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At Good Old Siwash   By: (1877-1915)

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Printers S. J. PARKHILL & CO., BOSTON, U.S.A.

[Illustration: Twenty five yards with four Muggledorfer men hanging on his legs FRONTISPIECE. Page 19 ]



Little did I think, during the countless occasions on which I have skipped blithely over the preface of a book in order to plunge into the plot, that I should be called upon to write a preface myself some day. And little have I realized until just now the extreme importance to the author of having his preface read.

I want this preface to be read, though I have an uneasy premonition that it is going to be skipped as joyously as ever I skipped a preface myself. I want the reader to toil through my preface in order to save him the task of trying to follow a plot through this book. For if he attempts to do this he will most certainly dislocate something about himself very seriously. I have found it impossible, in writing of college days which are just one deep laid scheme after another, to confine myself to one plot. How could I describe in one plot the life of the student who carries out an average of three plots a day? It is unreasonable. So I have done the next best thing. There is a plot in every chapter. This requires the use of upwards of a dozen villains, an almost equal number of heroes, and a whole bouquet of heroines. But I do not begrudge this extravagance. It is necessary, and that settles it.

Then, again, I want to answer in this preface a number of questions by readers who kindly consented to become interested in the stories when they appeared in the Saturday Evening Post . Siwash isn't Michigan in disguise. It isn't Kansas. It isn't Knox. It isn't Minnesota. It isn't Tuskegee, Texas, or Tufts. It is just Siwash College. I built it myself with a typewriter out of memories, legends, and contributed tales from a score of colleges. I have tried to locate it myself a dozen times, but I can't. I have tried to place my thumb on it firmly and say, "There, darn you, stay put." But no halfback was ever so elusive as this infernal college. Just as I have it definitely located on the Knox College campus, which I myself once infested, I look up to find it on the Kansas prairies. I surround it with infinite caution and attempt to nail it down there. Instead, I find it in Minnesota with a strong Norwegian accent running through the course of study. Worse than that, I often find it in two or three places at once. It is harder to corner than a flea. I never saw such a peripatetic school.

That is only the least of my troubles, too. The college itself is never twice the same. Sometimes I am amazed at its size and perfection, by the grandeur of its gymnasium and the colossal lines of its stadium. But at other times I cannot find the stadium at all, and the gymnasium has shrunk until it looks amazingly like the old wooden barn in which we once built up Sandow biceps at Knox. I never saw such a college to get lost in, either. I know as well as anything that to get to the Eta Bita Pie house, you go north from the old bricks, past the new science hall and past Browning Hall. But often when I start north from the campus, I find my way blocked by the stadium, and when I try to dodge it, I run into the Alfalfa Delt House, and the Eatemalive boarding club, and other places which belong properly to the south. And when I go south I frequently lose sight of the college altogether, and can't for the life of me remember what the library tower looks like or whether the theological school is just falling down, or is to be built next year; or whether I ought to turn to my right, and ask for directions at Prexie's house, or turn to my left and crawl under a freight train which blocks a crossing on the Hither, Yonder and Elsewhere Railroad... Continue reading book >>

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