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Title: Ramsey Milholland
Author: Tarkington, Booth
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 "Ramsey Milholland" ***

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RAMSEY MILHOLLAND


by Booth Tarkington



To the Memory of Billy Miller (William Henry Harrison Miller II) 1908 -
1918 Little Patriot, Good Citizen Friend of Mankind



Chapter I

     When Johnnie comes marching home again,
     Hurrah!  Hurrah!
     We’ll give him a hearty welcome then,
     Hurrah!  Hurrah!
     The men with the cheers, the boys with shouts,
     The ladies they will all turn out,
     And we’ll all feel gay, when Johnnie comes marching home again!

The old man and the little boy, his grandson, sat together in the shade
of the big walnut tree in the front yard, watching the “Decoration
Day Parade,” as it passed up the long street; and when the last of the
veterans was out of sight the grandfather murmured the words of the tune
that came drifting back from the now distant band at the head of the
procession.

“Yes, we’ll all feel gay when Johnnie comes marching home again,” he
finished, with a musing chuckle.

“Did you, Grandpa?” the boy asked.

“Did I what?”

“Did you all feel gay when the army got home?”

“It didn’t get home all at once, precisely,” the grandfather explained.
“When the war was over I suppose we felt relieved, more than anything
else.”

“You didn’t feel so gay when the war _was_, though, I guess!” the boy
ventured.

“I guess we didn’t.”

“Were you scared, Grandpa? Were you ever scared the Rebels would win?”

“No. We weren’t ever afraid of that.”

“Not any at all?”

“No. Not any at all.”

“Well, weren’t you ever scared yourself, Grandpa? I mean when you were
in a battle.”

“Oh, yes; _then_ I was.” The old man laughed. “Scared plenty!”

“I don’t see why,” the boy said promptly. “I wouldn’t be scared in a
battle.”

“Wouldn’t you?”

“‘Course not! Grandpa, why don’t you march in the Decoration Day Parade?
Wouldn’t they let you?”

“I’m not able to march any more. Too short of breath and too shaky in
the legs and too blind.”

“I wouldn’t care,” said the boy. “I’d be in the parade anyway, if I was
you. They had some sittin’ in carriages, ‘way at the tail end; but I
wouldn’t like that. If I’d been in your place, Grandpa, and they’d let
me be in that parade, I’d been right up by the band. Look, Grandpa!
Watch me, Grandpa! This is the way I’d be, Grandpa.”

He rose from the garden bench where they sat, and gave a complex
imitation of what had most appealed to him as the grandeurs of the
procession, his prancing legs simulating those of the horse of the grand
marshal, while his upper parts rendered the drums and bugles of the
band, as well as the officers and privates of the militia company which
had been a feature of the parade. The only thing he left out was the
detachment of veterans.

“Putty-boom! Putty-boom! Putty-boom-boom-boom!” he vociferated, as the
drums--and then as the bugles: “Ta, ta, ra, tara!” He addressed his
restive legs: “_Whoa_, there, you Whitey! Gee! Haw! Git up!” Then,
waving an imaginary sword: “Col-lumn right! Farwud _March!_ Halt! Carry
_harms!_” He “carried arms.” “Show-dler _harms!_” He “shouldered arms,”
 and returned to his seat.

“That’d be me, Grandpa. That’s the way I’d do.” And as the grandfather
nodded, seeming to agree, a thought recently dismissed returned to the
mind of the composite procession and he asked:

“Well, _why_ weren’t you ever afraid the Rebels would whip the Unions,
Grandpa?”

“Oh, we knew they couldn’t.”

“I guess so.” The little boy laughed disdainfully, thinking his question
satisfactorily answered. “I guess those ole Rebels couldn’t whipped a
flea! They didn’t know how to fight any at all, did they, Grandpa?”

“Oh, yes, they did!”

“What?” The boy was astounded. “Weren’t they all just reg’lar ole
cowards, Grandpa?”

“No,” said the grandfather. “They were pretty fine soldiers.”

“They were? Well, they ran away whenever you began shootin’ at ‘em,
didn’t they?”

“Sometimes they did, but most times they didn’t. Sometimes they fought
like wildcats--and sometimes we were the ones that ran away.”

“What for?”

“To keep from getting killed, or maybe to keep from getting captured.”

“But the Rebels were bad men, weren’t they, Grandpa?”

“No.”

The boy’s forehead, customarily vacant, showed some little vertical
shadows, produced by a struggle to think. “Well, but--” he began,
slowly. “Listen, Grandpa, listen here!”

“Well?”

“Listen! Well, you said--you said you never got scared the ole Rebels
were goin’ to win.”

“They did win pretty often,” said the grandfather. “They won a good many
battles.”

“I mean, you said you never got scared they’d win the war.”

“No, we were never afraid of that.”

“Well, but if they were good men and fought like wildcats, Grandpa, and
kep’ winning battles and everything, how could that be? How could you
_help_ bein’ scared they’d win the war?”

The grandfather’s feeble eyes twinkled brightly. “Why, we _knew_ they
couldn’t, Ramsey.”

At this, the little vertical shadows on Ramsey’s forehead became more
pronounced, for he had succeeded in thinking. “Well, _they_ didn’t know
they couldn’t, did they?” he argued. “They thought they were goin’ to
win, didn’t they?”

“Yes, I guess they did. Up till toward the last, I suppose they probably
did. But you see they were wrong.”

“Well, but--” Ramsey struggled. “Listen! Listen here, Grandpa! Well,
anyway, if they never got scared _we’d_ win, and nobody got scared
_they’d_ win--well, I don’t see--”

“You don’t see what?”

But Ramsey found himself unable to continue his concentration; he
slumped down upon the small of his back, and his brow relaxed to its
more comfortable placidity, while his eyes wandered with a new butterfly
fluttering over the irises that bordered the iron picket fence at the
south side of the yard. “Oh, nothin’ much,” he murmured.

“I see.” And his grandfather laughed again. “You mean: If the Rebels
felt just as sure of winning the war as we did, and kept winning battles
why shouldn’t we ever have had any doubts that we were going to win?
That’s it, isn’t it?”

“I guess so, Grandpa.”

“Well, I think it was mostly because we were certain that we were
right.”

“I see,” said Ramsey. “The Rebels knew they were on the side of the
Devil.” But at this, the grandfather’s laugh was louder than it had been
before, and Ramsey looked hurt. “Well, you can laugh if you want to!” he
objected in an aggrieved voice. “Anyway, the Sunday-school sup’intendent
told us when people knew they were on the Devil’s side they always--”

“I dare say, I dare say,” the old man interrupted, a little impatiently.
“But in this world mighty few people think they’re on the Devil’s side,
Ramsey. There was a Frenchman once, in olden times; he said people were
crazy because, though they couldn’t even make worms, they believed they
could make gods. And so whenever countries or parts of a country get
into a war, each side makes a god and a devil, and says: ‘God’s on our
side and the Devil’s on the other.’ The South thought the Devil was on
our side, you see.”

“Well, that kind o’ mixes it all up more’n ever.”

“Yes, it seems so; but Abraham Lincoln wasn’t mixed up about it. When
some people told him that God was on our side, he said the important
thing was to find out if we were on God’s side. That was the whole
question, you see; because either side could make up a god, the kind of
a god they liked and wanted; and then they’d believe in him, too, and
fight for him--but if he was only a made-up god they’d lose. President
Lincoln didn’t want to have a made-up god on his side; he wanted to find
God Himself and find out what he wanted, and then do it. And that’s what
Lincoln did.”

“Well, I don’t understand much of all _that_!”

“No? Then suppose you look at it this way: The South was fighting
for what it believed to be its rights, but we weren’t fighting for our
rights; we were fighting for the right. The South was fighting for
what it believed to be its right to split the Union and be a country by
itself; but we were fighting for ‘Liberty and Union, now and forever,
one and inseparable.’ It wasn’t only the Union we fought for; it was
Freedom. The South wanted freedom to leave the Union; but the reason the
South wanted that freedom to separate from us was because _we_ wanted
the Freedom of Man. _There’s_ the reason we had the certain knowledge
that we were going to win the war. How plain and simple it is!”

Ramsey didn’t think so. He had begun to feel bored by the conversation,
and to undergo the oppression he usually suffered in school; yet he took
a little interest in the inexplicable increase of fervour with which his
grandfather spoke, and in a shoot of sunshine which somehow got through
the foliage of the walnut tree and made a bedazzlement of glinting fine
lines in one spot, about the size of a saucer, upon the old man’s head
of thick white hair. Half closing his eyes, drowsily, Ramsey played that
this sunshine spot was a white bird’s-nest and, and he had a momentary
half dream of a glittering little bird that dwelt there and wore a blue
soldier cap on its head. The earnest old voice of the veteran was only a
sound in the boy’s ears.

“Yes, it’s simple and plain enough now, though then we didn’t often
think of it in exactly this way, but just went on fighting and
never doubted. We knew the struggle and suffering of our fathers and
grandfathers to make a great country here for Freedom, and we knew that
all this wasn’t just the whim of a foolish god, willing to waste such
great things--we knew that such a country couldn’t have been building up
just to be wasted. But, more than that, we knew that armies fighting
for the Freedom of Man _had_ to win, in the long run, over armies that
fought for what they considered their rights.

“We didn’t set out to free the slaves, so far as we knew. Yet our being
against slavery was what made the war, and we had the consciousness
that we were on the side of God’s plan, because His plan is clearly the
Freedom of Man. Long ago we began to see the hints of His plan--a little
like the way you can see what’s coming in August from what happens in
April, but man has to win his freedom from himself--men in the light
have to fight against men in the dark of their own shadow. That light is
the answer; we had the light that made us never doubt. Ours was the true
light, and so we--”


“Boom--” The veterans had begun to fire their cannon on the crest of
the low hill, out at the cemetery; and from a little way down the street
came the rat-a-tat of a toy drum and sounds of a fife played execrably.
A file of children in cocked hats made of newspapers came marching
importantly up the sidewalk under the maple shade trees; and in advance,
upon a velocipede, rode a tin-sworded personage, shrieking incessant
commands but not concerning himself with whether or not any military
obedience was thereby obtained. Here was a revivifying effect upon young
Ramsey; his sluggard eyelids opened electrically; he leaped to his feet
and, abandoning his grandfather without preface or apology, sped across
the lawn and out of the gate, charging headlong upon the commander of
the company.

“You get off that ‘locipede, Wesley Bender!” he bellowed. “You gimme
that sword! What rights you got to go bein’ captain o’ my army, I’d like
to know! Who got up this army, in the first place, I’d like to know! I
did, myself yesterd’y afternoon, and you get back in line or I won’t let
you b’long to it at all!”

The pretender succumbed; he instantly dismounted, being out-shouted and
overawed. On foot he took his place in the ranks, while Ramsey became
sternly vociferous. “In-tention, company! Farwud _march_! Col-lumn
_right_! Right-showdler _harms_! Halt! Far-wud _march_. Carry harms--”

The Army went trudging away under the continuous but unheeded fire of
orders, and presently disappeared round a corner, leaving the veteran
chuckling feebly under his walnut tree and alone with the empty street.
All trace of what he had said seemed to have been wiped from the
grandson’s mind; but memory has curious ways. Ramsey had understood
not a fifth nor a tenth of his grandfather’s talk, and already he had
“forgotten” all of it--yet not only were there many, many times in the
boy’s later life when, without ascertainable cause, he would remember
the sunlight falling upon the old man’s white head, to make that
semblance of a glittering bird’s-nest there, but with the picture came
recollections of words and sentences spoken by the grandfather, though
the listener, half-drowsily, had heard but the sound of an old,
earnest voice--and even the veteran’s meaning finally took on a greater
definiteness till it became, in the grandson’s thoughts, something clear
and bright and beautiful that he knew without being just sure where or
how he had learned it.



Chapter II

Ramsey Milholland sat miserably in school, his conscious being
consisting principally of a dull hate. Torpor was a little dispersed
during a fifteen-minute interval of “Music,” when he and all the other
pupils in the large room of the “Five B. Grade” sang repeated fractions
of what they enunciated as “The Star Span-guh-hulled Banner”; but
afterward he relapsed into the low spirits and animosity natural to
anybody during enforced confinement under instruction. No alleviation
was accomplished by an invader’s temporary usurpation of the teacher’s
platform, a brisk and unsympathetically cheerful young woman mounting
thereon to “teach German.”

For a long time mathematics and German had been about equally repulsive
to Ramsey, who found himself daily in the compulsory presence of both;
but he was gradually coming to regard German with the greater horror,
because, after months of patient mental resistance, he at last began to
comprehend that the German language has sixteen special and particular
ways of using the German article corresponding to that flexible bit of a
word so easily managed English--_the_. What in the world was the use of
having sixteen ways of doing a thing that could just as well be done in
one? If the Germans had contented themselves with insisting upon sixteen
useless variations for infrequent words, such as _hippopotamus_, for
instance, Ramsey might have thought the affair unreasonable but not
necessarily vicious--it would be easy enough to avoid talking about
a hippopotamus if he ever had to go to Germany. But the fact that the
Germans picked out _a_ and _the_ and many other little words in use all
the time, and gave every one of them sixteen forms, and expected Ramsey
Milholland to learn this dizzying uselessness down to the last crotchety
detail, with “When to employ Which” as a nausea to prepare for the
final convulsion when one _didn’t_ use Which, because it was an
“Exception”--there was a fashion of making easy matters hard that was
merely hellish.

The teacher was strict but enthusiastic; she told the children, over and
over, that German was a beautiful language, and her face always had a
glow when she said this. At such times the children looked patient; they
supposed it must be so, because she was an adult and their teacher; and
they believed her with the same manner of believing which those of them
who went to Sunday-school used there when the Sunday-school teachers
were pushed into explanations of various matters set forth in the Old
Testament, or gave reckless descriptions of heaven. That is to say, the
children did not challenge or deny; already they had been driven into
habits of resignation and were passing out of the age when childhood is
able to reject adult nonsense.

Thus, to Ramsey Milholland, the German language seemed to be a
collection of perverse inventions for undeserved torment; it was full of
revolting surprises in the way of genders; vocally it often necessitated
the employment of noises suggestive of an incompletely mastered
knowledge of etiquette; and far inside him there was something faintly
but constantly antagonistic to it--yet, when the teacher declared that
German was incomparably the most beautiful language in the world, one of
the many facets of his mind submissively absorbed the statement as light
to be passed inward; it was part of the lesson to be learned. He did not
know whether the English language was beautiful or not; he never thought
about that, and no one ever said anything to him about it. Moreover,
though his deeper inward hated “German,” he liked his German teacher,
and it was pleasant to look at her when that glow came upon her face.

Sometimes, too, there were moments of relaxation in her class, when
she would stop the lesson and tell the children about Germany: what a
beautiful, good country it was, so trim and orderly, with such pleasant
customs, and all the people sensible and energetic and healthy. There
was “Music” again in the German class, which was another alleviation;
though it was the same old “Star Spangled Banner” over again. Ramsey
was tired of the song and tired of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”; they were
bores, but it was amusing to sing them in German. In German they sounded
“sort o’ funny,” so he didn’t mind this bit of the day’s work.

Half an hour later there arrived his supreme trial of this particular
morning. Arithmetic then being the order of business before the house,
he was sent alone to the blackboard, supposedly to make lucid the proper
reply to a fatal conundrum in decimals, and under the glare and focus of
the whole room he breathed heavily and itched everywhere; his brain at
once became sheer hash. He consumed as much time as possible in getting
the terms of the problem stated in chalk; then, affecting to be critical
of his own handiwork, erased what he had done and carefully wrote it
again. After that, he erased half of it, slowly retraced the figures,
and stepped back as if to see whether perspective improved their
appearance. Again he lifted the eraser.

“Ramsey Milholland!”

“Ma’am?”

“Put down that eraser!”

“Yes’m. I just thought--”

Sharply bidden to get forward with his task, he explained in a feeble
voice that he had first to tie a shoe string and stooped to do so, but
was not permitted. Miss Ridgely tried to stimulate him with hints and
suggestion; found him, so far as decimals went, mere protoplasm, and,
wondering how so helpless a thing could live, summoned to the board
little Dora Yocum, the star of the class, whereupon Ramsey moved toward
his seat.

“Stand still, Ramsey! You stay right where you are and try to learn
something from the way Dora does it.”

The class giggled, and Ramsey stood, but learned nothing. His
conspicuousness was unendurable, because all of his schoolmates
naturally found more entertainment in watching him than in following
the performance of the capable Dora. He put his hands in and out of his
pockets; was bidden to hold them still, also not to shuffle his feet;
and when in a false assumption of ease he would have scratched his head
Miss Ridgely’s severity increased, so that he was compelled to give over
the attempt.

Instructed to watch every figure chalked up by the mathematical wonder,
his eyes, grown sodden, were unable to remove themselves from the part
in her hair at the back of her head, where two little braids began their
separate careers to end in a couple of blue-and-red checked bits of
ribbon, one upon each of her thin shoulder blades. He was conscious that
the part in Dora’s shining brown hair was odious, but he was unconscious
of anything arithmetical. His sensations clogged his intellect; he
suffered from unsought notoriety, and hated Dora Yocum; most of all he
hated her busy little shoulder blades.

He had to be “kept in” after school; and when he was allowed to go home
he averted his eyes as he went by the house where Dora lived. She was
out in the yard, eating a doughnut, and he knew it; but he had passed
the age when it is just as permissible to throw a rock at a girl as at a
boy; and stifling his normal inclinations, he walked sturdily on, though
he indulged himself so far as to engage in a murmured conversation with
one of the familiar spirits dwelling somewhere within him. “Pfa!” said
Ramsey to himself--or himself to Ramsey, since it is difficult to say
which was which. “Pfa! Thinks she’s smart, don’t she?”... “Well, I guess
she does, but she ain’t!” ... “I hate her, don’t you?”... “You bet
your life I hate her!”... “Teacher’s Pet, that’s what _I_ call her!”...
“Well, that’s what _I_ call her, too, don’t I?” “Well, _I_ do; that’s
all she is, anyway--dirty ole Teacher’s Pet!”



Chapter III

He had not forgiven her four years later when he entered high school
in her company, for somehow Ramsey managed to shovel his way through
examinations and stayed with the class. By this time he had a long
accumulation of reasons for hating her: Dora’s persistent and increasing
competency was not short of flamboyant, and teachers naturally got the
habit of flinging their quickest pupil in the face of their slowest and
“dumbest.” Nevertheless, Ramsey was unable to deny that she had become
less awful lookin’ than she used to be. At least, he was honest enough
to make a partial retraction when his friend and classmate, Fred
Mitchell, insisted that an amelioration of Dora’s appearance could be
actually proven.

“Well, I’ll take it back. I don’t claim she’s every last bit as awful
lookin’ as she always has been,” said Ramsey, toward the conclusion of
the argument. “I’ll say this for her, she’s awful lookin’, but she may
not be as awful lookin’ as she was. She don’t come to school with the
edge of some of her underclo’es showin’ below her dress any more, about
every other day, and her eyewinkers have got to stickin’ out some, and
she may not be so abbasa_loot_ly skinny, but she’ll haf to wait a mighty
long while before _I_ want to look at her without gettin’ sick!”

The implication that Miss Yocum cared to have Ramsey look at her, either
with or without gettin’ sick, was mere rhetoric, and recognized as such
by the producer of it; she had never given the slightest evidence of
any desire that his gaze be bent upon her. What truth lay underneath his
flourish rested upon the fact that he could not look at her without some
symptoms of the sort he had tersely sketched to his friend; and yet, so
pungent is the fascination of self-inflicted misery, he did look at her,
during periods of study, often for three or four minutes at a stretch.
His expression at such times indeed resembled that of one who has dined
unwisely; but Dora Yocum was always too eagerly busy to notice it. He
was almost never in her eye, but she was continually in his; moreover,
as the banner pupil she was with hourly frequency an exhibit before the
whole class.

Ramsey found her worst of all when her turn came in “Declamation,”
 on Friday afternoons. When she ascended the platform, bobbed a little
preliminary bow and began, “Listen, my children, and you shall hear,”
 Ramsey included Paul Revere and the Old North Church and the whole
Revolutionary War in his antipathy, since they somehow appeared to
be the property of the Teacher’s Pet. For Dora held this post in
“Declamation” as well as in everything else; here, as elsewhere, the
hateful child’s prowess surpassed that of all others; and the teacher
always entrusted her with the rendition of the “patriotic selections”:
Dora seemed to take fire herself when she declared:

     “The fate of a nation was riding that night;
     And the spark struck out by that steed in his flight,
     Kindled the land into flame with its heat.”

Ramsey himself was in the same section of declaimers, and performed
next--a ghastly contrast. He gave a “selection from Shakespeare,”
 assigned by the teacher; and he began this continuous misfortune by
stumbling violently as he ascended the platform, which stimulated a
general giggle already in being at the mere calling of his name. All of
the class were bright with happy anticipation, for the miserable Ramsey
seldom failed their hopes, particularly in “Declamation.” He faced them,
his complexion wan, his expression both baleful and horrified; and he
began in a loud, hurried voice, from which every hint of intelligence
was excluded:

“Most pottent, grave, and rev--”

The teacher tapped sharply on her desk, and stopped him. “You’ve
forgotten to bow,” she said. “And don’t say ‘pottent.’ The word is
‘potent’.”

Ramsey flopped his head at the rear wall of the room, and began again:

“Most pottent potent gray and revenerd signers my very nobe and approve
good masters that I have tan away this sole man’s dutter it is mose true
true I have marry dur the very headman frun tuv my fending hath this
extent no more rude am I in speech--in speech--rude am I in speech--in
speech--in speech--in speech--”

He had stalled. Perhaps the fatal truth of that phrase, and some sense
of its applicability to the occasion had interfered with the mechanism
which he had set in operation to get rid of the “recitation” for him.
At all events, the machine had to run off its job all at once, or it
wouldn’t run at all. Stopped, it stayed stopped, and backing off granted
no new impetus, though he tried, again and again. “Hath this extent
no more rude am I in speech--” He gulped audibly. “Rude rude rude am
I--rude am I in speech--in speech--in speech. Rude am I in speech--”

“Yes,” the irritated teacher said, as Ramsey’s failing voice continued
huskily to insist upon this point. “I think you are!” And her nerves
were a little soothed by the shout of laughter from the school--it was
never difficult for teachers to be witty. “Go sit down, Ramsey, and do
it after school.”

His ears roaring, the unfortunate went to his seat, and, among all
the hilarious faces, one stood out--Dora Yocum’s. Her laughter was
precocious; it was that of a confirmed superior, insufferably adult--she
was laughing at him as a grown person laughs at a child. Conspicuously
and unmistakably, there was something indulgent in her amusement. He
choked. Here was a little squirt of a high-school girl who would trot
up to George Washington himself and show off around him, given the
opportunity; and George Washington would probably pat her on the head,
or give her a medal--or something. Well, let him! Ramsey didn’t care.
He didn’t care for George Washington, or Paul Revere, or Shakespeare, or
any of ‘em. They could all go to the dickens with Dora Yocum. They were
all a lot of smarties anyway and he hated the whole stew of ‘em!

There was one, however, whom he somehow couldn’t manage to hate, even
though this one officially seemed to be as intimately associated with
Dora Yocum and superiority as the others were. Ramsey couldn’t hate
Abraham Lincoln, even when Dora was chosen to deliver the “Gettysburg
Address” on the twelfth of February. Vaguely, yet reassuringly, Ramsey
felt that Lincoln had resisted adoption by the intellectuals. Lincoln
had said “Government of the people, by the people, for the people,” and
that didn’t mean government by the teacher and the Teacher’s Pet
and Paul Revere and Shakespeare and suchlike; it meant government by
everybody, and therefore Ramsey had as much to do with it as anybody
else had. This was friendly; and he believed that if Abraham Lincoln
could have walked into the schoolroom, Lincoln would have been as
friendly with him as with Dora and the teacher herself. Beyond a doubt,
Dora and the teacher _thought_ Lincoln belonged to them and their crowd
of exclusives; they seemed to think they owned the whole United States;
but Ramsey was sure they were mistaken about Abraham Lincoln.

He felt that it was just like this little Yocum snippet to assume such a
thing, and it made him sicker than ever to look at her.

Then, one day, he noticed that her eye-winkers were stickin’ out farther
and farther.



Chapter IV

His discovery irritated him the more. Next thing, this ole Teacher’s Pet
would do she’d get to thinkin’ she was pretty! If _that_ happened, well,
nobody _could_ stand her! The long lashes made her eyes shadowy, and it
was a fact that her shoulder blades ceased to insist upon notoriety; you
couldn’t tell where they were at all, any more. Her back seemed to be
just a regular back, not made up of a lot of implements like shoulder
blades and things.

A contemptible thing happened. Wesley Bender was well known to be the
most untidy boy in the class and had never shown any remorse for his
reputation or made the slightest effort either to improve or to dispute
it. He was content: it failed to lower his standing with his fellows
or to impress them unfavourably. In fact, he was treated as one who has
attained a slight distinction. At least, he owned one superlative, no
matter what its quality, and it lifted him out of the commonplace. It
helped him to become better known, and boys liked to be seen with him.
But one day, there was a rearrangement of the seating in the schoolroom:
Wesley Bender was given a desk next in front of Dora Yocum’s; and within
a week the whole room knew that Wesley had begun voluntarily to wash his
neck--the back of it, anyhow.

This was at the bottom of the fight between Ramsey Milholland and Wesley
Bender, and the diplomatic exchanges immediately preceding hostilities
were charmingly frank and unhyprocitical, although quite as mixed-up
and off-the-issue as if they had been prepared by professional foreign
office men. Ramsey and Fred Mitchell and four other boys waylaid young
Bender on the street after school, intending jocosities rather than
violence, but the victim proved sensitive. “You take your ole hands off
o’ me!” he said fiercely, as they began to push him about among them.

“Ole dirty Wes!” they hoarsely bellowed and squawked, in their changing
voices. “Washes his ears!”... “Washes his _neck!_”... “Dora Yocum told
his mama to turn the hose on him!”... “Yay-ho! Ole dirty Wes tryin to be
a duke!”

Wesley broke from them and backed away, swinging his strapped books in
a dangerous circle. “You keep off!” he warned them. “I got as much right
to my pers’nal appearance as anybody!”

This richly fed their humour, and they rioted round him, keeping outside
the swinging books at the end of the strap. “Pers’nal appearance!”...
“Who went and bought it for you, Wes?”... “Nobody bought it for him.
Dora Yocum took and give him one!”

“You leave ladies’ names alone!” cried the chivalrous Wesley. “You ought
to know better, on the public street, you--pups!”

Here was a serious affront, at least to Ramsey Milholland’s way
of thinking; for Ramsey, also, now proved sensitive. He quoted his
friends--“Shut up!”--and advanced toward Wesley. “You look here! Who you
callin’ ‘pups’?”

“Everybody!” Wesley hotly returned. “Everybody that hasn’t got any
more decency than to go around mentioning ladies’ names on the public
streets. Everybody that goes around mentioning ladies’ names on the
public streets are pups!”

“They are, are they?” Ramsey as hotly demanded. “Well, you just look
here a minute; my own father mentions my mother’s name on the public
streets whenever he wants to, and you just try callin’ my father a pup,
and you won’t know what happened to you!”

“What’ll _you_ do about it?”

“I’ll put a new head on you,” said Ramsey. “That’s what I’ll do, because
anybody that calls my father or mother a pup--”

“Oh, shut up! I wasn’t talking about your ole father and mother. I said
everybody that mentioned Dora Yocum’s name on the public streets was
a pup, and I mean it! Everybody that mentions Dora Yocum’s name on the
pub--”

“Dora Yocum!” said Ramsey. “I got a perfect right to say it anywhere I
want to. Dora Yocum, Dora Yocum, Dora Yocum!--”

“All right, then you’re a pup!”

Ramsey charged upon him and received a suffocating blow full in the
face, not from Mr. Bender’s fist but from the solid bundle of books
at the end of the strap. Ramsey saw eight or ten objectives instantly:
there were Wesley Benders standing full length in the air on top of
other Wesley Benders, and more Wesley Benders zigzagged out sideways
from still other Wesley Benders; nevertheless, he found one of these and
it proved to be flesh. He engaged it wildly at fisticuffs; pounded
it upon the countenance and drove it away. Then he sat down upon the
curbstone, and, with his dizzy eyes shut, leaned forward for the better
accommodation of his ensanguined nose.

Wesley had retreated to the other side of the street holding a grimy
handkerchief to the midmost parts of his pallid face. “There, you ole
damn pup!” he shouted, in a voice which threatened to sob. “I guess
_that’ll_ teach you to be careful how you mention Dora Yocum’s name on
the public streets!”

At this, Ramsey made a motion as if to rise and pursue, whereupon Wesley
fled, wailing back over his shoulder as he ran, “You wait till I ketch
you out alone on the public streets and I’ll--”

His voice was lost in an outburst of hooting from his former friends,
who sympathetically surrounded the wounded Ramsey. But in a measure,
at least, the chivalrous fugitive had won his point. He was routed and
outdone, yet what survived the day was a rumour, which became a sort of
tenuous legend among those interested. There had been a fight over Dora
Yocum, it appeared, and Ramsey Milholland had attempted to maintain
something derogatory to the lady, while Wesley defended her as a
knightly youth should. The something derogatory was left vague; nobody
attempted to say just what it was, and the effects of the legend divided
the schoolroom strictly according to gender.

The boys, unmindful of proper gallantry, supported Ramsey on account of
the way he had persisted in lickin’ the stuffin’ out of Wesley Bender
after receiving that preliminary wallop from Wesley’s blackjack
bundle of books. The girls petted and championed Wesley; they talked
outrageously of his conqueror, fiercely declaring that he ought to be
arrested; and for weeks they maintained a new manner toward him. They
kept their facial expressions hostile, but perhaps this was more for one
another’s benefit than for Ramsey’s; and several of them went so far out
of their way to find even private opportunities for reproving him that
an alert observer might have suspected them to have been less indignant
than they seemed--but not Ramsey. He thought they all hated him, and
said he was glad of it.

Dora was a non-partisan. The little prig was so diligent at her books
she gave never the slightest sign of comprehending that there had been
a fight about her. Having no real cognizance of Messrs. Bender and
Milholland except as impediments to the advance of learning, she did not
even look demure.



Chapter V

With Wesley Bender, Ramsey was again upon fair terms before the winter
had run its course; the two were neighbours and, moreover, were drawn
together by a community of interests which made their reconciliation a
necessity. Ramsey played the guitar and Wesley played the mandolin.

All ill feeling between them died with the first duet of spring, yet the
twinkling they made had no charm to soothe the savage breast of Ramsey
whenever the Teacher’s Pet came into his thoughts. He daydreamed a
thousand ways of putting her in her place, but was unable to carry
out any of them, and had but a cobwebby satisfaction in imagining
discomfitures for her which remained imaginary. With a yearning so
poignant that it hurt, he yearned and yearned to show her what she
really was. “Just once!” he said to Fred Mitchell. “That’s all I ask,
just once. Just gimme one chance to show that girl what she really is.
I guess if I ever get the chance she’ll find out what’s the matter with
her, for _once_ in her life, anyway!” Thus it came to be talked about
and understood and expected in Ramsey’s circle, all male, that Dora
Yocum’s day was coming. The nature of the disaster was left vague, but
there was no doubt in the world that retribution merely awaited its
ideal opportunity. “You’ll see!” said Ramsey. “The time’ll come when
that ole girl’ll wish she’d moved o’ this town before she ever got
appointed monitor of _our_ class! Just you wait!”

They waited, but conditions appeared to remain unfavourable
indefinitely. Perhaps the great opportunity might have arrived if Ramsey
had been able to achieve a startling importance in any of the “various
divergent yet parallel lines of school endeavour”--one of the phrases by
means of which teachers and principal clogged the minds of their unarmed
auditors. But though he was far from being the dumb driven beast of
misfortune that he seemed in the schoolroom, and, in fact, lived a
double life, exhibiting in his out-of-school hours a remarkable example
of “secondary personality”--a creature fearing nothing and capable
of laughter; blue-eyed, fairly robust, and anything but dumb--he was
nevertheless without endowment or attainment great enough to get him
distinction.

He “tried for” the high-school eleven, and “tried for” the nine, but
the experts were not long in eliminating him from either of these
competitions, and he had to content himself with cheering instead of
getting cheered. He was by no manner of means athlete enough, or enough
of anything else, to put Dora Yocum in her place, and so he and the
great opportunity were still waiting in May, at the end of the second
year of high school, when the class, now the “10 A,” reverted to an old
fashion and decided to entertain itself with a woodland picnic.

They gathered upon the sandy banks of a creek, in the blue shade of big,
patchy-barked sycamores, with a dancing sky on top of everything and
gold dust atwinkle over the water. Hither the napkin-covered baskets
were brought from the wagons and assembled in the shade, where they
appeared as an attractive little meadow of white napery, and gave both
surprise and pleasure to communities of ants and to other original
settlers of the neighbourhood.

From this nucleus or headquarters of the picnic, various expeditions
set forth up and down the creek and through the woods that bordered it.
Camera work was constant; spring wild flowers were accumulated by groups
of girls who trooped through the woods with eager eyes searching the
thickets; two envied boy fishermen established themselves upon a bank
up-stream, with hooks and lines thoughtfully brought with them, and
poles which they fashioned from young saplings. They took mussels from
the shallows, for bait, and having gone to all this trouble, declined
to share with friends less energetic and provident the perquisites and
pleasures secured to themselves.

Albert Paxton was another person who proved his enterprise. Having
visited the spot some days before, he had hired for his exclusive use
throughout the duration of the picnic an old rowboat belonging to a
shanty squatter; it was the only rowboat within a mile or two and Albert
had his own uses for it. Albert was the class lover and, after first
taking the three chaperon teachers “out for a row,” an excursion
concluded in about ten minutes, he disembarked them; Sadie Clews stepped
into the boat, a pocket camera in one hand, a tennis racket in the
other; and the two spent the rest of the day, except for the luncheon
interval, solemnly drifting along the banks or grounded on a shoal. Now
and then Albert would row a few strokes, and at almost any time when the
populated shore glanced toward them, Sadie would be seen photographing
Albert, or Albert would be seen photographing Sadie, but the tennis
racket remained an enigma. Oarsman and passenger appeared to have no
conversation whatever--not once was either seen or heard to address a
remark to the other; and they looked as placid as their own upside-down
reflections in one of the still pools they slowly floated over. They
were sixteen, and had been “engaged” more than two years.

On the borders of the little meadow of baskets there had been deposited
two black shapes, which remained undisturbed throughout the day, a
closed guitar case and a closed mandolin case, no doubt containing each
its proper instrument. So far as any use of these went they seemed to be
of the same leisure class to which Sadie’s tennis racket belonged, for
when one of the teachers suggested music, the musicians proved shy.
Wesley Bender said they hadn’t learned to play anything much and,
besides, he had a couple o’ broken strings he didn’t know as he could
fix up; and Ramsey said he guessed it seemed kind o’ too hot to play
much. Joining friends, they organized a contest in marksmanship, the
target being a floating can which they assailed with pebbles; and after
that they “skipped” flat stones upon the surface of the water, then went
to join a group gathered about Willis Parker and Heinie Krusemeyer.

No fish had been caught, a lack of luck crossly attributed by the
fishermen to the noise made by constant advice on the part of their
attendant gallery. Messrs. Milholland, Bender, and the other rock
throwers came up shouting, and were ill received.

“For heaven’s sakes,” Heinie Krusemeyer demanded, “can’t you shut up?
Here we just first got the girls to keep their mouths shut a minute and
I almost had a big pickerel or something on my hook, and here you got
to up and yell so he chases himself away! Why can’t nobody show a little
sense sometimes when they ought to?”

“I should say so!” his comrade exclaimed. “If people would only just
take and think of all the trouble we been to, it seems funny somebody
couldn’t let us have half a chance to get a few good fish. What chance
they got to bite with a lot o’ _girls_ gabbin’ away, and then, just as
we get ‘em quieted down, all you men got to come bustin’ up here yellin’
your heads off. A fish isn’t goin’ to bite when he can’t even hear
himself think! Anybody ought to know that much.”

But the new arrivals hooted. _“Fish!”_ Ramsey vociferated. “I’ll bet
a hundred dollars there hasn’t been even a minny in this creek for the
last sixty years!”

“There is, too!” said Heinie, bitterly. “But I wouldn’t be surprised
there wouldn’t be no longer if you got to keep up this noise. If you’d
shut up just a minute you could see yourself there’s fish here.”

In whispers several of the tamed girls at once heartily corroborated
this statement, whereupon the newcomers ceased to gibe and consented to
silence. Ramsey leaned forth over the edge of the overhanging bank,
a dirt precipice five feet above the water, and peered into the
indeterminable depths below. The pool had been stirred, partly by the
inexpert pokings of the fishermen and partly by small clods and bits
of dirt dislodged from above by the feet of the audience. The water,
consequently, was but brownly translucent and revealed its secrets
reluctantly; nevertheless certain dim little shapes had been observed
to move within it, and were still there. Ramsey failed to see them at
first.

“Where’s any ole fish?” he inquired, scornfully.

“Oh, my goodness!” Heinie Krusemeyer moaned. “_Can’t_ you shut up?”

“Look!” whispered the girl who stood nearest to Ramsey. She pointed.
“There’s one. Right down there by Willis’s hook. Don’t you see him?”

Ramsey was impressed enough to whisper. “Is there? I don’t see him. I
can’t--”

The girl came closer to him, and, the better to show him, leaned out
over the edge of the bank, and, for safety in maintaining her balance,
rested her left hand upon his shoulder while she pointed with her right.
Thereupon something happened to Ramsey. The touch upon his shoulder was
almost nothing, and he had never taken the slightest interest in Milla
Rust (to whom that small warm hand belonged), though she was the class
beauty, and long established in the office. Now, all at once, a peculiar
and heretofore entirely unfamiliar sensation suddenly became important
in the upper part of his chest. For a moment he held his breath, an
involuntary action;--he seemed to be standing in a shower of flowers.

“Don’t you see it, Ramsey?” Milla whispered. “It’s a great big one. Why,
it must be as long as--as your shoe! Look!”

Ramsey saw nothing but the thick round curl on Milla’s shoulder. Milla
had a group of curls on each of her shoulders, for she got her modes at
the Movies and had that sort of prettiness: large, gentle, calculating
eyes, and a full, softly modelled face, implacably sweet. Ramsey was
accustomed to all this charm, and Milla had never before been of more
importance to him than an equal weight of school furniture--but all at
once some magic had enveloped her. That curl upon the shoulder
nearest him was shot with dazzling fibres of sunshine. He seemed to be
trembling.

“I don’t see it,” he murmured, huskily, afraid that she might remove her
hand. “I can’t see any fish, Milla.”

She leaned farther out over the bank. “Why, there, goosie!” she
whispered. “Right there.”

“I can’t see it.”

She leaned still farther, bending down to point. “Why right th--”

At this moment she removed her hand from his shoulder, though
unwillingly. She clutched at him, in fact, but without avail. She had
been too amiable.

A loud shriek was uttered by throats abler to vocalize, just then, than
Milla’s, for in her great surprise she said nothing whatever--the shriek
came from the other girls as Milla left the crest of the overhanging
bank and almost horizontally disappeared into the brown water. There
was a tumultuous splash, and then of Milla Rust and her well-known
beautifulness there was nothing visible in the superficial world, nor
upon the surface of that creek. The vanishment was total.

“_Save_ her!”

Several girls afterward admitted having used this expression, and little
Miss Floy Williams, the youngest and smallest member of the class, was
unable to deny that she had said, “Oh, God!” Nothing could have been
more natural, and the matter need not have been brought before her with
such insistence and frequency, during the two remaining years of her
undergraduate career.

Ramsey was one of those who heard this exclamation, later so famous,
and perhaps it was what roused him to heroism. He dived from the bank,
headlong, and the strange thought in his mind was “I guess _this_‘ll
show Dora Yocum!” He should have been thinking of Milla, of course, at
such a time, particularly after the little enchantment just laid upon
him by Milla’s touch and Milla’s curls; and he knew well enough that
Miss Yocum was not among the spectators. She was half a mile away, as
it happened, gathering “botanical specimens” with one of the
teachers--which was her idea of what to do at a picnic!

Ramsey struck the water hard, and in the same instant struck something
harder. Wesley Bender’s bundle of books had given him no such shock
as he received now, and if the creek bottom had not been of mud, just
there, the top of his young head might have declined the strain. Half
stunned, choking, spluttering he somehow floundered to his feet; and
when he could get his eyes a little cleared of water he found himself
wavering face to face with a blurred vision of Milla Rust. She had risen
up out of the pond and stood knee deep, like a lovely drenched figure in
a fountain.

Upon the bank above them, Willis Parker was jumping up and down,
gesticulating and shouting fiercely. “Now I guess you’re satisfied our
fishin’ _is_ spoilt! Whyn’t you listen me? I _told_ you it wasn’t more’n
three feet deep! I and Heinie waded all over this creek gettin’ our
bait. You’re a pretty sight!”

Of Milla he spoke unwittingly the literal truth. Even with her hair thus
wild and sodden, Milla rose from immersion blushing and prettier than
ever; and she was prettiest of all when she stretched out her hand
helplessly to Ramsey and he led her up out of the waters. They had
plenty of assistance to scramble to the top of the bank, and there Milla
was surrounded and borne away with a great clacketing and tumult. Ramsey
gave his coat into the hands of friends, who twisted the water out of
it for him, while he sat upon the grass in the sun, rubbed his head, and
experimented with his neck to see if it would “work.” The sunshine was
strong and hot; in half an hour he and his clothes were dry--or at least
“dry enough,” as he said, and except for some soreness of head and neck,
and the general crumpledness of his apparel, he seemed to be in all
ways much as usual when shouts and whistlings summoned all the party
to luncheon at the rendezvous. The change that made him different was
invisible.



Chapter VI

The change in Ramsey was invisible, and yet something must have been
seen, for everyone appeared to take it for granted that he was to
sit next to Milla at the pastoral meal. She herself understood it,
evidently, for she drew in her puckered skirts and without any words
make a place for him beside her as he driftingly approached her,
affecting to whistle and keeping his eyes on the foliage overhead. He
still looked upward, even in the act of sitting down.

“Squirrel or something,” he said, feebly, as if in explanation.

“Where?” Milla asked.

“Up there on a branch.” He accepted a plate from her (she had provided
herself with an extra one), but he did not look at it or her. “I’m not
just exactly sure it’s a squirrel,” he said. “Kind of hard to make out
exactly what it is.” He continued to keep his eyes aloft, because he
imagined that all of the class were looking at him and Milla, and he
felt unable to meet such publicity. It was to him as if the whole United
States had been scandalized to attention by this act of his in going
to sit beside Milla; he gazed upward so long that his eyeballs became
sensitive under the strain. He began to blink. “I can’t make out whether
it’s a squirrel or just some leaves that kind o’ got fixed like one,”
 he said. “I can’t make out yet which it is, but I guess when there’s a
breeze, if it’s a squirrel he’ll prob’ly hop around some then, if he’s
alive or anything.”

It had begun to seem that his eyes must remain fixed in that upward
stare forever; he wanted to bring them down, but could not face the
glare of the world. So the fugitive ostrich is said to bury his head in
the sand; he does it, not believing himself thereby hidden but trying to
banish from his own cognizance terrible facts which his unsheltered eyes
have seemed to reveal. So, too, do nervous children seek to bury their
eyes under pillows, and nervous statesmen theirs under oratory. Ramsey’s
ostrichings can happen to anybody. But finally the brightness of the sky
between the leaves settled matters for him; he sneezed, wept, and for
a little moment again faced his fellowmen. No one was looking at him;
everybody except Milla had other things to do.

Having sneezed involuntarily, he added a spell of coughing for which
there was no necessity. “I guess I must be wrong,” he muttered thickly.

“What about, Ramsey?”

“About it bein’ a squirrel.” With infinite timidity he turned his head
and encountered a gaze so soft, so hallowed, that it disconcerted him,
and he dropped a “drumstick” of fried chicken, well dotted with ants,
from his plate. Scarlet he picked it up, but did not eat it. For the
first time in his life he felt that eating fried chicken held in the
fingers was not to be thought of. He replaced the “drumstick” upon his
plate and allowed it to remain there untouched, in spite of a great
hunger for it.

Having looked down, he now found difficulty in looking up, but gazed
steadily at his plate, and into this limited circle of vision came
Milla’s delicate and rosy fingers, bearing a gift. “There,” she said in
a motherly little voice. “It’s a tomato mayonnaise sandwich and I made
it myself. I want you to eat it, Ramsey.”

His own fingers approached tremulousness as he accepted the thick
sandwich from her and conveyed it to his mouth. A moment later his soul
filled with horror, for a spurt of mayonnaise dressing had caused a
catastrophe the scene of which occupied no inconsiderable area of his
right cheek; which was the cheek toward Milla. He groped wretchedly for
his handkerchief but could not find it; he had lost it. Sudden death
would have been relief; he was sure that after such grotesquerie Milla
could never bear to have anything more to do with him; he was ruined.

In his anguish he felt a paper napkin pressed gently into his hand; a
soft voice said in his ear, “Wipe it off with this, Ramsey. Nobody’s
noticing.”

So this incredibly charitable creature was still able to be his friend,
even after seeing him mayonnaised! Humbly marvelling, he did as she told
him, but avoided all further risks. He ate nothing more.

He sighed his first sigh of inexpressibleness, had a chill or so along
the spine, and at intervals his brow was bedewed.

Within his averted eyes there dwelt not the Milla Rust who sat beside
him, but an iridescent, fragile creature who had become angelic.

He spent the rest of the day dawdling helplessly about her; wherever she
went he was near, as near as possible, but of no deliberate volition of
his own. Something seemed to tie him to her, and Milla was nothing loth.
He seldom looked at her directly, or for longer than an instant, and
more rarely still did he speak to her except as a reply. What few
remarks he ventured upon his own initiative nearly all concerned the
landscape, which he commended repeatedly in a weak voice, as “kind of
pretty,” though once he said he guessed there might be bugs in the bark
of a log on which they sat; and he became so immoderately personal as to
declare that if the bugs had to get on anybody he’d rather they got on
him than on Milla. She said that was “just perfectly lovely” of him,
asked where he got his sweet nature, and in other ways encouraged him to
continue the revelation, but Ramsey was unable to get forward with it,
though he opened and closed his mouth a great many times in the effort
to do so.

At five o’clock everybody was summoned again to the rendezvous for a
ceremony preliminary to departure: the class found itself in a large
circle, standing, and sang “The Star Spangled Banner.” Ordinarily, on
such an open-air and out-of-school occasion, Ramsey would have joined
the chorus uproariously with the utmost blatancy of which his vocal
apparatus was capable; and most of the other boys expressed their humour
by drowning out the serious efforts of the girls; but he sang feebly,
not much more than humming through his teeth. Standing beside Milla,
he was incapable of his former inelegancies and his voice was in a
semi-paralyzed condition, like the rest of him.


Opposite him, across the circle, Dora Yocum stood a little in advance of
those near her, for of course she led the singing. Her clear and earnest
voice was distinguishable from all others, and though she did not
glance toward Ramsey he had a queer feeling that she was assuming more
superiority than ever, and that she was icily scornful of him and Milla.
The old resentment rose--he’d “show” that girl yet, some day!

When the song was over, cheers were given for the class, “the good
ole class of Nineteen Fourteen,” the school, the teachers, and for the
picnic, thus officially concluded; and then the picnickers, carrying
their baskets and faded wild flowers and other souvenirs and burdens,
moved toward the big “express wagons” which were to take them back into
the town. Ramsey got his guitar case, and turned to Milla.

“Well--” he said.

“Well what, Ramsey?”

“Well--g’bye.”

“Why, no,” said Milla. “Anyways not yet. You can go back in the same
wagon with me. It’s going to stop at the school and let us out there,
and then you could walk home with me if you felt like it. You could come
all the way to our gate with me, I expect, unless you’d be late home for
your supper.”

“Well--well, I’d be perfectly willing,” Ramsey said. “Only I heard we
all had to go back in whatever wagon we came out in, and I didn’t come
in the same wagon with you, so--”

Milla laughed and leaned toward him a little. “I already ‘tended to
that,” she said confidentially. “I asked Johnnie Fiske, that came out in
my wagon, to go back in yours, so that makes room for you.”

“Well--then I guess I could do it.” He moved toward the wagon with her.
“I expect it don’t make much difference one way or the other.”

“And you can carry my basket if you want to,” she said, adding
solicitously, “Unless it’s too heavy when you already got your guitar
case to carry, Ramsey.”

This thoughtfulness of hers almost overcame him; she seemed divine.
He gulped, and emotion made him even pinker than he had been under the
mayonnaise.

“I--I’ll be glad to carry the basket, too,” he faltered. “It-it don’t
weigh anything much.”

“Well, let’s hurry, so’s we can get places together.”

Then, as she manoeuvred him through the little crowd about the wagon,
with a soft push this way and a gentle pull that, and hurried him up the
improvised steps and found a place where there was room for them to sit,
Ramsey had another breathless sensation heretofore unknown to him.
He found himself taken under a dovelike protectorship; a wonderful,
inexpressible Being seemed to have become his proprietor.

“Isn’t this just perfectly lovely?” she said cozily, close to his ear.

He swallowed, but found no words, for he had no thoughts; he was only an
incoherent tumult. This was his first love.

“Isn’t it, Ramsey?” she urged. The cozy voice had just the hint of a
reproach. “Don’t you think it’s just perfectly lovely, Ramsey?”

“Yes’m.”



Chapter VII

The next morning Ramsey came into his father’s room while Mr. Milholland
was shaving, an hour before church time, and it became apparent that the
son had someting on his mind, though for a while he said nothing.

“Did you want anything, Ramsey?”

“Well--”

“Didn’t want to borrow my razors?”

“No, sir.”

Mr. Milholland chuckled. “I hardly supposed so, seriously! Shaving is
a great nuisance and the longer you keep away from it, the better. And
when you do, you let my razors alone, young feller!”

“Yes, sir.” (Mr. Milholland’s razors were safe, Ramsey had already
achieved one of his own, but he practised the art in secret.) He passed
his hand thoughtfully over his cheeks, and traces of white powder were
left upon his fingers, whereupon he wiped his hand surreptitiously, and
stood irresolutely waiting.

“What is it you really want, Ramsey?”

“I guess I don’t want anything.”

“Money?”

“No, sir. You gay’ me some Friday.”

Mr. Milholland turned from his mirror and looked over the edge of a
towel at his son. In the boy’s eyes there was such a dumb agony of
interrogation that the father was a little startled.

“Why, what is it, Ramsey? Have you--” He paused, frowning and wondering.
“You haven’t been getting into some mess you want to tell me about, have
you?”

“No, sir.”

His tone was meek, but a mute distress lurked within it, bringing to the
father’s mind disturbing suspicions, and foreshadowings of indignation
and of pity. “See here, Ramsey,” he said, “if there’s anything you want
to ask me, or to tell me, you’d better out with it and get it over. Now,
what is it?”

“Well--it isn’t anything.”

“Are you _sure?_”

Ramsey’s eyes fell before the severe and piercing gaze of his father.
“Yes, sir.”

Mr. Milholland shook his head doubtfully; then, as his son walked slowly
out of the room, he turned to complete his toilet in a somewhat uneasy
frame of mind. Ramsey had undoubtedly wanted to say something to him and
the boy’s expression had shown that the matter in question was serious,
distressing, and, it might be, even critical.

In fact it was--to Ramsey. Having begun within only the last few hours
to regard haberdashery as of vital importance, and believing his father
to be possessed of the experience and authority lacking in himself,
Ramsey had come to get him to settle a question which had been upsetting
him badly, in his own room, since breakfast. What he wanted to know was:
Whether it was right to wear an extra handkerchief showing out of the
coat breast pocket or not, and, if it was right--ought the handkerchief
to have a coloured border or to be plain white? But he had never before
brought any such perplexities to his father, and found himself too
diffident to set them forth.

However, when he left the house, a few minutes later, he boldly showed
an inch of purple border above the pocket; then, as he was himself about
to encounter several old lady pedestrians, he blushed and thrust the
handkerchief down into deep concealment. Having gone a block farther, he
pulled it up again; and so continued to operate this badge of fashion,
or unfashion, throughout the morning; and suffered a great deal thereby.

Meantime, his father, rather relieved that Ramsey had not told his
secret, whatever it was, dismissed the episode from his mind and joined
Mrs. Milholland at the front door, ready for church.

“Where’s Ramsey?” he asked.

“He’s gone ahead,” she answered, buttoning her gloves as they went
along. “I heard the door quite a little while ago. Perhaps he went over
to walk down with Charlotte and Vance. Did you notice how neat he looks
this morning?”

“Why, no, I didn’t; not particularly. Does he?”

“I never saw anything like it before,” said Mrs. Milholland. “He went
down in the cellar and polished his own shoes.”

“What!”

“For about an hour, I think,” she said, as one remaining calm before a
miracle. “And he only has three neckties, but I saw him several times in
each of them. He must have kept changing and changing. I wonder--” She
paused.

“I’m glad he’s begun to take a little care of his appearance at last.
Business men think a good deal about that, these days, when he comes to
make his start in the world. I’ll have to take a look at him and give
him a word of praise. I suppose he’ll be in the pew when we get there.”

But Ramsey wasn’t in the pew; and Charlotte, his sister, and her
husband, who were there, said they hadn’t seen anything of him. It was
not until the members of the family were on their way home after the
services that they caught a glimpse of him.

They were passing a church a little distance from their own; here the
congregation was just emerging to the open, and among the sedate throng
descending the broad stone steps appeared an accompanied Ramsey--and a
red, red Ramsey he was when he beheld his father and mother and sister
and brother-in-law staring up at him from the pavement below. They were
kind enough not to come to an absolute halt, but passed slowly on, so
that he was just able to avoid parading up the street in front of
them. The expressions of his father, mother, and sister were of a
dumfoundedness painful to bear, while such lurking jocosity as that
apparent all over his brother-in-law no dignified man should either
exhibit or be called upon to ignore.

In hoarse whispers, Mrs. Milholland chided her husband for an
exclamation he had uttered. “John! On Sunday! You ought to be ashamed.”

“I couldn’t help it,” he exclaimed. “Who on earth is his clinging vine?
Why, she’s got _lavender_ tops on her shoes and--”

“Don’t look round!” she warned him sharply. “Don’t--”

“Well, what’s he doing at a Baptist church? What’s he fidgeting at his
handkerchief about? Why can’t he walk like people? Does he think it’s
obligatory to walk home from church anchored arm-in-arm like Swedes on a
Sunday Out? Who _is_ this cow-eyed fat girl that’s got him, anyhow?”

“Hush! Don’t look round again, John.”

“Never fear!” said her husband, having disobeyed. “They’ve turned off;
they’re crossing over to Bullard Street. Who is it?”

“I think her name’s Rust,” Mrs. Milholland informed him. “I don’t know
what her father does. She’s one of the girls in his class at school.”

“Well, that’s just like a boy; pick out some putty-faced flirt to take
to church!”

“Oh, she’s quite pretty--in that way!” said his wife, deprecatingly. “Of
course that’s the danger with public schools. It would be pleasanter if
he’d taken a fancy to someone whose family belongs to our own circle.”

“‘Taken a fancy’!” he echoed, hooting. “Why, he’s terrible! He looked
like a red-gilled goldfish that’s flopped itself out of the bowl. Why,
he--”

“I _say_ I wish if he felt that he had to take girls anywhere,” said
Mrs. Milholland, with the primmest air of speaking to the point--“if
this sort of thing _must_ begin, I wish he might have selected some
nice girl among the daughters of our own friends, like Dora Yocum, for
instance.”

Upon the spot she began to undergo the mortification of a mother who has
expected her son, just out of infancy, to look about him with the eye of
a critical matron of forty-five. Moreover, she was indiscreet enough
to express her views to Ramsey, a week later, producing thus a scene of
useless great fury and no little sound.

“I do think it’s in _very_ poor taste to see so much of any one girl,
Ramsey,” she said, and, not heeding his protest that he only walked home
from school with Milla, “about every other day,” and that it didn’t seem
any crime to him just to go to church with her a couple o’ times, Mrs.
Milholland went on: “But if you think you really _must_ be dangling
around somebody quite this much--though what in the world you find to
_talk_ about with this funny little Milla Rust you poor father says he
really cannot see--and of course it seems very queer to us that you’d
be willing to waste so much time just now when your mind ought to be
entirely on your studies, and especially with such an absurd _looking_
little thing--

“No, you must listen, Ramsey, and let me speak now. What I meant was
that we shouldn’t be _quite_ so much distressed by your being seen with
a girl who dressed in better taste and seemed to have some notion of
refinement, though of course it’s only natural she _wouldn’t_, with a
father who is just a sort of ward politician, I understand, and a mother
we don’t know, and of course shouldn’t care to. But, oh, Ramsey! if you
_had_ to make yourself so conspicuous why couldn’t you be a little _bit_
more fastidious? Your father wouldn’t have minded nearly so much if it
had been a self-respecting, intellectual girl. We both say that if you
_must_ be so ridiculous at your age as to persist in seeing more of one
girl than another, why, oh why, don’t you go and see some really nice
girl like Dora Yocum?”

Ramsey was already dangerously distended, as an effect of the earlier
part of her discourse, and the word “fastidious” almost exploded him;
but upon the climax, “Dora Yocum,” he blew up with a shattering report
and, leaving fragments of incoherence ricocheting behind him, fled
shuddering from the house.

For the rest of the school term he walked home with Milla every
afternoon and on Sundays appeared to have become a resolute Baptist. It
was supposed (by the interested members of the high-school class) that
Ramsey and Milla were “engaged.” Ramsey sometimes rather supposed they
were himself, and the dim idea gave him a sensation partly pleasant, but
mostly apprehensive: he was afraid.

He was afraid that the day was coming when he ought to kiss her.



Chapter VIII

Vacation, in spite of increased leisure, may bring inconvenience to
people in Ramsey’s strange but not uncommon condition. At home his
constant air was that of a badgered captive plaintively silent under
injustice; and he found it difficult to reply calmly when asked where
he was going--an inquiry addressed to him, he asserted, every time he
touched his cap, even to hang it up!

The amount of evening walking he did must also have been a trial to his
nerves, on account of fatigue, though the ground covered was not vast.
Milla’s mother and father were friendly people but saw no reason
to “move out of house and home,” as Mr. Rust said, when Milla had
“callers”; and on account of the intimate plan of their small dwelling
a visitor’s only alternative to spending the evening with Mr. and Mrs.
Rust as well as with Milla, was to invite her to “go out walking.”

Evening after evening they walked and walked and walked, usually in
company--at perhaps the distance of half a block--with Albert Paxton and
Sadie Clews, though Ramsey now and then felt disgraced by having fallen
into this class; for sometimes it was apparent that Albert casually had
his arm about Sadie’s waist. This allured Ramsey somewhat, but terrified
him more. He didn’t know how such matters were managed.

Usually the quartet had no destination; they just went “out walking”
 until ten o’clock, when both girls had to be home--and the boys did,
too, but never admitted it. On Friday evenings there was a “public
open-air concert” by a brass band in a small park, and the four were
always there. A political speechmaker occupied the bandstand one night,
and they stood for an hour in the midst of the crowd, listening vaguely.

The orator saddled his politics upon patriotism. “Do you intend to let
this glorious country go to wrack and ruin, oh, my good friends,” he
demanded, “or do you intend to save her? Look forth upon this country of
ours, I bid you, oh, my countrymen, and tell me what you see. You see
a fair domain of forest, mountain, plain, and fertile valleys, sweeping
from ocean to ocean. Look from the sturdy rocks of old New England,
pledged to posterity by the stern religious hardihood of the Pilgrim
Fathers, across the corn-bearing midland country, that land of milk
and honey, won for us by the pluck and endurance of the indomitable
pioneers, to where in sunshine roll the smiling Sierras of golden
California, given to our heritage by the unconquerable energy of those
brave men and women who braved the tomahawk on the Great Plains, the
tempest, of Cape Horn, and the fevers of Panama, to make American soil
of El Dorado! America! Oh, my America, how glorious you stand! Country
of Washington and Valley Forge, out of what martyrdoms hast thou arisen!
Country of Lincoln in his box at Ford’s theatre, his lifeblood staining
to a brighter, holier red the red, white, and blue of the Old Flag!
Always and always I see the Old Flag fluttering the more sacredly
encrimsoned in the breeze for the martyrs who have upheld it! Always I
see that Old Flag--”

Milla gave Ramsey’s arm, within her own, a little tug. “Come on,” she
said. “Sade says she don’t want to hang around here any longer. It’s
awful tiresome. Let’s go.”

He consented, placidly. The oration meant nothing to him and stirred no
one in the audience. The orator was impassioned; he shouted himself into
coughing fits, gesticulated, grew purple; he was so hot that his
collar caved in and finally swooned upon his neck in soggy exhaustion,
prostrate round his thunderings. Meanwhile, the people listened with an
air of patience, yawning here and there, and gradually growing fewer. It
was the old, old usual thing, made up of phrases that Ramsey had heard
dinning away on a thousand such occasions, and other kinds of occasions,
until they meant to him no more than so much sound. He was bored, and
glad to leave.

“Kind o’ funny,” he said, as they sagged along the street at their usual
tortoise gait.

“What is it, Ramsey?”

“Seems kind o’ funny they never have anything to say any one can
take any interest in. Always the same ole whoopety-whoop about George
Washington and Pilgrim Fathers and so on. I bet five dollars before
long we’d of heard him goin’ on about our martyred Presidents, William
McKinley and James A. Garfield and Benjamin Harrison and all so on, and
then some more about the ole Red, White, and Blue. Don’t you wish they’d
_quit_, sometimes, about the ‘Ole Flag’?”

“I dunno,” said Milla. “I wasn’t listening any at all. I hate speeches.”

“Well, I could _stand_ ‘em,” Ramsey said, more generously, “if they’d
ever give anybody a little to think about. What’s the use always
draggin’ in George Warshington and the Ole Flag? And who wants to
hear any more ole truck about ‘from ole rocky New England to golden
California,’ and how big and fine the United States is and how it’s the
land of the Free and all that? Why don’t they ever say anything new?
That’s what I’d like to know.”

Milla laughed, and when he asked why, she told him she’d never heard
him talk so much “at one stretch.” “I guess that speech got you kind of
wound up,” she said. “Let’s talk about something different.”

“I just soon,” he agreed. And so they walked on in silence, which
seemed to suit Milla. She hung weightily upon his arm, and they dawdled,
drifting from one side of the pavement to the other as they slowly
advanced. Albert and Sadie, ahead of them, called “good-night” from a
corner, before turning down the side street where Sadie lived; and then,
presently, Ramsey and Milla were at the latter’s gate. He went in with
her, halting at the front steps.

“Well, g’night, Milla,” he said. “Want to go out walking to-morrow
night? Albert and Sadie are.”

“I can’t to-morrow night,” she told him with obvious regret. “Isn’t it
the worst luck! I got an aunt comin’ to visit from Chicago, and she’s
crazy about playing ‘Five Hundred,’ and Mama and Papa said I haf to stay
in to make four to play it. She’s liable to be here three or four days,
and I guess I got to be around home pretty much all the time she’s here.
It’s the worst luck!”

He was doleful, but ventured to be literary. “Well, what can’t be helped
must be endured. I’ll come around when she’s gone.”

He moved as if to depart, but she still retained his arm and did not
prepare to relinquish it.

“Well--” he said.

“Well what, Ramsey?”

“Well--g’night.”

She glanced up at the dark front of the house. “I guess the family’s
gone to bed,” she said, absently.

“I s’pose so.”

“Well, good-night, Ramsey.” She said this but still did not release his
arm, and suddenly, in a fluster, he felt that the time he dreaded had
come. Somehow, without knowing where, except that it was somewhere upon
what seemed to be a blurred face too full of obstructing features, he
kissed her.

She turned instantly away in the darkness, her hands over her cheeks;
and in a panic Ramsey wondered if he hadn’t made a dreadful mistake.

“S’cuse me!” he said, stumbling toward the gate. “Well, I guess I got to
be gettin’ along back home.”



Chapter IX

He woke in the morning to a great self-loathing: he had kissed a girl.
Mingled with the loathing was a curious pride in the very fact that
caused the loathing, but the pride did not last long. He came downstairs
morbid to breakfast, and continued this mood afterward. At noon Albert
Paxton brought him a note which Milla had asked Sadie to ask Albert to
give him.

Dearie: I am just wondering if you thought as much about something so
sweet that happened last night as I did you know what. I think it was
the sweetest thing. I send you one with this note and I hope you will
think it is a sweet one. I would give you a real one if you were here
now and I hope you would think it was sweeter still than the one I put
in this note. It is the sweetest thing now you are mine and I am yours
forever kiddo. If you come around about friday eve it will be all right.
aunt Jess will be gone back home by then so come early and we will get
Sade and Alb and go to the band Concert. Don’t forget what I said about
my putting something sweet in this note, and I hope you will think it is
a sweet one but not as sweet as the _real_ sweet one I would like to--

At this point Ramsey impulsively tore the note into small pieces. He
turned cold as his imagination projected a sketch of his mother in
the act of reading this missive, and of her expression as she read the
sentence: “It is the sweetest thing now you are mine and I am yours
forever kiddo.” He wished that Milla hadn’t written “kiddo.” She called
him that, sometimes, but in her warm little voice the word seemed not at
all what it did in ink. He wished, too, that she hadn’t said she was his
forever.

Suddenly he was seized with a horror of her.

Moisture broke out heavily upon him; he felt a definite sickness, and,
wishing for death, went forth upon the streets to walk and walk. He
cared not whither, so that his feet took him in any direction away from
Milla, since they were unable to take him away from himself--of whom he
had as great a horror. Her loving face was continually before him, and
its sweetness made his flesh creep. Milla had been too sweet.

When he met or passed people, it seemed to him that perhaps they were
able to recognize upon him somewhere the marks of his low quality.
“Softy! Ole sloppy fool!” he muttered, addressing himself. “Slushy ole
mush!... _Spooner!_” And he added, “Yours forever, kiddo!” Convulsions
seemed about to seize him.

Turning a corner with his head down, he almost charged into Dora Yocum.
She was homeward bound from a piano lesson, and carried a rolled leather
case of sheet music--something he couldn’t imagine Milla carrying--and
in her young girl’s dress, which attempted to be nothing else, she
looked as wholesome as cold spring water. Ramsey had always felt
that she despised him and now, all at once, he thought that she was
justified. Leper that he had become, he was unworthy to be even touching
his cap to her! And as she nodded and went briskly on, he would have
given anything to turn and walk a little way with her, for it seemed to
him that this might fumigate his morals. But he lacked the courage, and,
besides, he considered himself unfit to be seen walking with her.

He had a long afternoon of anguishes, these becoming most violent when
he tried to face the problem of his future course toward Milla. He did
not face it at all, in fact, but merely writhed, and had evolved nothing
when Friday evening was upon him and Milla waiting for him to take her
to the “band concert” with “Alb and Sade.” In his thoughts, by that
time, this harmless young pair shared the contamination of his own
crime, and he regarded them with aversion; however, he made shift to
seek a short interview with Albert, just before dinner.

“I got a pretty rotten headache, and my stomach’s upset, too,” he said,
drooping upon the Paxton’s fence. “I been gettin’ worse every minute.
You and Sadie go by Milla’s, Albert, and tell her if I’m not there by
ha’-pas’-seven, tell her not to wait for me any longer.”

“How do you mean ‘wait’?” Albert inquired. “You don’t expect her to come
pokin’ along with Sadie and me, do you? She’ll keep on sittin’ there at
home just the same, because she wouldn’t have anything else to do, if
you don’t come like she expects you to. She hasn’t got any way to _stop_
waitin’!”

At this, Ramsey moaned, without affectation. “I don’t expect I _can_,
Albert,” he said. “I’d like to if I could, but the way it looks now,
you tell her I wouldn’t be much surprised maybe I was startin’ in with
typhoid fever or pretty near anything at all. You tell her I’m pretty
near as disappointed as she’s goin’ to be herself, and I’d come if I
could--and I _will_ come if I get a good deal better, or anything--but
the way it’s gettin’ to look now, I kind o’ feel as if I might be
breaking out with something any minute.” He moved away, concluding,
feebly: “I guess I better crawl on home, Albert, while I’m still able
to walk some. You tell her the way it looks now I’m liable to be right
sick.”

And the next morning he woke to the chafings of remorse, picturing a
Milla somewhat restored in charm waiting hopefully at the gate, even
after half-past seven, and then, as time passed and the sound of the
distant horns came faintly through the darkness, going sadly to her
room--perhaps weeping there. It was a picture to wring him with shame
and pity, but was followed by another which electrified him, for out
of school he did not lack imagination. What if Albert had reported his
illness too vividly to Milla? Milla was so fond! What if, in her alarm,
she should come here to the house to inquire of his mother about him?
What if she told Mrs. Milholland they were “engaged”? The next moment
Ramsey was projecting a conversation between his mother and Milla in
which the latter stated that she and Ramsey were soon to be married;
that she regarded him as already virtually her husband, and demanded to
nurse him.

In a panic he fled from the house before breakfast, going out by way of
a side door, and he crossed back yards and climbed back fences to reach
Albert Paxton the more swiftly. This creature, a ladies’ man almost
professionally, was found exercising with an electric iron and a pair of
flannel trousers in a basement laundry, by way of stirring his appetite
for the morning meal.

“See here, Albert,” his friend said breathlessly. “I got a favour. I
want you to go over to Milla’s--”

“I’m goin’ to finish pressin’ these trousers,” Albert interrupted. “Then
I’ve got my breakfast to eat.”

“Well, you could do this first,” said Ramsey, hurriedly. “It wouldn’t
hurt you to do me this little favour first. You just slip over and see
Milla for me, if she’s up yet, and if she isn’t, you better wait around
there till she is, because I want you to tell her I’m a whole lot better
this morning. Tell her I’m pretty near practick’ly all right again,
Albert, and I’ll prob’ly write her a note or something right soon--or in
a week or so, anyhow. You tell her--”

“Well, you act pretty funny!” Albert exclaimed, fumbling in the pockets
of his coat. “Why can’t you go on over and tell her yourself?”

“I would,” said Ramsey. “I’d be perfectly willing to go only I got to
get back home to breakfast.”

Albert stared. “Well, I got to go upstairs and eat my own breakfast in
about a minute, haven’t I? But just as it happens there wouldn’t be any
use your goin’ over there, or me, either.”

“Why not?”

“Milla ain’t there,” said Albert, still searching the pockets of his
coat. “When we went by her house last night to tell her about your
headache and stomach and all, why, her mother told us Milla’d gone up to
Chicago yesterday afternoon with her aunt, and said she left a note for
you, and she said if you were sick I better take it and give it to you.
I was goin’ to bring it over to your house after breakfast.” He found
it. “Here!”

Ramsey thanked him feebly, and departed in a state of partial
stupefaction, brought on by a glimpse of the instabilities of life. He
had also, not relief, but a sense of vacancy and loss; for Milla, out of
his reach, once more became mysteriously lovely.

Pausing in an alley, he read her note.

Dearie: Thought I ought to call you up but over the ‘phone is just nix
for explanations as Mama and Aunt Jess would hear everything and thought
I might seem cold to you not saying anything sweet on account of them
listening and you would wonder why I was so cold when telling you
good-by for a wile maybe weeks. It is this way Uncle Purv wired Aunt
Jess he has just taken in a big touring car on a debt and his vacation
starts to-morrow so if they were going to take a trip they better start
right way so Aunt Jess invited me. It is going to be a big trip up
around the lakes and I have always wanted to go touring more than
anything in the world stopping at hotels and all and Mama said I ought
to it would be so splendid for my health as she thinks I am failing some
lately. Now dearie I have to pack and write this in a hurry so you will
not be disappointed when you come by for the B. C. to-night. Do not go
get some other girl and take her for I would hate her and nothing in
this world make me false for one second to my kiddo boy. I do not know
just when home again as the folks think I better stay up there for a
visit at Aunt Jess and Uncle Purvs home in Chicago after the trip is
over. But I will think of you all the time and you must think of me
every minute and believe your own dearie she will never no not for one
second be false. So tell Sade and Alb good-by for me and do not be
false to me any more than I would be to you and it will not be long till
nothing more will interrupt our sweet friendship.

As a measure of domestic prudence, Ramsey tore the note into irreparable
fragments, but he did this slowly, and without experiencing any of the
revulsion created by Milla’s former missive.

He was melancholy, aggrieved that she should treat him so.



Chapter X

He never saw her again. She sent him a “picture postal” from Oconomowoc,
Wisconsin, which his father disengaged from the family mail, one morning
at breakfast, and considerately handed to him without audible comment.
Upon it was written, _“Oh, you Ramsey!”_ This was the last of Milla.

Just before school opened, in the autumn, Sadie Clews made some
revelations. “Milla did like you,” said Sadie. “After that time you
jumped in the creek to save her she liked you better than any boy in
town, and I guess if it wasn’t for her cousin Milt up in Chicago she
would of liked you the best anywhere. I guess she did, anyway, because
she hadn’t seen him for about a year then.

“Well, that afternoon she went away I was over there and took in
everything that was goin’ on, only she made me promise on my word of
honour I wouldn’t even tell Albert. They didn’t get any wire from her
uncle about the touring car; it was her cousin Milt that jumped on the
train and came down and fixed it all up for Milla to go on the trip, and
everything. You see, Ramsey, she was turned back a couple of times in
school before she came in our class and I don’t exactly know how old
she is and she don’t _look_ old yet, but I’m pretty sure she’s at least
eighteen, and she might be over. Her mother kept tellin’ her all the
time you were just a kid, and didn’t have anything to support her on,
and lots of things like that. I didn’t think such a great deal of this
Milt’s looks, myself, but he’s anyway twenty-one years old, and got a
good position, and all their family seem to think he’s just fine! It
wasn’t his father that took in the touring car on debt, like she said
she was writing to you; it was Milt himself. He started out in business
when he was only fifteen years old, and this trip he was gettin’ up for
his father and mother and Milla was the first vacation he ever took.
Well, of course she wouldn’t like my tellin’ you, but I can’t see the
harm of it, now everything’s all over.”

“All--all over? You mean Milla’s going to be--to be married?”

“She already is,” said Sadie. “They got married at her Aunt Jess and
Uncle Purv’s house, up in Chicago, last Thursday. Yes, sir; that quiet
little Milla’s a regular old married woman by this time, I expect,
Ramsey!”

When he got over the shock, which was not until the next day, one
predominating feeling remained: it was a gloomy pride--a pride in his
proven maturity. He was old enough, it appeared, to have been the same
thing as engaged to a person who was now a Married Woman. His manner
thenceforth showed an added trace of seriousness and self-consideration.

Having recovered his equipoise and something more, he entirely forgot
that moment of humble admiration he had felt for Dora Yocum on the day
of his flattest prostration. When he saw her sitting in the classroom,
smiling brightly up at the teacher, the morning of the school’s opening
in the autumn, all his humility had long since vanished and she appeared
to him not otherwise than as the scholar whose complete proficiency had
always been so irksome to him.

“Look at her!” he muttered to himself. “Same ole Teacher’s Pet!”

Now and then, as the days and seasons passed, and Dora’s serene progress
continued, never checked or even flawed, there stirred within some
lingerings of the old determination to “show” her; and he would conjure
up a day-dream of Dora in loud lamentation, while he led the laughter of
the spectators. But gradually his feelings about her came to be merely a
dull oppression. He was tired of having to look at her (as he stated it)
and he thanked the Lord that the time wouldn’t be so long now until he’d
be out of that ole school, and then all he’d have to do he’d just take
care never to walk by her house; it was easy enough to use some other
street when he had to go down-town.

“The good ole class of Nineteen-Fourteen is about gone,” he said to Fred
Mitchell, who was still his most intimate friend when they reached the
senior year. “Yes, sir; it’s held together a good many years, Fred, but
after June it’ll be busted plum up, and I hope nobody starts a move to
have any reunions. There’s a good many members of the ole class that I
can stand and there’s some I can’t, but there’s one I just won’t! If we
ever did call a reunion, that ole Yocum girl would start in right away
and run the whole shebang, and that’s where I’d resign! You know, Fred,
the thing _I_ think is the one biggest benefit of graduating from this
ole school? It’s never seein’ Dora Yocum again.”

This was again his theme as he sat by the same friend’s side, in the
rear row of the class at Commencement, listening to the delivery of
the Valedictory. “Thinks she’s just sooblime, don’t she!” he whispered
morosely. “She wouldn’t trade with the President of the United States
right now. She prob’ly thinks bein’ Valedictorian is more important than
Captain of the State University Eleven. Never mind!” And here his tone
became huskily jubilant. “Never mind! Just about a half-an-hour more
and that’s the last o’ _you_, ole girl! Yes, sir, Fred; one thing we can
feel pretty good over: this is where we get through with Dora Yocum!”

Ramsey and Fred had arranged to room together at Greenfield, the seat
of the state university, and they made the short journey in company the
following September. They arrived hilarious, anticipating pleasurable
excitements in the way of “fraternity” pledgings and initiations,
encounters with sophomores, class meetings, and elections; and, also,
they were not absolutely without interest in the matter of Girls, for
the state university was co-educational, and it was but natural to
expect in so broad a field, all new to them, a possible vision of
something rather thrilling. They whispered cheerfully of all these
things during the process of matriculation, and signed the registrar’s
book on a fresh page; but when Fred had written his name under Ramsey’s,
and blotted it, he took the liberty of turning over the leaf to examine
some of the autographs of their future classmates, written on the other
side. Then he uttered an exclamation, more droll than dolorous, though
it affected to be wholly the latter; for the shock to Fred was by no
means so painful as it was to his friend.

Ramsey leaned forward and read the name indicated by Fred’s forefinger.

_Dora Yocum._

...When they got back to their pleasant quarters at Mrs. Meig’s, facing
the campus, Ramsey was still unable to talk of anything except the
lamentable discovery; nor were his companion’s burlesquing efforts to
console him of great avail, though Fred did become serious enough to
point out that a university was different from a high school.

“It’s not like havin’ to use one big room as a headquarters, you know,
Ramsey. Everything’s all split up, and she might happen not to be in a
single of your classes.”

“You don’t know my luck!” the afflicted boy protested. “I wish I’d gone
to Harvard, the way my father wanted me to. Why, this is just the worst
nuisance I ever struck! You’ll see! She’ll be in everything there is,
just the way she was back home.”

He appeared to be corroborated by the events of the next day, when they
attended the first meeting to organize the new class. The masculine
element predominated, but Dora Yocum was elected vice-president. “You
see?” Ramsey said. “Didn’t I tell you? You see what happens?”

But after that she ceased for a time to intrude upon his life, and he
admitted that his harassment was less grave than he had anticipated.
There were about five hundred students in the freshman class; he seldom
saw her, and when he did it was not more than a distant glimpse of her
on one of the campus paths, her thoughtful head bent over a book as
she hurried to a classroom. This was bearable; and in the flattering
agitations of being sought, and even hunted, by several “fraternities”
 simultaneously desirous of his becoming a sworn Brother, he almost
forgot her. After a hazardous month the roommates fell into the arms of
the last “frat” to seek them, and having undergone an evening of outrage
which concluded with touching rhetoric and an oath taken at midnight,
they proudly wore jewelled symbols on their breasts and were free to
turn part of their attention to other affairs, especially the affairs of
the Eleven.

However, they were instructed by the older brethren of their Order,
whose duty it was to assist in the proper manoeuvring of their young
careers, that, although support of the ‘varsity teams was important,
they must neglect neither the spiritual nor the intellectual by-products
of undergraduate doings. Therefore they became members of the college
Y.M.C.A. and of the “Lumen Society.”

According to the charter which it had granted itself, the “Lumen
Society” was an “Organization of male and female students”--so
“advanced” was this university--“for the development of the powers of
debate and oratory, intellectual and sociological progress, and
the discussion of all matters relating to philosophy, metaphysics,
literature, art, and current events.” A statement so formidable was not
without a hushing effect upon Messrs. Milholland and Mitchell; they went
to their first “Lumen” meeting in a state of fear and came away little
reassured.

“I couldn’t get up there,” Ramsey declared, “I couldn’t stand up there
before all that crowd and make a speech, or debate in a debate, to save
my soul and gizzard! Why, I’d just keel right over and haf to be carried
out.”

“Well, the way I understand it,” said Fred, “we can’t get out of it.
The seniors in the ‘frat’ said we had to join, and they said we couldn’t
resign, either, after we had joined. They said we just had to go through
it, and after a while we’d get used to it and not mind it much.”

“_I_ will!” Ramsey insisted. “I couldn’t any more stand up there on my
feet and get to spoutin’ about sociology and the radical metempsychorus
of the metaphysical bazoozum than I could fly a flyin’ machine. Why,
I--”

“Oh, that wasn’t anything,” Fred interrupted. “The only one that talked
like that, he was that Blickens; he’s a tutor, or something, and really
a member of the faculty. Most o’ the others just kind of blah-blahhed
around, and what any of ‘em tried to get off their chests hardly
amounted to terribly much.”

“I don’t care. I couldn’t do it at _all!_”

“Well, the way it looks to me,” Fred observed, “we simply _got_ to! From
what they tell me, the freshmen got to do more than anybody. Every other
Friday night, it’s all freshmen and nothin’ else. You get a postal card
on Monday morning in your mail, and it says ‘Assignment’ on it, and
then it’s got written underneath what you haf to do the next Friday
night--oration or debate, or maybe just read from some old book or
something. I guess we got to stand up there and _try_, anyway.”

“All right,” said Ramsey. “If they want me to commit suicide they can
send me one o’ their ole ‘Assignments.’ I won’t need to commit suicide,
though, I guess. All I’ll do, I’ll just fall over in a fit, and stay in
it.”

And, in truth, when he received his first “Assignment,” one Monday
morning, a month later, he seemed in a fair way to fulfil his prophecy.
The attention of his roommate, who sat at a window of their study, was
attracted by sounds of strangulation.

“What on earth’s the matter, Ramsey?”

“Look! Look at _this!_”

Fred took the card and examined it with an amazement gradually merging
into a pleasure altogether too perceptible:

ASSIGNMENT

TWELVE-MINUTE DEBATE, CLASS OF 1918. _Subject, Resolved:_ That Germany
is both legally and morally justified in her invasion of Belgium.

(Debaters are notified that each will be held strictly to the following
schedule: Affirmative, 4 min., first. Negative, 4 min., first. Affirm, 2
min., second. Neg., 2 min., second.)

Affirmative Negative R. MILHOLLAND, ‘18 D. YOCUM, ‘18

Concluding his reading, which was oral, the volatile Mitchell made use
of his voice in a manner of heathenish boisterousness, and presently
reclined upon a lounge to laugh the better. His stricken comrade,
meanwhile, recovered so far as to pace the floor. “I’m goin’ to pack up
and light out for home!” he declared, over and over. And even oftener
he read and reread the card to make sure of the actuality of that fatal
coincidence, “D. Yocum, ‘18.”



Chapter XI

“If I _could_ do it,” he vociferated, “if I _could_ stand up there and
debate one o’ their darn ole debates in the first place--if I had the
gall to even try it, why, my gosh! you don’t suppose I’m goin’ to get
up there and argue with _that girl_, do you? That’s a hot way to get
an education: stand up there and argue with a girl before a couple o’
hundred people! My _gosh!_”

“You got to!” his prostrate companion cackled, weakly. “You can’t get
out of it. You’re a goner, ole Buddy!”


“I’ll be sick. I’ll be sick as a dog! I’ll be sick as the sickest dog
that ever--”

“No use, ole man. The frat seniors’ll be on the job. They’ll know
whether you’re sick or not, and they’ll have you there, right on the
spot to the minute!”

The prediction was accurate. The too fatherly “frat seniors” did all
that Fred said they would, and more. For the honour of the “frat,” they
coached the desperate Ramsey in the technic of Lumen debate, told him
many more things to say than could be said in six minutes, and produced
him, despairing, ghastly, and bedewed, in the large hall of the Lumen
Society at eight o’clock on Friday evening.

Four other “twelve-minute debates” preceded his and the sound of these,
in Ramsey’s ears, was the sound of Gabriel practising on his horn in
the early morning of Judgment Day. The members of the society sat, three
rows deep, along the walls of the room, leaving a clear oblong of green
carpet in the centre, where were two small desks, twenty feet apart, the
rostrums of the debaters. Upon a platform at the head of the room sat
dreadful seniors, the officers of the society, and, upon benches near
the platform, the debaters of the evening were aligned. One of the
fraternal seniors sat with sweltering Ramsey; and the latter, as his
time relentlessly came nearer, made a last miserable squirm.

“Look here, Brother Colburn, I got to get out o’ here.”

“No, you don’t, young fellow.”

“Yes, I do!” Ramsey whispered, passionately. “Honest, I do. Honest,
Brother Colburn, I got to get a drink of water. I _got_ to!”

“No. You can’t.”

“Honest, Colburn, I _got_--”

“Hush!”

Ramsey grunted feebly, and cast his dilating eyes along the rows of
faces. Most of them were but as blurs, swimming, yet he was aware (he
thought) of a formidable and horrible impassive scrutiny of himself, a
glare seeming to pierce through him to the back of the belt round his
waist, so that he began to have fearful doubts about that belt, about
every fastening and adjustment of his garments, about the expression of
his countenance, and about many other things jumbling together in his
consciousness. Over and over he whispered gaspingly to himself the
opening words of the sentence with which Colburn had advised him to
begin his argument. And as the moment of supreme agony drew close, this
whispering became continuous: “In making my first appearance before
this honor’ble membership I feel constrained to say in making my first
appearance before this honor’ble membership I feel constrained to say in
making my first appearance before this honor’ble mem--”

...It had come. The chairman announced the subject of the fourth
freshman twelve-minute debate; and Dora Yocum, hitherto unperceived
by Ramsey, rose and went forward to one of the small desks in the open
space, where she stood composedly, a slim, pretty figure in white.
Members in Ramsey’s neighbourhood were aware of a brief and hushed
commotion, and of Colburn’s fierce whisper, “You can’t! You get up
there!” And the blanched Ramsey came forth and placed himself at the
other desk.

He stood before the silent populace of that morgue, and it seemed to him
that his features had forgotten that he was supposed to be their owner
and in control of them; he felt that they were slipping all over his
face, regardless of his wishes. His head, as a whole, was subject to
an agitation not before known by him; it desired to move rustily in
eccentric ways of its own devising; his legs alternately limbered and
straightened under no direction but their own; and his hands clutched
each other fiercely behind his back; he was not one cohesive person,
evidently, but an assembled collection of parts which had relapsed each
into its own individuality. In spite of them, he somehow contrived the
semblance of a bow toward the chairman and the semblance of another
toward Dora, of whom he was but hazily conscious. Then he opened his
mouth, and, not knowing how he had started his voice going, heard it as
if from a distance.

“In making my first appearance before this honor’ble membership I feel
restrained to say--” He stopped short, and thenceforward shook visibly.
After a long pause, he managed to repeat his opening, stopped again,
swallowed many times, produced a handkerchief and wiped his face, an act
of necessity--then had an inspiration.

“The subject assigned to me,” he said, “is resolved that Germany is
mor’ly and legally justified in Belgians--Belgiums! This subject was
assigned to me to be the subject of this debate.” He interrupted himself
to gasp piteously; found breathing difficult, but faltered again: “This
subject is the subject. It is the subject that was assigned to me on
a postal card.” Then, for a moment or so, he had a miraculous spurt of
confidence, and continued rather rapidly: “I feel constrained to say
that the country of Belgian--Belgium, I mean--this country has been
constrained by the--invaded I mean--invaded by the imperial German
Impire and my subject in this debate is whether it ought to or not, my
being the infernative--affirmative, I mean--that I got to prove that
Germany is mor’ly and legally justified. I wish to state that--”

He paused again, lengthily, then struggled on. “I have been requested
to state that the German Imp--Empire--that it certainly isn’t right
for those Dutch--Germans, I mean--they haven’t got any more business in
Belgium than I have myself, but I--I feel constrained to say that I had
to accept whatever side of this debate I got on the postal card, and so
I am constrained to take the side of the Dutch. I mean the Germans. The
Dutch are sometimes called--I mean the Germans are sometimes called the
Dutch in this country, but they aren’t Dutch, though sometimes called
Dutch in this country. Well, and so--so, well, the war began last August
or about then, anyway, and the German army invaded the Belgian army.
After they got there, the invasion began. First, they came around there
and then they commenced invading. Well, what I feel constrained--”

He came to the longest of all his pauses here, and the awful gravity of
the audience almost suffocated him. “Well,” he concluded, “it don’t look
right to me.”

“Four minutes!” the chairman announced, for Ramsey’s pauses had worn
away a great deal more of this terrible interval than had his eloquence.
“Opening statement for the negative: Miss D. Yocum. Four minutes.”

As Dora began to speak, Ramsey experienced a little relief, but only
a little--about the same amount of relief as that felt by a bridegroom
when it is the bride’s turn to “respond,” not really relief at all, but
merely the slight relaxation of a continuing strain. The audience now
looked at Ramsey no more than people look at a bridegroom, but he failed
to perceive any substantial mitigation of his frightful conspicuousness.
He had not the remotest idea of what he had said in setting forth his
case for Germany, and he knew that it was his duty to listen closely
to Dora, in order to be able to refute her argument when his two-minute
closing speech fell due but he was conscious of little more than his own
condition. His legs had now gone wild beyond all devilry, and he had
to keep shifting his weight from one to the other in order even to hope
that their frenzy might escape general attention.

He realized that Dora was speaking rapidly and confidently, and that
somewhere in his ill-assembled parts lurked a familiar bit of him that
objected to her even more than usual; but she had used half of her time,
at least, before he was able to gather any coherent meaning from what
she was saying. Even then he caught only a fragment, here and there,
and for the rest--so far as Ramsey was concerned--she might as well have
been reciting the Swedish alphabet.

In spite of the rather startling feebleness of her opponent’s statement,
Dora went at her task as earnestly as if it were to confute some monster
of casuistry. “Thus, having demonstrated that _all_ war is wrong,” she
said, approaching her conclusion, “it is scarcely necessary to point out
that whatever the actual circumstances of the invasion, and whatever the
status of the case in international law, or by reason of treaty, or the
German oath to respect the neutrality of Belgium, which of course was
grossly and dishonorably violated--all this, I say, ladies and gentlemen
of the Lumen Society, all this is beside the point of morals. Since, as
I have shown, _all_ war is wrong, the case may be simplified as follows:
All war is morally wrong. _Quod erat demonstrandum_. Germany invaded
Belgium. Invasion is war. Germany, therefore, did moral wrong. Upon
the legal side, as I began by pointing out, Germany confessed in the
Reichstag the violation of law. Therefore, Germany was justified in the
invasion neither morally nor legally; but was both morally and legally
wrong and evil. Ladies and gentlemen of the Lumen Society, I await the
refutation of my opponent!”

Her opponent appeared to be having enough trouble with his legs, without
taking any added cares upon himself in the way of refutations. But the
marvellous Dora had calculated the length of her statement with such
nicety that the chairman announced “Four minutes,” almost upon the
instant of her final syllable; and all faces turned once more to
the upholder of the affirmative. “Refutation and conclusion by the
affirmative,” said the chairman. “Mr. R. Milholland. Two minutes.”

Therewith, Ramsey coughed as long as he could cough, and when he felt
that no more should be done in this way, he wiped his face--again an act
of necessity--and quaveringly began:

“Gentlemen and ladies, or ladies and gentlemen, in making the refutation
of my opponent, I feel that--I feel that hardly anything more ought to
be said.”

He paused, looked helplessly at his uncontrollable legs, and resumed:
“I am supposed to make the reputa--the refutation of my opponent, and I
feel that I ought to say quite a good deal more. In the first place, I
feel that the invasion has taken place. I am supposed--anyhow I got a
postal card that I am supposed to be here to-night. Well, in talking
over this matter with a couple of seniors, they told me I was supposed
to claim this invasion was mor’ly and legally all right. Well--” Here,
by some chance, the recollection of a word of Dora’s flickered into his
chaotic mind, and he had a brighter moment. “My opponent said she proved
all war is wrong--or something like that, anyhow. She said she proved it
was wrong to fight, no matter what. Well, if she wasn’t a girl, anybody
that wanted to get her into a fight could prob’ly do it.” He did not
add that he would like to be the person to make the experiment (if Dora
weren’t a girl), nor did the thought enter his mind until an hour or so
later. “Well,” he added, “I suppose there is little more to be said.”

He was so right, in regard to his own performance, at least, that,
thereupon drying up utterly, he proceeded to stand, a speechless
figure in the midst of a multitudinous silence, for an eternity lasting
forty-five seconds. He made a racking effort, and at the end of this
epoch found words again. “In making my argument in this debate, I would
state that--”

“Two minutes!” said the chairman. “Refutation by the negative. Miss D.
Yocum. Two minutes.”

“I waive them,” said Dora, primly. “I submit that the affirmative has
not refuted the argument of the negative.”

“Very well.” With his gavel the chairman sharply tapped the desk before
him, “The question is now before the house. ‘Resolved, that Germany
is both morally and legally justified in her invasion of Belgium.’ All
those in favour of the--”

But here there was an interruption of a kind never before witnessed
during any proceedings of the Lumen Society. It came from neither of
the debaters, who still remained standing at their desks until the
vote settling their comparative merits in argument should be taken. The
interruption was from the rear row of seats along the wall, where
sat new members of the society, freshmen not upon the program for the
evening. A loud voice was heard from this quarter, a loud but nasal
voice, shrill as well as nasal, and full of a strange hot passion. “Mr.
Chairman!” it cried. “Look-a-here, Mr. Chairman! Mr. Chairman, I demand
to be heard! You gotta gimme my say, Mr. Chairman! I’m a-gunna have my
_say_! You look-a-here, Mr. Chairman!”

Shocked by such a breach of order, and by the unseemly violence of the
speaker, not only the chairman but everyone else looked there. A short,
strong figure was on its feet, gesticulating fiercely; and the head
belonging to it was a large one with too much curly black hair, a flat,
swarthy face, shiny and not immaculately shaven; there was an impression
of ill-chosen clothes, too much fat red lip, too much tooth, too much
eyeball. Fred Mitchell, half-sorrowing, yet struggling to conceal tears
of choked mirth over his roommate’s late exhibition, recognized this
violent interrupter as one Linski, a fellow freshman who sat next to him
in one of his classes. “What’s _that_ cuss up to?” Fred wondered, and so
did others. Linski showed them.

He pressed forward, shoving himself through the two rows in front of him
till he emerged upon the green carpet of the open space, and as he came,
he was cyclonic with words.

“You don’t put no such stuff as this over, I tell you!” he shouted in
his hot, nasal voice. “This here’s a free country, and you call yourself
a debating society, do you? Lemme tell you _I_ belong to a debating
society in Chicago, where I come from, and them fellas up there, they’d
think they’d oughta be shot fer a fake like what you people are
tryin’ to put over, here, to-night. I come down here to git some more
education, and pay fer it, too, in good hard money I’ve made sweatin’
in a machine shop up there in Chicago; but if _this_ is the kind of
education I’m a-gunna git, I better go on back there. You call this a
square debate, do you?”

He advanced toward the chairman’s platform, shaking a frantic fist.
“Well, if you do, you got another think comin’, my capitalis’ frien’!
you went and give out the question whether it’s right fer Choimuny to go
through Belgium; and what do you do fer the Choimun side? You pick out
this here big stiff”--he waved his passionate hand at the paralyzed
Ramsey--“you pick out a boob like that for the Choimun side, a poor fish
that gits stagefright so bad he don’t know whether he’s talkin’ or dead;
or else he fakes it; because he’s a speaker so bum it looks more to me
like he was faking. You get this big stiff to fake the Choimun side, and
then you go and stick up a goil agains’ him that’s got brains and makes
a pacifis’ argument that wins the case agains’ the Choimuns like cuttin’
through hog lard! But you ain’t a-gunna git away with it, mister!
Lemme tell you right here and now, I may be a mix blood, but I got some
Choimun in me with the rest what I got, and before you vote on this here
question you gotta hear a few woids from somebody that can _talk!_ This
whole war is a capitalis’ war, Belgium as much as Choimuny, and the
United States is sellin’ its soul to the capitalis’ right now, I tell
you, takin’ sides agains’ Choimuny. Orders fer explosives and ammanition
and guns and Red Cross supplies is comin’ into this country by the
millions, and the capitalis’ United States is fat already on the blood
of the workers of Europe! Yes, it is, and I’ll have my _say,_ you
boorjaw faker, and you can hammer your ole gavel to pieces at me!”

He had begun to shriek; moisture fell from his brow and his mouth; the
scandalized society was on its feet, nervously into groups. Evidently
the meeting was about to disintegrate. “I’ll have my _say_!” the
frenzied Linski screamed. “You try to put up this capitalis’ trick and
work a fake to carry over this debate agains’ Choimuny, but you can’t
work it on _me_, lemme tell you! I’ll have my _say!_”

The outraged chairman was wholly at a loss how to deal with the
“unprecedented situation”--so he defined it, quite truthfully; and he
continued to pound upon the desk, while other clamours began to rival
Linski’s; shouts of “Put him out!” “Order!” “Shut up, Freshman!” “Turn
him over to the sophomores!”

“This meeting is _adjourned!_” bellowed the chairman, and there was a
thronging toward the doors, while the frothing Linski asseverated: “I’m
a-gunna git my say, I tell you! I’ll have my say! I’ll have my _say!_”

He had more than that, before the hour was over. A moment after he
emerged from the building and came out, still hot, upon the cool, dark
campus, he found himself the centre of a group of his own classmates
whom he at first mistook for sophomores, such was their manner.

...As this group broke up, a few minutes later, a youth running to
join it, scenting somewhat of interest, detained one of those who were
departing.

“What’s up? What was that squealing?”

“Oh, nothing. We just talked to that Linski. Nobody else touched him,
but Ramsey Milholland gave him a _peach_ of a punch on the snoot.”

“Whoopee!”

Ramsey was laconic in response to inquiries upon this subject. When
someone remarked: “You served him right for calling you a boob and a
poor fish and so on before all the society, girls and all,” Ramsey only
said:

“That wasn’t what I hit him for.”

He declined to explain further.



Chapter XII

“The way I look at it, Ramsey,” Fred Mitchell said, when they reached
their apartment, whither the benevolent Colburn accompanied them, “the
way I look at it, this Linski kind of paid you a compliment, after all,
when he called you a fake. He must have thought you anyway _looked_ as
if you could make a better speech than you did. Oh, golly!”

And as Ramsey groaned, the jovial Mitchell gave himself up to the divan
and the mirth. “Oh, oh, oh, _golly_!” he sputtered.

“Never you mind, Brother Milholland,” Colburn said gently. “The Lumen is
used to nervous beginners. I’ve seen dozens in my time, just like you;
and some of ‘em got to be first rate before they quit. Besides, this
crazy Linski is all that anybody’ll ever remember about to-night’s
meeting, anyhow. There never was any such outbreak as that in _my_ time,
and I guess there never was in the whole history of the society. We’ll
probably suspend him until he apologizes to the society--I’m on the
board, and I’m in favour of it. Who is the bird, anyhow? He’s in your
class.”

“I never saw him before,” Ramsey responded from the deep chair, where
he had moodily thrown himself; and, returning to his brooding upon his
oratory. “Oh, murder!” he moaned.

“Well,” said the senior, “you’ll know him when you see him again. You
put your mark on him where you can see it, all right!” He chuckled. “I
suppose I really ought to have interfered in that, but I decided to do
a little astronomical observation, about fifty feet away, for a few
minutes. I’m ‘way behind in my astronomy, anyhow. Do you know this
Linski, Brother Mitchell?”

“I’ve talked to him a couple o’ times on the campus,” said Fred. “He’s
in one of my classes. He’s about the oldest in our class, I guess--a
lot older than us, anyhow. He’s kind of an anarchist or something; can’t
talk more’n five minutes any time without gettin off some bug stuff
about ‘capitalism.’ He said the course in political economy was all
‘capitalism’ and the prof was bought by Wall Street.”

“Poor old Prof. Craig!” Colburn laughed. “He gets fifteen hundred a
year.”

“Yes; I’d heard that myself, and I told Linski, and he said he had an
uncle workin’ in a steel mill got twice that much; but it didn’t
make any difference, ole Craig was bought by Wall Street. He said
‘capitalism’ better look out; he and the foreign-born workmen were goin’
to _take_ this country some day, and that was one of the reasons he was
after an education. He talked pretty strong pro-German, too--about
the war in Europe--but I sort of thought that was more because he’d be
pro-anything that he thought would help upset the United States than
because he cared much about Germany.”

“Yes,” said Colburn, “that’s how he sounded to-night. I guess there’s
plenty more like him in the cities, too. That reminds me, I’d better
arrange a debate on immigration for the Lumen. We’ll put Brother
Milholland for the negative, this time.”

Ramsey started violently. “See here--”

But the senior reassured him. “Just wanted to see you jump,” he
explained. “Don’t fear; you’ve done your share.”

“I should think I have!” Ramsey groaned.

“Yes, you won’t be called on again this term. By the way,” said Colburn,
thoughtfully, “that was a clever girl you had against you to-night. I
don’t believe in pacificism much, myself, but she used it very niftily
for her argument. Isn’t she from your town, this Miss Yocum?”

Fred nodded.

“Well, she’s a clever young thing,” said the senior, still thoughtful.
And he added: “Graceful girl, she is.”

At this, the roommates looked at him with startled attention. Ramsey was
so roused as to forget his troubles and sit forward in his chair.

“Yes,” said the musing Colburn, “she’s a mighty pretty girl.”

“What!”

This exclamation was a simultaneous one; the astounded pair stared at
him in blank incredulity.

“Why, don’t you think so?” Colburn mildly inquired. “She seems to me
very unusual looking.”

“Well, yes,” Fred assented, emphatically. “We’re with you there!”

“Extraordinary eyes,” continued Colburn. “Lovely figure, too; altogether
a strikingly pretty girl. Handsome, I should say, perhaps. Yes,
‘handsome’ rather than ‘pretty’.” He looked up from a brief reverie.
“You fellows known her long?”

“You bet!” said Ramsey.

“She made a splendid impression on the Lumen,” Colburn went on. “I don’t
remember that I ever saw a first appearance there that quite equalled
it. She’ll probably have a brilliant career in the society, and in the
university, too. She must be a very fine sort of person.” He deliberated
within himself a few moments longer, then, realizing that his hosts
and Brethren did not respond with any heartiness--or with anything at
all--to the theme, he changed it, and asked them what they thought about
the war in Europe.

They talked of the war rather drowsily for a while; it was an
interesting but not an exciting topic: the thing they spoke of was so
far away. It was in foreign countries where they had never been and
had no acquaintances; and both the cause and the issue seemed to be in
confusion, though evidently Germany had “started” the trouble. Only
one thing emerged as absolutely clear and proved: there could be no
disagreement about Germany’s “dirty work,” as Fred defined it, in
violating Belgium. And this stirred Ramsey to declare with justice that
“dirty work” had likewise been done upon himself by the official
person, whoever he or she was, who had given him the German side of
the evening’s debate. After this moment of fervour, the conversation
languished, and Brother Colburn rose to go.

“Well, I’m glad you gave that Linski a fine little punch, Brother
Milholland,” he said, at the door. “It won’t do you any harm in the
‘frat,’ or with the Lumen either. And don’t be discouraged about your
debating. You’ll learn. Anybody might have got rattled by having to
argue against as clever and good-looking a girl as that!”

The roommates gave each other a look of serious puzzlement as the door
closed. “Well, Brother Colburn is a mighty nice fellow,” Fred said.
“He’s kind of funny, though.”

Ramsey assented, and then, as the two prepared for bed, they entered
into a further discussion of their senior friend. They liked him “all
right,” they said, but he certainly must be kind of queer, and they
couldn’t just see how he had “ever managed to get where he was” in the
“frat” and the Lumen and the university.



Chapter XIII

Ramsey passed the slightly disfigured Linski on the campus next day
without betraying any embarrassment or making a sign of recognition.
Fred Mitchell told his roommate, chuckling, that Linski had sworn
to “get” him, and, not knowing Fred’s affiliations, had made him the
confidant of his oath. Fred had given his blessing, he said, upon the
enterprise, and advised Linski to use a brick. “He’ll hit you on the
head with it,” said the light-hearted Fred, falling back upon this old
joke. “Then you can catch it as it bounces off and throw it back at
him.”

However, Linski proved to be merely an episode, not only so far as
Ramsey was concerned but in the Lumen and in the university as well. His
suspension from the Lumen was for a year, and so cruel a punishment it
proved for this born debater that he noisily declared he would found
a debating society himself, and had a poster printed and distributed
announcing the first meeting of “The Free Speech and Masses’ Rights
Council.” Several town loafers attended the meeting, but the only
person connected with the university who came was an oriental student,
a Chinese youth of almost intrusive amiability. Linski made a fiery
address, the townsmen loudly appluading his advocacy of an embargo
on munitions and the distribution of everybody’s “property,” but the
Chinaman, accustomed to see students so madly in earnest only when
they were burlesquing, took the whole affair to be intended humour, and
tittered politely without cessation--except at such times as he thought
it proper to appear quite wrung with laughter. Then he would rock
himself, clasp his mouth with both hands and splutter through his
fingers. Linski accused him of being in the pay of “capital.”

Next day the orator was unable to show himself upon the campus without
causing demonstrations; whenever he was seen a file of quickly gathering
students marched behind him chanting repeatedly and deafeningly in
chorus: “Down with Wall Street! Hoch der Kaiser! Who loves Linski? Who,
who, who? Hoo Lun! Who loves Linski? Who, who, who? Hoo Lun!”

Linski was disgusted, resigned from the university, and disappeared.

“Well, here it isn’t mid-year Exams yet, and the good ole class of
Nineteen-Eighteen’s already lost a member,” said Fred Mitchell. “I guess
we can bear the break-up!”

“I guess so,” Ramsey assented. “That Linski might just as well stayed
here, though.”

“Why?”

“He couldn’t do any harm here. He’ll prob’ly get more people to listen
to him in cities where there’s so many new immigrants and all such that
don’t know anything, comin’ in all the time.”

“Oh, well,” said Fred. “What do _we_ care what happens to Chicago! Come
on, let’s behave real wild, and go on over to the ‘Teria and get us a
couple egg sandwiches and sassprilly.”

Ramsey was willing.

After the strain of the “mid-year Exams” in February, they lived a
free-hearted life. They had settled into the ways of their world; they
had grown used to it, and it had grown used to them; there was no
longer any ignominy in being a freshman. They romped upon the campus
and sometimes rioted harmlessly about the streets of the town. In the
evenings they visited their fellows and Brethren and were visited in
turn, and sometimes they looked so far ahead as to talk vaguely of their
plans for professions or business--though to a freshman this concerned
an almost unthinkably distant prospect. “I guess I’ll go in with my
father, in the wholesale drug business,” said Fred. “My married brother
already is in the firm, and I suppose they’ll give me a show--send me
out on the road a year or two first, maybe, to try me. Then I’m going to
marry some little cutie and settle down. What you goin’ to do, Ramsey?
Go to Law School, and then come back and go in your father’s office?”

“I don’t know. Guess so.”

It was always Fred who did most of the talking; Ramsey was quiet. Fred
told the “frat seniors” that Ramsey was “developing a whole lot these
days”; and he told Ramsey himself that he could see a “big change” in
him, adding that the improvement was probably due to Ramsey’s having
passed through “terrible trials like that debate.”

Ramsey kept to their rooms more than his comrade did, one reason for
this domesticity being that he “had to study longer than Fred did, to
keep up”; and another reason may have been a greater shyness than Fred
possessed--if, indeed, Fred possessed any shyness at all. For Fred was
a cheery spirit difficult to abash, and by the coming of spring knew all
of the best-looking girl students in the place--knew them well enough,
it appeared, to speak of them not merely by their first names but by
abbreviations of these. He had become fashion’s sprig, a “fusser” and
butterfly, and he reproached his roommate for shunning the ladies.

“Well, the truth is, Fred,” said Ramsey one day, responding
darkly;--“well, you see the truth is, Fred, I’ve had a--a--I’ve had an
experience--”

So, only, did he refer to Milla.

Fred said no more; and it was comprehended between them that the past
need never be definitely referred to again, but that it stood between
Ramsey and any entertainment to be obtained of the gentler but less
trustworthy sex. And when other Brethren of the “frat” would have
pressed Ramsey to join them in various frivolous enterprises concerning
“co-eds,” or to be shared by “co-eds,” Fred thought it better to explain
to them privately (all being sacred among Brethren) how Ramsey’s life,
so far as Girls went, had been toyed with by one now a Married Woman.

This created a great deal of respect for Ramsey. It became understood
everywhere that he was a woman-hater.



Chapter XIV

That early spring of 1915 the two boys and their friends and Brethren
talked more of the war than they had in the autumn, though the subject
was not an all at absorbing one; for the trenches in Flanders and France
were still of the immense, remote distance. By no stretch of imagination
could these wet trenches be thought greatly to concern the “frat,” the
Lumen, or the university. Really important matters were the doings of
the “Track Team,” now training in the “Gym” and on the ‘Varsity Field,
and, more vital still, the prospects of the Nine. But in May there came
a shock which changed things for a time.

The _Lusitania_ brought to every American a revelation of what had lain
so deep in his own heart that often he had not realized it was there.
When the Germans hid in the sea and sent down the great merchant ship,
with American babies and their mothers, and gallantly dying American
gentlemen, there came a change even to girls and boys and professors,
until then so preoccupied with their own little aloof world thousands of
miles from the murder.

Fred Mitchell, ever volatile and generous, was one of those who went
quite wild. No orator, he nevertheless made a frantic speech at the
week’s “frat meetings,” cursing the Germans in the simple old English
words that their performance had demonstrated to be applicable, and
going on to demand that the fraternity prepare for its own share in the
action of the country. “I don’t care _how_ insignificant we few fellows
here to-night may seem,” he cried; “we can do our little, and if
everybody in this country’s ready to do their own little, why, that’ll
be plenty! Brothers, don’t you realize that all _over_ the United States
to-night the people are feeling just the way we are here? Millions and
millions and millions of them! Wherever there’s an American he’s _with_
us--and you bet your bottom dollar there are just a few more Americans
in this country of ours than there are big-mouthed lobsters like that
fellow Linski! I tell you, if Congress only gives the word, there could
be an army of five million men in this country to-morrow, and those
dirty baby-killin’ dachshunds would hear a word or two from your Uncle
Samuel! Brothers, I demand that something be done right here and now,
and by us! I move we telegraph the Secretary of War to-night and offer
him a regiment from this university to go over and help _hang_ their
damn Kaiser.”

The motion was hotly seconded and instantly carried. Then followed
a much flustered discussion of the form and phrasing of the proposed
telegram, but, after everything seemed to have been settled, someone
ascertained by telephone that the telegraph company would not accept
messages containing words customarily defined as profane; so the
telegram had to be rewritten. This led to further amendment, and it was
finally decided to address the senators from that state, instead of the
Secretary of War, and thus in a somewhat modified form the message was
finally despatched.

Next day, news of what the “frat” had done made a great stir in the
university; other “frats” sent telegrams, so did the “Barbarians,”
 haters of the “frats” but joining them in this; while a small band of
“German-American” students found it their duty to go before the faculty
and report these “breaches of neutrality.” They protested heavily,
demanding the expulsion of the “breachers” as disloyal citizens,
therefore unfit students, but suffered a disappointment; for the faculty
itself had been sending telegrams of similar spirit, addressing not
only the senators and congressmen of the state but the President of the
United States. Flabbergasted, the “German-Americans” retired; they were
confused and disgusted by this higher-up outbreak of unneutrality--it
overwhelmed them that citizens of the United States should not remain
neutral in the dispute between the United States and Germany. All day
the campus was in ferment.

At twilight, Ramsey was walking meditatively on his way to dinner at
the “frat house,” across the campus from his apartment at Mrs. Meig’s.
Everybody was quiet now, both town and gown; the students were at their
dinners and so were the burghers. Ramsey was late but did not quicken
his thoughtful steps, which were those of one lost in reverie. He had
forgotten that spring-time was all about him, and, with his head down,
walked unregardful of the new gayeties flung forth upon the air by great
clusters of flowering shrubs, just come into white blossom and lavender.

He was unconscious that somebody behind him, going the same way,
came hastening to overtake him and called his name, “Ramsey! Ramsey
Milholland!” Not until he had been called three times did he realize
that he was being hailed--and in a girl’s voice! By that time, the girl
herself was beside him, and Ramsey halted, quite taken aback. The girl
was Dora Yocum.

She was pale, a little breathless, and her eyes were bright and severe.
“I want to speak to you,” she said, quickly. “I want to ask you about
something. Mr. Colburn and Fred Mitchell are the only people I know in
your ‘frat’ except you, and I haven’t seen either of them to-day, or I’d
have asked one of them.”

Most uncomfortably astonished, Ramsey took his hands out of his pockets,
picked a leaf from a lilac bush beside the path, and put the stem of the
leaf seriously into a corner of his mouth, before finding anything to
say. “Well--well, all right,” he finally responded. “I’ll tell you--if
it’s anything I know about.”

“You know about it,” said Dora. “That is, you certainly do if you were
at your ‘frat’ meeting last night. Were you?”

“Yes, I was there,” Ramsey answered, wondering what in the world she
wanted to know, though he supposed vaguely that it must be something
about Colburn, whom he had several times seen walking with her. “Of
course I couldn’t tell you much,” he added, with an afterthought. “You
see, a good deal that goes on at a ‘frat’ meeting isn’t supposed to be
talked about.”

“Yes,” she said, smiling faintly, though with a satire that missed him.
“I’ve been a member of a sorority since September, and I think I have an
idea of what could be told or not told. Suppose we walk on, if you don’t
mind. My question needn’t embarrass you.”

Nevertheless, as they slowly went on together, Ramsey was embarrassed.
He felt “queer.” They had known each other so long; in a way had shared
so much, sitting daily for years near each other and undergoing the same
outward experiences; they had almost “grown up together,” yet this was
the first time they had ever talked together or walked together.

“Well--” he said. “If you want to ask anything it’s all right for me to
tell you--well, I just as soon, I guess.”

“It has nothing to do with the secret proceedings of your ‘frat’,” said
Dora, primly. “What I want to ask about has been talked of all over the
place to-day. Everyone has been saying it was _your_ ‘frat’ that sent
the first telegram to members of the Government offering support in case
of war with Germany. They say you didn’t even wait until to-day, but
sent off a message last night. What I wanted to ask you was whether this
story is true or not?”

“Why, yes,” said Ramsey, mildly. “That’s what we did.”

She uttered an exclamation, a sound of grief and of suspicion confirmed.
“Ah! I was afraid so!”

“‘Afraid so’? What’s the matter?” he asked, and because she seemed
excited and troubled, he found himself not quite so embarrassed as he
had been at first; for some reason her agitation made him feel easier.
“What was wrong about that?”

“Oh, it’s all so shocking and wicked and mistaken!” she cried. “Even the
faculty has been doing it, and half the other ‘frats’ and sororities!
And it was yours that started it.”

“Yes, we did,” he said, throughly puzzled. “We’re the oldest ‘frat’
here, and of course”--he chuckled modestly--“of course we think we’re
the best. Do you mean you believe we ought to’ve sat back and let
somebody else start it?”

“Oh, _no_!” she answered, vehemently. “Nobody ought to have started it!
That’s the trouble; don’t you see? If nobody had started it none of it
might have happened. The rest mightn’t have caught it. It mightn’t have
got into their heads. A war thought is the most contagious thought in
the world; but if it can be kept from starting, it can be kept from
being contagious. It’s just when people have got into an emotional
state, or a state of smouldering rage, that everybody ought to be so
terribly careful not to think war thoughts or make war speeches--or send
war telegrams! I thought--oh, I was so sure I’d convinced Mr. Colburn of
all this, the last time we talked of it! He seemed to understand, and I
was sure he agreed with me.” She bit her lip. “He was only pretending--I
see that now!”

“I guess he must ‘a’ been,” said Ramsey, with admirable simplicity. “He
didn’t talk about anything like that last night. He was as much for it
as anybody.”

“I’ve no doubt!”

Ramsey made bold to look at her out of the side of his eye, and as she
was gazing tensely forward he continued his observation for some time.
She was obviously controlling agitation, almost controlling tears, which
seemed to threaten her very wide-open eyes; for those now fully
grown and noticeable eyewinkers of hers were subject to fluctuations
indicating such a threat. She looked “hurt,” and Ramsey was touched;
there was something human about her, then, after all. And if he had put
his feeling into words at the moment, he would have said that he guessed
maybe he could stand this ole girl, for a few minutes sometimes, better
than he’d always thought he could.

“Well,” he said, “Colburn prob’ly wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings or
anything. Colburn--”

“He? He didn’t! I haven’t the faintest personal interest in what he
did.”

“Oh!” said Ramsey. “Well, excuse me; I thought prob’ly you were sore
because he’d jollied you about this pacifist stuff, and then--”

“No!” she said, sharply. “I’m not thinking of his having agreed with
_me_ and fooling _me_ about it. He just wanted to make a pleasant
impression on a girl, and said anything he thought would please her. I
don’t care whether he does things like that or not. What I care about
is that the _principle_ didn’t reach him and that he mocked it! I don’t
care about a petty treachery to me, personally, but I--”

Fraternal loyalty could not quite brook this. “Brother Colburn is a
perfectly honor’ble man,” said Ramsey, solemnly. “He is one of the most
honor’ble men in this--”

“Of course!” she cried. “Oh, can’t I make you understand that I’m not
condemning him for a little flattery to me? I don’t care two straws
for his showing that _I_ didn’t influence him. He doesn’t interest me,
please understand.”

Ramsey was altogether perplexed. “Well, I don’t see what makes you go
for him so hard, then.”

“I don’t.”

“But you said he was treach--”

“I don’t _condemn_ him for it,” she insisted, despairingly. “Don’t you
see the difference? I’m not condemning anybody; I’m only lamenting.

“What about?

“About all of you that want _war_!”

“My golly!” Ramsey exclaimed. “You don’t think those Dutchmen were right
to drown babies and--”

“No! I think they were ghastly murderers! I think they were detestable
and fiendish and monstrous and--”

“Well, then, my goodness! What do you want?”

“I don’t want war!”

“You don’t?”

“I want Christianity!” she cried. “I can’t think of the Germans without
hating them, and so to-day, when all the world is hating them, I keep
myself from thinking of them as much as I can. Already half the world is
full of war; you want to go to war to make things right, but it won’t;
it will only make more war!”

“Well, I--”

“Don’t you see what you’ve done, you boys?” she said. “Don’t you see
what you’ve done with your absurd telegram? That started the rest; they
thought they _all_ had to send telegrams like that.”

“Well, the faculty--”

“Even they mightn’t have thought of it if it hadn’t been for the first
one. Vengeance is the most terrible thought; once you put it into
people’s minds that they ought to have it, it runs away with them.”

“Well, it isn’t mostly vengeance we’re after, at all. There’s a lot more
to it than just getting even with--”

She did not heed him. “You’re all blind! You don’t see what you’re
doing; you don’t even see what you’ve done to this peaceful place here.
You’ve filled it full of thoughts of fury and killing and massacre--”

“Why, no,” said Ramsey. “It was those Dutch did that to us; and,
besides, there’s more to it than you--”

“No, there isn’t,” she interrupted. “It’s just the old brutal spirit
that nations inherit from the time they were only tribes; it’s the tribe
spirit, and an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It’s those things
and the love of fighting--men have always loved to fight. Civilization
hasn’t taken it out of them; men still have the brute in them that loves
to fight!”

“I don’t think so,” said Ramsey. “Americans don’t love to fight; I don’t
know about other countries, but we don’t. Of course, here and there,
there’s some fellow that likes to hunt around for scrapes, but I never
saw more than three or four in my life that acted that way. Of course a
football team often has a scrapper or two on it, but that’s different.”

“No,” she said. “I think you all really love to fight.”

Ramsey was roused to become argumentative. “I don’t see where you get
the idea. Colburn isn’t that way, and back at school there wasn’t a
single boy that was anything like that.”

“What!” She stopped, and turned suddenly to face him.

“What’s the matter?” he said, stopping, too. Something he said had
startled her, evidently.

“How can you say such a thing?” she cried. “_You_ love to fight!”

“Me?”

“You do! You love fighting. You always have loved fighting.”

He was dumbfounded. “Why, I never had a fight in my life!”

She cried out in protest of such prevarication.

“Well, I never did,” he insisted, mildly.

“Why, you had a fight about _me_!”

“No, I didn’t.”

“With Wesley Bender!”

Ramsey chuckled. “_That_ wasn’t a fight!”

“It wasn’t?”

“Nothing like one. We were just guyin’ him about--about gettin’ slicked
up, kind of, because he sat in front of you; and he hit me with his book
strap and I chased him off. Gracious, no; _that_ wasn’t a fight!”

“But you fought Linski only last fall.”

Ramsey chuckled again. “That wasn’t even as much like a fight as the one
with Wesley. I just told this Linski I was goin’ to give him a punch in
the sn-- I just told him to look out because I was goin’ to hit him, and
then I did it, and waited to see if he wanted to do anything about it,
and he didn’t. That’s all there was to it, and it wasn’t any more like
fighting than--than feeding chickens is.”

She laughed dolefully. “It seems to me rather more like it than that!”

“Well, it wasn’t.”

They had begun to walk on again, and Ramsey was aware that they had
passed the “frat house,” where his dinner was probably growing cold. He
was aware of this, but not sharply or insistently. Curiously enough, he
did not think about it. He had begun to find something pleasant in the
odd interview, and in walking beside a girl, even though the girl was
Dora Yocum. He made no attempt to account to himself for anything so
peculiar.

For a while they went slowly together, not speaking, and without
destination, though Ramsey vaguely took it for granted that Dora was
going somewhere. But she wasn’t. They emerged from the part of the
small town closely built about the university and came out upon a bit
of parked land overlooking the river; and here Dora’s steps slowed to an
indeterminate halt near a bench beneath a maple tree.

“I think I’ll stay here a while,” she said; and as he made no response,
she asked, “Hadn’t you better be going back to your ‘frat house’ for
your dinner? I didn’t mean for you to come out of your way with me; I
only wanted to get an answer to my question. You’d better be running
back.”

“Well--”

He stood irresolute, not sure that he wanted his dinner just then. It
would have amazed him to face the fact deliberately that perhaps he
preferred being with Dora Yocum to eating. However, he faced no such
fact, nor any fact, but lingered.

“Well--” he said again.

“You’d better go.”

“I guess I can get my dinner pretty near any time. I don’t--” He had a
thought. “Did you--”

“Did I what?”

“Did you have your dinner before I met you?”

“No.”

“Well, aren’t you--”

She shook her head. “I don’t want any.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t think people have very much appetite to-day and yesterday,” she
said, with the hint of a sad laugh, “all over America.”

“No; I guess that’s so.”

“It’s too terrible!” she said. “I can’t sit and eat when I think of the
_Lusitania_--of all those poor, poor people strangling in the water--”

“No; I guess nobody can eat much, if they think about that.”

“And of what it’s going to bring, if we let it,” she went on. “As if
this killing weren’t enough, we want to add _our_ killing! Oh, that’s
the most terrible thing of all--the thing it makes within us! Don’t you
understand?”

She turned to him appealingly, and he felt queerer than ever. Dusk had
fallen. Where they stood, under the young-leaved maple tree, there
was but a faint lingering of afterglow, and in this mystery her face
glimmered wan and sweet; so that Ramsey, just then, was like one who
discovers an old pan, used in the kitchen, to be made of chased silver.

“Well, I don’t feel much like dinner right now,” he said. “We--we could
sit here awhile on this bench, prob’ly.”



Chapter XV

Ramsey kept very few things from Fred Mitchell, and usually his
confidences were immediate upon the occasion of them; but allowed
several weeks to elapse before sketching for his roommate the outlines
of this adventure.

“One thing that was kind o’ funny about it, Fred,” he said, “I didn’t
know what to call her.”

Mr. Mitchell, stretched upon the window seat in their “study,” and
looking out over the town street below and the campus beyond the street,
had already thought it tactful to ambush his profound amusement by
turning upon his side, so that his face was toward the window and away
from his companion. “What did you want to call her?” he inquired in a
serious voice. “Names?”

“No. You know what I mean. I mean I had to just keep callin’ her ‘you’;
and that gets kind of freaky when you’re talkin’ to anybody a good while
like that. When she’d be lookin’ away from me, and I’d want to start
sayin’ something to her, you know, why, I wouldn’t know how to get
started exactly, without callin’ her something. A person doesn’t want to
be always startin’ off with ‘See here,’ or things like that.”

“I don’t see why you let it trouble you,” said Fred. “From how you’ve
always talked about her, you had a perfectly handy way to start off with
anything you wanted to say to her.”

“What with?”

“Why didn’t you just say, ‘Oh, you Teacher’s Pet!’ That would--”

“Get out! What I mean is, she called me ‘Ramsey’ without any bother; it
seems funny I got stumped every time I started to say ‘Dora.’ Someway I
couldn’t land it, and it certainly would ‘a’ sounded crazy to call her
‘Miss Yocum’ after sittin’ in the same room with her every day from the
baby class clear on up through the end of high school. That _would_ ‘a’
made me out an idiot!”

“What did you call her?” Fred asked.

“Just nothin’ at all. I started to call her something or other a hundred
times, I guess, and then I’d balk. I’d get all ready, and kind of make a
sort of a sound, and then I’d have to quit.”

“She may have thought you had a cold,” said Fred, still keeping his back
turned.

“I expect maybe she did--though I don’t know; most of the time she
didn’t seem to notice me much, kind of.”

“She didn’t?”

“No. She was too upset, I guess, by what she was thinkin’ about.”

“But if it hadn’t been for that,” Fred suggested, “you mean she’d have
certainly paid more attention to who was sitting on the bench with her?”

“Get out! You know how it was. Everybody those few days thought we were
goin’ to have war, and she was just sure of it, and it upset her. Of
course most people were a lot more upset by what those Dutchmen did
to the _Lusitania_ than by the idea of war; and she seemed to feel as
broken up as anybody could be about the _Lusitania_, but what got her
the worst was the notion of her country wantin’ to fight, she said. She
really was upset, too, Fred; there wasn’t any puttin’ on about it. I
guess that ole girl certainly must have a good deal of feeling, because,
doggoned, after we’d been sittin’ there a while if she didn’t have to
get out her handkerchief! She kept her face turned away from me--just
the same as you’re doin’ now to keep from laughin’--but honestly, she
cried like somebody at a funeral. I felt like the darndest fool!”

“I’m not laughing,” said Fred, but he did not prove it by turning so
that his face could be seen. “What did she say?”

“Oh, she didn’t say such an awful lot. She said one kind o’ funny thing
though: she said she was sorry she couldn’t quite control herself, but
if anybody had to see her cry she minded it less because it was an old
schoolmate. What struck me so kind o’ funny about that is--why, it looks
as if she never knew the way I always hated her so.”

“Yes,” said Fred. “It wasn’t flattering!”

“Well, sir, it _isn’t_, kind of,” Ramsey agreed, musingly. “It certainly
isn’t when you look at it that way.”

“What did you say when she said that?” Fred asked.

“Nothin’. I started to, but I sort of balked again. Well, we kept on
sitting there, and afterwhile she began to talk again and got kind of
excited about how no war could do anything or anybody any good, and all
war was wicked, no matter what it was about, and nothin’ could be good
that was founded on fear and hate, and every war that ever was fought
was always founded on fear and hate. She said if the Germans wanted to
fight us we ought to go to meet them and tell them we wouldn’t fight.”

“What did you say?”

“Nothin’. I kind o’ started to--but what’s the use? She’s got that
in her head. Besides, how are you goin’ to argue about a thing with
a person that’s crying about it? I tell you, Fred, I guess we got to
admit, after all, that ole girl certainly must have a lots of heart
about her, anyway. There may not be much _fun_ to her--though of course
I wouldn’t know hardly any way to tell about that--but there couldn’t be
hardly any doubt she’s got a lot of feeling. Well, and then she went on
and said old men made wars, but didn’t fight; they left the fighting to
the boys, and the suffering to the boy’s mothers.”

“Yes!” Fred exclaimed, and upon that he turned free of mirth for the
moment. “That’s the woman of it, I guess. Send the old men to do the
fighting! For the matter of that, I guess my father’d about a thousand
times go himself than see me and my brothers go; but Father’s so fat he
can’t stoop! You got to be able to stoop to dig a trench, I guess! Well,
suppose we sent our old men up against those Dutchmen; the Dutchmen
would just kill the old men, and then come after the boys anyway, and
the boys wouldn’t be ready, and they’d get killed, too; and then there
wouldn’t be anybody but the Dutchmen left, and that’d be one fine world,
wouldn’t it?”

“Yes,” said Ramsey. “Course I thought of that.”

“Did you tell her?”

“No.”

“What did you say?”

“Nothin’. I couldn’t get started anyway, but, besides, what was the use?
But she didn’t want the old men to go; she didn’t want anybody to go.”

“What did she want the country to do?” Fred asked, impatiently.

“Just what it has been doin’, I suppose. Just let things simmer down,
and poke along, and let them do what they like to us.”

“I guess so!” said Fred. “Then, afterwhile, when they get some free time
on their hands, they’ll come over and make it _really_ interesting for
us, because they know we won’t do anything but talk. Yes, I guess the
way things are settling down ought to suit Dora. There isn’t goin’ to be
any war.”

“She was pretty sure there was, though,” Ramsey said, thoughtfully.

“Oh, of course she was then. We all thought so those few days.”

“No. She said she thought it prob’ly wouldn’t come right away, but now
it was almost sure to come sometime. She said our telegrams and all the
talk and so much feeling and everything showed her that the war thought
that was always _in_ people somewhere had been stirred up so it would
go on and on. She said she knew from the way she felt herself about the
_Lusitania_ that a feeling like that in her would never be absolutely
wiped out as long as she lived. But she said her other feeling about the
horribleness of war taught her to keep the first feeling from breaking
out, but with other people it wouldn’t; and even if war didn’t break
out right then, it would always be ready to, all over the country, and
sometime it would, though she was goin’ to do her share to fight it,
herself, as long as she could stand. She asked me wouldn’t I be one of
the ones to help her.”

He paused, and after a moment Fred asked, “Well? What did you say to
that?”

“Nothin’. I started to, but--”

Again Fred thought it tactful to turn and look out the window, while the
agitation of his shoulders betrayed him.

“Go on and laugh! Well, so we stayed there quite a while, but before we
left she got kind of more like everyday, you know, the way people do. It
was half-past nine when we walked back in town, and I was commencin’
to feel kind of hungry, so I asked her if she wasn’t, and she sort of
laughed and seemed to be ashamed of it, as if it were a disgrace or
something, but she said she guessed she was; so I left her by that hedge
of lilacs near the observatory and went on over to the ‘Teria and the
fruit store, and got some stuffed eggs and olives and half-a-dozen
peanut butter sandwiches and a box o’ strawberries--kind of girl-food,
you know--and went on back there, and we ate the stuff up. So then she
said she was afraid she’d taken me away from my dinner and made me a lot
of trouble, and so on, and she was sorry, and she told me good-night--”

“What did you say then?”

“Noth-- Oh, shut up! So then she skipped out to her Dorm, and I came on
home.”

“When did you see her next, Ramsey?”

“I haven’t seen her next,” said Ramsey. “I haven’t seen her at all--not
to speak to. I saw her on Main Street twice since then, but both times
she was with some other girls, and they were across the street, and
I couldn’t tell if she was lookin’ at me--I kind of thought not--so I
thought it might look sort o’ nutty to bow to her if she wasn’t, so I
didn’t.”

“And you didn’t tell her you wouldn’t be one of the ones to help her
with her pacifism and anti-war stuff and all that?”

“No. I started to, but-- Shut up!”

Fred sat up, giggling. “So she thinks you _will_ help her. You didn’t
say anything at all, and she must think that means she converted you.
Why didn’t you speak up?”

“Well, _I_ wouldn’t argue with her,” said Ramsey. Then, after a silence,
he seemed to be in need of sympathetic comprehension. “It _was_ kind o’
funny, though, wasn’t it?” he said, appealingly.

“What was?”

“The whole business.”

“What ‘whole bus’--”

“Oh, get out! Her stoppin’ me, and me goin’ pokin’ along with her, and
her--well, her crying and everything, and me being around with her while
she felt so upset, I mean. It seems--well, it does seem kind o’ funny to
me.”

“Why does it?” Fred inquired, preserving his gravity. “Why should it
seem funny to you?”

“I don’t mean funny like something’s funny you laugh at,” Ramsey
explained laboriously. “I mean funny like something that’s out of the
way, and you wonder how it ever happened to happen. I mean it seems
funny I’d ever be sittin’ there on a bench with that ole girl I never
spoke to in my life or had anything to do with, and talkin’ about the
United States goin’ to war. What we were talkin’ about, why, that seems
just as funny as the rest of it. Lookin’ back to our class picnic, f’r
instance, second year of high school, that day I jumped in the creek
after-- Well, you know, it was when I started makin’ a fool of myself
over a girl. Thank goodness, I got _that_ out o’ my system; it makes me
just sick to look back on those days and think of the fool things I did,
and all I thought about that girl. Why, she-- Well, I’ve got old enough
to see now she was just about as ordinary a girl as there ever was, and
if I saw her now I wouldn’t even think she was pretty; I’d prob’ly think
she was sort of loud-lookin’. Well, what’s passed is past, and it isn’t
either here nor there. What I started to say was this: that the way it
begins to look to me, it looks as if nobody can tell in this life a darn
thing about what’s goin’ to happen, and the things that do happen are
the very ones you’d swear were the last that could. I mean--you look
back to that day of the picnic--my! but I was a rube then--well, I mean
you look back to that day, and what do you suppose I’d have thought then
if somebody’d told me the time would ever come when I’d be ‘way off here
at college sittin’ on a bench with Dora Yocum--with _Dora Yocum_, in
the first place--and her crying, and both of us talking about the United
States goin’ to war with Germany! Don’t it seem pretty funny to you,
Fred, too?”

“But as near as I can make out,” Fred said, “that isn’t what happened.”

“Why isn’t it?”

“You say ‘and both us talking’ and so on. As near as I can make out,
_you_ didn’t say anything at all.”

“Well, I didn’t--much,” Ramsey admitted, and returned to his point with
almost pathetic persistence. “But doesn’t it seem kind o’ funny to you,
Fred?”

“Well, I don’t know.”

“It does to me,” Ramsey insisted. “It certainly does to me.”

“Yes,” said Fred cruelly. “I’ve noticed you said so, but it don’t look
any funnier than you do when you say it.”

Suddenly he sent forth a startling shout. “_Wow!_ You’re as red as a
blushing beet.”

“I am not!”

“Y’are!” shouted Fred. “Wow! The ole woman-hater’s got the flushes! Oh,
look at the pretty posy!”

And, jumping down from the window seat, he began to dance round his much
perturbed comrade, bellowing. Ramsey bore with him for a moment, then
sprang upon him; they wrestled vigorously, broke a chair, and went to
the floor with a crash that gave the chandelier in Mrs. Meig’s parlour,
below, an attack of jingles.

“You let me up!” Fred gasped.

“You take your solemn oath to shut up? You goin’ to swear it?”

“All right. I give my solemn oath,” said Fred; and they rose, arranging
their tousled attire.

“Well,” said Fred, “when you goin’ to call on her?”

“You look here!” Ramsey approached him dangerously. “You just gave me
your sol--”

“I beg!” Fred cried, retreating. “I mean, aside from all that, why, I
just thought maybe after such an evening you’d feel as a gentleman you
ought to go and ask about her health.”

“Now, see here--”

“No, I mean it; you ought to,” Fred insisted, earnestly, and as
his roommate glared at him with complete suspicion, he added, in
explanation. “You ought to go next Caller’s Night, and send in your
card, and say you felt you ought to ask if she’d suffered any from the
night air. Even if you couldn’t manage to say that, you ought to start
to say it, anyhow, because you-- Keep off o’ me! I’m only tryin’ to do
you a good turn, ain’t I?”

“You save your good turns for yourself,” Ramsey growled, still advancing
upon him.

But the insidious Mitchell, evading him, fled to the other end of the
room, picked up his cap, and changed his manner. “Come on, ole bag o’
beans, let’s be on our way to the ‘frat house’; it’s time. We’ll call
this all off.”

“You better!” Ramsey warned him; and they trotted out together.

But as they went along, Fred took Ramsey’s arm confidentially, and said,
“Now, honestly, Ram, ole man, when _are_ you goin’ to--”

Ramsey was still red. “You look here! Just say one more word--”

“Oh, _no_,” Fred expostulated. “I mean _seriously_, Ramsey. Honestly, I
mean seriously. Aren’t you seriously goin’ to call on her some Caller’s
Night?”

“No, I’m not!”

“But why not?”

“Because I don’t want to.”

“Well, seriously, Ramsey, there’s only one Caller’s Night before
vacation, and so I suppose it hardly will be worth while; but I expect
you’ll see quite a little of her at home this summer?”

“No, I won’t. I won’t see her at all. She isn’t goin’ to be home this
summer, and I wouldn’t see anything of her if she was.”

“Where’s she goin’ to be.”

“In Chicago.”

“She is?” said Fred, slyly. “When’d she tell you?”

Ramsey turned on him. “You look out! She didn’t tell me. I just happened
to see in the _Bulletin_ she’s signed up with some other girls to go and
do settlement work in Chicago. Anybody could see it. It was printed out
plain. You could have seen it just as well as I could, if you’d read the
_Bulletin_.”

“Oh,” said Fred.

“Now look here--”

“Good heavens! Can’t I even say ‘oh’?”

“It depends on the way you say it.”

“I’ll be careful,” Fred assured him, earnestly. “I really and honestly
don’t mean to get you excited about all this, Ramsey. I can see myself
you haven’t changed from your old opinion of Dora Yocum a bit. I was
only tryin’ to get a little rise out of you for a minute, because of
course, seriously, why, I can see you hate her just the same as you
always did.”

“Yes,” said Ramsey, disarmed and guileless in the face of diplomacy. “I
only told you about all this, Fred, because it seemed--well, it seemed
so kind o’ funny to me.”

Fred affected not to hear. “What did you say, Ramsey?”

Ramsey looked vaguely disturbed. “I said--why, I said it all seemed kind
o’--” He paused, then repeated plaintively: “Well, to me, it all seemed
kind o’--kind o’ funny.”

“What did?” Fred inquired, but as he glanced in seeming naivete at his
companion, something he saw in the latter’s eye warned him, and suddenly
Fred thought it would be better to run.

Ramsey chased him all the way to the “frat house.”



Chapter XVI

Ramsey was not quite athlete enough for any of the ‘varsity teams;
neither was he an antagonist safely encountered, whether in play or
in earnest, and during the next few days he taught Fred Mitchell to be
cautious. The chaffer learned that his own agility could not save him
from Ramsey, and so found it wiser to contain an effervescence which
sometimes threatened to burst him. Ramsey as a victim was a continuous
temptation, he was so good-natured and yet so furious.

After Commencement, when the roommates had gone home, Mr. Mitchell’s
caution extended over the long sunshiny months of summer vacation; he
broke it but once and then in well-advised safety, for the occasion was
semi-public. The two were out for a stroll on a July Sunday afternoon;
and up and down the street young couples lolled along, young families
and baby carriages straggled to and from the houses of older relatives,
and the rest of the world of that growing city was rocking and fanning
itself on its front veranda.

“Here’s a right pretty place, isn’t it, Ramsey? don’t you think?” Fred
remarked innocently, as they were passing a lawn of short-clipped,
bright green grass before a genial-looking house, fresh in white paint
and cool in green-and-white awnings. A broad veranda, well populated
just now, crossed the front of the house; fine trees helped the awnings
to give comfort against the sun; and Fred’s remark was warranted.
Nevertheless, he fell under the suspicion of his companion, who had
begun to evince some nervousness before Fred spoke.

“What place do you mean?”

“The Yocum place,” said Mr. Mitchell. “I hear the old gentleman’s mighty
prosperous these days. They keep things up to the mark, don’t they,
Ramsey?”

“I don’t know whether they do or whether they don’t,” Ramsey returned
shortly.

Fred appeared to muse regretfully. “It looks kind of _empty_ now,
though,” he said, “with only Mr. and Mrs. Yocum and their three married
daughters, and eight or nine children on the front porch!”

“You wait till I get you where they can’t see us!” Ramsey warned him,
fiercely.

“You can’t do it!” said Fred, manifesting triumph. “We’ll both stop
right here in plain sight of the whole Yocum family connection till you
promise not to touch me.”

And he halted, leaning back implacably against the Yocum’s iron fence.
Ramsey was scandalized.

“Come on!” he said, hoarsely. “Don’t stop _here_!”

“I will, and if you go on alone I’ll yell at you. You got to stand right
here with all of ‘em lookin’ at you until--”

“I promise! My heavens, come _on_!”

Fred consented to end the moment of agony; and for the rest of the
summer found it impossible to persuade Ramsey to pass that house in his
company. “I won’t do it!” Ramsey told him. “Your word of honour means
nothin’ to me; you’re liable to do anything that comes into your head,
and I’m gettin’ old enough to not get a reputation for bein’ seen with
people that act the idiot on the public streets. No, sir; we’ll walk
around the block--at least, we will if you’re goin’ with _me_!”

And to Fred’s delight, though he concealed it, they would make this
detour.

The evening after their return to the university both were busy with
their trunks and various orderings and disorderings of their apartment,
but Fred several times expressed surprise that his roommate should
be content to remain at home; and finally Ramsey comprehended the
implications. Mrs. Meigs’s chandelier immediately jingled with the shock
of another crash upon the floor above.

“You let me up!” Fred commanded thickly, his voice muffled by the pile
of flannels, sweaters, underwear, and raincoats wherein his head
was being forced to burrow. “You let me up, darn you! _I_ didn’t say
anything.” And upon his release he complained that the attack was
unprovoked. “I didn’t say anything on earth to even hint you might want
to go out and look around to see if anybody in particular had got back
to college yet. I didn’t even mention the _name_ of Dora Yo-- Keep off
o’ me! My goodness, but you are sensitive!”

As a matter of fact, neither of them saw Dora until the first meeting of
the Lumen, whither they went as sophomores to take their pleasure in the
agony of freshmen debaters. Ramsey was now able to attend the Lumen, not
with complacence but at least without shuddering over the recollection
of his own spectacular first appearance there. He had made subsequent
appearances, far from brilliant yet not disgraceful, and as a spectator,
at least, he usually felt rather at his ease in the place. It cannot be
asserted, however, that he appeared entirely at his ease this evening
after he had read the “Programme” chalked upon the large easel
blackboard beside the chairman’s desk. Three “Freshmen Debates” were
announced, and a “Sophomore Oration,” this last being followed by the
name, “D. Yocum, ‘18.” Ramsey made immediate and conspicuous efforts
to avoid sitting next to his roommate, but was not so adroit as to be
successful. However, Fred was merciful: the fluctuations of his friend’s
complexion were an inspiration more to pity than to badinage.

The three debates all concerned the “Causes of the War in Europe,” and
honours appeared to rest with a small and stout, stolidly “pro-German”
 girl debater, who had brought with her and translated at sight absa-loot
proofs (so she called them), printed in German, that Germany had been
attacked by Belgium at the low instigation of the envious English.
Everybody knew it wasn’t true; but she made an impression and
established herself as a debater, especially as her opponent was quite
confounded by her introduction of printed matter.

When the debates and the verdicts were concluded, the orator appeared,
and Fred’s compassion extended itself so far that he even refrained from
looking inquisitively at the boy in the seat next to his; but he made
one side wager, mentally--that if Ramsey had consented to be thoroughly
confidential just then, he would have confessed to feeling kind o’
funny.

Dora was charmingly dressed, and she was pale; but those notable
eyelashes of hers were all the more notable against her pallor. And as
she spoke with fire, it was natural that her colour should come back
quite flamingly and that her eyes should flash in shelter of the lashes.
“The Christian Spirit and Internationalism” was her subject, yet she
showed no meek sample of a Christian Spirit herself when she came to
attacking war-makers generally, as well as all those “half-developed
tribesmen,” and “victims of herd instinct” who believed that war might
ever be justified under any circumstances of atrocity. She was eloquent
truly, and a picture of grace and girlish dignity, even when she
was most vigorous. Nothing could have been more militant than her
denunciation of militancy.

“She’s an actual wonder,” Fred said, when the two had got back to Mrs.
Meigs’s, afterward. “Don’t you look at me like that: I’m talkin’ about
her as a public character, and there’s nothin’ personal about it. You
let me alone.”

Ramsey was not clear as to his duty. “Well--”

“If any person makes a public speech,” Fred protested, “I got a perfect
right to discuss ‘em, no matter what you think of ‘em”--and he added
hastily--“or _don’t_ think of ‘em!”

“Look here--”

“Good heavens!” Fred exclaimed. “You aren’t expecting to interfere with
me if I say anything about that little fat Werder girl that argued for
Germany, are you? Or any of the other speakers? I got a right to talk
about ‘em just as public speakers, haven’t I? Well, what I say is:
Dora Yocum as an orator is just an actual perfect wonder. Got any
objections?”

“N-no.”

“All right then.” Fred settled himself upon the window seat with a pipe,
and proceeded, “There’s something about her, when she stands there, she
stands so straight and knows just what she’s up to, and everything, why,
there’s something about her makes the cold chills go down your
spine--I mean _my_ spine, not yours particularly! You sit down--I
mean _anybody’s_ spine, doggone it!” And as Ramsey increased the
manifestations of his suspicions, lifting a tennis racket over the
prostrate figure, “Oh, murder,” Fred said, resignedly. “All right, we’ll
change the subject. That fat little Werder cutie made out a pretty good
case for Germany, didn’t she?”

Ramsey tossed the racket away, disposed himself in an easy chair with
his feet upon the table, and presently chuckled. “You remember the time
I had the fuss with Wesley Bender, back in the ole school days?”

“Yep.”

“All the flubdub this Werder girl got off to-night puts me in mind of
the way I talked that day. I can remember it as well as anything! Wesley
kept yelpin’ that whoever mentioned a lady’s name in a public place was
a pup, and of course I didn’t want to hit him for that; a boy’s got
a reg’lar instinct for tryin’ to make out he’s on the right side in a
scrap, and he’ll always try to do something, or say something, or he’ll
get the other boy to say someting to make it look as if the other boy
was in the wrong and began the trouble. So I told poor ole Wes that my
father spoke my mother’s name in a public place whenever he wanted
to, and I dared him to say my father was a pup. And all so on. A boy
startin’ up a scrap, why, half the time he’ll drag his father and mother
if there’s any chance to do it. He’ll fix up some way so he can say,
‘Well, that’s just the same as if you called my father and mother a
fool,’ or something like that. Then, afterward, he can claim he was
scrappin’ because he had to defend his father and mother, and of course
he’ll more than half believe it himself.

“Well, you take a Government--it’s only just some _men_, the way I see
it, and if they’re goin’ to start some big trouble like this war, why,
of course they’ll play just about the same ole boy trick, because it’s
instinct to do it, just the same for a man as it is for a boy--or else
the principle’s just the same, or something. Well, anyhow, if you want
to know who started a scrap and worked it up, you got to forget all the
_talk_ there is about it, and all what each side _says_, and just look
at two things: Who was fixed for it first, or thought they were, and who
hit first? When you get the answer to those two questions everything’s
settled about all this being ‘attacked’ business. Both sides, just the
same as boys, they’ll both claim they _had_ to fight; but if you want to
know which one _did_ have to, why forget all the arguing and don’t take
your eye off just what _happened_. As near as I can make out, this
war began with Germany and Austria startin’ in to wipe out two little
countries; Austria began shootin’ up Serbia, and Germany began shootin’
up Belgium. I don’t need to notice any more than that, myself--all
the Werder girls in the country can debate their heads off, they can’t
change what happened and they can’t excuse it, either.”

He was silent, appearing to feel that he had concluded conclusively, and
the young gentleman on the window seat, after staring at him for several
moments of genuine thoughtfulness, was gracious enough to observe,
“Well, ole Ram, you may be a little slow in class, but when you think
things out with yourself you do show signs of something pretty near like
real horse-sense sometimes. Why don’t you ever say anything like that
to--to some of your pacifist friends?”

“What do you mean? Who you talkin’ about? Whose ‘pacifist friends’?”

“See here!” Fred exclaimed, as Ramsey seemed about to rise. “You keep
sitting just where you are, and don’t look at me out of the side of your
eye like that--pretendin’ you’re a bad horse. I’m _really_ serious now,
and you listen to me. I don’t think argufying and debating like that
little Fraulein Werder’s does much harm. She’s a right nifty young
rolypoly, by the way, though you didn’t notice, of course.”

“Why didn’t I?” Ramsey demanded, sharply. “Why didn’t I notice?”

“Oh, nothing. But, as I was saying, I don’t think that sort of talk does
much harm: everybody knows it goes on among the pro-Germans, and it’s
all hot air, anyhow. But I think Linski’s sort of talk does do harm,
prob’ly among people that don’t know much; and what’s more, I think Dora
Yocum’s does some, too. Well, you hit Linski in the snoot, so what are
you-- Sit still! My lord! You don’t think I’m askin’ you to go and hit
Dora, do you? I mean: Aren’t you ever goin’ to talk to her about it and
tell her what’s what?”

“Oh, you go on to bed!”

“No, I’m in earnest,” Fred urged. “Honestly, aren’t you ever goin’ to?”

“How could I do anything like that?” Ramsey demanded explosively. “I
never see her--to speak to, that is. I prob’ly won’t happen to have
another talk with her, or anything, all the time we’re in college.”

“No,” Fred admitted, “I suppose not. Of course, if you did, then you
would give her quite a talking-to, just the way you did the other time,
wouldn’t you?” But upon that, another resumption of physical violence
put an end to the conversation.



Chapter XVII

Throughout the term Ramsey’s calculation of probabilities against the
happening of another interview with Dora seemed to be well founded, but
at the beginning of the second “semester” he found her to be a fellow
member of a class in biology. More than that, this class had every week
a two-hour session in the botanical laboratory, where the structure of
plants was studied under microscopic dissection. The students worked in
pairs, a special family of plants being assigned to each couple; and the
instructor selected the couples with an eye to combinations of the quick
with the slow. D. Yocum and R. Milholland (the latter in a strange state
of mind and complexion) were given two chairs, but only one desk and one
microscope. Their conversation was strictly botanical.

Thenceforth it became the most pressing care of Ramsey’s life to prevent
his roommate from learning that there was any conversation at all, even
botanical. Fortunately, Fred was not taking the biological courses,
though he appeared to be taking the sentimental ones with an astonishing
thoroughness; and sometimes, to Fred’s hilarious delight, Ramsey
attempted to turn the tables and rally him upon whatever last affair
seemed to be engaging his fancy. The old Victorian and pre-Victorian
_blague_ word “petticoat” had been revived in Fred’s vocabulary, and in
others, as “skirt.” The lightsome sprig was hourly to be seen, even
when university rulings forbade, dilly-dallying giddily along the campus
paths or the town sidewalks with some new and pretty Skirt. And when
Ramsey tried to fluster him about such a matter Fred would profess his
ardent love for the new lady in shouts and impromptu song. Nothing
could be done to him, and Ramsey, utterly unable to defend his own
sensibilities in like manner, had always to retire in bafflement.
Sometimes he would ponder upon the question thus suggested: Why couldn’t
he do this sort of thing, since Fred could? But he never discovered a
satisfying answer.

Ramsey’s watchfulness was so careful (lest he make some impulsive
admission in regard to the botanical laboratory, for instance) that
Mr. Mitchell’s curiosity gradually became almost quiescent; but
there arrived a day in February when it was piqued into the liveliest
activity. It was Sunday, and Fred, dressing with a fastidiousness
ever his daily habit, noticed that Ramsey was exhibiting an unusual
perplexity about neckties.

“Keep the black one on,” Fred said, volunteering the suggestion, as
Ramsey muttered fiercely at a mirror. “It’s in better taste for church,
anyhow. You’re going to church, aren’t you?”

“Yes. Are you?”

“No. I’ve got a luncheon engagement.”

“Well, you could go to church first, couldn’t you? You better; you’ve
got a lot of church absences against you.”

“Then one more won’t hurt. No church in mine this morning, thanks! G’by,
ole sox; see you at the ‘frat house’ for dinner.”

He went forth, whistling syncopations, and began a brisk trudge into the
open country. There was a professor’s daughter who also was not going to
church that morning; and she lived a little more than three miles
beyond the outskirts of the town. Unfortunately, as the weather was
threatening, all others of her family abandoned the idea of church that
day, and Fred found her before a cozy fire, but surrounded by parents,
little brothers, and big sisters. The professor was talkative; Fred’s
mind might have been greatly improved, but with a window in range he
preferred a melancholy contemplation of the snow, which had begun
to fall in quantity. The professor talked until luncheon, throughout
luncheon, and was well under way to fill the whole afternoon with talk,
when Fred, repenting all the errors of his life, got up to go.

Heartily urged to remain, for there was now something just under a
blizzard developing, he said No; he had a great deal of “cirriculum
work” to get done before the morrow, and passed from the sound of
the professor’s hospitable voice and into the storm. He had a tedious
struggle against the wind and thickening snow, but finally came in
sight of the town, not long before dark. Here the road led down into a
depression, and, lifting his head as he began the slight ascent on the
other side, Fred was aware of two figures outlined upon the low ridge
before him. They were dimmed by the driving snow and their backs were
toward him, but he recognized them with perfect assurance. They were
Dora Yocum and Ramsey Milholland.

They were walking so slowly that their advance was almost imperceptible,
but it could be seen that Dora was talking with great animation; and
she was a graceful thing, thus gesticulating, in her long, slim fur coat
with the white snow frosting her brown fur cap. Ramsey had his hands
deep in his overcoat pockets and his manner was wholly that of an
audience.

Fred murmured to himself, “‘What did you say to her?’ ‘Nothin’. I
started to, but’--” Then he put on a burst of speed and passed them,
sweeping off his hat with operatic deference, yet hurrying by as if
fearful of being thought a killjoy if he lingered. He went to the
“frat house,” found no one downstairs, and established himself in a red
leather chair to smoke and ruminate merrily by a great fire in the hall.

Half an hour later Ramsey entered, stamped off the snow, hung up his hat
and coat, and sat himself down defiantly in the red leather chair on the
other side of the fireplace.

“Well, go on,” he said. “Commence!”

“Not at all!” Fred returned, amiably. “Fine spring weather to-day.
Lovely to see all the flowers and the birds as we go a-strolling by. The
little bobolinks--”

“You look here! That’s the only walk I ever took with her in my life. I
mean by--by asking her and her saying she would and so forth. That other
time just sort of happened, and you know it. Well, the weather wasn’t
just the best in the world, maybe, but she’s an awful conscientious girl
and once she makes an engagement--”

“Why, of course,” Fred finished for him, “She’d be too pious to break
it just on account of a mere little blizzard or anything. Wonder how the
weather will be next Sunday?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” said Ramsey. “You don’t suppose I asked
her to go _again_, do you?”

“Why not?”

“Well, for one thing, you don’t suppose I want her to think I’m a
perfect fool, do you?”

Fred mused a moment or two, looking at the fire. “What was the lecture?”
 he asked, mildly.

“What lecture?”

“She seemed to me to be--”

“That wasn’t lecturing; she was just--”

“Just what?”

“Well; she thinks war for the United States is coming closer and
closer--”

“But it isn’t.”

“Well, she thinks so, anyhow,” said Ramsey, “and she’s all broken up
about it. Of course she thinks we oughtn’t to fight and she’s trying to
get everybody else she can to keep working against it. She isn’t goin’
home again next summer, she’s goin’ back to that settlement work in
Chicago and work there among those people against our goin’ to war; and
here in college she wants to get everybody she can to talk against it,
and--”

“What did you say?” Fred asked, and himself supplied the reply:
“Nothin’. I started to, but--”

Ramsey got up. “Now look here! You know the ‘frat’ passed a rule that if
we broke any more furniture in this house with our scrappin’ we’d both
be fined the cost of repairs and five dollars apiece. Well, I can afford
five dollars this month better than you can, and--”

“I take it back!” Fred interposed, hastily. “But you just listen to me;
you look out--letting her think you’re on her side like that.”

“I don’t--”

“You _don’t?_”

Ramsey looked dogged. “I’m not goin’ around always arguin’ about
everything when arguin’ would just hurt people’s feelings about
something they’re all excited about, and wouldn’t do a bit o’ good
in the world--and you know yourself just _talk_ hardly ever settles
anything--so I don’t--”

“Aha!” Fred cried. “I thought so! Now you listen to me--”

“I won’t. I--”

But at this moment they were interrupted. Someone slyly opened the door,
and a snowball deftly thrown from without caught Ramsey upon the back
of the neck and head, where it flattened and displayed itself as an
ornamental star. Shouting fiercely, both boys sprang up, ran to the
door, were caught there in a barrage of snowballs, ducked through it in
spite of all damage, charged upon a dozen besweatered figures awaiting
them and began a mad battle in the blizzard. Some of their opponents
treacherously joined them, and turned upon the ambushers.

In the dusk the merry conflict waged up and down the snow-covered
lawn, and the combatants threw and threw, or surged back and forth, or
clenched and toppled over into snow banks, yet all coming to chant an
extemporized battle-cry in chorus, even as they fought the most wildly.

“Who? Who? Who?” they chanted. “Who? Who? _Who_ says there ain’t goin’
to be no war?”



Chapter XVIII

So everywhere over the country, that winter of 1916, there were
light-hearted boys skylarking--at college, or on the farms; and in the
towns the young machinists snowballed one another as they came from the
shops; while on this Sunday of the “frat” snow fight probably several
hundreds of thousands of youthful bachelors, between the two oceans,
went walking, like Ramsey, each with a girl who could forget the
weather. Yet boys of nineteen and in the twenties were not light-hearted
all the time that winter and that spring and that summer. Most of them
knew long, thoughtful moments, as Ramsey did, when they seemed to be
thinking not of girls or work or play--nor of anything around them,
but of some more vital matter or prospect. And at such times they were
grave, but not ungentle.

For the long strain was on the country; underneath all its outward
seeming of things going on as usual there shook a deep vibration, like
the air trembling to vast organ pipes in diapasons too profound to reach
the ear as sound: one felt, not heard, thunder in the ground under
one’s feet. The succession of diplomatic Notes came to an end after the
torpedoing of the _Sussex_; and at last the tricky ruling Germans in
Berlin gave their word to murder no more, and people said, “This means
peace for America, and all is well for us,” but everybody knew in his
heart that nothing was well for us, that there was no peace.

They said “All is well,” while that thunder in the ground never
ceased--it grew deeper and heavier till all America shook with it and it
became slowly audible as the voice of the old American soil wherein lay
those who had defended it aforetime, a soil that bred those who would
defend it again, for it was theirs; and the meaning of it--Life,
Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness--was theirs, and theirs to defend.
And they knew they would defend it, and that more than the glory of a
Nation was at stake. The Freedom of Man was at stake. So, gradually,
the sacred thunder reached the ears of the young men and gave them those
deep moments that came to them whether they sat in the classroom or
the counting-room, or walked with the plow, or stood to the machine, or
behind the ribbon counter. Thus the thunder shook them and tried them
and slowly came into their lives and changed everything for them.

Hate of the Germans was not bred; but a contempt for what Germany had
shown in lieu of a national heart; a contempt as mighty and profound as
the resolve that the German way and the German will should prevail in
America, nor in any country of the world that would be free. And when
the German Kaiser laid his command upon America, that no American should
take his ship upon the free seas, death being the penalty for any who
disobeyed, then the German Kaiser got his answer, not only to this
new law he had made for us, but to many other thoughts of his. Yet the
answer was for some time delayed.

There was a bitter Sunday, and its bitterness went everywhere, to
every place in the whole world that held high and generous hearts. Its
bitterness came to the special meeting in the “Frat hall,” where there
were hearts, indeed, of that right sort, and one of them became vocal
in its bitterness. This was the heart of Fred Mitchell, who was now an
authority, being president of the Junior Class, chairman of the Prom
Committee, and other things pleasant to be and to live for at his age.

“For me, Brothers,” he said, “I’d think I’d a great deal rather have
been shot through the head than heard the news from Washington to-day! I
tell you, I’ve spent the meanest afternoon I ever did in my life, and I
guess it’s been pretty much the same with all of us. The worst of it
is, it looks as though there isn’t a thing in the world we can do. The
country’s been betrayed by a few blatherskites and boneheads that had
the power to do it, and all we can do we’ve just got to stand it. But
there’s some Americans that aren’t just standing it, and I want to tell
you a lot of ‘em are men from the universities, just like us. They’re
_over there_ right now; they haven’t said much--they just packed up and
went. They’re flying for France and for England and for Canada; they’re
fighting under every flag on the right side of the Western Front; and
they’re driving ambulances at Verdun and ammunition trucks at the Somme.
Well, there’s going to be a lot more American boys on all these jobs
mighty soon, on account of what those men did in Congress to-day. If
they won’t give us a chance to do something under our own flag, then
we’ll have to go and do it under some other flag; and I want to tell you
I’m one that’s going to _go!_ I’ll stick it out in college up to Easter,
and then if there’s still no chance to go under the Stars and Stripes
I’ll maybe have to go under the flag my great-great-grandfather fought
against in 1776, but, anyhow, I’ll _go!_”

It was in speaking to Ramsey of this declaration that Dora said Fred was
a “dangerous firebrand.” They were taking another February walk, but the
February was February, 1917; and the day was dry and sunny. “It’s just
about a year ago,” she said.

“What is?” Ramsey asked.

“That first time we went walking. Don’t you remember?”

“Oh, _that_ day? Yes, I remember it was snowing.”

“And so cold and blowy!” she added. “It seems a long time ago. I like
walking with you, Ramsey. You’re so quiet and solid--I’ve always felt
I could talk to you just anyhow I pleased, and you wouldn’t mind. I’ll
miss these walks with you when we’re out of college.”

He chuckled. “That’s funny!”

“Why?”

“Because we’ve only taken four besides this: two last year, and another
week before last, and another last week. This is only the fifth.”

“Good gracious! Is that all? It seemed to me we’d gone ever so often!”
 She laughed. “I’m afraid you won’t think that seems much as if I’d liked
going, but I really have. And, by the way, you’ve never called on me at
all. Perhaps it’s because I’ve forgotten to ask you.”

“Oh, no,” Ramsey said, and scuffed his shoes on the path, presently
explaining rather huskily that he “never _was_ much of a caller”; and he
added, “or anything.”

“Well, you must come if you ever care to,” she said, with a big-sister
graciousness. “The Dorm chaperon sits there, of course, but ours is
a jolly one and you’d like her. You’ve probably met her--Mrs.
Hustings?--when you’ve called on other girls at our old shop.”

“No,” said Ramsey. “I never was much of a--” He paused, fearing that he
might be repeating himself, and too hastily amended his intention. “I
never liked any girl enough to go and call on her.”

“Ramsey Milholland!” she cried. “Why, when we were in school half the
room used to be talking about how you and that pretty Milla--”

“No, no!” Ramsey protested, again too hurriedly. “I never called on her.
We just went walking.”

A moment later his colour suddenly became fiery. “I don’t mean--I
mean--” he stammered. “It was walking, of course--I mean we did go out
walking but it wasn’t walking like--like this.” He concluded with a fit
of coughing which seemed to rack him.

Dora threw back her head and laughed delightfully. “Don’t you
apologize!” she said. “_I_ didn’t when I said it seemed to me that we’ve
gone walking so often, when in reality it’s only four or five times
altogether. I think I can explain, though: I think it came partly from
a feeling I have that I can rely on you--that you’re a good, solid,
reliable sort of person. I remember from the time we were little
children, you always had a sort of worried, honest look in school;
and you used to make a dent in your forehead--you meant it for a
frown--whenever I caught your eye. You hated me so honestly, and you
were so honestly afraid I wouldn’t see it!”

“Oh, no--no--”

“Oh, yes--yes!” she laughed, then grew serious. “My feeling about
you--that you were a person to be relied on, I mean--I think it began
that evening in our freshman year, after the _Lusitania_, when I stopped
you on campus and you went with me, and I couldn’t help crying, and you
were so nice and quiet. I hardly realized then that it was the first
time we’d ever really talked together--of course _I_ did all the
talking!--and yet we’d known each other so many years. I thought of it
afterward. But what gave me such a different view of you, I’d always
thought you were one of that truculent sort of boys, always just
bursting for a fight; but you showed me you’d really never had a fight
in your life and hated fighting, and that you sympathized with my
feeling about war.” She stopped speaking to draw in her breath with a
sharp sigh. “Ah, don’t you remember what I’ve told you all along? How
it keeps coming closer and closer--and now it’s almost here! Isn’t it
_unthinkable?_ And what can we do to stop it, we poor few who feel that
we _must_ stop it?”

“Well--” Ramsey began uncomfortably. “Of course I--I--”

“You can’t do much,” she said. “I know. None of us can. What can any
little group do? There are so few of us among the undergraduates--and
only one in the whole faculty. All the rest are for war. But we mustn’t
give up; we must never feel afterward that we left anything undone; we
must fight to the last breath!”

“‘Fight’?” he repeated wonderingly, then chuckled.

“Oh, as a figure of speech,” she said, impatiently. “Our language
is full of barbaric figures left over from the dark ages. But, oh,
Ramsey!”--she touched his sleeve--“I’ve heard that Fred Mitchell is
saying that he’s going to Canada after Easter, to try to get into the
Canadian aviation corps. If it’s true, he’s a dangerous firebrand, I
think. Is it true?”

“I guess so. He’s been talking that way some.”

“But why do you _let_ him talk that way?” she cried. “He’s your
roommate; surely you have more influence with him than anybody else has.
Couldn’t you--”

He shook his head slowly, while upon his face the faintly indicated
modellings of a grin hinted of an inner laughter at some surreptitious
thought. “Well, you know, Fred says himself sometimes, I don’t seem to
be much of a talker exactly!”

“I know. But don’t you see? That sort of thing is contagious. Others
will think they ought to go if he does; he’s popular and quite a leader.
Can’t you do anything with him?”

She waited for him to answer. “Can’t you?” she insisted.

The grin had disappeared, and Ramsey grew red again. He seemed to wish
to speak, to heave with speech that declined to be spoken and would not
rouse up from his inwards. Finally he uttered words.

“I--I--well, I--”

“Oh, I know,” she said. “A man--or a boy!--always hates to be intruding
his own convictions upon other men, especially in a case like this,
where he might be afraid of some idiot’s thinking him unmanlike. But
Ramsey--” Suddenly she broke off and looked at him attentively; his
discomfort had become so obvious that suspicion struck her. She spoke
sharply. “Ramsey _you_ aren’t dreaming of doing such a thing, are you?”

“What such a thing?”

“Fred hasn’t influenced _you_, has he? You aren’t planning to go with
him, are you?”

“Where?”

“To join the Canadian aviation.”

“No; I hadn’t thought of doing it.”

She sighed again, relieved. “I had a queer feeling about you just
then--that you _were_ thinking of doing some such thing. You looked so
odd--and you’re always so quiet, anybody might not really know what you
do think. But I’m not wrong about you, am I, Ramsey?”

They had come to the foot of the steps that led up to the entrance of
her dormitory, and their walk was at an end. As they stopped and
faced each other, she looked at him earnestly; but he did not meet the
scrutiny, his eyelids fell.

“I’m not wrong, am I, Ramsey?”

“About what?” he murmured, uncomfortably.

“You are my friend, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Then it’s all right,” she said. “That relieves me and makes me happier
than I was just now, for of course if you’re my friend you wouldn’t let
me make any mistake about you. I believe you, and now, just before I go
in and we won’t see much of each other for a week--if you still want me
to go with you again next Sunday--”

“Yes--won’t you, please?”

“Yes, if you like. But I want to tell you now that I count on you in all
this, even though you don’t ‘talk much,’ as you say; I count on you
more than I do on anybody else, and I trust you when you say you’re my
friend, and it makes me happy. And I think perhaps you’re right about
Fred Mitchell. Talk isn’t everything, nobody knows that better than
I, who talk so much! and I think that, instead of talking to Fred, a
steady, quiet influence like yours would do more good than any amount of
arguing. So I trust you, you see? And I’m sorry I had that queer doubt
of you.” She held out her hand. “Unless I happen to see you on the
campus for a minute, in the meantime, it’s good-bye until a week from
to-day. So--well, so, good-bye until then!”

“Wait,” said Ramsey.

“What is it?”

He made a great struggle. “I’m not influencing Fred not to go,” he said.
“I--don’t want you to trust me to do anything like that.”

“What?”

“I think it’s all right for him to go, if he wants to,” Ramsey said,
miserably.

“You do? For him to go to _fight?_”

He swallowed. “Yes.”

“_Oh!_” she cried, turned even redder than he, and ran up the stone
steps. But before the storm doors closed upon her she looked down to
where he stood, with his eyes still lowered, a lonely-seeming figure,
upon the pavement below. Her voice caught upon a sob as she spoke.

“If you feel like that, you might as well go and enlist, yourself,” she
said, bitterly. “I can’t--I couldn’t--speak to you again after this!”



Chapter XIX

It was easy enough for him to evade Fred Mitchell’s rallyings these
days; the sprig’s mood was truculent, not toward his roommate but toward
Congress, which was less in fiery haste than he to be definitely at war
with Germany. All through the university the change had come: athletics,
in other years spotlighted at the centre of the stage, languished
suddenly, threatened with abandonment; students working for senior
honours forgot them; everything was forgotten except that growing
thunder in the soil. Several weeks elapsed after Dora’s bitter dismissal
of Ramsey before she was mentioned between the comrades. Then, one
evening, Fred asked, as he restlessly paced their study floor:

“Have you seen your pacifist friend lately?”

“No. Not exactly. Why?”

“Well, for my part, I think she ought to be locked up,” Fred said,
angrily. “Have you heard what she did this afternoon?”

“No.”

“It’s all over college. She got up in the class in jurisprudence and
made a speech. It’s a big class, you know, over two hundred, under Dean
Burney. He’s a great lecturer, but he’s a pacifist--the only one on the
faculty--and a friend of Dora’s. They say he encouraged her to make this
break and led the subject around so she could do it, and then called on
her for an opinion, as the highest-stand student in the class. She got up
and claimed there wasn’t any such thing as a legitimate cause for war,
either legally or morally, and said it was a sign of weakness in a
nation for it to believe that it did have cause for war.

“Well, it was too much for that little, spunky Joe Stansbury, and he
jumped up and argued with her. He made her admit all the Germans have
done to us, the sea murders and the land murders, the blowing up of the
factories, the propaganda, the strikes, trying to turn the United States
into a German settlement, trying to get Japan and Mexico to make war on
us, and all the rest. He even made her admit there was proof they mean
to conquer us when they get through with the others, and that they’ve
set out to rule the world for their own benefit, and make whoever else
they kindly allow to live, to work for them.

“She said it might be true, but since nothing at all could be a right
cause for war, than all this couldn’t be a cause of war. Of course she
had her regular pacifist ‘logic’ working; she said that since war is
the worst thing there is, why, all other evils were lesser, and a lesser
evil can’t be a just cause for a greater. She got terribly excited,
they say, but kept right on, anyway. She said war was murder and there
couldn’t be any other way to look at it; and she’d heard there was
already talk in the university of students thinking about enlisting,
and whoever did such a thing was virtually enlisting to return murder for
murder. Then Joe Stansbury asked her if she meant that she’d feel toward
any student that enlisted the way she would toward a murderer, and she
said, yes, she’d have a horror of any student that enlisted.

“Well, that broke up the class; Joe turned from her to the platform and
told old Burney that he was responsible for allowing such talk in his
lecture-room, and Joe said so far as _he_ was concerned, he resigned
from Burney’s classes right there. That started it, and practically the
whole class got up and walked out with Joe. They said Burney streaked
off home, and Dora was left alone in there, with her head down on her
desk--and I guess she certainly deserves it. A good many have already
stopped speaking to her.”

Ramsey fidgeted with a pen on the table by which he sat. “Well, I don’t
know,” he said, slowly; “I don’t know if they ought to do that exactly.”

“Why oughtn’t they?” Fred demanded, sharply.

“Well, it looks to me as if she was only fightin’ for her principles.
She believes in ‘em. The more it costs a person to stick to their
principles, why, the more I believe the person must have something
pretty fine about ‘em likely.”

“Yes!” said the hot-headed Fred. “That may be in ordinary times, but not
when a person’s principles are liable to betray their country! We won’t
stand that kind of principles, I tell you, and we oughtn’t to. Dora
Yocum’s finding that out, all right. She had the biggest position of
any girl in this place, or any boy either, up to the last few weeks, and
there wasn’t any student or hardly even a member of the faculty that had
the influence or was more admired and looked up to. She had the whole
show! But now, since she’s just the same as called any student a
murderer if he enlists to fight for his country and his flag--well, now
she hasn’t got anything at all, and if she keeps on she’ll have even
less!”

He paused in his walking to and fro and came to a halt behind his
friend’s chair, looking down compassionately upon the back of Ramsey’s
motionless head. His tone changed. “I guess it isn’t just the ticket--me
to be talking this way to you, is it?” he said, with a trace of
huskiness.

“Oh--it’s all right,” Ramsey murmured, not altering his position.

“I can’t help blowing up,” Fred went on. “I want to say, though, I know
I’m not very considerate to blow up about her to you this way. I’ve been
playing horse with you about her ever since freshman year, but--well,
you must have understood, Ram, I never meant anything that would really
bother you much, and I thought--well, I _really_ thought it was a good
thing, you--your--well, I mean about her, you know. I’m on, all right. I
know it’s pretty serious with you.” He paused.

Ramsey did not move, except that his right hand still fidgeted with the
pen upon the table.

“Oh--well--” he said.

“It’s--it’s kind of tough luck!” his friend contrived to say; and he
began to pace the floor again.

“Oh--well--”

“See here, ole stick-in-the-mud,” Fred broke out abruptly. “After her
saying what she did-- Well, it’s none o’ my business, but--but--”

“Well, what?” Ramsey murmured. “I don’t care what you say, if you want
to say anything.”

“Well, I _got_ to say it,” Fred half groaned and half blurted. “After
she said _that_--and she meant it--why, if I were in your place I’d be
darned if I’d be seen out walking with her again.”

“I’m not going to be,” Ramsey said, quietly.

“By George!” And now Fred halted in front of him, both being huskily
solemn. “I think I understand a little of what that means to you, old
Ramsey; I think I do. I think I know something of what it costs you to
make that resolution for your country’s sake.” Impulsively he extended
his hand. “It’s a pretty big thing for you to do. Will you shake hands?”

But Ramsey shook his head. “I didn’t do it. I wouldn’t ever have done
anything just on account of her talkin’ that way. She shut the door on
me--it was a good while ago.”

“She did! What for?”

“Well, I’m not much of a talker, you know, Fred,” said Ramsey, staring
at the pen he played with. “I’m not much of anything, for that matter,
prob’ly, but I--well--I--”

“You what?”

“Well, I had to tell her I didn’t feel about things the way she did.
She’d thought I had, all along, I guess. Anyway, it made her hate me
or something, I guess; and she called it all off. I expect there wasn’t
much to call off, so far as she was concerned, anyhow.” He laughed
feebly. “She told me I better go and enlist.”

“Pleasant of her!” Fred muttered. “Especially as we know what she thinks
enlisting means.” He raised his voice cheerfully. “Well, that’s settled;
and, thank God, old Mr. Bernstorff’s on his way to his sweet little
vine-clad cottage home! They’re getting guns on the ships, and the big
show’s liable to commence any day. We can hold up our heads now, and
we’re going to see some great times, old Ramsey boy! It’s hard on the
home folks--Gosh! I don’t like to think of that! And I guess it’s going
to be hard on a lot of boys that haven’t understood what it’s all about,
and hard on some that their family affairs, and business, and so on,
have got ‘em tied up so it’s hard to go--and of course there’s plenty
that just can’t, and some that aren’t husky enough--but the rest of
us are going to have the big time in our lives. We got an awful lot to
learn; it scares me to think of what I don’t know about being any
sort of a rear-rank private. Why, it’s a regular _profession_, like
practising law, or selling for a drug house on the road. Golly! Do you
remember how we talked about that, ‘way back in freshman year, what
we were going to do when we got out of college? You were going to
be practising law, for instance, and I--well, f’r instance, remember
Colburn; he was going to be a doctor, and he did go to some medical
school for one year. Now he’s in the Red Cross, somewhere in _Persia_.
Golly!”

He paused to digest this impossibility, then chattered briskly on.
“Well, there’s _one_ good old boy was with our class for a while, back
in freshman year; I bet we won’t see him in any good old army! Old
rough-neck Linski that you put the knob on his nose for. Tommie Hopper
says he saw him last summer in Chicago soapboxin’, yellin’ his head off
cussin’ every government under the sun, but mostly ours and the Allies’,
you bet, and going to run the earth by revolution and representatives
of unskilled labour immigrants, nobody that can read or write allowed
to vote, except Linski. Tommie Hopper says he knows all about Linski;
he never did a day’s work in his life--too busy trying to get the
workingmen stirred up against the people that exploit ‘em! Tommie says
he had a big crowd to hear him, though, and took up quite a little money
for a ‘cause’ or something. Well, let him holler! I guess we can attend
to him when we get back from over yonder. By George, old Ram, I’m
gettin’ kind of floppy in the gills!” He administered a resounding slap
to his comrade’s shoulder. “It certainly looks as if our big days were
walking toward us!”


He was right. The portentous days came on apace, and each one brought a
new and greater portent. The faces of men lost a driven look besetting
them in the days of badgered waiting, and instead of that heavy
apprehension one saw the look men’s faces must have worn in 1776 and
1861, and the history of the old days grew clearer in the new. The
President went to the Congress, and the true indictment he made there
reached scoffing Potsdam with an unspoken prophecy somewhat chilling even
to Potsdam, one guesses--and then through an April night went almost
quietly the steady work: we were at war with Germany.

The bugles sounded across the continent; drums and fifes played up and
down the city streets and in town and village squares and through the
countrysides. Faintly in all ears there was multitudinous noise like
distant, hoarse cheering... and a sound like that was what Dora Yocum
heard, one night, as she sat lonely in her room. The bugles and fifes
and drums had been heard about the streets of the college town, that
day, and she thought she must die of them, they hurt her so, and now to
be haunted by this imaginary cheering--

She started. Was it imaginary?

She went downstairs and stood upon the steps of the dormitory in the
open air. No; the cheering was real and loud. It came from the direction
of the railway station, and the night air surged and beat with it.

Below her stood the aged janitor of the building, listening. “What’s the
cheering for?” she asked, remembering grimly that the janitor was one of
her acquaintances who had not yet stopped “speaking” to her. “What’s the
matter?”

“It’s a good matter,” the old man answered. “I guess there must be a
big crowd of ‘em down there. One of our students enlisted to-day, and
they’re givin’ him a send-off. Listen to ‘em, how they _do_ cheer. He’s
the first one to go.”

She went back to her room, shivering, and spent the next day in bed with
an aching head. She rose in the evening, however--a handbill had been
slid under her door at five o’clock, calling a “Mass Meeting” of the
university at eight, and she felt it her duty to go; but when she got to
the great hall she found a seat in the dimmest corner, farthest from the
rostrum.

The president of the university addressed the tumultuous many hundreds
before him, for tumultuous they were until he quieted them. He talked to
them soberly of patriotism, and called upon them for “deliberation and
a little patience.” There was danger of a stampede, he said, and he and
the rest of the faculty were in a measure responsible to their fathers
and mothers for them.

“You must keep your heads,” he said. “God knows, I do not seek to judge
your duty in this gravest moment of your lives, nor assume to tell you
what you must or must not do. But by hurrying into service now, without
careful thought or consideration, you may impair the extent of your
possible usefulness to the very cause you are so anxious to serve.
Hundreds of you are taking technical courses which should be
completed--at least to the end of the term in June. Instructors from the
United States Army are already on the way here, and military training
will be begun at once for all who are physically eligible and of
acceptable age. A special course will be given in preparation for
flying, and those who wish to become aviators may enroll themselves for
the course at once.

“I speak to you in a crisis of the university’s life, as well as that of
the nation, and the warning I utter has been made necessary by what took
place yesterday and to-day. Yesterday morning, a student in the junior
class enlisted as a private in the United States Regular Army. Far be it
from me to deplore his course in so doing; he spoke to me about it, and
in such a way that I felt I had no right to dissuade him. I told him
that it would be preferable for college men to wait until they could
go as officers, and, aside from the fact of a greater prestige, I urged
that men of education could perhaps be more useful in that capacity. He
replied that if he were useful enough as a private a commission might in
time come his way, and, as I say, I did not feel at liberty to attempt
dissuasion. He left to join a regiment to which he had been assigned,
and many of you were at the station to bid him farewell.

“But enthusiasm may be too contagious; even a great and inspiring motive
may work for harm, and the university must not become a desert. In the
twenty-four hours since that young man went to join the army last night,
one hundred and eleven of our young men students have left our walls;
eighty-four of them went off together at three o’clock to catch an
east-bound train at the junction and enlist for the Navy at Newport. We
are, I say, in danger of a stampede.”

He spoke on, but Dora was not listening; she had become obsessed by the
idea which seemed to be carrying her to the border of tragedy. When the
crowd poured forth from the building she went with it mechanically, and
paused in the dark outside. She spoke to a girl whom she did not know.

“I beg your pardon--”

“Yes?”

“I wanted to ask: Do you know who was the student Doctor Corvis spoke
of? I mean the one that was the first to enlist, and that they were
cheering last night when he went away to be a private in the United
States Army. Did you happen to hear his name?”

“Yes, he was a junior.”

“Who was it?”

“Ramsey Milholland.”



Chapter XX

Fred Mitchell, crossing the campus one morning, ten days later, saw Dora
standing near the entrance of her dormitory, where he would pass her
unless he altered his course; and as he drew nearer her and the details
of her face grew into distinctness, he was indignant with himself
for feeling less and less indignation toward her in proportion to the
closeness of his approach. The pity that came over him was mingled with
an unruly admiration, causing him to wonder what unpatriotic stuff
he could be made of. She was marked, but not whipped; she still held
herself straight under all the hammering and cutting which, to his
knowledge, she had been getting.

She stopped him, “for only a moment,” she said, adding with a wan
profoundness: “That is, if you’re not one of those who feel that I
shouldn’t be ‘spoken to’?”

“No,” said Fred, stiffly. “I may share their point of view, perhaps, but
I don’t feel called upon to obtrude it on you in that manner.”

“I see,” she said, nodding. “I’ve wanted to speak with you about
Ramsey.”

“All right.”

She bit her lip, then asked, abruptly: “What made him do it?”

“Enlist as a private with the regulars?”

“No. What made him enlist at all?”

“Only because he’s that sort,” Fred returned briskly. “He may be
inexplicable to people who believe that his going out to fight for his
country is the same thing as going out to commit a mur--”

She lifted her hand. “Couldn’t you--”

“I beg your pardon,” Fred said at once. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know
just how to explain him to you.”

“Why?”

He laughed, apologetically. “Well, you see, as I understand it, you
don’t think it’s possible for a person to have something within him that
makes him care so much about his country that he--”

“Wait!” she cried. “Don’t you think I’m willing to suffer a little
rather than to see my country in the wrong? Don’t you think I’m doing
it?”

“Well, I don’t want to be rude; but, of course, it seems to me that
you’re suffering because you think you know more about what’s right and
wrong than anybody else does.”

“Oh, no. But I--”

“We wouldn’t get anywhere, probably, by arguing it,” Fred said. “You
asked me.”

“I asked you to tell my why he enlisted.”

“The trouble is, I don’t think I _can_ tell that to anybody who needs
an answer. He just went, of course. There isn’t any question about it. I
always thought he’d be the first to go.”

“Oh, no!” she said.

“Yes, I always thought so.”

“I think you were mistaken,” she said, decidedly. “It was a special
reason--to make him act so cruelly.”

“Cruelly!” Fred cried.

“It _was!_”

“Cruel to whom?”

“Oh, to his mother--to his family. To have him go off that way, without
a word--”

“Oh, no’ he’d been home,” Fred corrected her. “He went home the Saturday
before he enlisted, and settled it with them. They’re all broken up, of
course; but when they saw he’d made up his mind, they quit opposing him,
and I think they’re proud of him about it, maybe, in spite of feeling
anxious. You see, his father was an artilleryman in the war with
Spain, and his grandfather was a Colonel at the end of the War of the
Rebellion, though he went into it as a private, like Ramsey. He died
when Ramsey was about twelve; but Ramsey remembers him; he was talking
of him a little the night before he enlisted.”

Dora made a gesture of despairing protest. “You don’t understand!”

“What is it I don’t understand?”

“Ramsey! _I_ know why he went--and it’s just killing me!”

Fred looked at her gravely. “I don’t think you need worry about it,” he
said. “There’s nothing about his going that you are responsible for.”

She repeated her despairing gesture. “You don’t understand. But it’s no
use. It doesn’t help any to try to talk of it, though I thought maybe
it would, somehow.” She went a little nearer the dormitory entrance,
leaving him where he was, then turned. “I suppose you won’t see him?”

“I don’t know. Most probably not till we meet-if we should--in France.
I don’t know where he’s stationed; and I’m going with the aviation--if
it’s ever ready! And he’s with the regulars; he’ll probably be among the
first to go over.”

“I see.” She turned sharply away, calling back over her shoulder in a
choked voice. “Thank you. Good-bye!”

But Fred’s heart had melted; gazing after her, he saw that her
proud young head had lowered now, and that her shoulders were moving
convulsively; he ran after her and caught her as she began slowly to
ascend the dormitory steps.

“See here,” he cried. “Don’t--”

She lifted a wet face. “No, no! He went in bitterness because I told him
to, in my own bitterness! I’ve killed him! Long ago, when he wasn’t much
more than a child, I heard he’d said that some day he’d ‘show’ me, and
now he’s done it!”

Fred whistled low and long when she had disappeared. “Girls!” he
murmured to himself. “Some girls, anyhow--they will be girls! You can’t
tell ‘em what’s what, and you can’t change ‘em, either!”

Then, as more urgent matters again occupied his attention, he went on at
an ardent and lively gait to attend his class in map-making.



Chapter XXI

That thunder in the soil, at first too deep within it to be audible, had
come to the surface now and gradually became heard as the thunder of
a million feet upon the training grounds. The bugles rang sharper; the
drums and fifes of town and village and countryside were the drums and
fifes of a war that came closer and closer to every hearth between the
two oceans.

All the old symbols became symbols bright and new, as if no one had ever
seen them before. “America” was like a new word, and the song “America”
 was like a new song. All the dusty blatancies of orating candidates,
seeking to rouse bored auditors with “the old flag”; all the mechanical
patriotics of school and church and club; all these time-worn flaccid
things leaped suddenly into living colour. The flag became brilliant and
strange to see--strange with a meaning that seemed new, a meaning long
known, yet never known till now.

And so hearts that thought they knew themselves came upon ambushes of
emotion and hidden indwellings of spirit not guessed before. Dora Yocum,
listening to the “Star Spangled Banner,” sung by children of immigrants
to an out-of-tune old piano in a mission clubroom, in Chicago, found
herself crying with a soul-shaking heartiness in a way different from
other ways that she had cried. Among the many things she thought of then
was this: That the banner the children were singing about was in danger.
The great country, almost a continent, had always seemed so untouchable,
so safe and sure; she had never been able to conceive of a hostile
power mighty enough to shake or even jar it. And since so great and
fundamental a thing could not be injured, a war for its defence had
appeared to be, in her eyes, not only wicked but ridiculous. At last,
less and less vaguely, she had come to comprehend something of the
colossal German threat, and the shadow that touched this bright banner
of which the immigrants’ children piped so briskly in the mission
club-room.

She had begun to understand, though she could not have told just why,
or how, or at what moment understanding reached her. She began to
understand that her country, threatened to the life, had flung its line
those thousands of miles across the sea to stand and hold Hindenburg and
Ludendorff and all their Kaisers, Kings, Dukes, and Crown Princes, their
Krupp and Skoda monstrous engines, and their monstrous other engines of
men made into armies. Through the long haze of misted sea-miles and the
smoke of land-miles she perceived that brown line of ours, and knew it
stood there that Freedom, and the Nation itself, might not perish from
the earth.

And so, a week later, she went home, and came nervously to Ramsey’s
mother and found how to direct the letter she wanted to write. He was in
France.

As the old phrase went, she poured out her heart. It seems to apply to
her letter.

She wrote:

Don’t misunderstand me. I felt that my bitter speech to you had driven
you to take the step you did. I felt that I had sent you to be killed,
and that I ought to be killed for doing it, but I knew that you had
other motives, too. I knew, of course, that you thought of the country
more than you did of me, or of any mad thing I would say--but I thought
that what I said might have been the prompting thing, the word that
threw you into it so hastily and before you were ready, perhaps. I
dreaded to bear that terrible responsibility. I hope you understand.

My great mistake has been--I thought I sas so “logical”--it’s been in
my starting everything with a thought I’d never proven; that war is the
worst thing, and all other evils were lesser. I was wrong. I was wrong,
because war isn’t the worst evil. Slavery is the worse evil, and now
I want to tell you I have come to see that you are making war on those
that make slavery. Yes, you are fighting those that make both war and
slavery, and you are right, and I humbly reverence and honour all of
you who are in this right war. I have come home to work in the Red Cross
here; I work there all day, and all day I keep saying to myself--but I
really mean to _you_--it’s what I pray, and oh, how I pray it: “God be
with you and grant you the victory!” For you must win and you will win.

Forgive me, oh, please--and if you will, could you write to me? I know
you have things to do more important than “girls”--but oh, couldn’t you,
please?

This letter, which she had taken care not to dampen, as she wrote, went
in slow course to the “American Expeditionary Forces in France,” and
finally found him whom it patiently sought. He delayed not long to
answer, and in time she held in a shaking hand the pencilled missive he
had sent her.

You forget all that comic talk about me enlisting because of your
telling me to. I’d written my father I was going at the first chance a
month and a half before that day when you said it. My mind was made up
at the first time there was any talk of war, and you had about as much
responsibility for my going as some little sparrow or something. Of
course I don’t mean I didn’t pay any attention to the different things
you said, because I always did, and I used to worry over it because I
was afraid some day it would get you in trouble, and I’m mighty glad
you’ve cut it out. That’s right; you be a regular girl now. You always
were one, and I knew it all right. I’m not as scared to write to you as
I was to talk to you, so I guess you know I was mighty tickled to get
your letter. It sounded blue, but I was glad to get it. You _bet_ I’ll
write to you! I don’t suppose you could have any idea how glad I was to
get your letter. I could sit here and write to you all day if they’d let
me, but I’m a corporal now. When you answer this, I wish you’d say how
the old town looks and if the grass in the front yards is as green as it
usually is, and everything. And tell me some more about everything you
think of when you are working down at the Red Cross like you said.
I guess I’ve read your letter five million times, and that part ten
million. I mean where you underlined that “_you_” and what you said
to yourself at the Red Cross. Oh, murder, but I was glad to read that!
Don’t forget about writing anything else you think of like that.

Well, I was interrupted then and this is the next day. Of course, I
can’t tell you where we are, because that darned censor will read this
letter, but I guess he will let this much by. Who do you think I ran
across in a village yesterday? Two boys from the old school days, and
we certainly did shake hands a few times! It was the old foolish Dutch
Krusemeyer and Albert Paxton, both of them lieutenants. I heard Fred
Mitchell is still training in the States and about crazy because they
won’t send him over yet.

If you had any idea how glad I was to get your letter, you wouldn’t lose
any time answering this one. Anyhow, I’m going to write to you again
every few days if I get the chance, because maybe you’ll answer more
than one of ‘em.

But see here, cut out that “sent you to be killed” stuff. You’ve got the
wrong idea altogether. We’ve got the big job of our lives, we know that,
but we’re going to do it. There’ll be mistakes and bad times, but we
won’t fall down. Now you’ll excuse me for saying it this way, Dora, but
I don’t know just how to express myself except saying of course we know
everybody isn’t going to get back home--but listen, we didn’t come
over here to get killed particularly, we came over here to give these
Dutchmen h--l!

Perhaps you can excuse language if I write it with a blank like that,
but before we get back we’re going to do what we came for. They may not
all of them be as bad as some of them--it’s a good thing you don’t know
what we do, because some of it would make you sick. As I say, there may
be quite a lot of good ones among them; but we know what they’ve done to
this country, and we know what they mean to do to ours. So we’re going
to attend to them. Of course that’s why I’m here. It wasn’t you.

Don’t forget to write pretty soon, Dora. You say in your letter--I
certainly was glad to get that letter--well, you say I have things to do
more important than “girls.” Dora, I think you probably know without my
saying so that of course while I have got important things to do, just
as every man over here has, and everybody at home, for that matter,
well, the thing that is most important in the world to me, next to
helping win this war, it’s reading the next letter from you.

Don’t forget how glad I’ll be to get it, and don’t forget you didn’t
have anything to do with my being over here. That was--it was something
else. And you bet, whatever happens I’m glad I came! Don’t ever forget
_that_!

Dora knew it was “something else.” Her memory went back to her first
recollection of him in school: from that time on he had been just an
ordinary, everyday boy, floundering somehow through his lessons in
school and through his sweethearting with Milla, as the millions of
other boys floundered along with their own lessons and their own
Millas. She saw him swinging his books and romping homeward from the
schoolhouse, or going whistling by her father’s front yard, rattling
a stick on the fence as he went, care-free and masterful, but shy as a
deer if strangers looked at him, and always “not much of a talker.”

She had always felt so superior to him, she shuddered as she thought of
it. His quiet had been so much better than her talk. His intelligence
was proven now, when it came to the great test, to be of a stronger sort
than hers. He was wise and good and gentle--and a fighting man! “We know
what they’ve done to this country and what they mean to do to ours. So
we’re going to attend to them.” She read this over, and she knew that
Ramsey, wise and gentle and good, would fight like an unchained devil,
and that he and his comrades would indeed and indeed do what they “came
for.”

“It wasn’t you,” he said. She nodded gently, agreeing, and knew what it
was that sent him. Yet Ramsey had his own secret there, and did not tell
it. Sometimes there rose, faint in his memory, a whimsical picture, yet
one that had always meant much to him. He would see an old man sitting
with a little boy upon a rustic bench under a walnut tree to watch the
“Decoration Day Parade” go by--and Ramsey would see a shoot of sunshine
that had somehow got through the walnut tree and made a bedazzlement of
glinting fine lines over a spot about the size of a saucer, upon the old
man’s thick white hair. And in Ramsey’s memory, the little boy, sitting
beside the veteran, would half close his eyes, drowsily, playing that
this sunshine spot was a white bird’s-nest, until he had a momentary
dream of a glittering little bird that dwelt there and wore a blue
soldier cap on its head. And Ramsey would bring out of his memory
thoughts that the old man had got into the child’s head that day. “We
knew that armies fighting for the Freedom of Man _had_ to win, in the
long run.... We were on the side of God’s Plan.... Long ago we began to
see hints of His Plan.... Man has to win his freedom from himself--men
in the light have to fight against men in the dark.... That light is the
answer.... We had the light that made us never doubt.”


A long while Dora sat with the letter in her hand before she answered it
and took it upon her heart to wear. That was the place for it, since it
was already within her heart, where he would find it when he came home
again. And she beheld the revelation sent to her. This ordinary life of
Ramsey’s was but the outward glinting of a high and splendid spirit, as
high and splendid as earth can show. And yet it was only the life of an
everyday American boy. The streets of the town were full, now, of boys
like Ramsey.

At first they were just boys in uniform; then one saw that they were
boys no more.

They were soldiers.





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