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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

On the few railway journeys Sylvia remembered


if I could only--"

"Only what?" he encouraged her. He was greatly interested in getting her point of view, and it was perfectly clear that a great idea possessed her.

"Oh, if I could only go to college, that would be the finest thing in the world!"

"You think that would be more interesting than boarding-school? If you go to college they may require Greek and you don't even know what the letters look like!"

"Oh, yes, I know a little about it!"

"I think not, Sylvia. How could you?"

"Oh, the letters were so queer, I learned them just for fun out of an old textbook I found on the campus one day. Nobody ever came to claim it, so I read it all through and learned all the declensions and vocabularies, though I only guessed at the pronunciation."

Professor Kelton was greatly amused. "You tackled Greek just for fun, did you?" he laughed; then, after a moment's absorption: "I'm going to Indianapolis to-morrow and I'll take you with me, if you care to go along. In fact, I've written to Mrs. Owen that we're coming, and I've kept this as a little surprise for you."

So, after an early breakfast the next morning, they were off for the station in one of those disreputable, shaky village hacks that Dr. Wandless always

called "dark Icarian birds," with their two bags piled on the seat before them. On the few railway journeys Sylvia remembered, she had been carried on half-fare tickets, an ignominy which she recalled with shame. To-day she was a full-grown passenger with a seat to herself, her grandfather being engaged through nearly the whole of their hour's swift journey in a political discussion with a lawyer who was one of the college trustees.

"I told Mrs. Owen not to meet us; it's a nuisance having to meet people," said the professor when they had reached the city. "But she always sends a carriage when she expects me."

As they stepped out upon the street a station wagon driven by an old negro appeared promptly at the curb.

"Mawnin', Cap'n; mawnin'! Yo' just on time. Mis' Sally tole me to kerry you all right up to the haouse. Yes, seh."

Sylvia did not know, what later historians may be interested to learn from these pages, that the station wagon, drawn by a single horse, was for years the commonest vehicle known to the people of the Hoosier capital. The panic of 1873 had hit the town so hard, the community's punishment for its sins of inflation had been so drastic, that it had accepted meekly the rebuke implied in its designation as a one-horse town. In 1884 came another shock to confidence, and in 1893, still another earthquake, as though the knees of the proud must at intervals be humbled. The one-horse station wagon continued to symbolize the quiet domesticity of the citizens of the Hoosier capital: women of unimpeachable social standing carried their own baskets through the aisles of the city market or drove home with onion tops waving triumphantly on the seat beside them. We had not yet hitched our wagon to a gasoline tank, but traffic regulations were enforced by cruel policemen, to the terror of women long given to leisurely manoeuvres on the wrong side of our busiest thoroughfares. The driving of cattle through Washington Street did not cease until 1888, when cobbles yielded to asphalt. It was in that same year that Benjamin Harrison was chosen to the seat of the Presidents. What hallowed niches now enshrine the General's fence, utterly disintegrated and appropriated, during that bannered and vociferous summer, by pious pilgrims!

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