Class Spirit by Ralph Henry
Peter Doe descended the marble steps of
the big dormitory with discouragement written
large upon his face. When he reached
the sidewalk he drew a blank book from his
pocket and studied it with frowning brows
until he had crossed the avenue, and, half-unconsciously,
perched himself on the top rail
of the college fence. Then he sighed and
returned the book to his coat.
Peter had been canvassing for the freshman
crew for four days. Armitage and the
rest had spoken cheerfully of eight hundred
dollars as the probable result of his labors.
To-day Peter shook his head ruefully. The
book in his pocket held subscriptions representing
only two hundred and sixty-four dollars,
of which nearly half was “pledged,” a
term possessing doubtful significance. And
Peter was discouraged.
When Ronald Armitage—popular, influential
and much sought—had requested Peter
to join the squad of canvassers, Peter had been
secretly much flattered, and had acquiesced
instantly, gladly. For two whole days he had
haunted the dormitories, indifferent to all discourtesies.
Peter was glad to be of service to his class.
He believed that a man’s first duty was to
his college, his second to his class, his third—well,
the third did not as yet trouble him.
He stood just five feet six and one-half inches,
and had all a small man’s admiration for
brawn and athleticism. His complexion was
pink and white, a fact which worried him so
much that in summer he spent precious hours
lying with his face upturned to the sun in the
hope that he would tan. But he never did;
he simply got very red and the skin peeled
off his nose.
Peter’s crowning glory was his hair, which
was of the color of red gold. It was very
beautiful hair from an artistic point of view,
but it did not please Peter. At preparatory
school it had won him the name of “Little
Goldie,” a title which still clung to him among
his acquaintances. He was good at studies,
and was visibly impressed with the seriousness
After a while Peter slipped from the
fence. He was eighteen years old, and at
eighteen discouragement is a matter of a moment.
Peter set his face toward Haworth
Hall and Vance Morris, resolved to play his
last card. Vance Morris was one of the richest
men in college, and by far the wealthiest
in the freshman class.
Peter had gone to school with him at St.
Matthew’s, but their acquaintance was only
of the nodding kind. Armitage had told
Peter that Morris was “good for a hundred
at least.” Fortune had apparently played
into the collector’s hands at the very beginning
of his canvassing, for, crossing the yard
in the morning he had encountered Morris,
and had, not without a struggle with his diffidence,
stopped him and asked for a subscription.
“We, that is, Armitage and the others,
you know, thought that about one hundred
dollars would be—er—enough,” he had announced.
Whereupon Morris, who was
plainly in a hurry to reach the square, had
grinned and replied:
“Really? That’s very modest of them,
isn’t it? Don’t you think they’d rather have
The tone had made Peter feel a bit uncomfortable,
but he had managed to give audible
expression to the belief that a hundred would
do very nicely; upon which Morris had again
grinned down upon him from his six feet two
inches, and had started away.
But Peter had trotted after him. “Then
we—then I may look for one hundred, Morris?”
“You may,” the other had answered.
“Oh, yes, you may look for it. There’s my
It was a hard race to the square, but Peter
sprinted desperately and swung himself up
on the rear platform a second after Morris.
“You—you promise?” gasped Peter.
“Oh, yes, confound you! Get off or you’ll
break your neck!”
Peter did not break his neck, but he afforded
much amusement to a group of students
by rolling riotously over the street for
several yards. To-day, as he skirted the yard
toward Morris’s room, he recalled that hard-bought
promise and was comforted. Another
hundred would bring his list up to the sum
of three hundred and sixty-four dollars, far
removed from the fabulous amount predicted
by Armitage, but, after the ill success of the
past four days, something over which to rejoice.
During the bitterest moments of his
laboring, Peter had comforted his soul with
thoughts of that one hundred dollars.
Peter found Morris alone, lying at ease in
a big, hospitable armchair, and in good humor.
“Hello!” Morris held forth a big, brown
hand. “Glad to see you. Sit down.”
Peter made known the object of his visit,
and finally Morris yawned and stretched a
hand toward his desk.
“All right; toss me my check-book.”
Peter eagerly brought book and pen, ink
and blotter, and the big freshman, using the
arm of the chair for support, scrawled illegible
characters. Then he tore off the little
strip of pale-green paper and handed it to
“That’s the best I can do for you.”
He yawned again and closed his eyes.
Peter opened his. “But—but this—this is
for only ten dollars!”
“You’re good at figures,” muttered Morris,
Peter stared at him in silence while the
brass-dialed clock ticked twenty times. This,
then, was the realization of his magnificent
A paltry ten dollars where he had looked
for a hundred! What would Armitage and
the others say? What would they think of
him? Peter’s voice trembled in shrill, indignant
“This isn’t fair, Morris! It isn’t honest!
It isn’t—isn’t decent! Why, you promised a
hundred, and I—we all counted on it; and now—now
you give me this measly little ten!”
Morris swung slowly round and stared in
“Well!” he muttered, in awestruck tones.
“You ought to do more than this for the
crew!” Peter went on, waving the check
wildly in air. “You can afford to give what
you promised, and—and by jiminy, you’ve got
“Got to!” growled the other. He drew
himself from the chair until he towered above
Peter like a step-ladder above a footstool. He
put his hands in the pockets of his jacket and
looked down in frowning amusement. “Got
to!” he repeated.
Peter’s face blanched from pale to the
perfect whiteness of newly fallen snow, but he
held his ground. His voice broke, but he answered:
Morris laughed and slapped Peter on the
“Good for you! But look here, take that
check and get out. It isn’t your funeral, you
know. And besides, ten dollars isn’t to be
sneezed at. If every fellow in the class gave
“But you know every fellow can’t!”
broke in Peter. “You know lots of them
can’t afford to give anything! But you can,
Morris; you can afford to give what you promised—more
“Oh, leave off!” said Morris. “Run
along with your check, like a good little
Peter hesitated; then he folded the slip of
paper and placed it in his pocket. Taking
the pen, he dipped it into the ink and wrote
a receipt. Then he faced Morris again.
“Yes, I’ll take this on account. But I’ve
got to have ninety more,” he said, doggedly.
“And I’m going to have it. I’m going to
keep at it until I get it. You’ve got to do
what is right, Morris!”
“You’re like what’s-his-name’s raven,”
sighed the other. “But I’ll tell you what
I’ll do. When you get a hundred dollars out
of me for the crew, I’ll—I’ll give you another
fifty!” He laughed uproariously.
Peter strode to the door, and when he
reached it turned and faced Morris impressively.
“Remember your promise!”
The door closed sternly behind him. Morris
dropped into the armchair and laughed
until the tears came. That was on Thursday.
The next day Peter returned. Morris’s
study was filled with students. Morris was
courteous to a fault, but Peter refused to be
“Can you let me have that ninety dollars
for the freshman crew to-day?” he asked.
The crowd grinned. Morris shook his head
and looked devastated with grief.
“I regret that I can not; not to-day. Perhaps
next fall—or a year from yesterday,
When the door was closed between him and
the laughing enemy, Peter turned and shook
a small, tightly clenched fist. “Wait!” he
That was on Friday.
Returning across the yard from chapel the
next morning, Peter encountered Wyeth, Morris’s
roommate. He carried a valise, and
Peter knew that he was going home over Sunday.
“Beg pardon,” said Peter, “but can you
tell me where I can find Morris?”
Wyeth hesitated. Then he laughed and
played traitor. He jerked his head in the
direction of Haworth, and scuttled for the
car. Peter’s heart leaped as he hurried
across the campus. When he reached the
dormitory he crossed the courtyard and sprang
up the stairs two at a time. The outer door
was ajar. On the inner he knocked boldly.
There was no response. He knocked again,
then entered the study. The room was deserted.
The sunlight shone in brightly
through one window, where the curtain was
drawn back. Peter investigated the bedroom
to the left. It was empty. He crossed to the
opposite door. Within lay Morris on a gorgeous
brass bedstead, his big chest rising and
falling in mighty respirations, his half-opened
mouth emitting sounds resembling the subterranean
roar of an idle geyser. One arm lay
straight beside him; the other crossed his body,
clutching the embroidered quilt.
The clock in the next room ticked on,
slowly, monotonously, while Morris slept and
Peter evolved an idea, an idea so grand, so
desperate, that his flaming locks stirred uneasily
upon his scalp and his breath came in
gasps. Then he sighed as if from his very
shoes. His mind was made up!
He crept into the study and locked the hall
door, dropping the key into his pocket. On
the wall by the fireplace hung a monstrous
Mexican hat, three pairs of spurs, a quirt, and,
gracefully encircling these, a long, braided
rawhide lariat. With the aid of a chair Peter
took the lariat from its place and crept noiselessly
back to the bedroom. The giant still
slept. With thumping heart Peter set to
For the next ten minutes he worked like a
beaver—or a burglar. He made eight trips
under the bed. At seven minutes past nine
by the brass-dialed clock the last knot was
tied, and Peter, trembling, breathless but triumphant,
viewed his work with satisfaction.
His enemy was delivered into his hands!
He returned to the study. He had no
right, he told himself, to disturb Morris’s
slumber; he must wait until the sleeper woke
of his own accord. The hands of the clock
crept round toward ten. Peter recollected
that he was missing an English lecture, and
would undoubtedly be kept from German.
His regret, however, was but passing.
He took up a magazine, but had turned
only two leaves when there reached him a
sound like the spouting of a leviathan. He
drew his knees together and shivered. The
giant was waking! Then the bed creaked
alarmingly and Peter crept to the door. At
the same instant Morris opened his eyes,
yawned, blinked, yawned again, tried to stretch
his arms, and stared.
“Hello, Goldie! That you? What in
He raised his head as far as circumstances
allowed and saw himself, like Gulliver, enmeshed
in a network of thongs. Amazement
gave way to understanding, understanding to
appreciation, appreciation to laughter. The
bed shook. Peter gained courage and entered.
“Oh, Goldie,” cried the giant, “you’ll be
the death of me yet, I know you will!”
Peter waited in silence.
“I didn’t think you were such a joker,
Goldie, honest, I never did!”
“I’m glad I’ve amused you,” replied
Peter, with immense dignity. “I assure you
I had no idea of a joke.”
“No idea of a joke!” said Morris, vainly
striving to wipe his streaming eyes on the pillow-slip
by rolling his head. “Then what do
you call this?”
“Business? Oh, well, call it what you
like; it’s good, mighty good. To think that
you managed to hog-tie me like this without
waking me up! It’s—it’s— By the way,
what time is it?”
“Just ten o’clock.”
“Great Scott! You don’t mean it? Here,
untie these knots and let me up. I was going
to be in town at eleven.”
Peter shook his head. Morris stared.
The truth dawned.
“You don’t mean—” he began, incredulously.
“Well, I’ll be jiggered!”
He lay and stared in amazement. Peter
stared uncompromisingly back. The study
clock ticked unnaturally loud. Peter was
pale and Morris was of a redness that verged
on purple. The storm broke suddenly.
“Why, you little red-headed, snub-nosed
idiot!” bellowed Morris. “When I get up
I’ll smash you into slivers! I’ll——”
He strove mightily to wrest himself from
the clutches of the encircling lariat. He
heaved, strained, twisted, writhed; but rawhide
is uncompromising to a degree. At the
end of one strenuous minute he subsided, panting,
perspiring, glaring like a trapped lion.
Peter sat down on the edge of the bed.
“I don’t want you to think,” he announced,
“that I have taken this course willingly;
you—you have driven me to it. I gave
you full warning.”
Morris roared loudly, inarticulately. Peter
waited politely, then continued, “I gave you
fair warning. I told you I had to have the
money. I regret putting you to this—this
For a space the bed rocked like a scow in
“And assure you that as soon as you do
your duty to the freshman crew and to yourself
I’ll let you up.”
“Duty!” frothed Morris.
“Duty!” frothed Morris.
Peter interlaced his fingers round one knee
and settled himself comfortably against the
foot-rail. He observed the captive gravely,
dispassionately, almost indulgently, as a just
parent might view a disobedient child to whom
punishment is being meted out. Then he began
to talk. He pointed out to Morris that
a college man’s duty does not end with himself;
that he should consider the good of the
university and his class, and stand ready and
eager to support the honor of each to the best
of his ability; that he should be willing to sacrifice
his personal pleasure to that end. Class
spirit, said Peter, was one of the most beautiful
things about college life.
Peter talked leisurely, eloquently, even
convincingly. Having established—to his
own satisfaction, at least—the claim that the
class body possesses on its members, he passed
to the subject of the benefits of athletics.
When he had exhausted that, he indicated the
self-evident fact that athletics can prosper
only with the support of the students. Morris
by this time had raged himself dry of expletives,
and was a silent, if unenthusiastic,
Peter was encouraged, and his eloquence
increased. The freshman class, he declared,
was in many ways the most important of all.
Its contests on track, field and river were
watched with interest second only to that given
to the struggles of the varsity teams and
crews. The class that attained honor in its
freshman year established a stable basis for
future glory. Those whose privilege it was
to make possible that honor, either by labor
or by financial support, should deem themselves
Morris was now groaning impotently.
Peter brushed a stray wisp of red-gold hair
from his brow and went on, his eyes transfixing
his victim. There were many in the class,
he said, who could afford to contribute but little
to the cause. There were others so fortunate
as to be in position to give generously.
It was the duty, the privilege of every fellow
to give according to his means. In the case
The clock chimed the half-hour. Morris
gave a deep sigh and yielded.
“Goldie, for heaven’s sake cut it out!”
he begged. “Let me up and I’ll write you
a check for fifty dollars.”
“Ninety,” corrected Peter, firmly.
Peter rose and untied several knots. The
result was not quite what Morris had expected.
He found only his right arm free.
“Where’s your check-book?” asked
“In the desk. Aren’t you going to let me
The only response was the sound of pen on
paper. When Peter reappeared he placed the
book before his captive and put the pen into
his hand. “After you’ve signed,” he said.
Morris grumbled, but with some difficulty
affixed his signature to the check for ninety
dollars. Peter tore it off and once more presented
the book. Morris stared. “What’s
this?” he demanded.
“Another one for fifty,” answered Peter,
quietly. “Remember your promise.”
“My promise?” cried Morris.
“Certainly. When I got one hundred
from you for the crew you were to give me
fifty more. Have you enough ink?”
Morris glowered, glancing from Peter’s
inexorable countenance to the open check-book.
Then he grinned craftily and signed.
“Now you’ve got to untie me,” he said.
Peter folded the two slips carefully and
placed them in his pocket. Then he wrote a
receipt for one hundred and forty dollars,
Morris watching him uneasily.
“Thank you!” said Peter, laying down
the receipt. “I am certain that you’ll be glad
in the end that you were able to do so much
for the crew. I am now going over to the
bank”—Morris writhed—“to get these
cashed. As soon as possible I’ll return and set
For a moment Morris fought against fate.
Then he capitulated.
“Hold on, Goldie! I know when I’m
beaten. I give you my word I won’t stop
those if you’ll let me up now. What’s more,
I won’t lay a hand on you, honor bright!”
Peter set about untying the knots; it was a
“Had breakfast?” asked Morris, presently.
Peter had not. He had quite forgotten it.
“Well,” said Morris, “wait until I get
my clothes on and we’ll go over to Brimm’s
and have some.”
“All right,” stammered Peter. He flushed
with pleasure and embarrassment.
“But what I can’t understand,” said Morris,
a little later, stretching his cramped arms
above his head, “what I can’t understand is
why you want to go to all this bother about
crew money. It isn’t your funeral.”
Peter Doe paused in the labor of undoing
a particularly obstinate knot that confined
Morris’s chest, and stared at the conquered
giant in real surprise.
“Why, class spirit, of course!” he said.