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Title: Far Country, a — Volume 1
Author: Churchill, Winston, 1871-1947
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A FAR COUNTRY

By Winston Churchill


BOOK 1.



I.

My name is Hugh Paret. I was a corporation lawyer, but by no means a
typical one, the choice of my profession being merely incidental, and
due, as will be seen, to the accident of environment. The book I am about
to write might aptly be called The Autobiography of a Romanticist. In
that sense, if in no other, I have been a typical American, regarding my
country as the happy hunting-ground of enlightened self-interest, as a
function of my desires. Whether or not I have completely got rid of this
romantic virus I must leave to those the aim of whose existence is to
eradicate it from our literature and our life. A somewhat Augean task!

I have been impelled therefore to make an attempt at setting forth, with
what frankness and sincerity I may, with those powers of selection of
which I am capable, the life I have lived in this modern America; the
passions I have known, the evils I have done. I endeavour to write a
biography of the inner life; but in order to do this I shall have to
relate those causal experiences of the outer existence that take place in
the world of space and time, in the four walls of the home, in the school
and university, in the noisy streets, in the realm of business and
politics. I shall try to set down, impartially, the motives that have
impelled my actions, to reveal in some degree the amazing mixture of good
and evil which has made me what I am to-day: to avoid the tricks of
memory and resist the inherent desire to present myself other and better
than I am. Your American romanticist is a sentimental spoiled child who
believes in miracles, whose needs are mostly baubles, whose desires are
dreams. Expediency is his motto. Innocent of a knowledge of the
principles of the universe, he lives in a state of ceaseless activity,
admitting no limitations, impatient of all restrictions. What he wants,
he wants very badly indeed. This wanting things was the corner-stone of
my character, and I believe that the science of the future will bear me
out when I say that it might have been differently built upon. Certain it
is that the system of education in vogue in the 70's and 80's never
contemplated the search for natural corner-stones.

At all events, when I look back upon the boy I was, I see the beginnings
of a real person who fades little by little as manhood arrives and
advances, until suddenly I am aware that a stranger has taken his
place....

I lived in a city which is now some twelve hours distant from the
Atlantic seaboard. A very different city, too, it was in youth, in my
grandfather's day and my father's, even in my own boyhood, from what it
has since become in this most material of ages.

There is a book of my photographs, preserved by my mother, which I have
been looking over lately. First is presented a plump child of two, gazing
in smiling trustfulness upon a world of sunshine; later on a lean boy in
plaided kilts, whose wavy, chestnut-brown hair has been most carefully
parted on the side by Norah, his nurse. The face is still childish. Then
appears a youth of fourteen or thereabout in long trousers and the
queerest of short jackets, standing beside a marble table against a
classic background; he is smiling still in undiminished hope and trust,
despite increasing vexations and crossings, meaningless lessons which had
to be learned, disciplines to rack an aspiring soul, and long,
uncomfortable hours in the stiff pew of the First Presbyterian Church.
Associated with this torture is a peculiar Sunday smell and the faint
rustling of silk dresses. I can see the stern black figure of Dr. Pound,
who made interminable statements to the Lord.

"Oh, Lord," I can hear him say, "thou knowest..."

These pictures, though yellowed and faded, suggest vividly the being I
once was, the feelings that possessed and animated me, love for my
playmates, vague impulses struggling for expression in a world forever
thwarting them. I recall, too, innocent dreams of a future unidentified,
dreams from which I emerged vibrating with an energy that was lost for
lack of a definite objective: yet it was constantly being renewed. I
often wonder what I might have become if it could have been harnessed,
directed! Speculations are vain. Calvinism, though it had begun to make
compromises, was still a force in those days, inimical to spontaneity and
human instincts. And when I think of Calvinism I see, not Dr. Pound, who
preached it, but my father, who practised and embodied it. I loved him,
but he made of righteousness a stern and terrible thing implying not joy,
but punishment, the, suppression rather than the expansion of
aspirations. His religion seemed woven all of austerity, contained no
shining threads to catch my eye. Dreams, to him, were matters for
suspicion and distrust.

I sometimes ask myself, as I gaze upon his portrait now, the duplicate of
the one painted for the Bar Association, whether he ever could have felt
the secret, hot thrills I knew and did not identify with religion. His
religion was real to him, though he failed utterly to make it
comprehensible to me. The apparent calmness, evenness of his life awed
me. A successful lawyer, a respected and trusted citizen, was he lacking
somewhat in virility, vitality? I cannot judge him, even to-day. I never
knew him. There were times in my youth when the curtain of his unfamiliar
spirit was withdrawn a little: and once, after I had passed the crisis of
some childhood disease, I awoke to find him bending over my bed with a
tender expression that surprised and puzzled me.

He was well educated, and from his portrait a shrewd observer might
divine in him a genteel taste for literature. The fine features bear
witness to the influence of an American environment, yet suggest the
intellectual Englishman of Matthew Arnold's time. The face is
distinguished, ascetic, the chestnut hair lighter and thinner than my
own; the side whiskers are not too obtrusive, the eyes blue-grey. There
is a large black cravat crossed and held by a cameo pin, and the coat has
odd, narrow lapels. His habits of mind were English, although he
harmonized well enough with the manners and traditions of a city whose
inheritance was Scotch-Irish; and he invariably drank tea for breakfast.
One of my earliest recollections is of the silver breakfast service and
egg-cups which my great-grandfather brought with him from Sheffield to
Philadelphia shortly after the Revolution. His son, Dr. Hugh Moreton
Paret, after whom I was named, was the best known physician of the city
in the decorous, Second Bank days.

My mother was Sarah Breck. Hers was my Scotch-Irish side. Old Benjamin
Breck, her grandfather, undaunted by sea or wilderness, had come straight
from Belfast to the little log settlement by the great river that
mirrored then the mantle of primeval forest on the hills. So much for
chance. He kept a store with a side porch and square-paned windows, where
hams and sides of bacon and sugar loaves in blue glazed paper hung beside
ploughs and calico prints, barrels of flour, of molasses and rum, all of
which had been somehow marvellously transported over the passes of those
forbidding mountains,--passes we blithely thread to-day in dining cars
and compartment sleepers. Behind the store were moored the barges that
floated down on the swift current to the Ohio, carrying goods to even
remoter settlements in the western wilderness.

Benjamin, in addition to his emigrant's leather box, brought with him
some of that pigment that was to dye the locality for generations a deep
blue. I refer, of course, to his Presbyterianism. And in order the better
to ensure to his progeny the fastness of this dye, he married the
granddaughter of a famous divine, celebrated in the annals of New
England,--no doubt with some injustice,--as a staunch advocate on the
doctrine of infant damnation. My cousin Robert Breck had old Benjamin's
portrait, which has since gone to the Kinley's. Heaven knows who painted
it, though no great art were needed to suggest on canvas the tough fabric
of that sitter, who was more Irish than Scotch. The heavy stick he holds
might, with a slight stretch of the imagination, be a blackthorn; his
head looks capable of withstanding many blows; his hand of giving many.
And, as I gazed the other day at this picture hanging in the shabby
suburban parlour, I could only contrast him with his anaemic descendants
who possessed the likeness. Between the children of poor Mary
Kinley,--Cousin Robert's daughter, and the hardy stock of the old country
there is a gap indeed!

Benjamin Breck made the foundation of a fortune. It was his son who built
on the Second Bank the wide, corniced mansion in which to house
comfortably his eight children. There, two tiers above the river, lived
my paternal grandfather, Dr. Paret, the Breck's physician and friend; the
Durretts and the Hambletons, iron-masters; the Hollisters, Sherwins, the
McAlerys and Ewanses,--Breck connections,--the Willetts and Ogilvys; in
short, everyone of importance in the days between the 'thirties and the
Civil War. Theirs were generous houses surrounded by shade trees, with
glorious back yards--I have been told--where apricots and pears and
peaches and even nectarines grew.

The business of Breck and Company, wholesale grocers, descended to my
mother's first cousin, Robert Breck, who lived at Claremore. The very
sound of that word once sufficed to give me a shiver of delight; but the
Claremore I knew has disappeared as completely as Atlantis, and the place
is now a suburb (hateful word!) cut up into building lots and connected
with Boyne Street and the business section of the city by trolley lines.
Then it was "the country," and fairly saturated with romance. Cousin
Robert, when he came into town to spend his days at the store, brought
with him some of this romance, I had almost said of this aroma. He was no
suburbanite, but rural to the backbone, professing a most proper contempt
for dwellers in towns.

Every summer day that dawned held Claremore as a possibility. And such
was my capacity for joy that my appetite would depart completely when I
heard my mother say, questioningly and with proper wifely respect--

"If you're really going off on a business trip for a day or two, Mr.
Paret" (she generally addressed my father thus formally), "I think I'll
go to Robert's and take Hugh."

"Shall I tell Norah to pack, mother," I would exclaim, starting up.

"We'll see what your father thinks, my dear."

"Remain at the table until you are excused, Hugh," he would say.

Released at length, I would rush to Norah, who always rejoiced with me,
and then to the wire fence which marked the boundary of the Peters domain
next door, eager, with the refreshing lack of consideration
characteristic of youth, to announce to the Peterses--who were to remain
at home the news of my good fortune. There would be Tom and Alfred and
Russell and Julia and little Myra with her grass-stained knees, faring
forth to seek the adventures of a new day in the shady western yard. Myra
was too young not to look wistful at my news, but the others pretended
indifference, seeking to lessen my triumph. And it was Julia who
invariably retorted "We can go out to Uncle Jake's farm whenever we want
to. Can't we, Tom?"...

No journey ever taken since has equalled in ecstasy that leisurely trip
of thirteen miles in the narrow-gauge railroad that wound through hot
fields of nodding corn tassels and between delicious, acrid-smelling
woods to Claremore. No silent palace "sleeping in the sun," no edifice
decreed by Kubla Khan could have worn more glamour than the house of
Cousin Robert Breck.

It stood half a mile from the drowsy village, deep in its own grounds
amidst lawns splashed with shadows, with gravel paths edged--in barbarous
fashion, if you please with shells. There were flower beds of equally
barbarous design; and two iron deer, which, like the figures on Keats's
Grecian urn, were ever ready poised to flee,--and yet never fled. For
Cousin Robert was rich, as riches went in those days: not only rich, but
comfortable. Stretching behind the house were sweet meadows of hay and
red clover basking in the heat, orchards where the cows cropped beneath
the trees, arbours where purple clusters of Concords hung beneath warm
leaves: there were woods beyond, into which, under the guidance of Willie
Breck, I made adventurous excursions, and in the autumn gathered
hickories and walnuts. The house was a rambling, wooden mansion painted
grey, with red scroll-work on its porches and horsehair furniture inside.
Oh, the smell of its darkened interior on a midsummer day! Like the
flavour of that choicest of tropical fruits, the mangosteen, it baffles
analysis, and the nearest I can come to it is a mixture of matting and
corn-bread, with another element too subtle to define.

The hospitality of that house! One would have thought we had arrived, my
mother and I, from the ends of the earth, such was the welcome we got
from Cousin Jenny, Cousin Robert's wife, from Mary and Helen with the
flaxen pig-tails, from Willie, whom I recall as permanently without shoes
or stockings. Met and embraced by Cousin Jenny at the station and driven
to the house in the squeaky surrey, the moment we arrived she and my
mother would put on the dressing-sacks I associated with hot weather, and
sit sewing all day long in rocking-chairs at the coolest end of the
piazza. The women of that day scorned lying down, except at night, and as
evening came on they donned starched dresses; I recall in particular one
my mother wore, with little vertical stripes of black and white, and a
full skirt. And how they talked, from the beginning of the visit until
the end! I have often since wondered where the topics came from.

It was not until nearly seven o'clock that the train arrived which
brought home my Cousin Robert. He was a big man; his features and even
his ample moustache gave a disconcerting impression of rugged integrity,
and I remember him chiefly in an alpaca or seersucker coat. Though much
less formal, more democratic--in a word--than my father, I stood in awe
of him for a different reason, and this I know now was because he
possessed the penetration to discern the flaws in my youthful
character,--flaws that persisted in manhood. None so quick as Cousin
Robert to detect deceptions which were hidden from my mother.

His hobby was carpentering, and he had a little shop beside the stable
filled with shining tools which Willie and I, in spite of their
attractions, were forbidden to touch. Willie, by dire experience, had
learned to keep the law; but on one occasion I stole in alone, and
promptly cut my finger with a chisel. My mother and Cousin Jenny accepted
the fiction that the injury had been done with a flint arrowhead that
Willie had given me, but when Cousin Robert came home and saw my bound
hand and heard the story, he gave me a certain look which sticks in my
mind.

"Wonderful people, those Indians were!" he observed. "They could make
arrowheads as sharp as chisels."

I was most uncomfortable....

He had a strong voice, and spoke with a rising inflection and a marked
accent that still remains peculiar to our locality, although it was much
modified in my mother and not at all noticeable in my father; with an odd
nasal alteration of the burr our Scotch-Irish ancestors had brought with
them across the seas. For instance, he always called my father Mr.
Par-r-ret. He had an admiration and respect for him that seemed to forbid
the informality of "Matthew." It was shared by others of my father's
friends and relations.

"Sarah," Cousin Robert would say to my mother, "you're coddling that boy,
you ought to lam him oftener. Hand him over to me for a couple of
months--I'll put him through his paces.... So you're going to send him to
college, are you? He's too good for old Benjamin's grocery business."

He was very fond of my mother, though he lectured her soundly for her
weakness in indulging me. I can see him as he sat at the head of the
supper table, carving liberal helpings which Mary and Helen and Willie
devoured with country appetites, watching our plates.

"What's the matter, Hugh? You haven't eaten all your lamb."

"He doesn't like fat, Robert," my mother explained.

"I'd teach him to like it if he were my boy."

"Well, Robert, he isn't your boy," Cousin Jenny would remind him.... His
bark was worse than his bite. Like many kind people he made use of
brusqueness to hide an inner tenderness, and on the train he was hail
fellow well met with every Tom, Dick and Harry that commuted,--although
the word was not invented in those days,--and the conductor and brakeman
too. But he had his standards, and held to them....

Mine was not a questioning childhood, and I was willing to accept the
scheme of things as presented to me entire. In my tenderer years, when I
had broken one of the commandments on my father's tablet (there were more
than ten), and had, on his home-coming, been sent to bed, my mother would
come softly upstairs after supper with a book in her hand; a book of
selected Bible stories on which Dr. Pound had set the seal of his
approval, with a glazed picture cover, representing Daniel in the lions'
den and an angel standing beside him. On the somewhat specious plea that
Holy Writ might have a chastening effect, she was permitted to minister
to me in my shame. The amazing adventure of Shadrach, Meshach and
Abednego particularly appealed to an imagination needing little
stimulation. It never occurred to me to doubt that these gentlemen had
triumphed over caloric laws. But out of my window, at the back of the
second storey, I often saw a sudden, crimson glow in the sky to the
southward, as though that part of the city had caught fire. There were
the big steel-works, my mother told me, belonging to Mr. Durrett and Mr.
Hambleton, the father of Ralph Hambleton and the grandfather of Hambleton
Durrett, my schoolmates at Miss Caroline's. I invariably connected the
glow, not with Hambleton and Ralph, but with Shadrach, Meshach and
Abednego! Later on, when my father took me to the steel-works, and I
beheld with awe a huge pot filled with molten metal that ran out of it
like water, I asked him--if I leaped into that stream, could God save me?
He was shocked. Miracles, he told me, didn't happen any more.

"When did they stop?" I demanded.

"About two thousand years ago, my son," he replied gravely.

"Then," said I, "no matter how much I believed in God, he wouldn't save
me if I jumped into the big kettle for his sake?"

For this I was properly rebuked and silenced.

My boyhood was filled with obsessing desires. If God, for example, had
cast down, out of his abundant store, manna and quail in the desert, why
couldn't he fling me a little pocket money? A paltry quarter of a dollar,
let us say, which to me represented wealth. To avoid the reproach of the
Pharisees, I went into the closet of my bed-chamber to pray, requesting
that the quarter should be dropped on the north side of Lyme Street,
between Stamford and Tryon; in short, as conveniently near home as
possible. Then I issued forth, not feeling overconfident, but hoping. Tom
Peters, leaning over the ornamental cast-iron fence which separated his
front yard from the street, presently spied me scanning the sidewalk.

"What are you looking for, Hugh?" he demanded with interest.

"Oh, something I dropped," I answered uneasily.

"What?"

Naturally, I refused to tell. It was a broiling, midsummer day; Julia and
Russell, who had been warned to stay in the shade, but who were engaged
in the experiment of throwing the yellow cat from the top of the lattice
fence to see if she would alight on her feet, were presently attracted,
and joined in the search. The mystery which I threw around it added to
its interest, and I was not inconsiderably annoyed. Suppose one of them
were to find the quarter which God had intended for me? Would that be
justice?

"It's nothing," I said, and pretended to abandon the quest--to be renewed
later. But this ruse failed; they continued obstinately to search; and
after a few minutes Tom, with a shout, picked out of a hot crevice
between the bricks--a nickel!

"It's mine!" I cried fiercely.

"Did you lose it?" demanded Julia, the canny one, as Tom was about to
give it up.

My lying was generally reserved for my elders.

"N-no," I said hesitatingly, "but it's mine all the same. It was--sent to
me."

"Sent to you!" they exclaimed, in a chorus of protest and derision. And
how, indeed, was I to make good my claim? The Peterses, when assembled,
were a clan, led by Julia and in matters of controversy, moved as one.
How was I to tell them that in answer to my prayers for twenty-five
cents, God had deemed five all that was good for me?

"Some--somebody dropped it there for me."

"Who?" demanded the chorus. "Say, that's a good one!"

Tears suddenly blinded me. Overcome by chagrin, I turned and flew into
the house and upstairs into my room, locking the door behind me. An
interval ensued, during which I nursed my sense of wrong, and it pleased
me to think that the money would bring a curse on the Peters family. At
length there came a knock on the door, and a voice calling my name.

"Hugh! Hugh!"

It was Tom.

"Hughie, won't you let me in? I want to give you the nickel."

"Keep it!" I shouted back. "You found it."

Another interval, and then more knocking.

"Open up," he said coaxingly. "I--I want to talk to you."

I relented, and let him in. He pressed the coin into my hand. I refused;
he pleaded.

"You found it," I said, "it's yours."

"But--but you were looking for it."

"That makes no difference," I declared magnanimously.

Curiosity overcame him.

"Say, Hughie, if you didn't drop it, who on earth did?"

"Nobody on earth," I replied cryptically....

Naturally, I declined to reveal the secret. Nor was this by any means the
only secret I held over the Peters family, who never quite knew what to
make of me. They were not troubled with imaginations. Julia was a little
older than Tom and had a sharp tongue, but over him I exercised a
distinct fascination, and I knew it. Literal himself, good-natured and
warm-hearted, the gift I had of tingeing life with romance (to put the
thing optimistically), of creating kingdoms out of back yards--at which
Julia and Russell sniffed--held his allegiance firm.



II.

I must have been about twelve years of age when I realized that I was
possessed of the bard's inheritance. A momentous journey I made with my
parents to Boston about this time not only stimulated this gift, but gave
me the advantage of which other travellers before me have likewise
availed themselves--of being able to take certain poetic liberties with a
distant land that my friends at home had never seen. Often during the
heat of summer noons when we were assembled under the big maple beside
the lattice fence in the Peters' yard, the spirit would move me to relate
the most amazing of adventures. Our train, for instance, had been held up
in the night by a band of robbers in black masks, and rescued by a
traveller who bore a striking resemblance to my Cousin Robert Breck. He
had shot two of the robbers. These fabrications, once started, flowed
from me with ridiculous ease. I experienced an unwonted exhilaration,
exaltation; I began to believe that they had actually occurred. In vain
the astute Julia asserted that there were no train robbers in the east.
What had my father done? Well, he had been very brave, but he had had no
pistol. Had I been frightened? No, not at all; I, too, had wished for a
pistol. Why hadn't I spoken of this before? Well, so many things had
happened to me I couldn't tell them all at once. It was plain that Julia,
though often fascinated against her will, deemed this sort of thing
distinctly immoral.

I was a boy divided in two. One part of me dwelt in a fanciful realm of
his own weaving, and the other part was a commonplace and protesting
inhabitant of a world of lessons, disappointments and discipline. My
instincts were not vicious. Ideas bubbled up within me continually from
an apparently inexhaustible spring, and the very strength of the longings
they set in motion puzzled and troubled my parents: what I seem to see
most distinctly now is a young mind engaged in a ceaseless struggle for
self-expression, for self-development, against the inertia of a tradition
of which my father was the embodiment. He was an enigma to me then. He
sincerely loved me, he cherished ambitions concerning me, yet thwarted
every natural, budding growth, until I grew unconsciously to regard him
as my enemy, although I had an affection for him and a pride in him that
flared up at times. Instead of confiding to him my aspirations, vague
though they were, I became more and more secretive as I grew older. I
knew instinctively that he regarded these aspirations as evidences in my
character of serious moral flaws. And I would sooner have suffered many
afternoons of his favourite punishment--solitary confinement in my
room--than reveal to him those occasional fits of creative fancy which
caused me to neglect my lessons in order to put them on paper. Loving
literature, in his way, he was characteristically incapable of
recognizing the literary instinct, and the symptoms of its early stages
he mistook for inherent frivolity, for lack of respect for the truth; in
brief, for original sin. At the age of fourteen I had begun secretly
(alas, how many things I did secretly!) to write stories of a sort,
stories that never were finished.

He regarded reading as duty, not pleasure. He laid out books for me,
which I neglected. He was part and parcel of that American environment in
which literary ambition was regarded as sheer madness. And no one who has
not experienced that environment can have any conception of the pressure
it exerted to stifle originality, to thrust the new generation into its
religious and commercial moulds. Shall we ever, I wonder, develop the
enlightened education that will know how to take advantage of such
initiative as was mine? that will be on the watch for it, sympathize with
it and guide it to fruition?

I was conscious of still another creative need, that of dramatizing my
ideas, of converting them into action. And this need was to lead me
farther than ever afield from the path of righteousness. The concrete
realization of ideas, as many geniuses will testify, is an expensive
undertaking, requiring a little pocket money; and I have already touched
upon that subject. My father did not believe in pocket money. A sea story
that my Cousin Donald Ewan gave me at Christmas inspired me to compose
one of a somewhat different nature; incidentally, I deemed it a vast
improvement on Cousin Donald's book. Now, if I only had a boat, with the
assistance of Ham Durrett and Tom Peters, Gene Hollister and Perry
Blackwood and other friends, this story of mine might be staged. There
were, however, as usual, certain seemingly insuperable difficulties: in
the first place, it was winter time; in the second, no facilities existed
in the city for operations of a nautical character; and, lastly, my
Christmas money amounted only to five dollars. It was my father who
pointed out these and other objections. For, after a careful perusal of
the price lists I had sent for, I had been forced to appeal to him to
supply additional funds with which to purchase a row-boat. Incidentally,
he read me a lecture on extravagance, referred to my last month's report
at the Academy, and finished by declaring that he would not permit me to
have a boat even in the highly improbable case of somebody's presenting
me with one. Let it not be imagined that my ardour or my determination
were extinguished. Shortly after I had retired from his presence it
occurred to me that he had said nothing to forbid my making a boat, and
the first thing I did after school that day was to procure, for
twenty-five cents, a second-hand book on boat construction. The woodshed
was chosen as a shipbuilding establishment. It was convenient--and my
father never went into the back yard in cold weather. Inquiries of
lumber-yards developing the disconcerting fact that four dollars and
seventy-five cents was inadequate to buy the material itself, to say
nothing of the cost of steaming and bending the ribs, I reluctantly
abandoned the ideal of the graceful craft I had sketched, and compromised
on a flat bottom. Observe how the ways of deception lead to
transgression: I recalled the cast-off lumber pile of Jarvis, the
carpenter, a good-natured Englishman, coarse and fat: in our
neighbourhood his reputation for obscenity was so well known to mothers
that I had been forbidden to go near him or his shop. Grits Jarvis, his
son, who had inherited the talent, was also contraband. I can see now the
huge bulk of the elder Jarvis as he stood in the melting, soot-powdered
snow in front of his shop, and hear his comments on my pertinacity.

"If you ever wants another man's missus when you grows up, my lad, Gawd
'elp 'im!"

"Why should I want another man's wife when I don't want one of my own?" I
demanded, indignant.

He laughed with his customary lack of moderation.

"You mind what old Jarvis says," he cried. "What you wants, you gets."

I did get his boards, by sheer insistence. No doubt they were not very
valuable, and without question he more than made up for them in my
mother's bill. I also got something else of equal value to me at the
moment,--the assistance of Grits, the contraband; daily, after school, I
smuggled him into the shed through the alley, acquiring likewise the
services of Tom Peters, which was more of a triumph than it would seem.
Tom always had to be "worked up" to participation in my ideas, but in the
end he almost invariably succumbed. The notion of building a boat in the
dead of winter, and so far from her native element, naturally struck him
at first as ridiculous. Where in Jehoshaphat was I going to sail it if I
ever got it made? He much preferred to throw snowballs at innocent wagon
drivers.

All that Tom saw, at first, was a dirty, coal-spattered shed with dim
recesses, for it was lighted on one side only, and its temperature was
somewhere below freezing. Surely he could not be blamed for a tempered
enthusiasm! But for me, all the dirt and cold and discomfort were blotted
out, and I beheld a gallant craft manned by sturdy seamen forging her way
across blue water in the South Seas. Treasure Island, alas, was as yet
unwritten; but among my father's books were two old volumes in which I
had hitherto taken no interest, with crude engravings of palms and coral
reefs, of naked savages and tropical mountains covered with jungle, the
adventures, in brief, of one Captain Cook. I also discovered a book by a
later traveller. Spurred on by a mysterious motive power, and to the
great neglect of the pons asinorum and the staple products of the
Southern States, I gathered an amazing amount of information concerning a
remote portion of the globe, of head-hunters and poisoned stakes, of
typhoons, of queer war-craft that crept up on you while you were
dismantling galleons, when desperate hand-to-hand encounters ensued.
Little by little as I wove all this into personal adventures soon to be
realized, Tom forgot the snowballs and the maddened grocery-men who
chased him around the block; while Grits would occasionally stop sawing
and cry out:--"Ah, s'y!" frequently adding that he would be G--d--d.

The cold woodshed became a chantry on the New England coast, the alley
the wintry sea soon to embrace our ship, the saw-horses--which stood
between a coal-bin on one side and unused stalls filled with rubbish and
kindling on the other--the ways; the yard behind the lattice fence became
a backwater, the flapping clothes the sails of ships that took refuge
there--on Mondays and Tuesdays. Even my father was symbolized with
unparalleled audacity as a watchful government which had, up to the
present, no inkling of our semi-piratical intentions! The cook and the
housemaid, though remonstrating against the presence of Grits, were
friendly confederates; likewise old Cephas, the darkey who, from my
earliest memory, carried coal and wood and blacked the shoes, washed the
windows and scrubbed the steps.

One afternoon Tom went to work....

The history of the building of the good ship Petrel is similar to that of
all created things, a story of trial and error and waste. At last, one
March day she stood ready for launching. She had even been caulked; for
Grits, from an unknown and unquestionably dubious source, had procured a
bucket of tar, which we heated over afire in the alley and smeared into
every crack. It was natural that the news of such a feat as we were
accomplishing should have leaked out, that the "yard" should have been
visited from time to time by interested friends, some of whom came to
admire, some to scoff, and all to speculate. Among the scoffers, of
course, was Ralph Hambleton, who stood with his hands in his pockets and
cheerfully predicted all sorts of dire calamities. Ralph was always a
superior boy, tall and a trifle saturnine and cynical, with an amazing
self-confidence not wholly due to the wealth of his father, the
iron-master. He was older than I.

"She won't float five minutes, if you ever get her to the water," was his
comment, and in this he was supported on general principles by Julia and
Russell Peters. Ralph would have none of the Petrel, or of the South Seas
either; but he wanted,--so he said,--"to be in at the death." The
Hambletons were one of the few families who at that time went to the sea
for the summer, and from a practical knowledge of craft in general Ralph
was not slow to point out the defects of ours. Tom and I defended her
passionately.

Ralph was not a romanticist. He was a born leader, excelling at organized
games, exercising over boys the sort of fascination that comes from doing
everything better and more easily than others. It was only during the
progress of such enterprises as this affair of the Petrel that I
succeeded in winning their allegiance; bit by bit, as Tom's had been won,
fanning their enthusiasm by impersonating at once Achilles and Homer,
recruiting while relating the Odyssey of the expedition in glowing
colours. Ralph always scoffed, and when I had no scheme on foot they went
back to him. Having surveyed the boat and predicted calamity, he
departed, leaving a circle of quaint and youthful figures around the
Petrel in the shed: Gene Hollister, romantically inclined, yet somewhat
hampered by a strict parental supervision; Ralph's cousin Ham Durrett,
who was even then a rather fat boy, good-natured but selfish; Don and
Harry Ewan, my second cousins; Mac and Nancy Willett and Sam and Sophy
McAlery. Nancy was a tomboy, not to be denied, and Sophy her shadow. We
held a council, the all-important question of which was how to get the
Petrel to the water, and what water to get her to. The river was not to
be thought of, and Blackstone Lake some six miles from town. Finally,
Logan's mill-pond was decided on,--a muddy sheet on the outskirts of the
city. But how to get her to Logan's mill-pond? Cephas was at length
consulted. It turned out that he had a coloured friend who went by the
impressive name of Thomas Jefferson Taliaferro (pronounced Tolliver), who
was in the express business; and who, after surveying the boat with some
misgivings,--for she was ten feet long,--finally consented to transport
her to "tide-water" for the sum of two dollars. But it proved that our
combined resources only amounted to a dollar and seventy-five cents. Ham
Durrett never contributed to anything. On this sum Thomas Jefferson
compromised.

Saturday dawned clear, with a stiff March wind catching up the dust into
eddies and whirling it down the street. No sooner was my father safely on
his way to his office than Thomas Jefferson was reported to be in the
alley, where we assembled, surveying with some misgivings Thomas
Jefferson's steed, whose ability to haul the Petrel two miles seemed
somewhat doubtful. Other difficulties developed; the door in the back of
the shed proved to be too narrow for our ship's beam. But men embarked on
a desperate enterprise are not to be stopped by such trifles, and the
problem was solved by sawing out two adjoining boards. These were
afterwards replaced with skill by the ship's carpenter, Able Seaman Grits
Jarvis. Then the Petrel by heroic efforts was got into the wagon, the
seat of which had been removed, old Thomas Jefferson perched himself
precariously in the bow and protestingly gathered up his rope-patched
reins.

"Folks'll 'low I'se plum crazy, drivin' dis yere boat," he declared,
observing with concern that some four feet of the stern projected over
the tail-board. "Ef she topples, I'll git to heaven quicker'n a bullet."

When one is shanghaied, however,--in the hands of buccaneers,--it is too
late to withdraw. Six shoulders upheld the rear end of the Petrel, others
shoved, and Thomas Jefferson's rickety horse began to move forward in
spite of himself. An expression of sheer terror might have been observed
on the old negro's crinkled face, but his voice was drowned, and we swept
out of the alley. Scarcely had we travelled a block before we began to be
joined by all the boys along the line of march; marbles, tops, and even
incipient baseball games were abandoned that Saturday morning; people ran
out of their houses, teamsters halted their carts. The breathless
excitement, the exaltation I had felt on leaving the alley were now
tinged with other feelings, unanticipated, but not wholly lacking in
delectable quality,--concern and awe at these unforeseen forces I had
raised, at this ever growing and enthusiastic body of volunteers
springing up like dragon's teeth in our path. After all, was not I the
hero of this triumphal procession? The thought was consoling,
exhilarating. And here was Nancy marching at my side, a little subdued,
perhaps, but unquestionably admiring and realizing that it was I who had
created all this. Nancy, who was the aptest of pupils, the most loyal of
followers, though I did not yet value her devotion at its real worth,
because she was a girl. Her imagination kindled at my touch. And on this
eventful occasion she carried in her arms a parcel, the contents of which
were unknown to all but ourselves. At length we reached the muddy shores
of Logan's pond, where two score eager hands volunteered to assist the
Petrel into her native element.

Alas! that the reality never attains to the vision. I had beheld, in my
dreams, the Petrel about to take the water, and Nancy Willett standing
very straight making a little speech and crashing a bottle of wine across
the bows. This was the content of the mysterious parcel; she had stolen
it from her father's cellar. But the number of uninvited spectators,
which had not been foreseen, considerably modified the programme,--as the
newspapers would have said. They pushed and crowded around the ship, and
made frank and even brutal remarks as to her seaworthiness; even Nancy,
inured though she was to the masculine sex, had fled to the heights, and
it looked at this supreme moment as though we should have to fight for
the Petrel. An attempt to muster her doughty buccaneers failed; the
gunner too had fled,--Gene Hollister; Ham Durrett and the Ewanses were
nowhere to be seen, and a muster revealed only Tom, the fidus Achates,
and Grits Jarvis.

"Ah, s'y!" he exclaimed in the teeth of the menacing hordes. "Stand back,
carn't yer? I'll bash yer face in, Johnny. Whose boat is this?"

Shall it be whispered that I regretted his belligerency? Here, in truth,
was the drama staged,--my drama, had I only been able to realize it. The
good ship beached, the headhunters hemming us in on all sides, the scene
prepared for one of those struggles against frightful odds which I had so
graphically related as an essential part of our adventures.

"Let's roll the cuss in the fancy collar," proposed one of the
head-hunters,--meaning me.

"I'll stove yer slats if yer touch him," said Grits, and then resorted to
appeal. "I s'y, carn't yer stand back and let a chap 'ave a charnst?"

The head-hunters only jeered. And what shall be said of the Captain in
this moment of peril? Shall it be told that his heart was beating
wildly?--bumping were a better word. He was trying to remember that he
was the Captain. Otherwise, he must admit with shame that he, too, should
have fled. So much for romance when the test comes. Will he remain to
fall fighting for his ship? Like Horatius, he glanced up at the hill,
where, instead of the porch of the home where he would fain have been, he
beheld a wisp of a girl standing alone, her hat on the back of her head,
her hair flying in the wind, gazing intently down at him in his danger.
The renegade crew was nowhere to be seen. There are those who demand the
presence of a woman in order to be heroes....

"Give us a chance, can't you?" he cried, repeating Grits's appeal in not
quite such a stentorian tone as he would have liked, while his hand
trembled on the gunwale. Tom Peters, it must be acknowledged, was much
more of a buccaneer when it was a question of deeds, for he planted
himself in the way of the belligerent chief of the head-hunters (who
spoke with a decided brogue).

"Get out of the way!" said Tom, with a little squeak in his voice. Yet
there he was, and he deserves a tribute.

An unlooked-for diversion saved us from annihilation, in the shape of one
who had a talent for creating them. We were bewilderingly aware of a
girlish figure amongst us.

"You cowards!" she cried. "You cowards!"

Lithe, and fairly quivering with passion, it was Nancy who showed us how
to face the head-hunters. They gave back. They would have been brave
indeed if they had not retreated before such an intense little nucleus of
energy and indignation!...

"Ah, give 'em a chanst," said their chief, after a moment.... He even
helped to push the boat towards the water. But he did not volunteer to be
one of those to man the Petrel on her maiden voyage. Nor did Logan's
pond, that wild March day, greatly resemble the South Seas. Nevertheless,
my eye on Nancy, I stepped proudly aboard and seized an "oar." Grits and
Tom followed,--when suddenly the Petrel sank considerably below the
water-line as her builders had estimated it. Ere we fully realized this,
the now friendly head-hunters had given us a shove, and we were off! The
Captain, who should have been waving good-bye to his lady love from the
poop, sat down abruptly,--the crew likewise; not, however, before she had
heeled to the scuppers, and a half-bucket of iced water had run it.
Head-hunters were mere daily episodes in Grits's existence, but water...
He muttered something in cockney that sounded like a prayer.... The wind
was rapidly driving us toward the middle of the pond, and something cold
and ticklish was seeping through the seats of our trousers. We sat like
statues....

The bright scene etched itself in my memory--the bare brown slopes with
which the pond was bordered, the Irish shanties, the clothes-lines with
red flannel shirts snapping in the biting wind; Nancy motionless on the
bank; the group behind her, silent now, impressed in spite of itself at
the sight of our intrepidity.

The Petrel was sailing stern first.... Would any of us, indeed, ever see
home again? I thought of my father's wrath turned to sorrow because he
had refused to gratify a son's natural wish and present him with a real
rowboat.... Out of the corners of our eyes we watched the water creeping
around the gunwale, and the very muddiness of it seemed to enhance its
coldness, to make the horrors of its depths more mysterious and hideous.
The voice of Grits startled us.

"O Gawd," he was saying, "we're a-going to sink, and I carn't swim! The
blarsted tar's give way back here."

"Is she leaking?" I cried.

"She's a-filling up like a bath tub," he lamented.

Slowly but perceptibly, in truth, the bow was rising, and above the
whistling of the wind I could hear his chattering as she settled.... Then
several things happened simultaneously: an agonized cry behind me,
distant shouts from the shore, a sudden upward lunge of the bow, and the
torture of being submerged, inch by inch, in the icy, yellow water.
Despite the splashing behind me, I sat as though paralyzed until I was
waist deep and the boards turned under me, and then, with a spasmodic
contraction of my whole being I struck out--only to find my feet on the
muddy bottom. Such was the inglorious end of the good ship Petrel! For
she went down, with all hands, in little more than half a fathom of
water.... It was not until then I realized that we had been blown clear
across the pond!

Figures were running along the shore. And as Tom and I emerged dragging
Grits between us,--for he might have been drowned there abjectly in the
shallows,--we were met by a stout and bare-armed Irishwoman whose scanty
hair, I remember, was drawn into a tight knot behind her head; and who
seized us, all three, as though we were a bunch of carrots.

"Come along wid ye!" she cried.

Shivering, we followed her up the hill, the spectators of the tragedy,
who by this time had come around the pond, trailing after. Nancy was not
among them. Inside the shanty into which we were thrust were two small
children crawling about the floor, and the place was filled with steam
from a wash-tub against the wall and a boiler on the stove. With a
vigorous injunction to make themselves scarce, the Irishwoman slammed the
door in the faces of the curious and ordered us to remove our clothes.
Grits was put to bed in a corner, while Tom and I, provided with various
garments, huddled over the stove. There fell to my lot the red flannel
shirt which I had seen on the clothes-line. She gave us hot coffee, and
was back at her wash-tub in no time at all, her entire comment on a
proceeding that seemed to Tom and me to have certain elements of gravity
being, "By's will be by's!" The final ironical touch was given the
anti-climax when our rescuer turned out to be the mother of the chief of
the head-hunters himself! He had lingered perforce with his brothers and
sister outside the cabin until dinner time, and when he came in he was
meek as Moses.

Thus the ready hospitality of the poor, which passed over the heads of
Tom and me as we ate bread and onions and potatoes with a ravenous
hunger. It must have been about two o'clock in the afternoon when we bade
good-bye to our preserver and departed for home....

At first we went at a dog-trot, but presently slowed down to discuss the
future looming portentously ahead of us. Since entire concealment was now
impossible, the question was,--how complete a confession would be
necessary? Our cases, indeed, were dissimilar, and Tom's incentive to
hold back the facts was not nearly so great as mine. It sometimes seemed
to me in those days unjust that the Peterses were able on the whole to
keep out of criminal difficulties, in which I was more or less
continuously involved: for it did not strike me that their sins were not
those of the imagination. The method of Tom's father was the slipper. He
and Tom understood each other, while between my father and myself was a
great gulf fixed. Not that Tom yearned for the slipper; but he regarded
its occasional applications as being as inevitable as changes in the
weather; lying did not come easily to him, and left to himself he much
preferred to confess and have the matter over with. I have already
suggested that I had cultivated lying, that weapon of the weaker party,
in some degree, at least, in self-defence.

Tom was loyal. Moreover, my conviction would probably deprive him for six
whole afternoons of my company, on which he was more or less dependent.
But the defence of this case presented unusual difficulties, and we
stopped several times to thrash them out. We had been absent from dinner,
and doubtless by this time Julia had informed Tom's mother of the
expedition, and anyone could see that our clothing had been wet. So I
lingered in no little anxiety behind the Peters stable while he made the
investigation. Our spirits rose considerably when he returned to report
that Julia had unexpectedly been a trump, having quieted his mother by
the surmise that he was spending the day with his Aunt Fanny. So far, so
good. The problem now was to decide upon what to admit. For we must both
tell the same story.

It was agreed that we had fallen into Logan's Pond from a raft: my
suggestion. Well, said Tom, the Petrel hadn't proved much better than a
raft, after all. I was in no mood to defend her.

This designation of the Petrel as a "raft" was my first legal quibble.
The question to be decided by the court was, What is a raft? just as the
supreme tribunal of the land has been required, in later years, to
decide, What is whiskey? The thing to be concealed if possible was the
building of the "raft," although this information was already in the
possession of a number of persons, whose fathers might at any moment see
fit to congratulate my own on being the parent of a genius. It was a
risk, however, that had to be run. And, secondly, since Grits Jarvis was
contraband, nothing was to be said about him.

I have not said much about my mother, who might have been likened on such
occasions to a grand jury compelled to indict, yet torn between loyalty
to an oath and sympathy with the defendant. I went through the Peters
yard, climbed the wire fence, my object being to discover first from
Ella, the housemaid, or Hannah, the cook, how much was known in high
quarters. It was Hannah who, as I opened the kitchen door, turned at the
sound, and set down the saucepan she was scouring.

"Is it home ye are? Mercy to goodness!" (this on beholding my shrunken
costume) "Glory be to God you're not drownded! and your mother worritin'
her heart out! So it's into the wather ye were?"

I admitted it.

"Hannah?" I said softly.

"What then?"

"Does mother know--about the boat?"

"Now don't ye be wheedlin'."

I managed to discover, however, that my mother did not know, and surmised
that the best reason why she had not been told had to do with Hannah's
criminal acquiescence concerning the operations in the shed. I ran into
the front hall and up the stairs, and my mother heard me coming and met
me on the landing.

"Hugh, where have you been?"

As I emerged from the semi-darkness of the stairway she caught sight of
my dwindled garments, of the trousers well above my ankles. Suddenly she
had me in her arms and was kissing me passionately. As she stood before
me in her grey, belted skirt, the familiar red-and-white cameo at her
throat, her heavy hair parted in the middle, in her eyes was an odd,
appealing look which I know now was a sign of mother love struggling with
a Presbyterian conscience. Though she inherited that conscience, I have
often thought she might have succeeded in casting it off--or at least
some of it--had it not been for the fact that in spite of herself she
worshipped its incarnation in the shape of my father. Her voice trembled
a little as she drew me to the sofa beside the window.

"Tell me about what happened, my son," she said.

It was a terrible moment for me. For my affections were still quiveringly
alive in those days, and I loved her. I had for an instant an instinctive
impulse to tell her the whole story,--South Sea Islands and all! And I
could have done it had I not beheld looming behind her another figure
which represented a stern and unsympathetic Authority, and somehow made
her, suddenly, of small account. Not that she would have understood the
romance, but she would have comprehended me. I knew that she was
powerless to save me from the wrath to come. I wept. It was because I
hated to lie to her,--yet I did so. Fear gripped me, and--like some
respectable criminals I have since known--I understood that any
confession I made would inexorably be used against me.... I wonder
whether she knew I was lying? At any rate, the case appeared to be a
grave one, and I was presently remanded to my room to be held over for
trial....

Vividly, as I write, I recall the misery of the hours I have spent, while
awaiting sentence, in the little chamber with the honeysuckle wall-paper
and steel engravings of happy but dumpy children romping in the fields
and groves. On this particular March afternoon the weather had become
morne, as the French say; and I looked down sadly into the grey back yard
which the wind of the morning had strewn with chips from the Petrel. At
last, when shadows were gathering in the corners of the room, I heard
footsteps. Ella appeared, prim and virtuous, yet a little commiserating.
My father wished to see me, downstairs. It was not the first time she had
brought that summons, and always her manner was the same!

The scene of my trials was always the sitting room, lined with grim books
in their walnut cases. And my father sat, like a judge, behind the big
desk where he did his work when at home. Oh, the distance between us at
such an hour! I entered as delicately as Agag, and the expression in his
eye seemed to convict me before I could open my mouth.

"Hugh," he said, "your mother tells me that you have confessed to going,
without permission, to Logan's Pond, where you embarked on a raft and
fell into the water."

The slight emphasis he contrived to put on the word raft sent a colder
shiver down my spine than the iced water had done. What did he know? or
was this mere suspicion? Too late, now, at any rate, to plead guilty.

"It was a sort of a raft, sir," I stammered.

"A sort of a raft," repeated my father. "Where, may I ask, did you find
it?"

"I--I didn't exactly find it, sir."

"Ah!" said my father. (It was the moment to glance meaningly at the
jury.) The prisoner gulped. "You didn't exactly find it, then. Will you
kindly explain how you came by it?"

"Well, sir, we--I--put it together."

"Have you any objection to stating, Hugh, in plain English, that you made
it?"

"No, sir, I suppose you might say that I made it."

"Or that it was intended for a row-boat?"

Here was the time to appeal, to force a decision as to what constituted a
row-boat.

"Perhaps it might be called a row-boat, sir," I said abjectly.

"Or that, in direct opposition to my wishes and commands in forbidding
you to have a boat, to spend your money foolishly and wickedly on a whim,
you constructed one secretly in the woodshed, took out a part of the back
partition, thus destroying property that did, not belong to you, and had
the boat carted this morning to Logan's Pond?" I was silent, utterly
undone. Evidently he had specific information.... There are certain
expressions that are, at times, more than mere figures of speech, and now
my father's wrath seemed literally towering. It added visibly to his
stature.

"Hugh," he said, in a voice that penetrated to the very corners of my
soul, "I utterly fail to understand you. I cannot imagine how a son of
mine, a son of your mother who is the very soul of truthfulness and
honour--can be a liar." (Oh, the terrible emphasis he put on that word!)
"Nor is it as if this were a new tendency--I have punished you for it
before. Your mother and I have tried to do our duty by you, to instil
into you Christian teaching. But it seems wholly useless. I confess that
I am at a less how to proceed. You seem to have no conscience whatever,
no conception of what you owe to your parents and your God. You not only
persistently disregard my wishes and commands, but you have, for many
months, been leading a double life, facing me every day, while you were
secretly and continually disobeying me. I shudder to think where this
determination of yours to have what you desire at any price will lead you
in the future. It is just such a desire that distinguishes wicked men
from good."

I will not linger upon a scene the very remembrance of which is painful
to this day.... I went from my father's presence in disgrace, in an agony
of spirit that was overwhelming, to lock the door of my room and drop
face downward on the bed, to sob until my muscles twitched. For he had,
indeed, put into me an awful fear. The greatest horror of my boyish
imagination was a wicked man. Was I, as he had declared, utterly depraved
and doomed in spite of myself to be one?

There came a knock at my door--Ella with my supper. I refused to open,
and sent her away, to fall on my knees in the darkness and pray wildly to
a God whose attributes and character were sufficiently confused in my
mind. On the one hand was the stern, despotic Monarch of the Westminster
Catechism, whom I addressed out of habit, the Father who condemned a
portion of his children from the cradle. Was I one of those who he had
decreed before I was born must suffer the tortures of the flames of hell?
Putting two and two together, what I had learned in Sunday school and
gathered from parts of Dr. Pound's sermons, and the intimation of my
father that wickedness was within me, like an incurable disease,--was not
mine the logical conclusion? What, then, was the use of praying?... My
supplications ceased abruptly. And my ever ready imagination, stirred to
its depths, beheld that awful scene of the last day: the darkness, such
as sometimes creeps over the city in winter, when the jaundiced smoke
falls down and we read at noonday by gas-light. I beheld the tortured
faces of the wicked gathered on the one side, and my mother on the other
amongst the blessed, gazing across the gulf at me with yearning and
compassion. Strange that it did not strike me that the sight of the
condemned whom they had loved in life would have marred if not destroyed
the happiness of the chosen, about to receive their crowns and harps!
What a theology--that made the Creator and Preserver of all mankind thus
illogical!



III.

Although I was imaginative, I was not morbidly introspective, and by the
end of the first day of my incarceration my interest in that solution had
waned. At times, however, I actually yearned for someone in whom I could
confide, who could suggest a solution. I repeat, I would not for worlds
have asked my father or my mother or Dr. Pound, of whom I had a wholesome
fear, or perhaps an unwholesome one. Except at morning Bible reading and
at church my parents never mentioned the name of the Deity, save to
instruct me formally. Intended or no, the effect of my religious training
was to make me ashamed of discussing spiritual matters, and naturally I
failed to perceive that this was because it laid its emphasis on personal
salvation.... I did not, however, become an unbeliever, for I was not of
a nature to contemplate with equanimity a godless universe....

My sufferings during these series of afternoon confinements did not come
from remorse, but were the result of a vague sense of injury; and their
effect was to generate within me a strange motive power, a desire to do
something that would astound my father and eventually wring from him the
confession that he had misjudged me. To be sure, I should have to wait
until early manhood, at least, for the accomplishment of such a coup.
Might it not be that I was an embryonic literary genius? Many were the
books I began in this ecstasy of self-vindication, only to abandon them
when my confinement came to an end.

It was about this time, I think, that I experienced one of those shocks
which have a permanent effect upon character. It was then the custom for
ladies to spend the day with one another, bringing their sewing; and
sometimes, when I unexpectedly entered the sitting-room, the voices of my
mother's visitors would drop to a whisper. One afternoon I returned from
school to pause at the head of the stairs. Cousin Bertha Ewan and Mrs.
McAlery were discussing with my mother an affair that I judged from the
awed tone in which they spoke might prove interesting.

"Poor Grace," Mrs. McAlery was saying, "I imagine she's paid a heavy
penalty. No man alive will be faithful under those circumstances."

I stopped at the head of the stairs, with a delicious, guilty feeling.

"Have they ever heard of her?" Cousin Bertha asked.

"It is thought they went to Spain," replied Mrs. McAlery, solemnly, yet
not without a certain zest. "Mr. Jules Hollister will not have her name
mentioned in his presence, you know. And Whitcomb chased them as far as
New York with a horse-pistol in his pocket. The report is that he got to
the dock just as the ship sailed. And then, you know, he went to live
somewhere out West,--in Iowa, I believe."

"Did he ever get a divorce?" Cousin Bertha inquired.

"He was too good a church member, my dear," my mother reminded her.

"Well, I'd have got one quick enough, church member or no church member,"
declared Cousin Bertha, who had in her elements of daring.

"Not that I mean for a moment to excuse her," Mrs. McAlery put in, "but
Edward Whitcomb did have a frightful temper, and he was awfully strict
with her, and he was old enough, anyhow, to be her father. Grace
Hollister was the last woman in the world I should have suspected of
doing so hideous a thing. She was so sweet and simple."

"Jennings was very attractive," said my Cousin Bertha. "I don't think I
ever saw a handsomer man. Now, if he had looked at me--"

The sentence was never finished, for at this crucial moment I dropped a
grammar....

I had heard enough, however, to excite my curiosity to the highest pitch.
And that evening, when I came in at five o'clock to study, I asked my
mother what had become of Gene Hollister's aunt.

"She went away, Hugh," replied my mother, looking greatly troubled.

"Why?" I persisted.

"It is something you are too young to understand."

Of course I started an investigation, and the next day at school I asked
the question of Gene Hollister himself, only to discover that he believed
his aunt to be dead! And that night he asked his mother if his Aunt Grace
were really alive, after all? Whereupon complications and explanations
ensued between our parents, of which we saw only the surface signs.... My
father accused me of eavesdropping (which I denied), and sentenced me to
an afternoon of solitary confinement for repeating something which I had
heard in private. I have reason to believe that my mother was also
reprimanded.

It must not be supposed that I permitted the matter to rest. In addition
to Grits Jarvis, there was another contraband among my acquaintances,
namely, Alec Pound, the scrape-grace son of the Reverend Doctor Pound.
Alec had an encyclopaedic mind, especially well stocked with the kind of
knowledge I now desired; first and last he taught me much, which I would
better have got in another way. To him I appealed and got the story, my
worst suspicions being confirmed. Mrs. Whitcomb's house had been across
the alley from that of Mr. Jennings, but no one knew that anything was
"going on," though there had been signals from the windows--the
neighbours afterwards remembered....

I listened shudderingly.

"But," I cried, "they were both married!"

"What difference does that make when you love a woman?" Alec replied
grandly. "I could tell you much worse things than that."

This he proceeded to do. Fascinated, I listened with a sickening
sensation. It was a mild afternoon in spring, and we stood in the deep
limestone gutter in front of the parsonage, a little Gothic wooden house
set in a gloomy yard.

"I thought," said I, "that people couldn't love any more after they were
married, except each other."

Alec looked at me pityingly.

"You'll get over that notion," he assured me.

Thus another ingredient entered my character. Denied its food at home,
good food, my soul eagerly consumed and made part of itself the
fermenting stuff that Alec Pound so willing distributed. And it was
fermenting stuff. Let us see what it did to me. Working slowly but
surely, it changed for me the dawning mystery of sex into an evil instead
of a holy one. The knowledge of the tragedy of Grace Hollister started me
to seeking restlessly, on bookshelves and elsewhere, for a secret that
forever eluded me, and forever led me on. The word fermenting aptly
describes the process begun, suggesting as it does something closed up,
away from air and sunlight, continually working in secret, engendering
forces that fascinated, yet inspired me with fear. Undoubtedly this
secretiveness of our elders was due to the pernicious dualism of their
orthodox Christianity, in which love was carnal and therefore evil, and
the flesh not the gracious soil of the spirit, but something to be
deplored and condemned, exorcised and transformed by the miracle of
grace. Now love had become a terrible power (gripping me) whose
enchantment drove men and women from home and friends and kindred to the
uttermost parts of the earth....

It was long before I got to sleep that night after my talk with Alec
Pound. I alternated between the horror and the romance of the story I had
heard, supplying for myself the details he had omitted: I beheld the
signals from the windows, the clandestine meetings, the sudden and
desperate flight. And to think that all this could have happened in our
city not five blocks from where I lay!

My consternation and horror were concentrated on the man,--and yet I
recall a curious bifurcation. Instead of experiencing that automatic
righteous indignation which my father and mother had felt, which had
animated old Mr. Jules Hollister when he had sternly forbidden his
daughter's name to be mentioned in his presence, which had made these
people outcasts, there welled up within me an intense sympathy and pity.
By an instinctive process somehow linked with other experiences, I seemed
to be able to enter into the feelings of these two outcasts, to
understand the fearful yet fascinating nature of the impulse that had led
them to elude the vigilance and probity of a world with which I myself
was at odds. I pictured them in a remote land, shunned by mankind. Was
there something within me that might eventually draw me to do likewise?
The desire in me to which my father had referred, which would brook no
opposition, which twisted and squirmed until it found its way to its
object? I recalled the words of Jarvis, the carpenter, that if I ever set
my heart on another man's wife, God help him. God help me!

A wicked man! I had never beheld the handsome and fascinating Mr.
Jennings, but I visualised him now; dark, like all villains, with a black
moustache and snapping black eyes. He carried a cane. I always associated
canes with villains. Whereupon I arose, groped for the matches, lighted
the gas, and gazing at myself in the mirror was a little reassured to
find nothing sinister in my countenance....

Next to my father's faith in a Moral Governor of the Universe was his
belief in the Tariff and the Republican Party. And this belief, among
others, he handed on to me. On the cinder playground of the Academy we
Republicans used to wage, during campaigns, pitched battles for the
Tariff. It did not take a great deal of courage to be a Republican in our
city, and I was brought up to believe that Democrats were irrational,
inferior, and--with certain exceptions like the Hollisters--dirty beings.
There was only one degree lower, and that was to be a mugwump. It was no
wonder that the Hollisters were Democrats, for they had a queer streak in
them; owing, no doubt, to the fact that old Mr. Jules Hollister's mother
had been a Frenchwoman. He looked like a Frenchman, by the way, and
always wore a skullcap.

I remember one autumn afternoon having a violent quarrel with Gene
Hollister that bade fair to end in blows, when he suddenly
demanded:--"I'll bet you anything you don't know why you're a
Republican."

"It's because I'm for the Tariff," I replied triumphantly.

But his next question floored me. What, for example, was the Tariff? I
tried to bluster it out, but with no success.

"Do you know?" I cried finally, with sudden inspiration.

It turned out that he did not.

"Aren't we darned idiots," he asked, "to get fighting over something we
don't know anything about?"

That was Gene's French blood, of course. But his question rankled. And
how was I to know that he would have got as little satisfaction if he had
hurled it into the marching ranks of those imposing torch-light
processions which sometimes passed our house at night, with drums beating
and fifes screaming and torches waving,--thousands of citizens who were
for the Tariff for the same reason as I: to wit, because they were
Republicans.

Yet my father lived and died in the firm belief that the United States of
America was a democracy!

Resolved not to be caught a second time in such a humiliating position by
a Democrat, I asked my father that night what the Tariff was. But I was
too young to understand it, he said. I was to take his word for it that
the country would go to the dogs if the Democrats got in and the Tariff
were taken away. Here, in a nutshell, though neither he nor I realized
it, was the political instruction of the marching hordes. Theirs not to
reason why. I was too young, they too ignorant. Such is the method of
Authority!

The steel-mills of Mr. Durrett and Mr. Hambleton, he continued, would be
forced to shut down, and thousands of workmen would starve. This was just
a sample of what would happen. Prosperity would cease, he declared. That
word, Prosperity, made a deep impression on me, and I recall the certain
reverential emphasis he laid on it. And while my solicitude for the
workmen was not so great as his and Mr. Durrett's, I was concerned as to
what would happen to us if those twin gods, the Tariff and Prosperity,
should take their departure from the land. Knowing my love for the good
things of the table, my father intimated, with a rare humour I failed to
appreciate, that we should have to live henceforth in spartan simplicity.
After that, like the intelligent workman, I was firmer than ever for the
Tariff.

Such was the idealistic plane on which--and from a good man--I received
my first political instruction! And for a long time I connected the
dominance of the Republican Party with the continuation of manna and
quails, in other words, with nothing that had to do with the spiritual
welfare of any citizen, but with clothing and food and material comforts.
My education was progressing....

Though my father revered Plato and Aristotle, he did not, apparently,
take very seriously the contention that that government alone is good
"which seeks to attain the permanent interests of the governed by
evolving the character of its citizens." To put the matter brutally,
politics, despite the lofty sentiments on the transparencies in
torchlight processions, had only to do with the belly, not the soul.

Politics and government, one perceives, had nothing to do with religion,
nor education with any of these. A secularized and disjointed world! Our
leading citizens, learned in the classics though some of them might be,
paid no heed to the dictum of the Greek idealist, who was more practical
than they would have supposed. "The man who does not carry his city
within his heart is a spiritual starveling."

One evening, a year or two after that tariff campaign, I was pretending
to study my lessons under the student lamp in the sitting-room while my
mother sewed and my father wrote at his desk, when there was a ring at
the door-bell. I welcomed any interruption, even though the visitor
proved to be only the druggist's boy; and there was always the
possibility of a telegram announcing, for instance, the death of a
relative. Such had once been the case when my Uncle Avery Paret had died
in New York, and I was taken out of school for a blissful four days for
the funeral.

I went tiptoeing into the hall and peeped over the banisters while Ella
opened the door. I heard a voice which I recognized as that of Perry
Blackwood's father asking for Mr. Paret; and then to my astonishment, I
saw filing after him into the parlour some ten or twelve persons. With
the exception of Mr. Ogilvy, who belonged to one of our old families, and
Mr. Watling, a lawyer who had married the youngest of Gene Hollister's
aunts, the visitors entered stealthily, after the manner of burglars;
some of these were heavy-jowled, and all had an air of mystery that
raised my curiosity and excitement to the highest pitch. I caught hold of
Ella as she came up the stairs, but she tore herself free, and announced
to my father that Mr. Josiah Blackwood and other gentlemen had asked to
see him. My father seemed puzzled as he went downstairs.... A long
interval elapsed, during which I did not make even a pretence of looking
at my arithmetic. At times the low hum of voices rose to what was almost
an uproar, and on occasions I distinguished a marked Irish brogue.

"I wonder what they want?" said my mother, nervously.

At last we heard the front door shut behind them, and my father came
upstairs, his usually serene face wearing a disturbed expression.

"Who in the world was it, Mr. Paret?" asked my mother.

My father sat down in the arm-chair. He was clearly making an effort for
self-control.

"Blackwood and Ogilvy and Watling and some city politicians," he
exclaimed.

"Politicians!" she repeated. "What did they want? That is, if it's
anything you can tell me," she added apologetically.

"They wished me to be the Republican candidate for the mayor of this
city."

This tremendous news took me off my feet. My father mayor!

"Of course you didn't consider it, Mr. Paret," my mother was saying.

"Consider it!" he echoed reprovingly. "I can't imagine what Ogilvy and
Watling and Josiah Blackwood were thinking of! They are out of their
heads. I as much as told them so."

This was more than I could bear, for I had already pictured myself
telling the news to envious schoolmates.

"Oh, father, why didn't you take it?" I cried.

By this time, when he turned to me, he had regained his usual expression.

"You don't know what you're talking about, Hugh," he said. "Accept a
political office! That sort of thing is left to politicians."

The tone in which he spoke warned me that a continuation of the
conversation would be unwise, and my mother also understood that the
discussion was closed. He went back to his desk, and began writing again
as though nothing had happened.

As for me, I was left in a palpitating state of excitement which my
father's self-control or sang-froid only served to irritate and enhance,
and my head was fairly spinning as, covertly, I watched his pen steadily
covering the paper.

How could he--how could any man of flesh and blood sit down calmly after
having been offered the highest honour in the gift of his community! And
he had spurned it as if Mr. Blackwood and the others had gratuitously
insulted him! And how was it, if my father so revered the Republican
Party that he would not suffer it to be mentioned slightingly in his
presence, that he had refused contemptuously to be its mayor?...

The next day at school, however, I managed to let it be known that the
offer had been made and declined. After all, this seemed to make my
father a bigger man than if he had accepted it. Naturally I was asked why
he had declined it.

"He wouldn't take it," I replied scornfully. "Office-holding should be
left to politicians."

Ralph Hambleton, with his precocious and cynical knowledge of the world,
minimized my triumph by declaring that he would rather be his
grandfather, Nathaniel Durrett, than the mayor of the biggest city in the
country. Politicians, he said, were bloodsuckers and thieves, and the
only reason for holding office was that it enabled one to steal the
taxpayers' money....

As I have intimated, my vision of a future literary career waxed and
waned, but a belief that I was going to be Somebody rarely deserted me.
If not a literary lion, what was that Somebody to be? Such an environment
as mine was woefully lacking in heroic figures to satisfy the romantic
soul. In view of the experience I have just related, it is not surprising
that the notion of becoming a statesman did not appeal to me; nor is it
to be wondered at, despite the somewhat exaggerated respect and awe in
which Ralph's grandfather was held by my father and other influential
persons, that I failed to be stirred by the elements of greatness in the
grim personality of our first citizen, the iron-master. For he possessed
such elements. He lived alone in Ingrain Street in an uncompromising
mansion I always associated with the Sabbath, not only because I used to
be taken there on decorous Sunday visits by my father, but because it was
the very quintessence of Presbyterianism. The moment I entered its
"portals"--as Mr. Hawthorne appropriately would have called them--my
spirit was overwhelmed and suffocated by its formality and orderliness.
Within its stern walls Nathaniel Durrett had made a model universe of his
own, such as the Deity of the Westminster Confession had no doubt meant
his greater one to be if man had not rebelled and foiled him.... It was a
world from which I was determined to escape at any cost.

My father and I were always ushered into the gloomy library, with its
high ceiling, with its long windows that reached almost to the rococo
cornice, with its cold marble mantelpiece that reminded me of a
tombstone, with its interminable book shelves filled with yellow
bindings. On the centre table, in addition to a ponderous Bible, was one
of those old-fashioned carafes of red glass tipped with blue surmounted
by a tumbler of blue tipped with red. Behind this table Mr. Durrett sat
reading a volume of sermons, a really handsome old man in his black tie
and pleated shirt; tall and spare, straight as a ramrod, with a finely
moulded head and straight nose and sinewy hands the colour of mulberry
stain. He called my father by his first name, an immense compliment,
considering how few dared to do so.

"Well, Matthew," the old man would remark, after they had discussed Dr.
Pound's latest flight on the nature of the Trinity or the depravity of
man, or horticulture, or the Republican Party, "do you have any better
news of Hugh at school?"

"I regret to say, Mr. Durrett," my father would reply, "that he does not
yet seem to be aroused to a sense of his opportunities."

Whereupon Mr. Durrett would gimble me with a blue eye that lurked beneath
grizzled brows, quite as painful a proceeding as if he used an iron tool.
I almost pity myself when I think of what a forlorn stranger I was in
their company. They two, indeed, were of one kind, and I of another sort
who could never understand them,--nor they me. To what depths of despair
they reduced me they never knew, and yet they were doing it all for my
good! They only managed to convince me that my love of folly was
ineradicable, and that I was on my way head first for perdition. I always
looked, during these excruciating and personal moments, at the coloured
glass bottle.

"It grieves me to hear it, Hugh," Mr. Durrett invariably declared.
"You'll never come to any good without study. Now when I was your age..."

I knew his history by heart, a common one in this country, although he
made an honourable name instead of a dishonourable one. And when I
contrast him with those of his successors whom I was to know later...!
But I shall not anticipate. American genius had not then evolved the
false entry method of overcapitalization. A thrilling history, Mr.
Durrett's, could I but have entered into it. I did not reflect then that
this stern old man must have throbbed once; nay, fire and energy still
remained in his bowels, else he could not have continued to dominate a
city. Nor did it occur to me that the great steel-works that lighted the
southern sky were the result of a passion, of dreams similar to those
possessing me, but which I could not express. He had founded a family
whose position was virtually hereditary, gained riches which for those
days were great, compelled men to speak his name with a certain awe. But
of what use were such riches as his when his religion and morality
compelled him to banish from him all the joys in the power of riches to
bring?

No, I didn't want to be an iron-master. But it may have been about this
time that I began to be impressed with the power of wealth, the adulation
and reverence it commanded, the importance in which it clothed all who
shared in it....

The private school I attended in the company of other boys with whom I
was brought up was called Densmore Academy, a large, square building of a
then hideous modernity, built of smooth, orange-red bricks with threads
of black mortar between them. One reads of happy school days, yet I fail
to recall any really happy hours spent there, even in the yard, which was
covered with black cinders that cut you when you fell. I think of it as a
penitentiary, and the memory of the barred lower windows gives substance
to this impression.

I suppose I learned something during the seven years of my incarceration.
All of value, had its teachers known anything of youthful psychology, of
natural bent, could have been put into me in three. At least four
criminally wasted years, to say nothing of the benumbing and desiccating
effect of that old system of education! Chalk and chalk-dust! The
Mediterranean a tinted portion of the map, Italy a man's boot which I
drew painfully, with many yawns; history no glorious epic revealing as it
unrolls the Meaning of Things, no revelation of that wondrous
distillation of the Spirit of man, but an endless marching and
counter-marching up and down the map, weary columns of figures to be
learned by rote instantly to be forgotten again. "On June the 7th General
So-and-so proceeded with his whole army--" where? What does it matter?
One little chapter of Carlyle, illuminated by a teacher of understanding,
were worth a million such text-books. Alas, for the hatred of Virgil!
"Paret" (a shiver), "begin at the one hundred and thirtieth line and
translate!" I can hear myself droning out in detestable English a
meaningless portion of that endless journey of the pious AEneas; can see
Gene Hollister, with heart-rending glances of despair, stumbling through
Cornelius Nepos in an unventilated room with chalk-rubbed blackboards and
heavy odours of ink and stale lunch. And I graduated from Densmore
Academy, the best school in our city, in the 80's, without having been
taught even the rudiments of citizenship.

Knowledge was presented to us as a corpse, which bit by bit we painfully
dissected. We never glimpsed the living, growing thing, never experienced
the Spirit, the same spirit that was able magically to waft me from a
wintry Lyme Street to the South Seas, the energizing, electrifying Spirit
of true achievement, of life, of God himself. Little by little its flames
were smothered until in manhood there seemed no spark of it left alive.
Many years were to pass ere it was to revive again, as by a miracle. I
travelled. Awakening at dawn, I saw, framed in a port-hole, rose-red
Seriphos set in a living blue that paled the sapphire; the seas Ulysses
had sailed, and the company of the Argonauts. My soul was steeped in
unimagined colour, and in the memory of one rapturous instant is gathered
what I was soon to see of Greece, is focussed the meaning of history,
poetry and art. I was to stand one evening in spring on the mound where
heroes sleep and gaze upon the plain of Marathon between darkening
mountains and the blue thread of the strait peaceful now, flushed with
pink and white blossoms of fruit and almond trees; to sit on the
cliff-throne whence a Persian King had looked down upon a Salamis fought
and lost.... In that port-hole glimpse a Themistocles was revealed, a
Socrates, a Homer and a Phidias, an AEschylus, and a Pericles; yes, and a
John brooding Revelations on his sea-girt rock as twilight falls over the
waters....

I saw the Roman Empire, that Scarlet Woman whose sands were dyed crimson
with blood to appease her harlotry, whose ships were laden with treasures
from the immutable East, grain from the valley of the Nile, spices from
Arabia, precious purple stuffs from Tyre, tribute and spoil, slaves and
jewels from conquered nations she absorbed; and yet whose very emperors
were the unconscious instruments of a Progress they wot not of, preserved
to the West by Marathon and Salamis. With Caesar's legions its message
went forth across Hispania to the cliffs of the wild western ocean,
through Hercynian forests to tribes that dwelt where great rivers roll up
their bars by misty, northern seas, and even to Celtic fastnesses beyond
the Wall....



IV.

In and out of my early memories like a dancing ray of sunlight flits the
spirit of Nancy. I was always fond of her, but in extreme youth I
accepted her incense with masculine complacency and took her allegiance
for granted, never seeking to fathom the nature of the spell I exercised
over her. Naturally other children teased me about her; but what was
worse, with that charming lack of self-consciousness and consideration
for what in after life are called the finer feelings, they teased her
about me before me, my presence deterring them not at all. I can see them
hopping around her in the Peters yard crying out:--"Nancy's in love with
Hugh! Nancy's in love with Hugh!"

A sufficiently thrilling pastime, this, for Nancy could take care of
herself. I was a bungler beside her when it came to retaliation, and not
the least of her attractions for me was her capacity for anger: fury
would be a better term. She would fly at them--even as she flew at the
head-hunters when the Petrel was menaced; and she could run like a deer.
Woe to the unfortunate victim she overtook! Masculine strength, exercised
apologetically, availed but little, and I have seen Russell Peters and
Gene Hollister retire from such encounters humiliated and weeping. She
never caught Ralph; his methods of torture were more intelligent and
subtle than Gene's and Russell's, but she was his equal when it came to a
question of tongues.

"I know what's the matter with you, Ralph Hambleton," she would say.
"You're jealous." An accusation that invariably put him on the defensive.
"You think all the girls are in love with you, don't you?"

These scenes I found somewhat embarrassing. Not so Nancy. After
discomfiting her tormenters, or wounding and scattering them, she would
return to my side.... In spite of her frankly expressed preference for me
she had an elusiveness that made a continual appeal to my imagination.
She was never obvious or commonplace, and long before I began to
experience the discomforts and sufferings of youthful love I was
fascinated by a nature eloquent with contradictions and inconsistencies.
She was a tomboy, yet her own sex was enhanced rather than overwhelmed by
contact with the other: and no matter how many trees she climbed she
never seemed to lose her daintiness. It was innate.

She could, at times, be surprisingly demure. These impressions of her
daintiness and demureness are particularly vivid in a picture my memory
has retained of our walking together, unattended, to Susan Blackwood's
birthday party. She must have been about twelve years old. It was the
first time I had escorted her or any other girl to a party; Mrs. Willett
had smiled over the proceeding, but Nancy and I took it most seriously,
as symbolic of things to come. I can see Powell Street, where Nancy
lived, at four o'clock on a mild and cloudy December afternoon, the
decorous, retiring houses, Nancy on one side of the pavement by the iron
fences and I on the other by the tree boxes. I can't remember her dress,
only the exquisite sense of her slimness and daintiness comes back to me,
of her dark hair in a long braid tied with a red ribbon, of her slender
legs clad in black stockings of shining silk. We felt the occasion to be
somehow too significant, too eloquent for words....

In silence we climbed the flight of stone steps that led up to the
Blackwood mansion, when suddenly the door was opened, letting out sounds
of music and revelry. Mr. Blackwood's coloured butler, Ned, beamed at us
hospitably, inviting us to enter the brightness within. The shades were
drawn, the carpets were covered with festal canvas, the folding doors
between the square rooms were flung back, the prisms of the big
chandeliers flung their light over animated groups of matrons and
children. Mrs. Watling, the mother of the Watling twins--too young to be
present was directing with vivacity the game of "King William was King
James's son," and Mrs. McAlery was playing the piano.

       "Now choose you East, now choose you West,
        Now choose the one you love the best!"

Tom Peters, in a velvet suit and consequently very miserable, refused to
embrace Ethel Hollister; while the scornful Julia lurked in a corner:
nothing would induce her to enter such a foolish game. I experienced a
novel discomfiture when Ralph kissed Nancy.... Afterwards came the feast,
from which Ham Durrett, in a pink paper cap with streamers, was at length
forcibly removed by his mother. Thus early did he betray his love for the
flesh pots....

It was not until I was sixteen that a player came and touched the keys of
my soul, and it awoke, bewildered, at these first tender notes. The music
quickened, tripping in ecstasy, to change by subtle phrases into themes
of exquisite suffering hitherto unexperienced. I knew that I loved Nancy.

With the advent of longer dresses that reached to her shoe tops a change
had come over her. The tomboy, the willing camp-follower who loved me and
was unashamed, were gone forever, and a mysterious, transfigured being,
neither girl nor woman, had magically been evolved. Could it be possible
that she loved me still? My complacency had vanished; suddenly I had
become the aggressor, if only I had known how to "aggress"; but in her
presence I was seized by an accursed shyness that paralyzed my tongue,
and the things I had planned to say were left unuttered. It was
something--though I did not realize it--to be able to feel like that.

The time came when I could no longer keep this thing to myself. The need
of an outlet, of a confidant, became imperative, and I sought out Tom
Peters. It was in February; I remember because I had ventured--with
incredible daring--to send Nancy an elaborate, rosy Valentine; written on
the back of it in a handwriting all too thinly disguised was the
following verse, the triumphant result of much hard thinking in school
hours:--

          Should you of this the sender guess
          Without another sign,
          Would you repent, and rest content
          To be his Valentine

I grew hot and cold by turns when I thought of its possible effects on my
chances.

One of those useless, slushy afternoons, I took Tom for a walk that led
us, as dusk came on, past Nancy's house. Only by painful degrees did I
succeed in overcoming my bashfulness; but Tom, when at last I had blurted
out the secret, was most sympathetic, although the ailment from which I
suffered was as yet outside of the realm of his experience. I have used
the word "ailment" advisedly, since he evidently put my trouble in the
same category with diphtheria or scarlet fever, remarking that it was
"darned hard luck." In vain I sought to explain that I did not regard it
as such in the least; there was suffering, I admitted, but a degree of
bliss none could comprehend who had not felt it. He refused to be
envious, or at least to betray envy; yet he was curious, asking many
questions, and I had reason to think before we parted that his admiration
for me was increased. Was it possible that he, too, didn't love Nancy?
No, it was funny, but he didn't. He failed to see much in girls: his tone
remained commiserating, yet he began to take an interest in the progress
of my suit.

For a time I had no progress to report. Out of consideration for those
members of our weekly dancing class whose parents were Episcopalians the
meetings were discontinued during Lent, and to call would have demanded a
courage not in me; I should have become an object of ridicule among my
friends and I would have died rather than face Nancy's mother and the
members of her household. I set about making ingenious plans with a view
to encounters that might appear casual. Nancy's school was dismissed at
two, so was mine. By walking fast I could reach Salisbury Street, near
St. Mary's Seminary for Young Ladies, in time to catch her, but even then
for many days I was doomed to disappointment. She was either in company
with other girls, or else she had taken another route; this I surmised
led past Sophy McAlery's house, and I enlisted Tom as a confederate. He
was to make straight for the McAlery's on Elm while I followed Powell,
two short blocks away, and if Nancy went to Sophy's and left there alone
he was to announce the fact by a preconcerted signal. Through long and
persistent practice he had acquired a whistle shrill enough to wake the
dead, accomplished by placing a finger of each hand between his teeth;--a
gift that was the envy of his acquaintances, and the subject of much
discussion as to whether his teeth were peculiar. Tom insisted that they
were; it was an added distinction.

On this occasion he came up behind Nancy as she was leaving Sophy's gate
and immediately sounded the alarm. She leaped in the air, dropped her
school-books and whirled on him.

"Tom Peters! How dare you frighten me so!" she cried.

Tom regarded her in sudden dismay.

"I--I didn't mean to," he said. "I didn't think you were so near."

"But you must have seen me."

"I wasn't paying much attention," he equivocated,--a remark not
calculated to appease her anger.

"Why were you doing it?"

"I was just practising," said Tom.

"Practising!" exclaimed Nancy, scornfully. "I shouldn't think you needed
to practise that any more."

"Oh, I've done it louder," he declared, "Listen!"

She seized his hands, snatching them away from his lips. At this critical
moment I appeared around the corner considerably out of breath, my heart
beating like a watchman's rattle. I tried to feign nonchalance.

"Hello, Tom," I said. "Hello, Nancy. What's the matter?"

"It's Tom--he frightened me out of my senses." Dropping his wrists, she
gave me a most disconcerting look; there was in it the suspicion of a
smile. "What are you doing here, Hugh?"

"I heard Tom," I explained.

"I should think you might have. Where were you?"

"Over in another street," I answered, with deliberate vagueness. Nancy
had suddenly become demure. I did not dare look at her, but I had a most
uncomfortable notion that she suspected the plot. Meanwhile we had begun
to walk along, all three of us, Tom, obviously ill at ease and
discomfited, lagging a little behind. Just before we reached the corner I
managed to kick him. His departure was by no means graceful.

"I've got to go;" he announced abruptly, and turned down the side street.
We watched his sturdy figure as it receded.

"Well, of all queer boys!" said Nancy, and we walked on again.

"He's my best friend," I replied warmly.

"He doesn't seem to care much for your company," said Nancy.

"Oh, they have dinner at half past two," I explained.

"Aren't you afraid of missing yours, Hugh?" she asked wickedly.

"I've got time. I'd--I'd rather be with you." After making which
audacious remark I was seized by a spasm of apprehension. But nothing
happened. Nancy remained demure. She didn't remind me that I had
reflected upon Tom.

"That's nice of you, Hugh."

"Oh, I'm not saying it because it's nice," I faltered. "I'd rather be
with you than--with anybody."

This was indeed the acme of daring. I couldn't believe I had actually
said it. But again I received no rebuke; instead came a remark that set
me palpitating, that I treasured for many weeks to come.

"I got a very nice valentine," she informed me.

"What was it like?" I asked thickly.

"Oh, beautiful! All pink lace and--and Cupids, and the picture of a young
man and a young woman in a garden."

"Was that all?"

"Oh, no, there was a verse, in the oddest handwriting. I wonder who sent
it?"

"Perhaps Ralph," I hazarded ecstatically.

"Ralph couldn't write poetry," she replied disdainfully. "Besides, it was
very good poetry."

I suggested other possible authors and admirers. She rejected them all.
We reached her gate, and I lingered. As she looked down at me from the
stone steps her eyes shone with a soft light that filled me with
radiance, and into her voice had come a questioning, shy note that
thrilled the more because it revealed a new Nancy of whom I had not
dreamed.

"Perhaps I'll meet you again--coming from school," I said.

"Perhaps," she answered. "You'll be late to dinner, Hugh, if you don't
go...."

I was late, and unable to eat much dinner, somewhat to my mother's alarm.
Love had taken away my appetite.... After dinner, when I was wandering
aimlessly about the yard, Tom appeared on the other side of the fence.

"Don't ever ask me to do that again," he said gloomily.

I did meet Nancy again coming from school, not every day, but nearly
every day. At first we pretended that there was no arrangement in this,
and we both feigned surprise when we encountered one another. It was
Nancy who possessed the courage that I lacked. One afternoon she
said:--"I think I'd better walk with the girls to-morrow, Hugh."

I protested, but she was firm. And after that it was an understood thing
that on certain days I should go directly home, feeling like an exile.
Sophy McAlery had begun to complain: and I gathered that Sophy was
Nancy's confidante. The other girls had begun to gossip. It was Nancy who
conceived the brilliant idea--the more delightful because she said
nothing about it to me--of making use of Sophy. She would leave school
with Sophy, and I waited on the corner near the McAlery house. Poor
Sophy! She was always of those who piped while others danced. In those
days she had two straw-coloured pigtails, and her plain, faithful face is
before me as I write. She never betrayed to me the excitement that filled
her at being the accomplice of our romance.

Gossip raged, of course. Far from being disturbed, we used it, so to
speak, as a handle for our love-making, which was carried on in an
inferential rather than a direct fashion. Were they saying that we were
lovers? Delightful! We laughed at one another in the sunshine.... At last
we achieved the great adventure of a clandestine meeting and went for a
walk in the afternoon, avoiding the houses of our friends. I've forgotten
which of us had the boldness to propose it. The crocuses and tulips had
broken the black mould, the flower beds in the front yards were beginning
to blaze with scarlet and yellow, the lawns had turned a living green.
What did we talk about? The substance has vanished, only the flavour
remains.

One awoke of a morning to the twittering of birds, to walk to school
amidst delicate, lace-like shadows of great trees acloud with old gold:
the buds lay curled like tiny feathers on the pavements. Suddenly the
shade was dense, the sunlight white and glaring, the odour of lilacs
heavy in the air, spring in all its fulness had come,--spring and Nancy.
Just so subtly, yet with the same seeming suddenness had budded and come
to leaf and flower a perfect understanding, which nevertheless remained
undefined. This, I had no doubt, was my fault, and due to the
incomprehensible shyness her presence continued to inspire. Although we
did not altogether abandon our secret trysts, we began to meet in more
natural ways; there were garden parties and picnics where we strayed
together through the woods and fields, pausing to tear off, one by one,
the petals of a daisy, "She loves me, she loves me not." I never ventured
to kiss her; I always thought afterwards I might have done so, she had
seemed so willing, her eyes had shone so expectantly as I sat beside her
on the grass; nor can I tell why I desired to kiss her save that this was
the traditional thing to do to the lady one loved. To be sure, the very
touch of her hand was galvanic. Paradoxically, I saw the human side of
her, the yielding gentleness that always amazed me, yet I never overcame
my awe of the divine; she was a being sacrosanct. Whether this idealism
were innate or the result of such romances as I had read I cannot say....
I got, indeed, an avowal of a sort. The weekly dancing classes having
begun again, on one occasion when she had waltzed twice with Gene
Hollister I protested.

"Don't be silly, Hugh," she whispered. "Of course I like you better than
anyone else--you ought to know that."

We never got to the word "love," but we knew the feeling.

One cloud alone flung its shadow across these idyllic days. Before I was
fully aware of it I had drawn very near to the first great junction-point
of my life, my graduation from Densmore Academy. We were to "change
cars," in the language of Principal Haime. Well enough for the fortunate
ones who were to continue the academic journey, which implied a
postponement of the serious business of life; but month after month of
the last term had passed without a hint from my father that I was to
change cars. Again and again I almost succeeded in screwing up my courage
to the point of mentioning college to him,--never quite; his manner,
though kind and calm, somehow strengthened my suspicion that I had been
judged and found wanting, and doomed to "business": galley slavery, I
deemed it, humdrum, prosaic, degrading! When I thought of it at night I
experienced almost a frenzy of self-pity. My father couldn't intend to do
that, just because my monthly reports hadn't always been what he thought
they ought to be! Gene Hollister's were no better, if as good, and he was
going to Princeton. Was I, Hugh Paret, to be denied the distinction of
being a college man, the delights of university existence, cruelly
separated and set apart from my friends whom I loved! held up to the
world and especially to Nancy Willett as good for nothing else! The
thought was unbearable. Characteristically, I hoped against hope.

I have mentioned garden parties. One of our annual institutions was Mrs.
Willett's children's party in May; for the Willett house had a garden
that covered almost a quarter of a block. Mrs. Willett loved children,
the greatest regret of her life being that providence had denied her a
large family. As far back as my memory goes she had been something of an
invalid; she had a sweet, sad face, and delicate hands so thin as to seem
almost transparent; and she always sat in a chair under the great tree on
the lawn, smiling at us as we soared to dizzy heights in the swing, or
played croquet, or scurried through the paths, and in and out of the
latticed summer-house with shrieks of laughter and terror. It all ended
with a feast at a long table made of sawhorses and boards covered with a
white cloth, and when the cake was cut there was wild excitement as to
who would get the ring and who the thimble.

We were more decorous, or rather more awkward now, and the party began
with a formal period when the boys gathered in a group and pretended
indifference to the girls. The girls were cleverer at it, and actually
achieved the impression that they were indifferent. We kept an eye on
them, uneasily, while we talked. To be in Nancy's presence and not alone
with Nancy was agonizing, and I wondered at a sang-froid beyond my power
to achieve, accused her of coldness, my sufferings being the greater
because she seemed more beautiful, daintier, more irreproachable than I
had ever seen her. Even at that early age she gave evidence of the social
gift, and it was due to her efforts that we forgot our best clothes and
our newly born self-consciousness. When I begged her to slip away with me
among the currant bushes she whispered:--"I can't, Hugh. I'm the hostess,
you know."

I had gone there in a flutter of anticipation, but nothing went right
that day. There was dancing in the big rooms that looked out on the
garden; the only girl with whom I cared to dance was Nancy, and she was
busy finding partners for the backward members of both sexes; though she
was my partner, to be sure, when it all wound up with a Virginia reel on
the lawn. Then, at supper, to cap the climax of untoward incidents, an
animated discussion was begun as to the relative merits of the various
colleges, the girls, too, taking sides. Mac Willett, Nancy's cousin, was
going to Yale, Gene Hollister to Princeton, the Ewan boys to our State
University, while Perry Blackwood and Ralph Hambleton and Ham Durrett
were destined for Harvard; Tom Peters, also, though he was not to
graduate from the Academy for another year. I might have known that Ralph
would have suspected my misery. He sat triumphantly next to Nancy
herself, while I had been told off to entertain the faithful Sophy.
Noticing my silence, he demanded wickedly:--"Where are you going, Hugh?"

"Harvard, I think," I answered with as bold a front as I could muster. "I
haven't talked it over with my father yet." It was intolerable to admit
that I of them all was to be left behind.

Nancy looked at me in surprise. She was always downright.

"Oh, Hugh, doesn't your father mean to put you in business?" she
exclaimed.

A hot flush spread over my face. Even to her I had not betrayed my
apprehensions on this painful subject. Perhaps it was because of this
very reason, knowing me as she did, that she had divined my fate. Could
my father have spoken of it to anyone?

"Not that I know of," I said angrily. I wondered if she knew how deeply
she had hurt me. The others laughed. The colour rose in Nancy's cheeks,
and she gave me an appealing, almost tearful look, but my heart had
hardened. As soon as supper was over I left the table to wander, nursing
my wrongs, in a far corner of the garden, gay shouts and laughter still
echoing in my ears. I was negligible, even my pathetic subterfuge had
been detected and cruelly ridiculed by these friends whom I had always
loved and sought out, and who now were so absorbed in their own prospects
and happiness that they cared nothing for mine. And Nancy! I had been
betrayed by Nancy!... Twilight was coming on. I remember glancing down
miserably at the new blue suit I had put on so hopefully for the first
time that afternoon.

Separating the garden from the street was a high, smooth board fence with
a little gate in it, and I had my hand on the latch when I heard the
sound of hurrying steps on the gravel path and a familiar voice calling
my name.

"Hugh! Hugh!"

I turned. Nancy stood before me.

"Hugh, you're not going!"

"Yes, I am."

"Why?"

"If you don't know, there's no use telling you."

"Just because I said your father intended to put you in business! Oh,
Hugh, why are you so foolish and so proud? Do you suppose that
anyone--that I--think any the worse of you?"

Yes, she had read me, she alone had entered into the source of that
prevarication, the complex feelings from which it sprang. But at that
moment I could not forgive her for humiliating me. I hugged my grievance.

"It was true, what I said," I declared hotly. "My father has not spoken.
It is true that I'm going to college, because I'll make it true. I may
not go this year."

She stood staring in sheer surprise at sight of my sudden, quivering
passion. I think the very intensity of it frightened her. And then,
without more ado, I opened the gate and was gone....

That night, though I did not realize it, my journey into a Far Country
was begun.

The misery that followed this incident had one compensating factor.
Although too late to electrify Densmore and Principal Haime with my
scholarship, I was determined to go to college now, somehow, sometime. I
would show my father, these companions of mine, and above all Nancy
herself the stuff of which I was made, compel them sooner or later to
admit that they had misjudged me. I had been possessed by similar
resolutions before, though none so strong, and they had a way of sinking
below the surface of my consciousness, only to rise again and again until
by sheer pressure they achieved realization.

Yet I might have returned to Nancy if something had not occurred which I
would have thought unbelievable: she began to show a marked preference
for Ralph Hambleton. At first I regarded this affair as the most obvious
of retaliations. She, likewise, had pride. Gradually, however, a feeling
of uneasiness crept over me: as pretence, her performance was altogether
too realistic; she threw her whole soul into it, danced with Ralph as
often as she had ever danced with me, took walks with him, deferred to
his opinions until, in spite of myself, I became convinced that the
preference was genuine. I was a curious mixture of self-confidence and
self-depreciation, and never had his superiority seemed more patent than
now. His air of satisfaction was maddening.

How well I remember his triumph on that hot, June morning of our
graduation from Densmore, a triumph he had apparently achieved without
labour, and which he seemed to despise. A fitful breeze blew through the
chapel at the top of the building; we, the graduates, sat in two rows
next to the platform, and behind us the wooden benches nicked by many
knives--were filled with sisters and mothers and fathers, some anxious,
some proud and some sad. So brief a span, like that summer's day, and
youth was gone! Would the time come when we, too, should sit by the
waters of Babylon and sigh for it? The world was upside down.

We read the one hundred and third psalm. Then Principal Haime, in his
long "Prince Albert" and a ridiculously inadequate collar that emphasized
his scrawny neck, reminded us of the sacred associations we had formed,
of the peculiar responsibilities that rested on us, who were the
privileged of the city. "We had crossed to-day," he said, "an invisible
threshold. Some were to go on to higher institutions of learning.
Others..." I gulped. Quoting the Scriptures, he complimented those who
had made the most of their opportunities. And it was then that he called
out, impressively, the name of Ralph Forrester Hambleton. Summa cum
laude! Suddenly I was seized with passionate, vehement regrets at the
sound of the applause. I might have been the prize scholar, instead of
Ralph, if I had only worked, if I had only realized what this focussing
day of graduation meant! I might have been a marked individual, with
people murmuring words of admiration, of speculation concerning the
brilliancy of my future!... When at last my name was called and I rose to
receive my diploma it seemed as though my incompetency had been
proclaimed to the world...

That evening I stood in the narrow gallery of the flag-decked gymnasium
and watched Nancy dancing with Ralph.

I let her go without protest or reproach. A mysterious lesion seemed to
have taken place, I felt astonished and relieved, yet I was heavy with
sadness. My emancipation had been bought at a price. Something hitherto
spontaneous, warm and living was withering within me.



V.

It was true to my father's character that he should have waited until the
day after graduation to discuss my future, if discussion be the proper
word. The next evening at supper he informed me that he wished to talk to
me in the sitting-room, whither I followed him with a sinking heart. He
seated himself at his desk, and sat for a moment gazing at me with a
curious and benumbing expression, and then the blow fell.

"Hugh, I have spoken to your Cousin Robert Breck about you, and he has
kindly consented to give you a trial."

"To give me a trial, sir!" I exclaimed.

"To employ you at a small but reasonable salary."

I could find no words to express my dismay. My dreams had come to this,
that I was to be made a clerk in a grocery store! The fact that it was a
wholesale grocery store was little consolation.

"But father," I faltered, "I don't want to go into business."

"Ah!" The sharpness of the exclamation might have betrayed to me the pain
in which he was, but he recovered himself instantly. And I could see
nothing but an inexorable justice closing in on me mechanically; a blind
justice, in its inability to read my soul. "The time to have decided
that," he declared, "was some years ago, my son. I have given you the
best schooling a boy can have, and you have not shown the least
appreciation of your advantages. I do not enjoy saying this, Hugh, but in
spite of all my efforts and of those of your mother, you have remained
undeveloped and irresponsible. My hope, as you know, was to have made you
a professional man, a lawyer, and to take you into my office. My father
and grandfather were professional men before me. But you are wholly
lacking in ambition."

And I had burned with it all my life!

"I have ambition," I cried, the tears forcing themselves to my eyes.

"Ambition--for what, my son?"

I hesitated. How could I tell him that my longings to do something, to be
somebody in the world were never more keen than at that moment? Matthew
Arnold had not then written his definition of God as the stream of
tendency by which we fulfil the laws of our being; and my father, at any
rate, would not have acquiesced in the definition. Dimly but passionately
I felt then, as I had always felt, that I had a mission to perform, a
service to do which ultimately would be revealed to me. But the
hopelessness of explaining this took on, now, the proportions of a
tragedy. And I could only gaze at him.

"What kind of ambition, Hugh?" he repeated sadly.

"I--I have sometimes thought I could write, sir, if I had a chance. I
like it better than anything else. I--I have tried it. And if I could
only go to college--"

"Literature!" There was in his voice a scandalized note.

"Why not, father?" I asked weakly.

And now it was he who, for the first time, seemed to be at a loss to
express himself. He turned in his chair, and with a sweep of the hand
indicated the long rows of musty-backed volumes. "Here," he said, "you
have had at your disposal as well-assorted a small library as the city
contains, and you have not availed yourself of it. Yet you talk to me of
literature as a profession. I am afraid, Hugh, that this is merely
another indication of your desire to shun hard work, and I must tell you
frankly that I fail to see in you the least qualification for such a
career. You have not even inherited my taste for books. I venture to say,
for instance, that you have never even read a paragraph of Plutarch, and
yet when I was your age I was completely familiar with the Lives. You
will not read Scott or Dickens."

The impeachment was not to be denied, for the classics were hateful to
me. Naturally I was afraid to make such a damning admission. My father
had succeeded in presenting my ambition as the height of absurdity and
presumption, and with something of the despair of a shipwrecked mariner
my eyes rested on the green expanses of those book-backs, Bohn's Standard
Library! Nor did it occur to him or to me that one might be great in
literature without having read so much as a gritty page of them....

He finished his argument by reminding me that worthless persons sought to
enter the arts in the search for a fool's paradise, and in order to
satisfy a reprehensible craving for notoriety. The implication was clear,
that imaginative production could not be classed as hard work. And he
assured me that literature was a profession in which no one could afford
to be second class. A Longfellow, a Harriet Beecher Stowe, or nothing.
This was a practical age and a practical country. We had indeed produced
Irvings and Hawthornes, but the future of American letters was, to say
the least, problematical. We were a utilitarian people who would never
create a great literature, and he reminded me that the days of the
romantic and the picturesque had passed. He gathered that I desired to be
a novelist. Well, novelists, with certain exceptions, were fantastic
fellows who blew iridescent soap-bubbles and who had no morals. In the
face of such a philosophy as his I was mute. The world appeared a dreary
place of musty offices and smoky steel-works, of coal dust, of labour
without a spark of inspiration. And that other, the world of my dreams,
simply did not exist.

Incidentally my father had condemned Cousin Robert's wholesale grocery
business as a refuge of the lesser of intellect that could not achieve
the professions,--an inference not calculated to stir my ambition and
liking for it at the start.

I began my business career on the following Monday morning. At breakfast,
held earlier than usual on my account, my mother's sympathy was the more
eloquent for being unspoken, while my father wore an air of unwonted
cheerfulness; charging me, when I departed, to give his kindest
remembrances to my Cousin Robert Breck. With a sense of martyrdom somehow
deepened by this attitude of my parents I boarded a horse-car and went
down town. Early though it was, the narrow streets of the wholesale
district reverberated with the rattle of trucks and echoed with the
shouts of drivers. The day promised to be scorching. At the door of the
warehouse of Breck and Company I was greeted by the ineffable smell of
groceries in which the suggestion of parched coffee prevailed. This is
the sharpest remembrance of all, and even to-day that odour affects me
somewhat in the manner that the interior of a ship affects a person prone
to seasickness. My Cousin Robert, in his well-worn alpaca coat, was
already seated at his desk behind the clouded glass partition next the
alley at the back of the store, and as I entered he gazed at me over his
steel-rimmed spectacles with that same disturbing look of clairvoyance I
have already mentioned as one of his characteristics. The grey eyes were
quizzical, and yet seemed to express a little commiseration.

"Well, Hugh, you've decided to honour us, have you?" he asked.

"I'm much obliged for giving me the place, Cousin Robert," I replied.

But he had no use for that sort of politeness, and he saw through me, as
always.

"So you're not too tony for the grocery business, eh?"

"Oh, no, sir."

"It was good enough for old Benjamin Breck," he said. "Well, I'll give
you a fair trial, my boy, and no favouritism on account of relationship,
any more than to Willie."

His strong voice resounded through the store, and presently my cousin
Willie appeared in answer to his summons, the same Willie who used to
lead me, on mischief bent, through the barns and woods and fields of
Claremore. He was barefoot no longer, though freckled still, grown lanky
and tall; he wore a coarse blue apron that fell below his knees, and a
pencil was stuck behind his ear.

"Get an apron for Hugh," said his father.

Willie's grin grew wider.

"I'll fit him out," he said.

"Start him in the shipping department," directed Cousin Robert, and
turned to his letters.

I was forthwith provided with an apron, and introduced to the slim and
anaemic but cheerful Johnny Hedges, the shipping clerk, hard at work in
the alley. Secretly I looked down on my fellow-clerks, as one destined
for a higher mission, made out of better stuff,--finer stuff. Despite my
attempt to hide this sense of superiority they were swift to discover it;
and perhaps it is to my credit as well as theirs that they did not resent
it. Curiously enough, they seemed to acknowledge it. Before the week was
out I had earned the nickname of Beau Brummel.

"Say, Beau," Johnny Hedges would ask, when I appeared of a morning, "what
happened in the great world last night?"

I had an affection for them, these fellow-clerks, and I often wondered at
their contentment with the drab lives they led, at their
self-congratulation for "having a job" at Breck and Company's.

"You don't mean to say you like this kind of work?" I exclaimed one day
to Johnny Hedges, as we sat on barrels of XXXX flour looking out at the
hot sunlight in the alley.

"It ain't a question of liking it, Beau," he rebuked me. "It's all very
well for you to talk, since your father's a millionaire" (a fiction so
firmly embedded in their heads that no amount of denial affected it),
"but what do you think would happen to me if I was fired? I couldn't go
home and take it easy--you bet not. I just want to shake hands with
myself when I think that I've got a home, and a job like this. I know a
feller--a hard worker he was, too who walked the pavements for three
months when the Colvers failed, and couldn't get nothing, and took to
drink, and the last I heard of him he was sleeping in police stations and
walking the ties, and his wife's a waitress at a cheap hotel. Don't you
think it's easy to get a job."

I was momentarily sobered by the earnestness with which he brought home
to me the relentlessness of our civilization. It seemed incredible. I
should have learned a lesson in that store. Barring a few discordant days
when the orders came in too fast or when we were short handed because of
sickness, it was a veritable hive of happiness; morning after morning
clerks and porters arrived, pale, yet smiling, and laboured with
cheerfulness from eight o'clock until six, and departed as cheerfully for
modest homes in obscure neighbourhoods that seemed to me areas of exile.
They were troubled with no visions of better things. When the travelling
men came in from the "road" there was great hilarity. Important
personages, these, looked up to by the city clerks; jolly, reckless,
Elizabethan-like rovers, who had tasted of the wine of liberty--and of
other wines with the ineradicable lust for the road in their blood. No
more routine for Jimmy Bowles, who was king of them all. I shudder to
think how much of my knowledge of life I owe to this Jimmy, whose stories
would have filled a quarto volume, but could on no account have been
published; for a self-respecting post-office would not have allowed them
to pass through the mails. As it was, Jimmy gave them circulation enough.
I can still see his round face, with the nose just indicated, his wicked,
twinkling little eyes, and I can hear his husky voice fall to a whisper
when "the boss" passed through the store. Jimmy, when visiting us, always
had a group around him. His audacity with women amazed me, for he never
passed one of the "lady clerks" without some form of caress, which they
resented but invariably laughed at. One day he imparted to me his code of
morality: he never made love to another man's wife, so he assured me, if
he knew the man! The secret of life he had discovered in laughter, and by
laughter he sold quantities of Cousin Robert's groceries.

Mr. Bowles boasted of a catholic acquaintance in all the cities of his
district, but before venturing forth to conquer these he had learned his
own city by heart. My Cousin Robert was not aware of the fact that Mr.
Bowles "showed" the town to certain customers. He even desired to show it
to me, but an epicurean strain in my nature held me back. Johnny Hedges
went with him occasionally, and Henry Schneider, the bill clerk, and I
listened eagerly to their experiences, afterwards confiding them to
Tom....

There were times when, driven by an overwhelming curiosity, I ventured
into certain strange streets, alone, shivering with cold and excitement,
gripped by a fascination I did not comprehend, my eyes now averted, now
irresistibly raised toward the white streaks of light that outlined the
windows of dark houses....

One winter evening as I was going home, I encountered at the mail-box a
young woman who shot at me a queer, twisted smile. I stood still, as
though stunned, looking after her, and when halfway across the slushy
street she turned and smiled again. Prodigiously excited, I followed her,
fearful that I might be seen by someone who knew me, nor was it until she
reached an unfamiliar street that I ventured to overtake her. She
confounded me by facing me.

"Get out!" she cried fiercely.

I halted in my tracks, overwhelmed with shame. But she continued to
regard me by the light of the street lamp.

"You didn't want to be seen with me on Second Street, did you? You're one
of those sneaking swells."

The shock of this sudden onslaught was tremendous. I stood frozen to the
spot, trembling, convicted, for I knew that her accusation was just; I
had wounded her, and I had a desire to make amends.

"I'm sorry," I faltered. "I didn't mean--to offend you. And you smiled--"
I got no farther. She began to laugh, and so loudly that I glanced
anxiously about. I would have fled, but something still held me,
something that belied the harshness of her laugh.

"You're just a kid," she told me. "Say, you get along home, and tell your
mamma I sent you."

Whereupon I departed in a state of humiliation and self-reproach I had
never before known, wandering about aimlessly for a long time. When at
length I arrived at home, late for supper, my mother's solicitude only
served to deepen my pain. She went to the kitchen herself to see if my
mince-pie were hot, and served me with her own hands. My father remained
at his place at the head of the table while I tried to eat, smiling
indulgently at her ministrations.

"Oh, a little hard work won't hurt him, Sarah," he said. "When I was his
age I often worked until eleven o'clock and never felt the worse for it.
Business must be pretty good, eh, Hugh?"

I had never seen him in a more relaxing mood, a more approving one. My
mother sat down beside me.... Words seem useless to express the
complicated nature of my suffering at that moment,--my remorse, my sense
of deception, of hypocrisy,--yes, and my terror. I tried to talk
naturally, to answer my father's questions about affairs at the store,
while all the time my eyes rested upon the objects of the room, familiar
since childhood. Here were warmth, love, and safety. Why could I not be
content with them, thankful for them? What was it in me that drove me
from these sheltering walls out into the dark places? I glanced at my
father. Had he ever known these wild, destroying desires? Oh, if I only
could have confided in him! The very idea of it was preposterous. Such
placidity as theirs would never understand the nature of my temptations,
and I pictured to myself their horror and despair at my revelation. In
imagination I beheld their figures receding while I drifted out to sea,
alone. Would the tide--which was somehow within me--carry me out and out,
in spite of all I could do?

     "Give me that man
     That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
     In my heart's core...."

I did not shirk my tasks at the store, although I never got over the
feeling that a fine instrument was being employed where a coarser one
would have done equally well. There were moments when I was almost
overcome by surges of self-commiseration and of impotent anger: for
instance, I was once driven out of a shop by an incensed German grocer
whom I had asked to settle a long-standing account. Yet the days passed,
the daily grind absorbed my energies, and when I was not collecting, or
tediously going over the stock in the dim recesses of the store, I was
running errands in the wholesale district, treading the burning brick of
the pavements, dodging heavy trucks and drays and perspiring clerks who
flew about with memorandum pads in their hands, or awaiting the pleasure
of bank tellers. Save Harvey, the venerable porter, I was the last to
leave the store in the evening, and I always came away with the taste on
my palate of Breck and Company's mail, it being my final duty to "lick"
the whole of it and deposit it in the box at the corner. The gum on the
envelopes tasted of winter-green.

My Cousin Robert was somewhat astonished at my application.

"We'll make a man of you yet, Hugh," he said to me once, when I had
performed a commission with unexpected despatch....

Business was his all-in-all, and he had an undisguised contempt for
higher education. To send a boy to college was, in his opinion, to run no
inconsiderable risk of ruining him. What did they amount to when they
came home, strutting like peacocks, full of fads and fancies, and much
too good to associate with decent, hard-working citizens? Nevertheless
when autumn came and my friends departed with eclat for the East, I was
desperate indeed! Even the contemplation of Robert Breck did not console
me, and yet here, in truth, was a life which might have served me as a
model. His store was his castle; and his reputation for integrity and
square dealing as wide as the city. Often I used to watch him with a
certain envy as he stood in the doorway, his hands in his pockets, and
greeted fellow-merchant and banker with his genuine and dignified
directness. This man was his own master. They all called him "Robert,"
and they made it clear by their manner that they knew they were
addressing one who fulfilled his obligations and asked no favours.

Crusty old Nathaniel Durrett once declared that when you bought a bill of
goods from Robert Breck you did not have to check up the invoice or
employ a chemist. Here was a character to mould upon. If my ambition
could but have been bounded by Breck and Company, I, too, might have come
to stand in that doorway content with a tribute that was greater than
Caesar's.

I had been dreading the Christmas holidays, which were indeed to be no
holidays for me. And when at length they arrived they brought with them
from the East certain heroes fashionably clad, citizens now of a larger
world than mine. These former companions had become superior beings, they
could not help showing it, and their presence destroyed the Balance of
Things. For alas, I had not wholly abjured the feminine sex after all!
And from being a somewhat important factor in the lives of Ruth Hollister
and other young women I suddenly became of no account. New interests, new
rivalries and loyalties had arisen in which I had no share; I must
perforce busy myself with invoices of flour and coffee and canned fruits
while sleigh rides and coasting and skating expeditions to Blackstone
Lake followed one another day after day,--for the irony of circumstances
had decreed a winter uncommonly cold. There were evening parties, too,
where I felt like an alien, though my friends were guilty of no conscious
neglect; and had I been able to accept the situation simply, I should not
have suffered.

The principal event of those holidays was a play given in the old
Hambleton house (which later became the Boyne Club), under the direction
of the lively and talented Mrs. Watling. I was invited, indeed, to
participate; but even if I had had the desire I could not have done so,
since the rehearsals were carried on in the daytime. Nancy was the
leading lady. I have neglected to mention that she too had been away
almost continuously since our misunderstanding, for the summer in the
mountains,--a sojourn recommended for her mother's health; and in the
autumn she had somewhat abruptly decided to go East to boarding-school at
Farmington. During the brief months of her absence she had marvellously
acquired maturity and aplomb, a worldliness of manner and a certain
frivolity that seemed to put those who surrounded her on a lower plane.
She was only seventeen, yet she seemed the woman of thirty whose role she
played. First there were murmurs, then sustained applause. I scarcely
recognized her: she had taken wings and soared far above me, suggesting a
sphere of power and luxury hitherto unimagined and beyond the scope of
the world to which I belonged.

Her triumph was genuine. When the play was over she was immediately
surrounded by enthusiastic admirers eager to congratulate her, to dance
with her. I too would have gone forward, but a sense of inadequacy, of
unimportance, of an inability to cope with her, held me back, and from a
corner I watched her sweeping around the room, holding up her train, and
leaning on the arm of Bob Lansing, a classmate whom Ralph had brought
home from Harvard. Then it was Ralph's turn: that affair seemed still to
be going on. My feelings were a strange medley of despondency and
stimulation....

Our eyes met. Her partner now was Ham Durrett. Capriciously releasing
him, she stood before me,

"Hugh, you haven't asked me to dance, or even told me what you thought of
the play."

"I thought it was splendid," I said lamely.

Because she refrained from replying I was farther than ever from
understanding her. How was I to divine what she felt? or whether any
longer she felt at all? Here, in this costume of a woman of the world,
with the string of pearls at her neck to give her the final touch of
brilliancy, was a strange, new creature who baffled and silenced me....
We had not gone halfway across the room when she halted abruptly.

"I'm tired," she exclaimed. "I don't feel like dancing just now," and led
the way to the big, rose punch-bowl, one of the Durretts' most cherished
possessions. Glancing up at me over the glass of lemonade I had given her
she went on: "Why haven't you been to see me since I came home? I've
wanted to talk to you, to hear how you are getting along."

Was she trying to make amends, or reminding me in this subtle way of the
cause of our quarrel? What I was aware of as I looked at her was an
attitude, a vantage point apparently gained by contact with that
mysterious outer world which thus vicariously had laid its spell on me; I
was tremendously struck by the thought that to achieve this attitude
meant emancipation, invulnerability against the aches and pains which
otherwise our fellow-beings had the power to give us; mastery over
life,--the ability to choose calmly, as from a height, what were best for
one's self, untroubled by loves and hates. Untroubled by loves and hates!
At that very moment, paradoxically, I loved her madly, but with a love
not of the old quality, a love that demanded a vantage point of its own.
Even though she had made an advance--and some elusiveness in her manner
led me to doubt it I could not go to her now. I must go as a
conqueror,--a conqueror in the lists she herself had chosen, where the
prize is power.

"Oh, I'm getting along pretty well," I said. "At any rate, they don't
complain of me."

"Somehow," she ventured, "somehow it's hard to think of you as a business
man."

I took this for a reference to the boast I had made that I would go to
college.

"Business isn't so bad as it might be," I assured her.

"I think a man ought to go away to college," she declared, in what seemed
another tone. "He makes friends, learns certain things,--it gives him
finish. We are very provincial here."

Provincial! I did not stop to reflect how recently she must have acquired
the word; it summed up precisely the self-estimate at which I had
arrived. The sting went deep. Before I could think of an effective reply
Nancy was being carried off by the young man from the East, who was
clearly infatuated. He was not provincial. She smiled back at me brightly
over his shoulder.... In that instant were fused in one resolution all
the discordant elements within me of aspiration and discontent. It was
not so much that I would show Nancy what I intended to do--I would show
myself; and I felt a sudden elation, and accession of power that enabled
me momentarily to despise the puppets with whom she danced.... From this
mood I was awakened with a start to feel a hand on my shoulder, and I
turned to confront her father, McAlery Willett; a gregarious, easygoing,
pleasure-loving gentleman who made only a pretence of business, having
inherited an ample fortune from his father, unique among his generation
in our city in that he paid some attention to fashion in his dress; good
living was already beginning to affect his figure. His mellow voice had a
way of breaking an octave.

"Don't worry, my boy," he said. "You stick to business. These college
fellows are cocks of the walk just now, but some day you'll be able to
snap your fingers at all of 'em."

The next day was dark, overcast, smoky, damp-the soft, unwholesome
dampness that follows a spell of hard frost. I spent the morning and
afternoon on the gloomy third floor of Breck and Company, making a list
of the stock. I remember the place as though I had just stepped out of
it, the freight elevator at the back, the dusty, iron columns, the
continuous piles of cases and bags and barrels with narrow aisles between
them; the dirty windows, spotted and soot-streaked, that looked down on
Second Street. I was determined now to escape from all this, and I had my
plan in mind.

No sooner had I swallowed my supper that evening than I set out at a
swift pace for a modest residence district ten blocks away, coming to a
little frame house set back in a yard,--one of those houses in which the
ringing of the front door-bell produces the greatest commotion;
children's voices were excitedly raised and then hushed. After a brief
silence the door was opened by a pleasant-faced, brown-bearded man, who
stood staring at me in surprise. His hair was rumpled, he wore an old
house coat with a hole in the elbow, and with one finger he kept his
place in the book which he held in his hand.

"Hugh Paret!" he exclaimed.

He ushered me into a little parlour lighted by two lamps, that bore every
evidence of having been recently vacated. Its features somehow bespoke a
struggle for existence; as though its occupants had worried much and
loved much. It was a room best described by the word "home"--home made
more precious by a certain precariousness. Toys and school-books strewed
the floor, a sewing-bag and apron lay across the sofa, and in one corner
was a roll-topped desk of varnished oak. The seats of the chairs were
comfortably depressed.

So this was where Mr. Wood lived! Mr. Wood, instructor in Latin and Greek
at Densmore Academy. It was now borne in on me for the first time that he
did live and have his ties like any other human being, instead of just
appearing magically from nowhere on a platform in a chalky room at nine
every morning, to vanish again in the afternoon. I had formerly stood in
awe of his presence. But now I was suddenly possessed by an
embarrassment, and (shall I say it?) by a commiseration bordering on
contempt for a man who would consent to live thus for the sake of being a
schoolteacher. How strange that civilization should set such a high value
on education and treat its functionaries with such neglect!

Mr. Wood's surprise at seeing me was genuine. For I had never shown a
particular interest in him, nor in the knowledge which he strove to
impart.

"I thought you had forgotten me, Hugh," he said, and added whimsically:
"most boys do, when they graduate."

I felt the reproach, which made it the more difficult for me to state my
errand.

"I knew you sometimes took pupils in the evening, Mr. Wood."

"Pupils,--yes," he replied, still eyeing me. Suddenly his eyes twinkled.
He had indeed no reason to suspect me of thirsting for learning. "But I
was under the impression that you had gone into business, Hugh."

"The fact is, sir," I explained somewhat painfully, "that I am not
satisfied with business. I feel--as if I ought to know more. And I came
to see if you would give me lessons about three nights a week, because I
want to take the Harvard examinations next summer."

Thus I made it appear, and so persuaded myself, that my ambition had been
prompted by a craving for knowledge. As soon as he could recover himself
he reminded me that he had on many occasions declared I had a brain.

"Your father must be very happy over this decision of yours," he said.

That was the point, I told him. It was to be a surprise for my father; I
was to take the examinations first, and inform him afterwards.

To my intense relief, Mr. Wood found the scheme wholly laudable, and
entered into it with zest. He produced examinations of preceding years
from a pigeonhole in his desk, and inside of half an hour the arrangement
was made, the price of the lessons settled. They were well within my
salary, which recently had been raised....

When I went down town, or collecting bills for Breck and Company, I took
a text-book along with me in the street-cars. Now at last I had behind my
studies a driving force. Algebra, Latin, Greek and history became worth
while, means to an end. I astonished Mr. Wood; and sometimes he would
tilt back his chair, take off his spectacles and pull his beard.

"Why in the name of all the sages," he would demand, "couldn't you have
done this well at school? You might have led your class, instead of Ralph
Hambleton."

I grew very fond of Mr. Wood, and even of his thin little wife, who
occasionally flitted into the room after we had finished. I fully
intended to keep up with them in after life, but I never did. I forgot
them completely....

My parents were not wholly easy in their minds concerning me; they were
bewildered by the new aspect I presented. For my lately acquired motive
was strong enough to compel me to restrict myself socially, and the
evenings I spent at home were given to study, usually in my own room.
Once I was caught with a Latin grammar: I was just "looking over it," I
said. My mother sighed. I knew what was in her mind; she had always been
secretly disappointed that I had not been sent to college. And presently,
when my father went out to attend a trustee's meeting, the impulse to
confide in her almost overcame me; I loved her with that affection which
goes out to those whom we feel understand us, but I was learning to
restrain my feelings. She looked at me wistfully.... I knew that she
would insist on telling my father, and thus possibly frustrate my plans.
That I was not discovered was due to a certain quixotic twist in my
father's character. I was working now, and though not actually earning my
own living, he no longer felt justified in prying into my affairs.

When June arrived, however, my tutor began to show signs that his
conscience was troubling him, and one night he delivered his ultimatum.
The joke had gone far enough, he implied. My intentions, indeed, he found
praiseworthy, but in his opinion it was high time that my father were
informed of them; he was determined to call at my father's office.

The next morning was blue with the presage of showers; blue, too, with
the presage of fate. An interminable morning. My tasks had become utterly
distasteful. And in the afternoon, so when I sat down to make out
invoices, I wrote automatically the names of the familiar customers, my
mind now exalted by hope, now depressed by anxiety. The result of an
interview perhaps even now going on would determine whether or no I
should be immediately released from a slavery I detested. Would Mr. Wood
persuade my father? If not, I was prepared to take more desperate
measures; remain in the grocery business I would not. In the evening, as
I hurried homeward from the corner where the Boyne Street car had dropped
me, I halted suddenly in front of the Peters house, absorbing the scene
where my childhood had been spent: each of these spreading maples was an
old friend, and in these yards I had played and dreamed. An unaccountable
sadness passed over me as I walked on toward our gate; I entered it,
gained the doorway of the house and went upstairs, glancing into the
sitting room. My mother sat by the window, sewing. She looked up at me
with an ineffable expression, in which I read a trace of tears.

"Hugh!" she exclaimed.

I felt very uncomfortable, and stood looking down at her.

"Why didn't you tell us, my son?" In her voice was in truth reproach; yet
mingled with that was another note, which I think was pride.

"What has father said?" I asked.

"Oh, my dear, he will tell you himself. I--I don't know--he will talk to
you."

Suddenly she seized my hands and drew me down to her, and then held me
away, gazing into my face with a passionate questioning, her lips
smiling, her eyes wet. What did she see? Was there a subtler relationship
between our natures than I guessed? Did she understand by some
instinctive power the riddle within me? divine through love the force
that was driving me on she knew not whither, nor I? At the sound of my
father's step in the hall she released me. He came in as though nothing
had happened.

"Well, Hugh, are you home?" he said....

Never had I been more impressed, more bewildered by his self-command than
at that time. Save for the fact that my mother talked less than usual,
supper passed as though nothing had happened. Whether I had shaken him,
disappointed him, or gained his reluctant approval I could not tell.
Gradually his outward calmness turned my suspense to irritation....

But when at length we were alone together, I gained a certain
reassurance. His manner was not severe. He hesitated a little before
beginning.

"I must confess, Hugh; that I scarcely know what to say about this
proceeding of yours. The thing that strikes me most forcibly is that you
might have confided in your mother and myself."

Hope flashed up within me, like an explosion.

"I--I wanted to surprise you, father. And then, you see, I thought it
would be wiser to find out first how well I was likely to do at the
examinations."

My father looked at me. Unfortunately he possessed neither a sense of
humour nor a sense of tragedy sufficient to meet such a situation. For
the first time in my life I beheld him at a disadvantage; for I had,
somehow, managed at length to force him out of position, and he was
puzzled. I was quick to play my trump card.

"I have been thinking it over carefully," I told him, "and I have made up
my mind that I want to go into the law."

"The law!" he exclaimed sharply.

"Why, yes, sir. I know that you were disappointed because I did not do
sufficiently well at school to go to college and study for the bar."

I felt indeed a momentary pang, but I remembered that I was fighting for
my freedom.

"You seemed satisfied where you were," he said in a puzzled voice, "and
your Cousin Robert gives a good account of you."

"I've tried to do the work as well as I could, sir," I replied. "But I
don't like the grocery business, or any other business. I have a feeling
that I'm not made for it."

"And you think, now, that you are made for the law?" he asked, with the
faint hint of a smile.

"Yes, sir, I believe I could succeed at it. I'd like to try," I replied
modestly.

"You've given up the idiotic notion of wishing to be an author?"

I implied that he himself had convinced me of the futility of such a
wish. I listened to his next words as in a dream.

"I must confess to you, Hugh, that there are times when I fail to
understand you. I hope it is as you say, that you have arrived at a
settled conviction as to your future, and that this is not another of
those caprices to which you have been subject, nor a desire to shirk
honest work. Mr. Wood has made out a strong case for you, and I have
therefore determined to give you a trial. If you pass the examinations
with credit, you may go to college, but if at any time you fail to make
good progress, you come home, and go into business again. Is that
thoroughly understood?"

I said it was, and thanked him effusively.... I had escaped,--the prison
doors had flown open. But it is written that every happiness has its
sting; and my joy, intense though it was, had in it a core of remorse....

I went downstairs to my mother, who was sitting in the hall by the open
door.

"Father says I may go!" I said.

She got up and took me in her arms.

"My dear, I am so glad, although we shall miss you dreadfully.... Hugh?"

"Yes, mother."

"Oh, Hugh, I so want you to be a good man!"

Her cry was a little incoherent, but fraught with a meaning that came
home to me, in spite of myself....

A while later I ran over to announce to the amazed Tom Peters that I was
actually going to Harvard with him. He stood in the half-lighted hallway,
his hands in his pockets, blinking at me.

"Hugh, you're a wonder!" he cried. "How in Jehoshaphat did you work
it?"...

I lay long awake that night thinking over the momentous change so soon to
come into my life, wondering exultantly what Nancy Willett would say now.
I was not one, at any rate, to be despised or neglected.



VI.

The following September Tom Peters and I went East together. In the early
morning Boston broke on us like a Mecca as we rolled out of the old
Albany station, joint lords of a "herdic." How sharply the smell of the
salt-laden east wind and its penetrating coolness come back to me! I seek
in vain for words to express the exhilarating effect of that briny
coolness on my imagination, and of the visions it summoned up of the
newer, larger life into which I had marvellously been transported. We
alighted at the Parker House, full-fledged men of the world, and tried to
act as though the breakfast of which we partook were merely an incident,
not an Event; as though we were Seniors, and not freshmen, assuming an
indifference to the beings by whom we were surrounded and who were
breakfasting, too,--although the nice-looking ones with fresh faces and
trim clothes were all undoubtedly Olympians. The better to proclaim our
nonchalance, we seated ourselves on a lounge of the marble-paved lobby
and smoked cigarettes. This was liberty indeed! At length we departed for
Cambridge, in another herdic.

Boston! Could it be possible? Everything was so different here as to give
the place the aspect of a dream: the Bulfinch State House, the decorous
shops, the still more decorous dwellings with the purple-paned windows
facing the Common; Back Bay, still boarded up, ivy-spread, suggestive of
a mysterious and delectable existence. We crossed the Charles River,
blue-grey and still that morning; traversed a nondescript district, and
at last found ourselves gazing out of the windows at the mellowed,
plum-coloured bricks of the University buildings.... All at once our
exhilaration evaporated as the herdic rumbled into a side street and
backed up before the door of a not-too-inviting, three-storied house with
a queer extension on top. Its steps and vestibule were, however,
immaculate. The bell was answered by a plainly overworked servant girl,
of whom we inquired for Mrs. Bolton, our landlady. There followed a
period of waiting in a parlour from which the light had been almost
wholly banished, with slippery horsehair furniture and a marble-topped
table; and Mrs. Bolton, when she appeared, dressed in rusty black,
harmonized perfectly with the funereal gloom. She was a tall, rawboned,
severe lady with a peculiar red-mottled complexion that somehow reminded
one of the outcropping rocks of her native New England soil.

"You want to see your rooms, I suppose," she remarked impassively when we
had introduced ourselves, and as we mounted the stairs behind her Tom, in
a whisper, nicknamed her "Granite Face." Presently she left us.

"Hospitable soul!" said Tom, who, with his hands in his pockets, was
gazing at the bare walls of our sitting-room. "We'll have to go into the
house-furnishing business, Hughie. I vote we don't linger here
to-day--we'll get melancholia."

Outside, however, the sun was shining brightly, and we departed
immediately to explore Cambridge and announce our important presences to
the proper authorities.... We went into Boston to dine.... It was not
until nine o'clock in the evening that we returned and the bottom
suddenly dropped out of things. He who has tasted that first, acute
homesickness of college will know what I mean. It usually comes at the
opening of one's trunk. The sight of the top tray gave me a pang I shall
never forget. I would not have believed that I loved my mother so much!
These articles had been packed by her hands; and in one corner, among the
underclothes on which she had neatly sewed my initials, lay the new Bible
she had bought. "Hugh Moreton Paret, from his Mother. September, 1881." I
took it up (Tom was not looking) and tried to read a passage, but my eyes
were blurred. What was it within me that pressed and pressed until I
thought I could bear the pain of it no longer? I pictured the
sitting-room at home, and my father and mother there, thinking of me.
Yes, I must acknowledge it; in the bitterness of that moment I longed to
be back once more in the railed-off space on the floor of Breck and
Company, writing invoices....

Presently, as we went on silently with our unpacking, we became aware of
someone in the doorway.

"Hello, you fellows!" he cried. "We're classmates, I guess."

We turned to behold an ungainly young man in an ill-fitting blue suit.
His face was pimply, his eyes a Teutonic blue, his yellow hair rumpled,
his naturally large mouth was made larger by a friendly grin.

"I'm Hermann Krebs," he announced simply. "Who are you?"

We replied, I regret to say, with a distinct coolness that did not seem
to bother him in the least. He advanced into the room, holding out a
large, red, and serviceable hand, evidently it had never dawned on him
that there was such a thing in the world as snobbery. But Tom and I had
been "coached" by Ralph Hambleton and Perry Blackwood, warned to be
careful of our friendships. There was a Reason! In any case Mr. Krebs
would not have appealed to us. In answer to a second question he was
informed what city we hailed from, and he proclaimed himself likewise a
native of our state.

"Why, I'm from Elkington!" he exclaimed, as though the fact sealed our
future relationships. He seated himself on Tom's trunk and added:
"Welcome to old Harvard!"

We felt that he was scarcely qualified to speak for "old Harvard," but we
did not say so.

"You look as if you'd been pall-bearers for somebody," was his next
observation.

To this there seemed no possible reply.

"You fellows are pretty well fixed here," he went on, undismayed, gazing
about a room which had seemed to us the abomination of desolation. "Your
folks must be rich. I'm up under the skylight."

Even this failed to touch us. His father--he told us with undiminished
candour--had been a German emigrant who had come over in '49, after the
cause of liberty had been lost in the old country, and made eye-glasses
and opera glasses. There hadn't been a fortune in it. He, Hermann, had
worked at various occupations in the summer time, from peddling to
farming, until he had saved enough to start him at Harvard. Tom, who had
been bending over his bureau drawer, straightened up.

"What did you want to come here for?" he demanded.

"Say, what did you?" Mr. Krebs retorted genially. "To get an education,
of course."

"An education!" echoed Tom.

"Isn't Harvard the oldest and best seat of learning in America?" There
was an exaltation in Krebs's voice that arrested my attention, and made
me look at him again. A troubled chord had been struck within me.

"Sure," said Tom.

"What did you come for?" Mr. Krebs persisted.

"To sow my wild oats," said Tom. "I expect to have something of a crop,
too."

For some reason I could not fathom, it suddenly seemed to dawn on Mr.
Krebs, as a result of this statement, that he wasn't wanted.

"Well, so long," he said, with a new dignity that curiously belied the
informality of his farewell.

An interval of silence followed his departure.

"Well, he's got a crust!" said Tom, at last.

My own feeling about Mr. Krebs had become more complicated; but I took my
cue from Tom, who dealt with situations simply.

"He'll come in for a few knockouts," he declared. "Here's to old Harvard,
the greatest institution of learning in America! Oh, gee!"

Our visitor, at least, made us temporarily forget our homesickness, but
it returned with redoubled intensity when we had put out the lights and
gone to bed.

Before we had left home it had been mildly hinted to us by Ralph and
Perry Blackwood that scholarly eminence was not absolutely necessary to
one's welfare and happiness at Cambridge. The hint had been somewhat
superfluous; but the question remained, what was necessary? With a view
of getting some light on this delicate subject we paid a visit the next
evening to our former friends and schoolmates, whose advice was conveyed
with a masterly circumlocution that impressed us both. There are some
things that may not be discussed directly, and the conduct of life at a
modern university--which is a reflection of life in the greater world--is
one of these. Perry Blackwood and Ham did most of the talking, while
Ralph, characteristically, lay at full length on the window-seat,
interrupting with an occasional terse and cynical remark very much to the
point. As a sophomore, he in particular seemed lifted immeasurably above
us, for he was--as might have been expected already a marked man in his
class. The rooms which he shared with his cousin made a tremendous
impression on Tom and me, and seemed palatial in comparison to our
quarters at Mrs. Bolton's, eloquent of the freedom and luxury of
undergraduate existence; their note, perhaps, was struck by the profusion
of gay sofa pillows, then something of an innovation. The heavy,
expensive furniture was of a pattern new to me; and on the mantel were
three or four photographs of ladies in the alluring costume of the
musical stage, in which Tom evinced a particular interest.

"Did grandfather send 'em?" he inquired.

"They're Ham's," said Ralph, and he contrived somehow to get into those
two words an epitome of his cousin's character. Ham was stouter, and his
clothes were more striking, more obviously expensive than ever.... On our
way homeward, after we had walked a block or two in silence, Tom
exclaimed:--"Don't make friends with the friendless!--eh, Hughie? We knew
enough to begin all right, didn't we?"...

Have I made us out a pair of deliberate, calculating snobs? Well, after
all it must be remembered that our bringing up had not been of sufficient
liberality to include the Krebses of this world. We did not, indeed,
spend much time in choosing and weighing those whom we should know and
those whom we should avoid; and before the first term of that Freshman
year was over Tom had become a favourite. He had the gift of making men
feel that he delighted in their society, that he wished for nothing
better than to sit for hours in their company, content to listen to the
arguments that raged about him. Once in a while he would make a droll
observation that was greeted with fits of laughter. He was always
referred to as "old Tom," or "good old Tom"; presently, when he began to
pick out chords on the banjo, it was discovered that he had a good tenor
voice, though he could not always be induced to sing.... Somewhat to the
jeopardy of the academic standard that my father expected me to sustain,
our rooms became a rendezvous for many clubable souls whose maudlin,
midnight attempts at harmony often set the cocks crowing.

       "Free from care and despair,
        What care we?
       'Tis wine, 'tis wine
        That makes the jollity."

As a matter of truth, on these occasions it was more often beer; beer
transported thither in Tom's new valise,--given him by his mother,--and
stuffed with snow to keep the bottles cold. Sometimes Granite Face,
adorned in a sky-blue wrapper, would suddenly appear in the doorway to
declare that we were a disgrace to her respectable house: the university
authorities should be informed, etc., etc. Poor woman, we were
outrageously inconsiderate of her.... One evening as we came through the
hall we caught a glimpse in the dimly lighted parlour of a young man
holding a shy and pale little girl on his lap, Annie, Mrs. Bolton's
daughter: on the face of our landlady was an expression I had never seen
there, like a light. I should scarcely have known her. Tom and I paused
at the foot of the stairs. He clutched my arm.

"Darned if it wasn't our friend Krebs!" he whispered.

While I was by no means so popular as Tom, I got along fairly well. I had
escaped from provincialism, from the obscure purgatory of the wholesale
grocery business; new vistas, exciting and stimulating, had been opened
up; nor did I offend the sensibilities and prejudices of the new friends
I made, but gave a hearty consent to a code I found congenial. I
recognized in the social system of undergraduate life at Harvard a
reflection of that of a greater world where I hoped some day to shine;
yet my ambition did not prey upon me. Mere conformity, however, would not
have taken me very far in a sphere from which I, in common with many
others, desired not to be excluded.... One day, in an idle but inspired
moment, I paraphrased a song from "Pinafore," applying it to a college
embroglio, and the brief and lively vogue it enjoyed was sufficient to
indicate a future usefulness. I had "found myself." This was in the last
part of the freshman year, and later on I became a sort of amateur, class
poet-laureate. Many were the skits I composed, and Tom sang them....

During that freshman year we often encountered Hermann Krebs, whistling
merrily, on the stairs.

"Got your themes done?" he would inquire cheerfully.

And Tom would always mutter, when he was out of earshot: "He has got a
crust!"

When I thought about Krebs at all,--and this was seldom indeed,--his
manifest happiness puzzled me. Our cool politeness did not seem to bother
him in the least; on the contrary, I got the impression that it amused
him. He seemed to have made no friends. And after that first evening,
memorable for its homesickness, he never ventured to repeat his visit to
us.

One windy November day I spied his somewhat ludicrous figure striding
ahead of me, his trousers above his ankles. I was bundled up in a new
ulster,--of which I was secretly quite proud,--but he wore no overcoat at
all.

"Well, how are you getting along?" I asked, as I overtook him.

He made clear, as he turned, his surprise that I should have addressed
him at all, but immediately recovered himself.

"Oh, fine," he responded. "I've had better luck than I expected. I'm
correspondent for two or three newspapers. I began by washing windows,
and doing odd jobs for the professors' wives." He laughed. "I guess that
doesn't strike you as good luck."

He showed no resentment at my patronage, but a self-sufficiency that made
my sympathy seem superfluous, giving the impression of an inner harmony
and content that surprised me.

"I needn't ask how you're getting along," he said....

At the end of the freshman year we abandoned Mrs. Bolton's for more
desirable quarters.

I shall not go deeply into my college career, recalling only such
incidents as, seen in the retrospect, appear to have had significance. I
have mentioned my knack for song-writing; but it was not, I think, until
my junior year there was startlingly renewed in me my youthful desire to
write, to create something worth while, that had so long been dormant.

The inspiration came from Alonzo Cheyne, instructor in English; a
remarkable teacher, in spite of the finicky mannerisms which Tom
imitated. And when, in reading aloud certain magnificent passages, he
forgot his affectations, he managed to arouse cravings I thought to have
deserted me forever. Was it possible, after all, that I had been right
and my father wrong? that I might yet be great in literature?

A mere hint from Alonzo Cheyne was more highly prized by the grinds than
fulsome praise from another teacher. And to his credit it should be
recorded that the grinds were the only ones he treated with any
seriousness; he took pains to answer their questions; but towards the
rest of us, the Chosen, he showed a thinly veiled contempt. None so quick
as he to detect a simulated interest, or a wily effort to make him
ridiculous; and few tried this a second time, for he had a rapier-like
gift of repartee that transfixed the offender like a moth on a pin. He
had a way of eyeing me at times, his glasses in his hand, a queer smile
on his lips, as much as to imply that there was one at least among the
lost who was made for better things. Not that my work was poor, but I
knew that it might have been better. Out of his classes, however, beyond
the immediate, disturbing influence of his personality I would relapse
into indifference....

Returning one evening to our quarters, which were now in the "Yard," I
found Tom seated with a blank sheet before him, thrusting his hand
through his hair and biting the end of his penholder to a pulp. In his
muttering, which was mixed with the curious, stingless profanity of which
he was master, I caught the name of Cheyne, and I knew that he was facing
the crisis of a fortnightly theme. The subject assigned was a narrative
of some personal experience, and it was to be handed in on the morrow. My
own theme was already, written.

"I've been holding down this chair for an hour, and I can't seem to think
of a thing." He rose to fling himself down on the lounge. "I wish I was
in Canada."

"Why Canada?"

"Trout fishing with Uncle Jake at that club of his where he took me last
summer." Tom gazed dreamily at the ceiling. "Whenever I have some darned
foolish theme like this to write I want to go fishing, and I want to go
like the devil. I'll get Uncle Jake to take you, too, next summer."

"I wish you would."

"Say, that's living all right, Hughie, up there among the tamaracks and
balsams!" And he began, for something like the thirtieth time, to relate
the adventures of the trip.

As he talked, the idea presented itself to me with sudden fascination to
use this incident as the subject of Tom's theme; to write it for him,
from his point of view, imitating the droll style he would have had if he
had been able to write; for, when he was interested in any matter, his
oral narrative did not lack vividness. I began to ask him questions: what
were the trees like, for instance? How did the French-Canadian guides
talk? He had the gift of mimicry: aided by a partial knowledge of French
I wrote down a few sentences as they sounded. The canoe had upset and he
had come near drowning. I made him describe his sensations.

"I'll write your theme for you," I exclaimed, when he had finished.

"Gee, not about that!"

"Why not? It's a personal experience."

His gratitude was pathetic.... By this time I was so full of the subject
that it fairly clamoured for expression, and as I wrote the hours flew.
Once in a while I paused to ask him a question as he sat with his chair
tilted back and his feet on the table, reading a detective story. I
sketched in the scene with bold strokes; the desolate bois brule on the
mountain side, the polished crystal surface of the pool broken here and
there with the circles left by rising fish; I pictured Armand, the guide,
his pipe between his teeth, holding the canoe against the current; and I
seemed to smell the sharp tang of the balsams, to hear the roar of the
rapids below. Then came the sudden hooking of the big trout, habitant
oaths from Armand, bouleversement, wetness, darkness, confusion; a
half-strangled feeling, a brief glimpse of green things and sunlight, and
then strangulation, or what seemed like it; strangulation, the sense of
being picked up and hurled by a terrific force whither? a blinding
whiteness, in which it was impossible to breathe, one sharp, almost
unbearable pain, then another, then oblivion.... Finally, awakening, to
be confronted by a much worried Uncle Jake.

By this time the detective story had fallen to the floor, and Tom was
huddled up in his chair, asleep. He arose obediently and wrapped a wet
towel around his head, and began to write. Once he paused long enough to
mutter:--"Yes, that's about it,--that's the way I felt!" and set to work
again, mechanically,--all the praise I got for what I deemed a literary
achievement of the highest order! At three o'clock, a.m., he finished,
pulled off his clothes automatically and tumbled into bed. I had no
desire for sleep. My brain was racing madly, like an engine without a
governor. I could write! I could write! I repeated the words over and
over to myself. All the complexities of my present life were blotted out,
and I beheld only the long, sweet vista of the career for which I was now
convinced that nature had intended me. My immediate fortunes became
unimportant, immaterial. No juice of the grape I had ever tasted made me
half so drunk.... With the morning, of course, came the reaction, and I
suffered the after sensations of an orgie, awaking to a world of
necessity, cold and grey and slushy, and necessity alone made me rise
from my bed. My experience of the night before might have taught me that
happiness lies in the trick of transforming necessity, but it did not.
The vision had faded,--temporarily, at least; and such was the
distraction of the succeeding days that the subject of the theme passed
from my mind....

One morning Tom was later than usual in getting home. I was writing a
letter when he came in, and did not notice him, yet I was vaguely aware
of his standing over me. When at last I looked up I gathered from his
expression that something serious had happened, so mournful was his face,
and yet so utterly ludicrous.

"Say, Hugh, I'm in the deuce of a mess," he announced.

"What's the matter?" I inquired.

He sank down on the table with a groan.

"It's Alonzo," he said.

Then I remembered the theme.

"What--what's he done?" I demanded.

"He says I must become a writer. Think of it, me a writer! He says I'm a
young Shakespeare, that I've been lazy and hid my light under a bushel!
He says he knows now what I can do, and if I don't keep up the quality,
he'll know the reason why, and write a personal letter to my father. Oh,
hell!"

In spite of his evident anguish, I was seized with a convulsive laughter.
Tom stood staring at me moodily.

"You think it's funny,--don't you? I guess it is, but what's going to
become of me? That's what I want to know. I've been in trouble before,
but never in any like this. And who got me into it? You!"

Here was gratitude!

"You've got to go on writing 'em, now." His voice became desperately
pleading. "Say, Hugh, old man, you can temper 'em down--temper 'em down
gradually. And by the end of the year, let's say, they'll be about normal
again."

He seemed actually shivering.

"The end of the year!" I cried, the predicament striking me for the first
time in its fulness. "Say, you've got a crust!"

"You'll do it, if I have to hold a gun over you," he announced grimly.

Mingled with my anxiety, which was real, was an exultation that would not
down. Nevertheless, the idea of developing Tom into a Shakespeare,--Tom,
who had not the slightest desire to be one I was appalling, besides
having in it an element of useless self-sacrifice from which I recoiled.
On the other hand, if Alonzo should discover that I had written his
theme, there were penalties I did not care to dwell upon .... With such a
cloud hanging over me I passed a restless night.

As luck would have it the very next evening in the level light under the
elms of the Square I beheld sauntering towards me a dapper figure which I
recognized as that of Mr. Cheyne himself. As I saluted him he gave me an
amused and most disconcerting glance; and when I was congratulating
myself that he had passed me he stopped.

"Fine weather for March, Paret," he observed.

"Yes, sir," I agreed in a strange voice.

"By the way," he remarked, contemplating the bare branches above our
heads, "that was an excellent theme your roommate handed in. I had no
idea that he possessed such--such genius. Did you, by any chance, happen
to read it?"

"Yes, sir,--I read it."

"Weren't you surprised?" inquired Mr. Cheyne.

"Well, yes, sir--that is--I mean to say he talks just like that,
sometimes--that is, when it's anything he cares about."

"Indeed!" said Mr. Cheyne. "That's interesting, most interesting. In all
my experience, I do not remember a case in which a gift has been
developed so rapidly. I don't want to give the impression--ah that there
is no room for improvement, but the thing was very well done, for an
undergraduate. I must confess I never should have suspected it in Peters,
and it's most interesting what you say about his cleverness in
conversation." He twirled the head of his stick, apparently lost in
reflection. "I may be wrong," he went on presently, "I have an idea it is
you--" I must literally have jumped away from him. He paused a moment,
without apparently noticing my panic, "that it is you who have influenced
Peters."

"Sir?"

"I am wrong, then. Or is this merely commendable modesty on your part?"

"Oh, no, sir."

"Then my hypothesis falls to the ground. I had greatly hoped," he added
meaningly, "that you might be able to throw some light on this mystery."

I was dumb.

"Paret," he asked, "have you time to come over to my rooms for a few
minutes this evening?"

"Certainly, sir."

He gave me his number in Brattle Street....

Like one running in a nightmare and making no progress I made my way
home, only to learn from Hallam,--who lived on the same floor,--that Tom
had inconsiderately gone to Boston for the evening, with four other weary
spirits in search of relaxation! Avoiding our club table, I took what
little nourishment I could at a modest restaurant, and restlessly paced
the moonlit streets until eight o'clock, when I found myself in front of
one of those low-gabled colonial houses which, on less soul-shaking
occasions, had exercised a great charm on my imagination. My hand hung
for an instant over the bell.... I must have rung it violently, for there
appeared almost immediately an old lady in a lace cap, who greeted me
with gentle courtesy, and knocked at a little door with glistening
panels. The latch was lifted by Mr. Cheyne himself.

"Come in, Paret," he said, in a tone that was unexpectedly hospitable.

I have rarely seen a more inviting room. A wood fire burned brightly on
the brass andirons, flinging its glare on the big, white beam that
crossed the ceiling, and reddening the square panes of the windows in
their panelled recesses. Between these were rows of books,--attractive
books in chased bindings, red and blue; books that appealed to be taken
down and read. There was a table covered with reviews and magazines in
neat piles, and a lamp so shaded as to throw its light only on the white
blotter of the pad. Two easy chairs, covered with flowered chintz, were
ranged before the fire, in one of which I sank, much bewildered, upon
being urged to do so.

I utterly failed to recognize "Alonzo" in this new atmosphere. And he
had, moreover, dropped the subtly sarcastic manner I was wont to
associate with him.

"Jolly old house, isn't it?" he observed, as though I had casually
dropped in on him for a chat; and he stood, with his hands behind him
stretched to the blaze, looking down at me. "It was built by a certain
Colonel Draper, who fought at Louisburg, and afterwards fled to England
at the time of the Revolution. He couldn't stand the patriots, I'm not so
sure that I blame him, either. Are you interested in colonial things, Mr.
Paret?"

I said I was. If the question had concerned Aztec relics my answer would
undoubtedly have been the same. And I watched him, dazedly, while he took
down a silver porringer from the shallow mantel shelf.

"It's not a Revere," he said, in a slightly apologetic tone as though to
forestall a comment, "but it's rather good, I think. I picked it up at a
sale in Dorchester. But I have never been able to identify the coat of
arms."

He showed me a ladle, with the names of "Patience and William Simpson"
engraved quaintly thereon, and took down other articles in which I
managed to feign an interest. Finally he seated himself in the chair
opposite, crossed his feet, putting the tips of his fingers together and
gazing into the fire.

"So you thought you could fool me," he said, at length.

I became aware of the ticking of a great clock in the corner. My mouth
was dry.

"I am going to forgive you," he went on, more gravely, "for several
reasons. I don't flatter, as you know. It's because you carried out the
thing so perfectly that I am led to think you have a gift that may be
cultivated, Paret. You wrote that theme in the way Peters would have
written it if he had not been--what shall I say?--scripturally
inarticulate. And I trust it may do you some good if I say it was
something of a literary achievement, if not a moral one."

"Thank you, sir," I faltered.

"Have you ever," he inquired, lapsing a little into his lecture-room
manner, "seriously thought of literature as a career? Have you ever
thought of any career seriously?"

"I once wished to be a writer, sir," I replied tremulously, but refrained
from telling him of my father's opinion of the profession. Ambition--a
purer ambition than I had known for years--leaped within me at his words.
He, Alonzo Cheyne, had detected in me the Promethean fire!

I sat there until ten o'clock talking to the real Mr. Cheyne, a human Mr.
Cheyne unknown in the lecture-room. Nor had I suspected one in whom
cynicism and distrust of undergraduates (of my sort) seemed so ingrained,
of such idealism. He did not pour it out in preaching; delicately,
unobtrusively and on the whole rather humorously he managed to present to
me in a most disillusionizing light that conception of the university
held by me and my intimate associates. After I had left him I walked the
quiet streets to behold as through dissolving mists another Harvard, and
there trembled in my soul like the birth-struggle of a flame something of
the vision later to be immortalized by St. Gaudens, the spirit of Harvard
responding to the spirit of the Republic--to the call of Lincoln, who
voiced it. The place of that bronze at the corner of Boston Common was as
yet empty, but I have since stood before it to gaze in wonder at the
light shining in darkness on mute, uplifted faces, black faces! at
Harvard's son leading them on that the light might live and prevail.

I, too, longed for a Cause into which I might fling myself, in which I
might lose myself... I halted on the sidewalk to find myself staring from
the opposite side of the street at a familiar house, my old landlady's,
Mrs. Bolton's, and summoned up before me was the tired, smiling face of
Hermann Krebs. Was it because when he had once spoken so crudely of the
University I had seen the reflection of her spirit in his eyes? A light
still burned in the extension roof--Krebs's light; another shone dimly
through the ground glass of the front door. Obeying a sudden impulse, I
crossed the street.

Mrs. Bolton, in the sky-blue wrapper, and looking more forbidding than
ever, answered the bell. Life had taught her to be indifferent to
surprises, and it was I who became abruptly embarrassed.

"Oh, it's you, Mr. Paret," she said, as though I had been a frequent
caller. I had never once darkened her threshold since I had left her
house.

"Yes," I answered, and hesitated.... "Is Mr. Krebs in?"

"Well," she replied in a lifeless tone, which nevertheless had in it a
touch of bitterness, "I guess there's no reason why you and your friends
should have known he was sick."

"Sick!" I repeated. "Is he very sick?"

"I calculate he'll pull through," she said. "Sunday the doctor gave him
up. And no wonder! He hasn't had any proper food since he's be'n here!"
She paused, eyeing me. "If you'll excuse me, Mr. Paret, I was just going
up to him when you rang."

"Certainly," I replied awkwardly. "Would you be so kind as to tell
him--when he's well enough--that I came to see him, and that I'm sorry?"

There was another pause, and she stood with a hand defensively clutching
the knob.

"Yes, I'll tell him," she said.

With a sense of having been baffled, I turned away.

Walking back toward the Yard my attention was attracted by a slowly
approaching cab whose occupants were disturbing the quiet of the night
with song.

"Shollity--'tis wine, 'tis wine, that makesh--shollity."

The vehicle drew up in front of a new and commodious building,--I believe
the first of those designed to house undergraduates who were willing to
pay for private bathrooms and other modern luxuries; out of one window of
the cab protruded a pair of shoeless feet, out of the other a hatless
head I recognized as belonging to Tom Peters; hence I surmised that the
feet were his also. The driver got down from the box, and a lively
argument was begun inside--for there were other occupants--as to how Mr.
Peters was to be disembarked; and I gathered from his frequent references
to the "Shgyptian obelisk" that the engineering problem presented struck
him as similar to the unloading of Cleopatra's Needle.

"Careful, careful!" he cautioned, as certain expelling movements began
from within, "Easy, Ham, you jam-fool, keep the door shut, y'll break
me."

"Now, Jerry, all heave sh'gether!" exclaimed a voice from the blackness
of the interior.

"Will ye wait a minute, Mr. Durrett, sir?" implored the cabdriver.
"You'll be after ruining me cab entirely." (Loud roars and vigorous
resistance from the obelisk, the cab rocking violently.) "This gintleman"
(meaning me) "will have him by the head, and I'll get hold of his feet,
sir." Which he did, after a severe kick in the stomach.

"Head'sh all right, Martin."

"To be sure it is, Mr. Peters. Now will ye rest aisy awhile, sir?"

"I'm axphyxiated," cried another voice from the darkness, the mined voice
of Jerome Kyme, our classmate.

"Get the tackles under him!" came forth in commanding tones from
Conybear.

In the meantime many windows had been raised and much gratuitous advice
was being given. The three occupants of the cab's seat who had previously
clamoured for Mr. Peters' removal, now inconsistently resisted it;
suddenly he came out with a jerk, and we had him fairly upright on the
pavement minus a collar and tie and the buttons of his evening waistcoat.
Those who remained in the cab engaged in a riotous game of hunt the
slipper, while Tom peered into the dark interior, observing gravely the
progress of the sport. First flew out an overcoat and a much-battered
hat, finally the pumps, all of which in due time were adjusted to his
person, and I started home with him, with much parting counsel from the
other three.

"Whereinell were you, Hughie?" he inquired. "Hunted all over for you. Had
a sousin' good time. Went to Babcock's--had champagne--then to see Babesh
in--th'--Woods. Ham knows one of the Babesh had supper with four of 'em.
Nice Babesh!"

"For heaven's sake don't step on me again!" I cried.

"Sh'poloshize, old man. But y'know I'm William Shakespheare. C'n do
what I damplease." He halted in the middle of the street and recited
dramatically:--

    "'Not marble, nor th' gilded monuments
     Of prinches sh'll outlive m' powerful rhyme.'"

"How's that, Alonzho, b'gosh?"

"Where did you learn it?" I demanded, momentarily forgetting his
condition.

"Fr'm Ralph," he replied, "says I wrote it. Can't remember...."

After I had got him to bed,--a service I had learned to perform with more
or less proficiency,--I sat down to consider the events of the evening,
to attempt to get a proportional view. The intensity of my disgust was
not hypocritical as I gazed through the open door into the bedroom and
recalled the times when I, too, had been in that condition. Tom Peters
drunk, and sleeping it off, was deplorable, without doubt; but Hugh Paret
drunk was detestable, and had no excuse whatever. Nor did I mean by this
to set myself on a higher ethical plane, for I felt nothing but despair
and humility. In my state of clairvoyance I perceived that he was a
better man, than I, and that his lapses proceeded from a love of liquor
and the transcendent sense of good-fellowship that liquor brings.



VII.

The crisis through which I passed at Cambridge, inaugurated by the events
I have just related, I find very difficult to portray. It was a religious
crisis, of course, and my most pathetic memory concerning it is of the
vain attempts to connect my yearnings and discontents with the theology I
had been taught; I began in secret to read my Bible, yet nothing I hit
upon seemed to point a way out of my present predicament, to give any
definite clew to the solution of my life. I was not mature enough to
reflect that orthodoxy was a Sunday religion unrelated to a world whose
wheels were turned by the motives of self-interest; that it consisted of
ideals not deemed practical, since no attempt was made to put them into
practice in the only logical manner,--by reorganizing civilization to
conform with them. The implication was that the Christ who had preached
these ideals was not practical.... There were undoubtedly men in the
faculty of the University who might have helped me had I known of them;
who might have given me, even at that time, a clew to the modern, logical
explanation of the Bible as an immortal record of the thoughts and acts
of men who had sought to do just what I was seeking to do,--connect the
religious impulse to life and make it fruitful in life: an explanation,
by the way, a thousand-fold more spiritual than the old. But I was
hopelessly entangled in the meshes of the mystic, the miraculous and
supernatural. If I had analyzed my yearnings, I might have realized that
I wanted to renounce the life I had been leading, not because it was
sinful, but because it was aimless. I had not learned that the Greek word
for sin is "a missing of the mark." Just aimlessness! I had been stirred
with the desire to perform some service for which the world would be
grateful: to write great literature, perchance. But it had never been
suggested to me that such swellings of the soul are religious, that
religion is that kind of feeling, of motive power that drives the writer
and the scientist, the statesman and the sculptor as well as the priest
and the Prophet to serve mankind for the joy of serving: that religion is
creative, or it is nothing: not mechanical, not a force imposed from
without, but a driving power within. The "religion" I had learned was
salvation from sin by miracle: sin a deliberate rebellion, not a pathetic
missing of the mark of life; useful service of man, not the wandering of
untutored souls who had not been shown the way. I felt religious. I
wanted to go to church, I wanted to maintain, when it was on me, that
exaltation I dimly felt as communion with a higher power, with God, and
which also was identical with my desire to write, to create....

I bought books, sets of Wordsworth and Keats, of Milton and Shelley and
Shakespeare, and hid them away in my bureau drawers lest Tom and my
friends should see them. These too I read secretly, making excuses for
not joining in the usual amusements. Once I walked to Mrs. Bolton's and
inquired rather shamefacedly for Hermann Krebs, only to be informed that
he had gone out.... There were lapses, of course, when I went off on the
old excursions,--for the most part the usual undergraduate follies,
though some were of a more serious nature; on these I do not care to
dwell. Sex was still a mystery.... Always I awoke afterwards to bitter
self-hatred and despair.... But my work in English improved, and I earned
the commendation and friendship of Mr. Cheyne. With a wisdom for which I
was grateful he was careful not to give much sign of it in classes, but
the fact that he was "getting soft on me" was evident enough to be
regarded with suspicion. Indeed the state into which I had fallen became
a matter of increasing concern to my companions, who tried every means
from ridicule to sympathy, to discover its cause and shake me out of it.
The theory most accepted was that I was in love.

"Come on now, Hughie--tell me who she is. I won't give you away," Tom
would beg. Once or twice, indeed, I had imagined I was in love with the
sisters of Boston classmates whose dances I attended; to these parties
Tom, not having overcome his diffidence in respect to what he called
"social life," never could be induced to go.

It was Ralph who detected the true cause of my discontent. Typical as no
other man I can recall of the code to which we had dedicated ourselves,
the code that moulded the important part of the undergraduate world and
defied authority, he regarded any defection from it in the light of
treason. An instructor, in a fit of impatience, had once referred to him
as the Mephistopheles of his class; he had fatal attractions, and a
remarkable influence. His favourite pastime was the capricious exercise
of his will on weaker characters, such as his cousin, Ham Durrett; if
they "swore off," Ralph made it his business to get them drunk again, and
having accomplished this would proceed himself to administer a new oath
and see that it was kept. Alcohol seemed to have no effect whatever on
him. Though he was in the class above me, I met him frequently at a club
to which I had the honour to belong, then a suite of rooms over a shop
furnished with a pool and a billiard table, easy-chairs and a bar. It has
since achieved the dignity of a house of its own.

We were having, one evening, a "religious" argument, Cinibar, Laurens and
myself and some others. I can't recall how it began; I think Cinibar had
attacked the institution of compulsory chapel, which nobody defended;
there was something inherently wrong, he maintained, with a religion to
which men had to be driven against their wills. Somewhat to my surprise I
found myself defending a Christianity out of which I had been able to
extract but little comfort and solace. Neither Laurens nor Conybear,
however, were for annihilating it: although they took the other side of
the discussion of a subject of which none of us knew anything, their
attacks were but half-hearted; like me, they were still under the spell
exerted by a youthful training.

We were all of us aware of Ralph, who sat at some distance looking over
the pages of an English sporting weekly. Presently he flung it down.

"Haven't you found out yet that man created God, Hughie?" he inquired.
"And even if there were a personal God, what reason have you to think
that man would be his especial concern, or any concern of his whatever?
The discovery of evolution has knocked your Christianity into a cocked
hat."

I don't remember how I answered him. In spite of the superficiality of
his own arguments, which I was not learned enough to detect, I was
ingloriously routed. Darwin had kicked over the bucket, and that was all
there was to it.... After we had left the club both Conybear and Laurens
admitted they were somewhat disturbed, declaring that Ralph had gone too
far. I spent a miserable night, recalling the naturalistic assertions he
had made so glibly, asking myself again and again how it was that the
religion to which I so vainly clung had no greater effect on my actions
and on my will, had not prevented me from lapses into degradation. And I
hated myself for having argued upon a subject that was still sacred. I
believed in Christ, which is to say that I believed that in some
inscrutable manner he existed, continued to dominate the world and had
suffered on my account.

To whom should I go now for a confirmation of my wavering beliefs? One of
the results--it will be remembered of religion as I was taught it was a
pernicious shyness, and even though I had found a mentor and confessor, I
might have hesitated to unburden myself. This would be different from
arguing with Ralph Hambleton. In my predicament, as I was wandering
through the yard, I came across a notice of an evening talk to students
in Holder Chapel, by a clergyman named Phillips Brooks. This was before
the time, let me say in passing, when his sermons at Harvard were
attended by crowds of undergraduates. Well, I stood staring at the
notice, debating whether I should go, trying to screw up my courage; for
I recognized clearly that such a step, if it were to be of any value,
must mean a distinct departure from my present mode of life; and I recall
thinking with a certain revulsion that I should have to "turn good." My
presence at the meeting would be known the next day to all my friends,
for the idea of attending a religious gathering when one was not forced
to do so by the authorities was unheard of in our set. I should be
classed with the despised "pious ones" who did such things regularly. I
shrank from the ridicule. I had, however, heard of Mr. Brooks from Ned
Symonds, who was by no means of the pious type, and whose parents
attended Mr. Brooks's church in Boston.... I left my decision in
abeyance. But when evening came I stole away from the club table, on the
plea of an engagement, and made my way rapidly toward Holder Chapel. I
had almost reached it--when I caught a glimpse of Symonds and of some
others approaching,--and I went on, to turn again. By this time the
meeting, which was in a room on the second floor, had already begun.
Palpitating, I climbed the steps; the door of the room was slightly ajar;
I looked in; I recall a distinct sensation of surprise,--the atmosphere
of that meeting was so different from what I had expected. Not a "pious"
atmosphere at all! I saw a very tall and heavy gentleman, dressed in
black, who sat, wholly at ease, on the table! One hand was in his pocket,
one foot swung clear of the ground; and he was not preaching, but talking
in an easy, conversational tone to some forty young men who sat intent on
his words. I was too excited to listen to what he was saying, I was
making a vain attempt to classify him. But I remember the thought, for it
struck me with force,--that if Christianity were so thoroughly
discredited by evolution, as Ralph Hambleton and other agnostics would
have one believe, why should this remarkably sane and able-looking person
be standing up for it as though it were still an established and
incontrovertible fact?

He had not, certainly, the air of a dupe or a sentimentalist, but
inspired confidence by his very personality. Youthlike, I watched him
narrowly for flaws, for oratorical tricks, for all kinds of histrionic
symptoms. Again I was near the secret; again it escaped me. The argument
for Christianity lay not in assertions about it, but in being it. This
man was Christianity.... I must have felt something of this, even though
I failed to formulate it. And unconsciously I contrasted his strength,
which reinforced the atmosphere of the room, with that of Ralph
Hambleton, who was, a greater influence over me than I have recorded, and
had come to sway me more and more, as he had swayed others. The strength
of each was impressive, yet this Mr. Brooks seemed to me the bodily
presentment of a set of values which I would have kept constantly before
my eyes.... I felt him drawing me, overcoming my hesitation, belittling
my fear of ridicule. I began gently to open the door--when something
happened,--one of those little things that may change the course of a
life. The door made little noise, yet one of the men sitting in the back
of the room chanced to look around, and I recognized Hermann Krebs. His
face was still sunken from his recent illness. Into his eyes seemed to
leap a sudden appeal, an appeal to which my soul responded yet I hurried
down the stairs and into the street. Instantly I regretted my retreat, I
would have gone back, but lacked the courage; and I strayed unhappily for
hours, now haunted by that look of Krebs, now wondering what the
remarkably sane-looking and informal clergyman whose presence dominated
the little room had been talking about. I never learned, but I did live
to read his biography, to discover what he might have talked about,--for
he if any man believed that life and religion are one, and preached
consecration to life's task.

Of little use to speculate whether the message, had I learned it then,
would have fortified and transformed me!

In spite of the fact that I was unable to relate to a satisfying
conception of religion my new-born determination, I made up my mind, at
least, to renounce my tortuous ways. I had promised my father to be a
lawyer; I would keep my promise, I would give the law a fair trial; later
on, perhaps, I might demonstrate an ability to write. All very
praiseworthy! The season was Lent, a fitting time for renunciations and
resolves. Although I had more than once fallen from grace, I believed
myself at last to have settled down on my true course--when something
happened. The devil interfered subtly, as usual--now in the person of
Jerry Kyme. It should be said in justice to Jerry that he did not look
the part. He had sunny-red, curly hair, mischievous blue eyes with long
lashes, and he harboured no respect whatever for any individual or
institution, sacred or profane; he possessed, however, a shrewd sense of
his own value, as many innocent and unsuspecting souls discovered as
early as our freshman year, and his method of putting down the
presumptuous was both effective and unique. If he liked you, there could
be no mistake about it.

One evening when I was engaged in composing a theme for Mr. Cheyne on no
less a subject than the interpretation of the work of William Wordsworth,
I found myself unexpectedly sprawling on the floor, in my descent kicking
the table so vigorously as to send the ink-well a foot or two toward the
ceiling. This, be it known, was a typical proof of Jerry's esteem. For he
had entered noiselessly, jerking the back of my chair, which chanced to
be tilted, and stood with his hands in his pockets, surveying the ruin he
had wrought, watching the ink as it trickled on the carpet. Then he
picked up the book.

"Poetry, you darned old grind!" he exclaimed disgustedly. "Say, Parry, I
don't know what's got into you, but I want you to come home with me for
the Easter holidays. It'll do you good. We'll be on the Hudson, you know,
and we'll manage to make life bearable somehow."

I forgot my irritation, in sheer surprise.

"Why, that's mighty good of you, Jerry--" I began, struggling to my feet.

"Oh, rot!" he exclaimed. "I shouldn't ask you if I didn't want you."

There was no denying the truth of this, and after he had gone I sat for a
long time with my pen in my mouth, reflecting as to whether or not I
should go. For I had the instinct that here was another cross-roads, that
more depended on my decision than I cared to admit. But even then I knew
what I should do. Ridiculous not to--I told myself. How could a week or
ten days with Jerry possibly affect my newborn, resolve?

Yet the prospect, now, of a visit to the Kymes' was by no means so
glowing as it once would have been. For I had seen visions, I had dreamed
dreams, beheld a delectable country of my very own. A year ago--nay, even
a month ago--how such an invitation would have glittered!... I returned
at length to my theme, over which, before Jerry's arrival, I had been
working feverishly. But now the glamour had gone from it.

Presently Tom came in.

"Anyone been here?" he demanded.

"Jerry," I told him.

"What did he want?"

"He wanted me to go home with him at Easter."

"You're going, of course."

"I don't know. I haven't decided."

"You'd be a fool not to," was Tom's comment. It voiced, succinctly, a
prevailing opinion.

It was the conclusion I arrived at in my own mind. But just why I had
been chosen for the honour, especially at such a time, was a riddle.
Jerry's invitations were charily given, and valued accordingly; and more
than once, at our table, I had felt a twinge of envy when Conybear or
someone else had remarked, with the proper nonchalance, in answer to a
question, that they were going to Weathersfield. Such was the name of the
Kyme place....

I shall never forget the impression made on me by the decorous luxury of
that big house, standing amidst its old trees, halfway up the gentle
slope that rose steadily from the historic highway where poor Andre was
captured. I can see now the heavy stone pillars of its portico vignetted
in a flush of tenderest green, the tulips just beginning to flame forth
their Easter colours in the well-kept beds, the stately, well-groomed
evergreens, the vivid lawns, the clipped hedges. And like an overwhelming
wave of emotion that swept all before it, the impressiveness of wealth
took possession of me. For here was a kind of wealth I had never known,
that did not exist in the West, nor even in the still Puritan environs of
Boston where I had visited. It took itself for granted, proclaimed itself
complacently to have solved all problems. By ignoring them, perhaps. But
I was too young to guess this. It was order personified, gaining effect
at every turn by a multitude of details too trivial to mention were it
not for the fact that they entered deeply into my consciousness, until
they came to represent, collectively, the very flower of achievement. It
was a wealth that accepted tribute calmly, as of inherent right. Law and
tradition defended its sanctity more effectively than troops. Literature
descended from her high altar to lend it dignity; and the long, silent
library displayed row upon row of the masters, appropriately clad in
morocco or calf,--Smollett, Macaulay, Gibbon, Richardson, Fielding,
Scott, Dickens, Irving and Thackeray, as though each had striven for a
tablet here. Art had denied herself that her canvases might be hung on
these walls; and even the Church, on that first Sunday of my visit,
forgot the blood of her martyrs that she might adorn an appropriate niche
in the setting. The clergyman, at one of the dinner parties, gravely
asked a blessing as upon an Institution that included and absorbed all
other institutions in its being....

The note of that house was a tempered gaiety. Guests arrived from New
York, spent the night and departed again without disturbing the even
tenor of its ways. Unobtrusive servants ministered to their wants,--and
to mine....

Conybear was there, and two classmates from Boston, and we were treated
with the amiable tolerance accorded to college youths and intimates of
the son of the house. One night there was a dance in our honour. Nor have
I forgotten Jerry's sister, Nathalie, whom I had met at Class Days, a
slim and willowy, exotic young lady of the Botticelli type, with a crown
of burnished hair, yet more suggestive of a hothouse than of spring. She
spoke English with a French accent. Capricious, impulsive, she captured
my interest because she put a high value on her favour; she drove me over
the hills, informing me at length that I was sympathique--different from
the rest; in short, she emphasized and intensified what I may call the
Weathersfield environment, stirred up in me new and vague aspirations
that troubled yet excited me.

Then there was Mrs. Kyme, a pretty, light-hearted lady, still young, who
seemed to have no intention of growing older, who romped and played songs
for us on the piano. The daughter of an old but now impecunious
Westchester family, she had been born to adorn the position she held, she
was adapted by nature to wring from it the utmost of the joys it offered.
From her, rather than from her husband, both of the children seemed to
have inherited. I used to watch Mr. Grosvenor Kyme as he sat at the end
of the dinner-table, dark, preoccupied, taciturn, symbolical of a wealth
new to my experience, and which had about it a certain fabulous quality.
It toiled not, neither did it spin, but grew as if by magic, day and
night, until the very conception of it was overpowering. What must it be
to have had ancestors who had been clever enough to sit still until a
congested and discontented Europe had begun to pour its thousands and
hundreds of thousands into the gateway of the western world, until that
gateway had become a metropolis? ancestors, of course, possessing what
now suddenly appeared to me as the most desirable of gifts--since it
reaped so dazzling a harvest-business foresight. From time to time these
ancestors had continued to buy desirable corners, which no amount of
persuasion had availed to make them relinquish. Lease them, yes; sell
them, never! By virtue of such a system wealth was as inevitable as human
necessity; and the thought of human necessity did not greatly bother me.
Mr. Kyme's problem of life was not one of making money, but of investing
it. One became automatically a personage....

It was due to one of those singular coincidences--so interesting a
subject for speculation--that the man who revealed to me this golden
romance of the Kyme family was none other than a resident of my own city,
Mr. Theodore Watling, now become one of our most important and
influential citizens; a corporation lawyer, new and stimulating
qualification, suggesting as it did, a deus ex machina of great affairs.
That he, of all men, should come to Weathersfield astonished me, since I
was as yet to make the connection between that finished, decorous,
secluded existence and the source of its being. The evening before my
departure he arrived in company with two other gentlemen, a Mr. Talbot
and a Mr. Saxes, whose names were spoken with respect in a sphere of
which I had hitherto taken but little cognizance-Wall Street. Conybear
informed me that they were "magnates,"... We were sitting in the
drawing-room at tea, when they entered with Mr. Watling, and no sooner
had he spoken to Mrs. Kyme than his quick eye singled me out of the
group.

"Why, Hugh!" he exclaimed, taking my hand. "I had no idea I should meet
you here--I saw your father only last week, the day I left home." And he
added, turning to Mrs. Kyme, "Hugh is the son of Mr. Matthew Paret, who
has been the leader of our bar for many years."

The recognition and the tribute to my father were so graciously given
that I warmed with gratitude and pride, while Mr. Kyme smiled a little,
remarking that I was a friend of Jerry's. Theodore Watling, for being
here, had suddenly assumed in my eyes a considerable consequence, though
the note he struck in that house was a strange one. It was, however, his
own note, and had a certain distinction, a ring of independence, of the
knowledge of self-worth. Dinner at Weathersfield we youngsters had
usually found rather an oppressive ceremony, with its shaded lights and
precise ritual over which Mr. Kyme presided like a high priest;
conversation had been restrained. That night, as Johnnie Laurens
afterwards expressed it, "things loosened up," and Mr. Watling was
responsible for the loosening. Taking command of the Kyme dinner table
appeared to me to be no mean achievement, but this is just what he did,
without being vulgar or noisy or assertive. Suavitar in modo, forbiter in
re. If, as I watched him there with a newborn pride and loyalty, I had
paused to reconstruct the idea that the mention of his name would
formerly have evoked, I suppose I should have found him falling short of
my notion of a gentleman; it had been my father's opinion; but Mr.
Watling's marriage to Gene Hollister's aunt had given him a standing with
us at home. He possessed virility, vitality in a remarkable degree, yet
some elusive quality that was neither tact nor delicacy--though related
to these differentiated him from the commonplace, self-made man of
ability. He was just off the type. To liken him to a clothing store model
of a well-built, broad-shouldered man with a firm neck, a handsome,
rather square face not lacking in colour and a conventional, drooping
moustache would be slanderous; yet he did suggest it. Suggesting it, he
redeemed it: and the middle western burr in his voice was rather
attractive than otherwise. He had not so much the air of belonging there,
as of belonging anywhere--one of those anomalistic American citizens of
the world who go abroad and make intimates of princes. Before the meal
was over he had inspired me with loyalty and pride, enlisted the
admiration of Jerry and Conybear and Johnnie Laurens; we followed him
into the smoking-room, sitting down in a row on a leather lounge behind
our elders.

Here, now that the gentlemen were alone, there was an inspiring largeness
in their talk that fired the imagination. The subject was investments, at
first those of coal and iron in my own state, for Mr. Watling, it
appeared, was counsel for the Boyne Iron Works.

"It will pay you to keep an eye on that company, Mr. Kyme," he said,
knocking the ashes from his cigar. "Now that old Mr. Durrett's gone--"

"You don't mean to say Nathaniel Durrett's dead!" said Mr. Kyme.

The lawyer nodded.

"The old regime passed with him. Adolf Scherer succeeds him, and you may
take my word for it, he's a coming man. Mr. Durrett, who was a judge of
men, recognized that. Scherer was an emigrant, he had ideas, and rose to
be a foreman. For the last few years Mr. Durrett threw everything on his
shoulders...."

Little by little the scope of the discussion was enlarged until it ranged
over a continent, touching lightly upon lines of railroad, built or
projected, across the great west our pioneers had so lately succeeded in
wresting from the savages, upon mines of copper and gold hidden away
among the mountains, and millions of acres of forest and grazing lands
which a complacent government would relinquish provided certain
technicalities were met: touching lightly, too, very lightly,--upon
senators and congressmen at Washington. And for the first time I learned
that not the least of the functions of these representatives of the
people was to act as the medium between capital and investment, to
facilitate the handing over of the Republic's resources to those in a
position to develop them. The emphasis was laid on development, or rather
on the resulting prosperity for the country: that was the justification,
and it was taken for granted as supreme. Nor was it new to me; this cult
of prosperity. I recalled the torch-light processions of the tariff
enthusiasts of my childhood days, my father's championship of the
Republican Party. He had not idealized politicians, either. For the
American, politics and ethics were strangers.

Thus I listened with increasing fascination to these gentlemen in evening
clothes calmly treating the United States as a melon patch that existed
largely for the purpose of being divided up amongst a limited and favored
number of persons. I had a feeling of being among the initiated. Where,
it may be asked, were my ideals? Let it not be supposed that I believed
myself to have lost them. If so, the impression I have given of myself
has been wholly inadequate. No, they had been transmuted, that is all,
transmuted by the alchemy of Weathersfield, by the personality of
Theodore Watling into brighter visions. My eyes rarely left his face; I
hung on his talk, which was interspersed with native humour, though he
did not always join in the laughter, sometimes gazing at the fire, as
though his keen mind were grappling with a problem suggested. I noted the
respect in which his opinions were held, and my imagination was fired by
an impression of the power to be achieved by successful men of his
profession, by the evidence of their indispensability to capital
itself.... At last when the gentlemen rose and were leaving the room, Mr.
Watling lingered, with his hand on my arm.

"Of course you're going through the Law School, Hugh," he said.

"Yes, sir," I replied.

"Good!" he exclaimed emphatically. "The law, to-day, is more of a career
than ever, especially for a young man with your antecedents and
advantages, and I know of no city in the United States where I would
rather start practice, if I were a young man, than ours. In the next
twenty years we shall see a tremendous growth. Of course you'll be going
into your father's office. You couldn't do better. But I'll keep an eye
on you, and perhaps I'll be able to help you a little, too."

I thanked him gratefully.

A famous artist, who started out in youth to embrace a military career
and who failed to pass an examination at West Point, is said to have
remarked that if silicon had been a gas he would have been a soldier. I
am afraid I may have given the impression that if I had not gone to
Weathersfield and encountered Mr. Watling I might not have been a lawyer.
This impression would be misleading. And while it is certain that I have
not exaggerated the intensity of the spiritual experience I went through
at Cambridge, a somewhat belated consideration for the truth compels me
to register my belief that the mood would in any case have been
ephemeral. The poison generated by the struggle of my nature with its
environment had sunk too deep, and the very education that was supposed
to make a practical man of me had turned me into a sentimentalist. I
became, as will be seen, anything but a practical man in the true sense,
though the world in which I had been brought up and continued to live
deemed me such. My father was greatly pleased when I wrote him that I was
now more than ever convinced of the wisdom of choosing the law as my
profession, and was satisfied that I had come to my senses at last. He
had still been prepared to see me "go off at a tangent," as he expressed
it. On the other hand, the powerful effect of the appeal made by
Weathersfield and Mr. Watling must not be underestimated. Here in one
object lesson was emphasized a host of suggestions each of which had made
its impression. And when I returned to Cambridge Alonzo Cheyne knew that
he had lost me....

I pass over the rest of my college course, and the years I spent at the
Harvard Law School, where were instilled into me without difficulty the
dictums that the law was the most important of all professions, that
those who entered it were a priestly class set aside to guard from
profanation that Ark of the Covenant, the Constitution of the United
States. In short, I was taught law precisely as I had been taught
religion,--scriptural infallibility over again,--a static law and a
static theology,--a set of concepts that were supposed to be equal to any
problems civilization would have to meet until the millennium. What we
are wont to call wisdom is often naively innocent of impending change. It
has no barometric properties.

I shall content myself with relating one incident only of this period. In
the January of my last year I went with a party of young men and girls to
stay over Sunday at Beverly Farms, where Mrs. Fremantle--a young Boston
matron had opened her cottage for the occasion. This "cottage," a roomy,
gabled structure, stood on a cliff, at the foot of which roared the
wintry Atlantic, while we danced and popped corn before the open fires.
During the daylight hours we drove about the country in sleighs, or made
ridiculous attempts to walk on snow-shoes.

On Sunday afternoon, left temporarily to my own devices, I wandered along
the cliff, crossing into the adjoining property. The wind had fallen; the
waves, much subdued, broke rhythmically against the rocks; during the
night a new mantle of snow had been spread, and the clouds were still low
and menacing. As I strolled I became aware of a motionless figure ahead
of me,--one that seemed oddly familiar; the set of the shabby overcoat on
the stooping shoulders, the unconscious pose contributed to a certain
sharpness of individuality; in the act of challenging my memory, I
halted. The man was gazing at the seascape, and his very absorption gave
me a sudden and unfamiliar thrill. The word absorption precisely
expresses my meaning, for he seemed indeed to have become a part of his
surroundings,--an harmonious part. Presently he swung about and looked at
me as though he had expected to find me there--and greeted me by name.

"Krebs!" I exclaimed.

He smiled, and flung out his arm, indicating the scene. His eyes at that
moment seemed to reflect the sea,--they made the gaunt face suddenly
beautiful.

"This reminds me of a Japanese print," he said.

The words, or the tone in which he spoke, curiously transformed the
picture. It was as if I now beheld it, anew, through his vision: the grey
water stretching eastward to melt into the grey sky, the massed, black
trees on the hillside, powdered with white, the snow in rounded,
fantastic patches on the huge boulders at the foot of the cliff. Krebs
did not seem like a stranger, but like one whom I had known always,--one
who stood in a peculiar relationship between me and something greater I
could not define. The impression was fleeting, but real.... I remember
wondering how he could have known anything about Japanese prints.

"I didn't think you were still in this part of the country," I remarked
awkwardly.

"I'm a reporter on a Boston newspaper, and I've been sent up here to
interview old Mr. Dome, who lives in that house," and he pointed to a
roof above the trees. "There is a rumour, which I hope to verify, that he
has just given a hundred thousand dollars to the University."

"And--won't he see you?"

"At present he's taking a nap," said Krebs. "He comes here occasionally
for a rest."

"Do you like interviewing?" I asked.

He smiled again.

"Well, I see a good many different kinds of people, and that's
interesting."

"But--being a reporter?" I persisted.

This continued patronage was not a conscious expression of superiority on
my part, but he did not seem to resent it. He had aroused my curiosity.

"I'm going into the law," he said.

The quiet confidence with which he spoke aroused, suddenly, a twinge of
antagonism. He had every right to go into the law, of course, and yet!...
my query would have made it evident to me, had I been introspective in
those days, that the germ of the ideal of the profession, implanted by
Mr. Watling, was expanding. Were not influential friends necessary for
the proper kind of career? and where were Krebs's? In spite of the
history of Daniel Webster and a long line of American tradition, I felt
an incongruity in my classmate's aspiration. And as he stood there, gaunt
and undoubtedly hungry, his eyes kindling, I must vaguely have classed
him with the revolutionaries of all the ages; must have felt in him,
instinctively, a menace to the stability of that Order with which I had
thrown my fortunes. And yet there were comparatively poor men in the Law
School itself who had not made me feel this way! He had impressed me
against my will, taken me by surprise, commiseration had been mingled
with other feelings that sprang out of the memory of the night I had
called on him, when he had been sick. Now I resented something in him
which Tom Peters had called "crust."

"The law!" I repeated. "Why?"

"Well," he said, "even when I was a boy, working at odd jobs, I used to
think if I could ever be a lawyer I should have reached the top notch of
human dignity."

Once more his smile disarmed me.

"And now" I asked curiously.

"You see, it was an ideal with me, I suppose. My father was responsible
for that. He had the German temperament of '48, and when he fled to this
country, he expected to find Utopia." The smile emerged again, like the
sun shining through clouds, while fascination and antagonism again
struggled within me. "And then came frightful troubles. For years he
could get only enough work to keep him and my mother alive, but he never
lost his faith in America. 'It is man,' he would say, 'man has to grow up
to it--to liberty.' Without the struggle, liberty would be worth nothing.
And he used to tell me that we must all do our part, we who had come
here, and not expect everything to be done for us. He had made that
mistake. If things were bad, why, put a shoulder to the wheel and help to
make them better.

"That helped me," he continued, after a moment's pause. "For I've seen a
good many things, especially since I've been working for a newspaper.
I've seen, again and again, the power of the law turned against those
whom it was intended to protect, I've seen lawyers who care a great deal
more about winning cases than they do about justice, who prostitute their
profession to profit making,--profit making for themselves and others.
And they are often the respectable lawyers, too, men of high standing,
whom you would not think would do such things. They are on the side of
the powerful, and the best of them are all retained by rich men and
corporations. And what is the result? One of the worst evils, I think,
that can befall a country. The poor man goes less and less to the courts.
He is getting bitter, which is bad, which is dangerous. But men won't see
it."

It was on my tongue to refute this, to say that everybody had a chance. I
could indeed recall many arguments that had been drilled into me;
quotations, even, from court decisions. But something prevented me from
doing this,--something in his manner, which was neither argumentative nor
combative.

"That's why I am going into the law," he added. "And I intend to stay in
it if I can keep alive. It's a great chance for me--for all of us. Aren't
you at the Law School?"

I nodded. Once more, as his earnest glance fell upon me, came that
suggestion of a subtle, inexplicable link between us; but before I could
reply, steps were heard behind us, and an elderly servant, bareheaded,
was seen coming down the path.

"Are you the reporter?" he demanded somewhat impatiently of Krebs. "If
you want to see Mr. Dome, you'd better come right away. He's going out
for a drive."

For a while, after he had shaken my hand and departed, I stood in the
snow, looking after him....



VIII

On the Wednesday of that same week the news of my father's sudden and
serious illness came to me in a telegram, and by the time I arrived at
home it was too late to see him again alive. It was my first experience
with death, and what perplexed me continually during the following days
was an inability to feel the loss more deeply. When a child, I had been
easily shaken by the spectacle of sorrow. Had I, during recent years, as
a result of a discovery that emotions arising from human relationships
lead to discomfort and suffering, deliberately been forming a shell,
until now I was incapable of natural feelings? Of late I had seemed
closer to my father, and his letters, though formal, had given evidence
of his affection; in his repressed fashion he had made it clear that he
looked forward to the time when I was to practise with him. Why was it
then, as I gazed upon his fine features in death, that I experienced no
intensity of sorrow? What was it in me that would not break down? He
seemed worn and tired, yet I had never thought of him as weary, never
attributed to him any yearning. And now he was released.

I wondered what had been his private thoughts about himself, his private
opinions about life; and when I reflect now upon my lack of real
knowledge at five and twenty, I am amazed at the futility of an expensive
education which had failed to impress upon me the simple, basic fact that
life was struggle; that either development or retrogression is the fate
of all men, that characters are never completely made, but always in the
making. I had merely a disconcerting glimpse of this truth, with no
powers of formulation, as I sat beside my mother in the bedroom, where
every article evoked some childhood scene. Here was the dent in the
walnut foot-board of the bed made, one wintry day, by the impact of my
box of blocks; the big arm-chair, covered with I know not what stiff
embroidery, which had served on countless occasions as a chariot driven
to victory. I even remembered how every Wednesday morning I had been
banished from the room, which had been so large a part of my childhood
universe, when Ella, the housemaid, had flung open all its windows and
crowded its furniture into the hall.

The thought of my wanderings since then became poignant, almost
terrifying. The room, with all its memories, was unchanged. How safe I
had been within its walls! Why could I not have been, content with what
it represented? of tradition, of custom,--of religion? And what was it
within me that had lured me away from these?

I was miserable, indeed, but my misery was not of the kind I thought it
ought to be. At moments, when my mother relapsed into weeping, I glanced
at her almost in wonder. Such sorrow as hers was incomprehensible. Once
she surprised and discomfited me by lifting her head and gazing fixedly
at me through her tears.

I recall certain impressions of the funeral. There, among the
pall-bearers, was my Cousin Robert Breck, tears in the furrows of his
cheeks. Had he loved my father more than I? The sight of his grief moved
me suddenly and strongly.... It seemed an age since I had worked in his
store, and yet here he was still, coming to town every morning and
returning every evening to Claremore, loving his friends, and mourning
them one by one. Was this, the spectacle presented by my Cousin Robert,
the reward of earthly existence? Were there no other prizes save those
known as greatness of character and depth of human affections? Cousin
Robert looked worn and old. The other pall-bearers, men of weight, of
long standing in the community, were aged, too; Mr. Blackwood, and Mr.
Jules Hollister; and out of place, somehow, in this new church building.
It came to me abruptly that the old order was gone,--had slipped away
during my absence. The church I had known in boyhood had been torn down
to make room for a business building on Boyne Street; the edifice in
which I sat was expensive, gave forth no distinctive note; seemingly
transitory with its hybrid interior, its shiny oak and blue and red
organ-pipes, betokening a compromised and weakened faith. Nondescript,
likewise, seemed the new minister, Mr. Randlett, as he prayed unctuously
in front of the flowers massed on the platform. I vaguely resented his
laudatory references to my father.

The old church, with its severity, had actually stood for something. It
was the Westminster Catechism in wood and stone, and Dr. Pound had been
the human incarnation of that catechism, the fit representative of a
wrathful God, a militant shepherd who had guarded with vigilance his
respectable flock, who had protested vehemently against the sins of the
world by which they were surrounded, against the "dogs, and sorcerers,
and whoremongers, and murderers and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and
maketh a lie." How Dr. Pound would have put the emphasis of the
Everlasting into those words!

Against what was Mr. Randlett protesting?

My glance wandered to the pews which held the committees from various
organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Bar Association,
which had come to do honour to my father. And there, differentiated from
the others, I saw the spruce, alert figure of Theodore Watling. He, too,
represented a new type and a new note,--this time a forceful note, a
secular note that had not belonged to the old church, and seemed likewise
anomalistic in the new....

During the long, slow journey in the carriage to the cemetery my mother
did not raise her veil. It was not until she reached out and seized my
hand, convulsively, that I realized she was still a part of my existence.

In the days that followed I became aware that my father's death had
removed a restrictive element, that I was free now to take without
criticism or opposition whatever course in life I might desire. It may be
that I had apprehended even then that his professional ideals would not
have coincided with my own. Mingled with this sense of emancipation was a
curious feeling of regret, of mourning for something I had never valued,
something fixed and dependable for which he had stood, a rock and a
refuge of which I had never availed myself!... When his will was opened
it was found that the property had been left to my mother during her
lifetime. It was larger than I had thought, four hundred thousand
dollars, shrewdly invested, for the most part, in city real estate. My
father had been very secretive as to money matters, and my mother had no
interest in them.

Three or four days later I received in the mail a typewritten letter
signed by Theodore Watling, expressing sympathy for my bereavement, and
asking me to drop in on him, down town, before I should leave the city.
In contrast to the somewhat dingy offices where my father had practised
in the Blackwood Block, the quarters of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon on the
eighth floor of the new Durrett Building were modern to a degree,
finished in oak and floored with marble, with a railed-off space where
young women with nimble fingers played ceaselessly on typewriters. One of
them informed me that Mr. Watling was busy, but on reading my card added
that she would take it in. Meanwhile, in company with two others who may
have been clients, I waited. This, then, was what it meant to be a lawyer
of importance, to have, like a Chesterfield, an ante-room where clients
cooled their heels and awaited one's pleasure...

The young woman returned, and led me through a corridor to a door on
which was painted Mr. Wailing.

I recall him tilted back in his chair in a debonnair manner beside his
polished desk, the hint of a smile on his lips; and leaning close to him
was a yellow, owl-like person whose eyes, as they turned to me, gave the
impression of having stared for years into hard, artificial lights. Mr.
Watling rose briskly.

"How are you, Hugh?" he said, the warmth of his greeting tempered by just
the note of condolence suitable to my black clothes. "I'm glad you came.
I wanted to see you before you went back to Cambridge. I must introduce
you to Judge Bering, of our State Supreme Court. Judge, this is Mr.
Paret's boy."

The judge looked me over with a certain slow impressiveness, and gave me
a soft and fleshy hand.

"Glad to know you, Mr. Paret. Your father was a great loss to our bar,"
he declared.

I detected in his tone and manner a slight reservation that could not be
called precisely judicial dignity; it was as though, in these few words,
he had gone to the limit of self-commitment with a stranger--a striking
contrast to the confidential attitude towards Mr. Watling in which I had
surprised him.

"Judge," said Mr. Watling, sitting down again, "do you recall that time
we all went up to Mr. Paret's house and tried to induce him to run for
mayor? That was before you went on the lower bench."

The judge nodded gloomily, caressing his watch chain, and suddenly rose
to go.

"That will be all right, then?" Mr. Watling inquired cryptically, with a
smile. The other made a barely perceptible inclination of the head and
departed. Mr. Watling looked at me. "He's one of the best men we have on
the bench to-day," he added. There was a trace of apology in his tone.

He talked a while of my father, to whom, so he said, he had looked up
ever since he had been admitted to the bar.

"It would be a pleasure to me, Hugh, as well as a matter of pride," he
said cordially, but with dignity, "to have Matthew Paret's son in my
office. I suppose you will be wishing to take your mother somewhere this
summer, but if you care to come here in the autumn, you will be welcome.
You will begin, of course, as other young men begin,--as I began. But I
am a believer in blood, and I'll be glad to have you. Mr. Fowndes and Mr.
Ripon feel the same way." He escorted me to the door himself.

Everywhere I went during that brief visit home I was struck by change, by
the crumbling and decay of institutions that once had held me in thrall,
by the superimposition of a new order that as yet had assumed no definite
character. Some of the old landmarks had disappeared; there were new and
aggressive office buildings, new and aggressive residences, new and
aggressive citizens who lived in them, and of whom my mother spoke with
gentle deprecation. Even Claremore, that paradise of my childhood, had
grown shrivelled and shabby, even tawdry, I thought, when we went out
there one Sunday afternoon; all that once represented the magic word
"country" had vanished. The old flat piano, made in Philadelphia ages
ago, the horsehair chairs and sofa had been replaced by a nondescript
furniture of the sort displayed behind plate-glass windows of the city's
stores: rocking-chairs on stands, upholstered in clashing colours, their
coiled springs only half hidden by tassels, and "ornamental" electric
fixtures, instead of the polished coal-oil lamps. Cousin Jenny had grown
white, Willie was a staid bachelor, Helen an old maid, while Mary had
married a tall, anaemic young man with glasses, Walter Kinley, whom
Cousin Robert had taken into the store. As I contemplated the Brecks odd
questions suggested themselves: did honesty and warm-heartedness
necessarily accompany a lack of artistic taste? and was virtue its own
reward, after all? They drew my mother into the house, took off her
wraps, set her down in the most comfortable rocker, and insisted on
making her a cup of tea.

I was touched. I loved them still, and yet I was conscious of
reservations concerning them. They, too, seemed a little on the defensive
with me, and once in a while Mary was caustic in her remarks.

"I guess nothing but New York will be good enough for Hugh now. He'll be
taking Cousin Sarah away from us."

"Not at all, my dear," said my mother, gently, "he's going into Mr.
Watling's office next autumn."

"Theodore Watling?" demanded Cousin Robert, pausing in his carving.

"Yes, Robert. Mr. Watling has been good enough to say that he would like
to have Hugh. Is there anything--?"

"Oh, I'm out of date, Sarah," Cousin Robert replied, vigorously severing
the leg of the turkey. "These modern lawyers are too smart for me.
Watling's no worse than the others, I suppose,--only he's got more
ability."

"I've never heard anything against him," said my mother in a pained
voice. "Only the other day McAlery Willett congratulated me that Hugh was
going to be with him."

"You mustn't mind Robert, Sarah," put in Cousin Jenny,--a remark
reminiscent of other days.

"Dad has a notion that his generation is the only honest one," said
Helen, laughingly, as she passed a plate.

I had gained a sense of superiority, and I was quite indifferent to
Cousin Robert's opinion of Mr. Watling, of modern lawyers in general.
More than once a wave of self-congratulation surged through me that I had
possessed the foresight and initiative to get out of the wholesale
grocery business while there was yet time. I looked at Willie, still
freckled, still literal, still a plodder, at Walter Kinley, and I thought
of the drabness of their lives; at Cousin Robert himself as he sat
smoking his cigar in the bay-window on that dark February day, and
suddenly I pitied him. The suspicion struck me that he had not prospered
of late, and this deepened to a conviction as he talked.

"The Republican Party is going to the dogs," he asserted.

"It used to be an honourable party, but now it is no better than the
other. Politics are only conducted, now, for the purpose of making
unscrupulous men rich, sir. For years I furnished this city with good
groceries, if I do say it myself. I took a pride in the fact that the
inmates of the hospitals, yes, and the dependent poor in the city's
institutions, should have honest food. You can get anything out of the
city if you are willing to pay the politicians for it. I lost my city
contracts. Why? Because I refused to deal with scoundrels. Weill and
Company and other unscrupulous upstarts are willing to do so, and poison
the poor and the sick with adulterated groceries! The first thing I knew
was that the city auditor was holding back my bills for supplies, and
paying Weill's. That's what politics and business, yes, sir, and the law,
have come to in these days. If a man wants to succeed, he must turn into
a rascal."

I was not shocked, but I was silent, uncomfortable, wishing that it were
time to take the train back to the city. Cousin Robert's face was more
worn than I had thought, and I contrasted him inevitably with the
forceful person who used to stand, in his worn alpaca coat, on the
pavement in front of his store, greeting with clear-eyed content his
fellow merchants of the city. Willie Breck, too, was silent, and Walter
Kinley took off his glasses and wiped them. In the meanwhile Helen had
left the group in which my mother sat, and, approaching us, laid her
hands on her father's shoulders.

"Now, dad," she said, in affectionate remonstrance, "you're excited about
politics again, and you know it isn't good for you. And besides, they're
not worth it."

"You're right, Helen," he replied. Under the pressure of her hands he
made a strong effort to control himself, and turned to address my mother
across the room.

"I'm getting to be a crotchety old man," he said. "It's a good thing I
have a daughter to remind me of it."

"It is a good thing, Robert," said my mother.

During the rest of our visit he seemed to have recovered something of his
former spirits and poise, taking refuge in the past. They talked of their
own youth, of families whose houses had been landmarks on the Second
Bank.

"I'm worried about your Cousin Robert, Hugh," my mother confided to me,
when we were at length seated in the train. "I've heard rumours that
things are not so well at the store as they might be." We looked out at
the winter landscape, so different from that one which had thrilled every
fibre of my being in the days when the railroad on which we travelled had
been a winding narrow gauge. The orchards--those that remained--were
bare; stubble pricked the frozen ground where tassels had once waved in
the hot, summer wind. We flew by row after row of ginger-bread, suburban
houses built on "villa plots," and I read in large letters on a hideous
sign-board, "Woodbine Park."

"Hugh, have you ever heard anything against--Mr. Watling?"

"No, mother," I said. "So far as I knew, he is very much looked up to by
lawyers and business men. He is counsel, I believe, for Mr. Blackwood's
street car line on Boyne Street. And I told you, I believe, that I met
him once at Mr. Kyme's."

"Poor Robert!" she sighed. "I suppose business trouble does make one
bitter,--I've seen it so often. But I never imagined that it would
overtake Robert, and at his time of life! It is an old and respected
firm, and we have always had a pride in it." ...

That night, when I was going to bed, it was evident that the subject was
still in her mind. She clung to my hand a moment.

"I, too, am afraid of the new, Hugh," she said, a little tremulously. "We
all grow so, as age comes on."

"But you are not old, mother," I protested.

"I have a feeling, since your father has gone, that I have lived my life,
my dear, though I'd like to stay long enough to see you happily
married--to have grandchildren. I was not young when you were born." And
she added, after a little while, "I know nothing about business affairs,
and now--now that your father is no longer here, sometimes I'm afraid--"

"Afraid of what, mother?"

She tried to smile at me through her tears. We were in the old
sitting-room, surrounded by the books.

"I know it's foolish, and it isn't that I don't trust you. I know that
the son of your father couldn't do anything that was not honourable. And
yet I am afraid of what the world is becoming. The city is growing so
fast, and so many new people are coming in. Things are not the same.
Robert is right, there. And I have heard your father say the same thing.
Hugh, promise me that you will try to remember always what he was, and
what he would wish you to be!"

"I will, mother," I answered. "But I think you would find that Cousin
Robert exaggerates a little, makes things seem worse than they really
are. Customs change, you know. And politics were never well--Sunday
schools." I, too, smiled a little. "Father knew that. And he would never
take an active part in them."

"He was too fine!" she exclaimed.

"And now," I continued, "Cousin Robert has happened to come in contact
with them through business. That is what has made the difference in him.
Before, he always knew they were corrupt, but he rarely thought about
them."

"Hugh," she said suddenly, after a pause, "you must remember one
thing,--that you can afford to be independent. I thank God that your
father has provided for that!"

I was duly admitted, the next autumn, to the bar of my own state, and was
assigned to a desk in the offices of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon. Larry
Weed was my immediate senior among the apprentices, and Larry was a
hero-worshipper. I can see him now. He suggested a bullfrog as he sat in
the little room we shared in common, his arms akimbo over a law book, his
little legs doubled under him, his round, eyes fixed expectantly on the
doorway. And even if I had not been aware of my good fortune in being
connected with such a firm as Theodore Watling's, Larry would shortly
have brought it home to me. During those weeks when I was making my first
desperate attempts at briefing up the law I was sometimes interrupted by
his exclamations when certain figures went by in the corridor.

"Say, Hugh, do you know who that was?"

"No."

"Miller Gorse."

"Who's he?"

"Do you mean to say you never heard of Miller Gorse?"

"I've been away a long time," I would answer apologetically. A person of
some importance among my contemporaries at Harvard, I had looked forward
to a residence in my native city with the complacency of one who has seen
something of the world,--only to find that I was the least in the new
kingdom. And it was a kingdom. Larry opened up to me something of the
significance and extent of it, something of the identity of the men who
controlled it.

"Miller Gorse," he said impressively, "is the counsel for the railroad."

"What railroad? You mean the--" I was adding, when he interrupted me
pityingly.

"After you've been here a while you'll find out there's only one railroad
in this state, so far as politics are concerned. The Ashuela and
Northern, the Lake Shore and the others don't count."

I refrained from asking any more questions at that time, but afterwards I
always thought of the Railroad as spelled with a capital.

"Miller Gorse isn't forty yet," Larry told me on another occasion.
"That's doing pretty well for a man who comes near running this state."

For the sake of acquiring knowledge, I endured Mr. Weed's patronage. I
inquired how Mr. Gorse ran the state.

"Oh, you'll find out soon enough," he assured me.

"But Mr. Barbour's president of the Railroad."

"Sure. Once in a while they take something up to him, but as a rule he
leaves things to Gorse."

Whereupon I resolved to have a good look at Mr. Gorse at the first
opportunity. One day Mr. Watling sent out for some papers.

"He's in there now;" said Larry. "You take 'em."

"In there" meant Mr. Watling's sanctum. And in there he was. I had only a
glance at the great man, for, with a kindly but preoccupied "Thank you,
Hugh," Mr. Watling took the papers and dismissed me. Heaviness, blackness
and impassivity,--these were the impressions of Mr. Gorse which I carried
away from that first meeting. The very solidity of his flesh seemed to
suggest the solidity of his position. Such, say the psychologists, is the
effect of prestige.

I remember well an old-fashioned picture puzzle in one of my boyhood
books. The scene depicted was to all appearances a sylvan, peaceful one,
with two happy lovers seated on a log beside a brook; but presently, as
one gazed at the picture, the head of an animal stood forth among the
branches, and then the body; more animals began to appear, bit by bit; a
tiger, a bear, a lion, a jackal, a fox, until at last, whenever I looked
at the page, I did not see the sylvan scene at all, but only the
predatory beasts of the forest. So, one by one, the figures of the real
rulers of the city superimposed themselves for me upon the simple and
democratic design of Mayor, Council, Board of Aldermen, Police Force,
etc., that filled the eye of a naive and trusting electorate which fondly
imagined that it had something to say in government. Miller Gorse was one
of these rulers behind the screen, and Adolf Scherer, of the Boyne Iron
Works, another; there was Leonard Dickinson of the Corn National Bank;
Frederick Grierson, becoming wealthy in city real estate; Judah B.
Tallant, who, though outlawed socially, was deferred to as the owner of
the Morning Era; and even Ralph Hambleton, rapidly superseding the
elderly and conservative Mr. Lord, who had hitherto managed the great
Hambleton estate. Ralph seemed to have become, in a somewhat gnostic
manner, a full-fledged financier. Not having studied law, he had been
home for four years when I became a legal fledgling, and during the early
days of my apprenticeship I was beholden to him for many "eye openers"
concerning the conduct of great affairs. I remember him sauntering into
my room one morning when Larry Weed had gone out on an errand.

"Hello, Hughie," he said, with his air of having nothing to do. "Grinding
it out? Where's Watling?"

"Isn't he in his office?"

"No."

"Well, what can we do for you?" I asked.

Ralph grinned.

"Perhaps I'll tell you when you're a little older. You're too young." And
he sank down into Larry Weed's chair, his long legs protruding on the
other side of the table. "It's a matter of taxes. Some time ago I found
out that Dickinson and Tallant and others I could mention were paying a
good deal less on their city property than we are. We don't propose to do
it any more--that's all."

"How can Mr. Watling help you?" I inquired.

"Well, I don't mind giving you a few tips about your profession, Hughie.
I'm going to get Watling to fix it up with the City Hall gang. Old Lord
doesn't like it, I'll admit, and when I told him we had been contributing
to the city long enough, that I proposed swinging into line with other
property holders, he began to blubber about disgrace and what my
grandfather would say if he were alive. Well, he isn't alive. A good deal
of water has flowed under the bridges since his day. It's a mere matter
of business, of getting your respectable firm to retain a City Hall
attorney to fix it up with the assessor."

"How about the penitentiary?" I ventured, not too seriously.

"I shan't go to the penitentiary, neither will Watling. What I do is to
pay a lawyer's fee. There isn't anything criminal in that, is there?"

For some time after Ralph had departed I sat reflecting upon this new
knowledge, and there came into my mind the bitterness of Cousin Robert
Breck against this City Hall gang, and his remarks about lawyers. I
recalled the tone in which he had referred to Mr. Watling. But Ralph's
philosophy easily triumphed. Why not be practical, and become master of a
situation which one had not made, and could not alter, instead of being
overwhelmed by it? Needless to say, I did not mention the conversation to
Mr. Watling, nor did he dwindle in my estimation. These necessary
transactions did not interfere in any way with his personal
relationships, and his days were filled with kindnesses. And was not Mr.
Ripon, the junior partner, one of the evangelical lights of the
community, conducting advanced Bible classes every week in the Church of
the Redemption?... The unfolding of mysteries kept me alert. And I
understood that, if I was to succeed, certain esoteric knowledge must be
acquired, as it were, unofficially. I kept my eyes and ears open, and
applied myself, with all industry, to the routine tasks with which every
young man in a large legal firm is familiar. I recall distinctly my pride
when, the Board of Aldermen having passed an ordinance lowering the water
rates, I was intrusted with the responsibility of going before the court
in behalf of Mr. Ogilvy's water company, obtaining a temporary
restricting order preventing the ordinance from going at once into
effect. Here was an affair in point. Were it not for lawyers of the
calibre of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon, hard-earned private property would
soon be confiscated by the rapacious horde. Once in a while I was made
aware that Mr. Watling had his eye on me.

"Well, Hugh," he would say, "how are you getting along? That's right,
stick to it, and after a while we'll hand the drudgery over to somebody
else."

He possessed the supreme quality of a leader of men in that he took pains
to inform himself concerning the work of the least of his subordinates;
and he had the gift of putting fire into a young man by a word or a touch
of the hand on the shoulder. It was not difficult for me, therefore, to
comprehend Larry Weed's hero-worship, the loyalty of other members of the
firm or of those occupants of the office whom I have not mentioned. My
first impression of him, which I had got at Jerry Kyme's, deepened as
time went on, and I readily shared the belief of those around me that his
legal talents easily surpassed those of any of his contemporaries. I can
recall, at this time, several noted cases in the city when I sat in court
listening to his arguments with thrills of pride. He made us all feel--no
matter how humble may have been our contributions to the
preparation--that we had a share in his triumphs. We remembered his
manner with judges and juries, and strove to emulate it. He spoke as if
there could be no question as to his being right as to the law and the
facts, and yet, in some subtle way that bated analysis, managed not to
antagonize the court. Victory was in the air in that office. I do not
mean to say there were not defeats; but frequently these defeats, by
resourcefulness, by a never-say-die spirit, by a consummate knowledge,
not only of the law, but of other things at which I have hinted, were
turned into ultimate victories. We fought cases from one court to
another, until our opponents were worn out or the decision was reversed.
We won, and that spirit of winning got into the blood. What was most
impressed on me in those early years, I think, was the discovery that
there was always a path--if one were clever enough to find it--from one
terrace to the next higher. Staying power was the most prized of all the
virtues. One could always, by adroitness, compel a legal opponent to
fight the matter out all over again on new ground, or at least on ground
partially new. If the Court of Appeals should fail one, there was the
Supreme Court; there was the opportunity, also, to shift from the state
to the federal courts; and likewise the much-prized device known as a
change of venue, when a judge was supposed to be "prejudiced."



IX.

As my apprenticeship advanced I grew more and more to the inhabitants of
our city into two kinds, the who were served, and the inefficient, who
were separate efficient, neglected; but the mental process of which the
classification was the result was not so deliberate as may be supposed.
Sometimes, when an important client would get into trouble, the affair
took me into the police court, where I saw the riff-raff of the city
penned up, waiting to have justice doled out to them: weary women who had
spent the night in cells, indifferent now as to the front they presented
to the world, the finery rued that they had tended so carefully to catch
the eyes of men on the darkened streets; brazen young girls, who blazed
forth defiance to all order; derelict men, sodden and hopeless, with
scrubby beards; shifty looking burglars and pickpockets. All these I
beheld, at first with twinges of pity, later to mass them with the ugly
and inevitable with whom society had to deal somehow. Lawyers, after all,
must be practical men. I came to know the justices of these police
courts, as well as other judges. And underlying my acquaintance with all
of them was the knowledge--though not on the threshold of my
consciousness--that they depended for their living, every man of them,
those who were appointed and those who were elected, upon a political
organization which derived its sustenance from the element whence came
our clients. Thus by degrees the sense of belonging to a special
priesthood had grown on me.

I recall an experience with that same Mr. Nathan. Weill, the wholesale
grocer of whose commerce with the City Hall my Cousin Robert Breck had so
bitterly complained. Late one afternoon Mr. Weill's carriage ran over a
child on its way up-town through one of the poorer districts. The
parents, naturally, were frantic, and the coachman was arrested. This was
late in the afternoon, and I was alone in the office when the telephone
rang. Hurrying to the police station, I found Mr. Weill in a state of
excitement and abject fear, for an ugly crowd had gathered outside.

"Could not Mr. Watling or Mr. Fowndes come?" demanded the grocer.

With an inner contempt for the layman's state of mind on such occasions I
assured him of my competency to handle the case. He was impressed, I
think, by the sergeant's deference, who knew what it meant to have such
an office as ours interfere with the affair. I called up the prosecuting
attorney, who sent to Monahan's saloon, close by, and procured a release
for the coachman on his own recognizance, one of many signed in blank and
left there by the justice for privileged cases. The coachman was hustled
out by a back door, and the crowd dispersed.

The next morning, while a score or more of delinquents sat in the anxious
seats, Justice Garry recognized me and gave me precedence. And Mr. Weill,
with a sigh of relief, paid his fine.

"Mr. Paret, is it?" he asked, as we stood together for a moment on the
sidewalk outside the court. "You have managed this well. I will
remember."

He was sued, of course. When he came to the office he insisted on
discussing the case with Mr. Watling, who sent for me.

"That is a bright young man," Mr. Weill declared, shaking my hand. "He
will get on."

"Some day," said Mr. Watling, "he may save you a lot of money, Weill."

"When my friend Mr. Watling is United States Senator,--eh?"

Mr. Watling laughed. "Before that, I hope. I advise you to compromise
this suit, Weill," he added. "How would a thousand dollars strike you?
I've had Paret look up the case, and he tells me the little girl has had
to have an operation."

"A thousand dollars!" cried the grocer. "What right have these people to
let their children play on the streets? It's an outrage."

"Where else have the children to play?" Mr. Watling touched his arm.
"Weill," he said gently, "suppose it had been your little girl?" The
grocer pulled out his handkerchief and mopped his bald forehead. But he
rallied a little.

"You fight these damage cases for the street railroads all through the
courts."

"Yes," Mr. Watling agreed, "but there a principle is involved. If the
railroads once got into the way of paying damages for every careless
employee, they would soon be bankrupt through blackmail. But here you
have a child whose father is a poor janitor and can't afford sickness.
And your coachman, I imagine, will be more particular in the future."

In the end Mr. Weill made out a cheque and departed in a good humour,
convinced that he was well out of the matter. Here was one of many
instances I could cite of Mr. Watling's tenderness of heart. I felt,
moreover, as if he had done me a personal favour, since it was I who had
recommended the compromise. For I had been to the hospital and had seen
the child on the cot,--a dark little thing, lying still in her pain, with
the bewildered look of a wounded animal....

Not long after this incident of Mr. Weill's damage suit I obtained a more
or less definite promotion by the departure of Larry Weed. He had
suddenly developed a weakness of the lungs. Mr. Watling got him a place
in Denver, and paid his expenses west.

The first six or seven years I spent in the office of Wading, Fowndes and
Ripon were of importance to my future career, but there is little to
relate of them. I was absorbed not only in learning law, but in acquiring
that esoteric knowledge at which I have hinted--not to be had from my
seniors and which I was convinced was indispensable to a successful and
lucrative practice. My former comparison of the organization of our city
to a picture puzzle wherein the dominating figures become visible only
after long study is rather inadequate. A better analogy would be the
human anatomy: we lawyers, of course, were the brains; the financial and
industrial interests the body, helpless without us; the City Hall
politicians, the stomach that must continually be fed. All three, law,
politics and business, were interdependent, united by a nervous system
too complex to be developed here. In these years, though I worked hard
and often late, I still found time for convivialities, for social
gaieties, yet little by little without realizing the fact, I was losing
zest for the companionship of my former intimates. My mind was becoming
polarized by the contemplation of one object, success, and to it human
ties were unconsciously being sacrificed.

Tom Peters began to feel this, even at a time when I believed myself
still to be genuinely fond of him. Considering our respective
temperaments in youth, it is curious that he should have been the first
to fall in love and marry. One day he astonished me by announcing his
engagement to Susan Blackwood.

"That ends the liquor, Hughie," he told me, beamingly. "I promised her
I'd eliminate it."

He did eliminate it, save for mild relapses on festive occasions. A more
seemingly incongruous marriage could scarcely be imagined, and yet it was
a success from the start. From a slim, silent, self-willed girl Susan had
grown up into a tall, rather rawboned and energetic young woman. She was
what we called in those days "intellectual," and had gone in for
kindergartens, and after her marriage she turned out to be excessively
domestic; practising her theories, with entire success, upon a family
that showed a tendency to increase at an alarming rate. Tom, needless to
say, did not become intellectual. He settled down--prematurely, I
thought--into what is known as a family man, curiously content with the
income he derived from the commission business and with life in general;
and he developed a somewhat critical view of the tendencies of the
civilization by which he was surrounded. Susan held it also, but she said
less about it. In the comfortable but unpretentious house they rented on
Cedar Street we had many discussions, after the babies had been put to
bed and the door of the living-room closed, in order that our voices
might not reach the nursery. Perry Blackwood, now Tom's brother-in-law,
was often there. He, too, had lapsed into what I thought was an odd
conservatism. Old Josiah, his father, being dead, he occupied himself
mainly with looking after certain family interests, among which was the
Boyne Street car line. Among "business men" he was already getting the
reputation of being a little difficult to deal with. I was often the
subject of their banter, and presently I began to suspect that they
regarded my career and beliefs with some concern. This gave me no
uneasiness, though at limes I lost my temper. I realized their affection
for me; but privately I regarded them as lacking in ambition, in force,
in the fighting qualities necessary for achievement in this modern age.
Perhaps, unconsciously, I pitied them a little.

"How is Judah B. to-day, Hughie?" Tom would inquire. "I hear you've put
him up for the Boyne Club, now that Mr. Watling has got him out of that
libel suit."

"Carter Ives is dead," Perry would add, sarcastically, "let bygones be
bygones."

It was well known that Mr. Tallant, in the early days of his newspaper,
had blackmailed Mr. Ives out of some hundred thousand dollars. And that
this, more than any other act, stood in the way, with certain
recalcitrant gentlemen, of his highest ambition, membership in the Boyne.

"The trouble with you fellows is that you refuse to deal with conditions
as you find them," I retorted. "We didn't make them, and we can't change
them. Tallant's a factor in the business life of this city, and he has to
be counted with."

Tom would shake his head exasperatingly.

"Why don't you get after Ralph?" I demanded. "He doesn't antagonize
Tallant, either."

"Ralph's hopeless," said Tom. "He was born a pirate, you weren't, Hughie.
We think there's a chance for his salvation, don't we, Perry?"

I refused to accept the remark as flattering.

Another object of their assaults was Frederick Grierson, who by this time
had emerged from obscurity as a small dealer in real estate into a
manipulator of blocks and corners.

"I suppose you think it's a lawyer's business to demand an ethical bill
of health of every client," I said. "I won't stand up for all of
Tallant's career, of course, but Mr. Wading has a clear right to take his
cases. As for Grierson, it seems to me that's a matter of giving a dog a
bad name. Just because his people weren't known here, and because he has
worked up from small beginnings. To get down to hard-pan, you fellows
don't believe in democracy,--in giving every man a chance to show what's
in him."

"Democracy is good!" exclaimed Perry. "If the kind of thing we're coming
to is democracy, God save the state!"...

On the other hand I found myself drawing closer to Ralph Hambleton,
sometimes present at these debates, as the only one of my boyhood friends
who seemed to be able to "deal with conditions as he found them." Indeed,
he gave one the impression that, if he had had the making of them, he
would not have changed them.

"What the deuce do you expect?" I once heard him inquire with
good-natured contempt. "Business isn't charity, it's war.

"There are certain things," maintained Perry, stoutly, "that gentlemen
won't do."

"Gentlemen!" exclaimed Ralph, stretching his slim six feet two: We were
sitting in the Boyne Club. "It's ungentlemanly to kill, or burn a town or
sink a ship, but we keep armies and navies for the purpose. For a man
with a good mind, Perry, you show a surprising inability to think things,
out to a logical conclusion. What the deuce is competition, when you come
down to it? Christianity? Not by a long shot! If our nations are
slaughtering men and starving populations in other countries,--are
carried on, in fact, for the sake of business, if our churches are filled
with business men and our sky pilots pray for the government, you can't
expect heathen individuals like me to do business on a Christian
basis,--if there is such a thing. You can make rules for croquet, but not
for a game that is based on the natural law of the survival of the
fittest. The darned fools in the legislatures try it occasionally, but we
all know it's a sop to the 'common people.' Ask Hughie here if there ever
was a law put on the statute books that his friend Watling couldn't get
'round'? Why, you've got competition even among the churches. Yours,
where I believe you teach in the Sunday school, would go bankrupt if it
proclaimed real Christianity. And you'll go bankrupt if you practise it,
Perry, my boy. Some early, wide-awake, competitive, red-blooded bird will
relieve you of the Boyne Street car line."

It was one of this same new and "fittest" species who had already
relieved poor Mr. McAlery Willett of his fortune. Mr. Willett was a
trusting soul who had never known how to take care of himself or his
money, people said, and now that he had lost it they blamed him. Some had
been saved enough for him and Nancy to live on in the old house, with
careful economy. It was Nancy who managed the economy, who accomplished
remarkable things with a sum they would have deemed poverty in former
days. Her mother had died while I was at Cambridge. Reverses did not
subdue Mr. Willett's spirits, and the fascination modern "business" had
for him seemed to grow in proportion to the misfortunes it had caused
him. He moved into a tiny office in the Durrett Building, where he
appeared every morning about half-past ten to occupy himself with heaven
knows what short cuts to wealth, with prospectuses of companies in Mexico
or Central America or some other distant place: once, I remember, it was
a tea, company in which he tried to interest his friends, to raise in the
South a product he maintained would surpass Orange Pekoe. In the
afternoon between three and four he would turn up at the Boyne Club, as
well groomed, as spruce as ever, generally with a flower in his
buttonhole. He never forgot that he was a gentleman, and he had a
gentleman's notions of the fitness of things, and it was against his
principles to use, a gentleman's club for the furtherance of his various
enterprises.

"Drop into my office some day, Dickinson," he would say. "I think I've
got something there that might interest you!"

He reminded me, when I met him, that he had always predicted I would get
along in life....

The portrait of Nancy at this period is not so easily drawn. The decline
of the family fortunes seemed to have had as little effect upon her as
upon her father, although their characters differed sharply. Something of
that spontaneity, of that love of life and joy in it she had possessed in
youth she must have inherited from McAlery Willett, but these qualities
had disappeared in her long before the coming of financial reverses. She
was nearing thirty, and in spite of her beauty and the rarer distinction
that can best be described as breeding, she had never married. Men
admired her, but from a distance; she kept them at arm's length, they
said: strangers who visited the city invariably picked her out of an
assembly and asked who she was; one man from New York who came to visit
Ralph and who had been madly in love with her, she had amazed many people
by refusing, spurning all he might have given her. This incident seemed a
refutation of the charge that she was calculating. As might have been
foretold, she had the social gift in a remarkable degree, and in spite of
the limitations of her purse the knack of dressing better than other
women, though at that time the organization of our social life still
remained comparatively simple, the custom of luxurious and expensive
entertainment not having yet set in.

The more I reflect upon those days, the more surprising does it seem that
I was not in love with her. It may be that I was, unconsciously, for she
troubled my thoughts occasionally, and she represented all the qualities
I admired in her sex. The situation that had existed at the time of our
first and only quarrel had been reversed, I was on the highroad to the
worldly success I had then resolved upon, Nancy was poor, and for that
reason, perhaps, prouder than ever. If she was inaccessible to others,
she had the air of being peculiarly inaccessible to me--the more so
because some of the superficial relics of our intimacy remained, or
rather had been restored. Her very manner of camaraderie seemed
paradoxically to increase the distance between us. It piqued me. Had she
given me the least encouragement, I am sure I should have responded; and
I remember that I used occasionally to speculate as to whether she still
cared for me, and took this method of hiding her real feelings. Yet, on
the whole, I felt a certain complacency about it all; I knew that
suffering was disagreeable, I had learned how to avoid it, and I may have
had, deep within me, a feeling that I might marry her after all.
Meanwhile my life was full, and gave promise of becoming even fuller,
more absorbing and exciting in the immediate future.

One of the most fascinating figures, to me, of that Order being woven,
like a cloth of gold, out of our hitherto drab civilization,--an Order
into which I was ready and eager to be initiated,--was that of Adolf
Scherer, the giant German immigrant at the head of the Boyne Iron Works.
His life would easily lend itself to riotous romance. In the old country,
in a valley below the castle perched on the rack above, he had begun life
by tending his father's geese. What a contrast to "Steeltown" with its
smells and sickening summer heat, to the shanty where Mrs. Scherer took
boarders and bent over the wash-tub! She, too, was an immigrant, but
lived to hear her native Wagner from her own box at Covent Garden; and he
to explain, on the deck of an imperial yacht, to the man who might have
been his sovereign certain processes in the manufacture of steel hitherto
untried on that side of the Atlantic. In comparison with Adolf Scherer,
citizen of a once despised democracy, the minor prince in whose dominions
he had once tended geese was of small account indeed!

The Adolf Scherer of that day--though it is not so long ago as time
flies--was even more solid and impressive than the man he afterwards
became, when he reached the dizzier heights from which he delivered to an
eager press opinions on politics and war, eugenics and woman's suffrage
and other subjects that are the despair of specialists. Had he stuck to
steel, he would have remained invulnerable. But even then he was
beginning to abandon the field of production for that of exploitation:
figuratively speaking, he had taken to soap, which with the aid of water
may be blown into beautiful, iridescent bubbles to charm the eye. Much
good soap, apparently, has gone that way, never to be recovered.
Everybody who was anybody began to blow bubbles about that time, and the
bigger the bubble the greater its attraction for investors of hard-earned
savings. Outside of this love for financial iridescence, let it be
called, Mr. Scherer seemed to care little then for glitter of any sort.
Shortly after his elevation to the presidency of the Boyne Iron Works he
had been elected a member of the Boyne Club,--an honour of which, some
thought, he should have been more sensible; but generally, when in town,
he preferred to lunch at a little German restaurant annexed to a saloon,
where I used often to find him literally towering above the cloth,--for
he was a giant with short legs,--his napkin tucked into his shirt front,
engaged in lively conversation with the ministering Heinrich. The chef at
the club, Mr. Scherer insisted, could produce nothing equal to Heinrich's
sauer-kraut and sausage. My earliest relationship with Mr. Scherer was
that of an errand boy, of bringing to him for his approval papers which
might not be intrusted to a common messenger. His gruffness and brevity
disturbed me more than I cared to confess. I was pretty sure that he eyed
me with the disposition of the self-made to believe that college
educations and good tailors were the heaviest handicaps with which a
young man could be burdened: and I suspected him of an inimical attitude
toward the older families of the city. Certain men possessed his
confidence; and he had built, as it were, a stockade about them, sternly
keeping the rest of the world outside. In Theodore Watling he had a
childlike faith.

Thus I studied him, with a deliberation which it is the purpose of these
chapters to confess, though he little knew that he was being made the
subject of analysis. Nor did I ever venture to talk with him, but held
strictly to my role of errand boy,--even after the conviction came over
me that he was no longer indifferent to my presence. The day arrived,
after some years, when he suddenly thrust toward me a big, hairy hand
that held the document he was examining.

"Who drew this, Mr. Paret!" he demanded.

Mr. Ripon, I told him.

The Boyne Works were buying up coal-mines, and this was a contract
looking to the purchase of one in Putman County, provided, after a
certain period of working, the yield and quality should come up to
specifications. Mr. Scherer requested me to read one of the sections,
which puzzled him. And in explaining it an idea flashed over me.

"Do you mind my making a suggestion, Mr. Scherer?" I ventured.

"What is it?" he asked brusquely.

I showed him how, by the alteration of a few words, the difficulty to
which he had referred could not only be eliminated, but that certain
possible penalties might be evaded, while the apparent meaning of the
section remained unchanged. In other words, it gave the Boyne Iron Works
an advantage that was not contemplated. He seized the paper, stared at
what I had written in pencil on the margin, and then stared at me.
Abruptly, he began to laugh.

"Ask Mr. Wading what he thinks of it?"

"I intended to, provided it had your approval, sir," I replied.

"You have my approval, Mr. Paret," he declared, rather cryptically, and
with the slight German hardening of the v's into which he relapsed at
times. "Bring it to the Works this afternoon."

Mr. Wading agreed to the alteration. He looked at me amusedly.

"Yes, I think that's an improvement, Hugh," he said. I had a feeling that
I had gained ground, and from this time on I thought I detected a change
in his attitude toward me; there could be no doubt about the new attitude
of Mr. Scherer, who would often greet me now with a smile and a joke, and
sometimes went so far as to ask my opinions.... Then, about six months
later, came the famous Ribblevale case that aroused the moral indignation
of so many persons, among whom was Perry Blackwood.

"You know as well as I do, Hugh, how this thing is being manipulated," he
declared at Tom's one Sunday evening; "there was nothing the matter with
the Ribblevale Steel Company--it was as right as rain before Leonard
Dickinson and Grierson and Scherer and that crowd you train with began to
talk it down at the Club. Oh, they're very compassionate. I've heard 'em.
Dickinson, privately, doesn't think much of Ribblevale paper, and Pugh"
(the president of the Ribblevale) "seems worried and looks badly. It's
all very clever, but I'd hate to tell you in plain words what I'd call
it."

"Go ahead," I challenged him audaciously. "You haven't any proof that the
Ribblevale wasn't in trouble."

"I heard Mr. Pugh tell my father the other day it was a d--d outrage. He
couldn't catch up with these rumours, and some of his stockholders were
liquidating."

"You, don't suppose Pugh would want to admit his situation, do you?" I
asked.

"Pugh's a straight man," retorted Perry. "That's more than I can say for
any of the other gang, saving your presence. The unpleasant truth is that
Scherer and the Boyne people want the Ribblevale, and you ought to know
it if you don't." He looked at me very hard through the glasses he had
lately taken to wearing. Tom, who was lounging by the fire, shifted his
position uneasily. I smiled, and took another cigar.

"I believe Ralph is right, Perry, when he calls you a sentimentalist. For
you there's a tragedy behind every ordinary business transaction. The
Ribblevale people are having a hard time to keep their heads above water,
and immediately you smell conspiracy. Dickinson and Scherer have been
talking it down. How about it, Tom?"

But Tom, in these debates, was inclined to be noncommittal, although it
was clear they troubled him.

"Oh, don't ask me, Hughie," he said.

"I suppose I ought to cultivate the scientific point of view, and look
with impartial interest at this industrial cannibalism," returned Perry,
sarcastically. "Eat or be eaten that's what enlightened self-interest has
come to. After all, Ralph would say, it is nature, the insect world over
again, the victim duped and crippled before he is devoured, and the
lawyer--how shall I put it?--facilitating the processes of swallowing and
digesting...."

There was no use arguing with Perry when he was in this vein....

Since I am not writing a technical treatise, I need not go into the
details of the Ribblevale suit. Since it to say that the affair, after a
while, came apparently to a deadlock, owing to the impossibility of
getting certain definite information from the Ribblevale books, which had
been taken out of the state. The treasurer, for reasons of his own,
remained out of the state also; the ordinary course of summoning him
before a magistrate in another state had naturally been resorted to, but
the desired evidence was not forthcoming.

"The trouble is," Mr. Wading explained to Mr. Scherer, "that there is no
law in the various states with a sufficient penalty attached that will
compel the witness to divulge facts he wishes to conceal."

It was the middle of a February afternoon, and they were seated in deep,
leather chairs in one corner of the reading room of the Boyne Club. They
had the place to themselves. Fowndes was there also, one leg twisted
around the other in familiar fashion, a bored look on his long and sallow
face. Mr. Wading had telephoned to the office for me to bring them some
papers bearing on the case.

"Sit down, Hugh," he said kindly.

"Now we have present a genuine legal mind," said Mr. Scherer, in the
playful manner he had adopted of late, while I grinned appreciatively and
took a chair. Mr. Watling presently suggested kidnapping the Ribblevale
treasurer until he should promise to produce the books as the only way
out of what seemed an impasse. But Mr. Scherer brought down a huge fist
on his knee.

"I tell you it is no joke, Watling, we've got to win that suit," he
asserted.

"That's all very well," replied Mr. Watling. "But we're a respectable
firm, you know. We haven't had to resort to safe-blowing, as yet."

Mr. Scherer shrugged his shoulders, as much as to say it were a matter of
indifference to him what methods were resorted to. Mr. Watling's eyes met
mine; his glance was amused, yet I thought I read in it a query as to the
advisability, in my presence, of going too deeply into the question of
ways and means. I may have been wrong. At any rate, its sudden effect was
to embolden me to give voice to an idea that had begun to simmer in my
mind, that excited me, and yet I had feared to utter it. This look of my
chief's, and the lighter tone the conversation had taken decided me.

"Why wouldn't it be possible to draw up a bill to fit the situation?" I
inquired.

Mr. Wading started.

"What do you mean?" he asked quickly.

All three looked at me. I felt the blood come into my face, but it was
too late to draw back.

"Well--the legislature is in session. And since, as Mr. Watling says,
there is no sufficient penalty in other states to compel the witness to
produce the information desired, why not draw up a bill and--and have it
passed--" I paused for breath--"imposing a sufficient penalty on home
corporations in the event of such evasions. The Ribblevale Steel Company
is a home corporation."

I had shot my bolt.... There followed what was for me an anxious silence,
while the three of them continued to stare at me. Mr. Watling put the
tips of his fingers together, and I became aware that he was not
offended, that he was thinking rapidly.

"By George, why not, Fowndes?" he demanded.

"Well," said Fowndes, "there's an element of risk in such a proceeding I
need not dwell upon."

"Risk!" cried the senior partner vigorously. "There's risk in everything.
They'll howl, of course. But they howl anyway, and nobody ever listens to
them. They'll say it's special legislation, and the Pilot will print
sensational editorials for a few days. But what of it? All of that has
happened before. I tell you, if we can't see those books, we'll lose the
suit. That's in black and white. And, as a matter of justice, we're
entitled to know what we want to know."

"There might be two opinions as to that," observed Fowndes, with his
sardonic smile.

Mr. Watling paid no attention to this remark. He was already deep in
thought. It was characteristic of his mind to leap forward, seize a
suggestion that often appeared chimerical to a man like Fowndes and turn
it into an accomplished Fact. "I believe you've hit it, Hugh," he said.
"We needn't bother about the powers of the courts in other states. We'll
put into this bill an appeal to our court for an order on the clerk to
compel the witness to come before the court and testify, and we'll
provide for a special commissioner to take depositions in the state where
the witness is. If the officers of a home corporation who are outside of
the state refuse to testify, the penalty will be that the ration goes
into the hands of a receiver."

Fowndes whistled.

"That's going some!" he said.

"Well, we've got to go some. How about it, Scherer?"

Even Mr. Scherer's brown eyes were snapping.

"We have got to win that suit, Watling."

We were all excited, even Fowndes, I think, though he remained
expressionless. Ours was the tense excitement of primitive man in chase:
the quarry which had threatened to elude us was again in view, and not
unlikely to fall into our hands. Add to this feeling, on my part, the
thrill that it was I who had put them on the scent. I had all the
sensations of an aspiring young brave who for the first time is admitted
to the councils of the tribe!

"It ought to be a popular bill, too," Mr. Schemer was saying, with a
smile of ironic appreciation at the thought of demagogues advocating it.
"We should have one of Lawler's friends introduce it."

"Oh, we shall have it properly introduced," replied Mr. Wading.

"It may come back at us," suggested Fowndes pessimistically. "The Boyne
Iron Works is a home corporation too, if I am not mistaken."

"The Boyne Iron Works has the firm of Wading, Fowndes and Ripon behind
it," asserted Mr. Scherer, with what struck me as a magnificent faith.

"You mustn't forget Paret," Mr. Watling reminded him, with a wink at me.

We had risen. Mr. Scherer laid a hand on my arm.

"No, no, I do not forget him. He will not permit me to forget him."

A remark, I thought, that betrayed some insight into my character... Mr.
Watling called for pen and paper and made then and there a draft of the
proposed bill, for no time was to be lost. It was dark when we left the
Club, and I recall the elation I felt and strove to conceal as I
accompanied my chief back to the office. The stenographers and clerks
were gone; alone in the library we got down the statutes and set to work.
to perfect the bill from the rough draft, on which Mr. Fowndes had
written his suggestions. I felt that a complete yet subtle change had
come over my relationship with Mr. Watling.

In the midst of our labours he asked me to call up the attorney for the
Railroad. Mr. Gorse was still at his office.

"Hello! Is that you, Miller?" Mr. Watling said. "This is Wading. When can
I see you for a few minutes this evening? Yes, I am leaving for
Washington at nine thirty. Eight o'clock. All right, I'll be there."

It was almost eight before he got the draft finished to his satisfaction,
and I had picked it out on the typewriter. As I handed it to him, my
chief held it a moment, gazing at me with an odd smile.

"You seem to have acquired a good deal of useful knowledge, here and
there, Hugh," he observed.

"I've tried to keep my eyes open, Mr. Watling," I said.

"Well," he said, "there are a great many things a young man practising
law in these days has to learn for himself. And if I hadn't given you
credit for some cleverness, I shouldn't have wanted you here. There's
only one way to look at--at these matters we have been discussing, my
boy, that's the common-sense way, and if a man doesn't get that point of
view by himself, nobody can teach it to him. I needn't enlarge upon it"

"No, sir," I said.

He smiled again, but immediately became serious.

"If Mr. Gorse should approve of this bill, I'm going to send you down to
the capital--to-night. Can you go?"

I nodded.

"I want you to look out for the bill in the legislature. Of course there
won't be much to do, except to stand by, but you will get a better idea
of what goes on down there."

I thanked him, and told him I would do my best.

"I'm sure of that," he replied. "Now it's time to go to see Gorse."

The legal department of the Railroad occupied an entire floor of the Corn
Bank building. I had often been there on various errands, having on
occasions delivered sealed envelopes to Mr. Gorse himself, approaching
him in the ordinary way through a series of offices. But now, following
Mr. Watling through the dimly lighted corridor, we came to a door on
which no name was painted, and which was presently opened by a
stenographer. There was in the proceeding a touch of mystery that revived
keenly my boyish love for romance; brought back the days when I had been,
in turn, Captain Kidd and Ali Baba.

I have never realized more strongly than in that moment the psychological
force of prestige. Little by little, for five years, an estimate of the
extent of Miller Gorse's power had been coming home to me, and his
features stood in my mind for his particular kind of power. He was a
tremendous worker, and often remained in his office until ten and eleven
at night. He dismissed the stenographer by the wave of a hand which
seemed to thrust her bodily out of the room.

"Hello, Miller," said Mr. Watling.

"Hello, Theodore," replied Mr. Gorse.

"This is Paret, of my office."

"I know," said Mr. Gorse, and nodded toward me. I was impressed by the
felicity with which a cartoonist of the Pilot had once caricatured him by
the use of curved lines. The circle of the heavy eyebrows ended at the
wide nostrils; the mouth was a crescent, but bowed downwards; the heavy
shoulders were rounded. Indeed, the only straight line to be discerned
about him was that of his hair, black as bitumen, banged across his
forehead; even his polished porphyry eyes were constructed on some
curvilinear principle, and never seemed to focus. It might be said of Mr.
Gorse that he had an overwhelming impersonality. One could never be quite
sure that one's words reached the mark.

In spite of the intimacy which I knew existed between them, in my
presence at least Mr. Gorse's manner was little different with Mr.
Watling than it was with other men. Mr. Wading did not seem to mind. He
pulled up a chair close to the desk and began, without any preliminaries,
to explain his errand.

"It's about the Ribblevale affair," he said. "You know we have a suit."

Gorse nodded.

"We've got to get at the books, Miller,--that's all there is to it. I
told you so the other day. Well, we've found out a way, I think."

He thrust his hand in his pocket, while the railroad attorney remained
impassive, and drew out the draft of the bill. Mr. Gorse read it, then
read it over again, and laid it down in front of him.

"Well," he said.

"I want to put that through both houses and have the governor's signature
to it by the end of the week."

"It seems a little raw, at first sight, Theodore," said Mr. Gorse, with
the suspicion of a smile.

My chief laughed a little.

"It's not half so raw as some things I might mention, that went through
like greased lightning," he replied. "What can they do? I believe it will
hold water. Tallant's, and most of the other newspapers in the state,
won't print a line about it, and only Socialists and Populists read the
Pilot. They're disgruntled anyway. The point is, there's no other way out
for us. Just think a moment, bearing in mind what I've told you about the
case, and you'll see it."

Mr. Gorse took up the paper again, and read the draft over.

"You know as well as I do, Miller, how dangerous it is to leave this
Ribblevale business at loose ends. The Carlisle steel people and the Lake
Shore road are after the Ribblevale Company, and we can't afford to run
any risk of their getting it. It's logically a part of the Boyne
interests, as Scherer says, and Dickinson is ready with the money for the
reorganization. If the Carlisle people and the Lake Shore get it, the
product will be shipped out by the L and G, and the Railroad will lose.
What would Barbour say?"

Mr. Barbour, as I have perhaps mentioned, was the president of the
Railroad, and had his residence in the other great city of the state. He
was then, I knew, in the West.

"We've got to act now," insisted Mr. Watling. "That's open and shut. If
you have any other plan, I wish you'd trot it out. If not, I want a
letter to Paul Varney and the governor. I'm going to send Paret down with
them on the night train."

It was clear to me then, in the discussion following, that Mr. Watling's
gift of persuasion, though great, was not the determining factor in Mr.
Gorse's decision. He, too, possessed boldness, though he preferred
caution. Nor did the friendship between the two enter into the
transaction. I was impressed more strongly than ever with the fact that a
lawsuit was seldom a mere private affair between two persons or
corporations, but involved a chain of relationships and nine times out of
ten that chain led up to the Railroad, which nearly always was vitally
interested in these legal contests. Half an hour of masterly presentation
of the situation was necessary before Mr. Gorse became convinced that the
introduction of the bill was the only way out for all concerned.

"Well, I guess you're right, Theodore," he said at length. Whereupon he
seized his pen and wrote off two notes with great rapidity. These he
showed to Mr. Watling, who nodded and returned them. They were folded and
sealed, and handed to me. One was addressed to Colonel Paul Varney, and
the other to the Hon. W. W. Trulease, governor of the state.

"You can trust this young man?" demanded Mr. Gorse.

"I think so," replied Mr. Watling, smiling at me. "The bill was his own
idea."

The railroad attorney wheeled about in his chair and looked at me; looked
around me, would better express it, with his indefinite, encompassing yet
inclusive glance. I had riveted his attention. And from henceforth, I
knew, I should enter into his calculations. He had made for me a
compartment in his mind.

"His own idea!" he repeated.

"I merely suggested it," I was putting in, when he cut me short.

"Aren't you the son of Matthew Paret?"

"Yes," I said.

He gave me a queer glance, the significance of which I left untranslated.
My excitement was too great to analyze what he meant by this mention of
my father....

When we reached the sidewalk my chief gave me a few parting instructions.

"I need scarcely say, Hugh," he added, "that your presence in the capital
should not be advertised as connected with this--legislation. They will
probably attribute it to us in the end, but if you're reasonably careful,
they'll never be able to prove it. And there's no use in putting our
cards on the table at the beginning."

"No indeed, sir!" I agreed.

He took my hand and pressed it.

"Good luck," he said. "I know you'll get along all right."





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