CHAPTER I COLVERSHAM
"Oh, say, Bobbie, quit that algebra and come on out! You've stuck at it a full hour already. What's the use of cramming any more? You'll get through the exam all right; you know you always do," protested Van Blake as he flipped a scrap of blotting paper across the study table at his roommate.
Bob Carlton looked up from his book. "Perhaps you're right, Van," he replied, "but you see I can't be too sure on this stuff. Math isn't my strong point, and I simply must not fall down on it; if I should flunk it would break my father all up."
"You flunk! I'd like to see you doing it." Van smiled derisively. "When you fall down on an exam the rest of us better give up. You know perfectly well you'll get by. You are always worrying your head off when there's no earthly need of it. Now look at me. If there is any worrying to be done I'm the one that ought to be doing it. Do I look fussed? You don't catch your uncle losing any sleep over his exams—and yet I generally manage to scrape along, too."
"I know you do—you old eel!" Bob glanced admiringly at his friend."I believe you just wriggle by on the strength of your grin."
"Well, if you are such a believer in a grin why don't you cultivate one yourself and see how far it will carry you?" chuckled Van. "The trouble with you, Bobbie, is your conscience; you ought to be operated on for it. Why are you so afraid you won't get good marks all the time?"
"I'm not afraid; but I'd be ashamed if I didn't," was the serious reply. "I promised my father that if he'd let me come to Colversham to school I'd do my best, and I mean to. It costs a pile of money for him to send me here, and it's only decent of me to hold up my end of the bargain."
Van Cortlandt Blake stretched his arms and gazed thoughtfully down at the ruler he was twirling in his fingers.
"Bobbie, you're a trump; I wish more fellows were like you. The difference between us is that while I perfectly agree with you I sit back and talk about it; you go ahead and do something. It's rotten of me not to work harder down here. I know my father is sore on it, and every time he writes I mean to take a brace and do better—honest I do, no kidding. But you know how it goes. Somebody wants me on the ball nine, or on the hockey team, or in the next play, and I say yes to every one of them. The first I know I haven't a minute to study and then I get ragged on the exams.
"You are too popular for your own good, Van. No, I'm not throwing spinach, straight I'm not. What I mean is that everybody likes you. Why, there isn't a more popular boy in the school! That's why you get pulled into every sort of thing that's going. It's all right, too, only if you expect to study any you've got to rise up in your boots and take a stand. That's why I shut myself up and grind regularly part of every evening. I don't enjoy doing it, but it's the only way."
Van rose and began to roam round the room uneasily.
"Goodness knows, Bobbie, if one of us didn't grind neither of us would get anywhere....