* * * * *
* * * * *
By HONORE WILLSIE
AUTHOR OF "The Heart of the Desert," Etc.
A. L. BURT COMPANY PUBLISHERS . NEW YORK
PUBLISHED BY ARRANGEMENT WITH FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
Copyright, 1915, by FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
Copyright, 1914, 1915, by THE RIDGWAY COMPANY
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages
Printed in the United States of America
* * * * *
I. QUARRY 1
II. THE OLD SWIMMING HOLE 14
III. THE BROWNSTONE FRONT 27
IV. JIM FINDS SARA AND PEN 38
V. THE SIGN AND SEAL 52
VI. THE MARATHON 65
VII. THE CUB ENGINEER 75
VIII. THE BROKEN SEAL 93
IX. THE MAKON ROAD 103
X. THE STRENGTH OF THE PACK 118
XI. OLD JEZEBEL ON THE RAMPAGE 133
XII. THE TENT HOUSE 147
XIII. THE END OF IRON SKULL'S ROAD 158
XIV. THE ELEPHANT'S BACK 173
XV. THE HEART OF A DESERT WIFE 181
XVI. THE ELEPHANT'S LOVE STORY 196
XVII. TOO LATE FOR LOVE 210
XVIII. JIM MAKES A SPEECH 224
XIX. THE MASK BALL 235
XX. THE DAY'S WORK 249
XXI. JIM GETS A BLOW 267
XXII. JIM PLANS A LAST FIGHT 277
XXIII. THE SILENT CAMPAIGN 294
XXIV. UNCLE DENNY GETS BUSY 308
XXV. SARA GOES ON A JOURNEY 326
XXVI. THE END OF A SILENT CAMPAIGN 338
XXVII. THE THUMB PRINT 353
* * * * *
"An Elephant of Rock, I have lain here in the desert for countless ages, watching, waiting. I wonder for what!"
MUSINGS OF THE ELEPHANT.
Little Jim sat at the quarry edge and dangled his legs over the derrick pit. The derrick was out of commission because once more the lift cable had parted. Big Jim Manning, Little Jim's father, was down in the pit with Tomasso, his Italian helper, disentangling the cables, working silently, efficiently, as was his custom.
Little Jim bit his fingers and watched and scowled in a worried way. He and his mother hated to have Big Jim work in the quarry. It seemed to them that Big Jim was too good for such work. Little Jim wanted to leave school and be a water boy and his father's helper. Big Jim never seemed to hear the boy's request and Little Jim kept on at school.
The noon whistle blew just as the cable was once more in running order. Little Jim slid down into the pit with his father's dinner bucket and sat by while his father ate.
Big Jim Manning was big only in height. He was six feet tall, but lean. He was sallow and given to long silences that he broke with a slow, sarcastic drawl that Little Jim had inherited. Big Jim was forty-five years old. Little Jim was fourteen; tall and lean, like his father, his face a composite of father and mother. His eyes were large and a clear gray. Even at fourteen he had the half sweet, half gay, wholly wistful smile that people watched for, when he grew up. His hair was a warm leaf brown, peculiarly soft and thick. Little Jim's forehead was the forehead of a dreamer. His mouth and chin were dogged, persistent, energetic.
When he was not in school, Jim never missed the noon hour at the quarry. He had his father's love for mechanics. He had his father's love for law and order making, the gift to both of their unmixed Anglo-Saxon ancestry. When Big Jim did talk at the noon hour, it was usually to try to educate his Italian and Polish fellow workmen to his New England viewpoint. Little Jim never missed a word. He adored his father. He was profoundly influenced by the dimly felt, not understood tragedy of his father's life and of the old New England town in which he lived.
Big Jim spread a white napkin over his knee and poured a cup of steaming soup from the thermos bottle. Tomasso broke off a chunk of bread and took an onion from one pocket and a piece of cheese from another. Big Jim and 'Masso, as he was called, working shoulder to shoulder, day by day, had developed a sort of liking for each other in spite of the fact that Big Jim held foreigners in utter contempt.
"Why did you come to America, anyhow, 'Masso?" drawled Big Jim, waiting for his soup to cool.
'Masso gnawed his onion and bread thoughtfully. "Maka da mon' quick, here; go backa da old countra rich."
"What else?" urged Big Jim.
'Masso looked blank. "I mean," said Big Jim, "did you like our laws better'n yours? Did you like our ways better?"
'Masso shrugged his shoulders. "Don' care 'bout countra if maka da mon'. Why you come desa countra?"
Big Jim's drawl seemed to bite like the slow gouge of a stone chisel.
"I was born here, you Wop! This very dirt made the food that made me, understand? I'm a part of this country, same as the trees are. My forefathers left comfort and friends behind them and came to this country when it was full of Indians to be free. Free! Can you get that? And what good did it do them? They larded the soil with their good sweat to make a place for fellows like you. And what do you care?"
'Masso, who was quick and eager, shook his head. "I work all da time. I maka da mon. I go home to old countra. That 'nough. Work alla da time."
Big Jim ate his beef sandwich slowly. Little Jim, chin in palm, sat listening, turning the matter over in his mind. His father tried another angle.
"What started you over here, 'Masso? How'd you happen to think of coming?"
'Masso understood this. "Homa, mucha talk 'bout desa landa. How ever'boda getta da mon over here. I heara da talk but it like a dream, see? I lika da talk but I lika my own Italia, see? But in olda countra many men work for steamship compana. Steamship compana, they needa da mon', too, see? They talk to us mucha, fixa her easy, come here easy, getta da job easy, see? Steamship men, they keepa right after me, so I come, see?"
Big Jim lighted his pipe. "Tell Mama that was a good dinner, Jimmy," he said. "I haven't got anything personal against you, 'Masso," he went on. "You're a human being like me, trying to take care of your family. I suppose you can't help it that Italians as a class are a lawless lot of cut-throats. You certainly are willing workers. But I'd like to bet that if we'd shut the doors after the Civil War and let those that was in this country have their chance, this country would have a wholesomer growth than it has now. I'll bet if they had fifty men in this quarry like me instead of a hundred like you, it would turn out twice the work it does now."
"But Dad, they say you can't get real Americans to do this kind of work," said Little Jim.
"Deal with facts, Jimmy; deal with facts," drawled his father. "I'm working here. Will Endicott, John Allen, Phil Chadwick are all day laborers. Our forefathers founded this government and this town. What's happened to it and to us? It's too late for us older men to do much. But you kids have got to think about it. What's happened to us? What's happened to this old town? I want you to think about it."
Little Jim took the dinner bucket and started for home. His father had not been talking on a topic new to the Mannings or to the Mannings' friends. Little Jim had been brought up to wonder what was the matter with his breed, what had happened to Exham. Little Jim's forefathers had once held in grant from an English king the land on which the quarry lay. His grandfather had given it up. Farm labor was hard to get. The mortgage had grown heavier and heavier. The land all about was being bought up by Polish and Italian hucksters who lived on what they could not sell and whose wives and children were their farm hands. Grandfather Manning could not compete with this condition.
Big Jim had gone to New York City in his early twenties. He had had a good high school education and was a first-class mechanic. But somehow, he could not compete. He was slow and thoroughgoing and honest. He could not compete with the new type of workman, the man bred to do part work. When Little Jim was five, the Mannings had come back to Exham, with the hope of somehow, sometime, buying back the old farm.
Little Jim passed the old farmhouse slowly. It was used for a storehouse for quarry supplies now. Yet it still was beautiful. Two great elms still shaded the wide portico. The great eaves still sheltered many paned windows. The delicate balustrade still guarded the curving staircase. The dream of Little Jim's life was to live in that great, hospitable mansion.
He passed with a boy's deliberation down the long street that led toward the cottage where the Mannings now lived. The street was heavily shaded by gigantic elms. It was lined on either side by fine Colonial houses, set in gardens, some of which still held dials and bricked walks; wide, deep gardens some of which still were ghostly sweet. But the majority of the mansions had been turned into Italian tenement houses. The gardens were garbage heaps. The houses were filthy and disheveled. The look of them clutched one's heart with horror and despair, as if one looked on a once lovely mother turned to a street drabble.
Little Jim looked and thought with a sense of helpless melancholy that should not have belonged to fourteen. When he reached the cottage, his mother, taking the bucket from him, caught the look in the clear gray eyes that were like her own. She had no words for the look. Nevertheless she understood it immediately. Mrs. Manning was nervous and energetic, with the half-worried, half-wistful face of so many New England women.
"Jimmy," she said, "Phil Chadwick just whistled for you. He went to the swimming hole."
The words were magic. They swept that intangible look from Jim's face and left it flushed and boyish.
"Gee!" he exclaimed, "he's early today. Can I have my dinner right off?"
"Yes," replied his mother, "but remember not to go in until three o'clock. I'm sure I don't see what keeps all you boys from dying! And how you can stand the blood suckers and turtles up there in that mud hole! Goodness! Come, dear, I've cooled off your soup so you can hurry. I knew you'd want to."
Will Endicott dropped in at the Mannings' that evening. Will was a short, florid man, younger than Big Jim. Little Jim, his hair still damp and his fingers wrinkled from water soak, laid down his Youth's Companion. Usually when Will Endicott came there were some lively discussions on the immigration question and the tariff. Even had Little Jim wanted to talk, he would not have been allowed to do so. Among the New Englanders in Exham the old maxim still obtained, "Children are to be seen and not heard." But Little Jim always listened eagerly.
Endicott looked excited tonight. But he had no news about the tariff.
"There's a boy at my house!" he exclaimed. "He just came. Nine pounds! Annie is doing fine."
"Oh!" cried Mrs. Manning, while Big Jim shook Will's hand solemnly. "Oh, goodness! I didn't know—Why I thought tomorrow—Well, I guess I'll go right over now. Goodness——" and still exclaiming, she hurried out into the summer dusk.
"That's great, Will!" said Big Jim. "I wish I could afford to have a dozen. But they cost money, these kids. I suppose you'll be like me, never be able to afford but the one."
"He's awful strong," said Will, abstractedly. "To hear him yell, you'd think he was twins. Looks like me, too. Red as a beet and fat."
"Must be a beauty," said Big Jim. "That Wop that works with me has seven children about a year apart. Doesn't worry him at all. He just moves into a cheaper place, cuts down on food and clothes and takes another one out of school and sets him to work. They're growing up like Indians, lawless little devils. A fine addition to the country! I was reading the other day that by the law of averages a man has got to have four children to be pretty sure of his line surviving. And it said that we New Englanders have the smallest birth rate in the civilized world except France, which is the same as ours. And we've got the biggest proportion of foreigners of any part of America now, up here."
Will came out of the clouds for a moment. "I've been telling you that for years. What's the matter with us, anyhow?"
Big Jim shrugged his shoulders. "All like you and me, I suppose. If we can't give a child a decent chance, we won't have 'em. And these foreigners have cut down wages so's we can hardly support one, let alone two."
Endicott rose. "I just happened to think. I'm going to borrow Chadwick's scales and weigh him again. They're better than mine."
Big Jim chuckled and filled his pipe. Then he sighed. "We've got to go, Jimmy. The old New Englander is as dead as the Indian. We are has-beens."
"But why?" urged Little Jim. "I don't feel like a has-been. What's made us this way? Why don't you and the rest do something?"
"You'd have to change our skins," replied his father, "to make us fight these foreigners on their own level. I'm going to bed. No use waiting for Mama. There's a hard day ahead in the quarry tomorrow. That break set us back on a rush order. The boss was crazy. I told him as I told him forty times before that he'd have to get a new derrick, but he won't. Not so long as he's got me to piece and contrive and make things do.
"I tried to talk 'Masso and the rest into striking for it today, but they don't care anything about the equipment. It's something bigger than I can get at. It isn't only this quarry. It's everywhere I work. Always these foreigners are willing to work in such conditions as we Americans can't stand. Everywhere twenty of 'em waiting to undercut our pay. And the big men bank on this very thing to make themselves rich. You'd better go after your mother, Jimmy. This village ain't safe for a woman after dark the way it was before the Italians came. I'm going to bed."
The next night at supper Big Jim was very silent. When he had eaten his slice of cake he said in his slow way, "No more cake for a while, I guess, Mama."
Mrs. Manning looked up in her nervous, startled manner.
"What's the matter, Jim?"
"Well, I went with my usual kick to the boss about the derrick and he told me to take it or leave it. That work was slacking up so he'd decided on a ten per cent. cut in wages. I don't know but what I'd better quit and look for something else."
"Oh, no, no!" exclaimed Mrs. Manning. She had been through many, many periods of job hunting since her marriage. "Keep your job, Jim. Next week is September and winter will be here before we know it. We'll manage somehow."
"I'll not go to school," cried Little Jim. "I'll get a job. Please, Dad, let me!"
"You'll stay in school," replied Big Jim in his best stone chisel drawl, "as long as I have strength to work. And if I can send you through college, you'll go. Don't you ever think of anything, Jimmy, but that you are to have a thorough education? If anything happens to me you are to get an education if you have to sweep the streets to do it. That's the New England idea. Educate the children at whatever cost. I had a high school education and you'll have a college course if I live. And if I don't live, get it for yourself. I'll have another cup of tea, please, Mama."
"Well, it makes me sick!" exclaimed Little Jim with one of his rare outbursts of feeling, "to have you and mama working so hard and me do nothing but feed the chickens and chop wood. I'll give up the Youth's Companion, anyhow."
Mrs. Manning looked horrified. The Companion was as much a family institution as the dictionary. "How do you think you are going to be really educated, Jimmy, unless you read good things? Your father and I were brought up on the Companion and you'll keep right on with it. I'll get cheaper coffee, Papa, and we can give up cream. Ten per cent. That will make a difference of twenty cents a day. I'll turn my winter suit."
"I'll give up tobacco for a while," said Big Jim. "I was thinking about it, anyhow. It's got so it bites my tongue. I don't need any new winter things, but Jimmy's got to look decent. My father would turn over in his grave if he thought I couldn't keep the last Manning dressed decent. Maybe we ought to give up this cottage, Mama. The Higgins cottage is pretty good but it hasn't got any bathroom."
"If you think I'm going to let Jimmy grow up without a bathroom, you're mistaken," replied Mrs. Manning. "I've got a chance to send jelly and preserves to Boston and I'm going to do it. Don't worry, Papa. We'll make it."
When Little Jim took his father's dinner to him the next day, 'Masso's boy Tony was sharing 'Masso's lunch. His face was dust smeared.
"I gotta job," announced Tony.
'Masso nodded. "He bigga kid now. Not go da school any more. Boss, he giva da cut. I bringa da Tony, getta da job as tool boy. Boss, he fire da Yankee boy. Tony, he work cheaper."
"He's too small to work," said Big Jim. "You'd ought to keep him in school and give him a chance."
"Chance for what?" asked 'Masso.
"Chance to grow into a decent American citizen," snarled Big Jim with the feeling he had had so often of late, the sense of having his back to the wall while the pack worried him in front.
Tony looked up quickly. He was a brilliant faced little chap. "I am an American!" he cried. "I'll be rich some day."
Big Jim looked from 'Masso's child to his own. Then he looked off over the browning summer fields, beyond the quarry. There lay the land that his fathers had held in grant from an English king. But the fields that had built Big Jim's flesh and blood were dotted with Italian huts. The lane in which Big Jim's mother had met his father, returning crippled from Antietam, was blocked by a Polish road house.
Little Jim didn't like the look on his father's face. He spoke his first thought to break the silence.
"Can't I stay for a while, Dad, and watch you load the big stones?"
"If your mother won't worry and you'll keep out of the way," answered Big Jim, rising as the whistle blew.
To industry, the cheapest portion of its equipment is its inexhaustible human labor supply. It was Big Jim who was sufficiently intelligent to keep demanding a new derrick. It was Big Jim who was adept in managing the decrepit machinery and so it was he who was sent to the danger spots, he having the keenest wits and the best knowledge of the danger spots.
Little Jim, sitting with his long legs dangling over the derrick pit, watched his father and 'Masso tease the derrick into swinging the great blocks to the flat car for the rush order.
The thing happened very quickly, so quickly that Little Jim could not jump to his feet and start madly down into the pit before it was all over. The great derrick broke clean from its moorings and dropped across the flat car, throwing Big Jim and 'Masso and the swinging block together in a ghastly heap.
It took some time to rig the other derrick to bear on the situation. Little Jim dropped to the ground and managed to grip his father's hand, protruding from under the debris. But the boy could not speak. He only sobbed dryly and clung desperately to the inert hand.
At last Big Jim and 'Masso were laid side by side upon the brown grass at the quarry edge. 'Masso's chest was broken. The priest got to him before the doctor. Had 'Masso known enough, before he choked, he might have said:
"It doesn't matter. I have done a real man's part. I have worked to the limit of my strength and I shall survive for America through my fertility. What I have done to America, no one knows."
But 'Masso was no thinker. Before he slipped away, he only said some futile word to the priest who knelt beside him. 'Masso never had gotten very far from the thought of his Maker.
Big Jim, lying on the border of the fields where his fathers had dreamed and hoped and worked, looked hazily at Little Jim, and tried to say something, but couldn't. Once more the sense of having his back to the wall, the pack suffocating him, closed in on him, blinded him, and merged with him into the darkness into which none of us has seen.
Had Big Jim been able to clarify the chaos of thoughts in his mind and had he had a longer time for dying, he might have done the thing far more dramatically. He merely rasped out his life, a bloody, voiceless, broken thing on the golden August fields, with his chaos of thoughts unspoken.
He might, had things been otherwise, have seen the long, sad glory of humanity's migrations; might have caught for an unspeakable second a vision of that never ceasing, never long deflected on-moving of human life that must continue, regardless of race tragedy, as long as humans crave food either for the body or the soul. He might have seen himself as symbolizing one of those races that slip over the horizon into oblivion, unprotesting, only vaguely knowing. And seeing this thing, Big Jim might have paused and looking into the face of the horde that was pressing him over the brim, he might have said:
"We who are about to die, salute thee!"
But Big Jim was not dramatic. Little Jim never knew what his father might have said. Instinct told the boy when the end had come. His dry sobs changed to the abandoned tears of childhood as he ran down the street of elms and besotted mansions to tell his mother.
THE OLD SWIMMING HOLE
"The same sand that gave birth to the coyote and the eagle gave birth to the Indian and to me. I wonder why!"
MUSINGS OF THE ELEPHANT.
Little Jim and his mother were left very much alone by Big Jim's death. Little Jim was literally the last of the Mannings. Mrs. Manning's only relative, her sister, had died when Jim was a baby. There was no one to whom Mrs. Manning felt that she could turn for help.
Jim pleaded to be allowed to quit school and go to work.
"I'm fourteen, Mama, and as big as lots of men. I can take care of you."
Mrs. Manning had not cried much. Her heartbreak would not give into tears easily. But at Jim's words she broke into hysterical sobs.
"Jimmy! Jimmy! I don't see how you can ever think of such a thing after all Papa said to you. Almost his last advice to you was about getting an education. He was so proud of your school work. Why, all I've got to live for now is to carry out Papa's plans for you."
Jimmy stood beside his mother. He was taller than she. Suddenly, with boyish awkwardness, he pulled the sobbing little woman to him and leaned his young cheek on her graying hair.
"Mama, I'll make myself into a darned college professor, if you just won't cry!" he whispered.
For several days after the funeral, Jim wandered about the house and yard fighting to control his tears when he came upon some sudden reminder of his father; the broken rake his father had mended the week before; a pair of old shoes in the wood shed; one of his father's pipes on the kitchen window ledge. The nights were the worst, when the picture of his father's last moments would not let the boy sleep. It seemed to Jim that if he could learn to forget this picture a part of his grief would be lifted. It was the uselessness of Big Jim's death that made the boy unboyishly bitter. He could not believe that any other death ever had been so needless. It was only in the years to come that Jim was to learn how needlessly, how unremittingly, industry takes its toll of lives.
Somehow, Jim had a boyish feeling that his father had had many things to say to him that never had been said; that these things were very wise and would have guided him. Jim felt rudderless. He felt that it was incumbent on him to do the things that his father had not been able to do. Vaguely and childishly he determined that he must make good for the Mannings and for Exham. Poor old Exham, with its lost ideals!
It was in thinking this over that Jim conceived an idea that became a great comfort to him. He decided to write down all the advice that he could recall his father's giving him, and when his mother became less broken up, to ask her to tell him all the plans his father might have had for him.
So it was that a week or so after her husband's death, Mrs. Manning found one of Jim's scratch pads on the table in his room, with a carefully printed title on the cover:
MY FATHER'S ADVICES TO ME.
After she had wiped the quick tears from her eyes, she read the few pages Jim had completed in his sprawling hand:
"My father said to me, 'Jimmy, never make excuses. It's always too late for excuses.'
"He said, 'A liar is a first cousin to a skunk. There isn't a worse coward than a liar.'
"He said to me, 'Don't belly-ache. Stand up to your troubles like a man.'
"My father said, 'Hang to what you undertake like a hound to a warm scent.'
"He said to me, 'Life is made up of obeying. What you don't learn from me about that, the world will kick into you. The stars themselves obey a law. God must hate a law breaker.'
"My father said, 'Somehow us Americans are quitters.'
"My mother said my father said, 'I want Jimmy to go through college. I want him to marry young and have a big family.'
"The thing my father said to me oftenest lately was, 'Jimmy, be clean about women. Some day you will know what I mean when I say that sex is energy. Keep yourself clean for your life work and your wife and children.'"
Mrs. Manning read the pages over several times, then she laid the book down and stood staring out of the window.
"Oh, he was a good man!" she whispered. "He was a good man! If Jimmy could have had him just two years more! I don't know how to teach him the things a man ought to know. A boy needs his father.——Oh, my love! My love——"
Down below, Jim was leaning on the front gate. His chum, Phil Chadwick, was coming slowly up the street. The boys had not been near Jim since the funeral. Jim had become a person set apart from their boy world. No one appreciates the dignity of grief better than a boy, or underneath his awkwardness has a finer way of showing it. Phil's mother, to his unspeakable discomfort, had insisted now that he go call on Jim.
Phil, his round face red with embarrassment, approached the gate a little sidewise.
"Hello, Still!" he said casually.
"Hello, Pilly!" replied Jim, blushing in sympathy.
There was a pause, then said Phil, leaning on the gate, "Diana's got her pups. One's going to be a bulldog and two of 'em are setters. U-u-u—want to come over and see 'em and choose yours?"
Jim's face was quivering. It was his father who had persuaded his mother that Jim ought to have one of Diana's pups. Mrs. Manning felt toward dogs much as she might have toward hyenas.
"I—I—guess not today, Pilly!"
Another long pause during which the lads swung the gate to and fro and looked in opposite directions. A locust shrilled from the elm tree. Finally Phil said:
"Still, you gotta come up to the swimming hole. It'll do you good. He—he'd a wanted you to—to—to do what you could to cheer up. Come on, old skinny. Tell your mother. We'll keep away from the other kids. Come on. You gotta do something or you'll go nutty in your head."
Jim turned and went into the house. His mother forestalled his request.
"If Phil wants you to go swimming, dear, go on. It will do you good. Don't stay in too long."
Jim and Phil walked up the road to the old Allen place. They climbed the stile into a field where the aftermath of the clover crop was richly green and vibrating with the song of cricket and katydid. The path that the boys followed had been used in turn by Indian and Puritan. The field still yielded an occasional hide scraper or stone axe.
There was a pine grove at the far edge of the field. In the center of the grove was the pond that had for centuries been the swimming pool for boys, Indian and white. Ground pine and "checkerberry" grew abundantly in the grove. Both boys breathed deep of the piney fragrance and filled their mouths with pungent "checkerberry" leaves. The path, deep worn by many bare feet, circled round the great pines to the clearing where the pond lay. It was black with the shadows of the grove where it was not blue and white in mirroring the September sky. Lily pads fringed the brim. Moss and a tender, long grass grew clear to the water's edge.
Several boys were undressing near the ancient springboard. They looked embarrassed and stopped their laughter when they saw Jim. He and Phil got into their swimming trunks quickly and followed each other in a clean dive into the pool. They swam about in silence for a time and then landed on the far side and lay in the sun on moss and pine needles.
The beauty and sweetness of the place were subtle balm to Jim. And surely if countless generations of boy joy could leave association, the old swimming hole should have spoken very sweetly to Jim. The swimming hole was a boy sanctuary. The water was too shallow for men. Little girls were not allowed to invade the grove except in early spring for trailing arbutus. The oldest men in Exham told that their grandfathers, as boys, had sought the swimming hole as the adult seeks his club.
Jim looked with interest at his legs. "I've got six. How many have you, Pilly?"
Phil counted the brown bloodsuckers that clung to his fat calves. "Seven. Mean cusses, ain't they."
Jim worked with a sharp edged stone, scraping his thin shanks. "You've got fat to spare. They've had enough off of me today."
"I remember how crazy I was first time they got on me. Felt as if I had snakes." Phil rooted six of the suckers off his legs and paused at the seventh. "He's as skinny as you are, Still. I'll give him two minutes more to finish a square meal."
The two boys lay staring out at the pond.
"Have you gotta go to work, Still?" asked Phil.
"Yes," replied Jim. "Mother says I can't, though."
Phil waited more or less patiently. His mates had long since learned that Jim's silences were hard to break.
"But I'm going to get a job in the quarry as soon as I can keep from getting sick at my stomach every time I see a derrick."
"My dad says your—he—he always planned to send you through college," said Phil.
Jim nodded. "I'll get through college. See if I don't. But I won't let my mother support me. I've got a lot of things to finish up for him."
"What things?" asked Phil.
"Well," Jim hesitated for words, "he worried a lot because all the real Americans are dying off or going, somehow, and he always said it was us kids' business to find out why. That's the chief job."
"I don't see what you can do about it," said Phil. "That's a foolish thing to worry about. Why——"
A boy screamed on the opposite side of the pond. It was so different from the shouts and laughter of the moment before that Jim and Phil jumped to their feet. Across the swimming hole a naked boy was dancing up and down, screaming hysterically,
"Take 'em off! Take 'em off! Take 'em off!"
"It's the new minister's kid, Charlie," laughed Phil. "The fellows have got the bloodsuckers on him. Ain't he the booby? Told me he was fifteen and he's bigger'n you are. Screams like a girl."
Jim stood staring, his hand shielding his gray eyes from the sun. Across the pond, the boys were doubled up with laughter, watching the minister's son writhe and tear at his naked body. Suddenly, Jim shot round the edge of the pond, followed by Phil. A dozen naked boys hopped joyfully around the twisting Charlie. They were of all ages, from eight to sixteen.
When Jim ran up to the new boy, his mates shouted: "Don't butt in, now, Jim. Don't butt in. He's a darned sissy."
Jim did not reply. Charlie was considerably larger than he. He had a finely muscled pink and white body, liberally dotted now with wriggling brown suckers. This was a familiar form of hazing with the Exham boys. There was a horror in a first experience with the little brown pests that usually resulted in a mild form of hysteria very pleasing to the young spectators. But Charlie was in an agony of loathing, far ahead of anything the boys had seen.
As Jim ran up, Charlie struck at him madly and the boys yelled in delight. Jim turned on them.
"Shut up!" he shouted. "Shut up now!"
Thin and tall, his boyish ribs showing, his damp hair tossed back from his beautiful gray eyes that were now black with anger, Jim dominated the crowd. There was immediate silence, broken only by Charlie's wild sobs.
"Take 'em off! Take 'em off!"
"He's going to have a fit!" exclaimed Phil.
Charlie's lips were blue and foam flecked. Again as Jim approached him, the minister's boy planted a blow on his ribs that made Jim spin.
"Charlie!" cried Jim. "Shut up!"
The same peculiarly commanding note that had silenced his mates pierced through Charlie's hysteria. He paused for a moment, and in that moment Jim said, "Hold your breath and they can't draw blood. I'll have 'em off you in a second."
"C-c-can't they?" sobbed Charlie.
"Hold your breath and I'll show you," said Jim. "Here, Phil, take hold."
As they stripped the squirming suckers, Jim kept a hand on Charlie's arm. "Can you fight, kid?" he asked. "You've got muscle. You'd better lick the fellow that started this on you or you'll never hear the end of it."
The blue receded from the older boy's lips. He had a fine, sensitive face. "I can fight," he replied. "But I fight fellows and not snakes or worms."
Jim nodded as he pulled off the last sucker. Then he turned to the boys, his hand still on Charlie's arm. He spoke in his usual drawl:
"They's a difference between hazing a fellow and torturing him. Some mighty gritty people can't stand snakes or suckers. You kids ought to use sense. Who started this?"
The biggest boy in the crowd, Fatty Allen, answered: "I did. And if your father hadn't just died I'd lick the stuffing out of you, Still, for butting in."
A shout of derision went up from the boys. Jim's lips tightened. "You lick the new kid first," he answered, "then tackle me. Get after him, Charlie!"
Charlie, quite himself again, leaped toward Fatty and the battle was on.
There had been, unknown to the boys, an interested spectator to this entire scene. Just as Charlie's screams had begun, a heavy set man, ruddy and well dressed, with iron gray hair and black lashed, blue eyes, had paused beside a pine tree. It was a vividly beautiful picture that he saw; the pine set pool, rush and pad fringed, and the naked boys, now gathered about the struggling two near the ancient springboard. One of the smaller boys, moving about to get a better view of the battle, came within arm reach of the stranger, who clutched him.
"Who's this boy they call Still?" he asked. "Stand up here on this stump. I'll brace you."
The small boy heaved a sigh of ecstasy at his unobstructed view. "It's Still Jim Manning. His father just got killed. He's boss of our gang."
"But he's not the biggest," said the stranger.
"Naw, he ain't the biggest, but he can make the fellows mind. He don't talk much but what he says goes."
"Can he lick the big fellow?"
"Who? Fatty Allen? Bet your life! Still's built like steel wire."
"What did he start this fight for?" asked the man.
"Aw, can't you see they'd never let up on this new kid after he bellered so, unless he licked Fatty? Gee! What a wallop! That Charlie kid is going to lick whey out of Fatty."
"So Still is boss?" mused the stranger. "Could he stop that fight, now?"
"Sure," answered the child, "but he wouldn't."
"We'll see," said the stranger. He crossed over to the ring of boys and touched Jim on the shoulder. "I want to speak to you, Manning."
Jim looked at the stranger in astonishment, then answered awkwardly, "Can you wait? I've got to referee this fight."
"You will have to come now," said the man. "Your mother said to come back at once, with me."
Jim walked into the ring, between the two combatants. "Drop it, fellows. I've got to go home. We'll finish this fight tomorrow. Fatty can tackle me then, too."
There were several protests but Fatty had had enough. He was glad of the opportunity to dive into the pond. One after the other the boys ran up the springboard until only Jim and the stranger were left. The man walked back into the grove and in a moment Jim, in his knickerbockers and blouse, joined him.
"I'm glad to see you can obey, as well as boss, me boy," said the man. "Your mother says you don't know that a few days ago she advertised in the N. Y. Sun for a position as housekeeper. I liked the ad and came up to see her. I'm a lawyer in New York, a widower. I like your mother. She's a lady to the center of her. But when she told me she had a boy your age, I felt dubious. She wanted to send for you but I insisted on coming meself. I wanted to see you among boys. Me name is Michael Dennis."
Jim flushed painfully. "I don't want my mother to work like that. I can support her."
"I'm glad that you feel that way, me boy. But on the other hand, you're not old enough to support her the way she can support herself and you, too."
"I'll never let my mother support me!" cried Jim.
"What can you do to prevent it?" asked Mr. Dennis. "Wouldn't you like to live in New York?"
Jim hesitated. Dennis put his hand on Jim's shoulder. "I like you, me boy. I never thought to want another child about me house. Come, we'll talk it over with your mother."
Jim followed into the cottage sitting room, where his mother eyed the two anxiously.
"I thought something must have happened," she said. "Did you have trouble finding the pond?"
Mr. Dennis smiled genially. "Not a bit! I was just getting acquainted with your boy. He's quite a lad, Mrs. Manning, and I'm going to tell you I'll be glad to have him in me house. Now I'll just tell you what me house is like and what we'll have to expect of each other."
After an hour's talk Dennis said: "I will give you fifty dollars a month and board and lodging for the lad."
Mrs. Manning flushed with relief. Jim, who had not said a word since coming into the house, spoke suddenly in his father's own drawl:
"I don't want anyone to give me my keep. I'll take care of the furnace and do the work round the house you pay a man to do, and if that isn't enough to pay for keeping me, I'll work for you in your office Saturdays."
Mr. Dennis looked at the tall boy keenly, then said whimsically, "Well, I thought you'd been smitten dumb."
"He's very still, Jim is, except when he's fearfully worked up. All the Mannings are that way," said his mother.
Mr. Dennis nodded. "The house takes lots of care. Your mother will get a maid to help her and I'll let the man go who has been doing janitor service for me. With this arrangement, I'll make your mother's salary $65 a month."
And so the decision was made.
It was the last week in September when Jim and his mother left Exham. The day before they left the old town, Jim tramped doggedly up the street toward the old Manning mansion. He had not been there since his father's death.
When he reached the dooryard he stopped, pulled off his cap and stood looking at the doorway that had welcomed so many Mannings and sped so many more. The boy stood, erect and slender, the wind ruffling his thick dark hair across his dreamer's forehead, his energetic jaw set firmly. Now and again tears blinded his gray eyes, but he blinked them back resolutely.
Jim must have stood before the door of his old home for half an hour, a silent, lonely young figure at whom the quarry men glanced curiously. When the whistle blew five Jim made an heroic effort and turned and looked at the derrick, again spliced into place. He shuddered but forced himself to look.
It was after sunset when Jim finally turned away. It was many years before he came to this place again. Yet Exham had made its indelible imprint on the boy. The convictions that had molded his first fourteen years were to mold his whole life. Somehow he felt that his father had been a futile sacrifice to the thing that was destroying New England and that old New England spirit which he had been taught to revere. What the thing was he did not know. And yet, with his boyish lips trembling, he promised the old mansion to make good for his father and for Exham—poor old Exham, with its lost ideals!
THE BROWNSTONE FRONT
"Coyote, eagle, Indian, I have seen countless generations of them fulfill their destinies and disappear. I wonder when my turn will come."
MUSINGS OF THE ELEPHANT.
Jim and his mother did not feel like strangers when they reached New York. Mrs. Manning knew the city well and Jim, boy-like, was overjoyed at the idea of being in the great town.
Mr. Dennis' brownstone front was one of the fine old houses on West 23rd street that are fast making way for stores. It was full of red Brussels carpets and walnut furniture of crinkly design. It had crayon enlargements of Mrs. Dennis and the two small Dennises in the parlor and in the guest room and in Mr. Dennis' room. Jim wondered how Mr. Dennis could be so genial when he had lost so much.
The third floor had two large rooms opening off a big central room, and this floor, comfortably furnished, was for the use of Mrs. Manning and Jim and the maid. Mrs. Manning solved the maid question by sending back to Exham for Annie Peyton. Annie was about forty. Her mother had been housekeeper for Mrs. Manning's mother and Annie was the domestic day worker for the village. Up in Exham English customs still obtained among the old families. Annie was "Peyton" to Mrs. Manning.
Jim guessed from his own feelings how her position as a servant hurt his mother. She herself never said anything, but Jim noticed that she made no friends. Mr. Dennis treated her with a very real courtesy and basked in her perfect housekeeping.
Jim entered school at once. In his own way, he was a brilliant student. He had the sort of mind that instinctively grasps fundamental principles, and this faculty, combined with a certain mental obstinacy and independence, made him at once the pride and terror of his teachers. He was a very firm rock on which to depend for exhibition purposes, but whenever he asked questions they were of a searching variety that made his teachers long to box his ears.
It was rather a pity that all Jim's spare moments when not in school had to be spent in janitor service. He missed the companionship of the boys in the public school which, in America, is an almost indispensable part of a boy's education. In his adult life he must meet and understand men and methods of every nationality. New York public schools are veritable congresses of nations and a boy who plans to go into business gets far more than mere book learning from them. Jim's poverty cut him out of athletics and clubs so that all his inherent New England tendency to mental aloofness would have been vastly increased if it had not been for his summer vacations.
The first day of his summer vacation, Jim applied for a job. A steel skyscraper was being erected in 42nd street and Jim asked the superintendent of construction for work. The superintendent looked at the lank lad, who now, fifteen, would have appeared eighteen were it not for his smooth, almost childish face.
"What kind of work, young fella?" asked the Boss.
"Anything to start with," replied Jim, "until we see what I can do."
"You're as thin as a lath. Ye can get down there with Derrick No. 2 and get some muscle laid on you. A dollar fifty a day is the best I can do for you. Get along now."
Jim's brain reeled with joy at the size of his prospective income. He nodded, pulled off his coat, leaving it in the superintendent's office and found his way to Derrick No. 2.
The structure was a big one, so big that the exigencies of New York traffic were forcing the company to build in sections. A steel frame nearly eighteen stories high was nearly finished at one edge, while blasting for another portion of the foundation, five stories deep, was going on at the other edge.
Derrick No. 2 was in the new foundation. Jim's foreman was a Greek. His companion, with whom he guided the rock that the derrick lifted was a Sicilian. The steam drillman whom Jim had to help was a negro. There were ten nationalities on the pay roll of the company. Jim had grown accustomed to feeling in school that New York was not in America, but in a foreign country. Down in the five-story hole in the ground, with the ear-shattering batter of the steam riveters above him, the groaning of the donkey engines, the tear and screech of the steam drills beside him, with the never ending clatter and chatter of tongues that he could not understand about him, Jim often got the sense of suffocation of which his father had complained. He detested foreigners, anyhow. There was in Jim the race vanity of the Anglo-Saxon which is as profound as it is unconscious.
Now, with his boyish sweat mingling with that of these alien workers on the great new structure, Jim wondered how he was going to stand this, summer after summer, until he had his education. They seemed to him so dirty, so stupid, like so many chattering monkeys. To get to know them, to try to understand them, never occurred to him.
Jim liked the darky, Hank, better than he did the others. To Hank the others were foreigners as they were to Jim.
"Don't talk so much. I can't hear ma drill!" yelled Hank in Jim's ear one afternoon when the din was at its height.
Jim flashed his charming smile. "I talk English, anyhow," he shouted back, "when I do talk."
"You'se the stillest white man I ever see. I'se callin' you Still Jim in my mind. Pretty quick whites and colored folks can't get no jobs no more in this country. Just Bohunks and Wops and Ginnies. Can you watch the drill one minute while I gits a drink?"
Jim nodded and glanced up at the red spider web that was dotted clear to the eighteenth floor with black dots of workmen. He looked up at the street edge of the gray pit. Black heads peered over the rail, staring idly at the workmen below. Jim felt half a thrill of pride that he was a part of the great work at which they gazed, half a hot sense of resentment that they stared so stupidly at his discomfort.
Far above gray stone and red ironwork was the deep blue of the summer sky. Jim wondered if the kids in the old swimming hole missed him. He wished he could lie on his back and talk to Phil Chadwick again. As he stared wistfully upward, a girder on the 18th floor twisted suddenly and swept across a temporary floor, brushing men off like crumbs. Jim saw three men go hurtling and bounding down, down to the street. He could not hear them scream above the din. He felt sick at his stomach and lifted his hand from the drill, expecting the steam to be shut off. But it was not.
Hank came back, the whites of his eyes showing a little. "Killed three. All Wops," he said. "Morgue gets a man a day outa this place. They just sticks 'em outside the board fence and a policeman sends fer a ambulance. The blood on these here New York buildings sure oughta hoo-doo 'em. There, you Still Jim, you get a drink o' water. You look white. The iron workers quit fer the day. They always does when a man gits killed."
That evening Jim did an errand to the tobacco shop for Mr. Dennis. On his return to the library with the cigars, Dennis looked at the boy affectionately. Jim interested him. His faithfulness to his mother, his quiet ways, his unboyish life, touched the Irishman.
"You look a little peaked round the gills, Still Jim. Better cut this work you're doing and come to me office. I can't pay you so much but I'll make a lawyer of you."
Jim shook his head. "The work is good for me. The gym teacher said I was growing too fast and to stay outdoors all summer."
"What's the matter with you, then?" insisted Dennis.
"I saw three men killed just before quitting time," said the boy. Then suddenly his face flushed. "Sometimes I hate it here in New York. Seems as if I can't stand it. They don't care anything about human beings. I can't think of New York as anything but a can full of angle worms, all of them crawling over each other to get to the top."
"Sit down, me boy," said Dennis. "If little Mike had lived, he'd have been just your age, Still Jim. I don't like to think of you as having so little of a boy's life. Jim, take the summer off and I'll take you to the seashore."
Jim smiled a little uncertainly. "I can't leave mama, and the money I'll get this summer will buy my clothes for a year and something for me to put in the bank. I'm all right. It's just that since—since you know I saw Dad——" and to his utter shame Jim began to sob. He dropped his head on his arm and Dennis' florid face became more deeply red as he looked at the long thin body and the beautiful brown head shaken by sobs.
"Good God, Jimmy, don't!" he exclaimed. "Why, you're all shot to pieces, lad. Hold on now, I'll tell you a funny story. No, I won't either. I'll tell you something to take up your mind. Still, do you think your mother would marry me?"
This had the desired effect. Jim jumped to his feet, forgetting even to wipe the tears from his cheeks.
"She certainly would not!" he cried. "I wouldn't let her. Has she said she would?"
"I haven't asked her," replied Mr. Dennis meekly. "I wanted to talk to you about it first. Much as I think of her, Jim, I wouldn't marry her if you objected. You've been through too much for a kid."
Jim eyed Mr. Dennis intently. The Irishman was a pleasant, intelligent-looking man.
"I like you now," said the boy, his voice catching from his heavy sobbing, "but I'd hate you if you tried to take my father's place. Anyway, I don't think mama would even listen to you. What makes you want to get married again, Mr. Dennis, after—after that?"
Jim looked toward the crayon enlargement above the mantel.
Dennis answered quickly. "Don't think for a minute I'd try to put anyone in her place." He nodded toward the sweet-faced woman who was looking down at them. "And I wouldn't expect to take your father's place. I guess your mother and I both know we gave and got the best in life, once, and it only comes once. Only it's this way, Still Jim, me boy. When people pass middle age and look forward to old age, they see it lonely, desperately lonely, and they want company to help them go through it. I admire and respect your mother and I think as much of you as if you were me own. But you'll be going off soon to make your own way. Then your mother and I could look out for each other. I leave the decision to you, me boy."
"I can't stand thinking of anybody in my father's place," repeated Jim huskily. "I'm—I'm going out for a walk." And he rushed out of the house and started north toward 42nd street, his mind a blur of protest.
The same instinct that sends the workman back to look at the shop on his Sunday afternoon stroll, urged Jim up to the new skyscraper. The night watchman was for driving the lank boy away until Jim explained that he worked in the foundation, and was just back to see how it looked at night.
"If you want to see a grand sight," said the old man, "get you up to the top floor and look out at the city. Take the tile elevator at the back. Tell the man Morrissy sent ye."
The work in the foundation was going on but not on the steel structure. No one heeded Jim. He reached the 18th floor, where there was a narrow temporary flooring. Jim sat down on a coil of rope. The boy was badly shaken.
No one, unless for the first time tonight, Mr. Dennis, realized how hard a nerve shock Jim had had in seeing his father killed. He had kept from his mother the horror of the nights that followed the tragedy. She did not know that periodically, even now, he dreamed the August fields and the dying men and the bloody derrick over again. She did not know what utter courage it had taken to join the derrick gang, not for fear for his own safety, but because of the dread association in his own mind.
At first, the sense of height made Jim quiver. To master this he fixed his mind on the details of structure underneath. Line on line the delicate tracery of steel waiting for its concrete sheathing was silhouetted below him. The night wind rushed past and he braced himself automatically, noting at the same time how the vibration of the steel cobweb was like a marvelous faint tune. The wonder of conception and workmanship caught the boy's imagination.
"That's what I'll do," he said aloud. "I'll build steel buildings like this. In college, that's what I'll study, reinforced concrete building. I've got to find a profession that'll give me a bigger chance than poor Dad had, so I can marry young and have lots and gob-lots of kids."
The wind increased and Jim slid off the coil of rope and lay flat on his back, looking up at the sky. It was full of stars and scudding clouds. Jim missed the sky in New York. He lay staring, sailing with the clouds while his boyish heart glowed with the stars.
"I'm not in New York," he thought. "I'm—I'm out in the desert country. There isn't any noise. There aren't any people. I'm an engineer and I'm building a bridge across a canyon where no one but the birds have ever crossed before. I'm making a place for people to come after me. I'm discovering new land for them and fixing it so they can come."
For half an hour Jim lay and dreamed. He often had wondered what he was going to be as a man. He had planned to be many things, from a milkman to an Indian fighter. But since his father's death and indeed for some time before, his mind had taken a bent suggested by Mr. Manning's melancholy. What was the matter with Exham and the Mannings? Why had his father failed? What could he do to make up for the failure? These thoughts had colored the boy's dreams. No one can measure the importance to a child of taking his air castles away from him. Tragedy scars a child permanently. Grown people often forget a heavy loss.
But tonight, inspired by the wonder of the building and the heavens, Jim's mind slipped its leashings and took its racial bent. Suddenly he was a maker of trails, a builder in the wilderness. He completed the bridge and then sat up with an articulate, "Gee whiz! I know what I'm going to be!"
It seemed a matter of tremendous importance to the boy. He sat with clenched fists and burning cheeks, sensing for the first time one of the highest types of joy that comes to human beings, that of finding one's predilection in the work by which one earns one's daily bread. The sense of clean-cut aim to his life was like balm and tonic to the boy's nerves. Something deeper than a New York or a New England influence was speaking in Jim now. For the first time, his Anglo-Saxon race, his race of empire builders, was finding its voice in him.
Jim rode gaily down the tile elevator, his flashing smile getting a vivid response from the Armenian elevator boy. He ran a good part of the way home and burst into the house with a slam, utterly unlike his usual quiet, unboyish steadiness. He was dashing past the library door on his way upstairs to his mother, when he caught a glimpse of her sitting near the library table with Mr. Dennis. He forgot to be astonished at her unwonted presence there. He ran into the room.
"Mama!" he cried. "Mama! I'm going to be an engineer and go out west and build railroads and bridges out where its wild! Aren't you glad?"
Mr. Dennis and Mrs. Manning stared in astonishment at Jim's loquacity and at the glow of his face. His gray eyes were brilliant. His thick hair was wind-tossed across his forehead. Mr. Dennis, being Irish, understood. He rose, shook hands with Jim, his left hand patting the boy's shoulder.
"You're made for it, Still Jim, me boy," he said, soberly. "You've the engineer's mind. How'd you come to think of it?"
"Up on top of the skyscraper," replied Jim lucidly. "Don't you see, Mama? Isn't it great?"
Mrs. Manning was trying to smile, but her lips trembled. She was wishing Jim's father could see him now. "I don't understand, Jimmy. But if you like it, I must. But what shall I do with you out west?"
Jim gasped, whitened, then looked at Mr. Dennis and began to turn red.
JIM FINDS SARA AND PEN
"Since time began Indians have climbed my back and have cried their joys and sorrows to the sky. I wonder who has heard!"
MUSINGS OF THE ELEPHANT.
Mr. Dennis laughed. He still was holding Jim's hand "May I ask her?" he said to Jim.
Jim nodded, though his eyes were startled. Suddenly Mr. Dennis dropped Jim's hand and threw his arm across the boy's shoulders. The two stood facing Mrs. Manning.
"Mrs. Manning," began the Irishman, "I think you feel that I admire and respect you. I am a lonely man. I asked Jim if I could ask you to marry me, earlier in the evening. He said, No! No one should take his father's place. I told him you and I had lived through too much to dream of falling in love again, but that old age was a lonely thing. I need you and when Jim finishes school and goes, you'll need me, Mrs. Manning. I can send Jim through college and give him a right start. Will you marry me, say in a day or two, without any fuss, Mrs. Manning?"
The little widow's face was flushed. "What made you change, Jim?" she exclaimed. "I couldn't love anyone but your father."
Jim nodded. "I didn't realize then that my work would take me away from you. You know a man's job is very important, Mama. I want to get someone to take care of you while I build bridges, for I've got to build them. I can send you money but I want a man to be looking out for you."
Mr. Dennis' eyes twinkled but he waited.
"It's only a year since your father died. I never could care for anyone else," said Mrs. Manning.
"It's ten years since Mrs. Dennis and the babies died," said Dennis. "I never could love anyone as I did the three of them. But you and I suit each other comfortably, Mrs. Manning. We'd be a great comfort to each other and we can do some good things for Still Jim. You must try to give him his chance. It's a sad boyhood he's having, Mrs. Manning. Let's give him the chance he can't have unless you marry me."
Mrs. Manning looked at Jim. His face still was eager but there were dark rings around his eyes that came from nerve strain. He was too thin and she saw for the first time that his shoulders were rounding. Mr. Dennis followed up his advantage.
"Look at his hands, Mrs. Manning. Hard work has knocked them up too much for his age. He should have his chance to play if he's to do good body and brain work later. Let's give his father's son a chance! Don't you think his father would approve?"
"Oh, but I'm going to keep on working and supporting myself!" cried Jim. "I just wanted you to look out for Mama."
"Well, I guess not!" cried Mrs. Manning, vehemently. "You'll come straight out of that foundation tomorrow. You are going to have your chance. Oh, Jim dear! I hadn't realized how little happiness you've been having!"
Jim shook his head. "I can support myself."
Mrs. Manning sniffed. "How can you be a good engineer out in that awful rough country unless you have the best kind of a physical foundation? Use sense, Jimmy."
This was a master stroke. Jim wavered, then caught his left ankle in his hand and hopped about like a happy frog.
"Gee whiz!" he cried. "I'll enter the try-out squad the first thing. I bet I can make school quarter back."
Mr. Dennis cut in neatly. "It might just as well take place tomorrow and the three of us can take a month at the seashore. I'll bet Jim has sighed for the old swimming hole lately."
The little widow looked at Mr. Dennis long and keenly, then she rose and held out her hand while she said very deliberately:
"You are a good man, Michael Dennis. I thank you for me and mine and I'll be a comfort to you as you are being to me. I'm not going to pretend I'd do this if it wasn't for Jim. I can't love you, but you love Jim and that's enough for me."
And so Jim was given his chance.
He spent the rest of the summer at the shore and entered school in the fall with a new interest. With the unexpected lift of the money burden from his shoulders, Jim began to make up for his lost play. Football and track work, debating societies and glee-clubs straightened his round shoulders and found him friends. Most important of all, he ceased to brood for a time over his Exham problems.
Jim's stepfather, whom the boy called Uncle Denny, took a pride and interest in the boy that sometimes brought the tears to his mother's eyes. It seemed to her that the warm-hearted Irishman gave to Jim all the love that the death of his family had left unsatisfied. And Jim, in his undemonstrative way, returned Mr. Dennis' affection. He shared with his Uncle Denny his growing ideals on engineering. He rehearsed his debating society speeches on his Uncle Denny, who endured them with enthusiasm. He and his Uncle Denny worked out some marvelous football tactics when Jim as a senior in the high school became captain of the school team. Often of an evening Jim's mother would come upon the two in the library, flat on their backs before the grate in a companionship that needed and found no words.
At such times she would say, "Michael, you didn't marry me. You married Jim."
And Dennis would look up at her with a smile of understanding that she returned.
When Jim was a freshman in Columbia, he acquired a chum. It was not a chum who took the place of Phil Chadwick. Nothing in after life ever fills the hollow left by the first friendship of childhood and Phil was hallowed in Jim's memory along with all the beauties of the swimming hole and the quiet elms around the old Exham mansions.
But Jim's new chum gave him his first opportunity at hero-worship, which is an essential step in a boy's growth. The young man's name was George Saradokis. His mates called him Sara. His mother was a Franco-American, his father was a Greek, a real estate man in the Greek section of New York. Sara confided to Jim, early in their acquaintance, that his father was the disinherited son of a nobleman and that he, the grandson, would be his grandfather's heir. The glamour of this possible inheritance did not detract at all from the romance of the new friendship in Jim's credulous young eyes.
Sara was halfback on the freshman football team, while Jim played quarterback. The two were of a height, six feet, but Jim still was slender. Sara was broad and heavy. He was very Greek—that is, modern Greek, which has little racially or temperamentally in common with the ancient Greek. He was a brilliant student, yet of a commerciality of mind that equalled that of any Jewish student in the class.
Both the boys were good trackmen. Both were good students. Both were planning to be engineers. But, temperamentally, they were as far apart as the two countries whence came their father's stock.
Uncle Denny did not approve fully of Saradokis, but finally he decided that it was good for Jim to overcome some of his New England prejudice against the immigrant class and he encouraged the young Greek to come to the house.
It was when Jim was a freshman, too, that Penelope came from Colorado to live with her Uncle Denny. Her father, Uncle Denny's brother, had married a little Scotch girl and they had made a bare living from a small mine, up in the mountains, until a fatal attack of pneumonia claimed them both in a single month. Penelope stayed on at a girl's school in Denver for a year. Then, Jim's mother urging it, Mr. Dennis sent for her. Jim, absorbed in the intricate business of being a freshman, did not give much heed to the preparations for her coming.
One spring evening he sauntered into the library to wait for the dinner bell. As he strolled over to the fireplace, he saw a slender young girl sitting in the Morris chair.
"Oh, hello!" said Jim.
"Hello!" said the young girl, rising.
The two calmly eyed each other. Jim saw a graceful girl, three or four years younger than himself, with a great braid of chestnut hair hanging over one shoulder. She had a round face that ended in a pointed chin, a generous mouth, a straight little nose and a rich glow of color in her cheeks. These details Jim noted only casually, for his attention was focused almost immediately on her eyes. For years after, whenever Jim thought of Penelope, he thought of a halo of chestnut hair about eyes of a deep hazel; eyes that were large, almost too large, for the little round face; eyes that were steady and clear and black sometimes with feeling or with a fleeting shadow of melancholy that did not belong to her happy youth.
Penelope saw a tall lad in a carefully dressed Norfolk suit. He had a long, thin, tanned face, with a thick mop of soft hair falling across his forehead, a clear gaze and a flashing, wistful, fascinatingly sweet smile as he repeated:
"Hello, Still Jim!" replied the girl, while her round cheeks showed dimples that for a moment made Jim forget her eyes.
"Uncle Denny's been busy, I see," said Jim.
Then he was speechless. He had not reached the "girl stage" as yet. Penelope was not disturbed. She continued to look Jim over, almost unblinkingly. Then Jim, to his own astonishment, suddenly found his tongue.
"I'm glad you've come," he said abruptly. "I'm going to think a lot of you, I can see that."
He held out his hand and Penelope slipped her slender fingers into his hard young fists. Jim did not let the little hand go for a minute. The two looked at each other clearly.
"I'm glad I'm here," said Penelope. Then she dimpled. "And I'm glad you're nice, because Uncle Denny told me that if I didn't like you I'd show myself no judge of boys. When I giggled, I know he wanted to slap me."
Jim's smile flashed and Penelope wondered what she liked best about it, his white teeth, his merriness or his wistfulness.
"There's the dinner bell!" exclaimed Jim. "As Uncle Denny says, I'm so hungry me soul is hanging by a string. Come on, Penelope."
Penelope entered Jim's life as simply and as easily as Saradokis did.
Sara charmed both Jim and Penelope. His physical beauty alone was a thing to fascinate far harsher critics than these two who grew to be his special friends. His hair was tawny and thick and wavy. His eyes were black and bright. His mouth was small and perfectly cut. His cleft chin was square and so was his powerful jaw. He carried himself like an Indian and his strength was like that of the lover in Solomon's song.
Added to this was the romance of his grandfather. This story enthralled little Pen, who at fourteen was almost bowled over by the thought that some day Sara might be a duke.
Sara's keen mind, his commercial cleverness had a strong hold on Jim, who lacked the money-making instinct. Jim quoted Sara a good deal at first to Uncle Denny, whose usual comment was a grunt.
"Sara says it's a commercial age. If you don't get out and rustle money you might as well get off the earth."
A grunt from Uncle Denny.
"Well, but Uncle Denny, you can't deny he's right."
The Irishman's reply was indirect. "Remember, me boy, that the chief value of a college education is to set your standards, to make your ideals. These four years are the high-water mark of your life's idealism. You never'll get higher. Anything else you are taught in college you'll have to learn over another way after you get out to buck real life."
Jim thought this over for a time, then he said: "Do you ever talk to Pen like you do to me? It would do her good."
Uncle Denny sniffed. "Don't you worry about Pen's ideas. She's got the best mind I ever found in a girl. When she gets past the giggling age, you'll learn a few things from her, me boy."
Penelope chummed with the two boys impartially as far as Dennis or Jim's mother could perceive. The girl with her common sense and her foolishness and her youthfulness was an inexpressible joy to Jim's mother, who always had longed for a daughter. She had dreams about Jim and Pen that she confided to no one and she looked on Penelope's impartiality with a jealous eye.
Until Pen was sixteen the boys were content to share her equally. They were finishing their junior year when Pen's sixteenth birthday arrived. It fell on a Saturday, and Jim and Sara cut Saturday morning classes and invited Penelope to a day at Coney Island. Uncle Denny and Jim's mother were to meet the trio for supper and return with them.
It was a June morning fit to commemorate, Sara said, even Pen's birthday. The three, carrying their bathing suits, caught the 8 o'clock boat at 129th street, prepared to do the weather and the occasion full justice. The crowd was not great on this early boat until the Battery was reached. Then all the world rushed up the gang plank; Jew and Gentile crowded for the best places. Italian women, with babies, dragged after husbands with lunch baskets. Stout Irish matrons looked with scorn on the "foreigners" and did great devastation in claiming camp stools. Very young Jewish girls and boys were the most conspicuous element in the crowd, but there were groups of gentle Armenians, of Syrians, of Chinese and parties of tourists with field glasses and cameras.
"And every one of them claims to be an American," said Jim.
Penelope nudged Sara. "Look at Jim's New England nose," she chuckled. "I don't see how he can see anything but the sky."
Jim did not heed Pen's remarks. Pen and Sara laughed. They were thrilled by the very cosmopolitan aspect of the crowd. They responded to a sense of world citizenship to which Jim was an utter alien.
"Make 'em a speech, Jim!" cried Sara, as the boat got under way again. "Make the eagle scream. It's a bully place for a speech. The poor devils can't get away from you."
Jim grinned. Pen, her eyes twinkling, joined in with Sara. "He's too lazy. He's a typical American. He'll roast the immigrants but he won't do anything. It's a dare, Jim."
Sara shouted, "It's a dare, Still! Go to it! Pen and I dare you to make the boat a speech."
Jim was still smiling but his eyes narrowed. The old boyhood code still held in college. The "taker" of a dare was no sportsman. And there was something deeper than this that suddenly spoke; the desire of his race to force his ideas on others, the same desire that had made his father talk to the men in the quarry at Exham. With a sudden swing of his long legs he mounted a pile of camp chairs and balanced himself with a hand on Sara's shoulder.
"Shut up!" he shouted. "Everybody shut up and listen to me!"
It was the old dominating note. Those of the crowd that heard his voice turned to look. It was a vivid group they saw; the tall boy, with thin, eager face, fine gray eyes and a flashing wistful smile that caught the heart, and with a steadying arm thrown round Jim's thighs, the Greek lad, with his uncovered hair liquid gold in the June sun, his beautiful brown face flushed and laughing, while crowded close to Sara was the pink-cheeked girl, her face upturned to look at Jim.
"Hey! Everybody! Keep still and listen to me!" repeated Jim.
In the hush that came, the chatter in the cabin below and the rear deck sounded remote.
"I've been appointed a committee of one to welcome you to America!" cried Jim. "Welcome to our land. And when you get tired of New York, remember that it's not in America. America lies beyond the Hudson. Enjoy yourselves. Take everything that isn't nailed down."
"Who gave the country to you, kid?" asked a voice in the crowd.
"My ancestors who, three hundred years ago, stole it from the Indians," answered Jim with a smile.
A roar of laughter greeted this. "How'd you manage to keep it so long?" asked someone else.
"Because you folks hadn't heard of it," replied the boy.
Another roar of laughter and someone else called, "Good speech. Take up a collection for the young fellow to get his hair cut with."
Jim tossed the hair out of his eyes and gravely pointed back to the marvelous outline of the statue of Liberty, black against the sky. "Take a collection and drink hope to that, my friends. It is the most magnificent experiment in the world's history, and you have taken it out of our hands."
There was a sudden hush, followed by hand clapping, during which Jim slipped down. Sara gave him a bear hug. "Oh, Still Jim, you're the light of my weary eyes! Did he call our bluff, Pen, huh?"
There was something more than laughter in Pen's eyes as she replied:
"I'm never sure whether Still was cut out to be an auctioneer or a politician."
"Gosh!" exclaimed Jim, "let's get some ginger ale."
The day rushed on as if in a wild endeavor to keep up with the June wind which beat up and down the ocean and across Coney Island, urging the trio on to its maddest. They shot the chutes until, maudlin with laughter, they took to a merry-go-round. When they were ill from whirling, Sara led the way to the bucking staircase. This was a style of several steps arranged to buck at unexpected intervals. The movement so befuddled the climber that he consistently took a step backward for every step forward until at last, goaded by the huge laughter of the watching crowd, he fairly fell to the opposite side of the staircase.
It was before this seductive phenomenon that the three paused. The crowd was breathlessly watching the struggles of a very fat, very red-headed woman who chewed gum in exact rhythm with the bucking of the staircase, while she firmly marked time on the top of the stairs.
Sara gave a chuckle and, closely followed by Jim and Pen, he mounted the stile. He was balked by the red-headed woman who towered high above him. Sara reached up and touched her broad back.
"Walk right ahead, madam," he urged. "You're holding us back."
The fat woman obediently took a wild step forward, the stair bucked and she stepped firmly backward and sat down violently on Sara's head. Pen and Jim roared with the crowd. The red-headed woman scrambled to the topmost stair again, then turned and shook her fist in Sara's face.
"Don't you touch me again, you brute!" she screamed. Then she summoned all her energies and took another dignified step upward. Again the stairs bucked. Again the fat woman sat down on Sara's hat. Again the onlookers were overwhelmed with laughter. Pen and Jim feebly supported each other as they rode up and down on the lower step. Sara pushed the woman off his head and again she turned on him.
"There! You made me swallow my gum! And I'll bet you call yourself a gentleman!"
Sara, red-faced but grinning, took a mighty step upward, gripped the woman firmly around the waist and lifted her down the opposite side of the stile. Pen and Jim followed with a mad scramble. For a moment it looked as if the red-headed woman would murder Sara. But as she looked at his young beauty her middle-aged face was etched by a gold-toothed smile.
"Gee, that's more fun than I've had for a year!" she exclaimed and she melted into helpless laughter.
Coney Island is of no value to the fastidious or the lazy. Coney Island belongs to those who have the invaluable gift of knowing how to be foolish, who have felt the soul-purging quality of huge laughter, the revivifying power of play. Lawyers and pickpockets, speculators and laborers, poets and butchers, chorus girls and housewives at Coney Island find one common level in laughter. Every wholesome human being loves the clown.
Spent with laughing, Pen finally suggested lunch, and Jim led the way to an open-air restaurant.
"Let's," he said with an air of inspiration, "eat lunch backward. Begin with coffee and cheese and ice cream and pie and end with clam chowder and pickles."
"Nothing could be more perfect!" exclaimed Pen enthusiastically, and as nothing surprises a Coney Islander waiter, they reversed the menu.
When they could hold no more, they strolled down to the beach and sat in the sand. The crowd was very thick here. Nearly everyone was in a bathing suit. Women lolled, half-naked in the sand, while their escorts, still more scantily clad, sifted sand over them. Unabashed couples embraced each other, rubbing elbows with other embracing pairs. The wind blew the smell of hot, wet humans across Jim's face. He looked at Pen's sweet face, now a little round-eyed and abashed in watching the unashamed crowd. It was the first time that Mrs. Manning had allowed Pen to go to Coney Island without her careful eye.
Jim said, with a slow red coming into his cheeks, "Let's get out of here, Sara."
"Why, we just got here," replied Sara. "Let's get into our suits and have some fun."
"Pen'll not get into a bathing suit with these muckers," answered Jim, slowly.
Pen, who had been thinking the same thing, immediately resented Jim's tone. "Of course I shall," she replied airily. "You can't boss me, Jim."
"That's right, Pen," agreed Sara. "Let old Prunes sit here and swelter. You and I will have a dip."
Pen rose and she and Sara started toward the bath house. Jim took a long stride round in front of the two.
"Sara, do as you please," he drawled. "Penelope will stay here with me."
THE SIGN AND SEAL
"The river forever flows yet she sees no farther than I who am forever silent, forever still."
MUSINGS OF THE ELEPHANT.
"Jim Manning, you've no right to speak to me that way," said Penelope.
Jim returned her look clearly. "You are to stay here, Pen," he repeated slowly.
"You've got your nerve, Still!" exclaimed Sara. "Pen's as much my company as she is yours. Quit trying to start something. Pen, come along."
Jim did not stir for a moment, then he jerked his head toward the bath house. "Go ahead and get into your suit, Sara. Penelope and I will wait here for you."
Sara had seen Jim in this guise before, on the football field. For a moment he scowled, then he shrugged his shoulders. "You old mule!" he grunted. "All right, Pen. You pacify the brute and I'll be back in a few minutes."
Pen did not yield so gracefully. She sat down in the sand with her back half turned to Jim and he, with his boyish jaw set, eyed her uncomfortably. She did not speak to him until Sara appeared and, with an airy wave of the hand, waded into the water.
"I think Sara looks like a Greek god in a bathing suit," she said. "You'd know he was going to be a duke, just to look at him."
Jim gave a good imitation of one of Uncle Denny's grunts and said: "He isn't a duke—yet—and he's gone in too soon after eating."
"And he's got beautiful manners," Pen continued. "You treat me as if I were a child. He never forgets that I am a lady."
"Oh, slush!" drawled Jim.
Pen turned her back, squarely. Sara did not remain long in the water but came up dripping and shivering to burrow in the hot sand. Pen deliberately sifted sand over him, patting it down as she saw the others do, while she told Sara how wonderfully he swam.
Sara eyed Jim mischievously, while he answered: "Never mind, Pen. When I'm the duke, you shall be the duchess and have a marble swimming pool all of your own. And old Prunes will be over here coaching Anthony Comstock while you and I are doing Europe—in our bathing suits."
Penelope flushed quickly and Sara's halo of romance shone brighter than ever.
"The Duchess Pen," he went on largely. "Not half bad. For my part, I can't see any objection to a girl as pretty as you are wearing a bathing suit anywhere, any time."
Pen looked at Sara adoringly. At sixteen one loves the gods easily. Jim, with averted face, watched the waves dumbly. It had been easy that morning to toss speech back and forth with the boat crowd. But now, as always, when he felt that his need for words was dire, speech deserted him. Suddenly he was realizing that Pen was no longer a little girl and that she admired Saradokis ardently. When the young Greek strolled away to dress, Jim looked at Pen intently. She was so lovely, so rosy, so mischievous, so light and sweet as only sixteen can be.
"Cross patch. Draw the latch! Sit by the sea and grouch," she sang.
Jim flushed. "I'm not grouchy," he protested.
"Oh, yes you are!" cried Pen. "And when Sara comes back, he and I are going up for some ice cream while you stay here and get over it. You can meet us for supper with Aunt Mary and Uncle Denny."
Jim, after the two had left, sat for a long time in the sand. He wished that he could have a look at the old swimming hole up at Exham. He wished that he and Uncle Denny and his mother and Pen were living at Exham. For the first time he felt a vague distrust of Sara. After a time he got into his bathing suit and spent the rest of the afternoon in and out of the water, dressing only in time to meet the rest for supper.
After supper the whole party went to one of the great dancing pavilions. Uncle Denny and Jim's mother danced old-fashioned waltzes, while Sara and Jim took turn about whirling Penelope through two steps and galloping through modern waltz steps. The music and something in Jim's face touched Pen. As he piloted her silently over the great floor in their first waltz, she looked up into his face and said:
"I was horrid, Still Jim. You were so bossy. But you were right; it was no place for me."
Jim's arm tightened round her soft waist. "Pen," he said, "promise me you'll shake Sara and the rest and walk home from the boat with me tonight."
Pen hesitated. She would rather have walked home with Sara, but she was very contrite over Jim's lonely afternoon, so she promised. Sara left the boat at the Battery to get a subway train home. When the others reached 23rd street, it was not difficult for Jim and Pen to drop well behind Uncle Denny and Jim's mother. Jim drew Pen's arm firmly within his own. This seemed very funny to Penelope and yet she enjoyed it. There had come a subtle but decided change in the boy's attitude toward her that day, that she felt was a clear tribute to her newly acquired young ladyhood. So, while she giggled under her breath, she enjoyed Jim's sedulous assistance at the street crossings immensely.
But try as he would, Jim could say nothing until they reached the old brownstone front. He mounted the steps with her slowly. In the dimly lighted vestibule he took both her hands.
"Look up at me, Pen," he said.
The girl looked up into the tall boy's face. Jim looked down into her sweet eyes. His own grew wistful.
"I wish I were ten years older," he said. Then very firmly: "Penelope, you belong to me. Remember that, always. We belong to each other. When I have made a name for myself I'm coming back to marry you."
"But," protested Pen, "I'd much rather be a duchess."
Jim held her hands firmly. "You belong to me. You shall never marry Saradokis."
Pen's soft gaze deepened as she looked into Jim's eyes. She saw a light there that stirred something within her that never before had been touched. And Jim, his face white, drew Penelope to him and laid his soft young lips to hers, holding her close with boyish arms that trembled at his own audacity, even while they were strong with a man's desire to hold.
Penelope gave a little sobbing breath as Jim released her.
"That's my sign and seal," he said slowly, "that kiss. That's to hold you until I'm a man."
The little look of tragedy that often lurked in Pen's eyes was very plain as she said: "It will be a long time before you have made a name for yourself, Still Jim. Lots of things will happen before then."
"I won't change," said Jim. "The Mannings don't." Then with a great sigh as of having definitely settled his life, he added: "Gee, I'm hungry! Me stomach is touching me backbone. Let's see if there isn't something in the pantry. Come on, Pen."
And Pen, with a sudden flash of dimples, followed him.
It was not long after Pen's birthday that the college year ended and Jim and Sara went to work. Jim had spent his previous vacations with the family at the shore. Saradokis was planning to become a construction engineer, with New York as his field. He wanted Jim to go into partnership with him when they were through college. So he persuaded Jim that it would be a good experience for them to put in their junior vacation at work on one of the mighty skyscrapers always in process of construction.
They got jobs as steam drillmen. Jim liked the work. He liked the mere sense of physical accomplishment in working the drill. He liked to be a part of the creative force that was producing the building. But to his surprise, his old sense of suffocation in being crowded in with the immigrant workman returned to him. There came back, too, some of the old melancholy questioning that he had known as a boy.
He said to Sara one day: "My father used to say that when he was a boy the phrase, 'American workman' stood for the highest efficiency in the world, but that even in his day the phrase had become a joke. How could you expect this rabble to know that there might be such a thing as an American standard of efficiency?"
Sara laughed. "Junior Economics stick out all over you, Still. This bunch does as good work as the American owners will pay for."
Jim was silent for a time, then he said: "I wonder what's the matter with us Americans? How did we come to give our country away to this horde?"
"'Us Americans!'" mimicked Saradokis. "What is an American, anyhow?"
"I'm an American," returned Jim, briefly.
"Sure," answered the Greek, "but so am I and so are most of these fellows. And none of us knows what an American is. I'll admit it was your type founded the government. But you are goners. There is no American type any more. And by and by we'll modify your old Anglo-Saxon institutions so that G. Washington will simply revolve in his grave. We'll add Greek ideas and Yiddish and Wop and Bohunk and Armenian and Nigger and Chinese and Magyar. Gee! The world will forget there ever was one of you big-headed New Englanders in this country. Huh! What is an American? The American type will have a boarding house hash beaten for infinite variety in a generation or so."
The two young men were marching along 23rd street on their way to Jim's house for dinner. At Sara's words Jim stopped and stared at the young Greek. His gray eyes were black.
"So that's the way you feel about us, you foreigners!" exclaimed Jim. "We blazed the trail for you fellows in this country and called you over here to use it. And you've suffocated us and you are glad of it. Good God! Dad and the Indians!"
"What did you call us over here for but to make us do your dirty work for you?" chuckled the Greek. "Serves you right. Piffle! What's an American want to talk about my race and thine for? There's room for all of us!"
Jim did not answer. All that evening he scarcely spoke. That night he dreamed again of his father's broken body and dying face against the golden August fields. All the next day as he sweated on the drill, the futile questionings of his childhood were with him.
At noon, Sara eyed him across the shining surface of a Child's restaurant table. Each noon they devoured a quarter of their day's wages in roast beef and baked apples.
"Are you sore at me, Still?" asked Sara. "I wasn't roasting you, personally, last night."
Jim shook his head. Sara waited for words but Jim ate on in silence.
"Oh, for the love of heaven, come out of it!" groaned Sara. "Tell me what ails you, then you can go back in and shut the door. What has got your goat? You can think we foreigners are all rotters if you want to."
"You don't get the point," replied Jim. "I don't think for a minute that you newcomers haven't a perfect right to come over here. But I have race pride. You haven't. I can't see America turned from North European to South in type without feeling suffocated."
The young Greek stared at Jim fixedly. Then he shook his head. "You are in a bad way, my child. I prescribe a course at vaudeville tonight. I see you can still eat, though."
Jim stuck by his drill until fall. During these three months he pondered more over his father's and Exham's failure than he had for years. Yet he reached no conclusion save the blind one that he was going to fight against his own extinction, that he was going to found a family, that he was going to make the old Manning name once more known and respected.
It was after this summer that the presence of race barrier was felt by Jim and Sara. And somehow, too, after Pen's birthday there was a new restraint between the two boys. Both of them realized then that Pen was more to them than the little playmate they had hitherto considered her. Jim believed that the kiss in the vestibule bound Pen to him irretrievably. But this did not prevent him from feeling uneasy and resentful over Sara's devotion to her.
Nothing could have been more charming to a girl of Pen's age than Sara's way of showing his devotion. Flowers and candy, new books and music he showered on her endlessly, to Mrs. Manning's great disapproval. But Uncle Denny shrugged his shoulders.
"Let it have its course, me dear. 'Tis the surest cure. And Jim must learn to speak for himself, poor boy."
So the pretty game went on. Something in Sara's heritage made him a finished man of the world, while Jim was still an awkward boy. While Jim's affection manifested itself in silent watchfulness, in unobtrusive, secret little acts of thoughtfulness and care, Saradokis was announcing Pen as the Duchess to all their friends and openly singing his joy in her beauty and cleverness.
For even at sixteen Pen showed at times the clear minded thoughtfulness that later in life was to be her chief characteristic. This in spite of the fact that Uncle Denny insisted on her going to a fashionable private school. She read enormously, anything and everything that came to hand. Uncle Denny's books on social and political economy were devoured quite as readily as Jim's novels of adventure or her own Christina Rossetti. And Sara was to her all the heroes of all the tales she read, although after the episode of the Sign and Seal some of the heroes showed a surprising and uncontrollable likeness to Jim. Penelope never forgot the kiss in the vestibule. She never recalled it without a sense of loss that she was too young to understand and with a look in her eyes that did not belong to her youth but to her Celtic temperament.
She looked Jim over keenly when the family came up from the shore and Jim was ready for his senior year. "You never were cut out for city work, Jimmy," she said.
"I'm as fit as I ever was in my life," protested Jim.
"Physically, of course," answered Pen. "But you hate New York and so it's bad for you. Get out into the big country, Still Jim. I was brought up in Colorado, remember. I know the kind of men that belong there. I love that color of necktie on you."
"Have you heard about the Reclamation Service?" asked Jim eagerly. Then he went on: "The government is building big dams to reclaim the arid west. It puts up the money and does the work and then the farmers on the Project—that's what they call the system and the land it waters—have ten years or so to pay back what it cost and then the water system belongs to them. They are going to put up some of the biggest dams in the world. I'd like to try to get into that work. Somehow I like the idea of working for Uncle Sam. James Manning, U.S.R.S.—how does that sound?"
"Too lovely for anything. I'm crazy about it. Sounds like Kipling and the pyramids and Sahara, somehow."
"Will you come out there after I get a start, Pen?" asked Jim.
"Gee! I should say not! About the time you're beginning your second dam, I'll be overwhelming the courts of Europe," Pen giggled. Then she added, serenely: "You don't realize, Still, that I'm going to be a duchess."
"Aw, Pen, cut out that silly talk. You belong to me and don't you ever think your flirtation with Sara is serious for a minute. If I thought you really did, I'd give up the Reclamation idea and go into partnership with Sara so as to watch him and keep him from getting you."
"You and Sara would never get along in business together," said Pen, with one of her far-seeing looks. "Sara would tie you in a bowknot in business, and the older you two grow the more you are going to develop each other's worst sides."
"Nevertheless, Sara shall never get you," said Jim grimly.
Penelope gave Jim an odd glance. "Sara is my fate, Still Jim," she said soberly.
"Oh, pickles!" exclaimed Jim.
Pen tossed her head and left him.
It was in the spring of their senior year that Jim and Sara ran the Marathon. It was a great event in the world of college athletics. Men from every important college in the country competed in the tryout. For the final Marathon there were left twenty men, Sara and Jim among them.
The course was laid along Broadway from a point near Van Cortlandt Park to Columbus Circle, ten long, clean miles of asphalt. Early on the bright May morning of the race crowds began to gather along the course. At first, a thin line of enthusiasts, planting themselves on camp stools along the curb. Then at the beginning and end of the course the line, thickened to two or three deep until at last the police began to establish lines. Mounted police appeared at intervals to turn traffic. The crowd as it thickened grew more noisy. Strange college yells were emitted intermittently. Street fakirs traveled diligently up and down the lines selling college banners. At last, Broadway lay a shining black ribbon, bordered with every hue of the rainbow, awaiting the runners.
Uncle Denny had an elaborate plan for seeing the race. He and Jim's mother and Penelope established themselves at 159th street, with a waiting automobile around the corner. After the runners had passed this point, the machine was to rush them to the grand stand at Columbus Circle for the finish.
The three stood on the curb at 159th street, waiting. It was mid-afternoon when to the north, above the noise of the city, an increasing roar told of the coming of the runners. Pen, standing between Uncle Denny and Jim's mother, seized a hand of each. Far up the shining black asphalt ribbon appeared a group of white dots. The roar grew with their approach.
Suddenly Penelope leaned forward. "Sara! Sara! Jim! Jim!" she screamed.
Four men were leading the Marathon. A Californian, a Wisconsin man, Jim and Sara. Sara led, then Jim and the Californian, then the Wisconsin man with not a foot between any two of them.
Jim was running easier than Sara. He had the advantage of less weight with the same height. Sara's running pants and jersey were drenched with sweat. He was running with his mouth dropped open, head back, every superb line of his body showing under his wet clothes. His tawny hair gleamed in the sun. No sculptured marble of a Greek runner was ever more beautiful than Sara as he ran the Marathon.