“What on earth’s the matter, Ramsey?”
“Look! Look at this!”
Fred took the card and examined it with an amazement gradually merging into a pleasure altogether too perceptible:
TWELVE-MINUTE DEBATE, CLASS OF 1918. Subject, Resolved: That Germany is both legally and morally justified in her invasion of Belgium.
(Debaters are notified that each will be held strictly to the following schedule: Affirmative, 4 min., first. Negative, 4 min., first. Affirm, 2 min., second. Neg., 2 min., second.)
Affirmative Negative R. MILHOLLAND, ’18 D. YOCUM, ’18
Concluding his reading, which was oral, the volatile Mitchell made use of his voice in a manner of heathenish boisterousness, and presently reclined upon a lounge to laugh the better. His stricken comrade, meanwhile, recovered so far as to pace the floor. “I’m goin’ to pack up and light out for home!” he declared, over and over. And even oftener he read and reread the card to make sure of the actuality of that fatal coincidence, “D. Yocum, ’18.”
“If I could do it,” he vociferated, “if I could stand up there and debate one o’ their darn ole debates in the first place—if I had the gall to even try it, why, my gosh! you don’t suppose I’m goin’ to get up there and argue with that girl, do you? That’s a hot way to get an education: stand up there and argue with a girl before a couple o’ hundred people! My gosh!”
“You got to!” his prostrate companion cackled, weakly. “You can’t get out of it. You’re a goner, ole Buddy!”
“I’ll be sick. I’ll be sick as a dog! I’ll be sick as the sickest dog that ever—”
“No use, ole man. The frat seniors’ll be on the job. They’ll know whether you’re sick or not, and they’ll have you there, right on the spot to the minute!”
The prediction was accurate. The too fatherly “frat seniors” did all that Fred said they would, and more. For the honour of the “frat,” they coached the desperate Ramsey in the technic of Lumen debate, told him many more things to say than could be said in six minutes, and produced him, despairing, ghastly, and bedewed, in the large hall of the Lumen Society at eight o’clock on Friday evening.
Four other “twelve-minute debates” preceded his and the sound of these, in Ramsey’s ears, was the sound of Gabriel practising on his horn in the early morning of Judgment Day. The members of the society sat, three rows deep, along the walls of the room, leaving a clear oblong of green carpet in the centre, where were two small desks, twenty feet apart, the rostrums of the debaters. Upon a platform at the head of the room sat dreadful seniors, the officers of the society, and, upon benches near the platform, the debaters of the evening were aligned. One of the fraternal seniors sat with sweltering Ramsey; and the latter, as his time relentlessly came nearer, made a last miserable squirm.