In the aperture stood my amazing neighbour ... Frontispiece
I found myself staring as if stupefied at the white figure of a woman
who stood in the topmost balcony.
I sat bolt upright and yelled: "Get out!"
We faced each other across the bowl of roses
Up to that moment I had wondered whether I could do it with my left hand
I MAKE NO EFFORT TO DEFEND MYSELF
I am quite sure it was my Uncle Rilas who said that I was a fool. If
memory serves me well he relieved himself of that conviction in the
presence of my mother--whose brother he was--at a time when I was
least competent to acknowledge _his_ wisdom and most arrogant in
asserting my own. I was a freshman in college: a fact--or condition,
perhaps,--which should serve as an excuse for both of us. I possessed
another uncle, incidentally, and while I am now convinced that he must
have felt as Uncle Rilas did about it, he was one of those who suffer
in silence. The nearest he ever got to openly resenting me as a freshman
was when he admitted, as if it were a crime, that he too had been in
college and knew less when he came out than when he entered. Which was
a mild way of putting it, I am sure, considering the fact that he
remained there for twenty-three years as a distinguished member of the
I assume, therefore, that it was Uncle Rilas who orally convicted me,
an assumption justified to some extent by putting two and two together
after the poor old gentleman was laid away for his long sleep. He had
been very emphatic in his belief that a fool and his money are soon
parted. Up to the time of his death I had been in no way qualified to
dispute this ancient theory. In theory, no doubt, I was the kind of
fool he referred to, but in practice I was quite an untried novice.
It is very hard for even a fool to part with something he hasn't got.
True, I parted with the little I had at college with noteworthy
promptness about the middle of each term, but that could hardly have
been called a fair test for the adage. Not until Uncle Rilas died and
left me all of his money was I able to demonstrate that only dead men
and fools part with it. The distinction lies in the capacity for
enjoyment while the sensation lasts. Dead men part with it because
they have to, fools because they want to.
In any event, Uncle Rilas did not leave me his money until my freshman
days were far behind me, wherein lies the solace that he may have
outgrown an opinion while I was going through the same process. At
twenty-three I confessed that _all_ freshmen were insufferable,
and immediately afterward took my degree and went out into the world
to convince it that seniors are by no means adolescent. Having
successfully passed the age of reason, I too felt myself admirably
qualified to look with scorn upon all creatures employed in the business
of getting an education. There were times when I wondered how on earth
I could have stooped so low as to be a freshman. I still have the
disquieting fear that my uncle did not modify his opinion of me until
I was thoroughly over being a senior. You will note that I do not say
he changed his opinion. Modify is the word.