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The Plastic Age

CHAPTER XI
After the Sanford-Raleigh game, the college seemed to be slowly dying. The
boys held countless post-mortems over the game, explaining to each other just
how it had been lost or how it could have been won. They watched the
newspapers eagerly as the sport writers announced their choice for the so-called
All American team. If Slade was on the team, the writer was conceded to "know
his dope"; if Slade wasn't, the writer was a "dumbbell." But all this pseudo-
excitement was merely picking at the covers; there was no real heart in it.
Gradually the football talk died down; freshmen ceased to write themes about
Sanford's great fighting spirit; sex and religion once more became predominant at
the "bull sessions."
Studies, too, began to find a place in the sun. Hour examinations were coming,
and most of the boys knew that they were miserably prepared. Lights were
burning in fraternity houses and dormitories until late at night, and mighty little of
their glow was shed on poker parties and crap games. The college had begun to
study.
When Hugh finally calmed down and took stock, he was horrified and frightened
to discover how far he was behind in all his work. He had done his lessons
sketchily from day to day, but he really knew nothing about them, and he knew
that he didn't. Since Morse's departure, he had loafed, trusting to luck and the
knowledge he had gained in high school. So far he had escaped a summons
from the dean, but he daily expected one, and the mere thought of hour
examinations made him shiver. He studied hard for a week, succeeding only in
getting gloriously confused and more frightened. The examinations proved to be
easier than he had expected; he didn't fail in any of them, but he did not get a
grade above a C.
The examination flurry passed, and the college was left cold. Nothing seemed to
happen. The boys went to the movies every night, had a peanut fight, talked to
the shadowy actors; they played cards, pool, and billiards, or shot craps;
Saturday nights many of them went to a dance at Hastings, a small town five
miles away; they held bull sessions and discussed everything under the sun and
some things beyond it; they attended a performance of Shaw's "Candida" given
by the Dramatic Society and voted it a "wet" show; and, incidentally, some of
them studied. But, all in all, life was rather tepid, and most of the boys were
merely marking time and waiting for Christmas vacation.
For Hugh the vacation came and went with a rush. It was glorious to get home
again, glorious to see his father and mother, and, at first, glorious to see Helen
Simpson. But Helen had begun to pall; her kisses hardly compensated for her
conversation. She gave him a little feeling of guilt, too, which he tried to argue
away. "Kissing isn't really wrong. Everybody pets; at least, Carl says they do.
Helen likes it but...." Always that "but" intruded itself. "But it doesn't seem quite
right when—I don't really love her." When he kissed her for the last time before
returning to college, he had a distinct feeling of relief: well, that would be off his
mind for a while, anyway.
 
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