You see the Sophs are apt to be very nasty that day,’ he continued.
I acknowledged they were quite capable of it.
‘And they don’t care where they hit,’ he went on.
I felt of my head that was still sore, from a forceful argument of the preceding day, and admitted there was good ground for the assertion.
When I met my classmen, that afternoon, I was an advocate of the ‘stove-pipe’ as a means of protection. There were a number of husky fellows, in my class, who saw its resisting power and seconded my suggestion. We decided to leave it to the ladies of the class and they greeted our plan with applause. So, that morning, we arrayed ourselves in high hats, heavy canes and fine linen, marching together up College Hill. We had hardly entered the gate before we saw the Sophs forming in a thick rank outside the door prepared, as we took it, to resist our entrance. They out-numbered us and were, in the main, heavier but we had a foot or more of good stiff material between each head and harm. Of just what befell us, when we got to the enemy, I have never felt sure. Of the total inefficiency of the stove-pipe hat as an article of armour, I have never had the slightest doubt since then. There was a great flash and rattle of canes. Then the air was full of us. In the heat of it all prudence went to the winds. We hit out right and left, on both sides, smashing hats and bruising heads and hands. The canes went down in a jiffy and then we closed with each other hip and thigh. Collars were ripped off, coats were torn, shirts were gory from the blood of noses, and in this condition the most of us were rolling and tumbling on the ground. I had flung a man, heavily, and broke away and was tackling another when I heard a hush in the tumult and then the voice of the president. He stood on the high steps, his grey head bare, his right hand lifted. It must have looked like carnage from where he stood.
‘Young gentlemen!’ he called. ’Cease, I command you. If we cannot get along without this thing we will shut up shop.’
Well, that was the end of it and came near being the end of our careers in college. We looked at each other, torn and panting and bloody, and at the girls, who stood by, pale with alarm. Then we picked up the shapeless hats and went away for repairs. I had heard that the path of learning was long and beset with peril but I hoped, not without reason, the worst was over. As I went off the campus the top of my hat was hanging over my left ear, my collar and cravat were turned awry, my trousers gaped over one knee. I was talking with a fellow sufferer and patching the skin on my knuckles, when suddenly I met Uncle Eb.
‘By the Lord Harry!’ he said, looking me over from top to toe, ‘teacher up there mus’ be purty ha’sh.’
‘It wa’n’t the teacher,’ I said.
‘Must have fit then.’
‘Fit hard,’ I answered, laughing.
‘Try t’ walk on ye?’