The boys were all on the broad grin; Westby’s manner was so expansively courteous, his compliments were so absurdly urbane, that Irving threw off his air of coldness and adopted a jaunty manner of reply which was even more misleading.
“Oh, well, if you’ve been so clever as to guess it, Westby,” he said, “I don’t mind telling you—it’s my brother.”
Westby bestowed on his confederates—quite indifferent as to whether Irving detected it or not—his slow, facetious wink. He returned then to his victim and in his most gamesome manner said,—
“I supposed of course it was your brother, sir. Or at least I should have supposed so, except that I didn’t know you had a brother at Harvard. Wasn’t it rather—what shall I say?—peu aimable not to have taken us, your friends, into your confidence? Would you mind telling us, sir, what your brother’s first name is?”
“My brother’s first name? Lawrence.”
“Hm!” said Westby, referring to his newspaper. “I find him set down here as ‘T. Upton.’ But I suppose that is a misprint, of course.”
“I suppose it must be,” agreed Irving.
“Newspapers are always making mistakes, aren’t they?” said Westby. “Such careless fellows! We’d like awfully to hear more about your brother Lawrence, Mr. Upton.”
The broad grin broke into a snicker.
“Why, I don’t know just what there is to tell,” Irving said awkwardly.
“What does he look like, sir? Does he resemble you very much?—I mean, apart from the family fondness for athletics.”
Irving’s lips twitched; Westby was enjoying so thoroughly his revenge! And the other boys were all stifling their amusement.
“We are said not to look very much alike,” he answered. “He is of a somewhat heavier build.”
“He must be somewhat lacking, then, in grace and agility, sir,” said Westby; and the boys broke into a shout, and Irving gave way to a faint smile.
At that moment Collingwood came up the stairs.
“Hello, Lou,” said Westby, with a welcoming wink. “We’re just congratulating Mr. Upton on his brother; did you know that he has a brother playing on the Harvard Freshmen?”
“Yes,” said Collingwood. “I’ve just heard it from Mr. Barclay.”
The boys stared at Collingwood, then at Irving, whose eyes were twinkling again and whose smile had widened. Then they looked at Westby; he was gazing at Collingwood unbelievingly,—stupefied.
“What’s the matter with you?” asked Collingwood.
And then Irving broke out into a delighted peal of laughter. He could find nothing but slang in which to express himself, and through his laughter he ejaculated,—
“Stung, my young friend! Stung!”
They all gave a whoop; they swung Westby round and rushed him down the corridor to his room, shouting and jeering.
When Irving went down to lunch, Carroll, the quizzical, silent Carroll, welcomed him with a grin. Westby turned a bright pink and looked away. At the next table Allison and Smythe and Scarborough were all looking over at him and smiling; and at the table beyond that Collingwood and Morrill and Dennison were craning their necks and exhibiting their joy. Westby, the humorist, had suddenly become the butt, a position which he had rarely occupied before.