from the eaves, swings, lets go, is caught in the meshes of the bat, tossed up, caught by the next man below, and reaches the ground, dizzy, but alive and unhurt. A tremendous cheer greets the rescued man.
"Speech, speech!" yells the crowd.
"Gentlemen," says he, respectfully removing his nightcap, "it gives me great pleasure; to address you; a minute ago I expected to point one of Talmage's sermons. I feel that the manner of my rescue is most unparalleled, perhaps improbable; but I had to be saved somehow, and I appeal to you whether it is not far more likely that a man would be saved by the Lacrosse Club than by our system of college patrols and unmanageable fire-ladders. Gentlemen, good night!"
It is expected that the occupants of Weld may perhaps get back into their rooms in two years if the carpenters are active. The loss of the College will fortunately be somewhat reduced by the presence of mind of an official; all the windows are charged to the previous holders of the rooms, on the ground that they were broken before the fire reached them by stones thrown to rouse the sleepers.
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