All out for the mile!” Myer, clerk of the course, stuck his head inside the dressing-tent and bawled the command in a voice already made hoarse by his afternoon’s duties. In response a dozen or so fellows gathered their blankets or dressing-gowns about them and tumbled out into the dusk of a mid-October evening. Because of the fact that on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons the athletic field was required for the football contests it was necessary to hold the Fall Handicap Meeting on one of the other days of the week. This year it was on Friday, October 17th, and because the Erskine College faculty does not permit athletic contests of any sort to begin before four o’clock on any day save Saturday, the mile run, the last event on the program, was not reached until almost six o’clock; and in the middle of October in the latitude of Centerport it is almost dark at that time.
Hilltop School closed its fall term with just ninety-five students; it opened again two weeks later, on the third of January, with ninety-six; and thereby hangs this tale. Kenneth Garwood had been booked for Hilltop in the autumn, but circumstances had interfered with the family's plans. Instead he journeyed to Moritzville on the afternoon of the day preceding the commencement of the new term, a very cold and blustery January afternoon, during much of which he sat curled tightly into a corner of his seat in the poorly heated day coach, which was the best the train afforded, and wondered why the Connecticut Valley was so much colder than Cleveland, Ohio. He had taken an early train from New York, and all the way to Moritzville had sought with natural eagerness for sight of his future schoolmates. But he had been unsuccessful. When Hilltop returns to school it takes the mid-afternoon express which reaches Moritzville just in time for dinner, whereas Kenneth reached the school before it was dark, and at a quarter of five was in undisputed possession, for the time being, of Number 12, Lower House.