Harcourt Underwood Norcroft was an unsuccessful man. To decrease the understatement, he was an abysmally dismal failure. That such a short man attained such stature as he did amongst the literati is attributable at least to serendipity, at the very most to an act of God; but his story tells all.
Norcroft – other faculty mockingly called him “the Hun” for his use of his three initials on inter-office memos – was not obnoxious, nor was he gifted with extreme ill-fortune. In main, he was uninteresting. The fact that he was a linguistics professor at a small Southern liberal-arts college only served to make him more so. Between the Sports and Science departments, there was little interest in linguistics, which firmly cemented his bankrupt social status. He was unpopular, not from sporting a negative personality – indeed, Norcroft had very little of that commodity, and that was likeable enough – but rather from lack of exposure. No one knew who he was. Some of the younger faculty members would stop him in the hall and confront him about leaky ceilings and lavatories, believing him to be with maintenance (he was not a snappy dresser, either). Ultimately, feeling the need for a draught – however small – of the Milk of Human Kindness, the Hun took to walking several steps behind the most popular professor at the college, a bearded and very with-it Marxist historian, in order to catch the waning waves and smiles of students adoring the other. As a chubby, squat man, he took what he could get.