He remembered the strange feeling of loneliness that had oppressed him on his arrival, when, just as the sun was setting over the river, he had dropped down from the old stage coach in front of Academy Hall, a queer-looking, shabbily dressed country boy with a dilapidated leather valise and a brown paper parcel almost as big. He remembered the looks of scorn and derision that had met him as he had taken his way to the office, and, with a glow at his heart, the few simple, kindly words of welcome and the firm grasp of the hand from the Principal. Then came the first day at school, with the dread examinations, which after all turned out to be fairly easy, thanks to Joel’s faculty for remembering what he had once learned. He remembered, too, the disparaging remarks of “Dickey” Sproule, who had predicted Joel’s failure at the “exams.”. “Who ever heard,” Sproule had asked scornfully, “of a fellow making the upper middle class straight out of a country grammar school, without any coaching?” But when the lists were posted, Joel’s name was down, and Sproule had taken deep offense thereat. “The school’s going to the dogs,” he had complained. “Examinations aren’t nearly as hard as they were when I entered.”
The third day, when he had kicked that football down the field, and, later, had made the acquaintance of Outfield West, seemed now to have been the turning point from gloom to sunshine. Since then Joel had changed from the unknown, derided youth in the straw hat to some one of importance; a some one to whom the captain of the school eleven spoke whenever they met, a chum of the most envied boy in the Academy, and a candidate for the football team for whom every fellow predicted success.
But, best of all, in those few days he had gained the liking of well-nigh all of the teachers by the hearty way in which he pursued knowledge; for he went at Caesar as though he were trying for a touch-down, and tackled the Foundations of Rhetoric as though that study was an opponent on the gridiron. Even Professor Durkee, known familiarly among the disrespectful as “Turkey,” lowered his tones and spoke with something approaching to mildness when addressing Joel March. Altogether, the world looked very bright to Joel to-day, and when, as presently, he drew near to the little stone depot, the sounds of singing and cheering that greeted his ears chimed in well with his mood.