Part 4 out of 5
moved out of the hall and back to the classroom with the rest. Dally was
saying things to him, but he could not grasp a word. Now and then he
became vaguely conscious of awed glances cast at him by the other boys.
Some of them spoke to him, and in some strange way he managed to realize
that Davidson was not among these.
At last he woke into full consciousness on the street, where he found
himself walking homeward by his father's hand. The pressure of that hand
seemed unusually soft and pleasant. The mother was talking eagerly and
wiping her eyes between little happy bursts of laughter. The father
listened for a long while in silence.
"Yes," he said at last, "it is not a bad beginning--if he can keep it
Keith felt for a moment as if he were walking on air, and he knew that
he would keep it up--that after such a day nothing could prevent him
from keeping it up. Then a bewildering thought appeared out of nowhere
and began to buzz in his tired and over-excited brain.
"If I have done all that the Rector said," this thought demanded of him,
"why in the world has Dally kept me sitting below Davidson who got
nothing but books?"
Keith next day was permitted to have a good look at the five
twenty-crown pieces found in the package handed to him by the Rector.
Their weight and brightness made them delightful to handle, but they
were not "toys for children" his father remarked, and with that remark
they passed out of sight for ever. Once or twice he put timid questions
to his mother, who never answered directly, but reminded him of all the
money his father had spent and was spending on him for food and clothes
and schooling and all sorts of things. Keith almost wished that he had
received some nice books instead, or anything that could make him feel
that he really had got a big glorious reward for something he really had
done. Now the achievement seemed as illusive as the reward.
He tried to reason the case out with himself, and the conclusion at
which he arrived was that his father probably was entitled and
certainly welcome to the money, but that as he, Keith, had earned it and
owned it, something should be said to him about the use of it. And as so
often was the case, it became a question of abstract justice. The value
and possibilities of the money lay beyond his grasp, but the ethics of
its disposal, from his simple childish point of view, seemed too clear
for serious discussion. Once or twice he stole a look at his savings
bank book, which his mother kept among her own papers, but no new entry
appeared on its meagre credit side. By and by he almost lost sight of
the whole incident, engrossed as he was with the experiences of the
current hour, but the memory of it recurred fitfully, and in moments of
dissatisfaction it tended to assume the shape of a grievance, if not a
charge, against the father. From this tendency he fled instinctively to
an idea of money as not worth bothering about. And that idea also helped
when the atmosphere of worry about money matters surrounding his mother
became too intense and depressive.
There was comparatively little of it that summer. His mother was in
better health and spirits than he had seen her for a long time, and she
was as happy as Keith when the father announced that they would have a
summer place of their own on one of the islands in Lake Maelaren,
somewhat farther out than the one where Uncle Laube lived. It was too
far away to have become absorbed by the rapidly growing city, and yet
too close at hand to be quite desirable as a summer location for the
more prosperous. The island was of sufficient size to hold a couple of
real farms in the centre, while the shore line was occupied by
occasional villas. Halfway between these two mutually foreign regions,
on a sharp slope that still remained largely uncleared, stood a little
red house with just two rooms in it. One of these was occupied by the
old couple that owned the house. The other one had been rented to the
Wellanders for the summer, and in that one room the mother, the
grandmother and Keith established themselves, with the father appearing
as a regular week-end guest.
Taking it all in all, it was the freest, and in many ways the happiest
summer of Keith's childhood. He was permitted to roam around pretty much
as he pleased, and there were several other small boys to play with,
none of them enterprising enough to arouse the distrust of Keith's
mother. They were all city boys however, as foreign to nature as Keith,
and there was no older person on hand to give their excursions and games
a constructive twist without turning them into lessons. There was plenty
of wild life about, and it helped in many ways to give them a better
time, but that was as near as they got to it. Exactly the same thing
happened during subsequent summers, and so the boy always looked upon
flowers and trees and birds and insects as delightful but puzzling
representatives of a world of which he did not know the language.
It was good fun, however, and temporarily it took Keith farther away
from himself and from his cherished books than he had been since his
first discovery of the latter. The boys proved decent, wholesome
company, more bent on discharging their surplus energy than on doing
mischief. Much of their time was spent in or near the water, so that
Keith developed into a pretty good swimmer for his age, though always of
the cautious type. And between games they would discuss the world from
a boy's point of view. There was particularly one boy of the same age as
Keith with whom he had talks of a kind quite new to him. Oscar's parents
were still very young, and he spoke of them more as chums than as
masters. And he spoke of them with a sort of restrained enthusiasm that
set Keith thinking very hard. He loved his parents, especially his
mother, and admired them, especially his father at certain times, but he
was not conscious of any feeling about them corresponding to the one
displayed by Oscar, whose father, after all, was nothing but a captain
on one of the small steam sloops running between the city and some of
the surrounding islands.
Oscar was especially eloquent when he spoke of the love his parents had
for each other. He gave examples that seemed exaggerated to Keith, but
nevertheless impressed him. In return Keith boasted similarly of his own
parents, and he meant every word he said, but always what he had to tell
fell short of the pictures drawn by Oscar.
"You don't understand," cried Oscar one day when again they were
debating this fascinating topic all by themselves. "It's all right for
your mother to kiss your father when he leaves and when he returns, and
to be looking for him all the time. But that's not enough. That's not
the way my parents love each other. And I don't think your father cares
so very much for your mother. But my father is so much in love with my
mother that he would like to eat what she has chewed!"
"No--o!" protested Keith, rather appalled by the illustration used, and
yet feeling as if he had beheld some undiscovered country. There was a
pause during which he stared incredulously at Oscar.
"I mean just what I said," insisted Oscar a little more quietly after a
while. "Anything that has to do with my mother is sweet to my father, I
tell you. And that is love. If you don't know it, you don't know what
love is either."
"But why," demanded Keith, his mind still so full of the disturbing
image called forth by Oscar that his jaws moved uneasily as if he had
taken into his mouth something unpalatable.
"Because," Oscar hesitated ... "because it is that way."
Keith left shortly afterwards to think it over in solitude. It was
probably the first time the word love had been presented to him as
anything but a commonplace term for laudable but commonplace feelings.
He puzzled over it, but to little purpose, and for some reason he
thought it useless or unwise to ask his mother for information.
The third grade proved merely a continuation of the second. Little had
changed over summer. A few boys had been dropped behind and a few others
overtaken. That affected the bottom of the class, but not the top. Dally
remained their principal, and when he welcomed them back at the opening
of the fall term, Keith waited excitedly for the distribution of
places. Few changes were made however. Davidson remained _primus_ as
before, with Keith next. Then came Runge and Blomberg as before. For a
day or two Keith swung violently between fits of rebellion and deep
depression. It seemed almost incredible that he could have received the
highest prize bestowed on any pupil in the school.
Then the routine of instruction and study seized him. New text-books
were acquired, not without some grumbling on his father's part. New
interests were stirring and, as usual, cleverly nursed by Dally. Above
all, the magnetic power of the teacher asserted itself once more, until
Keith felt that the only thing really worth while in life was to
Algebra was one of the new subjects, and the use of letters instead of
figures amused Keith for a while. But it took no serious hold on his
mind. The whole field of mathematics left him strangely uninterested
although he was good at arithmetic. He thought the problems of Euclid
stupid. Once he had learned how to prove a theorem, it seemed so
ridiculously self-evident that he wondered why anybody should bother his
brain about it. There were other boys who could figure out the
demonstrations in advance without looking at the book. Keith tried it
once or twice, but failed miserably and gave it up as a worthless and
thankless job. Apparently his brain did not work in that way. It had to
touch real life to be at its best. History and geography were his
favourite subjects, and in those he led the class. This was openly
admitted by Dally himself.
Literature was another new subject. They read and analysed and
criticized classical Swedish poetry--Tegner and Runeberg and Geijer.
Most of the poems chosen for the purpose were historical and took their
themes from the old viking days or from the glorious centuries of
Gustavus Adolphus and Charles XII, when Sweden so nearly rose to be a
great power. Keith liked to take certain sonorous passages into his
mouth. There was a satisfying fullness and richness about them that
seemed somehow to enhance his own feeling of self-importance. Their
rhythm also pleased him and became a sort of substitute for the singing
of which he was incapable. Chiefly, however, it was the stories told by
the poems that interested him, and on the whole he did not think much of
poetry. But this opinion he never dared to put into words. To do so in
the face of Dally's clearly manifested reverence would have been like
openly confessing a particularly degrading form of inferiority.
Nor did it seem to matter so very much what he studied. The main thing
always remained what Dally said and did in his efforts to bring out
something within the self of each boy for which only he seemed to have
an eye. Keith at times felt as if he would give anything to know what
Dally expected of him in particular. He felt sure that it must be
something wonderful, and he had odd moments of almost being on the verge
of grasping it, but in the end it always eluded him, and no sooner was
he out of Dally's presence than the whole thing seemed very unreal
Young Davidson had a bent toward sarcasm that sometimes lured him out of
his usual cold aloofness. In one of these rare communicative moments he
said of little Loth that he crossed the equator at least once a week and
didn't mind. He referred to the fact that Loth was more frequently moved
than any other pupil but always managed to retain a place near the
centre. And no matter what fate might bring him of ups or downs, Loth
always retained a perfect composure. Yet he was small and nervous and
highstrung like Keith and Bauer. One day Keith asked him how he could
stand being shoved about like that.
"Because my father says I am going into business anyhow," answered Loth,
"and I don't know whether I hate business or books most."
"What would you like to do," asked Keith looking puzzled.
"Draw," said Loth vaguely, "and play the piano, and go to the theatre,
and--yes, and read poetry books that don't teach you anything."
This view of life was so new to Keith that he really tried to become
acquainted with Loth in order to learn more about it. His own
indifference to anything but books promised small success, but in the
end a tie was found in their common love of tin soldiers. So he was
admitted to Loth's particular circle and was even invited to Loth's
home for a birthday party--the first and last of its kind that he
attended during his five years at Old Mary. Before permitted to go, he
was warned that the servant girl would come for him at nine. No amount
of pleading helped to ameliorate that condition.
Loth's father was a prosperous storekeeper on West Long Street and lived
in a spacious and richly furnished apartment above the store. It was a
home like that revealed to Keith through his shortlived friendship with
Harald. The impression on Keith, however, was quite different because of
his own growth since that first year at school. And the actions of the
eight or ten boys who were the other guests impressed him still more.
They wore gloves when they arrived. They showed neither forwardness nor
timidity, but greeted each other and their host with grown-up dignity
and formality. They seemed to know what to do at every moment, and how
to do it. Keith was accustomed to decent manners. Social intercourse in
the parental circle was not without grace, but this was something
different. At the time he was utterly incapable of telling where the
difference lay, and years afterward he realized what subtle shadings it
depended on. The main thing at the time was that something in himself
responded instinctively to the higher degree of polish and
self-assurance which he now for the first time was able to observe at
The principal entertainment of the evening was a monster battle with tin
soldiers on the cleared floor of the huge dining-room. The battle was at
its height and supper was not yet in sight, when Keith learned that the
girl was waiting for him. There was nothing to do but to obey, but the
hostess could not think of letting him go without having eaten. A
special service was prepared for him in the kindest way possible, and
Keith enjoyed very much the many dainties offered him. Nevertheless he
felt the situation as humiliating and was actually glad when he got away
at last. But the gladness was only a surface gloss on a burning core of
regrets and dissatisfaction.
In a way that evening, which was never repeated, proved a new starting
point in his life. He had had his first close contact with life on a
higher social level, and he could not forget it. New standards had been
furnished him, and unconsciously he was applying them all the time to
all sorts of things--his parents included. Until then he had blindly
accepted them and their ways and their environment as representing the
best this world had to offer. Now the basis had been laid for doubts
that gradually developed into positive criticism.
The immediate result seemed quite irrelevant. He developed a sudden
objection to running errands for his mother, and especially to doing
anything that involved the carrying of bags or bottles or baskets
through the streets. Packages looking as if they might contain books
remained unobjectional. There was a time when being sent to the grocery
store was a privilege and a distinction. Later it became an opportunity
for clandestine meetings with Johan. Even during his first year at Old
Mary he continued to perform such tasks without any thought of what
others might think of them. He must have heard things, however, and
inner resistances must have developed, which were now brought into
sudden appearance by the inner echoes of Loth's birthday party.
He did not dare to breathe a word about his new state of mind in his
father's presence. And it was long before he gathered courage to voice
it openly before his mother. But he used all the arguments and evasions
and tricks he could muster to escape what had become a dreaded ordeal.
It developed into a test of will and strength between Keith and his
mother--the first of its kind, and the forerunner of numerous others
still more deep-reaching. After a while the father discovered or learned
what was going on, but, contrary to custom, that was not enough to
settle the matter. In this case, neither argument nor threats had any
effect on Keith. He avoided open conflict with his father for good and
sufficient reason, and he did what could not be escaped, but he did it
in a spirit of passionate rebellion that introduced a new element of
division and strife the home. Both parents seemed instinctively to
interpret the boy's changed attitude as a reflection on themselves, and
they resented it keenly, but to no avail. While pretending to insist on
full obedience as before, they gave way in reality by making the servant
girl do the errands in place of Keith.
"One of these days I suppose we shall not be good enough for you any
longer," said his mother bitterly one day while the contest was
"Why, mamma," cried Keith, disturbed by the emotional appeal back of her
words, "what has that to do with my not wanting to be laughed at by
"I almost wish I hadn't persuaded your father to send you to the public
school," the mother rejoined.
The school year was drawing to its close again Dally's tone grew less
bantering. On several occasions he delivered little impromptu sermons on
the seriousness of life and the difficulties of living. One afternoon
about two weeks before commencement he told them to close their books.
"I want each one of you to tell me what you expect to become in life, or
what kind of a career your parents have chosen for you."
A stir of excitement swept over the class.
Then Dally went on to explain why he wished to know. The first three
grades were divided into A and B classes, but that had nothing to do
with the teaching, which was the same in both classes. The fourth and
fifth grades, on the other hand, were divided into a "Latin" and an
"English" branch, with quite different curricula. Boys headed for the
various professions ought to choose the former branch, while the second
one led to more practical pursuits.
"You are going to be an officer, I understand." Dally said, turning to
"Yes, sir," the young Jew answered with a self-importance that even
Keith could not miss. "My father wants me to try for the General Staff,
and so I have to specialize on mathematics."
"Humph," was Dally's only audible comment as he made a note, but he
looked as if he had tasted something unpleasant.
"And you, Wellander," asked the teacher.
"I am going to be an explorer," replied Keith without moment's
hesitation, and the whole class broke into a roar of laughter with Dally
Keith, as usual, blushed a deep crimson, but did not move.
"That's neither a trade nor a profession," said Dally after a while,
still smiling. "I fear you are fuzzy-wuzzying again, Wellander. What do
you mean by an explorer?"
"One who explores rivers and deserts and unknown countries and such
things," said Keith brazenly.
"And you really mean that you are going in for that sort of thing?"
"I do," Keith insisted, while the whole class watched him in a hush that
might easily turn either into derision or into approval.
"There isn't much exploring left to be done," Dally mused, looking
intently at the small boy at the other end of the room. "Most of the
globe is mapped already."
"There is a lot left in Africa," Keith retorted eagerly.
"And what does your father say about it," was Dally's next question.
There was a long pause broken only by some gigglings by the
irrepressibles down at the bottom of the class.
"I have not asked him," Keith admitted at last. "But I am going to be an
explorer just the same."
"In these days that means you have to become a scientist," Dally
remarked in a changed tone. "It is your only chance, and so I advise
you to choose Latin. It is what I think a boy with your head should
"All right, Sir," assented Keith, flattered by the last part of Dally's
remark and utterly ignorant of what his choice implied.
That evening he told his father that he had been asked whether he wanted
to enter the Latin or the English branch of the fourth grade, and that
he had chosen the former.
"Why," asked his father.
"Because Dally says I ought to," replied Keith.
"Well, he ought to know," said the father.
But when Keith appeared in the schoolyard during one of the pauses next
day, he was met from every side by the cry:
"There's the explorer! There's the explorer!"
The younger boys jeered openly at him. The older ones pretended to ask
him serious questions about his plans. For days he was the laughing
stock of the whole school, and even on his way to and from school he was
pursued by jibes and taunts. Through it all Keith stuck quietly to his
guns, without a sign of retraction or evasion. And in the end his
seriousness conquered. But from that day he was known to the entire
school as "the explorer," and he heard that term more often than his
It was the afternoon of the last day before commencement. The atmosphere
in the class was solemn and more than a little wistful.
"It is our last hour together," said Dally when all were back in their
seats after the pause. "History is on the schedule, but--schedules are
not made for moments like these. Let us just have a friendly talk."
He did practically all the talking, and he talked to them more as an
older boy, a chum with somewhat wider experience, than as a teacher and
class principal. It made them feel their own importance rather heavily,
but still more it made them conscious of an irreparable loss. They knew
that school would not be the same in the fall, when Dally no longer was
with them. In accordance with established custom, he would go back to
the first grade and start piloting a new generation up to the point
where they had just arrived.
The class would break up, too. Some would have to stay behind. One or
two had gone as far as they could and would make a premature transfer
from school to life. Others were bound for other schools or other
cities. The rest would split in two and join with the corresponding
parts of the parallel section to form two entirely new classes. It gave
them a foretaste of what it would mean to graduate into the _gymnasium_,
and from there into the university. And it filled their hearts with
The last hour was drawing to a close and everybody was talking at once,
when Dally unexpectedly asked them to give him their full attention once
more for few minutes.
"An act of justice remains to be performed," he said. "There is a boy
among you who has not received all that he had justly deserved. It was
withheld from him by me for his own welfare. The time has now come when
he and you should know all about it."
As he paused for a moment, the boys looked around at each other with
something like consternation. Their curiosity was intense. He spoke with
a tensity of feeling they had hardly ever noticed in him before, and not
one of them had an inkling of what he was driving at.
"It means that some of you have received more than they deserved," he
resumed. "That also should be known--for the good of all. It is a
reflection on no one but myself, however, and I think you know me well
enough by this time to be sure that I have been moved by no other
consideration than the future good of the one most nearly concerned."
Again he stopped, the class waiting breathlessly for him to go on. At
that moment Keith became aware that the teacher's gaze rested firmly on
him with an expression that sent the blood in a hot stream to his face.
"Wellander," Dally began again, and in spite of the beating of his own
heart, Keith noticed that the teacher's voice trembled a little as he
spoke. "Will you do me the favour of rising a moment? You are the boy I
have in mind."
Keith rose like an automaton. His eyes clung to the lips of the
teacher, and he seemed to expect from those lips some utterance that
must make his whole future life different. As often happened in moments
of intensified emotion, he became strangely oblivious of all the little
eddies and cross-currents of thoughts and feelings that made up his
ordinary, every-day consciousness of himself.
"For two years I have kept you number two in the class," Dally said,
speaking in an easier tone as if to lighten the strain on everybody.
"You should have been number one. Davidson, whom I placed above you has
at no time been your superior in anything but self-control. But it was
just your--what I have sometimes called your fuzzy-wuzziness, that made
me afraid of placing you where you rightly belonged, at the head of the
class. It is my belief that you have in you greater gifts than any other
boy in this class, but I am not yet sure of what you will do with them.
It was my eagerness to see you make full use of them that made me poke
fun at you and keep you out of the place that rightfully was yours.
Perhaps I did wrong, but my meaning was right. I shall always watch you
closely, and I hope you will try your best not to disappoint me. Will
you promise that?"
"I will," gasped Keith.
The clock had already struck three. The moment Dally stopped, the class
broke up, but only to gather about Keith--every one of them except
Davidson, who slipped out of the room with a face white as chalk. Keith
caught a glimpse of that face, and a sense of reckless elation shot
He sped as never before on his way home. It was still impossible for
him to think the matter through. First he must tell his parents and hear
what they had to say about it.
On hearing what had happened, his mother hugged and kissed him, her face
all smiles while big tears dripped down her cheeks. Then the father came
home and was told everything. His mother looked serious by that time,
and Keith noticed a wavering expression in her voice.
"Your teacher evidently knows you," was the father's first remark to
Keith, but by his tone the boy knew that he was pleased. Then he
hesitated, and after a while he said as if speaking to himself: "But if
Keith really had earned the first place...."
"That's what I have been thinking," the mother broke in with blazing
eyes. "Do you remember what I said about that boy Davidson? He was the
richest boy in the class, and Lector Dahlstroem simply did not dare to
put Keith above him. Now he is trying to make up for it when it's
"Perhaps," said the father thoughtfully. "The sum of it is what I have
always said: the coin that was made for a farthing will never be
"But Keith was not made for a farthing," the mother retorted sharply and
indignantly. "That is the main point of what his teacher confessed in
school this very day."
"Well, if not," said the father wearily, "it is up to him to prove it."
And Keith, too, all of a sudden felt very, very tired.
Keith was one of the first to enter the class room on the morning of
Commencement Day. He was still standing near the door when Davidson
appeared and evidently meant to walk past him without a greeting.
"Say, Davidson," Keith cried impulsively, holding out his hand, "I don't
"Well, what do you think I care," the other boy asked icily as he turned
on his heel and walked out of the room again without taking the
It was the first time that Keith felt the sting of real hatred. He could
never have acted like that--not even toward one who had wronged him
seriously. What galled him most was that he had been made to look as if
he were apologizing. Then a sense of triumph returned little by little,
but it was not very vivid, and what he missed utterly was the fact that
no other situation could have been quite so hard on Davidson's pride as
the one in which Dally had placed him. A realization of that fact came
only years afterwards.
Then Dally himself arrived, and soon the commencement exercises were in
full progress, Keith feeling quite superior to any curiosity or
excitement. Again he received a prize, and again it was in the form of
money, but a smaller sum not accompanied by any special encomiums. He
walked home very quietly with his parents, and they had not much to
Had Keith known what an anti-climax was, he would undoubtedly have used
that word to describe the experiences of his second Commencement Day
at Old Mary.
The summer was spent quietly on the same island where he had been so
happy a year before. Oscar was not there. Other boys took his place, but
no real intimacy sprang up between them and Keith. They certainly did
not talk of love, and what they knew of sex took Keith back to the days
spent around the big rock. He had a good time on the whole, but more and
more a sense of missing something fretted him, and he could not tell
what it was. For emotional outlet he was wholly dependent on his mother,
and though he seemed as devoted to her as ever, he had queer spells of
wishing to get away from her. The father was more in the background than
ever during the summer. Once in a while he would show up on a weekday
evening very tired, and leave again with the first morning boat. During
the week-end he wanted above all to rest, and Keith was partly happy and
partly unhappy at being left alone.
Once only during that summer did his father appear under circumstances
that impressed themselves on the boy's memory. It was the day of the
annual regatta of the Yacht Club. When the races were over, the yachts
were towed back to the city by a large steamer, escorted by a whole
flotilla of every kind of craft loaded with sightseers. It was the gala
evening of the season. As the tender twilight of the August night
descended on the smooth waters of the Lake Maelaren, every villa along
the shores became brightly illuminated, while the progress of the fleet
was marked by incessant bursts of fireworks.
The Wellanders had a splendid view from the little platform on which
their cottage stood. Some friends had been invited for the day, and the
father had brought with him from the city a package of fireworks. But
instead of wasting money on sky-rockets or other expensive pieces, he
had concentrated almost wholly on blue and red lights, which he placed
among the trees and over the plateau and set off in batches, first one
colour and then the other. Because the place was so high up, apart from
the rest, and so heavily wooded, the effect was probably very pretty
from the water. Anyhow a burst of applause was heard from the
"That's for us," said Keith's father, "and not for those rich people
down by the shore."
As usual when very much pleased, he laughed while speaking so that it
was hard to hear what he said. But Keith heard, and a glow of pride
swelled his chest. It was the crowning climax of a scene that touched
the boy with a sense of joy bordering on pain. "Beautiful" was a word
used repeatedly by the grown-up people about him. He knew now that
beauty was something that turned ordinary life into a pleasure more
keen than could be had out of eating, or playing, or reading, or
getting presents at Christmas even. To this wonderful thing his father
had added a personal triumph in which the whole family participated. It
silenced incipient criticism for a long time.
Nevertheless there was another side to that self-satisfied remark of his
father, and it also stuck in his memory. Back of the proud words lay
envy and deference, and a suggestion of hopeless separation. In Keith's
mind it became tied up with his memories from Loth's party, and all of
it formed a complex of thought from which he tried his best to get
away--and most of the time successfully.
For lack of sufficient accommodations in the over-crowded old building,
one class had to use the assembly hall. To make the many disadvantages
more palatable, this location was presented as an honour reserved for
the class shepherded by the old Rector himself. Of this "honour" Keith
became a participant when the fall term opened.
There were no desks--only benches without backs. The rest of the school
left with a sense of relief after using them only during the fifteen
minutes of morning prayer. To sit on them hours at a stretch turned the
day into torture before it was half done. The only way of resting was to
bend far forward with humped back, and no sooner did the Rector
discover a boy in that position than he descended on the sinner:
"Straight in the back, boy! What do you think you are--an old hag
No attempt was made to arrange the boys according to merit. On the first
day every one chose a seat to suit himself, and so Keith found himself
number five without knowing how it had happened. Number four was a boy
of his own size and age named George Murray, who seemed to be as
friendless as was Keith.
Instead of one teacher, they had a dozen at least, few of whom gave
instruction in more than a single subject. It smacked of university and
made the boys feel much advanced. The curriculum showed an imposing
array of new subjects--Latin, French, universal history, physics,
chemistry, and so on. Their novelty caught and carried Keith for a
Latin was still the most important study of all. It was taught by the
Rector himself, who worshipped everything classic with a religious
devotion and who maintained in so many words that a man's culture was
measured by his mastery of the Roman tongue. In the lower grades it had
been spoken of with bated breath. Keith had looked forward to the first
lesson with trembling impatience. He plunged into the declination of
_mensa_ with the fervour of a convert. He translated the text-book's
_colomba est timida_ with a sense of performing a sacred rite. Days went
by before he dared to admit to himself that his interest was waning,
Even then he went on studying without a thought of rebellion. The habit
of application had become deeply rooted. The pride born out of his first
easy successes still had urged him to master any subject offered. But
there was a change in his manner of studying as well as in his general
attitude toward the school. Until then he had been an acolyte in sacred
precincts. Now he turned gradually into a time-server doing his duty out
of vanity and a desire to remain a public school pupil. Until then he
had never felt that he had to study. Now fear of the old Rector and of
his father entered more and more as conscious motives.
He missed the kind guidance of Dally. The Rector never became the soul
and guardian of the class in the manner of Dally. The other teachers
came and went without other interest than to insure a decent showing in
their respective subjects. All had favourites chosen from those pupils
who showed most aptitude for mathematics, natural history or whatever it
happened to be. No one was interested in the class as a whole, and no
one cared for its individual members as human beings in the make. Within
a short time Keith was simply drifting, although neither he nor those
appointed to guide him were aware of it at the time.
Keith took a liking to George Murray from the start. During the first
couple of days he looked at him frequently as if to invite acquaintance,
but the other boy always appeared deeply attentive to the subject of the
hour. During the pauses he withdrew into a corner as if to forestall
possible advances. At the end of the second day Keith and Murray
reached the stairway simultaneously and started for the street side by
side. Murray's pale, aristocratic and very narrow face with unduly
prominent teeth still bore a look of indifference, but his attitude had
lost a little of its previous stiffness.
"Where do you live," Keith ventured with for him rare forwardness.
"On the Quay," replied Murray in a voice that neither encouraged nor
"Where," asked Keith eagerly.
"Corner of St. John's Lane."
"That's my corner," cried Keith. "I live in the lane, and we have the
same way home."
"All right," was Murray's only answer, which Keith accepted in the
Little more was said until they reached the top of the hill above Carl
Johan Square, when Keith explained that he always kept to the left along
the shore of Lake Maelaren.
"I always take the other way," rejoined Murray, suiting his actions to
"All right," said Keith in his turn, going along toward the saltwater
side of the harbour as if it had been the route of his own choice. They
stopped for a moment to watch the sloops in the fish market loaded
almost to the point of foundering with live fish. Further out a number
of large sailing vessels rode at anchor. Still further away, where the
southern shore drew close to the point of the island with the turreted
red fort, a big black steamer was seen slowly creeping toward its
landing place at the Quay. For a moment Murray studied it intently,
shading his eyes in sailor fashion to see better.
"That's one of our steamers," he said at last.
"Do you mean you own it," gasped Keith incredulously.
"The company does," explained Murray.
"The one of which my father is managing director."
"Are there many of them," Keith asked to be polite. It sounded too much
like a fairy tale.
"Seven," replied Murray casually. "They are all painted black and sail
on foreign ports."
"Did you ever travel on one," inquired Keith with something like awe in
"Yes," said the slim youngster by his side as if it had been the most
natural thing in the world. "Many times, as far as the pilot station,
with papa. And last summer he took me along on a real journey to
England. That's where our family comes from, and we were gone three
"Were you scared," Keith asked almost in a whisper.
"No." Murray shook his head with quick assurance. "That is, not much. We
had a storm in the North Sea coming back, but papa said it was nothing
to be afraid of, and for a while I was too sick to care."
"Sick!" Keith echoed. "And were you not awfully scared?"
"No," Murray insisted, looking rather pleased. "Not much."
Keith was too overwhelmed to ask more questions just then. The rest of
the way home was traversed in silence. At the corner of the lane they
parted with a mutual nod. Then Keith bolted up the lane and up the three
nights of stairs. Entering the kitchen breathlessly, he yelled out with
his cap still on his head: "I walked home with Murray who lives at the
corner and whose papa owns seven ships and who sits next to me in
"Little boys should be civil," suggested Granny with a glance at the
cap. "And they should also remember that equals make the best playmates,
and that all is not gold that glistens."
"Oh, he's my equal," Keith declared triumphantly.
"With plenty to spare," retorted Granny. "But are you his?"
It made Keith walk home alone the next day, and as he shuffled along
listlessly, the almost obliterated memory of Harald came back to him.
The attraction had been established, however--on one side at least--and
it would not let itself be smothered. Nor did Keith make any strong
effort in that direction. It was not his way. He found it as hard to
abstain from what gave him pleasure for the moment as to bear whatever
seemed unpleasant or painful.
Murray made no approaches of any kind, but he did not resist. His
acceptance of Keith's friendship was purely passive, and there was
always a limit to it. At first they simply walked home together from
school. Of course, they sat side by side during the lessons, but Murray
gave his whole attention to the teacher or to his book. If Keith tried
to whisper to him, Murray merely frowned at him. During the pauses they
were often together, chatting or playing, but it could also happen that
Murray chose to mix with some group of fellow pupils in such a manner
that Keith could not get near to him. Sometimes Keith would then also
join them. More often he would hover on the outskirts in a state of
Even when the school closed for the day, it depended entirely on Keith
if they were to have company home. Murray never waited. If Keith was not
in sight when he reached the street, he went right on. Several times
Keith had to run several blocks to overtake his friend.
"Why couldn't you wait a minute for me," he asked when he had recovered
his breath after one of those pursuits.
"Oh, that's so silly," was Murray's only reply, and a repetition of the
question on two or three subsequent occasions brought no more
satisfactory response. Keith did not press the matter beyond that point
and uttered no protest at Murray's real or assumed indifference.
Until then Keith had always taken East Long Street on his way to school
in the morning. Now he turned invariably down the lane to the Quay. On
reaching the corner, he took a long look at the corner house where
Murray lived. Two mornings he saw no one and walked on. The third
morning Murray happened to appear just as Keith reached the corner.
After that Keith waited for his friend, and they walked together to as
well as from school. Having waited very long one morning and fearing
that his friend had passed already, Keith ventured into the house, when
he caught sight of Murray coming out of a door reached by a little spur
of the main stairway.
"Is that where you live," asked Keith.
"That's the kitchen door," said Murray. "Our main entrance is in front
on the landing above. It's quicker for me to get out this way in the
morning, and I don't have to disturb anybody."
A few mornings later, Murray was late again, and Keith after long
hesitation walked up to the kitchen door and knocked. A pleasant-faced
serving girl opened.
"Oh, you are the little fellow who waits for George every morning," she
said with a smile. "Come in and wait here. He'll be ready in a moment."
After that Keith went straight up to the kitchen every morning. It was a
room as large as a hall, shiningly clean, and well furnished as a dining
and living-room for the three women serving there. Keith became quite
familiar with it, but he always remained by the door, and he always felt
that he ought not to be there. Yet he could no more resist going there
than he could stop breathing, it seemed.
That kitchen was the only part of Murray's home he ever saw. He never
caught a glimpse even of his friend's mother, who evidently was a very
exclusive lady. Two or three times he saw Murray on the street after
school hours in company with a tall, portly and handsome gentleman, whom
he took to be the father. Later his guess was confirmed, but Murray
never showed any inclination to let his parents become aware of Keith's
For a long while this did not matter to Keith. In fact, he was not
aware of anything but his own devotion. Murray's willingness to accept
it only when nothing else was in sight did not bother him. He had found
some one to worship at last, and he gave himself to that feeling with an
abandon that knew of no reserves and that asked no questions. He looked
up to the other boy as, in ages long gone by, a faithful vassal used to
look up to his liege lord. And it seemed only meet that such a superior
being as Murray should bestow or withhold his favour in accordance with
his own sweet pleasure.
Keith had just parted from his chum at the corner of the lane one
afternoon, when he caught sight of Johan near the big back door of the
house opposite the one where Murray lived.
"What are you doing," he said without much enthusiasm.
Johan beckoned mysteriously and would not say a word until he had got
Keith into the shadow of the huge gateway leading to the paved yard in
the rear of the house.
"Can't you come on," he cried impatiently at last "I don't want mumsey
to see me."
When both were hidden from the kitchen window through which Fru
Gustafsson used to keep a religiously preoccupied eye on the doings of
her son, Johan pulled a cigarette from within his coat sleeve and a
match from his pocket. Then he scratched the match on the seat of his
pants and lit the cigarette with the air of a man who knows what is
bliss. Keith watched him with feelings too confused for expression.
"What would your mamma say if she saw you," he asked at last,
instinctively dropping his voice to a whisper.
"She'd tell popsey," Johan rejoined promptly, "and I'd get another
licking. But it's worth it."
There was a long pause during which Keith watched his old playmate's
unmistakable enjoyment with a mixture of consternation and admiration,
of envy and resentment.
"I have got another," said Johan after a while. "Try it."
Keith shook his head. He was on the verge of saying that "mamma won't
let me," but checked himself in time as he recalled the results of an
earlier use of that too truthful explanation.
"Murray wouldn't smoke," he ventured after another pause.
"Him up there, you mean," inquired Johan with a gesture of his thumb
toward the house across the lane, Of course, he wouldn't. He's a miss."
"He is not," Keith cried passionately.
"And he's a stiff, too," Johan went on without any particular display of
feeling. "And you're a fool, that's all."
There was a coolness between them.
"I think mamma is waiting for me," remarked Keith as he started to walk
"Of course she is waiting for her baby," Johan retorted with a leer.
Keith stopped and thought. Murray would fight for a thing like that, he
said to himself. Or would he? Without having reached a decision Keith
made for his own house, trying to look as if Johan didn't exist.
"He has no real use for you, and you'll find it out," was Johan's
Keith was suddenly struck with the coarseness of Johan's manners and
speech. He was making comparisons in his mind, and as a result the image
of Murray seemed more resplendent than ever.
"Did you ever try to smoke," he asked Murray next morning.
"No," was the disdainful reply. "I know papa wouldn't like it, and it's
"How do you know," wondered Keith.
"Because I know," rejoined Murray. It was a way he had, and it always
settled the matter. A cold, tired look would appear on his face if Keith
tried to press a subject after such an answer, and before that look
His state was hopeless. He accepted as law whatever his friend said or
did. And although their friendship, such as it was, lasted only two
years, Keith did not take up smoking until he was in camp as a
conscript at the age of twenty.
In school it was the same. And the fact that Murray attended to his
studies with scrupulous exactness was probably one of the factors that
helped Keith through the grade without any loss of standing as
Like Loth, Murray had mildly artistic leanings, and because he liked to
draw and to sing, Keith, too, had to join in those studies, although
both were elective, and although the singing classes twice a week
consumed one of the two precious lunch hours that otherwise could be
used so profitably for play or study. Keith had neither aptitude nor
interest for draftsmanship, being curiously set toward the written word.
He would have liked to sing well, as he had noticed that boys having a
good voice were always popular and received a lot of flattering
attention. But his ear was so poor that for a while it looked as if he
would not even be admitted to the singing practices. His persistence
prevailed in the end, and when he and Murray stood side by side, using
the same song-book while practicing some brave old student song, he felt
as much happiness as ever fell to his share in those days.
They had common hours in gymnastics, too, but they were compulsory three
times a week, and Murray took them as a duty rather than a pleasure.
Keith them on the whole, and unlike most of the other boys, he preferred
the slow routine of the setting-up exercises to the more athletic
features. While he never consciously realized the cause of that
preference at the time, it would not have been difficult for a fairly
intelligent observer to discover it.
Keith was still one of the smallest boys in the school utterly lacking
any physical superiority, although he was in excellent health and never
had experienced a single one of the ailments that commonly dodge the
steps of childhood. He could not shine in jumping or leaping or
climbing, but in the drill his painstaking attention placed him on a par
with everybody else. It was his one chance of feeling himself the
physical equal of his schoolmates, and it was the only field of common
endeavour outside the lessons where he was not made to feel his own
The insufficiency of one room as a living place for three persons had
long been evident. Keith was in his twelfth year, and he still slept on
the chaiselongue opposite his father's and mother's bed. He had ceased
to pretend that the corner between the window and his mother's bureau
could possibly be considered a satisfactory "play-room." Then a tenant
who had lived with them quite a while left, and the parlour became
unexpectedly vacant. Keith revelled in the free use of it, and his
mother talked seriously of not renting it again, but the father insisted
that they could not afford to keep it for themselves.
Then Keith's mother had a bright idea. She inserted an advertisement
offering a home and "as good as parental care" to a boy from the
country for the school season. An answer was received, negotiations
progressed favourably, and soon Albert Mendelius, the son of a minister,
was installed in the parlour with understanding that his use of it was
exclusive only at night. In the daytime it was common ground for both
boys, and Keith did his studying in there, but he continued to sleep on
The boys got on very well together, and yet no real friendship sprang up
between them. Albert, who attended a different school, had his own
associates, and Keith could not take much of his mind off Murray. It
made a great improvement in Keith's living conditions, however, and he
hoped it would last.
When Albert went home to celebrate Christmas, Keith was asked to pay him
a visit after the holidays. This invitation became still more attractive
when Keith received a fine pair of skates for a Christmas present. He
had never seen the country in winter, and the impression it made on him
was a little startling. The sight of the dark pines against the white
carpet of the snow filled him with a mystic longing so strong that it
almost frightened him. When he and Albert put on their skates and
stretched out at full speed across the lake that spread its floor of
dark glass within a stone's throw of the vicarage, he had a sense of
never having lived before. The spaciousness of the house and the
pleasant evenings spent cracking nuts and eating apples in front of the
blazing fire-place were also revelations that filled his mind with many
new thoughts. Why was his own home not like this?
The boys went back to Stockholm together, but before they started, Keith
learned that Albert was going elsewhere to live. An aunt of his had
offered to take him in for the rest of the season.
"And, of course," said Albert's mother apologetically, "when you can be
with your own kin, it is better you know."
Keith wondered a little. On his return home, his mother said indignantly
that she supposed their humble home had not been found good enough. A
few weeks later the parlour was rented in the old way to a
gentle-looking young man with very pink cheeks who coughed a good deal.
And Keith once more found himself restricted to the living-room for all
the time spent at home.
Keith had been home for lunch and was on the way back to the school. He
was alone. Murray was in bed with some slight ailment.
It was in January, a cold but brilliant day. The streets were covered
with deep snow. Everything that usually moved on wheels was now on
runners. As runners make no noise and the sound of the hoofs was
deadened by the snow, every horse carried a bell, and some of them had a
whole little chime. The bright sunlight on the white snow and the
tinkling of all those bells made a stimulating combination, and people
hurried along with smiling faces, although they had to rub their noses
and cheeks frequently to keep them from freezing.
Keith was never sensitive about his face, but his hands were buried
deeply in his coat pockets. His schoolbooks were tied up in a leather
thong and slung over his shoulder like a knapsack.
At the Sluice he stopped and looked long at the people skating merrily
on the rinks down on the ice of the lake between the Corn Harbour and
the railway bridge. A number of boys near his own age were among the
rest having a good time. Many of the boys brought their skates to school
and never went home for lunch, but just ate a couple of sandwiches in
order to spend as much as possible of the noonday pause on the ice.
Keith had asked permission to do the same, but the refusal had been
peremptory. The fact was that he was granted little or no chance to use
his new skates. Once in a while he got leave, after begging long and
hard, to run over to the rinks at the New Bridge Harbour, in the North
End, for a brief while in the late afternoon. Most of the time even that
scant leave was denied him. To his mother's general disinclination to
let him out of sight was added her dread that he might fall into the
water and get drowned. He promised by everything sacred that he would
not leave the rink, which she ought to know was perfectly safe, but her
morbid fears would not listen to reason. More and more he was beginning
to give up asking even. The disappointment of a refusal was too bitter
to be borne often.
As he stood leaning against the bridge railings, his eyes strayed
farther and farther along the surface of the lake, which lay frozen as
far out as he could see. There were rinks on the other side of the
railway bridge, too, and here and there he noticed isolated black
figures gliding along the unswept spaces outside the rinks. Suddenly he
caught sight of a large gathering of people very far out. They were
moving slowly toward the shore, and evidently they were held together by
some common purpose. He wondered what they could be doing out there, far
beyond the last rink, but the distance was too great to give him any
basis for speculation.
After a while he had to leave in order not to be late. He had almost
reached the school when he was overtaken by a boy from the English
section of his own grade, about whom he knew nothing but that his name
"Have you heard," cried Bergman when he was still several steps behind,
although he and Keith had never exchanged a word before. Keith turned
"Three boys were drowned skating during the lunch hours," continued
Bergman breathlessly. "Two were in my class--Hill and Samson, you know.
The third, Dahlin, was in your own class."
"Is Dahlin dead?" asked Keith blankly. The thing seemed impossible to
him. He had been talking to Dahlin that very morning--a tall boy, slow,
self-possessed, older than most of the other pupils, and advanced for
his age in everything but studies.
"He is," said Bergman with emphasis. "And so are the other two. They are
dragging for the bodies now."
So that was what I saw those people doing out there, Keith thought.
"Little Moses was with them," Bergman ran on. "The Jew, you know. We've
always thought him a coward. And he nearly went down, too, trying to
By that time they were separating at the door to Bergman's classroom. On
entering his own class, Keith found it in a state of unexampled though
subdued excitement. The boys were gathered in groups which constantly
shifted membership. Every one spoke in a whisper. Reports and rumours of
the most fantastic kind passed from group to group, giving rise to
fierce discussions. Six boys had been drowned instead of three, some one
asserted. In another minute they heard that no one had been lost. Most
credence was given to a circumstantial report of the miraculous recovery
of Dahlin after he had been fully fifteen minutes under water. His big
sealskin cap, they said, had become stuck over his face as he went
under, so that the water could not choke him.
Keith was among the most excited for a while, running eagerly from group
to group and telling what he had heard from Bergman, who evidently had
the very latest news. Soon, however, his mood changed, and he retired
quickly to his own seat. There he sat by himself, his elbows on his
knees and his face resting in his hands. A stupor had descended on his
mind. The whole thing seemed so incredible. He could not grasp it. Those
boys, who had been right among them only a few hours ago, would never
appear again. There would be a funeral, and then they would never be
heard of again. Tears broke into his eyes. He choked with a vague sense
of pity. Samson, he knew, was the only son of a poor widow. Hill's
mother was very sick, some one had said. And Dahlin....
Keith instinctively raised his head to look at the place which Dahlin
had occupied that very morning. What did it mean ...?
At that moment the Rector entered, long overdue to give them an hour in
Latin--an hour of which a goodly part already was gone. The boys dropped
into their seats. A murmur of expectation passed through the class.
Every eye was on the Rector's face which seemed to twitch in a
"The school has suffered a terrible loss," he said at last, his voice
sounding very hoarse. "There is only one thing we can do--work! Will
_primus_ please begin translating from the top of the twenty-second
page, where we left off yesterday."
The boys stared at him, but no one dared to speak. They knew there was
no escape, and they tried to fix their attention on the books. Keith saw
before him a blurred page full of dancing letters. _Primus_ stumbled and
blundered. He was followed by _secundus_ and _tertius_. Keith had
recovered a little by that time, and he knew they were making mistakes
that ordinarily would have called forth a storm of reproof from the
Rector. Now he paid no attention, but merely repeated:
"Go on--go on!"
At last the lesson came to an end, and then they were dismissed for the
On his way home Keith's thoughts ran in a futile circle around the day's
event. If they had never left the rink ... if they had been saved ... if
the story about Dahlin could have been true....
Always his thoughts returned to the same point: the strangeness of the
fact that those boys would never appear again. At no moment, however,
did it occur to him that the same thing might have happened to
himself--or might happen some time in the future. He was Keith
Wellander, to whom such things never happened.
He was nearly home when he suddenly stopped in the middle of East Long
Street and said to himself:
"Now I suppose I'll _never_ get leave to go skating again."
Among other new duties that accompanied Keith's entrance into the fourth
grade was church-going. Until then he had known little about public
worship beyond what he observed during two or three attendances of Yule
Matins, that was almost like going to a party. The rule of the school
was that all pupils in the higher grades who not going to church with
their parents elsewhere must attend services with their respective
classes every other Sunday at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.
Judging by the number of boys who turned up, the percentage of
church-goers among the parents must have been very small. Keith's father
went to communion once a year. That was all. The mother went a little
oftener, but as a rule something else turned up about the time she ought
to start, and so she stayed home and read a chapter in some Lutheran
postil instead. Keith thought little of that kind of books. He had tried
them and found them dull beyond endurance.
"Do you really like reading that stuff," he said to his mother one
"Keith!" she protested sternly. Then she continued more mildly: "It is
not a question of like or dislike, my boy, but of saving your soul by
humbling it before the Lord."
"Can you do that by reading," asked Keith innocently.
"N-no ... not exactly," his mother hesitated. But you can.... Oh, I know
I ought to be in church instead of sitting here, but I am such a weak
vessel, and I am sure that the Lord will understand and forgive me."
"Well, then you don't need to worry, mamma," said Keith consolingly,
stirred as always by the appearance of an emotional note in her voice.
"We should always worry," she rejoined very gently, "because we are all
sinners and we have a chance only by His mercy. But I don't believe in a
hell, whatever they say, and I don't want you, Keith, to pay any
attention to anything of that kind they may teach you."
"But why do they teach it then," asked Keith, his logic alert.
"Because ... it's a long story, and you will understand it some day. Now
I want to finish my chapter, or I won't be able to do so before dinner
Keith would have liked to ask more, but what concerned him was the
apparent contradiction in his mother's words rather than the subject of
religion itself. His main impression of religion so far was that it was
something very tedious to which grown-up people submitted for some
mysterious reason never really revealed to children. And this impression
was abundantly confirmed by his subsequent experiences in the prudishly
ugly precincts of St. Mary Magdalene.
Seats were reserved in one of the side galleries for the pupils from Old
Mary. Two teachers sat in one of the front pews, so that they could look
down into the church. Aspiring youngsters who wanted to make sure of
good marks were apt to look upon the same pews with special favour. The
rest of the boys wanted to sit as far back as possible, where they could
whisper, and show each other pictures, and eat candy without too much
danger of being discovered. These pursuits brought no relief to Keith,
partly because he possessed neither pictures nor candy, being always
very shy of pocket money, and partly because either fear or some sort of
pride made him draw back from engaging in any sort of mischief behind
the teacher's back.
The hymn singing was not without a certain enjoyment. The slowness of
the tempo made it possible for Keith to keep in tune by leaning very
close to the boy sitting next to him. Even the reading of the gospels
and other recurring features of the service could be borne. But when the
sermon began, Keith fell into sheer agony. The other boys seemed capable
of letting the words of the preacher drop off them as water drops off
the oily feathers of a water-fowl. But one of Keith's characteristics
was that he had to listen to anything said loudly enough in his
presence. For him there was no escape. Through an endless hour, that
sometimes would verge on the five quarters, he had to sit there and take
in every word of a long-winded, moralistic discourse dealing in
forbidding terms with things that left his brain as untouched as if they
had been uttered in a strange tongue. He had a sense of warnings and
threats that seemed to connect with what his mother had asked him not to
heed. He was told to believe, but he could not make out what it was he
should believe--unless it was the Small Catechism, and that had always
left his mind a perfect blank although he knew it by heart from the
first page to the last.
When at last the ordeal was over, he rushed away with a sense of relief
that was marred by the thought of the same thing happening two weeks
later. It was the only feature of his schooling that left behind an
actual sense of grievance which the passing years could not mollify.
A little before commencement the whole school was stirred by important
news. A reorganization of the entire school system was in progress, and
one result of it was the merger of the old _gymnasium_ or high school on
Knight's Island with Old Mary and the expansion of the latter to nine
grades under the new name of St. Mary's Higher Latin School. A building
across the street had already been acquired for the four new grades, and
a new rector of higher rank was to take charge in the fall.
"It means that we'll stay right here until we go to the university," one
of Keith's classmates explained in a tone implying that it must make
quite a difference to their lives. Then he asked suddenly: "You'll go on
to the university, Wellander, won't you--you with your brilliant mind?"
Keith looked at him in dumb astonishment. In spite of his two prizes, it
was so strange to be called brilliant. And then the question of going to
the university had been raised. Until then he had really never given a
thought to it. And the question of cost leaped into his mind. He was
beginning to learn at last that money was needed for a number of things
you liked to do. Would it cost much, and could his father afford to pay
that much, and, most important of all, would his father consent to pay
it? Those were novel questions--and as he did so often when faced by
something unpleasant or disturbing, so, now again, he pushed them aside,
fled from them, refused to have anything to do with them. There were
still five grades between him and that threateningly attractive
possibility, the student's white cap.
"I don't know," he said at last, being a truthful fool in most matters,
"I have not asked papa yet."
And there was a smile on the other boy's face which Keith disliked
without guessing the significance of it.
Commencement brought him a prize again--a German dictionary just like
the one Krass got when Keith carried off the highest prize in school
after thinking himself ignominiously passed by. Of course, a prize was a
prize, but--and he thought his father looked rather disappointed when he
heard of it.
However, George Murray also received a book, and It was no better than
Keith's, although Murray professed to see a great difference between a
German Dictionary and a Latin Classic.
Murray was going off with his family to their private summer residence
in the archipelago outside of Stockholm and Keith gathered that it must
be a very magnificent place. The Wellanders didn't go to the country at
all. Keith's mother had a very bad period again, full of worry and
depression. The summer dragged along joylessly, and Keith had to fall
back on Johan's company in so far as he could obtain it. But Johan was
getting very independent. He had plenty of other acquaintances, and what
Keith saw of them made him deem it wiser not to mention them at all to
his mother. He was gradually learning discretion of a kind.
He read a good deal, and he was beginning to make unauthorized visits to
his father's bookcase in the parlour. There he had discovered certain
volumes by one Jules Verne, and if he could only have plunged freely
into these, the summer might have proved quite bearable. One day when he
could not get at the books, and his mood was more than usually fretful,
and his mother seemed at her lowest, she suddenly turned on him and said
in a strangely bitter tone:
"All I have to go through now is your fault, Keith."
"Why," he asked dumbly, staring at her.
"Because when you came into the world you hurt me so much that I have
never been well since."
"How," he demanded, and as he spoke an idea flashed through his mind
that his mother might not be knowing what she said. Just how such a
thing could happen was still a mystery to him, but what she said sounded
so absurdly impossible.
At that moment her mood suddenly changed.
"There is one thing I have never told you. But for my being made so sick
when you were born, you would have had a little brother, and you would
not have been so lonesome, and perhaps everything would have been
better. But he was born dead. And now I have no one but you, and I shall
have no one else, and you are everything to me, and you must love me
very much and never leave me."
Her arms were about him, and she was crying. And soon both felt better.
But Keith had heard things he could not forget. And there was food in
them for a summer's thought.
Form the very start the fifth grade was a disappointment. Once Keith,
like all the rest of the smaller boys, had looked up to it with
awe-stricken yearnings as to a peak that only a few fortunate few could
hope to climb. It was then the top of the school. Its pupils were
revered seniors--olympians tarrying momentarily among ordinary mortals
before they took flight for the exalted regions where they really
belonged. All this had been changed by the reorganization. The fifth
grade now was merely a continuation of the fourth and a stepping stone
to the sixth. And Keith's class was the first one to miss the honours of
which successive generations had dreamed as far back as the school had
existed. It was a thing no one had considered when the great news was
passed around in the spring. Now it was brought home to those most
nearly concerned with that poignancy of realization of which only youth
is capable. It gave to the whole class a peculiar atmosphere as if it
had been marked in advance for defeat. The teachers seemed to feel it,
too, and especially the old Rector, who, after so many years of supreme
command, suddenly found himself reduced to a subordinate position.
Keith felt robbed like the rest. And like them, he felt that the
instruction had become a mere humdrum routine enabling a certain number
of boys to get the proper marks at the end of a certain number of
months. What had lured him on as an adventure had turned into a tedious
grind. And more and more he drifted back into a dream world of his own
out of which he had been dragged by Dally's good-humoured jibes. And
yet, what could he expect? Had not Dally even, his best friend in the
whole school, cheated him of the honour he had rightfully earned--an
honour that, once lost, could never be recovered?
The subjects, on the whole, were the same as in the previous grade. You
simply went further into them--that was all. The teachers were the same,
and the relationships once established between them and the boys
remained the same, for good or bad. Every one knew what to expect, on
both sides, and no one quite escaped from the resulting sense of
The old Rector went on cramming the class with Latin grammar. He had a
way of making some poor stumbler conjugate the same verb fifteen to
twenty times in succession, so that the correct sequence might never
again escape his memory. And as the red-faced sinner stammered out the
tenses, the Rector would make a tube of his left hand into which he
poked his right thumb. This gesture was always accompanied by the same
"That's the way to stuff sausages!"
His language grew more picturesque and unrestrained every day. He
belonged distinctly to an older and less circumspect generation, and he
was a good deal of an eccentric besides. His heart was of gold, and no
one ever took the pedagogue's mission more seriously, but whatever he
possessed of refinement went into his appreciation of the language that
was his life's passion. When he spoke Swedish, he called a spade a
spade in a manner that gave Keith shock after shock. Always rather given
to a certain aristocratic exclusiveness in his speech, Keith had through
his association with Murray become something of a prude in this respect.
He could still descend to obscenities when his "manliness" had to be
proved, but vulgarity repelled him irresistibly.
Until then he had never dreamt of questioning any authority. Even at
this juncture he obeyed directions explicity and maintained on the whole
his reputation as a good pupil. But a tendency to criticism was growing
within him, and from the men who taught him it began gradually to pass
to the subjects taught. There came a day when the truth could no longer
be evaded: he was bored most of the time. And the result was that he
grew more and more listless.
If asked, Keith could not have told what was wrong. In fact, it is not
at all certain that he would have admitted that anything was wrong. No
rebellious stirrings had yet found tangible form within him.
He had to learn long lists of foreign kings that had been dead for ages.
He was even expected to know when each king ascended his throne and left
it. He had to learn mathematic formulas and grammatic rules. And on the
heels of each rule hung at least a dozen exceptions. It was impossible
to tell which were of greater importance, the rules or the exceptions.
He had also to learn the exact number of pistils and stamens possessed
by every flower likely to be found in the vicinity of the Swedish
capital. The same thing happened in every subject embraced by the
curriculum. There was no end to it. Yet he did not rebel. Every one
knew that there was no other way of teaching things, so what was the use
His memory was good, although tricky. In a case of aroused interest he
could absorb an astonishing number of dates, or figures, or lines of
poetry, at first glance or hearing. But he could also drop them as if he
had never heard of them the moment his interest was gone. And they
always seemed to drop out of sight when he left school and returned
home. That word interest seemed to give the key to the situation. And
all sorts of vague and queer and inexplicable things within himself
determined whether he was to be interested or not. It was not a question
of choice or will. He was or was not.
Facts as facts did not interest him at all. Even things as things did
not necessarily, though they might. The class made excursions into the
fields and woods framing the capital, and under the guidance of their
teacher of botany they observed and analysed all sorts of living
flowers. Keith was delighted to get out and charmed with the flowers,
but the facts about them pointed out by the teacher left him profoundly
unmoved. They had exciting little experiments in chemistry, and Keith
effervesced with the rest, but nothing of what he saw brought him more
than a momentary diversion.
All those things left his own real life untouched. And yet he was not
merely looking for fairy tales and adventures. His mind already was
hungry for something else. He found it often in the books he read at
home, many of which had been borrowed from the school library. Not
facts--but how different sorts of facts hung together, so to speak. The
school ought to tell him, and sometimes he had an uneasy feeling that
the teachers were trying to tell him this very thing. But they failed
somehow, and the farther he advanced, the more exasperating that
He was in his thirteenth year, and he was no longer certain that he
cared to study. But reading was still his dominant passion--reading and
Relations with Murray had been resumed on the old basis. Day after day
they walked to and from school together, and hardly ever was their
friendship disturbed by a misunderstanding. In school, too, they spent a
good deal of time in each other's company, and they continued to sit
side by side. Being so much seen together, they gradually came to be
known as "the twins," which pleased Keith tremendously. But once they
had parted for the day at the corner of the Quay and the lane, there was
no more communication between them. And no matter what Keith said or
did, he could never persuade his friend to break that rule.
Then Murray's birthday came along, and he told Keith quite casually that
his mother had promised to let him have a party and invite five of his
"Will you ask me," Keith blurted out, his eyes shining with eagerness.
"I don't know," said Murray guardedly.
"But I am your best friend in school," Keith protested.
"It depends on mamma," Murray explained, and his voice lacked a little
of its customary complacency.
"Of course, I should like to have you," he added after a pause, but his
words carried no conviction.
Keith was too hard hit to say a word.
A couple of days later, on their way home from school, Murray said
unexpectedly that he and his mother had looked over the school catalogue
the night before, and that his mother had picked the five boys whom he
was to invite. And he started to name them. The first name was that of
Brockert, a boy in their own class.
"But I have never seen you speak to him," Keith interrupted him.
"He is a very fine boy and comes of excellent family," Murray retorted.
Then he enumerated the other four. Only one of them besides Brockert
belonged to their own class.
Little as Keith knew about most of the boys in school, he realized that
all the prospective guests had three things in common: they were good
scholars, poor, and yet of good families. One had a _von_ in front of
his name. Brockert, too, had some sort of claim to nobility, although it
was said that his mother earned a living for herself and him by working
as a seamstress and the boy was known to pay for his own tuition by
tutoring backward sons of rich families in the lower grades.
Keith tried to look unconcerned. Fortunately they were near home, and
soon he could get away by himself. It has to be admitted that he cried.
And in the end he told his mother, who tried to make him promise never
to speak to Murray again.
"But we're side partners in the class," said Keith, still sobbing.
There was a certain stiffness between him and Murray during the next few
days, but they kept company to and from school as usual. Not until the
morning after the party did it occur to Keith that his pride demanded
some kind of demonstration.
That morning he meant to keep away from his friend. He stayed at home
longer than usual on purpose. Finally he grew afraid of being late and
tumbled pell-mell downstairs, intent on turning to his old route by way
of East Long Street. But no sooner had he reached the lane than his legs
seemed to be moving regardless of his will, and they took the familiar
turn toward the Quay. At that moment he caught sight of Murray crossing
the mouth of the lane without looking either right or left. Something
like a shiver passed through Keith's body, but his legs were still in
command, and they began to run. A minute later he was walking beside
Murray as he had done day after day for the better part of three terms.
At first they did not speak. Then Murray began to tell about the party
of the night before as if it had been the most natural thing in the
world to do so. He told what they had eaten and what they had played and
what impression the boys had made on his mother. Keith listened
without a word.
The worst fight he had ever fought with himself was raging within him,
and while he heard every word that Murray uttered, they seemed to pass
him by as if spoken to some other person. His heart was beating very
hard, and he breathed uneasily. An unfamiliar, impersonal voice within
himself was telling him that he must either give Murray a good licking
then and there or run away. Nasty, ugly, hateful words seemed to crowd
to his lips with an all but irresistible demand for utterance.
Yet he walked on as before, listening to Murray without a word of
comment. At last, when they were near the school entrance, he stopped
suddenly and said:
"Did you ever speak to your mother of me?"
"I did," replied Murray calmly. "And she said that while she had no
objection to our keeping company, she did not think your father's
position was such that we could ask you home."
A strange thing happened to Keith at that moment. It seemed to him that
everything had been satisfactorily explained, and that there was no
reason why he should be angry with Murray or offended at his friend's
parents. He had simply been made to suffer for something that had
nothing to do with his own person.
"Hey, twins," a classmate yelled at them just then.
"I suppose you couldn't help it," Keith said weakly to Murray.
"I really should have liked to have you," Murray answered, and it made
Keith feel as if he had been more than compensated for his previous
After that their friendship continued outwardly as before, but there was
a difference. A tendency to nag and find fault appeared on both sides,
and on several occasions they broke into actual quarrels. These always
ended in reconcilations, but the old serenity had gone from their
companionship, and each new misunderstanding left Keith a little
As a result of the changed relationship between himself and the friend
he idealized, Keith began once more to look up Johan. He did it rather
furtively, as if he had known that he was engaged in something unworthy
of himself. There was an additional reason for this return to an
association long spurned, and it had something to do with his manner of
going about it.
What his mother had told him during the summer was still fermenting in
his mind, but no amount of brooding over it would produce any results.
It was like trying to raise oneself by pulling at one's own bootstraps.
He must turn to some one else for the information that alone could solve
the mystery. Murray was out of the question. Keith had never exchanged a
word with him about the subject that was taking more and more of his
attention. He knew what Murray would say if such a matter were broached:
"I don't think my papa would like me to talk of it, and it's rather
No, Johan was the person to seek for knowledge of this kind. He was now
smoking all the time when not under the eye of his mother. While Keith
almost had stood still physically, Johan had forged ahead. There was no
denying that he was coarse and dull and awkward, but there was a shrewd
gleam in his somewhat bleary eyes, and from time to time he threw out
dark hints about enjoyments and experiences that little boys clinging to
their mother's skirts could never master.
It became a sort of game between them--a game that pleased Johan and
drove Keith to exasperation. It was a game of hide-and-seek. And the
most remarkable feature of it was that, although Keith was dying to
know, he found it impossible to ask any direct questions. His pose was
that he didn't care, and Johan's counter-pose was that he didn't know
what Keith was driving at.
Little by little, however, Keith extracted various stories about those
new friends of Johan's, who lived in one of the neighbouring lanes and
who had a big vacant attic at their disposal. There quite a number of
boys gathered daily, and Johan did his best to impress Keith with the
desperate character of their doings. Girls came to that meeting-place,
too. It was the principal thing, according to Johan--the fact that made
those exploits so deliriously reprehensible. One day Johan was in an
unusually communicative mood.
"Yesterday," he related with great gusto, "Nils got hold of Ellen and
kissed her. And then they crawled into a big empty box when they thought
we didn't see them. And there they stayed ever so long. But Gustaf
crawled up behind the box and peeped. And he saw what they did, and then
he told us."
"What did they do," asked Keith tensely, forgetting his usual reserve.
"Oh, you know," replied Johan teasingly.
"I don't," said Keith stoutly, realizing that it was a dreadful
admission of inferiority. "And I want you to tell me."
For a moment Johan hesitated. Then he shot at Keith a single word--a
verb--that Keith had heard in the lane and among the longshoremen on the
Quay. He knew that it was bad--the worst one of its kind. He knew also
in a vague sort of way that it touched the very heart of the mystery he
was trying to solve. And yet it left him just as ignorant as before.
The bald use of that word by Johan stunned him for a moment. Then his
hot thirst for light brushed all other considerations aside, and he said
almost pleadingly: "Can't you tell me all about it?"
"Oh, everybody knows," said Johan, and his eyes began to wander shiftily
as they always did when he found himself cornered.
"You don't know yourself," Keith taunted him, suddenly grown wise beyond
his ordinary measure.
"Yes, I do," insisted Johan.
"Then tell--or I won't believe you."
"They did what your papa and mamma do nights," Johan shot back.
There was a long pause.
"They don't do anything," Keith said at last almost in a whisper,
"You bet they do," asserted Johan, sure now of having triumphed.
And Keith went home without asking any more questions.
A queer restlessness seized him and left him no peace. He swung abruptly
from one extreme mood to another--from mad elation to paralyzing
depression. He had a baffling sense of things happening within himself
that were equally beyond control and explanation. He grew tired of
sitting on those plain benches at school, with no support for the back,
and still more tired of the Rector's incessant "sit up straight, boy."
Sometimes when he read at home, he could not keep his eyes fixed on the
book because his thoughts insisted on straying into all sorts of
irrelevant fields. But no matter in what direction they started,
circuitously they always found their way into the field of main
Although shocked at the time by what Johan had told him, it did not
remain actively in his memory. On a few occasions he woke up during the
night with an impression of having heard his mother call his father's
name. When he raised his head from the pillow to listen, a breathless
stillness prevailed in the room. Soon he went back to sleep, and
afterwards he thought no more about it. Yet the very act of listening
seemed to inflame his mind in some way.
The game learned back of the big rock had never become quite forgotten.
Yet it had never meant very much to him, and during his association with
Murray he had thought less and less of it. Now it took new hold of him,
in a much more imperative way, as if it had got a new meaning and a new
lure. And it seemed to have some elusive but highly significant
connection with the mystery that always puzzled and fretted his
Once more he pressed Johan for an explanation of that reference to
"That's the way children are made," Johan finally announced with a mien
of having transmitted the ultimate wisdom of the ages.
Keith merely stared at him. That answer did not interest him at all. Of
course, he had long guessed that the arrival of children was a part of
the mystery, but it was a part that had ceased to concern him. What he
wished to know, must know, related to himself exclusively. But in this
respect there was nothing more to be had out of Johan.
At school he began to join a group of boys who always gathered in a
corner of the assembly hall during the pauses instead of mixing with the
mob in the schoolyard. The centre of that group was Swensson, a handsome
young chap of more advanced age than the others who had spent two years
in most of the grades. He was always behind in his studies, but he
seemed to know more of life than all the rest put together. A large part
of the time he was telling stories--always about girls--or relating
adventures--always with girls. Keith found the stories amusing, but as a
rule he failed to grasp their point. And yet they added fuel to the
flame that was burning more and more hotly within him.
His mother had been watching him intently for some time, and after a
while she began to ask questions. These were guarded almost to
unintelligibility, and yet Keith guessed that they referred to his own
secret--the game learned back of the big rock. And so that game grew
still more enticing. Even then, however, it did not seem to matter very
much except in so far as it was the one thing that brought him a slight
relief from the consuming restlessness of body and mind.
His mother's questions were followed by long talks, sometimes taking the
form of warnings, but more often turning into passionate pleas. And
gradually he gathered that the game he had been playing so innocently
must be both sinful and dangerous. He tried as hard as he could to get
to the root of his mother's hints, and he wanted to ask all sorts of
questions. But in the end the meaning of her words seemed to dissolve
into mist, and when he tried to question her directly, it was as if a
solid wall had suddenly risen between them, so that neither one could
hear what the other one said.
His father, too, began to ask questions, evidently urged on by the
mother. He spoke sternly, but not unkindly, when he asked if Keith had
been doing anything he ought not to do. And naturally enough Keith
answered emphatically no.
In this way the mystery came closer and closer to him, and became more
and more urgent. His mother's futile efforts at communicating what
apparently rested heavily on her heart made him ill at ease, but he
remained unconscious of any guilt or fear. A conflict of serious aspect
and proportions was undoubtedly taking shape within him, but so far it
was mainly concerned with the school and his friendship for Murray and
a general sense of dissatisfaction with the life he was leading. It was
above all a sense of things missed.
Then he happened one afternoon, when his mother was out, to be delving
with more than customary audacity among the books in his father's book
case, which become more accessible through the death of their
gentle-looking tenant a short while before.
The cough of Herr Stangenberg had been growing worse and worse all
through the winter. He had to take to the bed more and more frequently.
There had been a terrible change in his appearance. Only the eyes and
his temper remained the same. He was always cheerful and hopeful. So he
remained when he had to stay in bed entirely and a doctor began to pay
him daily visits. Keith's mother did everything in her power to be of
help, and it seemed to put her own troubles and worries more in the
"Consumption" was a word the parents often used in discussing the case
of poor Herr Stangenberg, and Keith gathered that it was something
dreadful and merciless, from which escape was impossible. His attitude
toward the whole matter was peculiar. He listened to what his parents
talked, but always in a spirit of utter indifference, as if what they
said could have no possible bearing on his own life.
One evening the servant girl--her name was Hilda at the time--brought
word that Herr Stangenberg wanted very badly to see Fru Wellander for a
"I think he knows at last that the end is near," Keith's mother said as
she rose to go into the parlour. "What am I going to say if he asks me?"
"Nothing," replied the father quietly. "Leave that to the doctor."
On her return, the mother sank down in her chair and began to grope for
a handkerchief. Keith saw that her eyes were lustrous with tears.
"What did he want?" asked the father with unusual anxiety.
"Well, if you tried for a month, you couldn't guess it," the mother
said, and as she spoke, a smile broke through her tears. "It is so sad
and so funny that.... He wants me to send for his tailor to measure him
for a new spring suit."
"Has he no idea ...?" The father checked himself with a glance at Keith.
"I know what you mean," said Keith calmly. Both parents looked at him in
surprise, but neither comment nor rebuke ensued.
"No," the mother went on after a while, "he says that he knows he will
be well and back at his office in two weeks. He actually laughed when I
tried to say something about his being very ill. It brought on his cough
again, and for a moment I thought he would die then and there. But when
the attack was over, he asked me if I couldn't hear that the cough was
much better. What do you think I ought to do?"
"Nothing," the father replied once more.
Keith was ready to start for school next morning when he heard Hilda
utter a startled cry in the parlour.
"Fru Wellander! Fru Wellander!" she called.
Before the mother had a chance to move, the frightened face of the girl
appeared in the parlour door, and she whispered as if afraid of waking
some one out of sleep:
"He is dead."
Both women hurried into the parlour. Keith stood irresolute for a
moment. Then he made for the kitchen door and ran downstairs at top
speed. He was afraid of missing Murray.
All during that day a thought would bother his brain like a buzzing fly:
how peculiar that a man could want to order a new suit of clothes a few
hours before he died. There was something irrational about it that
stumped him. For a moment he thought of speaking to Murray about it, but
it was as if some one had put a hand firmly over his mouth every time he
tried to do so.
The funeral took place in a couple of days. A distant relative had
turned up, very apologetic and eager to explain that his dead cousin had
failed to let any one know that he was sick even. This young man, the
minister, and Keith's parents were the only mourners. A single
Keith never went into the parlour during those days. When everything was
nearly ready, the mother asked him if he cared to go in and have a last
look at poor Herr Stangenberg before the lid was put on the coffin.
Keith merely shook his head.
"You had better go," Granny called from the kitchen. "I never saw him
better-looking while he was alive."
"I won't," Keith yelled back with an amount of irritation that seemed
quite out of proportion to its cause. The mother gave him an uneasy
glance but left the room without saying anything at the time.
As far as the boy was concerned, the incident was closed. He had never
permitted it to take a real hold of his mind, and he resented anybody's
attempt to bring it closer to him. Death had stopped within his own
threshold, and he simply looked in the opposite direction. This attitude
sprang mainly from some inner resistance so stubborn that it would not
even permit itself to be discussed. In addition, his mind was engrossed
with other things, and the principal significance it attached to the
passing of a human life at such close quarters was the hope it held out
that the parlour might remain vacant.
"Were you afraid to look," the mother asked Keith on her return with the
father from the cemetery.
"No, I just didn't want to," the boy replied emphatically.
"Why," the mother asked, studying his face with the peculiar searching
glance that sometimes provoked him and sometimes filled him with a
desire to bury his head in her lap and weep.
"Why should I," Keith rejoined. "He was dead!"
No sooner had the apologetic young man removed the effects of his
departed relative than Keith wanted to take full possession of the
parlour. His mother checked his eagerness with the explanation that they
might still want to rent it. In the meantime he could use it freely, but
he must remove all his playthings when he was through for the day.
"Why can't I sleep on the big sofa in there," he asked in a tone that he
vainly tried to make ingratiating.
"Not yet," said his mother evasively. "You had better stay in here, I
Once more the sense of being watched took hold of him unpleasantly,
filling him with a mixture of fear and resentment. And his wonder why
they seemed to suspect him added to the mystery with which his mind was
wrestling so hopelessly.
The constant access to the parlour was a great change for the better,
however, and one of the first uses he made of it was to investigate his
father's little library with a thoroughness that until then had been out
of the question. It was a queer collection, embracing every form of
literature from philosophy to fiction. This catholicity did not mirror
the father's taste but resulted from his manner of acquiring the books.
Before obtaining the position he now held in the bank, he worked for a
while in the office of one of the principal book printing establishments
at Stockholm. There he formed acquaintances which later enabled him to
get one unbound set of sheets of every book issued from that press.
These he sent to a binder who put them into simple paper covers for a
few _oere_ per volume. They always arrived in a large package just before
Christmas, and one of the thorns in Keith's flesh was the care with
which his father kept all those new treasures hidden until the holiday
season was past. Then the books that had not been handed on to friends
or relations as Christmas presents were given a permanent place on the
shelves of the book case. All of them, however, lacked printed covers
The young man whom every one spoke of as "poor dear Herr Stangenberg"
had not been dead a week, when Keith one afternoon on his return from
school found himself alone in the house with Granny. His mother had gone
to call on some friends, and the father would not come home from the
bank for several hours. Even the servant girl was away, which was a fact
that not immaterially contributed to Keith's sense of security. Granny
need not be taken into account.
A long cherished opportunity had arrived at last, and he made straight
for the book case. It was locked, but he knew where to find the key. Its
hiding-place had constituted one of those little domestic problems that
add zest to an uneventful existence. There was also an injunction of
long standing against any meddling with the case without permission, but
that had been a dead letter for some time. When books were concerned,
Keith's customary respect for authority ceased to be an obstacle to
He explored with no special object in mind. He wanted new reading
matter, and his curiosity was piqued by a number of books with blank
backs that gave no clue to their contents. Two huge, fat volumes on
the bottom shelf had already attracted his attention, and they
were the first he pulled out. Their title brought instantaneous
disappointment--"The Philosophy of the Unconscious," by Edouard von
Hartmann. He prepared scornfully to put them back, when, through the big
gap left by their withdrawal, he became aware that the space back of the
front row was packed with smaller books and pamphlets. This discovery
surprised him for a moment, but what he saw in there looked rather
uninteresting. Nevertheless he reached in and pulled out a small green
pamphlet that happened to be nearest at hand. Idly he glanced at the
legend printed on the front cover:
"Amor and Hymen. A guide for married and unmarried persons of both
The words carried no special meaning to his mind, and in the same
indifferent manner he turned a few pages until his eyes fell on a