When the rider drew near, Joel recognized Stephen Remsen, and he withdrew toward the wall, that the Coach might have the benefit of the level footpath and avoid the ruts. But instead of speeding by, Remsen slowed down a few feet distant and jumped from his wheel.
“Hello, March!” was his greeting as he came up to that youth. “Are you studying botany?” Joel explained that he had been only trying to identify the aster, a spray of which he had broken off and still held in his hand.
“Perhaps I can tell you what it is,” answered Remsen as he took it. “Yes, it’s the Purple-Stemmed, Aster puniceus. Isn’t it common where you live?”
“I’ve never noticed it,” answered Joel. “We have lots of the Novoe-Anglioe and spectabilis in Maine, and some of the white asters. It must be very lovely about here in spring.”
“Yes, it is. Spring is beautiful here, as it is everywhere. The valley of the Hudson is especially rich in flora, I believe. I used to be very fond of the woods on Mount Adam when I was a boy here at Hillton, and knew every tree in it.” They were walking on toward the village, Remsen rolling his bicycle beside him.
“It’s a long while since then, I suppose, sir?” queried Joel.
“I graduated from Hillton ten years ago this coming June. I rowed stroke in the boat that spring, and we won from Eustace by an eighth of a mile. And we nearly burned old Masters down to the ground with our Roman candles and sky rockets. You room there, don’t you, March?”
“Yes, sir; Number 34.”
“That was Billy Mathews’s room that year. Some time if you look under the carpet you’ll find a depression in the middle of the floor. That’s where Billy made a bonfire one night and offered up in sacrifice all his text-books. It took half an hour to put that fire out.” Remsen was smiling reminiscently.
“But what did he burn his books for, sir? Was it the end of the year?”
“No, but Billy had been expelled that day, and was celebrating the fact. He was a nice old chap, was Billy Mathews. He’s president of a Western railroad now.” Joel laughed.
“That bonfire must have made as much commotion as some of the explosions in Number 15, Mr. Remsen.”
“Hello! Are my efforts in pursuit of science still remembered here? Who told you about that, March?”
“Mrs. Cowles. She said you were forever doing something terrible, but that you were such a nice boy.” Remsen laughed heartily as he replied:
“Well, don’t pattern your conduct on mine or Mathews’s, March. We weren’t a very well-behaved lot, I fear. But I don’t believe our pranks did much harm. In those days football wasn’t as popular as it is to-day, at Hillton, and fellows couldn’t work off their surplus animal spirits thumping a pigskin as they can now. Football is a great benefactor in that way, March. It has done away with hazing and street brawls and gate stealing and lots of other deviltry. By the way, how are you getting on with the game?”