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Title: Ann Arbor Tales
Author: Harriman, Karl Edwin
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ann Arbor Tales" ***

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produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)



ANN ARBOR TALES


By
Karl Edwin Harriman


Philadelphia, George W. Jacobs and Company, MCMII


COPYRIGHT, 1902,
BY GEORGE W. JACOBS & CO.

_Published November, 1902._


_TO MY PARENTS_



Contents

                           PAGE
THE MAKING OF A MAN          11

THE KIDNAPPING               61

THE CHAMPIONS                97

THE CASE OF CATHERWOOD      123

THE DOOR--A NOCTURNE        177

A MODERN MERCURY            207

THE DAY OF THE GAME         259

THE OLD PROFESSOR           303



THE MAKING OF A MAN

Florence affected low candle-lights, glowing through softly tinted
shades, of pale-green, blue, old-rose, pink; for such low lights set
each coiled tress of her golden hair a-dancing--and Florence knew this.
The hangings in the little round room where she received her guests were
deeper than the shades, and the tapestry of the semi-circular
window-seat was red. It was in the arc of this that Florence was wont to
sit--the star amidst her satellites.

It was one's privilege to smoke in the little room, and somehow the odor
of the burned tobacco did not get into the draperies; nor filter through
the _portières_ into the hall beyond; and the air of the _boudoir_ was
always cool and fresh and sweet.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday--every night--and Sunday most of all--there
were loungers on that window-seat, their faces half in shadow. It was
hard at such times to take one's eyes off Florence, sitting in the arc,
the soft light of old-rose moving across her cheek, creeping around her
white throat, leaping in her twisted hair, quivering in her blue, soft
eyes.

When she smiled, one thought in verse--if one were that sort--or,
perhaps, muttered, "Gad!" shiveringly under the breath.

Well may you--or I--shake our heads now and smile, albeit a bit sadly;
but then it was different. We have learned much, too much perhaps, and
the once keen edge of joy is dulled. But then we were young. Youth was
our inheritance and we spent it, flung it away, you say, as we knelt
before the Shrine of Beauty set up in a little round room where low
lights glimmered among deep shaded draperies.

We realized that it was a serious matter--a deadly serious matter; just
as did a score or more of our fellows on the campus in whose hearts, as
well, flared the flame of the fine young love that we were feeling in
our own.

For you--and I--loved Florence.

Dear little room! Dearest, dearest Florence! Many are the men who never
learned; in whose hearts your image is enshrined to-night. And few are
they who ever learned and really knew you, dear.

Some few thought they did and called you a "College Widow," because they
could remember a certain tall, dark-browed senior who danced ten times
with you at the Jay Hop of '87. Others were convinced through them; but
these were mostly freshmen upon whom you had not sought to work your
magic. How far wrong they were! Yet even you, Florence, I am thinking,
were wont, at least in blue moments, to take yourself at the scant
valuation these few saw fit to place upon you.

But in the end you, even, saw and understood.

I am glad, my dear, that I may tell the story. And if those who read it
here shall call it fiction, you, and Jim, and I, at least, shall know it
for the truth.

And then, when I have done, and you have put aside the book, to hide
your eyes from him who holds you fonder far than you can know, remember,
dear, the glory of it and be glad.


I

It was June.

The rain had been plentiful and the green things of earth rioted
joyously in their silent life. In the trees were many birds that sang
all day long, and in the night the moon was pale and the shadows were
ghostly and the air was sweet with roses that hung in pink profusion
from the trellis.

The grass was soft beneath the quick, light tread of the lads; and the
laughter of the summer-time was in the eyes of all the maids.

Many the gay straw-rides to the Lake; frequent and long the walks
through leafy lanes, down which the footfalls echoed; sweet the vigils
on the broad stone steps distributed about the campus with so much
regard for youthful lovers.

Too warm for dancing; too languorous for study, that June was made only
for swains and sweethearts.

At least Jack Houston thought as much, and casting an eye about the town
it chanced to fall upon fair Florence. Older than he by half-a-dozen
years--older still in the experience of her art--her blue eyes captured
him, the sheen of her soft hair, coiled high upon her head, dazzled him;
and the night of the day they met he forgot--quite forgot--that
half-a-dozen boon companions awaited him in a dingy, hot room down-town,
among whom he was to have been the ruling spirit--a party of vain
misguided youths of his own class, any one of whom he could drink under
the table at a sitting, and nearly all of whom he had.

The next night, however, he was of the party and led the roistering and
drank longer, harder than the rest, until--in the little hours of the
new day--sodden, unsteady, he found his way to his room, where he flung
himself heavily upon his bed to sleep until the noonday sun mercifully
cast a beam across his heavy eyes and wakened him.

This life he had led for two years and now his face had lines; his eyes
lacked lustre; his hand trembled when he rolled his cigarettes, but his
brain was keener, his intelligence subtler, than ever. The wick of his
mental lamp was submerged in alcohol and the light it gave seemed
brighter for it. There were those who shook their heads when his name
was mentioned; while others only laughed and called it the way of youth
unrestrained.

There was only one who seemed to see the end--Crowley--Houston's
room-mate, nearest pal--as unlike him as white is unlike black, and
therefore, perhaps, more fondly loving. It was because he loved him as
he did that Crowley saw--saw the end as clearly as he saw the printed
page before his eyes, and shuddered at the sight. He saw a brilliant
mind dethroned; a splendid body ruined; a father killed with grief--and
seeing, thus, he was glad that Houston's mother had passed away while he
was yet a little, brown-eyed, red-cheeked boy.

His misgivings heavy upon his heart, he spoke of them to Florence. At
first, her eyes glinted a cold harsh light, but as he talked on and on,
fervently, passionately, that light went out, and another came that
burned brighter, as he cried:

"Oh, can't something be done? _Something?_"

They walked on a way in silence, and then she said, quietly, as was her
manner, always: "Do you think I could help?"

He seized her hand and she looked up into his eyes, smiling.

"Oh, if you could!" he cried; and then: "Would you try?" But before she
could answer he flung down her hand saying: "But no, you couldn't; what
was I thinking of!"

They were walking by the river to the east, where, on the right, the
hill rose sheer--a tangle of vivid green--from the heart of which a
spring leapt and tinkled over smooth, white pebbles, to lose itself
again in the earth below, bubbling noisily.

At his expression, or, more at the tone he employed in its utterance,
she shrank from him, and then, regardless of her steps, sped half-way up
the hill, beside the spring course. There she flung herself upon a mossy
plot, face down.

Crowley called to her from the road, but she did not answer; he went to
her, and stooping touched her shoulder. Her whole body, prone before
him, quivered. She was crying.

He talked to her a long time, there in the woodland, silence about them
save for the calls of the birds.

She turned her wet eyes upon his face.

"Oh, to think every one doubts me!" she murmured. "You laughed at me
when I asked you if I could help--you think I'm only a toy-like girl--a
sort of great cat to be fondled always."

She seized a stick, broke it impetuously across her knee and rose before
him.

"I will help!" she cried, "I will--and you'll see what I'll do!"

Afterward--long afterward--he remembered her, as she was that
moment--her golden hair tumbling upon her shoulders; her eyes blazing,
her glorious figure erect, her white hands clenched at her sides.

So it was Crowley--Jim Crowley the penitent, yet the sceptical--who
brought them together, just as it was Crowley who waited, who counted
the days, who watched.


II

From the walk he saw them on the tennis courts one evening a week later.

Unobserved he watched their movements; the girl's lithe, graceful;
Houston's, strong, manly. He was serving and Crowley noted the swift
sweep of his white arm, bare almost to the shoulder, and was thrilled.
Florence had slipped the links in her sleeves and rolled her cuffs back
to dimpled elbows and her forearms were brown from much golf.

Crowley approached the players after a moment and they joined him at the
end of the net. The flush on the girl's face gave her beauty a radiance
that he could not recall ever having noticed before. Usually Florence
was marbly calm. Houston was warm, glowing.

"Gad, you're a fine pair; I've been watching you," Crowley blurted.

The girl shot him one swift glance, then her lips parted over her
strong, white, even teeth, as she laughed.

"Aren't we?" she cried gaily--"just splendid----" And made a playful
lunge at him with the raquet.

"Venus and Adonis playing tennis, eh?" Crowley said.

"Oh, cut it out," Houston exclaimed.

"They didn't play tennis, did they?" Florence asked.

"He ought to know," Houston put in, "he's working for that Rome
scholarship--but he'll never get it any more than I shall the
Athens...."

"They used to play hand ball--the gods did----" Crowley explained
professorily. "And in a court, too. I suppose your tennis is merely a
survival of that old Greek game."

The three sat at the edge of the court while Crowley discoursed
learnedly upon the pastimes of the ancient Greeks. The deep throated
bells in the Library Tower rang out the hour of eight across the maples
and the amateur lecturer rose lazily.

"Do you want to go down town, Jack?" he asked indifferently.

Had Houston known how breathlessly Crowley hung upon his answer he would
not have taken so long to make it. As it was he glanced up at his
room-mate and across at Florence whose eyes met his with a look of
inquiry. He looked away then and Crowley glanced at the girl, and in her
eyes he seemed to see a challenge.

"He's not going down town," she said, quite definitely, though still
smiling; "he's going home with me."

Crowley shrugged his shoulders.

"Are you, Jack?" he asked.

"She says so," was the light reply.

"Well, as I'm not invited I guess I had better be moseying along."

"Oh, you can come if you want to," Florence said naïvely.

"Oh, ho; if I want to! Well I guess not!" Crowley exclaimed and moved
away, calling over his shoulder: "Good-night to you--Venus and Adonis."

"Isn't he a good sort?" Florence asked as the youth's tall figure
disappeared around the corner of the red museum.

"Ripping!" Houston replied emphatically, "only I wish he weren't such an
old Dryasdust...."

He carried the raquets under his arm with his coat wrapped about them.
At the door of her home he started to put on his coat.

"You needn't," she said, perceiving his intent--"leave it off; it will
be cooler. Shall we go in?" She took the coat and flung it over a chair
in the hall and led the way into the little round room.

"Don't light up," he said--she was feeling along the top of the
teak-wood rack for matches--"Don't you think this is nicer?"

In the shadow, and half-turned from him as it was, he could not see her
face nor the smile that swept across it as he spoke.

He flung himself on the seat between the two windows, and she sank upon
a low, old-fashioned stool before him, her elbows on her knees, her chin
in her two slim hands. They talked commonplaces for a space, and
gradually silence fell upon them. After a while he fumbled for his
tobacco and little book of cigarette papers.

Divining the purpose of his search she glanced over her shoulder and
asked archly in a half-whisper:

"Wouldn't you rather have a made one?"

She rose before he could reply, and took down from the rack across the
corner a Japanese jar into the depths of which she plunged her hand. She
held out to him a half-dozen of the little white tubes. Selecting one he
lighted it.

Puffing contentedly: "Doesn't your mother mind?" he asked.

She shook her head and sat on the circular seat beside him.

"She's not here," she added. "There's a social at the church; she's
there...."

"Oh," he muttered.

While he smoked, she looked out the window into the silent street now
almost dark. Afterward she watched him blow thin, writhing rings;
leaning toward him, supporting herself on one hand, pressed hard against
the cushion.

"Why don't you smoke?" he ventured after a few moments, emboldened by
the deepening shadows in the little room.

"I've a mind to," she said in a half whisper.

He crossed the room straightway and dove his own hand into the jar and
held out a cigarette to her.

"I'll get a match," he said.

"Don't," she cried, "let me light it from yours."

They leaned toward each other on the window-seat until their faces were
very close and the fire of his cigarette touched the tip of hers. Across
the frail white bridge and through the pale cloud that rose, their eyes
met and his gazed deep into hers, the depths of which he could not
fathom. Then they drew back their heads with one accord and his hand
fell upon hers where it lay on the cushion. Nor did she withdraw her
hand even as his closed over it. The contact sent his blood tingling to
his heart; he leaned nearer her. Their eyes, as now and then they saw in
the little light the glowing coals of their cigarettes gave, did not
waver. He ceased smoking, and so did she. His cigarette dropped from his
nerveless fingers. Quickly he flung an arm about her and drew her toward
him, holding her close, breathlessly. The perfume of her hair got into
his brain, and deadened all but the consciousness of her nearness. She
did not resist his impulse, but lay calm in his arms, her face upturned,
her eyes melting, gazing into his.

"Dearest," he murmured--"dearest--dearest--"

"Kiss me--kiss me--Jack." The whisper was like the faint moving of
young leaves in the forest.

He bent his head.... Their lips met.... He saw the lids fall over her
fathomless eyes like a curtain, and night became radiant day that
instant love was born....

Suddenly he drew his arms away, rose and strode nervously into the
hallway, leaving her in a crouching attitude upon the seat.

She waited eagerly, voiceless.

She perceived his figure between the _portières_ and heard him say:

"I'm sorry--perhaps I must ask you to forgive me--I know I've been a
fool--I shall go now----"

She glided toward him with a silent, undulating movement. He felt
irresistibly impelled to meet her. Afterward he recalled how he had
struggled that moment; had fought; had lost.

He felt her cool, soft arms against his cheeks.

"Don't go,--Jack," she whispered.

He raised his hands and seized her wrists as though to fling her from
him.

"Why?" he muttered hoarsely.

"Because,"--her face was hidden against his shoulder and her voice was
faint--"because--I don't want you to."

She flung back her head then and he looked down into her face, and
kissed her. He kissed her many times, upon the forehead, lips and eyes,
while she clung to him, murmuring fondly.

He wrenched himself from her close embrace, at last, and rushing into
the hallway, snatched his coat from the chair where she had flung it.

Standing passively where he had left her, Florence heard the outer door
slam, followed by his swift tread upon the walk and the click as the
gate latched.... Then there was silence.

For a long time she stood there, one hand clutching the back of a
quaint, old-fashioned chair. A shudder passed over her. She went to the
window and looked out, but in the darkness of the street she could see
nothing but the vague outlines of the houses across the way and a blot
where the lilac-bush was in the yard.

Sinking upon the seat she proceeded to uncoil her heavy hair, braiding
it deftly over her shoulder. Gathering up her combs from the cushion,
she went into the hallway and pressed the button regulating the lights.
In the white glow she regarded her face in the mirror over the fireplace
shelf and smiled back faintly at the reflection.

As she turned to the stairway she perceived a white card lying on the
floor. She picked it up and turned it over in her hand. It was a little
photograph of a young, sweet-faced girl and written across the margin at
the bottom she read--the writing ordinary--"To Jack, from Susie." She
turned and stared an instant at the vestibule door. Then she mounted the
stairs, slowly.

Her mother's voice from the hallway below awakened her.

"I'm here, dear," she called back. "I went to bed--I was so tired."


III

There is this to be said of Jack Houston: whenever he took liquor--which
was often--he took it like a man. None of the alley-door for him;
through the front door, as sturdy and frank as a Crusader or not at
all--that was his way. Let a faculty man be coming toward him half a
block distant, there was no hesitation; not a waver. He--if such were
the circumstance--would nod and pass directly beyond the double swinging
screens, and not give the incident another thought. Nor were bottles
ever delivered to his room in boxes marked "Candles." Indeed the outward
signs were that he took pride in the bravado with which he carried on
the business; for there on the boxes were the stenciled labels--plain
enough to be read distinctly across the street--"Perth Whiskey." But it
was not that he had a pride in what certain of his fellows were wont to
call his "independence." It was simply that he drank--drank when he
chose; paid for what he drank; and drank it like a man--a Southern man,
honorably. The real trouble was not that he saw fit and cared to drink,
or what he drank; but that he drank so much.

And he was in love now; reveling in a multitude of agreeable sensations,
which, perhaps, he had not even dreamed himself destined ever to
experience in such fulness. Analyzing his emotions he marveled at the
condition he discovered. He set himself apart and regarded the other
Jack Houston critically. He denied his heart's impeachment; the other
Jack sneered and called him a fool. He laughed; the other Jack said,--or
seemed to say: "Laugh away; but it's a serious business all the same."
He flaunted; the other adhered to the original charge. In the end he
stood before that other Jack and held out his hand, as it were,
and--like a man--confessed. And it devolved upon him forthwith to
celebrate the discovery of a cardiac ailment he had not experienced
before as he was experiencing it now. So, with barbaric, almost
beautiful, recklessness, he got drunk; thoroughly, creditably drunk.

The next morning, heavy-headed, thick-tongued, he shifted his eyes
sheepishly about the room, while Crowley, from the high ground of his
own invincible virtue, talked down to him roundly. He did not interrupt
the steady flow of malediction in which his immaculate room-mate seemed
determined to engulf him; but when the lecture was ended, he looked up,
steadily, and said: "Never mind, old top, it's the last; on the square
it is."

As he had a perfect right to do under the circumstances, Crowley
shrugged his shoulders, and looked out the window into the green of a
maple.

"All right, old top," Houston driveled on pathetically--"mebbe I've said
it before; but this time I mean it--see if I don't." And he reached
across the table for a bottle of bitters. He poured half a small glass
with shaking hands. Over the edge of the drink he perceived the sneer on
Crowley's face. He set the glass and bottle on the _chiffonier_
carefully.

"Confound you! don't you believe me, you white-ribbon parson!" he cried.

Crowley smiled broadly.

Houston seized the glass. "There!" he exclaimed--"Now do you believe
me?--Not even a bracer!" And he flung glass and liquor into the
waste-paper basket.

Crowley laughed aloud at that, and went down-stairs, and Houston, as he
finished dressing, heard him talking to the landlady's collie on the
front porch.

For that afternoon--it being Saturday--he had planned a boating trip,
with a picnic supper, down the river. The care-taker at the boathouse
helped him tote the canoe around the dam, while Florence, her face
shaded by the blue parasol she carried, stood on the bank by the
railway. Her hamper was stowed away securely, and while the man held
fast to the frail craft, Houston lifted her fairly from the ground and
set her, fluffy and cool, in the bow where he had arranged the cushions.
To the attendant music of many little cries of half fright, the canoe,
at one sweep of the paddle, shot into midstream.

The river was unusually high; the spring rains had been frequent and
plentiful, and now the water ran flush with the green banks on either
side. Past the ivy-hung station they drifted with the current. Florence
sat silent among the cushions watching the rhythmic, graceful sweep of
the paddle, strongly, evenly manipulated by her flannel-clad gondolier.

It was an occasion for unvoiced enjoyment. On the left rose the
hills--threaded by the winding, white boulevard--thick with greenery,
through which now and then were to be caught glimpses of The
Hermitage--poised obliquely on the hillside, a sheer declivity falling
from its broad canopied piazza. Skirting the bank, the passage of the
canoe wrought havoc among the birds, and they flew to and fro across the
stream, or, hopping nervously from branch to branch, screamed their
displeasure at the rude invasion of their domestic quiet.

Florence removed her rings, and, dropping her hand over the low rail,
let it trail through the dark-green water, alive with the shivering
reflections of the bank verdure.

The boat glided beneath the old wooden bridge at the boulevard
beginning, and two small boys who were fishing from the weather-stained
structure forgot their lines to watch the passage of the silent craft.
Further on, the current ran more swiftly and Jack ceased paddling,
relaxed, steered merely.

They talked of many things in the stillness. Now and then they were
moved to outbursts of sentiment occasioned by the beauty of the hills
and the little surprises of charm that nature, at each curve of the
wandering stream, brought into view. Overhead, feathery clouds, almost
opalescent, floated in a turquoise sky; and the breeze that was wafted
across the hills kissed cool their faces.

Florence drew in her dripping hand and dried it on her handkerchief.
The sun was obscured and she closed the blue parasol. Finally she said:

"Jack--Jack dear--why did you do it?"

She did not lift her eyes as she spoke, but, rather, regarded the tip of
her parasol, pressed against the toe of one little patent-leather
slipper.

"What?" he asked calmly; so calmly that she could not tell whether he
were dissembling ignorance of her meaning.

"You understand," she said--"last night----"

"How do you know?" he exclaimed suddenly; but before she could reply he
added, gently, "I'm sorry--I'm dead sorry!"

She was moved to lift her eyes by the note of contrition in his voice.
Her lips parted the least bit over her teeth and she smiled.

"How--how could you, dear?" she went on; "after--after--that night. I've
been thinking about it all day. I didn't mean to mention it at
first--but--but--I couldn't help it. You don't really like to do such
things; do you, Jack? There, I know you don't. It's just what they
call--spirits--I suppose----"

He laughed aloud, and his laugh was echoed back across the river. "Yes,"
he cried, gleefully--"that's it--_spirits_!"

She glanced up at him reprovingly. "You know I didn't mean that. I
don't think you should laugh. But Jack dear,"--she gazed steadily,
soberly, at him now--"you won't do it any more, will you?"

He did not answer.

"Can't you promise me, Jack--_me_?" she asked, tenderly.

Long afterward she recalled to him that instant of hesitation before he
replied.

"I promise," he exclaimed, finally, with a brave note of resolution in
his voice.

She sighed and settled back more comfortably among the cushions.

"I knew you would," she said.

After a moment: "Do you care so very--so very, very much?" he asked.

"Of course I do," she answered, quite gaily.

"Why?"

The eagerness in his voice startled her. It may have been that which
induced the little tremor she felt pass over her. She closed her eyes as
he, leaning forward, watched her.

"Dearest--dearest," she heard him whisper; "is it because--because----"

She opened her eyes then, dreamily, languishingly, and in them he seemed
to read her answer, and was satisfied.

They had reached the point where they had planned to spread their
picnic supper. He drove the canoe into the soft earth of the sloping
bank and steadied it with the paddle while she, gathering up her fluffy
skirts, stepped out. He dragged the boat upon the bank and handed her
the hamper. They climbed up to a shelf of rock over the edge of which a
spring sent whirling to the road below a glistening rope of water. They
set the basket in the cool shade, at the edge of the shelf, and
descending again followed the road along the stream. The air was filled
with the sounds of joyous Nature. The world was glad and gay; glad for
the tall, strong youth in flannels who strode beside a yellow-haired
girl; and gay for the girl.

In the evening they waited on "their rock," as she called it, until
twilight rose and the birds became quiet and the wild life about was
still.

Over the shoulder of the hill across the river the moon rose, round,
high, white, to light a gleaming path along the stream.

Paddling back, Houston displayed his skill, for it was no child's work
against the current. She watched him; the strong, even movements of his
arms, as he fairly bent the paddle blade before his steady strokes.
Rounding a bend the lights of the town twinkled into view.

"We're nearly home," he called, and the words came quick and short from
the effort he had made.

"And you're tired," she murmured.

"No, not tired," he replied--"I only wish it were longer----"

"But we can come again--before you go home."

"Florence--I don't want to go, now." He hesitated a moment. "I might
make the governor believe that the summer school would materially
benefit his son," he added.

She laughed at the mockery in his voice. "I'm afraid I should be your
only professor," she said.

"I would hope so," he replied.

"No, dear," she said, seriously, "don't this summer--next, perhaps."

"Will you write me then--often?" he asked.

"How often?"

"Don't you suppose you could--I shan't say every day--but every other
day?"

"Yes."

And his heart leaped in his breast at the tone she employed.

"I love you," he whispered. "Oh, how I love you!"

"And you will keep your promise?" She smiled back at him.

"Yes."

"Dearest Jack!"

"I'm going to tell the governor when I get home, Florence," he suddenly
exclaimed.

"No, no, dear, don't; not yet." The haste of her reply was startling--"I
don't think I would," she added more calmly, seemingly herself conscious
of it. "Perhaps he'll come on, next year; then he could meet me; and he
could see---- Perhaps he might not--might not--like it----"

"Not like it!" he cried. "Yes, you're right; he might fall in love with
you himself! Yes, he might," he added in mock seriousness, "I hadn't
thought of that...."

They walked slowly through the silent streets to her home, and in the
darkness of the little round room he held her close in his arms and
kissed her.

"Has it been a happy day?" he whispered, his cheek pressed to hers.

He felt the quick pressure of her hand upon his arm.

"So happy," she murmured.

After the door closed behind him she stood as she had that first night,
and in the darkness about her she seemed to see the sweet face of a
young girl--the girl of the picture.... She brushed the back of her hand
across her smooth forehead and sighed....

In another week he was gone.

He came back to her after many weeks and although she did not ask, he
told her he had kept his promise.


IV

During the winter that followed, Houston's constant attention to
Florence was generally accepted at its face-value. That they were
engaged few of their intimates doubted; and among the faculty members of
their acquaintance there were many smiles and sidewise glances.

At a Forty Club dance one night Mrs. Longpré, a _chaperon_, said to Mrs.
Clifford, another, lowering her lorgnette through which, for some
moments she had stared, rather impertinently, as was her custom, at Jack
and Florence, "I find that couple quite interesting."

"Why, pray?" Mrs. Clifford asked, roused suddenly from the doze into
which she had lapsed, due to _ennui_ that she made no effort to conceal.

"That Mr. Houston seems a very nice young man," observed the worthy
dame, patronizingly, and as though speaking to herself, "but what he can
see in that girl is beyond me."

Mrs. Clifford squinted. She refused to add to her generally aged and
wrinkled appearance by wearing spectacles.

"Isn't she a proper person?" she asked.

Mrs. Clifford had a proper daughter--a very proper daughter--who at that
precise moment was sitting prim and solitary on the lowest step of the
gallery stairs.

"Well," Mrs. Longpré observed, significantly, "there have been stories.
Of course one is quite prepared to hear stories and whether they are
true or not one never knows," she added, defensively. "But the girl's
mother allows her to have her own way more than I should, if she were my
daughter. She is old enough to be his aunt, besides, and always has
half-a-dozen young men dancing attendance upon her."

"I suppose it's just another college engagement that will end when he
graduates," Mrs. Clifford ventured. "Is the girl in college at all?" she
inquired with a smothered yawn.

Mrs. Longpré smiled. "Hardly," she replied, drily. "If she had
continued--for she started I am told--she would have graduated quite
seven years ago." There was a tart venom in the last speech.

"You don't say," mused Mrs. Clifford who was new to Ann Arbor, her
husband, the professor, having been called from a little Ohio college to
fill the chair of Norwegian Literature. And she immediately lapsed into
another doze from which she did not emerge--being quite stout, and
pleasantly stupid--until the orchestra overhead began the last
dance--"Home, Sweet Home."

Mrs. Longpré's point-of-view as regarded Jack and Florence was that of
nearly all the faculty women who knew them. Indeed, there was but one
among them, the jolly little wife of the assistant professor of
physics--who did not know much and did not feign more--who championed
them. And her support was little more than a mere exclamation at the
girl's beauty, now and then at a "reception," or a wide-eyed admiration,
feelingly expressed, of Houston's charming manners and exquisitely
maintained poise.

If Florence in the slightest measure realized how she--for what her
judges were pleased to call her latest "affair"--was held by those
judges she did not express her knowledge even by a sign. As for Houston,
he saw precisely how the companionship was regarded by the small people
among whom decency required him to mingle, and the knowledge irritated
his nerves.

"The fools!" he exclaimed to Florence one day, "don't they think a
fellow can really care for a girl--ever!"

She laughed and told him not to mind, and he was satisfied.

In the beginning Houston had planned to work for the Athens
scholarship, an honor within the University's gift much sought, but
seldom won save by weary plodders in the library, who when they
graduated carried from the campus with their neatly rolled and tubed
diplomas no remembrance of the life of their fellows, or of friends
made, or of pleasant associations formed.

At first Houston's effort was brave, but at the end of the first
semester of his freshman year he was conditioned in one course. The
receipt of the little white slip marked his first lapse from academic
virtue. Afterward, his course was plainly indicated--a trail clearly
marked by empty bottles.

One afternoon in the early part of his junior year, Florence and he were
driving on the middle road to Ypsilanti. Below the Poor Farm they turned
in at a side lane, over which the branches met. The sun, shining through
the green canopy, stenciled the way with shadows that shifted and
changed design as the soft wind moved the leaves.

"Jack," Florence said quite seriously, "what made you give up your idea
of going in for the scholarship?"

He flecked the horse impatiently with the whip.

"What was the use keeping on?" he replied. "I fell down straight off
the bat. I'd like to win it; that's sure enough. It would be fine. I
like to work, too; but it's too late now." He sighed. "But there," he
exclaimed, turning to her with a smile, "what's the use of crying over
spilt milk?"

She was still serious.

"Don't be silly," she reproved. "Why don't you go on with it now? Can't
you, dear? Please. Oh, how I'd love to see you win it; and you can if
you'll only try!" She clasped her hands eagerly and leaned in front of
him.

"Do you suppose I could?" he asked, with some show of earnestness.

"Of course you could!" she cried. "Do try, Jack, dear; please do; for my
sake."

The shade was deep where they were, and he stopped the horse and they
remained there a space. She planned for him gaily.

"If I could only help you," she murmured tenderly.

"You can--by loving me," he said.

She looked away.

"If I do take up the work to win," he went on, "it'll mean I can't come
down so often. How would you like that?" he asked, playfully.

"I shouldn't care." Then she added quickly, a little frightened by the
look he gave her. "You know, dear, I didn't mean that! I mean I could
stand it--I could stand it for your sake."

"So we both might be happier in the end."

At his words she looked away again.

"Yes," she repeated slowly--"so we both might be happier in the end.
Won't you try?" she asked eagerly, after the moment's silence that
ensued.

He did not answer her at once. Then suddenly he flapped the reins upon
the horse's back and touched the sleek animal with the whip.

"Gad! I will!" he exclaimed. And looking at her he saw a mist in her
eyes, and that she had drawn her lower lip between her teeth, which were
white upon it.

Moved by her emotion he asked, gently:

"Are you glad?"

"Oh, so glad!" she answered, and there was a tremor in her voice. "I
know you'll win," she went on after a moment. "I know, at least you'll
make the effort, for you've promised me. You always keep your promises
to me, don't you, Jack?"

He laughed lightly. "I couldn't do otherwise," he said. "I couldn't if I
tried."

He felt her hand upon his arm, and his heart at that moment filled to
overflowing with love for her....

"Crowley, you old parson, I'm going to win that Athens scholarship or
bust--or _bust_; do you understand!" he exploded, later in the day,
before his room-mate.

Crowley looked up from the three open books on the table over which he
was bent.

"Good for you!" he cried. "Gad; you're more apt to win it now than I am
the Rome--the way the work is going."

"You'd better look to your laurels," was the bantering reply. "You just
note your little Johnnie's smoke. If he doesn't make the rest of the
bunch that's on the same scent look like thirty cents, a year from next
June, he'll go jump off the dock; and upon you will devolve the cheerful
duty of telegraphing papa!"

And the next day he began.

It was an Herculean task that confronted him and he realized fully the
labor necessary to its accomplishment. He dove into the work with an
enthusiasm that augured well for the achievement of the end he had in
view. He outlined a system; he drafted a schedule of diversion and
recreation, which he promised himself he would adhere to. It permitted
of meetings with Florence on only two nights of the week. For a month he
did not swerve a hair's breath from this plan of employment, but at the
end of that period he sent her a brief note breaking an engagement to
drive with her on the Sunday following. He beseeched Crowley to call
upon her and explain, which Crowley did, while Houston, locked in his
room, studied.

During that call Crowley suffered an embarrassment he had never before
experienced in Florence's presence. The John Alden part he had been so
summarily cast to act, he felt did not fit him. As for Florence, she
perceived his discomfort and surmising something of its cause adapted
herself to the situation delicately.

"Do you think he'll win?" she asked eagerly after Crowley had made the
necessary explanations.

"Win!" he exclaimed. "He'll win or go clear daft, if he keeps on working
like he's been doing the past three weeks. He's getting thinner, too,"
he added--"actually getting thinner; hadn't you noticed?" And he laughed
with her at the thought of Houston wearing himself to a shadow over
books of archeology. It _was_ very absurd.

Understanding well that Florence had had some hand in the change of
Houston's fortunes, he hesitated upon the point of asking her to tell
him all about it. They had been very candid in the past. He recalled
their walk by the river and the conversation of that afternoon bearing
upon Jack's misdeeds. But, for some reason that he could not, for his
dulness, fathom now, he _did_ hesitate. Houston had never told him what
was the precise relation between him and Florence, and for him now, he
thought, in the event of a secret engagement, perhaps, to seek to learn
from her what that relation might be---- It was too delicate, he
concluded, altogether too delicate.

"I do hope," she said, "you won't let him get sick working so hard."

"Oh, you needn't worry," he replied, significantly, "I don't think
there's any immediate danger."

After a moment she said, bluntly: "You haven't any real faith in him,
even now, have you, Jim?"

He was a little startled by her question. Had she, he asked himself,
been sitting there reading his mind as though it were a show bill,
printed in large type? He felt, for the moment, decidedly uncomfortable.

"You haven't, have you?" she repeated.

"Why, yes," he replied, somewhat indefinitely. "Why yes I have, too."

She shook her yellow head and smiled. "I'm afraid not," she said
quietly.

And that instant Crowley came nearer achieving a complete understanding
of Houston's case than he was destined to again--until long after. He
was glad to leave the little round room at the end of half an hour.

For months Jack and Florence had made plans for the Junior Hop of his
third year, but the first of February came and with it a realization to
Florence that her hopes were destined to be shattered. Jack explained to
her, as best he could, that the three days' respite from work after the
first-semester examinations could not be that for him.

"I'm up to my eyes, dear," he said--"besides I know you don't care much;
you've been to a lot, and as for me I shouldn't care a snap to go over
to the Gym. and dance all night. I'm going through the exams, great. I
know, dear, I've worked hard, but I must work harder. You understand,
don't you?"

Of course she understood. Hop? What was a Hop to her? Pouff! That for
them! The same always; a great bore, usually, after one has been to
three or four. That was what she said to him, but deep in her heart she
was disappointed; not keenly perhaps, but disappointed, nevertheless.

Through the last semester she saw him less frequently, even, than she
had during the earlier part of the year.

"I've decided to stay over for summer-school, dear," he said to her one
afternoon in mid-June.

She was quite joyful at the prospect.

"We shall go on the river!" she cried. "We shall, shan't we?"

"Of course," he said, earnestly.

But not once did they go. From week to week the excursion was postponed,
always by Houston, save once. Then Florence's mother was ill. He was
quite prepared on that occasion and suffered some displeasure.

"Never mind, we'll go in the fall, when you come back," Florence said.

In order that he might work during the scant vacation permitted him he
carried to his southern home, in August, a case of books.

"You'll write me, dear, often--awfully often, won't you?" he said to
Florence the night before he left.

"Of course," she assured him.

And she kept her promise though his letters were infrequent and brief
during the interval.

He met her in the little round room the first night he was back. He had
carried away with him an impression of her in a soft, fluffy blue gown,
but now it was autumn, and she was dressed differently. When she came
into the room, his senses suffered a shock from which he did not
immediately recover.

She seemed much older. He wondered if it might not be her costume. He
could not recall ever before having seen her in gray. He caught himself,
once or twice, regarding her curiously, somewhat critically, and
marveled at the phenomenon.

She did not chide him for his neglect in not having written her oftener
during the two months he had been away. He offered no excuses. It was as
though, now, each had forgotten in the other's nearness. Leaving her, he
felt that, on the whole, he had got through the evening rather
miserably.

The weeks sped on fleet wings. He was deep in his work. He perceived
that what, a year before, had appeared but a remote chance of winning
the coveted scholarship had now resolved itself into a certain
possibility; even more, he considered, with a sense of pride--a
probability.

The campus saw little of him, the town scarcely a glimpse, save
occasionally of a Saturday evening when he walked to the post-office for
his mail. On such evenings he usually stopped at Florence's home on his
way to his rooms. The conversation between them at these times was
confined almost wholly to his work. All his efforts were concentrated
upon the accomplishment of the task he had set before himself.

For the Christmas vacation he went home.

"Father's coming in June," he told Florence on his return. "Said he'd be
here big as life and twice as natural--going to bring a cousin of
mine--Susie Henderson--you've heard me speak of her."

"Oh...."

"What is it?" He was startled by her exclamation.

She laughed--"I didn't mean to frighten you," she said--"but I pricked
myself with this pin"--and she flung upon the table the trinket with
which she had been toying.

On his way to his rooms that night he reviewed, casually, his college
course; he built air-castles for the days ahead. There would be a year
in Athens--perhaps two. Should he and Florence marry before--or after?
They had not planned definitely. Of a sudden the idea that they had not
smote him forcefully. They had really been living only from day to day;
it was wrong; quite wrong, he decided. A settlement should be made at
once--at once. He was quite determined. In his room, bent over the books
upon the table, he forgot forthwith the resolution he had made. The next
day he recalled it--and the next.

Spring came. His winning was now a certainty. The _U. of M. Daily_
accepted his success as assured and dismissed the matter at once with
all the cocksureness of collegiate journalism. Now, the hard work done,
he could loaf.

Loaf!

The prospect appalled him. Loaf? He had forgotten how! But Florence
should teach him all over again, he mused, and smiled.

He went to his dressing-table and picked up her portrait given him two
years before. Across the margin at the bottom he read:--"To Jack, from
Florence."

After a moment he put the photograph down and searched among the others
that littered the table. A little look of puzzlement came into his eyes.

He turned to the front window and gazed out across the maples, their
leaves silvered by the moonlight. He stood there some moments watching
the face of the night. Then he turned back to his books, doggedly.

"What's the use?" he muttered, sinking into the chair before his study
table.


V

He realized fully the significance of the extreme to which his course
had brought him. If he might only talk to Crowley; if he might only
tell him everything, how like a cad he felt, what a cad he believed
himself to be, he must sense a deep relief. But would Crowley
understand; could he understand?

He smiled at the thought the question prompted. Poor old
Crowley--Meister Dryasdust--he understand a situation so delicate--so
exquisitely delicate? It was absurd. Houston laughed aloud; but the
laughter died at once and was like ashes on his lips.

He had not deceived Florence; not wilfully; though perhaps in the end it
was as though he had. But now the thought that he had not consoled him.
Still she had his promise. He had hers as well, to be sure, and in his
present state of mind he only wished that she might be as willing as he
to forget--he could not _think_, forgive. At the conjecture his pride
suffered a shock. Still, if it were only true--if there were even a
remote possibility of truth in the circumstance he imagined--that she
might have undergone a change; that she might have awakened; that she
might have--drifted away. He was coldly analytical enough _now_, to turn
back a year and hear himself, as he was _then_, being told by her that
she had erred, had made a dreadful _faux pas_ of the whole business.

A grim smile curved his lips as the situation presented itself more
clearly to his mind. He snapped away his cigarette impatiently.

Leaving his room an hour before he had felt cool-headed enough, but now
he experienced a growing nervousness with each step he took. It was just
such a day as the one on which they had canoed down the river and the
promises had been exchanged. Would it not be well, perhaps, he
considered, to propose another little voyage, and, perhaps, on the very
shelf of rock where they had spread their luncheon--a dainty luncheon it
was, he remembered--tell her? He put the thought away at once as
absurdly theatrical.

No, there was but one thing to do--to go to her, to go to her now, and,
like a man, _tell_ her. It would be over with in half an hour--no
longer, surely, he thought--and then--how good the air would taste, how
blue the sky would seem.

He had not noticed where his steps were leading him, but now that a
determination to act in the course left open to him had formed, set, and
hardened in his mind, he lifted his eyes and looked about him.

He was approaching a corner. It was a very familiar corner. There on the
left, ridiculously close to the sidewalk, was the brown house from the
lilac bush in the scant front yard of which he and Florence had often,
of an evening, stolen armfuls of the fragrant blossoms. A street car
dragged along, its one flat wheel thumping, thumping, thumping, with a
deadly sort of iteration. Standing there, he lighted another cigarette.
When would he be here again, he mused. Perhaps in five years he might
come back to a class reunion. Five years would bring many changes, many
confusing changes. The lilac bush, for instance, might not be there in
the front yard of the brown house. He recalled the changes the four
years he had lived in Ann Arbor had brought to the vicinity of his
freshman rooming-house. Come to think of it, he could not even now,
familiar as he was with the town, remember whether that house stood in
Ingalls or Thayer Streets. He could find the place, certainly; that is,
he might locate it after a bit, but----

"Houston, you're a fool!"

He upbraided himself aloud, unconsciously. Then, flinging away his
half-burned cigarette, he turned the corner and walked briskly down the
street.

The maid admitted him and he waited in the little round room. The shades
were low and the place was filled with shadows, shadows that made the
close walls seem very far apart, and the teak wood bookcase quite
remote. To satisfy himself of the illusion Houston thrust one foot
forward until it touched the lowest shelf. He settled back among the
cushions on the circular seat, then, quite satisfied.

He heard the soft, cool swish of skirts on the stairs and the next
instant the _portières_ parted and framed Florence. In passing she had
opened the outer door and the light, streaming about her, as for an
instant she stood there, filled the little room with a soft, white glow
that seemed to radiate from her. He did not move; gazed at her simply
before she glided silently to where he sat, and stooping, kissed him.

She held her cheek close to his an instant then drew away, and moving to
the window raised one of the shades. Her face was turned from him.

"Jove!" he muttered, "but you're beautiful, Florence--in that--in that
blue thing."

She turned, at his exclamation, and a little pale ghost of a smile
hovered about her lips. She came to him and sat beside him and took one
of his hands in both hers.

"Jack, what is it?" she asked, quietly.

Their eyes met as she spoke, and before his could fall, she said: "Tell
me, tell me what it is----"

It seemed to him, that instant, that he ceased to breathe.

He fairly wrenched his eyes from hers. "Flo"--it was not often of late
that he called her by this name of his own invention--"Flo, I--I----"

"Tell me," she whispered, leaning toward him.

"Flo, it's all off."

He got up quickly and strode out into the hallway, and back again.

He stood beside the bookcase and looked at her, across the room, where
she sat between the windows, the little smile, only, perhaps fainter
now, still hovering about her lips.

"I understand, dear," she said simply.

The relief her words carried to him filled him with as keen and as
complete a joy as he had ever felt.

"I knew you would," he said; "I knew you would--you're so sensible about
things."

The smile flickered an instant brighter as she replied, with a little
pout, "Oh, Jack, never call a girl '_sensible_': it's as bad as calling
her '_nice_,' and that's like throwing a stone at her."

He laughed, a little stridently.

"Come here, dear; sit here and tell me all about it." She made room for
him beside her and held the cushions against the wall till he sank among
them.

"Is it your father, dear; did you tell _him_?" she asked quietly.

"No, it isn't," he blurted, frankly. "I wish to Heaven it were."

"So it's you; just yourself; oh, Jack!"

How grateful he was for that little note of gay mockery in her voice she
never knew.

"Can't you tell me all about it?"

He did not answer at once.

"Then shall _I_ tell _you_?" she said. He glanced at her appealingly,
but she was still smiling.

"Well--let's see,--where does it begin? Oh, yes. There was once a boy
came to college, and he fell in with other boys and had the best sort of
time till he met an ogre--no, I mean an ogress--and after that he didn't
have a good time at all----"

He was smiling now, with her.

"----And in some foolish way he began to think he liked the ogress--whom
he shouldn't have liked--and she, well, she liked him too, and they
became pals--regular pals--and one day he told her he loved her. He
thought he did. He didn't _really_; but he was to learn _that_
afterward. So they became engaged--this fine fellow and the ogress.
Silly, wasn't it? Silly of the fine fellow and silly of the ogress. And
for a little while--no,"--she mused--"not a _little_ while; quite a long
while, they were happy; very, very happy. And all the time they were
drifting closer and closer to the edge of a precipice over which they
were sure to take a tumble one day. But before that day came the fine
fellow woke up, for, you see, he'd only been dreaming all the time. And
the ogress wasn't an ogress at all, but just a girl--a _sensible_
girl...."

He glanced at her reprovingly.

" ... just a sensible girl," she went on, "who, when he told her it was
all a dream, said it had been a happy, happy dream, but that perhaps the
awakening had come just in time. Perhaps it has, Jack," there was a note
of seriousness in her voice now. "Perhaps it has; who knows? We shall
think so anyway; shan't we? It will make it easier...."

"Yes, it will make it easier," he muttered, all the light gone out of
his eyes, the smile from his lips.

"Jack; you _will_ tell me one thing, won't you, dear?"

He looked up into her face wonderingly.

"What is it?" he said.

"Was there another--another besides the ogress who turned out to be the
sensible girl? Tell me, Jack; it's all I want to know. I don't know why
I should want to know even that; but I do. I guess a girl always does.
Perhaps it's because it usually tends either to light-up things or to
make her still more miserable. I don't know which; only it's at such
times that a girl wants either light or more misery. One seems to do as
well as the other. Tell me--was there, Jack?"

He met her eyes frankly, as he spoke.

"Why Flo--I--you see----" He looked away.

She settled back among the cushions.

"Flo, you wouldn't understand," he managed to say. "You see, it's----"

"But I know now," she exclaimed--"and somehow it makes me feel
better----"

"Flo!"

She perceived the reproof in his tone and added eagerly: "Don't think I
meant to mock you, dear; I didn't truly. I meant just what I said--and
just that way...."

Presently he stood up before her and looked down into her face.

"Flo,"--he spoke earnestly, almost passionately--"Flo, you're a girl in
a million!"

"There!" she cried gaily, "that's better than '_sensible_.'"

He smiled.

"In a million," he repeated as though to himself. "I can never, never
forget you----"

"Oh, Jack!" Again the old note of playful raillery crept into her voice.
"Now you've gone back. Of course you can't forget me; at least you
mustn't, really you mustn't; it wouldn't be fair."

He took up his hat from the little table.

"Are you going?" she asked.

"I'd better," he said, simply.

"And shan't I see you again?..."

Before he could reply she cried: "But I can see you graduate! I can see
you get the Athens scholarship; and I shall too. And oh, Jack, when I
read some day about you I shall be so glad--so glad I'll cry!" As she
spoke he saw the thin mist that he remembered seeing once before, gather
over her eyes again. He touched her lightly on the cheeks with the tips
of his fingers, and, stooping kissed her forehead.

"Good-bye," he said.

She took his hand and pressed it.

"Good-bye--and the best luck in the world!" she cried.

She heard the door close behind him. For a long time she did not move
from among the cushions. Finally she rose. From the top shelf of the
teak wood bookcase she took down a Japanese rose jar, and from it drew
out a little card portrait of a young sweet-faced girl. She stood at the
window and lifting her eyes from the portrait gazed off down the
street.... The pink faded from her cheeks.... The photograph slipped
from her fingers.... She sank upon her knees and hid her face among the
cushions.... By and by she rose and went out into the hallway and up the
stairs....

Her mother, entering below, called to her.

"I'm up here dressing, dear," she answered. "I had a note from Ed
Trombley--you remember him, mother--a '90 man. His class is having a
reunion and he's back for it. He has asked me to drive to the Lake with
him--you don't care do you?"

"No child...."

And the frail, gray-haired woman went quietly into the little round room
with her sewing.



THE KIDNAPPING


I

The glimpse to be caught of the outer world through the wide west
entrance of the main building, as a scurrying undergraduate, now and
then, leaned sidewise against the heavy door and pushed it back, was not
cheering. There was snow upon the ground; snow that lay not white and
glistening in a strong light, but smudged and indelicate beneath the low
hanging smoke. At either side of the broad, rounded tar walk, now
covered with ashen gray ice, Paddy's plow had piled the snow in two
rows. The maples were gaunt, skeleton-like, and the wind that cried in
their branches was chill to the ear and to the cheek.

When the thick door was flung back to permit the passage of a youth
becomingly dressed for the season in loose trousers that, not
infrequently, were rolled into high russet lace boots; closely buttoned
coat, above the throat of which rose the blue tower of a sweater collar;
or to allow the entrance of a girl in tam-o'-shanter and furs, her few
books hugged close to her breast, the various notices and handbills on
the bulletin board at the left of the corridor fluttered, often to be
torn from the clips and sent soaring down the hall.

On the square marble-topped radiator in the middle of the floor opposite
the door of the president's office sat Kerwin. Another youth was
slouching beside him.

Kerwin knocked his heavy heels against the pipes of the heater and
looked down at his loafing acquaintance with eyes that twinkled
unceasingly. Kerwin was not beautiful. He was round of face--all but his
jaw; that was square. His hair was red and grew in divers "cow licks"
that rendered brushing futile. On the backs of his hands, despite the
season, were large, circular freckles. The frat. pin he wore on the
breast of his blue sweater suggested certain of his characteristics with
singular precision. It was a kite-shaped affair, bordered with tiny
pearls and emeralds, alternating, and the Greek letters across the
middle were Delta Psi Phi. Not by the Greek, however, were the owner's
characteristics indicated--unless, of course, to Kerwin himself--but by
the symbols of the order the insignia of which it was and which
consisted of a weird, staring, human eye--the "white" enamel, and the
"pupil" emerald--, a flat lamp of the sort they are making in Germany
and digging up in Pompeii, and a round, moon-face.

The little freshman at the radiator had been eyeing the pin curiously
for some minutes.

"Say," he said finally, and Kerwin looked down.

"What?"

"Tell me the meaning of that eye."

The twinkle grew in Kerwin's own.

"That!" he exclaimed, burying his chin in the huge collar of the sweater
and pulling out the garment like the cuticle of the elastic-skinned boy,
the better to examine the badge. "Oh, that is the all-seeing eye of the
frat. It means that the fellow who wears our pin--it means that I am
next, that I'm on--up to the game; that no hot air goes with me. See?"

His eyes met the little independent freshman's squarely and soberly.

"Oh, does it," the latter replied with interest. "Then what does that
thing mean?" With a chubby forefinger he indicated the lamp.

"Now, that's different," Kerwin continued, none the less grave. "That is
symbolic of brilliancy. It indicates brilliancy of the highest order.
Yes, siree; a chap's got to be _mighty_ brilliant to wear that!"

Again their eyes met and the little independent's were alight with
interest still.

"And that?" It was the moon-face at the bottom of the pin that next came
in for an explanation. The little fellow grinned back at it feelingly.

"Ah, that's the best of all," Kerwin exclaimed. It was quite as though
he were telling a pretty fairy story to a child. "That denotes
geniality, joviality, and--there's another 'ality' in the list, but I've
forgotten it for the moment. You understand, though, don't you?"

"Oh, yes, I understand."

And then--this is hard to believe--what did that little freshman do but
ask:

"Say, what do you think my chances are of ever wearing a pin like that?"

Kerwin almost fell off the radiator. He had heard of freshmen as fresh
as this one, but at the stories of such he had always smiled, regarding
them as pleasant fictions. Recovering, he realized that his duty was to
disillusion the youth who awaited his reply, with a look of anxiety in
his clear eyes. So----

"Very slim," he replied, brutally, sliding off his marble perch. "Very
slim indeed! You see," he added, buttoning his coat and measuring with
his eye the distance to the transverse corridor, "you're too bloomin'
fresh ever to wear anything but a cornflower, or a wood-violet at best."

He ran then, and, even before the little independent realized the full
significance of the speech, was out of sight.

It was quite two minutes later by the clock above the president's door
that the blush began to mount the youngster's cheeks. He gathered his
books under one arm and tiptoed down the corridor, staring at the floor
and regretting heartily that he had even so much as mentioned the
pictures on his classmate's--his wiser classmate's--pin.

But the displeasure that he suffered so keenly, the chagrin that forbade
a lifting of his eyes, and the realization--harder to bear than the
rest--that he had displayed his freshness so frankly, were emotions of
the moment only, for when, two weeks later, his "stringer" came up
before his class as the fraternity candidate for the toast-mastership he
cast his ballot for him regardless of the fact that his own independent
brethren had put forward a man as well. For, you see, that was Kerwin's
way of making friends; perhaps not the best way, to be sure, but, in
Kerwin's case, justified by its success.

On behalf of their man the independent faction waged a valiant fight.
Campus legend told them that for many years their class ancestors had
seen victory wrested from them, once almost at the moment of victory, so
in caucus they decided that they had "stood it long enough."

"Winning or not," an enthusiastic speaker cried on that occasion, "we'll
show 'em a few things."

And show them a few things they did, but the things didn't count, in the
wholly unexpected incident that occurred, of a sudden, to cast them into
confusion, panic, chaos.

Norse was their "man." After the first ballot all was rosy for a little
minute and then what did Norse do but rise in his seat, and with a
calmness that was appalling withdraw in Kerwin's favor! It was a
proceeding entirely unprecedented. The jaws of the fraternity men
dropped. As for the independents they merely gazed at one another,
blinking, their cheeks colorless.

In the silence some one with a grain of reason left in working order
moved that Kerwin's election be made unanimous. The independents forgot
to vote. There was not a solitary "nay." It was the succeeding cheer
that aroused the independents finally. They hissed; they wrangled; and a
girl was seen quickly to draw away from a group near which she was
standing, for a youth with eyeglasses and long hair had used a few
words that were hardly delicate.

As Kerwin was rushed down the room to the rostrum he heard some one ask,
with cutting sarcasm, "Is Norse looking for a bid from your frat.?"

Kerwin took no note of the irony, replying, "He ought to have one." As
he stepped behind the chairman's table he turned suddenly, and brought
his fist down hard, exclaiming: "By Jove! I see now how it was!"

"How?" a henchman at his elbow asked, eagerly.

"Why, I helped out Norse in the entrance exam. in geometry. Never
occurred to me till this minute. He sat next me; told me in the hall
geom. was what he was afraid of. I didn't pass him a pony but I gave him
a couple of cues. I guess this is his way of repaying me. Wait a
second." He broke through the crescent that had formed in front of the
table.

Deserted by all his former champions who, with sneers and dire threats
flung in his direction had left, Norse still sat by a window at the
back, bent over a copy of that day's issue of the _U. of M. Daily_.
Kerwin went to him and held out his hand, which the other took,
grinning. They talked in undertones a minute and as Kerwin joined his
heelers at the table Norse strode out of the room.

"That was it!" the victor exclaimed radiantly. "That's why he did
it--what I said. I asked him straight out if it was to curry favor with
the frat. crowd and he said it wasn't. Said he couldn't join one if he
wanted to. His father thinks they're no good. I told him maybe the gang
would try to even up with him for withdrawing. He grinned and said 'let
'em.' He's all right, fellows. We've got to play square with him. I
offered him the best toast on the list right off the bat--'The
Girls'--but he wouldn't accept it. Said he guessed he'd rather not. Said
he's no good talking to a crowd, and doesn't know enough about girls to
have an opinion one way or the other."

"Better take him over to Ypsilanti," a youthful Don Juan cried.

"Gee! He is fresh!" another ventured.

"What does he want, anyway?" was asked.

"Nothing. Wouldn't it kill you?" Kerwin replied. "I told him he'd better
look out they don't try to do him up."

"You'd better keep your own eye peeled," was suggested by a little
fellow on the outer edge of the crescent. "They're sore clear
through--turned down for ten years running. Better stay in nights, or
you'll show up at the banquet with no hair or an iodine-face, if you
even show up at all----"

"Don't you believe it!" Kerwin exclaimed, with rare bravado. "Norse said
he'd help me if they get funny. He's a husky guy; did you get a good
look at him, fellows? I'm not worrying about the independents any; it's
the sophomores I'm going to keep my eyes on. I inferred from what Norse
said, there's something in the air. If he finds out what it is he'll put
me next. We can depend on him, fellows. He's a regular crackerjack!"

"Well, don't be too sure of yourself," was the significant warning that
caused Kerwin to exclaim:

"Rot! Let 'em come--let 'em _all_ come! Don't you fellows lie awake
nights worrying about little Willie. He's old enough to sit up and take
notice."

And the crescent in front of the table broke.

It was gratitude simply that prompted Kerwin to take Norse to Ypsilanti
one evening during the week following and make him known to a Miss
Myrtle Green of the normal school. It was obvious to Kerwin that Norse's
ignorance of girls was not due to any disinclination on his part to
abolish that state. Indeed he seemed to hunger for knowledge on the
subject. As for Miss Green she seemed quite willing to instruct him. He
became a regular caller. The other girls learned to speak of him as
"Myrtle's steady." And Myrtle seemed agreeable that he should continue
just that.


II

February promised to go out like a thousand lions. Toward noon on the
twenty-fourth it began to snow, listlessly, at first, but more thickly
as nightfall approached. The next morning the townsfolk awoke to find
their homes half buried in a white, downy mass as thick as the height of
the fences.

It was a morning of fine sport. Old men and young turned out with a will
to clean the walks of the city. It was hard work for strong hands
manipulating broad wooden shovels, for so deep was the snow that after a
few feeble attempts Paddy, the plowman, was forced to give in and urge
his plunging horse back to the stable. His plow was useless.

The oldest resident experienced such pleasure as had not been his for
many years. He reveled in vague recollections of the winter of 1830 when
the snow--according to him--had fallen "a mite deeper," and the farmers,
living along the main highways, had been compelled to combine their
genius and their strength in digging tunnels to the market!

That day and the following were clear and crisp. Every one wore green
spectacles. Cases of snow-blindness were numerous; and then, toward
evening on the twenty-sixth, the mercury, which for thirty-six hours had
hovered near the zero-point, began slowly to rise. At midnight a weak,
half-hearted rain set in. The next noon, with that mischievousness in
which the elements of our zone not infrequently indulge, a strong
piercing wind, straight from the north, swept down the state. At seven
o'clock that night the common thermometers registered five degrees below
zero and a shimmering crust of ice an inch thick lay upon the land.

Across the fields and over the fences the farmers drove, in heavy
bob-sleds, into town. In the southwest corner of the state a new sect
was born whose leaders proclaimed the dawn of the Age of Ice and
beseeched the people to look to their souls, before the final
congealment of all things.

In town a season of gaiety ensued. Numbers of art students proceeded to
the open spots upon the campus, and, with hatchets, cut out of the crust
gigantic caricatures of well-known instructors. With the zeal and
yo-heave-ho of lumber-jacks they raised the figures upright supporting
them with props, and the campus became, as if by magic, adorned with
profile statues of professors!

General as was the interest in the unique entertainment a kind nature
had provided, there were certain sophomores who, shunning the spectacle
afforded by the decorated campus, sought the seclusion of a certain
back-room down-town where they evolved a plan of hazing that promised to
be entirely overlooked in the interest otherwise occasioned.

Thus far Kerwin had not been molested and had begun to think that at
least one banquet was to pass without a recurrence of those adventures
which for years had made it notable among the events of the college
year.

"There's too much else to interest them," he said to Norse, one morning
in the State Street Billiard Hall. "If they were up to any stunts we'd
have heard before this, with the banquet coming off day after to-morrow.
It's all easy sailing, thanks to the ice."

Norse, however, was not so certain. "You can't tell," he said, with a
significant wag of his head. "Maybe this keeping-still now means action
at the last minute. What do your own freshmen say?"

"There's not one in the frat. who thinks they'll attempt anything,"
Kerwin replied. "And as for the sophomores, they say there's too much
going on for them to waste time fooling with a dinky freshman
toastmaster."

Norse's doubts were not, however, to be so easily dispelled. "You'd
better keep an eye out," he advised. "I'll help you all I can. If I get
next to anything I'll let you know."

But neither that day nor the day after did he hear a word that sounded
in the least suspicious, but on Friday he did; and thus wise:

At noon he met Kerwin again in the billiard hall.

The toastmaster drew him to one side. "I'm fixed," he whispered with a
grin of satisfaction.

"How?" Norse asked.

"Got my dress suit hid."

"Where, in the furnace?"

"No; better'n that. You know that built-in closet in my room? Yes. Well,
the top of it is lower than it seems to be from the front, and I've put
my suit, and dress-shirt, and all, up there. Such a simple way of hiding
the stuff they'll never think of, if they get into the room while I'm
away."

"Anybody know about it?"

"Not a soul but you."

"Good. It does look as if they were going to let you alone, but you
can't be too careful the rest of the day. What are you going to do this
afternoon?"

Kerwin was going to do many things; he was going to be busier than a
puppy with a bone, he said.

"You see," he explained, "I want the affair to go off as smooth as oil;
and, by Jove, it's going to, if I've got anything to say about it. What
were you going to do?"

Norse had planned to go skating.

"Go on," Kerwin urged, then perceiving that his friend hesitated, he
added, slapping him sturdily on the back, "Don't you have any fear for
me. Go on. I wish I might go but I simply can't; and that's all there is
to it."

"If you think it's safe, all right," Norse said.

"Safe!" Kerwin exclaimed, flauntingly. "Of course its safe. Go on!"

So Norse went.

It was half-past five, and quite dark, when he clambered over the high
iron fence at the Michigan Central station, and started to climb the
slippery State Street hill. The chimes, ringing out from the library
tower in the crisp air, were clear and genuinely musical. For four hours
he had skated over the flats above the pulp-mill. He noted mentally,
now, that he would telephone Myrtle in the morning and have her come
over for the afternoon. Skating alone is all very well for exercise, but
not much in the way of pleasure, he considered. His skates, dangling
from a strap over his shoulder, clinked, musically, as he picked his way
with exceeding caution along the icy pavement. A moon was due in an hour
and the street-lamps were unlighted. When he reached the top of the hill
and saw ahead of him the street flooded with the golden glow of the
store illuminations, he suddenly recalled the box of flash-light powder
that he had, till now, forgotten. Myrtle had expressed a desire for a
picture of her room to send "back home," and he had promised to take
one. He would, he thought, secure a box at once and have done with it.
He recalled having read in one of Heenan's _U. of M. Daily_
advertisements that a full line of photographers' supplies was carried.
He noticed several cameras and plate-holders in the window as he entered
the store. It was the supper hour and the single salesman was busy with
a customer at the rear. She was examining the stock of tissue paper.
Innumerable rolls lay before her on the table. Taking advantage of her
indecision, the salesman served Norse, then returned to the girl who
couldn't quite make up her mind whether she desired her lamp-shade to be
pink or pale blue.

On a table in front of the fireplace, across the store, stood several
tall piles of a new and exceedingly popular magazine. Norse lingered a
moment to read the announcement poster. Thus engaged there fell upon
his ear the sound of voices. Unconsciously listening he made out a word
now and then of what seemed an earnest conversation carried on in
undertone. And then he heard mentioned a name that caused him to start
and cast a quick glance to the rear of the store where the salesman was
still busy with the girl who could not make up her mind. The speakers
whom he could not see were on the other side of the piles of magazines,
in front of the fireplace. Norse craned forward, eagerly. He heard a
throat cleared, and then these words, quite distinctly:

"At seven o'clock, eh? Ain't it funny he's not to be at his frat.
house?"

"No; not under the circumstances," was the indefinite reply. "He doesn't
suspect anything."

Norse grinned with sardonic delight.

"Don't you think it's a bloomin' long way to take him, Billy?"

"Oh, I don't know," was the reply. "It ain't over three miles."

Every muscle in Norse's body was tense, every nerve on edge.

"I know," he heard, "but it's so blasted cold. We don't want him to
freeze on our hands."

"He won't. Morton lugged an oil stove out there yesterday. We can get
some blankets at the livery."

Norse felt all hot, yet he shivered.

"Say."

He held his breath.

"What?"

He gripped the edge of the table.

"Do you think the place is really haunted?"

Could Norse, that instant, have given way to the rare delight that
overcame him, he would have flung his skates through the great
plate-glass window of the store in a very riot of joy. His eyes became
all alight. He drew away noiselessly.

As he slipped out of the store he was observed neither by the interested
clerk nor by the two stocky young men to whose conversation he had
listened with such rapt attention, and who, that instant, stepped from
behind the counter into the aisle. Before they reached the door he was
speeding up State Street, past Tut's, past the Congregational Church,
past the First Ward School, past Newberry Hall, thoughtless of the icy
pavement, and, apparently, of the fact that a slip might mean the
failure of the plan he outlined as he ran.


III

Kerwin's fraternity house stood on a prominent corner three blocks
above the book-store. Norse rushed up the steps and inside without
stopping to take breath. There was no one in the smoking-room; that is
to say, no one but a high school pledgling, who sat in front of the
fire, reading, and pledglings don't count.

"Is Kerwin here?" Norse gasped, leaning heavily against the door.

The youth at the fire turned, nonchalantly, and removing a cigarette
from between his lips, as calmly as though panting freshmen with
obviously loaded minds were but ordinary phenomena, replied:

"No. Saw him going out just as I came in. Said he wouldn't be back to
dinner."

"Where did he go?"

"No idea." The pledgling flecked the ash from his cigarette.

"Well, I'm going up to his room a minute," Norse cried, turning back
into the hallway.

"Told you he isn't there!" the infant called after him; but Norse did
not seem to hear.

He knew the location of Kerwin's room from previous visits. Now he found
it deserted. He perceived all the appointments with one sweep of his
eyes--the signs, the tennis-net draped between the front windows and
sagging with photographs, the huge Japanese umbrella dependent from the
ceiling with many little favors and a multitude of dance cards dangling
from the rim, the black-oak study-table, the swivel chair in front of
it, the Comedy Club poster on the door, and the closet that projected
rudely into the room.

A hand-bag lay on the floor in a corner. Norse did not pause to reflect,
as, being the leading man in a stirring melodrama, he should have done.
He acted without reflection, mechanically almost; but when he started
back down the stairs, which he took in three leaps, he carried the
hand-bag, stuffed, now, and fat.

"What you got there?" the pledgling called as the figure passed the
smoking-room.

Norse did not waste breath replying.

The library clock was striking six as he issued into the street. He had
the work of an hour to accomplish in twenty-five minutes. Some freshmen,
under the circumstances, would have gritted their teeth and cursed.
Norse only gritted his teeth, for he was of another sort. Up South
University Avenue to Washtenaw he ran. There, on the northwest corner,
was a huge stone, set, doubtless, to prevent delivery boys from running
their wagons over the curbing. The wind had blown the snow clear of this
stone and Norse sank upon it, half exhausted. He proceeded to fix his
skates to the soles of his heavy shoes without waiting to regain his
breath. He stood up to test the clamps. They gripped viciously. Ahead
lay the road, gleaming in the pale light. Norse smiled. Through the
handles of the satchel he passed the skate strap and thrust his head
through the loop, that the bag might swing against his back. He dug the
point of one skate into the gritty crust, struck out with long, even
strokes, and began a swift ascent of the Scott Hill on the Middle Road
to Ypsilanti.


IV

Fifteen years ago there were four distinct and widely separated haunted
houses in the vicinity of Ann Arbor. One, in West Huron Street, was for
years pointed out to naughty children as the home of the original bogey
man. On an occasion,--so the story goes--three seniors resolved to spend
a night in the ticklish place for the purpose of determining
scientifically the causes of the strange knockings and human groans that
previous tenants had complained of. The results of their investigations
were never known. The seniors were never seen again!

That is the tale. The circulation of it tended to make their
abiding-place secure to the spirits for many years. But at last an
owner braver than those before him, and fortified by innumerable
expressions of contempt in which a picturesque and virile profanity
played a leading part, proceeded without more ado to raze the ancient
structure to the ground.

His action gave rise to a second story. It became generally understood
that the spirits, their own home gone, joined forces with the ghostly
occupants of the second haunted house in nightly carryings-on. Then this
house was rent asunder.

Thus it went until the time of this story when there remained but one
authentic haunted house in town. Its location added to the mystery
supposed to surround it. It capped a bleak hill on the left of the
so-called "Middle Road" to Ypsilanti. Behind it loomed a dense wood and
to the right and left stretched dreary fields, deserted save by the
gophers and chipmunks whose superstition seemed not to warrant their
leaving the premises after establishing or disestablishing the presence
of ghostly occupants in the bleak house on the hill.

The place was consistently pointed out to strangers as the midnight
carnival-ground of the devil and his imps, and it was further gravely
averred that horses shied in passing after nightfall.

Such was the weird spot to which Norse, independent freshman, skated,
one freezing night, on the crust of that famous winter, to save a friend
from the hands of the enemy.

At the bottom of the hill he stopped to _reconnoitre_. The blue-black of
the heavens seemed strangely less dense above the house. Now and then a
weird shimmer passed back and forth across the ragged wall. No light
shone anywhere. Several of the windows gaped black, like open mouths,
waiting to devour. Others were boarded. Up the path from the gate the
door careened on one rotting hinge. In the summer this path was a
shallow of tangled weeds, but now the crust lay level across it.

Norse advanced stealthily to the open door. The silence was thick. He
removed his skates and tiptoed within. A breath of wind whistled through
the warped clap-boards and the old house sighed. Tumbling stairs led to
the floor above. Stooping, and feeling the steps ahead of him, he
ascended.

At the top of the flight he struck a match, shielding the flame with his
curved palm. In the faint illumination he perceived the second story to
consist of two connecting rooms of unequal size with the larger at the
front. Against the rear wall of the back room stood an old bin, at one
time probably used for storing grain. In the corner of the front room
was an oil stove; near it, a can. Lighting another match Norse deposited
the satchel and his skates in the bin and tested the cover. The hinges
did not creak and seemed firm. He looked at his watch. It was half-past
seven.

He went into the front room and crouching, peered through a crack
between the boards of the window. As far as he could see in either
direction the road was deserted. A pale moon was rising behind black
clouds.

In all probability Kerwin would be accompanied by two--possibly
three--kidnappers. He would be bound, of course, and, more than likely,
gagged. His guard would observe the greatest care. He would not be
misused.

Norse ceased procrastinating. He realized that in one hour the
representative freshmen would be gathering around the banquet board,
spread in Nickels Hall on State Street, away back in town. Undetermined
as to the means of accomplishment he was none the less conscious of the
work that lay before him. It rested with him--with him, alone--to
produce the toastmaster at the banquet, if not at its beginning, in
time, at least, to announce the first toast....

He heard a slight scraping noise outside and crouching peered through
the crack again. That instant the thin moon mounted the bank of clouds
and cast a ghostly light upon the scene.

A hack on runners had drawn up at the gate. The door was opened from
within and two men alighted. One of them stood at the step while the
other held a whispered conversation with the driver; then, with his
companion, he helped a third man out of the carriage. The hack drew away
at once, turned and started back in the direction of town.

The young man at the window could not distinguish the features of the
two men supporting a third between them who seemed to be hobbled, for
the brims of their hats were pulled low over their faces. Save for the
slight crunch as the trio advanced toward the house there was no sound.
Norse tiptoed back into the smaller room. He held out his arms and his
fingers touched the corner of the grain-bin. He heard footsteps that
advanced, then stopped, on the floor below. He heard the crack of a
match as it was struck. He lifted the cover of the bin carefully, threw
one leg over the edge, felt the floor under his foot, drew the other leg
after him, and sank, lowering the lid as he did so, like a trap-door.

The bin was sufficiently large to permit of sitting with a certain
degree of comfort. With his fingers he detected several cracks in the
front wall. By twisting he could bring his eyes to the level of them.
Groping he touched the hand-bag with his right hand and drew it nearer.
The next moment he heard the stairs creak. He held his breath as the
trio entered the room in front. One of them carried a dark lantern and
in the pale illumination it afforded, Norse recognized Kerwin's captors
and smiled.

Kerwin was blindfolded. The gag he wore was a tightly twisted
handkerchief drawn taut through his mouth and tied behind. His hands
were tied at his back. The taller of the kidnappers carried two horse
blankets over his arm, one of which he flung upon the floor beside the
oil stove. His companion set the lantern in the corner and stooping in
front of the stove proceeded to light it. Kerwin stood in the middle of
the floor. The man who had spread the blanket came around in front of
him and placing a hand on either shoulder pushed him back. Bumping him
into the wall he bore down upon him growling in a voice obviously
assumed and grossly piratical: "Sit there!"

Kerwin slumped upon the blanket. The stove lighted, the kidnappers
squatted in front of it and one of them produced a pipe and pouch of
tobacco. Striking a match he said: "Well, how d'ye like the banquet?"

Kerwin shook his head.

"Let's take out that gag; he dassent yell," proposed the second outlaw.

"Aw right...."

They untied the handkerchief. Kerwin had worn it so long it was
difficult at first for him to get his mouth back into its normal shape.
For an instant his face resembled that of a gargoyle.

"Cold?" he was asked.

"A little," he replied. There was an utter absence of rancor in his
tone.

The bandit nearest him drew the second blanket over his legs.

"Say, won't you fellows tie my hands in front of me.... I'm sittin' on
'em and they feel as though they were dead...."

"Sure we will, turn over."

He offered no resistance.

"You sure you ain't cold?... We don't want you to catch cold."

"No, I'm not cold," the captive replied.

Silence ensued which lasted some minutes.

Finally one of them ventured, glancing over his shoulder: "Well, we
ain't seen any ghosts yet, have we, Billy?"

"Nope," was the dogged reply.

Billy extended his leg and kicked Kerwin on the ankle.

"Ever in a haunted house before?" he asked.

"Not that I remember," Kerwin answered.

"Guess you'd remember if you had been," suggested Billy. "Used to be one
down in my town about six years ago. Fellow murdered there once, they
said. Funniest things used to happen.... A hand would open the doors in
front of you. You could see the tracks of a man's bare-feet in the dust
when you went up-stairs...."

"Aw, shut up, Billy, cancha!" his companion muttered edging near him.
"What's the use talkin' such stuff?"

"Why, I was just tellin' you," Billy replied, defensively. "I never took
any stock in the stories, but one day, a fellow by the name of
Thurber--Hank Thurber, regular dare-devil sort of chap--swore _he'd_
spend the night in that house or die in the attempt. Next morning he
didn't show up. The town marshal went to find him. He found him all
right. It was in one of the up-stairs' rooms, and there he sat in a
busted chair, stone dead, with his fishy eyes staring at a hole in the
wall. They got a bundle of old letters out of the hole. Seems it was a
sort of secret cupboard in the first place, and had been plastered
over. That wasn't all though; they found Thurber's dog jammed into the
fireplace of a room down-stairs, with his neck broken...."

"Good Heavens! Billy! Billy! What was that!"

The story-teller caught himself quickly and he and his companion turned
frightened eyes upon each other. In that moment's stillness they noted
that the wind had freshened. Something creaked somewhere. Billy clutched
his companion's leg.

"What was it?" His whisper rasped.

"Thought I heard something click...."

"Sure?"

"Sure's I'm sittin' here...."

"Where'd it seem to come from?"

"I dunno; thought it was--in there." He indicated the little room behind
with a jerk of his head.

"Aw, 'twasn't anything; old rusty nail snapped, probably, in the wind."
Billy swaggered with a monstrous assumption of bravery. There was more
silence for a moment, then Billy went on:

"I was just tellin' you 'bout that haunted house down home...."

"Say, Billy, shut up, cancha? I don't care a _darn_ 'bout that haunted
house, I'm...."

"Come off! You ain't really afraid of ghosts, are you?"

"Well, maybe I ain't, but...."

"What's the matter with you, anyway?"

"Never you mind, I----"

He broke off suddenly and his face went ashy pale.

"Did you see that?" he cried. "Did you see that! Like a blue flame!"

He got upon his feet unsteadily. His mouth was open; his eyes were
staring.

"Why, what's the matter? You ain't drunk, are you? What did you
see----?"

"_See! Look!_"

Billy wheeled like a flash. A light of dazzling brilliancy shone for an
instant, and in the smaller room, through the doorway of which they
gazed as though transfixed, floated a gossamer of unholy, blue smoke.
Then, before the instant became an æon, they saw rise, as though from
the very heart of the dazzle, the upper-half of a white, shrouded form.
One arm waved sweepingly toward them. Before the æon died an unearthly
screech rent the silence, followed by a scuffle and thug as both youths
rushed down the stairs. They sped into the road and the deep shadows of
the woods swallowed them.


V

Blindfolded, Kerwin had seen nothing, but the dazzle had pierced the
covering of his eyes and he had felt the light, and he had _heard_. His
head was like thistle-down borne on the wings of a zephyr. He attempted
to move, to call out. A deadly nausea overcame him. He realized that he
was fainting. Then, of a sudden, his melting senses took form again, as
he heard a familiar voice cry:

"Kerwin, old chap!... By Jove! We'll fool 'em yet, if you hurry!"

And at that the handkerchief was torn from his eyes and he looked up
blinking into the beaming countenance of Norse.

Norse did not wait to explain. He cut the twine binding his friend's
hands and flung down the satchel within the circle of the lantern light.

"What are you looking at?" he asked, tersely, stooping to open the bag
and noting Kerwin's steady gaze fixed upon him.

"_For Heaven's sake what have you got on!_"

"What ... got ..." And Norse burst out laughing.

"What have I got on?" he cried. "I've got on your dress-shirt---- Made
me look more like a ghost." He whipped the garment off. "And now you get
into it just as quick as you can!" he added.

For a brief moment a light of puzzlement lingered in Kerwin's eyes.

"Here's the collar and tie." Norse handed them to him. "And here's your
dress-suit---- You see I overheard them talking it over---- I looked for
you---- Then I came out here---- I'd a box of flash-light powder in my
pocket---- That's all. I thought it was all up when they heard the
satchel click. You see I'd opened it to get out your shirt. I had to put
a good deal of trust in Providence!..."

"But Norsey...."

"Never mind talking! Hustle, man! Hustle!"

"I know, but...."

"There; there are your trousers.... Freeze if it wasn't for that stove,
eh? Thoughtful of them, wasn't it? Here's your vest! What's the matter?
Can't you button your collar? Scott, man, you've got to hustle! Touched
her off just the right time, eh? Worked themselves all up talking about
that other haunted.... Here's your coat! Say, you've got to hustle to
make it; there's not over twenty minutes to spare!..."

"But, Norsey, it's no use. I can't get back to town in twenty minutes.
Why, it will take two hours, walking over that crust...."

"You're not going to walk.--Gad! Here, let me tie that bow for you!
Say, but you've got to hustle!..."

"Not going to walk! You don't mean to say you've got a carriage...."

"Hardly. Just time to get here myself."

"Well, I'd like to know, then, how...."

"_You're going to skate back to town, that's how--on my skates!_"

He rushed into the little room, and returning, held out his skates to
Kerwin. Kerwin didn't seize them. He seized the youth's hand.

"Norsey," he muttered, with the faintest suggestion of a tremor in his
voice, "you're the best old pal a chap ever had...."

"Oh, never mind the bouquets," Norse broke in. "Lemme see; you got all
your clothes on? Those shoes are pretty bad for a swell function; but
they'll be under the table. Yes, I guess you're all right. Take these
skates and clamp 'em while I pack your other clothes in the satchel.
Lucky you told me where you'd hid 'em.... Say, you've got to carry this
bag back, Kerry.... I lugged it out."

"Of course, I'll carry it back; but Norsey"--Kerwin lowered his voice
and glanced about him--"you don't suppose they're hanging around here
somewhere, do you?"

Norse looked up from the packing. "Hanging around here!" he exclaimed.
"Around _here_! Great Heavens, man! They're a million miles from here
and runnin' yet if they're still alive and not scared to death. You
ready?"

Kerwin slung the satchel over his shoulder. "Am I all right?" he asked.

Norse stepped back and regarded him curiously, a little smile playing
around his mouth. Kerwin's face was very grimy. It looked almost black
in the shadow above the white shirt-bosom, and there were three or four
unmistakable smudges on that. Moreover it was a cold night for a man to
skate three or four miles in evening clothes.

"My! You look funny!" Norse laughed. "But what's the difference?" he
added. "Come on...."

Taking him by the arm he steadied him down the creaking stairs. "Now you
can go it like the wind, right up to the door of Nickles," he said at
the gate. "Are you ready?"

Kerwin dug the toe of his right skate into the crust and crouched like
an animal about to spring.

"Go!"

For a moment his body was poised like a blot above the brow of the hill,
then it disappeared.

Norse heard his name shouted. He ran forward and peered down.

"What's up?" he called.

"Nothing. I just wanted to say I'll suggest the toast 'The Kidnapping'
and then you'll tell the whole tale. It'll make 'em look like a postage
stamp...."

Norse laughed. "Why, I'm not going to your darn banquet," he said.

"Not going! The idea! You are, too, going."

"No, I'm not," Norse contended, "I've got something else to do...."

"What?"

"I've got to go over to Ypsilanti and tell Miss Green I can't take that
picture of her room till next week. I'm as near there now as I am
home...."

Before Kerwin could call to him again he turned on his heel and walked
away.

Fifty yards along he glanced back over his shoulder. What he saw caused
a sort of Mephistophelian grin to curve his lips.

Smoke, like a billowy veil in the moonlight, was rolling from the
unboarded windows of the haunted house, and through the cracks he
glimpsed the dance of flames.

"The stove must have been kicked over in the shuffle," he muttered,
unctuously.

A moment he stood there watching the growth of the fire, then,
resolutely turning his face to the east, he moved on down the icy road.



THE CHAMPIONS


I

"You can't do it, Nibs,--you can't do it--you may have the spurt speed,
but you haven't got the wind."

"Rot--why, you don't know what you're talking about, Jimmy; I can beat
him forty ways. _Look at those legs!_"

And the lank creature thrust them into view and patted them
affectionately between the knee and the hip.

"Oh, I know you've got the legs, Nibs," was the indifferent reply, "it's
the wind you're shy of."

"What does wind amount to in a hundred yards, I'd like to know? All a
fellow needs is a good breath at the pistol. A good one will carry him
over the string." The speaker leaned across the table; "Now, on the
square, Jimmy, don't you think I can beat Billy Shaw?" he asked eagerly.

The young man opposite, tilting back his chair, eyed his companion
critically from under half-dropped lids. He flecked the ash from his
cigarette, scrupulous that it should not dust his clothes, and said
slowly, and more as though by way of encouragement than expressive of an
opinion--"Well, of course, there's a chance."

Nibs smiled broadly, at that, and settled back, apparently quite
satisfied.

"I knew you were joking," he said.

It was a Saturday evening. Had the dial of the Court House clock been
illuminated, it would have shown the hour to be half-past seven. On the
corner, a gasolene lamp was burning at the top of a weather-stained
post. In front of the Opera House an Uncle Tom's Cabin band was
straining at the melancholy air, "Massa's In de Col', Col' Ground,"
played in _circus tempo_. Now and then was heard the scuffle of hurrying
feet on the tar walk outside.

Nibs Morey and Jimmy Hulburt sat in silence for a space.

No one had ever been able--if, indeed, any one had sought--to fathom the
friendship that for two years had been maintained unbroken between these
two. Perhaps it was due to the counter effect of Hulburt's derision of
Morey's abundant conceit, for had Nibs Morey been asked to cite an
instance of Jimmy's championing him, he, positively, would have failed.
It was the one's lack, or expressed lack, of confidence in the other,
that evenly balanced the other's really splendid confidence in himself.

When first Nibs had expressed his intention of posting a challenge to
Billy Shaw on the Bulletin Board in the Main Hall, Jimmy had sniffed and
sneered derisively.

"What's the use making a Jack of yourself?" he asked.

"Who's going to?" Nibs replied, tartly.

"You are. He'll beat you by a rod," was the cool retort.

"Don't you believe it."

"Well, I do."

"You needn't."

"All right; we'll see."

And Jimmy did see, and it was a glorious sight--a splendid picture of a
righteous triumph in which the best man won; to revel in the joy of
victory a space, and then to meet, and join in combat, with a foeman
vastly worthier of his steel. For, in spite of Jimmy's
discouragement--which could not have been that, really, and perhaps was
not even meant for that--Nibs posted the challenge.

It was written in huge letters, that all who ran might read, and was
made doubly conspicuous, by its poster style, among the score or more
announcements of class-meetings, conferences, and graduate-events that
fluttered with it on the Board.

Nibs hung up the challenge one evening while the janitor's back was
turned. He carried it into the corridor folded beneath his coat.
Satisfied that they were not observed, he drew it out and spread it upon
the long, marble-topped radiator, and invited the criticism of Jimmy,
the which Jimmy was not loth to utter.

"Big as a barn, eh?" he said, sniffing.

"But I want him surely to see it," the author of the broadside replied,
tilting his head and viewing his work admiringly in the dim light of the
slim chandelier above.

"Well, I'm still thinking you're a fool,--a blamed big fool."

"Don't you think he'll accept?" Nibs asked eagerly, passing lightly over
Jimmy's expression of what appeared at least superficially to be a
definite opinion.

"Of course he will, that's just it; he'll see it and he'll accept it,
and he'll beat the life out of you," was the discouraging rejoinder.
"Hurry, hang it up," he added, "I don't want to wait here all night."
And Jimmy slouched away in the direction of the great door.

So the document challenging Billy Shaw to run against Nibs Morey in
State Street, on the evening of October nineteenth, at seven o'clock,
was forthwith tacked upon the Board to the complete concealment of one
bill announcing the publication of the Palladium, and another displayed
to notify the scornful that the Dramatic Club would--at an early
date--repeat its marvelously successful and delicately artistic
performance of "Among the Breakers."

"There! I guess he'll take notice, now!" exclaimed the joyous Nibs,
stepping back from the board, and gazing at the poster proudly.

"And so will all the University," replied Jimmy, not, however, without a
secret pride in the valor of his friend, after all; for Billy Shaw, the
prospective opponent, had brought with him to Ann Arbor a country record
for swift running that was not to be considered lightly, even by a
sprinter of the attainments of Nibs Morey.

All efforts to match the two had thus far failed. It was Nibs' zeal,
purely, though tempered, of course, by his fine conceit, that prompted
the posting of the challenge now--a zeal to prove--perhaps to Jimmy,
more than to the others--his wisdom, and the justification of his own
abundant confidence. And the challenge thus publicly offered achieved
the end that Nibs had hoped it might.

There is record in undergraduate history of the excitement that
prevailed upon the campus the day after its publication. No one seemed
to doubt Billy Shaw's acceptance of it. He would have to run now, or
ever after hold his peace,--they said--an alternative not to the relish
of a youth of his temperament. And he did accept the challenge, and he
did run; and bets were made, and money was won and lost, all to the
undying credit of Alma Mater, who looked on, smiling, proud of her sons
in their glorious youth, their honor and their prowess.


II

For a week, now, the Gown had been speculating; placing its bets with
the Town eagerly, enthusiastically, and many of those bets--sad to
relate--were on the wrong side of the book, so far as Nibs Morey was
concerned. When Jimmy, learning the way of the wind, informed his friend
of the odds against him, with all the coldness of a perfect enmity, Nibs
experienced his first twinge of uneasiness. For the Gown, loyal to its
foreign upholder, Billy--in the excess of its patriotism and without
regard to possible consequences such as unpaid laundry bills, and
staved-off tailor accounts--had wagered against poor Nibs, who, though
he was _of_ the Gown, cannot be said to have been _with_ it. He
suffered the misfortune of having been born and reared within a scant
stone's throw of the main building, the which, it may be noted in
passing, he had, for half a dozen years, held as a grudge against his
parents, to the perplexity of his sister Wilma, who found only a keen
enjoyment in her college home and in the shifting aspects of the college
life around her.

The event that Nibs longed for was only a week away, and his friend
seemed to take rare delight in deriding the hardihood that had prompted
the posting of the challenge.

"Well," Nibs said, at last, breaking his long legs at the knee, and
rising from the table, laboriously, "maybe he will beat me,--but he
won't do it hands down--he won't do it in a walk, anyway."

"Oh, I don't know," was the cool retort of Jimmy, and stepping down into
the street he added, "you can't always tell."

Nibs had not once chided his friend for his seeming lack of confidence;
he bore it simply, and gave no sign that it produced an effect, unless
an occasional weak smile, as when the other became too atrociously
insulting, might be taken for such a sign. For there were things that
even Jimmy had no knowledge of. He did not dream for instance that, on
many a night after Nibs had, with a plea of study, begged off from
going "down town," he had dressed himself in a thin undershirt, loose,
full breeches and spiked shoes, and wrapped in a bath-robe and crouching
in the shadow, had sought the solemn, ghostly cemetery, there to run
among the white stones, glistening in the pale light, to his full
heart's content. Later, on those same nights, tired out, he had sneaked
back to his room unobserved in the silent streets. No, Jimmy did not
know of this strenuous course of Nibs' training. He knew his legs were
wiry, elastic, to be sure; but _how_ wiry, _how_ elastic, he did not
dream. And though deride him he did, in his cheerful confidence and
self-assurance, when, on the Monday following their meeting in Nat's
low-ceiled bar-room, a particularly venturesome sophomore laid him a
wager of five to three on Billy, Jimmy took the shorter end of the bet
with amazing alacrity.

During the week immediately preceding the day for which the race was
set, interest in the event increased with the passage of the hours.
Posey's billiard-room on Main Street became the betting-green, where
Town met Gown, and Gown flung its challenges into the teeth of Town,
which Town at first snarled at, but eventually bit into and clung to
tenaciously.

Once, during the tempestuous seven days, Nibs encountered Billy face to
face. The latter was leaving the president's office; Nibs was
approaching the door.

As their eyes met, a spark flashed between them, and their faces became
hard and set. There were several loiterers in the corridor who witnessed
the meeting, and one of these, "Pinkey" Bush--a lawyer in Chicago
now,--never tires of recalling the incident. You have but to mention it
to him to hear him say, with a brilliant twinkle in his eye:

"Gad! It was great! Simply great! There they stood, face to face;
Nibsey, long, thin as a lath, glaring down at Billy, who was shorter,
but just as gaunt. Their eyes gleamed like new shoe buttons, and their
hands were clenched tight at their sides. A second? It seemed an age!
They didn't speak; just drilled little wells in each other's eyes with
their own--and it was over. The door of the president's office closed
upon Nibsey; the big west door rattled shut after Billy. It was like a
dissolving view--great, while it lasted, but soon ended. I thought every
instant--and held my breath--that one of 'em would shoot out his fist
and land it on the other's jaw. No reason, of course; but it wouldn't
have surprised any of us who saw the meeting, if one or the other had."

Two days before the race, the entire student body became divided in its
sympathy; wordy quarrels were hourly occurrences on the campus; nor were
bodily assaults infrequent.

The next day the excitement was as tense as the air before a cyclone. A
million pounds of young animal spirits, the highest explosive known to
science, were encased in delicate human bottles, needing but a jar to
touch them off.

At six o'clock, men passing in the streets gazed mad-eyed at one
another, their jaws set square, their lips drawn tight across their
teeth.


III

Friday came, eventually, as Fridays have a way of doing, and it came
like a breath from the Northland where ice and snow and cold are. The
air set one's teeth on edge and one's flesh a-tingling, but there was no
frost. That was destined to come a week later, and, over night, convert
the summer into the pageant of autumn, the scarlet king at its head, his
crimson, gold and purple banners flaunting gaily.

When Nibs appeared on the campus in the morning, he was besieged by a
horde of the faithful, who wanted to know if the weather was "going to
make any difference."

"You bet it won't; not to me," he replied, with a sort of vocal
swagger, and with a marked enunciatory underlining of the pronoun.

"You don't mean to say you're going to prance up and down State Street
in those dinky flapping white pants of yours, bare-legged, in such
weather as this, do you?" inquired Jimmy, with a most perceptible sneer
in his voice.

"Yes, I am. I shan't think of the cold," was the brave reply.

"Rah! Rah! Rah! Nibsey!" yelled a little pug-nosed freshman on the edge
of the crowd, and the cry was taken up lustily.

"Oh, shut up, you fellows," said Nibs, blushing; "leave your yelling
till after the race, can't you?" But he sensed an expansion of his
chest, just the same, an expansion that, for the moment, made his
waistcoat feel uncomfortably tight.

Meanwhile, Billy Shaw was being besieged in precisely the same manner at
another point on the campus. With considerable less than Nibs'
braggadocio he informed his followers and backers that so far at least
as he was concerned, there would be no postponement of the race. And he,
too, was cheered forthwith.

Thurston Hubert, a Law, large with importance,--he had been chosen to
fire the pistol for the start--was in the little crowd that surged
around Billy. He gave it as his opinion that the weather was "great for
a running event--simply great." But by six o'clock the mischievous
mercury had dropped another five degrees.

They were a muffled, overcoated lot of young men, who, an hour later,
began to gather in State Street.

From all directions they came, and they formed in double line from the
Psi Upsilon House to the end of the course, precisely one-quarter of a
mile. Waiting, they shouted, jeered one another, spoke disrespectfully
of a whimsical Nature that had given them without warning so keen a
touch of winter, and otherwise disported as college men have a way of
doing, when they are waiting for something to occur.

Along the outer edge of the street's double course were many vehicles,
for the Town's interest in the extensively advertised event was almost
as great as the Gown's; and in that day the lines between the two were
not so closely drawn as they are now. Girls, there were, waiting in
several of the carriages; young women of the institution; serious-faced
girls, but still girls, and being such, interested in deeds of prowess,
and devoted, with a sort of holy devotion, to the doers, as were the
women of Greece in the olden time.

It was quarter-past seven when the familiar figure of the president was
seen to issue from his house and come down the South Walk. Knowledge of
his approach was passed along the double lines. The jeering ceased; the
disrespectful allusions to the weather ended, and at the top of the
course a sophomore, in a tall-collared sweater--then a novelty--who was
bolder than his fellows, shouted, "Rah! Rah! Rah! The President!" The
good man stopped, and, turning his head slowly, surveyed the ranks
seriously. Then he smiled such a smile as fifteen thousand men and women
in this country, and far countries, remember with a little tightening of
the throat that comes with the memory. Removing his hat, he bowed,
acknowledging the cheer, the sign of genuine, deep affection, that had
greeted him. And while he stood there on the walk, smiling, a louder
cheer ripped the atmosphere, a cheer that rose and rose, higher and
higher until it seemed the heavens above must crack from the detonation.
For THEY had appeared; and the president turned to glance up the course,
and what he saw caused the smile upon his kindly face to broaden, and he
laughed, but the laugh was low, and not heard in the turmoil.

They approached the starting point from opposite directions. Billy Shaw
was accompanied by Thurston Hubert, he whose function it was to fire
the pistol, his hat cocked over one ear, a cigarette between his lips,
the smoke of which he artistically exhaled through his nostrils without
removing the tube--a feat that none but an upperclassman is known ever
to have accomplished.

Billy was wrapped in a blue and green bath-robe, the hem of which was
not deep enough to hide his bare, big-boned ankles. He wore his spiked,
soft shoes, and had walked from his room--not without some little
triumph--in the middle of the street. He was bareheaded, as was Nibs.

The latter's lank form was enveloped in a great mackintosh with a deep
cape. He carried his running shoes in his hand.

As the two came face to face at the starting point their eyes met a
second time, and again a challenge leaped between them.

In the excitement attendant upon their arrival the crowd did not take
notice of the little things, and the significance of that meeting and
the look was lost. That is, lost to all but one man--whom no one knew; a
stranger, who thus far had looked on smiling. He had crossed the street
some ten minutes before and joined the crowd unobserved. He had spoken
only once. When the throng cheered the president he had touched on the
arm a youth who stood beside him, and asked, "Who's that?" Informed, he
had continued to smile saying, "I thought so;" at the same time taking a
cigar from his waistcoat pocket and lighting it. He was tall, this
stranger, and his face was long and thin, but not unhandsome, for his
eyes were brown and gentle. His little, flat hat sat close upon his
head. Of unusual height, his lengthy legs were concealed by the long
light overcoat he wore. From his shoulder, by a strap, after the manner
of the day, dangled a fat hand-bag. He had not cheered thus far. He had
only smiled and pulled at his cigar, sending up huge feathery clouds of
opalescent smoke.

Leaning forward now, he glanced along the line to the starting point.
The moment had arrived. The contestants had flung off their wrappings
and stood forth in their trappings. It made one shiver to see them;
clothed only in their gauze, sleeveless shirts, and the white flapping
breeches of the sport.

Hubert and Jimmy conferred aside, while the bare-legged Mercurys stood,
now on one foot, now on the other, blowing in their hands, and flinging
their arms transversely across their breasts to counteract the cold.

The crowd cried its impatience. The stranger craned forward again.

"Back up!" called Hubert. "Keep back down there, you fellows!" and the
crowd obeyed, forming a splendid gantlet of spirited youth.

The contestants took their places side by side.

Hubert's arm rose, and seeing the pistol pointed heavenward several of
the young women in the carriages screwed their fingers into their ears.

"Ready!"

There was a dead silence. The arms of the champions shot forward and
back, rigid.

"Sett!"

Like perfect machines, they crouched at the word with one accord.

At the crack of the pistol there was a swift in-taking of breath along
the lines.

As they shot forward the double ranks of the gantlet fell together like
a house of cards and the crowd surged upon the heels of the runners.

The president had proceeded to the end of the course. Looking back he
saw them coming. He saw them straining, neck and neck, the nerves and
cords below their ears standing out round, like ropes. He saw their lips
drawn back, thin and livid over gritted teeth. He saw their bulging
eyes, eyes that in turn saw nothing; and he heard the crowd at the rear.

Closer and closer--they seemed abreast--and then--and then----

A scant fifteen feet from the string, Nibs Morey leaped and plunged
forward. Such a spurt had never before been seen on State Street. Even
the president, flinging aside his well-worn dignity, cheered on the
long, lank figure, which hurled itself that instant across the string,
and fell limp and panting into his open arms!

"Well done, my boy," he cried,--"and you, too!" This to Billy, who was
upon him a fine fraction of a second later. "You are both champions,--I
am proud of you."

And as they relaxed, weak and faint, he seized a hand of each in his own
and shook them strongly. Then he threaded his way back through the
seething crowd that had come up. Cheer upon cheer rent the
atmosphere--cheers for Nibs, and cheers for Billy, who had done his best
and failed, with greater honor to him, than if he had won without
effort.


IV

At the bottom of the course, with the long-heralded event slipping with
the moments into history, and surrounded by their cheering
fellow-collegians, the eyes of the contestants met again, nor did they
waver, nor did a challenge leap between them. They smiled; their hands
shot forth with one accord, met and clutched, and it was then that
another cheer arose unlike those that had gone before--a cheer that was
a cheer. As it ended, Jimmy Hulburt, in a moment of fine frenzy, for
him, cried:

"I'm willing to bet ten dollars at two to one that Nibsey Morey can beat
anybody runnin' that walks!"

Even that brave if paradoxical cry was cheered, and the sportive Jimmy
looked about him valiantly. He felt a hand upon his arm in another
instant and heard a voice above him. Lifting his eyes, he looked up into
the stranger's face.

"What was your bet?" the soft voice inquired. Jimmy repeated it, none
the less vigorously, at the same time pushing back to survey the uncouth
figure of the man in the long coat, with a satchel dangling from his
shoulder.

"I'll take it," the stranger said, simply.

Some one laughed, another called: "Shut up." As for Jimmy, he only
stared at the absurd person before him, who had with such aggravating
nonchalance picked up the glove that he had so bravely flung down.

"Are you a student here?" he asked.

"I entered to-day," was the reply, spoken in the same calm tones.

"Where you from?"

"Niles."

"So you want to take that bet?"

"I'm willing." He smiled most exasperatingly.

"When do you want to run?"

"Suit yourself."

"Say," Jimmy exclaimed, perhaps a shade angrily, "are you fooling? To
hear you talk anybody'd think you wanted to run now."

"That would be all right. I will run now."

The laughter became general. The stranger only pulled at his cigar more
quickly.

"Where are your togs?" Jimmy inquired scornfully.

"I've got them on." So saying he flung back his overcoat. He was
ordinarily dressed.

The laughter broke out afresh.

Jimmy hesitated just one instant.

"Wait a moment, may be we can fix up a race," he cried, and pushing
through the crowd he ran across the street to a confectionery store,
where Nibs had gone with Billy for a soda. He burst in upon them out of
breath. He told them of the wise fool over the way who needed a tuck
taken in him.

"Will you run, Nibsey? Come on," he cried.

Nibs looked at Billy.

"Do it, do it," the latter urged.

"All right," Nibs agreed, and arm in arm with his backer he issued into
the street, clutching his mackintosh about him.

The stranger had, meanwhile, walked back along the course followed by a
great throng, anxious to witness what to them promised to be a _fiasco_
of immense proportions. Only three carriages had waited. The occupants
perceiving the crowd at the lower end of the street had lingered for
developments. In one of the carriages was Nibs Morey's sister Wilma. She
called a youth to the wheel and questioned him concerning the throng
which still surged in the street. The freshman explained gaily.

"And will Nibs run that great tall thing?" the girl inquired anxiously.

"Oh, don't you worry, Miss Morey," the little freshman replied
consolingly. "He'll beat him so far he won't know he's running."

"But he's all tired out," she expostulated.

"Oh, no, he isn't. Only a little over a hundred yards."

A cry rang out just then, down the course, and Wilma, turning, caught a
glimpse of her brother, surrounded by his supporters--and all the crowd
supported him now--approaching the start.

She was moved to call him, to demand his instant withdrawal from this
silly, useless race; but her voice--this she realized--would not have
been heard above the shouting. She sank back upon the seat, her face
flushed, her forehead furrowed with little lines, her fingers locking
and unlocking.

Some one had stopped just behind the carriage. Afterward she was wont to
say she had "felt" the presence; for, looking around and down, her eyes
met those of the stranger. His were the first to drop before her
unflinching, flashing gaze. Why he had stopped just there, the centre of
a little group of the curious, he could never explain. It was only an
instant, merely for the exchange of that glance perhaps, for he moved on
again almost immediately, up the course, half running, stepping high,
gracefully.

The double lines of spectators now were not so long nor so thick as they
had been; nor did they manifest those signs of interest that had marked
the earlier event.

At the start, the tall stranger removed neither his long overcoat nor
his satchel. His cigar had gone out, but he still held it, cold, between
his teeth.

Little Thurston, who was to fire the pistol a second time, exclaimed,
amazedly: "Aren't you goin' to take off those things?"

"No, guess not," was the cool reply. "What's the use!"

Nibsey Morey, Billy Shaw and Jimmy exchanged glances; Billy smiled
outright.

"Say," Jimmy snapped somewhat angrily. "Let's get a hustle on and end
this--you willing?" He nodded toward the stranger.

"Quite."

"Then--ready!" cried the starter.

Again two figures, sadly matched, crouched at the start.

Another second and the pistol cracked.

Following the report, there was a little instant of dead silence in the
street, then there broke forth pandemonium, for half way down the
course, his coat tails flying, his satchel standing out behind, the cold
cigar gripped tight between his teeth, the stranger led Nibs Morey by a
rod. Twenty-five feet from the string, he turned, and running backward,
beckoned with a crooked forefinger to the straining Mercury that he
faced.

Not in all undergraduate history is there recorded an event which
created more excitement on the campus after its occurrence than this.

Nibs Morey had defeated Billy Shaw; and a stranger who had sprung from
the earth had defeated Nibs as no man before had ever been defeated.

They shook hands, honorably, after the event, but those who witnessed
the incident forgot it immediately in the overwhelming curiosity
regarding the newest risen champion among them.

"Who is he?" was the question on the lips of every youth and every
maid--"Who is he?"

His name was Bunette, they said. His home? A tiny town on a west
Michigan sand hill.

"What is he, then?" the voice of the campus cried. And it became known
that he had entered the department of Medicine and Surgery.

And thus was a new god raised among men at whose shrine none worshiped
with devotion more intense than Billy Shaw, and the erstwhile idol,
Nibsey Morey, and to them and their brethren for all time he was given a
name, and the name was "Bunny of '85."



THE CASE OF CATHERWOOD


I

"Stop!"

The command from the rostrum brought the class up in their seats. Every
eye was bent upon Catherwood standing at the end of a bench in the
second row.

Some one snickered.

Catherwood stared at the floor, a blush of shame mounting his cheek and
melting into his thin, bristly red hair at his freckled temples.

The assistant professor of history glared through his spectacles.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he exclaimed, "this is most unseemly! Mr.
Catherwood, you may be seated! I should advise you, ladies and
gentlemen, to devote a little more time to this course; and a little
less, perhaps, to the Junior Hop. I am sure you do not wish me to make
general the mailing of conditions next week. As you know the examination
is set for nine o'clock on the morning of February 10th. I trust you
will act upon the suggestion I have given you...."

The gong in the corridor clanged just then and the class shuffled out
of the room.

Shunning his acquaintances in the hall Catherwood disappeared. The blush
did not recede from his face until he banged the wide door shut behind
him and the cold of the crisp February morning smote him full.

He walked swiftly down Williams Street to his room, not once lifting his
eyes from the pavement, which was dirty white from the much trampled
snow.

Another flunk! The third in as many weeks! Catherwood with a muttered
imprecation reviewed the succession of class-room disasters.

"Confound history!" he growled as he strode into his room. He flung his
books upon the bed and himself into the deep Morris chair by the window.
A sparrow was hopping on the porch roof without. He rattled the window
violently and the sparrow flew away in fright.

"Go it, you imp," he snarled; and again he condemned all history and its
study to the deepest depths.

It _was_ bad. The assistant professor had been lenient, but fate seemed
to have composed that particular section of every history hater in the
junior class.

Catherwood realized this--or thought he did--as he sat staring out of
the windows into the skeleton branches of the trees, and from the
thought he obtained a modicum of consolation.

He had worked. He had worked hard--but for some unknown reason he
couldn't bite into the course, couldn't dig his teeth into the subject.
He did not fear; on the contrary he was certain--as certain as a man can
be--that his semester's work in class-room was of sufficiently high a
grade to assure him his full credit in the course. And yet, he
considered, there was the examination, five days away. In two hours he
would be required to write out in a thin "blue book" all he was supposed
to have learned in twenty weeks.

He ruminated.

How much of what he had learned had stopped in his head? He asked
himself this, seriously, then smiled. He confessed to himself that he
had worked merely from recitation to recitation with no effort to hold
the subjects in that mathematical brain of his that caused his forehead
to bulge.

And the examination only five days away!

As he reviewed the situation Catherwood's brow darkened and he scowled.
For a space he twiddled his large thumbs and glared at a horse hitched
to a grocery wagon across the street.

"I wish you'd freeze," he muttered viciously to the horse; but of
course the horse did not hear for the window was down.

Catherwood counted his flunks on his fingers. Five; five clean, perfect
flunks, altogether, he recalled. Not so bad, he considered; that is, not
so _very_ bad.

But there before him like a great monster with dripping jaws and green,
slimy body, was the examination; and it was creeping, creeping upon him
with the passage of the minutes.

He stood up and shook himself nervously.

From the window he saw the assistant professor approaching his home next
door. He carried several bulky volumes in his arms, hugged to his breast
lovingly.

Catherwood watched him sourly.

There was the man, he mused, in whose hands--now covered with
gray-striped woolen mittens--lay his fate! Pretty serious
business--one's fate lying in hands covered with gray-striped woolen
mittens.

The courses in mathematics Catherwood did not fear; nor those in shop
work; not the one in elocution, to be sure, for that was a snap; nor yet
the two in political economy; indeed, those were rather fun. But
history! Ugh!

The assistant professor turned in at the gate of his house next door,
and as he vanished the scowl fled from Catherwood's brow and his face
lighted.

He would drop in on the assistant professor within the week and call.
Admirable! He wondered if the date might be anywhere reasonably near the
birthday of one of his children. A box of sweets might work wonders; a
china headed doll greater wonders. He marveled that the idea had never
before occurred to him. And, too, he considered, there was the
president.

The president!

Ah, _that_ would be different. There were no little tads in the
president's family. Then he quickly recalled having read in the
'_Varsity News_ of the day before that the president was in the east and
would not return until the thirteenth.

Three days after!

Futile--absolutely futile!

And Catherwood scowled again and stared out the window, idly twisting
his trunk-check watch fob.

He saw the assistant professor's wife on the walk below with the little
Mary.

It was the psychological moment and Catherwood recognized it. Snatching
his hat from the book rack he plunged down the stairs. He pulled
himself together at the door and stepped, unconcernedly, out upon the
porch.

"Good-morning, Mrs. Lowe," he called quite gaily. "Ah, and there's
little Mary--sweet child. Come here, Mary, won't you?"

He squatted in the snow at the gate and held out his hands to her. She
ran to him with a little cry of delight. The mother's face was radiant.

"Oh, good-morning, Mr. Catherwood," she called.

He smiled and nodded. On the instant he made a vague calculation of the
value of Mrs. Lowe's good-will.

He flung his arms around the child and lifted her clear of the walk to
her great delight as attested by the cries of glee that escaped her.

Mrs. Lowe stopped at the gate.

"Such a dear child," Catherwood gurgled, holding the tot close to him.

"Do you think so?" the mother murmured.

"So strong and so well," Catherwood added, weighing little Mary in his
strong hands.

"Yes, she _is_ heavy," Mrs. Lowe said.

Then the child cried in her pretty _patois_:

"Pleese frow Mary up an' catch her."

"Oh, ho," Catherwood exclaimed gaily, "so _that_ is what Mary wants, is
it? Well then, here goes."

"Careful, Mary daughter," the mother cautioned, smiling.

Catherwood never before had felt his strength as keenly as he did that
moment. It had for him, then, a definite, precise meaning; even a value;
yes, an incalculable value.

"Frow up Mary 'n' catch her like farver do," the child urged.

He tossed her into the air.

"There!" he said as she left his arms.

His hands--broad fine hands--were outspread to catch her.

Afterward, when recollection of that vivid, scarlet instant returned to
him, he was never quite able to explain to himself how it had happened.
Perhaps he did not reckon with his various courses in physics--certain
laws of falling bodies, accelerated motion, and such uninteresting
things. In any event it was as though his hands had not been there; for
before he could clutch at the little furry ball of falling femininity it
had shot between those groping hands of his and in an infinitesimal
space of time had struck the low snow-drift beside the walk, no longer a
furry ball but a sprawl of screaming child.

"Oh! Mr. Catherwood!" cried Mrs. Lowe.

There was an instant's silence and then the atmosphere was punctured by
the piercing yelps of the little Mary.

Mrs. Lowe snatched her daughter from the drift and, clutching her close,
cooed to her, consolingly.

"Did the great horrid man drop mother's darling?" she murmured.

Catherwood, stricken momentarily dumb by the accident, finally found his
voice though it was unsteady and very much in his throat.

"Mrs. Lowe," he exclaimed, despairingly, "I'm very sorry; believe me; I
guess, I must----"

She shot him one glance of injured motherhood, and without replying
turned and strode out of the yard still hugging close to her maternal
bosom the wailing Mary.

The shrieks had penetrated to the study of the assistant professor and
as she turned in at her own gate he appeared upon the porch.

"What's the matter?" he asked sharply.

"The young man next door dropped Mary on the tar walk."

Catherwood clearly distinguished below the child's still frantic yells
the grunt of the man who waited on the steps.

He was prompted to shout: "You lie; it was a drift," but a quick second
thought restrained him.

As it was he took the stairs in the darkened hallway in three bounds
and, rushing into his room, raved impotently. He kicked the legs of the
Morris chair; he kicked the legs of the table; he kicked the backs of
the books on the lowest shelf of the rack. He seized a pillow from the
divan and proceeded to punch it violently, viciously. Then he flung
himself face down upon the divan, and from the heart of the cushions
came the muffled words:

"I wish the confounded kid had never been born!"

After some minutes he rolled over and for a space stared blankly at the
ceiling. Then he rose, took a book from the rack and flinging himself
into the Morris chair by the window opened it upon his knee.

It was a volume of the marvelous and enthralling adventures of the
redoubtable Sherlock Holmes.


II

There are two kinds of hazing, as practiced by undergraduates at Ann
Arbor; the plain and the ornamental.

The first may be a mere practical joke, as the "stacking" of a room, the
kidnapping of a freshman toastmaster, or the "losing" of a fraternity
initiate in the broad fields that lie between the town and the North
Pole.

But ornamental hazing is quite a different thing. It is the sort most
indulged in by practical hazers, professionals, as it were; by juniors;
even by seniors; and as such is found to have many and varied forms.
Moreover it differs from the plain brand in that a genuine injury is, by
its application, wrought upon the hazee. Thus, a man may be lost in a
swamp and made to find his own way home by the tenets of the plain
hazing code; whereas, if, in the swamp, he is "injured," that is to say
if he is painted with iodine, if a broad pink parting is shaved across
his scalp, or if his hair is cut off in scrubby patches, he may quite
properly consider himself to have been allowed a taste of the ornamental
sort.

It may be seen from these distinctions therefore, that plain hazing is
really harmless; no one is hurt, unless, as not infrequently occurs, and
justly, the hazers, themselves; and as a consequence of this the
University authorities seldom concern themselves in these really feeble
attempts to smirch the honor and destroy the valor of the freshman
class, which in most instances is sufficiently lusty an infant to take
excellent care of itself.

For instance, no excitement is created by the appearance on the campus,
or even in the corridors of the recitation buildings, of a lanky youth
in exceedingly snug knee breeches who drags about behind him by a long
string a gaudy little horse on squeaking wheels. Indeed, men whose
height reaches a flat six feet have not infrequently ridden to classes
on very small tricycles to the ecstatic delight of certain upper
classmen and to the pitying sneers of their instructors.

As has been observed, the authorities of the University are not wont to
interest themselves in such manifestations of under-class idiocy.

But a hazing of the second sort!

That, truly, is a different matter.

There was the case of Cleaver, for instance, whose disappearance from
Ann Arbor on a wet night in March six years ago was telegraphed to every
paper of consequence in the country and which furnished a delectable
topic of conversation at faculty dinners for the entire two months of
his absence.

Hazed?

Of course he was hazed.

He was _persona non grata_ to the sophomore class as represented by the
fraternity contingent and that contingent had simply done away with him
temporarily. When he _did_ return it was a wan and haggard figure that
he presented. The belief gained currency that his people had known his
whereabouts, but no one ever knew to a certainty. As for Cleaver
himself, he would not--or perhaps could not--tell what had been done to
him or who had planned and carried out the adventure of his
disappearance. The faculty was nonplussed. No one else had been missed.
Who, then, could have accompanied Cleaver to his dungeon, if dungeon had
been his residence for two months? No one, to this day, has solved the
mystery. As for Cleaver, he was given his credits and permitted to
graduate in due time. And to-day whenever he speaks of a certain
individual--now a lawyer in Syracuse--who was a sophomore during his own
freshman days, it is with a twinkle in his eyes. But he still keeps a
sacred silence.

Ann Arbor was shaken to its foundations by the incident. Shaken, too,
has it been by circus riots; but it is doubted if ever within the period
of the University's establishment has it been so tremendously excited,
for a little period, as it became over the case of Catherwood.

In the first place Catherwood had incurred the enmity of no one. A
student of fair attainments and average record who, during his three
years in the University, had taken but small part in undergraduate
activities, he found himself, of a sudden, standing in the blinding
lime-light of an official investigation. And an official investigation
at the University of Michigan is not to be considered lightly. All over
this broad land are men who have the questionable privilege of looking
back upon a time when they were the unwilling subjects of such
investigations.

Catherwood's case, to be sure, was different in that he was the sufferer
from others' depredations, but the odium of participation rested upon
him nevertheless, and so delicate and shrinking was his nature that he
was known to suffer miserably from the publicity of his position.

For three days he was conscious that every man's eye was upon him; that
every finger pointed at him, that every tongue discussed him. An attempt
was made to heroize him, but he withdrew to the seclusion of his room
and would see no one. His, indeed, was a case to defy, in its solution,
the most subtle reasoner, the most invincible logician on the faculty.

In detail it was as follows:

Mrs. Turner, Catherwood's landlady, a most estimable woman who had moved
into town from a not-distant farm for the purpose of "putting Willie
through school," was away from the house all the evening of February
ninth. A "social" at the Congregational Church--socials were her chief,
indeed, her only, diversion--on the arrangement committee of which she
was most active, delayed her return until nearly midnight. Willie
accompanied her to the church and at nine o'clock was put to bed in a
pew up-stairs. Therefore Mrs. Turner could not know what had transpired
in one of her second-floor rooms between the hours of seven-thirty and
twelve on that momentous night. Moreover, as Mrs. Turner varied the
monotony of house work with "plain sewing by the day" and was, all the
morning of the tenth, at the Alpha Phi house "fitting" Miss Houston, she
did not set about to "do the room work" until eleven-thirty.

At that hour, tired beyond measure,--Miss Houston had been so finicky
about the hang of the skirt--she suddenly realized that if she did not
make haste Mr. Catherwood would return from college to find his room in
the condition of untidiness that he, presumably, had left it on going
out.

So she dragged her leaden limbs up the stairs and from force of habit
knocked on the door of the second room, back. There was no reply. She
had expected none. She pushed open the door.

The scene of chaos that met her gaze defies description. The room had
been completely and most effectively "stacked." Strewn about the floor
were papers. The inverted waste-basket was cocked rakishly upon an arm
of the chandelier. Books from the rack were lying everywhere. The rack
lay flat on the floor. The face of every hanging picture was turned to
the wall, and the Morris chair, which had been carefully taken apart,
was piled upon the writing table. Mrs. Turner at a single sweep of her
eye noted these details and also certain splotches that were
unmistakably ink spots on the walls and on the carpet.

The divan had reared itself and now stood upon one end. Three chairs
were piled upon the bed.

These Mrs. Turner noted last.

She understood the meaning of the chaos. Someone, during his absence,
had entered Mr. Catherwood's room and "stacked" it. And as she
calculated the time necessary to complete a restoration of its usual
neat appearance, the poor woman sighed deeply.

Suddenly she started.

Was it an echo of her sigh she heard? Surely she had heard a human
sound. She peered, stooping.

"Mr. Catherwood!" she called; her face pale.

A distinct, graveyard moan was the answer.

The blood fled from Mrs. Turner's lips and her eyes bulged. She
cautiously approached the bed, whence, seemingly, had come the moan. She
peered between the legs of the chairs. Then, with a cry that rang
through the house, she fled from the room, down the stairs and into the
freezing out-of-doors.

As she ran down the walk, slipping, stumbling, the bells in the library
tower rang out twice, musically clear on the frosty air--fifteen minutes
past twelve. And approaching, she saw her neighbor, the assistant
professor of history, returning from the examination.

Mrs. Turner flung herself heavily upon him. His spectacles slipped from
his nose. The armful of thin "blue books" he was carrying littered the
walk. He parried awkwardly with hands that were encased in gray-striped
woolen mittens.

"Madame! Madame!" he cried, "what the--what is the matter--are you
crazy?"

Mrs. Turner gasped--gasped like a pickerel dying on the grass. It was
quite half a minute before she found her voice and when she spoke it was
with many vocal quavers.

"Oh, Professor Lowe! Professor Lowe!" she wailed, "Mr. Catherwood--Mr.
Catherwood----"

"Well, well; what of him, madame, what of him?"

The assistant professor spoke sharply.

"_He's been murdered!_"

"WHAT!"

She seized him by the arm.

"Come--come, quick," she cried. "He's on the bed: his face is all
blood."

"Yes, yes," he replied, stooping and hastily gathering up the "blue
books"--"I'll fling these in the hall; you run on ahead--I'll be right
there."

From the doorway he called to his wife,

"Young man murdered next door, Jenny," and from the porch at the end
nearest Mrs. Turner's house he leaped into a snow-drift. He floundered
out and into the house as his wife appeared upon the porch wringing her
hands and moaning.

He bounded up the stairs in the wake of Mrs. Turner and brushed past her
into the room of horror.

He brought up stock still and looked about.

"There's the corpse! There; over there on the bed!" the woman wailed,
frantically.

He pulled away the piled chairs, and seizing the body rolled it upon its
back. Over Catherwood's eyes was bound a strip of cloth and a gag made
of a stocking was tied across his mouth. The assistant professor
unknotted the gag with trembling fingers and tore away the blindfold and
Catherwood blinked up at him owlishly.

"Are you dead?" the assistant professor asked with bated breath.

Catherwood's mouth worked convulsively and then he muttered hoarsely:
"Water! water!"

Mrs. Turner hurried to the bathroom and returned with a cup, which the
assistant professor took from her and held to the young man's lips. He
gulped eagerly.

"Look at his face!" cried Mrs. Turner.

It was streaked and spotted with a brown stain.

"Is it blood?" The woman shivered.

The assistant professor sniffed.

"Iodine," he exclaimed. "And see," he added, stooping, "here's the
bottle." He held up the phial that had caught his eye where it lay on
the floor at the foot of the bed.

"Untie my hands," Catherwood gurgled--"Here, behind me!"

They were tied securely by two handkerchiefs knotted together. The
assistant professor fumbled at the loops. He disengaged the swollen
wrists and Catherwood sat up in bed. He loosened the bindings of his
ankles himself and stood up.

"Whew!" he whistled.

He caught sight of his brown-streaked and spotted face in the dresser
mirror.

"Cæsar!" he exclaimed, "that was a fine job!"

Satisfied that a rescue had been accomplished in good time, the
assistant professor said:

"Sit down, Mr. Catherwood, and explain, if possible, the meaning of
this--this hazing. I observed you were not present at the examination
to-day."

Mrs. Turner, who till now had stood by wringing her hands, commenced,
with mechanical precision, to wrest order out of chaos in the room.

From time to time during Catherwood's recital she stopped in her work
long enough to voice an ejaculatory "oh," or exclaim--"Well,
_I_ declare."

"It is clearly a case of hazing--hazing of the most malicious sort,"
observed the assistant professor, "and as such merits the fullest
investigation on the part of the faculty, which I have no doubt the
faculty will undertake. Do you know your assailants, Mr. Catherwood?"

"Yes--and no," the young man replied, rubbing a red and swollen wrist.

"Why do you say that?" the assistant professor inquired, significantly.

"I thought I did from the writing of the note I received yesterday
afternoon----"

"Ah--you received a note then?"

"Yes--wait." Catherwood dove a hand into the inside pocket of his coat.
"Here it is," he said, and held out to his questioner a crumpled bit of
paper written in a hand obviously disguised.

The assistant professor examined the writing closely.

"This, Mr. Catherwood," he opined finally, "is, as you see, 'back-hand.'
Moreover, it is quite clear to me that it was penned by some one who
used his left hand, although he is, naturally, what we call 'right
handed.'"

The professor remembered his "The Count of Monte Cristo."

"Ah----"

At Catherwood's exclamation he looked up quickly.

"That's why I could not identify it," the young man added.

"But, Mr. Catherwood," the assistant professor continued, "isn't it
rather odd that you did not see--did not recognize the two men who
assailed you; for of course there were two--the note reads----"

He looked down at the crumpled sheet again--"'We shall call at your room
this evening.' Isn't it rather strange?" He awaited Catherwood's reply,
calmly.

"I think there was but one!"

The assistant professor started.

"_One!_" he exclaimed. "Why it is more mysterious than ever--and you
didn't see him, Mr. Catherwood?"

"No, sir, I did not."

"You did not?"

"No, sir...."

"Well, _I_ declare," ejaculated Mrs. Turner.

Mr. Lowe smoothed over the note and folded it. "I shall take this," he
said--"that is, if you do not mind."

"No--no--of course not----"

"And, Mr. Catherwood," he added, "I am to assume, am I, that you can
throw no light on this--on this most mysterious matter...?"

At that instant a knock fell on the door.

"Come in," Catherwood called.

The door was pushed back and a young man with a note-book in his hand
stood on the threshold.

"I'm Green," he explained. "I'm on the _'Varsity News_. You're
Catherwood, aren't you? Yes; well, we got wind of the case. Fellow heard
your landlady yell and telephoned us. What does it amount to----?"

The assistant professor, squaring his shoulders, assumed the privilege
of answering the breezy youth.

"Perhaps," he said, "it might be as well not to go into details just
now. Mr. Catherwood was assaulted in his room last night and was found
gagged and tied in his bed not an hour ago. It is a case for official
investigation. Mr. Catherwood was made, much against his will,
naturally, to miss an important examination this morning--I may say a
very important examination. There is a meeting of the faculty to be held
to-night when I shall present the facts of this most shocking affair as
I have gathered them and I am confident that an official investigation
will follow. You may say as much...."

The reporter had been busy with his note-book.

Now looking up at Catherwood, he asked: "What's the matter with his
face?"

"I believe it is iodine," the assistant professor replied, frigidly.

Little Green grinned.

"You're a sure beaut," he exclaimed.

"I think that will be all," observed the assistant professor drily.

"Oh yes, yes--that's all--thank you very much; good-morning." And the
journalist vanished.

The eyes of Catherwood and the assistant professor met.

"I think I should wash my face, if I were you," suggested Mr. Lowe.
"You may be able to remove some of the stain."

Catherwood went to the stand in the corner of the room. For a space he
sputtered the water in the bowl. "Any better?" he asked, at length.

Mr. Lowe shook his head sadly.

"No--it won't come off. You had best see a doctor."

He rose.

"Now, Mr. Catherwood," he said, "as I have said, this is a case for the
most thorough investigation. You need not give yourself any uneasiness.
The University authorities will, you may be sure, sift matters to the
bottom. You have been maltreated; abused, tortured, and, I may say,
disfigured."

Catherwood, with a sigh, sank into the Morris chair by the window.

"I shall take the matter up this evening at faculty meeting. Mark my
word, we shall discover your assailant or assailants at once; for
despite your belief to the contrary, it is my opinion that two men, if,
indeed, not more, had a hand in your undoing. We shall see. I shall talk
of the case to several this afternoon and I suppose you would have no
hesitancy in appearing at the meeting to-night, if your presence there
should be deemed desirable."

"No," Catherwood replied, weakly, "not if they want me." The hand he
passed across his brow trembled.

"I observe you are nervous," the assistant professor said. "Get a little
rest this afternoon." He shook his head slowly. "It is very
unfortunate," he added, "that the president is away; however, I am
confident we shall have the case cleared up before his return. You, of
course, Mr. Catherwood, have no reason not to assist us in every way
possible?"

"None at all." The young man leaned back and closed his eyes, and sighed
deeply.

"However, I must say, you have not seemed to me as interested as----"

Catherwood sat upright.

"I'm half sick," he cried, "half sick. It's so strange. I know no one
who would have a reason for hazing me; I can't understand it; it's like
a bad dream."

He rose and paced back and forth the length of the room.

"Ah, yes, to be sure," the assistant professor murmured, consolingly.
"Now, I shall go. You will hear from me later--perhaps very soon."

Catherwood stood motionless in the middle of the floor until he heard
the outer door close, then he descended the stairs slowly, and
encountering Mrs. Turner in the kitchen begged the privilege of taking
dinner at her table.

"This face," he explained. "I can't go to 'Pret's' with this face."

And she, gentle motherly soul, bade him be seated, and fed him well, and
consoled him; while Willie, fascinated by the streaked and horrid face
of the self-bidden guest, allowed his rice-pudding to grow cold while he
gazed at him.


III

Little Green, the pink-cheeked reporter of the _'Varsity News_, was not
that at all, and on this occasion he gave his name the lie direct.

Little Green possessed a nasal organ keenly atuned to news. As he
hastened back down town after his summary dismissal from Catherwood's
room, he calculated accurately the latent story value in the assistant
professor's indefinite account of his pupil's case.

He glanced at his watch, snapped the case, thrust it back into his
pocket--and ran.

He estimated the time with reference to the publication hour of the
Detroit afternoon papers.

He saw before him, as plainly as he saw the snow banks, one hour and
thirty minutes. The period was material, tangible. Little Green, as he
turned into Main Street and sped on toward Huron Street, not only saw
it, but felt it; almost _tasted_ it.

"Here, you!" he cried, bursting in upon the indolent operator in the
little, box-like telegraph office.

He seized a block of blue-white paper that lay on the counter.

"What's up?" asked the operator dreamily.

By way of answer little Green thrust a sheet of the blue-white paper at
him.

"Get that on the wire--hurry--it's a scoop."

The operator smiled sadly and checked off the words. He glanced up at
the clock--regulated electrically from the observatory--and scribbled
the "filing time" at the bottom of the sheet.

Little Green fidgeted.

"Say, cancha hurry?" he asked anxiously.

"Plenty time," replied the operator calmly; and so there was, but little
Green was enveloped in a haze of zeal that set perspectives all awry.

Presently the little machine on the glass-topped table began to click.

Little Green, standing at the counter, counted the clicks.

_Clickety--click--click--clickety--click--clickety._

"You got 'em?" he asked eagerly.

"Yep." Calmly.

Little Green emitted a sigh of relief and proceeded, carefully but
hastily, to fill sheet after sheet torn from the block of blue-white
paper. He scratched out, wrote in, amplified, condensed. He wrote in
many tiny paragraphs; for little Green was wise beyond his years.

And while he wrote, oblivious of the _clickety--click--click_ of the
little machine on the table, of the droning tick of the electrically
regulated clock, of the rasp of his pencil on the paper, the indolent
operator looked up.

"Rush three hundred," he called with a yawn.

Little Green grinned. Another page and he brought his "story" to a
snappy end with a tiny, quick little sentence.

He knew the run of his own "copy."

He was conscious that he had exceeded the order by sixty words,
approximately, and he hesitated an instant. Then thrusting the numbered
sheets at the operator, he exclaimed: "Here, take it; I'll wait for
another order."

In half an hour it came. It was for a photograph of Catherwood.

How little Green procured that photograph even after Catherwood's threat
that he'd kill him if he used it, is a story in itself--a story for
another time. But in less than an hour after the receipt of the
telegraphic request it was in the post-office bearing on its plain
wrapper a special delivery stamp.

It has been suggested that little Green was wise beyond his years. He
was just wise enough not to tell _all_ his story to an afternoon paper
at so late an hour.

So, with a confidence born of a short but crowded experience, he sent
out by wire eight queries to as many morning papers in the middle- and
the further-west.

Meanwhile that occurred which little Green had been far-sighted enough
to expect would occur.

The tall, angular, boy-faced agent of the Associated Press in Detroit
wandered into the office of the _Journal_ shortly after one o'clock.

Passing the city desk he tickled the man sitting there, on his round,
shiny, bald spot, and as he looked up with a scowl, asked blandly:

"Anything doing?"

The city editor growled and resumed reading the typewritten page that
lay before him.

The agent wandered into the office of the state editor, where a man with
long hair sat, fidgeting in a swivel chair and mumbling to himself under
his breath.

"Anything?" asked the agent, tersely, at the same time reaching for the
proofs that dangled from a hook at the side of the desk.

The state editor looked up, scowling. He disliked being annoyed when
talking to himself.

"Pretty good one from Ann Arbor," he snapped. "Find it there."

The agent ran hastily through the proofs and retained one. The others he
hung back on the hook.

"Much obliged," he said, and strolled out of the office.

At six o'clock that night the story was "on the A. P. wire," and being
ticked off in every newspaper telegraph room from Portland to Portland,
for the night manager at Chicago had called it "bully good stuff."

And when it came clicking into those offices to which little Green had
wired shortly after noon, the desk men in charge recognized the
incompleteness of the "A. P. story," and forthwith telegraphed their
unknown correspondent for more. Regular correspondents were totally
disregarded. Little Green was supreme; and no one realized that
supremacy more keenly than little Green himself. He was the king of the
night with his story; and sheet after sheet he filled with his jagged,
irregular chirography, and the dreamy operator kept up with him.

But there came an end to his work at last, as there comes an end to all
things; and when the end came in this particular case, little Green
whistled, slipped his pencil into his pocket and sauntered out of the
telegraph box jauntily. He did not recall until he reached the office of
the _'Varsity News_ that he had not eaten since morning. He glanced at
his watch. He would write the "story" for his own paper now--and
then--Supper.

All of which may explain to the reader of this veracious tale why it was
that the president of the University, as he glanced over his _Providence
Journal_ in Providence the next morning, suddenly started in his chair,
and calling for a telegraph blank sent this message to the dean of the
Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts:

"Take no action in Catherwood case. Sift it. Leave for Ann Arbor at
once."

And likewise it may account for the sudden exclamation of the dean
himself, as at breakfast, earlier that same morning in Ann Arbor, his
eye chanced to fall upon a column-and-one-half story with a two column
display head, that blazed forth to all the world many details unknown to
him in the case of Frederick Edward Catherwood.

He had attended the faculty meeting the night before, when the case was
threshed out to the finest grain, and he had heard no such explanation
of the affair as stared at him now in cold black type from the front
page of his morning paper.

A _secret_ secret society in the University, the function of which was
to haze every one big or little who for one reason or another, might
fall under its bann! He had never heard of any such organization. And
yet--and yet----

Oh, little Green! Oh, little Green! Little did you dream to what ill end
your rare invention, your insane imaginings, would result!

For, after partaking that night of a luncheon and dinner rolled into one
big steak in "Tuts," little Green sought his room where he slept the
sleep of vigorous youth till a beam of the winter sun, shining through
his alcove window, fell athwart his eyes and wakened him.

As for Catherwood, he had not been commanded to appear before the
faculty. Indeed, of what transpired at that momentous meeting he never
knew; that is to say, definitely, but every one learned, in a general
way, something of the wordy resolutions that were passed and the learned
opinions that were there put forth, all of which tended to no purpose
save to obscure more thickly, rather than illumine more brilliantly, the
strange affair.

The dean presided--a large man with reddish hair and pleasant eyes and
a jerky, nervous manner.

Inasmuch as it was assistant professor Lowe who had found Catherwood,
gagged and tied, that _savant_ was asked to give his opinion, first.

With much natural evasion of the subject, and a cloud of "ahs" and
"aws," he explained as lucidly as his slow moving mind would permit how
he had rushed into the room to discover his pupil stowed away upon the
bed behind a barricade of chairs.

"And, professor," inquired the dean, "you can throw no light upon the
case; you have learned nothing--that is to say--oh--ah--nothing that
might serve as a clue to the apprehension of the offenders?"

The room became as still as the royal ante-chamber whilst the king dies
beyond the arras.

The assistant professor fumbled in his pockets and finally drew out the
crumpled note that Catherwood had given him, which he offered the dean,
meekly, as becomes a serf in the presence of his master.

The dean pursed his lips and looked down at the sheet.

"Oh--ah," he muttered. And then added, passing it back to the assistant
professor, "I--oh--ah--make nothing out of this--nothing at all. It is
very simple. It shows that Mr.--oh--ah--Catherwood was assaulted by
two--two--persons. But, _that_, gentlemen, we already know. What we now
wish to learn is: _Who were they?_"

The assistant professor shook his head, wearily.

"Yes, yes," he muttered.

At this point an aged man at the rear of the room rose, and clearing his
throat asked in a dry, metallic cackle: "Am I to understand that the
young gentleman is a member of a fraternity?"

It was quite apparent that no one appreciated clearly the significance
of the old gentleman's question.

The dean stared inquiringly over his glasses at the assistant professor
of history.

"He is not----"

"He is not," echoed the dean.

"Oh," cackled the old gentleman and sat down. His prejudice against
fraternities was well known. Several of the younger men present, who
wore their pins on occasion, glanced at one another and smiled.

"It would--oh--ah--seem to me," began the dean, when he was interrupted
by that dry, metallic cackle a second time.

"Does he contemplate joining a fraternity?"

"No," Lowe shouted.

"Oh"--and the old gentleman sat down again.

In the second row there rose a round, boy-faced man with a pompadour,
who, after clearing his throat, began:

"It would seem to me, gentlemen, that we are on the wrong track; what?
It would seem to me that there is a way--a sure way--of apprehending the
villains who seem to have worsted our young friend, Mr. Catherwood;
what?"

Every man in the room leaned forward, and again the hush became awesome.

"And it is?" observed the dean, very soberly.

"_That we compare the handwriting of that note with all the students'
signatures in our possession; what?_"

There ensued a general exchange of puzzled looks and then the dean
exclaimed:

"A very good idea, my dear professor--oh--ah--a most ingenious idea;
but--oh--ah--would _you_ be willing to undertake to make the suggested
comparisons?"

"Well I thought the clerks in the registrar's office might----"

"Very good--_very_ good!" said the dean--"I believe there are about
thirty-five hundred such signatures--oh--ah--quite a week's work for the
entire office force--quite----"

Several of his colleagues openly congratulated the boy-faced genius who
seemed to them to be the only man with a plan worthy of adoption.

Amid the general exchange of felicitations before which the genius
blushed and stammered his confusion, assistant professor Lowe rose and
caught the eye of the dean.

"Order--oh--ah--order, gentlemen!" the latter called. "Professor Lowe
seems to have a word----"

"It's just a word," was the reply, "but, gentlemen, the plan suggested
can be of no avail and for a very simple reason----" He looked down at
the boy-faced junior professor in astronomy who had formulated the plan
referred to and who looked up at him, weakly, sufferingly.

"And what is the reason?" inquired the dean severely, loth to have a
theory declared impracticable which he had seemed to favor.

"It is that this note was written--ingeniously I am willing to admit--by
a right handed person, who, to disguise his writing, wrote with his left
hand in what we call the 'back-hand' style. All writings, under such
circumstances, are alike. My authority, gentlemen, is Dumas; of whom
some of you may have heard." And with this cuttingly sarcastic speech
the assistant professor of history sat down.

There was an instant's silence, broken by the old gentleman at the back
of the room who had fallen asleep some minutes before. Awakening, just
as assistant professor Lowe delivered his retort, he had heard but a
word, and that word was pleasant to his aged ear.

"What's that?" he called.

No one assumed the task of explaining to him and he dozed off again.

As it was, for three hours, upward of seventy-five full-blooded,
able-bodied men wrangled over an affair that little Green had assumed
the responsibility of making clear to the wider world outside. Theories,
opinions, solutions, were flung at the dean until he felt his head swim,
and saw double.

In the entire assemblage there was but one who had taken no active part
in the discussion, but, rather, had appeared to look on merely, an
interested, if at times annoyed, spectator--the professor of French.

He was observed occasionally to yawn.

During a lull he got upon his feet and straightway, without clearing his
throat--said:

"Gentlemen, it seems to me we are as far from a solution of this affair
as we were when we assembled. For one I am getting tired and am going
home,"--he was quite independent for there was a standing "call" for
him from an eastern institution.--"Now I have a suggestion to make. It
is this: Suppose we all go home, and await the return of the president.
Meanwhile let us keep our eyes and ears open, and our mouths shut;
perhaps we may see and hear things that will indicate the proper course
for us to take. In any event, it would seem wisest for us to await the
return of the president. Good-night, gentlemen."

And buttoning his overcoat about him, the professor of French left the
room.

It was not until then that the futility of their discussion dawned upon
his colleagues. Some one moved that the meeting adjourn. The motion was
carried. The old gentleman voted the single nay.

The dean walked home with assistant professor Lowe. Their conversation
was wholly upon the case in hand. And when the dean left the younger man
at the latter's door, he said: "I--oh--ah--I confess to being more
puzzled than ever. A very mysterious affair--oh--ah--a _most_ mysterious
affair."

And so it was that the puzzlement of the worthy dean deepened next
morning as he read little Green's sprightly, suggestive story.

But the frown vanished from his brow and the wonder from his eyes, when,
as he left the house, a messenger handed him the president's telegram.
And he hastened to the campus to make known to his colleagues the glad
tidings that had come to him in the depths of his perplexity.


IV

The various and varying newspaper accounts of the affair awoke Ann Arbor
from its peaceful slumber and for a space the town lived. For two days
interest developed with the passage of the hours. Speculation became
general. Opinions were as many as those who offered them; until there
was not a man or woman from the Cat Hole to Ashley Street who did not
advance a theory, new or old.

A like puzzlement, but one tempered by more original conjecture,
characterized the attitude of the undergraduate body as a whole. For two
days Catherwood had not appeared upon the campus, but at all hours
friends and mere nodding acquaintances called at his rooms only to be
refused admittance by Mrs. Turner, whom he had bade inform all callers
that he was ill, very ill, quite too ill to be seen.

Little Green was one of these callers. He had expected the refusal of
admission which Mrs. Turner, with many apologies, gave him and
straightway he telegraphed his papers that Catherwood was dying as the
result of the great bodily injuries he had received at the hands of his
unknown undergraduate assailants. For little Green knew by instinct what
many a reporter requires long years to learn--that a "story" is "good"
just as long as there is a drop of "life" blood left in it, and not an
instant longer.

Little Green fairly reveled in the commotion he had caused. The regular
college correspondents, anæmic, frightened little fellows, were at a
loss to know who had beaten them in their own papers. It was little
Green's game, absolutely his, and he purposed playing it alone, aided
and abetted in the achievement of this purpose by the various telegraph
editors whom he sought to serve. And so far as the faculty was
concerned, the frequenter the dispatches, the more woefully addled did
the professorial brain become.

Out in the state, and in adjoining states, wise editors, looking down,
as it were, from some high place, wrote venomous and vicious editorials
in which the legislature was called upon to pass laws abolishing hazing
in institutions of the commonwealth by making the practice of it a
felony, punishable by imprisonment. Parents in the further west with
sons and daughters at Ann Arbor feared for their children's lives.
School boards passed resolutions. Guardians wrote to the heads of
various university departments asking if their wards were quite safe,
alone and unprotected in Ann Arbor. A New York newspaper, on the second
day, dispatched its most ingenious "woman reporter" to the scene of
action and in three hours the sprightly creature had woven a fictional
fabric beside which the tale of Ali Baba was the glowing, gleaming
truth. She revived all the half-forgotten stories of ancient hazing
rites, dead these many years, and wrote of them as of contemporary
practice. And the imaginative artist in the home office illustrated her
vivacious article elaborately, seeking to convey to the eye horrors of
undergraduate torture that words were useless to describe.

Skeletonized, the story was wired across the sea and the ponderous
_Times_ gave forth an editorial in which it averred that such refined
cruelty had never been heard of in English academic life; not even in
the palmiest days of Rugby and of Eton at the height of the fagging
system.

Amidst the wild excitement, little pink-cheeked Green grinned at his
reflection in his mirror and exclaimed:

"Gad! You've got 'em goin', Greeny; you've got 'em goin'. Greeny,
_you're it_!"

And he was; for three swift, brilliant days.

For then the president came.

He came unannounced save by the telegram the dean received at breakfast
on the second day.

He was driven direct to his home; and ten minutes after entering the
front door he issued from the back and hastened across the campus.

The registrar met him in the main corridor.

"What is this I have been reading?" he asked sharply. "This that the
papers are full of? What is it?"

The registrar followed him into his private office where, as the
president unlocked his desk, he explained accurately, tersely, the
frenzy that had seized the University, and the town; the state, the
nation, and the world.

As he spoke he was interrupted again and again by the characteristic
"ah" of the president, who as he listened, toyed with a steel envelope
opener.

"And those are the facts in the case as you--that is to say the
faculty--know them; are they?" he asked, when the other had done.

The registrar nodded.

"Ah, yes," murmured the president--"now let me see if I have them
correct and in their order;" and he recited the story as he had heard it
from the other's lips, accurately, succinctly, with no point missing.

"Those are the facts, doctor," the registrar corroborated.

"Ah yes,--quite simple--yes."

The registrar was about to move away.

"Ah, just a moment," the president called. "You know Mr. Catherwood's
address----"

"One hundred and three, Williams Street----"

"Ah, yes." And he hastily wrote a note which he folded and addressed.

"Have this delivered to Mr. Catherwood at once at his rooms."

The registrar nodded.

"And if he should call here at the office, have him wait, please--have
him wait. I wish a word with professor Lowe."

He vanished into the corridor.

He was absent ten minutes and as he passed through the waiting-room to
the inner private office he glanced into the office of the registrar.

He closed the door noiselessly and seating himself at his desk,
proceeded with slow deliberation to open his accumulated mail.

       *       *       *       *       *

The bells in the library tower clanged twelve o'clock. As the last
detonation sounded through the high corridors of the main building a
timid knock fell upon the door.

The president glanced up quickly. He drew from an inner pocket of his
coat two envelopes, which he laid on the top of the desk.

Then:--

"Come in!" he called.

The door opened and Catherwood, streaked of face and hollow eyed, stood
upon the threshold.

The president rose.

"Ah, Mr. Catherwood," he exclaimed, smiling.

He advanced upon his caller with outstretched hand.

Catherwood was not conscious of the warm clasp; he only knew one
thing--that he had been summoned and that now he was in the presence of
the genius of the institution of which he himself was a little part.

"You--you sent for me, sir," he managed to say.

"Yes--ah--you got my note of course. Sit down."

The president seated himself at his desk and wheeled that he might face
the odd creature near the door.

"Well, well, Mr. Catherwood," he exclaimed, after a moment, "they appear
to have been treating you rather badly, eh?"

Catherwood pleaded with his eyes alone.

"Well, well; what does it all mean, Mr. Catherwood?" he went on,
kindly. "You've no enemies here, have you----"

The young man brightened perceptibly--"Not one, sir; that is to say, not
one that I know of," he added, less brightly.

"Ah, so I'm told. How do you account for this attack upon you, then?"

Catherwood's eyes dropped to the carpet. The president watched him
covertly, fumbling the seal that dangled from his watch-chain.

"I can't," Catherwood replied at last, looking up.

"No, of course you can't. I hardly expected you could," the president
exclaimed. "But, Mr. Catherwood"--he spoke slowly--"have you no _idea_
who it was committed this most dastardly assault upon you?"

There was an instant's silence during which Catherwood followed the
scroll design of the carpet up one row and down another.

"Yes, sir--_I have._"

"Who?" The president leaned forward.

"I don't feel justified in saying, sir."

Catherwood did not look up as he spoke.

The president leaned back and passed his hand across his forehead.

"Ah, yes; I think I understand, Mr. Catherwood--you--you--perhaps fear
the blame may be placed where it should not--a fine sense of justice;
Mr. Catherwood--a very fine sense of justice--I congratulate you upon
it, sir."

Catherwood glanced up now, moved to a sort of secret impatience by what
he assumed to be a note of sarcasm in the president's voice.

But the face his eyes encountered was most kindly.

His eyes fell again.

The president took up the envelope opener and placed the steel point to
his lips.

"Mr. Catherwood," he began, and hesitated.

"Yes, sir."

"Of course you know," he went on, "that since my return the facts in
your case have been placed before me by certain members of the faculty
who are familiar with them."

"Yes, sir," Catherwood murmured.

"Now, Mr. Catherwood, while they have told me many things of interest,
there is one little detail that seems to me to have a very important
bearing upon the case, but which, for some unaccountable reason, they
all seem to have missed. Perhaps you can throw some light upon this dark
place." The president indulged here in a round, full laugh.

Encouraged by the infinite kindness of this voice, Catherwood lifted his
eyes.

"Yes, sir; if I can--what is it?"

"Ah, yes." The president cleared his throat. "Mr. Catherwood," he
resumed calmly, twirling the envelope opener between his fingers, "what
I wish so very much to know is _how you managed to tie your hands behind
you_!"

"Why I----" Catherwood began, and stopped. He tried to wrench his eyes
from those of the president,--calm, blue--but could not. The room
whirled. The design in the carpet became the design of the walls and of
the ceiling; and there were no windows in the room, or doors--and all
was black--black--black, save for two points of light; for there were
those calm blue eyes, shining back at his.

And then as though it spoke from some great height he heard the mellow
voice in his ears again.

"Go on, Mr. Catherwood," the voice said.

At last he managed to wrench his eyes away and stood up, and strode over
to the window and looked out upon the white world. He saw two sparrows
poise an instant on the crest of a drift.

"Well, Mr. Catherwood----" The voice again.

He turned slowly. His face was pale beneath the disfiguring streaks and
stripes of brown.

"I--I--I confess, sir--I confess."

He flung himself into the chair at the end of the desk and covering his
poor face with his two hands, sobbed aloud.

The president waited for the paroxysm to pass.

"Why did you do it, Mr. Catherwood?" he asked, quietly.

"I--I--was afraid of that history examination." The reply came faint.

Turning his face away, he stood up. He groped for his hat.

"But wait a moment, Mr. Catherwood."

Shame-faced the impostor turned, his hand upon the knob of the door.

"You have, I believe, neither credit nor condition in that course.
Professor Lowe was at a loss which to give you; and awaited my return.
Ah, sit down, Mr. Catherwood."

He obeyed, meekly. He fumbled his cap.

"Ah, Mr. Catherwood." The voice still was calm and even.

"Yes, sir," Catherwood murmured without changing his position.

"Mr. Catherwood, this is a delicate case--I may say a most delicate
case. It is unique in my experience. Indeed I believe it is _absolutely_
unique. Moreover, honesty compels me to say that it was most ingeniously
managed--_most_ ingeniously."

The president coughed and raised his hand to his lips. Catherwood
looked up an instant and then away again.

"Now, Mr. Catherwood," the president went on in the same dispassionate
tone, "let us look first at the case from your point of view. You were
zealous to pass your history course, ahem, too zealous, perhaps.
However, be that as it may. And I am right, am I not, when I infer that
your zeal, your desire in the matter, is still unabated?"

Catherwood nodded, slightly.

"Ah, I thought so. So be it. It is your zeal, then, that induces a
certain definite longing for the credit in that course? Am I right?"

"Yes, sir." Weakly.

"Ah, yes. But, Mr. Catherwood, there is that beside our zeal to which we
must listen. There is our conscience."

Catherwood shifted uneasily.

"Consult _your_ conscience, Mr. Catherwood. Shall I tell you what it
whispers? Very well. It bids you ask for a condition--a condition, Mr.
Catherwood."

"Give it me, doctor; give it me."

The suddenness, the eagerness of the request caused the president to
raise his eyebrows. The pale ghost of a smile lingered an instant about
his lips.

He held out a restraining hand.

"Just a moment, Mr. Catherwood," he said. "There is another point of
view. Mine."

Catherwood had sunk back into his previous attitude of dejection.

"I may state it briefly," the president continued. "My interest in the
proper conduct of this University, Mr. Catherwood, bids me give you a
condition in the course to which we--ah--have referred. But--and I say
this frankly--my interest in you, my boy, bids me hesitate. You are
young. Your whole life is before you. A misstep now might mean the ruin
of that life."

Catherwood caught his breath with a little spasm of the throat.

"Far be it from me to be the cause of such a misstep." The president
spoke less rapidly now. "Too, you have brains. This--ah--your recent
exploit is proof of that. Such ingenuity properly directed might work
great good for not only you, but--ah--the country at large. Mr.
Catherwood,"--every word was voiced with a cutting precision--"my
genuine interest in you prompts me to give you your credit in this
course; but----"

Catherwood started in his chair. The face he turned to the president was
aglow; the eyes alight.

"_But_," the speaker emphasized--"I am not permitted to do this, Mr.
Catherwood. Had you taken that examination you might--mind you I say
'might'--have passed. Again you might not. There would have been, you
see, an element of chance. Mr. Catherwood, we shall let Chance hold the
scales this morning."

The young man looked up wonderingly.

"I don't understand, sir," he said, weakly.

In his hand the president held two envelopes.

"Mr. Catherwood," he said, "you see these envelopes? Yes. Well, in one
of them--I do not know which one--is a credit-slip; in the other is a
condition. The envelopes are sealed."

He held them out to the limp creature at the end of the desk.

"Choose," he commanded.

Catherwood shrank back. "Oh, sir," he murmured, brokenly.

"Choose."

Their eyes met then; and there was that in the president's that forbade
his disobeying.

He put forth a trembling hand. His fingers touched the smooth paper. He
drew. He crushed the envelope in his hand.

"Is--is--that all, sir?" he begged, falteringly.

"That is all, Mr. Catherwood, good-morning."

And he seized his cap and rushed from the room.

The president, alone, leaned back in his chair and stared at the
ceiling. Then he looked down. He still held the second envelope.

He ran the slim blade of the ebon-handled dagger beneath the flap and
ripped it open.

He drew out the slip that it contained.

A queer little look came into his eyes. Then he pursed his lips, and
smiled.

He tore the slip into tiny flakes and let them fall from his open hand
like snow, into the waste-basket.

Just then the bells in the library tower clanged out four times.

"Dear, dear!" exclaimed the president. "Half-past one! I shall be late
for luncheon!"

And gathering up his coat and hat he left his office, hurriedly.



THE DOOR--A NOCTURNE


There is a pale moon, consequently the electric street-lamps are
unlighted. The setting is nowise picturesque. The street is narrow,
unpaved, and fringed on either side with maples in leaf. It is late
June. To right and left, are to be discerned behind the trees rows of
characterless frame houses, that, for the greater part, are set well
back in yards, where, here and there, are lilac bushes, rose trees,
smoke trees, and silver birches, ghostly in the thin light. The moon's
rays, glimmering upon the latched green blinds of the lower
stories--which seem black--streak them with white.

At the end of the block, on the east side of the street, stands a house
markedly different from the others. It is three stories in height,
whilst they are two; the lawn, cut by a gravel path, slopes gently to
the walk, and is close cropped; across the front of the house and
continuing unbroken along either side to the back is a broad, covered
porch with a spindled rail at its edge like a little fence. The only
door is at the top of the path, in front. In a window directly above
the door is a card the legend on which the moon makes clear--"Rooms to
Rent." There is no fence about the place. On the south side another
gravel path, narrower than the one in front and bordered with box, links
the sidewalk to the porch. The main path prongs to still another set of
steps on the north side. The house is white and looms big in the
paleness. In a pear-tree near the south porch-steps a katydid scrapes
her dreary tune; whilst, on the north steps, a vagrant cat sits in
silent adoration of the night, contemplating, presumably, the joys
thereof. A stillness made the more tangible by the katydid's song
pervades the scene.

The deep throated bells in the library tower on the campus ring out six
times--ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong. Accurately it lacks but fifteen
minutes of being midnight.

Suddenly the song of the katydid ceases, and the cat, seized with panic,
leaps from the north steps and vanishes beneath the grape trellis at the
back. Footfalls sound on the cement, and presently a couple slant across
the lawn to the porch, issuing from the shadow of the trees into the
white light that floods the lawn. He is seen to be a well set up youth
who looks twenty-three. It is the moon, for he is twenty. Upon his blond
head is perched a slouch hat of a dirty gray color and bound with a
wide black band. His trousers, turned up at the ankles, are baggy at the
hips and bulge beneath the belted Norfolk jacket that he wears. His hat
is pulled down rakishly in front. She is a head shorter than he, and
plump. Were it high noon her face would glow ruddy. She wears a straw
sailor-hat such as no sailor ever wore; a shirt waist, and a white duck
skirt that flares at the hem and appears somewhat crumpled. Her steps
are mincing; he slouches. Between them they carry by its two
out-springing handles a small luncheon hamper. He is a junior; his walk
gives the clue to his class. So is she; so does hers. At the porch he
sets the basket on the lowest step and turns to her:--

JAMIE. Well, we beat 'em; didn't we?

HILDA [_fumbling in her finger purse_]. Uh huh. Let's go up-stairs and
wait.

JAMIE [_doubtfully_]. Had we better? Won't your landlady think---- It's
awful late.

HILDA [_testily_]. We don't pay her three dollars a week to think;
besides, they'll surely be here in a minute. We couldn't have been more
than a mile ahead of them. They're at the livery now, probably. [_During
this speech she fumbles in her purse._] Oh, dear!

JAMIE [_endeavoring to smother a yawn_]. Wha's mat'r?

HILDA [_looking up at him and making a little moüe_]. I can't find my
key!

JAMIE [_with a quick show of interest_]. You haven't lost it, have you?

HILDA [_snappishly_]. Well, it isn't here, anyway. Oh, oh, oh, how mad
it makes me to lose things--but--I remember now; I left it on the
_chiffonier_ while we were dressing. Just to think I should have come
away and left it lying there--oh, dear! [_She gazes up at him
appealingly._]

JAMIE [_a note of resignation in his voice, perhaps, which she, however,
does not seem to perceive_]. What's the difference? We'll wait for 'em.
Minnie'll have hers, won't she? It'll be nicer waiting out here, anyway.
Look at that moon! Beaut, isn't it? [_He takes up the basket and moves
away._]

HILDA. Where are you going?

JAMIE [_perhaps significantly_]. 'Round on the side porch; this is too
near the street.

HILDA [_following him, and aside_]. I can't see why they don't come.
[_Aloud._] Can we hear them?

JAMIE. Sure! [_He sets the basket beside one of the pillars of the north
porch. They both sit on the top step, she with her elbows on her knees,
her chin in her two hands. For a space he whistles softly between his
teeth. Thereafter they converse in half-whispers._]

JAMIE. They'll be along in a minute.

HILDA. I hope so. They will unless Herbert's persuaded her to go hunting
for flowers by moonlight. I wouldn't be as crazy over botany as he is
for all the degrees the old university gives. [_She edges nearer him
and, taking his hand in one of hers, draws his arm around her waist.
Sighing._] Oh, dear!

JAMIE [_bringing his face closer to hers_]. What is it--angel?

HILDA [_with infinite--or, almost infinite, tenderness_]. Oh, nothing. I
was only thinking about the day; how happy it has been.

JAMIE [_tenderly_]. Has it been, dear?

HILDA [_her head against his shoulder_]. You know it
has--lovely--perfect!

JAMIE. What made it?

HILDA. You know what....

JAMIE No, I don't; tell me. What?

HILDA [_with tender impatience_]. Why you, of course, foolish--because
we were together, and all that....

JAMIE. Oh!

HILDA. Now, what did you say "oh" for?

JAMIE. I don't know--because I'm glad you enjoyed the day, I guess.

HILDA. Did you want me to enjoy it--very much?

JAMIE. Of course I did, dear; I want you to be happy all the time----
We are going to be happy always, aren't we?

HILDA. Are we?

JAMIE. Aren't we?

HILDA [_tenderly_]. Y-e-s---- [_Their lips are very close. The moon
rushes behind a cloud._] There! Now you've shocked the man in the moon!

JAMIE. I guess he's used to it. I wish I had a dollar for all the times
he's seen that!

HILDA. And just think! There isn't a soul he can talk to about it!

JAMIE. Maybe he tells Mars; you don't know.

HILDA. Oh, Jamie, you ought to take course one in astronomy! Mars and
the moon are miles and miles apart!

JAMIE. Are they?

HILDA [_tapping his hand_]. Yes, and you ought to know it.

JAMIE. But I don't know as much as you do, dearie.

HILDA. That's a very pretty speech, but you do, all the same. Sometimes
I think you know just a little bit more.

JAMIE. Well, I don't; besides, how could I? You're working for Ph. B.,
and I'll only get a cheap old B. L.

HILDA. That's your own fault. You could have selected Ph. B. Herbert
did.

JAMIE. But Herbert knows more than I do, too. [_He grins, away from
her._]

HILDA. Why, Jamie, he doesn't either! He doesn't know _anything_ but
botany. I'm glad you aren't an old prosy botanist.

JAMIE. Maybe I'm not a very good botanist, but I've prided myself on my
taste in flowers----

HILDA. Now what makes you say that? You don't know a cowslip from a
hollyhock!

JAMIE. Maybe not, but I fell in love with you, didn't I?

HILDA [_snuggling very close_]. Dearest! [_Again the modest man in the
moon hides his face behind a cloud._]

JAMIE [_reminiscently_]. Do you remember what happened a month ago
to-night?

HILDA [_softly_]. Of course I do.

JAMIE. What?

HILDA [_more softly_]. You proposed.

JAMIE [_stroking her hair_]. Where?

HILDA. Why, where we were to-day--at Whitmore--in Mr. Stevens'
sail-boat.

JAMIE. Yes, that's so. I thought maybe you'd forgotten....

HILDA [_drawing back_]. Jamie! Forget! Never! Why that's the greatest
thing that ever comes into a girl's life! Forget it? How could you!

JAMIE. And you're just the same?

HILDA [_her head against his shoulder again_]. Always!

JAMIE. The old lake looked somewhat different to-day, didn't it; so many
of the cottages open, and such a crowd around?

HILDA. Yes, but it wasn't so nice as it was that day. I thought there
were just a few too many around to-day, didn't you?

JAMIE. Yes--once--or--twice----

HILDA. Why?

JAMIE. Oh, because I wanted to walk on and on alone with you--just you.
I wanted to talk to you as we're talking now, but I couldn't with so
many folks everywhere. But I had my chance when we started for home. I
looked for interference; that's why I suggested separate carriages.

HILDA [_indifferently_]. I knew it.

JAMIE. You did? Now that shows you know more than I do. I didn't think
you'd understand.

HILDA. Did you really think me as dense as all that?

JAMIE. I'm afraid I did. But I shan't again. I shall tell you
everything, hereafter. I find I might as well.

HILDA [_earnestly_]. Yes, you might, just exactly as well, for I shall
know, anyway.

JAMIE. I wonder if they had a good time.

HILDA. Who; Herbert and Minnie? Of course they did.

JAMIE. Do you think they care anything for each other?

HILDA. Do I think so? Why, how should I know?

JAMIE. You're her room-mate, aren't you?

HILDA. Oh, yes, I'm her room-mate; but I might as well not be for all
she tells me about herself.

JAMIE. Does she ever say anything about him?

HILDA. Not a word.

JAMIE [_somewhat sarcastically_]. She seemed willing enough to go to the
picnic; and I don't remember that she protested very violently when I
suggested we go in separate carriages.

HILDA. Of course she wanted to go. Any girl likes a good time now and
then on a Saturday, after working hard all the week. And Minnie does
work hard. But her wanting to go doesn't prove anything. And as for the
separate carriages, no girl likes to be bundled in with a crowd.

JAMIE. Yes, maybe that's so. As far as I'm concerned, I'm glad she
didn't protest.

HILDA. So am I. Do you think Herbert cares for her?

JAMIE. Oh, I don't know. I'm not very well acquainted with him. He's
always stuck in that musty old laboratory. I don't see him often. I'd
never have thought of including him in the picnic, to-day, if you hadn't
suggested it.

HILDA. Oh, well, there wasn't any one else; I couldn't go and leave
Minnie. He'd called here two or three times, and he took her to the
Forty Club once; I thought he'd do.

JAMIE. He did, I guess. They hadn't much to say to each other, but maybe
they had a good time all the same.

HILDA. Well, you know, she never has very much to say, nor he either,
for that matter.

JAMIE. I know it; all I could think of, seeing them up in front of the
boat, was a pair of owls.

HILDA. Don't make fun of them, Jamie. Minnie's _awfully_ bright. Why
she's made up her mind to come back next year and take her Master's
degree. Think of that!

JAMIE. Is that so? I wonder if Herbert's coming too.

HILDA. I don't know. I've never heard him say. I don't believe Minnie
knows either. He's a splendid student, too. [_Anxiously._] I don't see
why in the world they don't come. Jamie, maybe they've had an accident!

JAMIE. Oh, no, they haven't. That old giraffe of theirs couldn't run
away. They're walking up from the livery now, like as not, just as we
did. They'll be here in a minute. Maybe we came in faster than we
thought. It's a good ten miles, and with their horse it would take 'em
half again as long as it did us.

HILDA. Maybe.

JAMIE [_irrelevantly_]. Jove! What a magnificent night this is!

HILDA. Isn't it? And see how round the moon is--it's perfectly lovely.

JAMIE. Dearest!

HILDA. What?

JAMIE. I love you.

HILDA [_pressing his arm_]. Sweetheart!

JAMIE. I do. [HILDA _murmurs incoherently._]

Tired of scurrying, the silent moon shines down upon these two of all
the world, regardless. They lapse into silence--he holding one of her
hands--and gaze at the pale orb of night floating up the sky. A couple
turn the corner, south of the house. The young man is tall and angular.
He wears huge spectacles. His face is thin and wan, very like that of
the girl beside him. Indeed, they have many physical characteristics in
common. She, too, wears spectacles. Her mouth is straight, her
complexion cloudy, but her eyes give evidence of an active brain behind
them. He carries a luncheon basket awkwardly. At the corner they stop
and he turns away as she lifts her dark cloth overskirt, and searches
for her pocket. The quill, riding her curled-brimmed straw-hat at an
angle of danger, sways impatiently.

HERBERT [_calmly_]. Something appears to annoy you--have you----

MINNIE [_impetuously_]. I've lost my key! Now isn't that aggravating! To
think anything so perfectly absurd should----

HERBERT. The others haven't yet arrived apparently. Possibly we
might----

MINNIE [_with surprise_]. Oh, I wouldn't have you wait for the world! It
must be one o'clock! [_She glances up at a window of the second floor._]
No, evidently, they haven't come. There's no light. Of course Hilda
would wait. Well, we'll ring and arouse the landlady; that's all.

HERBERT [_solicitously_]. _Please_ don't think it would annoy me to wait
for your room-mate and her friend--here on the porch. It wouldn't in the
least, I assure you. Besides, it always puts one out to be awakened
late at night, and I dare say your landlady isn't a young person.

MINNIE [_smiling_]. It's _very_ good of you. She _isn't_ young; she's
quite old. Quite as old, I think, as my mother. Still I _could_ ring,
you know.

HERBERT. Oh, don't, please don't; that is, don't on my account. This
isn't late for me. I often study till two. Besides, to-morrow will be
Sunday, and one isn't required to be about so early on Sunday.

MINNIE [_still smiling_]. I think it would be a trifle more accurate if
you had said, "This is Sunday." I am positive it is after midnight. Have
you a watch?

HERBERT. I am exceedingly sorry, but--but I didn't wear my watch to-day;
being around the water, I thought--I thought, I might lose----

MINNIE. Yes, one does have to be careful around the water. I've lost my
key, I know!

HERBERT. I can't tell you how sorry I am.

MINNIE. And the injustice of it is that you must be the one to
suffer--waiting here for Hilda.

HERBERT. I shan't suffer; it will be a pleasure, believe----

MINNIE. It's very good of you, of course; but you are quite sure I
hadn't better ring?

HERBERT. Quite. Don't do it, really. It's a lovely night, and----

MINNIE. Well, we'd better sit on the porch, then, it's rather damp
here, don't you think? [_She moves toward the south steps._]

HERBERT [_following_]. Yes, I believe it is rather damp. There's been a
heavy dew. One can't afford to get one's feet wet with so much
bronchitis about.

MINNIE [_sitting on the top step_]. No indeed--I can't imagine where
they can be! They were ahead of us all the way in. Why didn't we think
to ask at the livery if----

HERBERT. I'm sure it wouldn't have done any good. You see they didn't
get their horse where I got ours.

MINNIE. Oh, yes, to be sure. [_Anxiously._] But where in the world can
they be?

HERBERT. I recall having read once--in some French book if I remember
rightly--that one should never count upon an affianced couple being in a
given place at a given time.

MINNIE [_smiling at him_]. I'm not sure that isn't true. Still, Hilda is
usually quite discreet, and I can't----

HERBERT. Doubtless they'll be here in a moment; I shouldn't worry.

MINNIE [_suddenly_]. Why, how very impolite of me. To allow you to sit
there all this time holding that basket. Won't you set it on the porch?
[HERBERT _has held the basket on his knees with his hands spread out
over the cover._]

HERBERT. Oh--ah--I wasn't thinking of--there, I guess that will be safe.
[_He sets the basket on the porch at his side._]

MINNIE [_leaning forward and gazing past him toward the street_]. I wish
they'd come! Wasn't it perfectly absurd of me to lose my key? Keeping
you here! Are you quite sure you'd just as lief?

HERBERT. Yes, indeed--really--I like to sit out--really, it doesn't
matter, not in the least.

MINNIE. Well while we are waiting we might as well go on where we left
off. You were saying, on the way up from the livery---- [_Hardly for a
moment has_ HERBERT _taken his eyes off the girl at his side._]

HERBERT [_floundering_]. Oh, yes, as I was saying--the--oh--ah--I was
say--what _was_ I saying, Miss----

MINNIE. Have you forgotten so soon? I'm afraid the subject couldn't have
held all your thought. You were telling me about the triliums.

HERBERT [_brightly_]. Oh, yes, to be sure; of course--the triliums. I
was telling you they were to be found on the plains--of all places in
the world--right in the heart of the great American desert--as I'm
told.

MINNIE [_earnestly_]. Are they, indeed? Really, I never heard of such a
thing. Gray says positively, I am sure, that they are to be found
growing only in damp soil; near rivers, for instance, or in marshes.
I've never succeeded in finding them around here anywhere except down by
the Huron River or out State Street at Tamarack Swamp. And to think of
them growing away out there! It is the strangest thing I ever heard
of--why, there's no water for miles, is there?

HERBERT. Not a drop. I'm told they've been found in the most barren
places; flowering alongside cacti and sage-brush.

MINNIE. You are quite sure they were the trilium, are you? It's possible
of course----

HERBERT. That my informant might be mistaken--yes; but I don't think he
was. They look precisely the same, and they analyze the same. I've seen
his specimens. The leaf is identical in form. It is a trifle larger,
that is all. I've never been able to distinguish any other variation,
however slight.

MINNIE. Have you ever mentioned it to Professor Yarb? I'm sure----

HERBERT. Yes, I told him about them, and last summer I sent him a box.
He analyzed them and is as much mystified as I. He's going to write a
paper on the subject for this year's meeting of the American Society.

MINNIE. How I should love to see some! I wonder if it would be too much
trouble for you to send me a few; just one or two. You have some
pressed, doubtless. I'd like to take a hand in solving the riddle. I
intend to keep up with my botany, no matter where or what I teach,
finally.

HERBERT [_joyfully_]. Do you? Do you, really?

MINNIE [_earnestly_]. I do indeed.

HERBERT. Of course I'll send you some. I'll mail you a box as soon----

MINNIE [_with a protesting gesture_]. Oh, I wouldn't have you go to that
trouble for the world. Just two or three, in an envelope. They will do
quite as well. [_She leans forward again and gazes past him down the
street. He does not draw back as he did before._] Why in the world don't
they come? I shall have to talk to Hilda, severely.

HERBERT. Oh, don't be hard on her. They're in--that is to say, they
think a very great deal of each other, and no doubt----

MINNIE. But it is so terribly late!

HERBERT. I know, but it's very pleasant--such a night--much pleasanter
than it is inside. And as for sleep, why one can sleep any night, while
such a moon as that, up there, one can't see often.

MINNIE [_quickly_]. I do believe you're sentimental. I'm not a bit, so
we'll never get on.

HERBERT [_gazing into space_]. I don't think two people ought to be
alike---- [_He catches himself, stares at the moon and whistles without
whistling. Minnie regards him curiously from the end of her eye._]

MINNIE [_examining the cuff of one sleeve_]. What do you mean by that?

HERBERT [_again floundering_]. I--oh--ah--I was just thinking---- We had
a lecture on some such subject in psychology the other day.

MINNIE [_with a little sigh_]. Do you enjoy psychology?

HERBERT. Very much.

MINNIE. Have you ever made any experiments?

HERBERT. Only a few, just the more common ones. I've only had one course
in it, you see.

MINNIE [_making a thrilling conversational leap_]. I've no doubt it is
all very fascinating, but I don't think I should care to marry a
psychologist.

HERBERT [_quickly; edging nearer_]. But I'm not a psychologist! I'm a
botanist.

MINNIE [_very softly; looking away_]. What do you mean--I----

HERBERT [_seemingly about to run madly into the face of the storm, but
recovering himself_]. I--oh--ah--I was just defending myself, you know.
But why wouldn't you care to marry one?

MINNIE [_sighing again_]. Oh, I don't know. I think I should be in
mortal terror all the time that he was just analyzing me and every one
of my motives.

HERBERT [_dreamily_]. I don't think you would have occasion. If he loved
you he couldn't----

MINNIE [_trying to laugh lightly and succeeding in emitting a rather
tame cackle_]. Love me! The idea! Who would ever love a spectacled old
thing like me?

HERBERT. Oh, you don't know, you know. Besides you shouldn't talk that
way about yourself.

MINNIE [_smiling full at him_]. I should tell the truth, shouldn't I?

HERBERT [_locking and unlocking his fingers_]. But it isn't the truth.

MINNIE [_looking down_]. Oh!

HERBERT [_with real courage_]. That's the truth! You see the difference,
don't you?

MINNIE. Well, I'd like to know what I am if I'm not that. No one ever
intimated before that I am anything else. My little brother has
maintained it ever since he learned to talk.

HERBERT. Well, you're not; you're---- [_He hesitates. Thereafter he
speaks quite as a locomotive puffs on a steep grade. There are two or
three large, lusty puffs followed by a chain of spasmodic little
puffs_.]

MINNIE [_encouragingly_]. Yes?

HERBERT. You're not! You're a--oh, don't you understand? I can't keep
from telling you any longer, really--I tried to in the carriage, but the
road was so bumpy, I---- It seems as though I must make you understand.
Please try to--I---- Don't you see! I care for you very, very much
and--I wrote my people all about it and--oh, don't you see, Miss---- I
mean Minnie---- I want to ask---- Will you----

MINNIE [_they are very close. She looks up at him feelingly_]. Herbert!
[_The moon, aghast, dazed, thrown into a veritable spasm of lunar
consternation, darts behind a cloud. But these two do not notice. The
moon is forgotten--all is forgotten--the stars, the earth, the
hour--even botany! Their heads are near together; thus they remain a
long time, without speaking. The katydid has ceased again her dismal
song, and long since the cat slunk away behind the grape-trellis to seek
new fields. The intense stillness of the hour absorbs them and makes
them a part of itself. After a myriad æons a bird, somewhere, pipes a
warning note, which is taken up by another bird. The couple on the
further porch stir. Her head has been resting against his shoulder and
for a little time she has slept. In one hand he holds a bit of angel's
food, left over from the luncheon, which he from time to time has
nibbled indifferently._]

JAMIE [_flinging the cake away and stretching_]. Gee whiz!

HILDA [_starting, sleepily_]. Wha--what is it?

JAMIE [_grumblingly_]. Aw, nothin', I just wish they'd come, that's all.

HILDA [_plaintively_]. Aren't you happy, dear?

JAMIE [_yawning_]. Oh, I'm happy enough, I suppose, but this porch isn't
exactly downy; I feel as though I'd been sitting here a month.

HILDA [_sighing_]. Well I can't see where they are, either--for the life
of me.

JAMIE [_bitterly_]. The darned fools!

HILDA [_with horror_]. Jamie!

JAMIE. Well, aren't they?

HILDA [_with some show of spirit_]. No, they're not; and if you're so
sick of sitting here, why don't you go home; I can wait. I'm not afraid.

JAMIE [_yawning again_]. Don't be silly.

HILDA. It seems to me you're the silly one; just as though you
couldn't----

JAMIE [_impatiently_]. Well, if you think it's fun sitting here all
night waiting for two soft heads that don't know enough to ache when
they're in pain, you're _mistaken_; that's all.

HILDA [_moving away from him_]. I should think you'd be ashamed!

JAMIE [_with rising impatience_]. That's right; now get _mad_!

HILDA. I'm not mad; so there! But--I---- [_She begins to sniffle
suspiciously. For some time neither speaks. The moon has waned and a
strange, new light, of a sickly cast, is rising in the eastern sky. A
restless bird in a tree near by pipes one nervous note; then all is
silence again._]

JAMIE [_stretching and again yawning_]. What are you crying about?

HILDA [_swallowing two or three times, chokingly_]. I--I--I'm not
crying----

JAMIE [_indifferently and quite as though he felt he must say
something_]. You are, too; what about?

HILDA. Nothing.

JAMIE. [_He mutters._]

HILDA. What did you say?

JAMIE [_doggedly_]. I didn't say anything.

HILDA [_coming a little closer_]. You did, too, and I want to know what
it was.

JAMIE [_impatiently_]. I didn't say anything, I tell you!

HILDA [_choking up again_]. That's right; now be ugly; just as though
it were my fault; when you yourself suggested that we sit here.

JAMIE. I didn't think it would be for all night!

HILDA [_sticking to the point_]. Well you did suggest it, didn't you?

JAMIE [_jerking his head_]. Oh, I suppose so! [_He sits with his elbows
on his knees, his chin in his hands, and gazes at the rising light._]

HILDA. I'm just as tired as you are.

JAMIE [_sneeringly_]. Yes, I've no doubt!

HILDA [_hopelessly_]. Oh, Jamie!

JAMIE [_with a fiendishly sarcastic grin that she doesn't see between
her fingers_]. And you're catching cold, too.

HILDA [_recovering_]. Why, I'm not either; what makes you say that?

JAMIE [_with withering sarcasm_]. Oh, aren't you? I thought you were--by
the sniffles!

HILDA [_with some return of her former spirit_]. You're a mean, horrid,
old thing, just as mean and horrid as you can be; and I'll never speak
to you again as long as I live!

JAMIE [_significantly_]. Oh, I guess you will.

HILDA. Well, I won't.

JAMIE [_gleefully_]. There, didn't I tell you you would?

HILDA. Well, I won't again.

JAMIE. Oh, you won't, eh?

HILDA. [_No answer._]

JAMIE. So that's it, is it?

HILDA. [_Still no answer._]

JAMIE [_shrugging his shoulders_]. Oh, very well; just as you like!
[_How fortunate for the sympathetic man in the moon that he's not here
to see. Now, the eastern sky shows a tinge of pale gray, shading into
light violet. Here and there a bird lifts its voice; the notes are taken
up and passed along as sentries pass the call for the corporal of the
guard. From afar comes the jangle of metal, and the bell of an early
milkman clangs. A sleepy girl issues from the back door of the two-story
house across the street. A canvas-covered wagon drawn by two horses
lumbers past._]

HILDA [_rising and indicating the basket with dignity_]. Hug!

JAMIE [_passing it to her_]. Where you going?

HILDA [_after a moment's hesitation_]. I'm going to wake up the girl.

JAMIE [_attempting to restrain her_]. Oh, don't do that; I'm very
sorry----

HILDA [_icily_]. There's no need of your being sorry, at all.

JAMIE. But I----

HILDA [_with arctic frigidity_]. It is quite unnecessary for us to say
anything further about it, I think.

JAMIE [_pleading_]. Won't you forgive me?

HILDA. [_For answer she tosses her head._]

JAMIE [_in the same tone as before_]. Won't you--Hilda?

HILDA. [_Still no reply. She stands at his side holding the basket, not
deigning even to look down at him._]

JAMIE. What are you thinking, dear? Tell me!

HILDA. Oh, nothing of much consequence; only just how mean you have been
and----

JAMIE [_interposing_]. But I've asked you to----

HILDA. If I'm not mistaken I've said there is no use of our talking
further about it.

JAMIE [_rising as she turns_]. Then you won't say anything to me?

HILDA. I don't think there is anything to be said.

JAMIE [_with dogged resignation_]. Very well, then--Hush! [_From the
other porch comes the sound of light footfalls._]

HILDA [_without attending_]. It is probably the girl. [_She proceeds to
the front; he follows. As they turn the corner_, MINNIE _and_ HERBERT
_turn the corner, opposite, and the couples confront each other_.]

MINNIE. Hilda!

HILDA. Minnie!

MINNIE. Hilda, where in the world have you been?

HILDA. And I should like to know where in the world you have been?

MINNIE [_severely and indicating the porch behind her_]. We've been
sitting on that porch all night, waiting for you.

HILDA [_mocking her severity and indicating the porch behind her_]. And
we've been sitting on that porch all night, waiting for you!

JAMIE [_to_ HILDA _coldly_]. Now that you have other company, I'll go.
Good-bye! [_He rushes down the steps._]

HILDA [_running to the rail and calling after him softly_]. Jamie!
Jamie! Oh, Jamie! [_He apparently does not hear her._ HERBERT _stands by
fumbling his hat and looking first at one girl then at the other,
wonderingly_. HILDA _turns from the rail and gazes at_ MINNIE _who
returns the gaze searchingly_. HILDA _bites her lower lip and looks
down_. MINNIE _leans against the casing of the front door, her hand on
the knob. She anticipates a scene._]

MINNIE. Good-night--Herbert!

HERBERT. Good-night--Minnie! [_They exchange one loving look and he is
off. He proceeds in a direction opposite to that taken by_ JAMIE.]

MINNIE [_regarding_ HILDA _whose eyes are upon her and filled with
surprise_]. Hilda--tell me--what----

HILDA [_hiding her face against the shoulder of her room-mate, who
strokes her hair caressingly_]. Oh, Minnie--Minnie--he's gone--it's
broken----

MINNIE [_convulsively, her grasp upon the doorknob, tightening. The knob
turns. The door swings back_]. Oh! See!

HILDA [_lifting her face_]. Oh! [_Her eyes meet_ MINNIE'S. _In the
latter there is a smile which she shares weakly_.]

MINNIE. This is too absurd! Open all night!

HILDA [_trying hard not to cry_]. Oh, Minnie! I don't know what----

MINNIE [_her arm around_ HILDA]. There dear. Don't cry. It will come out
all right. And to think you should have broken with Jamie while Herbert
and I were---- [_They pass into the hallway._ MINNIE, _by closing the
door softly behind them, renders the rest unintelligible to any one who
might be passing just at this instant_.]



A MODERN MERCURY


I

On a cool morning in mid-June two little boys, very dusty and wearing
very grimy waists, sat on the turfed mound of an ancient circus ring in
the old fair ground enclosure, intently watching the gaunt, half-naked
figure of a man in flapping white breeches who, high-stepping, sprinted
back and forth along the stretch of the old race track. Their elbows on
their knees, their chins in their grimy hands, they gazed fixedly at him
whom they had trudged across the lots to see. For in his day he was the
small boys' god, their best-loved hero, before whom it was their
greatest joy to bend the knee.

"D' you think he kin do it?" Jimmy Thurston finally inquired, as the
spare, ridiculous figure of the man brought up behind the tenantless
judges' stand and for an instant was lost to sight.

Willie Trigger sneered. He was very superior, was Willie.

"Sure he kin!" he exclaimed. "Sure he kin!"

"I bet he can't," Jimmy replied curtly.

"He kin too--'sides----"

"'Sides what?" the challenging Jimmy asked, contemptuously.

"My father says he kin."

"Aw----"

"He does too."

"Aw, my pa says he _can't_----"

"I d'care; he kin."

"How d'you know?"

"Well"--Willie Trigger hesitated. "Well, my father says he guesses he
kin beat a _nengine_!"

At that Jimmy Thurston burst into jeering laughter.

"He! he! he!" he cackled--"a _nengine_! He! He! Why, a nengine goes--a
nengine goes _a mile in a minnit_!"

Willie Trigger had become very red; moreover he was choking, half with
rage, half with confusion. He recognized the need of personal support.
So he blurted:--

"I know he kin, 'cause I seen him--onct!"

"Aw, yeh didn't neether," Jimmy Thurston flatly contradicted.

Willie wriggled and dug his heel into the soft earth.

"I _did_----"

"Didn't _neether_!"

Willie Trigger sprang to his feet, his fists clenched. Tears were rising
now.

With his eye Jimmy Thurston measured the distance across the field to
the white house at the gate where he knew his mother was. Leaping
forward he dashed suddenly away, and as he dodged the gurgling Willie,
cried:

"_Li_-ar! _Li_-ar! _Li_-ar!"

It took Willie Trigger three seconds to perceive the situation and to
act. Like a hound, then, he was off in the other's wake.

The straining Jimmy, his heart bursting with regret, heard his pursuer
panting at his heels.... Nearer! Nearer!

A scream suddenly rent the air, a scream that was carried on by a
willing wind to the keen appreciative ears of motherhood. As Willie
Trigger was about to close upon the plunging form of Jimmie, Mrs.
Thurston flung back the screen door and appeared upon the narrow back
porch, wiping her hands on her apron.

"Jim-_mee_! _Jim_-mee Thurston!" she screamed.

"Maw!" yelled Jimmy dolorously.

At the maternal screech, Willie Trigger brought up standing. One instant
he hesitated and then, showing his heels to the woman on the porch
whose arms were outstretched to receive her own, he scurried off in the
direction of the judges' stand, as fast as his little legs could carry
him. He heard the warning cry from the back porch:--

"Willie Trigger, if you hurt Jimmy, I'll skin you alive!"

And at the corner of the judges' stand he ran full into the long, lank
creature in the flapping "shorts"--and brought up, gaping.

"Well, well, who was after _you_?" asked the towering runner, gazing
down at the little grimy boy whose head seemed to come somewhere about
his high-set knees.

"Nobody," Willie Trigger mumbled.

"Who was that calling?"

"I dunno." Willie looked up and the runner smiled down at him.

"Where do you live?" he asked.

"On Thayer Street."

"Way down there, eh? What you doing up here, then?"

Willie Trigger again looked up into the gaunt creature's long, thin
face, then down at the ground into which he proceeded to bore with the
stubbed toe of one small shoe.

"Come to see you run," he mumbled, and grinned sheepishly.

Bunny laughed drily.

"Well, I'll"--he began and stopped. Then he said:--"You wait here,
little chap; I'll just get into some clothes and we'll go home together;
it's nearly noon. I live down your way----"

The gentleness of his voice gave Willie Trigger a new courage.

"I know it," he exclaimed proudly; "I live 'cross the street."

The runner plunged into the box-like compartment of the disused judges'
stand from which he issued in an incredibly short space of time more
properly and far more becomingly clad.

"How did you know I was going to practice out here?" he inquired with a
show of interest. He made no effort to look down--for it would have
meant an effort.

"I follered yeh," was the now prompt reply.

And into Bunny's man-heart that instant there welled a certain pride,
but it was nowise to be compared to that which swelled the boy-heart of
Willie Trigger, hero-worshipper.

And so, down Washtenaw Avenue they walked together, through College
Street and on into the campus and across; Willie Trigger the while
attempting vainly to keep step with his ill-matched companion.

At a corner they separated.

"You're going out to Field Day on Saturday, aren't you?" Bunny asked.

Willie Trigger grinned, and nodded.

"Don't buy a ticket," the giant said, "I'll give you one; you remind me;
will you?"

The small but agile heart of Willie Trigger leaped into his throat. All
he could say was "Whoop!" And saying that he ran, in the very excess,
the richness and the wealth, of the joy that was his. A ticket! A ticket
whereby he might enter through the gate with the crowd--a part of it--a
proud part of it! And all this to be granted him by Bunny himself--Bunny
who was to run in the hundred yards for the Western Intercollegiate
championship; he, William Watts Trigger whose father was a mere night
watchman, and who for a week had been examining the fair ground fence
for vulnerable points! Willie Trigger found himself, of a sudden,
voiceless, too full, by far, for utterance.

Surely, one day--some day--there would come an opportunity of repaying
in kind the beneficence of Bunny, Willie Trigger considered. But the
beneficence was very great. Little did he realize that soon, and by the
very beneficence itself was he to be put in the way of paying back his
benefactor by casting light upon an unforeseen occurrence of great
import, that but for him, must forever remain obscure.

As it was, Bunny had made a friend, a champion, though he knew it not.


II

In University Hall that Saturday night a man with steel-blue eyes, a
white imperial and a single set of gestures, lectured on "The
Reconstruction of the South." Having been an active and successful
carpet-bagger twenty-five years before, he had played a part of some
importance in the rehabilitation of the Southland and was qualified to
speak with authority on the subject.

The immense hall was but partially filled. The lecture was very dry and
very uninteresting, save when, now and again a rolling period crowded
with platitudes and false metaphors, was delivered by the pompous person
on the rostrum. Wilma found herself finally attempting to repeat
backward the clause from the Ordinance of '37 which stared down at her
from the arch of the stage.

"Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government
and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall
forever be encouraged----"

She tapped her knee with her fan and moved her lips.

"Encouraged be forever shall education of means the and----"

She floundered.

She tried again as so many others have tried and with no more success.
She tapped her knee angrily, and nudged the sleepy Bunny at her side.

"Let's get out," she whispered.

He nodded.

They were sitting on the aisle at the back. It was but a step to the
door. He followed her, noiselessly.

In the broad, silent corridor she looked up at him with a smile.

"I simply couldn't stand it another minute," she said.

As they issued into the moonlight she drew in a full, long breath and
asked: "Why should any one want to sit indoors on such a night?
It's--it's a _crime_!"

She was very tiny beside him; he was very awkward beside her. "The long
and the short of it," they were called by those who knew them best. She
was wont to defend their friendship by saying she detested little men,
whilst he complained that great, tall, awkward women he abhorred.

"Well, if you're both satisfied," Nibs, her brother, said one day after
half an hour of teasing; "I guess the public ought to be."

Their friendship had grown from the chance meeting on the day of the
State Street race when Nibsey defeated Billy Shaw and then was so
ignominiously defeated by the lank creature who now was his, as well as
his sister's, closest friend and constant companion. That day their eyes
had met--Bunny's and the girl's--across a carriage seat. Only for an
instant though it was, each remembered the instant; Wilma with a certain
indefinite anger, Bunny with a very definite desire that one day he
might meet the owner of the eyes.

They did not meet formally until a month after and then it was Nibsey
who named them to each other with many flourishes and mock heroics. In a
very short time that glance across the carriage seat had developed into
a close, fine companionship; a companionship so close indeed that it was
deemed sufficient by divers of their friends to warrant whispers that
Bunny and Wilma were engaged. For in Ann Arbor He has but to play two
games of tennis with Her, and take Her on the river once, to have it
become known that They are "engaged"--whatever that sadly misused term
may signify to the non-elect.

Perhaps, however, in this case there was some reason for the smiles of
patronizing acceptance and whispered suggestions on the part of their
friends, of an unestablished but imagined relationship. Bunny never was
seen with any other girl and Wilma, being out of college and therefore
having a wider acquaintance among undergraduates than if she were a
college girl, was only now and again beheld in the company of another
man.

One winter they had attended the Choral Union concerts together, had
driven together, and in the spring they had walked together, rowed
together. It was doubly hard for their friends to believe they were not
engaged, for did they not, as well, attend all the lectures on the
course of the S. L. A.? Would a girl demean herself so far, suffer
torture so exquisite, it was asked, as to attend sad lectures with one
certain man if she were not very much in love with him? And if a man
were not willing to make sacrifice of his happiness to be beside her
would he take her to a lecture on a night in June, or even so much as
suggest such a proceeding?

In commenting and in speculating upon the "affair" their friends asked
these questions, and other equally pertinent; and, as there were no
replies forthcoming, they were compelled by the very absence of
contradictory evidence to nod and smile in that patronizing and
agonizing way that the unengaged have ever smiled upon those whose
hearts they believe Dan Cupid has been using for a target.

As for Nibsey, her brother, he said nothing. Perhaps he did not care. Or
if he did care his certain knowledge that Bunny was what he was wont to
call "a ripper" and his sister "a good fellow," may have carried with it
a satisfaction that made the relation between them just and proper.

However, that there may be no misunderstanding at the outset, it is
quite safe to affirm so far at least as Bunny was concerned, that he was
hard hit. It was realization of this, a realization keen, active, that
dismayed him. Of course he believed, as was his right, that Wilma liked
him. But he more than liked her. He hardly felt it his privilege yet to
tell her just how much he liked her, and doubtless could not even though
he deemed the time had arrived to-day. Thus he fretted, and
procrastinated. Even now as he walked beside her under the stars of a
night in June that was full of fragrance, he felt himself floundering in
a sea of uncertainty where edged the shores of which he knew not. So he
sighed, then pulled himself together before she could seek to know the
reason, and said:

"You ought to have seen me this morning--ought to have seen me with a
new acquaintance I made on the fair grounds."

And he told her of Willie Trigger and his exploit. She heard him through
in silence.

"Do you know Willie?" he asked.

"No," she said. After a moment she added, "Don't you rather hate to be
followed about by the small boys as though you were--as though you were
a circus parade?"

He laughed.

It was not the first time she had made fun, as he deemed her attitude to
be, of his athletic attainments, and the admiration engendered by them
among Ann Arbor youth.

"It's great!" he exclaimed. "Simply great! You have no idea how it seems
to know the small boys are gaping at you in wonder as you pass. I've
watched them lots of times from the tail of my eye and seen them nudge
their companions. Oh, I tell you it's satisfying!"

Conscious as she was of the assumed vanity she affected a seriousness
when she said:--

"But I should think you would rather grown-ups gaped at you."

"But what can I do to make 'em?" he asked wonderingly. "Just point the
way and I'll take it----"

"Oh, there are lots of ways," she went on. "You're in the medical
department, why don't you become a great doctor?"

"I shall," he exclaimed, "but that takes time. Meanwhile I am steeling
myself, practicing with the little boys, you know, so I shan't be
overwhelmed when big people gape at me in wonder a little later----"

"Oh, you can't be serious!" she cried petulantly.

"What's the use?" he asked and laughed. "What's the use on such a night,
with the stars overhead, the tree toads scraping, and--and--you here?"

"But I want you to be," she said; and then ran on: "It has always seemed
so silly to me when you great men come out in ridiculous clothes and run
around and jump and play ball--just like overgrown babies."

"That's what we are," he replied. "Ann Arbor is only a nursery. It's
only different from other nurseries in that the nurses don't wear little
caps and aprons." He chuckled.

"Well, anyway, I wish you wouldn't," she said plaintively. She lifted
her face and looked up at him.

"Really?" He was in earnest now.

"Yes."

"Then I won't--that is not after Saturday."

"Oh, I suppose you'll have to then," she said disconsolately. "You're
entered."

"But suppose I break the Western Intercollegiate?" he suggested.
"Wouldn't you like that--now, frankly, wouldn't you?"

She did not reply, so he went on.

"I'll tell you what. That race will settle it. If I'm beaten I'll never
run again--never. I'll--I'll--give you my running shoes as a souvenir of
my Mercurial days!"

She laughed and said:

"But if you _win_--if you _break_ the record?"

"It shall be just the same--I'll never run again. Under those
circumstances I should be afraid to--afraid I couldn't do it a second
time. I'll keep my record all to myself that way, don't you see?"

"Oh Bunny!" she cried suddenly as she gave his arm a little squeeze;
"I've been more than half teasing you. Run if you want to. Run all the
time. _But if you don't break the record I'll never speak to you again
as long as I live!_"

He stopped and looked down at her, into her eyes, and saw the laughter
lurking there. That instant he thought nothing in the world would be so
much to the purpose--nothing at least that he could do--as to take her
in his two big hands and shake her until her bronze hair fell about her
shoulders. But he did no such thing.

She said, "Well?"

"You'll see," he answered and they walked on.

They sat on her porch for an hour and talked of other things. They did
not hear the bells in the library tower as they rang out quarters,
halves, three-quarters of the hour.

In her room, after he had gone, her eyes chanced to fall upon his
picture fixed with many others on a tennis-net ingeniously draped
between two windows, and she said to the picture:

"You're a great, tall, awkward, foolish old dear! There...."

But Bunny, in the solitude of his own alcove, lay awake half the night
floundering in that tossing sea of doubt.

With the morning however, came resolve.

"What's the use," he muttered as he lathered his chin before the little
square mirror tilted against the window at the height of his eyes.

He would run once more--only once. And then----

Could she have meant it, he wondered, when she told him she would cut
him from her list of friends if he failed to break the record. He smiled
at the soaped reflection of his long, thin face in the little mirror.

Ten seconds was a tiny lapse of time but it was the record. A hundred
yards in ten seconds. That was ten yards a second. That was.... Well,
approximately, ten feet at a stride--no, eight. A rather wide stride, to
be sure, but _his_ legs.... Now if he could stride nine feet what would
that bring it? Two and two----

Bunny found himself of a sudden involved in so deep a morass of
mathematics that he gave up in disgust--and cut himself.

He would make an effort--a mighty effort. Of this he was determined. It
was to be his last, he mused, so it must needs be mighty. In any event
if he should fail it would not mean so much; that is, so very much.
Other men had failed, trying to accomplish that which heaven was
determined they should not. And yet----

"If you don't break the record I'll never speak to you again as long as
I live!"

The words were insistent. It was as though Wilma were there beside him,
as he stood before the little dusty mirror, and sounding them over and
over in his ears.

"By George!" he exclaimed aloud, "I've _got_ to smash it; that's all,
I've _got_ to!"

As he stepped out upon the broad porch of the low roofed house, the
light of determination was in his eyes and the firmness of a set resolve
had squared his chin.


III

Thursday evening, after he had had his supper, Willie Trigger's mother
dispatched him to the post-office, with a strict injunction to be home
by eight o'clock. Primarily as a result of this injunction and
secondarily as the result of an inherent love of night, Willie Trigger
dawdled on the way. A down-town lad of his acquaintance prevailed upon
him to assist in an attack upon a certain cherry-tree, the location of
which, on Spring Street, he very well knew. He was not loth to join
forces with the down-town youth and forth they fared together, to the
end that it was after eight even before Willie turned into Huron Street
on his long way home. Full of ox-heart cherries and contentment, he did
not hasten. A whipping perhaps, in any event a scolding and a summary
dismissal to his bed might await him, but what availed it?

"I d' care," he grumbled, bravely, and scuffed his feet.

As he approached the Cook House loud talk attracted his attention away
from a confectioner's window where were displayed all the goodies
dearest to the hearts of little boys. He quickened his pace.

Two men were quarreling with a hackman at the hotel door. The hackman
proclaimed his right to a dollar fare; his patrons contested.

Willie Trigger, looking up from the walk, noted the appearance of the
men. The one was short and squat and gross of features, with a great
black mustache like a duster that he pulled persistently as he haggled
with the angry hackman. His companion was taller, square of shoulder,
with a long, thin face, and a straight, hard mouth above his square,
clean-shaven chin. In expectation of a fight, Willie Trigger held his
breath.

"There's a half-dollar," he heard the fat man say, "now take it or leave
it." He flung the coin to the pavement, turned and entered the hotel
behind his friend, while the hackman, grumbling still, stooped,
recovered the coin and, clambering upon his ancient vehicle, drove away.
Willie Trigger was disappointed; disappointed that there had been no
open fight and disappointed that the hackman had found the half-dollar.
His nimble eyes had followed it as it rolled half way beneath a trunk
that stood on end beside the curb. When the hackman discovered the coin,
Willie's heart sunk and he set out upon his way. Presently he commenced
to whistle shrilly and it was apparent that the incident had made no
more impression upon his plastic mind than it had upon the minds of the
men with whom the hackman had exchanged compliments.

As it was, they were shown to a room by a boy in buttons and the loafers
in the office saw them together not again that night.

The short, squat creature with the huge mustache locked the door and
flung off his coat.

"Well, we're here!" he exclaimed.

His friend made no reply.

"Jack," he went on, "if I don't make a killin' Saturday, my name's
Mud--Mud with a big M! This town is jammed full of marks--soft, easy,
mushy marks. A guy could come in here with three shells and a pea and
clean it up in a day----"

"If the police would let him," his friend put in with a grin.

"Rats!" was the contemptuous retort. "I've been figgerin' it all out,"
he went on, sinking upon a chair and spreading his short legs to
accommodate his capacious portliness. He savagely bit the tip from a
black, fat cigar. "I've been figgerin' it all out and it's goin' to be
easy. They're muckers; farm-hands; easiest sort o' pickin'!"

"Well, how you going to do it?"

Before the wavy mirror on the imitation mahogany dresser, his companion
smoothed his hair with a pair of military brushes taken from his
satchel.

The fat man chewed his cigar.

"I'm goin' to get next to-night," he said. "There's always more or less
geezers hangin' round the hotel in a college town, and I'll do a little
pumpin'. I'll find out just what this phenom's been doin' since he went
into trainin'."

"He's the only one I'm fearin'," his friend put in. "If he can do the
sprint under ten seconds flat he's got Morrison beat!"

"And _you_ the trainer!" exclaimed the fat man with a deep laugh. "Say,
if your man don't lay all over him--say, I won't do a thing----"

"Well, be careful, that's all," the other warned. "Don't try to do
anything to-night. Plenty of time to-morrow. You can go out to the track
and have a look at him; he'll be tryin' out."

"Won't you go?" the pudgy creature asked.

His friend turned from the stand where he was washing his hands.

"Say Punky!" he exclaimed, "do you take me for a blamed fool? Big
business me goin' out there; wouldn't it? Do you suppose some of those
wise guys wouldn't know me? I guess not! I'll stay right here under
cover till Morrison shows up to-morrow afternoon. You can go out; and
when you get back you can tell me how this Bunny strikes you--but if I
were you I wouldn't distribute any coin until Saturday. Talk 'Morrison'
and wag your head a bit and get 'em going; then cover their cash all you
want to----"

"Aw----" the other began.

"That's right!" his friend warned; "I've been up against this game a
little oftener 'n what you have and I know 'em; I haven't been doin' the
strong arm act for two years at Western College for nothin'--if it
wasn't that I'm goin' t' quit I wouldn't go into the game with you; as
it is, ain't I got as big an interest in th' killin' as you have, I'd
like to know? Don't we break even? It's a fair chance and if they's any
show of coppin' out any of the loose change of these mamma's boys, I'm
the child to do it--with your valuable and sporty assistance, Punky. D'
you see?"

Apparently Punky did, for he muttered, "Aw right," and flecked the ash
from his cigar. He puffed quickly twice and then said:

"Giddings, do you s'pose Morrison's next?"

"Naw," Giddings replied contemptuously. "I sent out a feeler--sorter
touched him up on a 'sell-out' to see how he'd take it and he got
red-headed. Said if it wasn't to be a fair race and the best man win,
he'd pull out. I gave him the 'ha-ha' and passed him a con. about just
seein' how he felt because _I_ wanted it square and then worked the
'honor-talk' strong. He calmed right down and got interested. _He's_ all
right; you needn't worry about _him_. It's this _Bunny_; you've got to
have a peek at him before Saturday, then let your judgment do the rest."

"Aw yes!" Punky exploded--"Aw yes---- Judgment be blowed! If this
Bunny's square, O. K.; if he's square and slow, O. K.; if he's square
and too fast for your 'wonder,' why----" He hesitated.

"What?" his friend inquired calmly.

"Oh well; you leave it to me," was the significant reply.

Giddings laughed.

"You can work the game," he said, "only don't let 'em think we're
playin' together; some wise guy might have an idea and put the whole
push next. You know what would happen then, don't you?" he inquired
wisely.

His companion did not reply. He went over to the one window of the room
and gazed down into the lighted street. Suddenly he turned back and
said: "You go to bed; I'm goin' down to the office and get next." And he
vanished.

The public room of the old hotel was filled with students. The events
of Saturday formed the one topic of conversation. In the process of
"getting next" Punky Williams, sporting man, (with a record not
altogether immaculate) by maintaining an open ear and a closed mouth,
learned that one name was on the common lips almost as frequently as
that of "Bunny." It was "Morrison." Punky Williams was satisfied. He
asked simple but significant questions now and again of various youths
who lounged near him. He affected a passive, a rather paternal interest
in the "meet," the sprinting event in which was conceded by all to be
the most important. He learned enough to satisfy him that, so far as he
was concerned, but two men would run--Bunny of the U. of M. and Morrison
of Western College, trainer Giddings' _protégé_; the other entries were
unworthy of consideration. He sought his companion in the little room
up-stairs with a heart as light as thistle down and a face that glowed
with pleasure.

The next morning he walked out to the fair grounds, seeking direction
from time to time from the people whom he passed.

There were perhaps a hundred students in the paddock watching the
exercises. Punky Williams wriggled his way among them; his little ears
receptive, his mouth close shut. Presently the crowd yelled and he
craned over the enclosure rail. At the top of the course Bunny paused.
With an air of passive interest, Punky Williams took out a stop watch,
then fixed his eyes upon the figure up the course. He saw an arm thrust
above his head and the sunlight glinted on the metal of the starter's
pistol. He caught the time as the report rang out. And as Bunny
high-stepped across the tape he shut his watch with a click and wriggled
back to the rim of the crowd, observed in the moment's clamor by no one
save a single small boy in a very grimy shirt-waist.

As the bells in the tower of the court-house opposite the hotel rang out
the hour of noon, he burst in upon the loafing Giddings, who, at his
friend's most obvious excitement exclaimed:

"What th' devil's th' matter; you look as though you'd seen a ghost?"

"Well! I have!" the breathless Punky puffed. "Giddings," he cried, "I've
seen _him_! I held the watch on him. It wasn't his real speed,--and he
came over the tape grinning; but--_he did it in 10 1-5_!"

Giddings with an expression of complete disgust upon his smooth, thin
face, sat down again.

"Punky, you give me a pain!" he exclaimed. "A pain! Great Scott, man;
don't you think there's any difference between 10 1-5 seconds and 9 4-5?
Well, you'd better wake up. _There's an hour, man; an hour!_"

He opened his newspaper, deliberately; found the sporting page and
commenced to read.

As for Punky Williams, he lighted another cigar and flinging himself
upon the bed, blew copious clouds of light blue smoke to the cracked and
grimy ceiling at which, the while, he stared fixedly, thoughtfully.


IV

On Saturday Willie Trigger swallowed his dinner in an incredibly short
space of time, and slipped from the house unobserved, while his mother
was in the kitchen haggling with a huckster over the Sunday vegetables.
When the good woman re-entered the dining-room she cast one glance at
Willie's half depleted plate, then rushed through the dark, cool hall
and out upon the porch.

"Will-_ee_! Will-_ee_!" she called, stridently.

A rustling of the leaves as the breath of June wafted among them, was
her answer. She went to the gate and gazed up and down the street. Then
with a sigh she returned to the house and closed the door.

Perhaps Willie had not heard the maternal call. At the instant of its
issue he was balanced on the top of the back fence across the street,
hidden from the maternal eye by the intervening house. At the second
call he plumped down upon a soft ash heap on the other side. If he did
hear he gave no sign, but, after dusting his pantaloons with little
flips and pats of his small brown hands, he ran with all the speed that
he could muster, across the wide, uneven lot. Presently he became lost
to sight among the gnarled and broken trees of a once prolific apple
orchard, beyond. Issuing from the orchard on the farther side, he
crossed another lot--first wriggling wormlike beneath a low wire
fence--and came out into the dusty road that led to the old fair ground
enclosure. To-day that road, as a wide, smooth street disfigured only by
the tracks over which the flat-wheeled trolleys bump, marks the northern
boundary of Ann Arbor's ultra exclusiveness. Behind hedges or half
hidden amid the trees, nestle snug little houses that seem to cry out
against all vulgar intrusion and hug themselves in the very joy of their
most obvious respectability.

Along this road, thick with dust; now obscured in a cloud of his own
raising, now distinct against the background of the high board fence,
Willie Trigger trudged. Arriving at the long ticket window he was
dismayed to find that the hatch was shut. Bunny had told him there would
be a ticket for him at the window--a ticket for him expressly, in an
envelope bearing his name, else he would not have deserted his dinner to
be the first on hand. Save for a solitary woman whom he saw among the
trees in the wood across the way, the region about appeared deserted. It
was not yet one o'clock, but Willie Trigger did not realize this.
Stoically he sat down at the edge of the long low platform below the
ticket-office window and resigned himself to waiting.

After ten minutes a dog bounded from the wood into the road. Motionless,
he regarded the lad curiously. As long as he remained in sight Willie
amused himself by throwing stones at him.

After half an hour a carriage drew up close to the fence and stopped. He
slouched over to the narrow pedestrians' gate at one side of the office.
Two young men, carrying a large, black tin box between them, alighted
from the vehicle, paid the driver and entered the enclosure, fastening
the gate behind them. When they had disappeared Willie pulled at the
gate but suddenly desisted in his attempt to force an entrance as the
heavy hatch of the ticket-office fell with a bang and the same two young
men were revealed at the weather beaten counter. He watched them as
they unlocked the box, on the shiny top of which the bright sun gleamed,
and saw one of them take out several big bunches of blue tickets. Willie
approached the window, then, hesitatingly. His chin barely touched the
edge of the shelf so he stood on his toes.

"Say--my ticket here?" he asked, boldly.

The young man who was arranging the bundles on the shelf looked down.

"What do _you_ want?" he inquired, tersely.

"I want my ticket."

"Got a quarter?"

Willie Trigger's toes gave way beneath him, but he bobbed up again
almost instantly.

"He said there'd be one here--in a envelope."

"What?" snapped the young man, "_who_ said there would--what you
_talking_ about anyway?"

Willie endeavored to explain. He was laughed at for his pains.

"Run along now," the officious young man commanded. "There ain't any
ticket for you here. Run along--or--or--I'll call a policeman."

The mouth, then the nose, then the eyes, then the little gray cap of
Willie Trigger descended below the window ledge and he commenced to
sniffle. A large, jagged stone lay on the grass not ten feet away, and
as his eyes fell upon it his sniffling ceased. He picked up the stone.
He poised it in the air an instant, then with all the strength at his
command he flung it diagonally across the fence. He heard the clatter as
it struck the thin boards at the end of the ticket office. He did not
linger to observe any further effect of his assault, for when the
officious young man who had denied to him the existence of his ticket,
crawled upon the ledge and gazed off down the road, there was no little
boy in sight.

Chagrined though he was, Willie did not for an instant accuse his hero
of any lack of faithlessness. Indeed, as is the wont of small boyhood,
he accepted the rebuff unquestioningly. He made no effort at analysis.
It was merely a whimsical cavort of that unreliable Fate that not
infrequently plays tricks on those who walk in knickerbockers. So
Willie, nothing loth, reasoned simply that as a ticket had never been
necessary before, he was quite prepared to gain an entrance to the
grounds without one, now. Indeed, even as the young man in the office
climbed upon the ledge and gazed off down the road, Willie was examining
the fence for loose boards, along the familiar stretch behind the
ancient grand stand. Many times and oft, when ball games were in
progress, had he, with the assistance of Jimmy Thurston, clambered over
that tall board fence frequently to the complete demolishment of his
shirt waist, which had a nasty habit of catching on the barbs of the
wire that an ingenious care-taker had strung along the top, but, in any
event, successfully, to the more important issue of an entrance to the
field. To-day, however, he was alone, and getting over the fence was
quite a different matter. Since Thursday he had not caught a glimpse of
Jimmy, but now he was wishing that the fat, familiar figure of the lad
would appear around the corner of the fence. There was not a loose board
along the whole stretch, so far as he could discover. Not infrequently
he had, with half a dozen sturdy jerks, succeeded in ripping off a plank
sufficiently wide to permit of squeezing through; but two days before
the same far seeing care-taker who, with so much ingenuity, profanity
and trouble, had strung the barbed wire at the top, had gone over the
entire stockade and nailed securely every board that seemed to him to be
deficient in tightness. It is saddening to tell it; for it rather
weakens the character of Willie Trigger, but at the end of his second
futile patrol along the fence, he flung himself down at the roots of an
ancient apple-tree and cried. Were all the Fates of boyhood set against
him this day in June?

"Dum it--gosh dum it," he mumbled, gazing through his tears at the
forbidding fence, the top of which looked so low yet was so high--too
high even when he poised on tiptoe and jumped, clutching. As he stared,
his eyes opened wide, the tears were magically whisked away, and he
grinned.

"Gosh!" he exclaimed aloud, and got upon his feet.

A branch of the very tree beneath which he had so disconsolately flung
himself, pointed out the way he sought. A single limb--not a thick,
sturdy limb, but rather a weak, unstable sort of limb--hung directly
above the fence at a most favorable point, immediately behind the grand
stand.

Willie Trigger climbed the tree. Cautiously he crept out upon the
branch, more than half hidden by the foliage. The branch bent beneath
his weight, slight though it was, and once he nearly slipped. His heart
leaped into his mouth, or if not his heart, at least something, but he
swallowed it back and moved along another inch. He wriggled obliquely
until he balanced on his stomach like a bag of meal over a pole. Little
by little he slipped down, the branch giving more and more with every
movement of his agile body. He clung by the crook of his elbows and
wriggled his toes. They touched nothing. For a space he danced upon the
air. Another slip of scarce an inch, and there ensued a ripping and
tear, followed by a sharp crack.

Thug!

Willie Trigger struck the soft earth in a sitting posture. The sudden
contact resulted in a private pyrotechnic display of momentary
brilliance. Willie gasped twice like a fish. Blinking away the stars and
whirling Catherine wheels that glittered before his eyes, he looked
about him. "Gosh!" he muttered below his breath, and rolling over rubbed
the point of contact vigorously. Beside him lay the branch, but--goody!
He had struck inside the fence! Moreover, and what was quite as much to
the purpose, he had not been observed.

Sidling along the rear wall of the grand stand, he reached the corner
and thrust out his head. The big gate was open--the gate through which
he had hoped to pass big with pride, a man among his fellows. A steady
current of humanity in summer garb was streaming through. There were
carriages by the score, the horses driven by young men, many of whom
Willie, from his peculiar point of vantage, recognized. On the seats
beside them were girls--"their girls," he speculated mentally with an
unvoiced sneer. But mostly the crowd was on foot, scrambling, pushing,
jostling. Every individual in the throng seemed bent upon being the
first to reach the grand stand and it was a fine sight to the small
boy, peering around the corner, to see them run. Two men detached
themselves from the crowd and seemed to him to be making directly for
where he stood. Willie Trigger wasted no time in idle speculation as to
their purpose. Turning heel he ran. He plunged around the upper end of
the stand. The door there was open. He disappeared into the long room
directly beneath the seats. He was familiar with the floor plan. He knew
that the partition on his left was false and that the various little
doors on the right opened into tiny dressing rooms. He knew that the one
door on the left offered access, if unfastened, to the cramped and
crowded space beneath the lower tiers of seats,--a dark hole used these
many years as a catch-all for the _débris_ of the grounds, old cans,
broken bottles, worn out shoes, and ancient hoop-skirts. He tried the
door; it opened and he pulled it shut after him, just as the door at the
end was flung back and the two men entered.

"Where's his room?" he heard asked, in an undertone; then the heavy
footfalls on the loose boards of the floor.

His eyes became adjusted to the darkness and through the many chinks of
the partition he perceived the men. He recognized them as those who had
haggled with the hackman at the Cook House two days before. He held his
breath, and, as there really was nothing else for him to do, became an
eavesdropper.

"Punky, we got t' separate," Giddings said. "They'll be next if you
don't; it'll be all right for you to drop in here while they're dressin'
but don't be wise. And for heaven's sake, don't get gay; it's a long
chance you're takin' and you'll take it I know, with five hundred
dollars in the balance."

"Don't you worry," Punky replied significantly. "I'm takin' no chances;
that's why I got the dope. You couldn't buy this Bunny for a million;
and you say Morrison's as bad. You just leave it to me. I'll be hangin'
around, you bet. When you're dishin' up the soft stuff, you just call me
and say, 'Here, take this in there.' I'll take it--in she goes--and if
it don't mean Morrison'll win this here Intercollegiate, I'm a lobster,
good and plenty. They'd never git next in the world."

"Well, for heaven's sake don't put in too much," Giddings muttered.

"Leave it to me,"--was the terse reply and then they went into one of
the dressing-rooms and their voices came only in muffled tone to Willie
in his hiding-place.

He was not quite certain of the meaning of what he had heard. He was
only certain of the name--"Bunny." Who these men were he did not dream.
Besides, it was none of his affairs. There was one thing however that he
_did_ know, and that definitely; he could not hope to see the sports
from where he crouched. Noiselessly he opened the door. It did not
creak. He tiptoed down the long room. As he neared the end, the door
there was opened suddenly from without and a score of men pressed in.
Willie Trigger whistled as loud as he could and walked on. The whistle,
born of boyhood's genius, saved him. Ordinarily the presence of a small
boy in the dressing-room would perhaps have occasioned surprise, but on
this particular occasion the small boy whistled so shrilly and walked so
independently with his hands deep in the pockets of his knickerbockers
that no one spoke to him; no one seemed even to notice him. He strode
out of the building bravely, crept under the fence at the side of the
track and strolled into the paddock, scuffing the grass and still
whistling.


V

Wilma Morey, exquisitely dainty in a wealth of fluffy muslin flounces
and little bows of ribbon as pink as her pretty cheeks, found a
particularly excellent seat in the first tier, close to the rail. From
where she sat she could sweep with her dancing eyes the entire course,
the crowded paddock, and the stretch of open on beyond. The wire was
immediately below her and directly opposite was the judges' stand.
Perceiving these manifold advantages of her position, she settled
herself comfortably and patted, with most apparent content, her wealth
of flounces. She was very glad that no acquaintance had slipped into the
seat next hers, now occupied by a little fat man in checks. She wished
to enjoy the events of the day in her own way and as privately as she
might surrounded for the greater part by people with whom she had at
least a nodding acquaintance.

She studied her program diligently, noted the order of events from the
old fashioned "throwing of the baseball" to the "standing broad jump" in
neither of which she was interested. She did not know a man among the
broad jumpers and but one name in the list of baseball throwers was
familiar--Schmidt, a little German, with a blonde head and blue eyes
whom she had met at a sophomore dance in the beginning of the year. So,
when the sleeveless-shirted contestants ran up the track and the clean
white ball was taken from its red box and tossed among them she reverted
to her program nor lifted her eyes again until the loud-voiced person in
the judges' stand opposite bellowed through a bright tin megaphone that
the event had been won by "Schmidt, distance ----" She did not catch the
distance.

"Next event!" she heard roar from the mouth of the megaphone, "the first
of three heats in the hundred yards. Entries: Bunette, Michigan;
Morrison, Western College; Lacy, Ohio Wesleyan; Cady, Northwestern"--and
so on down the list that she followed on her program with her nimble
eyes. The megaphone man was still bellowing when the atmosphere was rent
by a series of yells from the paddock that would have put a horde of
Comanche braves to the copper-tinted blush. The cheering was taken up by
the grand stand, and canes were waved, and hats were flung into the air
and lungs were split. All this because a dozen gaunt creatures in
flapping "shorts" were prancing up the track in the wake of their
jogging trainers. The crowd behind bore down upon the girl and she only
saved herself from falling headlong over the rail by encircling a stout
roof support with one arm and clinging tight.

Up the course the line formed.

"That's Morrison; he's got the post," she heard a full-lunged youngster
cry.

"There's Bunny on the end!" another shouted.

"Bunny! Bunny! Bunny!" yelled the crowd and Wilma Morey's face flushed
crimson. Her eyes lighted and her lips quivered with the excitement of
the moment. Behind her the pressure of the crowd had given away somewhat
and she leaned over the rail, eagerly, her fingers curled in the palms
of her hands, every muscle tense. She saw an arm suddenly lifted above
the runners' heads and caught the glint of the sunlight on the barrel of
the pistol.

The report sounded a long way off, or as though her ears were muffled.
Down the course they came, all heads low save Bunny's; he had a way of
tilting his back, and breathing hard through his nose. In an instant, as
she watched, they passed the further end of the grand stand and in
another the foremost had crossed the line. Pandemonium broke loose. The
crowd in the paddock tore down the fence and rushed into the track
surrounding these modern Mercuries. Wrapped in the robes their coaches
had held out to them they were led away and the megaphone man in the
judges' stand was compelled to clang the deep-throated bell quite three
minutes before he was able to convince the throng that he had something
very particular to say.

"First heat," he shouted. "Morrison, ten and one fifth; Bunette, ten and
two-fifths; Cady, ten and a half." The stand, the crowd in the track,
even the ancient circus rings in the distance swam before Wilma Morey's
eyes. She lifted her handkerchief to her burning cheek. It was cruel. He
had lost; lost after all his patience, all his hope, all his effort.
Conscious as she was that the first heat did not mean _all_, she yet
realized that it might mean much. If she might only catch his eye, she
thought, and let him know that she among all the others believed in him.
What was she thinking, she asked herself, suddenly. Then she smiled. In
the buzz of conversation all about, and amid the cries from the track
below she caught varying words that seemed to her, in her state of
supreme suspense, to offer a modicum of hope. Still--still---- She
confessed to herself her disappointment. She wished that she had not
come out at all.

The next event was "throwing the hammer"; and then the hurdles would be
run. Should she stay? she asked herself. Involuntarily she moved toward
the end of the stand where the stairs were.

"What in thunder's the matter; you going?" she heard a voice ask, then
felt a strong hand on her arm. She turned and looked up into the face of
her brother.

She clutched his wrist. "Oh, Nibsey," she cried, "he was beaten; wasn't
he?"

He stared at her quizzically. Then he laughed and led her over to the
rail. He glanced back at the crowd that pressed upon them from behind.
Bending toward her he whispered: "He's just playing 'em. Great Scott!
you didn't think _that_ was his speed, did you? Morrison was doing his
best; Bunny was walking; that's all, just walking. You wait; you'll see
the fastest hundred yards that was ever run on this old track. You hold
your horses. Why, Morrison's trainer knows it's all off. The others--the
'also-rans'--are just waiting for the end. Morrison's trainer's running
around down below like a chicken with its head off. You wait if you want
to see a record smashed." And he pressed her arm reassuringly, and
vanished.

At the bottom of the stairs he collided with a small boy in a soiled and
torn shirt waist.

"Cancha see where yer goin'?" the small boy piped after him, then
mounted the stairs whistling. He pushed his way through the crowd to the
rail, and wriggled to a post. Despite the yells of "Down in front," that
were flung at him from the lower tiers, he clung to his position
resolutely.

"There's Bunny!" he cried as the runners pranced up the track a second
time. Wilma heard the lad's shrill pipe and glancing down caught his eye
and smiled. He grinned. He sidled nearer to her and pressed close to the
rail.

Willie Trigger decided then and there that he had never before seen
such a pretty girl. She was ever so much prettier, he calculated, than
the new hired girl in the house next door,--at home. He had fallen
desperately in love with _her_ at first sight. Then Wilma spoke to him
and his boy heart bounded.

"Do you know him, little man?" she asked, softly.

He wished she had not called him "little man" particularly with so many
about, but her voice was so gentle and her eyes were so beautiful that
he forgave her in his heart straightway and answered, looking down, "Uh
huh; he lives 'cross th' street from our house."

Her eyes took on a greater brilliance then and a smile played about the
corners of her pretty mouth.

"So you are Willie Trigger, are you?" she asked so low that he alone
might hear. "Oh, I know all about _you_; he told me."

Willie Trigger never knew what joy it was to live until that instant. To
think that _He_, the great Bunny, had told _Her_ all about _Him_! It
rendered him for the moment speechless. Yet he gave no sign of the
swelling of his heart unless a sudden kick at the post to which he
clung, and a low, foolish laugh might be taken as a sign. He felt her
hand upon his shoulder as the line of entries formed and was
superlatively happy.

The pistol cracked. Again the runners came on, swift, straight as
arrows. There had been an instant's hush at the start, but now it was
forgotten in the uproar. Could it be possible, Wilma wondered, as she
leaned far over the rail, hearing above all other sounds the shrill,
piercing screech of Willie Trigger, that the great lank figure there at
the fore of all the rest, his long legs high lifting, his head thrown
back, was the same Bunny who not half an hour before had lagged the
second in the race? And yet, as the creature crossed the wire below her
and the air became filled with waving canes and hats and handkerchiefs,
she knew that such it must have been. Her fingers tightened on the arm
of the screaming lad and she drew him close beside her.

"Was that Bunny?" she asked eagerly. "They came so fast I couldn't see.
Tell me, was it?"

He looked up at her, joyful that she had called upon him in her
distress, but what he said was only: "Sure; who'd yeh _think_ it was?"

She squeezed his arm and he grinned. Something of her great delight was
his to know that instant, though he was only a little boy in a soiled
and torn shirt waist and she a beautiful girl gay in ribbons and fluffy
muslin flounces that made her look for all the world like the fairy in a
certain Christmas pantomime, that was one of his fondest memories.

"And now let's see when the last will be," she said, glancing down at
her program.

"They's two 'vents 'fore they run," he explained, for he had learned the
order by heart long since. "They's th' pole vault and th' drop kick.
Then they'll run th' last time."

She looked at him and smiled and he smiled back quite familiarly.

"I guess I'll go down now," he said suddenly, and before she could
restrain him, for she had found much amusement in his straightforward
boyish admiration for one whom she, as well, admired, he had wriggled
away and out of sight.

She leaned over the rail and saw him on the grass below making swiftly
along the front of the stand.

For a space he hovered about the edge of the crowd at the door of the
dressing-rooms. His chance of entering at last was offered and gliding
between divers pairs of legs he sneaked into the long, low room. All was
confusion here. Half-clad men ran this way and that, calling for drinks,
bath-robes and towels, and among them bustled officiously the man with
the big mustache whom he had seen and heard while hidden in the dark
hole on the other side of the thin partition. He glimpsed, as well, the
other man; his trousers turned up, his coat and waistcoat off, his
sleeves rolled to his shoulders. He was busy squeezing lemons into a
pail. Presently he poured the contents of another pail into the first,
then dumped a bag of sugar into the mixture which he stirred vigorously.

"Here, Morrison; don't drink that rotten water; drink this," he shouted
and filled a glass from the pail. Morrison, a curly-headed man with
knots of muscle on his legs that looked like coils of rope, gulped
greedily.

"Here, gimme some of that; this man in here's thirsty," the familiar
black mustached man called out. He took up the glass and moved toward
the half-open door of one of the little dressing-rooms. Willie Trigger
was by some instinctive force, seemingly, moved to sudden action. He was
about to slip past the black mustached man and enter the little room
when he was perceived. A kick was aimed at him and he was adjured to
"make himself scarce or git his block knocked off." Thoroughly
frightened, he slouched away and ran into the open where people were too
interested in other things to knock the blocks off little boys and where
it didn't smell so stuffy and unpleasant.

He sped across the track where the uprights had been erected for the
pole vaulting, and later he became one of the group that formed a
crescent behind the football kickers. He watched, with admiration
unconcealed, the unerring pedal movements of the heavily shod young men
who sent the ball so beautifully skyward.

Meanwhile, Wilma awaited impatiently at the grand stand rail the last
heat in the sprint event. She saw the drop-kickers leave the paddock and
heard indistinctly the record that was called across from the tower-like
judges' stand; but these things were not to her liking. Her eyes upon
the track below, she saw a young man in sweater and knee breeches vault
the fence beside the stretch and rush across. He shouted a word to the
megaphone man who at once lifted the glistening instrument to his lips
and shouted:

"Is there a doctor on the grand stand? He's wanted down below. A man has
been taken suddenly sick."

The pink fled from her cheeks. Then she smiled. She realized the
absurdity of the little spasm of fear that had seized her. She glanced
down at her card again.

The runners were jogging up the stretch. She counted them. There was one
missing. Another look of fright came into her eyes. She felt some one
tugging at her dress. She turned impatiently and gazed down into the now
pale face of Willie Trigger.

"It's Bunny!" he muttered almost incoherently, "oh, it's Bunny! A man
gave him something to make him sick."

She seized him by the shoulder and held her face close to his.

"What did you say--_gave_ him something!" she exclaimed.

"Yes; come quick," and she felt that the child was drawing her through
the thick of the crowd at the rail, to the stairs at the further end.
Afterward she could not tell how it was managed or what she did. But she
followed the lad around the stand, at the back, to the dressing-room
door and then, of a sudden, as though due to the shock induced by the
picture she there beheld, her senses returned to her with a rush. The
crescent at the door parted and she saw Bunny, his face pale and drawn,
stagger forward and lean heavily against the jamb. A man whom she did
not recognize clung to one of his arms and beseeched him to lie down.

"No," he mumbled thickly. "Run--run, I tell you--lemme go!" He jerked
his arm from the other's clutch.

He passed the back of one hand heavily across his staring eyes and
broke away. At the fence he staggered again and fell against it. Wilma
came up to him, there.

"Bunny, they've drugged you, you're sick! The little boy told me!"

He turned to her his drawn face. For a tiny instant a look of
intelligence came back into his eyes.

"You!" he muttered. "Drug!" And with a plaintive little cry he sank to
his knees. Some one brushed by her and seized him. Things, for the
second time that afternoon, swam before her eyes and she moved away
unsteadily. When next she looked she saw him alone, running up the track
and swerving from side to side like a drunken man.

The crowd seemed to understand that a tragedy was being acted there upon
the course. There was no cheering. It was as though the throng held its
breath--waiting. Wilma steadied herself at the fence. She saw the gaunt
figure crouch in the line of the runners. She saw the pistol raised and
heard the sharp report. The tension under which the crowd had
momentarily lived, was relieved by that and a cry was raised that rang
in her ears for hours. She saw the line coming; advancing toward her,
swiftly, surely, but more clearly than she saw the others, she saw the
tall figure of Bunny at the end. His face, uplifted, was like a demon's
face. His lips were tight drawn and showed his teeth and--_his eyes were
shut!_ On he came in advance of all the rest, plunging, swerving. Five
more strides! She closed her eyes, and when she opened them it was to
see him throw up his arms and fall headlong across the line.

He lay there motionless. The other runners passed him, and the crowd
broke into the track and she saw no more.

In the judges' stand the megaphone man waited.

How she got there, whether she was carried, walked naturally, or flew,
she could never tell, but of a sudden, as it seemed, Wilma discovered
that she was in the grand stand again, clinging to a post at the top of
the stairs, while beside her hovered Willie Trigger. She heard the
bellow of the megaphone man:

"Last heat, one hundred yards! Winning time nine and four-fifths
seconds, breaking the Intercollegiate record! Winner----" The crowd knew
the winner and did not wait.

Her fingers relaxed in the palms of her hands. A tremor passed over her.
She looked down, breathing hard.

"Oh, you darling!" she cried, and Willie Trigger, who had not really
understood at all, hung his head in mute embarrassment.


VI

That night, on a low stone horse-block in front of his mother's house
sat Willie Trigger gazing at a lighted window in the second story of the
house opposite, across the drawn shade of which figures passed and
passed again. In that room he knew his hero lay sick. He wondered how
sick; perhaps, he speculated, as sick as he once had been after eating
many green apples. He would watch and wait. Some one surely would come
out of the house before his bedtime. He had followed the hack from the
grounds, had seen the long, slim body carried into the house. No one
paid the least attention to him so he crossed the street and seated
himself on the horse-block. It was not for him to witness the little
drama that was being played behind the window shade....

Before he opened his eyes Bunny heard, like high running surf, a low and
rythmic rumble. It was very soothing.

"What's the matter?" he exclaimed, suddenly, staring at Nibsey Morey who
stood, like a wooden Indian, at the foot of the bed.

Then he felt something very cool against his forehead and closed his
eyes again. It was no matter, he thought.

Nibsey withdrew with a nod.

"He seems to be going to sleep," Wilma said.

He heard the voice and opened his eyes again with a start.

"You here!" he muttered.

And he knew it was she by the touch of her hand upon his cheek.

She told him then what had happened. He smiled feebly, patiently, as
though he realized she was only trying to comfort him.

She slipped down upon her knees beside the bed.

"Don't you understand," she whispered, and her voice sounded far away to
him, "you ran so fast the others were away behind, and you broke the
record, and--oh--oh--Bunny."

She hid her face on the pillow beside his.

Then it all became clear to him, her love, and the depth and meaning of
it. He forgave her for what he was pleased to call, in his mind, the
white lie of her comfort.

"Dearest," he murmured, dreamily, "it's all right; it's all right." He
stroked her hair, feebly. Then, after a moment, he muttered, quite to
himself: "What happened, anyway; why was it they wouldn't let me run?"



THE DAY OF THE GAME

     _Who he was and what, we knew not; he came among us as a stranger
     and we took him in._


I

For an instant a hush that was more than that enveloped the grand stand,
the crowded veranda of the Athletic Club, and the bleachers opposite.
And then, as though by silent signal, the immense throng got upon its
feet, and with ragged cheers, broke through or leaped the boundary
ropes, and bore down the field, a tidal wave of shrieking youth that
police could not control.

The girls on the veranda, inspired by the ecstasy of their companions,
cried shrilly and wildly waved their handkerchiefs and the little flags
they carried. Many were left standing there to cheer alone, while their
escorts joined the surging mob that swept upon the dirty-gray, padded
and masked Olympians at the further goal.

No one seemed to pay the least attention to the Cornell giants as
laggingly they came up the field close to the ropes, and slipped
silently into the dressing-room, disconsolate in their defeat, their
chins upon their breasts, their eyes upon the ground.

And, as the girls left on the veranda to care for themselves, watched,
they saw eleven stuffed figures lifted in the air to ready shoulders
which bent beneath their weight and thus the strange procession of
triumph and of noise came up the field.

Above the heads of the moving mass of young humanity canes were waved
stiffly. Hats, torn and broken, were flung about the field. In the riot
of joy each man sought to shout louder, wave higher and leap further
than his brother, so great was the delight the triumph of the team
occasioned among them all. The little boys clinging in the trees and
clustered on the electric towers outside the fence, cheered with the mob
in the field and were glad likewise. The men in blue, waiting beside
their cars in the street, just beyond the gate, grinned at one another
intelligently, as roar after roar ascended to the turquois sky that
domed the gridiron.

On came the throng, running, bending, stumbling, while the cheers of the
flushed girls on the club house veranda rose shrilly above the
deeper-throated masculine yells. The victors, dirty beyond measure,
plastered with the brown, clinging mud in which they had so valiantly
wallowed for a good two hours--a splendid contest for the honor of the
colors on their stockings--rode their fellows' shoulders uncomfortably,
as the cavalcade, shapeless, soulless, inchoate but voiceful, seethed
and surged across the field. One of them, to save himself from falling,
clutched wildly at the long hair of the bareheaded youth beneath him;
another planted a heavy heel unwittingly in a second bearer's mouth, and
the youth wrenched free and ran up the field sopping his bloody lips,
but turning each tenth step to wave his reddened handkerchief and yell.

It was such a scene as might have been witnessed by Grecian maidens in
the Stadium of old, when other young giants--the distant ancestors of
these borne now in triumph--were themselves carried, as loftily, as
triumphantly, down the course.

The shouting continued so vigorously that it shook the windows of the
narrow, low-ceiled, suffocating room where other youths--the
vanquished--were peeling the garments of the battle, and silently
rubbing their smooth, pink bodies with wide, coarse towels.

The eyes of every girl above were turned down the field and all were
alight; each soft cheek glowed with ruddy color, every nerve was tense.

Among these now subdued spectators was one who had not cheered, but
whose excitement had been none the less great, as testified to by the
eagerness with which she leaned over the veranda rail, her cheeks white
from the pressure of her slim fingers against them.

Now, apparently oblivious to her immediate surroundings, her attitude
unchanged, she watched every swerve of the throng as little by little,
and unsteadily, it approached. As the human maelstrom swept on and the
stuffed shapes outlined so ridiculously against the sky became
distinguishable, one from another, the girl smiled and leaned further
over the rail. Another instant and she saw but one figure among the
many--Adams'. He sat higher than the others; was more conspicuous among
them. Again and again, that afternoon, she had seen him seize the ball
and, plunging, forge down the field, clasping it closely to his breast.
Once she had seen him flung heavily to the ground by a low tackle and
had held her breath when a little ring formed where he lay. She took in
her faint breath quiveringly when the ring broke and she saw him get
upon his feet unsteadily. Then the lines formed again--two slanting
walls of fine young brawn. But none of these things that she had seen
had set alight her eyes as they were lighted now.

With a yell of almost demoniacal joy, the mob surged beneath the
veranda, the warriors crouching on their unsteady pedestals to avoid the
timbers overhead. As he was borne beneath, and out of her delighted
sight, Adams cast one glance up at the girl leaning eagerly across the
rail. Her eyes had been awaiting his and the light that flared in both
their eyes as they met told her that he had fought for her; told him
that she had known he'd win.

She rose, then, folded her little flag and thrust it into the pocket of
her coat. With the others she descended to the club room below and
waited for him there.

She withdrew to one side and watched with curious interest the great
crowd in the street, fretting impatiently for a nearer glimpse of the
victors.

The four horses had been taken from a high tally-ho and a score of
youths were running ropes from the front axle of the vehicle away down
the street. The girl perceived it was the intention of the crowd to drag
the tally-ho to the city in the good old way of joyous, eager crowds.
And as she watched she saw a man in the blue overalls of a laborer, his
face and hands smoke-blackened, break through the throng on the walk and
approach the club house. She saw a policeman step in front of him and
bar the way. The laborer and the officer seemed to argue. The former,
his face toward her, she saw gesticulate angrily and stamp his foot, and
then she saw a look of dumb pain in his blackened face as the officer,
without more ado, seized him by the shoulders, roughly, and turning him
about, pushed him into the crowd which parted to make way for his broad,
squat figure.

The girl felt a hand upon her arm. She turned quickly and looked up into
Adams' face.

The little light of fright fled from her eyes and a mist gathered in its
place as she murmured eagerly: "Oh, John, John, how glorious it was!"

He smiled down at her gladly.

"And see," she said, "look--they are going to drag the team down town in
the tally-ho."

Through the window he saw the throng. His face at the pane was
recognized and a cheer rose that prompted the girl to draw back,
blushing. From where she stood at one side she could see a broken line
of the crowd.

"Oh, look, John!" she cried, "there's that dirty old man again. He's
been drinking--the police drove him away before."

He turned in the direction of her gaze, then drew away instantly from
the window.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

His face was pale and his mouth was set in a straight line.

"Nothing," he replied quickly. "Come----" and started toward the door
opening upon the now deserted field.

She followed him unquestioningly.

On the porch she said:

"Aren't you going on the tally-ho with the team?"

"No," he replied, "I don't like being made a fool of. There's a gate
over there on Cass Avenue. We'll go out that way and they won't see us."

"But, John----"

"I don't want to ride down town in state," he complained, testily. "I'd
rather be with you. I shall have to be with them until train time. Now,
I'd rather be with _you_." And he looked down at her and smiled.

By a devious route they finally reached the Campus Martius and at the
little door of a big Woodward Avenue hotel he left her, for she had told
him there would be friends awaiting her there with whom she would take
dinner later.

"At the train, dear?" she said, as he opened the door for her.

"Yes. Good-bye till then."

She followed his great figure with her eyes and saw it disappear in the
crowd below. Then she turned and passed down the narrow corridor from
the "ladies' entrance."


II

It had been a glorious day.

The first touch of winter was in the air, clear, crisp, and set the
blood a-tingling.

"Ideal football weather," the sporting writer of the _Journal_ had
called it in the early afternoon edition where, with the wisdom of his
species, he had sought to forecast the game's result.

In honor of the occasion a gracious citizenry had swathed Jefferson and
Woodward Avenues in bandages of maize and blue, and all day long the
small boy had been as active as though it were the fourth of July rather
than the fifth of November.

And now in the evening, the older portion of the citizenry withdrew, and
the theatres, the lobbies of the prominent hotels, the clubs, and all
the places of public meeting, were turned over, unconditionally, to
youth.

A kindly disposed commissioner of police had instructed his men to be
lenient.

"Boys will be boys," he said to the captain on night duty at the Central
Station, as he left the office.

"But what about the _girls_?" inquired the captain with a twinkle in
his own eyes that was almost youthful.

"Well--they will be, too--sometimes," the commissioner replied.

In the lobby of the Russell House, where the team was installed, the
mayor of Detroit--who himself had been an undergraduate once and
remembered it--addressed the throng below him, from the first broad
landing of the wide marble stairway.

His rounded periods were cheered to the echo; and when he drily observed
that all the policemen had been taken off duty the roof fairly lifted
and guests came pouring into the corridors, their faces clearly
indicating their alarm.

"You know," the mayor observed, his eyes twinkling,--"we've what they
call a slow town here. Well, it rests with you boys, for this night at
least, to make it fast. Moreover, it's an old town, a _very_ old town,
and wherever you find an absence of paint you have my permission and the
permission of the commissioner of police to redecorate. I suppose red
would be the proper tint. I have had a fondness for the color ever since
I was one of you--an undergrad. at old Ann Arbor----"

In the pandemonium that ensued the mayor judiciously withdrew. The crowd
"rushed" the lobby, and staid old men, in town over the day, sought
places of greater security on landings, behind pillars, and in corners
whence might be had a view of the proceedings without, necessarily,
participation.

One by one various members of the team appeared at the head of the
stairway and at each appearance a welcome of ringing cheers was sounded.
The director of athletics, a little man with a wiry mustache and a
square chin addressed the crowd from the top step after prolonged cries
of "Speech! Speech!"

The trainer, a huge man with a face like a fist, a Cockney accent, and
the shoulders of an ox, shouted a few phrases above the din. Each time
he uttered the word, "Michigan," which he insisted upon pronouncing
"Mitch-ti-gan," he was cheered wildly.

When Adams appeared on the upper landing and hesitated there the
commotion became deafening.

A section of the throng swept up to him, seized him and carried him
further down where he was made to blurt a few incoherent sentences in
which one caught, above the noise, a constant repetition of the
words--"fellows"--"great"--"wiped 'em up"--"knew it"--"right stuff"--and
others from the campus jargon, generally as unintelligible as Ute
gutterals.

Then he, too, descended and became an atom of the matter below as eager
to cry "Speech!" to the others when they should appear, as the mob about
him now had been to demand a word from him.

It all combined to constitute a riot of triumph, a veritable debauch in
the sensation of triumph--a triumph well won, and fairly; honestly
accepted, and as honestly celebrated by nearly three thousand as
irresponsible young spirits as ever took possession of a town.

Into the streets they poured. The police gritted their teeth and
restrained themselves with an effort, the strength of which their
tormentors did not dream.

Passers-by were good-naturedly jostled off the pavement by phalanxes of
obstreperous lads, who swept all before them as arm in arm, eight and
ten abreast, they advanced upon the city.

Money had been wagered and money had been won and there was money to
spend and be spent; and they spent it. They took possession of the
restaurants. In the theatres they shouted the choruses of all the songs
they knew, and between acts they whistled, stamped and applauded, in
that deadly unison and rhythm that has been known to bring buildings
tumbling about the heads of less vehement folk.

And why all this stampede of ecstasy?

Because two minutes before the umpire's call of time, John Adams, a
tall, broad, blonde giant, whom few of his worshippers really knew, had
found an elliptical pig-skin and, rushing like an engine of destruction
down a well turfed field, had touched it to the ground behind a pair of
slim, straight poles.


III

The theatre was packed. The throng extended into the lobby where the
ticket scalpers in the faces of the police hawked their coupons each of
which called for "an orchestra chair on the aisle three rows back." The
leader of one group leaned against a convex bulletin board bearing the
lithograph of a gaily garbed soubrette in red, and waving his cane
shouted the first line of a familiar college song. Each man of the group
lent his voice to the clamor and there was at once precipitated a riot
of discord in which the original air was lost in a brazen yell. There
was much rushing; a congestion at the window of the box office at which
hands were thrust between the fingers of which dangled government notes
of various denominations. Beyond the window, his bust framed in the
narrow rim of metal the treasurer of the theatre sat on his high stool
dealing out the tickets with the _sang-froid_ and ease of a judge upon
the bench. Men left their change there on the ledge. The treasurer
always shouted at them once--perhaps it was the voice of his conscience
merely--then with a sweep of his curved palm magically transferred the
money to the till. A solid V of eager youth with its apex at the narrow
door of green, pushed and jostled and shouted.

"Look out there behind, you're squeezing a lady!" some one cried.

"Don't she like it?" called an ungallant if witty youth away at the back
of the crowd. There was a little feminine shriek, then a peal of
laughter in which the throng joined. The police in the lobby were
completely at a loss. No man was to be arrested, their commissioner had
instructed them. But they gripped their clubs nervously; longing to leap
into that seething maelstrom of manhood uncontrolled and wield them to
the best purpose. A policeman is born with a hatred for loud-voiced
youth--particularly if the youth wear good clothes of trim and
fashionable cut. So the policemen there in the lobby, disarmed by the
strict injunction of their chief, were as helpless as babes, and like
babes they drew down their mouths and gripped tighter that which was
within their clutch. Now and again, however, one, bolder than his
fellows, and moved perhaps by a spirit of chivalry would shout
gruffly:--

"Remember there are ladies in this crowd, you fellows."

"Sure," some one in the throng would yell.

Finally the manager appeared and stationing a man at each of the two
other doors flung them back and relieved the pressure at the one. This
stroke of genius resulted in a quick emptying of the brilliant lobby and
an equally sudden congestion at the tops of the aisles where the ushers
in their dark green uniforms were conducting the audience to the seats
below amid the confusion resulting from exchanged coupons, balcony
tickets presented on the lower floor and the presence in the crowd of
"general admissions" who demanded their rights to a seat anywhere in the
house. The manager, a tall young man with a black mustache and black
eyes darted here, there, through the crowd, thrusting aside the men
whose money he had taken, and seeking by every means at his command to
wrest order out of chaos.

It was after eight o'clock before the score of ushers were by
circumstance permitted to emerge from under the burden of their
responsibilities and creep away down-stairs to the smoking room where,
flinging themselves on the long low lounges in sheer fatigue, they
berated the patrons of the house roundly and condemned each and every
one to the hottest depths of a boiling hot perdition.

Ten minutes later the manager himself conducted the men of the
victorious eleven to their adjoining boxes, on the right. The great
audience had had its collective eye upon those boxes and at the
appearance of the men a great shout went up from pit and gallery that
sent the cold shivers up and down the spines of the already nervous
actors behind the gold and scarlet curtain.

"There's the Count," some one shouted.

"Where? Yes!"

And the short heavy person with the baby face who had been thus honored
by selection from among his fellows arose in the box and bowed. The
throng cheered again and after that each man in turn was called for and
each man rose and bowed.

During the clamor attendant upon this official welcome of the victors, a
dozen men, quite as tall, quite as broad and quite as serene of
countenance, were ushered into the corresponding boxes across the house.
Their appearance was not noticed, for the entire audience had turned in
its seats to observe the men of Michigan, proud in the triumph that had
come to them. But, finally, after each man had been given his salvo of
applause some one noted the men on the other side.

"There's Cornell," was cried.

And the audience, to its everlasting credit, and after the fashion of
youth's wild way, repeated for their good cheer the welcome they had
given the fellows of the maize and blue. The vanquished had hardly
expected the ovation they received. A football man is not a modest
creature as a general rule, but in this instance it must in justice be
recorded that several of the brawny giants in the left hand box withdrew
behind the curtains.

Their names, however, were known to the throng below them and were
called.

Finally, unable by modesty to end the uproar, they rose, one by one and
bowed, and the feeling engendered that moment has never died, but lives
in the hearts of Cornell men to-day, who are wont in reminiscent mood to
refer to it as the "finest show of fellowship on record."

A youth with a high tenor voice, who could not be distinguished from the
rear of the theatre started the chorus of "The Yellow and the Blue." The
boys around him took it up and the citizenry of Detroit, in the balcony,
were treated to such a song recital as they had never before heard. In
the midst of it the discovery was suddenly made by some keen youth in
the gallery that one man was missing from the right hand boxes. He
nudged his companion. The word was passed along the rail. Then, with a
suddenness that caused the women in the balcony to start with little
screams, one name was shrieked above the clamor of the lower floor:--

"Adams! Adams! Adams!"

The singing ceased.

The cry was taken up, repeated, screeched.

A commotion was observed in the box and then a tall figure arose. It was
the manager. A silence that was awesome descended upon the house.

He held up his hand.

"I'm sorry," he began.

"Adams!" some one shrieked. Part of the audience laughed. The rest
hissed.

"I am sorry," the manager resumed, "but Mr. Adams is not here to-night."

He sat down.

It was well that at that instant the orchestra commenced a medley of
college airs by way of overture.

Presently the shrill tinkle of a little bell was heard and with a swish
the curtain lifted, disclosing the glittering, golden court of an
Oriental monarch. There was a blare of trumpets and a score of lithe
limbed dancers appeared upon the stage. The crowd cried its huge
delight and the college yell was flung across the footlights to the end
that several of the dancers made missteps, and, covered with a confusion
that brought forth another cheer, rushed into the wings.

After that first catastrophe the audience lent itself to a full
enjoyment of the piece. Occasionally when the chief comedian gave
utterance to a joke of ancient manufacture, the throng gave voice to its
displeasure, by way of criticism, but more often the clamor sprang from
keen appreciation of a song or bit of funny "business."

In all the audience there was, perhaps, but a single spectator whose
face showed him to have no interest either in the audience and its noise
or the action on the stage. He sat at one end of the balcony, back from
the rail, unnoticed by those about him, satisfied, seemingly, to look on
without participation either in the pleasure or the anger of the crowd
around him. When his gallery champion cried out his name he had shrunk
in his seat and almost held his breath, but now he sat up, his arms
folded across his deep, broad breast.

He had entered the theatre late. Indeed there had been no one in the
lobby when he bought his ticket. He was glad when he learned the
location of his seat. He had thus far avoided all contact with the
crowd. He would continue to avoid it. Through the first long act he sat
looking down, apparently seeing nothing, staring blankly as though
dreaming, yet awake.

When the second act was well under way, he glanced at his watch. He drew
out his hat from beneath the chair and inconveniencing no one, left his
seat. He glided up the aisle close to the wall. In the lobby, less
brilliant now, he squared his shoulders and pulled in a long, deep
breath. He lighted a cigarette and for a space stood just outside the
door, in the street, idly watching the passers-by.

At the soldier's monument a group of students--he recognized them as
such in the lighted thoroughfare--had formed a ring around some one who
appeared to be dancing on the asphalt as they shouted, rythmically, and
clapped their hands. As he watched, Adams saw the ring part on the side
nearest him and he glimpsed the dancer. All the blood went out of his
face. He threw away his cigarette and buttoned his coat nervously. With
a cry, the ring resolved itself into two lines and paraded down the
street with the dancer, who was obviously unsteady on his legs,
supported by a twain of students at the front. Adams, at the edge of the
curb, perceived the goal toward which the poor little procession was
making its way--the portal of a huge German restaurant which he knew
well. A picture of its interior as he remembered it flashed upon his
mind--the long room, filled with tables, many white clad waiters, stolid
of face, light of tread. The head of the procession reached the wide
door, bright beneath the great electric sign above. He waited until the
last man had entered, then crossed the street swiftly. In the outer hall
he heard a medley of noises beyond the mahogany and glass partition. He
heard the quick shuffle of feet. Some one was trying to dance on the
sanded floor. In the midst of the jig he flung back the connecting door
and entered the room of riot.


IV

He was immediately perceived and the crowd with a single voice shouted
him a welcome. Through the shifting gossamer of smoke that filled the
room he distinguished many familiar faces.

"Come over here, old man," he heard some one call, and turned. He stared
without sign of recognition at a young man, who, with many gestures,
indicated a vacant chair at a near-by table. He saw the smoke, the
waiters gliding noiselessly through it, the littered floor, the wet,
glistening table-tops. These misty details he saw mistily, as one sees
things in a dream.

His face was pale; there were unfamiliar lines about his mouth, and an
unnatural glitter was in his eyes.

He saw the dancer, a man of age who wore the clothes of a laborer, fling
himself heavily upon a frail chair at the nearest table, across which he
leaned unsteadily, wagging his head and muttering incoherently.

Adams strode over to him and laid a hand upon his shoulder.

"Come," he said, quietly.

With an effort the man balanced his head and lifted his heavy eyes.

"Come," Adams repeated.

It was as though the youths at the other tables knew it to be a
psychological moment. The noise subsided. Every eye in the room was
intent upon Adams, strong in his splendid youth, and the man beside whom
he stood and who was weak in his age.

Adams was seen to encircle the man's shoulders with one arm and fairly
lift him from the chair. On his feet he was unsteady. Adams supported
him to the door of the restaurant, which swung back noiselessly as the
ill-mated couple disappeared.

Then were exchanged many glances among those who had watched the little
play in silence.

"What's he going to do with the old guy?" some one asked.

A general, half-forced laugh of relief ensued, which broke the tension,
and immediately the company relapsed into its previous state of
conviviality. The songs were resumed. The noise developed swiftly and
the strangely incongruous incident of Adams' disappearance with the
drunken moulder was forgotten straightway.

No one even took the trouble to go to a window to see if developments
had occurred outside. And if one had been thus sufficiently interested,
he would merely have observed Adams hail a passing cab, into which, as
it drew up at the curb, he thrust the man, hesitating an instant with
his hand on the door to mutter a certain address to the cabman leaning
from his box.

The driver touched his horse, and the vehicle swung into Woodward
Avenue. Of a sudden, from the dark patch of pavement that the restaurant
faced, Adams felt himself flung into a maelstrom of light.

The façades of two theatres were all a-glitter; an immense confectionery
across the street was ablaze, and, looking down at the pavement through
the window in the cab door, Adams noted the weird, distorted reflections
in the asphalt ooze that gives the city streets at night the uncertain
quality of a looking-glass wantonly smeared with pitch.

He blinked in the yellow glare of the street illumination. It was as
though he were passing through a tunnel of brilliance. A car whirred by,
with clanging gong. He caught a fleeting, swift glimpse of the several
passengers.

As the cab proceeded, his attention was attracted now and then to groups
of young men loitering at various corners as though in contemplation of
some deed, very secret, if not very terrible. The lilting chorus of a
college song that he recognized was brought to him in the noiselessly
rolling cab. Before the last store-lights in the business district were
passed, he had obtained such an impression of the city as he had never
had before.

Through the window in the door he saw the skeleton trees in Grand Circus
Park as the cab cut the circle of its area, and he shivered at the
prospect of the winter they suggested.

A sound very close to him caused him to start. He smiled, looked down,
and the smile went out of his eyes and left them cold and hard.

The man beside him had succumbed to the comfort of the cab, and, asleep,
was snoring gently. Passing beneath an electric lamp, the light fell an
instant on his face--pale beneath the stubble beard and the splotches
of grime. His knees were high and his hands, broad, work-hardened, lay
limp upon them.

Adams turned again to the window.

The cab was passing through a residence district now. He noted with a
shifting, vague interest, the houses--big, shapeless for the most part,
and set far back in broad yards. The lights in the lower stories glared
yellow like the earth-close eyes of crouching monsters.

Suddenly Adams pulled himself together. He began to experience a
livelier interest in the dark picture of the street, with its broad
curbs, its iron fences, dark hedges, and wide yards. He pressed his face
against the window in the cab door, and now and again twisted his neck
to gaze as far back down the street as the swift motion of the vehicle
would permit.

He remembered definitely, vividly, certain landmarks of his young
boyhood, as he was whirled on, noiselessly, save for the rythmic
_clackety-clack_ of the horse's hoofs on the echoing asphalt. There was
the house from the side yard of which he had once, as a tiny lad, stolen
a great armful of roses. There, again, was the house with the smoke tree
near the porch behind which Pauline, his little sister, and he had once
hidden until the policeman passed, indolently swinging his night stick.

Adams smiled at the recollection.

The cab came opposite a tall apartment house at the junction of a
cross-town car line. On the ground now occupied by the ungainly,
rambling pile of stone, he remembered vividly, had stood, when he was a
very small boy--hardly big enough to push his cart--a little shack
occupied by an old cobbler, deserted in his age by a son who had robbed
him. Very many were the hours he had spent in that little shop. He
recalled certain of those hours with a momentary pang of sadness. The
cobbler had been a soldier in Poland, in his time, and was wont to tell
great stories of his own valor, to which the yellow-headed lad, all
forgetful of his mission and his cart, had listened wide-eyed and
open-mouthed. The memory came swift and certain and distinct in detail
and in the richness of it Adams shrank from the ugly stone pile in
passing, as though it were a horrid thing thus to thrust itself upon a
young man's memory of his little boyhood.

As he dreamed thus the cab turned a corner, suddenly. The rich
residential thoroughfare vanished like the palace in the pantomime, and
Adams, his face still close to the glass, saw a row of little, squat,
mean houses, set regularly behind low white picket fences. Only here and
there a light shone from small, square windows. The street seemed
totally deserted, save for a single dog that he saw crawl under one of
the low latched gates and vanish behind a house that was like all the
others in the little squalid street. And as he noted these things, the
cab pulled up before such another house, and, mechanically, he passed
his hand over his forehead, as a child does when awakened.

A brief parley ensued with the burly driver of the cab, comical in his
bristling fur cape.

"Kin yeh git 'im out?" he asked.

"Yes."

One of the windows in the second story of the cottage before which the
cab had stopped, was aglow, and across the drawn shade a shadow passed,
and passed again.

Adams shook the sleeper in the cab. Finally after a series of muffled
grunts and grumblings that were like remonstrances, the man was gotten
out.

"All right?" inquired the driver, gathering up the reins.

"All right," Adams replied; whereat the driver spoke to his horse,
turned, and drove back down the squalid street.

Adams supported the tottering figure of the man to the door of the
house and fumbled for the knob, which, when his fingers found it, turned
in his hand and the door swung open. On a table in the room at the end
of the narrow, bare, unlighted hallway, stood a lamp, turned low. As he
half carried, half led the man into the room, Adams heard footsteps
overhead. And as he cast his burden down upon a carpet-covered lounge,
pushed back against the wall at the further end of the room, he heard a
voice from above call:

"Iss dat you?"

"Come down," he answered.

There was a little frightened, feminine "Oh!" followed by quick, heavy
footfalls on the bare stairs. The next instant the short, thick figure
of a woman was framed by the doorway. The light of the lamp struck her
face which was broad and kindly.

"Chon!" she exclaimed.

His eyes met hers and he smiled faintly. Then his gaze wandered to the
lithograph of the Christ tacked to the wall, and to the couch beneath,
and he said:

"There's father; I brought him home."

The woman uttered a little cry and bent over the prostrate figure.

"Ah," she muttered. Then, glancing back over her rounded shoulder, she
asked: "Where you git heem?"

"Down town," the boy replied, quietly.

"So." And the woman sat down again, and as long as her son was with her
she kept her eyes upon him, oblivious, seemingly, of the unfeeling body
on the couch.

"Ven you come in?" she asked.

"This morning," he replied. "I played football to-day."

"Och, yes," she murmured, nodding. "I heard dee noise. Yes."

There ensued a moment's silence that was complete, save for the heavy
breathing of the sleeper on the couch.

"Chon," the woman said, calmly, "you don't do dat?" And she indicated
with a gesture the prone shape on the lounge.

The boy laughed forcedly, and shook his head.

"No," he said.

"Och, yes, no," his mother muttered.

"How's Pauline?" he asked.

"She's vell; she's to a dance."

He shivered as with cold.

"Isn't it late?" he asked.

"No," his mother replied. "She be home maype a hour; maype two hour."

Each seemed conscious of the infinite labor of the conversation.

"Well," John said after half an hour, "I guess I'd better be going."

"So soon!" his mother exclaimed. "Vy not in de morning? We go to church,
you ant me."

He shook his head, sadly.

"No," he said. "I must go back to-night. The train leaves before long."

"All right," she muttered.

At the gate in the low fence he turned. His mother's figure was
silhouetted against the light of the room at the end of the hall.

"Good-bye," he said, "and tell Pauline to take care."

"Goot-pye," she called to him softly.

She turned back into the house at once and he heard the door shut.

Passing beneath an electric light he examined his watch. The train was
due to leave in an hour. He decided to walk to the station. The cold
felt good on his face.

He straightened his shoulders and walked with long, even strides,
looking neither to right nor left.

He found Janet waiting in the shadow of the baggage-room doorway. The
station was thronged with a shouting, jostling crowd. Taking her arm,
he guided her through the gate and assisted her to the platform of the
last coach.

"You hold the seat, will you?" he asked. "I want to smoke. We broke
training to-night, you know."

She nodded, smiling.

And until the porter's call he paced up and down the long train shed. As
the train pulled out he swung himself to the platform of the rear coach
and entered.


V

A throng of several hundred awaited the arrival of the train at midnight
in the railway yards. At the first shriek of the whistle away beyond the
bend of the river the cheering commenced. It gathered force sufficiently
to smother completely the pounding of the great engine as it thundered
past the trim little station and came to a grinding stop.

In the crowd that packed the platform the old men were as eager as the
lads; and there were not a few such old men with white in their hair and
lined faces, that the lights of the station made radiant. Professors
were there, eagerly jostling, squirming, edging in the crowd, holding
their own in the tight-squeezed mass with elbows every whit as pointed
as the elbows of the youngsters that the youngsters thrust into _their_
sides.

The crowd discovered at once that the team was in the second coach and
before a man of the eleven had reached the platform the car was
surrounded.

Late as was the hour, speeches were demanded, nor was a path opened
through the throng until the demand had been acceded to. A circle formed
around the band and its brassy noise blared out upon the night until
every townsman within range of the farthest-carrying horn flung up his
window and poked a head wonderingly into the outer darkness.

As the crowd surged down the platform to the front of the train, Adams,
taking advantage of the clear way at the rear, assisted Janet to the
ground and unobserved they passed out into the street through the tall
turnstile in the shadow of the baggage-room.

She breathed deeply of the cool night air and he felt the pressure of
her hand upon his arm as her steps quickened to his.

In the crowded train she had refrained from all attempts to learn the
reason for his silence. Only now and then, as in answer to some question
that she asked him, had he spoken in the hour and a half required to
cover the forty miles between Detroit and Ann Arbor.

But now in the silence of the darkened street she took courage. At the
top of the steep hill, as they passed beneath a sputtering electric
lamp, she looked up at him and asked:

"What is it, John--tell me--what is it?"

She hung upon his reply eagerly, a little frightened, though she
realized, in seeking to analyze her foreboding that she could not tell
herself why she should.

"There's a great deal, Janet," he replied calmly. She perceived an
unfamiliar note in his voice, a note that seemed to her to sound a sort
of resignation.

"But _what_---- Can't you tell me? Has anything happened?"

For a moment he did not answer, but then he said: "Yes, dear; several
things have happened--several things----"

"What?" she asked, almost in a whisper, and he felt her hand's pressure
upon his arm again.

He continued, ruminatively, quite as though she had not spoken: "Several
things, that make other things clearer to me now--much clearer."

She had never heard him speak like this before. Perhaps it was a matter
intimately personal with him, too intimately personal even for her to
share his knowledge, his consideration of it. She almost regretted
having asked him. Why had she not prattled on about the game, the
splendid victory, his own skill? But when next he spoke she understood
she had done no wrong.

"I must tell you about those things, Janet; I must tell you
now--to-night--I have meant to before."

Her hand upon his arm tightened its grasp.

"John, what _is_ it? _What_ has happened?" Now she made no effort to
conceal the fright that sounded in her voice.

He patted her hand, white on his black sleeve, and laughed
lightly--forcedly, she thought.

"There, don't be afraid," he said, "I haven't committed any crime."

She laughed then herself, and said, "You _did_ frighten me, though."

They had come to the library. As they passed, the deep throated bell in
the tower rang out twice upon the stillness--tang--tung.

Fifteen minutes past one, Janet calculated.

They took the diagonal walk to the crossing of South and East University
Avenues. Her room was in the second house from the corner, on the former
street.

He seemed of a sudden to perceive where they were, for, looking about
him, he said: "Janet, it is something I must tell you for your own
sake. And when I'm through, you can say to me what you think; it won't
hurt."

A step and they were at her home.

"Can't you sit here on the porch a few minutes?" he asked; "I shan't
keep you long."

With sudden anger she replied:--

"John, if you don't speak out at once what you have to say, I shall go
in immediately. You've said again and again that there is something you
must tell me; why don't you? Couldn't you see; can't you see now that I
haven't begged you to tell because it seems to pain you."

"It does," he exclaimed, "you can't know how it pains me." He looked
down at her where she sat on the step and into her uplifted face.

"What is it?" she asked calmly, now.

He sat beside her.

"I hardly know where to begin," he commenced and hesitated. He seemed to
be arranging the words in his mind, for, after a moment he resumed.

"I told you it wasn't any crime," he said. "Well, maybe it isn't, but
Janet," he went on quickly, "while you were standing at the window of
the club this afternoon, you saw a man--do you remember? He wore
overalls. His face and hands were black. You said you saw a policeman
push him back into the crowd, and you believed him to be drunk---- He
was drunk, Janet----"

"How do you know?" she asked, quite indifferently, "did you see him
again?"

"Yes, I saw him again," he said. "I saw him in a big restaurant that was
crowded with students, men whom I know, whom I have eaten with, whose
cheers till now have been--been inspiring to me----"

"John--really----" the girl put in impatiently. "I can't see why that
drunk man should have made such an impression--that common laborer--nor
what he can have to do----"

"Wait a moment," he remonstrated. "You remember, when you called my
attention to him, I took you out across the field, and down town another
way? Yes? Well, I had a reason. I didn't want that drunken man to see
me--to see you----"

"But, dear," she exclaimed with a little laugh.

"It was my father," he said, quietly.

"John!"

Passion, shock, anger, perhaps pity, were all in the tone of her
exclamation. Unconsciously she drew away from him.

"Don't be afraid," he said, holding out a hand to her, "I shan't smirch
you----"

She realized her movement then, and pity filled her heart, pity for
this great creature beside her whose own heart, the heart she knew, was
like a child's.

"Dear," she murmured, "don't think that. Don't. I didn't mean to."

He seemed not to notice the plea in her voice.

"I don't blame you," he went on as calmly as before, "but it was because
I _knew_ you would do just that that I haven't told you before. But
now--I can't wait any longer. Listen. My parents are Poles, Janet. My
father and mother were born in the same tiny town in Poland a little way
from Cracow. They came to this country when I was only five years
old--before my sister--my little sister Pauline, was born. My father was
a peddler at first; afterward for a time he was a street sweeper; and
then, during a strike, a good many years ago, he went into the Stove
Works and learned the moulder's trade. It's a good trade, Janet; the men
sometimes earn four dollars a day, pouring the hot iron into the sand.
My father earns that now----"

She had listened to him raptly, the pale light white upon her lifted
face.

"But John," she exclaimed, "your name--your name isn't foreign?"

He laughed.

"My name isn't 'Adams,'" he replied.

"John!"

"No," he went on--"but maybe my name is, too, after all. I should have
said 'perhaps.' My father's name is not. It is Adamowski----" He heard
her little quick in-taking of breath and looked away.

"You have never heard of such things before, have you?" he asked. "But
it is a custom with Polish young men nowadays. Their names handicap them
in their work, in their advancement, so they often change them."

"Yes, I understand," she murmured.

"Well," he went on, "until I was ten years old I attended the parochial
school----"

"John, you're not a _Catholic_!" she exclaimed.

"No--you needn't be afraid of that either--I'm not--now," he answered.
"And then," he continued as calmly as before, "I was sent to the public
schools. It was the superintendent who wrote my name 'Adams.' He did it
perhaps by accident; anyway it has been my name ever since. Plain 'John
Adams.' I don't suppose I could make you understand the relation between
parents and an only son among my people, so I shan't try, but it is to
the son that the parents look for the fulfilment of all their happiest
hopes. That I should have been sent here to college is not so
surprising as you may consider it. I _was_ sent here. I was sent here by
my father who works in the sand of the moulding room; by my mother who,
to help, has for three years taken in washing; and by my little sister,
Pauline, who sits all day at a bench and tears the stems out of tobacco
leaves in a great, gray factory. They are the ones who have sent me here
to college--to study, to learn, to make something of myself----"

Thus far to the girl, save for little moments when from the narrative
she had suffered twinges of pain, it was as though she were listening to
a story of one whom she knew not. She had been moved and strangely
thrilled at times and now leaning forward eagerly she exclaimed:

"And you have made something of yourself; you have, John! Oh, don't you
see how brave you are--what you can _do_ with the education they have
given you; what you can accomplish for yourself, and so, for them?"

He did not interrupt her but when she had done he looked down at her
pityingly and muttered, as though suffering an intense physical agony:
"Oh Janet! to hear you talk like that--to hear you say such things; to
feel you haven't understood."

She looked away from him piqued, chagrined that she had erred.

"I brave!" he went on, "_I_ brave? Do you think _I_ dare call myself
brave when I think of that little girl tearing stems out of tobacco
leaves until her fingers are stiff; when I think of my mother bent over
a tub, her face wreathed in steam--I can hear the smooth rasp of the wet
clothes now as she rubs them on the board? I _brave_ when I see my
father working in the awful heat of a moulding room--cooked alive--that
I may dawdle here and kick a leather ball about a field." He looked away
with a sneer. But the bitterness in his voice failed to move her.

"Your education!" she exclaimed, tersely,--"you have that!"

He laughed harshly. "Education! my education! What is it? There are my
people--my father a moulder, a good workman who sometimes is drunk, and,
so, a drunkard; my mother a wash-woman; my little sister a stripper in a
cigar factory. They have given me my education and in giving me it what
have they done? They have made me _hate_ them!"

"John, John, you mustn't say that," she implored.

"I must say it," he replied,--"for it's the truth. They have lifted me
above them. All the love I should have for them is gone, obliterated. My
feeling toward them is the feeling a man has for a dog that has helped
him, perhaps saved him from drowning. It is a feeling but it is not
love. I've known this a long time, Janet, but not till now have I known
what to do. There is my place, there beside them. Back in the little
home I should be ashamed to take you into. I have been educated away
from them; from my father, my mother, my little sister; yes," he added
with a virulent bitterness, "I have even been educated away from my
God."

She placed her hand on his arm but she did not speak.

"Educated even away from my God!" he repeated sadly. "They are
Catholics. I should be. I am not. And what has been given me in return?
Nothing; less than nothing; yes, something, for I have been given by
this 'education' that has been paid for by my sister's blood, my
mother's body, and my father's soul, the power to see my own false
position. I thank heaven for that! O, don't remonstrate," he said, as
she leaned toward him as though to speak. "I understand. From the high
plane of your view the picture is not the same. I am closer to it. I see
the fault of the method, the absurdity of the thing, the miserable
falsity of the conception. You cannot understand, Janet. It is because I
have known you could not, that I have not told you till now."

"But, John, dear," she murmured tenderly, pityingly, "I _do_
understand."

"No," he contradicted, gently, "you don't; you can't; it is not _for_
you to understand."

He stood up, and looking down at her where she sat, smiled sadly. The
bell in the tower of the library rang out upon the stillness, six
times--tang--ting--tang--ting--tang--ting!

"But perhaps you can feel a little as I feel and know something of how I
have felt for weeks. I shall go back to-morrow." There was no drama in
the declaration. It was uttered calmly.

The girl stood up now suddenly and leaned toward him.

"What do you mean?" she asked, "you're not really going--going
back--there?"

"Yes," he said. "I'm going back. I am going to try to find what has been
stolen from me. I am going to try to rid myself of my unrest; to undo
for myself the wrong that all unconsciously has been done me, by hands
that have hit me when they only meant to be gentle. I'm going back,
Janet, to work in the moulding-room beside my father."

She stared into his face, in mute wonder.

"And give up your course, John? _Now!_" she cried, as the full force of
his determination dawned upon her.

"I am going to give up the false that has been thrust upon me, for the
good that I have flung away," he answered. "I shall work until I have
paid back all my mother's money and my father's money, and my little
sister's money. Would to God I could pay them for the aching backs, the
stiff fingers, and the tortured souls. I shall try. And if when I have
tried, I find that, after all, it has been of no avail, that these debts
can never be paid, perhaps I shall come back. Good-bye."

He held out his hand. He felt hers cold in his palm.

"Will you forgive me?" he asked simply,--"I should not have--I should
not have cared for you. It was wrong. Forgive me----"

"There is nothing to forgive," she said, quite firmly. He drew away his
hand then and hers fell limp at her side.

She stood motionless and watched his figure as it swung up the street.

Her heart bade her lips call out to him. But the million voices of the
night bade her heart be still. And then, even as she watched, where he
was, there was he not, but only blackness.



THE OLD PROFESSOR

(_A Portrait_)


I

Generally he was to be found in one of the galleries of the library,
surrounded by tiers on tiers of books that formed for him a veritable
barricade of erudition. Or it was as though he sat at the bottom of a
well the bricks of which were the solid thoughts of men, themselves gone
these many, many years. But there he would sit hour after hour and read,
read, read, by the ragged light that filtered down upon him through the
unscrubbed glass above. Always he was the first person the librarian met
on the broad stone steps when he came over in the morning with his huge
key to unlock the great, thick door and throw the building open for
another day.

"Good-morning, sir," the old professor would say, in his dry, thin,
little voice, and bow stiffly.

"'Morning," the librarian would respond, not so gruffly as
characteristically, and bustle away.

Then, on tiptoe, the old professor would pass the swinging doors of
baize and silently mount the gray iron stairs to the narrow galleries of
the book-room where the life of his waking hours was lived among his
unresponsive loves.

For he did love them, his books, whose friendship did not suffer change
be the day gay or gray, and with them all about him--he the centre of
the chaos of wisdom--he was happy. Among them he lived his simple life
in sweet companionship and was joyous for the privilege, for without the
books darkness would be his, whilst in them was light for his dim eyes
and solace for his gently beating heart. So, day in, day out, in
sunshine and in rain, in cold and snow and warmth, the old professor
mounted, silently, the gray iron stairs in the childhood of the day, to
come down again, as silently, when the lights were extinguished one by
one and the broad campus without was wrapped in melancholy black.

Once he had been young. But that was in the day of hard work, when youth
toiled to live. Then no lad was more sprightly than he. His early home
was a long, low, rambling farmhouse in a southern state, where the
flowers came early in the spring and bloomed and bloomed again late into
autumn. There, to him, imaginative, dreaming, for all his boyish
activity, the life out-of-doors was little less than participation in a
splendid pageant--the Pageant of Summer.

On the farm adjoining lived another boy and together they builded
air-castles and procrastinated through the long, still evenings, when
the work of the day was done. And of such sort were the castles that
they lived in them, even as they worked afield, and sowed, and reaped,
and sowed again.

Of all their dreams one was fairer than the others. It was of a college
in the north where boys might go, and, once there, might learn the finer
things. One day they resolved to make their goal that college. They
toiled longer each day, then, until the red sun slipped below the
wood-line to the west, and when the summer died they fared forth
together.

Side by side they sat at lectures and at recitations. They lived
together in a little room across the river where rooms were more cheaply
to be had and where landladies were more accommodating and framed no
loud objections to simple cooking on a smoky oil stove. Halcyon days
those were to the lads, and the very experience of poverty whetted their
appetites for the luxuries they dreamed one day would be for them.

Together they had from the hands of the president their diplomas,
squares of sheepskin all written over in stately Latin--the golden
fleece of their heroic quest.

He who later was to be the old professor, became the young professor
then; and the friend of the four years in the little room across the
river, where simple cooking was permitted, went away, nor ever came back
again.

So near had been their lives that for a time the young professor was
sad. A portrait on tin was all he had to recall the face of him who was
gone, and frequently, of a Sunday afternoon which was set apart for a
walk afield, he would seat himself beside the river and with the little
portrait on his knee indulge in retrospections of the by-gone days when
they were lads together on adjoining farms. Such fragrant reveries
constituted the leaven needed in the young professor's life, for in the
University circle he was much sought. He was a brilliant man; his ideas
were "advanced" then, original and new. His conversation at dinner was
sprightly, vivacious. He had the gallantry of generations of Southern
gentlemen and was beloved of all the ladies. He was wont on occasion to
pass the compliment with an almost Italian grace and he rejoiced in the
tap of the fan upon his wrist which was his feminine reward.

"You must not fail us," a hostess would say, "you know Professor ----
will be here; such a brilliant man; such charming manners."

And the bidden guest would promise straightway, whilst the hostess would
turn back from the door with a sigh, betokening, perhaps, a discontent
that her Henry had not the graces of Professor ----. Then the children
would cry to her from the nursery and she would forget----

Or--

"That is Professor ----," a fellow academician would say to a stranger
on the campus as the erect, lithe-limbed young man veered round a
corner. "A pillar, sir, a pillar of the institution. The making of a
great man, a great man, sir."

But all this was long before the advent of the old professor, long
before the day when people ceased to seek him out, to fawn before his
talent, and to cherish in memory the brilliant phrases that he was so
apt in making. For when that day came he was no more noticed in his
passage to and fro across the campus than one of the rats that were wont
to scamper from building to building in the dead hours of the night.

The transition from the young professor to the old professor was not
sudden, but stealthily gradual. He loved the past, its doctrines and its
methods. What had been _his_ youth should be, he thought, the youth for
all time, and he never knew his error. Little by little, year by year,
he became less often the honored guest at a faculty dinner. He clung to
the manners of his youth and the younger wives called him an old fogey
and smiled when his name was mentioned.

Thus it continued until he became a mere ghost of dead days, an
occasional, living reminder of an ancient system of education or method
of class-room work long since relegated to that dusty storehouse where
are heaped "old things" that have served their usefulness, flung aside
to make room for _papier maché_ manikins and varnished maps of
pasteboard with the mountains raised to scale and the winding streams
indented.

And yet in the official circle of the institution there lingered a
certain reverence for the old professor. His sweetness of character, his
gentleness of spirit, his humility, made it a sad duty to point the way
to him; and so, from month to month, the president's request for his
resignation was delayed, and then there occurred a little incident that
secured for him, unknowing, another period of service.

The trembling country awaited application of the torch of war. In the
college town a meeting was called and the citizenry swarmed into a
church where the president of the University was to deliver an address.

On a bench at the front sat the old professor, his face uplifted, drawn
with the pain that tore his gentle heart, for the South he loved was
proving its disloyalty to the Union that he worshipped.

Through the open windows came a breeze of gentle April that moved the
old professor's hair, and he lifted a trembling hand to his high smooth
forehead.

Even as the president spoke there was heard a cry in the street that
caused the faces of strong men to pale and their eyes to start.

"_Sumpter has been fired upon!_"

And at the cry right triumphed over wrong in the old professor's
throbbing heart. Getting unsteadily upon his feet he raised his hand.

"Silence!" he called, and then, in the hush, he added, his voice
trembling,

"I move that this meeting adjourn at once to Court House Square!"

A cheer was raised, and in the wake of the procession that was formed
upon the instant the old professor marched--his head bowed, his eyes
wet--to the open place where the speeches, now ablaze, with patriotic
fervor, were resumed.

There were those who knew and somewhat understood what it had meant to
the old professor to move that adjournment and when they spoke of him
among themselves for many days thereafter it was with a little tremor of
the voice and a certain mistiness of the eyes. And for three years he
lived among them uncomplaining though stricken to the soul.


II

But the weeks became months and the months gathered into years, and
after many years even the old professor himself forgot the incident save
at such times as the appearance of a man in uniform recalled it to him.
At such times he was wont to close his book--his long slim finger
marking the place--and let it fall upon his knee, whilst his mind
galloped back across the desert of the years to hover an instant about
the past's neglected grave.

Perhaps some ray of humor would creep in and part the clouds and the old
professor's smile would reflect the glint of sunshine deeper in his
heart. Then he would shake his head and sigh and open the book again,
following the lines as he read, with that long, slim forefinger.

"A dream--a dream," he would murmur and forget.

And for a long time the memories of the dead days would sleep in his
quiet mind.

He dwelt in peace in the midst of an active warring world; the peace
that is the man's who feels that he has done his part, his little share,
in making his world better. He knew his work was ended, that his time
for rest had come, and knowing this he was satisfied to creep
noiselessly and unnoticed into a dingy, unfrequented corner and there,
with a book or two, a ream of pure white paper and a pen, to spend the
time allowed him in the sweet society of his books.

Unhappy, you ask, this frail old man into whose thick hair the years had
sprinkled many snowflakes?

All about him there was none happier.

Had you asked _him_, he would have said, no doubt, with that pale little
smile of his:

"I have my books. I live well. I have my room. I have my bed. I have my
meals--and some of them I prepare myself. And I have a friend. Could a
man ask more? As I grow older I find myself agreeing more and more with
David Thoreau, who, you will remember, once said, as he passed a tool
box standing beside a railway, that he could not understand why a man
should want a better home than such a box would make."

And he would laugh with himself at the philosophic quip.

His friend in his later years was another old man; not a scholar, but a
man who had worked hard and lived hard, and at sunset took his rest. He
too, had many graces.

On Sunday afternoons whenever the weather would permit the old professor
sought him out and they walked afield, or by the river where the old
professor had loved to wander as a boy. If their path were barricaded by
a turnstile it always meant a lengthy parley as to whom should cross it
first.

"After you, my friend," the old professor would say, bowing low.

Lifting a protesting hand, "No," the other would respond, "after you."

"I insist," the old professor would contend.

The other would indicate the turnstile with a gesture. "You first," he
would repeat.

And so they would stand there bowing, insisting, until, neither seeing
fit to give way, they would retrace their steps and seek a path that had
no turnstile.

But once, filled with zeal to explore the wood beyond a certain stile,
an ingenious plan occurred to the old professor which was immediately
carried to a successful issue. Both clambered over the fence at one
side of the opening and proceeded on their way.

And for a long time after each held the incident as a joke against the
other.

The conversation of the friends on such occasions was of the life that
lay before them, serious; never of the past. And they agreed in their
philosophy at all points. They never argued.

"Well, friend," the old professor said one day, "when the time comes for
us to go I hope we may go together--may continue our walk."

"I hope we may," the other answered.

"I have always thought," the old professor added with a twinkle in his
eyes, "that there must be many a pleasant walk in heaven--after one has
left the pavement."


III

Alike as they were, there was one joy that now and then came into the
old professor's life that the other could not share.

It came to him when, at widely separated intervals, there crossed his
path a man with hair almost as white as his own, who in the days long
gone had sat before him on the benches of the class-room as a student,
and absorbed his wider wisdom. When such an one he met, the old
professor's voice always caught in his throat and he sought to cover
the confusion that he suffered by a closer pressure of his hand. Then,
the emotion passing, something of the old light would flame up in his
eyes.

He would step back and exclaim: "Well! well! well!" Then the memories
would surge back into his mind and he would gaze abstractedly without
speaking.

"You remember me?" the other old fellow would ask, gaily.

"_Remember_ you!" the old professor would exclaim and nudge him,
playfully. "Remember _you_? Well, well, I guess I couldn't _forget_ you
if I tried! Why you were the scamp that tied the white mule to my
desk-leg and left him there over night so I should be greeted by his
bray when I entered the room in the morning! Remember _you_! Ha! ha!
I've been waiting all these years to get at you!"

Then he would stride upon the white haired "grad" with hand raised,
ominously, but with the merry twinkle still lighting up his eyes; whilst
the victim would quail mockingly, with a brighter twinkle in his own.

The old professor was known often to have kissed gray haired boys when
they met on alumni day.

"I have always called you the mule-pupil," he would continue as, arm in
arm they strolled back and forth along the broad main corridor.

"And do you remember what you said to the class when you found that mule
at your desk, in the morning?" the scamp would ask, with a chuckle,
perhaps.

"No, what?"

"Ah, I remember it as though it were yesterday; how you came bustling
into the room. You saw the mule. We were all boiling inside. You did not
scowl. You did not rant. You did not call down upon our heads the
venging hand of a just heaven. You just turned to us as calm as you are
now...."

The old professor would gurgle here, with rare delight.

" ... and said, 'young gentlemen, I perceive that you have already been
provided with an instructor quite competent to teach you all you will
ever be able to learn!' And then you walked out of the room with a
polite 'good-morning.'"

Here the former student would roar with laughter.

"You don't tell me," the old professor would exclaim. "You don't tell me
I said _that_! Well, well, well; that _was_ rather hard on you boys,
wasn't it? I'd forgotten all about it. I--I just remembered the
_mule_!"

"And do you recall," the man who was a boy, again would ask, "how you
found all the wood from the big wood-box in the south-wing corridor
piled against your door?"

The old professor would wrinkle his forehead here and stare thoughtfully
at the floor.

"No, I don't seem to recollect," he would say.

"Well you _did_; we boys had piled it there, of course. Must have been a
cord at least. Then we hung around to see what you would do."

"And what _did_ I do?"

"You began to remove the pile, stick by stick, and to pack them all away
in the great wood-box."

Here the old professor was always wont to shake with silent laughter.

"Well, we stood it as long as we could, and then Billy Green--you
remember Billy Green; poor Billy, he was killed at Gettysburg. Billy
went up to you, as brave as you please, and said: 'Professor, I don't
know who _piled_ this wood against your door but _un-piling_ it is no
work for you.' And then he shouted to us, 'come on, boys,' and we fell
to and got the wood away from that door in about two jerks of a lamb's
tail. But didn't we feel small! Professor, why didn't you have a few of
us fired bodily?"

"Oh, no, no, my friend," the old professor would perhaps exclaim,
quickly. "Expel a boy for being a boy! It is not for you or me, dear
sir, to seek to improve upon the handiwork of God!"

And there would ensue another laugh, and many more in the three days to
follow, and then commencement would be over and the old student would go
back to Kansas City and the old professor to his books.

But for more than three days a subtle effect of the meeting would remain
with him. For many days he would carry his head a bit higher. A color
flush would show upon his hollow cheeks; his step would take on an
unaccustomed elasticity. For a discriminating Fate had touched to the
old professor's lips the cup of life and he had sipped of the contents,
and another year was his.


IV

I remember him best as I saw him first. It was in the late afternoon of
a golden day in mid-October. A companion pointed him out to me as we
approached the ivy-green library. He was coming slowly down the steps,
one arm encircling a great bundle of books, one hand fumbling at his
neck scarf. The clothes he wore were of another day. The coat was
full-skirted, long, and bulging at the breast. About his thin throat was
twisted a black silk stock, frayed and rusty, over which the loose and
unstarched collar rolled. On his broad-toed shoes his baggy trousers
fell in folds. There was a seeming rigidity to the creases that induced
the thought they must have been so always; like the wrinkles in the
wrappings of a mummy. And yet, infinitely pathetic as the picture was, I
knew that such a coat, such a stock, even such a round crowned, broad
brimmed soft hat as that he wore, once had made the old professor a man
of fashion--a quarter of a century before.

"That's the oldest professor on the campus," my companion said. "In
college? No. He hasn't taught a class for twenty years. He was an old
fogey and they removed him, I'm told, to make room for a younger man.
He's only waiting for the end now. Every one says he'd give five years
to get back on the faculty. You'll usually find him near the library,
either just going in or just coming out. He hides himself all day among
the books. The fellows call him 'The Ghost.' I've been told he saved a
little from his salary every quarter and that now he lives in a little
back room somewhere near the campus and cooks his own meals."

And whenever after that I saw him it was this last phrase that recurred
to me with almost painful insistency ... "lives in a little back room
somewhere ... and cooks his own meals."

It was hard for youth to realize that such could be humanity's reward to
a man who had given a life of patience, forebearance, toil, and
sacrifice, to make his little world the better for his having lived
within it.

We stood apart and watched him as he came slowly down the broad, stone
steps. At the last he stopped and looked up at the sky. We saw his face
more clearly then. It was thin, pale, drawn about the mouth, but the
eyes were infinitely tender. His lips trembled and seemed to form words
that were not uttered. Then he walked on. Twice, before he turned the
corner of the ivy-covered wall, he raised a hand to his face and passed
the dangling finger-tips of his black cloth glove across his eyes.

That slow walk home beneath the canopy the painted maples made marked
the ending of another day in the old professor's fading life; a day such
as days had been for twenty years, a space of time in which a smile had
flitted to his lips, a tear had risen, and he had held the book a
little closer to his eyes.


It was not long thereafter that we learned the end had come. They found
him in his chair, a book upon his knee, his slim forefinger marking the
page where he had left off reading to close his eyes and dream. The pale
ghost of a smile still lingered about his mouth.

Some one, gentler than the rest, placed a single rose in the cold hand,
and a scant company followed the slow hearse to the cemetery.

No one wept. Perhaps no one even felt a sadness, standing there beside
the open grave. Yet he would not have wished it otherwise. They covered
him for the long, long sleep, and went away.

And now, on a day in June, when the air is heavy with the fragrance of
the green and growing things and the grasses are alive with singing
creatures, the breeze that stirs alike the tall tree-tops and the tender
shoots of grain seems to whisper above the lonely grave, unmarked in
that great City of the Dead: "Sleep on; thy work is done; done well.
Thou shalt be rewarded."





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