BY O. F. LEWIS
Professor Horace Irving had taught Latin for nearly forty years at
Huntington College. Then he had come back to Stuyvesant Square, in
New York. Now he lived in a little hall bedroom, four flights up,
overlooking the Square.
Habitually he walked from the Square westward to Fourth Avenue, in
the afternoon, when the weather permitted. He had been born only
three doors from where he now lived. The house of his birth had gone.
It was sixty years since he had been a boy and played in this Square.
Now he would pause at the corner of Fourth Avenue in his walks, and
remember the Goelet's cow and the big garden and the high iron fence
at Nineteenth Street and Broadway. Great buildings now towered there.
South along Fourth Avenue he would walk, a little man, scarcely five
feet four in height, even with the silk hat and the Prince Albert
coat. His white hair grew long over his collar, and people would
notice that almost more than anything else about him. He may have
weighed between ninety and a hundred pounds. The coat was worn and
shiny, but immaculate. The tall hat was of a certain type and year,
but carefully smoothed and still glossy.
He would pause often, between Nineteenth Street and Eighteenth Street,
peopling the skyscrapers with ghosts of a former day, when houses
and green gardens lined the streets. The passers-by watched him
casually, perhaps as much as any one notices any one else in New York.
He was, in the Fourteenth Street district, a rarer specimen than
Hindus or Mexican medicine-men. Through the ten years since he had
come, pensioned, from Huntington College, he had become a walking
landmark in this region.
He always walked down on the east side of the street, crossing at
Fourteenth Street. He was carefully piloted, and saluted, by the
traffic policeman. It was a bad crossing. Below Fourteenth Street
things looked much more as they had looked when he was young.
The bookstores were an unceasing hobby to the old man. The
secondhand dealers never made any objection to his reading books
upon the shelves. His purchases were perhaps two books a week, at
ten or even five cents each. Now and again he would find one of his
own "Irving's Latin Prose Composition" texts in the five-cent pile.
Opening the book, he usually would discover strange pencilled
pictures drawn scrawlingly over many of the pages. His "Latin
Composition" wasn't published after 1882, the year the firm failed.
It might have been different for him, with a different publisher.
Late one afternoon in April, Professor Irving stood in his customary
niche at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street, watching the
traffic from a sheltered spot against the wall of the building. He
was becoming exceedingly anxious about the approaching storm. It had
come up since he left Stuyvesant Square, and he had no umbrella. He
must not get his silk hat wet. His thin overcoat was protecting him
but feebly from the wind, which with the disappearance of the sun
had grown sharp and biting. It was rapidly becoming dark. Lights
were flashing in the windows up and down the Avenue.
The Professor decided to stand in a doorway till the shower had
passed over. The chimes in the Metropolitan Tower struck the first
quarter after four, the sounds welling in gusts to the old man's ears.
A little man came to stand in the doorway beside the Professor. The
latter saw that the little man had a big umbrella. Silk hats were so
fearfully expensive in these days!
The heavy drops beat against the pavement in torrents. The first
flash of lightning of the year was followed by a deep roll of thunder.
"I got to go!" said the little man. "Keep the umbrella! I got
another where I work. I'm only fifty-five. You're older than me, a
lot. You better start home. You'll get soaked, standing here!" And
the little man was gone before the Professor could reply.
"An exceedingly kindly, simple man," thought the old Professor. He
had planned, while standing with his unknown benefactor, that he
would go into some store and wait. But now he would chance it, and
cross the street. He saw a lull in the traffic. He started and was
nearly swept off his feet. He got to the middle of the street. The
umbrella grew unwieldy, swinging this way and that, as if tugged by
unseen hands. It turned inside out. Blaring noises from the passing
cars confused the Professor.
The shaft of the umbrella swung violently around and knocked the
silk hat from Professor Irving's head. His white hair was caught by
the wind. Lashed in another direction, the shaft now struck the
Professor's glasses, and they flew away. Now he could see little or
nothing. He became bewildered.
Great glaring headlights broke upon him, passed him, and then
immediately other glaring lights flared up toward him out of the
sheets of water. He couldn't see because of his lost glasses and
because of the stinging rain. He rushed between two cars. He slipped….
The chimes on the Metropolitan Tower rang out, in wails of wild sound,
the half-hour after four.
* * * * *
The attendance that evening at the annual banquet of the New York
alumni of Huntington College exceeded all previous records. The
drive for two million five hundred thousand dollars was on. It was a
small college, but as Daniel Webster said of Dartmouth, there were
those who loved it.
The east ballroom of the hotel was well filled with diners.
Recollections of college days were shouted across tables and over
intervening aisles. There was a million still to raise: but old
Huntington would put it across! They'd gotten out more of the older
men, the men with money, than had ever been seen before at an alumni
The income on one million would go into better salaries for the
professors and other teachers. They'd been shamefully underpaid—men
who'd been on the faculty twenty to thirty years getting two thousand!
Well, Huntington College had now a new president, one of the boys of
twenty years ago. Yes sir, things were different. It was in the air.
In the midst of the dinner course, the toastmaster rapped loudly
with the gavel for attention. It was hard to obtain quiet.
"Men," said the toastmaster, and there was a curious note in his
voice, "I ask your absolute silence. Middleton, whom you all know is
one of the editorial staff of the Sphere, has just come in. He can
stay only a few minutes. He came especially to tell you something."
A man standing behind the toastmaster stepped into the toastmaster's
place. He was in business clothes, a sharp contrast to the rest of
the diners. He was loudly applauded. He raised his right hand and
shook his head.
"Boys," he said, "I've got a tragic piece of news for you—for those
of you who were in college any time up to ten years ago." He paused
and looked the diners over.
"Four fifths of you men who are here to-night knew old Hoddy Irving,
our 'prof' in Latin. He served old Huntington College for forty years,
the longest term any professor ever served. He made no demands—ever.
He took us freshmen under his wing. I used to walk now and then with
him, miles around the college, when it wasn't so built up as it now
is. He loved the fields and the animals and the trees. He taught me
a lot of things besides Latin. Don't you remember the funny little
walk he had, sort of a hop forward? Don't you remember the way he'd
come up to the college dormitories nights, sometimes, from his house
down on the Row, and knock timidly at our doors, and come in and
visit? Don't you remember that we used to clear some of those tables
mighty quickly, of the chips and the bottles?"
There were titters, and some one shouted: "You said it!"
"And then, don't you remember, that some ten years ago they turned
the old man off, with a pension—so-called—of half his salary. But
what was his salary? Two thousand dollars—two thousand dollars at
the end of forty years!! You and I, and old Huntington College,
turned old Hoddy out to pasture, this pasture, on a thousand a year!
And to-night, right now, he's lying in Bellevue, both legs broken,
skull fractured, and not a damn cent in the world except insurance
enough to bury him. And to-morrow he'll be ours to bury, boys—old
A confusion of voices rose in the room, and over them all a
"No!" from some one who seemed to cry out in pain.
"Yes!" said Middleton as the murmurs ceased. "Our old Hoddy, starving,
loaded up with debt, alone, down in a miserable hall bedroom in
Stuyvesant Square. How did I come to know about it? One of our
reporters, who covers Bellevue, dug up the story in his day's work.
They brought in this old, disheveled, unconscious man—and in his
pocket was his name. Kenyon, the reporter, went over to the house on
the Square and found there another old fellow that old Hoddy chummed
some with, and who knew all the circumstances.
"It seems Hoddy had an invalid old sister—and they hadn't any money
except this pension. How the two old souls got along no one will
never know. But she died awhile ago, and that put Hoddy into a lot
more debt. And this miserable little eighty dollars a month has had
to carry him and his debts. And not a whimper that old man utters.
Always kindly, Hoddy was, always telling stories from the forty years
at Huntington—and we fellows here, a lot of us rotten with money,
and not knowing that the old fellow—-"
Middleton's voice broke. It was some time before he proceeded.
"This afternoon, at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street,
just as that tornado broke, he tried to cross the street. He got in
a jam of cars, and of course the windshields were all mussed up with
rain, and the chauffeurs couldn't see anything ahead—and they don't
know whose car it was. The police say it was just four thirty-one
when they picked him up.
"Well, that's all, except that—I'm going down to Bellevue, and if
one or two of you want to come—perhaps old Hoddy will know us—even
Middleton had finished. From various parts of the room came the words:
"I'll go! Let me go!" Men were frankly wiping their eyes.
At a distant table arose Martin Delano. He was reputed to be the
wealthiest alumnus of Huntington. He was said to have made almost
fabulous millions during the war. In the Street he was known as
"Merciless Martin." They were planning to strike him this evening
for at least a hundred thousand.
Martin Delano stood holding the edge of the table with one hand, the
other fingering a spoon on the table. He stood there long. Several
times he opened his lips as though to speak. He took out his
handkerchief and wiped his cheeks and forehead. Evidently he was
"Mr. Toastmaster, may I ask the privilege of going down to Bellevue
with Mr. Middleton? I would ask that I be allowed to insist on going
down. I have sinned, grievously sinned, in forgetting old Hoddy. Now,
when it's too late——Thirty years ago, and more, when I was a green,
frightened freshman from Vermont, he took me to his heart. He was
known as the Freshman's Friend. That's what Hoddy always did—take
the green and frightened freshman to his heart. Probably, if he
hadn't done that to me, I'd have gone back home in my lonesomeness.
"Yes, I have sinned—and it might have been so different. I want to
go down there! And I'm coming back here, before you men are through
to-night, and I'll tell you more."
At about half-past ten Martin Delano came back. He walked into the
room just as one of the speakers had finished. The toastmaster
caught his eye and beckoned to him to come to the speaker's table.
Delano stood in front of the crowd. He had walked forward, seeing no
one on his way.
"Hoddy—Hoddy has gone, boys!"
Then quickly, silently, the three hundred men arose and stood. After
a time they heard Delano say: "Sit down, boys."
He waited till they were seated. "There's a lot that I might tell,
men—terrible things—that I won't tell, for it's all over. Just
this—and I suppose you're about through now and breaking up. It was
the poor old Prof. of ours—shattered, deathly white, a lot older.
But will you believe it, the same dear old smile, or almost a smile,
on his face! Unconscious, but babbling. And about what? The
college—Alma Mater! Those were just the words—Alma Mater! The
college that gave him the half pay and forgot him on the very night
when we are trying to raise a miserable two million, that things like
this sha'n't happen again!"
"And boys, when we bent over him and whispered our names, he seemed
after a while to understand that we were there—but in the classroom,
the old Number 3 in Holmes Hall! And fellows, he called on—on me to
Merciless Martin Delano couldn't go on. Finally he spoke.
"And so, Mr. President, I wish, sir, as a slight token of my
appreciation of what that simple great man has done for Huntington
College to give to our Alma Mater—our Alma Mater, sir—the sum of
two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to be used for the erection
of a suitable building, for whatever purpose is most necessary, and
that building to be called after Horace Irving.
"And sir, I also desire to give to the fund for properly providing
for the salaries of our professors and other teachers, the sum of
two hundred and fifty thousand dollars—those men who teach in our
"And I ask one word more: I have arranged that Professor Irving is
to be buried from my house. If you will permit me, I will leave now."
The alumni of Huntington College were silent. There was no sound,
save the occasional pushing of a chair, or the click of a plate or a
glass upon the table, as Martin Delano passed from the room.
It was after one o'clock. Martin Delano was in his library, his arms
flung across the table, his face between them.
In the opaque blur of swirling rain, his car had passed the corner
of Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street at precisely half-past four that
afternoon. He had happened to take out his watch at the moment the
Metropolitan clock struck the second quarter.
He would never know whether it had been his car or another!