Part 2 out of 5
quite charming in your early thirties."
"That's kind of you, I'm sure; but I don't believe that I was ever
'charming' at _any_ age. I think you've used that word once too often.
I was a quiet, studious lad, with nice notions, but possibly something of a
prig. I was less 'charming' than correct. The young ladies had the greatest
confidence in me,--not one of them was ever 'afraid'."
"Why, how horrid! How utterly unsatisfactory! Nor their mothers?"
"No. And I'm still single, as you're advised. And I'm not sure that the
young gentlemen cared much more for me. If I had had a little more 'gimp'
and _verve_, I might have equalled the particular young gentleman of
whom we have been discoursing. But...."
His obviously artificial style of speech concealed, as she guessed, some
"Oh, if you insist on disparaging yourself...!"
"I was quite as coolly correct as I apprehend him to be; and if I could
only have contrived to compass the charming, as well, who knows what----?"
"You don't like my word. Is there a better, a more suitable?"
"No. You have the _mot juste_."
He threw a finger through the wide pane of glass. "Is that the sort of
thing you are after? Those boxes of pale gray are rather good."
"I never buy from the show-window. Come in, and help me choose."
"I love to shop," he said, in a mock ecstasy. "With others," he added. "I
like to follow money in--and to contribute taste and experience."
Over the stationer's counter she said:
"Save Sunday. We are going out to the sand-hills."
"Thank you. Very well. Most glad to."
"And you are to bring him."
"Why, I've given him six hours within two or three days. And now you're
asking me to give him sixteen."
"Sixteen--or more. But you're not giving them to him. You're giving them to
all of us. You're giving them to me. The day is likely to be fine and
settled, and I'd recommend your catching the 8:30 train. I shall have my
full load in the car. And more, if I have to take along Helga. Try to reach
us by one, or a quarter past."
Mrs. Phillips had lately taken on a house among the sand dunes beyond the
state line. This singular region had recently acquired so wide a reputation
for utter neglect and desolation that--despite its distance from town,
whether in miles or in hours--no one could quite afford to ignore it.
Picnics, pageants, encampments and excursions all united in proclaiming its
remoteness, its silence, its vacuity. Along the rim of ragged slopes which
put a term to the hundreds of miles of water that spread from the north,
people tramped, bathed, canoed, motored and week-ended. Within a few
seasons Duneland had acquired as great a reputation for "prahlerische
Dunkelheit"--for ostentatious obscurity--as ever was enjoyed even by
Schiller's Wallenstein. "Lovers of Nature" and "Friends of the Landscape"
moved through its distant and inaccessible purlieus in squads and cohorts.
Everybody had to spend there at least one Sunday in the summer season.
There were enthusiasts whose interest ran from March to November. There
were fanatics who insisted on trips thitherward in January. And there were
one or two super-fanatics--ranking ahead even of the fishermen and the
sand-diggers--who clung to that weird and changing region the whole year
Medora Phillips' house was several miles beyond the worst of the hurly-
burly. There were no tents in sight, even in August. Nor was the honk of
the motor-horn heard even during the most tumultuous Sundays. The spot was
harder to reach than most others along the twenty miles of nicked and
ragged brim which helped enclose the wide blue area of the Big Water, but
was better worth while when you got there. Her little tract lay beyond the
more prosaic reaches that were furnished chiefly in the light green of
deciduous trees; it was part of a long stretch thickly set for miles with
the dark and sombre green of pines. Our nature-lover had taken, the year
before, a neglected and dilapidated old farmhouse and had made it into what
her friends and habitues liked to call a bungalow. The house had been put
up--in the rustic spirit which ignores all considerations of landscape and
outlook--behind a well-treed dune which allowed but the merest glimpse of
the lake; however, a walk of six or eight minutes led down to the beach,
and in the late afternoon the sun came with grand effect across the gilded
water and through the tall pine-trunks which bordered the zig-zag path.
Medora had added a sleeping porch, a dining-porch and a lean-to for the
car; and she entertained there through the summer lavishly, even if
intermittently and casually.
"No place in the world like it!" she would declare enthusiastically to the
yet inexperienced and therefore the still unconverted. "The spring arrives
weeks ahead of our spring in town, and the fall lingers on for weeks after.
Come to our shore, where the fauna and flora of the whole country meet in
one. All the wild birds pass in their migrations; and the flowers!" Then
she would expatiate on the trailing arbutus in April, and the vast sheets
of pale blue lupines in early June, and the yellow, sunlike blossoms of the
prickly-pear in July, and the red glories of painter's-brush and
bittersweet and sumach in September. "No wonder," she would say, "that they
have to distribute handbills on the excursion-trains asking people to leave
the flowers alone!"
"How shocking!" Cope had cried, with his resonant laugh, when this phase of
the situation was brought to his attention. "Are the automobile people any
Randolph had told him of some of the other drawbacks involved in the
excursion. "It's a long way to go, even when you pass up the trolley and
make a single big bolt by train. And it leads through an industrial region
that is mighty unprepossessing--little beauty until almost the end. And
even when you get there, it may all seem a slight and simple affair for the
time and trouble taken--unless you really like Nature. And lastly," he
said, with a sidelong glance at Cope, "you may find yourself, as the day
wears on, getting a little too much of my company."
"Oh, I hope that doesn't mean," returned Cope, with another ingenuous
unchaining of his native resonance, "that you are afraid of getting a
little too much of mine! I'm fond of novelty, and nobody can frighten me."
"If that's the case, let's get away as early in the day as we can.
Breakfasts, of course, are late in every household on Sunday. So let's meet
at the Maroon-and-Purple Tavern at seven-thirty, and make a flying start at
Sunday morning came clear and calm and warm to the town,--a belated
September day, or possibly an early intimation of Indian summer,--and it
promised to be even more delightful in the favored region toward which our
friends were journeying. After they had cleared many miles of foundries and
railroad crossings, and had paralleled for a last half-hour a distant
succession of sandhills, wooded or glistening white, they were set down at
a small group of farmhouses, with a varied walk of five miles before them.
Half a mile through a shaded country lane; another half-mile along a path
that led across low, damp ground through thickets of hazel and brier; a
third half-mile over a light soil, increasingly sandy, beneath oaks and
lindens and pines which cloaked the outlines of the slopes ahead; and
finally a great mound of pure sand that slanted up into a blue sky and made
its own horizon.
"We've taken things easy," said Randolph, who had been that way before,
"and I hope we have enough breath left for our job. There it lies, right in
front of us."
"No favor asked here," declared Cope. He gave a sly, sidewise glance, as if
to ask how the other might stand as to leg-muscles and wind.
"Up we go," said Randolph.
_COPE ON THE EDGE OF THINGS_
The adventurer in Duneland hardly knows, as he works his way through one of
the infrequent "blow-outs," whether to thank Nature for her aid or to tax
her with her cruelty. She offers few other means of reaching the water save
for these nicks in the edges of the great cup; yet it is possible enough to
view her as a careless and reckless handmaiden busily devastating the
cosmical china-closet. The "blow-out" is a tragedy, and the cause of
further tragedy. The north winds, in the impetus gathered through a long,
unimpeded flight over three hundred miles of water, ceaselessly try and
test the sandy bulwarks for a slightest opening. The flaw once found, the
work of devastation and desolation begins; and, once begun, it continues
without cessation. Every hurricane cuts a wider and deeper gash, fills the
air with clouds of loose sand, and gives sinister addition to the white
shifting heaps and fields that steal slowly yet unrelentingly over the
green hinterland of forest which lies below the southern slopes. Trees yet
to die stand in passive bands at their feet; the stark, black trunks of
trees long dead rise here and there in spots where the sand-glacier has
done its work of ruin and passed on.
After some moments of scrambling and panting our two travelers gained the
divide. Below them sloped a great amphitheatre of sand, falling in
irregular gradations; and at the foot of all lay the lake, calmly azure,
with its horizon, whether near or far for it was almost impossible to say--
mystically vague. On either hand rose other hills of sand, set with sparse
pines and covered, in patches, with growths of wild grape, the fruit half
ripened. Within the amphitheatre, at various levels, rose grimly a few
stumps and shreds of cedars long dead and long indifferent to the future
ravages of the enemy. The whole scene was, to-day, plausibly gentle and
inert. It was indeed a bridal of earth and sky, with the self-contained
approval of the blue deep and no counter-assertion from any demon wind.
"So far, so good," said Randolph, taking off his hat, wiping his forehead,
and breathing just a little harder than he liked. "The rest of our course
is plain: down those slopes, and then a couple of miles along the shore.
Easy walking, that; a mere promenade on a boulevard."
Cope stood on the height, and tossed his bare head like a tireless young
colt. The sun fell bright on his mane of yellow hair. He took in a deep
breath. "It's good!" he declared. "It's great! And the water looks better
yet. Shall we make it in a rush?"
He began to plunge down the long, broken sand-slope. Each step was worth
ten. Randolph followed--with judgment. He would not seem young enough to be
a competitor, nor yet old enough to be a drag. On the shore he wiped and
panted a little more--but not to the point of embarrassment, and still less
to the point of mortification. After all, he was keeping up pretty well.
At the bottom Cope, with his shoes full of sand, turned round and looked up
the slope down which his companion was coming. He waved his arms. "It's
almost as fine from here!" he cried.
The beach, once gained, was in sight both ways for miles. Not a human
habitation was visible, nor a human being. Two or three gulls flew a little
out from shore, and the tracks of a sandpiper led from the wet shingle to
the first fringe of sandgrass higher up.
"Where are the crowds?" asked Cope, with a sonorous shout.
"Miles behind," replied Randolph. "We haven't come this long distance to
meet them after all. Besides," he continued, looking at his watch, "this is
not the time of day for them. At twelve-fifteen people are not strolling or
tramping; they're thinking of their dinner. We have a full hour or more for
making less than two easy miles before we reach _ours_."
"No need to hurry, then."
The beach, at its edge, was firm, and they strolled on for half a mile and
cooled off as they went. The air was mild; the noonday sun was warm; both
of them had taken off their coats.
They sat down under a clump of basswoods, the only trees beyond the foot of
the sand-slope, and looked at the water.
"It's like a big, useless bathtub," observed Randolph.
"Not so much useless as unused."
"Yes, I suppose the season _is_ as good as over,--though this end of
the lake stays warm longer than most other parts."
"It isn't so much the warmth of the water," remarked Cope sententiously.
"It's more the warmth of the air."
"Well, the air seems warm enough. After all, the air and the sun are about
the best part of a swim. Do you want to go in?"
Cope rose, walked to the edge of the water, and put in a finger or two.
"Well, it might be warmer; but, as I say...."
"We could try a ten-minute dip. That would get us to our dinner in good
time and in good trim."
"All right. Let's, then."
"Only, you'll have to do most of the swimming," said Randolph. "My few
small feats are all accomplished pretty close to shore."
"Never mind. Company's the thing. A fellow finds it rather slow, going in
Cope whisked off his clothes with incredible rapidity and piled them--or
flung them--under the basswoods: the suddenly resuscitated technique of the
small-town lad who could take avail of any pond or any quiet stretch of
river on the spur of the moment. He waded in quickly up to his waist, and
then took an intrepid header. His lithe young legs and arms threw
themselves about hither and yon. After a moment or two he got on his feet
and made his way back across a yard of fine shingle to the sand itself. He
was sputtering and gasping, and the long yellow hair, which usually lay in
a flat clean sweep from forehead to occiput, now sprawled in a grotesque
pattern round his temples.
"B-r-r! It _is_ cold, sure enough. But jump in. The air will be all
right. I'll be back with you in a moment."
Randolph advanced to the edge, and felt in turn. It _was_ cold. But he
meant to manage it here, just as he had managed with the sand-slopes.
Two heads bobbed on the water where but one had bobbed before.
Ceremonially, at least, the rite was complete.
"It's never so cold the second time," declared Cope encouragingly. "One dip
doesn't make a swim, any more than one swallow--"
He flashed his soles in the sunlight and was once again immersed, gulping,
in a maelstrom of his own making.
"Twice, to oblige you," said Randolph. "But no more. I'll leave the rest to
the sun and the air."
Cope, out again, ran up and down the sands for a hundred feet or so. "I
know something better than this," he declared presently. He threw himself
down and rolled himself in the abundance of fine, dry, clean sand.
"An arenaceous ulster--speaking etymologically," he said. He came back to
the clump of basswoods near which Randolph was sitting on a short length of
drift wood, with his back to the sun, and sat down beside him.
"You're welcome to it," said Randolph, laughing; "but how are you going to
get it off? By another dip? Certainly not by the slow process of time. We
have some moments to spare, but hardly enough for that. Meanwhile...."
He picked up a handful of sand and applied it to a bare shoulder-blade
which somehow had failed to get its share of protection.
"Thanks," said Cope: "the right thing done for Polynices. Yes, I shall take
one final dip and dry myself on my handkerchief."
"I shall dry by the other process, and so shall be able to spare you mine."
"How much time have we yet?"
Randolph reached for his trousers, as they hung on a lower branch of one of
the basswoods. "Oh, a good three-quarters of an hour."
"That's time enough, and to spare. I wonder whom we're going to meet."
"There's a 'usual crowd': the three young ladies, commonly; one or two
young men who understand how to tinker the oil-stove--which usually needs
it--and how to prime the pump. They once asked me to do these things; but
I've discovered that younger men enjoy it more than I do, so I let them do
it. Besides these, a number of miscellaneous people, perhaps, who come out
by trolley or in their own cars."
"The young ladies always come?" asked Cope, brushing the sand from his
"Usually. Together. The Graces. Otherwise, what becomes of the Group?"
"Well, I hope there'll be enough fellows to look after the stove and the
pump--and them. I'm not much good at that last."
"There's a knack about it--a technique--that I don't seem to possess. Nor
do I seem greatly prompted to learn it."
"Of course, there is no more reason for assuming that every man will make a
good lover than that every woman will make a good mother or a good
"Or that every adult male will make a good citizen, desiring the general
welfare and bestirring himself to contribute his own share to it. I don't
feel that I'm an especially creditable one."
"So it runs. We ground our general life on theories, and then the facts
come up and slap us in the face." Randolph rose and relieved the basswood
of the first garments. "Are you about ready for that final dip?"
Cope made his last plunge and returned red and shivering to use the two
"Well, we have thirty minutes," said Randolph, as they resumed their march.
On the one hand the ragged line of dunes with their draping, dense or
slight, of pines, lindens and oaks; on the other the unruffled expanse of
blue, spreading toward a horizon even less determinate than before.
"No, I'm not at all apt," said Cope, returning to his theme; "not even for
self-defense. I suppose I'm pretty sure to get caught some time or other."
"Each woman according to her powers and gifts. Varying degrees of desire,
of determination, of dexterity. To be just, I might add a fourth _d_--
"You've run the gauntlet," said Cope. "You seem to have come through all
"Well," Randolph returned deprecatingly, "I can't really claim ever to have
enlisted any woman's best endeavors."
"I hope I shall have the same good luck. Of your four _d_'s, it's the
dexterity that gives me the most dread."
"Yes, the appeal (not always honest) to chivalry,--though devotion is
sometimes a close second. You're manoeuvred into a position where you're
made to think you 'must.' I've known chaps to marry on that basis.... It's
weary waiting until Madame dies and Madonna steps into her place."
"Meanwhile, safety in numbers."
"Yes, even though you're in the very midst of wishing or of wondering--or
of a careful concern to cloak either."
"Don't dwell on it! You fill me with apprehensions."
Randolph put up his arm and pointed. A roof through a notch between two
sandhills beyond a long range of them, was seen, set high and half hidden
by the spreading limbs of pines. "There it is," he said.
"So close, already?" Such, indeed, it appeared.
"Not so close as it seems. We may just as well step lively."
Cope, with an abundance of free action, was treading along on the very edge
of things, careless of the rough shingle and indifferent to the probability
of wet feet, and swinging his hat as he went. In some such spirit, perhaps,
advanced young Stoutheart to the ogre's castle. He even began to foot it a
"Well, I can keep up with you yet," thought Randolph. Aloud, he said:
"You've done very well with your hair. Quite an inspiration to have carried
"I trust I'm free to comb myself on Sunday. There are plenty of others to
do it for me through the week."
_COPE AT HIS HOUSE PARTY_
"You look as fit as two fiddles," said Medora Phillips, at the top of her
"We are," declared Randolph. "Have the rest of the orchestra arrived?"
"Most of us are here, and the rest will arrive presently. Listen. I think I
hear a honk somewhere back in the woods."
The big room of the house, made by knocking two small rooms together,
seemed fairly full already, and other guests were on the back porch. The
Graces were there, putting the finishing-touches to the table--Helga had
not come, after all, but had gone instead, with her young man, to spend a
few sunny afternoon hours among the films. And one of the young business-
men present at Mrs. Phillips' dinner was present here; he seemed to know
how to handle the oil-stove and the pump (with the cooperation of the
chauffeur), and how to aid the three handmaidens in putting on the knives,
forks, plates and napkins that Helga had decided to ignore. The people in
the distant motor-car became less distant; soon they stopped in a clearing
at the foot of the hill, and before long they appeared at the top with a
small hamper of provisions.
"Oh, why didn't you ask _us_ to bring something!" cried Cope. Randolph
shrugged his shoulders: he saw himself lugging a basket of eatables through
five miles of sand and thicket.
"You've brought yourself," declared Mrs. Phillips genially. "That's
There was room for the whole dozen on the dining-porch. The favored few in
one corner of it could glimpse the blue plane of the lake, or at least
catch the horizon; the rest could look over the treetops toward the
changing colors of the wide marshes inland. And when the feast was over,
the chauffeur took his refreshment off to one side, and then amiably lent a
hand with the dishes.
"Let me help wipe," cried Cope impulsively.
"There are plenty of hands to help," returned his hostess. She seemed to be
putting him on a higher plane and saving him for better things.
One of the better things was a stroll over her tumultuous domain: the five
miles he had already covered were not enough.
"I'll stay where I am," declared Randolph, who had taken this regulation
jaunt before. He followed Cope to the hook from which he was taking down
his hat. "Admire everything," he counselled in a whisper.
"Adjust yourself to our dominant mood without delay or reluctance. Praise
promptly and fully everything that is ours."
The party consisted of four or five of the younger people and two or three
of the older. Most of them had taken the walk before; Cope, as a novice,
became the especial care of Mrs. Phillips herself. The way led sandily
along the crest of a wooded amphitheatre, with less stress on the prospect
waterward than might have been expected. Cope was not allowed, indeed, to
overlook the vague horizon where, through the pine groves, the blue of sky
and of sea blended into one; but, under Medora Phillips' guidance, his eyes
were mostly turned inland.
"People think," she said, "that 'the Dunes' means nothing beyond a regular
row of sandhills following the edge of the water; yet half the interest and
three-quarters of the variety are to be found in behind them. See my wide
marsh, off to the southeast, with those islands of tamarack here and there,
and imagine how beautiful the shadows are toward sunset. Look at that thick
wood at the foot of the slope: do you think it is flat? No, it's as humpy
and hilly as anything ever traversed. Only this spring a fascinating
murderer hid there for weeks, and last January we could hear the howls of
timber-wolves driven down from Michigan by the cold. And see those tall
dead pines rising above it all. I call them the Three Witches. You'll get
them better just a few paces to the left. This way." She even placed her
hand on his elbow to make sure that her tragic group should appear to
highest advantage. Yes, he was an admirable young man, giving admirable
attention; thrusting out his hat toward prospects of exceptional account
and casting his frank blue eyes into her face between-times. Charmingly
perfect teeth and a wonderful sweep of yellow hair. A highly civilized faun
for her highly sylvan setting. Indifferent, perhaps, to her precious Trio;
but there were other young fellows to look after _them_.
Cope praised loudly and readily. The region was unique and every view had
its charm--every view save one. Beyond the woods and the hills and the
distant marshes which spread behind all these, there rose on the bluish
horizon a sole tall chimney, with its long black streak of smoke. Below it
and about it spread a vast rectangular structure with watch-towers at its
corners. The chimney bespoke light and heat and power furnished in
quantities--power for many shops, manned by compulsory workers: a prison,
"Why, what's that?" asked Cope tactlessly.
Medora Phillips withheld her eyes and sent out a guiding finger in the
opposite direction. "Only see the red of those maples!" she said; "and that
other red just to the left--the tree with the small, fine leaves all
aflame. Do you know what it is?"
"I'm afraid not."
"It's a tupelo. And this shrub, right here?" She took between her fingers
one large, bland indented leaf on a small tree close to the path.
Cope shook his head.
"Why, it's a sassafras. And this?"--she thrust her toe into a thick,
lustrous bed of tiny leaves that hugged the ground. "No, again? That's
kinnikinnick. Oh, my poor boy, you have everything to learn. Brought up in
the country, too!"
"But, really," said Cope in defense, "Freeford isn't so small as
_that_. And even in the country one may turn by preference to books.
Try me on primroses and date-palms and pomegranates!"
Medora broke off a branch of sassafras and swished it to and fro as she
walked. "See," she said; "three kinds of leaves on the same tree: one
without lobes, one with a single lobe, and one with two."
"Isn't Nature wonderful," replied Cope easily.
Meanwhile the young ladies sauntered along--before or behind, as the case
might be--in the company of the young business-man and that of another
youth who had come out independently on the trolley. They appeared to be
suitably accompanied and entertained. But shiftings and readjustments
ensued, as they are sure to do with a walking-party. Cope presently found
himself scuffling through the thin grass and the briery thickets alongside
the young business-man. He was a clever, companionable chap, but he
declared himself all too soon, even in this remote Arcadia, as utterly true
to type. Cope was not long in feeling him as operating on the unconscious
assumption--unconscious, and therefore all the more damnable--that the
young man in business constituted, ipso facto, a kind of norm by which
other young men in other fields of endeavor were to be gauged: the farther
they deviated from the standard he automatically set up, the more
lamentable their deficiencies. A few condescending inquiries as to the
academic life, that strange aberration from the normality of the practical
and profitable course which made the ordinary life of the day, and the
separation came. "Enough of _him_!" muttered Cope to himself
presently, and began to cast about for other company. Amy Leffingwell was
strolling along alone: he caught a branch of haw from before her meditative
face and proffered a general remark about the beauty of the day and the
interest in the changing prospect.
Amy's pretty pink face brightened. "It _is_ a lovely day," she said.
"And the more of this lovely weather we have in October--and especially in
November--the more trouble it makes."
"Surely you don't want rain or frost?"
"No; but it becomes harder to shut the house up for good and all. Last fall
we opened and closed two or three times. We even tried coming out in
"In mackintoshes and rubber boots?"
"Almost. But the boots are better for February. At least, they would have
been last February."
"It seems hard to imagine such a future for a place like this,--or such a
"Things can be pretty rough, I assure you. And the roads are not always as
good as they are to-day." And when the pump froze, she went on, they had to
depend upon the lake; and when the lake froze they had to fall back on
melted snow and ice. And even when the lake didn't freeze, the blowing
waters and the flying sands often heaped up big ridges that quite cut them
off from the open sea. Then they had to prospect along those tawny hummocks
for some small inlet that would yield a few buckets of frozen spray,
keeping on the right side of the deep fissures that held the threat of
icebergs to be cast loose at any moment; "and sometimes," she added, in
search of a little thrill, "we would get back toward shore to find deep
openings with clear water dashing beneath--we had been walking on a mere
snow-crust half the time."
"Most interesting," said Cope accommodatingly. He saw no winter shore.
"Yes, February was bad, but Mrs. Phillips wanted to make sure, toward the
end of the winter, that the house hadn't blown away,--nor the contents; for
we have housebreakers every so often. And Hortense wanted to make some
'color-notes.' I believe she's going to try for some more to-day."
"To-day is a good day--unless the October tints are too obvious."
"She says they are not subtle, but that she can use them."
Well, here he was, talking along handily enough. But he had no notion of
talking for long about Hortense. He preferred returning to the weather.
"And what does such a day do for you?" he asked.
"Oh, I suppose it helps me in a general way. But _my_ notes, of
course, are on paper already."
Yes, he was walking alongside her and holding his own--thus far. She seemed
a pretty enough, graceful enough little thing; not so tall by an inch or so
as she appeared when seated behind that samovar. On that day she had been
reasonably sprightly--toward others, even if not toward him. To-day she
seemed meditative, rather; even elegiac--unless there was a possible sub-
acid tang in her reference to Hortense's color-notes. Aside from that
possibility, there was little indication of the "dexterity" which Randolph
had asked him to beware.
"On paper already?" he repeated. "But not all of them? I know you compose.
You are not saying that you are about to give composition up?" A forced and
awkward "slur," perhaps; but it served.
She gave a little sigh. "Pupils don't want _my_ pieces," she said.
"I know," he returned. "Themes,--clearness, mass, unity.... It's the same."
They looked at each other and smiled. "We ought not to think of such things
to-day," she said.
Mrs. Phillips came along, shepherding her little flock for the return. "But
before we _do_ turn back," she adjured them, "just look at those two
lovely spreading pines standing together alone on that far hill." The small
group gazed obediently--though to many of them the prospect was a familiar
one. Yes, there stood two pines, one just a little taller than the other,
and just a little inclined across the other's top. "A girl out here in
August called them Paolo and Francesca. Do you think," she asked Cope,
"that those names are suitable?"
"Oh, I don't know," he replied, looking at the trees thoughtfully. "They
seem rather--static; and Dante's lovers, if I recollect, had considerable
drive. They were '_al vento_'--on the wind--weren't they? It might be
less violent and more modern to call your trees Pelleas and Melisande,
"That's it. That's the very thing!" said Medora Phillips heartily. "Pelleas
and Melisande, of course. That girl had a very ordinary mind."
"I've felt plenty of wind on the dunes, more than once," interjected
"Or Darby and Joan," Cope continued. "Not that I'm defending that poor
creature, whoever she was. They seem to be a pretty staid, steady-going
"Don't," said Medora. "Too many ideas are worse than too few. They confuse
And Amy Leffingwell, who had seemed willing to admire him, now looked at
him with an air of plaintive protest.
"'Darby and Joan'!" muttered Hortense into a sumach bush. "You might as
well call them Jack and Jill!"
"They're Pelleas and Melisande," declared Mrs. Phillips, in a tone of
finality. "Thank you so much," she said, with a smile that reinstated Cope
after a threatened lapse from favor.
_COPE ENLIVENS THE COUNTRY_
As they drew near the house they heard the tones of a gramophone. This
instrument rested flatly on a small table and took the place of a piano,
which would have been a fearful thing to transport from town and back. It
was jigging away merrily enough, with a quick, regular rhythm which
suggested a dance-tune; and when the party re-entered the big room it was
seen that a large corner of the center rug was still turned back.
Impossible that anybody could have been dancing on the Sabbath; surely
everybody understood that the evangelical principles of Churchton were
projected on these occasions to the dunes. Besides, the only women left
behind had been two in their forties; the men in their company were even
older. Medora Phillips looked at Randolph, but he was staring
inexpressively at the opposite wall. She found herself wondering if there
were times when the mere absence of the young served automatically to make
the middle-aged more youthful.
"Well, we've had a most lovely walk," she declared. She crossed to the far
corner of the room, contriving to turn down the rug as she went, and opened
up a new reservoir of records. She laid them on the table rather
emphatically, as if to say, "_These_ are suited to the day."
"I hope you're all rested up," she continued, and put one of the new
records on the machine. The air was from a modern opera, true; but it was
slow-going and had even been fitted out with "sacred" words. Everybody knew
it, and presently everybody was humming it.
"It ought not to be hummed," she declared; "it ought to be sung. You can
sing it, Mr. Cope?"
"Oh yes, indeed," replied Cope, readily enough. "I have the breath left, I
think,--or I can very soon find it."
"Take a few minutes. I'll fill in with something else."
They listened to an inconclusive thing by a wobbling soprano, and then Mrs.
Phillips put the other record back.
The accompaniment to the air was rather rich and dense, and the general
tone-quality was somewhat blatant. But Cope stood up to it all, and had the
inspiration to treat the new combination as a sort of half-joke. But he was
relieved from the bother of accompanying himself; his resonance overlaid in
some measure the cheap quality of the record's tone; he contrived to master
a degree of momentum to let himself go; and the general result was good,--
much better than his attempt at that tea. Hortense and Carolyn looked at
him with a new respect; and Amy, who had been willing to admire, now
admired openly. Cope ended, gave a slight grimace, and sauntered away from
the table and the instrument. He knew that he had done rather well.
"Bravo!" loudly cried one of the ladies, who felt that she was under
suspicion of having taken a step or two in the dance. And, "Oh, my dear,"
said Mrs. Phillips to her, sotto voce, "isn't he utterly charming!"
Cope wiped his brow. The walk had made him warm, and the singing had made
him warmer. One or two of the women were using chance pamphlets as fans
(despite Mrs. Phillips' ill-concealed doubts), and everybody showed a
willingness to keep in the draught from the open windows.
"Is it close here?" asked the hostess anxiously. "The day is almost like
summer. If the water is anywhere nearly as warm as the air is.... Let me
see; it's a quarter to four. I have a closetful of bathing suits, all sizes
and shapes and several colors, if anybody cares to go in."
"Don't!" cried Cope explosively.
She looked at him with interest. "Have you been trying it?"
"I have. On the way along the shore. I assure you, however warm the air may
be, the bathing season is over."
"Well, I rather thought something had been happening to you. Mr. Randolph,
is it as bad as he says?"
"I'll take his word," replied Randolph. "And I think all of us had better
do the same."
"We might go down to the beach, anyway," she said. "Hortense wants to make
her color-notes, and the color will be good from now on."
Several of the party threaded their way down over the sliding sandy path
which led through the pines and junipers. Cope was willing to go with the
others--on the present understanding. He objected to promiscuous bathing
even more strongly than he objected to promiscuous dancing.
There were some new cumuli in the east, out above the water, and they began
to take the late afternoon sun. Hortense cast about for just the right
point of view, with Carolyn to help on "atmosphere" and two young men to be
superserviceable over campstool, sketch-block and box of colors. She
brought back a few dabs which may have served some future use;--at all
events they served as items in a social record.
Cope and Amy, with some of the others, strolled off in the opposite
direction. The water remained smooth, and some of the men idly skipped
stones. One of them dipped in his hand. "Cold?" he exclaimed; "I should
Amy looked admiringly at Cope, as one who had braved, beyond season, the
chill of the great deep, and he tried to reward her with a "thought" or
two. He had skipped stones himself between dips, and Randolph had made a
reflection which he could now revise and employ.
"See!" he said, as a flat, waveworn piece of slate left the hand of the
young business-man and careered over the water; "one, two, three--six,
eight--ten, thirteen; and then down, down, after all,--down to the bottom.
And so we end--every one of us. The great thing is to crowd in all the
action we can before the final plunge comes--to go skipping and splashing
as hard and long and fast and far as we may!"
A valuable thought, possibly, and elaborated beyond Randolph's sketchy and
casual utterance; but Amy looked uncomfortable and chilled and glanced with
little favor at a few other flat stones lying at her feet. "Please don't.
Please change the subject," she seemed to ask.
She changed it herself. "You sang beautifully," she said, with some return
of warmth--even with some approach to fervor.
"Oh, I can sing," he returned nonchalantly, "if I can only have my hands in
my pockets, or waving in the air, or anywhere but on a keyboard."
"I wish you had let them persuade you to sing another." She was not only
willing to admire, but desirous: conscientious amends, perhaps, for an
earlier verdict. "One or two more skips, you know, after getting started."
"Oh, once was enough. A happy coincidence. The next might have been an
"You have never learned to accompany yourself?"
"As you've seen, I'm a rather poor hand at it; I've depended a good deal on
others. Or, better, on another."
She looked at him earnestly. "Have you ever sung to an obbligato?"
"None of my songs, thus far, has called for one. An obbligato? Never so
much honored. No, indeed. Why, to me it would seem almost like singing with
an orchestra. Imagine a 'cello. Imagine a flute--still I'm not a soprano
going mad. Or imagine a saxophone; that might be droll."
He gave out a sort of dragging bleat. She did not smile; perhaps she felt
such an approach to waggery unworthy of him. Perhaps she was holding him up
to the dignity of the natural scene, and to the importance of the occasion
as she conceived it.
Cope had no desire to figure as a comique, and at once regained sobriety.
"Of course," he admitted, "we are not at a _the dansant_ or a cabaret.
Such things ought not to be thought of--here."
She turned her eyes on him again, with a new look of sympathy and
understanding. Perhaps understanding between them had failed or lapsed but
a moment before.
"How all of this shames the town!" she said.
"And us--if we misbehave," he added.
Mrs. Phillips came scurrying along, collecting her scattered guests, as
before. "Tea!" she said. "Tea for one or two who must make an early start
back to town. Also a sip and a bite for those who stay."
She moved along toward Hortense and her little group. Hortense's "color-
notes" did not appear to amount to much. Hortense seemed to have been
"fussed"--either by an excess of company and of help, or by some private
source of discontent and disequilibrium.
"Come," Mrs. Phillips cried to her, "I need every Martha to lend a hand."
Hortense rose, and one of her young men picked up her campstool.
"So glad you haven't got to go early," said Mrs. Phillips to Randolph and
Cope. "In fact, you might stay all night. It will be warm, and there are
cots and blankets for the porch."
"Thanks, indeed," said Cope. "But I have a class at eight-fifteen to-morrow
morning, and they'll be waiting to hear about the English Novel in the
Eighteenth Century, worse luck! Fielding and Richardson and--"
"Are you going to explain Pamela and Clarissa to them?" asked Hortense. She
was abrupt and possibly a bit scornful.
Cope seemed to scent a challenge and accepted it. "I am. The women may
figure on the covers, but the men play their own strong part through the
"I seem to recall," contributed Mrs. Phillips, "that Sir Charles Grandison
figured both ways."
"That prig!" said Hortense.
"Well, if you can't stay overnight," Mrs. Phillips proceeded, "at least
stay a few hours for the moonlight. The moon will be almost full to-night,
and the walk across the marshes to the trolley-line ought to be beautiful.
Or Peter could run you across in eight or ten minutes."
She did not urge Randolph to remain in the absence of Cope, though
Randolph's appearance at his office at ten in the morning would have
surprised no one, and have embarrassed no one.
Tea was served before the big fireplace in which a small flame to heat the
kettle was rising. Randolph set his empty cup on the shelf above.
"Notice," said Mrs. Phillips to him, "that poem of Carolyn's just behind
your cup: 'Summer Day in Duneland'." It was a bit of verse in a narrow
black frame, and the mat was embellished with pen-and-ink drawings of the
dunes, to the effect of an etching. An etcher, in fact, a man famous in his
field, had made them, Mrs. Phillips explained.
"And at the other end of the shelf," she advised him, "is a poem in free
verse, done by a real journalist who was here in June. See: 'Homage to
Dunecrest'--written with a blue pencil on a bit of driftwood."
"Sorry _we_ can't leave any souvenir behind," said Cope, who had
stolen up and was looking at the "poem" over Randolph's shoulder. "But one
must (first) be clever; and one must (second) know how to put his
cleverness on record."
"I shall remember _your_ record," she returned with emphasis. Cope
smiled deprecatingly; but he felt sure that he had sung well.
The moonlight, when it came, was all that Medora Phillips had promised.
There was another stroll on the beach, with Cope between Medora and
Carolyn. Then he and Randolph took the causeway across the marsh, stopped
the trolley by burning a newspaper on the track, and started on the long
As the car ran along jerkily from station to station, the earlier void of
Duneland became peopled indeed. The extraordinarily mild day had drawn out
hundreds--had given the moribund summer-excursion season a new lease of
life. Every stoppage brought so many more young men in soiled khaki, with
shapeless packs on their backs, and so many more wan maidens, no longer
young, who were trying, in little bands, to capture from Nature the joys
thus far denied by domestic life; and at one station a belated squad of the
"Lovers of Landscape"--some forty or fifty in all--came flooding in with
the day's spoils: masses of asters and goldenrod, with the roots as often
as not; festoons of bittersweet, and sheaves of sumach and golden glow; and
one ardent spirit staggered in under the weight of an immense brown paper
bag stuffed with prickly pear. As the tight-packed company slid along,
children drowsed or whimpered, short-tempered young men quarreled with the
conductor, elderly folk sat in squeezed, plaintive resignation.... Soon the
lights of foundry fires began to show on the sky; then people started
dropping off in the streets of towns enlivened by the glitter of many
saloons and an occasional loud glare from the front of a moving-picture
Through these many miles Randolph and Cope sat silent: there seemed to be a
tacit agreement that they need no longer exert themselves to entertain each
other. Cope reached home shortly before midnight. By next morning many of
the doings of the previous day had quite passed from his mind. Yet a few
firm impressions remained. He had had a good swim, if but a brief one, with
a companion who had been willing, even if not bold; he had imposed an
acceptable nomenclature upon a somewhat anonymous landscape; and, in
circumstances slightly absurd, or at least unfavorable, he had done his
voice and his method high credit in song. All else went for next to
_COPE AMIDST CROSS-PURPOSES_
Next morning's mail brought Cope a letter from Arthur Lemoyne. The letter
was short--at least when compared with Cope's own plentiful pennings; but
it gave our young instructor a few points to think about while he was
illuminating Clarissa Harlowe and making some careful comments on Joseph
Andrews. Released toward noon, he read the letter over again; and he ran
over it again during lunch. Lemoyne possessed a variety of gifts, but the
gift of letter-writing, in an extended form, was not among them. He said
all he had to say in four moderate pages.
"Yours received," he wrote. "Am glad the year has opened up so
interestingly for you. Of course I want to come down as soon as I can,
_if_ I can, and be with you."
Well, the "if," as the latter part of the letter indicated, was not likely
to prove insurmountable. The assurance that he wanted to come was grateful,
though superfluous: who had supposed for a moment that he didn't? Still,
the thing, put down in plain black and white, had its look of comfort.
"Of course the business is not gaining much through my connection with it.
I expect father begins to see _that_, pretty plainly. As for the
cathedral choir and the dramatic club and all the rest, I am willing to
throw them over--expecting that larger interests can be opened to me by
Cope paused on these points. He had suggested that Lemoyne enroll as a
student in some slight course or other, with the hope that his voice might
lead to his wearing cap and gown at chapel services and that his dramatic
experience might give him some role in the annual operetta. In either of
these quarters a good tenor voice was usually to seek. And as for the
business.... Well, he had once overheard the elder Lemoyne's partner
audibly wonder whether Arthur would ever learn how to ship a keg of nails
out of their back door, even.
Cope pushed away his coffee-cup and asked the young Greek for a cut of pie.
"I sort of sounded father the other day, but he was pretty huffy. I'll try
again, soon; but I doubt if I can manage to come down until after the
holidays. You begin a new term, then, I suppose. The fact is, I took a week
off in the middle of September, and father hasn't forgiven it. One of our
fellows in the choir had just bought a little roadster, and he invited me
for a trip to Green Bay and beyond. We dipped along through Fish Creek,
Ephraim, and so on. Good weather, good roads, good scenery, good hotels;
and a pleasant time was had by all--or, rather, by both."...
Cope dwelt darkly on this passage. Arthur was flighty; Arthur was volatile;
Arthur was even fickle, when the mood took him. Some arrangement that
partook more of the hard-and-fast was needed. But there was comfort--of a
kind--in the next passage.
"Though father, at best, will do very little, and though I have just now
little enough of my own, there may be somebody or other among your faculty
or trustees who could find me a niche in the college library or in the
registrar's office. Or have all such posts been snapped up by Johnnys-on-
the-spot? A small weekly stipend would rather help our _menage,--
This definite inquiry (which carried its own answer) seemed to drive one or
two brass tacks with some definiteness. Cope himself was eking out his
small salary with a small allowance from home; next year, with the thesis
accomplished, better pay in some better place. A present partner and pal
ought to be a prop rather than a drag: however welcome his company, he must
bear his share.
"Look about a bit for quarters," Lemoyne went on, drawing toward his
conclusion. "I presume room-rent is little more for two than for one.
Possibly," he put down in an afterthought, "I might get a job in the city;"
and then, "with warm regards," he came to a close as "Art."
Cope finished his lunch and walked out. If Arthur could do one thing better
than another, it was to make coffee; his product was assuredly better than
the Greek's. The two had camped out more than once on the shores of Lake
Winnebago, and Arthur had deftly managed the commissariat. They had had
good times together and had needed no other company. How had it been on
Green Bay--at Eagle Cliff and Apron Bluff and all the other places lately
celebrated in lithographed "folders" and lately popularized by motorists?
And who was the particular "fellow" who ran the roadster?
Late that afternoon Cope chanced upon Randolph among the fantastic basins
and floral parterres of the court in front of the Botany building: Randolph
had had a small matter for one of the deans. Together they sauntered over
to the lake. From the edge of the bluff they walked out upon the concrete
terrace above the general boiler-room and its dynamos. Alongside this, the
vast tonnage of coal required for the coming winter was beginning to pile
up. The weather was still mild and sunny and the lake was as valiantly blue
"It doesn't look like the same body of water, does it?" said Cope.
"It might be just as beautiful in its own way, here, as we found it
yesterday, out there," returned Randolph. "I've asked my brother-in-law, I
don't know how many times, why they can't do better by this unfortunate
campus and bring it all up to a reasonable level of seemliness. But----"
"You have a relative among the----?"
"Yes, my sister's husband is one of the University trustees. But he lives
miles from this spot and hardly ever sees it. Besides, his aesthetic
endowments are not beyond those of the average university trustee.
Sometimes they're as hard on Beauty as they are on Free Speech."
"I see they're hard on beauty; and I may live to find free speech mauled,
"Well, you're not in Sociology or Economics. Still, don't trifle with a
long-established aesthetic idol either. Trustees--and department heads--are
"Oh, you mean about----?"
"About your immortal William. He wrote them. Don't try to rob him. Don't
try to knock him off his pedestal."
"Oh, you're thinking about my thesis. What I said about Warwickshire was
just a little flight of fancy, I guess,--a bit of doorstep travel. I'm
likely enough to stay where I am."
"Well, how about the thesis, really?"
"I think I shall end by digging something out of Here and Now. 'Our Middle-
West School of Fiction,'--what would you think of that?"
"H'm! If you can make it seem worth while...."
"Well, can't I?"
"Your work, from the very nature of it, must be critical. Now the critic,
nine times out of ten, takes down a volume from its established shelf,
dusts it off, ruffles the leaves a bit, and then puts it back where it was.
The ruffling is sometimes very nice and interesting and often gives the
ruffler a good position in the glorious company of earlier rufflers----"
"I shouldn't be satisfied with anything like that. Things have got to move.
I want to take some recent, less-known men and put _them_ on the
"Yet you don't want to waste work on material which time may show as of
transient value, or of none."
"A fellow must chance it. Who gives quickly gives twice;--I suppose that
applies to praise as well as to money. It irks me to find more praise
bestowed on the praised-enough,--even on groups of secondary importance,
sometimes just because they are remote (in England, perhaps), and so can be
treated with an easy objectivity. To dig in your own day and your own
community is harder, but I should feel it more rewarding."
"But aren't the English books really better? Haven't they more depth,
substance and background?"
"Possibly,--according to the conventions they themselves have established--
and according to the society they depict."
"Well, Academe hasn't nailed you yet!"
"No; and I hope it won't. I should like to write a whole book about our new
"But don't write a thesis and then expect to publish it with profit
_as_ a book. That's a common enough expectation--or temptation."
They turned away from the lake terrace and the imposing coal-pile. Cope,
Randolph saw, was in quite a glow; a generous interest had touched him,
putting fresh light into his eyes and a new vigor into his step. He had
displayed a charming enthusiasm, and a pure, disinterested one. Randolph,
under a quiet exterior, was delighted. He liked the boy better than ever,
and felt more than ever prompted to attach him to himself.
"How are you pleased with your present quarters?" he asked, as they
returned through the Botany court. He thought of the narrow couch, the ink-
spotted cover on the deal table, the few coats and shoes (they
_couldn't_ be many) behind that calico curtain.
"None too well," replied Cope. "I shall soon begin to look for another
room. I rather expect to change about holiday time."
"I am thinking of making a change too," declared Randolph.
"Why, could you better yourself?" asked Cope, in a tone of surprise. "I
never knew a bachelor to be better fixed."
"I need a little wider margin of room. I can afford it, and ought to have
had it long ago. And I learn that the lease of the people I'm with expires
in the spring. My collection is growing; and I ought to have another
bedroom. Think of not being able to put a man up, on occasion! I shall take
a small apartment on my own account, catch some Oriental who is studying
frogs' legs or Occidental theology; and then--open house. In a moderate
measure, of course."
"That listens good--as the young fellows say," replied Cope. "A not
uncommon ideal, possibly; but I'm glad that some man, now and then, is able
to realize it."
"I should hope to see you there," said Randolph intently.
"Thank you, indeed. Yes, while my time lasts. But my own lease is like your
landlord's--short. Next year,--who knows where?"
"Why not here?"
"Oh!" Cope shrugged, as if conscious of the need of something better, and
of presently deserving it. "Some big university in the East?" wondered
Randolph to himself. Well, the transfer, if it came, was still a long way
As he walked home to dinner he entertained himself by imagining his new
regime. There would be an alert, intelligent Jap, who, in some miraculous
way, could "do for him" between his studies. There would be a cozy dining-
room where three or four fellows could have a snug little dinner, with
plenty of good talk during it and after it. There would be, finally, a
convenient little spare room, wherein a young knight, escaped from some
"Belle Dame sans Merci," might lean his sword against the wardrobe, prop
his greaves along the baseboard, lay his steel gauntlets neatly on the top
of the dresser, fold his hands over the turned-down sheet of a neat three-
quarter-width brass bedstead, and with a satisfied sigh of utter well-being
pass away into sleep. Such facilities, even if they scarcely equaled a
chateau on the Ridge or a villa among the Dunes, might serve.
Cope, on his own way to dinner, indulged in parallel imaginings. He saw a
larger room than his present, with more furniture and better; a bookcase
instead of a shelf; a closet, and hot and cold water in some convenient
alcove; a second table, with a percolator on it, at which Arthur, who was a
light sleeper and willingly an early riser, might indulge his knack for
coffee-making to the advantage of them both. And Arthur had the same
blessed facility with toast.
Then his thoughts made an excursion toward Randolph. Here was a man who was
in business in the city, and who was related, by marriage, to the board of
trustees. How soon might one feel sufficiently well acquainted with him to
ask his friendly offices in behalf of the new-comer,--the man who might
reasonably be expected the first week in January?
_COPE DINES AGAIN--AND STAYS AFTER_
Medora Phillips' social activities ran through several social strata and
her entertainments varied to correspond. Sometimes she contented herself
with mere boy-and-girl affairs, which were thrown together from material
gathered within her own household and from the humbler walks of
undergraduate life. Sometimes she entertained literary celebrities, and
invited the head professors and their wives to meet them. And two or three
times a season she gave real dinners to "society," summoning to Ashburn
avenue, from homes even more architectural than her own, the banking and
wholesale families whose incomes were derived from the city, but who
pillared both the university and the many houses of worship in Churchton
itself. And sometimes, when she passed over the older generation of these
families in favor of the younger, her courses were more "liberal" than
Churchton's earlier standards quite approved.
On such formal occasions her three young ladies were dispensed with. They
were encouraged to go to some sorority gathering or to some fudge-party. On
the occasion now meditated she had another young person in mind. This was
the granddaughter of one of the banking families; the girl might come along
with her father and mother. She was not very pretty, not very entertaining;
however, Mrs. Phillips needed one girl, and if she were not very
attractive, none the worse. The one girl was for the one young man. The one
young man was to be Bertram Cope. Our fond lady meant to have him and to
show him off, sure that her choicest circle could not but find him as
charming as she herself did. Most of us, at one time or another, have
thrust forward our preferences in the same confident way.
Cope made less of an impression than his patroness had hoped for. Somehow
his lithe youthfulness, his fine hair and teeth and eyes, the rich
resonance of his voice counted for little--except, perhaps, with the
granddaughter. The middle-aged people about him were used to young college
men and indifferent to them. Cope himself felt that he was in a new
environment, and a loftier one. Several of these were important people,
with names familiar through the town and beyond. He employed a caution that
almost became inexpressiveness. He also found Mrs. Phillips a shade more
formal and stately than her wont. She herself, in her furtive survey of the
board, was disappointed to find that he was not telling. "Perhaps it's that
girl," she thought; "she may be even duller than I supposed." But never
mind; all would be made right later. Some music had been arranged and there
would be an accompanist who would help him do himself full justice.
"They'll enjoy him," she thought confidently.
She had provided an immensity of flowers. There was an excess of light,
both from electric bulbs and from candles. And there was wine.
"I think I can have just one kind, for once," she had said to herself. "I
know several houses where they have two,--Churchton or not,--and at least
one where they sometimes have three. If this simple town thinks I can put
grape-juice and Apollinaris before such people as these...." Besides, the
interesting Cope might interestingly refuse!
As the many courses moved on, Cope smelt the flowers, which were too many,
and some of them too odoriferous; he blinked at the lights and breathed the
heavy thickening air; and he took--interestingly--a few sips of burgundy,--
for he was now in Rome, and no longer a successful Protestant in some
lesser town of the empire. He had had a hard, close day of it, busy indoors
with themes and with general reading; and he recalled being glad that the
dinner had begun with reasonable promptitude,--for he had bothered with no
lunch beyond a glass of milk and a roll. To-night there had been
everything,--even to an unnecessary entree. He laid down a spoon on his
plate, glad that the frozen pudding--of whatever sort--was disposed of. Too
much of everything after too little. The people opposite were far away;
their murmuring had become a mumbling, and he wished it was all over. The
granddaughter at his elbow was less rewarding than ever, less justificatory
of the effortful small-talk which he had put forth with more and more
labor, and which he could scarcely put forth now at all. What was it he was
meaning to do later? To sing? Absurd! Impossible! His head ached; he felt
faint and dizzy....
"We will leave you gentlemen to your cigars," he heard a distant voice
saying; and he was conscious for an instant that his hostess was looking
down the table at him with a face of startled concern....
"Don't try to lead him out," a deep voice said. "Lay him on the floor."
He felt himself lowered; some small rug was doubled and redoubled and
placed under his head; a large, firm hand was laid to his wrist; and
something--a napkin dipped in a glass of water and then folded?--was put to
"His pulse will come up in a minute," he heard the same deep voice say. "If
he had taken a step he would have fainted altogether."
"My poor, dear boy! Whatever in the world...!" Thus Medora Phillips.
"Better not be moved for a little," was the next pronouncement.
Cope lay there inert, but reasonably conscious of what was going on. His
eyes gave him no aid, but his ears were open. He heard the alarmed voice of
Medora Phillips directing the disconcerted maids, and the rustle and
flutter of the garments of other daughters of Eve, who had found him
interesting at last. They remarked appreciatively on his pallor; and one of
them said, next day, before forgetting him altogether, that, with his
handsome profile (she mentioned especially his nose and chin) and with his
colorlessness, he looked for a moment like an ancient cameo.
He knew, now, that he was not going to faint, and that he was in better
case than he seemed. In the circumstances he found nothing more original to
say than: "I shall be all right in no time; just a touch of dizziness...."
He was glad his dress-coat could stand inspection, and hoped nobody would
notice that his shoes had been half-soled....
After a little while he was led away to a couch in the library. The deep-
voiced doctor was on one side of him and Medora Phillips on the other. Soon
he was left alone to recuperate in the dark,--alone, save for one or two
brief, fluttery appearances by Mrs. Phillips herself, who allowed the
coffee to be passed without any supervision on her own part.
On the second of these visitations he found voice to say:
"I'm so sorry for this--and so ashamed. I can't think how it could have
He _was_ ashamed, of course. He had broken up an entertainment pretty
completely! Servants running about for him when they had enough to do for
the company at large! All the smooth conventions of dinner-giving violently
brushed the wrong way! He had fallen by the roadside, a young fellow who
had rather prided himself on his health and vigor. Pitiful! He was glad to
lie in the dark with his eyes shut tight, tight.
If he had been fifteen or twenty years older he might have taken it all
rather more lightly. Basil Randolph, now----But Randolph had not been
invited, though his sister and her husband were of the company. Yet had it
been Randolph, he would have smiled a wan smile and tried for a mild joke,
conscious that he had made an original and picturesque contribution to the
affair,--had broken the bland banality of routined dinner-giving and had
provided woman with a mighty fine chance to "minister" and fuss: a thing
she rather enjoyed doing, especially if a hapless, helpless man had been
delivered into her hands as a subject.
But there was no such consolation for poor abashed Cope. He had disclosed
himself, for some reason or other, a weakling; and he had weakened at a
conspicuously wrong time and in a conspicuously mistaken place. He had
hoped, over the cigars and coffee, to lay the foundation of an acquaintance
with the brother-in-law who was a trustee,--to set up an identity in this
influential person's mind as a possible help to the future of Arthur
Lemoyne. But the man now in the dining-room, or the drawing-room, or
wherever, might as well be in the next state.
There came a slight patter of rain on the bay-window near his head. He
began to wonder how he was to get home.
Meanwhile, in the drawing-room, among the ladies, Mrs. Phillips was
anxiously asking: "Was the room too warm? Could the wine have been too much
for him?" And out in the dining-room itself, one man said, "Heaven knows
just how they live;" and another, "Or what they eat, or don't eat;" and a
third, "Or just how hard these young beginners are driven."
"Ought he to go out to-night, Doctor?" asked Mrs. Phillips in a whisper,
appearing in the dining-room door.
"He might better stay if he can," replied the authority, who happened to be
at the nearer end of the table.
"Of course he can," she returned. Of course there was a room for him.
When the party finally reassembled in the drawing-room Cope had
disappeared. Mrs. Phillips could now enlarge on his attractiveness as a
singer, and could safely assure them--what she herself believed--that they
had lost a really charming experience. "If you could only have heard him
that Sunday!" she concluded.
Cope had said, of course, "I can get home perfectly well," and, "It's a
shame for me to be putting you out this way," and so on and on,--the things
you yourself would have said in the circumstances; but he said them with no
particular spirit, and was glad, as he walked uncertainly up stairs, that
he had not far to go.
Mrs. Phillips indeed "had a room for him." She had rooms a-plenty. There
was the chintz chamber on the third floor, where the Irish poet (who seemed
not to expect very much for himself) had been put; and there was the
larger, handsomer chamber on the second floor, where the Hindoo philosopher
(who had loomed up big and important through a vague Oriental atmosphere)
had been installed in state. It was a Louis Quinze room, and the bed had a
kind of silken canopy and a great deal too much in the way of bolsters and
lace coverings. It was thought that the Hindoo, judging from the report of
the maid next morning, had been moved by some ascetic impulse to sleep not
in the bed but on the floor beside it. This was the room now destined for
Cope; surely one flight of stairs was enough. But there must be no further
practice of asceticism,--least of all by a man who was really ill; so Mrs.
Phillips, snatching a moment from her guests, herself saw the maid remove
the lace pillow-shams and coverlet, and turn down the sheets, and set the
thermos-bottle on the stand beside the reading lamp....
"Don't get up a moment earlier than you feel like doing," she said, at the
"To-morrow is one of my busy days," replied Cope wanly. "Goldsmith,
"Well, we have other wage-workers in the house, you know. At seven-thirty,
then, if you must."
"Seven-thirty, if you please. Thank you."
By the time Mrs. Phillips had returned to her guests, the first of the
limousines was standing before the house; its wet top shone under an
electric globe. Her own car, meanwhile, obdurately reposed in its garage.
Presently a second limousine joined the first, and a third the second; and
in another quarter of an hour her guests were well on their way to
dispersal. She bade them all goodnight in the best of good humor.
"You've never before had quite such an evening as this, I'm sure!" she
said, with great gaiety.
"Isn't it wonderful how she took it all!" said one lady to another, on the
back seat of her car. "Anything like that would have thrown me off
The other lady laughed amusedly. She often found our Medora "great fun."
Meanwhile, Cope, up stairs, was sinking deeper and deeper into his big,
wide, overupholstered bed. And as his body sank, his spirit sank with it.
He felt poor, unimportant, ill at ease. In especial, he felt greatly
subordinated; he wished that he might have capitulated to a man. Then the
mystery of handsome houses and of handsome furnishings came to harass him.
Such things were everywhere: how were they got, how were they kept? Should
he himself ever----? But no; nothing ahead for years, even in the most
favorable of circumstances, save an assistant professorship, with its
inconceivably modest emoluments....
And Medora Phillips, in the stir of getting her guests out of the house,
had her first vision of him as sinking off to sleep. Somehow or other his
fine, straight yellow hair retained its backward sweep with no impairment
by reason of turnings and tossings; his clear profile continued to keep
itself disengaged from any depression in the pillows; his slender hands
were laid in quiet symmetry over the wide edge of the down-turned coverlet.
A decorous, unperturbed young old-master ... Van Eyck ... Carpaccio....
Cope came down to breakfast a little pale, a little shamefaced; but he felt
pretty well revived and he made up in excess of speech and action what he
essentially lacked in spirit. Mrs. Phillips descended as early as the three
girls,--earlier, in fact, than Hortense, who entered informally through the
butler's pantry and apparently in full possession of last night's facts.
Carolyn inquired civilly after his condition; Amy Leffingwell, with her
blue eyes intent upon him, expressed concern and sympathy; Hortense, with
her lips closely shut in a satirical smile, said nothing at all: a possible
exhibition of self-control which gave her aunt some measure of solicitude.
It was not always well when she talked, and it was not always well when she
kept silent. Mrs. Phillips pressed the toast upon him and recommended the
grape-fruit. He took both with satisfaction, and a second cup of coffee.
With that he felt he could easily walk to his class-room; and the walk
itself, in the fresh morning air, would brace him further for his hours of
routine with his students.
"What a regular nuisance I've made of myself!" he said, on leaving the
"Oh, haven't you, just!" exclaimed Mrs. Phillips joyously.
"Your name as an entertainer will be all over town! I'm sure you gave some
of those poky people a real touch of novelty!"
Amy Leffingwell was in the front hall at the same time, with her music-
roll. They were going the same way, to substantially the same place, to
meet about the same hour in the day's schedule. They went along the street
The morning air was brisk and cool after last night's shower. Like the
trees under which they passed, it gave the first decided intimation of
autumn. They set off at a lively pace toward the college towers and the
Cope was soon sailing along with his head high, his trim square shoulders
much in action, and his feet throwing themselves spiritedly here and there.
Amy, who was not very tall, kept up as well as she could.
"This isn't too fast for you...?" she asked presently.
"No; but it may be a little too fast for you. Excuse me; I've never learned
to keep pace with a woman. But as for myself, I never felt better in my
life. Every yard toward the good old lake"--the wind was coming down from
the north in a great sweep--"makes me feel finer."
He slowed up appreciably.
"Oh, not for me!" she said in deprecation. "I like a brisk morning walk as
well as anybody. Did you sing at all?" she asked.
"Not a note. They put the soft pedal on me. They 'muted' me," he amended,
in deference to her own branch of the profession.
"We came in by the side door about half past nine. It was a dull meeting. I
listened for you. Somebody was playing."
Cope gave a sly smile.
"It must have been the poor disappointed woman who was to have accompanied
me. She had had a list of three or four of my things--to run them over in
her own album, I suppose. Think just how disappointed she must have been to
find that she had the whole field to herself!"
"Oh, musicians--even we poor, despised professionals--are not all like
that. If it had been arranged for me to accompany you with an obbligato, I
shouldn't have been pleased if opportunity had failed me."
"Your contribution would have been more important than hers. And your
substitution for my failure would have given added interest."
The talk, having reached the zone of arid compliment, tended to languish.
They had now reached Learning's side of the trolley-tracks, and rills in
the great morning flood of the scholastic life were beginning to gather
about them and to unite in a rolling stream which flowed toward the campus.
Two or three streets on, the pair separated, she to her work, he to his.
For him the walk had been a nothing in particular--he would a little have
preferred taking it alone. For her it had been--despite the low level of
expressiveness reached on either side--a privilege which had been curtailed
much too soon.
Meanwhile, back in the house, Hortense was detailing the events of the
previous evening to Joe Foster; the general access of activity on the
morning after had made it desirable that she help with his breakfast.
She went at it with a will.
"Why," she said, as Foster sat at his coffee, boiled egg and toast, "he
keeled over like a baby."
"Hum!" said Foster darkly. It was as if a shaping ideal had dissipated. Or
as if a trace of weakness in one seemingly so young and strong was not
altogether unacceptable as a source of consolation.
However, Cope, at half past four that afternoon, was on the faculty tennis-
courts, with a racquet in his hand. But one set was enough. "I seem to be a
day ahead of my schedule," he said, pulling out and strolling along
_COPE MAKES AN EVASION_
Two or three days later, Randolph put a book of essays in his pocket and
went round to spend an hour with Joseph Foster. Foster sat in his wheeled
chair in his own room. He was knitting. The past year or two had brought
knitting-needles into countenance for men, and he saw no reason why he
should not put a few hanks of yarn into shape useful for himself. He might
not have full command of his limbs nor of his eyes, but he did have full
command of his fingers. He had begun to knit socks for his own use; and
even a muffler, in the hope that on some occasion, during the coming
months, he might get outside.
As Randolph entered, Foster looked up from under his green shade with an
expression of perplexity. "Have I dropped a stitch here or not?" he asked.
"I wish you knew something about knitting; I don't like to call Medora or
one of the girls away up here to straighten me out. Look; what do you
"They count all right," said Randolph; and he sat down on the couch
opposite. "I've brought a book."
"I hope it's poetry!" said Foster, with a fierce promptness. "I hope it's
about Adonis, or Thammuz, whose mishap 'in Lebanon' set all the Syrian
females a-going. I could stand a lot more of that,--or perhaps I couldn't!"
"Why, Joe, what's gone wrong?"
"I suppose you know that your young friend got up a great to-do for us the
"Yes; I've heard something about it." He looked at Foster's drawn face, and
heard with surprise the rasping note in his voice. "Was it as bad as that?"
Foster drew his shade down farther over his eyes and clashed his needles
"I remember how, when I was in Florence, we went out to a religious
festival one evening at some small hill-town near by. This was twenty years
ago, when I _could_ travel. There was a kind of grotto in the church,
under the high altar; and in the grotto was a full-sized figure of a dead
man, carved and painted--and covered with wounds; and round that figure
half the women and girls of the town were collected, stroking, kissing ...
Adonis all over again!"
"Oh, come, Joe; don't get morbid."
Foster lifted one shoulder.
"Well, the young fellow began by roaring through the house like a bull of
Bashan, and he ended by toppling over like a little wobbly calf."
He spoke like a man who had imagined a full measure of physical powers and
had envied them ... had been exasperated by the exuberant presentation of
them... had felt a series of contradictory emotions when they had seemed to
"It was only a moment of dizziness," said Randolph. "I imagine he was
fairly himself next day."
"Well, I've heard too much about it. Medora came up here and----"
"Need we go into that?"
"There were plenty more to help," Foster went on doggedly. "One dear
creature, who was old enough to be more cautious, spilt water down the
whole front of her dress----"
"I expect," said Randolph, "that the poor chap has been overworked; or
careless about his meals; or worried in his classes--for he may not be
fully settled in his new place; or some emotional strain may have set
"I vote for the emotional strain," said Foster bluntly.
"A guess in the dark," commented Randolph, and paused. He himself knew
little enough of Cope as a complex. He had met him but a few times, and
could not associate him with his unknown background. He knew next to
nothing of Cope's family, his connections, his intimates, his early
associations and experiences. Nor had he greatly bestirred himself to
learn. He had done little more than go to a library in the city and turn
over the leaves of the Freeford directory. This publication, like most of
those dealing with the smaller cities, gave separately the names of all the
members of a family; and repetitions of the same address helped toward the
arrangement of these individuals (disposed alphabetically) into family
groups. Freeford had no great number of Copes, and several of them lived at
1636 Cedar Street. "Elm, Pine, Locust, Cedar," had thought Randolph; "the
regular set." And, "One of the good streets," he surmised, "but rather far
out. Cedar!" he repeated, and thought of Lebanon and the Miltonic Adonis.
Of these various Copes, "Cope, David L., bookpr," might be the father,--
unless "Cope, Leverett C., mgr" were the right man. If the former, he was
employed by the Martin & Graves Furniture Company, and the Martins were
probably important people who lived far out--and handsomely, one might
guess--on a Prospect Avenue.... Then there was "Cope, Miss Rosalys M.,
schooltchr," same address as "David": she was likely his daughter. "H'm!"
Randolph had thought, "these pickings are scanty,--enough anatomical
reconstruction for to-day...." And now he was thinking, as he sat opposite
Foster, "If I had only picked up another bone or two, I might really have
put together the domestic organism. Yet why should I trouble? It would all
be plain, humdrum prose, no doubt. Glamour doesn't spread indefinitely. And
"Well," asked Foster sharply, "are you mooning? Medora sat in the same
place yesterday, and she talked for awhile too and then fell into a
moonstruck silence. What's it all about?"
Randolph came out of his reverie. "Oh, I was just hoping the poor boy was
back on his pins all right again."
Then he dropped back into thought. He was devising an outing designed to
restore Cope to condition. If Cope could arrange for a free Saturday, they
might contrive a week-end from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. It was
too late for the north and too late for the opposite Michigan shore; but
there was "down state" itself, where the days grew warmer and the autumn
younger the farther south one went. There was a trip down a certain
historic river,--historic, as our rivers went, and admirably scenic always.
He recalled an exceptional hotel on one of its best reaches; one overrun in
midsummer, but doubtless quiet at this season. It stood in the midst of
some striking cliffs and gorges; and possibly one of the little river-
steamers was in commission, or could be induced to run....
Foster dropped his muffler pettishly. "Read,--if you won't talk!"
"I can talk all right," returned Randolph. "In fact, I have a bit of news
"What is it?"
"I'm going to move."
Foster peered out from under his shade.
"Move? What for? I thought you were all right where you are.
"All right enough; except that I want more room--and a house of my own."
"Have you found one?"
"I've about decided on an apartment. And I expect to move into it early
"Top floor, of course?"
"No; first floor, not six feet above the street level."
"Good. If they'll lend me a hand here, to get down and out, I'll come and
see you, now and then."
"That will give me a chance to wear this muffler, after all."
"So it will."
"Well, be a little more cordial. You expect to see your friends, don't
"Of course. That's what it's for. Have I got to exert myself," he added,
"to be cordial with _you_?"
"What's the neighborhood?"
"Oh, this one, substantially. The next street from where I am now."
"I think I'll have a Jap alone, at first."
"A few small try-outs, perhaps."
"Not at the beginning, anyhow."
"Oh; bachelor's hall."
Foster readjusted his shade, and drove his needles into his ball of yarn.
"Complete new outfit?"
"Well, I have some things in storage."
"How about the people you're with now?"
"Their lease is up in the spring. They may go on; they may not. Fall's the
time to change."
Foster drew out his needles again and fell to work.
"You ought to have seen Hortense the next morning. She put my tray on the
table, and then went down in a heap on the floor--or it sounded like that.
She was fainting away at dinner, she said."
"She found it amusing?"
"I don't know _how_ she found it," returned Foster shortly. "If ever
_I_ do anything like that at your house, run me home."
"Not if it's raining. I shall be able to tuck you away somewhere."
"Don't. I never asked to be a centre of interest."
"Well," returned Randolph merely, and fell silent.
Foster resumed work with some excess of vigor, and presently got into a
snarl. "Dammit!" he exclaimed, "have I dropped another?"
Randolph leaned over to examine the work. "Something's wrong."
"Well, let it go. Enough for now. Read."
There followed a half hour of historical essay, during which Foster a few
times surreptitiously fingered his needles and yarn.
"Shall you have a reading-circle at your new diggings?" he asked after a
"If two can be said to make a circle,--and if you will really come."
"I'm coming. But I never understood that only two points could establish a
circle. Three, anyway."
"Circle!" exclaimed Randolph. "Don't worry the word to death."
He went away presently, and as he walked his thoughts returned to Indian
Rock. The excursion seemed a valid undertaking at an advantageous time; and
he could easily spare a couple of days from the formation of his new
establishment. He called on Cope that evening. Cope felt sure he could
clear things for Saturday, and expressed pleasure at the general prospect.
He happened to be writing to Lemoyne that evening and passed along his
pleasure at the prospect to his friend. A few jaunts, outings or interludes
of that kind, together with his week at his home in Freeford, over
Christmas, would agreeably help fill in the time before Arthur's own
arrival in January.
Randolph received Cope's response with gratification; it was pleasant to
feel oneself acceptable to a younger man. In the intervals between his
early looking at rugs and napery he collected timetables and folders, made
inquiries, and had some correspondence with the manager of the admirable
hotel. He had a fondness for well-kept hostelries just before or just after
the active season. It was a pleasure to breakfast or dine in some far
corner of a large and almost empty dining-room. It would be a pleasure to
stroll through those gorges, which would be reasonably certain to be free
from litter, and to perch on the crags, which would be reasonably certain
to be free from picnic parties. It would be agreeable also to sleep in a
chamber far from town noises and grimes, with few honks from late
excursionists and but little early morning clatter from a diminished staff.
And the river boats were still running on Sunday.
"It will brace him for the rest of his fall term," thought Randolph, "and
me for my confounded shopping. And during some one of our boat-rides or
rambles, I shall tell him of my plans for the winter."
The departure, it was agreed upon, should take place late on Friday
afternoon. On Friday, at half past eleven, Randolph at his office in the
city, received a long-distance call from Churchton. Cope announced, with a
breathless particularity not altogether disassociated from self-conscious
gaucherie, that he should be unable to go. Some unexpected work had been
suddenly thrown upon him.... He rather thought that one or two of his
family might be coming to town for over Sunday....
The telephone, as a conveyor of unwelcome message, strikes a medium between
the letter by mail and the face-to-face interview. If it does not quite
give chance for the studied guardedness and calculated plausibility of the
one, it at least obviates some of the risk involved in personal presence
and in the introduction of contradictory evidence often contributed by
manner and by facial expression. And a long distance interview must be
brief,--at least there can be no surprise, no indignation, if it is made
"Very well," said Randolph, in reply to Cope's hurried and indistinct
words. "I'm sorry," he added, and the brief talk was over. "You are feeling
all right, I hope," he would have added, as the result of an afterthought;
but the connection was broken.
Randolph left the instrument. He felt dashed, a good deal disappointed, and
a little hurt. He took two or three folders from a pigeon-hole and dropped
them into a waste-basket. Well, the boy doubtless had his reasons. But a
single good one, frankly put forth, would have been better than duplicate
or multiple reasons. He hoped that, on Sunday, a cold drizzle rather than a
flood of sunlight might fall upon the autumn foliage of Indian Rock. And he
would turn to-morrow to good account by looking, for an hour or two, at
Sunday afternoon was gorgeously bright and autumnal in Churchton, whatever
it may have been along the middle reaches of the Illinois river; and at
about four o'clock Randolph found himself in front of Medora Phillips'
house. Medora and her young ladies were out strolling, as was inevitable on
such a day; but in her library he found Foster lying on a couch--the same
piece of furniture which, at a critical juncture, had comforted Cope.
"Peter brought me down," said the cripple. "I thought I'd rather look at
the backs of books than at the fronts of all those tedious pictures.
Besides, I'm beginning to practice for my call at your new quarters." Then,
with a sudden afterthought: "Why, I understood you were going somewhere out
of town. What prevented?"
"Well, I changed my plans. I needed a little more time for my house-
furnishing. I was looking yesterday at some table-ware for your use; am
wondering, in fact, if Mrs. Phillips couldn't arrange to give me the
benefit of her taste to-morrow or Tuesday...."
"She likes to shop," replied Foster, "and taste is her strong suit. I'll
speak to her,--she's gone off to some meeting or other. Isn't this just the
afternoon to be spending indoors?" he commented brusquely. "What a day it
would be for the country," he added, sending his ineffectual glance in the
direction of Randolph's face.
"We Churchtonians must take what we can get," Randolph replied, with an
attempt at indifference. "Our _rus in urbs_ isn't everything, but
there are times when it must be made to serve."
Foster said nothing. Silent conjecture, seemingly, was offered him as his
_COPE ENTERTAINS SEVERAL LADIES_
Cope's excuse, involving the expected visit of a relative, may not have
been altogether sincere, but it received, within a week or so, the
substantial backing of actuality: a relative came. She was an aunt,--his
father's sister,--and she came at the suggestion of a concerned landlady.
This person, made anxious by a languid young man who had begged off from
his classes and who was likely to need more attention than her scanty
margin of leisure could grant, had even suggested a hospital while yet it
was easy for him to reach one. Though Cope meant to leave her soon, it did
not suit him to leave her quite as soon as this; and so Aunt Harriet came
in from Freeford to look the situation over and to lend a hand if need be.
She spent two nights in a vacant chamber at transient rates; was grudgingly
allowed to prepare his "slops," as he called them, in the kitchen; and had
time to satisfy herself that, after all, nothing very serious was the
Randolph did not meet this relative, but he heard about her; and her
coming, as a sort of family representative, helped him still further in his
picture of the _res angusta_ of a small-town household: a father held
closely to office or warehouse--his own or some one else's; a sister
confined to her school-room; a mother who found the demands of the domestic
routine too exacting even to allow a three-hour trip to town; and a
brother--Randolph added this figure quite gratuitously out of an active
imagination and a determined desire not to put any of the circle to the
test of a personal encounter--and a brother who was perhaps off somewhere
"on the road."
The one who met Aunt Harriet was Medora Phillips, and the meeting was
brief. Medora had heard from Amy Leffingwell of Cope's absence from his
class-room. She herself became concerned; she felt more or less responsible
and possibly a bit conscience-stricken. "Next time," she said, "I shall try
to have the ventilation right; and I think that, after this, I shall keep
to birch beer."
Medora called up Amy at the music-school, one afternoon, at about four. She
assumed that the day's work was over, told Amy she was "going around" to
see Bertram Cope, and asked her to go with her. "You may act as my
chaperon," she said; "for who knows where or how I shall find him?"
As they neared the house a colored man came out, carrying a small trunk to
a mud-bespattered surrey. "What! is he going?" said Medora, with a start.
"Well, anyway, we're in time to say good-bye." Then, "What's the matter,
Jasper?" she asked, having now recognized the driver and his conveyance.
"Got a lady who's gettin' away on the four forty-three."
"Oh!" said Medora, with a gasp of reassurance.
Cope's aunt said good-bye to him up stairs and was now putting on her
gloves in the lower hall, in the company of the landlady. Medora appraised
the visitor as a semi-rustic person--one of some substance and standing in
her own community; marriage, perhaps, had provided her with means and
leisure. She had been willing to subordinate herself to a university town
apprehended as a social organism, and she now seemed inclined to accept
with docility any observations made by a confident urbanite with a fair
degree of verve.
"These young men," said Medora dashingly, "are too careless and proud."
"Proud?" asked the other. She felt clearly enough that her nephew had been
careless; but pride is not often acknowledged among the members of an
ordinary domestic circle.
"They're all mind," Medora went on, with no lapse of momentum. She knew she
must work in brief, broad effects: the surrey was waiting and the train
would not delay. "They sometimes forget that their intellectual efforts
must rest, after all, on a good sensible physical basis. They mustn't scorn
The departing visitor gave a quick little sigh of relief. The views of this
fashionable and forthputting woman were in accord with her own, after all.
"Well, I've told Bert," she said, buttoning her second glove, "that he had
better take all his meals in one place and at regular hours. I've told him
his health is of just as much account as his students and their studies."
She seemed gratified that, on an important point, she had reached unanimity
with an influential person who was to remain behind; and she got away
without too long delaying the muddy surrey and the ungroomed sorrel.
Medora Phillips looked after her with a grimace. "Think of calling him
Cope, when advised, came down in a sort of bathrobe which he made do duty
as a dressing-gown. He took the stairs in a rapid run, produced an emphatic
smile for the parlor threshold, and put a good measure of energy into his
handshakes. "Mighty good of you to call," he said to Mrs. Phillips. "Mighty
good of you to call," he said to Amy Leffingwell.
Well, he was on his feet, then. No chance to feel anxiously the brow of a
poor boy in bed, or to ask if the window was right or if he wouldn't like a
sip of water. Life's little disappointments...!
To Amy Leffingwell he seemed pale, and she felt him as glad to sit down at
once in the third and last chair the little room offered. She noticed, too,
an inkstain on his right forefinger and judged that the daily grind of
theme-correction was going on in spite of everything.
"Did you meet my aunt before she got away?" he asked.
"We did," said Medora, "and we are going to add our advice to hers."
"That's very nice of you," he rejoined, flattered. "But within a couple of
months," he went on, with a lowered voice and an eye on the parlor door, "I
shall be living in a different place and in quite a different way. Until
then...." He shrugged. His shrug was meant to include the scanty,
unpretending furnishings of the room, and also the rough casual fare
provided by many houses of entertainment out of present sight.
"I almost feel like taking you in myself," declared Medora boldly.
"That's still nicer of you," he said very promptly and with a reinforcement
of his smile. "But I'm on the up-grade, and pretty soon everything will
come out as smooth as silk. I shall have ten days at home, for the
holidays; then, after that, the new dispensation."
Amy Leffingwell tempered her look of general commiseration with a slight
lapse into relief. There was no compelling reason why she should have
commiserated; perhaps it all came from a desire to indulge in an
abandonment to gentleness and pity.
"Do you know," said Cope, with a sort of embarrassed laugh, "I feel as if I
were letting myself become the focus of interest. Oughtn't I to do
something to make the talk less personal?"
He glanced about the meagre little room. It gave no cue.
"I'm sure Amy and I are satisfied with the present subject," returned
But Cope rose, and gathered his bathrobe--or dressing-gown--about him.
"Wait a moment. I have some photographs I can show you--several of them
came only yesterday. I'll bring them down."
As soon as he had disappeared into the hall, Mrs. Phillips gave a slight
smile and said quickly:
"For heaven's sake, Amy, don't look so concerned, and mournful, and
sympathetic! Anybody might think that, instead of your being my chaperon, I
"He doesn't look at all well," said Amy defensively.
"He might look better; but we can't pity a young man too openly. Pity is
akin to embarrassment, for the pitied."
Cope came down stairs the second time at a lesser pace. He carried a sheaf
of photographs. Some were large and were regularly mounted; others were but
the informal products of snap-shottery.
He drew up his chair nearer to theirs and began to spread his pictures over
the gray and brown pattern on his lap.
"You know I was teaching, last year, at Winnebago," he said. "Here are some
pictures of the place. Science Hall," he began, passing them. "Those
fellows on the front steps must be a graduating class.
"The Cathedral," he continued. "And I think that, somewhere or other, I
have a group-picture of the choir.
"Sisterhood house," he went on. "Two or three of them standing out in
"Sisterhood?" asked Mrs. Phillips, with interest. "What do they do?"
Cope paused. "What do they do, indeed? Well, for one thing, they decorate
the altar--Easter, Harvest home, and so on."