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A Master's Degree by Margaret Hill McCarter

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"Don't be afraid with me to guard you."

Even in that deep gloom, he caught the outline of a white face
with star-bright eyes lifted toward his face.

"I'm not afraid with you," she whispered.

Behind them stealthy movements somewhere. Between them and the doorway,
stealthy movements somewhere; but all so still and slow, they stretched
the listening nerve almost to the breaking point. Suddenly, a big,
hard hand gripped Burleigh's shoulder, and a dead still voice, that Vic
could not recognize, breathed into his ear, "Go quick and quiet!
I'll stand for it. Go!"

It was old Bond Saxon.

Vic caught Elinor's arm, and with one stride they sprang
from the cave's mouth up to the open ground beyond it.
Something behind them, it might have been a groan or a smothered oath,
reached their ears, as they sped away down a narrow ravine.
The rain had ceased and overhead the stars were peeping from
the edges of feathery flying clouds; and all the sodden autumn
night was still at last, save for the gurgling waters of a little
stream down the rocky glen.

The Sunrise bell was striking eleven when they reached the bridge across
the Walnut, and the beacon light from the dome began to twinkle a welcome
now and then through the dripping branches of the leafless trees.
A few minutes later, Victor Burleigh brought Elinor safely to
Lloyd Fenneben's door.

"We made it in before midnight, anyhow," he said carelessly.

Elinor looked up in surprise. The terrors of the night still possessed her.

"What a horrible nightmare it has all been. The storm, the river,
the rocks, and the darkness, and that dreadful something behind us
in the cave. Was there really anything, or did we just imagine it all?
It will seem impossible when the daylight comes."

Victor looked at her with a wonderful light in his wide-open brown eyes.

"Yes," he said in a deep voice. "It will seem impossible when
daylight comes. But will it all be as a horrible nightmare?"

"No, no; not all." Elinor's face was winsomely sweet. "Not all,"
she repeated. "It is fine to feel one's self so safeguarded as I have been.
I shall always remember you as one with whom I could never again be afraid."

Burleigh turned hastily toward the door, and, having delivered
her to the care of her uncle, he bade them both good night.

Dr. Fenneben looked keenly after the young man striding away from the light.
His clothes were torn and bedraggled, his cap was gone, and his heavy hair was
a mass of rough waves about his forehead. The direct gaze of his golden-brown
eyes took away distrust, and yet the face had changed somehow in this day.
A hint of a new purpose had crept into it, a purpose not possible for
Dr. Fenneben to read.

But he did note the set of the head, the erect form and broad shoulders,
and the easy swinging step as the boy went whistling away into the shadows
of the night.

"A splendid animal, anyhow," the Dean thought. "Will the soul measure
up to that princely body? And what can be the purport of this
maudlin mouthing of old Bond Saxon? Bond is really a lovable man
when he's sober; but he's vindictive and ugly when he's drunk.
I can wait for developments. Whatever the boy's history may have been,
like the courts, it's my business to hold every man innocent till he's
proven guilty; to build up character, not to undermine and destroy it.
And destruction begins in suspicion."

CHAPTER VI

THE GAME

_Truly ye come of The Blood; slower to bless than
to ban;
Little used to lie down at the bidding of any man_.
--KIPLING

BITTER weather followed the night of the storm.
Biting winds beat all the autumn beauty from tree and shrub.
Cold gray skies hung over a cold gray land, and a heavy
snowfall and a penetrating chill seemed to destroy all hope
for the Indian Summer that makes the Kansas Novembers glorious.

Dennie Saxon was the only girl of the party who was not affected
by the storm at the Kickapoo Corral. Professor Burgess,
who narrowly escaped pneumonia himself, and who disliked irregular
class attendance, took comfort in the sight of Dennie. She was so
fresh-checked and wholesome, and she went about her work promptly,
forgetful of storm and rain and muddy ways.

"You seem immune from sickness, Miss Dennie," Burgess said one day as she
was putting the library in order.

Under her little blue dusting cap, the sunny ripples of her hair
framed a face glowing with health. She smiled up at him comfortably--
a smile that played about the edges of his consciousness all that day.

"I've never been sick," she said. "It 's a good thing, too,
for our house is a regular hospital this week. Little Bug Buler
is the worst of all. He took cold on the night of the storm.
That's why Victor Burleigh's out of school so much.
He won't leave Bug."

Vincent Burgess despised the name of Burleigh now. While Vic's safe
escort of Elinor Wream had increased his popularity with the students,
Burgess honestly believed that old Bond Saxon's drunken speech hinted
at some disgrace the big freshman would not long be able to conceal,
and he resented the high place given to such a low grade of character.
To a man like himself it was galling to look upon such a fellow as a rival.
So, he tightened the rules and exacted the last mental farthing
of Vic in the classroom. And Vic, easily understanding all this,
because he was frankly and fool-ishly in love with the same girl whom
Vincent Burgess seemed to claim, contrived in a thousand ways to make life
a burden to the Harvard man. Of course, Burgess showed no mercy toward
Vic for absence from the classroom while he was caring for little Bug,
and the black marks multiplied against him.

Elinor Wream. had been ill after the night of the storm.
Vic had not seen her since the hour when he left her at
Lloyd Fenneben's door. He knew he was a fool to think of her at all.
He knew she must sometime be won by Burgess, and that she was
born to gentle culture which his hard life had never known.
Besides, he was poor. Not a pauper, but poor, and luxuries belonged
naturally to a girl like Elinor. The storm of the holiday was
a balmy zephyr compared to the storm that raged every day in him.
For with all the hopelessness of things, he was in love.
Poor fellow! The strength of his spirit was like the strength
of his body--unbreakable.

He had no fear of pneumonia after the stormy night, for he was used
to hard knocks. And he meant to go again by daylight and explore
the rocky glen and hidden ways, and to find out, if possible,
whose face it was that was behind that cavern wall, whose voice
had whispered in his ear, and what loot was hidden there.
For reasons of his own, he had mentioned this matter to nobody.
But the cold, wet days, little Bug's illness, and the hard
study to keep up his class standing, took all of his time.
Especially, the study, that he might not be shut out of the great
football game of the year on Thanksgiving day. Sunrise was stiff
in its scholastic requirements, and conscientious to the last degree.
The football team stood on mental ability and moral honor,
no less than on scientific skill and muscular weight and cunning.
Dr. Fenneben watched Burleigh carefully, for the boy seemed to be always
on his heart. The Dean knew how to mix common sense and justice
into his rulings, so the word was sent quietly from the head office--
the suggestion of leniency in the matter of Burleigh's absence.
Burleigh was good for it. It lay with his professors, of course,
to grant or withhold scholarship ranking, but the Dean would
be pleased to have all latitude given in Burleigh's case.

Bug was better now, and Vic was burning midnight oil in study,
for the hours of practice for the game were doubled.

On the evening before Thanksgiving the coach called Vic aside.

"Everything is safe. Only one report not in, but it will be
in tomorrow." the coach declared. "I asked Professor Burgess
about your standing, and he says your grades are away above average.
He's got to reckon up your absent marks, but that's easy.
All the teachers understand about that. I guess Dean Funnybone
fixed 'em. And now, Vic, the honor of Sunrise rests on you.
If you fail us, we're lost. Can I count on you?"

The tiger light was behind the long black lashes under the heavy black brows,
as Vic shut his white teeth tightly.

"Count on me!" he said, and turning, he left the coach abruptly.

"Hey, there, Burleigh, hold on a minute," Trench, the right guard, called,
as Vic was striding up the steep south slope of the limestone ridge.
"Say, wind a fellow, will you! You infernal, never-wear-out, human
steam engine. I'm on to some things you ought to know. Even a lazy
old scout like I am gets a crack at things once in a while."

"Well, get rid of it once in a while, if you really do
know anything," Vic responded.

"Say, you're nervous. Coach says you spend too much time in your nursery;
says you'd better get rid of that little kid."

"Tell the coach to go to the devil!" Vic spoke savagely.

"Say, Coach," Trench roared down from the hillslope, "Vic says
for you to go to the devil."

"Wait till after tomorrow," the coach shouted back, "and I'll
take you fellows along if you don't do your best."

"Now, that's settled, I'll tell you what I know," Trench drawled lazily.
"First, Elinor Wream, what Dean Funnybone calls `Norrie,' is heading
the bunch that's going to shower us with roses tomorrow, if we win.
And you know blamed well we'll win. They came in from Kansas City
on the limited, just now, the roses did. The shower's predicted
for tomorrow P. M."

A sudden glow lighted Vic's stern face, and there was no savage
gleam in his eyes now.

"Is Elinor well enough to come out tomorrow?"

He had been caught unawares. Trench stared at him deliberately.

"Say, Victor Burleigh." He spoke slowly. "Don't do it!
DON'T DO IT! It will kill a man like you to get in love.
Lord pity you! and"--more slowly still--"Lord pity the fool girl
who can't see the solid gold in the rough old nugget you are."

"What's the rest of your news?" Vic asked.

"I gave the best first. Coach tells me ab-so-lute-lee,
you are our only hope. The hope of Sunrise, tomorrow.
You've got the beef, the wind, the speed, the head, and the will.
Oh, you angel child!"

"The coach is clever," Vic said carelessly.

"Burleigh, here's the rub as well as the Rub-i-con. Dennie Saxon's wise,
and she tells me--on the side; inside, not outside--that your absent
marks on Burgess' map are going to cut you out at the last minute.
Don't let Burgess do that, Vic, if you have to kill him.
Couldn't we kidnap him and drop him into the whirlpool?
Old Lagonda's interest is about due. Dennie just stood her ground today
like a cherub, and asked the Hahvahd Univusity man right out about it.
I don't know how she got the hint, only she's in all the offices and
the library out of hours, you know, and when the slim one from Boston,
yuh know, said as how he had to stand firm on the right, yuh know, old Dennie
just says straight and flat, `Professor Burgess, I'm ashamed of you.'
Dennie's a brick. And do you know, Burgess, spite of his cussed thin hide,
we've got to toughen for him out here in Kansas; spite of all that,
HE LIKES DENNIE SAXON. The oracle hath orked, the sibyl hath sibbed.
But say, Vic, if he does come down hard on you, what will you do?"

"Come down hard on him, and play anyhow."

The grim jaw and black frown left no doubt as to Vic's purpose.

Late November is idyllic in the Walnut Valley. Autumn's gold has all
been burned in Nature's great crucible, refining the landscape to a wide
range from frosted silver to richest Purple. Heliotrope and rose
and amethyst blend with misty pink and dainty gray, and the faint,
indefinable blue-green hue of the robin's egg, and outlined all in
delicate black tracery of leafless boughs and darkened waterways.
Every sunrise is a revelation of Infinite Beauty. Every midday, a shadowy
soft picture of Peace. Every sunset a dream of Omnipotent Splendor.

On such a November Thanksgiving day, the great game of the season
was played on the Sunrise football field, which all the Walnut Valley
folks came forth to see.

By one o'clock Lagonda Ledge was deserted, save for old Bond Saxon,
who sat on his veranda, watching the crowds stream by.
At two o'clock the bleachers were packed, and the side lines
were broad and black with a good-natured, jostling crowd.
And every minute the numbers were increasing.
Truly Sunrise had never before known such an auspicious day,
such record-breaking gate receipts, nor such sure promise
of success. The game was called for half-past two.
It was three o'clock now and the line-up had not been formed.
Even the gentle wrangle over details and eligibility could hardly
have spun out so much time as seemed to the waiting throng
to be uselessly wasted now. Evidently, something was wrong.
The crowd grew impatient and demanded the cause.
Out in the open, the two squads were warming up for the fray,
while the officials hung fire in a group by the goal posts
and talked threateningly.

"What's the matter?"

"When will the freight be in?"

"Merry Christmas!"

So the crowd shouted. The songs were worn out, the yell-leaders
were exhausted, and the rooters were hoarse.

"Where's Vic Burleigh?" somebody called, and a chorus followed:

"Burleigh! Burly! Burlee! Come home! Come home! Come home!"

But Burleigh did not come.

"Maybe they are shutting him out," somebody else suggested, and the Sunrise
bleachers took fire. Calls for Burleigh rent the air, roars and yells
that threatened to turn this most auspicious college event into pandemonium,
and the jolly company into a veritable mob.

Meantime, as the teams were leaving their quarters early in the afternoon,
the coach said to Vic:

"Run up to Burgess and get your grades, Burleigh. It's a mere form,
but it will save that gang of game-cocks from getting one over us."

In the rotunda Vic and Vincent met face to face, the country boy
in his football suit and brown sweater, and the slender young
college professor, with faultless tailoring and immaculate linen.
Ten minutes before, Burgess had been in Dr. Fenneben's office,
where Elinor Wream and a group of fair college girls
were chattering excitedly.

"See these roses, Uncle Lloyd." Elinor was holding up a gorgeous
bunch of American Beauties. "These go to Vic Burleigh when he gets
behind the goal posts. Cost lots of my Uncle Lloyd's money,
but we had to have them."

Small wonder that the very odor of roses was hateful to Burgess
at that moment.

"May I speak to you a minute?" Vic said as the two men met in the rotunda.

Burgess halted in silence.

"The coach sent me after your statement of my standing.
We've got a bunch of sticklers to fight today."

"I have turned in my report," Burgess responded coldly.

"So the coach said, all but mine. I'm late. May I have my report now?"
Vic urged, trying to be composed.

"I have no further report for you." It was a cold-blooded thing
to say, but Burgess, though filled with jealousy, was conscientious
now in his belief that Burleigh was really a low grade fellow,
deserving no leniency nor recognition.

"But you haven't given me any standing yet, the coach says."
Vic's voice was dead calm.

"I have no standing to give you. You are below grade."

Vic's eyes blazed. "You dog!" was all he could say.

"Now, see here, Burleigh, there's no need to act any ruder
than you can help." Burleigh did not move, nor did
he take his yellow brown eyes from his instructor's face.
"What have you to say further? I thought you were in a hurry."
Burgess did not really mean a taunt in the last words.

"I have this to say." Victor Burleigh's voice had a menace in its depth
and power. "You have done this infamous thing, not because I deserve it,
but because you hate me on account of a girl--Elinor Wream."

"Stop!" Vincent Burgess commanded.

I forbid you to mention her name. You, who come in here from some barren,
poverty-stricken prairie home, where good breeding is unknown.
You, to presume to think of such a girl as Dr. Fenneben's beautiful niece,
whose reputation was barely saved by old Bond Saxon on the stormy night
after the holiday. You, who are forced for some reason to care for an
unknown child. You, whose true character will soon be fully known here--
if this is what you have to say, you may go," he added with an imperious
wave of the hand.

The meanness of anger is in its mastery. Burgess had meant
only to discipline Burleigh, but it was too late for that now.
The rotunda was very quiet. Everybody was down on the field waiting
impatiently for the game to begin. Burgess was also impatient.
There was a seat waiting for him beside Elinor Wream.

"I'm not quite ready to go"--Vic's fierce voice filled the rotunda--"because
you are going to write my credentials for this game, and you'll do it quick,
or beg for mercy."

"I refuse to consider a word you say." Burgess was furious now,
and the white face and burning eyes of his opponent were unbearable.
"I will not grant you any credentials, you low-born prize-fighter--"

A sudden grip of steel held him fast as Vic towered over him.
The softened light of the dome of the rotunda, where the Kansas motto,
"_Ad Astra per Aspera_." adorned the stained glass panes,
had never fallen on such a scene as this.

"See here, Burleigh, you'll repent this unwarranted attack,"
Burgess cried, trying to free himself. "Brute force will win
only among brutes."

"That's the only place I expect to use it," Vic retorted,
tightening his grip. "No time for words now.
The honor of Sunrise as well as my honor is at stake, and it's
my right to play in this game, because I have broken no laws.
I may have no culture except that of a prairie claim;
and I may be poor, and, therefore, presumptuous in daring
to mention Elinor Wream's name to you. But"--the brown eyes
were a blazing fire--"nobody can tell me that any man must rescue
a girl from me to save her reputation, nor that any dishonor
belongs to me because of little Bug Buler. Uncultured, as I am,
I have the culture of a courage that guards the helpless;
and ill-bred, as I may be, I have a gentleman's honor wherever
a woman's need calls for my protection."

Vic's face was ashy, for his anger matched his love,
and both were parallel to his wonderful physique and endurance.
In his fury, the temptation to throttle the man who had wronged
him was gaining the mastery.

"Vic, oh, Vic, they're waiting for you. Turn on!
Don't hurt him, Vic." Bug Buler's pleading little voice broke
the momentary stillness.

Vic's hand fell nerveless, and Burgess staggered back.

"Was n't you dood to Vic? He would n't hurted you. He never hurted me."
The innocent face and gentle words held a strange power over each
passion-fired man before him.

Five minutes later, Vic Burleigh walked across the gridiron with full
credentials for his place on the team.

The last man to enter the grounds was evidently a tramp,
whose slouched hat half-concealed a dark bearded face.

As Vic Burleigh, with Bug clinging to his finger, hurried by
the ticket window, the crippled student who sold tickets inside
the little roofed box called out:

"Come, stay with me, Bug, till I can go in, too, and I'll buy you peanuts."

Bug studied a moment. Then with a comfortable little "Umph-humph,"
puffing out his pudgy cheeks with tightly tucked-in lips, he let go
of Vic's finger and trotted over to the ticket box.

The boy let him inside and turned to the window to see the face
of the tramp close to it. The man paid for a ticket, then,
leaning forward, stared eagerly at the open money box.
At the same time, the cripple caught sight of a revolver handle
in a belt under the shabby coat. Trust a college boy for headwork.
Instantly he seized little Bug by the shoulders and set
him up on the shelf between the window and the money box.
Bug's hair was a mop of soft ringlets, and his brown eyes
and innocent baby face were appealing. The stranger stared
hard at the child, and with a sort of frightened expression,
shot through the gate and mingled with the crowd.

"Great protection for a cripple," the student thought, as he locked
the money box. "How strong a baby's hand may be sometimes!
Vic Burleigh's beef can win the game out there, but Bug has
saved the day at this end of the line. That tramp seemed scared
at the sight of him."

"Funny folks turns to dames," Bug observed.

"Yes, Buggie, the last one in before you came was a young
woman with gray hair, and she had a big dog with her.
They don't let in dogs, so he's waiting outside somewhere."

The last man who did not go in was Bond Saxon, who came
late and found the gates deserted. But lying watchful
in the open way, was a Great Dane dog. Old Bond hesitated.
It was his lifetime fault to hesitate. Then he trotted back home.
And, behold, a bottle of whisky was beside his doorstep.
But to his credit for once, he resisted and smashed the bottle
to bits on the stone step.

The day was made for such a game. There was no wind.
The glare of the sun was tempered by a gray mist creeping up
the afternoon skies. The air was crisp enough to prevent languor.
The crowded bleachers were inspiring; the season was rounding out
in a blaze of glory for Sunrise. The two teams were evenly matched,
And the stern joy that warriors feel
In foemen worthy of their steel,
spurred each to its best efforts. It was a battle royal,
with all the turns of strategy, and quickness, and straight
physical weight, and sudden shifting of signals, fake plays,
forward passes, line bucks, and splendid interference,
flying tackles, speedy end runs, and magnificent defense of goals
with lines of invincible strength and spirit.

With the kick-off the enemy's goal was endangered by a fumbled ball,
and within three minutes Trench had torn a hole in the defense,
through which the Sunrise team were sending Vic Burleigh for a touchdown.
The bleachers went wild and the grandstand was almost shipwrecked
in the noise.

"Burleigh! Burly! Burlee!" shrieked the yell-leader as Vic leaped
over the goal line and the rooters roared:

The Sunrise hope!
And that's the dope!
Never quails!
Never fails!
Burleigh! Burly! Burlee!

A difficult kick from a sharp angle sent the ball through the air
one inch wide of the goal post, and the bleachers counted five.

And then, came the forward swing again, the struggle for downs,
the gain and loss of territory, until Trench, too heavy for speed,
failed to break through the interference quickly enough to hold
a swift little quarterback, who slipped around the end of the line,
and, shaking off the tackles, swooped toward the Sunrise goal.
The last defense was thrown headlong, and the field was wide
open for the run; and the quarterback was running for the honor
of his team, his school, his undying fame in the college world.
Three yards to the goal line, and victory would be his.
All Lagonda Ledge held its breath as Vic Burleigh tore through a tangle
of tackles and sprang forward with long, space-eating bounds.
He seemed to leap through ten feet of air, straight over
the quarterback's head and land four feet from the goal with
the quarterback in his grip, while a Sunrise halfback out beyond
him was lying on the lost ball.

The bleachers now went entirely mad, for from the very edge of disaster,
the tide of battle was turned into the enemy's territory.
Before the Sunrise rooters had time to cease rejoicing, however,
the invincible quarterback was away again, and with two guards
and a center on top of Burleigh, now the plucky runner broke
across the Sunrise line, and a minute later missed a pretty goal.
And the opposing bleachers counted five.

The second half of the game was filled with a tense, fruitless strife.
Five points to five points, and four minutes of time to play. The struggle
had ceased to be a turning of tricks and test of speed. Henceforth, it was
man against man, pound for pound. Suddenly, the opposing team braced
itself and began a steady drive down the gridiron. With desperate energy,
the Sunrise eleven fought for ground, giving way slowly, defending their goal
like true Spartans, dying by inches, until only three yards of space were
left on which to die. The rooters shrieked, and the girls sang of courage.
Then a silence fell. Three yards, and the Sunrise team turned to a rock ledge
as invincible as the limestone foundation of their beloved college halls.
The center from which all strength radiated was Victor Burleigh. Against him
the weight of the line-bucking plunged. If he wavered the line must crumble.
The crowd hardly breathed, so tense was the strain. But he did not waver.
The ball was lost and the last struggle of the day began. Two minutes more,
the score tied, and only one chance was left.

Since the night of the storm, Vic had known little rest.
His days had been spent in hard study, or continuous
practice on the field; his nights in the sick room.
And what was more destructive to strength than all of this
was the newness and grief of a blind, overmastering adoration
for the one girl of all the school impossible to him.
The strain of this day's game, as the strain of all the
preparation for it, had fallen upon him, and the half hour
in the rotunda had sapped his energy beyond every other force.
Love, loss, a reputation attacked, possible expulsion for assaulting
a professor, injustice, anger--oh, it was more than a burden
of wearied muscles and wracked nerves that he had to lift
in these two minutes!

In a second's pause before the offense began, Vic, who never saw
the bleachers, nor heard a sound when he was in the thick of the game,
caught sight now of a great splash of glowing red color in the grandstand.
In a dim way, like a dream of a dream, he thought of American Beauty
roses of which something had been said once--so long ago, it seemed now.
And in that moment, Elinor Wream's sweet face, with damp dark hair which
the lamplight from Dr. Fenneben's door was illumining, and the softly
spoken words, "I shall always remember you as one with whom I could
never be afraid again"--all this came swiftly in an instant's vision,
as the team caught its breath for the last onslaught.

"Victor, for victory. Lead out Burleigh," Trench cried to his mates,
and the sweep of the field was on; and Lagonda Ledge and the whole
Walnut Valley remembers that final charge yet. Steady, swift,
invincible, it drove its strong foe down the white-crossed sod--
so like a whirlwind, that the watching crowds gazed in bewilderment.
Almost before they could comprehend the truth, the enemy's goal was
just before the Sunrise warriors, and half a minute of time remained
in which to play. One more line plunge with Burleigh holding the ball!
A film came before his eyes. A sudden blankness of failure and
despair seized him. In the grandstand, Elinor Wream stood clutching
a pennant in both hands, her dark eyes luminous with proud hope.
Amid all the yells and cheers, her sweet voice rang out:

"Victor, Victor! Don't forget the name your mother gave you!"

Vic neither saw nor heard. Yet in that moment, strength and
pride and indomitable will power came sweeping back to him.
One last plunge against this wall of defense upreared before him,
and Burleigh, with half the enemy's eleven clinched to drag
him back, had hurled himself across the goal line and lay
half-conscious under a perfect shower of fragrant crimson roses,
while the song of victory in swelling chorus pealed out on
the November air. Half a minute later, Trench had kicked goal.
The bleachers chanted eleven counts, the referee's whistle blew,
and the game was done!

SACRIFICE

_The air for the wing of the sparrow,
The bush for the robin and wren,
But always the path that is narrow
And straight for the children of men_.
--ALICE CARY

CHAPTER VII

THE DAY OF RECKONING

_Oh, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength, but tyrannous
To use it like a giant_.
--SHAKESPEARE

OF course, there came a day of reckoning for Victor Burleigh, now the idol
of the Walnut Valley football fans, the pride of Lagonda Ledge,
the hero of Sunrise. But the reckoning was not brought to him;
he brought himself deliberately to it.

The jollification following the game threatened to wreck the chapel
and crack the limestone ledge beneath it.

"Dust off your halo and wrap it up in cotton till next fall, Vic," Trench
whispered in the closing minutes. "We've got to face the real thing now.
We're civilians in citizens' clothes, amenable to law henceforth; not a lot of
athletic brigands, privileged outlaws, whose glory dazzles all common sense.
Quit bumping your head against the Kansas motto up in the dome, get your
hob-nailers down on the sod, and trot off and tackle your Greek verbs awhile.
And say, Vic, tackle yourself first and forget the pretty girl who
covered you with roses down yonder five days ago. It was n't you,
it was just the day's hero. She'd have decorated old Bond Saxon just
the same if he had waddled across the last goal line then. You're a plug
and she's a lady born, and as good as engaged to Burgess besides.
I had that straight from Dennie Saxon, and you know Dennie's no gossip.
They were far gone before they came West--the Wream-Burgess folk were--
stiffen up, Burleigh. You look like a dead man."

"I was never more alive in my life." Vic's voice and eyes
were alive enough.

"By heck! I believe it," Trench exclaimed. "Say, you got
away with Burgess about the game. If you want the girl,
go after her, too. But gently, Sweet Afton, go gently.
Most girls want to do the pursuing themselves, I believe.
I'll block the interference, if necessary, and you'll be
the sought-after yet, not the seeking, dear child."

A circular stairway winds from the Sunrise chapel down the south turret
to Dean Fenneben's study, intended originally as a sort of fire escape.
Some enterprising janitor later fixed a spring lock on the upper door to
this stairway (surprises had been sprung through this door upon the chapel
stage by prankish students at inopportune moments), so that now it was
only an exit, and was called by the students "the road to perdition,"
easy to descend but barred from retreat.

In the confusion following the chapel exercises Vic slipped into
the south turret, and the lock clicked behind him as he hurried
down "the road to perdition."

The door to Dean Fenneben's study was slightly open and Vic heard his
own name spoken as he reached it. He hesitated, for a group of girls
was surrounding Elinor Wream, discussing him. There was no escape.
The upper door was locked, and he would rather have met that unknown
villainous face in the dark cave than to face this group of pretty girls.
So he waited.

"Oh, Elinor, you mercenary creature!"

"What if he is a bit crude?"

"I don't blame you. I'm daffy about Professor Burgess myself."

"He's got the grandest voice, Vic has!"

"I just adore Greek!"

"I think Vic is splendid!"

So the exclamations ran.

"Now, Norrie Wream, cross your heart, hope you may die,
if big, handsome Victor Burleigh had his corners knocked off,
and he was sandpapered down a little, and had money, wouldn't you
feel a whole lot different about him, Norrie?"

"I certainly would. I couldn't help it."

Norrie's eyes were shining and her cheeks were pink as peach blossoms.
To Vic she seemed exquisitely beautiful.

"But now?" somebody queried.

"Oh, now, she'll be sensible, and the Professor will take
advantage of `now.' He won't wait till it's too late.
Great hat! there goes the bell."

And the girls scuttled away.

Vic came in and sat down by the window through which one may find
an empire for the looking.

"Burgess was right," he said to himself.

I'm not only ill-bred on the outside, I'm that way clear through.
A disreputable eavesdropper! That's my size. But I didn't mean it.
Fine excuse!" He frowned in disgust, and turned to the window.

The Thanksgiving weather was still blessing the Walnut Valley. Wide away
beyond Lagonda Ledge rolled the free open prairies, swept by the free air
of heaven under a beneficent sky.

As Vic gazed his stern face softened, and the bulldog look, that he had
worn since the night of the storm, relaxed before some gentler mood.
The brown eyes held a strange glow under the long black lashes,
as if a new purpose were growing up in the soul behind them.

"No limit out there. It's a FREE LAND," he murmured. "There shall be
no limit in here." Unconsciously he struck his breast with his fist.
"There's freedom for such as I am somewhere."

"Hello, Burleigh, what can I do for you?" As Dr. Fenneben came
into the study he recalled how awkwardly the same boy had filled
the same chair only a few months before.

"I've come in to be sentenced," Vic replied.

"Well, plead your case first."

If ever a father-heart beat in a bachelor's breast, Lloyd Fenneben
had such a heart.

"I want to settle about Thanksgiving Day," Vic said. "I had a moral right
to play on the team in that game, but I had to get the legal right by force.
Professor Burgess refused to permit me to play until I MADE him do it."

Fenneben's eyes were smiling. "Why didn't you knock him down and fight
it out with him?"

"Because he's not in my class. When I fight I fight men.
And, besides, I was in a hurry. If I'm expected to apologize
to Professor Burgess or be expelled, I want to know it,"
Vic added, hotly.

He knew he would not apologize, and he wanted the sentence of expulsion
to come quickly if it must come.

"We never expel boys from Sunrise. They have done it themselves sometimes.
Nor do we ever exact an apology. They offer it themselves sometimes.
In either case, the choice lies with the boy."

"What do you do with a fellow like me?" Vic looked curiously
at the Dean.

"If a boy of your build wants to meet only men when he fights,
we take it he is something of a man himself, and therefore worth
too much for Sunrise to lose."

Oh! blessed power of the college man to lead the half-tamed boy
into the stronger places of life; nor shove him to the dangerous
ground where his feet must sink in the quicksand or the mire!

Vic sat looking thoughtfully at the man before him.

"Your confession here is all right. Your claim to a place on the team
in Thursday's game was just." The simple fairness of Fenneben's words
made their appeal, yet, it was so unlike what Vic had counted on he could
hardly accept it as genuine.

"You have made a great name for yourself as an athlete. I paid
for the roses. I know something of the degree of that greatness."
Dr. Fenneben smiled genially. "You played a marvelous game and I
am proud of you."

Vic did not look proud of himself just then, and Lloyd Fenneben
knew it was one of life's crucial moments for the boy.

"The big letter S cut over the doorway out there stands for more
than Sunrise, you remember I told you." Fenneben spoke earnestly.
"It means also the strife which you have already met and must
expect to meet all along the way. But, Burleigh"--Lloyd Fenneben
stood up to his full height, an ideal of grace and power--
"if you expect to make your way through college with your fists,
come to me."

"You?" Vic's eyes widened.

"Yes, I'll meet you on any grounds. And if you ever try to coerce
a professor here again, I'll meet you anyhow, and we'll have it out."
Fenneben was stern now.

"I wouldn't want to scrap with you, Dr. Fenneben," Vic stammered.

"Why not?"

"I am too much of a gentleman for that."

"When I fight, I fight men. You are in my class," Fenneben quoted
with a smile in his eyes, which faded away with the next words.

"You are right, Burleigh. A gentleman does n't want to use his
strength like a beast to destroy. The only legitimate battle is
when a man must fight with a man as he would fight with a beast,
to save himself, or something dearer to him than himself,
from beastly destruction. Get into the bigger game, my boy,
where the strife is for larger scores, and add to a proud
athletic record, the prouder record of self-control. The
prairies have given you a noble heritage, but culture comes
most from contact with cul-tured men. Don't take on airs
because you have more red blood than our Harvard man.
The influence of the great universities, directly or indirectly,
on a life like yours is essential to your usefulness and power.
You may educate your conscience to choose the right before
the wrong, but, remember, an educated conscience does
not always save a man from being a fool now and then.
He needs an educated brain sometimes by which to save his soul.
Meantime, settle with your conscience, if you owe it anything.
It is a troublesome creditor. I'll leave you now to square
yourself with that fellow you must live with every day--
Victor Burleigh. We'll drop everything else henceforth and face
toward tomorrow, not yesterday."

Lloyd Fenneben grasped the boy's hand in a firm, assuring grip
and left him.

"If Sunrise means Strife, I'll face it," Vic said to himself.
"As to money, I have only my two hands and that old mortgaged
quadrangle of prairie sod out West. But if culture like Fenneben's
might win Elinor Wream, God help me to win it."

Up in the library a week later Professor Burgess came in while
Dennie Saxon was putting the books in order. Burgess was often
to be found where Dennie was, but Burgess himself had not noted it,
and nobody else knew it, except Trench. Trench was a lazy fellow,
who always lived in the middle of his pasture, where the feeding was good.
That gave him time to study mankind as it worried about the outer edges.

"Don't you get tired sometimes, Miss Dennie?" the Professor asked.
He was not happy himself for many reasons, and two of them were Elinor
and Vic, who separately, and differently, seemed to wear out his energy.
Dennie Saxon never wore on anybody's nerves.

"Yes, I do, often," Dennie answered.

"Why do you do this?" he queried.

"To get my college education." Dennie smiled, hopefully.
"I like the nice things and nice ways of life.
So I'm working for them."

"Elinor has all these without working for them," Vincent thought.

Then for no reason at all his mind leaped to Dennie's father
and his own vow on the stormy night in October.

"What would you do if your father were taken from you,
Miss Dennie?" he asked.

"I've always had to depend on myself somewhat. I would keep on, I suppose."
Dennie looked up bravely. Her father was her joy and her shame.

Well, what had Burgess expected? That she would depend on him?
He was in love with Elinor Wream. Why should he feel disappointed?
And why should his eye follow the soft little ripples of her sunny hair,
giving a pretty outline to her face and neck.

"Could you really take care of yourself? He was talking at random.

"I might do like that woman out at Pigeon Place." Burgess did
n't catch the pathos in Dennie's tone. He was only a man.

"How's that?" he asked.

"Oh, live alone and keep a big dog, and sell chickens.
That's what Mrs. Marian does. By the way, she looks just a little
bit like you."

"Thank you!"

"She was at the game on Thanksgiving Day, strange to say, for she
seldom leaves home. Did you see a pretty white-haired woman,
right south of where we were?"

"Is that how I look? No, I didn't see her. I was n't at the game."

"You weren't? Why not? You missed a wonderful thing."

And Burgess told her the whole story from his viewpoint, of course.
What he was too proud to mention to Dr. Fenneben or Elinor he spoke
of freely to Dennie, and he felt as if the weight of the limestone
ledge was lifted from him with the telling.

"Don't you think the young ruffian was pretty hard on me?" he asked.

"No, I don't," Dennie said, frankly. "I think you were pretty
hard on him."

A sudden resolve seized Burgess. He came around to Dennie's side
of the table.

"Miss Dennie, I want to tell you something, unimportant in itself,
but better shared than kept. On the night of our picnic in October
your father, who was not quite himself--"

"Yes, I understand," Dennie said, with downcast eyes.

"Pardon me, Dennie, I would not hurt your feelings."
His voice was very gentle, and Dennie looked up gratefully.
"On that night your father made me promise--made me hold
up my hand and swear--I'm easily forced, you will think--
to look after you if he were taken away. I did it to pacify him,
not to ever embarrass you. He also told me enough about
young Burleigh to make me wish, in the office of protector,
to warn you."

"Was my father quite himself then?" Dennie asked.

"Not quite," Burgess replied.

"Listen to him some day when he is. He is another man then. But," she added,
"I know you mean well."

In spite of her courage her eyes were full of tears, and for the first time
in his sheltered pleasant life the real spirit of sympathy woke in the soul
of Vincent Burgess.

"You are a brave, good girl, Dennie. If I can ever serve you in any way,
it will be a privilege to me to do it."

Ten minutes after they had left the library Trench, who had
been stationary in the north alcove, slowly came to life.
He had been posing as a statue, Winged Victory with a head on,
he declared afterward to Vic Burleigh, to whom he told
the whole story.

"Let me sing my swan song," he declared. "Then me for Lagonda's whirlpool.
I'm not fit to live in a decent community, a blithering idiot
and rascally villain, who lies in wait to hear and see like a fool.
I thought Dennie knew I was there and would be in to dust me out in a minute.
And when it was too late I turned to a pillar of salt and waited.
But I believe I'll change my mind, after all. I'll live;
and if Professor Burgess, A.B. of Cambridge-by-the-bean-patch,
dares to make love to Dennie Saxon--on the side--he'll go head
foremost into the whirlpool to feed Lagonda's rapacious spirit.
I've said it."

CHAPTER VIII

LOSS, OR GAIN?

_We cannot make bargains for blisses,
Nor catch them like fishes in nets,
And sometimes the thing our life misses
Helps more than the thing which it gets_.
--CARY

ELINOR WREAM spent the holidays in the East and was two weeks late
in entering school again. Then her Uncle Lloyd tightened the rules,
exacting full measure for lost time, until she bewailed to her girl
friends that she had no opportunity even to make fudge or wash her hair.

"Were you sorry to come back, then, Norrie?" her uncle asked
one evening when they were alone in their library, and Elinor
was lamenting her hard lot.

"No, I want to be with you, Uncle Lloyd."

She was sitting on the arm of his morris chair, softly stroking
his heavy hair away from his forehead.

"Looks like it, the way you hurried back," Dr. Fenneben said, smiling.

"But Uncle Joshua is n't well, although, to be honest,
he didn't seem a bit anxious to have me stay. He's so wrapped
up in Sanscrit he has no time to live in the present.
Why didn't he ever marry?"

"You have just said why," her uncle answered her.

"Why did n't you ever marry. Were you ever in love?"

The library lamp cast only a shaded light over Lloyd Fenneben
lounging comfortably in his chair. To a woman's eye he would
have seemed the picture of an ideal husband.

"Yes, I was in love once. I did n't marry because--because--I didn't."

"How romantic! Was it unrequited, or money, or what?"
Norrie asked, eagerly.

"Or what," he answered, and her finer sense made her change the subject.

"Say, Uncle Lloyd, Uncle Joshua says he wants me to marry."

"What's he up to now? Tell me about it."

Norrie was charming tonight in a dainty red evening gown that
set off her pretty face, crowned with beautiful dark hair.
Somehow the sight of her made deeper the void in Fenneben's life--
since that love affair of his own long ago.

"Well," Norrie went on, "Uncle says I'm to marry rich,
because my papa expected me to. He said papa had money
which was mamma's and he used it for college endowments,
because the Wreams love colleges best, and that it was his wish,
and it's Uncle Joshua's too, that I should marry well.
I knew I came honestly by my love of spending. I inherited it
from my mother. Aren't the Wreams all funny men to just see nothing
in money, but a cap and gown and a Master's Degree? But you
are a human being, Uncle Lloyd. You wouldn't leave a daughter
dependent on her uncles and use her money to endow colleges,
would you?" The white arm stole round his neck affectionately,
as Elinor added softly, "I'm going to tell you something else.
Uncle Joshua wants me to marry Professor Burgess."

"Do you want to marry him?" Fenneben asked.

"He hasn't asked me to yet. But he is such a gentleman and he has
a fortune in his own name, or in trust, or something like that.
It would please the Cambridge folks, and Uncle Joshua expects
me to consent, and I've never disobeyed uncle's wishes, so I
couldn't refuse now. And, well, if he'll wait till I'm ready,
I guess it will suit me."

"He'll wait all right, if he wants you, Norrie. He must wait
until you graduate," the Dean declared.

"Oh, yes; a Wream without a college diploma is like a ship without
a compass, a mere derelict on life's sea. I'm in no hurry anyhow,"
and she began to talk of other things.

In the months that followed Trench had no need to watch Professor Burgess
in his relation to Dennie Saxon, for Burgess had no thought of her other
than of kindly sympathy. That is, Burgess thought he had no thought.
He knew he was in love with Elinor, knew that back in Cambridge before
he was graduated from the university. He had been told that Elinor
liked luxurious living, and he had money--he had told Fenneben as much
in their first interview. Everything seemed to be settled now,
for Joshua Wream had written Burgess the kind of letter only a very
old man, and an ab-stract scholar, and a bachelor would ever write,
telling all that he had said to Norrie. He made it obligatory
that Fenneben should first give his sanction to the union.
He requested also that Burgess would never mention this letter to his
dear young niece, and he expressly stipulated that Norrie should
graduate at Sunrise first. He ended with an old man's blessing and
with the assurance that with Elinor safely provided for his conscience
(why his conscience?) would be at rest, and he could die in peace.
So there was smooth sailing at Sunrise for many months.
Elinor was always charming, and Dr. Fenneben seemed oblivious
to the situation, least of all to putting up any objection, which,
according to brother Joshua, would have blocked the game of love.
There was time now for profound research, the study of types, seclusion,
and the advantage of geographical breath which had brought the Professor
to Kansas, and which he heeded less and less with the passing days.
For he found himself more and more living in the lives of the students.
He had been ashamed, once, of having been Dennie Saxon's escort;
and he never knew when she came to be the one person in Lagonda Ledge
to whom he turned for confidence and aid in many things.

Meanwhile the big boy from the western claim was as surely going up
the rounds of culture as the Professor was coming down to the common
needs of common minds, and both were unconscious then that back
of each was Dr. Fenneben, "dear old Funnybone" to the student body,
playing each man for his king row in the great game of life fought
out in Sunrise-by-the-Walnut.

Toward Elinor, Victor Burleigh seemed utterly indifferent.
Even Lloyd Fenneben, who had caught an insight into things on the night
of the October storm, and had begun to read that new line in the
boy's face, failed to grasp what lay back of those innocent-looking,
wide-open eyes, whose tiger-golden gleam showed but rarely now.
Vic was easily the most popular fellow in his class, and the year
at Sunrise had worked a marvelous change in him.

"You are a darned smooth citizen," Trench drawled, as he and Burleigh stood
in the shade by the campus gate on the closing day of their freshman year.

A group of girls had been bidding the two good-bye for the summer.
As Elinor Wream, who was the last one of the company, offered her hand
to Vic there was a look of expectancy in her glance which found no response
in his own eyes. As he turned away with indifferent courtesy to Trench,
the big right guard stared hard at him.

"You are a--well, any kind of a smooth citizen, I say," he repeated.

"What's troubling your liver now?" Vic asked.

Trench did not heed the question, but said, slowly:
"And-the-big-noble-hearted-young-fellow-walked-in-and-out-beside-

how-the-touch-of-her-hand-thrilled-his-every-pulse-beat,-and-how-her-smile-was-

the-light-of-his-soul. And-he-grew-handsomer-and-more-beloved-with-the-passing-

manhood--"

A sudden clutch on Trench's arm, the blaze of the old-time fury
in burning eyes, as Vic's hoarse voice cried:

"For God's sake, Trench, get out of my sight!"

"I will," drawled Trench. "The only friend you ever had.
I'll carry my troubles up to Big Chief Funnybone. Like as not he'll
sentence me to tumble you through the chapel door of the south turret
down the `road to perdition.' No use though, you go that road
every day. Better treat me right and tell me all your troubles.
If there is any cool handle to take hold of Gehanna by next
to Funnybone, I'm the one fellow in Sunrise to grab onto it."

But Vic was out of hearing.

And the days of a long, hot Kansas summer, a glorious autumn, and a short,
nippy winter swung by in their appointed seasons. And now the springtime
was unrolling in dainty beauty of tender green leaf, and growing grass,
and warm, sweet air, and trill of song bird. College students philosophize
little in the springtime of their sophomore year. Having learned
all that books can teach, and a little more, they seek other pastime.
Nobody in Sunrise except Dr. Fenneben took the time to remember
how stiff and ungenial Professor Burgess was when he first came West;
nor what an awkward gosling Victor Burleigh was the day he entered Sunrise;
nor that once it could have seemed just a little odd to invite
Dennie Saxon, a poor student, daughter of a half-reformed drunkard,
to the class parties; nor that even Elinor Wream, "Norrie the beloved,"
was not supposed to be engaged to Vincent Burgess. Supposed! And that,
when her senior year was well along, the engagement would be openly
spoken of as now in her sophomore year, it was quietly accepted,
even if Professor Burgess was often Dennie Saxon's escort.
That was because he was such a gentleman. Nor that with all these changes
Trench had remained the same old lazy Trench, the comfortable idol
of the girls, for he was right guard to all of them, and cared for none.
And they never knew till afterward that for all the four years he was
faithful to a little sweetheart out in the sandy Cimarron River country,
to whom he took back clean hands and a pure heart, when he went home
after four years of college life.

None of these things were noted especially, save by Dr. Lloyd Fenneben,
and he wasn't a sophomore nor a professor in love with a pretty girl;
a professor learning for the first time that sympathy has also its
culture value, as well as perfectly translated Horace, and that
the growth of a human soul means something as beautiful as the growth
of a complete conjugation on an old Greek stem from an older Greek root.
Fenneben had learned all this while he was chasing about the Kansas
prairies with a college in his vest pocket.

There were some unchanged things, however, which Fenneben only guessed at.
Victor Burleigh had never apologized to Professor Burgess for his rude attack,
unless a certain strained dignified courtesy be the mark of a tacit apology.
And Burgess could give only cold recognition to the big fellow who had choked
him into submission and had gone unpunished by the college authorities.

Between these two Fenneben guessed there was no change.
But he did not grieve deeply. There must be a personal
phase in this grudge that no third person could handle.
It might be a girl--but the face of the returns indicated otherwise.
Meanwhile the college was doing its perfect work for Burleigh,
whose strength of mind, and self-control, and growing graciousness
of manner betokened the splendid manhood that should rest
on this foundation. While the spirit of the prairie sod,
the benediction of the broad-sweeping air of heaven, and the sturdy,
wholesome life of the sons and daughters of freedom-loving,
broad-spirited men and women--all were giving to Vincent Burgess
a new happiness in his work unlike any pleasure he had
ever known before.

Little Bug Buler, now four years of age, had changed least of all among
changing things about Lagonda Ledge. A sweet-faced, quaint little fellow
he was, with big appealing eyes, a baby lisp to his words, and innocent ways.
He was a sturdy, pudgy, self-reliant youngster, however, who took long rambles
alone and turned up safe at the right moment. All Lagonda Ledge petted him,
even to Burgess, who never forgot the day in the rotunda when Bug's pitying
voice had broken Burleigh's grip on his neck.

Bond Saxon had not changed, nor the white-haired woman of Pigeon Place--
nor the reputation of the ravines and rocky coverts for hiding law breakers
across the Walnut River. And Fenneben noted often the slender blue smoke
rising where nobody had a house.

It was an April day in the Walnut Valley, with all the freshness
of the earth just washed and perfumed by April showers.
The sunshine was pale gold. There was a gray-green filmy light
from budding trees, and the old-time miracle of the grass was wrought
out once more before the eyes of men. The orchards along the Walnut
were faintly pink, and the eggs in the robin's nest, the south winds
purring through the wooded spaces, the odor of far-plowed furrows
on the prairie farms, all gave assurance of the year's gladdest days.
From the Sunrise ledge the beauty of the landscape was exquisite.
There was no haze overhanging the earth now, and the Walnut Valley
was a picture beyond a Master's dream. Victor Burleigh sat
on the top of the flight of steps leading from the lower campus,
looking lazily out with dreamy eyes on all that the earth had to give
on this sweet April afternoon.

Presently Elinor Wream came around the north angle of the building,
hesitated a little, then walked straight to the steps.

"Good afternoon, Victor," she said.

Burleigh looked up, glad then of his months of discipline and
self-control. A sight good for anybody on a day like this was this
college girl with beautiful dark hair and laughing dark eyes,
a satiny pink and white complexion, and a slender form, clad just
now in dainty pink gingham with faint little edgings of white
and pale green, all stylishly put together to reveal rounded arms,
and white neck, and dimpled chin.

"Hello, Elinor," Vic said, calmly, making room for her on the stone steps.
"Take a seat."

Elinor sat down beside him, throwing her hat on the ground.

"Whither away?" Vic asked.

"I'll tell you presently. I want to get over my stage fright first."

"All right, look at this view. I'll give it to you if you like it."
Vic had turned to the west again and was looking away toward the dreamy
prairies beyond the valley.

Elinor recalled the September day when the bull snake lay sunning
itself on this very stone. How shy and awkward he seemed then,
with only a deep sweet voice to attract favorable attention.
And now, big, and graceful, and handsome, and reserved--
any girl might be proud to have his regard. Of course, for herself,
there was Vincent Burgess in the pleasant inevitable sometime.
She gave little thought to that. She was living in the present.
And in the wooing spirit of the April afternoon Elinor was glad
to sit here beside Victor Burleigh.

"What time next month do we have the big baseball game?" she asked.
"The game that is to make Sunrise the champion college in Kansas,
and you our college champion?" Vic's lips suddenly grew gray.

"Friday, the thirteenth--auspicious date!" he answered.
"But I may not play in it. I might fail."

"Oh, we must win this game, anyhow, and you never do fail.
Don't forget the name your mother gave you. Do you remember
when you told me that?"

"A couple of thousand years ago, wasn't it?" Vic asked, smiling down on her.
"If I don't play Sunrise needn't fail, even for Friday, the thirteenth."

"But it will fail without you. You pulled us to victory a year ago
at the Thanksgiving game, and last fall the Sunrise goal line wasn't
crossed the whole season with `Burleigh! Burly! Burlee!' for a slogan.
We must win this year. Then it will be a complete championship:
football, basket-ball, and baseball. We won't do it though unless we
have `Burleigh at the bat'."

A shadow crossed his face and he looked away to where a tiny film of blue
smoke was rising above the rough ledges beyond the river.

"I'm getting over my stage fright now," Elinor said, the pink deepening
on her fair cheek, "and I'll tell you what I want."

"Command me!" he said, gallantly.

"Well, it's awful, and the girls are too mean to live.
But they are getting even with me, they say, for something I
did last fall."

"All right." Vic was waiting, graciously.

"A lot of us have broken some of the rules of the Sorority and it's
decreed that I must go over the route we came home by on the night
of the storm down in the Kickapoo Corral. They are having a `spread'
down there at five o'clock and we are to get there in time for it,
going by the west side of the river, and they'll bring us home.
They said I should ask you to go with me, and if you would n't go
for me to ask Mr. Trench to go. They are too silly for anything."

"Trench was executed for manslaughter at two forty-five today.
It's three o'clock now. Let's go." He lifted her to her feet
and stooped to pick up her hat.

"Do you really mind going with me, Victor?" Elinor asked.

"Do I mind? I've been waiting two years for you to ask me to go."
His voice was very deep and there was a soft light in his brown eyes.

Elinor's pulse beat felt a thrill. A sudden sense of the sweetness of the day
and of a joy unlike any other joy of her life possessed her.

Down on the bridge they stopped to watch the sunlit waters of the Walnut
rippling below them.

"Are we the same two who crept up on this bridge, wet, and muddy and tired,
and scared one stormy October night eighteen months ago?" Elinor asked.

"I've had no reincarnation that I know of," Vic replied.

"I have," Elinor declared, and Vic thought of Burgess.

Up the narrow hidden glen they made their way, clambering about
broken ledges, crossing and recrossing the little stream,
hugging the dry footing under overhanging rock shelves,
laughing at missteps and rejoicing in the springtime joy,
until they came suddenly upon a grassy open space,
cliff-walled and hidden, even from the rest of the glen.
At the farther end was the low doorway-like entrance to the cave.
The song-birds were twittering in the trees above them,
the waters of the little stream gurgled at their feet, the woodsy
odor of growing things was in the air, and all the little glen
was restful and quiet.

"Isn't it beautiful and romantic--and everything nice?"
Elinor cried. "I don't mind this sentence to hard service.
It is worth it. Do you mind the loss of time, Victor?"

"I counted it gain to be here with you, even in the storm and terror.
How can this be loss?" he answered her. His voice was low and musical.

Elinor looked up quickly. And quickly as the thing had come
to Victor Burleigh on the west bluff above the old Kickapoo Corral
two Octobers ago, so to Elinor Wream came the vision of what the love
of such a man would be to the woman who could win it.

"Do you really mean it, Victor? Was n't I a lump of lead?
A dead weight to your strength that night? You have never once
spoken of it."

She looked up with shining eyes and put out her hand.
What could he do but keep it in his own for a moment,
firm-held, as something he would keep forever.

"I have never once forgotten it," he murmured.

The cave by daylight was as the lightning had shown it, a big chamber,
rock-walled, rock-floored, rock-roofed, in the side of the bluff,
but little below the level of the ground and easy of entrance.
It was cool and damp, but, with the daylight through the doorway,
it was merely shadowy inside. In the farther wall yawned
the ragged opening to the black spaces leading off underground.
Through this opening these two had crept once, feeling that
behind the wall somebody was crouching with evil intent.
They peered through the opening now, trying to see the miraculous
way by which they had come into the cave from the rear.
But they stared only into blackness and caught the breath of the damp
underground air with a faint odor of wood smoke somewhere.

"Elinor, it's a good thing we came through here in the night.
It would have been maddening to be forced in here by daylight.
We must have slipped down through a hole somewhere in our
stumbles and hit a passage leading out of here only to the river,
a sort of fire escape by way of the waters. You remember we
couldn't get anywhere on the back track, except to the cliff
above the Walnut. It's all very fine if the escaper gets out
of the river before he reaches Lagonda's whirlpool."

He was leaning far through the opening in the wall, gazing into the darkness
and seeing nothing.

"Somewhere back in there, while I was pawing around that night,
I found something up in a chink that felt like the odd-shaped
little silver pitcher my mother had once--an old family heirloom,
lost or stolen some time ago. I came back and hunted for it later,
but it was winter time and cold as the grave outside and darker
in here, and I couldn't find anything, so I concluded maybe I was
mistaken altogether about its being like that old pitcher of ours.
It was a bad night for `seein' things'; it might have been
for `feelin' things' as well. There's nothing here but damp
air and darkness."

And even while he was speaking close beside the wall, so near
that a hand could have reached him, a man was crouching;
the same man whose cruel eyes had stared through the bushes
at Lloyd Fenneben as he sat by the river before Pigeon Place;
the same man whose eyes had leered at Vic Burleigh in this
same place eighteen months before; the same man whom little
Bug Buler's innocent face had startled as he was about to seize
the money box at the gateway to the Sunrise football field;
and this same man was crouching now to spring at Vic Burleigh's
throat in the darkness.

"It's a good thing a fellow has a guardian angel once in a while,"
Vic said, as he hastily withdrew his head and shoulders.
"We get pretty close to the edge of things sometimes and never
know how near we are to destruction."

"We were pretty close that night," Elinor replied.

"Shall we rest here a little while, or do your savage
sorority sisters require you to do time in so many minutes?"
Vic asked, as they left the cave and came again into the sunlight,
and all the sweetness of the April woodland, and the rugged
beauty of the glen.

"I'm glad to rest," Elinor said, dropping down on a stone.
Her cheeks were blooming from the exercise of the tramp,
and her pretty hair was in disorder.

Far away from the west prairie came the faint note of a child's
voice in song.

"Victor," Elinor said, as they listened, "do you know that the Sunrise
girls envy Bug Buler? They say you would have more time for the girls
if it wasn't for him. What you spend for him you could spend on light
refreshments for them, don't you see?"

"I know I'm a stingy cuss," Vic said, carelessly, but a deeper
red touched his cheek.

"You know you are not," Elinor insisted, "and I've always thought it was a
beautiful thing for a big grown man like you to care for a little orphan boy.
All the girls think so, too."

Burleigh looked down at her gratefully.

"I thought once--in fact, I was told once--that my care for him
was sufficient reason why I should let all the girls alone,
most of all why I should not think of Elinor Wream."

"How strange!" Elinor's face had a womanly expression.
"I've never had a little child to love me. I've been
brought up with only AEneas's small son Ascanius, and other
classical children, on Uncle Joshua's Dead Language book shelves.
I feel sometimes as if I'd been robbed."

"You? I didn't know you had ever wanted anything you did n't get."

Victor had thought all things were due to her and came as duly.
The womanly look on her face now was a revelation to him.
But then he had not dared to study her face for months,
and he did not yet realize what life in Dr. Fenneben's home
must mean to her character-building.

"I'll tell you some time about something I ought to have had,
a sacrifice I was forced to make; but not now, Tell me about Bug."

There was no bitterness in Elinor's tone, yet the idea of her having
the capacity to endure gave her a newer charm to the man beside her.

"I have never known whose child Bug is," he began.
"The way in which he came to me is full of terrible memories,
and it all happened on the blackest day of my life--
the hard life of a lonely boy on a Kansas claim.
That's why I never speak of it and try always to forget it.
I found him by mere accident, helpless and in awful danger.
He was about two years old then and all he could say was `bad man'
and his name, `Bug Buler.' I've wondered if Bug is his name,
or if he could not speak his real name plainly then."

Burleigh paused, and a sense of Elinor's interest brought a thrill
of joy to him.

"Where was he?" she asked.

Vic slowly unfastened his cuff and slipped his coat sleeve up
to his elbow.

"Do you remember that scar?" he asked. "It is not the only one I have.
I fought with death for that baby boy and I shall always carry the scars
of that day. Bug was alone in a lonely little deserted dugout.
Somebody had left him there to perish. He was on a low chair, the only
furniture in the room, and on the earth floor between him and me were
five of the ugliest rattlesnakes that ever coiled for a deadly blow.
Little Bug held out his arms to me, and I'll never forget his baby face--
and--I killed them all and carried him away. It was a dangerous, hard job,
but the boy I saved has been the blessing of my life ever since.
I could not have endured the days that followed without his need for
care and his love and innocence. He's kept me good, Elinor. When I
got back home with him my mother, who had been very sick, was dead,
and our house had been robbed of every valuable by some thief--a wayside
tragedy of western Kansas. That was the day the pitcher was stolen.
A note was left warning me not to follow nor try to find out who had
done the stealing, but I thought I knew anyhow. That's why I killed
that bull snake the first day I came to Sunrise and that's why I must
have looked like a bulldog to you, soft-sheltered Cambridge folks.
Life has been mostly a fist fight for me, but Dr. Fenneben has
taught me that there are other powers beside physical strength.
That the knock-down game doesn't bring the real victory always.
I hope I've learned a little here."

A little! Could this be the big awkward freshman of a September day gone by?
Then college culture is surely worth the cost.

Elinor leaned forward, eagerly.

"Tell me about your father," she said.

"My father lost his life because he dared to tell the truth," Victor replied.

"Oh, glorious!" Elinor cried, earnestly.

"I have always loved my father's memory for his courage,"
Victor continued. "He was a believer in law enforcement and he was
a terror to the bootleggers who carried whisky into our settlement.
A man named Gresh was notorious for selling whisky to the claim holders.
He gave it, Elinor, gave it, to a boy, a widow's son, made him drunk,
robbed him, and left him to freeze to death in a blizzard.
The boy lived long enough to tell my father who did it, and it was his
testimony that helped to convict Gresh and start him to the penitentiary.
He escaped from the sheriff on the way--and, so far as I know,
there's one bad man still at large, a fugitive before the law.
Whisky is the devil's own best tool, whether a man drinks it himself
or gets other people to drink it."

"That's a bad name," Elinor said. "My grandfather adopted a boy
named Gresh, who turned out bad. I think he was killed in a saloon
row in Chicago. Did this Gresh ever trouble you again?"

Burleigh's face was grim as he answered:

"My father was waylaid and murdered with a club by this man.
He escaped afterward into Indian Territory. He left his own name,
Gresh, scrawled on a piece of paper pinned to my father's coat to show
whose revenge was worked out. He was a volcano of human hate--
that man Gresh. After my father's name was written--`The
same club for every Burleigh who ever crosses my path.'
I expect to cross his path some day, and if I ever lay my eyes on
that fiend it will go hard with one of us." The yellow glow burned
again in Victor Burleigh's eyes and his fists clinched involuntarily.
They were silent a while, until the sweetness of the day
and the joy of being together wooed them to happier thoughts.
Then Elinor remembered her disordered hair and, throwing aside
her hat, she deftly put it into place.

"Am I presentable for the supper at the Kickapoo Corral?"
she asked, as she picked up her hat again.

"You suit me," Burleigh replied. "What are the Kickapoo requirements?"

"That Victor Burleigh shall be satisfied," she answered, roguishly.
"Really, that's right. Four girls offered to substitute for me in this
penitential pilgrimage and write some long translations for me beside."

"Four, individually or collectively?" he asked.

"Either way," she answered.

"Why did n't you let them do it?

"Which way?"

"Either way," he replied.

"Would you rather have had the four either way, than me?"
she questioned, with pretty vanity.

"Much rather." His voice was stern.

"Why?" She was stung by the answer.

The glen was all a dreamy gray-green ruggedness of shelving rock
with mossy crevices and ferny nooks. The sunlight filtering through
the young leaves fell about them in a shadow-flecked softness.
There was a crooning song of some bird on its nest, the murmur
of waters rippling down the stony shallows, and a beautiful girl
in a dainty pink dress with her fingers just touching her fluffy
masses of hair.

"Why?"

With the question Elinor looked up and saw why.
Saw in Victor Burleigh's golden-brown eyes a look she had
never read in eyes before; saw the whole face, the rugged,
manly face lighted with a man's overmastering love.
And the joy of it thrilled her soul.

"Do you know why?

He leaned toward her ever so little. And Elinor Wream,
forgetful of the Wream family rank, forgetful of her tacit
consent to Uncle Joshua's wishes, forgetful of Vincent Burgess
and his heritage of culture, beautiful Elinor Wream, with her
starry eyes, and cheeks of peach-blossom pink, put out her hands
to Victor Burleigh, who took them eagerly.

"Let me hold them a minute," he said, softly. "There are sixty
years to remember, but only one hour like this."

Then, forgetful of the world and the demands of the world,
keeping her hands in his, he bent and kissed her,
as from the foundation of the world it was his right to do.
And Love's Young Dream, not bought with pain, as mother love
is bought, nor wrought out with prayer and sacrificial service,
as love for all humanity is won, came again on this April day
to the little, rock-sheltered glen beside the bright waters
of the Walnut, and briefly there rebuilt in rainbow hues the old,
old paradise of joy for these two alone.

And into the new Eden came the new serpent also for to destroy.
Before Elinor and Victor was the sunlit valley. Behind them was the
cave's mouth with its shadowy gloom deepening back to dense darkness.
And creeping stealthily through that blackness, like a serpent warming
its venom and writhing slowly toward the light, a human form was slowly,
stealthily crawling outward, with head upreared and cruel eyes alert.
The brutal face was void of pity, as if the conscience behind it had
long been bound and gagged to human sympathy.

While Burleigh was speaking the caveman had reached the doorway
and reared up just beside it in the shadow. Clutching a
brutal-looking club in his hairy, rough hand, he stood listening
to the story of the murder that had left Victor fatherless.
The face of the listener made clear the need for guardian angels.
One leap, one blow, and Victor Burleigh would carry only one
more scar to his grave.

Suddenly a faint piping voice floated in upon the glen:

Little childwen pwessing near
To the feet of Thwist, the Ting,
Have you neiver doubt nor fear
Or some twibute do you bwing?

And Bug Buler, flushed and splashed, and generally muddy and happy,
came around the fallen ledges and debauched into the grassy sunshiny space
before the cavern. Only a tiny, tumbled-up, joyous child, with no power
in his pudgy little arm; and Victor Burleigh, tall, muscular and agile.
Against this man of tremendous strength the caveman's club was lifted.
But with the sound of the child's voice and the sight of the innocent face
the club fell harmless. A look of fright, deepening to a maniac's terror,
seized the creature, and noiselessly and swiftly as a serpent would escape
he crawled back into the darkness and burrowed deep from the eyes of men.
So strength that day was ruled by weakness.

"I ist followed you, Vic," Bug said, clutching Vic's hand.

"This is n't a safe place to come, Bug. You must n't follow me here."

"Nen you must n't go into is n't safe places, so I won't follow.
Little folks don't know," Bug said, with cunning gravity.

"He is right," Elinor said. "I think we'd better leave now."

They knew that henceforth this spot would be holy ground
for them, but they did not dare to think further than that.
They only wished that the moments would stay, that the sun
would loiter slowly down the afternoon sky.

"I know a way out," Bug declared. Turn, I'll show you."

Then, with a child's sense of direction, he led away from the cave
out to where the deep ravine headed in a rough mass of broken rock.

"Tlimb up that and you're out," Bug declared.

They climbed up to the high level prairie that sweeps westward
from the Walnut bluffs.

"Doodby, folks. I want to Botany wiv urn over there.
I turn wiv Limpy out here."

Bug pointed to a group of students wandering about in search of dogtooth
violets and other botanical plunder from Nature's springtime treasury.
Among the group was Bug's chum, the crippled student.

"Well, stay with them this time, you little wandering Jew," Vic admonished,
nor dreamed how his guardian angel had come to him this day in the guise
of this same little wanderer.

When Victor and Elinor had come at last to the west bluff above
the Walnut River, the late afternoon was already casting long shadows
across the grassy level of the old Kickapoo Corral. And again
the camp fires were glowing where a Sorority "spread" was merrily
in the making.

They must go down soon and join in the hilarity. But a golden half
hour yet hung in the west--and the going down meant the going back
to all that had been.

"Look at the foam on the whirlpool, Elinor. See how deliberately it
swings upstream. Isn't that a most deceiving bit of treachery?"
Vic said as he watched the river.

Elinor looked thoughtfully at the slow-moving water.

"I cannot endure deceit," she said at last. "I like honesty in everything.
I said I would tell you sometime about a sacrifice I was forced to make.
I'll tell you now if you will not speak of what I say."

How delicious to have her confidence in anything.
Vic smiled assent.

"My father had a fortune from my mother. When he died he left
me to the care of my two uncles, and gave all his money to endow
chairs in universities. He thought a woman could marry money,
and that he was doing mankind a service in this endowment.
Maybe he was, but I've always rebelled against being dependent.
I've always wanted my own. Uncle Joshua thinks I am frivolous,
and he has told Uncle Lloyd that it's just my love of spending
and extravagant notions that makes me rebel against conditions.
It is n't. It's the sense of being robbed, as it were.
It was n't right and honest toward me, even in a great cause,
to leave me dependent. Uncle Lloyd would never have done it.
I hope he does n't think I'm as bad as Uncle Joshua does.
You won't mind my telling you this, nor think me ungrateful
to my relatives for their care of me. Nobody quite understands
me but you."

The time had come for them to join the jolly picnic crowd
in the Corral. She would go back to Vincent Burgess in a
little while, and this glorious day would be only a memory.
And yet, down in the pretty glen, Victor had held her hands
and kissed her red lips. And she had been glad down there.
The void in his life seemed blacker than the blackness
behind the cavern.

"Elinor," he asked, suddenly, "are you bound by any promise--
has Professor Burgess--?" He hesitated.

"No," she answered, turning her face away.

"Pardon my rudeness. You know I am not well-bred," he said, gently.

"Victor Burleigh, you ill-bred, of all the gentle, manly fellows
in Sunrise! You know you are not."

A great hope leaped to life now, as Vic recalled the query,
"If Victor Burleigh had his corners knocked off and was sandpapered
down and had money?"--and of Elinor's blushing confession that it
would make a difference she could not help if these things were.
The corners were knocked off now, and Dean Fenneben had gently
but persistently applied the sandpaper. The money must be henceforth
the one condition.

"Elinor." Vic's voice was sweet as low bars of music.

"Oh, Victor, there's something I can't prevent."

She was thinking of Uncle Joshua, whose money had supported
her all these years and of her obligation to heed his wishes.
It was all settled for her now. And all the while Victor was
thinking of his own limited means as the rock that was wrecking
him with her.

For all his life afterward he never forgot the sorrow of that moment.
He looked into Elinor's face, and all the longing, all the heart-hunger
of the days gone by, and of the days to come seemed to lie in those wide-open
eyes shaded by long black lashes.

"Elinor, my father's cruel murder and my mother dying alone were one kind
of grief. My fight with those deadly poison things to rescue little
Bug was another kind. My days of hardship and poverty on the claim,
with only Bug and me in that desolate loneliness, was still another.
But none of these seem a sorrow beside what I must face henceforth.
And yet I have one joy mine now. You did care down in the glen.
May I keep that one gracious joy--mine always?"

"You have always won in every game. You will in this struggle.
Don't forget the name your mother gave you." Her eyes were
luminous with tears. "We must go down to the Corral now.
Tomorrow will make things all right. I shall be proud of you
and your success everywhere, for you will succeed."

"I may not be worthy of victory," he said, sadly.

"You have never been unworthy. Don't be now." She smiled bravely.

They turned from the west prairie and the sunset, and slowly
they passed out of its passing radiance down to the darkening
spaces of the old Kickapoo Corral.

And the day with its gladness and sorrow, whether for loss or gain,
slipped into the shadowy beauty of an April twilight.

CHAPTER IX

GAIN, OR LOSS?

_Ye know how hard an Idol dies, an' what that meant
to me--
E'en take it for a sacrifice, acceptable to Thee_.
--KIPLING
THE ball game on Friday, the thirteenth, was a great event this year.
The Sunrise football eleven had held the championship record with an
uncrossed goal line in the autumn. The basket-ball team had had no
defeat this year. Debating tests had given Sunrise the victory.
That came through Trench and the crippled student. And the state
oratorical struggle repeated the story, a conquest, all the greater
because Victor Burleigh, the athlete, wore also the laurels of oratory.
And why should he not, with that fine presence and magnificent voice?
As Dr. Fenneben listened to his forceful logic he saw clearly the line
for the boy's future, a line, he thought, that could end at last only
in the pulpit.

One more battle to fight now and Lagonda Ledge and the whole
Walnut Valley would go down in history as famous soil.
It was a banner year for Sunrise, and enthusiasm was at
fever pitch, which in college is the only healthy temperature.
In this last battle Sunrise turned again to Victor Burleigh as its
highest hope. Although this was his first game for the season,
he had never failed to bring victory to the Sunrise banners,
and in all his base-ball practice he was as unerring as he was speedy.
And then success was his habit anyhow. So "Burleigh at the bat"
was the slogan now from the summit of the college ridge
to the farthest corners of Lagonda Ledge; and idol worship
were insignificant compared to the adulation poured out on him.
And Burleigh, being young and very human, had all the pleasure
the adoration of a community can bring to its local hero.
For truly, few triumphs in life's later years can be fraught
with half the keen joy these school day victories bring.
And the applause of listening senates means less than good
old comrades' yells.

Vincent Burgess, A.B., Greek Professor from Boston, seemed to
have forgotten entirely about types and geographical breadths
and seclusion for profound research amid barren prairies.
He was faculty member on the Athletic board now and enthusiastic
about all college sports. Sunrise had done this much for him anyhow.
In addition, the young educator was taking on a little roundness,
suggestive of a stout form in middle life.

But Vincent Burgess had not forgotten all of the motives that had pulled
him Kansas-ward, although unknown to Dr. Fenneben, he had already
refused to consider a position higher up in an eastern college.
He was not quite ready to leave the West yet. Of course, not.
Elinor Wream was only half through school and growing more popular
as she was growing more womanly and more beautiful each year.
His salvation lay in keeping on the grounds if he would hold
his claim undisturbed.

Burgess had come to Kansas, he had told Fenneben, in order
to know something of the state where his only sister had lived.
He did not know yet all he wished to know about her life and death here.
Her name was never spoken in his father's presence after she came West,
so great was that father's anger over her leaving the East. And deep
in Vincent's mind he fixed the impression that his daughter had died
as unreconciled to her brother as to her father himself.

This was all his own business, however, and hidden deep,
almost out of sight of himself, was a selfish motive that had
not yet put a visible mark on the surface.

Burgess wanted to marry Norrie Wream, and he wanted her to have all
the good things of life which in her simple rearing had been denied her.
The heritage from his father's estate included certain trust
funds ambiguously bestowed by an eccentric English ancestor
upon someone who had come West not long before his death.
These funds Vincent held by his father's will--to which will Joshua Wream
was witness--on condition that no heir to these funds was living.
If there were such person or persons living--but Burgess knew
there were none. Joshua Wream had made sure of that for him
before he left Cambridge. And yet it might be well to stay
in Kansas for a year or two--much better to settle any possible
difficulty here than to have anything follow him East later.
For Burgess had his eye on Dr. Wream's chair in Harvard when
the old man should give it up. That was a part of the contract
between the two men, the old doctor and the young professor.
Until the night when Bond Saxon forced him to take an unwilling oath,
Burgess had had a comfortable conscience, sure that his financial
future was settled, and confident that this assured him the hand
of Elinor Wream when the time was ripe. With that October night,
however, a weight of anxiety began that increased with the passing days.
For as he grew nearer to the student life and took on flesh and good
will and a broader knowledge of the worth of humanity, so he grew
nearer to this smoothly hidden inner care. And, outside and in,
he wanted to stay in Kansas for the time.

In the weeks before the big ball game, Victor Burleigh seemed to have
forgotten the glen and the west bluff above the Kickapoo Corral. The girls
who would have substituted for Elinor in the afternoon ramble took up much
of the big sophomore's time, and he never seemed more gay nor care free.
And Elinor, if she had a heartache, did not show it in her happy manner.

On the afternoon before the ball game, a May thunderstorm swept
the Walnut Valley and the darkness fell early. As Dennie Saxon
waited on the Sunrise portico before starting out in the rain,
Professor Burgess locked the front door and joined her. Victor Burleigh
was also waiting beside a stone column for the shower to lighten.
Burgess did not see him in the darkening twilight and Burleigh
never spoke to the young instructor when it was not necessary.

"I must be nervous," Professor Burgess said, trying to
manage Dennie's umbrella and catching it in her hair.
"I had a letter today that worried me."

"Too bad!" Dennie said sympathetically.

"I'll tell you all about it sometime."

He was trying to loose the wire rib-joint from Dennie's hair, which the
dampness was rolling in soft little ringlets about her forehead and neck.
Half-consciously, he remembered the same outline of rippling hair,
as it had looked in the glow of the October camp fire down in
the Kickapoo Corral when she was telling the old legend of Swift Elk
and The Fawn of the Morning Light. She smiled up at him consolingly.
Dennie was level-headed, and life was always worth living where she was.

"I'll be your rain beau." He took her arm to assist her down the steps.

So courteous was his action, she might have been a lady
of rank instead of old Bond Saxon's daughter carrying her own
weight of a sorrow greater than Lagonda Ledge dreamed of.
As the two walked slowly homeward under the dripping shelter
of the trees, Vincent Burgess felt a sense of comfort and
pleasure out of all keeping for a man in love elsewhere.
Victor Burleigh watched them from the shadow of the portico column.

"I believe Trench is right. He insists that Burgess likes Dennie,
or that he is mean enough to deceive Dennie into liking him.
A man like that ought to be killed--a scholar, and a rich man,
and Dennie such a brave little poor girl with a kind,
weak-kneed, old father on her heart. Norrie ought to know this,
but who am I to say a word?"

"Victor Burleigh, won't you release the fair princess from the tower?"
a girl's voice called.

Vic turned to see Elinor framed in the half-way window of the south turret.
And in that dripping shadowy light, no frame could want a rarer picture.

"I've fallen into the pit and am far on the road to perdition,"
Elinor said. "I hurried down this way from choir practice
and Uncle Lloyd's gone and left the lower door locked.
It thundered so, and Dennie didn't come into the study,
and nobody heard my screams. But if I perish, I perish,"
she added with mock resignation.

"If you'll let up on perishing for half a minute, Rapunzel, I'll to
the rescue," Vic cried, "if I have to climb the dome and knock
the _per aspera_ out of the State Seal and come down through the hole,
_per astra ad aspera_." And then he rushed off to find an unlocked
exit to the building.

From the Chapel end of the circular stairs, he called presently.

"Curfew must not ring for a couple of seconds.
Rise to the surface, fair mermaid."

Elinor came up the winding stair into the dimly lighted chapel at his call.
The two had avoided each other since the April day in the glen.
They were not to blame for this chance meeting now.

"When you are in trouble and the nights are dark and rainy,
call me, Elinor," Vic said as they were crossing the rotunda.

"If I show you sometimes how to look up and find the light,
as you showed me the Sunrise beacon on the night of the storm out on
West Bluff, you may be glad you heard me. See that glow on the dome!
You would have missed that down in Lagonda Ledge."

A level ray from a momentary cloudrift in the western sky smote
the stained glass of the dome, lighting its gleaming inscription
with a fleeting radiance.

"But the light comes rarely and is so far away, and between times,
only the cave, and the dark ways behind it leading to the river,"
he said gravely. The sorrow of hopelessness was his tone.

"Not unless one chooses to burrow downward," she replied softly.
"Let's hurry home. Tomorrow you will be `Victor the Famous' again.
I hope this shower won't spoil the ball game."

As night deepened, the rain fell steadily. Up in Victor Burleigh's
room Bug Buler grew drowsy early.

"I want to say my pwayers now, Vic," he said.

The big fellow put down his book and took the child in his arms.
Bug had a genius for praying briefly and for others rather than for himself.
Tonight he merely clasped his chubby hands and said, reverently:

"Dear Dod, please ist make Vic dood as folks finks he is,
for Thwist's sake. Amen-n-n."

When he fell asleep, Victor sat a long while staring at
the window where the May rain was beating heavily. At length,
he bent over little Bug and pushed back the curls from his brow.
Bug smiled up drowsily and went on sleeping.

"As good as folks think I am, Bug!" he mused. "You have gotten
between me and the rattlesnakes that were after my soul a good
many times, little brother-of-mine. As good as folks think I am!
Do you know what it costs to be that good?"

Ten minutes later he sat in Lloyd Fenneben's library.

"I have come for help," he said in reply to the Dean's questioning face.

"I hope I can give it," Fenneben responded.

"It's about tomorrow's game. There are sure to be some
professional players on the other team. I want Sunrise to win.
I want to win myself." Vic's voice was harsh tonight.
And the Dean caught the hard tone.

"I want Sunrise to win. I want you to win. There will probably
be some professionals to play against, but we have no way
of proving this," Fenneben said.

"What do you think of such playing, Doctor?" Vic asked.

"I think the rule about professionalism is often a strained piece
of foolishness. It is violated persistently and persistently winked at,
but so long as it is the rule there is only one square thing to do,
and that is to live up to the law. You should not dread any
professionalism in the game tomorrow, however. You'll bring us
through anyhow, and keep the Sunrise name and fame untarnished."
The Dean smiled genially.

Burleigh's face was very pale and a strange fire burned in his eyes.

"Dr. Fenneben"--his musical voice rang clear--"I'm only a poor devil from
the short-grass country where life each year depends on that year's crop.
Three years out of four, the wind and drouth bring only failure at
harvest time. Then we starve our bodies and grip onto hope and determination
with our souls till seedtime comes again. I want a college education.
Last summer burned us out as usual within a month of harvest.
Then the mortgage got in its work on my claim and I had to give it up.
I had barely enough to get through here at pauper rates this year--
but I could n't do it and keep Bug, too. I went into Colorado and played
baseball for pay, so I could come here and bring him with me. That's why

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