The Plastic Age
Sanford's virtues were hard for Hugh to find, and they grew more inconspicuous
as the term advanced. For the time being nothing seemed worth while: he was
disgusted with himself, the undergraduates, and the fraternity; he felt that the
college had bilked him. Often he thought of the talk he had had with his father
before he left for college. Sometimes that talk seemed funny, entirely idiotic, but
sometimes it infuriated him. What right had his father to send him off to college
with such fool ideas in his head? Nu Delta, the perfect brotherhood! Bull! How did
his father get that way, anyhow? Hugh had yet to learn that nearly every chapter
changes character at least once a decade and that Nu Delta thirty years earlier
had been an entirely different organization from what it was at present. At times
he felt that his father had deliberately deceived him, but in quieter moments he
knew better; then he realized that his father was a dreamer and an innocent, a
delicately minded man who had never really known anything about Sanford
College or the world either. Hugh often felt older and wiser than his father; and in
many ways he was.
In March he angered his fraternity brothers again by refusing a part in the annual
musical comedy, which was staged by the Dramatic Society during Prom week.
Hugh's tenor singing voice and rather small features made him an excellent
possibility for a woman's part. But he was not a good actor, and he knew it. His
attempts at acting in a high-school play had resulted in a flat failure, and he had
no intention of publicly making a fool of himself again. Besides, he did not like the
idea of appearing on the stage as a girl; the mere idea was offensive to him.
Therefore, when the Society offered him a part he declined it.
Bob Tucker took him severely to task. "What do you mean, Hugh," he demanded,
"by turning down the Dramat? Here you've got a chance for a lead, and you turn
up your nose at it as if you were God Almighty. It seems to me that you are
getting gosh-awful high-hat lately. You run around with a bunch of thoroughly wet
ones; you never come to fraternity meetings if you can help it; you aren't half
training down at the track; and now you give the Dramat the air just as if an
activity or two wasn't anything in your young life."
"The Dramat isn't anything to me," Hugh replied, trying to keep his temper.
Tucker's arrogance always made him angry. "I can't act worth a damn. Never
could. I tried once in a play at home and made a poor fish of myself, and you can
bet your bottom dollar that I'm not going to again."
"Bunk!" Tucker ejaculated contemptuously. "Hooey! Anybody can act good
enough for the Dramat. I tell you right now that you're turning the fraternity down;
you're playing us dirt. What have you done in college? Not a goddamn thing
except make the Glee Club. I don't care about track. I suppose you did your best
last year, though I know damn well that you aren't doing it this year. What would
become of the fraternity if all of us parked ourselves on our tails and gave the
activities the air the way you do? You're throwing us down, and we don't like it."