CHAPTER I THE OPENING TERM
"I've got a letter from Peter John."
"What's the trouble with him? He ought to have been here yesterday or the day before."
"I'm afraid Peter John never'll be on time. He doesn't seem to have taken that in his course. He'd never pass an 'exam' in punctuality."
"What does he want?"
"The poor chap begs us to meet him at the station."
"Then we've no time to waste. Is he afraid he'll be lost?"
"He's afraid, all right."
"What's he afraid of?"
"Everything and everybody, I guess. Poor chap."
Will Phelps laughed good-naturedly as he spoke, and it was evident that his sympathy for "Peter John" was genuine. His friend and room-mate, Foster Bennett, was as sympathetic as he, though his manner was more quiet and his words were fewer; their fears for their friend were evidently based upon their own personal knowledge.
For four years the three young men had been classmates in the Sterling High School, and in the preceding June had graduated from its course of study, and all three had decided to enter Winthrop College. The entrance examinations had been successfully passed, and at the time when this story opens all had been duly registered as students in the incoming class of the college.
Foster Bennett and Will Phelps were to be room-mates, and for several days previous to the September day on which the conversation already recorded had taken place they had been in the little college town, arranging their various belongings in the room in Perry Hall, one of the best of all the dormitory buildings. The first assembling of the college students was to occur on the morrow, and then the real life upon which they were about to enter was to begin.
The two boys had come to Winthrop together, the parents of both having decided that it was better to throw the young students at once upon their own resources rather than to accompany them, reserving their visits for a later time when the first novelty of the new life would be gone.
And on this September day the novelty certainly was the most prominent element in the thoughts of both boys. The task of arranging their various belongings in their new rooms had kept both so busy that thoughts of the homes they had left were of necessity somewhat rare, and the vision of the family life in which they had been so vital a part had not as yet come to take the place in their minds which it soon would occupy.
At the hotel where they had been staying there were many other boys who were in a predicament not unlike their own, but the very fact that all were alike new to the life and its surroundings had made every one somewhat diffident and the warm friendships and cordial relations that soon were to be formed were as yet not begun.
Will Phelps and Foster Bennett, however, had been so completely taken up with their own immediate tasks that they had little thought for other things. At the time when this story opens their study room was ready for callers, as Will expressed it, and the adjoining sleeping rooms were in a fair way for occupancy. Indeed, the boys planned that very night to sleep in the dormitory, and the experience was looked forward to as one which they both would enjoy.
Will Phelps, a sturdy young fellow of eighteen, of medium height, with strong body and a bright, keen expression in his dark eyes, had been the most popular of all the boys in the high school from which he had recently graduated. Not over-fond of study, he had somewhat neglected his tasks until his final year, and though he had then begun to work more seriously, his late effort had not entirely atoned for the neglect of the preceding years. An only son and not rigidly trained in his home, he had not formed the habits of study which his more serious-minded room-mate, Foster Bennett, possessed. But almost every one who met the young student was drawn to him by the fascination of his winning ways, and realized at once the latent possibilities for good or ill that were his....