Left Half Harmon
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“No, if I hadn’t got in the way, like a blamed idiot, he’d have got it all right,” he insisted. “You see, I thought he was coming over here and so I stepped over there – like this – and he came the other way and I tried to side-step him and – ”
“It doesn’t matter a bit,” Harmon assured them, smiling quite cheerfully now. “There’ll be another train pretty soon.”
“That’s so!” Evidently the idea hadn’t occurred to Bob before and he welcomed it with enthusiasm. “Sure, there’s a train about six o’clock, fellows!”
“Well, that’s nearly two hours,” said Joe. “Let’s put our bags inside and find some seats. No use standing up all that time.”
“Oh, but you chaps needn’t wait around,” declared Harmon. “I wouldn’t think of having you do that!”
The three looked at each other inquiringly. Then: “Can’t let you wait around here all alone,” said Joe decidedly; “not after making you lose your train like that. Bob, you and Martin go on up and take my bag with you, and I’ll stay here.”
“Why not all go up?” asked Martin. “Harmon’s got nearly two hours to wait. He might as well come along and be comfortable.”
“That’s the ticket!” exclaimed Bob. “Leave your bag here and ride up to school with us, Harmon. We’ll show you around a bit and then we’ll go up to my room or Joe’s and rest until about a quarter of an hour before your train goes. And I’ll ride back with you!”
Harmon hesitated. “That’s very nice of you,” he said warmly, “but I wouldn’t want to miss another one. Maybe I’d better just sit in the station and – ”
“You’d die of the heat down here in this hole,” said Joe. “Come on! We’ll find out when the train is due, leave your bag with the agent and beat it.”
Harmon allowed himself to be persuaded. After all, it was decidedly warm there at the station, and an hour and fifty-one minutes – which was what the agent made it – would be a long time to wait. And Joe insisted on waiting with him, too, and that was the strongest argument presented, for Joe and his friends had treated him mighty nicely and Harmon felt that it would be a pretty low piece of business to make any of them suffer. So off they all went presently in one of the tumble-down, creaky carriages that still competed with the few taxi-cabs at Alton, and Harmon proved himself a thoroughly good sport by appearing to forget the regrettable incident and displaying much interest in the town and, finally, the school.
The others pointed out all points of interest on the way: the Congregational Church that had the tallest steeple in New England – none of them could remember the exact figures, however – the Town Hall and Library, the rival motion picture theaters, the Common with the statue of Nathan Hale in the center – at least Bob and Martin thought it was Nathan Hale and Joe was stoutly of the opinion that it was Lafayette – the ornate residence of Alton’s richest and most influential citizen, a brownstone monstrosity almost entirely surrounded by conservatories from which a very few sun-baked ferns and palms peered forth, and so on to the school entrance on Academy Street.
“On the left,” proclaimed Bob from the front seat, forming a megaphone of his hands, “the modest dwelling is the Principal’s residence.Behind it – you can see it now – is Haylow Hall. Next on the right you see Lykes, especially interesting as the home of Mr. Robert Newhall, one of Alton’s most prominent undergraduates. In the center of the row is Academy Hall. Directly back of it, if you look quick, you will discern Lawrence Hall. Lawrence is the most popular of all the buildings. It contains the dining hall. Further to the right is Upton, and then Borden. Behind Borden is the Carey Gymnasium. The building by itself at the further end of the Green is Memorial Hall. We are now entering the school grounds. Let me draw your attention to the German howitzer on the left, and, on the right, one of our own 25’s. Both guns saw service in the World War and were presented to the school – ”
“Oh, dry up, Bob!” protested Joe. “Harmon will think you’re an idiot.”
“Reckon he thinks so already,” responded Bob sadly, “after the way I acted at the station. Jimmy, you can dump us at Lykes.”
The driver of the vehicle nodded silently and turned to the left in front of Academy Hall, from the steps of which a group of boys shouted greetings, boisterous and even ribald, to the occupants of the carriage. Harmon found himself wishing that he had been included in that jovial and noisy welcome. This was his first sight of a preparatory school and he liked what he saw and hoped that Kenly would prove as attractive. Alton Academy occupied a tract of ground on the edge of the town apparently two blocks square. From the wide, well-shaded street the Green rose at a gentle grade to the row of brick and limestone buildings that fronted it, a smooth expanse of fine turf intersected by gravel roads and paths and shaded here and there by giant elms. There was no fence nor wall and from a little distance the Green seemed to run, right and left, into the flower-filled yards of the houses across the side streets. There was something very dignified, very lovely about the place, and the visitor’s heart warmed to it. He wanted to ask if Kenly was like this, but incipient loyalty to the school of his choice restrained him. Then the carriage pulled up at a dormitory building and everyone piled out. There was a squabble between Joe and Martin over who was to pay, Martin harking back to a similar occasion last spring when he had paid the bill and Joe’s memory failing him utterly. Harmon made a motion toward his pocket, but Bob edged him toward the steps.
“Leave it to them,” he chuckled. “Mart always pays in the end.”
This statement was speedily proved true and Joe and Bob conducted Harmon along the first floor corridor to the end of the building and there opened a door and ushered him into a cool, shadowy study. Martin had gone on to Haylow to dispose of his bag, but, before Harmon had got well settled in a comfortable chair where the faint afternoon breeze reached him from one of the windows, he was back.
They sat there awhile and talked. Once Joe and Bob absented themselves on some casual excuse that took them out of the room, and once Martin and Joe were gone for several minutes, but always one of the number was left to entertain the visitor. Harmon liked the study and the small alcove-bedroom that led from it and was much interested in the pictures and trophies that adorned the walls and the tops of the chiffoniers. Joe explained that his roommate, Don Harris, had not arrived and would probably not get there until the next morning. Harris came from Ohio and faculty allowed those who lived at a distance a day’s grace.
“I suppose you have to be at Kenly tonight, don’t you, Harmon?” he asked.
“I believe so. I understand that school begins in the morning. What time is it getting to be? I don’t want to miss that next train.”
“Oh, there’s an hour and twenty minutes yet,” said Bob. “How’d you like to take a look around? It doesn’t seem quite so warm now.”
The visitor was agreeable to the suggestion and the quartette set forth. They went first to Lawrence Hall and saw the big dining-room that accommodated four hundred. The forty-odd tables were already draped in white and set for supper, and, with the afternoon sunlight slanting through the high windows, the silent hall looked very pleasant. They climbed the stairs to the visitors’ gallery and then descended other stairs and looked into the big kitchen through the oval windows in the swinging doors. Then came the athletic field, where several of the tennis courts were already in use, and Harmon heard tales of hard-fought battles on gridiron and diamond and track, battles that were invariably won by Alton. He wanted to ask if Kenly had never scored a victory there, but he refrained.
They poked their heads into Upton and Borden Halls, the latter dormitory reserved for the freshman students, and then crossed to the gymnasium. Harmon could honestly and unaffectedly praise that, for it was just about the last cry in buildings of its kind. He looked longingly at the big swimming pool with its clear green water showing the white tiled floor below, and Bob regretted that there wasn’t time for a swim. Then came Memorial Hall, where the sunlight shone through the many-hued windows and cast wonderful designs of red and blue and gold and green on the marble tablets across the silent nave. The library was here, a book-lined, galleried hall whose arched ceiling was upheld by dark oak beams. Two great tables, each on a deep-crimson rug, stood at either end, and many comfortable chairs surrounded them. There was a stone fireplace with monstrous andirons, and the school seal above it. Facing the corridor door, a clock, set in the gallery railing, ticked loudly in the silence. Upstairs was the Auditorium on one side of the corridor, a large, many-windowed hall with a platform at one end, while, across from it, were four recitation rooms.
Outside again, they followed a path that took them under the shade of the elms back to Academy Hall. There was not much time left now, and after viewing the school offices from a respectful distance and peering into some of the classrooms on the first and second floors, Joe decided that their guest had better be thinking of getting back to the station. “You mustn’t go, though, without seeing the view from the cupola,” he added. “There’s plenty of time for that.”
Harmon looked doubtfully at his watch, but Joe was already leading the way toward a narrow flight of stairs at the end of the second-floor corridor and Bob had an urging grip on his shoulder.
“That’s right,” agreed Martin. “Everyone ought to see the view from the cupola. It – it’s one of the sights!” Perhaps he meant to add further persuasion, but a fit of coughing overtook him. Bob, over Harmon’s head, scowled ferociously back at him.
The stairway ended at a closed door and the procession halted while Joe shot back a heavy iron bolt and drew the portal outward. Then he stepped politely aside and the visitor entered a small apartment some eight feet square. It was quite bare and lighted by four tiny panes set one in each wall and just under the ceiling. Harmon’s gaze went questing for the stairs or ladder by which he was to reach the cupola, but there was nothing of that sort in sight. Indeed, there was no egress save by the door through which he had entered! He was on the point of calling polite attention to the fact when a sound behind him brought him quickly about. The sound had been made by the door as it closed, and while he stared, open-mouthed, a second sound reached him, and this time it was made by the bolt sliding harshly into place!