One of the boys was a fat judge, with a shining, bald head and a shining, round face behind shining, round tortoise-shell glasses. One was a small, wrinkled, dapper dry-goods merchant. And one was a tall doctor with a Van Dyke beard. This completed the reunion of the Class of ’90.
There were numberless seats and chairs on the roomy porch of the bungalow, and it was there that they all sat down. The hour that followed was not an unqualified success. The reunion appeared not to be living up to its expectations. The old crowd was nothing but a group of middle-aged people who were politely discussing orthopedic hospitals and the reconstruction of Rheims. Occasionally, someone referred with forced jocularity to a crowd of jolly young folks they had once known. Ah, well! After all, you can’t recapture Youth by trying to throw salt on its tail.
Sensing that things were lagging, Mother proposed that they walk up to the old school, with Em to show them around. They found a dozen unfamiliar buildings, an elaborate new home for the president, and a strange campanile pointing its finger, obelisk-like, to the blue sky. Only the green-sloping campus smiled gently at them like a kind old mother whose sweet face welcomed them home.
ON MONDAY they attended the literary societies’ pageant. As the slowly moving lines of brilliantly costumed girls came into view, Mother’s heart was throbbing in time to the notes of the bugle. With shining eyes she turned to the little widow.
“Nettie,” she said solemnly, “we girls started this parade day.”
“I know it. We all had big white tissue paper hats with pink roses on them–”
“And we stole the Beta’s stuffed monkey so they wouldn’t have a mascot–”
“And got up at four o’clock to pick clovers for the chain.”
They had made the first chain, and now, gray-haired, they were standing on tiptoe at the edge of the crowd trying to catch a glimpse of the lithe, radiant, marching girls–Eternal Youth forever winding in and out under the shimmering leaves of the old oaks!
It was like that for three days. They seemed always to be on the outskirts of things, looking on. For three days they went everywhere together–class plays, receptions, ball games, musicals–this little lost flock of sheep. For three days Mother exerted herself to the utmost to catch one glimpse of the lost Youth of these men and women. Apparently they saw everything with mature vision, measured everything by the standard of a half-century’s experience.
On the evening of the last day Mother gave up. She was through, she thought, as they all sat together on the porch. There was to be a concert by the united musical organizations, and the old crowd was ready to go and sit sedately through the last session. Very well, thought Mother, as she chatted and rocked, she would try no more. They were hopelessly, irrevocably middle-aged. She was convinced at last, disillusioned, she told herself. You can never, never recapture Youth.
Then, quite gradually, so that no one knew just how it began, there came a change. Someone said, “Remember, Myra, the night that red-headed Philomathian came to call on you, and we girls tied a picture of your home beau on a string and let it down through the stove-pipe hole into his lap?”
And someone else said, “Remember, Em, the time you had to read Hamlet’s part in ‘Shake’ class and Professor Browning criticized you so severely, and then said, ‘Now you may continue,’ and you read in a loud voice, ‘Well said, you old mole’?”
AND the doctor said, “Remember, Jim, the note you pinned on your laundry to the washlady:
“If all the socks I’ve sent to thee Should be delivered home to me, Ah, well! the bureau would not hold So many socks as there would be, If all my socks came home to me”? And before they were aware, they were going off into gales of laughter.
It came time for the concert, but no one suggested starting. Each succeeding anecdote heightened the merriment so that the undergrads streaming by said patronizingly, “Pipe the old duffers!”
“Remember, boys, the Hallowe’en we girls hid from you, and you had to furnish the supper because you didn’t find us by nine o’clock?”