Richard Sproule was a member of the senior class, and monitor for the floor upon which he had his room. He had, perhaps, no positive meanness in him. Most of his unpleasantness was traceable to envy. Just at present he was cultivating a dislike for Joel because of the latter’s enviable success at lessons and because a resident of Hampton House had taken him up. Sproule cared nothing for out-of-door amusements and hated lessons. His whole time, except when study was absolutely compulsory, was taken up with the reading of books of adventure; and Captain Marryat and Fenimore Cooper were far closer acquaintances than either Cicero or Caesar. Richard Sproule was popularly disliked and shunned.
In the dining hall that evening Joel ate and relished his first hearty meal since he had arrived at Hillton. The exercise had brought back a naturally good appetite, which had been playing truant.
The dining hall takes up most of the ground floor of Warren Hall. Eight long, roomy tables are arranged at intervals, with broad aisles between, through which the white-aproned waiters hurry noiselessly about. To-night there was a cheerful clatter of spoons and forks and a loud babel of voices, and Joel found himself hugely enjoying the novelty of eating in the presence of more than a hundred and fifty other lads. Outfield West and his neighbors in Hampton House occupied a far table, and there the noise was loudest. West was dressed like a young prince, and his associates were equally as splendid. As Joel observed them, West glanced across and saw him, and waved a hilarious greeting with a soup spoon. Joel nodded laughingly back, and then settled in his chair with an agreeable sensation of being among friends. This feeling grew when, toward the end of his meal, Wesley Blair, in leaving the hall, saw him and stopped beside his chair.
“How did you get on this afternoon?” Blair asked pleasantly.
“Very well, thanks,” Joel replied.
“That’s good. By the way, go and see Mr. Beck to-morrow and get examined. Tell him I sent you. You’ll find him at the gym at about eleven. And don’t forget to show up to-morrow at practice.”
The elder youth passed on, leaving Joel the center of interest for several moments. His left-hand neighbor, a boy who affected very red neckties, and who had hitherto displayed no interest in his presence, now turned and asked if he knew Blair.
“No,” replied Joel. “I met him only to-day on the football field.”
“Are you on the ’Leven?”
“No, but I’m trying for it.”
“Well, I guess you’ll make it; Blair doesn’t often go out of his way to encourage any one.”
“I hope I shall,” answered Joel. “Who is Mr. Beck, please?”
“He’s director of the gym. You have to be examined, you know; if you don’t come up to requirements you can’t go in for football.”
“Oh, thank you.” And Joel applied himself to his pudding, and wondered if there was any possibility of his not passing.