Stover at Yale

Owen Johnson
by Owen Johnson
1911 The S.S. McClure Co.
1911.1912 McClure Publications, Inc.
1912 Little, Brown & Company
1940 Owen Johnson
Now in public domain

DINK STOVER, freshman, chose his seat in the afternoon express that
would soon be rushing him to New Haven and his first glimpse of Yale
University. He leisurely divested himself of his trim overcoat, folding it
in exact creases and laying it gingerly across the back of his seat;
stowed his traveling-bag; smoothed his hair with a masked movement
of his gloved hand; pulled down a buckskin vest, opening the lower
button; removed his gloves and folded them in his breast pocket, while
with the same gesture a careful forefinger, unperceived, assured itself
that his lilac silk necktie was in contact with the high collar whose
points, painfully but in perfect style, attacked his chin. Then, settling,
not flopping, down, he completed his preparations for the journey by
raising the sharp crease of the trousers one inch over each knee -- a
legendary precaution which in youth is believed to prevent vulgar
bagging. Each movement was executed without haste or embarrassment,
but leisurely, with the deliberate savoir-faire of the complete man of the
world he had become at the terrific age of eighteen
In front of him spasmodic freshmen arrived, struggling from their
overcoats in embarrassed plunges that threatened to leave them publicly

in their shirt sleeves.
That they imputed to him the superior dignity of an upper classman was
pleasurably evident to Stover from their covert respectful glances. He
himself felt conscious of a dividing-line. He, too, was a freshman, and
yet not of them.
He had just ended three years at Lawrenceville, where from a
ridiculous beginning he had fought his way to the captaincy of the
football eleven and the vice-presidency of the school. He had been the
big man in a big school, and the sovereign responsibilities of that
anointed position had been, of course, such that he no longer felt
himself a free agent. He had been of the chosen, and not all at once
could he divest himself of the idea that his slightest action had a certain
public importance. His walk had been studiously imitated by twenty
shuffling striplings. His hair, parted on the side, had caused a
revolution among the brushes and stirred up innumerable indignant
cowlicks. His tricks of speech, his favorite exclamations, had become at
once lip-currency. At that time golf and golf-trousers were things of
unthinkable daring. He had given his approval, appeared in the baggy
breeches, and at once the ban on bloomers had been lifted and the
Circle had swarmed with the grotesqueries of variegated legs for tile
first time boldly revealed. He had stood between the school and its
tyrants. He had arrayed himself in circumstantial attire -- boiled shirt,
high collar, and carefully dusted derby -- and appeared before the
faculty with solemn, responsible face no less than three separate times,
to voice the protest of four hundred future American citizens: first, at
the insidious and alarming repetition of an abhorrent article of winter
food known as song-birds and sinkers; second, to urge the
overwhelming necessity of a second sleighing holiday; and, third and
most important, firmly to assure the powers that be that the school
viewed with indignation and would resist to despair the sudden increase
of the already staggering burden of the curriculum.
The middle-aged faculty had listened gravely to the grave expounder of
such grave demands, had promised reform and regulation in the matter
of the sinkers, granted the holiday, and insufficiently modified the

brutal attempt at injecting into the uneager youthful mind a little more
of the inconsequential customs of the Greeks and Romans.
The Doctor had honored him with his confidence, consulted him on
several intimate matters of school discipline -- in fact, most
undoubtedly had rather leaned upon him. As he looked back upon the
last year at Lawrenceville, he could not help feeling a certain
wholesome, pleasant satisfaction. He had held up an honest standard,
he had played hard but square, disdained petty offenses, seen to the
rigorous bringing up of the younger boys, and, as men of property must
lend their support to the church, he had even publicly advised a
moderate attention to the long classic route which leads to college. He
had been the big man in the big school; what new opportunity lay
before him?
In the seat ahead two of his class were exchanging delighted
conjectures, and their conversation, coining to his ears clearly through
the entangled murmur of the car, began to interest him.
"I say, Schley, you were Hotchkiss, weren't you?"
"Eight mortal years."
"Got a good crowd?"
"No wonder-workers, but a couple of good men for the line. What's
your Andover crowd like?"
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