Siege of the Microbes

Editor’s Note: This first article appeared in the 1900 Senior Annual of Washburn College. Published as printed.

Siege of the Microbes.


And it came to pass in the early days of March that all the dipththeretic microbes in the city that is called Topeka, gathered themselves together in a mighty host to swoop down upon the College of Washburn.

Then did all this host of microbes pitch their tents in the Cottage of Holbrook, in the room of the Dean of the College.

Now all the Faculty of Washburn College assembled themselves together in solemn council, for when they saw all this formidable host of microbes they were sore afraid, and even the President quaked mightily in his boots. Then did all this aggregation of wisdom counsel together and seek means whereby this formidable host of microbes they were sore afraid, and even the President quaked mightily in his boots. Then did all this aggregation of wisdom counsel together and seek means whereby this formidable host might be overcome. Many hours did they counsel, and their hearts were sore perplexed within them.

Then up rose Morgan, the redoubtable man of science, and spake thus: “Take courage, O my learned brethren, for I have evolved a wonderful scheme whereby we may deal this host of microbes a mighty blow. Let us go en masse and wash all the dishes of Hartford Cottage. Let no dish be omitted. Nay, let us even hand down all the old cracked tumblers which have lain undisturbed for years, that no spy of this terrible host may conceal himself in the dust that has collected thereon. I myself will skip my classes and secure the weapons and lead the first charge against the foe.”

But all the other professors demurred and murmured against this scheme saying: “Shall we fight with the weapons that our young brother has suggested? Nay, let us rather leave this to the ladies of the Faculty while we seek some other method of warfare.” And so the ladies of the Faculty and the man of science were left to fight out the first great battle alone.

But the microbes feared not the cleansing of the dishes, and only sharpened their weapons and threatened to completely destroy the College of Washburn.

And it came to pass in those days that nightly vigils were held and many consultations between the sentinel in the window of the room of the Dean of the College and the common people below. Also many vessels filled with vinegar were carried from room to room, so that if perchance any microbe had come out from the fortifications in the room of the Dean, he might fall therein and be drowned. But the microbes only waxed stronger and their numbers increased daily.

Now there was in the College of Washburn a man called Ellis, much learned in Greek and philosophy. “Let us,” said he, “call together the chief medicine-men in our city. For it has been told to me that they are the possessors of a mightly weapon called anti-toxin, a weapon able to strike down many microbes at a single blow Do thou, brother Duncan,” said he to the sturdy Scot, “summon those who dwell in the farther part of the city, while the man of mathematical skill will cause his cannon to explode and bring in those who lie nearer.”

So the chief medicine-men of the city came together, and warred against the diphtheretic microbes, using their antitoxinal weapons with so much skill and wisdom that many microbes were destroyed and the survivors filled with consternation.

But already had one fair damsel been sorely wounded by the army of microbes, and she was sick unto death. Seeing this, the other maidens who dwelt in Holbrook Cottage were terrified; yea, even tenfold increased were the terrors of those maidens who had escaped the watchfulness of the sentinel that stood at the door of the room of the Dean of the College and had looked upon the fortifications of the microbes, “Shall we not better,” said they, “return unto the homes of our fathers till the last of this host be destroyed, lest some doughty microbe sally forth and sound us even as one wounded our sister?” 

“Yea, verily,” then answered the President; “thou and they friends shalt return unto the homes of thy fathers, and there shalt thou sojourn for the space of ten days; when we, by the aid of powerful disinfectants, shall have driven the last microbe from his lair! Yea, they shall be slain like wild beasts. But if the battle should be against us, then will a messenger be sent unto you, and thou shalt know by this that there is yet danger in the College of Washburn.

So the students sojourned in the homes of their fathers for the space of ten days. Now in the ninth day of their sojourning there came to pass a mighty overhauling of Holbrook Cottage. “Do thou,” said the Dean of Washburn College to the valorous youths who had gathered to aid her, “completely overturn everything in Holbrook Cottage. Leave not a picture upon the walls, neither any pins in the cushions, lest perchance a microbe may lie concealed therein.”  So the young men obeyed the voice that commanded them thus, and completely overthrew all the furniture in Holbrook Cottage. No carpets were left upon the floors. Neither any other thing in the place whereunto it belonged. So that the young maidens were filled with wrath when they knew of all these things that had happened to their belongings.

And now barrels of carbolic acid were procured and poured into every secret corner, so that all that vast host of diphtheretic microbes was completely destroyed; not even a trace of those millions remained. And so the students returned unto Washburn and peace once more reigned over the Cottage.