Late one afternoon in April, Professor Irving stood in his customary niche at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street, watching the traffic from a sheltered spot against the wall of the building. He was becoming exceedingly anxious about the approaching storm. It had come up since he left Stuyvesant Square, and he had no umbrella. He must not get his silk hat wet. His thin overcoat was protecting him but feebly from the wind, which with the disappearance of the sun had grown sharp and biting. It was rapidly becoming dark. Lights were flashing in the windows up and down the Avenue.
The Professor decided to stand in a doorway till the shower had passed over. The chimes in the Metropolitan Tower struck the first quarter after four, the sounds welling in gusts to the old man’s ears. A little man came to stand in the doorway beside the Professor. The latter saw that the little man had a big umbrella. Silk hats were so fearfully expensive in these days!
The heavy drops beat against the pavement in torrents. The first flash of lightning of the year was followed by a deep roll of thunder.
“I got to go!” said the little man. “Keep the umbrella! I got another where I work. I’m only fifty-five. You’re older than me, a lot. You better start home. You’ll get soaked, standing here!” And the little man was gone before the Professor could reply.
“An exceedingly kindly, simple man,” thought the old Professor. He had planned, while standing with his unknown benefactor, that he would go into some store and wait. But now he would chance it, and cross the street. He saw a lull in the traffic. He started and was nearly swept off his feet. He got to the middle of the street. The umbrella grew unwieldy, swinging this way and that, as if tugged by unseen hands. It turned inside out. Blaring noises from the passing cars confused the Professor.
The shaft of the umbrella swung violently around and knocked the silk hat from Professor Irving’s head. His white hair was caught by the wind. Lashed in another direction, the shaft now struck the Professor’s glasses, and they flew away. Now he could see little or nothing. He became bewildered.
Great glaring headlights broke upon him, passed him, and then immediately other glaring lights flared up toward him out of the sheets of water. He couldn’t see because of his lost glasses and because of the stinging rain. He rushed between two cars. He slipped....
The chimes on the Metropolitan Tower rang out, in wails of wild sound, the half-hour after four.
* * * * *
The attendance that evening at the annual banquet of the New York alumni of Huntington College exceeded all previous records. The drive for two million five hundred thousand dollars was on. It was a small college, but as Daniel Webster said of Dartmouth, there were those who loved it.
The east ballroom of the hotel was well filled with diners. Recollections of college days were shouted across tables and over intervening aisles. There was a million still to raise: but old Huntington would put it across! They’d gotten out more of the older men, the men with money, than had ever been seen before at an alumni dinner.