In a Red School-House back in the Web-Foot District, it was the Custom to have a Debate every Friday Afternoon. The much-mooted Question as to which does the greater Damage, Fire or Water, had been carefully gone over by the Squabs. Also who was the heftier Proposition, Napoleon or Washington? But the original Stand-by was as follows: “Resolved, that Education is better than Wealth.”
The Corporate Interests got many a Whack here in the Knowledge Works. Most of the Children wanted to grow up and be like Galileo. They claimed that mere Wealth could not purchase Happiness. The only genuine Peace of Mind came from being able to call off the Geological Periods with the Eyes closed.
Here in this little Brain Hatchery were two Kids who were not Mates. One was named Otis and the other was Bradford, or Brad for Short. Otis was the Boy who took the Affirmative side on Friday Afternoon. Ote firmly believed that Learning was the most valuable Asset that a Man could tuck away. Brad was for the Money End of the Game, but when he got up to make his Talk his Vocabulary would become jammed up and caught crossways in the Flue and teacher would motion him back to his Seat. Otis, however, could tell in well-chosen Phrases why the Scholar was a better and happier Man than the Millionaire and so he always received the Vote of the Judges.
Now, Brad was done up but unconvinced. He could not stand up before the District School and tell why it was good policy to corral the Coin, but he had a secret Hunch that it would be no Disgrace for him to go out and do the best he could. Brad had a bull-dog Jaw and large blood-shot Hands and a Neck-Band somewhat larger than his Hat-Band. He jumped the Stockade when they started to teach him Botany. He weighed 180 and he thought he was too large to sit around and count the Petals of the Ox-Eye Daisy when he might be out selling Lightning Rods to the Yaps and making jug-handled Contracts. Accordingly he Dug.
“Bradford is making a great Mistake,” said Otis, as he saw his Friend tear from the Institution of Learning. “In order to get a few worldly Chattels right at the jump, he sacrifices his Diploma. I shall be more Foxy. I shall go right on through the High School and then I shall attend College and get a Degree. When I have taken my Degree then I will be the human It. My scholarly Attainments and polished Manner will get me past the Door and into the Inner Circle of the Hot Potatoes. As for Bradford, although it is possible that he shall have combed up a little Currency he will be a mere ordinary, sordid Business Man–not one-two-seven when he tries to stack up against one who has just been delivered of a Thesis on the Correlated Phenomena of Unconscious Cerebration.”
While Brad was out in the back Townships short-changing the Farmers and buying 8 per cent. Mortgages, Otis was working his way through College and living on Oatmeal except on Holidays and then Prunes. He was getting round-shouldered and wore Specs and was all gaunted up, but he never weakened. He was pulling for the Laurel Wreath of Scholarship, or in other words, the Degree. After humping it for 4 years he passed his final Exam and the Faculty decided that he was a Bachelor of Arts.
That was the Day when he had the Laugh on Brad.
In the meantime, Bradford had been choking various People and taking it away from them. He had four Salesmen under him and had butted into the Firm, but he was still shy on Botany.
Inasmuch as Otis had been one of the brightest Men in his Class he was offered a position as Instructor in the College at a Salary of $55 a Month with a promise of $5 raise at the end of five Years, if he lived. Otis accepted, because the Outside World did not seem to be clamoring for his Services, even though he was an Authority on the Mezozoic Period and knew all the Diatomes by their First Names.