DAVID GRAHAM PHILLIPS
I A FATHER INVITES DISASTER II OLIVIA TO THE RESCUE III AND SCARBOROUGH IV A DUMONT TRIUMPH V FOUR FRIENDS VI "LIKE HIS FATHER" VII PAULINE AWAKENS VIII THE DECISION IX A THOROUGHBRED RUNS AWAY X MRS. JOHN DUMONT XI YOUNG AMERICA XII AFTER EIGHT YEARS XIII "MY SISTER IN LAW, GLADYS" XIV STRAINING AT THE ANCHORS XV GRADUATED PEARLS XVI CHOICE AMONG EVILS XVII TWO AND THE BARRIER XVIII ON THE FARM XIX PAULINE GOES INTO POLITICS XX A MAN IN HIS MIGHT XXI A COYOTE AT BAY XXII STORMS IN THE WEST XXIII A SEA SURPRISE XXIV DUMONT BETRAYS DUMONT XXV THE FALLEN KING XXVI A DESPERATE RALLY XXVII THE OTHER MAN'S MIGHT XXVIII AFTER THE LONG WINTER
A FATHER INVITES DISASTER
Pauline Gardiner joined us on the day that we, the Second Reader class, moved from the basement to the top story of the old Central Public School. Her mother brought her and, leaving, looked round at us, meeting for an instant each pair of curious eyes with friendly appeal.
We knew well the enchanted house where she lived—stately, retreated far into large grounds in Jefferson Street; a high brick wall all round, and on top of the wall broken glass set in cement. Behind that impassable barrier which so teased our young audacity were flower-beds and "shrub" bushes, whose blossoms were wonderfully sweet if held a while in the closed hand; grape arbors and shade and fruit trees, haunted by bees; winding walks strewn fresh each spring with tan-bark that has such a clean, strong odor, especially just after a rain, and that is at once firm and soft beneath the feet. And in the midst stood the only apricot tree in Saint X. As few of us had tasted apricots, and as those few pronounced them better far than oranges or even bananas, that tree was the climax of tantalization.
The place had belonged to a childless old couple who hated children—or did they bar them out and drive them away because the sight and sound of them quickened the ache of empty old age into a pain too keen to bear? The husband died, the widow went away to her old maid sister at Madison; and the Gardiners, coming from Cincinnati to live in the town where Colonel Gardiner was born and had spent his youth, bought the place. On our way to and from school in the first weeks of that term, pausing as always to gaze in through the iron gates of the drive, we had each day seen Pauline walking alone among the flowers. And she would stop and smile at us; but she was apparently too shy to come to the gates; and we, with the memory of the cross old couple awing us, dared not attempt to make friends with her.
She was eight years old, tall for her age, slender but strong, naturally graceful. Her hazel eyes were always dancing mischievously. She liked boys' games better than girls'. In her second week she induced several of the more daring girls to go with her to the pond below town and there engage in a raft-race with the boys. And when John Dumont, seeing that the girls' raft was about to win, thrust the one he was piloting into it and upset it, she was the only girl who did not scream at the shock of the sudden tumble into the water or rise in tears from the shallow, muddy bottom.
She tried going barefooted; she was always getting bruised or cut in attempts—usually successful—at boys' recklessness; yet her voice was sweet and her manner toward others, gentle. She hid her face when Miss Stone whipped any one—more fearful far than the rise and fall of Miss Stone's ferule was the soaring and sinking of her broad, bristling eyebrows.
From the outset John Dumont took especial delight in teasing her—John Dumont, the roughest boy in the school. He was seven years older than she, but was only in the Fourth Reader—a laggard in his studies because his mind was incurious about books and the like, was absorbed in games, in playing soldier and robber, in swimming and sledding, in orchard-looting and fighting. He was impudent and domineering, a bully but not a coward, good-natured when deferred to, the feared leader of a boisterous, imitative clique. Until Pauline came he had rarely noticed a girl—never except to play her some prank more or less cruel.
After the adventure of the raft he watched Pauline afar off, revolving plans for approaching her without impairing his barbaric dignity, for subduing her without subduing himself to her. But he knew only one way of making friends, the only kind of friends he had or could conceive—loyal subjects, ruled through their weaknesses and fears. And as that way was to give the desired addition to his court a sound thrashing, he felt it must be modified somewhat to help him in his present conquest. He tied her hair to the back of her desk; he snowballed her and his sister Gladys home from school. He raided her playhouse and broke her dishes and—she giving desperate battle—fled with only the parents of her doll family. With Gladys shrieking for their mother, he shook her out of a tree in their yard, and it sprained her ankle so severely that she had to stay away from school for a month. The net result of a year's arduous efforts was that she had singled him out for detestation—this when her conquest of him was complete because she had never told on him, had never in her worst encounters with him shown the white feather.
But he had acted more wisely than he knew, for she had at least singled him out from the crowd of boys. And there was a certain frank good-nature about him, a fearlessness—and she could not help admiring his strength and leadership. Presently she discovered his secret—that his persecutions were not through hatred of her but through anger at her resistance, anger at his own weakness in being fascinated by her. This discovery came while she was shut in the house with her sprained ankle. As she sat at her corner bay-window she saw him hovering in the neighborhood, now in the alley at the side of the house, now hurrying past, whistling loudly as if bent upon some gay and remote errand, now skulking along as if he had stolen something, again seated on the curbstone at the farthest crossing from which he could see her window out of the corner of his eye. She understood—and forthwith forgave the past. She was immensely flattered that this big, audacious creature, so arrogant with the boys, so contemptuous toward the girls, should be her captive.
When she was in her first year at the High School and he in his last he walked home with her every day; and they regarded themselves as engaged. Her once golden hair had darkened now to a beautiful brown with red flashing from its waves; and her skin was a clear olive pallid but healthy. And she had shot up into a tall, slender young woman; her mother yielded to her pleadings, let her put her hair into a long knot at the back of her neck and wear skirts ALMOST to the ground.
When he came from Ann Arbor for his first Christmas holidays each found the other grown into a new person. She thought him a marvel of wisdom and worldly experience. He thought her a marvel of ideal womanhood—gay, lively; not a bit "narrow" in judging him, yet narrow to primness in her ideas of what she herself could do, and withal charming physically. He would not have cared to explain how he came by the capacity for such sophisticated judgment of a young woman. They were to be married as soon as he had his degree; and he was immediately to be admitted to partnership in his father's woolen mills—the largest in the state of Indiana.
He had been home three weeks of the long vacation between his sophomore and junior years. There appeared on the town's big and busy stream of gossip, stories of his life at Ann Arbor—of drinking and gambling and wild "tears" in Detroit. And it was noted that the fast young men of Saint X—so every one called Saint Christopher—were going a more rapid gait. Those turbulent fretters against the dam of dullness and stern repression of even normal and harmless gaiety had long caused scandal. But never before had they been so daring, so defiant.
One night after leaving Pauline he went to play poker in Charley Braddock's rooms. Braddock, only son of the richest banker in Saint X, had furnished the loft of his father's stable as bachelor quarters and entertained his friends there without fear that the noise would break the sleep and rouse the suspicions of his father. That night, besides Braddock and Dumont, there were Jim Cauldwell and his brother Will. As they played they drank; and Dumont, winning steadily, became offensive in his raillery. There was a quarrel, a fight; Will Cauldwell, accidently toppled down a steep stairway by Dumont, was picked up with a broken arm and leg.
By noon the next day the town was boiling with this outbreak of deviltry in the leading young men, the sons and prospective successors of the "bulwarks of religion and morality." The Episcopalian and Methodist ministers preached against Dumont, that "importer of Satan's ways into our peaceful midst," and against Charley Braddock with his "ante-room to Sheol"—the Reverend Sweetser had just learned the distinction between Sheol and Hades. The Presbyterian preacher wrestled spiritually with Will Cauldwell and so wrought upon his depression that he gave out a solemn statement of confession, remorse and reform. In painting himself in dark colors he painted Jack Dumont jet black.
Pauline had known that Dumont was "lively"—he was far too proud of his wild oats wholly to conceal them from her. And she had all the tolerance and fascinated admiration of feminine youth for the friskiness of masculine freedom. Thus, though she did not precisely approve what he and his friends had done, she took no such serious view of it as did her parents and his. The most she could do with her father was to persuade him to suspend sentence pending the conclusion of an investigation into Jack's doings at the University of Michigan and in Detroit. Colonel Gardiner was not so narrow or so severe as Jack said or as Pauline thought. He loved his daughter; so he inquired thoroughly. He knew that his daughter loved Dumont; so he judged liberally. When he had done he ordered the engagement broken and forbade Dumont the house.
"He is not wild merely; he is—worse than you can imagine," said the colonel to his wife, in concluding his account of his discoveries and of Dumont's evasive and reluctant admissions—an account so carefully expurgated that it completely misled her. "Tell Pauline as much as you can—enough to convince her."
This, when Mrs. Gardiner was not herself convinced. She regarded the colonel as too high-minded to be a fit judge of human frailty; and his over-caution in explanation had given her the feeling that he had a standard for a husband for their daughter which only another such rare man as himself could live up to. Further, she had always been extremely reserved in mother-and-daughter talk with Pauline, and thus could not now give her a clear idea of what little she had been able to gather from Colonel Gardiner's half-truths. This typical enacting of a familiar domestic comedy-tragedy had the usual result: the girl was confirmed in her original opinion and stand.
"Jack's been a little too lively," was her unexpressed conclusion from her mother's dilution of her father's dilution of the ugly truth. "He's sorry and won't do it again, and—well, I'd hate a milksop. Father has forgotten that he was young himself once."
Dumont's father and mother charged against Ann Arbor that which they might have charged against their own alternations of tyranny and license, had they not been humanly lenient in self-excuse. "No more college!" said his father.
"The place for you, young man, is my office, where I can keep an eye or two on you."
"That suits me," replied the son, indifferently—he made small pretense of repentance at home.
"I never wanted to go to college."
"Yes, it was your mother's doing," said old Dumont. "Now we'll try MY way of educating a boy."
So Jack entered the service of his father's god-of-the-six-days, and immediately showed astonishing talent and twelve-to-fourteen-hour assiduity. He did not try to talk with Pauline. He went nowhere but to business; he avoided the young men.
"It's a bad idea to let your home town know too much about you," he reflected, and he resolved that his future gambols out of bounds should be in the security of distant and large cities—and they were. Seven months after he went to work he amazed and delighted his father by informing him that he had bought five hundred shares of stock in the mills—he had made the money, fifty-odd thousand dollars, by a speculation in wool. He was completely reestablished with his father and with all Saint X except Colonel Gardiner.
"That young Jack Dumont's a wonder," said everybody. "He'll make the biggest kind of a fortune or the biggest kind of a smash before he gets through."
He felt that he was fully entitled to the rights of the regenerate; he went to Colonel Gardiner's law office boldly to claim them.
At sight of him the colonel's face hardened into an expression as near to hate as its habit of kindliness would concede. "Well, sir!" said he, sharply, eying the young man over the tops of his glasses.
Dumont stiffened his strong, rather stocky figure and said, his face a study of youthful frankness: "You know what I've come for, sir. I want you to give me a trial."
"No!" Colonel Gardiner shut his lips firmly.
"Good morning, sir!" And he was writing again.
"You are very hard," said Dumont, bitterly.
"You are driving me to ruin."
"How DARE you!" The old man rose and went up to him, eyes blazing scorn. "You deceive others, but not me with my daughter's welfare as my first duty. It is an insult to her that you presume to lift your eyes to her."
Dumont colored and haughtily raised his head. He met the colonel's fiery gaze without flinching.
"I was no worse than other young men—"
"It's a slander upon young men for you to say that they—that any of them with a spark of decency—would do as you have done, as you DO! Leave my office at once, sir!"
"I've not only repented—I've shown that I was ashamed of—of that," said Dumont. "Yet you refuse me a chance!"
The colonel was shaking with anger.
"You left here for New York last Thursday night," he said. "Where and how did you spend Saturday night and Sunday and Monday?"
Dumont's eyes shifted and sank.
"It's false," he muttered. "It's lies."
"I expected this call from you," continued Colonel Gardiner, "and I prepared for it so that I could do what was right. I'd rather see my daughter in her shroud than in a wedding-dress for you."
Dumont left without speaking or looking up.
"The old fox!" he said to himself. "Spying on me—what an idiot I was not to look out for that. The narrow old fool! He doesn't know what 'man of the world' means. But I'll marry her in spite of him. I'll let nobody cheat me out of what I want, what belongs to me."
A few nights afterward he went to a dance at Braddock's, hunted out Pauline and seated himself beside her. In a year he had not been so near her, though they had seen each other every few days and he had written her many letters which she had read, had treasured, but had been held from answering by her sense of honor, unless her looks whenever their eyes met could be called answers.
"You mustn't, Jack," she said, her breath coming fast, her eyes fever-bright. "Father has forbidden me—and it'll only make him the harder."
"You, too, Polly? Well, then, I don't care what becomes of me."
He looked so desperate that she was frightened.
"It isn't that, Jack—you KNOW it isn't that."
"I've been to see your father. And he told me he'd never consent—never! I don't deserve that—and I can't stand it to lose you. No matter what I've done, God knows I love you, Polly."
Pauline's face was pale. Her hands, in her lap, were gripping her little handkerchief.
"You don't say that, too—you don't say 'never'?"
She raised her eyes to his and their look thrilled through and through him. "Yes, John, I say 'never'—I'll NEVER give you up."
All the decent instincts in his nature showed in his handsome face, in which time had not as yet had the chance clearly to write character. "No wonder I love you—there never was anybody so brave and so true as you. But you must help me. I must see you and talk to you—once in a while, anyhow."
Pauline flushed painfully.
"Not till—they—let me—or I'm older, John. They've always trusted me and left me free. And I can't deceive them."
He liked this—it was another proof that she was, through and through, the sort of woman who was worthy to be his wife.
"Well—we'll wait," he said. "And if they won't be fair to us, why, we'll have a right to do the best we can." He gave her a tragic look.
"I've set my heart on you, Polly, and I never can stand it not to get what I've set my heart on. If I lost you, I'd go straight to ruin."
She might have been a great deal older and wiser and still not have seen in this a confirmation of her father's judgment of her lover. And her parents had unconsciously driven her into a mental state in which, if he had committed a crime, it would have seemed to her their fault rather than his. The next day she opened the subject with her mother—the subject that was never out of their minds.
"I can't forget him, mother. I CAN'T give him up." With the splendid confidence of youth, "I can save him—he'll do anything for my sake." With the touching ignorance of youth, "He's done nothing so very dreadful, I'm sure—I'd believe him against the whole world."
And in the evening her mother approached her father. She was in sympathy with Pauline, though her loyalty to her husband made her careful not to show it. She had small confidence in a man's judgments of men on their woman-side, great confidence in the power of women to change and uplift men.
"Father," said she, when they were alone on the side porch after supper, "have you noticed how hard Polly is taking IT?"
His eyes and the sudden deepening of the lines in his face answered her.
"Don't you think maybe we've been a little—too—severe?"
"I've tried to think so, but—" He shook his head. "Maggie, he's hopeless, hopeless."
"I don't know much about those things." This was a mere form of speech. She thought she knew all there was to be known; and as she was an intelligent woman who had lived a long time and had a normal human curiosity she did know a great deal. But, after the fashion of many of the women of the older generation, she had left undisturbed his delusion that her goodness was the result not of intelligence but of ignorance. "But I can't help fearing it isn't right to condemn a young man forever because he was led away as a boy."
"I can't discuss it with you, Maggie—it's a degradation even to speak of him before a good woman. You must rely upon my judgment. Polly must put him out of her head."
"But what am I to tell her? You can't make a woman like our Pauline put a man out of her life when she loves him unless you give her a reason that satisfies her. And if you don't give ME a reason that satisfies me how can I give HER a reason that will satisfy her?"
"I'll talk to her," said the colonel, after a long pause. "She must—she shall give him up, mother."
"I've tried to persuade her to go to visit Olivia," continued Mrs. Gardiner. "But she won't. And she doesn't want me to ask Olivia here."
"I'll ask Olivia before I speak to her."
Mrs. Gardiner went up to her daughter's room—it had been her play-room, then her study, and was now graduated into her sitting-room. She was dreaming over a book—Tennyson's poems. She looked up, eyes full of hope.
"He has some good reason, dear," began her mother.
"What is it?" demanded Pauline.
"I can't tell you any more than I've told you already," replied her mother, trying not to show her feelings in her face.
"Why does he treat me—treat you—like two naughty little children?" said Pauline, impatiently tossing the book on the table.
"Pauline!" Her mother's voice was sharp in reproof. "How can you place any one before your father!"
Pauline was silent—she had dropped the veil over herself. "I—I—where did you place father—when—when—" Her eyes were laughing again.
"You know he'd never oppose your happiness, Polly." Mrs. Gardiner was smoothing her daughter's turbulent red-brown hair. "You'll only have to wait under a little more trying circumstances. And if he's right, the truth will come out. And if he's mistaken and John's all you think him, then that will come out."
Pauline knew her father was not opposing her through tyranny or pride of opinion or sheer prejudice; but she felt that this was another case of age's lack of sympathy with youth, felt it with all the intensity of infatuated seventeen made doubly determined by opposition and concealment. The next evening he and she were walking together in the garden. He suddenly put his arm round her and drew her close to him and kissed her.
"You know I shouldn't if I didn't think it the only course—don't you, Pauline?" he said in a broken voice that went straight to her heart.
"Yes, father." Then, after a silence: "But—we—we've been sweethearts since we were children. And—I—father, I MUST stand by him."
"Won't you trust me, child? Won't you believe ME rather than him?"
Pauline's only answer was a sigh. They loved each the other; he adored her, she reverenced him. But between them, thick and high, rose the barrier of custom and training. Comradeship, confidence were impossible.
OLIVIA TO THE RESCUE.
With the first glance into Olivia's dark gray eyes Pauline ceased to resent her as an intruder. And soon she was feeling that some sort of dawn was assailing her night.
Olivia was the older by three years. She seemed—and for her years, was—serious and wise because, as the eldest of a large family, she was lieutenant-general to her mother. Further, she had always had her own way—when it was the right way and did not conflict with justice to her brothers and sisters. And often her parents let her have her own way when it was the wrong way, nor did they spoil the lesson by mitigating disagreeable consequences.
"Do as you please," her mother used to say, when doing as she pleased would involve less of mischief than of valuable experience, "and perhaps you'll learn to please to do sensibly." Again, her father would restrain her mother from interference—"Oh, let the girl alone. She's got to teach herself how to behave, and she can't begin a minute too young." This training had produced a self-reliant and self-governing Olivia.
She wondered at the change in Pauline—Pauline, the light-hearted, the effervescent of laughter and life, now silent and almost somber. It was two weeks before she, not easily won to the confiding mood for all her frankness, let Olivia into her secret. Of course, it was at night; of course, they were in the same bed. And when Olivia had heard she came nearer to the truth about Dumont than had Pauline's mother. But, while she felt sure there was a way to cure Pauline, she knew that way was not the one which had been pursued. "They've only made her obstinate," she thought, as she, lying with hands clasped behind her head, watched Pauline, propped upon an elbow, staring with dreamful determination into the moonlight.
"It'll come out all right," she said; her voice always suggested that she knew what she was talking about. "Your father'll give in sooner or later—if YOU don't change."
"But he's so bitter against Jack," replied Pauline. "He won't listen to his side—to our side—of it."
"Anyhow, what's the use of anticipating trouble? You wouldn't get married yet. And if he's worthwhile he'll wait."
Pauline had been even gentler than her own judgment in painting her lover for her cousin's inspection. So, she could not explain to her why there was necessity for haste, could not confess her conviction that every month he lived away from her was a month of peril to him.
"We want it settled," she said evasively.
"I haven't seen him around anywhere," went on Olivia. "Is he here now?"
"He's in Chicago—in charge of his father's office there. He may stay all winter."
"No, there's no hurry," went on Olivia. "Besides, you ought to meet other men. It isn't a good idea for a girl to marry the man she's been brought up with before she's had a chance to get acquainted with other men." Olivia drew this maxim from experience—she had been engaged to a school-days lover when she went away to Battle Field to college; she broke it off when, going home on vacation, she saw him again from the point of wider view.
But Pauline scorned this theory; if Olivia had confessed the broken engagement she would have thought her shallow and untrustworthy. She was confident, with inexperience's sublime incapacity for self-doubt, that in all the wide world there was only one man whom she could have loved or could love.
"Oh, I shan't change," she said in a tone that warned her cousin against discussion.
"At any rate," replied Olivia, "a little experience would do you no harm." She suddenly sat up in bed. "A splendid idea!" she exclaimed. "Why not come to Battle Field with me?"
"I'd like it," said Pauline, always eager for self-improvement and roused by Olivia's stories of her college experiences. "But father'd never let me go to Battle Field College."
"Battle Field UNIVERSITY," corrected Olivia. "It has classical courses and scientific courses and a preparatory school—and a military department for men and a music department for women. And it's going to have lots and lots of real university schools—when it gets the money. And there's a healthy, middle-aged wagon-maker who's said to be thinking of leaving it a million or so—if he should ever die and if they should change its name to his."
"But it's coeducation, isn't it? Father would never consent. It was all mother could do to persuade him to let me go to public school."
"But maybe he'd let you go with me, where he wouldn't let you go all alone."
And so it turned out. Colonel Gardiner, anxious to get his daughter away from Saint X and into new scenes where Dumont might grow dim, consented as soon as Olivia explained her plan.
Instead of entering "senior prep", Pauline was able to make freshman with only three conditions. In the first week she was initiated into Olivia's fraternity, the Kappa Alpha Kappa, joined the woman's literary and debating society, and was fascinated and absorbed by crowding new events, associations, occupations, thoughts. In spite of herself her old-time high spirits came flooding back. She caught herself humming—and checked herself reproachfully. She caught herself singing—and lowered it to humming. She caught herself whistling—and decided that she might as well be cheerful while she waited for fate to befriend her and Jack. And she found that she thought about him none the less steadfastly for thinking hopefully.
Battle Field put no more restraint upon its young women than it put upon its young men—and it put no restraint upon the young men. In theory and practice it was democratic, American, western—an outgrowth of that pioneer life in which the men and the women had fought and toiled and enjoyed, side by side, in absolute equality, with absolute freedom of association. It recognized that its students had been brought up in the free, simple, frank way, that all came from a region where individualism was a religion, with self-reliance as the cardinal principle of faith and self-development as the goal.
There were no dormitories at Battle Field then. Olivia and Pauline lived in one of the hundred or more boarding-houses—a big, square, white "frame," kept by a Mrs. Trent, the widow of a "hero of two wars."
Her hero had won her with his uniform when he returned from the Mexican War. His conduct was so irregular and his income so uncertain that it had been a relief to her when he departed for his second war. From it he had brought home a broken constitution, a maimed body and confirmed habits of shiftlessness and drunkenness. His country took his character and his health and paid him in exchange a pension which just about kept him in whisky and tobacco. So long as he was alive Mrs. Trent hated him as vigorously as her Christianity permitted. When he was safely in his grave she canonized him; she put his picture and his sword, belt and epaulets in the conspicuous place in the parlor; she used his record for gallantry to get herself social position and a place of honor at public gatherings.
Her house stood back from the highway in a grove of elms and walnuts. Its angularity was relieved by a porch with a flat roof that had a railing about it and served as a balcony for the second-story lodgers. There were broad halls through the middle of the house down-stairs and up. Olivia and Pauline had the three large rooms in the second story on the south side. They used the front room as a study and Pauline's bedroom was next to it.
Late one afternoon she was seated at the study window watching a cherry-red sun drop through the purple haze of the autumn. She became conscious that some one was on the balcony before the window of the front room across the hall. She leaned so that she could see without being seen. Sharp against the darkening sky was the profile of a young man. Olivia joined her and followed her glance. The profile remained fixed and the two girls watched it, fascinated. It certainly was a powerful outline, proud and stern, but with a mouth that was sweet in its kindliness and gentleness.
"I wonder what he's thinking about," said Olivia, in an undertone; he was not fifteen feet from them. "I suppose, some scheme for conquering the world."
Most of Battle Field's youth came from the farms of that western country, the young men with bodies and brains that were strong but awkward. Almost all were working their way through—as were not a few of the women. They felt that life was a large, serious business impatiently waiting for them to come and attend to it in a large, serious way better than it had ever been attended to before. They studied hard; they practised oratory and debating. Their talk was of history and philosophy, religion and politics. They slept little; they thought—or tried to think—even more than they talked.
At a glance this man was one of them, a fine type.
"He's handsome, isn't he?" said Pauline.
"But—" She did not finish; indeed it was not clear to her what the rest of her protest was. He reminded her of Dumont—there was the same look of superiority, of the "born to lead." But his face seemed to, have some quality which Dumont's lacked—or was it only the idealizing effect of the open sky and the evening light?
When the bell rang for supper he apparently did not hear it. The two girls went down and had talked to the others a few minutes and all had seated themselves before he entered. An inch or so above six feet, powerful in the chest and shoulders, he moved with a large grace until he became self-conscious or approached the, by comparison, frail pieces of furniture. He had penetrating, candid eyes that looked dark in the gaslight but were steel-blue. His face now wore the typical western-American expression—shrewd, easy-going good humor. Mrs. Trent, intrenched in state behind a huge, silver-plated coffee-urn with ivory-trimmed faucet, introduced him—Mr. Scarborough—to Olivia, to Pauline, to Sadie McIntosh, to Pierson and Howe and Thiebaud (pronounced Cay-bo). Scarborough sat directly opposite Olivia. But whenever he lifted his eyes from his plate he looked at Pauline, who was next to her. When she caught him he blushed and stirred in his chair so uneasily that it creaked and crackled; and his normal difficulties with his large hands and the small knife and fork were distressingly increased.
Pauline was disappointed in him—his clothes were ill-fitting and gave him the appearance of being in danger of bursting from them; his hair was too long, suggesting a shaggy, tawny mane; though his hands were well-shaped they had the recent scars of hard manual labor. Thus, when Olivia spoke enthusiastically of him after supper, she made no reply. She would have been ashamed to acknowledge the reasons for her lack of admiration, even had she been conscious of them.
But the next morning at breakfast she revised her opinion somewhat. He talked, and he had a remarkable voice—clear, musical, with a quality which made it seem to penetrate through all the nerves instead of through the auditory nerve only. Further, he talked straight to Pauline, without embarrassment and with a quaint, satiric humor. She was forgetting for the moment his almost uncouth hair and dress when, in making a sweeping gesture, he upset a glass of water and sent a plate of hot bread flying from the waitress' hand.
"He'd do well in the open air," thought she, "but he's out of place in a house."
Still, she found him interesting and original. And he persistently sought her—his persistence was little short of heroism in view of the never-wholly-concealed sufferings which the contrast between her grace and style and his lack of both caused him.
"He looks like a king who had been kidnapped as a child and brought up in the wilds," said Olivia. "I wonder who he is."
"I'll ask him," replied Pauline. And Olivia was slyly amused by her cousin's unconscious pride in her power with this large, untamed person.
His name was Hampden Scarborough and he came from a farm about twenty miles east of Saint X. He was descended from men who had learned to hate kings in Holland in the sixteenth century, had learned to despise them in England in the seventeenth century, had learned to laugh at them in America in the eighteenth century, had learned to exalt themselves into kings—the kings of the new democracy—in the free West in the nineteenth century.
When any one asked his father, Bladen Scarborough, who the family ancestors were, Bladen usually did not answer at all. It was his habit thus to treat a question he did not fancy, and, if the question was repeated, to supplement silence with a piercing look from under his aggressive eyebrows. But sometimes he would answer it. Once, for example, he looked coldly at the man who, with a covert sneer, had asked it, said, "You're impudent, sir. You insinuate I'm not enough by myself to command your consideration," and struck him a staggering blow across the mouth. Again—he was in a playful mood that day and the questioner was a woman—he replied, "I'm descended from murderers, ma'am—murderers."
And in a sense it was the truth.
In 1568 the Scarboroughs were seated obscurely in an east county of England. They were tenant farmers on the estates of the Earl of Ashford and had been strongly infected with "leveling" ideas by the refugees then fleeing to England to escape the fury of continental prince and priest. John Scarborough was trudging along the highway with his sister Kate. On horseback came Aubrey Walton, youngest son of the Earl of Ashford. He admired the rosy, pretty face of Kate Scarborough. He dismounted and, without so much as a glance at her brother, put his arm round her. John snatched her free. Young Walton, all amazement and wrath at the hind who did not appreciate the favor he was condescending to bestow upon a humble maiden, ripped out an insult and drew his sword. John wrenched it from him and ran it through his body.
That night, with four gold pieces in his pocket, John Scarborough left England in a smuggler and was presently fighting Philip of Spain in the army of the Dutch people.
In 1653 Zachariah Scarborough, great grandson of the preceding, was a soldier in Cromwell's army. On the night of April twentieth he was in an ale-house off Fleet Street with three brother officers. That day Cromwell had driven out Parliament and had dissolved the Council of State. Three of the officers were of Cromwell's party; the fourth, Captain Zachariah Scarborough, was a "leveler"—a hater of kings, a Dutch-bred pioneer of Dutch-bred democracy. The discussion began hot—and they poured ale on it.
"He's a tyrant!" shouted Zachariah Scarborough, bringing his huge fist down on the table and upsetting a mug. "He has set up for king. Down with all kings, say I! His head must come off!"
At this knives were drawn, and when Zachariah Scarborough staggered into the darkness of filthy Fleet Street with a cut down his cheek from temple to jaw-bone, his knife was dripping the life of a cousin of Ireton's.
He fled to the Virginia plantations and drifted thence to North Carolina.
His great-grandson, Gaston Scarborough, was one of Marion's men in his boyhood—a fierce spirit made arrogant by isolated freedom, where every man of character owned his land and could conceive of no superior between him and Almighty God. One autumn day in 1794 Gaston was out shooting with his youngest brother, John, their father's favorite. Gaston's gun was caught by a creeper, was torn from him; and his hand, reaching for it, exploded the charge into his brother's neck. His brother fell backward into the swamp and disappeared.
Gaston plunged into the wilderness—to Tennessee, to Kentucky, to Indiana.
"And it's my turn," said Hampden Scarborough as he ended a brief recital of the ancestral murders which Pauline had drawn from him—they were out for a walk together.
"Your turn?" she inquired.
"Yes—I'm the great-grandson—the only one. It's always a great-grandson."
"You DO look dangerous," said Pauline, and the smile and the glance she sent with the words might have been misunderstood by a young man entertaining the ideas which were then filling that young man's brain.
Again, he told her how he had been sent to college—she was always leading him to talk of himself, and her imagination more than supplied that which his unaffected modesty, sometimes deliberately, more often unconsciously, kept out of his stories.
Ever since he could remember, his strongest passion had been for books, for reading. Before he was born the wilderness was subdued and the cruel toil of his parents' early life was mitigated by the growth of towns, the spread of civilization. There was a chance for some leisure, for the higher gratification of the intense American passion for education. A small library had sprung up in one corner of the general room of the old farm-house—from the seeds of a Bible, an almanac, Milton's Paradise Lost, Baxter's Saint's Rest and a Government report on cattle. But the art collection had stood still for years—a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence, another of the Emancipation Proclamation, pictures of Washington, Lincoln and Napoleon, the last held in that household second only to Washington in all history as a "leveler."
The only daughter, Arabella, had been sent to boarding-school in Cincinnati. She married a rich man, lived in the city and, under the inspiration of English novels and the tutelage of a woman friend who visited in New York and often went abroad, was developing ideas of family and class and rank. She talked feelingly of the "lower classes" and of the duty of the "upper class" toward them. Her "goings-on" created an acid prejudice against higher education in her father's mind. As she was unfolding to him a plan for sending Hampden to Harvard he interrupted with, "No MORE idiots in my family at my expense," and started out to feed the pigs. The best terms Hampden's mother could make were that he should not be disinherited and cast off if he went to Battle Field and paid his own way.
He did not tell Pauline all of this, nor did he repeat to her the conversation between himself and his father a few days before he left home.
"Is 'Bella going to pay your way through?" asked his father, looking at him severely—but he looked severely at every one except Hampden's gentle-voiced mother.
"No, sir." The son's voice was clear.
"Is your mother?"
"Have you got money put by?"
"Four hundred dollars."
"Is that enough?"
"It'll give me time for a long look around."
The old man drew a big, rusty pocketbook from the inside pocket of the old-fashioned, flowered-velvet waistcoat he wore even when he fed the pigs. He counted out upon his knee ten one-hundred-dollar bills. He held them toward his son. "That'll have to do you," he said. "That's all you'll get."
"No, thank you," replied Hampden. "I wish no favors from anybody."
"You've earned it over and above your keep," retorted his father. "It belongs to you."
"If I need it I'll send for it," said Hampden, that being the easiest way quickly to end the matter.
But he did tell Pauline that he purposed to pay his own way through college.
"My father has a notion," said he, "that the things one works for and earns are the only things worth having. And I think one can't begin to act on that notion too early. If one is trying to get an education, why not an all-round education, instead of only lessons out of books?"
From that moment Pauline ceased to regard dress or any other external feature as a factor in her estimate of Hampden Scarborough.
"But your plan might make a man too late in getting a start—some men, at least," she suggested.
"A start—for what?" he asked.
"For fame or fortune or success of any kind."
Scarborough's eyes, fixed on the distance, had a curious look in them—he was again exactly like that first view she had had of him.
"But suppose one isn't after any of those things," he said. "Suppose he thinks of life as simply an opportunity for self-development. He starts at it when he's born, and the more of it he does the more he has to do. And—he can't possibly fail, and every moment is a triumph—and——" He came back from his excursion and smiled apologetically at her.
But she was evidently interested.
"Don't you think a man ought to have ambition?" she asked. She was thinking of her lover and his audacious schemes for making himself powerful.
"Oh—a man is what he is. Ambition means so many different things."
"But shouldn't you like to be rich and famous and—all that?"
"It depends——" Scarborough felt that if he said what was in his mind it might sound like cant. So he changed the subject. "Just now my ambition is to get off that zoology condition."
A DUMONT TRIUMPH.
But in the first week of her second month Pauline's interest in her surroundings vanished. She was corresponding with Jennie Atwater and Jennie began to write of Dumont—he had returned to Saint X; Caroline Sylvester, of Cleveland, was visiting his mother; it was all but certain that Jack and Caroline would marry. "Her people want it," Jennie went on—she pretended to believe that Jack and Pauline had given each the other up—"and Jack's father is determined on it. They're together morning, noon and evening. She's really very swell, though I don't think she's such a raving beauty." Following this came the Saint X News-Bulletin with a broad hint that the engagement was about to be announced.
"It's ridiculously false," said Pauline to herself; but she tossed for hours each night, trying to soothe the sick pain in her heart. And while she scouted the possibility of losing him, she was for the first time entertaining it—a cloud in the great horizon of her faith in the future; a small cloud, but black and bold against the blue. And she had no suspicion that he had returned from Chicago deliberately to raise that cloud.
A few days later another letter from Jennie, full of gossip about Jack and Caroline, a News-Bulletin with a long article about Caroline, ending with an even broader hint of her approaching marriage—and Dumont sent Pauline a note from the hotel in Villeneuve, five miles from Battle Field: "I must see you. Do not deny me. It means everything to both of us—what I want to say to you." And he asked her to meet him in the little park in Battle Field on the bank of the river where no one but the factory hands and their families ever went, and they only in the evenings. The hour he fixed was ten the next morning, and she "cut" ancient history and was there. As he advanced to meet her she thought she had never before appreciated how handsome he was, how distinguished-looking—perfectly her ideal of what a man should be, especially in that important, and at Battle Field neglected, matter, dress.
She was without practice in indirection, but she successfully hid her jealousy and her fears, though his manner was making their taunts and threats desperately real. He seemed depressed and gloomy; he would not look at her; he shook hands with her almost coldly, though they had not seen each other for weeks, had not talked together for months. She felt faint, and her thoughts were like flocks of circling, croaking crows.
"Polly," he began, when they were in the secluded corner of the park, "father wants me to get married. He's in a rage at your father for treating me so harshly. He wants me to marry a girl who's visiting us. He's always at me about it, making all sorts of promises and threats. Her father's in the same business that we are, and——"
He glanced at her to note the effect of his words. She had drawn her tall figure to its full height, and her cheeks were flushed and her eyes curiously bright. He had stabbed straight and deep into the heart of her weakness, but also into the heart of her pride.
The only effect of his thrust that was visible to him put him in a panic. "Don't—PLEASE don't look that way, Polly," he went on hastily. "You don't see what I'm driving at yet. I didn't mean that I'd marry her, or think of it. There isn't anybody but you. There couldn't be, you know that."
"Why did you tell me, then?" she asked haughtily.
"Because—I had to begin somewhere. Polly, I'm going away, going abroad. And I'm not to see you for—for I don't know how long—and—we must be married!"
She looked at him in a daze.
"We can cross on the ferry at half-past ten," he went on. "You see that house—the white one?" He pointed to the other bank of the river where a white cottage shrank among the trees not far from a little church. "Mr. Barker lives there—you must have heard of him. He's married scores and hundreds of couples from this side. And we can be back here at half-past eleven—twelve at the latest."
She shook her head expressed, not determination, only doubt.
"I can't, Jack," she said. "They——"
"Then you aren't certain you're ever going to marry me," he interrupted bitterly. "You don't mean what you promised me. You care more for them than you do for me. You don't really care for me at all."
"You don't believe that," she protested, her eyes and her mind on the little white cottage. "You couldn't—you know me too well."
"Then there's no reason why we shouldn't get married. Don't we belong to each other now? Why should we refuse to stand up and say so?"
That seemed unanswerable—a perfect excuse for doing what she wished to do. For the little white cottage fascinated her—how she did long to be sure of him! And she felt so free, so absolutely her own mistress in these new surroundings, where no one attempted to exercise authority over another.
"I must feel sure of you, Pauline. Sometimes everything seems to be against me, and I even doubt you. And—that's when the temptations pull hardest. If we were married it'd all be different."
Yes, it would be different. And he would be securely hers, with her mind at rest instead of harassed as it would be if she let him go so far away, free. And where was the harm in merely repeating before a preacher the promise that now bound them both? She looked at him and he at her.
"You don't put any others before me, do you, dear?" he asked.
"No, Jack—no one. I belong to you."
"Come!" he pleaded, and they went down to the boat. She seemed to herself to be in a dream—in a trance.
As she walked beside him along the country road on the other shore a voice was ringing in her ears: "Don't! Don't! Ask Olivia's advice first!" But she walked on, her will suspended, substituted for it his will and her jealousy and her fears of his yielding to the urgings of his father and the blandishments of "that Cleveland girl." He said little but kept close to her, watching her narrowly, touching her tenderly now and then.
The Reverend Josiah Barker was waiting for them—an oily smirk on a face smooth save where a thin fringe of white whiskers dangled from his jaw-bone, ear to ear; fat, damp hands rubbing in anticipation of the large fee that was to repay him for celebrating the marriage and for keeping quiet about it afterward. At the proper place in the brief ceremony Dumont, with a sly smile at Pauline which she faintly returned, produced the ring—he had bought it at Saint X a week before and so had started a rumor that he and Caroline Sylvester were to be married in haste. He held Pauline's hand firmly as he put the ring on her finger—he was significantly cool and calm for his age and for the circumstances. She was trembling violently, was pale and wan. The ring burned into her flesh.
"Whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder," ended Barker, with pompous solemnity.
Dumont kissed her—her cheek was cold and at the touch of his lips she shuddered.
"Don't be afraid," he said in a low voice that was perfectly steady.
They went out and along the sunny road in silence. "Whom God hath joined," the voice was now dinning into her ears. And she was saying to herself, "Has GOD joined us? If so, why do I feel as if I had committed a crime?" She looked guiltily at him—she felt no thrill of pride or love at the thought that he was her husband, she his wife. And into her mind poured all her father's condemnations of him, with a vague menacing fear riding the crest of the flood.
"You're sorry you've done it?" he said sullenly.
She did not answer.
"Well, it's done," he went on, "and it can't be undone. And I've got you, Polly, in spite of them. They might have known better than to try to keep me from getting what I wanted. I always did, and I always shall!"
She looked at him startled, then hastily looked away. Even more than his words and his tone, she disliked his eyes—gloating, triumphant. But not until she was years more experienced did she study that never-forgotten expression, study it as a whole—words, tone, look. Then, and not until then, did she know that she had instinctively shrunk because he had laid bare his base and all but loveless motive in marrying her.
"And," he added, "I'll force father to give me a big interest in the business very soon. Then—we'll announce it."
Announce IT? Announce WHAT? "Why, I'm a married woman," she thought, and she stumbled and almost fell. The way danced before her eyes, all spotted with black. She was just able to walk aboard the boat and drop into a seat.
He sat beside her, took her hand and bent over it; as he kissed it a tear fell on it. He looked at her and she saw that his eyes were swimming. A sob surged into her throat, but she choked it back. "Jack!" she murmured, and hid her face in her handkerchief.
When they looked each at the other both smiled—her foreboding had retreated to the background. She began to turn the ring round and round upon her finger.
"Mrs. John Dumont," she said. "Doesn't it sound queer?" And she gazed dreamily away toward the ranges of hills between which the river danced and sparkled as it journeyed westward. When she again became conscious of her immediate surroundings—other than Dumont—she saw a deck-hand looking at her with a friendly grin.
Instantly she covered the ring with her hand and handkerchief. "But I mustn't wear it," she said to Dumont.
"No—not on your finger." He laughed and drew from his pocket a slender gold chain. "But you might wear it on this, round your neck. It'll help to remind you that you don't belong to yourself any more, but to me."
She took the chain—she was coloring in a most becoming way—and hid it and the ring in her bosom. Then she drew off a narrow hoop of gold with a small setting and pushed it on his big little finger.
"And THAT, sir," she said, with a bewitching look, "may help you not to forget that YOU belong to me."
She left the ferry in advance of him and faced Olivia just in time for them to go down together to the half-past twelve o'clock dinner.
As Mrs. Trent's was the best board in Battle Field there were more applicants than she could make places for at her one table. In the second week of the term she put a small table in the alcove of the dining-room and gave it to her "star" boarders—Pierson, Olivia and Pauline. They invited Scarborough to take the fourth place. Not only did Pierson sit opposite Olivia and Scarborough opposite Pauline three times a day in circumstances which make for intimacy, but also Olivia and Pierson studied together in his sitting-room and Pauline and Scarborough in her sitting-room for several hours three or four times a week. Olivia and Pierson were sophomores. Pauline and Scarborough were freshmen; also, they happened to have the same three "senior prep" conditions to "work off"—Latin, zoology and mathematics.
Such intimacies as these were the matter-of-course at Battle Field. They were usually brief and strenuous. A young man and a young woman would be seen together constantly, would fall in love, would come to know each the other thoroughly. Then, with the mind and character and looks and moods of each fully revealed to the other, they would drift or fly in opposite directions, wholly disillusioned. Occasionally they found that they were really congenial, and either love remained or a cordial friendship sprang up. The modes of thought, inconceivable to Europeans or Europeanized Americans, made catastrophe all but impossible.
It was through the girls that Scarborough got his invitation to the alcove table. There he came to know Pierson and to like him. One evening he went into Pierson's rooms—the suite under Olivia and Pauline's. He had never seen—but had dreamed of—such a luxurious bachelor interior. Pierson's father had insisted that his son must go to the college where forty years before he had split wood and lighted fires and swept corridors to earn two years of higher education. Pierson's mother, defeated in her wish that her son should go East to college, had tried to mitigate the rigors of Battle Field's primitive simplicity by herself fitting up his quarters. And she made them the show-rooms of the college.
"Now let's see what can be done for you," said Pierson, with the superiority of a whole year's experience where Scarborough was a beginner. "I'll put you in the Sigma Alpha fraternity for one thing. It's the best here."
"I don't know anything about fraternities," Scarborough said. "What are they for?"
"Oh, everybody that is anybody belongs to a fraternity. There are about a dozen of them here, and among them they get all the men with any claim to recognition. Just now, we lean rather toward taking in the fellows who've been well brought up."
"Does everybody belong to a fraternity?"
"Lord, no! Two-thirds don't belong. The fellows outside are called 'barbs'—that is, barbarians; we on the inside are Greeks. Though, I must say, very few of us are Athenians and most of us are the rankest Macedonians. But the worst Greeks are better than the best barbs. They're the rummest lot of scrubs you ever saw—stupid drudges who live round in all sorts of holes and don't amount to anything. The brush of the backwoods."
"Oh, yes—mm—I see." Scarborough was looking uncomfortable.
"The Sigma Alphas'll take you in next Saturday," said Pierson. "They do as I say, between ourselves."
"I'm ever so much obliged, but——" Scarborough was red and began to stammer. "You see—I—it——"
"What's the matter? Expense? Don't let that bother you. The cost's nothing at all, and the membership is absolutely necessary to your position."
"Yes—a matter of expense." Scarborough was in control of himself now. "But not precisely the kind of expense you mean. No—I can't join I'd rather not explain. I'm ever so much obliged, but really I can't."
"As you please." Pierson was offended. "But I warn you, you've got to belong to one or the other of these fraternities or you'll be cut off from everything. And you oughtn't to miss the chance to join the best."
"I see I've offended you." Scarborough spoke regretfully. "Please don't think I'm not appreciating your kindness. But—I've made a sort of agreement with myself never to join anything that isn't organized for a general purpose and that won't admit anybody who has that purpose, too."
Pierson thought on this for a moment. "Pardon me for saying so, but that's nonsense. You can't afford to stand alone. It'll make everything harder for you—many things impossible. You've got to yield to the prejudices of people in these matters. Why, even the barbs have no use for each other and look up to us. When we have an election in the Literary Society I can control more barb votes than any one else in college. And the reason is—well, you can imagine." (Mr. Pierson was only twenty years old when he made that speech.)
"It doesn't disturb me to think of myself as alone." The strong lines in Scarborough's face were in evidence. "But it would disturb me if I were propped up and weren't sure I could stand alone. I'm afraid to lean on any one or anything—my prop might give way. And I don't want any friends or any associates who value me for any other reason than what I myself am. I purpose never to 'belong' to anything or anybody."
Pierson laughed. "Do as you please," he said. "I'd like to myself if it wasn't such an awful lot of trouble!"
"Not in the end," replied Scarborough.
"Oh, bother the end. To-day's good enough for me."
"You'd better not let Miss Shrewsbury hear you say that," said Scarborough, his eyes mocking.
Pierson grew serious at once. "Splendid girl, isn't she?" She happened to be the first he had known at all well who hadn't agreed with him in everything he said, hadn't shown the greatest anxiety to please him and hadn't practically thrown herself at his head. His combination of riches, good looks, an easy-going disposition and cleverness had so agitated those who had interested him theretofore that they had overreached themselves. Besides, his mother had been subtly watchful.
"Indeed, yes," assented Scarborough, heartily but not with enthusiasm—he always thought of Olivia as Pauline's cousin.
The four had arranged to go together to Indian Rock on the following Sunday. When the day came Olivia was not well; Pierson went to a poker game at his fraternity house; Pauline and Scarborough walked alone. As she went through the woods beside him she was thinking so intensely that she could not talk. But he was not disturbed by her silence—was it not enough to be near her, alone with her, free to look at her, so graceful and beautiful, so tasteful in dress, in every outward way what he thought a woman ought to be? Presently she roused herself and began a remark that was obviously mere politeness.
He interrupted her. "Don't mind me. Go on with your thinking—unless it's something you can say."
She gave him a quizzical, baffling smile. "How it would startle you if I did!" she said. "But—I shan't. And"—she frowned impatiently—"there's no use in thinking about it. It's all in the future."
"And one can't control the future."
"Yes, indeed—one can," she protested.
"I wish you'd tell me how. Are you sure you don't mean you could so arrange matters that the future would control you? Anybody can SURRENDER to the future and give it hostages. But that's not controlling, is it?"
"Certainly it is—if you give the hostages in exchange for what you want." And she looked triumphant.
"But how do you know what you'll want in the future? The most I can say is that I know a few things I shan't want."
"I shouldn't like to be of that disposition," she said.
"But I'm afraid you are, whether you like it or not." Scarborough was half-serious, half in jest.
"Are you the same person you were a month ago?"
Pauline glanced away. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"I mean in thought—in feeling."
"Yes—and no," she replied presently, when she had recovered from the shock of his chance knock at the very door of her secret. "My coming here has made a sort of revolution in me already. I believe I've a more—more grown-up way of looking at things. And I've been getting into the habit of thinking—and—and acting—for myself."
"That's a dangerous habit to form—in a hurry," said Scarborough. "One oughtn't to try to swim a wide river just after he's had his first lesson in swimming."
Pauline, for no apparent reason, flushed crimson and gave him a nervous look—it almost seemed a look of fright.
"But," he went on, "we were talking of the change in you. If you've changed so much in, thirty days, or, say, in sixty-seven days—you've been here that long, I believe—think of your whole life. The broader your mind and your life become, the less certain you'll be what sort of person to-morrow will find you. It seems to me—I know that, for myself, I'm determined to keep the future clear. I'll never tie myself to the past."
"But there are some things one MUST anchor fast to." Pauline was looking as if Scarborough were trying to turn her adrift in an open boat on a lonely sea. "There are—friends. You wouldn't desert your friends, would you?"
"I couldn't help it if they insisted on deserting me. I'd keep them if their way was mine. If it wasn't—they'd give me up."
"But if you were—were—married?"
Scarborough became intensely self-conscious.
"Well—I don't know—that is——" He paused, went on: "I shouldn't marry until I was sure—her way and mine were the same."
"The right sort of woman makes her husband's way hers," said she.
"Does she? I don't know much about women. But it has always seemed to me that the kind of woman I'd admire would be one who had her own ideals and ideas of life—and that—if—if she liked me, it would be because we suited each other. You wouldn't want to be—like those princesses that are brought up without any beliefs of any sort so that they can accept the beliefs of the kingdom of the man they happen to marry?"
Pauline laughed. "I couldn't, even if I wished," she said.
"I should say not!" he echoed, as if the idea in connection with such an indelibly distinct young woman were preposterous.
"But you have such a queer way of expressing yourself. At first I thought you were talking of upsetting everything."
"I? Mercy, no. I've no idea of upsetting anything. I'm only hoping I can help straighten a few things that have been tumbled over or turned upside down."
Gradually, as they walked and talked, her own affairs—Dumont's and hers—retreated to the background and she gave Scarborough her whole attention. Even in those days—he was then twenty-three—his personality usually dominated whomever he was with. It was not his size or appearance of strength; it was not any compulsion of manner; it was not even what he said or the way he said it. All of these—and his voice contributed; but the real secret of his power was that subtile magnetic something which we try to fix—and fail—when we say "charm."
He attracted Pauline chiefly because he had a way of noting the little things—matters of dress, the flowers, colors in the sky or the landscape, the uncommon, especially the amusing, details of personality—and of connecting these trifles in unexpected ways with the large aspects of things. He saw the mystery of the universe in the contour of a leaf; he saw the secret of a professor's character in the way he had built out his whiskers to hide an absolute lack of chin and to give the impression that a formidable chin was there. He told her stories of life on his father's farm that made her laugh, other stories that made her feel like crying. And—he brought out the best there was in her. She was presently talking of the things about which she had always been reticent—the real thoughts of her mind, those she had suppressed because she had had no sympathetic listener, those she looked forward to talking over with Dumont in that happy time when they would be together and would renew the intimacy interrupted since their High School days.
When she burst in upon Olivia her eyes were sparkling and her cheeks glowing. "The air was glorious," she said, "and Mr. Scarborough; is SO interesting."
And Olivia said to herself: "In spite of his tight clothes he may cure her of that worthless Dumont."
"LIKE HIS FATHER."
Scarborough soon lifted himself high above the throng, and was marked by faculty and students as a man worth watching. The manner of this achievement was one of those forecasts of the future with which youth bristles for those who take the trouble to watch it.
Although Pierson was only a sophomore he was the political as well as the social leader of his fraternity. Envy said that the Sigma Alphas truckled to his wealth; perhaps the exacter truth was that his wealth forced an earlier recognition of his real capacity. His position as leader made him manager of the Sigma Alpha combination of fraternities and barbs which for six years had dominated the Washington and Jefferson Literary Society. The barbs had always voted humbly with the aristocratic Sigma Alphas; so Pierson's political leadership apparently had no onerous duties attached to it—and he was not the man to make work for himself.
As the annual election approached he heard rumors of barb disaffection, of threatened barb revolt. Vance, his barb lieutenant, reassured him.
"Always a few kickers," said Vance, "and they make a lot of noise. But they won't draw off twenty votes." Pierson made himself easy—there was no danger of one of those hard-fought contests which in past years had developed at Battle Field many of Indiana's adroit political leaders.
On election night he felt important and powerful as he sat in the front row among the arrogant Sigma Alphas, at the head of his forces massed in the left side of the hall. He had insisted on Scarborough's occupying a seat just behind him. He tilted back in his arm-chair and said, in an undertone: "You're voting with us?"
Scarborough shook his head. "Can't do it. I'm pledged to Adee."
Pierson looked amused. "Who's he? And who's putting him up?"
"I'm nominating him," replied Scarborough, "as the barb candidate."
"Take my advice don't do it, old man," said Pierson in a friendly, somewhat patronizing tone.
"You'll only get our fellows down on you—them and all the fraternity men. And—well, your candidate'll have a dozen votes or so, at most—and there'll be a laugh."
"Yes—I suppose there will be a laugh," said Scarborough, his eyes twinkling.
"Don't do it," urged Pierson. "Be practical."
"No—I leave that to your people."
Just then nominations for president were called for and the candidates of the two factions were proposed and seconded. "The nominations for president are——" began the chairman, but before he could utter the word "closed" Scarborough was on his feet—was saying, "Mr. Chairman!"
Pierson dropped his eyes and grew red with embarrassment for his friend who was thus "rushing on to make a fool of himself."
Scarborough's glance traveled slowly from row to row of expectant young men.
"Mr. Chairman and fellow-members of the Washington and Jefferson Society," he said in a conversational tone. "I have the honor of placing in nomination Frank Adee, of Terre Haute. In addition to other qualifications of which it would be superfluous for me to speak in this presence, he represents the masses of the membership of this society which has been too long dominated by and for its classes. It is time to compel the fraternities to take faction and caste and political wire-pulling away from this hall, and to keep them away. It is time to rededicate our society to equality, to freedom of thought and speech, to the democratic ideas of the plain yet proud builders of this college of ours."
Scarborough made no attempt at oratory, made not a single gesture. It was as though he were talking privately and earnestly with each one there. He sat amid silence; when a few barbs nervously applauded, the fraternity men of both factions, recovering themselves, raised a succession of ironical cheers. A shabby, frightened barb stood awkwardly, and in a trembling, weak voice seconded the nomination. There was an outburst of barb applause—strong, defiant. Pierson was anxiously studying the faces of his barbs.
"By Jove," he muttered, "Vance has been caught napping. I believe Scarborough has put up a job on us. If I can't gain time we're beat." And he sprang to his feet, his face white. In a voice which he struggled in vain to keep to his wonted affected indifferent drawl, he said: "Mr. Chairman, I move you, sir, that we adjourn." As he was bending to sit his ready lieutenant seconded the motion.
"Mr. Chairman!" It was an excited voice from the rear of the hall—the voice of a tall, lank, sallow man of perhaps thirty-five. "What right," he shouted shrilly, "has this Mr. Pierson to come here and make that there motion? He ain't never seen here except on election nights. He——"
The chairman rapped sharply.
"Motion to adjourn not debatable," he said, and then mumbled rapidly: "The question's the motion to adjourn. All in favor say Aye—all opposed, No—the ayes seem to have it—the ayes have——"
"Mr. Chairman; I call for a count of the ayes and noes!" It was Scarborough, standing, completely self-possessed. His voice was not raised but it vibrated through that room, vibrated through those three hundred intensely excited young men.
The chairman—Waller, a Zeta Rho, of the Sigma Alpha combination—knew that Pierson was scowling a command to him to override the rules and adjourn the meeting; but he could not take his eyes from Scarborough's, dared not disobey Scarborough's imperious look. "A count of the ayes and noes is called for," he said. "The secretary will call the roll."
Pierson's motion was lost—one hundred and thirty-two to one hundred and seventy-nine. For the first time in his life he was beaten; and it was an overwhelming, a public defeat that made his leadership ridiculous. His vanity was cut savagely; it was impossible for him to control himself to stay and witness the inevitable rout. He lounged down the wide aisle, his face masked in a supercilious smile, his glance contemptuously upon the jubilant barbs. They were thick about the doors, and as he passed among them he said, addressing no one in particular: "A revolt of the Helots." A barb raised a threatening fist; Pierson sneered, and the fist unclenched and dropped before his fearless eyes.
An hour later Scarborough, his ticket elected and the society adjourned, reached Mrs. Trent's porch. In its darkness he saw the glowing end of a cigarette. "That you, Pierson?" he asked in the tone of one who knows what the answer will be.
"Sit down for a few minutes," came the reply, in a strained voice.
He could not see even the outline of Pierson's face, but with those acute sensibilities which made life alternately a keen pleasure and a pain to him, he felt that his friend was struggling for self-control. He waited in silence.
At last Pierson began: "I owe you an apology. I've been thinking all sorts of things about you. I know they're unjust and—mean, which is worse. But, damn it, Scarborough, I HATE being beaten. And it doesn't make defeat any the easier because YOU did it."
He paused; but Scarborough did not speak.
"I'm going to be frank," Pierson went on with an effort. "I know you had a perfect right to do as you pleased, but—hang it all, old man—you might have warned me."
"But I didn't do as I pleased," said Scarborough. "And as for telling you—" He paused before he interrupted himself with: "But first I want to say that I don't like to give an account of myself to my friends. What does friendship mean if it forbids freedom? I didn't approve or condemn you because you belonged to a fraternity, and because you headed a clique that was destroying the Literary Society by making it a place for petty fraternity politics instead of a place to develop speakers, writers and debaters. Yet now you're bringing me to account because I didn't slavishly accept your ideas as my own. Do you think that's a sound basis for a friendship, Pierson?"
When Scarborough began Pierson was full of a grievance which he thought real and deep. He was proposing to forgive Scarborough, forgive him generously, but not without making him realize that it was an act of generosity. As Scarborough talked he was first irritated, then, and suddenly, convinced that he was himself in the wrong—in the wrong throughout.
"Don't say another word, Scarborough," he replied, impulsively laying his hand on the arm of his friend—how powerful it felt through the sleeve! "I've been spoiled by always having my own way and by people letting me rule them. You gave me my first lesson in defeat. And—I needed it badly. As for your not telling me, you'd have ruined your scheme if you had. Besides, looking back, I see that you did warn me. I know now what you meant by always jumping on the fraternities and the combinations."
"Thank you," said Scarborough, simply. "When I saw you leaving the society hall I feared I'd lost a friend. Instead, I've found what a friend I have." Then after a brief silence he continued: "This little incident up there to-night—this little revolution I took part in—has meant a good deal to me. It was the first chance I'd had to carry out the ideas I've thought over and thought over down there on the farm while I was working in the fields or lying in the hay, staring up at the sky. And I don't suppose in all the future I'll ever have a greater temptation to be false to myself than I had in the dread that's been haunting me—the dread of losing your friendship—and the friendship of—of—some others who might see it as I was afraid you would. There may be lessons in this incident for you, Fred. But the greatest lesson of all is the one you've taught me—NEVER to be afraid to go forward when the Finger points."
Pierson and Olivia walked to chapel together the next morning, and he told her the story of the defeat, putting himself in a worse light than he deserved. But Olivia, who never lost a chance to attack him for his shortcomings, now, to his amazement, burst out against Scarborough.
"It was contemptible," she said hotly. "It was treachery! It was a piece of cold-blooded ambition. He'd sacrifice anything, any one, to ambition. I shall never like him again."
Pierson was puzzled—being in love with her, he had been deceived by her pretense that she had a poor opinion of him; and he did not appreciate that her sense of justice was now clouded by resentment for his sake. At dinner, when the four were together, she attacked Scarborough. Though she did not confess it, he forced her to see that at least his motives were not those she had been attributing to him. When he and Pauline were alone—Olivia and Pierson had to hurry away to a lecture he said: "What do YOU think, Miss Gardiner? You—did you—do you—agree with your cousin?
"I?" Pauline dropped her eyes. "Oh, I——"
She hesitated so long that he said: "Go on—tell me just what you think. I'd rather know than suspect."
"I think you did right. But—I don't see how you had the courage to do it."
"That is, you think I did right—but the sort of right that's worse than wrong."
"No—no!" she protested, putting a good deal of feeling into her voice in the effort to reassure him. "I'd have been ashamed of you if you hadn't done it. And—oh, I despise weakness in a man most of all! And I like to think that if everybody in college had denounced you, you'd have gone straight on. And—you WOULD!"
Within a week after this they were calling each the other by their first names.
For the Christmas holidays she went with her mother from Battle Field direct to Chicago, to her father's sisters Mrs. Hayden—Colonel Gardiner had been called south on business. When she came back she and Scarborough took up their friendship where they had left it. They read the same books, had similar tastes, disagreed sympathetically, agreed with enthusiasm. She saw a great deal of several other men in her class, enough not to make her preference for him significant to the college—or to herself. They went for moonlight straw-rides, on moonlight and starlight skating and ice-boat parties, for long walks over the hills—all invariably with others, but they were often practically alone. He rapidly dropped his rural manners and mannerisms—Fred Pierson's tailor in Indianapolis made the most radical of the surface changes in him.
Late in February his cousin, the superintendent of the farm, telegraphed him to come home. He found his mother ill—plainly dying. And his father—Bladen Scarborough's boast had been that he never took a "dose of drugs" in his life, and for at least seventy of his seventy-nine years he had been "on the jump" daily from long before dawn until long after sundown. Now he was content to sit in his arm-chair and, with no more vigorous protest than a frown and a growl, to swallow the despised drugs.
Each day he made them carry him in his great chair into HER bedroom. And there he sat all day long, his shaggy brows down, his gaze rarely wandering from the little ridge her small body made in the high white bed; and in his stern eyes there was a look of stoic anguish. Each night, as they were carrying him to his own room, they took him near the bed; and he leaned forward, and the voice that in all their years had never been anything but gentle for her said: "Good night, Sallie." And the small form would move slightly, there would be a feeble turning of the head, a wan smile on the little old face, a soft "Good night, Bladen."
It was on Hampden's ninth day at home that the old man said "Good night, Sallie," and there was no answer—not even a stir. They did not offer to carry him in the next morning; nor did he turn his face from the wall. She died that day; he three days later—he had refused food and medicine; he had not shed a tear or made a sound.
Thus the journey side by side for fifty-one years was a journey no longer. They were asleep side by side on the hillside for ever.
Hampden stayed at home only one day after the funeral. He came back to Battle Field apparently unchanged. He was not in black, for Bladen Scarborough abhorred mourning as he abhorred all outward symbols of the things of the heart. But after a week he told Pauline about it; and as he talked she sobbed, though his voice did not break nor his eyes dim.
"He's like his father," she thought.
When Olivia believed that Dumont was safely forgotten she teased her—"Your adoring and adored Scarborough."
Pauline was amused by this. With his unfailing instinct, Scarborough had felt—and had never permitted himself to forget—that there was some sort of wall round her for him. It was in perfect good faith that she answered Olivia: "You don't understand him. He's a queer man—sometimes I wonder myself that he doesn't get just a little sentimental. I suppose I'd find him exasperating—if I weren't otherwise engaged."
Olivia tried not to show irritation at this reference to Dumont. "I think you're mistaken about which of you is queer," she said. "You are the one—not he."
"I?" Pauline laughed—she was thinking of her charm against any love but one man's, the wedding ring she always wore at her neck. "Why, I COULDN'T fall in love with HIM."
"The woman who gets him will do mighty well for herself—in every way," said Olivia.
"Indeed she will. But—I'd as soon think of falling in love with a tree or a mountain."
She liked her phrase; it seemed to her exactly to define her feeling for Scarborough. She liked it so well that she repeated it to herself reassuringly many times in the next few weeks.
In the last week of March came a succession of warm rains. The leaves burst from their impatient hiding just within the cracks in the gray bark. And on Monday the unclouded sun was irradiating a pale green world from a pale blue sky. The four windows of Pauline and Olivia's sitting-room were up; a warm, scented wind was blowing this way and that the strays of Pauline's red-brown hair as she sat at the table, her eyes on a book, her thoughts on a letter—Dumont's first letter on landing in America. A knock, and she frowned slightly.
"Come!" she cried, her expression slowly veering toward welcome.
The door swung back and in came Scarborough. Not the awkward youth of last October, but still unable wholly to conceal how much at a disadvantage he felt before the woman he particularly wished to please.
"Yes—I'm ten minutes early," he said, apology in his tone for his instinct told him that he was interrupting, and he had too little vanity to see that the interruption was agreeable. "But I thought you'd be only reading a novel."
For answer she held up the book which lay before her—a solemn volume in light brown calf.
"Analytical geometry," he said; "and on the first day of the finest spring the world ever saw!" He was at the window, looking out longingly—sunshine, and soft air washed clean by the rains; the new-born leaves and buds; the pioneer birds and flowers. "Let's go for a walk. We can do the Vergil to-night."
"YOU—talking of neglecting WORK!" Her smile seemed to him to sparkle as much in the waves of her hair as in her even white teeth and gold-brown eyes. "So you're human, just like the rest of us."
"Human!" He glanced at her and instantly glanced away.
"Do leave that window," she begged. "We must get the Vergil now. I'm reading an essay at the society to-night—they've fined me twice for neglecting it. But if you stand there reminding me of what's going on outside I'll not be able to resist."
"How this would look from Indian Rock!"
She flung open a Vergil text-book with a relentless shake of the head. "I've got the place. Book three, line two forty-five—
"'Una in praecelsa consedit rupe Celaeno——'"
"It doesn't matter what that hideous old Harpy howled at the pious Aeneas," he grumbled. "Let's go out and watch the Great God Pan dedicate his brand-new temple."