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

CHAPTER VII.
THE CONVENTION OF THE ALUMNI

At the breakfast table the clatter of knives and forks and the hum of conversation had been going on for several minutes when a big pet cat entered the dining-room, and some of the graduates called attention to it as an old friend who was there when they were students.

"Yes. I remember him." said Fred, as he looked around to catch sight of the cat, and failing to see it ducked his head down almost under the table.

The next moment they were all started by a yowl and a tremendous cat fight was on. Every one around the table sprang from their seats, and the ladies, screamed and fled from the room. The old pet cat himself seemed to be as much astonished as any one else in the room, and fled, too; yet the fight continued nearly half a minute under the table, all the graduates trying to get a sight at them.

Professor Lambert was on the verge of scolding some of the waiters for permitting the cats to enter the breakfast room when Terry's outburst of laughter and exclamation of "That was good one, Fred." attracted his attention.

"Say, was that you, Fearnot?" Teacher Brown asked.

"Thunder! Do you take me for a cat?"

"No, but you can imitate one so perfectly as to make a cat fight its shadow."

"Why my soul, Fred," exclaimed Professor Lambert, "was that you? I forgot that you were a ventriloquist."

"Yes." laughed Fred, "I hope I haven't spoiled your appetite for breakfast."

The graduates tumbled to the racket and a roar of laughter went round the room.

Out in the corridor, where the ladies had fled, Marguerite, on hearing the first burst of laughter suspected that Fred was at the bottom of the cat fight.

"Oh. I know brother did that!"

"My!" exclaimed Eunice, "I forgot that he was a ventriloquist," and then the two girls began laughing until they became almost hysterical. They ran back into the room, the two elderly ladies following, greatly amused, yet half in doubt. They resumed their seats at the table, but the hilarity had gotten the start and was kept up all through the meal.

Terry told several stories of how Fred had played it on the, porter and janitor of the Institution: how the Irishman was demoralized at finding a green snake in his coat pocket, and Black Pete was frightened till he almost turned white by having it flung in his face.

"Say, professor," called out one of the older graduates, "what's the matter with having these reunions quarterly instead of annually?"

"It would interfere with the business of the institution," he replied, "but you may hold them over in town once a month if you wish."

"Well, we'll make it a question for discussion when we meet in convention at eleven o'clock," remarked the alumnus who had mentioned the matter.

The breakfast over, the boys scattered about the grounds as on the previous morning, the majority of the Alumni smoking cigars and discussing the incidents that had happened since they came together. Fred and Terry remained with the two girls, who were soon surrounded by a score or so of the young men who were discussing the ovation given Miss Olcott the evening before. Every one seemed to have a compliment for the beautiful enthusiast, which was not very pleasant for Eunice to hear. She made a great effort, however to appear pleased at hearing the compliments passed upon one whom she regarded as a rival.

"She is the best mascot for a baseball team that I ever knew." remarked Fred. "She has a magnetism about her that is simply irresistible, and her greatest charm lies in her utter unselfishness. I actually believe that if she was engaged to a young man whom she loved with her whole soul, all the beautiful women in the world couldn't excite her jealousy."

"Oh, that seems incredible, Fearnot," remarked one of the young men.

"Not a bit of it. She hasn't a particle of jealousy in her entire make-up."

"I don't believe that any women ever lived who was entirely devoid of jealousy," said the other. "Miss Olcott may have the good sense and the tact to keep it concealed, while at the same time feeling the pangs of jealousy most painfully."

"Oh, you don't know the girl," laughed Fred. "It is the unanimous verdict of all who do know her that she is entirely free from jealousy which is born of selfishness."

"I think you've got it wrong there Fearnot," said Lawyer Osgood. "It is born of love, not selfishness."

"Yes, self love," assented Fred "for there are bitter jealousies where no other sort of love exists. Men are jealous and envious of each other. You remember the old story of the day the Athenians voted for the banishment of Aristides. One man who didn't know him and couldn't write went up to the honest old philosopher and asked him to write his name on the shell for him, which he handed to him.

"'Why do you wish to banish Aristides?' he asked the man. 'What harm has he done you?'

"'No harm whatever, but I'm tired of hearing him called honest.'

"There was a spirit of envy and jealousy. Now, if I was in love with a girl, I would feel insulted were she to show any jealousy, because I would regard it as a lack of confidence in me. Some people are foolish enough to try to excite the jealousy of their sweethearts; but if I loved a girl, I would cut my right hand off before I would attempt such a thing; and furthermore, I'd cut both off before I would think of marrying one who was jealous of me, as it would show a lack of confidence in me on her part, and where perfect confidence does not exist, perfect love is a stranger."

"Oh, you'll get all that notion out of your head as you grow older," said Osgood.

"I don't think so, as I've made it a little bit of study. I have watched the reports of divorce cases in court and find that more than seven-eighths of them were based on jealousy on the part of one or the other. Where jealousy comes in at the door, confidence, escapes through the windows, leaving misery and unhappiness to occupy the whole house."

"That's all a theory," remarked Osgood, who was a married man and the father of two children. "I have conducted divorce cases where no jealousy was involved at all."

"Unquestionably," assented Fred, "but a considerable majority of the cases do have jealousy as the starting point of the disagreement, your experience as a lawyer to the contrary notwithstanding, and if you will take a vote of all the lawyers in the state you will find that they agree with me. Now, boys. watch your girls closely, and when you find ex- hibitions of jealousy, look out! For there's trouble ahead of you as sure as you lead them to the altar."

During the discussion Eunice and Marguerite stood by listening, their arms around each other, the latter smiling, while Eunice had an extremely serious expression on her face.

"What do you young ladies think of it?" one of the young men asked.

"Well," said Margie, "I think that when two people love neither should do anything to make the other jealous."

"That's what I think, too," spoke up Eunice quickly.

"And I agree with you both," added Fred, "but unfortunately jealousy springs up where no just cause for it exists other than in the imagination. At the same time there are foolish people whose vanity is greater than their love, and they like to do and say things to excite jealousy, which is all wrong and ought to be severly punished."

"Were you never jealous, Fred?" Eunice asked.

"No! I don't think I ever was. If I see a fellow develop a skill and ingenuity greater than that I possess myself, instead of envying him I prefer to congratulate him, and then set to work to do my best to be as skillful and ingenious as he. I remember when I was taking sparring lessons every knock out I received was an incentive to greater attention and exertion on my part to be able to do the knock-out business myself."

"That's the point." laughed Terry. "The first time I was up against you, you knocked me out quicker than a wink and I made up my mind to learn how to do it myself and now you are only just about an inch or two ahead of me. I wasn't jealous, but, by George, I was hungry to get satisfaction."

"That's the idea," and they all laughed heartily and the crowd dispersed, as consultations were to be had before the convention of the Alumni convened. Of course Fred and Terry both were very busy, and a couple of hours passed before either of them met the two girls. By that time the faculty and the senior class of the girls high school began to arrive in carriages, having been invited by Professor Lambert to be present at the meeting of the Alumni. The Mayor of Avon and at least half a hundred prominent citizens with their wives and daughters also put in an appearance, and the scene in and about the academy was an exceedingly beautiful one. Many old acquaintances met and little groups of friends were seen walking about through the grove, and merry peals of laughter were heard from all sides. The young ladies whom Fred had rescued in a runaway accident were among the visitors, and of course he paid most devoted attention to them; but when the carriage bringing Evelyn, Mary and the two Wellborn sisters arrived, he, and Terry hastened to assist them to alight, and upward of a score of the Alumni put in an appearance to pay their respects to them.

When the meeting was called to order the great hall of the academy was jammed with the Alumni and friends of the institution. Professor Lambert welcomed them in an admirable speech, and stated that so far as he knew there was no particular business to transact, but they had met solely to renew acquaintances and friendship and attest their love and devotion to the institution. He gave many interesting statistics, and congratulated himself over the fact that young as the institution was it had furnished two members of Congress and at least half a score of members of the State Legislature, besides a number of others in professional life who were fast making their mark in the world. He also spoke of the strong friendship that always existed between the girls' high school and the academy.

"And you will be astonished," he added, "when I tell you that twenty-two of the Alumni of this institution have selected wives from the graduates of the girls' high school."

That announcement called forth the greatest applause that greeted the professor's remarks, and the members of the Alumni gazed admiringly at the senior class of girls who occupied seats set apart for invited guests.

"That's not to be wondered at," sang out one of the boys. "There's a lot more of us who are going to try the same thing."

That produced another wave of laughter, and caused the girls to blush furiously and giggle behind their fans.

The professor then introduced Lawyer Osgood as the oldest member of the first class that graduated at the Institution, and he made a brilliant speech which was received with uproarious applause. It was devoted mostly to the excellence of the institution and the advantage of a thorough education that could be acquired there. Other speakers followed in quick succession. each class being honored with one speaker, according to the years of their graduation. At last it came Fred's time to appear for his club, and when he arose the entire audience rose with him.

"Keep your seats my friends," he said. "Don't leave; we are not through yet." and the innocent expression on his face as he said that provoked an uproarious burst of laughter.

"I am in an unfortunate position, friends," he began. "I had to await my turn, and before it came all the good things had been said that I wanted to give utterance to. I had no chance to arrange with the other speakers to have them leave unsaid some of the things that I had been full of for a long time. Each one of them has spoken of his love of the institution and the faculity of which we are all so proud, and yet, when we speak of love, we tell a story that has been repeated since the beginning of time more than any other story that falls from the lips of a man or woman, and still it is always new. The widow who marries a half dozen times thinks that each love story that is poured into her ears is not only new, but sweeter than all the others that she heard previously and another of the same sex will smile, flirt and look unutterable things just to tempt some one to repeat the old story that she may sit trembling with the thrills that it awakens, and although it may be exactly in the same words of others she had heard, it's always new; always fresh, always thrilling, and I don't believe that those of the sterner sex are any the less susceptible; so now I'm going to turn to our old guide and preceptor, on whose head are the silver threads woven in the loom of time, and pour into his ears the story of my love for him and his institution, and each member of the faculty."

Then he began his story of love arid devotion for the Institution, and it came from his lips with the melody of a sweet song. He told how he first admired and loved the scenery around Avon as far as his vision could reach.

Never was an audience so spellbound by the eloquence of a young speaker, as were those who listened to Fearnot on that memorable occasion. Frequent bursts of applause, interrupt him. Professor Lambert sat like one in a dream and at times tears coursed down his cheeks. From him Fred passed on to the other members of the faculty with words of love and praise accompanied by a keen analysis of personal characteristics of each. When he came to Teacher Brown he hailed him as "dear old Brown," at which the boys sprang, to their feet and cheered

He spoke of his charity for the shortcomings of the boys, his tenderness of heart, and consideration for their sorrows and troubles. Teacher Brown was utterly overcome, as were some of the boys, and tears coursed down his cheeks in spite of his efforts to conceal them.

"Now my friends, in conclusion, permit me to pay a tribute to two others whose duties lie outside of the recitation room of Avon Academy, the janitor and the porter."

The boys screamed with laughter and from that moment hilarity reigned supreme, as he proceeded to describe the good points as well as the bad ones in the two individuals, told stories about them, described their mental qualities, their superstitions and many other things that kept the audience shaking like a bowl of jelly. To the astonishment of all the boys, Fred wound up his speech without having once mentioned the Advocate. She, of course, was in the hall surrounded by many young ladies of Avon, who every moment expected to hear her name mentioned. When he sat down, she turned to her friends and exclaimed:

"Oh, I'm so glad that he didn't do what I so much feared he would!"

"Well, we are all disappointed," remarked one of the young ladies.

"So am I, but most agreeably so. I think they must have agreed among themselves not to do it, for none of them has."

"Oh, you'll catch it at the banquet to-night," said another.

"I hope not, for they made it very unpleasant for me last year."

There was one other speaker that followed Fred, a graduate of the year before. He was a brilliant young fellow and made a fine impression, and after his speech all the Alumni arose to their feet, and for nearly half an hour indulged in singing glee club songs, and then the meeting was over. The great banquet was to come off in the evening, but for nearly an hour after the adjournment, spectators mingled with the boys and discussed the speeches that had been made.

Everywhere was heard praise of Fred's address and particularly that part which mentioned the janitor and the porter. Both O'Hara and Black Pete were standing at the door listening, and two prouder individuals could not have been found in the whole country than they were as they listened. They laughed as heartily as the others, but deep down in their hearts they loved young Fearnot more than ever before in their lives.

The boy's surrounded them out in the grove and had no end of fun with them.

"Boys," said Dick Duncan, addressing the little group of the Alumni out under the shade of one of the big oaks, "did you ever see Browny so touched up before?"

"No! No!" they replied, "and he struck the old man hard, too, didn't he?"

"Yes, yes. This is 'Fred Feanot's Day' as well as yesterday was."

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