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On A Pair Of Leather Suspenders
by [?]

Occasionally, across the Campus, someone in passing called up to a window, “Oh, Weary Walker, stick out your head!” And then, after a pause, satirically, when the head was out, “Stick it in again!” On the stones there were the sounds of feet–feet with lazy purpose–loud feet down wooden steps, bound for pleasure. At the windows there were lights, where dull thumbs moved down across a page. Let A equal B to find our Z. And let it be quick about it, before the student nod! And to the Freshman, crouching in the shadow, it seemed at last that he was a part of this life, with its music, its voices, its silent elms, the dim buildings with their lights, the laughter and the glad feet sounding in the dark.

I came now, rambling on this black wintry morning, before the sinister walls of Skull and Bones.

I sat on a fence and contemplated the building. It is as dingy as ever and, doubtless, to an undergraduate, as fearful as ever. What rites and ceremonies are held within these dim walls! What awful celebrations! The very stones are grim. The chain outside that swings from post to post is not as other chains, but was forged at midnight. The great door has a black spell upon it. It was on such a door, iron-bound and pitiless, that the tragic Ygraine beat in vain for mercy.

It is a breach of etiquette for an undergraduate in passing even to turn and look at Bones. Its name may not be mentioned to a member of the society, and one must look furtively around before pronouncing it. Now as I write the word, I feel a last vibration of the fearful tremor.

Seniors compose its membership–fifteen or so, and membership is ranked as the highest honor of the college. But in God’s name, what is all this pother? Are there not already enough jealousies without this one added? Does not college society already fall into enough locked coteries without this one? No matter how keen is the pride of membership, it does not atone for the disappointments and the heart-burnings of failure. It is hinted obscurely for expiation that it and its fellow societies do somehow confer a benefit on the college by holding out a reward for hard endeavor. This is the highest goal. I distrust the wisdom of the judges. There is an honester repute to be gained in the general estimate of one’s fellows. These societies cut an unnatural cleavage across the college. They are the source of dishonest envy and of mean lick-spittling. For three years, until the election is announced, there is much playing for position. A favored fellow, whose election is certain, is courted by others who stand on a slippery edge, because it is known that in Senior elections one is rated by his association. And is it not preposterous that fifteen youngsters should set themselves above the crowd, wear obscure jewelry and wrap themselves in an empty and pretentious mystery?

But what has this rambling paper to do with a pair of leather suspenders? Nothing. Nothing much. Only, after a while, just before the dawn, I came in front of the windows of a cheap haberdasher. And I recalled how I had once bought at this very shop a pair of leather suspenders. They were the only ones left–it was hinted that Seniors bought them largely–and they were a bargain. The proprietor blew off the dust and slapped them and dwelt upon their merits. They would last me into middle age and were cheap. There was, I recall, a kind of tricky differential between the shoulders to take up the slack on either side. Being a Freshman I was prevailed upon, and I bought them and walked to Morris Cove while they creaked and fretted. And here was the very shop, arising in front of me as from times before the flood. With it there arose, too, a recollection of my greenness and timidity. And mingled with all the hours of happiness of those times there were hours, also, of emptiness and loneliness–hours when, newcome to my surroundings, for fear of rebuff I walked alone.

The night still lingers. These dark lines of wall and tree and tower are etched by Time with memories to burn the pattern. The darkness stirs strangely, like waters in the solemn bowl when a witch reads off the future. But the past is in this darkness, and the December wind this night has roused up the summer winds of long ago. In that cleft is the old window. Here are the stairs, wood and echoing with an almost forgotten tread. A word, a phrase, a face, shows for an instant in the shadows. Here, too, in memory, is a pageantry of old custom with its songs and uproar, victory with its fires and dance.

Forms, too, I see bent upon their books, eager or dull, with intent or sleepy finger on the page. And I hear friendly cries and the sound of many feet across the night.

Dawn at last–a faint light through the elms. From the Chapel tower the bells sound the hour and strike their familiar melody. Dawn. And now the East in triumphal garment scatters my memories, born of night, before its flying wheel.