"And so," Paul said as he finished his statement, "I don't care to keep my son in an institution where the standards are so low that a gambling habit like betting is not even discouraged by the authorities."
"How do you know it is not discouraged?"
"My boy tells me that during his whole stay here he has not heard a word of disapproval or protest against this prevalent habit."
The president turned to a bookcase near by and took down a small volume entitled "Chapel Talks." He opened it at a certain page and without a word pointed to a passage.
Paul read it. "There is a prevalent idea in the school that in order to be loyal to Burrton the students must all stand together, no matter what is done by the student body. That idea is false and in the end it is harmful to the best interests of the school.
"Take for example the custom of betting on the athletics and especially on the annual boat race. This is a custom which should be discouraged by every lover of the school. Betting is gambling; it is an attempt to get something for nothing. That attempt is destructive to morals and dangerous to character. The fact that many of the alumni who come to see the games bet on them is no reason why the undergraduates should bet on the games. I look to every student to discourage this practice and use his influence to help abolish a harmful and dangerous habit."
Paul looked up from the reading and eyed the president with a new feeling of respect.
"I beg pardon for judging you, sir, without knowing all the facts. But this volume was published over a year ago. My boy never heard these chapel talks. I take it that there has been nothing said about betting here for several months."
"No, perhaps not," replied the president with some hesitation. "But the students generally know my views on the matter. That knowledge, however, does not stop the betting."
"Why can't you put an end to it by forbidding it altogether?"
In reply to Paul's question, President Davis smiled.
"How much power do you think the president of an American college has,
"Why, I suppose he has enough to stop things that are absolutely wrong."
"Pardon me, Mr. Douglas, but he has no such power. He may try to stop them, but his power to do so may be very limited. For a year the great president of Harvard, Dr. Charles Eliot, did his best to abolish or amend football in that university. As head of the institution he spoke out against the game, which he honestly believed to be brutal and demoralising. What was the result of his protest? It had no influence toward abolishing the game and very little, if any, toward modifying it. The fact is our colleges and universities are just now controlled in a large measure by the opinion of those who support them. In other words, the alumni in many colleges run the college, not the president or the officers. I may say to you frankly that such is the case at Burrton. Two of the visitors who were here a few minutes ago are really more influential with the board of trustees than I am. They are heavy contributors. One of them gave us a gymnasium last year. They are very fond of athletics. Both of them are betting men. It would be a very difficult task to regulate the athletics in Burrton in opposition to these alumni; so there you are, as to a president's influence. All this in confidence, Mr. Douglas."
"It must be great fun to be president of a university," said Paul in disgust. "It seems to me if I were president of this school I should want to be president, especially in matters of conduct and morals."
"You would see it differently if you were president," said Davis with a faint smile. "Among other difficulties that we face here is the fact that Burrton, being unusually well equipped for technical high-class preparation in electrical engineering, is a favorite school for the difficult sons of rich men who do not know how to get on elsewhere. We have on our hands the greatest of all problems—how to make useful men out of a class of individuals who from boyhood have been reared in habits of the most princely luxury and disregard of all rules of restraint. The fact that we don't toady to all these rich men is seen in the records, which show during the year over two hundred men suspended for failure to meet the Standard requirements. And as to the betting, Mr. Douglas, your boy has now learned his lesson and will not do that again. Hadn't you better reconsider? Will he find conditions any different or any better in any other school that you know? Do you know any college East or West where the student atmosphere is absolutely free from all evil customs and habits?"
"I must confess I don't," said Paul, slowly. "I don't mind saying that this action of my son's has made me very angry. Still, I don't deny that it might have happened in any one of a dozen colleges in any part of the country. A large part of my grievance was because it seemed to me and, pardon me, seems yet, that the institution was to blame for keeping so still about these things, and doing so little to create a different moral Standard. But I'm not asking Burrton to take all the blame. My boy has got to take his punishment, and I don't know of a better one than to take him home."
"I hope you won't resort to that measure," said the president, earnestly. "Your son has unusual talent. He holds the highest place in the shops for original research. Give him another chance. It is my opinion that he will not disappoint you again."
"Perhaps not," answered Paul as he rose to go. "But I have about made up my mind."
"I hope you'll change it," said the president as Paul went away.
"Perhaps," answered Paul briefly.
He walked slowly back to Walter's room, asking many questions as he went along. His talk with the president had given him another angle from which to judge the boy's conduct. He could not hide from himself that his heart was sore over the whole matter, because he had never dreamed that his own boy would fall before a temptation which he had so often heard his father condemn at home. Paul Douglas was humiliated, as a man always is when his children begin to show the bad habits he has been fond of criticising in other people's children. And he had not yet been able to find any reasonable excuse for Walter.
When he went into the room he found Walter packing things up and evidently with no purpose of remonstrating or trying to change his father's decision.
"There's a letter from mother," he said briefly as Paul came up to the table in the middle of the room.
"You want me to read it?"
Paul sat down to read and Walter went on with his packing.
"Dear Walter," Esther wrote, "I am so glad your father has this opportunity to visit you and I presume he is at Burrton now. You will have good times together and I am envying him the privilege. I have missed you, boy, more than you can imagine. But then you will never know how much your mother has depended on you here at home. You were always so thoughtful and kind, how can I help missing my eldest.
"I have been thinking a good deal lately about the different standards that prevail in different places and I have no doubt you have noticed that some of the things we have always taught you here at home are not held by others in the school where you now are. I believe you will be able to decide fairly when it is necessary as to what is right and wrong and not allow the fact of a different Standard to confuse your judgment. I simply want you to know, Walter, that I have the utmost confidence in you. I am proud of my boy's ability. I expect you will make one of the finest engineers in the United States, and better yet, one of the finest men in the world.
"What do you think has been the great event of the last week? Helen had a young man caller two nights ago. It was the oldest son of Judge Randolph on Chandos street. The boy is a little younger than Helen, I think. He called in a formal way and to hear him talk to Helen convulsed me. I finally had to retire, but Helen was furious with me after young Randolph went away. The child was very much disturbed and claims to despise the youth, etc. It was like the story I was reading the other day:
"A young man had been calling now and then on a young lady, when one night as he sat in the parlour waiting for her to come down, her mother entered the room instead, and asked him in a very grave, stern way what his intentions were. He turned very red and was about to stammer some incoherent reply when suddenly the young lady called down from the head of the stairs: 'Mamma, mamma, that is not the one.'