A University college varies its facial expression about as frequently as The Sphinx and about as violently as a treacle-well.
This remark specially applies between the hours of breakfast and luncheon. The courts, with their monastic cloisters and inviolable grassplots, lie basking in a sunny obliviousness to the world outside. Their stately exclusiveness is accentuated rather than diminished by the glimpse of an occasional flying figure in a cap and gown, or the spectacle of a middle-aged female of a discreet and chastened appearance, who glides respectfully from one archway to another, carrying a broom and a tin pail, oralas for the goings-on that a cloistered cell may conceal behind its art-muslin curtains!a tankard containing some gentleman's morning ale.
In one corner, close to the Buttery door, you may behold one of the college cats, which appears to be combining a searching morning toilet with a course of practical calisthenics; and inside the massive arch of the gateway stands a majestic figure in a tall hat, whom appreciative Americans usually mistake for the Master, but who in reality occupies the far more onerous and responsible post of Head Porter.
Perhaps the greatest variation from the normal is to be observed on a Saturday morning. Then the scene is brightened by the vision of an occasional washerwoman, who totters bravely at one end of a heavy basket, what time her lord and master (who has temporarily abandoned his favourite street-corner and donned Sabbath attire for this, his weekly contribution to the work of the world) sulkily supports the other.
Undergraduates, too, are more in evidence than on other days. On most mornings they either stay indoors, to work or sleep, or else go outside the college altogether. "Loitering" in the courts is not encouraged by the authorities. Not that the undergraduate minds that; but it will probably cost him half-a-crown every time he does so, not because he loiters but because he smokes.
The Old Court of St. Benedict's Collegeit is hardly necessary to say that we are in Cambridge and not in Oxford: otherwise we should have said "Quad"presents to us on the present occasion a very fair sample of a Saturday morning crowd. The observant eye of the Dean, looking down (like Jezebel) from an upper chamber, can discern
Three washerwomen, with the appurtenances thereof.
One small boy delivering The Granta.
A solitary spectacled gentleman, of the type described by the University Calendar in stately periphrasis as "A Native of Asia, not of European Parentage" (but more tersely classified by the rest of the community as "a nigger"), hurrying in cap and gown to secure a good place at the feet of some out-of-college Gamaliel.
A kitchen-man in white jacket and apron, bearing upon his head a tray containing a salmon mayonnaise, cutlets in aspic, and a special Cambridge dainty known as "Grassy Corner Pudding"a fearsome compound of whipped cream and pistachio nuts.
A Buttery boy, walking close behind, with a basket containing bottles. Evidently some young gentleman is about to entertain angelsunawares so far as his bill-paying papa is concerned.
Four young men converging to a group in the centre of the court. Of these, two are attired in the undergraduate mode of the momenttweed jackets with leather buttons, waistcoats of the Urim and Thummim variety, grey flannel trousers well turned up, clamorous silk socks, and heavy Highland shooting brogues. The third wears what the College Regulations describe rather ingenuously as "Athletic Dress." Pheidippides himself would have found it difficult to perform feats of prowess in a costume composed of split pumps, white duck trousers, and a blazer admirably qualified to serve as a model of the Solar Spectrum.