Fred Fearnot's Day, or The Great Reunion at Avon

CHAPTER I.
THE GATHERING OF THE ALUMNI AT AVON ACADEMY.

The Alumni of the Avon Academy were hurrying to meet at Avon on the occasion of their annual reunion. Professor Lambert had sent a circular letter to each one, asking for his presence on the occasion, as he expected it to be the most important gathering of the graduates of his beloved Institution since its foundation. Of course, every graduate made it a point of honor to keep the pledge he had made at former reunions, to always attend if in his power to so.

Many of the graduates during the early years of the academy's existence were now men of families, and in business. Some were lawyers, doctors, merchants and railroad men. Not a few had made names for themselves in business or political circles, yet they loved their alma mater, and were hastening forward to meet old friends and new, to join in a tribute to the institution.

Some three or four days before they were all to meet at Avon, there was a little gathering of graduates at Fredonia, where Fred Fearnot, Terry Olcott, Joe Jencks, Dick Duncan and Tom Tipps met by agreement that all might attend in a body.

Tom Tips had married his Poughkeepsie girl, and she was accompanying him to the great reunion.

They were all guests of Terry Olcott, and of course they were a lively party during their stay at the Olcott residence, for it was impossible for such lively young fellows to get together and keep quiet. They sang their old glee club songs, had a dance at the Hamilton residence, spent a day out at the lake, fishing or rowing with more than two score other young people of both sexes with whom they were well acquainted.

"Fred," said Evelyn Olcott, soon after he reached Fredonia, "Terry says that the professor has you down on his list as one of the several speakers at the banquet."

"Yes, so he has, little girl. You know he has always imposed on me."

"Well, have you got your speech ready?"

"Of course I have. Do you want to hear me fire it off?"

"No, that would spoil my enjoyment of it at the banquet."

"Oh, you think you are, going to enjoy it, do you?"

"Of course I do, for I know you are going to do your best."

"I don't know about that. I did my best last time, and now, in trying to avoid any relation, I'm a little afraid I've spoiled it, and that it will be a failure."

"A failure? I never knew you to make one in your life, Fred."

"Of course not, when you were around, because you were always a source of inspiration to me."

"Well, I'm going to be there, and if that is true, you won't make a failure; but let me beg you not to ring Eunice and me into your speech again, for it is extremely embarrassing to both of us."

"Oh, I don't know what I'm going to do," he laughed. "Like a Quaker, I do as the spirit moves me. You needn't be surprised if I should snatch you up in my arms, set you on my shoulder and sing your praises for all I am worth."

"My! If I thought you would do such a thing as that, Fred, I wouldn't go. I know that Eunice wouldn't stand it, and, furthermore, you wouldn't attempt such a thing with her anyway,"

"That's all you know about it," he laughed. "Eunice and I are great friends."

"Oh, I'm well aware of that, but her rigid dignity and strict ideas of propriety wouldn't stand any such thing as that. Besides, her father and mother will be present."

"Oh, I'm all right with the old folks. They are stanch friends of mine."

"Well, I don't intend to sit close enough to you for you to play any tricks like that on me."

"Oh, you've got to sit alongside of me at the table, for you are my girl, you know, and as your escort I'll have to look after you."

"Yes, but whenever we go up to Avon you are rather shy about looking after me when Eunice is around, for you seem to be afraid to show me anymore attention than you do her."

"Say, old girl, are you jealous of Eunice?"

"No, indeed! You never knew me to be jealous of any one in your life. I merely mentioned that to let you know that I understand you."

"Oh, I've known that a long time. You do understand me, and you are about the only girl of my acquaintance who does; and I understand you, too. You have the good sense to understand what a gentleman's duties are to the fair sex. The fellow who confines his attentions strictly to one girl, ignoring the presence of other ladies, makes a great mistake, and shows a lack of tact and good judgment, and the girl who insists upon her escort ignoring other ladies entirely, evinces a disgusting selfishness. There is a cozy little parlor right in the center of my heart where you sit and sing in perfect harmony with its pulsation, even when I am paying attention to other girls."

"That's a pretty speech, Fred," she laughed. "Never heard you put it that way before. It's a new phrase you have coined. Have you spoken it to any other girl?"

"No. I haven't, and I don't intend to, either. I have spoken it to you for the first time, and for once in your life I want you to believe what I say."

"Really, now; Fred, do you wish me to believe that?"

"I do, little girl."

"Well. I will believe it, Fred, but you know how deeply rooted in the mind of everybody is the old saying, 'Actions speak louder than words.'"

"Yes, and it is a true saying, and it's a pity there are so many people who are unable to comprehend what good breeding and politeness require of gentlemen in the presence of ladies, and are so quick to misconstrue both words and actions. If I were to say to you that you were no better than you ought to be, you would understand it, but ninety-nine out of a hundred girls would consider themselves insulted and call me to account. I don't think that you, or any other girl, are any better than you ought to be, yet if you won't scratch my eyes out or pull my hair, I will add that I don't think you could be any sweeter than you are, prettier or better. There's nothing in the world lacking about you except wings, and if you had those, I'd cut one of them to keep you from flying away from me."

"Oh, Fred! it's a habit you have of saying pleasant things. It does no harm, and I confess to enjoying it as an exhibition of your versatility."

"Versatility? Haven't you ever heard Terry talking to Mary?"

"Oh yes, he's been taking lessons from you, but generally he prefers to get her off in a corner where no one else can hear; but by watching her, noting the sparkle of her eyes and the color, chasing each other on her cheek, I know he is saying things to her that are pleasing."

"Say, old girl, have you found out yet whether or not they are engaged?"

"No, I haven't; but if I had, I wouldn't tell you if she wished it to be kept a secret. I'm not the one ever to tell on another any of the affairs of the heart."

"Of course, Mary's going up to Avon with us, is she not?"

"Yes, she's going with me."

"No, she isn't. She's going with Terry, and I'm going with you."

"Oh, we'll all go together," she laughed, "and Mrs. Tipps will chaperone us."

"By the way, what do you think of Tom's wife?"

"Oh, I like her. I like any young married woman who loves her husband and whose husband loves her. They are both very very happy, and that is a sure sign that they are worthy of each other. I think, though, that she is a little bit disappointed about Tom not being among the list of speakers."

"The deuce you do! Never heard of Tom making a speech in my life."

"No, but she thinks he is a great man, or at least he will be some day."

"Good! I'm glad to hear that. If I can persuade Tom to prepare a neat little speech, I'll see that the boys call him out and give him a chance to fire it off, but it would scare him to death, for the words would stick in his throat and choke him. He couldn't be induced to get up and speak at that banquet if a thousand dollars were offered him to do so. It's out of his line."

"Say, Fred," sang out Terry, as he came into the room with a letter in his hand, "the Wellborn sisters are going up to Avon."

"The deuce you say! What's calling them up there?"

"Oh, I suppose they want to see the fun. Miss Annie wrote me a short note asking me to find quarters for them during the reunion week."

"Well! Well! Well!" ejaculated Fred. "She is right after you, old man."

"I don't know about that," laughed Terry. "I think you are the duck she's chasing."

"Where is she now, Terry?" Evelyn asked.

"Up at Ashton. The family spends each summer there, you know, and she wants to know also if we are going to show up at Dedham Lake again this year."

"They are nice girls," said Evelyn, "and we had a real jolly time with them out at the lake last summer. I'm glad they are going, for I won't feel so much that I'm among strangers It's always pleasant to have a party of friends with you when away from home."

"Oh, look here, now, old girl," said Fred, "when you and I get off in a corner together, it's company; but if just one more gets mixed up with us, it's a crowd."

"Oh, they can't crowd me," she laughed.

"That's so," he assented, "they can't get into that little parlor with you I spoke about a little while ago."

Evelyn blushed a little at that, and Terry, noting it, asked:

"Say, have you two got a little private parlor?"

"You bet we have, and Evelyn carries the key to it."

"Hush now, Fred. Don't branch off into any rhapsodies."

"Well, they are coming this way, and the probabilities are that we will meet them on the train," put in Terry.

"Say, Terry, is the old man coming along with them?" Fred asked.

"I don't know. She doesn't say anything about it."

"Well, I hope he won't, for he is a hum-drum sort of an old fellow, who takes life so, easy that nothing disturbs him. He's as monotonous as a hand organ."

On the day set for the Fredonia party to take the train for Avon, quite a crowd of friends assembled at the station to see them off.

Terry escorted Mary Hamilton, Fred had charge of Evelyn, while Dick Duncan and Joe Jencks leaned on each other's arm coquetting with each other like a pair of lovers. As they entered the car they found the two Wellborn girls occupying a seat together. Of course there was a hearty greeting, Evelyn any Mary kissing them with girlish impulsiveness, declaring their pleasure at meeting them.

"This makes up the party just right," laughed Fred. "Tom has his wife with him, I have Miss Olcott, Terry is the devoted slave of Miss Hamilton, but Dick and Joe are without any responsibilities unless you two young ladies will consent to let them look after you."

Dick and Joe had met the two young ladies at Dedham Lake and, of course, the latter had no objections whatever to having them as escorts, so Dick took charge of the elder and Joe the younger.

"Mr. Olcott," the younger Wellborn girl called to Terry, "have you found a place for us at Avon?"

"Of course I have," said Terry. "You don't suppose I would neglect doing so, do you?"

"Well, we were afraid that all the good places had already been secured."

"Well, they would have been had I not telegraphed, and I was fortunate enough to find quarters in the same house where sister and Miss Hamilton are going to stop. We boys with the exception of Tom here, will stop at the academy, occupying our old room in the dormitory."

When they reached Avon they found the professor, his wife and Eunice at the station waiting for them. More than two score other graduates of the academy had come up on the same train, and, of course, the professor, his wife and the Advocate were surrounded on the platform where the boys scrambled over one another in their efforts to shake hands with them. The Advocate was as popular as ever with all the graduates who surrounded her in such numbers that nearly ten minute passed ere Evelyn and Mary could get to her.

The two Wellborn girls were introduced to the professor his wife and the Advocate, as friends of Evelyn and Mary, a well as of Fred and Terry.

"Now, boys," said the professor, "I have all the carriage that the two livery stables in Avon can furnish to convey you over to the academy. The latch string is on the outside of every door in the institution, and, figuratively speaking the gate of the enclosure has been lifted off its hinges. I bid you all welcome."

"Thank you a thousand times, professor," exclaimed Fred, "we will look after our precious charges first, and then make a charge on the dear old academy."

"All right," laughed the dignified old professor. "I am glad to see your young ladies with you," and he shook hands with Evelyn and Mary whom he had met several times before, while Mrs. Lambert kissed them both, expressing her regret that she was unable to provide quarters for them at the academy.

"Oh, brother and Fred have secured quarters for us at Mrs. Hawthorne's," said Evelyn, "where we stopped on a previous visit. We'll invade the academy ground, though, several times before we return home.

"Do so, dear. You will be welcome at any and all times."

The boys escorted the girls to the Hawthorne residence where rooms, had been secured for them, after which they went over to the academy to visit the boathouse, the bicycle club, and make the acquaintance of the members of the senior class of that year.

Two other trains arriving later in the day number of the Alumni to nearly one hundred; but of all the graduates, Fred was most sought after, for the boys remembered his eloquent speech at a former reunion, while others who were not present re familiar with his record as an all-around athlete.

It was like a reception in the great recitation room. There were merchants, lawyers and doctors among the graduates, some of whom had made a considerable reputation in their chosen profession. Several were members of the state Legislature, and two of them had been elected members of Congress the year before.

While Fred was shaking hands with the crowd gathered around him, Terry Olcott and Dick Duncan started up a glee club song, and instantly nearly a hundred voices joined in making a volume of sound that shook the very walls. Teachers Brown and Tracey sang as lustily as the boys did, while the professor beamed upon them, every feature of his face attesting the pleasure he felt at meeting so many of his former pupils. As soon as one song was finished, some on of the boys would start up another and the singing went on for nearly an hour.

"Now, boys," said Terry, to a crowd around him, "let's hunt up Black Pete and have some fun with him."

"Yes," added Joe Jencks. "And we won't forget Teddy O'Hara."

Terry led the way out and went in search of the porter and janitor. They found the Irishman first, and shook hands with him, punched him and thumped him, slapped him on the shoulders, and sang and danced around him till the big-hearted Irishman was almost overcome; the Black Pete, the porter, showed up. They made a dash for him and put him through a series of exercises that reminded him of many hazing incidents in the past. They rolled him over the ground, stood him on his head, sang coons songs and otherwise had fun with him. He took it good- naturedly because the mob was too much for him. When they let him go he was pretty well used up. He went away grinning, remarking;

"You boys ain't done stopped your foolin' yit."

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