THE DOMINANT DOLLAR
By the Same Author
BEN BLAIR. THE STORY OF A PLAINSMAN. With frontispiece in full color by Maynard Dixon. Seventh edition, 60th thousand.
[***] Besides the wide success of "Ben Blair" in this country the book appeared in a large edition in London and also in Australia.
PUBLISHED BY A. C. MCCLURG & CO., CHICAGO
The Dominant Dollar
By WILL LILLIBRIDGE
AUTHOR OF "Ben Blair," "The Dissolving Circle," "The Quest Eternal," "Where the Trail Divides," Etc.
WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS BY LESTER RALPH
A. L. BURT COMPANY PUBLISHERS :: NEW YORK
COPYRIGHT A. C. MCCLURG & CO. 1909
Published September 11, 1909
Entered at Stationers' Hall, London, England
All rights reserved
CHAPTER PAGE I. A Prophecy 9 II. Understanding 35 III. Pleasure 56 IV. Uncertainty 70 V. Certainty 87 VI. A Warning 110 VII. Rebellion 126 VIII. Catastrophe 146
I. Anticipation 165 II. Acquaintance 185 III. Friendship 203 IV. Comprehension 217 V. Fulfilment 241 VI. Crisis 268 VII. Travesty 285 VIII. Celebration 302 IX. Admonition 320 X. Decision 330
"Most of all because I love you" (Page 242) Frontispiece
"I'm tired of reading about life and hearing about life. I want to live it" (Page 66) 64
"Steve!" The girl was on her feet. "I never dreamed, never—You poor boy!" (Page 153) 156
"You mean to suggest that Elice," he began, "that Elice—You dare to suggest that to me?" (Page 107) 278
The Dominant Dollar
"You're cold-blooded as a fish, Roberts, colder. You're—There is no adequate simile."
The man addressed said nothing.
"You degrade every consideration in life, emotional and other, to a dollar-and-cents basis. Sentiment, ambition, common judgment of right and wrong, all gravitate to the same level. You have a single standard of measurement that you apply to all alike, which alike condemns or justifies. Summer and Winter, morning, noon, and night—it's the same. Your little yardstick is always in evidence, measuring, measuring—You, confound you, drive me to distraction with your eternal 'does it pay.'"
Still the other man said nothing.
"I know," apologetically, "I'm rubbing it in pretty hard, Darley, but I can't help it. You exasperate me beyond my boiling point at times and I simply can't avoid bubbling over. I believe if by any possibility you were ever to have a romance in your life, and it came on slowly enough so you could analyze a bit in advance, you'd still get out your tape line and tally up to the old mark: would it pay!"
This time the other smiled, a smile of tolerant amusement.
"And why shouldn't I? Being merely the fish you suggest, it seems to me that that's the one time in a human being's life when, more than another, deliberation is in order. The wider the creek the longer the wise man will linger on the margin to estimate the temperature of the current in event of failure to reach the opposite bank. Inadvertently, Armstrong, you pass me a compliment. Merely as an observer, marriage looks to me like the longest leap a sane man will ever attempt."
"I expected you'd say that," shortly,—"predicted it."
"You give me credit for being consistent, then, at least."
"Yes, you're consistent all right."
"Thanks. That's the first kind word I've heard in a long time."
The other made a wry face.
"Don't thank me," he excepted. "I'm not at all sure I meant the admission to be complimentary; in fact I hardly think I did. I was hoping for once I'd find you napping, without your measuring stick. In other words—find you—human."
"And now you're convinced the case is hopeless?"
"Convinced, yes, if I thought you were serious."
Roberts laughed, a big-chested, tolerant laugh.
"Seems to me you ought to realize by this time that I am serious, Armstrong. You've known me long enough. Do you still fancy I've been posing these last five years you've known me?"
"No; you never pose, Darley. This is a compliment, I think; moreover, it's the reason most of all why I like you." He laughed in turn, unconsciously removing the sting from the observation following. "I can't see any other possible excuse for our being friends. We're as different as night is from day."
The criticism was not new, and Roberts said nothing.
"I wonder now and then, at times like this," remarked Armstrong, "how long we will stick together. It's been five years, as you say. I wonder if it'll be another five."
The smile vanished from Darley Roberts' eyes, leaving them shrewd and gray.
"I wonder," he repeated.
"It'll come some time, the break. It's inevitable. We're fundamentally too different to avoid a clash."
"You think so?"
"I know so. It's written."
"And when we do?"
"We'll hate each other—as much as we like each other now. That, too, is written."
Again Roberts laughed. A listener would have read self-confidence therein.
"If that's the case, wouldn't it be wiser for us to separate in advance and avoid the horrors of civil war? I'll move out and leave you in peaceful possession of our cave if you wish."
"No; I don't want you to. I need you. That's another compliment. You hold me down to earth. You're a helpful influence, Darley, providing one knows you and takes you with allowance."
The comment was whimsical, but beneath was a deeper, more tacit admission which both men understood, that drowned the surface banter of the words.
"I think again, sometimes," drifted on Armstrong, "that if the powers which are could only put us both in a pot as I put things together down in the laboratory, and melt us good and shake us up, so, until we were all mixed into one, it would make a better product than either of us as we are now."
"But that's the curse of it. The thing can't be done. The Lord put us here, you you, and me me, and we've got to stick it out to the end."
"And become enemies in the course of events."
"Yes," quickly, "but let's not think about it. It'll come soon enough; and meantime—" The sentence halted while with unconscious skill Armstrong rolled a cigarette—"and meantime," he repeated as he scratched a match and waited for the sulphur to burn free, "I want to use you." Again the sentence halted while he blew a cloud of smoke: "I had another offer to-day."
Following the other's example, Roberts lit a cigar, big and black, and sat puffing in judicial expectancy.
"It's what you'd call a darned good offer," explained Armstrong: "position as chemist to the Graham Specialty Company, who are building the factory over on the East side—perfumes and toilet preparations and that sort of thing."
"Graham himself came to see me. As a matter of fact he's the whole company. He labored with me for two hours. I had to manufacture an engagement out of whole cloth to get away."
"And you decided—"
"I didn't decide. I took the matter under advisement."
"Which means that you did decide after all."
Armstrong grimaced in a mannerism all his own, an action that ended in an all-expressive shrug. "I suppose so," he admitted reluctantly.
"I hardly see where I can be of service then," commented the other. "If you were ten years younger and a minor and I your guardian—"
"You might point out with your yardstick how many kinds of an idiot I am and stir me up."
His companion smiled; as suddenly the look passed.
"I'd do so cheerfully if it would do any good. As it is—" The sentence ended in comprehensive silence. "What, by the way, did Graham offer?"
"Five thousand dollars a year, and if I made good an interest later in the business. He said four thousand dollars to begin with and gradually crawled up."
"You're getting now from the University—"
"With ultimate possibilities,—I emphasize possibilities—"
"I'll be dean of the department some day if I stick."
"With a salary of two thousand a year."
"And that's the end, the top round of the ladder if you were to remain until you were fifty and were displaced eventually without a pension."
"Yes; that's the biggest plum on the university tree. It can't grow anything larger."
In his place Darley Roberts dropped back as though he had nothing to say. Involuntarily, with a nervous impatience distinctive of him, his fingers tapped twice on the edge of the chair; then, aroused to attention, the hand lay still.
"Well?" commented Armstrong at length.
Roberts merely looked at him, not humorously nor with intent to tantalize, but with unconscious analysis written large upon his face.
"Well?" repeated Armstrong, "I'm waiting. The floor is yours."
"I was merely wondering," slowly, "how it would seem to be a person like you. I can't understand."
"No, you can't, Darley. As I said a moment ago, we're different as day is from night."
"I was wondering another thing, too, Armstrong. Do you want to know what it was?"
"Yes; I know in advance I'll not have to blush at a compliment."
"I don't know about that. I'm not the judge. I merely anticipated in fancy the time when you will wake up. You will some day. It's inevitable. To borrow your phrase, 'it's written.'"
"You think so?" The accompanying smile was appreciative.
"I know so. It's life we're living, not fiction."
"And when I do—pardon me—come out of it?" The questioner was still smiling.
"That's what I was speculating on." Again the impatient fingers tapped on the chair, and again halted at their own alarm. "You'll either be a genius and blossom in a day, or be a dead failure and go to the devil by the shortest route."
"You think there's no possible middle trail?"
"Not for you. You're not built that way."
The prediction was spoken with finality—too much finality to be taken humorously. Responsively, bit by bit, the smile left Armstrong's face.
"I won't attempt to answer that, Darley, or to defend myself. To come back to the point, you think I'm a fool not to accept Graham's offer?"
As before, his companion shrugged unconsciously. That was all.
"Does it occur to you that I might possibly have a reason—one that, while it wouldn't show up well under your tape line, to me seems adequate?"
"I'm not immune to reason."
"You'd like to have me put it in words?"
"Yes, if you wish."
"Well, then, first of all, I've spent ten years working up to where I am now. I've been through the mill from laboratory handy-man to assistant demonstrator, from that to demonstrator, up again to quiz-master, to substitute-lecturer, until now I'm at the head of my department. That looks small to you, I know; but to me it means a lot. Two hundred men, bright fellows too, fill up the amphitheatre every day and listen to me for an hour. They respect me, have confidence in my ability—and I try to merit it. That means I must study and keep up with the procession in my line. It's an incentive that a man can't have any other way, a practical necessity. That's the first reason. On the other hand, if I went to work for Graham I'd be dubbing around in a back room laboratory all by myself and doing what he wanted done whether it was interesting in the least or not."
"In other words," commented Roberts, "you'd be down to bed rock with the two hundred admirers removed from the bed."
"I suppose so—looking at it that way."
"All right. Go on."
"The second reason is that my employment as full professor gives me an established position—call it social position if you wish—here in the University that I couldn't possibly get in any other way. They realize what it means to hold the place, and give me credit for it. We're all human and it's pleasant to be appreciated. If I went to work in a factory I'd be an alien—outside the circle—and I'd stay there."
"There are eighty million people in the United States," commented Roberts, drily. "By stretching, your circle would probably take in two thousand of that number."
"I know it's limited; but there's an old saying that it's better to be a big toad in a small puddle than a small toad in a large pond."
"I recall there's an adage to that effect."
"Lastly, there's another reason, the biggest of all. As it is now the State employs me to deliver a certain number of lectures a semester. I do this; and the rest of the time is mine. In it I can do what I please. If I accepted a position in a private enterprise it would be different. I should sell my time outright—and be compelled to deliver it all. I shouldn't have an hour I could call my own except at night, and the chances are I shouldn't have enough energy left for anything else when night came. You know what I'm trying to do—that I'm trying to work up a name as a writer. I'd have to give up that ambition entirely. I simply can't or won't do that yet."
"You've been keeping up this—fight you mention for ten years now, you told me once. Is anything definite in sight?"
"No; not exactly definite; but Rome wasn't built in a day. I'm willing to wait."
"And meantime you're getting older steadily."
"I repeat I'm willing to wait—and trust a little."
Tap, tap went the impatient fingers again.
"Something's bound to drop in time if one is only patient."
Roberts looked up quickly, the gray eyes keen, the tapping fingers stilled.
"Something has dropped, my friend, and you don't recognize it."
"The tape line again. The eternal tape line! It's pure waste of energy, Darley, to attempt to make you understand. As I said before, you're fundamentally incapable."
"Perhaps," evenly. "But for your sake I've listened and tried. At least give me credit for that." Of a sudden he glanced up keenly. "By the way, you're not going out this evening?"
"No, Elice is out of town." Armstrong caught himself. "I suppose that is what you meant."
For a moment before he answered Roberts busied himself with a stray flake of ash on his sleeve.
"Yes, in a way," he said. "I was going to suggest that you tell her what you told me before you said 'no' to Graham."
"It's unnecessary." The tone was a trifle stiff. "She at least understands me."
The other man made no comment.
"You're not going out either this evening, Darley?" returned Armstrong.
"No; I'm scheduled for bed early to-night. I've had a strenuous day, and to-morrow will be another."
It was already late of a rainy May evening, the room was getting dim, and silently Armstrong turned on the electric light. Following, in equal silence, his companion watching him the while understandingly, he lit a pipe. Stephen Armstrong seldom descended to a pipe, and when he did so the meaning of the action to one who knew him well was lucid. It meant confidence. Back in his seat he puffed hard for a half minute; then blew at the smoke above his head.
"Was that mere chance that made you suggest—Elice in connection with that offer of Graham's," he asked, at last; "or did you mean more than the question seemed to imply, Darley?"
Again for an appreciable space there was silence.
"I seldom do things by chance, Armstrong. To use your own simile, I'm too much of a fish. I don't want to seem to interfere with your personal affairs, however. I beg your pardon if you wish."
"But I don't wish you to do so," shortly. "You know that. Besides there's nothing to conceal so far as I'm concerned. Just what did you mean to suggest?"
Again the other hesitated, with a reluctance that was not simulated. Darley Roberts simulated nothing.
"If you really wish to know," he complied at last, "I think you ought to tell, her—without coloring the matter by your own point of view in the least. She should be as much interested as you yourself."
"She is. Take that for granted."
"I know, though, so certainly what she would say that it seems a bit superfluous."
Still Roberts waited.
"As I said before, she understands me and I understand her. Some things don't require language to express. They come by intuition."
And still Roberts waited.
"If it were you, now, and there were any possibility of a yardstick it would be different; but as it is—"
"Miss Gleason then, Mrs. Armstrong to be, doesn't care in the least to see you come on financially, is completely satisfied with things as they are?"
It was Armstrong's turn to be silent.
"You've been engaged now three years. You're thirty years old and Miss Gleason is—"
"Twenty-five in August."
"She is wholly contented to let the engagement run on indefinitely, knowing that your income is barely enough for one to live on and not at all adequate for two?"
The other stiffened involuntarily; but he said nothing.
"I beg your pardon the second time, Armstrong, if you wish; but remember, please, I'm doing this by request."
"I know, Darley. I'm not an absolute cad, and I'm glad you are frank. Doubtless from your point of view I'm a visionary ass. But I don't see where any one suffers on that account except myself."
"Don't see where any one suffers save yourself! Don't see—! You can't be serious, man!"
Armstrong had ceased smoking. The pipe lay idle in his fingers.
"No. Come out into the clearing and put it in plain English. Just what do you mean?"
"Since you insist, I mean just this, Armstrong—and if you'll think a moment you'll realize for yourself it's true: you can't drift on forever the way you're doing now. If you weren't engaged it would be different; but you are engaged. Such being the case it implies a responsibility and a big one. To dangle so is unjust to the girl. Let this apply in the abstract. It's damnably unjust!"
"You think that I—"
"I don't think at all, I know. We can theorize and moon and drift about in the clouds all we please; but when eventually our pipe goes out and we come down to earth this thing of marriage is practical. It's give and take, with a whole lot to give. I haven't been practising law and dealing with marital difficulties, to say nothing of divorces, without getting a few inside facts. Marriages are made in Heaven, perhaps, but married life is lived right here on earth; and the butcher and the rest play leading parts. I recognize I'm leading the procession a bit now, Armstrong; but as I said before, you can't dangle much longer if you're an honorable man; and then what I've said is right in line. If you'll take a word of advice that's intended right, even if it seems patronizing, you'll wake up right now and begin to steer straight for the flag-pole. If you keep on floundering aimlessly and waiting for an act of Providence you'll come to grief as surely as to-morrow is coming, old man."
"And by steering straight you mean to save money. To get my eye on a dollar, leave everything else, and chase it until it drops from fatigue."
"I mean get power; and dollars are the tangible evidence and manifestation of power. They are the only medium that passes current in any country any day in the year."
Armstrong smiled, a smile that was not pleasant to see.
"You'd have me give up my literary aspirations then, let them die a-borning as it were—"
"I didn't say that. So far as I can see you can keep on just the same. There are twenty-four hours in every day. But make that phase secondary. I don't discount writers in the least or their work; but with the world as it is the main chance doesn't lie that way—and it's the main chance we're all after. Fish or no fish, I tell you some time you'll find this out for yourself. To get the most out of life a man must be in the position to pass current wherever he may be. In the millennium the standard may be different—I for one sincerely hope it will be; but in the twentieth century dollars are the key that unlocks everything. Without them you're as helpless as a South Sea islander in a metropolitan street. You're at the mercy of every human being that wants to give you a kick; and the majority will give it to you if they see you are defenceless."
Armstrong was still smiling, the same being a smile not pleasant to see.
"Now that I've got you going," he commented, "I've a curiosity to have you keep on. You're certainly stirring with a vengeance to-night, Darley."
"And accomplishing nothing. Strange as it may seem to you, I'm serious."
"I don't doubt it, old man." Of a sudden the smile had passed. "I can't adjust my point of view to yours at all. If I thought dollars were the end of existence I'd quit the game now. If the world has come to this—"
"The world hasn't come to it and never will. You simply can't or won't see the point. I repeat, that of themselves they're nothing, but they're the means to everything. Get your competency first, your balance-wheel, your independence, your established base of supplies; then plan your campaign. The world is big, infinitely big, to the human being who can command. It's a little mud ball to the other who has to dance whenever some one else whistles."
"And how about happiness, the thing we're all after?"
"It isn't happiness, but it's the means to it. There can be no happiness without independence."
"Even marital happiness?"
"That most of all. I tell you the lack of a sufficient income is the rock on which most married people go to pieces. It isn't the only one, but it's the most frequent. I've seen and I know."
"You'd drive our old friend Cupid out of business, Darley. You don't give him an inch of ground to stand on."
"On the contrary, I keep him in business indefinitely—"
"Moreover, the examples of the rich, scattered broadcast through the daily papers, hardly bear you out."
"They are the exception that proves the rule. Nine hundred and ninety-nine poor couples come to grief, and the world never hears of it. In the thousandth case a rich man and woman make fools of themselves and the world reads the scandal next morning. The principle is unaltered. The exceptions, the irresponsibles whether rich or poor, are something to which no rule applies."
"All right." Armstrong sat up, preventingly. "I don't want to argue with you. You're a typical lawyer and always ride me down by pure force of mass." He smiled. "Gentlemen of the law are invariably that way, Darley. Figuratively, you fellows always travel horseback while the rest of us go afoot, and if we don't hustle out of the way you ride us down without remorse."
Roberts was listening again in silence, with his normal attitude of passive observance.
"I'm feeling pretty spry, though, to-night," went on the other, "and able to get out of the way, so I'm going to get in close as possible and watch you. I've tried to do so before, but somehow I'm always side-tracked just at the psychological moment." The quizzical voice became serious, the flippant manner vanished. "Honestly, Darley, I can't understand you any more than you can me. You said a bit ago you wondered where I would end. I have the same wonder about you. Just what are you aiming at, old man, anyway? In all the years I've known you you've never come right out and said in so many words."
"You mean what do I intend to do that will make me famous or infamous, that will at least make me talked about?"
Armstrong laughed shortly. The shot was well aimed.
"I suppose that is approximately what I had in mind," he admitted.
"To answer your question then, directly, I don't intend to do anything. Nothing is further from my plans than to get a position where I'll be talked about."
"Just what do you want, then?"
"I want the substance, not the husk. I want to be the party that pulls the wires and not the figures that dance on the front of the stage. I want things done when I say they shall be done. I want the piper to play when I pass the word. I'm perfectly willing that others should have the honor and the glory and the limelight; but after the play is over I want to be the boy to whom the report is made and who gives directions for the next performance. Is that definite enough?"
"Yes, definite enough; but are you going to get there? You asked me the same question, you recall, a bit ago."
"Yes, if I live."
"And if you don't live?"
Again the shrug. "I shall have tried. I can tell Saint Peter that."
"I didn't refer to Saint Peter. I meant you yourself. Where is your own justification except in the attainment of the end?"
"Justification!" Roberts leaned suddenly forward, his attitude no longer that of an observer but of a participant, one in the front of the charge. "The game is its own justification, man! Things don't have to be done with two hundred bright young students watching and listening to be worth while, my friend."
Armstrong shifted uncomfortably, then he tacked.
"Just one more question, a repetition again of your own. Have you the attainment of this object you suggest definitely in sight? You're older than I and have been playing the game some time yourself."
"I think so."
"Do you know so?"
"As nearly as a man can know anything that hasn't come to pass."
"Just how, Darley? I'm absolutely in the dark in regard to your deals and I'm curious to know the inside. You've got something particular in mind, I know, or you wouldn't speak that way."
For the first time in minutes Roberts looked at the other, looked steadily, blankly.
"I'm sorry genuinely, Armstrong, but I can't tell you now. Don't misunderstand, please. I'd tell you if I were not under obligation; but I'm not at liberty yet to say." His glance left the other's face. "I trust you understand."
"Yes, certainly." The voice was short. "No offence, I'm sure."
That there was offence was obvious, yet Roberts made no further comment or explanation.
For perhaps a minute there was silence; in characteristic change of thought absolute Armstrong shifted.
"As long as we're in the confidant business," he digressed, "there's still one question I'd like to ask, Darley. Elice and I have been intimate now for a number of years. I've asked you repeatedly to call with me and you've always refused. Even yet you've barely met her. I quote you by the yard when I'm with her, and, frankly, she's—curious why you stay at arm's length. Between yourself and myself why is it, Darley?"
Roberts laughed; an instant later the light left his face.
"You know I have few women acquaintances," he said.
"I know, but this particular case is different."
"And those I do have," completed the other, "are all securely married."
"I don't mean that," smiled Roberts, "and you know I don't. I'm not fool enough to fancy I'm a charmer. The explanation, I believe, is in my ancestry. I think they must have been fishes too, and instinct warns me to avoid bait. It's my own peace of mind I'm considering and preserving, friend Armstrong."
"Peace of mind!" the other laughed. "From you that's good, Darley. But the tape line—"
"Can't you find it?"
"I confess—You think there is a time then, after all, when it pays?"
"Do you fancy I show signs of feeble-mindedness?"
"No, emphatically not; but—Jove, you are human then after all! I begin to have hope."
Roberts stifled a yawn, a real yawn.
"I think I'll turn in," he said.
"Just a moment, Darley. I feel as though I'd discovered a gold mine, and I want to blaze its location before departing. Just when, with your philosophy, do you contemplate taking this important leap among the attached?"
Roberts looked at his companion in silence.
"Pardon me, Darley," swiftly, "that was flippant, I admit, but I'm really serious."
"Serious? I'll take you at your word. It'll be when I mean business, not pastime. Stretch the tape if you wish. There are some things it doesn't pay to play with. It'll be when I can give a woman the things, the material things, she wants and demands to make her happy and contented. The world is artificial, and material things are its reflection. When I can make the woman who chooses to marry me pass current anywhere, when I can be the means of giving her more pleasure, more opportunity, more of the good things of life than she has known before, then, when I know, not hope, this,—and not a minute before—Does that answer your question?"
"Yes; that's clear enough, I'm sure—the implication, too, for that matter." The speaker yawned, unnecessarily it seemed, for his look was keen. "By the way, though, you haven't given me a satisfactory explanation for avoiding Elice. She's attached practically, not unattached; and I personally want you to know her. I think it would make you understand some things you don't understand now. You might even approve of—dangling. What do you say, will you go out with me some evening or will you have another engagement as usual? I shan't suggest it again, Darley."
Standing, as he had risen a moment before, Darley Roberts looked down at the speaker steadily, the distinctive half-smile of tolerant analysis upon his lips. He laughed outright as though to clear the atmosphere.
"Certainly I'll go, Armstrong, if you wish. It never occurred to me before that you took it that way. I had supposed that you and Elice were an example of two being a company and three making a crowd; also, to change the simile, that previously your invitations were the proverbial crumbs of charity. I'll be pleased to go any time you wish."
"All right." Armstrong too had risen. "How about Sunday evening next week? Elice will be back Saturday."
"A week from Sunday; I shall not forget."
With the attitude of a big healthy animal, a bit sleepy now, Roberts stretched himself luxuriously, then started for his own room adjoining, calling back, "Good-night."
Armstrong watched him in silence until the other's hand was on the knob.
"Good-night," he echoed absently.
"What is it, Elice? You're transparent as spring water. Out with it."
"Out with what, Steve?"
"The secret information of vital importance that you're holding back with an effort for a favorable moment to deliver. The present isn't particularly dramatic, I'll admit, but it's the best circumstances permit."
"You're simply absurd, Steve; more so than usual."
"No, merely ordinarily observant. I've known you some time, and the symptoms are infallible. When you get that absent, beyond-earth look in your eyes, and sit twisting around and around that mammoth diamond ring your uncle gave you on your sixteenth birthday—Come, I'm impatient from the toes up. Who is engaged now?"
"No one, so far as I know."
"Married, then; don't try to fool me."
"Who told you, Steve Armstrong?"
"No one." The accompanying laugh was positively boyish. "I knew it was one or the other. Come, 'fess up. I'll be good, honest."
"You get younger every day, Steve," grudgingly. "If you keep on going backward people will be taking me for your mother soon instead of—merely myself."
"You shouldn't go away then, Elice. I'm tickled sick and irresponsible almost to have you back. I'm not to blame. But we're losing valuable time. I'm listening."
"You swear that you don't know already—that you aren't merely making fun of me?"
"On my honor as full professor of chemistry. I haven't even a suspicion."
"I wonder if you are serious—somehow I never know. I'll risk it anyway, and if you're just leading me on I'll never forgive you, Steve, never. It's Margery."
"Margery! The deuce it is—and Harry Randall, of course."
"Certainly. Who'd you think it was: Professor Wilson with his eight children?"
"Now I call that unkind, Elice. After all the interest I've shown, too! Honest, though, I am struck all in a heap. I never dreamed of such a thing—now."
The result of the revelation was adequate and Miss Gleason relented.
"It was rather 'sudden,' as they say. No one knew of it except their own families."
"Sudden! I should decidedly say so. I certainly thought they at least were to be depended upon, were standbys. When did it happen?"
"Last evening. Agnes Simpson just told me before you came."
"She did, did she? I thought she looked wondrous mysterious when I met her down the street. It was justifiable, though, under the circumstances. I suppose they, the Randalls, have gone away somewhere?"
"No; that's the funny part of it. They haven't gone and aren't going."
"Not at all?"
"No. I'm quoting Agnes."
"And why aren't they going? Did Agnes explain that?"
"Steve, you're horrid again."
"No; merely curious this time. Agnes is something of an authority, you'll admit."
"Yes; I guess I'll have to admit that. I didn't ask her, though, Steve Armstrong. She suggested gratis—that Harry couldn't afford it. They went into debt to buy furnishings for the house as it was."
"I don't doubt it. History pays even less than chemistry, and the Lord knows—No; I don't doubt it."
"Knows what, Steve?"
"Who knows what?"
"The one you suggested."
"Oh! I guess you caught the inference all right. No need to have put it in the abstract. We professors of the younger set are all in the same boat. We'd all have to go into debt under like circumstances."
Elice Gleason meditated.
"But Harry's been a full professor now a long time," she commented; "two years longer than you."
"And what difference does that make? He just lives on his salary."
"Is that so? I never thought of it that way. I don't think I ever considered the financial side before at all."
Armstrong looked his approval.
"I dare say not, Elice; and I for one am mighty glad you didn't. Life is cheap enough at best without adding to its cheapness unnecessarily."
The girl seemed scarcely to hear him, missing the argument entirely.
"I suppose, though," she commented reflectively, "when one does think of it, that it'll be rather hard on Margery to scrimp. She's always had everything she wants and isn't used to economizing."
Armstrong sat a moment in thought. He gave his habitual shrug.
"She should have thought of that before the minister came," he dismissed with finality. "It's a trifle late now."
"They've been putting it off for a long time, though," justified the girl, "and probably she thought—one has to cease delaying some time."
"Elice! Elice!" Armstrong laughed banteringly. "I believe you've got the June bug fluttering in your bonnet too. It's contagious this time of year, isn't it?"
"Shame on you, Steve!" The voice was dripping with reproach. "You always will be personal. You know I didn't mean it that way."
"Not a bit, honest now?"
"I say you ought to be ashamed to make fun of me that way."
"Well," reluctantly, "maybe I did just a bit. We too have been engaged quite a while."
"Almost as long as the Randalls."
The quizzical look left Armstrong's eyes, but he said nothing.
"And I suppose every woman wants a home of her own. It's an instinct. I think I understand Margery."
From out the porch of the Gleason cottage, shaded from the curious by its climbing rose-vines, the girl looked forth at the sputtering electric globe on the corner.
"And, besides, people get to talking and smiling and making it unpleasant for a girl after so long. It was so with Margery. I know, although she never told me. It bothered her."
"You say after so long, Elice. How long?"
"I didn't mean any particular length of time, Steve. There isn't any rule by which you can measure gossip, so far as I know."
"Oh, after a year, I suppose. It's about then that there's a comment or two sandwiched between the red and blue decks at bridge parties."
"And we've been engaged now three years. Do they ever sandwich—"
"How do I know. They don't do it to one's face."
"But Margery—you say they made it uncomfortable for her."
"Steve Armstrong," the voice was intentionally severe, "what possesses you to-night? I can't fancy what put that notion into your head."
"You did yourself," serenely, "just now. I never happened to stumble upon this particular continent before, and I'm intent on exploration and discovery. Honest, do they," he made an all-inclusive gesture, "talk about you and me?"
"I tell you they don't do those things to our faces."
"You're evading the question, girl Elice."
"They're not unpleasant intentionally."
"Still evasion. Out with it. Let's clear the air."
The girl drummed on the arm of her chair, first with one hand, then with the other. At last she looked the questioner fairly in the face.
"Frankly, Steve, they do; and they have for a year. But I don't mind. I didn't intend to say anything to you about it."
The look of the boy vanished from the other's eyes.
"I—see," he commented slowly.
"People are horrid that way, even people otherwise nice," amplified the girl. "As soon as any one they know has an—affair it immediately becomes public property. It's almost as bad as a murder case. The whole thing is tried and settled out of court."
The figure of the man settled down in his chair to the small of his back. His fingers locked over one knee.
"I suppose it was something of that kind Darley had in mind," he said.
"Darley Roberts? When?"
"We were talking about—similar cases a few days ago."
"You were?" There was just a shade of pique in the tone. "He must be a regular fount of wisdom. You're always quoting him."
"He is," tranquilly. "By the way, with your permission, he's going to call with me to-morrow night."
"With my permission!" The girl laughed. "You've solicited, and received, that several times before—and without result. I'm almost beginning to doubt the gentleman's existence."
"You won't much longer. I invited him and he accepted. He always does what he says he'll do."
"Very well," the voice was non-committal. "I'm always glad to meet any of your friends."
Armstrong warmed, as he always did when speaking of Darley Roberts.
"You will be when you know him, I'm sure. That's why I asked him to come. He's an odd chap and slow to thaw, but there isn't another lawyer in town, not even in the department, who's got his brains."
"They couldn't have, very well, could they?" evenly.
"I'll admit that was a trifle involved; but you know what I mean. He's what in an undergraduate they call a grind. The kind biographers describe as 'hewing forever to the line.' If we live and retain reasonably good health we'll hear of him some day."
"And I repeat," smilingly, "I've heard of him a great deal already."
Armstrong said nothing, which indicated mild irritation.
"Excuse me, Steve," said the girl, contritely. "I didn't mean to be sarcastic; that just slipped out. He has acted sort of queer, though, considering he's your room-mate and—I had that in mind. I am interested, however, really. Tell me about him."
Armstrong glanced at his companion; his gaze returned to his patent leather pumps, which he inspected with absent-minded concentration.
"I have told you before, I guess, about all I know. He's a good deal of an enigma to me, even yet."
"By the way, how did you happen to get acquainted with him, Steve?" From the manner spoken the question might or might not have been from genuine interest. "You've never told me that."
"Oh, it just happened, I guess. We were in the collegiate department together at first." He laughed shortly. "No, it didn't just happen either after all. I went more than half way—I recognize that now."
The girl said nothing.
"Looking back," continued the man, "I see the reason, too. He fascinated me then, as he does yet. I've had comparatively an easy enough sort of life. I was brought up in town, where there was nothing particular for a boy to do, and when it came college time my father backed me completely. Darley was the opposite exactly, and he interested me. He was unsocial; somehow that interested me more. I used to wonder why he was so when I first knew him; bit by bit I gathered his history and I wondered less. He's had a rough-and-tumble time of it from a youngster up." The voice halted suddenly, and the speaker looked at his companion equivocally. "Still interested, are you, Elice? I don't want to be a bore."
"I'll give you the story then as I've patched it together from time to time. I suppose he had parents once; but as they never figured, I infer they died when he was young. He came from the tall meadows out West straight to the University here. How he got the educational ambition I haven't the remotest idea; somehow he got it and somehow he came. It must have been a rub to make it. He's mentioned times of working on a farm, of chopping ties in Missouri, of heaving coal in a bituminous mine in Iowa, of—I don't know what all. And still he was only a boy when I first saw him; a great, big, over-aged boy with a big chin and bigger hands. The peculiar part is that he wasn't awkward and never has been. Even when he first showed up here green the boys never made a mark of him." Again the short expressive laugh. "I think perhaps they were a bit afraid of him."
"And he got right into the University?"
"Bless you, no; only tentatively. He had a lot of back work to make up at the academy. That didn't bother him apparently. He swallowed that and the regular course whole and cried for more." Armstrong stretched lazily. His hands sought his pockets. "I guess that's about all I know of the story," he completed.
"All except after he was graduated." It was interest genuine now.
"So you have begun to take notice at last," commented Armstrong, smilingly. "I'm a better raconteur than I imagined. When it comes to being specific, though, after he graduated, I admit I can't say much authoritatively. He'll talk about anything, ordinarily, except himself. I know of a dozen cases from the papers, some of them big ones, that he's been concerned in during the last few years; but he's never mentioned them to me. He seemed to get in right from the start. How he managed to turn the trick I haven't the slightest conception; he simply did. As I said before, he grows to be more of an enigma to me all the time."
Apparently the girl lost interest in the party under discussion; at least she asked no more questions and, dilatory as usual when not definitely directed, Armstrong dropped the lead. For a minute they sat so, gazing out into the night, silent. Under stimulus of a new thought, point blank, whimsical, came a change of subject.
"By the way," commented Armstrong, "I'm considering quitting the University and going into business, Elice. What do you think of the idea?"
"What—I beg your pardon, Steve."
The other repeated the question, all but soberly this time.
"Do you mean it, Steve, really, or are you just drawing me out?"
"Mean it!" Armstrong laughed. "Perhaps, and perhaps not. I don't know. What do you think of the notion, anyway?"
The girl looked at him steadily, a sudden wrinkle between her eyes.
"You have something special in mind, I judge, Steve; something I don't know about. What is it?"
"Special!" Armstrong laughed again, shortly this time. "Yes, I suppose so; though I didn't know it when I first asked the question. Now I'm uncertain—you take the suggestion so seriously. Graham, the specialty man, made me an offer to-day to go in with him. Five thousand dollars a year to start with, and a prospect of more later on."
The wrinkle between the girl's eyes smoothed. Her hands recrossed in her lap.
"You refused the offer, I judge," she said.
"No; that is, I told him I'd take the matter under advisement." Armstrong glanced at his companion swiftly; but she was not looking at him and he too stared out into the night. "I wanted to hear what you said about it first."
In the darkness the man's face colored.
"Elice, aren't you—ashamed a bit to doubt me?"
"No." She was looking at him now smilingly. "I don't doubt you. I know you."
"You fancy I refused point blank, without waiting to tell you about it?"
For the third time the girl's fingers crossed and interlocked. That was all.
"Elice!" The man moved over to her, paused so, looking down into her face. "Tell me, I'm dead in earnest. Don't you trust me?"
"I trust you absolutely, Steve; but that doesn't prevent my knowing you."
"And I tell you I took the matter under advisement."
"He persuaded you to. You refused at first even to consider it."
Smilingly she returned his injured look fair in the eyes. Still smiling, she watched him as in silence he recrossed slowly to his place.
"Yes, you're right—as usual," he admitted at last. "You do know me. Apparently all my friends know me, better than I know myself." He shrugged characteristically. "But you haven't answered my question yet. What do you think of my accepting?"
"I try never to think—about the useless. You won't accept."
"You may be mistaken, may compel me to against my best judgment."
"No, you won't do that. I shan't influence you in the least."
For answer Armstrong stood up, his hands deep in his pockets, his shoulders square. A minute perhaps he stood so. Once he cleared his throat. He sat down. An instant later he laughed—naturally, in genuine amusement.
"I surrender, Elice," he said; "foot, horse, and officers. I can succeed in deceiving myself, easily; but when it comes to you—" He dropped his hands hopelessly. "On the square, though, and between ourselves, do you want me to quit the University and accept this—job? It's a good lead, I realize."
"I'd rather not say either way," slowly. "I repeat that it's useless to disagree, when nothing would be gained."
"Disagree! We never disagree. We never have in all the time we've known each other."
"We've never discussed things where disagreement was probable."
"Maybe that's right. I never thought of it before." A pause. "Has that harmony been premeditated on your part?"
"Unconsciously so, yes. It's an instinct with me, I think, to avoid the useless."
Armstrong stared across the dim light of the porch. Mentally he pinched himself.
"Well, I am dumb," he commented, "and you are wonderful. Let's break the rule, though, for once, and thresh this thing out. I want your opinion on this Graham matter, really. Tell me, please."
"Don't ask me," repeated the girl. "You'd remember what I said—and it wouldn't do any good. Let's forget it."
"Of course I'd remember. I want to remember," pressed the man. "You think I ought to accept?"
A moment the girl hesitated; then she looked him fair.
"Yes," she said simply.
"And why? Tell me exactly why, please? You're not afraid to tell me precisely what you think."
"No, I'm not afraid; but I think you ought to realize it without my putting it in words."
Armstrong looked genuine surprise.
"I suppose I ought—probably it's childishly obvious, but—tell me, Elice."
"To put it selfishly blunt, then, since you insist, I think you ought to for my sake. If an income you can depend upon means nothing in particular to you you might consider what it would mean to me."
Unconsciously the lounging figure of the man in the chair straightened itself. The drawl left his voice.
"Since we have stumbled upon this subject," he said quietly, "let's get to the bottom of it. I think probably it will be better for both of us. Just what would it mean to you, that five thousand dollars a year?"
"Don't you know, Steve, without my telling you?"
"Perhaps; but I'd rather you told me unmistakably."
As before the girl hesitated, longer this time; involuntarily she drew farther back until she was completely hidden in the shadow.
"What it means to me you can't help knowing, but I'll repeat it if you insist." She drew a long breath. Her voice lowered. "First of all, it would mean home, a home of my own. You don't know all that that means because you're a man, and no man really does understand; but to a woman it's the one thing supreme. You think I've got one now, have had all my life; but you don't know. Father and I live here. We keep up appearances the best we can; we both have pride. He holds his position in the University; out of charity every one knows, although no one is cruel enough to tell him so. We manage to get along somehow and keep the roof tight; but it isn't living, it isn't home. It's a perpetual struggle to make ends meet. His time of usefulness is past, as yours will be past when you're his age; and it's been past for years. I never admitted this to a human being before, but I'm telling it to you because it's true. We've kept up this—fight for years, ever since I can remember, it seems to me. We've never had income enough to go around. I haven't had a new dress in a year. I haven't the heart to ask for it. Everything I have has been darned and patched and turned until it won't turn again. It isn't poverty such as they have on the East Side, because it isn't frank and open and aboveboard; but it's genteel poverty in the best street of the town: University Row. It's worse, Steve, because it's unadmitted, eternally concealed, hopeless. It isn't a physical hunger, but again a worse one: an artistic hunger. I'm a college graduate with letters on the end of my name when I choose to use them. I've mixed with people, seen the niceties of life that only means can give, couldn't help seeing them; and they're all beyond my reach, even the common ones. If I didn't know anything different I shouldn't feel the lack; but I do know. I'm not even to blame for knowing. It was inevitable, thrust upon me. I'm the hungry child outside the baker's window. I can look and look—and that is all."
The voice ceased. Frankly, unhesitatingly, the face came out of the shadow and remained there.
"I think you understand now what I mean, Steve, unmistakably. I suppose, too, you think me selfish and artificial and horrid, and I shan't deny it. I am as I am and I want things. To pretend that I don't would be to lie—and I won't lie to you whatever happens. I simply won't. We both know what your place in the University means; I perhaps better than you, because I've seen my father's experience. I don't often get bitter, but I come very near it when I look back and think how my mother had to plan and scrimp. I feel like condemning the whole University to the bottomless pit. I suppose Margery Randall would resent it if I told her so, but honestly I pity her; the more so because I've always envied her in a way. She's not used to denying herself anything, and there's bound to be a reckoning. It's inevitable, and then—I don't like to think of how it will be then. It's a tragedy, Steve, nothing more or less."
Opposite the man sat motionless in his place looking at her. All trace of his usual lounging attitude was absent. He was not even smoking. For almost a full minute after she was done he sat; then he arose abruptly. This time he did not offer to come over to her.
"So this is the way you feel," he commented at last, slowly. "It's a new phase of you entirely, Elice, that I admit; but at least I'm glad to know it." He thrust his hands deep into his pockets. "In plain English, you'd barter my position and ambition gladly for—things. Frankly I didn't think that of you, Elice, before. I imagined I knew you better, knew different."
Responsive, instinctively the girl started to rise. Her breath came quick. Swiftly following came second thought and she sank back, back into the shadow. She said nothing.
A moment the man waited, expecting an answer, a denial, something; when nothing came he put on his hat with meaning deliberation.
"I repeat I'm very glad you told me, though, even if I do have to readjust things a bit." He shrugged his shoulders. Despite the wounded egotism that was urging him on, it was the first real cloud that had arisen on the horizon of their engagement and he was acutely self-conscious. "Rest assured, however, that I shall consider your point of view before I say yes or no to Graham. Just now—" He halted, cleared his throat needlessly; abruptly, without completing the sentence or giving a backward glance, he started down the walk. "Good-night, Elice," he said.
"The trouble with you, Darley," said Armstrong, "is that you took your course in the University in too big doses. You went on the principle that if a little grinding is good for a man a perpetual dig must be a great deal better." He was in the best of humor this Sunday night, and smiled at the other genially. "A college course is a good deal like strychnine. Taken in small doses over a long period of time it is a great tonic. Swallowed all at once—you know what happens."
From her place in a big easy chair Elice Gleason watched with interest the result of the badinage, but Roberts himself made no comment.
"You started in," continued Armstrong, "to do six years' work in four—and did it. You were a human grinding machine and you ground very fine, that I'll admit; but in doing so you missed a lot that was more valuable, a lot that while it doesn't make credit figures in the sum total of university atmosphere."
"For instance?" suggested the other, laconically.
"Well, for one thing, you never joined a fraternity. I know," quickly, "that the frats are abused, as every good thing is abused, but fundamentally they're good. When it comes to humanizing a man, rounding him out, which is the purpose of college life, they're just as essential as a course in the sciences."
"Unfortunately," commented Roberts, drily, "the attitude of a student to the Greeks is a good deal like that of woman to man. She can't marry until she is asked. I was likewise never sufficiently urged."
"In that case," laughed Armstrong, "I'll have to acquit you on that count. There wasn't, however, anything to prevent you warming up socially. No student has to be asked to do that. You and Elice, for instance, took your courses at the same time. Normally you would have met at social doings on a hundred occasions; and still you have never really done so until to-night, several years after you were graduated. You can't square yourself on that score."
"No," acquiesced Roberts with judicial slowness; "and still a man with one suit of clothes and that decidedly frayed at the seams labors under appreciable social disadvantages even in a democratic university." He smiled, a tolerant, reminiscent smile. "I recall participating tentatively a bit early in my career, but the result was not entirely a success. My stock went below par with surprising rapidity; so I took it off the market."
Armstrong glanced at the listening girl swiftly. Purposely he was trying to draw the other man out—and for her benefit. But whatever the girl was thinking her face was non-committal. He returned to the attack.
"All right," he shifted easily; "we'll pass charge number two likewise. One thing at least, however, you'll admit you could have done. You might have taken up athletics. You were asked often enough, I know personally—nature did a lot for you in some things; and as for clothes—the fewer you have in athletics the better. You could have mixed there and warmed up to your heart's content. Isn't it so?"
This time Roberts laughed.
"I was engaged in athletics—all the time I was in the University," he refuted.
"The deuce you were! I never knew before—All right, I bit. How was that, Darley?"
"Simple enough, I'm sure," drily. "I venture the proposition that I sawed more wood and stoked more furnaces during my course than any other student that ever matriculated. I had four on the string constantly."
Armstrong sank back in his chair lazily.
"All right, Darley," he accepted; "when you won't be serious there's no use trying to make you so. I surrender."
"Serious!" Roberts looked at the younger man peculiarly. "Serious!" he echoed low. "That's just where your diagnosis fails, my friend. It's the explanation as well why I never did those 'other things,' as you call them, that students do and so humanize themselves." Involuntarily his eyes went to the girl's face, searched it with a glance. "It is, I suppose, the curse of my life: the fact that I can't be different. I seem to be incapable of digressing, even if I want to."
For answer Armstrong smiled his sceptical smile; but the girl did not notice. Instead, for the first time, she asked a question.
"And you still think to digress, to enjoy oneself, is not serious, Mr. Roberts?" she asked.
"No, emphatically not. I'm human, I hope, even if I haven't been humanized. I think enjoyment of life by the individual is its chief end. It's nature."
"But you said—"
"Pardon me," quickly; "I couldn't have made myself clear then. We're each of us a law unto himself, Miss Gleason. What is pleasure to me, perhaps, is not pleasure to you. I said I was never asked to join a fraternity. It's true. It's equally true, though, that I wouldn't have joined had I been asked. So with the social side. I wouldn't have been a society man if I'd had a new dress suit annually and a valet to keep it pressed. I simply was not originally bent that way. Killing time, politely called recreation, merely fails to afford me pleasure. For that reason I avoid it. I claim no credit for so doing. It's not consecration to duty at all, it's pure selfishness. I'm as material as a steam engine. My pleasure comes from doing things; material things, practical things. For a given period of time my pleasure is in being able to point to a given object accomplished and say to myself: there, 'Darley, old man, you started out to do it and you've done it.' Is that clear, Miss Gleason?"
"And if you don't accomplish it, what then?" commented Armstrong.
"I shall at least have tried," returned the other, carelessly. "I can call the attention of Saint Peter to that fact."
Armstrong leaned back farther in his chair. His eyes sought the ceiling whimsically.
"That would naturally bring up the old problem," he philosophized, "of whether it were better to attempt to do a thing and fail or not to make the attempt and retain one's self-confidence."
In her place the girl shifted restlessly, as though the digression annoyed her.
"To return to the starting point," she said, "you think the greatest pleasure in life is in action, not in passive sensation? We lazy folks—"
"Pardon me," interrupted Armstrong, "but I want to anticipate and enter an objection. Some of us aren't lazy. We're merely economical of our energies."
"We lazy folks," repeated the girl, evenly, "are sometimes inclined to think differently."
This time Roberts hesitated, his face a blank as he studied the two before him. Just perceptibly he leaned forward. His big hands closed on the chair arms.
"Are you really interested in hearing the definition of pleasure as I have formulated it for myself, Miss Gleason?" he asked; "I repeat, as I have formulated it for myself?"
Again Roberts hesitated, his face inscrutable, his body motionless as one asleep.
"Pleasure," he began low, "is power; conscious, unquestionable, superior power. In a small way we all experience it when we are hungry and have the ability to satisfy that hunger. The big animal feels it when the lesser animal is within its reach and the big animal knows it. The lover tastes it when he knows another returns that love completely, irresistibly—knows, I say. The student comprehends it when he is conscious of ability to solve the problem presented, to solve it unqualifiedly. The master of men realizes it when those in his command obey him implicitly; when his word is law. Pleasure is not necessarily an exercise of that power, in fact is not generally so; but it lies in the consciousness of ability to exercise it at will. For the big animal to annihilate the less would bring pain, not pleasure. Hunger satisfied is passivity, not pleasure. And so on down the list. Superior, conscious power exercised defeats its own purpose. It is, as men say, unsportsmanlike. Held in reserve, passive, completely under control, it makes of a human being a god. This to me is pleasure, Miss Gleason."
For a moment after he ceased speaking the room was quiet. Armstrong still sat staring at the ceiling; but the smile had left his lips. The girl was watching the visitor frankly, the tiny pucker, that meant concentration, between her eyebrows. Roberts himself broke the silence.
"You've heard my definition, Miss Gleason," he laughed; "and no doubt think me a savage or something of that kind. I shan't attempt to deny it if you do either. Just as a matter of curiosity and of interest, though, so long as the subject is up, I'd like to hear your own definition." Of a sudden he remembered. "And yours, too, Armstrong," he added.
The wrinkle vanished from the girl's forehead. She smiled in turn. An observer might have said she sparred for time. "After you, Steve," she accepted.
Armstrong shifted in his seat elaborately.
"This is indeed a bit sudden," he remarked in whimsical commonplace, "however—" His hands went into his pockets automatically. His eyes followed a seam on the paper overhead back and forth, before halting preparatorily.
"Pleasure with me," he began, "is not practical, but very much the reverse." His lips twitched humorously. "Neither has it reference to any superior power. I wouldn't give one single round penny, providing I had it, to be able to whistle and have a thousand of my fellows dance to the tune—against their wishes. If I could whistle so sweetly or so enchantingly that they'd caper nimbly because they wanted to, because the contagion was irresistible, then—" The whimsical look passed as suddenly as it had come. "Pleasure with me, I think," he continued soberly, "means appreciation by my fellow-men, in big things and in little things. I'm a kind of sunflower, and that is my sun. I'd like to be able to play marbles so well that the kids would stare in amazement; to fashion such entrancing mud pies that the little girls would want to eat them; to play ball so cleverly that the boys would always choose me first in making up sides; to dance so divinely that the girls would dream about it afterward; to tell so entertaining a story that men would let their cigars go dead while they listened, or under different circumstances the ladies would split their gloves applauding—if they happened to have them on; last of all, to write a novel so different and interesting that the reading public, and that means every one, would look on the cover after they'd turned the last sheet to see who the deuce did it; then trim the lamp afresh, loosen their collar comfortably and read it through again. This to me spells pleasure in capitals all the way through: plain appreciation, pure and simple, neither more nor less."
Again silence followed, but a far different silence than before. Of that difference the three in the room were each acutely conscious; yet no one made comment. They merely waited, waited until, without preface, the girl completed the tacit agreement.
"And pleasure to me," she said slowly, "means something different than it does to either of you. In a way, with you both pleasure is active. With me it's passive." She laughed shortly, almost nervously. "Maybe I'm lazy, I don't know; but I've worked so long that I'm weary to death of commonplace and repression and denial and—dinginess. I want to be a free individual and have leisure and opportunity to feel things, not to do them. I'm selfish, hopelessly selfish, morbidly selfish; but I am as I am. I'm like the plant that's raised in a cellar and can't leave because its roots are sunk there deep. I want to be transplanted perforce out into the sunshine. I'm hungry for it, hungry. I've caught glimpses of things beyond through my cellar window, but glimpses only. I repeat, I want to feel unhampered. I know pretty things and artistic things when I see them, and I want them: to wear, to live among, to look at. I want to travel, to hear real music, to feel real operas and know real plays—not imitations. I'm tired of reading about life and hearing about life. I want to live it, be a part of it—not a distant spectator. That is what pleasure means to me now; to escape the tyranny of repression and of pennies and be free—free!"
For the third time silence fell; a silence that lasted longer far than before, a silence which each was loth to break. While she was speaking, at first Armstrong had shifted about in his chair restlessly; at the last, his hands deep in his pockets, he had sat still. Once he had looked at her, peculiarly, the tolerant half smile still on his lips; but she had not returned the look, and bit by bit it vanished. That was all.
For a minute perhaps, until it became awkward at least, the silence lasted—to be broken finally by the girl herself. Slowly she arose from her seat and, tall, slender, deliberately graceful, came from her place in the shadow into the light.
"I'm a bit ashamed to have brought out the family skeleton and aired it to-night," she said evenly. Under drooping lids she looked from one face before her to the other swiftly. "I don't know why I did it exactly. I'm a bit irresponsible, I guess, to-night. We are all so, I think, at times." As deliberately as she did everything she took a seat. Her hands folded in her lap. "If you'll forget it I'll promise not to offend in the same way again." She smiled and changed the subject abruptly. "I see by the papers," she digressed, "that at last we're to have a trolley line in town. The same authority informs us as well that you are the moving spirit, Mr. Roberts."
"Yes." It was the ordinary laconic, non-committal man of business who answered. A pause, then a significant amplification. "This is the age of the trolley. There are a hundred miles of suburban lines contracted for as well. No one will recognize this country as it is now ten years hence."
"And this suburban line you speak of—I suppose you're the spirit back of that too?" queried the girl.
"Yes." This time there was no amplification.
"So that was what you had in mind the other night when we were talking,—what you wouldn't tell me," commented Armstrong, a shade frostily.
"One thing, yes." Roberts ignored the tone absolutely. "I was not at liberty to make the announcement at that time. The deal was just closed last night."
Armstrong made no further comment, but his high spirits of the early evening had vanished not to return, and shortly thereafter Roberts arose to go. Promptly, seemingly intentionally so, Armstrong followed. In the vestibule, his hat in his hand, by design or chance he caught the visitor's eye.
"Pardon me a moment," he apologized, "I—forgot something."
Perforce Roberts waited while the other man returned to the tiny library they had just vacated. The girl was standing within precisely as when they had left and, as Armstrong did not close the door, the visitor knew to a certainty that his presence as listener and spectator was intentional. It was all a premeditated scene, the climax of the evening.
"By the way, Elice," said the actor, evenly, "I've been considering that Graham offer carefully since I spoke to you about it the other night." He did not look at her but stood twirling his hat judicially in his hand. "I tried to convince myself that it was for the best to accept; but I failed. I told him so to-day."
There was a pause.
"Yes," suggested the girl.
"I hope you're not—disappointed, Elice."
Still another pause, appreciable, though shorter than before.
"No; I'm not disappointed," replied the girl then. At last Armstrong had glanced up and, without looking himself, the listener knew as well as though he had seen that the speaker was smiling steadily. "I'm not disappointed in the least, Steve."
It was ten minutes after three on the following afternoon when Stephen Armstrong, in the lightest of flannels and jauntiest of butterfly ties, strolled up the tree-lined avenue and with an air of comfortable proprietorship wandered in at the Gleason cottage. A movable sprinkler was playing busily on the front lawn and, observing that the surrounding sod was well soaked, with lazy deliberation he shifted it to a new quarter. As he approached the house a mother wren flitted away before his face, and at the new suggestion he stood peering up at the angle under the eaves for the nest that he knew was near about. Once, standing there with the hot afternoon sun beating down upon him, he whistled in imitation of the tiny bird's call; nothing developing, he mounted the steps and pulled the old-fashioned knocker familiarly.
There was no immediate response and he pulled again; without waiting for an answer, he dropped into the ever-convenient hammock stretched beside the door and swung back and forth luxuriously. Unconsciously, and for the same reason that a bird sings—because it is carelessly oblivious of anything save the happiness of the moment—he began whistling softly to himself: without definite time or metre, subconsciously improvising. Perhaps a dozen times he swung back and forth; then the whistling ceased.
"Anything doing at this restaurant this afternoon, Elice?" he plunged without preface. An expansive smile made up for the lack of conventional greeting. "I'm as hungry as those little wrens I hear cheeping up there somewhere."
The smile was contagious and the girl returned it unconsciously.
"I believe you're always hungry, Steve Armstrong," she commented.
"I know it. I was born that way."
"And you never grew up."
"Physically, yes, unfortunately. Otherwise—I'm fighting to the last ditch. I believe about three of those cookies you make—and, by the way, they're much better than mother used to manufacture—will fill the void. Don't you hear that cheeping?"
The girl hesitated, disappeared, and returned.
"Thank you, Elice. Sit down over there, please, where I can see you. It makes them taste better. That's right. Thank you, again. I'm going to pay my bill now by telling you your fortune. You're going to make a great cook."
"I wonder," said the girl, enigmatically.
"There's no question about it. And for good measure I'm going to retail the latest gossip. What, by the way and as a preliminary, do you suppose I've been doing all day?"
"It's vacation. Fishing, I presume."
"Stung! I did go fishing this morning—four o'clock, caught one too; but it was so small and innocent looking that I apologized and threw it back. That wasn't what I referred to, however. You'll have to guess again."
"I haven't the slightest idea."
"I'm compelled to assist you then. I've been helping the Randalls settle. Harry 'phoned me early this morning and wanted to know if I didn't desire to be useful; said he would exchange compliments sometime." A significant pause, then a reminiscent sigh. "Every vertebra in my spinal column aches with an individual and peculiar pain."
"They're really settled at last, are they?" inquired the girl, interestedly. "I can hardly wait to see how things look."
"I don't blame you for being curious, Elice," sympathized Armstrong. "I felt a bit the same way myself." A rueful grin. "Merely among ourselves, however, and as a word of advice between friends, you'd better curb your impatience for about a week longer."
"And why? You're darkly mysterious, as usual."
"Mysterious! Heavens, no; merely compassionate." He held up his hand for inspection. "Look at that blister. It's as big as a dime and feels like a prune. They're not done yet and they'd induce you to duplicate it if they ever got you into their clutches. So long as it's all in the family I think one blister is about sufficient. Better lay low for a week anyway."
"Steve," the voice was severe, "you're simply impossible. They'd never forgive you if they knew you talked that way."
"Yes, they would," easily. "I promised to come back and help complete the job." Of a sudden he laughed boyishly, reminiscently. "Seriously, Elice, I've had a memorable day." He laughed again. "Pardon me, but I've wanted to do that for hours and didn't dare. Such a mixture of furnishings as those two people have accumulated you never saw brought together under one roof before in your life."
"Mixture, how? I fail to see the joke."
"You will when you visit them, all right. I warn you in advance to be discreet." He looked at his companion with whimsical directness. "You see it was this way. They started out together to buy things, with Margery at the helm. She's not accustomed particularly to consider cost and went at the job with avidity. She's methodical also, you know, and began at the front door. In fancy she entered the reception hall, and the first need that appealed to her was a rug. She picked out one. It's Oriental, and a beauty: cost one hundred dollars if a cent. Next, in her mind's eye, she noticed the bare windows—curtains were required, of course. So she selected them. They're the real thing and two pairs—another hundred, I'll wager. Following came three or four big leather chairs—nothing better in town. I can fancy old Harry's heart sinking by this time; but he didn't say a word—yet. Margery took another spurt and went on to the living-room. In consequence another big rug—and another hundred withdrawn from circulation. A jolly big davenport—more curtains;—and then something happened. They told me so, but I didn't need to be told; for it was then that Harry butted in. They were bankrupt already, and he knew it. He simply had to call a halt. It's the funniest contrast I ever saw, and pathetic too; for from this point on the whole house is a nightmare. Cheap! he bought the cheapest things he could find and even then he got scared. By the time they got through the dining-room he must have been a nervous wreck, for the kitchen and upstairs furniture is second-hand, every stick and frying pan; and even then—" The humor left the speaker's face. "It's a shame to make fun of it, though, Elice. They're going to replace it all as soon as they can."
For a moment neither said anything.
"And Margery?" suggested the girl at last.
"That's where the little tragedy crops out. You see we began the way she had begun—at the front door. She was pleased as a boy with new boots at the reception hall. Still cheerful over the living-room. Non-committal in the diner. From there on Harry and I carted things upstairs and juggled with them alone and according to our own ideas."
For the second time there was silence; then, low-voiced, came another suggestion.
"He's game," admiringly. "He may be thinking a lot—I've no doubt he is; but he's not letting out a peep or making a sign. He pretended Margery was just tired out and bundled her out of doors under the trees. That's one thing they've got at least: a whole yard full of grandfather elms. He sort of looked at me cross-eyed while he was doing it to see if I caught on, but I was blind as a post. By the way, I nearly forgot to mention it, but you and I are invited there for dinner this coming Thursday—sort of a house-warming and appreciation of my efforts combined."
"For dinner, so soon?" The girl stared incredulously. "I don't believe Margery ever cooked a meal in her life."
"She isn't going to try to yet, she informed me, so be of good cheer. That sort of thing is all to come later on, with the replaced furniture. At present she's to have a maid and take observations." The speaker laughed characteristically. "I asked her if she referred to the sort of individual my mother used to call a hired girl, but she stuck to 'maid.' It seems they are to pay her six dollars a week. Hired girls only command four."
Elice Gleason joined in the laugh sympathetically. The other's good spirits was irresistible.
"You seem to have been gathering valuable data," she commented drily.
"I have indeed. I couldn't well help it. I was even forced into the conviction that it was intended I should so gather." He smiled into his companion's eyes whimsically. "They're deep, those Randalls. After all is said I fancy my assistance was acquired not so much from any desire to save as to point a valuable object lesson; scatter the contagion, as it were." He paused meaningly and smiled again. "Elice mine, we're in grave danger, you and I. That worthy pair have designs upon our future. They are in the position of a certain class, famed in adage, who desire company. The dinner is only another illustration of the same point."
Elice Gleason returned the smile, but quietly. She made no further comment, however, and the subject dropped.
In the hammock Armstrong swung back and forth in lazy well-being. Overhead the mother wren, a mere brown shadow, flitted in return over their heads. There was an instant's clamor from hidden fledglings, and silence as the shadow passed back once more into the sunshine. Watching through half-closed eyes, comfortably whimsical, Armstrong gazed into space where the shadow had vanished.
"What a responsibility the care of a family must be," he commented, "particularly in this hot weather. That wren certainly has my sympathy—and respect." He paused to give the swinging hammock a fresh impulse. "I wonder though," he drifted on, "that is, if it is permissible to tangle up a variety of thoughts, if it's any harder than it is to attempt to pull an idea out of one's self by the roots and work it up into readable form with the thermometer above ninety in the shade—I wonder."
Elice Gleason was observing him now, peculiarly, understandingly.
"How is the book coming, anyway, Steve?" she asked directly.
"Which book?" smilingly.
"The book, of course."
"They're all the books—or were at one time." A trace, the first, of irony crept into his voice. "To be specific, however, masterpiece number one has just completed its eighteenth round trip East, and is taking a deserved rest. Masterpiece number two is en route somewhere between here and New York, either coming or going, on its eleventh journey. Number three has only five tallies to its credit—but hope springs eternal. Number four, the baby, still adolescent, has temporarily halted in its growth while I succor a needy benedict friend in distress. I believe that covers the family."
The characterization was typically nonsensical; but, sympathetic, the listener read between the sentences and understood.
"Isn't the new one coming well?" she asked low. "Tell me, Steve, honest."
"Coming well, Elice! What a question to ask of probably America's foremost living writer!" The speaker was still smiling. "What reprehensible misgiving, suspicion even!" Sudden silence, wherein bit by bit the smile faded. Silence continued until in its place came a new expression, one that changed the boy's face absolutely, made it a man's face—and not a young one at that.
"Coming well, Elice?" he repeated. "Honest, as you say, I don't know." The hammock had become still, but the speaker did not notice, merely lying there looking up into the sunshine and the blue unseeingly. "Sometimes I think it is, and then again—if one could only know about such things, know, not hope—of course every writer in his own soul fancies—and his friends, for that matter, are just about as useful—" The speaker drew himself together with a shrug. For an instant his jaw locked decisively.
"I know I'm more or less irresponsible, as a rule, Elice," he analyzed swiftly, "and probably create the impression that I'm even more irresponsible than I am; but in this thing, at least, I'm serious. From the bottom of my soul I want to write well, want to. As I said before, sometimes I think I can—auto-intoxication maybe it is, I don't know—and I'm as happy as a child, or a god, or a bird, or any completely happy thing you can fancy. Then again, as it's been the past week, or the past month for that matter, I don't seem to be able to do anything new. On top of this everything I've already done fairly personifies and leers at me. I get so that I fairly hate myself for the utter failure that I am, that at least I have been so far. I get to analyzing myself; I can't help it, and the result isn't pleasant. I've been doing so lately. I don't overestimate myself in the least, Elice girl. Practically, commercially, I'm a zero. I'm simply not built that way. If I'm ever of any use in the world, ever amount to anything whatever, it will be in an impractical, artistic way. Whether I'll ever win out so—oh, for light, for light!... Frankly, the new novel is going badly, Elice, cursedly bad!"
"I'm sorry, Steve. You know—"
"Yes, I know."
"I've believed always, and still believe—"
"Yes, I know that too."
"You've got it in you to win; I know it, and you know it. You've done good work already, lots of it, and—"
"Wade into him and lick him!" bitterly. "He's only three sizes larger than you are, and afraid—I know you can lick him. Wade in!"
The girl said nothing.
"Forgive me, Elice," with quick contrition. "That was nasty of me, I confess. But I'm sore to-day, raw. It's genius I suppose," sarcastically, "genius unappreciated."
Still the girl said nothing.
"If I could only get a ray of light, a lead, the flutter of a signal from outside the wall. But I keep hammering my head at it day after day, and it remains precisely as it was years ago when I began. It's maddening."
Yet the girl was silent, waiting silent.
"And, last of all, if I should eventually succeed, should break through into my own, as Darley Roberts says, even then—from any point of view it isn't a cheerful prospect."
"As Mr. Roberts says? What was that, Steve?"
"I referred to the reward, pecuniary reward. He figured it out in dollars and cents once when he wanted to bring me out of the clouds. Looking at it that way, there isn't much to the game even for the winners, Elice."
"Not much if you win? I can't believe it, Steve. I always supposed—"
"Everybody does. The public, the uninitiated, are long on supposing. Even the would-be's like myself delude themselves and build air castles until some hard-headed friend calls the turn. Then—no; there really isn't much in it, Elice; nothing in comparison to the plums in the business world. That job of Graham's, for instance, offers greater possibilities than success even, and when it comes to partial success or failure! It's a joke, the artistic temperament in this commercial twentieth century, a tremendous side-splitting joke! One nowadays should be born with suckers on his fingers, such as a fly has on its feet, so that whenever he came into the vicinity of a bank note it would stick fast. That would be the ideal condition, the greatest natural blessing, now!"
"You know you don't mean that, Steve. It's hot and you're out of the mood to-day—that's all. To-morrow will be different; you'll see things straight again."
"Thank you, Elice. You're right, as usual. I said I was raw to-day. It's boyish to be so too, I realize that. But it's hard sometimes, deucedly hard, when others are doing something and getting somewhere to see yourself standing still. One gets to thinking and imagining things that probably don't exist." He took a long breath. "It's this thing of imagination that's worse than reality. It crawls in between everything so; and somehow you can't keep it out. It gives one a scare." He laughed shortly, ill at ease. "It even makes one doubt a little the people one believes in most: take you and me, for instance. In my sane moments I know nothing could get between us; but sometimes I get to imagining—times like the last few days when I am—raw—that we're gradually drifting apart. A little difference of opinion comes up and imagination magnifies until it becomes a mountain and—I know I'm preposterous, Elice, and there's nothing really to it, but the thing's been on my mind and I wanted to tell you and get it out of my system." He had hurried on, leading up to the point, making the situation deliberately. Now he turned to her, smiling frankly. "It's preposterous, isn't it, Elice? Tell me so. I like to hear you say it."
"Preposterous, Steve?" The girl returned the look, but for some reason, probably one she herself could not have told, she did not smile. She merely looked at him, steadily, unwaveringly. "I have never thought of the possibility before, never questioned. Certainly nothing has come between us. To imagine—I never imagine the unpleasant, Steve."
The figure in the hammock shifted restlessly, as though but half satisfied.
"And nothing ever will, Elice?" he pressed. "Say that just to please me. I think an awful lot of you, girl; so much that at times I'm afraid."
This time the girl smiled, quietly, very quietly.
"And I of you, Steve," she echoed. "Must I protest that?"
"No," swiftly, "not for an instant. I don't doubt, mind.... It's all that cursed imagination of mine. I was only thinking of the future. If things shouldn't come my way, shouldn't—I put it at the worst possible—if by any chance I should remain a—failure such as I am now—you wouldn't mind—would overlook—it wouldn't make any difference at all with you and me, would it, Elice?"
"Steve, you mustn't say such things—mustn't, I say. It's morbid. I won't listen."
"But tell me," passionately, "what I asked. I want to hear you say it. I want to know."
For an instant the girl was silent, an instant that seemed minutes to the expectant listener. For the second time she met him eye to eye.
"Whether or not you become famous as a writer," she said slowly, "won't make any difference in the least. It's you I care for, Steve; you as you are now and nothing more." The voice paused but the eyes did not shift. "As for the future, Steve man, I can't promise nor can you. To do so would be to lie, and I won't lie. I say I love you; you as you are. If anything ever should come between us, should, I say—you suggested it and—persist—it will be because of a change in you yourself." For the second time she halted; then she smiled. "I think that's all there is to say," she completed.
"All!" With a buoyancy unfeigned the man swung out of the hammock upon his feet. "That's just the beginning. You're just getting under way, Elice."
"No," peremptorily; "all—for the present at least. It's four o'clock of the afternoon, you know, and the neighbors have eyes like—Look at the sun shine!... You've scared away the wren too, and the brood is hungry. Besides it's time to begin dinner. Cooks shouldn't be hindered ever." She turned toward the door decisively. "You may stay if you don't bother again," she smiled over her shoulder. "Meanwhile there's a new 'Life' and a July 'Century,'—you know where," and with a final smile she was gone.
Four months had drifted by; again the University was in full swing.
Of an evening in late October at this time, in the common living-room which joined the two private rooms in the suite occupied by himself and Darley Roberts, Stephen Armstrong was alone. It was now nearly eleven o'clock, and he had come in directly after dinner, ample time to have prepared his work for the next day; but as yet he had made no move in that direction. On the roll-top desk, with its convenient drop light, was an armful of reference books and two late scientific magazines. They were still untouched, however, bound tight by the strap with which they had been carried.
But one sign of his prolonged presence was visible in the room. That, a loose pile of manuscript alternately hastily scribbled and painfully exact, told of the varying moods under which it had been produced;—that and a tiny pile of cigarette stumps in the nearby ash-tray, some scarcely lit and others burned to a tiny stump, which had become the manuscripts' invariable companion.
For more than an hour now, however, he had not been writing. The night was frosty and he had lit the gas in the imitation fireplace. The open flame had proved compellingly fascinating and, once stretched comfortably in the big Turkish rocker before it, duty had called less and less insistently and there he had remained. For half an hour thereafter he had scarcely stirred; then, without warning, he had risen. On the mantel above the grate was a collection of articles indigenous to a bachelor's den: a box half filled with cigars, a jar of tobacco, a collection of pipes, a cut-glass decanter shaded dull red in the electric light. It was toward the latter that he turned, not by chance but with definite purpose, and without hesitation poured a whiskey glass level full. There was no attendant siphon or water convenient and he drank the liquor raw and returned the glass to its place. It was not the quasi-aesthetic tippling of comradery but the deliberate drinking of one with a cause, real or fancied, therefor and for its effect; and as he drank he shivered involuntarily with the instinctive aversion to raw liquor of one to whom the action has not become habitual. Afterward he remained standing for a moment while his eyes wandered aimlessly around the familiar room. As he did so his glance fell upon the pile of text-books, mute reminder of a lecture yet unprepared, and for an instant he stood undecided. With a characteristic shrug of distaste and annoyance, of dismissal as well, he resumed his seat, his slippered feet spread wide to catch the heat.
Another half-hour passed so, the room silent save for the deliberate ticking of a big wall clock and the purr of the gas in the grate; at last came an interruption: the metallic clicking of a latch key, the tramp of a man's feet in the vestibule, and Darley Roberts entered. A moment after entering the newcomer paused attentive, his glance taking in every detail of the all too familiar scene; deliberately, as usual, he hung up his top-coat and hat.
"Taking it comfortable-like, I see," he commented easily as he pulled up a second chair before the grate. "Knocked off for the evening, have you?"
"Knocked off?" Armstrong shrugged. "I hardly know. I haven't knocked on yet. I'm stuck in the mud, so to speak."
Roberts drew the customary black cigar from his waistcoat pocket and clipped the end methodically. As he did so, apparently by chance, his glance swept the mantel above the grate, and, returning, took in the testimony of the desk with its unopened text-books and pile of scattered manuscript. Equally without haste he lit a match and puffed until the weed was well aglow.
"Any assistance a friend can give?" he proffered directly. "We all get tangled at times, I guess. At least every one I know does."
Armstrong's gaze left the fire and fastened on his companion peculiarly.
"Do you yourself?" he asked bluntly.
"That's news. I fancied you were immune. What, if I may ask, do you do at such times to effect your release?"
"Go to bed, ordinarily, and sleep while the mud is drying up. There's usually a big improvement by morning."
"And when there isn't—"
Roberts smiled, the tight-jawed smile of a fighter.
"It's a case of pull, then; a pull as though Satan himself were just behind and in hot pursuit. Things are bound to give if one pulls hard enough."
Armstrong's face returned to the grate. His slippered feet spread wider than before.
"I'm not much good at pulling," he commented.
Roberts sat a moment in silence.
"I repeat, if I can be of any assistance—" he commented. "No butting in, you understand."
"Yes, I understand, and thank you sincerely. I doubt if you can help any though—if any one can. It's the old complaint mostly."
"Publishers who fail to appreciate, I gather."
"And what more, may I ask?"
Armstrong stretched back listlessly, his eyes half closed.
"Everything, it seems, to me to-night, every cursed thing!" Restless in spite of his seeming inertia he straightened nervously. His fingers, slender almost as those of a woman, opened and closed intermittently. "First of all, the manuscript of my new book came back this morning, the one I've been working on for the last year. The expressman delivered it just after you left. That started the day wrong. Then came a succession of little things. Breakfast, with coffee stone-cold, and soggy rolls; I couldn't swallow a mouthful. Afterward I cut myself shaving, and I was late for lecture, and there was no styptic in the house, and I got down to my class with a collar looking as though I'd had my throat cut. The lecture room was chilly, beastly chilly, and about half the men had colds. Every twentieth word I'd say some one would sneeze and interrupt. On top of this one chap on the front row had neglected to complete his toilet and sat there for half an hour manicuring his nails, every blessed one of the ten; I counted them, while I was trying to explain proximal principles. At noon we had some more of that abominable soup with carrots in it. Carrots! I detest the name and the whole family; and we've had them every day now for a week. After lunch another big thing. I'd applied for position as lecturer in the summer school, applied early. The president met me to-day and remarked casually, very casually, that the man for the place had already been selected. He was very sorry of course, but—Back at the department I found that Elrod, one of my assistants, was sick, and of necessity I had to take his place in the laboratory. Inside half an hour some bumpkin dropped an eight-ounce bottle of sulphuretted hydrogen. It spattered everywhere—and the smell! I feel like holding my nose yet. Later the water got stopped up, and for love or money no plumber—" The speaker paused, his shoulders lifted eloquently. "But what's the use of itemizing. It's been the same all day long, one petty rasp after another. To cap the climax Elice is out of town. She's got an English class in a high-school in a dinky little burg out about twenty miles and goes out there every Thursday. I forgot this was the day until I pulled the knocker. That's all, I guess, except that I'm here."