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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, June 1913

Reminiscences of a 'Varsity Boarding House

page 46

Reminiscences of a 'Varsity Boarding House.

For the thoughtful observer there was no mistaking which house of the Row was the Boarding House : a glance over the low front fence of No. 18 sufficed to show him the worn front lawn and mangled shrubs which eloquently testified to the efforts of the resident members of the Junior XI. to master the late cut and leg-glide. Looking up at the windows, one might even be blessed with a glimpse of some of the Boarders—old Gaffer himself, the longest resident, or the fair hair and cheerful countenance of the Dane; or one might, on a balmy summer evening in the Long Vacation be happy enough to see half a dozen of those blithesome fellows sway arm-in-arm down The Old Salamanca Road, their Alma Mater standing lofty and serene above them, and about them that indefinable mellow sweetness that belongs only to this time of a summer day. Gracious days! Let us drink to them—or shout to them all ye who knew them, for I know you cannot be too traffic hardened to remember their sweetness!

* * * * *

I find in my notes the following record:—

The Bromose Farewell Revel.

The northerly, which for days had screamed over the heights of Salamanca, had finally sobbed itself out, leaving behind it as stillness that could be felt. Dense mists clung to the hill-tops, and settling softly, threatened ere long to envelop the whole place. It was the Winter Term, and so was characterised by hard study, football, hockey and dances. In contrast to the dreary prospect out of doors, the Dining Room of No. 18 was most cheerful; china and silver struck back the light from a bright fire. In the demeanour of our friends as they came in from their several classes might be observed something more than the mere anticipation of meal. The Racer, with characteristic dexterity, had slipped into the only armchair and lazily swung one leg over the arm, prepared, since he had what he page 47 wanted, to speak graciously with anyone. Had you asked him what was in the air, he would have informed you something after this wise: "Oh, Old Bromose (the soubriquet for the vegetarian of the house) is leaving the show to-morrow, and is turning on a spread this evening."

I attended the "spread." I always do when I can. In many respects it was no different from other supper parties, and I will was not record it in detail, but will give you the following notes:—

8.30 p.m.—Gaffer commences speech laudatory of everything general. Occasional references to the host of the evening. Has evidently sought the Muse in her home in the deeps of the flowing bowl, and is armed with more of her home in case she escapes him.

8.45.—Tommy tells a funny story, at which the Dane is sport enough to laugh.

8.55.—Racer, Dane and Weary unusually affectionate.

9.—Bromose has tackled a sausage roll—must be overwrought—whispers to the Artist that it is his first for 8 years.

9.10.—Gaffer, still speaking, "There are epochs in a man's life when friends musht part. . . ." Emphasises by bursting a meringue on Artist's shirt front in answer to that gentleman's request for the plate.

9.22.—In the name of all that is unprecedented, The Saint is commencing a cigarette! The Bloods looks for symptoms of sickness. (Gaffer still speaking.)

9.30 p.m.—Gaffer, with a flourish, declares he is not getting a fair hearing, and looks wicked. Tommy and the Dane, in the interests of good order, crockery, and evening's business, kindly but firmly draw him down to his chair.

9.30-9.50.—Uninterrupted eating and drinking.

9.50-10.20.—Speeches by Racer, Weary, and Bromose; toasts.

10.25.—The Saint suggests we turn coats inside out, roll up right trouser leg, and convert ties into bows. Looks dreadfully earnest and a bit insane—the Nicotine has done its work,

page 48

Suggestion carried with acclamation. Table rises and sets out en masse for a run round the Park. Outside, all is fog. Astonishing agility of Gaffer, who dashes out over the lawn and takes front fence at a vault, is reclaimed from the footpath drain, and set jogging down the road.

10.40.—All assembled at the Park; run commenced; Racer quickly lost to view in fog.

From this on one felt isolated, as ten yards' separation was sufficient to blot out one's companions from view, and almost smother the sound of their vices. Two-thirds of the way round I sank exhausted on the soaking grass; out of the fog came one of the most ludicrous spectacles I have ever seen; on either side of Gaffer labored Bromose and the Dane; Gaffer's legs strayed irresponsibly; his tongue wagged regardless of sequence. He passed in the mist glorious as a Caliph of Old Baghdad, his slaves on either hand.

As I voiced my delight, The Saint gasped into view, quite unconscious of the weird figure he presented in the garb he had advocated. I could almost see the enthusiasm in his eyes as he panted : "I say, what a fine—setting—for King—Alfred's last battle!"

I rose to my feet. Back from an immeasurable distance it seemed Gaffer's voice still came faint, as he addressed the retinue who were bearing him home to his bed-chamber. Beyond the steep slopes of the Park was nothing but an unplumbed sea of fog, in which the nearest lights of the city were just discernible. I could always most readily grasp those fugitive fancies which hover beyond the insistent clangour of the commonplace when I communed alone with The Saint. We were now alone of the company that half an hour ago were seated so uproariously together, and the close silence by its contrast brought home impressively how transitory indeed are all our institutions, and how infinitesimal a fraction of the silent expanses of Time is occupied by the little noise and stir of our day and generation.