from College Humor
For Good Old Wumpus
by Ellis Parker Butler
On June 18th, 1898, at seven minutes past six in the evening, two rough and rugged men stood on the corner of the Lincoln Highway and the 94th degree West of Greenwich. Their eyes glittered with deadly hatred.
"Curse you, Clyde Zingo!" one of the two exclaimed rather crossly. "Dog that you are! I return from the Klondike with a billion dollars, hoping to be happy, and I find you have married the girl I hoped to make my wife!"
"And an equal number of curses to you, Roger Fipps!" the other replied in no very pleasant tone. "I don't think much of you, either, if it comes to that! I return from California, having made a billion dollars in oil or, as some term it, kerosene, and I find you have married the girl I had hoped to make my wife. I hope you will not think me rude, but I am going to shoot you."
So saying, the two gentlemen drew their revolvers and shot each other with considerable seriousness and intensity but not, it is pleasant to learn, fatally. Now go on with the story.
In the resplendent office of the President of Wumpus College the dear old president of that great institution of learning sat at his desk with his head bowed forward, sobbing in uncontrolled grief. As the door opened and Mike Coxey, the famous football coach of Wumpus, entered the room, a fresh spasm of woe distorted the face of good old Prexy Doolittle and he hid his face in his hands.
"What's ailin' you, prex?" the world renowned coach asked.
"Pug-nose, old man," faltered the dear old president using the loving name by which he always addressed the valiant coach who had so often led the Wumpus Nine to victory, "we've got it in the neck this time, sure! The exams--"
"Say! " cried Michael Coxey with horror. "Ockstein, our demon left fielder, ain't flunked, has he?"
"Ockstein, yes! " groaned dear old Prexy Doolittle. "He flunked. He can't play ball this year. And Bitz flunked. And Lozinsky flunked. And Bremer and Goofus and Hettermann and Jenks and Golkus flunked! They all flunked, Coxey. Coxey, you know our law; you know that no man in the college is allowed to play ball unless he gets at least 60% in all studies? Are you strong, Coxey? Can you stand the worst?"
"Shoot it, boss!" Coxey exclaimed. "Shoot the whole works!"
"They've all failed," cried the dear old man in anguish. "Nobody got over 35% in anything. Ockstein got only 6% in Latin. Bitz got only 4% in Bible. Bremer didn't get anything at all in Botany. Goofus--"
"My great gosh! " cried Coxey, trembling like a leaf. "Didn't anybody pass, boss?"
"Why, yes," said the dear old president. "Jones passed. And Smith passed. But all the rest--"
Mike Coxey threw back his head and laughed until the ceiling flopped up and down like the roof of a tent. He raised his mighty palm and smacked the dear old prex on the back, knocking him gaily under the table.
"Cheer up, old horse!" he cried. "Good old Wumpus ain't beat yet! We ain't beat as long as we've got Smith and Jones, old son! I don't say I don't sort of prefer to have nine men in the team when we go against Sasser College, but we've got to do the best with what we've got. Stop snifflin', boss, and cheer up! Good old Wumpus will do her best to win!"
"Attaboy, Pug-nose!" said the dear old prexy hysterically as he blew his nose and wiped his streaming eyes. "Attaboy, old chow-chow! 'At's the good old Wumpus spirit!"
And neither of them, as they shook hands on it, noticed. the slender but brainy looking lad who stood in the doorway -- young Clarence Zingo. Had they noticed him they would only have exclaimed in unison: "My gosh! Look at Lizzie!" For Clarence Zingo was accounted a weakling at Wumpus College. He had his sweat-shirt washed every month.
The scene on the training diamond of Wumpus College was pitiful -- pitiful! There is no other word of seven letters, beginning with "p" and ending in "l," with an "i" in the middle, that describes it.
Under the immutable law of the college none but John Jones and Sam Smith were allowed to play baseball that year and, although John Jones was the demon left-handed twirler and Sam Smith the unequalled catcher, the work was almost too much for them. It was distressing to see John Jones pitch an easy one for Coach Coxey to hit and then run out to center-field to catch it. It was amazing to see Sam Smith covering first, second and third base, home and short stop position at one and the same time. It was amazing to see John Jones and Sam Smith on first and second bases, ready to steal to second and third and having to go to bat just then. There were many who said the two great men of the Wumpus battery could not play all nine positions and win when they were face to face with Sasser in the championship game, but Wumpus hoped for the best.
"Wumpus must win! " was the word passed from mouth to mouth.
But at Sasser, the great college for women, another thing was said.
"Wumpus won't win!" was what all the fair girls of Sasser College laughed as they went about the college precincts chatting of Zoology, Anthropology, Archeology and Theology, as college girls will. And "Wumpus won't win!" laughed Zora Fipps, the most beautiful of all. "And do you want to know why Wumpus won't win?" she asked, and answered: "She won't win because Clarence Zingo is at Wumpus this year, and my pa and his pa hate each other. They've hated each other since seven minutes past six in the evening, June 18, 1898. I've written to pa; you watch!"
"Where is the bat?"
These vivid words issued from the mouth of Mike Coxey, the pug-nosed coach of the Wumpus ball team as he led John Jones and Sam Smith onto the practice diamond at dear old Wumpus some weeks before the championship game.
"And the ball?" enquired John Jones. "Where is the' ball?"
"And the mask and the mitts?" asked Sam Smith, looking hither and yon.
At these words the treasurer of the college stepped forward.
"I can explain without trouble,". he said pleasantly. "Yesterday two men appeared here; one was a buyer of second-hand baseball outfits and the other was an agent for new ones. I was offered a remarkably fine price for our old bats, balls, mitts, masks and so forth and I sold them."
"Quite right! " said Mike Coxey.
"And I immediately placed an order for an entirely new outfit," explained the treasurer, "which should be here very soon--"
At this moment a special delivery postman rode up on a bicycle. When he had parked his machine against a tree and had fed it a few oats, he handed the treasurer a special delivery letter. With hasty fingers the treasurer tore open the letter.
"Oh, dear!" he exclaimed.
"What is the matter?" asked Coach Coxey.
"This letter says," said the treasurer, "'Dear sir: We beg to inform you that your order for bats, balls, masks, mitts, etc., will not be filled. Mr. Roger Fipps has just bought all the sporting goods factories in the world and now owns them, and from now on nothing will be sold to Wumpus College. Kind regards to the dog's pup, Clarence Zingo.' It is signed, 'Roger Fipps.'"
For a moment all were dumfounded. All, indeed, seemed lost. But Coach Coxey leaped forward.
"Wumpus must win the ball game!" he cried. "We will use umbrellas for bats; we will fill a sock with sawdust for a ball; we will use a waste-paper basket as a mask; we will use bed-pillows as mitts. Wumpus must win!"
"If you please, sir," said Clarence Zingo, stepping forward eagerly.
"Get out of my way, you parlor pet! " cried Mike Coxey, and taking Clarence by the seat of his pants he tossed him over the fence.
"Wumpus forever, none the less!" exclaimed Clarence Zingo as he alighted outside, for such is the Wumpus spirit.
"How goes it at Wumpus?" Zora Fipps asked her scouts who had been watching the Wumpus training on the sly.
"Not so good," the scouts assured her. "They do not do so well since they have to use umbrellas as bats. The umbrellas open. John Jones does not get a nifty curve on the sock filled with sawdust. But they are doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances."
For a moment Zora stood in thought.
"A telegraph blank!" she ordered and hastily scrawled a few words. "Send this at once!"
A few hours later John Jones, Samuel Smith and Coach Coxey were at work on the Wumpus diamond when a severe looking gentleman with long bluish whiskers entered the enclosure.
"Stop!" he exclaimed, raising one hand, and unrolling a long paper he read as follows: "'Know all men by these presents that, verily, one Roger Fipps, white, twenty-one and of sound mind, hath purchased the grounds, building and appurtenances of the college known as Wumpus College, and thereby owns, possesses and has it.' In other words boys, you can't play here. Sorry, but you'll have to get out."
For a moment all stood amazed.
"What shall we do?" asked Michael Coxey, but dear old Prexy Doolittle stepped forward.
"Men," he said, "this is a sad affair and I hate to have Wumpus College leave this great state of Connecticut, where it has been since Noah was cuttin' his teeth, so to speak, but money has won against us. However, cheer up! Wumpus College has bought a nifty place in Pennsylvania and we will now go there."
At these words Mike Coxey, John Jones and Sam Smith gathered up the umbrellas, stuffed socks, and waste-paper baskets and walked sadly out of the gate. Only one person lingered but no one paid him heed. It was Clarence Zingo.
"I think you're real mean!" he said to Roger Fipps' emissary, and stuck out his tongue at him, for Wumpus spirit never dies.
"Kid," said Zora Fipps, as she paused after the tenth fox-trot to powder her nose or, as some would say, proboscis, "I don't know who you are but you are sure a nifty dancer. And do you know, shiek, I like you an awful lot. I think you are the giraffe's spectacles!"
"Now, listen," said her partner, for it was he; "I like you just ever so much, too. I think you're awfully nice. Pretty, too. And you've got such nice teeth; I bet you use Sapolio, don't you? I just love girls that scour their teeth and thus remove all danger of pyrohea or phyrorera or whatever it is. Will you marry me?"
"I guess it'll be all right," she said. "Your last name don't begin with an 'B,' does it? 'Z' and 'B' make such a mean monogram."
"Oh, goody!" he exclaimed. "Then we'll be married right away, because my last name is Zingo. 'Z' and 'Z' ought to make an awfully cute monogram."
She turned and looked at him more closely, not having done so before.
"Your name isn't Clarence Zingo?" she asked. "Hot, doggie, what a joke! Mine's Zora Fipps. Won't the dads be wild, with this old feud and all? But we should worry, Clarry! Love removes -- well, you know what I mean; everything is jake where love is."
"And your father will sell dear old Wumpus bats and balls and --"
"Hold on, kid! " the beautiful Zora exclaimed. "Me for dear old Sasser; don't forget that! After the ball game I don't care what happens but Sassers must win that game!"
Clarence Zingo drooped like a wilted lily on its stem. "Sasser must win that game!" The words seared into his brain. Another phrase echoed through his skull: "The female of the species is more deadly than the male!" He raised his head and drew the beautiful face to him and kissed it long and lovingly.
"Wumpus must win that game!' he said. A great lump caught his throat.
"Swell chance, Clarry!" the beautiful creature laughed. "Remember that father is now worth eight billion dollars."
"He must have quite an income tax to pay," said Clarence, politely.
The days that followed were cruel ones for dear old Wumpus. Every morning when the dauntless nine -- consisting of S. Smith and J. Jones -- went forth to indulge in a little practice it was met by a legal looking gentleman. Sometimes this paid agent of the relentless Fipps has blue whiskers, sometimes a red beard, sometimes a green moustache, but always his words were the same:
"Sorry boys, but you can't play here; Roger Fipps has bought this ground."
Thus from day to day dear old Wumpus College was forced to move on and on and ever on. Now it was an eastern college; now it was a mid-west college; now it was a Pacific slope college. One day it would be in Alabama and the next in South Dakota. Now it would be rainy Florida and S. Smith at the bat would have to hold one umbrella over him while he batted the stuffed sock with another; now it would be in sunny California and J. Jones would have to protect himself with a parasol while he batted with the umbrella. Each day the chances of winning the great championship game seemed to grow less. Only Clarence Zingo retained cheerfulness.
"That lounge lizard!" Mike Coxey was heard to exclaim. "He's no true Wumpus man; he'd be weeping if he was!"
"Good old Wumpus must win!" was what Clarence Zingo's heart was singing; "Good old Wumpus will win!"
Fully fifty thousand were gathered in Sasser Bowl to see the great Sasser-Wumpus baseball championship game. Many of these had opera glasses, field glasses and telescopes, and the light flashing on the lenses glittered jewel-like amidst the beautiful gowns of the women and the rich colors of the Kollege Kut Klothes of the men. As Sam Smith and John Jones stepped into the bowl and ran lightly to their bench with their batting umbrellas in their hands a loud cheer arose from twenty-five thousand Wumpus throats, but twenty-five thousand Sasser supporters laughed. Presently the two dauntless men who comprised the Wumpus nine took the field to warm up, batting the stuffed sock to each other and catching it, and the Wumpus yell arose.
"But where are the Sasser girls?" some asked as time passed. "Why don't they come on the field? What's keeping them?"
Clarence Zingo, seated near Mike Coxey smiled.
Ten minutes passed; twenty minutes; half an hour. The umpires looked at their watches. The crowd became impatient and yowled and hooted. An hour passed. S. Smith and J. Jones stood leaning on their umbrellas, waiting to begin, and still no Sasser team appeared. An umpire walked to the catcher's box.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" he shouted. "This delay is disgraceful! If the Sasser team does not appear in five minutes the game will be forfeited to Wumpus and Wumpus will be declared the winner of the championship!"
It was then Clarence Zingo took a telegram from his pocket and read it for the tenth time.
"Clarence Zingo, Wumpus, College," it read. "Have done as you advised. Sent Moses Shuder, old clothes man, who bought all Sasser ball uniforms. Have formed Zingo International Pants, Breeches and Knickerbocker Company, controlling entire pants, breeches and knicker output of world. No goods will be supplied to Sasser students until after ball game."
"This game is declared forfeited to Wumpus," shouted the umpire, and the Wumpus voices arose in mighty cheers. From the dressing room of the Sasser team sobs issued. Clarence Zingo folded the telegram and slipped it into his pocket.
"Good old Wumpus!" he murmured. "Dear Zora! I do hope she doesn't take cold."