“I am not a new kid. I am a master.”
The three boys who had been beaming on him with good humor in their eyes stared blankly. Then the one in the middle, with a sudden whoop of laughter, swung the two others round and led them off at a run; and as they went, their delighted laughter floated back to Irving’s ears.
His cheeks were tingling, almost as if they had been slapped. He followed the boys at a distance; they moved towards the Upper School. His heart sank; what if they were in his dormitory?
He entered the building just as the last of the three was going up the Sixth Form dormitory stairs.
HE ACHIEVES A NAME FOR HIMSELF
At the foot of the staircase Irving hesitated until the sound of the voices and footsteps had ceased. The three boys had not seen him when he had entered; he was wondering whether he had better be courageous, go right up after them, and introduce himself,—just as if they had not caught him off his guard and put him into a ridiculous position,—or delay a little while in the hope that their memory of it would be less keen.
He decided that he had better be courageous. When he reached the top floor, he went into his room; he was feeling nervous over the prospect of confronting his charges, and he wished to be sure that his hair and his necktie looked right. While he was examining himself in the mirror, he heard a door open on the corridor and a boy call, “Lou! Did you know that Mr. Williams won’t be back this term?”
Farther down the corridor a voice answered, “No! What’s the matter?”
“Typhoid. Mr. Randolph told me.”
“Who’s taken his place?” It was another voice that asked this question.
“A new man—named Upton. I haven’t laid eyes on him yet.”
“Wouldn’t it be a joke—!” The speaker paused to laugh. “Suppose it should turn out to be the new kid!”
“‘I am not a new kid; I am a master.’”
The mimicry was so accurate that Irving winced and then flushed to the temples. In the laughter that it produced he closed his door quietly and sat down to think. He couldn’t be courageous now; he felt that he could not step out and face those fellows who were laughing at him. Of course they were the ones who ought to be embarrassed by his appearance, not he; but Irving felt they would lend one another support and brazen it through, and that he would be the one to exhibit weakness. He decided that he must wait and try to make himself known to each one of them separately—that only by such a beginning would he be likely to engage their respect.
It was the first time that he had been brought face to face with his pitiable diffidence. He was ashamed; he thought of how differently Lawrence would have met the situation—how much more directly he would have dealt with it. Irving resolved that hereafter he would not be afraid of any multitude of boys. But he refrained from making his presence known in the dormitory that afternoon.