Part 5 out of 5
satisfactory, they needn't blame me. Let them blame the system that diverts
so much time and attention to interests quite outside the regular
"You talk like a book!" said Foster, with blunt disdain.
"Language----" began Randolph.
"----was made to conceal thought," completed the other. "Stop talking. Stop
thinking. Or, if you must think, just get your thoughts back on your
Foster might have expressed himself still more pungently if he had been
aware, as Cope was, of an episode which took place, behind the scenes, at
the close of the performance. Lemoyne's singing and dancing in the last act
had had a marked success: after all, people had come to enjoy and to
applaud. Following two or three recalls, a large sheaf of roses had been
passed over the footlights; for a close imitation of professional procedure
was held to give the advantage of strict vraisemblance. This "tribute"
Lemoyne took in character, with certain graces, pirouettes and smiles. His
success so mounted to his head (for he was the one person in the case who
approximated a professional effect) that after he had retired he could not
quiet down and leave his part. He continued to act off-stage; and in his
general state of ebulliency he endeavored to bestow a measure of upwelling
femininity upon another performer who was in the dress of his own sex. This
downright fellow, in cutaway and silk hat, did not understand,--or at least
had no patience with a role carried too far. He brusquely cleared himself
of Lemoyne's arm with a good vigorous push. This effort not only propelled
Lemoyne against some scenery and left him, despite the voluminous blond
wig, with a bruise on his forehead; it immediately pushed him out of his
part, and it ended by pushing him out of the organization and even out of
"Keep off, will you!" said the young _elegant_ crudely.
Lemoyne's "atmosphere" dissipated suddenly. His art-structure collapsed. As
he looked about he saw plainly that the other man's act was approved. He
had carried things too far. Well, such are the risks run by the sincere,
When all this reached Cope, he felt a personal chagrin. Truly, the art of
human intercourse was an art that called for some care. Lemoyne's slight
wound left no trace after forty-eight hours--perhaps his "notices" in "The
Index" and "The Campus" had acted as a salve; but certain sections of
opinion remained unfriendly, and there was arising a new atmosphere of
distaste and disapproval.
The college authorities had not been satisfied, for some time, with his
clerical labors, and some of them thought that his stage performance--an
"exhibition" one of them termed it--called for reproof, or more. They laid
their heads together and Lemoyne and Cope were not long in learning their
decision. Lemoyne was pronounced a useless element in one field, a
discrepant element in another, a detriment in both. His essentially slight
connection with the real life of the University came to be more fully
recognized. Alma Mater, in fine, could do without him, and meant to.
Censure was the lot of the indignant boys who officered the society, and
who asked Lemoyne to withdraw; and complete scission from the nourishing
vine of Knowledge was his final fate.
No occupation; no source of income. Winnebago was cold; nor was it to be
warmed into ardor by press-notices. It had seen too many already and was
tired of them.
The two young men conferred. Again Basil Randolph was their hope.
"He ought to be able to do something for me in the city," said Lemoyne.
"He's acquainted in business circles, isn't he?"
Cope bent over him--paler, thinner, more solicitous. "I'll try it," he
Cope once more approached Randolph, but Randolph shook his head. He had no
faith in Lemoyne, and he had done enough already against his own interests
Lemoyne fluttered about to little effect for a few weeks, while Cope was
finishing up his thesis. Beyond an accustomed and desired companionship,
Lemoyne contributed nothing--was a drag, in truth. He returned to Winnebago
a fortnight before the convocation and the conferring of degrees; and it
was the understanding that, somehow, he and Cope should share together a
summer divided between Winnebago and Freeford. Randolph was left to claim
Cope's interest, if he could.
_COPE TAKES HIS DEGREE_
Lemoyne's departure but a fortnight before Cope's small share in the
convocation seemed to hint at mutual dissatisfaction; it might even stand
for a disagreement, or possibly a quarrel. "It's just as well that he
went," said Randolph to himself. "His presence here was no advantage to
Bertram--nor to anybody else." And with another fortnight Cope himself
would be gone; and who knew in what distant quarter he might take up his
autumn work? His ambitions, as Randolph knew, pointed to some important
university in the East. Meanwhile, make the most of the flying days.
Medora Phillips took the same view. She let Carolyn Thorpe loose for a
week's spring vacation, and sent Cope word that she was alone in a
darkened, depopulated home. Amy married. Hortense banished. Carolyn waved
aside. With all such varying devotions removed, why should he not look in
on her loneliness, during these final days, for dinner or tea? He was still
"charming"--however difficult, however recalcitrant. And he was soon to
depart. And who could believe that the fall term would bring his equal or
Randolph, still taking his business easily, had suggestions for walks and
lunches; he had also free time to make his suggestions operative. But Cope,
though frequently seen in active movement on the campus and through the
town, gave little heed to either of his elderly friends. He met them both,
in High Street, on different occasions, and thanked and smiled and
promised--and kept away. He was doubtless absorbed in his special work, in
the details of the closing year. He may have thought (as young men have
been known to think) that, in accepting their invitations, he had done
enough for them already. He had shown his good will on several occasions;
let that suffice. Or he may have thought (as young men have been found
capable of thinking) not at all: other concerns, more pressing and more
contemporaneous, may have crowded them out of his mind altogether.
"I wonder if it's sensitiveness?" asked Randolph of Foster. "His chum
didn't go away in the best of good odor...."
"Settle it for yourself," returned Foster brusquely. "And recall that you
have an office--and might have office-hours. Still, if you insist on asking
"I don't. But you may speak, if you like."
"And if you will consent to be fobbed off with a short-measure answer----"
"That's right. Don't say all you think."
"Then I would put it somewhere between indifference and ingratitude. Nearer
the latter. We know the young."
"I don't feel that I've done so very much for him," said Randolph, rather
"You were inclined to."
"H'm, yes. I could have opened up avenues that would have made his year
here a very different thing. Perhaps he didn't realize what I could do. And
perhaps he found me too old."
"Shall you attend the convocation?"
"I go usually. I'll push him off from shore and waft him good-bye."
"Good-bye? Good riddance!"
"You never liked him."
"I never did. If he leaves town without showing up here, no loss."
"Medora expects him here?"
"I think so."
Randolph descended to the lower floor. Mrs. Phillips was alone, seated
behind a tea-service that steamed with expectation.
"Going?" she asked.
"Going. Joe is grouchy and violent today. And he keeps on reminding me that
I have an office."
Medora glanced at the clock. Expectation seemed to be simmering down.
"Stay a few moments if you like. Forget the office a little longer. I'll
make some fresh."
"Not all these preparations for me?"
"Well, they're here. Take advantage."
"You're all alone?"
"Alone. The house is empty."
Medora tried to look as if at the heart of a tremendous vacuum.
"I can't fill it."
"You can fill fifteen minutes."
"Oh, if you're going to confound time and space...!"
He sat down receptively.
Medora rang a bell and harried Helga a little.
She glanced at Randolph. He sat there as if less to fill than to be filled.
"Say something," she said.
"Are you going to the convocation?"
He sat silent.
"Does that exhaust the subjects of interest?" she asked.
"Pretty nearly. Doesn't it?"
Medora fell silent in turn,--let the light clatter of the tea things speak
"Are you going to the convocation?" he presently asked again.
"Such variety!" she mocked.
"Yes," she said.
"That's better. Let's go together--as friends."
"Who would imagine us going as enemies?"
"Who, indeed?" Yet if they went together they went as reconciled
competitors,--they went as the result of a truce.
"I should like to see Bertram Cope in cap and gown," he said.
"He has worn them before, he tells me."
"As a member of the choir, during his undergraduate days."
"I never noticed him especially, then," she acknowledged.
"We can notice him now."
Medora made a slight grimace. "Yes, we can notice." He the actor; they the
audience. "A farewell performance."
"A final view."
Convocation day came clear, fair, mild. The professors walked in colorful
solemnity beneath the elms and up the middle aisle of the chapel, lending
both to outdoors and indoors the enlivenment of hoods red, yellow, purple.
The marshals led strings of candidates--long strings and short--to the
platform where the president sat, and the deans presented in due order
their bachelors, masters and doctors. The rapid handing out of the diplomas
brought frequent applause--bits, spatters, volleys, as the case might be.
There was recognition for a Chinaman, for a negro law-student, for a pair
of Filipinos; there was a marked outburst for a husky young man who was
assumed by the uninformed to have been a star in the university's athletic
life; there was a respectful but emphatic acknowledgment for a determined-
looking middle-aged woman with gray hair, who was led on with four men as a
little string of five; there was a salvo for a thoughtful, dignified man of
thirty-odd, who went up as a group in himself, attended by marshals before
and behind; and there was a slight spatter of applause for Bertram Cope
(one of a small procession of six), yet rather more for a smiling young man
who followed him....
Cope looked somewhat spare, despite his voluminous gown. The trying lights
added little color to his face, and brought his cheek-bones into undue
prominence. But he took his sheepskin with a bow and a gesture that
extinguished several of his companions; and he faced the audience, on
descending from the stage, with a composed effect gained by experience in
the choir. The lustre in the ceiling lit up his yellow hair and his blue
eyes: "He is as charming as ever!" thought Medora Phillips.
"He's had a hard pull of it," commented Randolph.
"I hope his own people will feed him up this summer," said Medora. Her
emphasis was wayward; "He wouldn't let we do it," she seemed to mean.
"Nor me," she almost made Randolph say.
There was a recessional, and then the crowds of students flooded the
corridors and circulated under the fresh foliage of the campus. Randolph
and Medora Phillips passed out with the rest of the assemblage. In the
midst of one of the avenues of elms they noticed Cope as the center of a
little group: two plain, elderly people (his parents, doubtless)
Medora Phillips looked twice. Yes, the other figure was Carolyn Thorpe,
offering congratulations. Carolyn had returned to her post and her work the
day before. "H'm," thought Medora, disposed to be miffed. Still, Carolyn
had, after all, the same right to attend as anyone else.
Medora and Basil Randolph added their congratulations to Carolyn's. Cope,
still in academic garb, performed the necessary introductions. His air was
eager, but cursory; smiling and ready, yet impersonal and cool; above all,
expeditious. If his parents passed on with the impression that Medora
Phillips and Basil Randolph were but casual acquaintances, worthy of
nothing beyond brief formalities, the blame was his own.
"I'm showing father and mother over the campus," he said, with an open
smile and a wave with his diploma, as he edged away.
The elders docilely took their cue, and moved away with him.
"Well," said Randolph, "there _are_ buildings, of course; and
fountains, and sun-dials, and memorial benches; but..."
"They add nothing to him," pronounced Medora, as she looked back on the
"Did you expect them to?" he asked. "Charm, like guilt, is personal.
Anyhow, there seems to be no brother," he added.
"Well, come, Carolyn," said Medora, to her returned secretary, who was
looking after the party too; "let's start for home. Good afternoon, Basil."
"What nice, good, pleasant, friendly people they are!" breathed Carolyn.
Randolph had strolled away, and Medora Phillips turned a studious glance on
her companion. Carolyn was conceivably in a state of mind--keyed up to an
all-inclusive appreciation. Did that foreshadow further verse?--a rustic
rhapsody, a provincial pantoum? But Medora withheld question. Much as she
would have enjoyed a well-consolidated impression of the visitors, she did
not intend to secure it by interrogating Carolyn Thorpe.
_COPE IN A FINAL VIEW_
Cope, after a few days, followed his parents back to Freeford. He may have
said good-bye to his landlady and to some of his associates in his
department; but he contrived no set adieux for the friends who had done so
much for him--or had tried to--through the past year. Basil Randolph and
Medora Phillips had their last view of him when, diploma in hand, he led
his parents away, over the campus.
"Oh, well," said Randolph resignedly, "we were less important to him than
we thought. Only a couple of negligible items among many. Entered in his
ledger--if we _were_ entered--and now faded away to a dim, rusty, illegible
"Stop it, Basil! You make me feel old, antique, antediluvian. I don't want
to. I shan't let myself be pushed back and ignored. I'm going to give Amy
and George a rousing big dinner before long; and when the fall term opens I
shall entertain as never before. And if that young man from the South turns
up here during the summer to see Hortense, I shall do a lot for them."
Hortense Dunton had long since returned, of course, from the Tennessee and
North Carolina mountains; but she ignored the convocation. One drop of
bitterness, if tasted again--even reminiscently--would have turned
everything to gall. Instead, she found a measure of sweetness in the
letters which followed on her return from that region. They were addressed
in a bold, dashing young hand, and bore the postmark "Nashville." Hortense
was inclined to let them lie conspicuously on the front-hall table, for
half an hour or so, before she took them up. Little might be absolutely
known about her passage with Cope; but there the letters lay, for her
aunt's eye and for Carolyn Thorpe's.
Carolyn prattled a little, not indiscreetly, about her meeting with the
Freeford family on the campus. As Basil Randolph himself had done months
before, she endeavored to construct a general environment for them and to
determine their place in the general social fabric. She had, however, the
advantage of having seen them; she was not called to make an exiguous
evocation from the void. She still held that they were nice, good,
pleasant, friendly people: if they had subordinated themselves, docilely
and automatically, to the prepotent social and academic figures of the
society about them, that in no wise detracted from the favorable impression
they had made on her.
"Just the right parents for Bertram," she said fondly, to herself. She
made, almost unconsciously, the allowance that is still generally made,
among Americans, for the difference between two generations: the elder, of
course, continues to provide a staid, sober, and somewhat primitive
background for the brilliancy of the younger. Her own people, if they
appeared in Churchton, might seem a bit simple and provincial too.
Hortense took Carolyn's slight and fond observations with a silent scorn.
When she spoke at all, she was likely to say something about "family"; and
it was gathered that the dashing correspondent at Nashville was
conspicuously "well-connected." Also, that he belonged to the stirring New
South and had put money in his purse. Hortense's contempt for the semi-
rustic and impecunious Cope became boundless.
About the middle of July a letter lay on the front-hall table for Carolyn.
It was from Cope.
"Only think!" said Carolyn to herself, in a small private ecstasy within
her locked bedchamber; "he wrote on his own account and of his own accord.
Not a line from me; not a suggestion!"
The letter was an affair of two small pages. "Yours very sincerely, Bertram
L. Cope" simply told "My dear Miss Thorpe" that he had been spending three
or four days in Winnebago, Wisconsin, and that he had now returned home for
a month of further study, having obtained a post in an important university
in the East, at a satisfactory stipend. A supplementary line conveyed
regards to Mrs. Phillips. And that was all.
Was it a handful of husks, or was it a banquet? Carolyn took it for the
latter and lived on it for days. Little it mattered what or how much he had
written: he had written, and of his own accord--as Carolyn made a point of
from the first. There is an algebraic formula expressive of the truth that
"1" is an infinitely greater number of times than "0." And a single small
taper is infinitely greater in point of light and cheer than none at all.
Carolyn's little world underwent illumination, and she with it. She
promptly soared to a shining infinity.
Medora Phillips could not overlook Carolyn's general glow, nor the sense of
elevation she conveyed. Things became clearer still when Carolyn passed on
the scanty message which Cope had added at the end. "Best regards to Mrs.
Phillips"--there it was, so far as it went. And Medora felt, along with
Carolyn, that a slight mention was an immensity of times greater than no
mention at all. "Very kind, very thoughtful of him, I'm sure," she said
Carolyn let her read the letter for herself. It was a brief, cool, succinct
thing, and not at all unsuited for general circulation. "Best regards to
Mrs. Phillips. Yours very sincerely, Bertram L. Cope," she read again;
then, like Carolyn, she retired for meditation.
Well, from its dozen or fifteen lines several things might fairly be
inferred. "Three or four days in Winnebago"--a scanty pattern for a visit.
Had three or four been enough? Had Lemoyne been found glum and unpleasant?
Had those months of close companionship brought about a mutually diminished
interest? Not a word as to Lemoyne's accompanying him to Freeford, or
joining him there later. On the contrary, a strong implication that there
would be sufficient to occupy him without the company of Lemoyne or anybody
else: evidences of an eye set solely on the new opportunity in the East.
"Well, if he is going to get along without him," said Medora to herself,
"it will be all the better for him. He was never any advantage to him," she
added, with an informal and irresponsible use of her pronouns. But she knew
what she meant and had no auditor to satisfy.
When, however, she touched on the matter with Basil Randolph she showed
more exactitude. Randolph had lingered late upstairs with Foster, and he
had been intercepted, on his way out, with an invitation to remain to
dinner. "Very well," he said. "Sing-Lo is not invariably inspired on Monday
evening. I shall be glad to stay."
He felt, in fact, the need of a little soothing. Foster had been taking a
farewell shot at Cope and had been rough and vindictive. He had heard
something of the antics of "Annabella's" partner and had magnified
characteristically the seriousness of the offense. "What hope for him"--
meaning Cope--"so long as he goes on liking and admiring that fellow?"
"Well," returned Randolph, in an effortless platitude, "liking is the great
mystery--whether you take its coming or its going."
"The sooner this one goes, the better," snapped Foster. "Have you heard
from that fellow at all?" he inquired.
"'That fellow'? What fellow--this time?"
"The other one, of course. Cope."
Foster wiped out Cope with one question.
"Likely to 'cultivate' some other young chap, next year?"
Randolph had a moment of sober thoughtfulness.
"Good! Get back into harness; have 'hours' and all the rest of it. Best
thing in the world for you. The young care so much for us--the devil they
Foster gave a savage, dragging clutch at his shade and twisted rebelliously
in his chair.
Randolph left him to himself and went below.
Downstairs dinner proceeded cautiously. There was no chance for an
interchange of thought until the two young women should have been got out
of the way. Hortense had her own affair at the back of her head, and
Carolyn hers. Neither could sympathize with the other. Hortense's manner to
Carolyn was one of half-suppressed insolence. Carolyn, buoyed up
interiorly, seemed able to endure it,--perhaps was not fully conscious of
it. There was relief when, after dessert, each arose and went her
Medora and Randolph settled down on a causeuse in the drawing-room. The
place was half-lighted, but Randolph made out that his companion was taking
on a conscious air of pseudo-melancholy.
Her eyes roved the dim, cluttered room with studied mournfulness, and she
"Dear old house! Undergoing depopulation, and soon to be a waste."
"Yes; they're leaving it one by one. First, Amy. You remember Amy?"
"I believe so."
"She married George and went away. You recall the occasion?"
"I think I was present."
"And now it's Hortense."
"Is it, indeed?"
She told him about the gallant young Southerner in Tennessee, and gave a
forecast of a probable pairing.
"And next it will be Carolyn."
"Carolyn? Who has cast his eye on her?"
Medora shot it out.
"Cope!" Randolph gave himself another twist in that well-twisted sofa.
"Cope," she repeated. If the boy were indeed beyond her own reach, she
would report his imminent capture by another with as much effect as she
And she told of Carolyn's fateful letter.
"So that's how it stands?" he said thoughtfully.
"I don't say 'how' it stands. I don't say that it 'stands' at all. But he
has prospects and she has hopes."
"Prospects and hopes,--a strong working combination."
Medora took the leap. "She will marry him, of course," she said decidedly.
"After his having jilted Amy----"
"'Jilted' her? Do you understand it that way?"
"And trampled on Hortense----"
"'Trampled'? Surely you exaggerate."
"And ignored me----You will let me use that mild word, 'ignored'?"
"Its use is granted. He has ignored others too."
"After all that, who is there left in the house but Carolyn? Listen; I'll
tell you how it will be. She has answered his letter, of course,--imagine
whether or not she was prompt about it!--and he will answer hers----"
"_Will_ answer it?"
"Not at once, perhaps; but soon: in the course of two or three weeks. Then
she will reply,--and there you have a correspondence in full swing. Then,
in the fall he will write her from his new post in the East, and say: 'Dear
Girl,--At last I can----,' and so on."
"You mean that you destine poor Carolyn for a man who is so apt at jilting
and trampling and ignoring?"
"Who else is there?" Medora continued to demand sturdily. "In October they
will be married----"
"Heaven forbid!" ejaculated Randolph.
"You have something better to suggest?"
"Nothing better. Something different. Listen, as you yourself say. Next
October I shall call on you, put my hand in my inside pocket, bring out a
letter and read it to you. It will run like this: 'My dear Mr. Randolph,--
You will be pleased, I am sure, to hear that I now have a good position at
the university in this pleasant town. Arthur Lemoyne, whom you recall, is
studying psychology here, and we are keeping house together. He wishes to
be remembered. I thank you for your many kindnesses,'--that is put in as a
mere possibility,--'and also send best regards to Mrs. Phillips and the
members of her household. Sincerely yours, Bertram L. Cope.'"
"I won't accept that!" cried Medora. "He will marry Carolyn, and I shall do
as much for her as I did for Amy, and as much as I expect to do for
"I see. The three matches made and the desolation of the house complete."
"Complete, yes; leaving me alone among the ruins."
"And nothing would rescue you from them but a fourth?"
"Basil, you are not proposing?"
"I scarcely think so," he returned, with slow candor. "I shouldn't care to
live in this house; and you----"
"I knew you never liked my furnishings!"
"----and you, I am sure, would never care to live in any other."
"I shall stay where I am," she declared. "Shall you stay where you are?"
she asked keenly.
"Confess that housekeeping on your own account is less attractive than it
"I do. Confess that you, with all your outfit and all your goings-on, never
quite--never quite--succeeded in..."
Medora shrugged. "The young, at best, only tolerate us. We are but the
platform they dance on,--the ladder they climb by."
"After all, he was a 'charming' chap. Your own word, you know."
"Yet scarcely worth the to-do we made over him," said Medora, willing to
save her face.
Randolph shrugged in turn, and threw out his hands in a gesture which she
had never known him to employ before.
"Worth the to-do? Who is?"