E-text prepared by Al Haines
THE MAYOR OF WARWICK
HERBERT M. HOPKINS
Author of "The Fighting Bishop"
[Frontispiece: "Have you noticed how silent it has grown?" he asked.]
Boston and New York Houghton, Mifflin and Company The Riverside Press, Cambridge 1906 Copyright 1906 by Herbert M. Hopkins All Rights Reserved Published April 1906
I. THE MEETING IN THE MAPLE WALK II. THE TOWER III. CARDINGTON IV. THE BISHOP'S DAUGHTER V. THE CANDIDATE VI. LENA HARPSTER VII. THE STAR-GAZERS VIII. "WHAT MAKES HER IN THE WOOD SO LATE?" IX. "HER HEART WAS OTHERWHERE" X. MISTRESS AND MAID XI. AT THE OLD CONTINENTAL XII. THE CONFESSION XIII. FURNITURE AND FAMILY XIV. THE PRESIDENT TAKES A HAND XV. "I PLUCKED THE ROSE, IMPATIENT OF DELAY" XVI. THE BLINDNESS OF THE BISHOP XVII. CONDITIONS XVIII. "TWO SISTER VESSELS" XIX. FATHER AND DAUGHTER XX. "PUNISHMENT, THOUGH LAME OF FOOT" XXI. THE MAYOR FINDS HIMSELF AT LAST
THE MAYOR OF WARWICK
THE MEETING IN THE MAPLE WALK
St George's Hall, situated on a high hill overlooking the city of Warwick, was still silent and tenantless, though the long vacation was drawing to a close. To a stranger passing that way for the first time, the building and the surrounding country would doubtless have suggested the old England rather than the new. There was something mediaeval in the massive, castellated tower that carried the eye upward past the great, arched doorway, the thin, deep-set windows, the leaded eaves and grinning gargoyles, into the cool sky of the September morning.
The stranger, were he rich in good traditions, would pause in admiration of the pure collegiate-gothic style of the low hall that extended north and south three hundred feet in either direction from the base of the great tower; he would note the artistry of the iron-braced, oaken doors, flanked at the lintels by inscrutable faces of carven stone, of the windows with their diamonded panes of milky glass peeping through a wilderness of encroaching vines. Nor would this be all. Had he ever viewed the quadrangles of Oxford and Cambridge, he might be able to infer that here, on this sunny plateau above the hill, devoted men, steept in the traditions of old England, had endeavoured to reproduce the plan of one of her famous colleges.
He would see, perhaps, that only one side of the quadrangle was built, one fourth of the work done. Here, along the northern line, should be the chapel, its altar window facing the east; on the southern, the dining-hall, adorned with rafters of dark oak and with portraits of the wise and great. To complete the plan, the remaining gap must be closed by a hall similar in style to the one already built.
He might picture himself standing in the midst of this beautiful creation of the imagination, taking in its architectural glories one by one, until his eye paused at the eastern gateway to note the distant landscape which it framed. And then, if he were in sympathy with the ideals of which this building was the outward expression, he would wake from his constructive reverie to realise sadly for the first time, not the beauty, but the incompleteness, of the institution; not its proximity to the city beyond, but its air of aloofness from the community in which it stood.
About ten o'clock of the morning in which this story begins, a stranger, not quite such an one as we have imagined, left the car at the foot of the long hill and turned his face for the first time towards St. George's Hall. As he passed up the shaded street along the northern side of the campus, his keen, blue-grey eyes swept eagerly the crest on which stood the institution that was destined to be the scene of his professional labours for at least a year, perhaps for many years, it might be, for life. Even a casual glance at the tall, loosely hung figure of the young man, at his clean-cut features and firm mouth, at the nervous, capable hand that grasped his walking-stick as if it were a weapon, would reveal the type claimed by America as peculiarly her own. It was evident that he possessed energy and endurance, if not the power of the athlete. His expression was intellectual, and shrewd almost to hardness; yet somewhere in his eyes and in the corners of his mouth there lurked a suggestion of sweetness and of ideality, that gave the whole personality a claim to more than passing interest and regard.
This curious blending of opposite traits, of shrewdness and of ideality, was illustrated by his thoughts as he strode along, making no more of the hill than he would have made of level ground. Nothing escaped his eye or failed of its impression upon his mind. Fresh from the teeming life of a large university, he noted the absence of students from the steps of the fraternity houses on his right, though it lacked but three days of the opening of the college. Already his own university had felt the first wave of the incoming class, a class that would doubtless contain four times as many students as the total membership of St. George's Hall. Instinctively he searched his mind for an explanation of this lack of growth in an institution that numbered nearly one hundred years of life. What was the defect? Where was the remedy? He jumped at once to the conclusion that both were discoverable, and dimly foresaw that the discovery might be his own.
He approached the scene where he was himself to be on trial in the spirit of one who questioned, not his fitness for the place he was to occupy, for of that he had no shadow of doubt, but the fitness of the place for him. If he saw promotion, perhaps the presidency, within his grasp, he might deem it worth his while to stay; if not, his professorship should be a stepping-stone to something better. With the history, the traditions, and the ideals of the Hall he was but slightly acquainted; in fact, the institution existed for him at present only in its relation to himself and his possible future.
And yet, beneath these thoughts of self ran a current of feeling or impressions which never rose high enough in his consciousness to win definite recognition. If his first view of the college was depressing because of the failure of fruition its appearance suggested, he was not utterly unappreciative of the pictorial effect: the splendid lines of dignity and beauty; the soft brown colour of the stone, relieved by the lighter tone of lintel and window-frame and sill; the dark green of the ivy; the great, black shadow of the tower on the slated roof where every jutting dormer window threw its lesser shade; the wide sky beyond, of a blueness which an artist would have wished to paint.
From the meadow below the plateau came the tinkle of cow-bells, musical in the distance; and this sound, combined with the note of a bird and the voices of children from an unseen garden, produced an Arcadian atmosphere which even the harsh gong of the returning electric car could not dispel.
As he climbed higher, the houses fell away, disclosing the bare hilltop over which the road seemed to dip down and disappear; and though he knew it could not be so, he was half expectant of the sea when he should have lifted his head above the verge. Instead, he saw a wide and shallow valley, rich in the varied products of the autumn, with here and there a bare, reaped field, with many a white farmhouse and barn of red or grey, till his eye followed the road to the western hill line and noted a patch of small, white objects which might be a group of boulders left by a prehistoric glacier, or the houses of a distant town.
The view on the east, when he turned and faced in the direction from which he had come, was one of greater interest and of no less beauty. In the immediate foreground the city of Warwick, in which he had passed the previous night, thrust its smoking factory chimneys, its spires and towers, above the shining roofs and lofty elms. But the final element of charm was found in a broad and sinuous river, blue as the reflected sky, which flowed past the city's wharves, under a fine stone bridge, and on through woodland and ploughed land to the sea. Small wonder that he now forgot for a moment his own ambitions and plans, and thought only that St. George's Hall lifted its head within an earthly paradise!
The building, seen from the end, presented the same extraordinary change that is to be noted when a long ocean steamship which has been trailing across the horizon turns, shrinks, and comes bow on. In some such proportion to its length was the width of the Hall; but the tower, viewed from any angle, was still magnificent. With its four supporting turrets it appeared rather a group of towers than a single structure.
His immediate curiosity satisfied, the young man now exchanged the bright sunlight of the open for the comparative gloom of two long lines of maples, which flanked a narrow board walk from the street to the college. There was a prophecy of winter in the red and yellow leaves that dropped slowly downward one by one, or descended in rustling showers as a sudden gust of wind seized the thin branches and shook them against the sky.
And now, as if to personify the spirit of the place, he saw the figure of a young woman enter the walk from the other end, apparently from the college building. As they approached each other, he noted the fact that she was without hat or gloves, like a lady walking at ease through her own estate, and he guessed that she had some peculiar proprietary right in the premises. For one moment, in passing, he was startled to encounter a cool and observant gaze; then her eyes dropped to the collection of leaves which she held in her hands, as if she resumed an interrupted study of their harmonious shades.
He divined, after he had passed her by, that she had seen him from the moment they entered the opposite ends of the walk; and though he could not recall distinctly a feature of her face, he carried with him an impression of charm and colour singularly in unison with the season of the year. Moreover, her gaze, though momentary, was cumulative in its remembered effect, so that he presently turned and looked curiously after her retreating figure.
She had now emerged from the shadow of the trees into the sunlight of the open street beyond, where she stood looking westward, as if minded to continue her walk into the country. Even from that distance he could see how the unobstructed wind struggled with her slender figure, so that she leaned against it in resistance. As if persuaded by its force to change her plan, she turned slowly, released the leaves with a gesture of surrender, gathered her skirts in one hand, and with the other raised to her loosened hair she began to descend the hill.
The young man stood still until she had disappeared, smitten by an inexplicable sense of the fatality of that meeting. Verging upon the sixth lustrum of his age, he had passed through that vernal period when the face of every woman of more than ordinary charm suggested possibilities of the heart's adventure. With him the main business of life was no longer the seeking of a mate. All books, all arts, all accomplishments, had ceased to seem merely the accessories and the handmaidens of love. Yet never in those days of searching and romance had he been so attracted by a passing face. Beauty alone would have left him cold. The impression he received was far more rich, an impression to which the circumstances of the encounter gave a peculiar emphasis. The adventure seemed a possible keynote of the future, and there was an element of vague disquiet in his hope that he might meet her again, an element akin to fear.
Llewellyn Leigh found himself upon the wide stone flagging in front of the Hall before he awoke to a realisation of another meeting, now imminent, whose importance was far less conjectural than that upon which his fancy would fain have lingered.
The personality of the president of a large university might be a matter of indifference to a young instructor, inconspicuous among his many colleagues; but to be transferred to a full professorship in a small college was to come into close, daily contact with the ruling power, a contact from which there was no escape, in which instinctive likes and antipathies might make or mar a career. At this thought the young man began to speculate with some intensity upon the personality indicated thus far to his mind only by the name of Doctor Renshaw.
The very silence of the Hall, which impressed him now not so much by its beauty as by its solidity and height, invested the presiding genius of the place with something of sphinxlike mystery. The very faces of the gargoyles, impenetrable and calm, or grinningly grotesque, gave the fancy visible outward expression. One monster in particular, with twisted horns and impish tongue lolling forth between wide, inhuman teeth, seemed to look upon him with peculiar and malicious amusement. He experienced the spiritual depression which sometimes seems to emanate from inanimate things, that mood of self-distrust, that assurance of being unwelcome, which makes the coming to a strange city where one's fortunes are to be cast an act requiring courage. Seen close at hand, the college lost something of that inviting charm with which a distant view invested it. Though the length of the corporate life of the institution was not unimpressive from an American standpoint, the present building was comparatively recent. A thirty years' growth of ivy was scarcely able to atone for the unencrusted newness of the stones beneath. There was none of that narcotic suggestion of grey antiquity which in Oxford or Cambridge rebukes and stills a personal ambition.
Beyond each small doorway he saw a flight of stone stairs vanishing into the obscurity, and through the open windows he caught glimpses of decorations on the walls, the flags and signs and photographs which everywhere represent the artistic standards of the average undergraduate.
But a compensating surprise was presently in store. As he passed the tower, he heard the deep notes of a pipe organ; the open diapason and flutes of the great, the reeds of the swell, piled one upon another in a splendid harmony. He looked up and saw the lengthened windows that indicated the location of the chapel, which apparently extended the full height of the building. The musician within added a two-foot stop, the final needed element of brilliancy, crowning the edifice of sound his fingers had reared, so that now the music seemed to burst through the half-open windows and to shake the vines upon the wall. Lover of music as he was, this unexpected and triumphant symphony made a peculiar appeal to Leigh's imagination. Through it, as through a golden mist, he saw the drama of life sublimated, himself an actor of dignity and worth; and a few moments later he entered the president's office with a poise in which there remained no trace of anxious conjecture.
A figure rose to greet him as he entered, and though he was himself a tall man, the other loomed above him in the comparative twilight of the room, until he seemed to assume colossal proportions. Then Leigh realized that it was not the height of the man, but his bearing, that gave such significance to the inch or two between them. His grey hair alone suggested years; he held his shoulders like a man of forty. He removed his glasses deliberately, put them on the pile of papers beside him, and stood waiting. There was a courteous enquiry in his very attitude, although as yet he spoke no word. His head was tilted slightly backward, and his smile might have seemed almost inane in its width and in the impression of permanency which it conveyed, were it not for the intellectuality of the brow, the force of the fine aquiline nose, and the watchful perspicacity of the deepset eyes.
"This is Doctor Renshaw, I believe," said Leigh tentatively.
"Doctor Renshaw is here," returned the other, indicating by a slight gesture a figure seated at the far end of the table, which now arose and came toward them. "Doctor, I venture to assume that I have the pleasure of making you acquainted with Mr. Leigh, our new professor of mathematics."
His words were distinctly spoken, but pitched in so low a tone that they produced an odd effect, as of purring.
It was now that Leigh discovered his mistake. The man whom he had taken for the president was Bishop Wycliffe, and it required but five minutes of conversation to show him that the bishop, not the president, was the significant personality.
Doctor Renshaw might have been anywhere in the afternoon of life, and one felt instinctively that his sunset had antedated his meridian. He was like those ancients, spoken of with such disapproval by Cicero, who began to be old men early that they might continue to be old men for a long time. His value to the institution he had served so long, and his safety in his position, lay in the possession of negative qualities. His silence was interpreted as an indication of wisdom, and the firmly cut features of his inscrutable face would have served an artist as a personification of discipline. As he exchanged the conventional greetings the occasion demanded, he might even then have been standing for the portrait of himself that was one day to be added to those of his predecessors on the library wall; or he might have been one of the portraits already there that had stepped from its frame for a moment to take the newcomer by the hand.
In short, the thing of greatest significance in this meeting, the thing which made itself felt by all three participants, was the juxtaposition of the ancient and modern. The young man, clothed in a light grey suit, his soft hat crushed in the nervous grasp of his long fingers, a man whose scholastic training had been disassociated from religious traditions, now stood face to face with mediaevalism, with two elderly men in dark habiliments, as greatly superior to himself in that subtlety which finds its highest expression in the ecclesiastical type as he was superior to them in the acquisition of scientific truth.
Presently the bishop invited his young friend, as he already called the new arrival, to walk with him about the grounds. Doctor Renshaw, left alone, resumed his seat in the heavy oaken chair which had once belonged to the founder of blessed memory, his shining head round as a ball against the diamonded panes at his back, the framed plans of the St. George's Hall of the future looking down upon him. On the broad stone mantel rested an antique episcopal mitre of black cloth, decorated with ecclesiastical symbols in tarnished thread, and a tall clock of almost equal age stood silent in the corner, showing on its pale, round face the carven signs of the zodiac. These objects seemed the peculiar property of the solitary tenant of the room, rather than relics of a former time, so still he sat, so convincing was the changelessness of his decorous age.
Meanwhile the bishop was giving Leigh new light upon his status in St. George's Hall.
"I must tell you, Mr. Leigh,—for it is better to be frank always,—that your appointment is in the nature of an experiment. Doctor Renshaw engaged your services for a year while I was absent in Europe. I knew nothing of it until my return, though I have every reason to believe, in view of your excellent recommendations and family connections, that the choice was felicitous."
Leigh listened to these words, so kindly but decisively spoken, with an emotion of uneasiness not untouched by resentment. How premature his thought of the presidency now appeared, how slight his claims to consideration! He learned now definitely that the bishop was the real president of the college, and that Doctor Renshaw was a fairly negligible element in the situation. He divined also the proud and self-sufficient spirit of the place, a pride entirely independent of worldly success, of numbers and noise.
"To be equally frank, bishop," he returned, "I thought I had passed my professional probation."
"We are all on probation, always," said the bishop, with a suggestion of amused indulgence in his smile. "I am far from questioning your professional capacity, but an arrangement for one year leaves us both free to make other plans, in case we find that the adjustment is not as perfect as we could have wished. However, that is a future contingency. Quid sit futurum cras—you know the sentiment. If you leave us, it will doubtless be at your own volition and, like the man in the parable, for the purpose of taking a higher place."
He laid his hand affectionately on his companion's shoulder. "Now here," he continued, "is the southern boundary of the quadrangle."
Having outlined the architectural possibilities of the future, he pointed with his stick to the large bronze statue of the founder that stood on the eastern verge of the plateau, opposite the tower.
"There is only one defect," he remarked, "in that otherwise fine work of art. You observe that the bishop's hand is extended in blessing toward the college, with the palm downward. Did you ever know a bishop to hold out his hand in such a position?"
His air was that of a man who has turned from business to friendly and familiar discourse with a sense of relief. They visited in turn two red brick buildings placed at some distance beyond and below the sacred square, devoted to scientific and athletic pursuits. Leigh wondered whether their position symbolised their relative unimportance to the magnificent hall upon the hill, and indicated a grudging concession to the dominant scientific spirit of the times.
The bishop viewed the chemical apparatus with frank condescension. "This is Blake's laboratory," he explained. "He amuses himself here with experiments in odours. If people will give money for such purposes, I suppose we must take it."
As they climbed slowly back to the plateau, he went lightly from one subject to another. His gospel of affability had finally crystallized, until it seemed to be contained in the formula of the small anecdote whose point, as often as not, turned upon the foibles of men of his own profession. The effect upon his listener was to put him at his ease, and to remove entirely the impression which the bishop's explanation of his position had made upon his mind.
"And now we will look at something that more nearly concerns you," said the bishop, as they approached the tower. "This large arch, by the way, is to figure in the completed plan as a porte cochere. It can be opened right through the tower, as you may observe, and the roadway will then extend from the boulevard behind the college, across the campus, through the eastern wing, and down the slope to the city beyond."
Standing on the steps beneath the shadowing archway, Leigh caught a reflected glow of enthusiasm from his guide's prophetic gaze. He was stirred by an appreciation of the dream so grandly conceived, so imperfectly realized, by a divination of the long struggle and the many disappointments.
"I hope we may live to see it, sir," he said.
"You may—you may," the bishop replied, with a touch of sadness in his tone. It was like a melancholy echo of Horace's Postume, Postume. "But come," he added, waking from his reverie with an effort. "I can scarcely expect you to take as much interest in this subject as I do, as yet, though in time you may begin to dream of it, too. Our goal at present lies farther up."
He led the way to the second story, where open doors disclosed glimpses of tenantless rooms.
"Professor Cardington lives here," he remarked, "and you may have the opposite suite, if you like. The rooms are secluded and command a fine view in either direction. These are the only apartments in the tower, and they are ordinarily reserved for the bachelors of the faculty."
Leigh would fain have turned in to examine the rooms he then and there decided to accept, but the bishop continued to climb upward, and he was obliged to put aside his curiosity for the time. The stone stairs had now come to an end, and were replaced by stairs of iron, protected by a railing, which followed the walls through successive floors and past slits of windows that framed distant views of the sunny landscape below. At last they came to a door, which the bishop unlocked. There was one more flight of stairs, narrower and darker than the others. Then they raised a trapdoor and stepped forth upon the roof of the tower.
For a few moments the intense light of the noonday sun was dazzling, and they stood basking gratefully in the warmth that presented a striking contrast with the chill shadows from which they had emerged. Leigh observed that he stood upon a platform some fifty feet square, surrounded by a parapet that extended at least a foot above his head. This wall, however, did not shut out the prospect entirely, for the regular depressions of its castellated edge formed a series of embrasures through which it was possible for a man of average height to look out over the surrounding country. The tiled floor sloped slightly toward each corner, where apertures could be seen leading into four long stone troughs that spouted water in rainy weather. The enclosure collected and held both the light and the heat of the sun, and the bishop remarked that for some time after dark the tiles remained warm to the touch.
In the centre of this space stood a wooden building, or shed, twenty-five feet square, painted a dark red, its roof on a level with the height of the outer parapet. The bishop opened the door with another key and threw the windows wide, disclosing a canvas-hooded telescope in the centre, chairs and tables bearing astronomical instruments, and sidereal maps upon the walls. Then, as he pressed a lever, the roof was cleft asunder till the sky expanded overhead.
"Ah," he said, pleased with Leigh's exclamation of interest. "I thought this was more in your line. This equatorial telescope and sliding roof are the gift of a former alumnus, left us by a provision in his will. I had hoped he would contribute something toward the chapel." His sigh, his abstracted look, showed how much more acceptable such a gift would have been. "Our present chapel in the main building is more fitted for an assembly hall or commons. Please God, we shall one day worship Him in a separate edifice more worthy of the purpose." He depressed the eye end of the telescope until the muzzle pointed upward above the parapet toward the sky. "The shed," he went on, "cannot be seen from below. I refused to allow an incongruous dome to be built here, but the sliding flat roof answers the purpose as well. You may find a senior who wishes to take astronomy, but I fear that most of your effort must be expended in drilling elementary mathematics into recalcitrant freshmen and sophomores. Your predecessor was a good mathematician as far as he went, but he did n't go as far as the stars. He tried it once, and fell, like Icarus, into the sea. In other words, he published something based upon insufficient data, I believe, which reflected no credit on the college. Then he naturally blamed the instrument."
"I have done something in astronomy," Leigh remarked, "and hope to do more."
"Well, I must leave you now," said his conductor. "You must come and dine with us soon. I would like you to meet my daughter. Say a week from to-night, at seven. I 'll leave you here, if you wish, to examine the telescope further. Doctor Renshaw will give you all necessary information in regard to your rooms, the entrance examinations, et cetera."
He had almost disappeared down the stairs as he said these words. Presently his head and shoulders arose once more above the roof.
"And here are the keys," he added. "What did you say your given name was?"
"Llewellyn," Leigh answered, surprised at the abruptness of the question.
"Ah," said the bishop, chuckling softly, "so it is. A good Welsh name, but Peter would be more appropriate under the circumstances."
With this little jest, whose significance Leigh was somewhat slow in grasping, he once more descended the stairs.
It was now high noon, and Leigh, left alone, paced up and down the large, sunny square, filled with appreciative thoughts of the bishop. So benign and humorous was the presence of the man that for some time his influence survived his actual departure and precluded other thoughts. In a reactionary glow of hope and confidence the young astronomer traversed the circumference of his lofty eyrie, pausing from time to time to gaze through one of the embrasures of the parapet upon the incomparable scene below. Accustomed as he was to the arid glory of California, he found a grateful refreshment in this far greener country. The tower was like a Pisgah, from which he gazed upon the promised land with eyes that wearied of the desert.
Leigh stood before the mirror in his bedroom and wrestled with his tie in preparation for the bishop's dinner. The week had brought in due course that procession of events which makes the opening of a college term a period of exceptional activity, but for the first time he had passed through the trial untaxed. He was slowly recovering from a sense of disappointment similar to that felt by a metropolitan at some Arcadian retreat, when he stands on the lonely platform at nightfall, listening to the trilling of the frogs increasing as the rumble of the train diminishes in the distance, and experiences a wild impulse to return at once to the fulness of life from which he has fled.
In the ample leisure afforded by his new position Leigh discovered an analogous consciousness of loss, with its consequent dismay. He had known many solitary hours when, as a student in the Lick Observatory, he had searched the skies for long months together; but the experience was overlaid by one more recent, so that now, with the varied life of a great university still ringing in his ears, he looked about and asked himself disconsolately if this were all. Had he plumbed the possibilities of the place in so short a time? And, if so, what was left for him in the year to come?
An answer to this question was suggested by his present occupation. If he could now and again leave the rarefied atmosphere of the hill for some such diversion as the one in prospect, he would return better able to make good use of that solitude in which real achievement is shaped.
As yet there seemed small chance that such diversions would become sufficiently numerous to interfere with his work. He had met the other nine members of the faculty, and while he found them courteous, he became at once aware that their attitude toward him as a newcomer was one of indifference. The smallness of their number did not operate to draw them more closely together, as might have been supposed. Each returned to the city at the end of his day's work, and was lost to view in his own peculiar circle. Some time, no doubt, their social obligation to the new professor in the tower would become imperative, but the time was not yet. Meanwhile, he felt himself regarded warily, an attitude which to his friendly Western nature seemed to betoken a vague disapprobation. He did not realise that there was nothing personal in this aloofness, except in so far as he personified a larger life, whose hopeful outlook stirred in more cabined natures an unacknowledged resentment. Here he found no remnant of the traditional hospitality of the borderland. The conditions of this old community of specialised interests were the opposite of those he had encountered in the West, where a stranger was welcomed on the slim credentials of his appearance.
Leigh had been told that the road to promotion led through the small college, and he had taken that road hopefully; but now he felt like one who had drifted into an eddy below the bank, while the great stream of the national educational tendency went tossing and foaming past.
These unaccustomed circumstances gave an unwonted significance to the simple occupation in which he was employed, and focussed his mind expectantly upon the event which, in the fuller life he had left, would have been accepted as a matter of course.
His preparations completed, he donned his overcoat and hat, and stood looking from his window over the valley toward the west. The sun was setting in an angry splendour that threatened storms, Even as he looked, the wind attained increased velocity and began to whine and whistle about the solid masonry of the tower. Leigh drew in the heavy, leaded panes against the possible beating of the rain. He passed his fingers lightly down the cold stone casement, thinking of its immense thickness and of the beauty of its careful cutting. Never had he lived in such rooms. His was an habitat fit for a prince of the Middle Ages, and some glimpse of the fascination which this secluded life might come to possess was given him at that moment. Evidently, Professor Cardington, his neighbour across the hall, had felt it and succumbed; else how could a man of his extraordinary talent have remained so long buried, as it were, from the world?
Revolving this mystery in his mind, he passed into his sitting-room on the eastern side of the building. It was pleasant to think that Cardington was to accompany him to the bishop's, but as it was still too soon to call for him, he stood for a few moments looking down upon the campus. The giant shadow of the Hall had now crept to the verge of the plateau. There was no human figure on its bleak expanse, but the small trees which found scant nourishment in the rock beneath swayed gently in the broken wind, like a line of sentries marking time. In the centre of the line the flagpole sprang up, thin and white, lifting the stars and stripes into the lurid light above the shadow. He could hear the whipping of the halyards against the pole; but suddenly the sound ceased, the flag began to flutter downward till its colours were quenched, and only the gilded ball above now caught the sun's last rays. Straining his gaze, he saw the janitor fold the flag on the grass and carry it within. Then darkness seemed to fall like a canopy, beneath which the lights of the city trembled into view.
A moment later he stood in Cardington's doorway, and looked with relief upon the sight presented to his eyes. The flickering fire in the grate, the bewildering congeries of books, statues, and furniture, were doubly homelike by contrast with Leigh's late vision of the descending night without. The old caretaker of the tower was wont to say that she never knew a neater man than Professor Cardington, or a more disorderly room than his. The accumulation of articles in the room seemed to symbolise the owner's mental furniture, while his personal neatness was a habit acquired during his stay at West Point, where he had once occupied the chair of a modern language. There was a suggestion of the soldier also in his unbending back as he sat at his desk, so absorbed in his work that he did not at first look up to see who had answered his invitation to enter.
The face he turned upon his visitor presently was stern and grey in effect, like that of a man who has seen service. His blue eyes, though pale in tone, were brilliant, as if the intellect behind them burned with steady intensity and force. Nature had concealed his true quality behind a baffling mask, for there was not a line in his face to hint of his sensitive spirit, or of the humorous moods that swept over him in unexpected gusts. Now his aspect brightened, as from a warmth within.
"Come in, Mr. Leigh," he cried cheerily. "Come in. I thought it was some student who wished to ask me what use there was in studying Latin. I am just outlining an article on the Roman Forum for the new encyclopaedia. You might like to see Boni's latest contribution, and the photographs I took myself last summer."
He reached for his meerschaum pipe, and paused to gaze with a smoker's admiration at the red-brown perfection of the polished bowl.
"But you have n't forgotten the dinner?" Leigh asked, perceiving that the other was preparing to settle back in his chair for one of those discursive talks in which his guests delighted.
"The dinner! I had quite forgotten it." And he put down the pipe with evident reluctance. "Such is the power of preoccupation."
"We 're a tall set of men here," Leigh said, as the professor rose to his feet. "You and the bishop and I would measure eighteen feet or more, placed one above the other."
"Pelion on Ossa!" Cardington cried. "How much more impressive it makes us seem than if you had merely stated that each of us was six feet tall! It takes an astronomer to calculate great distances. I quite compassionate those little fellows, our colleagues." His eyes twinkled behind his rimless spectacles. "Just amuse yourself with these photographs awhile. Not in your line, perhaps, but interesting to us glow-worms that flit about in ruinous places. I 'll be with you in a few moments."
Even from the room beyond he continued the conversation in his own odd manner, passing to antipodal subjects by paths of association beyond the guess of an imagination less vagrant than his own. With Cardington conversation was a fine art. He loved the adequate or picturesque word as a miner loves an ingot of gold, yet he was able to display his linguistic stores without incurring the charge of pedantry, much as certain women can carry without offence clothes that would smother a more insignificant personality.
"We still have a few minutes to spare," he announced, when he presently reappeared. "Now, which will you have, a Roman Catholic, or an Episcopalian, or a Presbyterian beverage,—Benedictine, port wine, or whiskey?"
Leigh's mood expanded in response to the hospitality. Here was a little fling of the spirit of which he stood in need, a promise of comradeship that was all the more welcome from the fact that his other colleagues had kept him waiting in the vestibule of their regard.
"I'll drink your health in a little whiskey," he replied with alacrity.
"Quite right," Cardington commented, producing a bottle of Scotch. "I hope you 'll find that this has the true Calvinistic flavour. And here's to you likewise. May you yet discover the length, the depth, and the uses of all the canals of Mars." Over the rim of his glass his eyes began to brighten in a manner which his guest already knew to be a prophecy of something good. "That was an excellent jest of the bishop's you told me of yesterday, calling you Peter when he handed you the keys of the door that leads to heaven. Now what did you say in reply?"
"Nothing," Leigh confessed. "He didn't give me fair warning of what was coming."
"Then you lost the opportunity of your life. If you had only said, 'Thank you, my Lord!' Even a Yankee bishop would have had no objection to being my-lorded, you know. Ah, that would have been the retort courteous, and the story is incomplete without it. By your kind permission I shall tell it with that addendum."
"A footnote by Professor Cardington," Leigh suggested.
"No, no, not at all. I 'll work it into the text as your own. The story must go down in history along with the classic jest in regard to the position of the statue's outstretched palm. The bishop told you that, no doubt, anticipating my own good offices."
"It may interest you to know," he went on, as they began to descend the stairs, "that you are to meet a very charming young lady to-night. Miss Wycliffe is a very remarkable young woman in some respects. Have you yet had the pleasure of making her acquaintance?"
"What is she like?" Leigh asked, wondering whether the answer would suggest in any way the young woman he had met the morning of his arrival.
"I shall not allow my enthusiasm to betray me into an inadequate description," Cardington declared. "I could no more make the subject clear to you than you could explain to me the nth degree of x+z, if there is any such expression in algebra, which I should n't be surprised to discover is the case."
"Then I shall have to possess my soul in patience," Leigh answered, with apparent indifference.
When they emerged from the shadow of the Hall, and plunged between the lines of maples, they were obliged to go in single file, for the narrowness of the way. The young mathematician glanced at the last melancholy glow of the sunset which spread out in a faint, fan-shaped aurora above a dun rampart of clouds. His love of nature was no less keen than his appreciation of people and events. The mathematician and the poet held alternate sway over him. This di-psychic quality was evidenced by the rapidity with which the expression of his eye would frequently change from cold calculation to a certain rapt observation, as if he looked up from a complicated problem to contemplate a glimpse of blue distance. Thus it was that he appreciated to the full the panorama spread out before him, though his mind was intent upon another subject; or rather, it might be said that the sight gave warmth and colouring to his thought. He had passed the place of that first meeting several times during the week, and never without a vivid remembrance of it. If the young woman who had made such an impression upon him were the bishop's daughter, why had he not seen her in the interim, at the initial service in the chapel when visitors were present, upon the grounds, or in the streets of the city? Perhaps she had been away, and had just returned. At all events, he should know before long.
Of one thing he felt assured. If Miss Wycliffe turned out to be some one else, she would hold no interest for him, not even if she possessed all the indescribable qualities of which Cardington had hinted. Speculating upon this possibility, he scarcely listened now to the words of his companion swinging on ahead, as they came brokenly to his ears in the gusts of wind.
THE BISHOP'S DAUGHTER
The bishop's house was situated about half a mile from the college on Birdseye Avenue, the principal residence street of Warwick. A forest aisle and city thoroughfare combined, this vista of ancient elms suggested the inspiration of those Gothic cathedrals of the Old World from whose associations and influence the Puritans had fled away. During their transit beneath this splendid nave, Cardington entertained his companion with an account of the house they were to visit, its history and architectural pretensions. In sharp distinction to the prevalent style of building, the episcopal residence suggested a Tudor palace. Its pointed windows, its dentilated battlements, its miniature turrets, would have been impressive on a larger scale, in stone, but being of wood, in a reduced proportion, they appeared an inadequate plagiarism, which not even the extensive grounds could shield from criticism. Seen at night-time, however, the counterfeit was far less glaring. The form, rather than the material, attracted the eye; the ecclesiastical windows glimmering among the trees, the antique lantern in the vestibule, which concealed behind its powdered glass a modern electric bulb, the turrets, dimly discerned by the light from the avenue, combined to make an appeal to the historical imagination.
To Leigh, seeing the house thus for the first time, it appeared a peculiarly appropriate habitat for Bishop Wycliffe; for he was one that carried the stamp of his profession in his very bearing, and in every lineament of his face. It was more difficult to imagine a young and charming woman housed in such a place, but his first glimpse of the bishop's daughter showed him that her Pagan beauty was emphasized rather than lessened by contrast with her surroundings.
She was sitting in the drawing-room to the left of the entrance hall, bending over a book. If she heard the entrance of her visitors into the hall, she made no sign, but kept her eyes bent upon her novel, the left-hand side of which, supported on her knee, had grown to the thickness of half an inch. Only a few pages remained unread, half lifted on the other side, above which her ivory paper knife hung suspended. Clothed in a yellow gown and sitting in a flood of yellow light that radiated from the shaded lamp beside her, she presented an extraordinarily vivid picture against the brown panelling of the wall. Even in repose one divined the suppressed energy of the figure, a quality indicated by the almost imperceptible movement of the small slipper that peeped beyond the border of her gown, and by the gentle heaving of the lace at her throat. Yet there was something in the graceful abandon of her attitude reminiscent of the women of the South.
So struck was Leigh by this picture, and by the fact that his hope of meeting again the goddess of the maple walk was about to be realized, that Cardington was well on his way up the stairs before he hurried in pursuit. Unawake himself to modern art tendencies, he felt, without conscious reflection or comparison, the old-fashioned appearance of the house. The severe, dark paper on the wall, the steel engravings that had hung for years untouched, were evidently as the bishop's wife, or as one belonging to a still earlier generation, had placed them. They proclaimed a reverence for old associations, or the indifference of an unmarried daughter to the artistic possibilities of a house that was not of her own choosing.
The room into which they entered appeared to be the bishop's own, or a guest chamber. At least, there was no suggestion of the feminine in the furniture, or in the ecclesiastical pictures that adorned the walls. Even the military brushes on the bureau possessed an episcopal dignity of size and weight, and the two tall candles in their massive silver candlesticks glimmered like altar lights.
"There's plenty of atmosphere in this place," Leigh remarked, as he stood before the mirror and applied the brushes to his hair, which, because of its thickness, was invariably disordered by the lifting of his hat. "I mean atmosphere in the modern fictional sense. It seems to me I saw a duplicate of that four-posted monstrosity of a bed at the Exposition this summer."
"I love to come in contact with the fresh, unprejudiced view of the West," Cardington returned. "I've no doubt you are calculating the number of microbes that ancient piece of furniture could accommodate, and thinking that a brass bedstead would be much more sanitary."
"You do me injustice," Leigh retorted good-humouredly. "Even scientists have their unprofessional moments. I was just reminded of a story I once read of a bed of that kind with a movable canopy that came down in the night and smothered the occupant."
"Excellent," said Cardington. "The thing was worked, as I remember, from the room above, and was used by the robber host to persuade his guests to part peaceably with their valuables. But I fear that you are going to show an irreverent attitude of mind toward the local divinities."
"And what may they be?"
"Two in particular, an alliterative couple, Family and Furniture."
"Why not add Folly to the number?" Leigh suggested.
"An instinct of self-preservation should prevent such an addition. That might be as injudicious as it would have been for some bright young man in ancient Egypt, five thousand years before the Christian era, to express a doubt concerning the divinity of the sacred bull. The correctness of his conjecture would not have saved him from a horrible death at the hands of the faithful." And he began to lead the way downstairs.
As they entered the drawing-room, Miss Wycliffe closed her book with satisfied emphasis and rose to meet them. The bishop was there also, standing in the background and waiting his turn. His eyes were on his daughter rather than on his guests, with a pride that was evident at even a casual glance. Again Leigh encountered that look which had so deeply attracted him. Her eyes were very dark, and almost misty in their warm light, as if she were somewhat dazed by long perusal of the printed page. She possessed also that mark of feminine beauty so prized by the ancients, a low forehead, and there was a suggestion of the classic in the arrangement of her hair. He found her smile peculiarly winning, and was conscious of the responsiveness of her fingers, so different from the limp passivity of many a feminine greeting. Though not more given to self-importance than the average young man, he was somehow aware that she too remembered their first casual encounter. Her failure to mention it now served only to invest it with the greater significance.
"Miss Felicity," Cardington began, when they had become seated, "I suspect that you were racing against time, endeavouring, in fact, to finish that book before our arrival should interrupt you."
"You would not have been welcome a moment sooner," she admitted.
"Felicity is a deep student in shallow literature," the bishop put in epigrammatically.
"As if Zola were ever shallow," she said. "I'll leave it with Mr. Leigh."
"You can search me for an opinion," he replied; and in the breezy colloquialism of the expression, no less than in a certain vividness of manner, his isolation from the others became apparent. "My French reading is mostly confined to astronomical monographs."
"Miss Felicity," Cardington interposed, with an elaborate and old-fashioned gallantry that became him, "Mr. Leigh is a student of stars, and therefore he is more concerned with the reader than with the book. If you will persist in shining upon him so dazzlingly, you cannot be surprised if he turns an unseeing eye upon any object you may present for his inspection. Now, since I have basked longer in your light, I may perhaps—allow me." He reached for the book and began to turn over the leaves. She watched his growing absorption with indulgent amusement, and the comradeship of the two omnivorous readers was evident. Cardington was frankly reading, oblivious of his hosts, a liberty which indicated his familiar standing in that house.
"I have a weakness for polymathists of the old school," the bishop remarked, harking back to his guest's confession of narrower interests, "of which class I may say that Professor Cardington is almost the only example within my range of observation. I have noticed that Latin is becoming as strange to the average graduate as Eliot's Indian Bible."
"But Latin does n't help the modern world to build railroads, or battleships, or motor cars," Leigh suggested, by way of presenting the opposite view.
"Always the argument of utility," the bishop returned, with mournful resignation. "But how have modern inventions added to the beauty or the dignity of human life? Man is mastered and slain by his own inventions, and a skyscraper reduces him to the proportions of an ant."
"I am tempted to mention cathedrals as having rather a dwarfing effect upon their builders," Leigh said.
"I should hope so! Better to be dwarfed by the magnificence of a temple of the Lord than by the hideous hugeness of a temple of trade." The bishop's dry smile indicated that he had scored.
His antagonist laughed outright, with a keen appreciation of the fact that his comparison had given the bishop the very opportunity he desired. It seemed that circumstances rather than conviction had forced him into his present championship of the useful. Miss Wycliffe's appeal had brought out the confession of a special interest, which had stamped him unduly. In addition, the section of the country from which he came was against him. The bishop was not without his prejudices, and was disposed to father all the materialistic spirit of the age upon his guest, whether or no. He had noted that lapse into slang, and his attitude had become like that of the loiterers in the hall of Caiaphas, the high priest. Had his thought become vocal, it would have run like a garbled version of their triumphant charge against St. Peter: "Thou art a Westerner, and thy speech bewrayeth thee."
His daughter had been a mere observer of the little tilt she had unwittingly precipitated, and now, as she saw the younger champion go down so gaily, she was moved by his spirit to sympathetic participation.
"It seems to me, father," she interposed, "that you and Mr. Leigh are like the two knights who came to blows over the colour of a shield that was white on one side and black on the other."
"You are quite right, my dear," he replied gracefully, "and as I see that dinner is served, I will take this opportunity to dismount from my hobby for a little refreshment."
"You must let me take this book with me when I go," Cardington begged, rising from its perusal with evident reluctance.
"It must lie on Mrs. Parr's table for a month first," she replied. "I promised to let her pretend to read it."
"I call that a wicked speech," he reproved. "Where is that charity which your father has striven to inculcate in your heart?"
She slipped the book into a large Satsuma vase, with a sidelong glance at Leigh. Cardington accepted the act with a meek acquiescence that rested comically upon him and proclaimed his chains.
Had Leigh been asked subsequently to give a description of the dishes of which he partook that evening, he would have made a sorry showing, for he was conscious only of his hostess, and intoxicated by a divination of her consciousness of him. Cardington and the bishop were the chief talkers, and as the conversation presently turned to purely local affairs, of which Leigh had as yet scant knowledge, he was rather pleased than otherwise to become a listener and observer. In this divided attitude of mind his observation was chiefly engaged. He noted particularly the string of gold beads which Miss Wycliffe wore, and their reflection against her throat reminded him of a children's game, which consisted in holding a buttercup beneath the chin of a companion.
Distracted by the furtive contemplation of such minutiae, he gradually became aware of the fact that the talk between Cardington and the bishop had lost the tone of suavity that characterized its beginning.
"No other engagement shall interfere with my voting on that day," the bishop declared, with grim emphasis. "We must dispose of this fellow's pretensions once for all. It is preposterous that a professional baseball player and street-car conductor should aspire to become mayor of Warwick. An orator? Nonsense! Just a paltry gift of the gab. Balaam's is n't the only ass whose mouth the Lord in his inscrutable wisdom has seen fit to open."
Leigh suddenly awoke to the fact that a situation had developed during his absorption, and that both men were looking at Miss Wycliffe, the bishop defiantly, Cardington with an odd expression of concern. That she was affected by her father's announcement and manner was evidenced in the gleam of cold resentment with which she met his look, but in a moment the light was gone, leaving her eyes as mysterious as a deep pool in the woods at twilight.
"Now, bishop," Cardington protested, "I was merely trying to express the fact that there is a certain facility in this young Emmet's utterances which belongs to his nation. Perhaps we ought to appreciate our opportunity to watch here in Warwick the development of a second Edmund Burke."
It was Miss Wycliffe herself who gave Leigh the clue, and so apparently spontaneous was her amusement as she turned to him that he began to doubt his first impression of a far different emotion.
"This house is divided against itself," she explained, "into two political camps. I must try to convert you to my Democratic point of view, for just at present I am outnumbered two to one."
"Not two to one," Cardington objected. "Say rather that the forces are drawn up in the proportion of one and a half to one and a half. I stand in the ambiguous position of the peacemaker, inclining now this way, now that, and receiving in turn the whacks of each contestant. I have been compelled to accept on faith the reward that Scripture promises to such as myself, for it has not yet materialized to any appreciable extent."
"There 's more truth than poetry in that," she answered, laughing. "Poor Mr. Cardington's olive branch has proved a boomerang to himself, I fear."
It pleased the bishop to be blandly diverted by these sallies, though it was evident that his mind had set so strongly in one direction as to require an effort on his part to turn it aside. However, he was not one to exhibit a family difference before a stranger, when once recalled to his senses, and the topic that had elicited these few scintillations of feeling was dropped by common consent.
Presently Miss Wycliffe drew Leigh on to talk of astronomy, of the Lick Observatory, of California, its climate, its products, and its people, subjects upon which he alone of the company possessed knowledge at first hand. He was impressed by his auditors' ignorance of all that country which lies west of the Mississippi, and a realisation of the bishop's sceptical attitude aroused him to partisan enthusiasm. Their conception of the West was as inadequate as the average Englishman's conception of America. Some few people they had known who had gone out to California for their health, and in a general way they appreciated the fact that the fruits and flowers of the coast were of peculiar size and beauty; but, after all, the place seemed to them more a colony of the United States than an integral part of the country, a place of such decidedly inferior interest to Europe that any time in the dim future would do for its inspection.
"Miss Wycliffe," he ended, "your interest has betrayed me into making a bore of myself."
"On the contrary," she returned, "I shall take the very first opportunity of going out to California. I shall be ashamed to go to Switzerland again without the Sierras as a background of comparison. And in the mean time I intend to begin the study of astronomy. I thought it would be jolly to bring up a party some evening to look through the telescope."
"By all means!" he cried.
"I have yet to see the day," said Cardington, "when Miss Felicity will do me the honour of begging the loan of a Latin grammar."
"I call that ungrateful," she returned. "Did n't I tramp all over the Roman Forum with you one boiling afternoon, while you explained that we had n't strayed into a stone quarry, as I had supposed?"
"So you did," he admitted. "That was a pleasant little archaeological giro, and you showed yourself upon that occasion to be an audience of great endurance."
This was only one indication Leigh had received of mutual experiences and interests between the two, yet, bewitched though he was, the discovery aroused no uneasiness within him. It was not only that he mentally exaggerated his colleague's age. His source of comfort was deeper, and lay in Miss Wycliffe's attitude of comradeship toward her old friend. It seemed that such an attitude must preclude romance, at least on her part. No man situated as he was could have avoided the speculation that now absorbed him in regard to the possible rivalry of another. In the end he decided that Cardington's gaze, when it lingered upon his hostess, betrayed reminiscence rather than hope.
It chanced that the dinner was followed by a wedding, one of those forlorn ceremonies sometimes performed in the houses of the clergy between those who seem to have no kin or friends or home of their own. The bishop summoned his guests as witnesses, and as Leigh took the seat which Miss Wycliffe made for him beside her, he was struck by the impression which this not unusual incident appeared to make upon her mind. She sat with her chin resting upon the palm of her hand, in absorbed, almost pained, contemplation, as if the actual scene were merely the starting-point of a long journey of the imagination.
In fact, there was nothing intrinsically interesting in the couple before them. They possessed not even the picturesqueness of speech and costume which belongs to the plebeian orders of older civilizations. These were the people that seemed to justify Schopenhauer's cynical contention concerning the economy of Nature, who invests youth with just enough transient beauty to ensure the perpetuation of the race, making men and women serve her purpose under the delusion that they are free agents and ministers to their own pleasure. Here were no pomp and circumstance to interpose their false colours before the sordid vista of the future. It lay glaringly before the imagination of the onlookers; and to avoid depths of spiritual depression, they had need to remind themselves of the happy blindness of those that moved their pity.
Leigh might perhaps have indulged in far other thoughts had the wedding been of a different character, or had he perceived any suggestion of a romantic mood in the woman at his side. Quick to feel an atmosphere, he found that he had caught from her a sombre view. How deeply she thought or felt he could only guess, but hers was a personality that suggested depth, and the far sadness of her gaze shut the door between them which he had supposed about to open wider. The bishop turned unexpectedly.
"The groom has forgotten the ring," he said to his daughter. "Will you lend him yours?"
She glanced quickly at her hands, and a delicate colour crept into her face.
"I must have left it in my room," she answered. She made no motion to go for it, and, turning from her with a hint of impatience, he drew his seal ring from his finger.
The incident, slight as it was, assumed unusual significance in the minds of the spectators, and gave the ceremony a tone akin to comedy. Perhaps they enjoyed the bishop's impatience, the sight of the episcopal ring upon the girl's finger; or it may be that these things reminded them of the portentous solemnity into which they had sunk. Miss Wycliffe especially seemed to welcome the diversion, and showed an ebullient vivacity when she offered her congratulations, which Leigh had not previously observed in her.
It was the bishop, however, and not his daughter, who saved the situation for the embarrassed couple he had just made man and wife. It was he who ordered wine and cake, and drank their happiness with a genuine humanity that took no reckoning of class in life's common experiences. This was the quality that had won him love when, as a clergyman, the homelier duties of his profession had claimed more of his time. Even those not of his own communion often came to him for such services as the present, with a feeling that he gave dignity and reality to the ceremony. Observing the luminous kindliness of his smile, one might well infer that he was reminded of the marriage at Cana of Galileo, and that he desired to make this incident as bright a spot as possible in two lives which would doubtless know more of burden-bearing than of joy. Nor was he content with this attention alone. Chancing to remember the carnations that had stood on the table at dinner, he brought them with his own hands, wiping the long stems with his handkerchief before presenting them to the bride.
When they were gone, his glance fell upon an envelope which the groom had left unnoticed on the piano.
"Look at this," he said, drawing forth a two-dollar bill. "Why didn't I see him do that in time? At least, I am grateful that he did n't attempt to pay me at parting, while in the act of shaking hands." His eyes twinkled deeply. "You have no idea what a shock it is to feel a crisp bill crinkling in your palm at such a moment. But come, gentlemen. Our post-prandial smoke has been too long postponed."
"Why not leave Mr. Leigh to smoke his cigarette with me?" Miss Wycliffe suggested. "We have n't yet had a chance to become acquainted."
This proposition, which filled the young man with surprise and exhilaration, seemed nothing unusual to the other two, and they went off without remark, perhaps not unwilling to have an opportunity to chat alone.
Miss Wycliffe took the chair in which Leigh had seen her at his entering. She held no fancy work in her hands, but toyed gracefully with the ivory cimeter which had separated the leaves of her novel. He was reminded of the episode of the ring by observing that she wore no jewelry except the string of gold beads, and wondered whether she had a philosophical contempt for such adornment. If it were a matter of taste, as indeed it must be, her instinct, he felt, was singularly correct, for such adventitious aids could add nothing to her beauty. They were rather the final dependence of wrinkled dowagers. As he watched her through the smoke of his cigarette, chatting still of the wedding, he was aware that she appeared conscious of the voices whose intonations rose and fell beyond the study door. Presently the sound was varied by a hearty laugh.
"I 've no doubt they have gone back to politics," she remarked. Her words recalled the conversation at the table, which he had by this time forgotten.
"This is a good opportunity to carry out your promise to convert me to your point of view," he answered, "and I am quite prepared to be converted. Being a Mugwump, the mere name of a party holds no superstitious sway over my imagination. Still, my support, like your own, must be purely sentimental, for I have no vote in Warwick. I have heard just enough to arouse my curiosity and interest. Who is this Mr. Burke?"
"Emmet," she corrected. "Mr. Cardington would have his jest in comparing him with Burke. You noticed, perhaps, that they were more or less baiting me?"
"I suspected something like it."
"Mr. Emmet is a protege of mine," she explained frankly, "who is trying to break the power of the Republican ring that has ruled Warwick since the war.
"I see," he nodded. "One of those struggles against municipal corruption that are such a hopeful sign of the times. It seems strange that in the management of our cities alone our form of government has been a failure. But we have lighted upon a hobby of mine, and I must n't begin to ride it."
"Then you will be interested in the situation," she returned.
It was presently evident that her own interest was not that of a student of the science of government, though he was impressed by her knowledge of local political conditions. The situation was indeed typical: entrenched power on the one hand, and on the other a desire to "turn the rascals out." The singularity lay in the fact that Miss Wycliffe, in spite of the prejudice and influence of her father, was siding against her own class. Leigh listened with growing interest and wonder to her charges of snobbishness and corruption against the Republican clique.
"You certainly love fair play," he remarked admiringly. "Such an impersonal attitude is wont to be claimed by men as their own peculiar possession."
Her smile disclaimed exceptional credit.
"I 'm not a bit impersonal, I assure you. I can't abide Judge Swigart, or his political lieutenant, Anthony Cobbens, a turkey gobbler and a wretched little weasel, even though we are the best of friends."
"I see," he said, greatly diverted by her admission. Her eyes fell beneath his too discriminating gaze, but she raised them again with the impersonal calmness of an experienced woman.
"Besides, as I said before, Mr. Emmet is a protege of mine. I have even loaned him books, and am quite bent upon seeing his education result in making him mayor."
"Good work!" he cried. "I should like to lend a hand myself."
"Why don't you?" she asked.
"How can I?" he retorted. "Shall I go out and stump the town?"
"I 'll tell you," she said, bending forward and fixing him with a look of discovery. "What Mr. Emmet needs more than anything else is a friend out of his own class, some one like yourself, who could correct his perspective a little. How shall I explain it? He seems in danger of becoming a demagogue, and of resting his case on an appeal to class-hatred."
Leigh had not supposed that his semi-jocular wish would be taken so literally, but he soon discovered that she gave it its face value. She went on with growing earnestness.
"There is to be a joint debate between him and Judge Swigart in about a fortnight, and I 'm afraid that Mr. Emmet will injure his cause by overstatement, by that very bitterness I mentioned. If he could confine himself to the facts, he might win the support of many who are ready to follow a safe leader, but would be antagonized by a hint of socialism."
"Do you mean that I could accomplish all this in such a short time?" he asked. "To be perfectly frank, the prospect of the task dismays me. He 'd be sure to resent the attempt."
"Not he," she answered with conviction. "He 'd be grateful for such support as yours. He 's really an awfully nice fellow, and I think you 'd find him rather interesting."
"I don't doubt it for a minute," he assured her. "But how am I to make his acquaintance in the first place?"
She considered the question awhile. "Just tell him I thought you would like to know each other. That would make it perfectly easy and natural."
Leigh could not fail to see that this method was the best, if the thing were to be done at all. She could not bring them together socially, and a note of introduction would be too formal. Doubtless the man looked up to her as his patroness, and would accept anything from her with something of feudal loyalty.
"I might meet him casually,—on purpose,—and if we happened to like each other and began to talk about politics"— The sentence dwindled into a dubious smile.
"Do," she urged. "I really think you could influence him for good."
Leigh was less sure of it, and the other two men returned before he had committed himself to a plan that seemed, even when seen under her influence, to be little short of quixotic.
During the walk home he tried Cardington on the subject of Emmet, but found him uncommunicative, almost brusque, in his reticence. Leigh suspected that the subject might be a sore one with him, and that he thoroughly disapproved of Miss Wycliffe's odd charity. When a talker is silent, his silence has the tactile quality of Egyptian darkness, and so it now appeared in Cardington. Concerning Miss Wycliffe herself they made no comment, doubtless because they were thinking of her so intently. Leigh reviewed every moment he had passed in her company, recalling each look and word. He was impressed now, more than he had been at the time, with the intensity of her interest in the election, and it occurred to him that to do as she desired, or at least to attempt it, would establish a claim upon her regard. This was his opportunity. If he desired to win her favour, he must regard her wish as mandatory. How much he desired to win it he did not try to conceal from himself.
His frankness extended even farther. When he recalled that it was the bishop and not his daughter who had shown humanity at the wedding, he was impressed by her curious insensibility. It seemed to him peculiarly feminine to take an interest in such a scene, and most of the women he knew would have looked on with tremulous sympathy. Was this mere instinctive selfishness on her part? If he vaguely condemned her attitude in this matter, he appreciated her father's conduct the more by contrast. Somehow he guessed that the bishop did not altogether like him, but he felt that no matter what the future might bring forth in their relationship, he could never forget that charming episode. The bishop was a true aristocrat, he reflected, more inclined to be haughty to his equals than to his inferiors. Doubtless Emmet, had he been content with that station of life in which it had pleased God to place him, would have found no more affable acquaintance than Bishop Wycliffe.
The bishop presented no insoluble riddle to Leigh's mind. On the contrary, he had met his type before and knew it well; but with Miss Wycliffe the case was different. He recognized now the reason of Cardington's inability to describe her, for a categorical account of her features, or of what is commonly called her "good points," would have left the essential quality untouched. Yet this quality was the woman herself, and had fired Leigh's blood with a fever of longing that made him reckless of his judgment. In fact, he was not now absorbed in judging, but in realizing, the woman with whom he had fallen in love.
If she had appealed to him at any one moment more than at another, it was when she took him into her confidence with that sidelong look, as she slipped the novel into the large vase. Then, as at other times during the evening, but then more particularly, she had betrayed her consciousness of him as a young man, of herself as a woman and a beauty. He saw that she had no desire to talk with him on the impersonal plane of the mind, that she welcomed, rather than feared, the discovery of her femininity, even in her political interests. She might say this or that, as the fancy took her, but she knew it made no difference to an admirer what she said. Her peculiar fascination lay in a consciousness of sex which is the explanation of the power to win men that distinguishes one woman above the many, to their envy and mystification.
Leigh was too attractive a man to have been allowed to reach his present age entirely ignorant of the psychology of women, though comparative poverty and laborious studies had limited his education in this direction, and left him unspoiled. He knew enough to realize the secret of Miss Wycliffe's charm, and to reflect consciously upon it in connection with himself. Mere beauty, he knew, would have left him cold, if it had not stirred within him the resentment aroused by a promise unfulfilled; intellectual gifts alone would have wearied and antagonised; evident virtue would have seemed humdrum and uninspiring. It was this delicious appeal of the woman to the man that had won him.
He was yet to learn that this quality is not seldom accompanied by the most baffling counter-current, that holds its natural movement in apparent suspension. Why had a woman so imperially endowed remained so long unmarried? It was not that she looked her age, which he felt to be little less than his own, but that she implied it by her lack of inexperience. It was not that eight or nine and twenty made a spinster from the modern point of view, but that to reach that age unmarried she must have resisted many a suit. Had he lived longer in New England, he would have known more women of this kind, women who hide the passionate heart of a Helen beneath the austere life of a Diana, hoarding their gifts of love as a miser hoards his gold, partly because of cruel necessity, partly influenced by the impulse to deny inherited from Puritan ancestors.
Suddenly he became aware that Cardington had been talking again, and that he had shown indifferent courtesy as a listener. He roused himself to attention, and detected at once the unusual flavour of his companion's remarks, from which all jest had gone, showing instead a poetical and reminiscent mood.
"The silhouettes of the trees which the electric light throws upon the walk," he was saying, "remind me of a wonderful moonlight night I once spent at Assisi. I was younger then than I am now, and it was my first journey in that land of enchantment. I travelled as lightly as one of the apostles, with staff and scrip, so to speak, and having resisted the efforts of the cabman at the station to rob me, I started to walk up to the city alone. I understand they have a trolley line now,—just imagine the profanation of a trolley line in the ancient city of St. Francis!—but at the time of which I speak, the atmosphere of the Middle Ages still hung over the place unbroken.
"The city lay above the valley, white-walled and silent. I remember touching with my stick what appeared to be a streak of moonlight that had filtered through the branches of a tree, when a beautiful little serpent uncoiled himself and slipped away into the shadows. Well, the distance was greater than I had supposed, and the hour was late, so that by the time I reached the city gate, I found it closed for the night. There was nothing to do but to sit down and wait for morning. I found a large, flat rock which seemed still to hold some of the heat of the sun, and looked out over the surrounding country. Just think of my situation! There I was, a young man fresh from America, full of the most extravagant romance, sitting alone in the moonlight before the gate of a mediaeval walled city, and a city, too, so rich with traditions that I grew dazed in trying to recall them. It may be that the moon became hypnotic in its influence, for I lay down and stared up at it like one bewitched.
"I don't know how long a time passed in this manner before I was aroused by the appearance of an old peasant around the corner of my rock, bending under a huge bundle of faggots. I addressed myself to him in the best Italian I could then command, and asked whether it were possible to enter the city—entrare la citta. He rung a bell by pulling a rope that hung down over the wall, and we went in together. Now, you know, I would have remained there all night without even looking for such an obvious way of arousing the gatekeeper."
"Yes," he continued, in answer to an appreciative comment from his listener, "you would have enjoyed it,—any one with a soul would have enjoyed it. And further adventures were in store for me in that ancient town. I remember particularly a girl who waited on the table at my albergo and accompanied me at times on my tours of inspection. From her I learned more of the history of the place, and upon her I practised most diligently my Italian. There was one mystery to which she would come back again and again. If I was an American, and poor, how did it happen that I was not an artist? She would turn her lovely eyes upon me twenty times a day and ask me this question. A charming experience, was it not? Long afterward I met an American professor on one of the boats in Holland, and when we compared notes on our travels, I discovered that he remembered that girl, too, and her eyes. Just think of the number of romantic young travellers upon whom she had turned them in that appealing way of hers!"
As his companion listened to this recital, he was impressed not so much by the story itself as by the essential happiness of the narrator. Here was a nature as untrammelled as the wind, that delighted to roam from land to land. Local interests, people, events, might hold him for a time, but presently he would be gone in search of new adventures. If he loved Felicity Wycliffe, Leigh reflected, it was only as a wanderer loves.
Cardington was laughing in his peculiar fashion. "You will say that my little story has a disappointing sequel; but, after all, perhaps it is less commonplace as it is. She will remain enshrined in my memory, and in the memory of those other travellers, as we saw her then, always young and beautiful, and always turning upon us those lovely, enquiring eyes. And, by the way, it is strange, is it not, that Miss Wycliffe should have eyes similar to those of my young guide in Assisi? As far as I know, she is of pure New England ancestry, and one does not meet very often in this climate a glance that suggests nocturnal mystery. No, no. The women here are different, as a rule. I remember her mother; she was something like, but in less perfection."
Leigh, fearing that he might perhaps say too much, said nothing at all by way of comment. Cardington's phrase, "nocturnal mystery," was a reminder of the scene through which he had passed thus far unheeding, and suggested its kinship with the woman of his thoughts. The vista seemed to stretch away interminably, disclosing unexpected glimpses of colour where the boughs displayed their changing leaves within the radius of an electric light. Between the lights the darkness gathered with the greater intensity because of the clouds which had now traversed the whole expanse of the sky and bidden the stars from view. He was conscious also of the ceaseless murmuring of the wind in the leaves, like many voices whispering in an unknown tongue.
Leigh awoke the next morning with a sense that some profound change had come into his life. His mood was similar to that of a man on the verge of a trip to foreign lands, who, with all the humdrum existence that had earned it behind him, and all the delights of adventure before, waits only the turn of wind or tide to be away. The comparison is not inept, for he had lived laborious days, postponing deliberately or missing by chance, he scarcely knew which, the experience he now felt to be impending. His time of life was peculiarly favourable for the growth of a master passion, one which, as the old saying has it, might make or mar him. The feverish struggles of early youth had landed him in a position somewhat better than that attained by the majority of his contemporaries. He had reached a breathing-place, where he could pause with a sense of deeds accomplished and of possible rewards in the future.
A realisation of the fact that his circumstances and position fairly justified him in entertaining seriously the thought of love lessened in no way the ideality of that thought. It was not because Felicity Wycliffe was the first attractive woman to come into his life at the right moment that he had fallen in love with her. He told himself that he could have met any other woman in the world at that time with impunity; and, conversely, had he met her years before, when his suit must needs have been hopeless, he would have loved her no less, reckless of worldly considerations. As it was, he did not feel that the situation was conventional, but that the fates were kind. His desire, and the right to strive for its attainment, had synchronised by happy chance.
In the history of a passion, it is doubtful if any mood is more elysian than that which accompanies the waking moments on the morning after the great discovery. Leigh wandered for some time in this imaginary paradise, where everything seemed not only possible, but actually accomplished. His rising, however, shook some of these iridescent colours from his thoughts, until they gradually began to assume the more sober hue of fact, a change like that which he now discovered had come over the outside world.
The storm, which had promised to be wild and spectacular, had somehow miscarried in the night, and instead of pelting showers and tossing branches he saw a pale grey wall of mist against his windows. All excitement had gone from the atmosphere, leaving the dreary certainty that the mist would presently clear only to condense into a slow, persistent, autumn rain. It is conceivable that he would not have exchanged his waking dreams so quickly for more definite thoughts and speculations had his eyes rested upon the blue hills of the western skyline, for he was peculiarly susceptible to the moods of nature. There being now practically no outside world to lure his fancy on, he began to think of his actual situation, and to ask himself what he intended to do with regard to the man in whom Miss Wycliffe had taken such an interest. If her plan appeared quixotic to him now, he feared that on second thoughts it might seem no less so to her, and he resolved to do the thing she desired, and to gain thereby a common interest with her, before she might discourage the attempt. This resolve taken, he went to breakfast at the college commons, and thence to chapel.
Attendance at chapel, he had discovered, was obligatory upon the students and upon those clerical members of the faculty who conducted the services. Personally he was drawn thither by the peculiar flavour which the exercises gave his daily life. It was pleasant to sit alone in his pew against the wall above the tiers of students, to watch the morning sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows, and to listen to the antiphonal singing of a fine old Rouen meditation. Occasionally the services began with a Sapphic ode by Gregory the Great, whose opening line, Ecce iam noctis tenuatur umbra, set to music from the Salisbury Hymnal, resounded through the arches of the chapel like a call to the duties of the day. In the institution from which he had recently come, the jealousy of rival sects had resulted in the complete elimination of all outward forms of worship; and he found the change grateful. There was novelty and charm in a service attended wholly by men, and in the music, as mediaeval in character as the architecture of the Hall itself. Like most of his contemporaries, Leigh could by no means have formulated his religious beliefs, but in all the chaos of modern thought he still retained a certain piety, in the old Roman sense of the word, a loyalty to the traditions of his fathers which he would never have dignified by the name of faith.
He was happily unconscious of the fact that the eyes of many of the students were fixed upon him with keen observation. The self-contained young professor was as much an unknown quantity as any he asked them to find in the recitation-room. They were baffled by the impersonal attitude he had brought from the university, where the individual counted for little, and were inclined to attribute it to a disposition to be severe in his marking.
It chanced that this morning he was free from recitations, but though his time was his own, he had no definite plan with which to fill it. After lingering in his room for some minutes, he descended once more to the walk, finding relief in simulating a purpose by definiteness of action. Instead of following the line of the building northward, he struck out directly across the plateau, past the flagstaff and the great bronze statue of the bishop, and descended the slope along a path that marked the future grand approach.
As he recalled the bishop's elaborate description, he turned and gazed at the towers which loomed ghost-like beyond the ridge. He was now in the midst of the wide field from which he had heard the tinkle of cow-bells on the morning of his arrival. The place was deserted, save for his own presence. The grass was heavy with clinging globules of moisture, and every head of goldenrod seemed encrusted with glimmering pearls. Everywhere there was a curious and oppressive silence, as if the world were deprived not only of light, but also of life. The great towers appeared unsubstantial, carved from blocks of mist only a degree thicker than that which spread about him. He indulged the odd fancy that a rising wind might sweep the whole away, leaving only a bare hilltop beneath the clearing sky.
The clang of a gong from the car barn beyond came like a reminder of his purpose, a summons to make a tentative effort, at least, to achieve it. So he turned resolutely away, leaving academic dreams in the mist behind him.
The street-car barn was perhaps the dreariest spot in Warwick. Its proximity to the college grounds had caused the bishop to view it with disfavour, and already a fine ivy, planted at his suggestion, covered part of the bare brick walls. The bishop would fain have recalled the days that antedated electric roads, before the company had driven this peg at the corner of his academe and stretched therefrom another gleaming thread of its intricate web of trolley lines. Those were the golden days when one drove up to the Hall in a comfortable carriage, when the richer students went horseback riding along the country roads, when the chug, chug of the motor-car and its attendant smell of gasoline were unknown.
Though Leigh was far from sharing the bishop's whimsical indignation at this change, even he felt the chill unloveliness of the long reaches of the barn filled with lifeless cars, where an occasional electric bulb burned like an ignis fatuus in the misty gloom. How much more attractive a railroad roundhouse, with iron monsters on its converging tracks, each with his cyclopean eye of fire, each panting deeply with slow jets of steam!
The place was comparatively deserted. Far back in the barn dim figures moved, and from the workhouse in the rear came the clang of metal. One or two passengers were waiting for the next car, and Leigh spied a conductor coming to his work, finishing the last few puffs of his morning pipe. He was an elderly man, with a sweeping grey moustache and a gait that suggested the sea. Behind him two small boys came racing with a cart.
"Hello!" cried the conductor, stepping aside with agility. "What 's this? A Japanese torpedo boat?" He turned to Leigh genially. "I 'll have to spread a net before my bows. These youngsters take me for a Rooshyan battleship."
It occurred to Leigh that this man might know Emmet well, and when the car came in, he stood on the back platform for the purpose of engaging him in talk that might help him in his project. The heavy morning traffic was over, and as the conductor was comparatively unoccupied, he accepted his passenger's advances readily. In a few minutes Leigh became aware that the man knew who he was.
"That's nothing wonderful," he explained. "I've been on this line for years, and I know everybody that travels this way. I thought you were the new professor at the Hall, the minute I set eyes on you."
In spite of the trim uniform, the cap and buttons, he seemed cast in a larger mould than most men of his kind. He was garrulous without offence, and carried with him some of the atmosphere which only travel gives. He was more fit, Leigh reflected, to command a ship, or to crack the whip over six horses from the seat of a stage-coach, than to pull the bellrope on a Warwick street-car. It was easy enough to engage him in conversation about the coming election, but more difficult to arrive at the point he had in mind. He learned that Emmet had already resigned his place as a conductor to devote his whole time to the work of the campaign, and he began to appreciate the difficulty of meeting him naturally. If he went to his boarding-house, he would doubtless find him away, or not alone. On the whole, considering the shortness of the time and the different worlds in which they moved, he decided that he must make his opportunity, rather than wait for it to come.
"I believe you said that Mr. Emmet boards at your house," he ventured finally. "In that case, you might do me a little favour, if you will. The fact is, that I would like very much to make his acquaintance, but I hesitate to call upon him at random, knowing how busy he is. If he has a free hour some time, I 'd like to meet him."
"You 'd like to meet him?" the conductor asked shrewdly.
"This is n't politics," Leigh explained, aware of the other's guess, "and for that reason I want Mr. Emmet to consult his own convenience. If you 'll give him my card and tell him that we have a common friend who wishes us to know each other, he may think it worth while to drop me a postcard and make an appointment. I 'll come to see him any time he's at liberty."
The conductor stowed the card away in his clothes with a peculiar lurch of his figure that reminded Leigh once more of his first impression.
"Am I right," he asked, "in guessing that you once followed the sea?"
"Twenty years," the man answered; "and though I 've been ashore as many, they still call me captain—Captain Tucker. The salt water puts its stamp on a man for life, don't it? I was reminded of it this morning when I see in the paper that the Rooshyans had fired on the Hull fishermen off the Dogger Banks. What a shame that was, wa'n't it? Why, those fishermen are the most inoffensive fellows in the world. Many a time when I passed through that sea they 'd throw up a fish on our deck by way of a present."
Leigh found the conversation which this reminiscence suggested so full of interest, that he made the complete circuit of the line to pursue it at such intervals as his new acquaintance could spare from his duties. Then, as the steaming rain had begun to fall heavily, he returned to the college. Upon a mental review of his trip, he was inclined to doubt that he would hear from Emmet, but in so doing he forgot to reckon with one of the most powerful of human motives, curiosity. He also failed to consider that his position as a professor at St. George's Hall would give his advances peculiar importance. His only fear was that the captain might not report the message correctly, and he wished he had been able to write a note. A remembrance of the man's geniality reassured him, and he reflected that such men were the most approachable and companionable in the world, always ready for a new acquaintance, and imbued with a certain fundamental humanity which is too often winnowed out from more artificial or more cultivated natures.
He went to his work that evening without much thought of the probable outcome of his morning's effort. Like most college professors, he had a number of unfinished problems on hand, any one of which might require years for its solution. The scholar's work, like the housekeeper's, is never done, and like the housekeeper, too, he can cover up his postponements and neglect for a measurable time without censure. He can fail to set the house of his mind in order; he can sweep the dust of unfinished investigation into obscure nooks and corners; he can make fair the outside of the cup and the platter for cursory inspection. Herein lies his peculiar temptation. The public is prone to take his scientific spirit for granted, and is a long time in opening its eyes. Meanwhile he lives a life of delightful leisure, teaching as many hours a week as a business man labours in a day. Not one man in a hundred is proof against the seduction of those idle hours, during which literature and art and a cultivated society plead for some share of his attention and filch away his will. And, after all, why not? he begins to ask himself. In a commercial age and a country that thinks upon the surface, his profession receives no adequate recognition. Life is short; he had better reap the reward of his laborious and expensive preparation by enjoying those diversions which he of all men is peculiarly fitted to appreciate.
Leigh honestly meant to be the hundredth man, and to make a name for himself. He had found what might be called an easy place in contrast with the drudgery of the large classes he had previously taught. Here was the time, here the problem. The lamp was trimmed, the white sheets of paper were spread out invitingly on his desk. A few logs burned brightly in the fireplace, dispelling the penetrating chill, and the rain beat heavily against the windows, intensifying the distance of the world and his own seclusion.
But now a face hovered between his eyes and the paper on his desk; then the complete figure of the woman he loved came into view, pointing with her small ivory cimeter another and more alluring road. As one may lie and doze awhile in the morning, with a resentful realisation of the impending duties of the day, so now he allowed himself ten minutes of respite, only to discover presently that his allowance had lengthened imperceptibly to an hour.