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The Vagabond


Sirens shrieked and cars pulled to the curbstone as the ambulance, with two young men in white coats in the window, raced down Massachusetts Avenue. Inside, rolling about on a cot was the Vagabond, who had been hit by a truck just ten minutes ago while trying to cross the street. His face was burning, and the men in white kept looking down at him and then talking to each other. They looked cloudy and very far away. Even the sirens sounded far away, like the Lowell House bells that woke him up last Sunday morning. The Vagabond was badly hurt. He heard one of the young men say so. He could not feel his legs. Suddenly, as if stabbed in the side, he jerked up and screamed, "My column! My God, my Column! Help, help, the Crimson!"

"Worried, that's what he is," said one of the white-coated men in a knowing, but distant voice.

Now the siren shrank swiftly into the distance, like the airport falling away from an airplane. Above his head things grew cloudy, and he heard a voice, saying, "Not every one knows it, but at Harvard the students live in seven beautiful houses. They cost Mr. Harkness twelve million dollars. Twelve million dollars is a lot of money. In England twelve million pounds is even more money. Mr. Harkness's ancestors ran around in leopard loin-cloths, hunting wild boars for supper, and made fire to cook by rubbing two sticks together. These ancestors never knew what twelve million dollars looked like, but they had better teeth than Mr. Harkness and could make love better than any Harvard man." The Vagabond lifted himself up as far as he was able. "Who are you?"

"I am Arthur Brisbane. I will write your column in a train going from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Outside my window is the most beautiful country in the world. High taxes will soon make it a howling wilderness. . ." The voice faded off, like the siren, and a darker cloud took the place of the first one. This voice was gayer and sounded as if it were having a good time.

"One of my favorite people, George Washington. Those good old Sunday dinners with fried chicken and the rector sitting across the table from the looking so stern. News for the hinterland: all New York is going daffy about Harvard. Look alikes: Lionel Hall and Mower Hall, the pillars in front of Widener Library, Mrs Vanderbilt and Lady Furness, the Marx Brothers. I discovered that if the new Buick and last year's Oldsmobile wore the same hats they could pass for sisters."

The Vagabond lifted his arms off the blankets and prepared to strike, but they fell limp at his sides. He was only able to mutter. "If you're O. O. Mclntyre, get the hell out of here!" The voice stopped short, the clouds floated up towards the roof of the ambulance, and a new face appeared. This was a woman's face, round, with tightly pursed lips. "Elaine the fair, Elaine the lovable . . ."

Her voice was slow and cold, but picked up speed as it went along. "Listen, World! Some people give me a pain in the neck. Harvard men think they ought to go places just because a few of them have old men who make dough. Do they ever think of the good, honest Americans who slave away so they can live off the fat of the land? They do not! Well, let me tell you, it's a plenty raw deal for the rest of us!" The Vagabond groaned, as the face drew nearer and said. "Listen. Vag! Let Elsie Robinson run your column."

He turned over and shivered. His mouth was like the top of a coal stove. The two men in white bent down over him, and their faces turned white. One told the other the Vagabond was dying. The Vagabond stiffened up and was glad.

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