IT was a capital idea of Dick's to secretly connect the telephone with the parlors of Mrs. B.'s house. On the night of the grand reception, half a dozen of us gathered in his room, anxious to hear what we might of the doings at the reception. Dick had so arranged that we could all hear at the same time; which was a great convenience, since ordinarily, owing to the want of magnitude of the ear-piece, but one person at a time can have his ear at it, while the rest, his companions, must wait in tantalizing suspense, watching his expressions of interest and amusement without appreciating their cause. But by Dick's care we all had a chance to hear.
At first there was little of interest, and we amused ourselves with chatting and sipping the excellent Mumm which Dick had provided. Pretty soon, however, the conversation at the reception began to grow more lively. Some of the scraps we caught were quite amusing.
A dried-up voice, evidently that of some old fogy, is heard: "A wonderful work is the 'Immensity of Profundity;' replete with the most circumspect observations. It proves beyond a question the consanguinity of irresponsible abstractness of expression with incidental divertissement (if I may be permitted to use that word) of cerebral evolution."
A strong, hearty voice, of one who is probably speaking to college mates: "When we heard the proctor's step, Fred locked the door and whispered to me to chop up the sign as quickly as I could, and throw it into the fire. So I went at it with all my might. While I was doing that, he dropped down on his knees by the door and commenced with right good will to pray out aloud." "I say, though, did he? what for?" "Well, I'm coming to that. You see there was a rule at X - that no proctor could interrupt a student or enter his room while he was at prayers. So the old duffer had to wait outside until Fred finished; and this Fred took care not to do before I had burnt up all the sign. Then he ended with, 'A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh for a sign, but no sign shall be given them.' Fred was the most popular man in college, but he went off and got engaged to" -
Here came in a rather shrill feminine voice: "You appreciate, of course, that we are all insane?"
In a rather startled tone: "I - I beg your pardon, Miss M. - I was not - aw - aware that I lay open to any such suspicion."
"Oh, I beg yours; but you, as well as others, are mad, mad as any one in a lunatic Asylum. Why? Well, of course, different people show their insanity in different ways. If you should ask me how you show yours, I might tell you that you have an abnormal leaning - towards certain mad tendencies. You crook out your elbows; you part your hair in the middle; you brush it down flat upon your temples (such foolishness as school-girls only used to be capable of); you never by any chance confess an interest in anything except tennis and Germans. Indifference, I believe you call it. But goodness preserve me from such a disposition! it is but a form of insanity which would in the end bring us back to the condition of barbarians; their indifference is but the acknowledgment of ignorance. The less a man is indifferent to the subjects brought up before him, the more he proves himself to have advanced from barbarity - ignorance."
A voice comes through with tender accent: "Fanny, can I never induce you to treat me fairly? Is it possible that you are utterly impervious to others, that you can go on day after day making hearts ache, and still" -
A sweet, laughing voice: "Why, certainly; you know, do you not, that I am of the Aristippean school, and my motto is '???,' that is, 'I smite, but am not smitten.'"
Now we heard something said, as by a calm, gentle, trusting voice; and I noticed that Dick recognized the voice. "My mother," said he. We listened: "Yes, Dick is a dear boy; he never touches a drop of wine." Dick looked a little uneasy, and laid down the glass of champagne he had been drinking. The rest of us felt a trifle uncomfortable, not knowing what might be coming. "He promised me he would n't, and he has never broken his word." Dick's face turned very red. "But he does n't like to offend his friends at college by not appearing to join with them, so he gets out of it in this way: he is a very good mimic, and can pretend to be intoxicated so that one could hardly tell he was not so. That's the way he managed at a club dinner a little while ago." We exchanged glances, for we remembered having had to carry him home that night. But his mother went on: "He was perfectly sober, though every one thought him not so at all. He told me so himself, and I would always trust" - Dick's face had been growing more and more scarlet as his mother went on relentlessly. But now he could stand it no longer. "Fellows," he exclaimed, as he turned off the telephonic connection, "I think we've had enough." And we thought so too.