Part 3 out of 4
I can out-bat our team, and could win dead easy for Sunrise tomorrow.
Nobody in Kansas knows it. Now, what shall I do?"
The words were shot out like bullets.
"What shall you do?" Lloyd Fenneben's black eyes
held Burleigh. "There is only one thing to do. When you
ranked high in grades with only the trivial matter of excusable
absence against you--no broken law--you took Professor Burgess
gently by the throat and told him you meant to play anyhow.
You stood your ground like a man, for your own sake and for the honor
of Sunrise. Stand like a man for your own sake and the honor
of Sunrise, now. Go to Professor Burgess and take him gently--
by the hand, this time--and tell him you do not mean to play,
and why you cannot."
Burleigh sat still as stone, his face white as marble, his wide-open eyes
under his black brows seeing nothing.
"But our proud record--the glorious honor of this college," he said
at length, and back of his words was the thought of Victor Burleigh,
the idol of Sunrise, dethroned, where he had been adored.
"There is no honor for a college like the honesty of its students.
There is no prouder record than the record of daring to do the right.
You could get into the game once by a brute's strength.
Get out of it now by a gentleman's honor."
Behind the speech was Lloyd Fenneben himself, sympathetic, firm, upright,
before whom the harshness of Victor Burleigh's face slowly gave place
to an expression of sorrow.
"My boy," Fenneben said gently, "Nature gave us the Walnut Valley with
its limestone ledges and fine forest trees. But before our Sunrise
could be builded the ledge had to be shapen into the hewn stone,
the green tree to the seasoned lumber, quarter-sawed oak--
quarter-sawed, mind you. Mill, forge and try-pit, ax and saw
and chisel, with cleft and blow and furnace heat, shaped them
all for Service. Over our doorway is the Sunrise initial.
It stands also for Strife, part of which you know already;
but it stands for Sacrifice as well. You are in the shaping.
God grant you may be turned out a man fitted by Sacrifice
for Service when the shaping is done."
Burleigh rose, silent still, and the two went out together.
At the doorway, he turned to Fenneben, who grasped his hand without
a word. And once again, the firm hand clasp of the Dean of Sunrise
seemed to bind the country boy to the finer things of life.
It had done the same on that day after the Thanksgiving game
when he sat in Fenneben's study, and understood for the first time
what gives the right to pride in brawny arm and steel-spring nerve.
After Burleigh left him, Lloyd Fenneben stood for a long time on his
veranda in the light of the doorway watching the steady downpour
of the warm May rain. As he turned at length to enter the house
a rough-looking man with rain-soaked clothing and slouched hat,
sprang out of the shadows.
"Stranger," he called hastily. "There's a little child fell
in the river round the bend, and his mother got hold of him,
but she can't pull him out, and can't hold on much longer.
Will you come help me, quick? I've only got one arm or I would
n't have had to ask for help."
An empty sleeve was flapping in the rain, and Fenneben did not notice
then that the man kept that side of himself all the time in the shadows.
Fenneben had only one thought as he hurried away in the darkness, to save
the woman and child. His companion said little, directing the course
toward the bend in the river before the gateway of Pigeon Place. As they
pushed on with all speed through rain and mud, Fenneben was hardly
conscious that Dennie Saxon's words about the lonely gray-haired hermit
woman were recurring curiously to his mind.
"If talking about Sunrise made her cry like that, maybe you might do something
for her," Dennie had said. He had never tried to do anything for her.
Somehow she seemed to be the woman who was in peril now, and he was
half-consciously blaming himself that he had never tried to help her,
had not even thought of her for months. Women were not in his line,
except the kindly impersonal interest he felt for all the Sunrise girls,
and his sense of responsibility for Norrie, and the memory of a girl--
oh, the hungry haunting memory!
All this in a semi-conscious fleetness swept across his mind, that was
bent on reaching the river, and on that woman holding a drowning child.
At the bend in the river, the man halted suddenly.
"Look out! There's a stone; don't stumble!" he said hoarsely,
dodging back as he spoke.
Then Fenneben was conscious of his own feet striking the slab of
stone by the roadside, of a sudden shove from somebody behind him,
a two-armed man it must have been, of stumbling blindly,
trying to catch at the elm tree that stood there, of falling through
the underbrush, headforemost, into the river, even of striking
the water. As he fell, he was very faintly conscious of a sense
of pity for Victor Burleigh fighting out a battle with his own
honor tonight, and then he must have heard a dog's fierce yelp,
and a woman's scream. Somehow, it seemed to come through distance
of time, as out of past years, and not through length of space--
and then of a brutal laugh and an oath with the words:
"Now for Josh Wream, and--"
But Fenneben's head had struck the stone ledge against which the Walnut
ripples at low tide, and for a long time he knew no more.
It was raining still when Victor Burleigh reached the Saxon House. At the
door he met Professor Burgess, who was just leaving. Strangely enough,
the memory of their first meeting at the campus gate on a September
day flashed into the mind of each as they came face to face now.
They never spoke to each other except when it was necessary.
And yet tonight, something made them greet each other courteously.
"Professor, will you be kind enough to come up to my room a few minutes?"
Burleigh asked, lifting his cap to his instructor with the words.
"Certainly," Vincent Burgess said with equal grace.
Bug Buler had kicked off the bed covering and lay fast asleep on
his little cot with his stubby arms bare, and his little fat hands,
dimpled in each knuckle, thrown wide apart.
"I saw a picture like this once for the sign of the cross,"
Vic said as he drew the covering over the little form.
"Bug has been a cross to me sometimes, but he's oftener my salvation."
Professor Burgess wondered again, why a boy like Burleigh should have been
given a voice of such rare charm.
"I will not keep you long," Vic said, turning from Bug. "I cannot play
in tomorrow's game, and be a man."
Then, briefly, he explained the reason.
"It is raining still. Take my umbrella," he said at the close of his simply
told story. "But tomorrow's sunshine will dry the field for the game,
all right. Good night."
"Good night," Vincent Burgess said hoarsely, and plunged into the darkness
and the rain.
Ten steps from the Saxon House, he came plump into Bond Saxon,
who staggered a little to avoid him.
"My luck on rainy nights," Vincent thought. "The old fellow's sprees
seem to run with the storms. He hasn't been `off' for a long time."
But Bond Saxon was never more sober in his life, and he clutched
the young man's arm eagerly.
"Professor Burgess, won't you help me!" he cried.
"What do you want to do on a night like this?" Burgess asked,
remembering the vow he had been forced to make, by this same man.
"Come help me save a man's life!" Bond urged.
"Look here, Saxon. You've got some wild notion
out of a boot-legger's bottle. Straighten up now.
It's an infamous thing in a college town like Lagonda Ledge,
where neither a saloon nor a joint would be allowed,
that some imp of Satan should forever be bringing you whisky.
Who does it, anyhow?"
"I'm not drunk and haven't been for six months. Come on, for God's sake,
and help me to save a life, maybe two lives, from the very man that's
done the boot-leggin' and robbin' in this town for months and months."
Saxon's words were convincing enough.
"What can I do?" Burgess asked. "I'm not a policeman."
"Come on! Come on!" Saxon urged, tugging at the professor's arm.
"It 's a life, I tell you."
Vincent yielded unwillingly, the night, the beating rain, the man who
asked it of him, the purpose, his own unfitness--all holding him back.
Before they had gone far, Bond Saxon suddenly exclaimed:
"Say, Professor, do you remember the night I asked you to take care
of Dennie if anything should happen to me?"
"Do YOU remember it?" Burgess responded. "You didn't ask; you demanded."
"I was drunk then. I'm sober now. Burgess, if anything
should happen to me now, would you still be willing?"
Bond Saxon asked in tense anxiety.
"I've already taken oath," Burgess said. "I think your daughter may need
somebody's care before anything happens if you keep up this gait."
They hurried on through the rain until they had left the board walk
and the town lights, and were staggering along the cinder-made path,
when Burgess halted.
"Saxon, who's the man, or two men, you want to save?
I believe you are drunk."
Bond Saxon grasped his arm, and said hoarsely:
"Don't shriek here. We are in danger, now. It's not two men.
It's a man and a woman, maybe. It's Dean Funnybone. Come on!"
THE THIEF IN THE MOUTH
_O, thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no,
name to be known by, let us call thee, devil!_
WHEN Lloyd Fenneben could think again, the waters had receded, the rock
ledge had turned to a pillow under his head, the river bank was a straight
white hospital wall, sunlight and sweet air for the darkness and the rain,
and Norrie Wream was beside him instead of the brutal stranger.
His heavy black hair was shorn away and his head was bound with much
soft cotton stuffs. His left arm was full of prickles, as if the blood
had just resumed circulation.
"And meantime?" he said, looking up at Elinor.
"Yes, meantime, it's June time," Elinor replied.
"Well, and what of Sunrise? Did we--"
"Oh, yes, we did. The college first. The ruling passion,
strong in the hospital. When a Wream gets to kingdom-come,
he always asks Saint Peter first for a mortar board and gown
instead of a crown and wings." Norrie's eyes were shining.
"And he's a little particular about the lining of
the wings, too--Purple, for Law; White, for Letters; Blue,
for Philosophy; Red, for Divinity. Take this quieting powder.
College presidents should be seen and not heard."
She smilingly silenced him.
Under her gentle ministrations, Dr. Fenneben could picture what comfort might
be in store for Vincent Burgess in a day, doubtless only two years away.
He resented Joshua Wream's estimate of Elinor. Surely Joshua had never seen
her in the place of nurse.
"Now, meantime, Uncle Lloyd," Elinor was saying,
"commencement passed off beautifully under Acting-Dean Burgess,
considering how sad and heavy-hearted everybody was.
The trustees want to raise Professor Burgess's salary next year--
he's so competent.
Lloyd Fenneben's eyes were not bandaged, and as he looked at
Elinor he wondered at her utter lack of reserve and sentiment,
when she spoke of Burgess in such a frank, matter-of-fact way.
When he was in love years ago--but times must have changed.
"The arrangements for next year are all looked after.
Everything will be done exactly as you would have it done.
There's not one thing to put a worry into that cotton
round your head."
"Good! Now, tell me of `beforehand.' " His smile was as charming as ever.
"In your fever you've been telling us about a one-armed man
who had two arms to push people into the river, of his wanting you
to save some child's life, and of your stumbling over the stone.
That's all we know about that. Bond Saxon and Professor Burgess
found you in the water at the north bend in the Walnut close to
that hermit woman's house. Either you fell in, or somebody pushed
you down the bank, headforemost, and you struck a ledge of rock."
Elinor's eyes were full of tears now. "You would have been drowned,
if that white-haired woman had n't jumped in and held your head
above water while she clung to the bushes with one hand.
Her dog helped, too, like a real hero. It stood on the bank
and held to her shawl that she had fastened round you to hold you.
And the river was rising so fast, too. It was awful.
I don't know just how it was all managed, Uncle Lloyd,
but it was managed between the woman and her dog at first,
and Professor Burgess and Bond Saxon at last, and you are safe now,
and on the high road, the very elevated tracks, to recovery.
When your fever was the highest, the doctors kept telling me
about your splendid constitution and your temperate life.
You must get well now."
She bent over him and softly caressed his hand.
"Where is that woman now? Dennie Saxon asked me once to do something
for her in her loneliness. She got ahead of my negligence and did
something for me, it seems."
"She left Lagonda Ledge the very day they rushed us up here to the hospital.
Is n't she strange? And she is so gentle and sweet, but so sad.
I never saw such apathetic face as hers, Uncle Lloyd."
"When did you see her?" Fenneben asked.
"She came to ask after you. Nobody thought you would get over it."
Elinor's voice trembled. "The fever was burning you up
and it took three doctors to hold you. I saw her face when
Dennie Saxon said they thought you wouldn't pull through.
Your own sister couldn't have turned whiter, Uncle Lloyd."
"And the one-armed man I seemed to remember?"
"I don't know. I've been too busy to ask many questions.
Lagonda Ledge is in mourning for you. It will run up the flag
above half-mast when I write how much better you are.
Bond Saxon has a theory that some thief wanted to rob you and
decoyed you away on pretense of helping somebody out of the river.
You are an easy mark, Uncle."
"Why should Bond Saxon have a theory? And how did he know where to find me?
And how did that gray-haired woman and her dog happen in on the scene
just then? This is a grim sort of dime novel business, Norrie. Things don't
fall out this way in real life unless there is some reason back of them.
I think I'll bear investigating."
"I think so myself--you or your romantic rescuing squad.
You might call the dog to the witness stand first, for he was
the first on the scene. I forgot though that the dog is dead.
They found him down the river with his throat cut.
The plot thickens." Elinor's frivolous spirit was returning
with the lessening of care.
"Tell me about the ball game," Fenneben said next.
"Oh, it rained for hours and hours, and there wasn't any train service
for Lagonda Ledge for a week, and all the Inter-Collegiate Athletic
events for the season were called off for Sun rise-by-the-Walnut."
"And the students, generally?" Dr. Fenneben questioned.
"Mr. Trench will be back," Elinor exclaimed, "and folks have just
found out that it's old Trench who's keeping that crippled boy
in school, the one they call `Limpy.' Trench rustles jobs for him
and divides his own income for college expenses with the boy
for the rest of the cost. I don't know how the story got out,
but I asked him about it when he was up here to see you.
He just grinned and drawled lazily, `I can save a little on
shoe leather, that some fellows wear out hurrying so, and I
don't burst up so many hats with a swelled head as some do.
So I keep a little extra change on these accounts.
We're going down to Oklahoma when we graduate. Limpy's going
to be a Methodist preacher and I a stockman. I'll keep him in raw
material for converts out of the cowboys I'll have to handle.'
Isn't old Trenchy a hero? He says Dean Funnybone showed him
how to think about somebody else beside Trench a little bit."
"Oh, yes; Trench is a hero and I've known about that whole thing
for a long while," the Dean asserted. "And Victor Burleigh?"
A shadow in the beautiful dark eyes, a half-tone lowering of the voice,
and a general indifference of manner, as Elinor answered:
"I'm sure I don't know anything about him, except that he's coming
back next year."
Dr. Fenneben read the whole story in the words and manner of the answer,
and he smiled grimly as he thought of Burgess and of the conflict of Wream
against Wream if Elinor and his brother Joshua ever came to the clash
of arms. But he was too weak now to direct matters.
And meantime, while Lagonda Ledge was holding its breath in anxiety and dread,
and all the churches were joining in union prayer service for the life
of their beloved Dean Fenneben, and the college year was ending in a halting
between hope and dread--meantime, the same queries of Dr. Fenneben as to
motives were also queries in Professor Burgess' mind.
To the school and the town Dr. Fenneben's recovery was the only thing
asked for. There was as yet no clew regarding the cause of the assault.
Bond Saxon had avoided Burgess since the event, so the young man himself
made occasion to get Bond up into Dr. Fenneben's study one June day
just before commencement.
"Saxon," he said gravely, "you are a man of sense, and you know
that there's something wrong about this Fenneben assault.
You've put up some smooth stories about our happening to be
out at the bend of the river that night, so I guess suspicion
will be turned from us all right when Lagonda Ledge gets time
to think about causes; but I must be let into the truth now."
Burgess was adamant now.
For a little while the old man looked away through the study window
at the prairie empire to be found for the looking.
"Do you see that little twist of blue smoke over west?"
he queried presently.
"What of it?" Burgess asked.
"Nothing, only the man huddlin' down round the fire makin' that smoke way
down where it's cold and dark, that's the man who--say, Professor!"
Old Bond looked up appealingly, and the pitiful face touched Burgess' heart.
"What is it, Saxon? Be frank now, but be fair, too. Sooner or later,
this thing must be run down. Fenneben will do it himself, anyhow, as soon
as he's well enough."
"Professor, I have asked you twice if you'd be good to Dennie--"
"Yes, yes; you always come back to that. Anybody would be good to her,
and she's a capable girl who does n't need anybody's care, anyhow.
Now, go on."
"I will"--it seemed an heroic resolve--"I asked this for Dennie,
because my own life is never safe."
"So you have said. Why not?" Burgess insisted.
There was no way to evade the question now.
"That's my own business--just a little longer," Bond answered slowly.
"One thing more; I want your promise not to tell what I say--yet awhile.
It can't hurt anyone to keep still, and it will help some folks."
"Oh, I'll help you all I can." Burgess's kindly patience now was strangely
unlike the aristocratic, resentful man to whom old Bond Saxon had appealed
one stormy October night.
"I'm a failure, Professor. I've spoiled my life by my infernal
weak will and appetite for whisky. I know it as well as you do.
But I'm not meant for a bad man." There was unspeakable pathos
in Saxon's face and words.
"Nobody would call you bad. You are a lovable man when you--
keep straight," Burgess declared cordially.
"I graduated from the university back in the sixties,"
Bond went on.
"You!" Burgess exclaimed.
"Yes, I'm one of your alumni brothers from Harvard. It takes
more 'n a college diploma to make a man sometimes, although this
would mighty soon get to be a cheap, destructible nation,
if we should pull the colleges out of it. The boys I've seen
Sunrise make into men does an old man's heart good to think about!
But there's more than book-learning in a Master's Degree. There must
be MASTERY in it. I never got farther 'n an A.B., partly because
Nature made me easy going, but mostly because whisky ruined me.
I finally came to Kansas. I'd have had tremens long ago but for that.
But even here a man's got to keep the law inside, or no human law
can prevent his making a beast of himself."
Saxon paused, and the professor waited.
"The man that sets the cussed trap for me is a law breaker,
an escaped convict, and a murderer. That's what drinking did for him;
drinking and injustice in money matters together."
Burgess started and his face grew pale.
"Oh, it's a fact, Professor. There are several roads to ruin.
One by the route I've taken. One may be too much love of money,
of women, or of having your own way. You can ruin your soul by getting
it set on one thing above everything else. Education, for instance,
like the Wreams back there in Cambridge."
"The Wreams!" Burgess exclaimed.
"Yes, old Joshua Wream sold himself to an appetite for musty
old Sanscrit till he'd sacrifice anybody's comfort and joy
for it, same as I sold out to a fool's craving for drink.
You'll know the Wreams sometime as I know 'em now.
Fenneben's only a stepbrother and the West made a man of him.
He was always a gentleman."
"Go on!" Vincent's voice was hardly audible.
"This outlaw, boot-legger, thief, and murderer was a respectable fellow once,
the adopted son of a wealthy family back East, who began by spoiling him,
lavished money on him, and let him have his own way in everything.
He was a gay youngster on the side, given to drinking and fast company.
He fell in love with a pretty girl, but when she found him out,
she cut him. Then he went to the dogs, blaming her because
she had sense enough to throw him over where he belonged.
She fell in love--the right kind of love--with another man.
And this young fool who had no claim on her at all, swore vengeance.
Her family wanted her to marry the young sport because he had money.
They were long on money--her father was, anyhow. But she would
n't do it."
"Did she marry the one she really cared for?" Burgess asked eagerly.
"No; but that's another story. Meantime this fellow's father died,
leaving the boy he, himself, had started on the wrong road,
entirely out of his will. The boy went to the devil--
and he's still there."
Saxon paused and looked once more at the tiny wavering smoke column,
hardly visible now.
"He's over yonder hiding away from the light of day under the bluffs by
the fire that sends that curl of smoke up through the crevices in the rock,
an outlaw thief."
Saxon gazed long at the landscape beyond the Walnut. When he spoke again,
it was with an effort.
"Professor, this outlaw got a hold on me once when I was drunk,
drunk by his making. It would do no good to tell you about that.
You could n't help me, nor harm him. You'll trust me in this?"
A picture of Dennie down in the Kickapoo Corral, with the flickering
firelight on her rippling hair, the weird, shadowy woodland,
and the old Indian legend all came back to the young man now,
though why he could not say.
"I certainly would never bring harm to you nor yours,"
he said kindly.
"I can't inform on the scoundrel. I can only watch him. The woman
he was in love with years ago, who would n't stand for his wild ways--
that's the gray-haired woman at Pigeon Place. Her life's been one
long tragedy, though she is not forty yet."
The anguish on the old man's face was pitiful as he spoke.
"She has a reason of her own for living here, and she is the soul of courage.
On the night of the Fenneben accident, I was out her way--yes, running away
from Bond Saxon. I knew if I stayed in town, I'd get drunk on a bottle
left at my door. So I tore out in the rain and the dark to fight it out
with the devil inside of me. And out at Pigeon Place I run onto this fiend.
When I ordered him back to his hiding place, he vowed he'd get Fenneben
and put him in the river. There's one or two human things about him still.
One is his fear of little children, and one is his love for that woman.
He really did adore her years ago. I tracked home after him, and you know
the rest. He put up some story to the Dean to entice him out there."
He hesitated, then ceased to speak.
"Why the Dean?" Burgess asked.
"Because Lloyd Fenneben's the man she loved years ago, and her folks
wouldn't let her marry," Bond Saxon said sadly.
Burgess felt as if the limestone ridge was giving way beneath him.
"Where is she now?"
She's gone, nobody knows where. I hope to heaven she will never come back,"
the old man replied.
"And it was she who saved Dr. Fenneben's life? Does he know who she is?"
"No, no. She's never let him know, and if she does n't want
him to know, whose business is it to tell him?" Saxon urged.
"I have hung about and protected her when she never knew I was near.
But when I'm drunk, I'm an idiot and my mind is bent against her.
I'd die to save her, and yet I may kill her some day when I don't know it."
Bond Saxon's head was drooping pitifully low.
"But why live in such slavery? Why not tell all you know about this
man and let the law protect a helpless woman?" Burgess urged.
Old Bond Saxon looked up and uttered only one word--"Dennie!"
Vincent Burgess turned away a moment. Dennie! Yes, there was Dennie.
"This woman had a husband, you say?" he asked presently.
Bond Saxon stared straight at him and slowly nodded his head.
"What became of him? Do you know? Vincent questioned.
Saxon leaned forward, and, clutching Vincent Burgess by the arm,
whispered hoarsely, "He's dead. I killed him. But I was drunk
when I did it. And this man knows it and holds me bound,"
_If you were born to honor, show
if put upon you, make the judgment
good that thought you
worthy of it_.
THE SINS OF THE FATHERS
_They enslave their children's children who make
compromise with sin_.
IT was mid-December before Lloyd Fenneben saw Lagonda Ledge again.
In the murderous attempt upon his life, he had been hurled,
head-downward, upon the hidden rock-ledge with such force that
even his strong nervous system could barely overcome the shock.
Hours of unconsciousness were followed by a raging brain fever,
and paralysis, insanity, and death strove together against him.
His final complete recovery was slow, and he was wise enough
to let nature have ample time for rebuilding what had been
so cruelly wrenched out of line. It was this very patience
and willingness to take life calmly, when most men would
have been in a fever of anxiety about neglected business,
that brought Lloyd Fenneben back to Lagonda Ledge in December,
a perfectly well man; and aside from the holiday given in honor
of the event, aside from the display of flags and the big "Welcome"
done in electric lights awaiting him at the railroad station,
where all the portable population of Lagonda Ledge and most of
the Walnut Valley, headed by the Sunrise contingent, en masse,
seemed to be waiting also--aside from the demonstration and general
hilarity and thanksgiving and rejoicing, there seemed no difference
between the Dean of the days that followed and the Dean of
the years before. His black hair was as long and heavy as ever.
His black eyes had lost nothing of their keenness.
His smile was just the same old, genial outbreak of good will,
as he heard the wildly enthusiastic refrain:
Rah for Funnybone!
Rah for Funnybone!
Rah for Funnybone!
_Rah!_ RAH!! RAH!!!
It was twilight when the train pulled up to the station.
The December evening was clear and crisp as southern Kansas Decembers
usually are. The lights of the town were twinkling in the dusk.
Out beyond the river a gorgeous purple and scarlet after-sunset
glow was filling the west with that magnificence of coloring
only the hand of Nature dares to paint.
Several passengers left the train, but the company had eyes only for
the Pullman car where Fenneben was riding. Nobody, except Bond Saxon,
and a cab driver on the edge of the crowd, noticed a gray-haired
woman who alighted so quietly and slipped to the cab so quickly
that she was almost out to Pigeon Place before Fenneben had been able
to clear the platform.
Behind the Dean was his niece, who halted on the car steps while her
uncle went into the outstretched arms of Lagonda Ledge. At sight
of her, the hats went high in air, as she stood there smiling
above the crowd. It was Maytime when she went away.
They had remembered her in dainty Maytime gowns.
They were not prepared for her in her handsome traveling costume
of golden brown, her brown beaver hat, and pretty furs.
A beautiful girl can be so charming in her winter feathers.
She had expected that Burgess would be first to meet her,
and she was ready, she thought, to greet him, becomingly.
But as the porter helped her to the platform, the crowd closed in,
shutting him away momentarily, and a hand caught hers, a big,
strong hand whose clasp, so close and warm, seemed to hold
her hand by right of eternal possession. And Victor Burleigh's
brown eyes full of a joyous light were looking down at her.
It was all such a sweet, shadowy time that nobody crowding
about them could see clearly how Elinor, with shining face,
nestled involuntarily close to his arm for just one instant,
and her low murmured words, "I am glad you were first,"
were lost to all but the big fellow before her, and a bigger,
vastly lazy fellow, Trench, just behind her. It was Trench's
bulk that had blocked the way for the professor a moment before.
Then she was swallowed in the jolly greetings of goodfellowship,
and Vincent Burgess carried her away to the carriage where
her uncle waited.
"The thing is settled now," the young folks thought.
But Dennie Saxon and Trench, who walked home together,
knew that many things were hopelessly unsettled. By the law
of natural fitness, Dennie and Trench should have fallen in love
with each other. They were so alike in goodness of heart.
But such mating of like with like, is rare, and under its ruling
the world would grow so monotonously good, on the one hand,
and bad, on the other, that life would be uninteresting.
During Dr. Fenneben's absence, Professor Burgess was acting-dean.
For a man who, two years before, had never heard of a Jayhawker,
who hoped the barren prairies would furnish seclusion for profound
research in his library, and whose interest in the student body lay
in its material to furnish "types," Dean Burgess, on the outside,
certainly measured up well toward the stature of the real Dean--
broad-minded, beloved "Funnybone."
And as Vincent Burgess grew in breadth of view and human interest,
his popularity increased and his opportunities multiplied.
Sunrise forgot that it had ever regarded him as a walking Greek
textbook in paper binding. Next to Dr. Lloyd Fenneben, his place
at Sunrise would be the hardest to fill now; and withal, sometime in
the near future, there was waiting for him the prettiest girl that
ever climbed the steps from the lower campus to the Sunrise door.
Burgess had never dreamed that life in Kansas could be so full
of pleasure for him.
And all the while, on the inside, another Burgess was growing up
who quarreled daily with this happy outer Burgess. This inner
man it was who held the secret of Bond Saxon's awful crime;
the man who knew the life story of the would-be assassin
of Lloyd Fenneben, and who knew the tragedy that had turned
a fair-faced girl to a gray-haired woman, yet young in years.
He knew the tragedy, but the woman herself he had never seen,
save in the darkness and rain of that awful night when she
had held Lloyd Fenneben's head above the fast rising waters
of the Walnut. He had never even heard her voice, for he had
sustained the limp body of Dr. Fenneben while Saxon helped
the woman from the river and as far as to her own gate.
But these were secret things outside of his own conscience.
Inside of his conscience the real battle was fought and won,
and lost, only to be won and lost over and over. So long
as Elinor Wream was away, he could stay execution on himself.
The same train that brought her home to Lagonda Ledge, brought a
letter to Professor Vincent Burgess, A.B. The letter heading
bore as many of Dr. Joshua Wream's titles as space would permit,
but the cramped, old-fashioned handwriting belonged to a man
of more than fourscore years, and it was signed just "J. R."
Burgess read this letter many times that night after he returned
from dinner at the Fenneben home. And sometimes his fists
were clinched and sometimes his blue eyes were full of tears.
Then he remembered little Bug, who had declared once that
"Don Fonnybone was dood for twoubleness."
"I can't take this to Fenneben," he mused, as he read Joshua Wream's letter
for the tenth time. "Nor can I go to Saxon. He's never sure of himself
and when he's drunk, he reverses himself and turns against his best friends.
And who am I to turn to a man like Bond Saxon for my confidences?"
"What about Elinor?" came a voice from somewhere.
"The woman you would make your wife should be the one to whose
loving sympathy you could turn at any of life's angles,
else that were no real marriage."
"Elinor, of all people in the world, the very last.
She shall never know, never!" So he answered the inward questioner.
Dimly then rose up before him the picture of Victor Burleigh on
the rainy May night when he stood beside little Bug Buler's bed--
Victor Burleigh, with his white, sorrowful face, and burning
brown eyes, telling in a voice like music the reason why he must
renounce athletic honors in Sunrise.
Burgess had been unconsciously exultant over the boy's confession.
It would put the confessor out of reach of any claim to Elinor's friendship
when the truth was known about his poverty and his professional playing.
And yet he had followed Bond Saxon's lead the more willingly that night
that he was hating himself for rejoicing with himself.
On this December night, with Elinor once more in
Lagonda Ledge, Victor Burleigh must come again to trouble him.
What a price that boy must have paid for his honesty!
But he paid it, aye, he paid it! And then the rains put
out the game and nobody knew except Burleigh and himself.
Burgess almost resented the kindness of Fate to the heroic boy.
But all this solved no problems for Vincent Burgess, except the
realization that here was one fellow who had a soul of courage.
Could he confide in Burleigh? Not in a thousand years!
In utter loneliness, Vincent Burgess put out his light and stared
at the window. The street lamps glowed in lonely fashion, for it
was very late, and nobody was abroad. Up on the limestone ridge,
the Sunrise beacon shone bravely. Down in town beside the
campus gate--he could just catch a glimpse of one steady beam.
It was the faithful old lamp in the hallway of the Saxon House,
and beyond that unwavering light was Dennie.
"Dennie! Why have I not thought of her? The only one in the world whom
I can fully trust. That ought to be a man's sweetheart, I suppose,
but she is not mine. She is just Dennie. Heaven bless her!
I've sworn to care for her. She must help me now."
And with the comforting thought, he fell asleep beside the window.
The December sunset was superb in a glory of endless purple
mists and rose-tinted splendor of far-reaching skies.
The evening drops down early at this season and the lights
were gleaming here and there in the town where the shadows fall
soonest before the day's work is finished up in Sunrise.
Victor Burleigh, who had been called to Dr. Fenneben's study,
found only Elinor there, looking out at the radiant beauty
of the sunset sky beyond the homey shadows studded with the
twinkling lights of Lagonda Ledge at the foot of the slope.
The young man hesitated a little before entering. All day
the school had been busy settling affairs for Professor Burgess
and "Norrie, the beloved." Gossip has swift feet and from
surmise to fact is a short course. Twenty-four hours had quite
completely "fixed things" for Elinor Wream and Vincent Burgess,
so far as Sunrise and Lagonda Ledge were able to fix them.
So Burleigh, whose strong face carried no hint of grief,
held back a minute now, before entering the study.
"I beg your pardon, Elinor. Dr. Fenneben sent for me."
Somehow the deep musical voice and her name pronounced as nobody
else ever could pronounce it, and the big manly form and brave face,
all seemed to complete the spell of the sunset hour.
Elinor did not speak, but with a smile made room for him beside
her at the window, and the two looked long at the deepening
grandeur of the heavens and the misty shadows of heliotrope
and silver darkening softly to the twilight below them.
"And God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning
were the fourth day," Victor said at last.
"Your voice grows richer with the passing years, Victor," Elinor said softly.
"I wanted to hear it again the first time I heard you speak out there
one September day."
"It is well to grow rich in something," Victor said,
Before Elinor could say more, they caught sight of Professor Burgess
and Dennie Saxon, leaving the front portico as they had done on the May
evening before the assault on Dr. Fenneben. Burgess and Dennie usually
left the building together this year.
"Is n't Dennie a darling? Elinor said calmly.
"I guess so," he replied. "I don't just know what makes a girl
a darling to another girl. I only know"--he was on thin ice
now--"and I don't even know that very well."
They turned to the landscape again. The whole building was
growing quiet. Footsteps were fading away down the halls.
Doors clicked faintly here and there. Somebody was singing softly
in the basement laboratory, and the sunset sky was exquisitely
lovely above the quiet gray December prairies.
"It is too beautiful to last," Elinor said, turning to the young
man beside her. "The joy of it is too deep for us to hold."
She did not mean to stay a moment longer, for all the scene could be hers
forever in memory--imperishable!--and Victor did not mean to detain her.
But her face as she turned from the window, the hallowed setting
of time and opportunity, and a heart-love hungering through hopeless,
slow-dragging months, all had their own way with him.
He put out his arms to her and she nestled within them,
lifting a face to his own transfigured with love's sweetness.
And he bent and kissed her red lips, holding her close in his arms.
And in the shadowy twilight, with the faintly roseate banners
of the sunset's after-glow trailing through it, for just one minute,
heaven and earth came very near together for these two.
And then they remembered, and Elinor put her hand in Victor's,
who held it in his without a word.
Out in the hall, Trench with soft lazy step had just come to the study door in
time to see and turn away unseen, and slowly pass out of the big front door,
whistling low the while:
My sweetheart lives on the prairies wide
By the sandy Cimarron,
In a day to come she will be my bride,
By the sandy Cimarron.
Out by the big stone pillars of the portico, he looked toward the south turret
and saw Dr. Fenneben as Vic had seen Elinor on the evening of the May storm.
He did not call, but with a twist of the fingers as of unlocking a door,
he dodged back into the building and up to the chapel end of the turret stairs
to release the Dean.
Dr. Fenneben had started down to the study by the same old "road
to perdition" stairs and paused at the window as Dennie and Burgess
were passing out, unconscious of three pairs of eyes on them.
Then the Dean saw down through the half-open study door the two
young people by the window, and he knew he was not needed there.
What that look in his black eyes meant, as he turned to the
half-way window of the turret, it would have been hard to read.
And the picture of a fair-faced girl came back to his own hungry memory.
He was trying to calculate the distance from the turret window
to the ground when Trench wig-wagged a rescue signal.
"You are a brick, Trench," he said, as the upper stairway door swung open
to release him.
"You've the whole chimney," Trench responded, as he swung himself away.
Dr. Fenneben met Elinor in the rotunda.
"Wait a minute, Norrie, and I'll walk home with you."
In the study he met Burleigh, whose stern face was tender with a
pathetic sadness, but there was no embarrassment in his glance.
And Fenneben, being a man himself, knew what power for sacrifice
lay back of those beautiful eyes.
"I can't give him the message I meant to give now. The man
said there was no hurry. A veritable tramp he looked to be.
I hope there is no harm to the boy in it. Why should a girl
like Norrie love the pocketbook, and the things of the pocketbook,
when a heart like Victor Burleigh's calls to her? I know men.
I never shall know women." So he thought. Aloud he said:
"I was detained, Burleigh, and I'll have to see you again.
I have some matters to consider with you soon."
And Burleigh wondered much what "some matters" might be.
When Professor Burgess left Dennie he said, lightly:
"Miss Dennie, I need a little help in my work.
Would you let me call this evening and talk it over with you?
I don't believe anybody else would get hold of it quite so well."
Dennie had supposed this first evening after Elinor's return would
find her lover making use of it. Why should Dennie not feel
a thrill of pleasure that her services out-weighed everything else?
Poor Dennie! She was no flirt, but much association with
Vincent Burgess had given her insight to know that Norrie Wream
would never understand him.
When Burgess returned to the Saxon House later in the evening,
he met Bond Saxon at the door.
"Say, Professor, the devil will be to pay again. That Mrs. Marian is back.
Got here on the same train Funnybone came on. And," lowering his voice,
"he will be over there again," pointing toward the west bluffs. "He'll hound
Funnybone to his doom yet. And she--she'll stand between 'em to the last.
I told you one of the two human traits left in that beast is his fool fondness
for that woman who wouldn't let him set foot on her ground if she knew it.
It's a grim tragedy being played out here with nobody knowing but you and me."
"Saxon, I'm in no mood for all this tonight," Burgess said,
"but for your daughter's sake keep away from the man's bottle now."
"Yes, for Dennie's sake--" Bond looked imploringly at Burgess.
"Yes, yes, I'll do my duty as I promised. But why not do it yourself
toward her? Why not be a man and a father?"
"Me! A criminal! Do you know what that kind of slavery is?"
"Almost," Burgess answered, but the old man did not catch his meaning.
Dennie was waiting in the parlor, a cosy little room but
without the luxurious appointments of Norrie Wream's home.
Yet tonight Dennie seemed beautiful to Burgess, and this quiet
little room, a haven of safety.
"Dennie," he said, plunging into his purpose at once.
"I come to you because I need a friend and you are tempered steel."
Tonight Dennie's gray eyes were dark and shining. The rippling waves
of yellow brown hair gave a sort of Madonna outline to her face,
and there was about her something indefinably pleasant.
"What can I do for you, Professor Burgess?" she asked.
"Listen to me, Dennie, and then advise me."
Was this the acting-dean of Sunrise, a second Fenneben, already declared?
His face was full of pathos, yet even in his feverish grief it seemed a better
face to Dennie than the cold scholarly countenance of two years ago.
"My troubles go back a long way. My father was given to greed.
He sold himself and my sister's happiness and mine for money.
You think your father is a slave, Dennie, because he has a craving
for whisky. Less than half a dozen times a year the demon inside
gets him down."
Dennie looked up with a sorrowful face.
"Yes, but think of what he might do. You don't know what dreadful things
he has done--"
"Yes, I do. He told me himself the very worst. I'll never
betray him, Dennie. His punishment is heavy enough."
Burgess laid his hand on her dimpled hand in token of sincerity.
"But that's only rarely, little girl. My father every day in the year
gave himself to an appetite for money till he cared for nothing else.
My sister, who died believing that I also had turned against her,
was forced to marry a man she did not love because he had money.
I never knew the man she did love. It was a romance of her girlhood.
I was away from home the most of my boyhood years, and she never
mentioned his name after the affair was broken off. All I know is
that she was deceived and made to believe some cruel story against him.
She and her husband came West, where they died. My father never forgave
them for going West, nor permitted me to speak her name to him.
I never knew why until yesterday. My sister's husband had a brother
out here with whom he meant to divide some possessions he had inherited.
That settled him with my father forever. There was no DIVISION
of property in his creed."
Burgess paused. Dennie's interest and sympathy made her silent
company a comfort.
"I was heir to my father's estate, and heir also to some funds
he held in trust. I was a scholar with ambition for honors--
a Master's Degree and a high professional place in a great university.
I trusted my whole life plans to the man who knew my father best--
Dr. Joshua Wream."
Dennie looked up, questioningly.
"Yes, to Elinor's uncle, as unlike Dr. Fenneben as night and day."
"Do not blame me, Dennie, if two men have helped to misshape
my life. My father believed that money is absolute.
Dr. Wream holds scholarly achievement as the greatest life work.
It has been Dr. Fenneben's part to show me the danger and
the power in each."
It was dimly dawning on Burgess that the presence of Dennie,
good, sensible Dennie, was a blessing outside of these
things that could go far toward making life successful.
But he did not grasp it clearly yet.
"Dr. Wream and I made a compact before I came West. It seemed fair to
me then. By its terms I was assured, first, of my right to certain funds
my father held in trust. It was Wream who secured these rights for me.
Second, I was to succeed to his chair in Harvard if I proved worthy
in Sunrise. In return I promised to marry Elinor Wream and to provide
for her comfort and luxury with these trust funds my father and Wream
had somehow been manipulating."
Oh, yes! Dennie was level-headed. And because she did not look
up nor cry out Vincent Burgess did not see nor guess anything.
His life had been a sheltered one. How could he measure Dennie's
life-discipline in self-control and loving bravery?
"Elinor was heavy on Wream's conscience Vincent went on, "because he and
her father, Dr. Nathan Wream, took the fortune to endow colleges and
university chairs that should have been hers from her mother's estate.
You see, Dennie, there was no wrong in the plan. Elinor would
be provided for by me. I would get up in my chosen profession.
Nobody was robbed or defrauded. Joshua Wream's last years would
be peaceful with his conscience at rest regarding Elinor's property.
And, Dennie, who would n't want to marry Elinor Wream?"
"Yes, who wouldn't?" Dennie looked up with a smile.
And if there were tears in her eyes Burgess knew they were born
of Dennie's sweet spirit of sympathy.
"What is wrong, then?" she asked. "Is Elinor unwilling?"
"Elinor and I are bound by promises to each other, although no word has
ever been spoken between us. It is impossible to make any change now.
We are very happy, of course."
"Of course," Dennie echoed.
"I had a letter from Dr. Wream last night. A pitiful letter,
for he's getting near the brink. Dennie--these funds I hold--
I have never quite understood, but I had felt sure there was no
other claimant. There was a clause in the strangely-worded bequest:
`for V. B. and his heirs. Failing in that, to the nearest related
V. B.' It was a thing for lawyers, not Greek professors, to settle,
and I came to be the nearest related V. B., Vincent Burgess, for I
find the money belonged to my sister's husband, and I thought he left
no heirs and I am the nearest related V. B. by marriage, you see?"
"Well?" Dennie's mind was jumping to the end.
"My sister married a Victor Burleigh, who came to Kansas to find
his brother. Both men are dead now. The only one of the two
families living is this brother's son, young Victor Burleigh,
junior in Sunrise College. He knows nothing of his Uncle Victor,
my brother-in-law--nor of money that he might claim.
He belongs to the soil out here. Nobody has any claims on him,
nor has he any ambition for a chair in Harvard, nor any promise
to marry and provide for a beautiful girl who looks upon him
as her future guardian."
Vincent Burgess suddenly ceased speaking and looked at Dennie.
"I cannot break an old man's heart. He implores me not to reveal all this,
but I had to tell somebody, and you are the best friend a man could ever have,
Dennie Saxon, so I come to you," he added presently.
"When did this Dr. Wream find out about Vic?" Dennie asked.
"A month ago. Some strange-looking tramp of a fellow brought
him proofs that are incontestable," Burgess replied.
"And it is for an old man's peace you would keep this secret?"
"For him and for Elinor--and for myself. Don't hate me, Dennie. Elinor looks
upon me as her future husband. I have promised to provide for her with
the comforts denied her by her father, and I have lived in the ambition
of holding that Harvard chair--Oh, it is all a hopeless tangle.
I could never go to Victor Burleigh now. He would not believe that I
had been ignorant of his claim all this time. He was never wrapped up
in the pursuit of a career--Oh, Dennie, Dennie, what shall I do?"
He rose to his feet and Dennie stood up before him.
He gently rested his hands on her shoulders and looked down at her.
"What shall you do?" Dennie repeated, slowly. "Whisky, Money, Ambition--
the appetite that destroys! Vincent Burgess, if you want
to win a Master's Degree, win to the Mastery of Manhood first.
The sins of the fathers, yours and mine, we cannot undo.
But you can be a man."
She had put her dimpled hands on his arms as they stood there,
and the brave courage of her upturned face called back again the rainy
May night, and the face of Victor Burleigh beside Bug Buler's cot,
and his low voice as he said:
"I cannot play in tomorrow's game and be a man."
THE SILVER PITCHER
_A picket frozen on duty--
A mother starved for her brood--
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood.
And millions who, humble and nameless,
The straight hard pathway trod--
Some call it Consecration,
And others call it God_.
--WILLIAM HERBERT CARRUTH
"DR. FENNEBEN, I should like much to dismiss my classes for the afternoon,"
Professor Burgess said to the Dean in his study the next day.
"Very well, Professor, I am afraid you are overworked with
all my duties added to yours here. But you don't look it,"
Fenneben said, smiling.
Burgess was growing almost stalwart in this gracious climate.
"I am very well, Doctor. What a beautiful view this is."
He was looking intently now at the Empire that had failed
to interest him once.
"Yes; it is my inspiration. `Each man's chimney is his golden milestone,'
" Fenneben quoted. "I've watched the smoke from many chimneys up
and down the Walnut Valley during my years here, and later I've hunted
out the people of each hearthstone and made friends with them.
So when I look away from my work here I see friendly tokens of those I
know out there." He waved his hand toward the whole valley.
"And maybe, when they look up here and see the dome by day,
or catch our beacon light by night, they think of `Funnybone,' too.
It is well to live close to the folks of your valley always."
"You are a wonderful man, Doctor," Burgess said.
"There are two `milestones' I've never reached," the Doctor went on.
"One is that place by the bend in the river. See the pigeons rising above
it now. I wonder if that strange white-haired woman ever came back again.
Elinor said she left Lagonda Ledge last summer."
"Where's the other place?" Burgess would change the subject.
"It i's a little shaft of blue smoke from a wood fire
rising above those rocky places across the river.
I've seen it so often, at irregular times, that I've grown
interested in it, but I have missed it since I came back.
It's like losing a friend. Every man has his vagaries.
One of mine is this friendship with the symbols of human homes."
Burgess offered no comment in response. He could not see that
the time had come to tell Fenneben what Bond Saxon had confided
to him about the man below the smoke. So he left the hilltop
and went down to the Saxon House. He wanted to see Dennie,
but found her father instead.
"That woman's left Pigeon Place again," Saxon said. "Went early
this morning. It's freedom for me when I don't have to think of them two.
Thinking of myself is slavery enough."
Burgess loitered aimlessly about the doorway for a while.
It was a mild afternoon, with no hint of winter, nor Christmas
glitter of ice and snow about it. Just a glorious finishing
of an idyllic Kansas autumn rounding out in the beauty of a
sunshiny mid-December day. But to the man who stood there,
waiting for nothing at all, the day was a mockery.
Behind the fine scholarly face a storm was raging and there
was only one friend whom he could trust--Dennie.
"Let's go walking, you and me!"
Bug Buler put up one hand to Burgess, while he clutched
a little red ball in the other. Bug had an irresistible child
voice and child touch, and Burgess yielded to their leading.
He had not realized until now how lonely he was, and Bug was
companionable by intuition and a stanch little stroller.
North of town the river lay glistening between its vine-draped banks.
The two paused at the bend where Fenneben had been hurled almost
to his doom, and Burgess remembered the darkness, and the rain,
and the limp body he had held. He thought Fenneben was dead then,
and even in that moment he had felt a sense of disloyalty to Dennie
as he realized that he must think of Elinor entirely now.
But why not? He had come to Kansas for this very thinking.
It must be his life purpose now.
Today Burgess began to wonder why Elinor must have a life
of ease provided for her and Dennie Saxon ask for nothing.
Why should Joshua Wream's conscience be his burden, too?
Then he hated himself a little more than ever, and duty and manly
honor began their wrestle within him again.
"Let's we go see the pigeons," Bug suggested, tossing his ball
in his hands.
Burgess remembered what Bond had said of the woman's leaving.
There could be no harm in going inside, he thought. The leafless trees and
shrubbery revealed the neat little home that the summer foliage concealed.
Bug ran forward with childish curiosity and tiptoed up to a low window,
dropping his little red ball in his eagerness.
"Oh, tum! tum!" he cried. "Such a pretty picture frame and vase
on the table."
He was nearly five years old now, but in his excitement he still used
baby language, as he pulled eagerly at Vincent Burgess' coat.
"It isn't nice to peep, Bug," Burgess insisted, but he shaded
his eyes and glanced in to please the boy. He did not note
the pretty gilt frame nor the vase beside it on the table.
But the face looking out of that frame made him turn almost as cold
and limp as Fenneben had been when he was dragged from the river.
Catching the little one by the hand he hurried away.
At the gateway he lifted Bug in his arms.
He was not yet at ease with children.
"I dropped my ball," Bug said. "Let me det it."
"Oh, no; I'll get you another one. Don't go back," Burgess urged.
"Do you know it is very rude to look into windows.
Let's never tell anybody we did it; nor ever, ever do it again.
Will you remember?"
"Umph humph! I mean, yes, sir! I won't fornever do it again,
nor tell nobody." Bug buttoned up his lips for a sphinx-like secrecy.
"Nobody but Dennie. And I may fordet it for her."
"Yes, forget it, and we'll go away up the river and see other things.
Bug, what do you say when you want to keep from doing wrong?"
Bug looked up confidingly.
"I ist say, `Dod, be merciless to me, a sinner'."
"Why not merciful, Bug?"
"Tause! If He's merciful it's too easy and I'm no dooder,"
Bug said, wisely.
"Who told you the difference?" Burgess asked.
"Vic. He knows a lot. I wish I had my ball, but let's go up the river."
"Out of the mouths of babes," Burgess murmured and hugged the little
one close to him.
Victor Burleigh was in the little balcony of the dome late
that afternoon fixing a defective wiring. Through the open
windows he could see the skyline in every direction.
The far-reaching gray prairie, overhung by its dome of amethyst
bordered round with opal and rimmed with jasper, seemed in every
blending tint and tone to call him back to Norrie. The west
bluff above the old Kickapoo Corral in the autumn, the glen full
of shadow-flecked light under the tender young April leaves,
the December landscape as it lay beyond Dr. Fenneben's study windows--
these belonged to Elinor. And all of them were blended in this
vision of inexpressible grandeur, unfolded to him now from
the dome's high vantage place.
"Twice Norrie has let me hold her in my arms and kiss her," he mused.
"When I do that the third time it must be when there will be no remorse to
hound me afterward." He looked down the winding Walnut toward the whirlpool.
"I'd rather swim that water than flounder here."
The sound of footsteps on the rotunda stairs made him turn to see
Vincent Burgess just reaching the little balcony of the dome.
"I've come to have a word with you up here," he said.
"We met once before in this rotunda."
"Yes, down there in the arena," Vic replied, recalling how like
a beast he had felt then. "I was a young hyena that day.
Bug Buler came just in time to save both of us.
There is a comfort in feeling we can learn something.
I've needed books and college professors to temper me to courtesy."
It was the only apology Vic had ever offered to Burgess,
who accepted it as all that he deserved.
"We learn more from men than from books sometimes. I've learned from
them how courageous a man may be when the need for sacrifice comes.
Sit down, Burleigh, and let me tell you something."
They sat down on the low seat beside the dome windows. Overhead gleamed
the message of high courage, _Ad Astra Per Aspera_. Below was the artistic
beauty of the rotunda, where the evening shadows were deepening.
"We are higher than we were that other day. We care less for fighting
as we get farther up, maybe," Burgess said, pleasantly.
"The only place to fight a man is in a cave, anyhow," Burleigh replied,
looking at his brawny arms, nor dreaming how prophetic his words might be.
"We don't belong to that class of men now, whatever our far off ancestors
may have been, but we are the sons of our fathers, Burleigh, and it is left
to the living to right the wrongs the dead have begun."
Then, briefly, Vincent Burgess, A.B., Greek Professor from Harvard, told to
Vic Burleigh from a prairie claim out beyond the Walnut, a part of what he had
already told to Dennie Saxon, of the funds withheld from him so long.
Told it in general terms, however, not shielding his father at all,
but giving no hint that the first Victor Burleigh was his own brother-in-law.
And of the compact with Joshua Wream and of Norrie he told nothing.
"Three days ago I did not know that you could be heir to this property,"
he concluded. "I've been interested in books and have left legal matters
to those who controlled them for me."
He rose hastily, for Burleigh, saying nothing, was looking
at him with wide-open brown eyes that seemed to look straight
into his soul.
"I can restore your property to you. I cannot change the past.
You have all the future in which to use it better than my father did,
or I might have done. Goodnight."
He turned away and passed slowly down the rotunda stairs.
When he was gone Victor Burleigh turned to the open window of the dome.
He was not to blame that the beautiful earth under a magnificent December
sunset sky seemed all his own now.
" `If big, handsome Victor Burleigh had his corners knocked off
and was sandpapered down,' " he mused. "Well, what corners I
haven't knocked off myself have been knocked off for me and I've
been sandpapered--Lord, I've been sandpapered down all right.
I'm at home on a carpet now. `And if he had money'."
Vic's face was triumphant. "It has come at last--the money.
And what of Elinor?"
The sacred memories of brief fleeting moments with her told him
"what of Elinor."
"The barriers are down now. It is a glorious old world.
I must hunt up Trench and then--"
He closed the dome window, looked a moment at the brave Kansas motto,
radiant in the sunset light, and then, picking up his tools,
he went downstairs.
"Hello, Trench I he called as he reached the rotunda floor.
I must see you a minute."
"Hello, you Angel-face! Case of necessity. Well, look a minute,"
Trench drawled. "But that's the limit, and twice as long
as I'd care to see you, although, I was hunting you.
Funnybone wants to see you in there."
Victor's eyes were glowing with a golden light as he entered Fenneben's study,
and the Dean noted the wonderful change from the big, awkward fellow
with a bulldog countenance to this self-poised gentleman whose fine face
it was a joy to see.
"I have a message for you, Burleigh. No hurry about it I was told, but I
am called away on important business and I must get it out of my mind.
An odd-looking fellow called at my door on the night I came home and left
a package for you. He said he had tried to find you and failed, that he was
a stranger here, and that you would understand the message inside.
He insisted on not giving this in any hurry, and as my coming home has
brought me a mass of things to consider, I have not been prompt about it."
Fenneben put a small package into Burleigh's hands.
"Examine it here, if you care to. You can fasten the door when you leave.
Goodby!" and he was gone.
Victor sat down and opened the package. Inside was a quaint
little silver pitcher, much ornamented, with the initial B
embossed on the smooth side.
"The lost pitcher--stolen the day my mother died--
and I was warned never to try to find who stole it."
He turned to the light of the west window.
"It is the very thing I found in the cave that night.
The man who took it may have been over there." He glanced
out of the window and saw a thin twist of blue smoke rising
above the ledges across the river.
"Who can have had it all this time, and why return it now?" he questioned.
As he turned the pitcher in his hands a paper fell out.
"The message inside!" He spread out the paper and read "the message inside."
Well for him that Dr. Fenneben had left him alone.
The shining face and eyes aglow changed suddenly to a white,
hard countenance as he read this message inside. It ran:
"Victor Burleigh. First, don't ever try to follow me.
The day you do I'll send you where I sent your father.
No Burleigh can stay near me and live. Now be wise.
"Second. You saved the baby I left in the old dugout.
Before God I never meant to kill it then. The thought of it has
cursed my soul night and day till I found out you had saved him.
"Third. The girl you want to marry--go and marry. Do anything,
good or bad, to destroy Burgess.
"Fourth. The money Burgess had is yours, only because I'm giving it to you.
It belongs to Bug Buler. He couldn't talk plain when you saved him.
He's not Bug Buler; he's Bug Burleigh, son of Victor Burleigh,
heir to V. B.'s money in the law. I've got all the proofs.
You see why you can have that money. Nobody will ever know but me.
Don't hunt for me and I'll never tell. TOM GRESH."
The paper fell from Victor Burleigh's hands. The world, that ten minutes
ago was a rose-hued sunset land, was a dreary midnight waste now.
The one barrier between himself and Elinor had fallen only to rise up again.
Then came Satan into the game. "Nobody knew this but Gresh! Who had
saved Bug's life? Who had cared for him and would always care for him?
Why should Bug, little, loving Bug, come now to spoil his hopes?
If Bug knew he would be first to give it all to his beloved Vic."
And then came Satan's ten strike. "No need to settle things now.
Wait and think it over." And Vic decided in a blind way to think it over.
In the rotunda he met Trench, old Trench, slow of step but
a lightning calculator.
"Where are you going?" he exclaimed, as he saw Vic's face.
"I'm going to the whirlpool before I'm through," Vic said, hoarsely.
Trench caught him in a powerful grip and shoved him to the foot
of the rotunda stairs.
"No,-you re-not-going-to-the-whirlpool,"' he said, slowly.
"You're going up to the top of the dome right against that _Ad Astra
per Aspera_ business up there, and open the west window and look
out at the world the Lord made to heal hurt souls by looking at.
And you are going to stay up there until you have fought the thing
out with yourself, and come down like Moses did with the ten
Commandments cut deep on the tables of your stony old heart.
If you don't, you'll not need to go to old Lagonda's pool.
By the holy saints, I'll take you there myself and plunge you
in just to rid the world of such a fool. You hear me! Now, go on!
And remember in your tussle that that big S cut over the old
Sunrise door out there stands for Service. That's what will make
your name fit you yet, Victor."
Vic slowly climbed up to where an hour ago the sudden opportunity
for the fruition of his young life and hope had been brought to him.
Lost now, unless--Nobody would ever know and Bug could lose nothing.
He opened the west window and looked out at the Walnut Valley,
dim and shadowy now, and the silver prairies beyond it and the gorgeous
crimson tinted sky wherefrom the sun had slipped. And then and there,
with his face to the light, he wrestled with the black Apollyon of his soul.
And every minute the temptation grew to keep the funds "in trust,"
and to keep on caring for the boy he had cared for since babyhood.
He clinched his white teeth and the tiger light was in his eyes again
as the longing for Elinor's love overcame him. He pictured her as only
one sunset ago she had looked up into his eyes, her face transfigured
with love's sweetness, and he wished he might keep that picture forever.
But, somehow, between that face and his own, came the picture of little
Bug alone in the wretched dugout, reaching up baby arms to him for life
and safety; on his baby face a pleading trustfulness.
Victor unbuttoned his cuff and slipped up his sleeve to the scar
on his arm.
"Anybody can see the scar I put there when I cut out the poison,"
he said to himself, at last. "Nobody will see the scar on my soul,
but I'll cut out the poison just the same. I did not save that baby boy
from the rattlesnakes only to let him be crushed by the serpent in me.
Trench was right, the S over the doorway down there stands for
Service as well as for Sacrifice and Strife. Dr. Fenneben says they
all enter into the winning of a Master's Degree. Shall I ever get
mine earned, I wonder?"
He looked once more at the west, all a soft purple,
gray-veiled with misty shadows, save over the place where the sun
went out one shaft of deepest rose hue tipped with golden
flame was cleaving its way toward the darkening zenith.
Then he closed the window and went downstairs and out into
the beautiful December twilight.
In all Kansas in that evening hour no man breathed deeper of the sweet,
pure air, nor walked with firmer stride, than the man who had gone
out under the carved symbol of the college doorway, Victor Burleigh
of the junior class at Sunrise.
Make thyself free of Manhood's guild,
Pull down thy barns and greater build,
Pluck from the sunset's fruit of gold,
Glean from the heavens and ocean old,
From fireside lone and trampling street
Let thy life garner daily wheat,
The epic of a man rehearse,
Be something better than thy verse,
And thou shalt hear the life-blood flow
From farthest stars to grass-blades low.
THE MAN BELOW THE SMOKE
_And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors_.
ELINOR WREAM was standing at the gate as Victor Burleigh came
striding up the street.
"Where are you going so fast, Victor?" she asked. "Everybody is in a
rush this evening. We had a telegram from the East this afternoon.
Uncle Joshua is very ill, and Uncle Lloyd had to get away on short notice.
Old Bond Saxon went by just now, but," lowering her voice, "he was awfully
drunk and slipped along like a snake."
"Have you seen Bug?" Victor asked. "Dennie says he left a little
while ago to find his ball he lost out north this afternoon.
He wouldn't tell where, because he had promised not to."
"No, I have not seen him. But don't be uneasy about Bug. He never plays near
the river, nor the railroad tracks, and he always comes in at the right time,"
Elinor said, comfortingly.
"I know he always has before, but I want to find him, anyhow."
The affectionate tone told Elinor what a loving guardianship
was given to the unknown orphan child.
"There was a man here to see Uncle Lloyd just after he left this evening.
The same man that brought a little package for you the night we came home.
I suppose he comes from your part of the state out West, for he seemed to know
you and Bug. He asked me if Bug ever played along the river and if he was
a shy child. He was a strange-looking man, and I thought he had the cruelest
face I ever saw, but I am no expert on strange faces."
Victor did not wait for another word.
"I must find Bug right away. You can't think what he is to me, Elinor,"
and he hurried away.
At the bend in the Walnut Vic saw Bug's little scarlet stocking
cap beside the flat stone. The twilight was almost gone,
but the glistening river reflected on the torn bushes above
the bank-full stream.
The crushing agony of the first minutes made them seem like hours.
And then the college discipline put in its work.
Vic stopped and reasoned.
"Bug isn't down there. He never goes near the river. That strange man
is Tom Gresh. He killed my father and he's laid a trap for me. He doesn't
want to kill Bug. He wants to keep him to workout vengeance and hate on me.
He says he'll send me to my father if I go near him. Well, I'm going so near
he'll not doubt who I am, and I'll have Bug unharmed if I have to send
Gresh where my father could not go even with water to cool his tongue.
A man may fight with a man as he would fight with a beast to save himself
or something dearer than himself from beastly destruction, Fenneben says.
That's the battle before me now, and it's to the death."
The tiger light was in the yellow eyes as never before and
the stern jaw was set, as Victor Burleigh hurried away.
And this was the man who, such a little while ago, was debating
with himself over the quiet possession of Bug Buler's inheritance.
Truly the Mastery comes very near to such as he.
It was with tiger-like step and instinct, too, that the
young man went leaping up the dark, frost-coated glen.
About the mouth of the cave the blackness was appalling.
It seemed a place apart, cursed with the frown of Nature. Yet in
the April time, the sweetest moments of Vic's young life had
been spent in this very spot that now showed all the difference
between Love and Hate.
As he neared the opening of the cavern he guarded his footsteps
more carefully. The jungle beast was alert within him and the college
training was giving way to the might of muscle backed by a will to win.
A dim light gleamed in the cave and he watched outside now,
as Gresh on the April day had watched him inside.
Down by a wood fire, whose smoke was twisting out through a
crevice overhead somewhere, little Bug was sitting on Tom Gresh's
big coat, the fire lighting up his tangle of red-brown curls.
His big brown eyes looking up at the man crouching by the fire
were eyes of innocent courage, and the expression on the sweet
child-face was impenetrable.
"He's a Burleigh. He's not afraid," Vic thought, exultingly.
"That's half my battle. I had it out with the rattlesnakes.
I'll do better here."
At that moment the outlaw turned toward the door and leaped to his feet
as Vic sprang inside.
Bug started up with outstretched arms.
"Keep out of the way, Bug," Vic cried, as the two men clinched.
And the struggle began. They were evenly matched, and both
had the sinews of giants. The outlaw had the advantage
of an iron strength, hardened by years of out-door life.
But the college that had softened the country boy somewhat gave
in return the quick judgment and superior agility of the trained
power that counts against weight before the battle is over.
But withal, it was terrible. One fighter was a murderer by trade,
his hand steady for the blackest deeds, and here was a man
he had waited long months to destroy. The other fighter was
in the struggle to save a life dear to him, a life that must
vindicate his conscience and preserve his soul's peace.
Across the stone-floored cave they threshed in fury, until at
the farther wall Gresh flung Vic from him against the jagged
rock with a force that cut a gash across the boy's head.
The blood splashed on both men's faces as they renewed the strife.
Then with a quick twist Burleigh threw the outlaw to the floor
and held him in a clutch that weighed him down like a ledge of rock;
and it was pound for pound again.
Away from the mass of burning coals the blackness was horrible.
Beyond that fire Bug sat, silent as the stone wall behind him.
Gresh gained the mastery again, and with a grip on Vic's throat was
about to thrust his head, face downward, into the burning embers.
Vic understood and strove for his own life with a maniac's might,
for he knew that one more wrench would end the thing.
"You first, and then the baby; I'll roast you both," Gresh hissed,
and Vic smelled the heat of the wood flame.
But who had counted on Bug? He had watched this fearful grapple,
motionless and terror-stricken, and now with a child's vision
he saw what Gresh meant to do. Springing up, he caught the heavy
coat on which he had been sitting and flung it on the fire,
smothering the embers and putting the cavern into complete darkness.
Vic gained the vantage by this unlooked for movement and the grip shifted.
The fighters fell to the floor and then began the same kind of struggle
by which Burleigh had out-generaled big, unconquerable Trench one day.
The two had rolled and fought in college combat from the top of the
limestone ridge to the lower campus and landed with Burleigh gripping
Trench helpless to defend further. That battle was friend with friend.
This battle was to the death. The blood of both men smeared the floor as they
tore at each other like wild beasts, and no man could have told which oftenest
had the vantage hold, nor how the strife would end. But it did end soon.
The heavy coat, that had smothered the fire and saved Vic, smoldered a little,
then flared into flame, lighting the whole cave, and throwing out black
and awful shadows of the two fighters. They were close to the hole in the
inner wall now. Gresh's face in that unsteady glare was horrible to see.
He loosed his hold a second, then lunged at Vic with the fury of a mad brute.
And Vic, who had fought the devil in himself to a standstill three hours ago,
now caught the fiend outside of him for a finishing blow, and the strength
of that last struggle was terrific.
Up to this time Vic had not spoken.
"I killed the other snakes. I'll kill you now," he growled, as he held
the outlaw at length in a conquering grip, his knees on Gresh's breast,
his right hand on Gresh's throat.
In that weird light the conqueror's face was only a degree less
brutal than the outlaw's face. And Burleigh meant every word,
for murder was in his heart and in his clutching fingers.
Beneath the weight of his strength Gresh slowly relaxed,
struggling fiercely at first and groping blindly to escape.
Then he began to whine for mercy, but his whining maddened his
conqueror more than his blows had done. For such strife is no
mere wrestling match. Every blow struck against a fellowman is
as the smell of blood to the tiger, feeding a fiendish eagerness
to kill. Beside, Burleigh had ample cause for vengeance.
The creature under his grip was not only a bootlegger through
whose evil influence men took other lives or lost their own;
he had slain one innocent man, Vic's own father, and in the room
where his dead mother lay had robbed Vic's home of every
valuable thing. He had sworn vengeance on all who bore the name
of Burleigh. What fate might await Bug, Vic dared not picture.
One strangling grip now could finish the business forever,
and his clutch tightened, as Gresh lay begging like a coward
for his own worthless life.
"It's a good thing a fellow has a guardian angel once in a while.
We get pretty close to the edge sometimes and never know how near we
are to destruction," Vic had said to Elinor in here on the April day.
It was not Vic's guardian angel, but little Bug whose white face
was thrust between him and his victim, and the touch of a soft
little hand and the pleading child-voice that cried:
"Don't kill him, Vic. He's frough of fighting now.
Don't hurt him no more."
Vic staid his hand at the words. The few minutes of this
mad-beast duel had made him forget the sound of human voices.
He half lifted himself from Gresh's body at Bug's cry. And Bug,
wise beyond his years, quaint-minded little Bug, said, softly:
"Fordive us our debts as we fordive our debtors."
Strange, loving words of the Man of Galilee, spoken on the
mountain-side long, long ago, and echoed now by childish lips
in the dying light of the cavern to these two men, drunk with
brute-lust for human blood! For Vic the words struck like blows.
All the years since his father's death he had waited for this hour.
At last he had met and vanquished the man who had taken his
father's life, and now, exultant in his victory, came this
little child's voice.
The cave darkened. A mist, half blood, half blindness, came before his eyes,
but clear to his ears there sounded the ringing words:
"Vengeance is mine; I will repay!"
It was the voice of Discipline calling to his better judgment,
as Bug's innocent pleading spoke to the finer man within him.
Under his grip Gresh lay motionless, all power of resistance threshed
out of him.
"Are you ready to quit?" Vic questioned, hoarsely, bending over
the almost lifeless form.
The outlaw mumbled assent.
"Then I'll let you live, you miserable wretch, and the courts
will take care of you."
Burleigh himself was faint from strife and loss of blood.
As he relaxed his vigilance the last atom of strength,
the last hope of escape returned to Gresh. He sprang to his feet,
staggered blindly then, quick as a panther, he leaped through
the hole in the farther wall, wriggled swiftly into the blind
crevices of the inner cave, and was gone.
It was Trench who dressed Vic's head that night and shielded him until
his strength returned. But it was Bond Saxon who counseled patience.
"Don't squeal to the sheriff now," he urged. "The scoundrel is gone,
and it would make a nine days' hooray, and nothing would come of it.
He was darned slick to take the time when Funnybone was away."
"Why?" Vic asked.
But Bond would not tell why. And Vic never dreamed how much
cause Bond Saxon had to dread the day when Tom Gresh
should be brought into court, and his own great crime
committed in his drunken hours would demand retribution.
So Lagonda Ledge and Sunrise knew nothing of what had occurred.
Burleigh had no recourse but to wait, while Bug buttoned up
his lips, as he had done for Burgess out at Pigeon Place,
and conveniently "fordot" what he chose not to tell.
But he wandered no more alone about the pretty by-corners
of Lagonda Ledge.
_I dimly guess from blessings known
Of greater out of sight,
And, with the chastened Psalmist, own
His judgments, too, are right.
I know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death
His mercy underlies_.
IT was early spring before Dr. Fenneben returned to
Lagonda Ledge. Everybody thought the new line on his face was put
there by the death of his brother. To those who loved him most--
that is, to all Lagonda Ledge--he was growing handsomer every year,
and even with this new expression his countenance wore a more
kindly grace than ever before.
"Norrie, your uncle was a strange man," Fenneben declared,
as he and Elinor sat in the library on the evening of his return.
"Naturally, I am unlike my stepbrothers, but I have not
even understood them. There were many things I learned
at Joshua's bedside that I never knew of the family before.
There were some things for you to know, but not now."
"I can trust you, Uncle Lloyd, to do just the right thing," Norrie declared.
The new line of sadness deepened in Lloyd Fenneben's face.
"That is a hard thing to do sometimes. Your trust will help me wonderfully,
however," he replied. "My brother in his last hours made urgent requests
of me and pled with me until I pledged my word to carry out his wishes.
Here's where I need your trust most."
Elinor bent over her uncle and softly stroked the heavy black
hair from his forehead.
"Here's where I help you most, then," she said, gently.
"I have some funds, Elinor, to be yours at your graduation--not before.
Believe me, dear girl, I begged of Joshua to let me turn them over to you now,
but he staid obstinate to the last."
"And I don't want a thing different till I get my diploma.
Not even till I get my Master's Degree for that matter,"
Elinor said, playfully.
"And meantime, Norrie, will you just be a college girl and drop all
thought of this marrying business until you are through school?"
Fenneben was hesitating a little now. "A year hence will be time
enough for that."
"Most gladly," Elinor assured him.
"Then that's all for my brother's sake. Now for mine, Norrie,
or for yours, rather, if my little girl has her mind all set
about things after school days, I hope she will not be a flirt.
Sometimes the words and acts cut deeper into other lives than
we ever dream. Norrie, I know this out of the years of my
own lonely life."
Elinor's eyes were dewy with tears and she bent her head until her hair
touched his cheek.
"I'll try to be good `fornever,' as Bug Buler says," she murmured.
Over in the Saxon House on this same evening Vincent Burgess had come
in to see Dennie about some books.
"I took your advice, Dennie," he said. "I have been a man
to the extent of making myself square with Victor Burleigh,
and I've felt like a free man ever since."
The look of joy and pride in Dennie's eyes thrilled him with a keen pleasure.
Her eyes were of such a soft gray and her pretty wavy hair was
so lustrous tonight.
"Dennie, I am going to be even more of a man than you asked me to be."
Dennie did not look up. The pink of her cheek, her long lashes
over her downcast eyes, the sunny curls above her forehead,
all were fair to Vincent Burgess. As he looked at her he began
to understand, blind bat that he had been all this time,
he, Professor Vincent Burgess, A.B., Instructor in Greek
from Harvard University.
"I must be going now. Good-night, Dennie."
He shook hands and hurried away, but to the girl who was earning her college
education there was something in his handclasp, denied before.
The next day there was a settling of affairs at Sunrise,
and the character-building put into Lloyd Fenneben's hand,
as clay for the potter's wheel, seemed to him to be shaping
somewhat to its destined uses.
Again, Vincent Burgess sat in the chair by the west study window,
acting-dean, now seeking neither types, nor geographical breadth,
nor seclusion amid barren prairie lands for profound research
in preparing for a Master's Degree.
With no effort to conceal matters, except the fact that the trust funds
had first belonged to his own sister and brother-in-law, he explained
to Fenneben the line of events connecting him with Victor Burleigh.
"And, Dr. Fenneben, I must speak of a matter I have never
touched upon with you before. It was agreed between Dr. Wream
and myself that I should become his nephew by marriage.
I want to go to Miss Elinor and ask her to release me.
You will pardon my frankness, for I cannot honorably continue
in this relationship since I have restored the property
to Victor Burleigh."
"He thinks she will not care for him now," Fenneben said to himself.
Aloud he said:
"Have you ever spoken directly to Elinor on this matter?"
"N-no. It was an understanding between her and her uncle and between him
and me," Burgess replied.
"Well, I don't pretend to know girls very well, being a confirmed bachelor"--
the Dean's eyes were smiling--"but my advice at this distance is not to ask
Norrie to release you from what she herself has never yet bound you.
I'll vouch for her peace of mind; and your sense of honor is fully
vindicated now. To be equally frank with you, Burgess, now that Norrie
is entirely in my charge, I have put this sort of thing for her absolutely
into the after-commencement years. The best wife is not always the girl
who wears a diamond ring through three or four years of her college life.
I want my niece to be a girl now, not a bride-in-waiting."
As Burgess rose to go his eye caught sight of the pigeons above
the bend in the river.
"By the way, Doctor, have you ever found out anything about the woman
who used to live in that deserted place up north?"
"Nothing yet," Fenneben replied. "But, remember, I have not spent a week--
that is, a sane week--in Lagonda Ledge since the night you, and she,
and Saxon, and the dog saved my life. I shall take up her case soon."
"She is gone away and nobody knows where, Saxon tells me," Burgess said.
"For many reasons I wish we could find her, but she has dropped out of sight."
Lloyd Fenneben wondered at the sorrowful expression on the younger
man's face when he said this.
As he left the study Victor Burleigh came in.
"Sit down, Burleigh. What can I do for you?" Fenneben asked.
Something like his own magnetism of presence was in the young
man before him.
"I want to tell you something," Vic responded.
"Let me tell you something. I knew you had good blood in your veins
even when I saw you kill that bull snake. Burgess has just been in.
He has told me his side of your story. Noble fellow he is to free
himself of a life-long slavery to somebody else's dollars.
However much a man may try to hide the fetters of unlawful gains,
they clank in his own ears till he hates himself. Now Burgess
is a freeman."
"I am glad to hear you say so, Dr. Fenneben. It makes my own
freedom sweeter," Vic declared.
"Yes," Fenneben replied. "Your added means will bring you life's
"I have no added means, Doctor. I have funds in trust for Bug Buler,
and I come to ask you to take his legal guardianship for me."
And then he told his own life story.
"So the heroism shifts to you as well. I can picture the cost
to a man like yourself," the Dean said. "Have you no record
of Bug's father and mother?"
"None but the record given by Dr. Wream. They are dead," Burleigh replied.
"His father may have met the same fate that my father did."
"Why don't you take the guardianship yourself, Burleigh? The boy
is yours in love and blood. He ought to be in law."
Victor Burleigh stood up to his full height, a magnificent product
of Nature's handiwork. But the mind and soul "Dean Funnybone"
had helped to shape.
"I will be honest with you, Dr. Fenneben," Burleigh said,
and his voice was deep and sweetly resonant. "If I keep the money
in charge I may not be proof against the temptation to use it
for myself. As strong as my strong arms are my hates and loves,
and for some reasons I would do almost anything to gain riches.
I might not resist the tempter."
Lloyd Fenneben's black eyes blazed at the words.
"I understand perfectly what you mean, but no woman who exacts this
price is worth the cost." Then, in a gentler tone, he continued:
"Burleigh, will you take my advice? I have always had your
welfare on my heart. Finish your college work first.
Get the best of the classroom, the library, the athletic field,
and the `picnic spread.' Is that the right term?
But fit yourself for manhood before you undertake a man's duties.
Meantime, He who has given you the mastery in the years behind
you is leading you toward the larger places before you,
teaching you all the meanings of Strife, and Sacrifice, and Service
symbolized above our doorway in our proud College initial letter.
The Supremacy is yet to come. Will you follow my counsel?
I'll take care of Bug, and we will keep Burgess out of this
for a while."
Burleigh thought he understood, and the silent hand clasp pledged
the faith of the country boy to the teacher's wishes.
It is only in story books that events leap out as pages are turned,
events that take days on days of real life to compass.
In the swing of one brief year Lagonda Ledge knew little change.
New cement walks were built south almost to the Kickapoo Corral. A new
manufacturing concern had bonds voted for it at an exciting election,
and a squabble for a suitable site was in process. Vincent Burgess
and Victor Burleigh, two strong men, were growing actually chummy,
and Trench declared he was glad they had decided to quit playing
marbles for keeps and hiding each other's caps.
And now the springtime of the year was on the beautiful
Walnut Valley. Elinor and Dennie, Trench, "Limpy," the crippled student,
and Victor Burleigh were all on the home-stretch of their senior year.
One more June Commencement day and Sunrise would know them no more.
Beyond all this there was nothing new at Lagonda Ledge until suddenly
the white-haired woman was up at Pigeon Place, again, a fact known
only to old Bond Saxon and little Bug, who saw her leave the train.
The little blue smoke-twist was again rising lazily in the warm
May air, and somebody was systematically robbing houses in town,
and Bond Saxon was often drunk and hiding away from sight.
A May storm sent the Walnut booming down the valley, bank full, cutting off
traffic at the town bridge, but the days that followed were a joy.
A tenderly green world it was now, all blossom-decked, and blown
across by the gentle May zephyrs, with nothing harsh nor cruel in it,
unless the rushing river down below the shallows might seem so.