New England was straightlaced and puritanical in the ‘sixties’ and frowned upon those who departed from the straight and narrow way. For that reason Father’s roommate – a charming fellow with a fat wallet – sat heavily upon the chest of the college board. Dick committed all the minor infringements. He had “looked upon the wine when it was red” and liked its “addered” sting. Folly was joy to him. More serious yet in the eyes of his mentors, he failed to “apply his heart unto instruction and his ears to the words of knowledge.” He had been called on the carpet, cajoled, threatened with expulsion, and all the major punishments all to no avail. Having inherited him without knowledge of his charms or talents, Father would not let him down, and when extra-curricular excitements sent him home incapacitated, indulgently valeted him to bed.
The climax came in the late spring when Father was finishing his work preparatory to receiving his degree in June. He could almost touch his first goal post when late one night Dick stumbled up the stairs making more noise than usual. Father knew all the tricks of getting him quietly up the stairs and now he settled him on the bed and removed the culprit’s clothes. It was not a pleasant task for one with a queasy stomach. And he was barely through when an insistent knock on the door startled him. It was very late for a respectable college town so Father ignored the sound. The house door was unlocked most of the time and Father reasoned that some one might have followed Dick. The owner of the house, a circumspect lady, he knew to be entirely out of sympathy with him and Father was cautious from birth.
“Let me in, do you hear?” an angry voice commanded.
Father hesitated. He thought that he recognized the voice as belonging to one of his professors and he waited for it to speak again.
“You may think that you can defy me, Humphrey, but if you don’t let me in you’ll suffer for this.”
His words fairly blistered through the door. Father recognized the gravity of the situation. This was an act of defiance he could scarcely expect a board to condone.
“I’m sorry Sir, but I can’t let you in.,” he said facing the door.
“All right young man, then see that you appear at twelve noon tomorrow in the President’s office to make explanation for your outrageous conduct.”
And the doughty and irate F.B.I. of Dartmouth clumped down the stairs and slammed the street door.
Poor Father! I can imagine with what concern he anticipated the morrow. Recognition of the work and effort of years denied him would complicate his further study no end. He still had his law course ahead. As he looked at the dormant figure on the bed a wave of disgust swept over him. After all was this drinking, idling fellow worth the sacrifice? Probably not, they seldom were.
He took off his clothes and went to bed but sleep was not to be had and in the morning he dressed himself carefully for what he knew would be a test. The one redeeming element in the whole affair was that it gave him a chance to plead his case. He’d find out now whether he had wisely chosen his profession.
It so happened that day that his duties outside the classes took him to a certain professor’s house. His spirits were low when he knocked on the door and the maid admitted him. Mrs. Jarvis was one of his favorites. She was also one of the leaders of the faculty wives and he had been her guest at many a Sunday night supper. The moment Mrs. Jarvis saw Father she knew that something was the matter, and tactfully drew the details from him. She was well aware that the denial of admission to a distinguished scion of the arts could not lightly be passed over.
“You go to your class Humphrey, and I’ll see what can be done.” She said.
His class graduated in ’64. We have been led to believe that in those days men not only made the laws and the incomes but that they were the uncompromising masters of their ladies. This last truth Father was in a position to refute though the actual data is missing.
After attending his classes that fateful morning he returned to his room to make himself meticulously presentable to appear before the board of trustees. His confidence was at a low ebb as he climbed the stairs and unlocked the door of his room. The place was in confusion. Dick’s clothes were strewn over the bed and every piece of furniture held a garment.
Father walked to the mirror and glanced at himself. He was immensely critical of his appearance. Years later, a careless haircut could upset him. Now as he gazed at himself a paper stuck in the frame of the mirror caught his eye. On the outside was a pencilled skull and cross-bones obviously intended to arrest his attention. It was written in Dick’s bold style.
He unfolded it. There was the usual apology for his misbehaving on the night before scrawled on the inside, and a promise of reform. Father was slightly wearied reading it till he reached the postscript.
“Forgot to say, Old Bugs sent his errand boy over to say that you needn’t keep some appointment at noon. You were supposed to know about it.”
‘Old Bugs’ was Dick’s title of Father’s midnight visitor.
His first reaction was one of intense relief, then he began to burrow for a reason for his release. Bits of information given him by faculty wives in confidence were pieced together and convinced him that they had been at work in his behalf. At least one confessed that each of the ladies had delivered an ultimatum to her professor. At the same time, she begged Father to be content and ask no questions as to what happened to save him his degree. Being possessed of a legal mind Father would have preferred to collect evidence and write a brief about it, but chivalry held an exalted rank in the ‘sixties’ so he curbed his curiosity.
Long before Dartmouth’s parchment blessing was bestowed on him he had determined to enter Michigan University’s law School and as he visualized his future, he wondered if Ann Arbor would measure up to Hanover’s happy days. Back in an Ohio town to, that certain red-haired Sally whom I came to know in my babyhood, still anticipated his June vacation.
About the same time that Grandfather Howels had decided that Wales cramped his style, Grandfather Rees was undergoing similar pains. The two men did not share acquaintance in Wales however for Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire were not neighboring communities, yet through a kindly fate the two paths were drawing together and later were to lie side by side in the United States.