The Girl and the Game and Other College Stories/Leg Pull
Jeremiah Henderson came to college late in life, and was vastly superior in knowledge of the world to the mere boys who made up the bulk of his class-roll. He "knew men." He had "seen life." He had earned his own living—in fact, he had earned considerably more than his living in the four or five years he had seen life and known men as a contractor in Tucson, Arizona; and he came East to buy a college education with it. This is undoubtedly a respectable way of spending one's savings, and he was duly respected for it by his young classmates; but he had not seen much of the campus world, naturally, and his knowledge of "college men" was vastly inferior to that of the mere boys who entered with him. So Jeremiah Henderson was taught a great deal not mentioned in the annual catalogue.
During the first year or two, however, he did not learn so many of these extra-curriculum things as he should have learned for the very reason that every one treated him with so much respect. They were rather in awe of him, were inclined to hero-worship him; for he was big and brawny, and had a face with lines in it, a reserved manner, a straight, firm mouth that was kept closed most of the time. He had more than that—an air of mystery that appealed to the romance which lies thick under the slangy exterior of even the most pseudo-cynical young senior. He was a man of mark from the first.
"That big, matured-looking Westerner is an Englishman by birth, I understand; a younger son; ran away from home when a kid; has drifted about all over the world."
"That's the reason he's not so woolly as he looks. Talks well—when he does talk; has quite literary tastes—his room is chockfull of books, complete editions, fine bindings, and all that sort of thing."
"They say he used to be a Government scout out on the plains," was another comment.
"Is that so?" Well, he looks as though he might have had all sorts of experiences in his younger days. I shouldn't be surprised to hear that he had killed his man once upon a time. Maybe that's the reason he's so silent and mysterious. Remorse."
This is the way they talked about him in Freshman year. They elected him class president in the spring.
But time and familiarity gradually wore off all the imagined things, and, as with all heroes when seen within touching distance and without the glass of romance, he was found to be about as full of human nature as the rest of us. He was a man of maturity and character, a staunch friend, a good fellow to go to for advice, "a decent enough sort of chap, to be sure, but"—well, for instance, they discovered that he had been silent and inscrutable at first not because thinking great mysterious thoughts, but because, as in the case of most "reserved" people, he couldn't talk. He had been somewhat abashed and ill at ease, at a loss to understand all this college custom and class spirit business which every one seemed to consider the most momentous things in life. He had been conscious of his years and his woolliness, too, and rather on the defensive about it. But, having been chosen as a leader, finding that they were looking up to him instead of down upon him, he changed. He began to talk.
He enjoyed talking; he had done a great deal of reading and thinking out on the plains, and he hadn't had many friends with congenial tastes out there. He had views on all sorts of subjects, and he liked to air them, especially as he observed that they had weight coming from him. He talked well, too; was one of the ready-worded kind who like to hold forth at the dinner-table, smiling complacently at their own good points.
He liked to air his reading, also, as well as his practical knowledge of men and affairs; was more given to quoting and making classical allusions than most modern youths. For he was revelling in his opportunities for academic aspiration, and he thought it a pity every one did not appreciate them. He told them so. "You boys have never been intellectually starved," he used to say, "or you would look at these things as I do. If you had been obliged to earn the price of your college course you would make better use of it"; and so on, all very sound and sensible, but after a while one became tired of being reminded of it, and of how much wiser was the reminder.
They were quite patient with him, however, until he began making blasphemous utterances about their college customs and campus traditions; they won't stand much of that, especially when given with a patronizing air as of being serenely superior to all their petty strenuosity.
Naturally it would have been impossible for him to take it all so hard as they did; he had an outside, grown person's point of view; his horizon was not bounded by the campus fence, and it seemed amusing to him, almost absurd, the enthusiastic seriousness with which they took all the little affairs of their tiny college world. "Dear me!" he laughed one day; "you'd think this—what is it?—football managership?—of more importance than England's selection of a premier."
"And so it is—to us," was the reply. A pretty good epitomizing answer, by the way; applicable to much of the satire upon provinciality and narrowness of all sorts.
So the time arrived when his classmates decided that it was their duty to have a little fun with Jeremiah Henderson. This type of student is known to every college community and they generally have some such awakening.
"But where could they conceal the body during the day when the others are in the laboratory?" asked Jeremiah, beginning to look serious.
"Down in the cellar," his caller answered. "No one ever goes there." (This was late one warm night in spring term, junior year, and Jeremiah was being asked for advice.)
"H'm; how about the janitor of the building?" asked Jeremiah.
"By Jove! That must be the reason they were tipping him the other day; I wondered what they were up to at the time."
"H'm-m," still more thoughtfully; "how could they smuggle in a corpse?" Jeremiah asked.
"Oh, easy enough. The professor is always getting in dead animals from circuses and zoölogical gardens to cut up. They could box up a human body as if it were some of the professor's things, I suppose. But I don't say they have got one; all I know is what I told you I had overheard them say, about a fresh grave down there in that old cemetery this side of Lawrenceville, and how much fun it would be to do a little dissecting."
"And you say that your roommate won't tell you where he goes every night?"
"Won't say a word about it, and there's been a light in the top floor of the laboratory every night this week! Do you really suppose they have got a stiff up there, Jere?" the caller asked with something akin to excitement.
Jeremiah looked thoughtful for a moment and then announced: "I am not prepared to say."
"Oh, I don't really suppose there's anything in it," said the other, whose name was Reddy Armstrong, "but I just thought I'd come and get your advice."
"That's right; I'm glad you did," Jere nodded. "Always come to me."
"You've had so much experience," said the little fellow, looking admiringly at him. "You see, I thought possibly they might get themselves in trouble somehow."
"H'm," said Jeremiah, frowning. Then he added quietly: "Far more serious trouble than you probably realize."
"What do you mean?" Reddy exclaimed in some alarm.
"Oh, well, no matter," said Jeremiah. "No harm has come of it yet" (smiling as when people say, "Well, boys will be boys.") "Besides, we don't know for certain that they are dissecting a human body up there, do we?"
"No—oh, I hope not," said Reddy, shaking his red head earnestly. Then he added: "Say, do you suppose we ought to take steps to find out?"
"Well, what would you suggest?" Jeremiah asked with an indulgent smile.
"Oh, you're the better judge of that," said Reddy. "I suppose we could go over there and look—if you think it's worth while."
"Have you a key to the building?"
"I think I could get one within twenty-four hours."
"Good. Suppose you investigate," said Jere with a smile.
"Oh, it isn't that I'm afraid, exactly," said Reddy; "it's only, it's only——"
"It's only that you don't want to," laughed Jeremiah. "All right, my boy. I'll go around with you, if that's what you want. And we'll settle this thing together. What time will you call? Twelve? Very good. I'm your man."
"Too bad to interrupt your poling this way," said Reddy politely as he arose to go; "but I did so want to get your advice. Good-night. I felt as if I couldn't sleep without consulting you about it."
"Good-night, good-night. See you at twelve to-morrow night, then," returned Jere. "I'm glad you came to me." And with that he closed the door and sat down to think. They had not been coming around to consult him as much as formerly, although he was quite as willing to give advice. He had been wondering of late if the trouble were with him or with them. There was a time when they used to talk to him on all sorts of subjects, and he would lean back and gravely listen with his eyes squinted thoughtfully, and then, when he had thought sufficiently, would give his opinion with no little eloquence. He gave very good advice, it should be added, and he had every reason to believe that he had kept more than one man from making a fool of himself. He had said that he hoped the fellows felt free to come to him about anything at any time. "I've seen a good bit of life," he used to remark, "and you are perfectly welcome to the benefit of any advice I can give. As Cicero remarks: …"But he was glad to find that when in trouble they still turned to him, and he was not a little concerned at what Reddy had divulged—he had tried not to show how much. He was aware that it was against the laws of the State of New Jersey to dissect human bodies. That was one reason why Princeton had no medical school—though of course these mere boys did not take such things into consideration. The newspaper scandal alone, if this thing should come out, and of course it would come out in time, would be bad enough—Jeremiah was very jealous of the fair name of the Alma Mater—but it would not stop with mere publicity, he feared; the law would have to take its course and if the crime of body-snatching were proved against his young classmates—But absurd rumors were constantly floating about the campus; Reddy was very young—he was probably mistaken. So Jeremiah made up his mind to begin a thorough investigation without waiting for Reddy
Accordingly he sought out Preston Brown the next morning and found him on the way to the laboratory. "I want to see you a minute, old man," said Jeremiah kindly. His classmates liked Jere better before he had learned to say "old man." It did not suit Jeremiah's style, even if it had not fallen into disuse by the time he learned it.
"Certainly," said Preston. "What is it?"
Now, Reddy had not implicated Brown, but Jeremiah was a judge of human nature, and he knew that if there were any deviltry Preston had a hand in it.
"Preston, you know I don't believe in beating about the bush. Answer me this question, old man: Have you or have you not got something hid away in that cellar about which you'd rather not have people know?"
"Who said—what are you talking about, anyway?"
"And do you take that certain something out of the cellar at night up to the top floor, remain with it an hour or two, and then return it to the cellar again?"
"What are you talking about?" asked the other with suspicious innocence.
"Did you get this certain something down at that old cemetery a little this side of Lawrenceville, Preston?"
Preston stepped back, apparently startled, but he only exclaimed: "Why, what nonsense!"
"That's all I wanted to find out," said Jeremiah, smiling kindly.
"I'm sure I wish you'd tell me what you refer to," said Preston doggedly.
Jeremiah squinted and said: "I have an idea that you can guess, Preston, old man, eh?"
"I wish you'd explain yourself."
"I will, Preston. I will. If you are engaged in dissecting a human body" (Jeremiah emphasized the words impressively) "you are breaking the laws of New Jersey, and are liable to a large fine—not to speak of the disgrace you will bring upon your Alma Mater and yourselves. If you have been guilty of "robbing a grave" you are liable to a long term in the penitentiary. Now, I've explained myself, Preston; have you anything to explain?"
Preston had turned his face away as if appalled by the picture of the yawning prison gates; but now he faltered out a sentence or two: "What makes you think we have a corpse? What nonsense! Who put this absurd notion in your head? Why, how could we work a scheme of that sort, even if we wanted to? The janitor——"
"Has been liberally tipped;" put in Jere, smiling slyly, and with that he strode off abruptly so as to let his words soak in.
Reddy Armstrong found his adviser waiting for him with a determined expression when he called at twelve o'clock that night to investigate the biological laboratory. They proceeded across the dark, echoing campus with resolute strides—at least Jere did; Reddy trotted along behind.
They tiptoed into the dark hallway, felt around in the blackness for their bearings, and mounted the stairs as quietly as possible.
"Why, there's no light in there now," whispered Reddy as they approached the door of the demonstration-room.
"There was a minute ago; surely they have not quit work so early."
"They heard us coming, have put out the light and are now in hiding," said Jeremiah, thinking of his interview with Preston. "Let's try the door."
"Do you think we'd better?" whispered Reddy.
But Jeremiah, for answer, merely strode ahead and, finding the door unlocked, entered the dark room. An offensive odor met them at the threshold, a much stronger and fouler odor than the one that always stays in such buildings.
"Smells like it," said Reddy, and he struck a match. It was one of the spluttering kind; the foul draught blew it out. While feeling for another there was a scurrying sound in the back of the room—frogs or mice, perhaps, thinking their hour had come for being sacrificed to science. The second match took fire properly and burned up brightly.
There on a long table in the middle of the room lay something covered with a long white sheet. "There it is," said Reddy in an awed tone.
Jeremiah stepped boldly forward and pulled down the covering, disclosing the motionless and discolored features of a man's face and chest. The body was much emaciated, so that the ribs showed through.
"Great Heavens!" gasped Reddy.
"The little rascals," muttered Jeremiah.
"Let's go," whispered Reddy tremulously; "we've seen it."
"Light another match," commanded Jeremiah aloud.
"Sh," whispered Reddy, but he struck a light, then reached forward and pulled the cover up over the face again.
"I can't stand it," he explained. But he had pulled up the sheet too far, exposing the feet. Jeremiah looked at the feet; he touched them: they were stone cold (fortunately).
"Hasn't been dead long," said Reddy, lighting another match. "I can tell by the convolutions of the toes—look out! Be careful, because—because they'll discover the mark. Don't do that, Jere!"
But Jeremiah, who had opened his knife, now pricked the sole of the foot before Reddy could draw him away. This had no effect, however, except to cause the toes of that foot to double in slightly, and then slowly to straighten out again as the blade was removed. It looked so ghastly that even Jeremiah seemed startled as well as Reddy, who glibly whispered: "Reflex action of the posterior athnoid." Then the match went out. "Come on," said Reddy. "No more matches. And I—to tell the truth, I've had enough of this."
Jeremiah had not elected this course of study, and so did not contradict his young friend's diagnosis. But he said he wasn't at all frightened. "That's nothing," he remarked as they gained the fresh air of outdoors." If you'd seen as many dead bodies as I have such things wouldn't disturb you." But he did not insist upon returning with more matches.
"Well," said Reddy, as they crossed the campus, "what do you think about it now?"
Jeremiah paused, as one in deep thought. Then, "This thing must be stopped!" he said in his reserved, forceful way.
Another pause. Then:
"I must have time to think it over. To-morrow I'll give you my opinion. Good-night, my boy." ("For I wouldst be alone," added Reddy inaudibly as he ran off.)
Jeremiah, thinking over a plan of action, stayed awake far into the night—long after a group of six had stolen out of the dark laboratory as silently as men shaking with laughter could. One of them, a long, exceedingly slender man, limped as he walked. "You goat, what did you let him jab me for?" he growled to Reddy, who joined them at the corner.
"Never mind! Never mind! You played the part in great shape, and he thinks he's the great man rising to the occasion. To-morrow he is to give his 'opinion.'"
The group laughed again—went to bed laughing.
They had originally intended to keep it all to themselves, but they now decided that such a course would be selfish; it was too good to keep. And before noon of the next day all of the class were enjoying it, though some of them disapproved, for the reason that Jere was so earnest and conscientious and devoted to the honor of the university. But that, of course, was where the fun came in for "mere boys*' like Preston Brown and Reddy Armstrong.
Meanwhile Jeremiah was telling the whole class about it, too, from his point of view.
"He hasn't fully made up his mind," Reddy reported, "just what he will make you all do. He has decided merely to work up popular sentiment to-day. We are to 'defer definite action pending his decision in the matter.' It's our busy day. Have you seen us arguing with the polers?"
"Yes, I saw him even tackle Lengthy about it a minute ago."
"What, the corpse itself? Oh, good!" said Armstrong.
"At least I saw Lengthy looking very much surprised and deeply affected. The old man was old-manning him hard."
"I think it's very unkind of him," remarked one of the others, "to use his great influence and strength of character to set all our dear classmates against us."
"Oh, well, you know that's because he gave me another chance to confess," said Preston Brown, "but I wouldn't listen to the 'voice of experience' or the 'words of reason' worth a cent, though it was just after chapel and I ought to have been in a remorseful frame of mind. But I did look careworn with anxiety, all right."
"Didn't you confess this time?" asked Armstrong.
"No, it's foxier to pretend to be a brazen liar. 'Preston,' he said, 'you need not try to deceive me. You can't do it. You will only get yourself in trouble. Now own up, my boy, and let me help you.' I shook my head. 'Come, now,' said he, 'what are you going to do with the thing?' I told him I hadn't acknowledged that there was anything to own up about. He stopped a minute and laughed, as if trying to conciliate me. 'That's right,' he said; 'you'd make a good witness.' Then he told me a long story about when he was on the Grand Jury out in Arizona. 'But just suppose,' he went on, 'for the sake of argument, that there is a corpse down there in that cellar while we are talking' (we were near the laboratory, and so I shuddered like this), 'do you suppose,' he said, 'it's going to stay there, and not be missed? Don't you realize that the relatives of the deceased will discover that the grave has been tampered with? Investigation will follow, and after that, detection, as sure as the day follows night. Think of the consequences, Preston, the consequences to yourselves, to us, to the college, to your parents. Oh, think carefully, Preston, before it's too late; and, Preston, if you care to talk it over—I am always at your disposal, as you know. Good-by. Think it over.' So I moved off slowly in silence with head bowed, as one in deep thought!"
"Beautiful," said his hearers. "Beautiful!"
Meanwhile the story had spread over the campus and the town. Students in groups were talking and laughing about it wherever one looked. Even the village loafers might be seen discussing it on the corner of Witherspoon Street. And the negro waiters at the clubs were afraid to cross the campus at night, notwithstanding the story said it was a fictitious corpse.
"It'll get around to him that it's a leg pull," said Preston Brown sadly; "it is too bad, but it's sure to. Some of these conscientious yaps——"
"Suppose I go and tell him that I've discovered it's all a leg pull," said Reddy Armstrong.
"What do you mean?"
"Why, then, when he asks me how I found out I'll say innocently, 'Preston Brown told me so.' Don't you see?"
"Good. That's the dope."
Reddy did so, and reported that the old man only smiled pityingly at him, and said: "I've already heard that rumor. It's believed by some, but they may as well know they can't put me off the scent in that way. Tell Preston Brown that I give him twenty-four hours to take that body back to its proper resting-place and re-inter it before his atrocious crime is discovered. If he does not do so I will, myself. That is my ultimatum."
"Did he really say ultimatum?"
By this time even the faculty was taking more than a passing interest. On the way across the campus they smiled understandingly at seeing little groups of undergraduates talking and grinning. And if they saw Henderson hurrying by with his brows knit as if the safety of his young classmates and the honor of the university were resting upon his shoulders they laughed outright.
Jeremiah had organized a relief expedition to return the corpse to its resting-place. The question was how to get it.
The next afternoon the gang happened, by design, to be sitting under a tree by Jeremiah's open window.
Preston Brown was saying, in a voice almost trembling with emotion: "Fellows, I tell you there's no use trying to bluff it out any longer. We can't do it! As the old man says, the loss will be discovered by the widow sooner or later; then there will be the deuce to pay! I don't want to end my college course in prison."
This caused a sad silence.
"I wish we'd never touched the old grave," said one of the others mournfully. "I didn't realize the full significance of it until the old man talked to me. What do you think we ought to do—take it back, as he says?"
"And run the risk of getting caught with it in our possession?" exclaimed Preston Brown. "Never! Let's bury the darn thing here."
"Anything to get rid of it—before the detectives are put upon the case and trace it down to the laboratory," said one of the others.
"We'll bury the blamed thing in Potter's Woods this very night as soon as it's dark."
"No, wait till later."
"Nonsense—no one will pay much attention or be suspicious if we are seen carrying something about dusk——"
"The sooner the better, I say."
The gang had arisen. "All right, then," said Preston Brown, "we'll meet at——"
But they had passed from the hearing of Jeremiah, who gazed out of the window after them, smiling knowingly.
Immediately after senior singing that evening they approached the laboratory. Most of the undergraduate body were waiting around in the neighborhood expectantly. (You see, the gang had thoughtfully decided upon this early hour for the benefit of the college.) "By the way," called out Dougal Davis to the gang, "you may not know it, but I am one of the pickets to watch for your approach. The old man will now be informed of your expected arrival. If necessary we are to use force to prevent your fell design."
"Is that so?" laughed Preston Brown; "it must be fine to have such powers of organization." Then, turning to Ferris, the long, thin man, he said: "Lengthy, skip up and get under your sheet. We'll be your pall-bearers in a minute."
"That sheet smells to Heaven," said Ferris, shrugging his shoulders.
"Well, this is the last time," returned the other. "All you've got to do is to lie still until we give you the signal; then—you know what to do, and—Jeremiah will do the rest."
Ferris laughed. "Well, tell Reddy no 'posterior-athnoid' test this time— remember. And if Jeremiah decides to use force, as he has threatened, respect the dead, please." Then he went upstairs to stretch out upon the improvised bier he had already provided for the occasion.
"Has Jeremiah been notified of our arrival?" asked Preston Brown.
"Yes, he'll be along in a moment."
"And the fellows all know what they are to do?"
"Yep—let's get the body."
"For Heaven's sake, don't let 'em laugh and spoil it all."
"They say," one of the gang remarked on the way upstairs, "that poor old Jere is so worked up that he has been losing sleep over it."
"Yes, he has even taken counsel of the faculty, I understand. Luckily they're all on to the joke and are enjoying it too. But he told Reddy that he had 'a friend on the Faculty to whom he could go like a brother——'"
"Yes," said Preston Brown, "he meant Newton, the new art professor. I saw the old man talking earnestly to him to-day, standing there beside one of those papier-mâché Apollos that the fool Freshmen are always stealing—heard him say: 'They are only boys; they don't mean any harm.'"
"Here he comes a-running!" cried one of those below to those climbing the stairs.
"All right; we'll be down with it as fast as we can"; and presently they reappeared, bearing in silence the white-shrouded figure, which caught the gleam of a distant streetlight.
And here was Jeremiah, confronting them at the threshold, with arms folded across his chest, a sarcastic smile on his face. The plotters pretended to be much taken aback at being caught in the act.
"So," he began, looking them over, one by one—"So there wasn't anything in the laboratory, Preston? It was all a leg pull on the old man, wasn't it? You thought you could deceive me, did you?" Then, changing his tone to one of distress: "I wish to Heaven I were mistaken." Then, again changing his tone to one of command, and raising his hand impressively, he said: "Now, boys, this thing has got to stop right here—right now!"
Some one in the rear whispered: "Are we to 'use force' now?"
"No; Reddy says Jeremiah desires to conciliate us, if possible."
The pall-bearers were edging forward little by little, and Jeremiah was walking backward before them.
"Boys, what do you propose to do with that thing?" he asked temporizingly.
"Are you going to return it to its proper and lawful resting-place?"
Still no answer. Jeremiah was walking backward a little faster now.
"I know what you propose to do. I am acquainted with your whole nefarious plot. But you shall not succeed!"
("He's gradually getting worked up," the crowd whispered.)
The sullen, silent pall-bearers looked grim and defiant. And they kept marching on. The undergraduate horde brought up the rear, quiet and expectant.
"Will you, Preston Brown, answer my question? What good will it do you to bury that thing in the woods?"
Without looking up Preston muttered: "It's a white elephant, Jere; we want to get rid of it. Don't interfere with us, 'Old Man.'"
"You can't get rid of it," said Jere with simple earnestness. "Even if you could hide it effectually," he went on, "you cannot be rid of your responsibility! Why, think, boys, was that not once a fellow human being?" ("Do you hear that, Lengthy?" one of the rear pall-bearers whispered.) "You have taken this poor body, wrenched it from the grave to which it had been entrusted by a loving wife, and little children, perhaps, and now, having had your fun out of it, you are going to drag it off to the woods, like a dead horse, bury it in the public woods, where dogs may come and scratch it up, this way!" Jere showed them with his hands how dogs scratch things up, and one of the leading pall-bearers no longer able to hold in, laughed aloud.
"For shame!" thundered Jere. "You think this is a laughing matter? You will wish you had not laughed—mark my words." And then he launched out upon a really remarkable flight of oratory, showing the folly of their proposed action, the certainty of detection, and the awfulness of the penalty, concluding by beseeching them in the name of humanity, in the name of honor, and most of all for the fair name of the university, to stop before it was too late. At the end of his peroration he was standing before the bier with both hands raised in adjuration.
"Curfew shall not ring to-night," whispered one of the Seniors in the background, but they were all somewhat impressed with the oratory that had been displayed. They had not known him capable of it.
"Finally, for the last time," he cried in a tremulous voice, "will you turn back, or must we force you back?" He beckoned excitedly to the crowd to close in about the bier. Many of them did so. The cortège stopped abruptly.
"What a pitiful ass he's making of himself," said one Senior in the background to another. "Yes," was the reply, "he'll never get over it, like that fellow in——"
"Seize them!" Jere commanded shrilly.
Some of the crowd rushed toward the pall-bearers like the charging foe in battle-scenes on the stage.
"Hold on!" shouted Preston Brown. "Of course you outnumber us, but if you want to take the thing back you've got to carry it yourselves." And he offered his place to Jeremiah, who came forward to take it.
Now this was the signal for Ferris to jump up and yell "Leg pull!" in Jeremiah's face. But he did not do it. Preston, thinking he had forgotten, leaned over and pulled back the sheet, yelling as he did so: "Leg pull! leg pull!" Some of the crowd joined in, but suddenly stopped. For they saw Preston start back in amazement.
Ferris did not jump up. Ferris was not there. There was light enough to see that, instead of a man, one of Professor Newton's papier-mâché figures was stretched out on the bier.
"For Heaven's sake!" some one exclaimed in the crowd, which was strangely silent for such a good-sized crowd.
Just then a quiet, professorial voice was heard to remark: "I am glad to discover the thieves at last, but I had not expected to find upper classmen descending to such puerile Freshman tricks." Professor Newton had edged his way into the centre of the crowd. He was followed by four special policemen from Trenton.
"Shall we arrest them, sir?" the sergeant asked.
"No, officer, spare them," cried Jeremiah Henderson. "They are only boys—it is merely what they call a leg pull."
Then he broke down with laughter, Professor Newton joining in.
The crowd turned to Jeremiah in silent amazement.
"What did you get us up here for, then?" growled the sergeant. "This don't seem to be a laughing matter."
"No," said Jere, "they don't seem to be enjoying it," looking around at the crowd; "but this is the way they get their fun. They'll probably settle your bill—for the enjoyment of their leg pull. Preston, I warned you not to try to deceive me. Billy, I told you you'd stop laughing, but—oh, my! I don't believe I'll ever stop," and again he laughed loud and all alone.
The crowd were now beginning to understand. They were explaining to each other. Some of them shouted "leg pull" as they moved away talking about it.
But the pall-bearers did not join in. They had found Lengthy Ferris, and were demanding an explanation. "Oh, don't get so hot," said Ferris, grinning; "it isn't so much fun to pull one leg as it is to pull several hundred. The old man got on to me the time he stuck me. And we thought it was a shame to spoil the fun for the whole college. You fellows will feel better to-morrow."
I may add, however, that Jeremiah profited by the hint contained in their attempt upon him, so that it was just as well, perhaps, that it happened as it did. But it annoyed Preston Brown to be called "the corpse."