"Not half bad," I said. "Who is she?"
"Oh, the Countess de Something-or-other. Christened one of King Eddie's big boats the other day."
"The Countess Louise Agatha of Strathsholm christened His Majesty's ship Inconceivable the day before yesterday. Father and mother are traveling in America. She lives with her uncle, Count Darnley, attends Firmingham Hall School and is eighteen years old,'" I read at random. "A most interesting young lady," I concluded as I threw the paper under the table and reached lazily for a text book.
"Greek?" asked Con.
"Greek," I replied.
"Greek, Greek, flunk, flunk," he soliloquized, "Why in thunder didn't we take Swedethen we could talk to Tillie."
Con sat down, but only for a minute. "There!" he said, as he grabbed my hat and started for the door, "I left my Dutch primer under Casey's bed. I guess I'd better go and get it; Casey not having the love and respect for books of learning that I have, is apt to neglect it."
I was ears deep in Greek when Con returned which proves he was absent some time. He entered in his usual breezy manner and all thought of study fled.
"Say, do you know what Casey and young Balfour are going to do?" he asked.
Of course I didn't know because I knew Casey.
"Well," he continued, "you remember what Bott has been springing on us in Dutch for the lastsome time, about 'the excellent benefit to be derived by corresponding with some student in Germany who is striving as hard to master your language, as I hope you are, to learn his.' Well, my dear," said Conresuming his own usual manner after his lengthy speech imitating the eminent Dr. Bott"that fool Casey and young Balfour have picked out two promising Frauleins and they're going to write to them. Candidly it is the most childish proceeding that ever came to my notice."
Con threw himself into his huge chair with a grunt of disgust. He read the paper industriously for a long, long time. When at last he spoke he asked in a meditative way, "Billie, what do you think of Casey and Balfour?"
"Most childish proceeding that ever came to my notice," I replied as I glanced quickly at Con. The god of meditation ruled; con had dropped his paper and his eyes looked far away and dreamy. He seemed not to have heard my reply.
"Honestly now, William, what do you think of it?"
"The most childish pro"
"But it wouldn't be half bad if you knew what you were butting up against," he interrupted.
"Just how are you going to tell what you are butting up against?"
"Pick your company, chump."
"But all names sound alike in Dutch," I protested.
"Does the Countess Louise Agatha of Strathsholm sound like any name you ever heard before?"
"But she isn't Dutch." I said.
"Suits our purpose so much better; if she were, we couldn't write her."
"It's no use to try, Connie. She has some match-making auntie or some cruel uncle who opens all her letters. And besides, I never heard of a countess getting letters."
Neither did I, but they get them all rightif they owe as much as their hubbies usually do. Why man, it's a cinch. Pa and ma in America. Letters postmarked 'America.' No, No, auntie doesn't open letters from mamma. See?" and Con winked horribly. "You know the paper said she was a very democratic young lady and fond of a lark."
"Con," I said, in my most parental manner, "be sensible. Do you know what it would mean for a humble student of the University of Harvard to write to the Countess Louise Agatha of Stratsholm? Why, man, you would be disgraced in the eyes of the world and the defendant in a breach of a promise suit."
"Discretion to the winds," said Con dramatically. "This night we hobnob with royalty."
"Will you write it?" I ventured.
"Just as soon as not. Will you tell me what to say? I'm so fussed I don't know what to do."
"Go get the ink," I said, "it fell into the waste basket last night."
"How shall we address her?" asked Con, "My dear Aggie?"
Con and I flunked miserably in mathematics the next day. We also flunked miserably in German, but our hearts were light for the morning mail bore our joint letter to the Countess Louise Agatha. It was a fourteen page manuscript written in Con's very business like hand upon my monogramed frat paper. To quote the letter would be tedious in the extreme. We opened with a profuse apology for daring to hope that we might correspond with a peeress of the realm. This occupied four pages. Con's exploits on the foot-ball fieldvery modestly told,and a detailed description of the weather occupied four more. Numerous questions on the English methods of doing numerous things, and incidentally, how it felt to be a countess occupied two more. The remaining four pages were used for more apologies and we closed with a very fitting climax in which we begged to remain her ardent admirers and hope for a further acquaintance. It took us until nearly two o'clock to perfect our labor and in consequence we flunked the next day, but as I have said, our hearts were light.
Shall I describe the ceaseless hours of waiting, the sleepless nights, the anxious watching for the postman, and the feverish haste with which we opened all letters? No, I could not bear to see it in print.
I will carry the reader to a happier day, a month later, when Con, with trembling fingers tore open a letter postmarked "London." It was from Agatha.
"Dear Friend Mr. Connelly," it began, in a singularly legible hand, "I received your letter a long time ago but Uncle Rupert was undecided as to whether he would let me answer it or not. He finally said I might, but my big sister, Lois Albertathe one that christened the boatlaughed at me very hard. I was very glad to receive your letter because it is the first lette I ever received."
"Santa Claus was very good to me; he gave"
I could stand it no longer, my head swam, lights danced before my eyes, and I staggered to the table for support.
Con was a picture of utter despondency. His under lip twitched nervously and his chin sank until it rested on his breast. He looked vacantly at the bit of crumpled paper in his hand and then let it fall to the floor.
Thus passed five minutes, ten minutes, a century, and then Con spoke in a hollow,unnatural voice.
"William, do we still possess thatrag of freedom that printed her picture?"
I sought Con's Dream Book, where he had deposited the whole sheet.
"Ah, Lois, Lois!" he sighed, "why did they make that awful mistake; why did they dig Connie's grave so deep?"
"Billie," he said as length, "the Countess Louise Agatha will be seven years old tomorrow, what shall we send her?"
C.W. GOGSWELL, '06
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