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