**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Quest Of The Lost Digamma
by [?]

Many years ago there was a club of college undergraduates which called itself the Lost Digamma. The digamma, I am informed, is a letter that was lost in prehistoric times from the Greek alphabet. A prudent alphabet would have offered a reward at once and would have beaten up the bushes all about, but evidently these remedies were neglected. As the years went on the other letters gradually assumed its duties. The philological chores, so to speak, night and morning, that had once fallen to the digamma, they took upon themselves, until the very name of the letter was all but lost.

Those who are practiced in such matters–humped men who blink with learning–claim to discover evidence of the letter now and then in their reading. Perhaps the missing letter still gives a false quantity to a vowel or shifts an accent. It is remembered, as it were, by its vacant chair. Or rather, like a ghost it haunts a word, rattling a warning lest we disarrange a syllable. Its absence, however, in the flesh, despite the lapse of time–for it went off long ago when the mastodon still wandered on the pleasant upland–its continued absence vexes the learned. They scan ancient texts for an improper syllable and mark the time upon their brown old fingers, if possibly a jolting measure may offer them a clue. Although it must appear that the digamma–if it yet rambles alive somewhere beneath the moon–has by this time grown a beard and is lost beyond recognition, still old gentlemen meet weekly and read papers to one another on the progress of the search. Like the old woman of the story they still keep a light burning in their study windows against the wanderer’s return.

Now it happened once that a group of undergraduates, stirred to sympathy beyond the common usage of the classroom, formed themselves into a club to aid in the search. It is not recorded that they were the deepest students in the class, yet mark their zeal! On a rumor arising from the chairman that the presence of the lost digamma was suspected the group rushed together of an evening, for there was an instinct that the digamma, like the raccoon, was easiest trapped at night. To stay their stomachs against a protracted search, for their colloquies sat late, they ordered a plentiful dinner to be placed before them. Also, on the happy chance that success might crown the night, a row of stout Tobies was set upon the board. If the prodigal lurked without and his vagrant nose were seen at last upon the window, then musty liquor, from a Toby’s three-cornered hat, would be a fitting pledge for his return.

I do not know to a certainty the place of these meetings, but I choose to fancy that it was an upper room in a modest restaurant that went by the name of Mory’s–not the modern Mory’s that affects the manners of a club, but the original Temple Bar, remembered justly for its brown ale and golden bucks.

There was, of course, a choice of places where the Lost Digamma might have pushed its search. Waiving Billy’s and the meaner joints conferred on freshmen, there was, to be sure, the scholastic murk of Traeger’s–one room especially at the rear with steins around the walls. There was Heublein’s, also. Even the Tontine might rouse a student. But I choose to consider that Mory’s was the place.

Never elsewhere has cheese sputtered on toast with such hot delight. Never have such fair round eggs perched upon the top. The hen who laid the golden egg–for it could be none other than she who worked the miracle at Mory’s–must have clucked like a braggart when the smoking dish came in. The dullest nose, even if it had drowsed like a Stoic through the day, perked and quivered when the breath came off the kitchen. Ears that before had never wiggled to the loudest noise came flapping forward when the door was opened. Or maybe in those days your wealth, huddled closely through the week, stretched on Saturday night to a mutton chop with bacon on the side. This chop, named of the southern downs, was so big that it curled like an anchovy to get upon the plate. The sheep that bore it across the grassy moors must have out-topped the horse. The hills must have shaken beneath his tread. With what eagerness you squared your lean elbows for the feast, with knife and fork turned upwards in your fists!