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Chapter 3
from Sabrina, The Class Goddess of Amherst College by Max Shoop 1910

[Sabrina in the flower bed]After several years, the students began to take more notice of Sabrina.  About 1860, a certain energetic student stole some clothing from a line in the rear of the girls' school then conducted in Amherst and proceeded, one morning, to dress Sabrina in this apparel.  Dr. Hitchcock saw and chased the student, who in jumping a fence caught his coat on a picket and hung there until Dr. Hitchcock apprehended him.  The youth was severely reprimanded by a committee of the Faculty, and the morning after a huge gash was found in Sabrina's cheek where the malignant student had avenged himself with the aid of an axe.  Sabrina felt deeply this insult --- but with some skillful hammering the wound was healed.  Later the class of '70, after the Faculty had expelled one of their classmates, gave her a shining coat of whitewash.  Others took pity on her nudity and, at different times, painted articles of clothing, bright red shawls or blue stockings, and at times she was adorned with a hat or a cloak.  Between 1876 and 1880, she changed color capriciously from black to white and white to black, running the gamut of the rainbow. When the tar walks were being laid in the town, she was rudely taken from her stone pedestal and plunged headfirst into the soft tar.  Soon after, however, she reappeared, smiling brightly as ever from the center of the flower garden.

One year the class of '77 carried her off for almost a week.  She was returned, however, in good condition.  "And then President Stearns opened the vials of his sarcasm on poor '77, wishing them to understand that they had done nothing at all original, for Sabrina had been courted many times before, and that about once every year."  The mystic ceremonies of the modern cult of Sabrina were to be developed later.  In this early period, the stunts were performed by individuals rather than classes.  On one occasion "the good people of Amherst were rudely called to their windows by a most unusual racket to see the major part of the college in an unofficial parade, cheering vociferously and carrying an improvised platform on which Sabrina was seated, draped in a beautiful coat of whitewash, still hardly dry."  The procession toured the village common and finally returned Sabrina to her home among the flowers.

One morning, in 1878, she appeared on top of the Octagon, calmly holding a rag baby labeled "'81."  This was the first time in the history of the statue when it figured to any great extent as a class venture.  This escapade of hers, in which she had the kind assistance of the class of '80, was only the beginning of a number of such performances on her part.  '82 planned an elaborate Class Supper and having stolen Sabrina at night, toasted her as the guest of honor at the banquet  '83 was very rough and ungentle, and after a decisive victory over Williams in baseball, threw her into the college well.  The college authorities had considerable difficulty in securing an efficient rescue party, and Sabrina dwelt in the well for several days.  She was finally rescued, however, apparently none the worse for the cold plunge.

[Tossed into the well]

Such episodes occurred every year or so after some big victory.  Sabrina, however, never seemed to mind, though her exterior began to look just a trifle battered.

[Amherst College and campus, 1860]The college authorities, of course, tried to put an end to this fun, but with little success.  Sabrina stood there patiently year after year, except for intermittent reigns of terror.  One day a number of students dragged the statue to the top of Chapel Tower.  Several times she was found greeting a class in the morning, from the top of some professor's desk.  From time to time she was adorned with every shade of war paint.  Such indignities grew in number every year, and the bronze statue was so woefully treated after every victory that the authorities of the college at last decided to be rid of her, and so put an end to all such pranks.  Consequently, in 1884, the President drew "Professor Charlie," the janitor of the college, aside, and told him to take the statue from the Campus and break it up.

Now Professor Charlie, as he was called, was a good old darky who was employed about the college grounds to take care of things in general, and to see that the pranks the students played were not too destructive.  He was about the college from 1850 to 1890.  He was always absolutely faithful to his duties and never told tales on either the students or the faculty.  But whenever the boys tried to pull off a trick, Professor Charlie was always around early in the morning to see that the scene of action was put to rights before any one was about.  It was the soft answer that turned away wrath, for the students could not be angry with him --- he was only doing his duty.  One night the students stole the clapper out of the Chapel bell.  Somehow, Professor Charlie found it out before morning, and was up in the tower bright and early with a new clapper.  And when the bell rang the same as usual, the students could not understand how it happened.  Again this stunt was attempted, but with the same result.  Finally,["Prof." Charlie and the college well] Professor Charlie told the boys that they might as well quit for he had enough clappers to provide the Chapel bell for a year.  At another time some students had stolen all the prayer-books from the Chapel the evening before, so that prayers might not be held the next morning.  Professor Charlie discovered it about a half hour before chapel.  He quietly went over to the house of President Seelye and slipped a note under his door, saying that the President had better bring a small prayerbook with him that morning.  The President took the hint, and so prayers were conducted as usual, and the students never knew why their plot had been unsuccessful.

Well, it was this good-souled old darky, whom President Seelye told to smash the statue.  Professor Charlie took pity, however, because Sabrina was "such a beautiful thing," and instead of breaking it up, he hid it under a pile of hay in his old barn on Snell Street, away below Blake Field.  There it remained undisturbed for two years.

It was during mid-winter of the year 1886 that the "Goddess" Sabrina wandered into the snowcovered hills of New England, and a little later appeared in a dream to two men of the class of '90, Duffey and Ingalls, and it is said by those who know that "these two men were just the right ones to be favored with such a supernatural manifestation."  For they immediately set out to find her, and from that time on the oft-mutilated statue was deified, and ever since has been a living Goddess, and for seventeen years the Goddess of the Even Classes.

 

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