“It seems Hoddy had an invalid old sister—and they hadn’t any money except this pension. How the two old souls got along no one will never know. But she died awhile ago, and that put Hoddy into a lot more debt. And this miserable little eighty dollars a month has had to carry him and his debts. And not a whimper that old man utters. Always kindly, Hoddy was, always telling stories from the forty years at Huntington—and we fellows here, a lot of us rotten with money, and not knowing that the old fellow—–”
Middleton’s voice broke. It was some time before he proceeded.
“This afternoon, at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street, just as that tornado broke, he tried to cross the street. He got in a jam of cars, and of course the windshields were all mussed up with rain, and the chauffeurs couldn’t see anything ahead—and they don’t know whose car it was. The police say it was just four thirty-one when they picked him up.
“Well, that’s all, except that—I’m going down to Bellevue, and if one or two of you want to come—perhaps old Hoddy will know us—even this late.”
Middleton had finished. From various parts of the room came the words: “I’ll go! Let me go!” Men were frankly wiping their eyes.
At a distant table arose Martin Delano. He was reputed to be the wealthiest alumnus of Huntington. He was said to have made almost fabulous millions during the war. In the Street he was known as “Merciless Martin.” They were planning to strike him this evening for at least a hundred thousand.
Martin Delano stood holding the edge of the table with one hand, the other fingering a spoon on the table. He stood there long. Several times he opened his lips as though to speak. He took out his handkerchief and wiped his cheeks and forehead. Evidently he was deeply moved.
“Mr. Toastmaster, may I ask the privilege of going down to Bellevue with Mr. Middleton? I would ask that I be allowed to insist on going down. I have sinned, grievously sinned, in forgetting old Hoddy. Now, when it’s too late——Thirty years ago, and more, when I was a green, frightened freshman from Vermont, he took me to his heart. He was known as the Freshman’s Friend. That’s what Hoddy always did—take the green and frightened freshman to his heart. Probably, if he hadn’t done that to me, I’d have gone back home in my lonesomeness. And then——
“Yes, I have sinned—and it might have been so different. I want to go down there! And I’m coming back here, before you men are through to-night, and I’ll tell you more.”
At about half-past ten Martin Delano came back. He walked into the room just as one of the speakers had finished. The toastmaster caught his eye and beckoned to him to come to the speaker’s table. Delano stood in front of the crowd. He had walked forward, seeing no one on his way.
“Hoddy—Hoddy has gone, boys!”
Then quickly, silently, the three hundred men arose and stood. After a time they heard Delano say: “Sit down, boys.”