Tutors lane, p.1
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Tutors Lane

  Produced by Suzanne Shell, Jacqueline Jeremy and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net


  Wilmarth Lewis

  Alfred A. Knopf New York--1922

  COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY ALFRED A. KNOPF, Inc. _Published, September, 1922_

  _Set up and printed by the Vail-Ballou Co., Binghamton, N. Y._ _Paper supplied by W. F. Etherington & Co., New York, N. Y._ _Bound by the H. Wolff Estate, New York, N. Y._


  To Helen and Wilson Follett

  _LORD TOLLOLLER: "... of birth and position I've plenty; I've grammar and spelling for two, And blood and behaviour for twenty."_


  Tutors' Lane


  Having once, for a few months, had a literary column in a newspaper, Ihave come to admire those authors who place at the beginning of theirbooks a "word" in which the whole thing is given away. The time thatthose words saved me in writing my reviews--time which otherwise wouldhave been lost in reading the books--enabled me to write this book; aconsummation which may have, in its heart, a significant kernel, andwhich certainly shows how funny the world is, after all.

  Now, as to this book and what it is all about, I frankly am at a loss.That's the difficulty of being too near it. Whether it is realism,naturalism, or merely restrained romanticism, I simply do not know. Itis awkward not knowing, for in the battle of the schools now raging Ishould like to take sides. I should like either to charge with theromantics, or defend with the realists. It must be good fun being pushedand shoved around, with someone's elbow in your eye and someone else'shatpin in your ear, and everyone crying, in the words of a recentheroine, "I want to be outraged." But, for the present at least, I mustbe content, like little Oliver Twist, to look hungrily on.

  The story which trickles through the book starts out bravely enough. Ofthis much, at least, I can be moderately sure. For a short time it looksas though something might come of it; but nothing really does. It is allso terribly obvious. There are no obstacles such as one finds in realfiction; there is no love spasm in Chapter XXV. There is no Chapter XXVat all! And so it must be perfectly clear that those who insist uponhaving their love spasms will be bored to death by _Tutors' Lane_ andshould on no account be allowed to look at it. There is love, of course,in an academic community; one frequently sees evidences of it; but it islove under control, properly subordinated to the all important businessof uniting youth and learning--and to snatching time for an occasionalrejuvenating flutter in the sacred fount itself.

  So the syllabus is little more than a nervous shake of the hand and atimid statement of a few negative "points"--a disheartening, if notpositively dangerous, affair. That there are lurking beauties, however,peeping shyly out like johnny-jump-ups and wild raspberry blossoms,there appears to be some evidence on the jacket. Meanwhile, the courseis open, the bell is ringing to class, and the instructor, turning overthe text to Chapter I, is prepared to meet whatever scholars God, in hisgreater wisdom, has been pleased to set before him.


  Tom Reynolds, Instructor in English in Woodbridge College, walked alongTutors' Lane in the gathering dusk of a March afternoon. Persons whoseknowledge of collegiate dons is limited to the poverty-stricken,butterfly-chasing genus created by humorous scenario writers would besurprised to learn that our hero--for such he is to be--was young, soundof wind and limb, and at the present moment comfortably clothed in acoon-skin coat. The latter touch might be accounted for by such personson the basis of an eccentric city cousin generously disposed to castingoff his garments when only half worn, but the other two points mustconvince them of the faithlessness of the whole account, and theiracquaintance with the young man will accordingly end with the firstparagraph.

  Woodbridge College, as a matter of fact, has never been without a fewyoung men of this type in its Faculty. Situated in southern New England,it has roots which extend well back into the Eighteenth Century, and itstraditions, keeping pace with its growth, rival in dignity andpicturesqueness those of its larger neighbours. Whereas they haveexpanded from Colleges to Universities, Woodbridge has been content torestrict its enrolment to six hundred; and instead of making entranceeasier it has, if anything, made it harder. Accordingly, the Collegeholds its head high, not unconscious that the quality of its instructionand of its graduates is unsurpassed.

  The Founders of the College placed their first building on the crest ofa smallish plateau which commands a view of the Blackmoor Valley.Succeeding generations have scattered its buildings haphazardly about,but, thanks to the generosity of a Woodbridge son, the meadow land whichslopes away from the crest down to the Lebanon River, sixty acres inall, was bought and given to the College; and upon this land the futureCollege is to rise. There is a good deal of rather vague talk about thisnew college--of the quadrangle which is to solve all dormitory andrecitation problems, and which is to shine with beauty. But at presentthe meadow is sacred to athletics, and the elaborate new boat house,completed last spring, seems to make the quadrangle less of aprobability than ever.

  Tutors' Lane is the main artery of the place. It passes through thecollege green and on down the hill through a row of faculty houses untilit reaches the village of Woodbridge Center, or, as it is usuallycalled, Center. It is a famous street--famous for its elms, whichsupply, as it has not infrequently been pointed out, the dignity of anave; famous for the doorways and windows of its colonial houses; andfamous for the distinction and propriety of its inhabitants.

  It is one of the Woodbridge traditions that these houses are inviolate.Assistant Professors' wives, upon taking up residence in Tutors' Lane,are tactfully warned that it is not the thing to alter them. There maybe an occasional painting, yes; but innovations in the way of buildingare not to be thought of. People who have to build are advised to do itelsewhere; certain streets are provided for the purpose--High Street,for example--and though of course they are not Tutors' Lane, doubtlessthey are livable enough. In fact, High Street is distinctly coming intoits own, thanks, of course, to the High Street Cemetery. For a mortalexistence in Tutors' Lane is followed by an immortal one in the HighStreet Cemetery, and though perhaps those who spend mortality in theStreet can hardly expect to enjoy immortality in the Cemetery,nevertheless, no one can take from them the satisfaction of being theneighbours of the oldest families who are doing so. Property is steadilyrising in High Street, accordingly, and now Assistant Professors andtheir wives do well indeed to settle there.

  Tutors' Lane is not particularly wide for such an importantthoroughfare. Two vehicles can pass without difficulty, but it is wellfor them not to rush by. If they are in a hurry, they had better takeeither Meadow Street, which skirts the athletic field, or High Street,which is wide and oiled and designed for heavy traffic. Tutors' Lane isnot oiled, and heaven forfend that it ever should be, for itsfoundations go far back into the past, farther perhaps than any onedreams. No less a person than old Mrs. Baxter is authority for thestatement that it follows the course of an old Roman road. It isincredible, of course, and opens up a vista of pre-Columbian discoverymore astonishing than any to be found in the Book of Mormon, but Mrs.Baxter was a noted controversialist in her day and, true or false, shesucceeded in handing down the story to the present generation.

  People who think of an ordinary row of city houses have no conception ofFaculty Row. For one thing, the lots are of widely different sizes.Some, like the one owned by the Misses Forbes, daughters of thegeologist, are modest affairs with forty-foot fronts. Others, like DeanNorris's, cover two acres. Those built before 1800 have theirbirth-years painted carefully over their doorways, and it is anunwritten law that younger houses may not claim
this privilege. Many aresheltered by box hedges, and none but has its garden--in which flowersother than hollyhocks, mignonette, larkspur, stock, and bachelor'sbuttons are considered slightly _nouveaux venus_.

  As to the occupants of these houses, volumes many times the size of thisone might be written. Suffice it for the present, however, that they arequite superior to the general indifference of the outside world, andthat, like the dwellers in Cranford, though some may be poor, all arearistocratic.

  To Tom Reynolds, walking along Tutors' Lane in the dusk of a Marchafternoon, the scene was considerably different from the verdant onejust sketched. Instead of peeping out behind their holly hocks andvines, the houses were still defensively wrapped up against the icewhich besieged their walls. Storm doors could not yet be dispensed with,and here and there some practical soul--doubtless connected with thePhysics Department--had by means of a railing insured himself againstthe painful mortification of an icy step. Walking is never good inTutors' Lane during the winter. Cement walks are not laid, and temporaryboards smack a little too much of a makeshift. Arctics are theinvariable rule, but even so the going is not easy, and it isparticularly bad at this time of year, for now it is that arctics, whichnever seem able to last through a winter, suddenly give out at the heeland fill with mud and slush.

  Tom walked on until he came to the Dean's driveway, and then he turnedinto it. During his college days he had spent a considerable amount oftime at the Dean's house, and now, in the first year of hisInstructorship, he was there more than ever. His own home in Ephesus,New York, being at the present time occupied by a stepmother for whom hehad no particular affection and a father whose interests were in thedrygoods rather than the scholastic line, he scarcely thought of himselfas having a home other than that made for him by the Dean's wife. It wastrue that there was an older sister whose husband was a lawyer inOmaha, but she had never approved of his bringing up, and, since she wasconvinced that he had been spoiled beyond repair, their separation wasmerciful. At Christmas the family exchanged cheques, and Tom dutifullysent what the Telegraph Company called a "Yule Tide Message," tastefullydecorated free of charge. But there family ties ended.

  They had really ended sixteen years ago when the nine-year-old Tom hadbeen led up to take a terrified look at his mother's dead face and hadthen been allowed to escape to the rear of the house for a season ofuncontrollable weeping. From that time on until five years later when hecame in contact with Mr. Hilton, Instructor in English at the HighSchool, he had led the life of a "queer" boy. Devoted to reading andcontent, in default of other youth who interested him, to stay byhimself, he was a hopeless enigma to his father, whose memories ofyouth, strengthened by contemporary examination of his "cash boys," wereof a radically different sort. But with the attainment of High Schooland Mr. Hilton the world changed. For the first time since his mother'sdeath Tom met a congenial spirit. Mr. Hilton was gay, he was humorous,he noticed important things which other people were too stupid to noticeor to appreciate. He was forever having amusing misadventures; andbefore long he took Tom off with him for week-end walks, and they hadamusing misadventures together. No one else existed for Tom, andanything he suggested became law. In this way Tom came to play baseballsufficiently well to be allowed in his senior year the privilege ofstanding in the right field of the School team.

  Mr. Hilton was a Woodbridge man, and, after earnest discussion with Mr.Reynolds, he obtained permission for Tom to go to Woodbridge. Thefinancial problem was a simple one, for Tom had awaiting him in trust acomfortable income from his mother's estate, and having him away wouldbe cheaper for Mr. Reynolds. Beginning with Sophomore year, therefore,the previously dull curriculum took on a romantic hue, since by means ofit Ephesus could be left behind forever. Studying became a "stunt," andhe swept through examination after examination as though they werenovels or ball games, until at length he found himself at Woodbridge.

  Tom's college life after the first year had been as pleasant as collegelife ever is. At the start, his career was like that of most boysentering Woodbridge from a high school. His "funny" clothes and mildlyawkward manners indicated that, as yet, he hardly spoke the samelanguage as his more fortunate classmates who had been privatelyprepared for their higher education. He had heard something, of course,as everyone has, of the celebrated democratic tendency that obtains atWoodbridge. It was disconcerting, therefore, to be eyed by these youngmen as though he were a too strange bird who had somehow wandered intothe zoo proper instead of staying, where he belonged, in the aviary. Hehad been possessed, however, with the desire to "make good," and soavoided the little group of cynics that, in every class, leave theiralma mater with gall and bitterness in their hearts. As it was, he cameto admire the happy, well-dressed majority. There was an easiness ofmanner about them that charmed him. They were reserved and did not dulltheir palms with entertainment of each new-hatch'd comrade, but whenthey did accept one it appeared to be a thoroughgoing performance. Theywere the _jeunesse doree_; but Tom frankly hoped that he might qualifyfor something as fine.

  Tom had, as a matter of fact, qualified, and in the spring of his Junioryear he had been awarded the outward and visible sign of a successfulWoodbridge career--an election to Star, one of the two Senior Clubs.

  This is not the place for a discussion of these two Clubs. Furthermore,they who know anything at all about Woodbridge know about them. Theyknow well enough, without any reminder here, that an election to eitheris the first prize in the college social life, and they know,furthermore, that their influence extends over into graduate life,colouring it pleasantly to the end of one's days. The reticence whichthe members of the Clubs feel in regard to them--a reticence foundhighly amusing by outsiders--extends to the Woodbridge community, andthere is, accordingly, a somewhat formidable atmosphere about them whichis vaguely felt by all. But here we must let the affair rest. They arenot to play any other part in our story than to shed their benigninfluence over the hero, and we may dismiss them except for anoccasional inevitable reference, with a brief statement. When, in hisSophomore year, he had made the baseball team, it had been conceded thatTom's chances of "coming across" were good, and when, later, it wasdiscovered that he read books not prescribed in the college courses, hewas "sure." The baseball, however, had come first, for it is true atWoodbridge, as well as in Ephesus, that baseball adds lustre to letters.Why he had chosen Star rather than Grave--for the choice had been givenhim--is a matter so intimately connected with the outstandingcharacteristics of the two Clubs that an explanation would promptly leadto the discussion above declined. Let it suffice, therefore, that he"went" Star because of good and sufficient reasons, and we shall havedone with this delicate business.

  Then the war had come; and now, after two years of service and a year ina graduate school, Tom was back, an infant member of the Faculty.

  * * * * *

  Tom loitered up the walk to the Dean's house to make the pleasure of hisarrival the greater. The Norris house, a somewhat solemn brown-stonestructure built in the 'thirties, fascinated him. He found it impossibleto stay away for long; and now, as he rang the bell, his pulse quickenedwith the thought of the rooms about to be opened to him.

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