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The room and halls were silent. The agony of dressing was over, and the last evening party cavalier had departed for the scene of action. Carson bent over his Greek with a sigh of relief, and was soon deep in antiquity. From the adjacent room came a light strain of smoke, floating carelessly across the doorway; but there was no sound save the the occasional rustle of a paper, or the hum of voices from some distant room.
Suddenly the clock began to strike. Carson picked up his lexicon and began to search among the T's. Not until the eighth and last stroke did he seem to heed; then he looked up with an air of arrested interest. The next moment there was a sound of tumbling books and descending heels: from the next room came an answering stir, and in the doorway appeared a ring of smoke, followed by a pipe, followed by a tousled head.
"Hullo!" said the head ; "what's struck you?"
Carson was standing in the middle of the room staring at the clock uncertainly. His spectacles were pushed back, and one hand passed reflectively across his chin.
"Is this the twentieth?” he asked slowly.
"Well, now, what do you suppose Blake and Sheldon dressed for? Why did Martin take two collars, and—”
"Great Scott, Carl !" Carson turned upon him blankly. "I've asked a girl, and I'd forgotten all about it!"
The head in the doorway stared a second in silence. Then a hand appeared, and the pipe was slowly removed.
The amazement, the incredulity in that one word completed Carson's bewilderment, and he sat limply on the table.
“What shall I do?” he said.
"Do! By Jove, do!" The head was spasmodically withdrawn, and the whole tall form appeared on the threshold. “Look here, Bob, do you know what you're talking about? Have you really asked a girl to this thing tonight? Do you remember doing it?"
“Why, yes." Carson turned his mild blue eyes away from the clock, where they had been gazing confusedly. "I wrote the note at your desk, on,”
"On theme-paper, I'll bet. What ever struck you to do it? Who is it you've asked ?"
"I asked Miss Hale."
Carl gasped. "By Jove there's no half-way work with you! Do you know she's the best dancer here?"
“O Lord !" groaned Carson miserably.
"Jove, but you're in a box! What are you sitting there for? It'll be half-past eight before you can possibly get there, and she's waiting for you this minute."
Carson blinked at his room-mate for a moment, as if trying to grasp the situation. Then he leaped to his feet and shot out of the room. Carl remained standing, stupefied by this most unprecedented event. Carson at an evening party was an ethical hyperbole-old, rusty, vague, absent-minded Carson, whom the men adored and the faculty admired, but who didn't know a scarf from a "party-cape." However, with masculine prudence Carl held his tongue for the present, formulating his jeers and questionings for some more promising occasion.
A coat was hurled by the half-opened door, followed, after a brief ripping sound, by a collar. A drawer was pulled out and slammed onto the floor, and there came the sound of a chair overturned. Carl sank on the couch and began to laugh.
“I'll time you," he called, “and if you want any help, just—"
"What's up :" A new-comer appeared from the hall, attended by a crony and one or two curious underclassmen.
"Hullo, Sawyer--Come in, fellows-"
"We heard a row here," said Sawyer, as the others trooped in aiter him; "what's going on in there?"
"Why, it's old Carson. What do you suppose he's done?"
“He's writing his short story for next week,” suggested little Barnes.
"Ho, that wouldn't faze Carson. He's asked Emily Hale to the gym. tonight"
Sawyer broke into a hearty roar, and the underclassmen looked surprised.
“Who put him up to that'?” demanded little Barnes, amused. It's a darned mean trick."
Sawyer's mirth redoubled, and Carl responded, “O, some of the men told him he ought to do it, but nobody supposed he would. Jove! Poor old Bob”
"He'll never hear the end of it. I know three men she turned away-he must have got in early. What did she take old Carson for, anyway?"
"Give it up. He hasn't danced since he was in high school, and what has possessed him to—” He was interrupted, by a loud sound as of rending cotton, and the Freshman ran to peek through the doorway.
“O, you can't tell what Bob'll do,” interrupted Carson's roominate, with the conviction of experience. "I came in the other night and found him stumbling around in the dark—said the gas wouldn't light. It turned out he'd been blowing on his match instead of scratching it—"
"O come, now,” interposed Sawyer.
"No, that's a fact. Why, when he came in today before dinner he took off his coat, and then kept on undressing, till I came in
and found him about half-way, and chattering Greek to himself. Why," he raised his voice above the shouts of laughter that arose, “You ought to live with him a day.—There!"
There was a crash from the next room, and Carl started up and flung open the door. Carson ran abruptly into his arms.
"I've smashed the mirror,” he gasped, “but—"
"Hadn't you better wear a collar ?" suggested Bradley from the corner. Carson vanished, and Carl ran after him with a pair of brushes. The assembled group could hear his last directions, interspersed with an occasional expression of pain from the subject.
"You haven't any gloves? No, I supposed not. You'll have to take my old ones. Take off those clod-hoppers, and wear my thin shoes if you can keep 'em on. Never wear a tie like that in the evening—haven't you got any others? Well, neither have ITurn your head the other way.”
"Ow!" from Carson, gently.
“Don't sit on the tails of your coat-I see you've got on mine, so be careful. It doesn't fit you very well. There, your hair'll do."
“Ow! Thanks, old man. I'm off. Now," and he came to the door and turned in tentative inquiry to the grinning group, “Will some of you fellows tell me where Miss Hale lives?”
There was a brief incredulous silence, followed by a whoop of mingled mirth and amazement.
"Well, you are a—" "She lives in Arlington—"
"Put him to bed—”
laughter as the door closed, and he clattered down stairs into the crisp night.
Before the great door had slammed behind him, he was halfway down the walk, and galloping wildly past the recitation hall. It was slippery, but Bob was going too fast to fall; his steps rang out clearly, and his long shadow bobbed weirdly up and down as he shot under the great arc light and struck out across the field. As yet the horror of the situation had not dawned upon him. He had had no time for reflection, and his only thought was to attain the aim of the moment, which happened to be the Grays' door-bell. Of his further obligations he was yet pathetically innocent.
He dashed up the steps just as a clock inside chimed the halfhour. His summons at the bell was promptly answered.
“Is Miss Hale in ?"
The maid gazed at the puffing, nervous youth with lofty disapproval.
"Miss Hale doesn't live here."
"No-O no!" panted Bob. “But isn't she in?-I mean-I thought—"
“Miss Gray is out. Miss Hale has not been here." "I-I beg your pardon. Thanks."
He stumbled down the steps, and started breathlessly up the avenue. She must be at the dormitory. Carson had unconsciously prayed that he might not have to go there. He had never ascended its steps before. From his Freshman year he had been bred to look upon that building with a strange and awful shrinking; and he had always hurried by with a fugitive sense of escape.
He paused now, as he stood in its forbidding shadow, with a frenzied impulse to flee; then he gave a reckless gasp and charged on the bell. Before he could ring, the door was opened, and Carson found himself confronted by a group of girls, apparently going out together. His knees shook. Their laughter stopped abruptly and there was a deadly silence as the phalanx paused waiting.
Carson has a giddy recollection of talking incoherently, and