The weather still held cold: it was no day for spending time, conversationally, outside; and they stepped back for a little into a recess of the vestibule. Cope found an opening by bolstering up his previous written excuses. He was still very general.
"That's all right," replied Randolph, in friendly fashion. "Some time, soon, we must try again. And this time we must have your friend." His glance was kind, yet keen; nor was it brief.
Randolph had already the outlines of the situation as Foster understood them. He sometimes slipped in, on Sunday forenoon, to read the newspapers to Foster, instead of going to church. Hortense and Carolyn came up now and then: indeed, this reading was, theoretically, a part of Carolyn's duties, but she was coming less and less frequently, and often never got beyond the headlines. So that, every other Sunday at least, Randolph set aside prayer- book and hymnal for dramatic criticisms, editorials, sports and "society."
This time Foster was full of the events of Friday night. "As I make it out, he kept away from her the whole evening, and that new man helped him do it. Our friend down the street, Hortense says, showed every disposition to cut in, and the girl showed at least some disposition to let him. I don't wonder: when you come right down to it, he's twice the man the other is."
"Clever lad. Confident. But brash. Just what his father used to be."
"He praised her playing. Cope sat dumb. And next morning he hurried away before breakfast. You know what kind of a morning it was. Anything very pressing at the University on a Saturday morning at eight?"
"I hardly know."
"How about this sudden new friend?" Foster twitched in his chair. "Medora," he went on, "seems to have no special fancy for him. She even objects to his calling Cope 'Bert.' Of course he sings. And he seems to be self- possessed and clever. But 'self-possessed'—that doesn't express it. He was so awfully, so publicly, at home; at least that's as I gather it. Always hanging over the other man's chair; always finding a reason to put his hand on his shoulder...."
"Body-guard? No wonder Pearson came to the fore."
"I don't know. What I've heard makes me think of——"
And here, Foster, speaking with a keen and complicated acerbity, recalled how, during earlier years of travel, he had had opportunity to observe a young married couple at a Saratoga hotel. They had made their partiality too public, and an elderly lady not far away in the vast "parlor" had audibly complained that they brought the manners of the bed-chamber into the drawing-room.
"They talked half through the night, too," Foster added bitterly.
"Young men's problems," said Randolph. "Possibly they were considering Pearson."
"Possibly," repeated Foster; and neither followed further, for a moment, the pathway of surmise.
Presently Randolph rose and scuffled through the ruck of newspapers, with which no great progress had been made. "Is Medora at home?" he asked.
"I think she's off at church," said Foster discontentedly. "And Hortense went with her."
"I'll call her up later. If I can get her for Wednesday—and Pearson too...."
Foster, accustomed to piecing loose ends as well as he could, did not ask him to finish. Randolph picked up a crumpled sheet from the floor, reseated himself, and read out the account of yesterday's double performance at the opera.
When Randolph, then, met Cope in the vestibule of the library, on Monday, he felt that he had ground under his feet. Just how solid, just how extensive, he was not quite sure; but he could safely take a few steps experimentally. Cope was a picture of uncertainty and woe; his face was an open bid for sympathy and aid.
"You are unhappy," said Randolph; "and I think I know why." He meant to advance toward the problem as if it were a case of jealousy—a matter of Pearson's intrusion and of Amy's seemingly willing acceptance of it.
Cope soon caught Randolph's idea, and he stared. He did not at all resent Randolph's advances; misapprehension, in fact, might serve as fairly, in the end, as the clearest understanding.
Randolph placed his hand on Cope's shoulder. "You have only to assert yourself," he said. "The other man is an intruder; it would be easy to warn him off before he starts in to win her."
"George Pearson?" said Cope. "Win her? In heaven's name," he blurted out, "let him!"
It was a cry of distaste and despair, in which no rival was concerned. Randolph now had the situation in its real lines.
"Well, this is no place for a talk," he said. "If you should care to happen in on me some evening before long...."
"I have Wednesday," returned Cope, with eagerness.
"Not Wednesday. I have an engagement for that evening. But any evening a little later."
"Friday? The worst of my week's work is over by then."
"Friday will do." And they parted.
Randolph had secured for his Wednesday evening Medora Phillips and Hortense. Hortense was the young person to pair with Pearson, who had thrown over an evening at his club for the dinner with Randolph. The talk was to be—in sections and installments—of Amy Leffingwell, and of Cope in so far as he might enter. Medora would speak; Hortense would speak; Randolph himself should speak. To complete the party he had asked his relations from the far side of the big city. His sister would preside for him; and his brother-in-law might justify his expenditure of time and trouble by stopping off in advance for a brief confab, as trustee, at the administration building, with the president. A compatriot had been secured by Sing-Lo to help in dining-room and kitchen.
Randolph had planned a short dinner. His sister, facing the long return- drive, would doubtless be willing to leave by nine-thirty. Then, with two extraneous pieces removed from the board, the real matter in hand might be got under way.
Mrs. Phillips was most lively from the start. She praised the house, which she was seeing for the first time. She extolled Sing-Lo's department, and Sing-Lo, who delighted in entertainments, was one broad smile. She had a word of encouragement for his less smiling helper, whom she informally christened Sing-Hi; and she chatted endlessly with Mrs. Brackett—perhaps even helped tire her out. Yes, George Pearson was to be urged forward for the rescue of Bertram Cope.
Pearson spoke up loud and clear among the males. He was a business-man among business-men, and during the very few moments formally allowed for the cigars he made himself, as he felt, tell. And after the Bracketts left —at nine twenty-five—he was easily content to stay on for three-quarters of an hour longer.
At nine-forty Pearson was saying, amidst the cigarette-smoke of the den:
"Does she expect to teach the violin all her life?"
He was both ironical and impatient. Clearly a charming, delicate creature like Amy Leffingwell might better decorate the domestic scene of some gentleman who enjoyed position and prosperity.
"I hope not, indeed," said Hortense, in a deep contralto.
Pearson cast on Hortense a look which rewarded such discernment.
"Of course he has nothing, now," said Randolph, with deliberation. "And he may be nothing but a poor, underpaid professor all his life."
"No ring—yet," said Hortense, further. Her "yet" meant "not even yet." Her deep tone was plausibly indignant.
"I'm rather glad of that," remarked Mrs. Phillips, with an eye pretendedly fixed on the Mexican dolls. "I can't feel that they are altogether suited to each other."
"He doesn't care for her," pursued Hortense.
"Does she really care for him?" asked Pearson.
No answer. One pair of eyes sought the floor; another searched the ceiling; a third became altogether subordinate to questioning, high-held brows.
Pearson glanced from one face to another. The doubt as to her "caring" seemed universal. The doubt that she cared deeply, essentially, was one that he had brought away from the ball-room. And he went home, at ten twenty-three, pretty well determined that he would very soon try to change doubt to certainty.
"Thank you so much," said Mrs. Phillips to Randolph, as he went out with her and Hortense to put them in the car. "I'm sure we don't want him to be burdened and miserable; and I'm sure we all do want her to be happy. George is a lovely, capable chap,—and, really, he has quite a way."
COPE REGAINS HIS FREEDOM
On Friday evening Randolph, at home, was glancing now and then at the clock (as on a previous occasion), while waiting for Cope. At eight-fifteen the telephone rang; it was Cope, with excuses, as before. He was afraid he should be unable to come; some unexpected work... It was that autumn excursion all over again.
Randolph hung up the receiver, with some impatience. Still, never mind; if Cope would make no effort to save himself, others were making the effort for him. He had considerable confidence in George Pearson's state of mind, as well as in George's egoism and drive.
Foster heard of Cope's new delinquency, through Randolph's own reluctant admission. "He is an ingrate, after all," said Foster savagely, and gave his wheels an exceptionally violent jerk. And Randolph made little effort, this time, toward Cope's defense.
"You've done so much for him," Foster went on; "and you're willing to do so much more."
"I could do a great deal, of course. There may be a good reason this time, too," said Randolph soberly.
"Humph!" returned Foster.
Cope had hung up the receiver to turn toward Lemoyne and to say: "I really ought to have gone."
"Wait until I can go with you," Lemoyne insisted, as he had been insisting just before. The still unseen man of Indian Rock was again the subject of his calculations.
"You've been asked," Cope submitted. "He has been very friendly to me, and I am sure he would be the same to you."
"I think that, personally, I can get along without him," the other muttered ungraciously to himself.
Aloud he said: "As I've told you, I've got the president of the dramatic club to see tonight, and it's high time that I was leaving." He looked with intention at the desk which had superseded that old table, with ink-stained cover, at which Cope had once worked. "You can use a little time to advantage over those themes. I'll be back within an hour."
Lemoyne had entered for Psychology, and was hoping that he now enjoyed the status necessary for participation in the college theatricals. But he was relying still more on a sudden defection or lapse which had left the dramatic club without a necessary actor at a critical time. "It's me, or postponement," he said; "and I think it's me." The new opportunity—or bare chance—loomed before him with immensity. Cope's affair might wait. He would even risk Cope's running over to Randolph's place alone.
Cope seated himself at his desk with loyalty, or at least with docility; and Lemoyne, putting on his hat and coat, started out for the fraternity house where the president of the club was in residence.
Five minutes after Lemoyne's departure Cope heard the telephone ringing downstairs, and presently a patient, middle-aged man knocked at the door and told him the call was for him.
Cope sighed apprehensively and went down. Of course it was Amy. Would he not come over for an hour? Everybody was away, and they could have a quiet talk together.
Cope, conscious of others in the house, replied cautiously. Lemoyne, he said, had gone out and left him with a deskful of themes: tiresome routine work, but necessary, and immensely absorptive of time. He was afraid that he could scarcely come this evening....
Amy's voice took on a new tone. Why, she seemed to be feeling, must Arthur Lemoyne be mentioned, and mentioned so early? Yet Bertram had put him— instinctively, unconsciously—at the head of the little verbal procession just begun.
Cope's response was dry and meagre; free speech was impossible over a lodging-house telephone set in the public hall. Amy, who knew little of Cope's immediate surroundings at the moment, went on in accents of protest and of grievance, and Cope went on replying in a half-hushed voice as non- committally as he was able. He dwelt more and more on the trying details of his work in words which conveyed no additional information to any fellow- dwellers who might overhear.
"You haven't been to see me for a week," came Amy's voice petulantly, indignantly.
"I'm very sorry, I'm sure," returned Cope in a carefully generalized tone of suavity. It was successful with the spinster in the side room above, but it was no tone to use with a protesting fiancee.
"Why do you neglect me so?" Amy's voice proceeded, with no shade of appeasement.
"There is no intention of that," replied Cope; "—so far as I know," he added, for ears about or above.
Again Amy's tone changed. It took on a tang of anger, and also a curious ring of finality—as if, suddenly, a last resolution had been reached. "Good night," she said abruptly, and the interview was over.
Cope forgot Randolph, and Lemoyne, and his themes. Lemoyne, returning within the hour, found him seated at his desk in self-absorbed depression, his work untouched.
"Well, they've taken me," he began; "and I shall have a fairly good part." Cope made no effort to respond to the other's glowing self-satisfaction, but sat with thoughtful, downcast eyes at his desk before the untouched themes. "What's the matter?" asked Lemoyne. "Has she been calling up again?"
Cope raised his head and gave him a look. Lemoyne saw that his very first guess had been correct.
"This is a gay life!" he broke out; "just the life I have come down here to lead. You're making yourself miserable, and you're making me miserable. It's got to end."
Cope gave him a second woeful glance.
"Write to her, breaking it off," prompted Lemoyne. "Draft a letter tonight."
His mind was full of cliches from his reading and his "scripts." He had heard all the necessary things said: in fact, had said them himself— now in evening dress, now in hunting costume, now in the loose habiliments of Pierrot—time and time again. The dissatisfied fiance need but say that he could not feel, after all, that they were as well suited to each other as they ought to be, that he could not bring himself to believe that his feeling for her was what love really should be, and that——
Thus, with a multiplicity of "that's," they accomplished a rough draft which might be restudied and used on the morrow. "There!" said Lemoyne to the weary Cope at eleven o'clock; "it ought to have been written a month ago."
Cope languidly slipped the oft-amended sheet under his pile of themes and in a spent voice suggested bed.
Over night and through the following forenoon the draft lay on his desk. When he returned to his room at three o'clock a note, which had been delivered by hand, awaited him. It was from Amy Leffingwell.
Cope read it, folded his arms on his desk, bowed his head on his arms, and, being alone, gave a half-sob. Then he lifted his head, with face illumined and soul refreshed. Amy had asked for an end to their engagement.
"What does she say?" asked Lemoyne, an hour later.
"She says what you say!" exclaimed Cope with shining eyes and a trace of half-hysteric bravado. "She does not feel that we are quite so well suited to each other as we ought to be, nor that her feeling toward me is what love really... Can she have been in dramatics too!"
"Your letter," returned Lemoyne, with dignity, "would have been understood."
"Quite so," Cope acknowledged, in a kind of exultant excitation. He caught the rough draft from his desk—it was all seared with new emendations—tore it up, and threw the fragments into the waste-basket. "Thank Heaven, I haven't had to send it!" In a moment, "What am I to write now?" he asked with irony.
"The next will be easier," returned Lemoyne, still with dignity.
"It will," replied Cope.
It was,—so much easier that it became but an elegant literary exercise. A few touches of nobility, a few more of elegiac regret, and it was ready at nine that night for the letter-box. Cope dropped it in with an iron clang and walked back to his quarters a free man.
A few days later Lemoyne, working for his new play, met Amy Leffingwell in the music-alcove of the University library. She had removed her gloves with their furry wristlets, and he saw that she had a ring on the third finger of her left hand. Its scintillations made a stirring address to his eye.
Cope heard about the ring that evening, and about Amy Leffingwell's engagement to George Pearson the next day.
He had no desire to dramatize the scene of Pearson's advance, assault and victory, nor to visualize the setting up of the monument by which that victory was commemorated. Lemoyne did it for him.
Pearson had probably indulged in some disparagement of Cope—a phase on which Lemoyne, as a faithful friend, did not dwell. But he clearly saw George taking Amy's hand, on which there was still no ring, and declaring that she should be wearing one before tomorrow night. He figured both George and Amy as rather glad that Cope had not given one, and as more and more inclining, with the passage of the days, to the comfortable feeling that there had never been any real engagement at all.
Lemoyne attempted to put some of his visualizings before Cope, but Cope cut him short. "Now I will settle down to work on my thesis," he said, "and get my degree at the June convocation."
"Good," said Lemoyne; "and now I can get my mind on the club." He went to the window and looked out on the night. The stars were a-glitter. "Let's take a turn round the block before we turn in."
They spent ten minutes in the clear winter air. As Cope, on their return, stooped to put his latch-key to use, Lemoyne impulsively threw an arm across his shoulder. "Everything is all right, now," he said, in a tone of high gratification; and Urania, through the whole width of her starry firmament, looked down kindly upon a happier household.
COPE IN DANGER ANEW
A similar satisfaction came to prevail in University circles, and in the lesser circle which Cope had formed outside. His own classroom, after a week, became a different place. There had been some disposition to take a facetious view of Cope's adventure. His class had felt him as cool and rather stiff, and comment would not be stayed. One bright girl thought he had spoiled a good suit of clothes for nothing. The boys, who knew how much clothes cost, and how much every suit counted, put their comment on a different basis. The more serious among them went no further, indeed, than to say that if a man had found himself making a mistake, the sooner he got out of it the better. For weeks this affair of Cope's had hung over the blackboard like a dim tapestry. Now it was gone; and when he tabulated in chalk the Elizabethan dramatists or the Victorian novelists there was nothing to prevent his students from seeing them.
Medora Phillips became sympathetic and tender. She let him understand that she thought he had been unfairly treated. This did not prevent her from being much kinder to Amy Leffingwell. Amy, earlier, had been so affected by the general change of tone that, more than once, she had felt prompted to take herself and her belongings out of the house. But she still lingered on, as she was likely to do, during a short engagement; and Mrs. Phillips was now amiability itself to George and Amy both.
Her method of soothing Cope was to take him to the theatre and the opera in town: he could scarcely come to the house. It was now late in January and the opera season was near its end. People were tiring of their boxes, or had started South: it had become almost a work of merit to fill a friend's box for her. During the last week of the season, Mrs. Phillips was put in position to do this. She invited Cope, and took along Hortense, and found in the city itself a married pair who could get to the place and home again without her help. Lemoyne would have made six, and the third man; but he was not bidden. Why pack the box? A better effect was made by presenting, negligently, one empty seat. Lemoyne dressed Cope, however. He had brought to Churchton the outgrown evening clothes; and Cope, in his exuberance, bought a new pair of light shoes and white gloves. He looked well as he sat on the back seat of the limousine with Medora Phillips, during the long drive in; and he looked well—strikingly, handsomely well—in the box itself. Indeed, thought Medora, he made other young men in nearby boxes— young men of "means" and "position"—look almost plebian. "He is charming," she said to herself, over and over again.
What about him "took" her? Was it his slenderness, his grace? Was it his youthfulness, intact to this moment and promising an extension of agreeable possibilities into an entertaining future? Or was it more largely his fundamental coolness of tone? Again he was an icicle on the temple—this time the temple of song. "He is glittering." said Medora, intent on his blazing blue eyes, his beautiful teeth ever ready for a public smile, and the luminous backward sweep of his hair; "and he is not soft." She thought suddenly of Arthur Lemoyne; he, by comparison, seemed like a dark, yielding plum-pudding.
On the way into town Medora had had Hortense sit in front with Peter. This arrangement had enabled her to lay her hand more than once on Cope's, and to tell him again that he had been rather badly treated, and that Amy, when you came to it, was a poor slight child who scarcely knew her own mind. "I hope she had not made a mistake, after all," breathed Medora.
All this soothed Cope. The easy motion of the luxurious car half-hypnotized him; a scene of unaccustomed splendor and brilliancy lay just ahead... What wonder that Medora found him scenically gratifying in her box (the dear creature's titillation made it seem "hers" indeed), and gave his name with great gusto to the young woman of the notebook and pencil? And the box was not at the back, but well along to one side, where people could better see him. Its number, too, was lower; so that, next morning, he was well up in the list, instead of at the extreme bottom, where two or three of the young men of means and position found themselves. Some of the girls in his class read his name, and had no more to say about wet clothes.
Hortense, on the front seat of the car, had had the good sense to say little and the acumen to listen much. She knew that Cope must "call" soon, and she knew it would be on some evening when he had been advised that Amy was not at home. There came, before long, an evening when Amy and George Pearson went into town for a musical comedy, and Cope walked across once more to the familiar house.
Hortense was in the drawing-room. She was brilliantly dressed, and her dark aggressive face wore a look of bravado. In her rich contralto she welcomed Cope with an initiative which all but crowded her aunt into second place. Under the very nose of Medora Phillips, whom she breezily seemed to regard as a chaperon, she brought forward the sketch of Cope in oils, which she had done partly from observation and partly from memory. She may have had, too, some slight aid from a photograph,—one which her aunt had wheedled out of Cope and had missed, on one occasion at least, from her desk in the library. Hortense now boldly asked his cooperation for finishing her small canvas.
Though the "wood-nymphs" of last autumn's legend might indeed be, as he had broadly said, "a nice enough lot of girls," they really were not all alike and indistinguishable: one of them at least, as he should learn, had thumbs.
Hortense wheeled into action.
"The composition is good," she observed, looking at the canvas as it stood propped against the back of a Chippendale chair; "and, in general, the values are all right. But——" She glanced from the sketch back to the subject of it.
Cope started. He recognized himself readily enough. However, he had had no idea that self-recognition was to be one of the pleasures of his evening.
"——but I shall need you yourself for the final touches—the ones that will make all the difference."
"It's pretty good as it is," declared Mrs. Phillips, who, privately, was almost as much surprised as Cope. "When did you get to do it?"
This inquiry, simple as it was, put the canvas in a new light—that of an icon long cherished as the object of private devotion. Hortense stepped forward to the chair and made an adjustment of the picture's position: she had a flush and a frown to conceal. "But never mind," she thought, as she turned the canvas toward a slightly different light; "if Aunt Medora wants to help, let her."
She did not reply to her aunt's question. "Retouched from life, and then framed—who knows?" she asked. Of course it would look immensely better; would look, in fact, as it was meant to look, as she could make it look.
She told Cope that she had set up a studio near the town square, not far from the fountain-basin and the elms——
"Which won't count for much at this time of year," interjected her aunt.
"Well, the light is good," returned Hortense, "and the place is quiet; and if Mr. Cope will drop in two or three times, I think he will end by feeling that I have done him justice."
"This is a most kind attention," said Cope, slightly at sea. "I ought to be able to find time some afternoon...."
"Not too late in the afternoon," Hortense cautioned. "The light in February goes early."
When Lemoyne heard of this new project he gave Cope a look. He had no concern as to Mrs. Phillips, who was, for him, but a rather dumpy, over- brisk, little woman of forty-five. If she must run off with Bert every so often in a motor-car, he could manage to stand it. Besides, he had no desire to shut Cope—and himself—out of a good house. But the niece, scarcely twenty-three, was a more serious matter.
"Lookout!" he said to Cope. "Lookout!"
"I can take care of myself," the other replied, rather tartly.
"I wish you could!" retorted Lemoyne, with poignant brevity. "I'll go with you."
"I'd rather save you near the start, than have to try at the very end."
Cope flung himself out; and he looked in at Hortense's studio—which she had taken (or borrowed) for a month—before the week was half over.
Hortense had stepped into the shoes of a young gentlewoman who had been trying photography, and who had rather tired of it. At any rate, she had had a chance to go to Florida for a month and had seized it. Hortense had succeeded to her little north skylight, and had rearranged the rest to her own taste; it was a mingling of order and disorder, of calculation and of careless chance. She had a Victory of Samothrace and a green-and-gold dalmatic from some Tuscan town——But why go on?
Cope had not been in this new milieu fifteen minutes before Randolph happened along.
Randolph, as a friend of the family, could scarcely be other than persona grata. Hortense, however, gave him no great welcome. She stopped in the work that had but been begun. The winter day was none too bright, and the best of the light would soon be past, she said. The engagement could stand over. In any event, he was there ("he," of course, meaning Cope), and a present delay would only add to the total number of his calls. Hortense began to wipe her brushes and to talk of tea.
"I'll go, I'll go," said Randolph obligingly. "I heard about the new shop only yesterday, and I wanted to see it. I don't exact that I shall witness the mysteries in active operation."
Cope's glance asked Randolph to remain.
"There are no mysteries," returned Hortense. "It's just putting on a few dabs of paint in the right places."
She continued to take a few dabs from her brushes and to talk tea. "Stay for a sip," she said.
"Very well; thank you," replied Randolph, and wondered how long "a sip" might mean.
In the end it meant no longer for him than for Cope; they came away together. Hortense held Cope for a moment to make a second engagement at an earlier hour.
Randolph had not met Cope for several days, except at the opera, where he had left his regular Monday evening seat in the parquet to spend a few moments in Mrs. Phillips' friend's box. He had never seen Cope in evening dress before; but he found him handsome and distinguished, and some of the glamour of that high occasion still lingered about the young man as he now walked through High Street, in his rather shabby tweeds, at Randolph's side.
Randolph looked back upon his dinner as a complete success: Pearson was engaged, and Cope was free. He now said to Cope:
"Of course you must know I feel you were none too handsomely treated. George is a pleasant, enterprising fellow, but somewhat sudden and rapacious. If he is happy, I hope you are no less happy yourself...." Thus he resumed the subject which had been dropped at the Library door.
Cope shrank a little, and Randolph felt him shrinking. He fell silent; he understood. Pain sometimes took its own time to travel, and reached its goal by a slow, circuitous route. He thought suddenly of his bullfight in Seville, twenty-five years before. He had sat out his six bulls with entire composure; yet, back in America, some time later, he had encountered a bullfight in an early film and had not been able to follow it through. Cope, perhaps, was beginning to feel the edge of the sword and the drag at his vitals. The thing was over, and his, the elder man's, own part in it successfully accomplished; so why had he, conventional commentator, felt the need of further words?
He let the unhappy matter drop. When he spoke again he reminded Cope that the invitation for himself and Lemoyne still held good. Amy had been swept from the stage; but Lemoyne, a figure of doubt, was yet in its background. "I must have a 'close-up'," Randolph declared to himself, "and find out what he comes to." Cope had shown some reluctance to meet his advances—a reluctance which, he felt, was not altogether Cope's own.
"I know we shall be glad to come sometime," replied Cope, with seeming heartiness. This heartiness may have had its element of the genuine; at any rate, here was another "good house," from which no one need shut himself out without good cause. If Lemoyne developed too extreme a reluctance, he would be reminded that he was cherishing the hope of a position in the registrar's office, for at least half of the day; also, that Randolph enjoyed some standing in University circles, and that his brother-in-law was one of the trustees.
"Yes, indeed," continued Cope, in a further corroboration which might better have been dispensed with.
"You will be welcome," replied Randolph quietly. He would have preferred a single assurance to a double one.
COPE IN DOUBLE DANGER
Meanwhile Cope and Lemoyne refined daily on the details of their new menage and applied themselves with new single-mindedness to their respective interests. Cope had found a subject for his thesis in the great field of English literature,—or, rather, in a narrow bypath which traversed one of its corners. The important thing, as he frequently reminded Lemoyne, was not the thesis itself, but the aid which it might give his future. "It will make a difference, in salary, of three or four hundred dollars," he declared.
Lemoyne himself gave a few hours a week to Psychology in its humbler ranges. There were ways to hold the attention of children, and there were forms of advertising calculated to affect favorably the man who had money to spend. In addition, the University had found out that he could sing as well as act, and something had been said about a place for him in a musical play.
Between-times they brought their quarters into better order; and this despite numerous minor disputes. The last new picture did not always find at once its proper place on the wall; and sometimes there were discussions as to whether it should be toast or rolls, and whether there should be eggs or not. Occasionally sharp tones and quivering nostrils, but commonly amity and peace.
They were seen, or heard of, as going about a great deal together: to lectures, to restaurants, to entertainments in the city. But they went no longer, for the present, to Ashburn Avenue; they took their time to remember Randolph's repeated invitation; and there was, as yet, no further attendance at the studio in the Square,—for any reference to the unfinished portrait was likely to produce sharp tones and quivering nostrils indeed.
Other invitations began to come to Cope,—some of them from people he knew but slightly. He wondered whether his swoon and his shipwreck really could have done so much to make him known. Sometimes when these cards seemed to imply but a simple form of entertainment, at a convenient hour of the late afternoon, he would attend. It did not occur to him to note that commonly Medora Phillips was present: she was always in "active circulation," as he put it; and there he let things lie.
One of these entertainments was an afternoon reception of ordinary type, and the woman giving it had thrown a smallish library into closer communication with her drawing-room without troubling to reduce the library to order: books, pamphlets, magazines lay about in profuse carelessness. And it was in this library that Cope and Medora Phillips met.
"You've been neglecting me," she said.
"But how can I——?" he began.
"Yes, I know," she returned generously. "But after the first of May—Well, he is a young man of decisiveness and believes in quick action." She made a whiff, accompanied by an outward and forward motion of the hands. She was wafting Amy Leffingwell out of her own house into the new home which George Pearson was preparing for her. "After that——"
"Yes, after that, of course."
Mrs. Phillips was handling unconsciously a small pamphlet which lay on the library table. It was a magazine of verse—a monthly which did not scorn poets because they happened to live in the county in which it was published. The table of contents was printed on the cover, and the names of contributors were arranged in order down the right-hand side. Mrs. Phillips, carelessly running her eye over it while thinking of other things, was suddenly aware of the name of Carolyn Thorpe.
"What's this?" she asked. She ran her eye across to the other edge of the cover, and read, "Two Sonnets."
"Well, well," she observed, and turned to the indicated page. And, "When in the world——?" she asked, and turned back to the cover. It was the latest issue of the magazine, and but a day or two old.
"Carolyn in print, at last!" she exclaimed. "Why, isn't this splendid!"
Then she returned to the text of the two sonnets and read the first of them—part of it aloud.
"Well," she gasped; "this is ardent, this is outspoken!"
"That's the fashion among woman poets today," returned Cope, in a matter- of-fact tone. "They've gone farther and farther, until they hardly realize how far they have gone. Don't let them disturb you."
Mrs. Phillips reread the closing lines of the first sonnet, and then ran over the second. "Good heavens!" she exclaimed; "when I was a girl——!"
"I should say so." She looked from the magazine to Cope. "I wonder who 'the only begetter' may be."
"Is that quite fair? So many writers think it unjust—and even obtuse and offensive—if the thing is put on too personal a basis. It's all just an imagined situation, manipulated artistically...."
Mrs. Phillips looked straight at him. "Bertram Cope, it's you!" She spoke with elation. These sonnets constituted a tribute. Cope, she knew, had never looked three times, all told, at Carolyn Thorpe; yet here was Carolyn saying that she...
Cope dropped his eyes and slightly flushed.
"I wonder if she knows it's out?" Mrs. Phillips went on swiftly. "Did you?"
"I?" cried Cope, in dismay.
"You were taking it all so calmly."
"'Calmly'? I don't take it at all! Why should I? And why should you think there is any ref——?"
"Because I'm so 'obtuse' and 'offensive,' I suppose. Oh, if I could only write, or paint, or play, or something!"
Cope put his hand wearily to his forehead. The arts were a curse. So were gifted girls. So were over-appreciative women. He wished he were back home, smoking a quiet cigarette with Arthur Lemoyne.
Mrs. Ryder came bustling up—Mrs. Ryder, the mathematical lady who had given the first tea of all.
"I have just heard about Carolyn's poems. What it must be to live in the midst of talents! And I hear that Hortense has finally taken a studio for her portraits."
"Yes," replied Mrs. Phillips. "And she"—with a slight emphasis—"is doing Mr. Cope's picture,"—with another slight emphasis at the end.
Cope felt a half-angry tremor run through him. He was none the less perturbed because Medora Phillips meant obviously no offense. Hortense and Carolyn were viewed as but her delegates; they were doing for her what she would have been glad to be able to do for herself. Clearly, in her mind, there was not to be another Amy.
Well, that was something, he thought. He laughed uneasily, and gave the enthusiastic Mrs. Ryder a few details of the art-world (as she called it), —details which she would not be denied.
"I must call on dear Hortense, some afternoon," she said.
"Do," returned Hortense's aunt. "And mention the place. Let's keep the dear girl as busy as possible."
"If it were only photographs...." submitted Mrs. Ryder.
"That's a career too," Mrs. Phillips acknowledged.
They all drifted out into the larger room. Mrs. Ryder left them,—perhaps to distribute her small change of art and literature through the crowd.
"You're not forgetting Hortense?" Mrs. Phillips herself said, before leaving him.
"By no means," Cope replied.
"I hear you didn't make much of a start."
"We had tea," returned Cope, with satirical intention.
This left Medora Phillips unscathed. "Tea puts on no paint," she observed, and was lost in the press.
It need not be assumed that knowledge of Carolyn Thorpe's verse gained wide currency through University circles, but there was a copy of the magazine in the University library. Lemoyne saw it there. He scarcely knew whether to be pleased or vexed. Finally he decided that there was safety in numbers. If Cope really intended to go to that studio, it was just as well that there should be an impassioned poetess in the background. And it was just as well that Cope should know she was there. Lemoyne took a line not unlike Mrs. Phillips' own.
"I only wish there were more of them," he declared, looking up from his desk. "I'd like a lady barber for your head, a lady shoemaker for your feet, a lady psychologist for your soul——"
"Stop it!" cried Cope. "I've had about all I can stand. If you want to live in peace, as you sometimes say, do your share to keep the peace."
"You are going to have another sitting?"
"I am. How can I get out of it?"
"You don't want to get out of it."
"Well, after all the attentions they've shown us——"
"Me, then. Shall I be so uncivil as to hold back?"
"It might not displease her if you did."
"Your Mrs. Phillips. If I may risk a guess———"
"You may not. Your precious 'psychology' can wait. Don't be in such a damned hurry to use it."
"It had better be used in time."
"It had better not be used at all. Drop it. Think about your new play, or something."
"Oh, the devil!" sighed Lemoyne. "Winnebago seems mighty far off. We got on there, at least." He bent again over his desk.
Cope put down his book and came across. There were tears, perhaps, in his eyes—the moisture of vexation, or of contrition, or of both. "We can get along here, too," he said, with an arm around Lemoyne's shoulder.
"Let's hope so," returned Lemoyne, softening, with his hand pressed on Cope's own.
COPE AS A GO-BETWEEN
This brief exchange might have passed for a quarrel and a reconciliation; and the reconciliation seemed to call for a seal. That was soon set by another of Randolph's patient invitations to dinner.
"Let's go," said Cope; "I've got to go again—sometime."
"I don't care about it, very much," replied Lemoyne.
"If you want any help of his toward a position.... Time's passing. And a man can't be expected to bestir himself much for another man he's never even seen."
"All right. I'll go with you."
Randolph was glad to see Cope again, whom he had not met since the half hour in Hortense Dunton's studio. He was also glad to secure, finally, a close and leisurely look at Lemoyne. Lemoyne took the same occasion for a close and leisurely look at Randolph. Each viewed the other with dislike and distrust. Each spoke, so far as might be, to Cope—or through him. Sing-Lo, who was prepared to smile, saw few smiles elsewhere, and became sedate, even glum.
Randolph felt a physical distaste for Lemoyne. His dark eyes were too liquid; his person was too plump; the bit of black bristle beneath his nose was an offense; his aura——Yet who can say anything definite about so indefinite a thing as an aura, save that one feels it and is attracted or repelled by it? Lemoyne, on his side, developed an equal distaste (or repugnance) for the "little gray man"—as he called Randolph to himself and, later, even to Cope; though Randolph, speaking justly, was exactly neither gray nor little. Lemoyne noted, too, the early banishment of Randolph's eyeglasses, which disappeared as they had disappeared once or twice before. He felt that Randolph was trying to stay young rather late, and was showing himself inclined to "go" with younger men longer than they would welcome him. Why didn't he consort with people of his own age and kind? He was old; so why couldn't he be old?
The talk led—through Cope—to reminiscences of life in Winnebago. Randolph presently began to feel Lemoyne as a variously yet equivocally gifted young fellow—one so curiously endowed as to be of no use to his own people, and of no avail for any career they were able to offer him. A bundle of minor talents; a possible delight to casual acquaintances, but an exasperation to his own household; an ornamental skimmer over life's surfaces, when not a false fire for other young voyagers along life's coasts. Yet Bertram Cope admired him and had become absorbed in him. Their life in that northern town, with its fringe of interests—educational, ecclesiastical, artistic and aquatic—had been intimate, fused to a degree. Randolph began to realize, for the first time, the difficulties in the way of "cultivating" Cope. Cope was a field already occupied, a niche already filled.
While Randolph was gathering (through Cope) details of the life in Winnebago, Lemoyne was gathering (through Cope) details of the life in Churchton during the past autumn. He began to reconstruct that season: the long range of social entertainments, the proposed fall excursions, the sudden shifting of domicile. Randolph, it was clear, had tried to appropriate Cope and to supplant (knowingly or unknowingly) Cope's closest friend. Lemoyne became impatient over the fact that he was now sitting at Randolph's table. However, if Randolph could help him to a place and a salary, that would make some amends.
Presently Cope, having served as an intermediary, became the open centre of interest. His thesis was brought forward as a suitable subject of inquiry and comment. It was a relief to have come to a final decision; but no relief was in sight for a long time from the slavery of close reading. Every moment that could be spared from his classroom was given up to books —authors in whom he might be interested or not interested, but who must be gone through.
"A sort of academic convention," said Cope, rather wanly; "but a necessary one."
His eyes had begun to show excessive application; at least they looked tired and dim. His color, too, was paler. He had come to suggest again the young man who had been picked up from Medora Phillips' dining-room floor and laid out on the couch in her library, and who had shown a good deal of pallor during the few days that followed. "Take a little more air and exercise," Randolph counselled.
"A good rule always, for everybody," said Lemoyne, with a withholding of all tone and expression.
"I believe," Randolph continued, "that you are losing in both weight and color. That would be no advantage to yourself—and it might complicate Miss Dunton's problem. It's perplexing to an artist when one's subject changes under one's very eye."
"There won't be much time for sitting, from now on," observed Lemoyne concisely.
"I might try to go round once more," said Cope, "—in fairness. If there are to be higher lights on my cheekbones and lower lights for my eyes, an hour or so should serve to settle it."
"I wouldn't introduce many changes into my eyes and cheekbones, if I were you," said Randolph. Lemoyne was displeased; he thought that Randolph was taking advantage of his position as host to make an observation of unwarranted saliency, and he frowned at his plate.
Cope flushed, and looked at his.
The talk drifted toward dramatics, with Winnebago once more the background; but the foreground was occupied by a new musical comedy which one of the clubs might try in another month, and the tone became more cheery. Sing-Lo, who had come in with a maple mousse of his own making, smiled at last; and he smiled still more widely when, at the end of the course, his chief occidental masterpiece was praised. Sing-Lo also provided coffee and cigars in the den; and it was here that Cope felt the atmosphere right for venturing a word in behalf of Lemoyne. There had been few signs of relenting in Winnebago; and some modest source of income would be welcome— in fact, was almost necessary.
"Of course work is increasing in the offices," said Randolph, looking from one young man to the other; "and of course I have, directly or indirectly, some slight 'influence.'"
He felt no promptings to lend Lemoyne a hand; yet Cope himself, even if out of reach, might at least remain an object of continuing kindness.
"But if you are to interest yourself in some new undertaking by 'The Grayfriars,'" he said to Lemoyne, "will you have much time and attention to give to office-work?"
"Oh, I have time," replied Lemoyne jauntily, "and not many studies. Half a day of routine work, I thought.... Of course I'm not a manager, or director, or anything like that. I should just have a part of moderate importance, and should have only to give good heed to rehearsals...."
"Well," said Randolph thoughtfully.
"I hope you can do something," put in Cope, with fervor.
"Well," said Randolph again.
This uncomfortable and unsatisfactory dinner of three presently drew to its end. "I'd have made it four," said Randolph to Foster, a day or two later, "if I'd only thought of it in time."
"I don't want to meet them again," returned Foster quickly.
"Well," said Randolph, "I've no fondness for the new fellow, myself; but——"
"And I don't care about the other, either."
Randolph sighed. This was plainly one of Foster's off days. The only wonder was he had not more of them. He sat in darkness, with few diversions, occupations, ameliorations. His mind churned mightily on the scanty materials that came his way. He founded big guesses on nothings; he raised vast speculative edifices on the slightest of premises. To dislike a man he could not even see! Well, the blind—and the half-blind—had their own intuitions and followed their own procedures.
"Then you wouldn't advise me to speak a word for him?—for them?"
"Certainly not!" rejoined Foster, with all promptness. "They've treated you badly. They've put you off; and they came, finally, only because they counted on getting something out of you.
"Oh, I wouldn't say that of Cope."
"I would. And I do. They're completely wrapped up in their own interests, and in each other; and they're coupled to get anything they can out of Number Three. Or out of Number Four. Or Five. Or out of X,—the world, that is to say."
Randolph shrugged. This was one of Foster's bad days indeed.
"And what's this I hear about Hortense?" asked Foster, with bitterness.
"That won't amount to much."
"It won't? She's out in the open, finally. She took that place for a month with one express object—to get him there, paint or no paint. She's fretful and cantankerous over every day of delay, and soon she'll be in an undisguised rage."
"What does her aunt say to it?"
"She's beginning to be vexed. She's losing patience. She thinks it's a mistake—and an immodest one. She wants to send her away for a visit. To think of it!—as soon as one girl lets go another takes hold,—and a third person holds on through all!"
But Foster was not to be stayed.
"And that poetry of Carolyn's! Medora herself came up and read it to me. It was a 'tribute,' she thought!"
"That won't amount to anything at all."
"It won't? With Hortense scornfully ridiculing it, and Carolyn bursting into tears before she can make her bolt from the room, and Amy wondering whether, after all...! If things are as bad as they are for me up here, how much worse must they be for the rest of them below! And that confounded engagement has made it still worse all round!"
Randolph ran his palms over his perplexed temples. "Whose?"
"Whose? No wonder you ask! Engagements, then."
"When are they going to be married?"
"The first week in May, I hear. But Pearson is trying for the middle of April. His flat is taken." Foster writhed in his chair.
"Why do they care for him?" he burst out. "He's nothing in himself. And he cares nothing for them. And he cares nothing for you," Foster added boldly. "All he has thought for is that fellow from up north."
"Don't ask me why they care," replied Randolph, with studied sobriety. "Why does anybody care? And for what? For the thing that is just out of reach. He's cool; he's selfish; he's indifferent. Yet, somehow, frost and fire join end to end and make the circle complete." He fell into reflection. "It's all like children straining upward for an icicle, and presently slipping, with cracked pates, on the ice below."
"Well, my pate isn't cracked."
"Unless it's the worst cracked of all."
Foster tore off his shade and threw it on the floor. "Mine?" he cried. "Look to your own!"
"Joe!" said Randolph, rising. "That won't quite do!"
"Be a fool along with the others, if you will!" retorted Foster. "Oh!" he went on, "Haven't I seen it all? Haven't I felt it all? You, Basil Randolph, mind your own ways too!"
Randolph thought of words, but held his tongue. Words led to other words, and he might soon find himself involved in what would seem like a defense— an attitude which he did not relish, a course of which he did not acknowledge the need. "Poor Joe!" he thought; "sitting too much by himself and following over-closely the art of putting things together—anyhow!" Joe Foster must have more company and different things to consider. What large standard work—what history, biography, or bulky mass of memoirs in from four to eight volumes—would be the best to begin on before the winter should be too far spent?
Four or five days later, Randolph wrote to Cope that there was a good prospect for a small position in the administration offices of the University, and a week later Lemoyne was in that position. Cope, who recognized Randolph's handling of the matter as a personal favor, replied in a tone of some warmth. "He's really a very decent fellow, after all,—of course he is," pronounced Randolph. Lemoyne himself wrote more tardily and more coolly. He was taking time from his Psychology and from "The Antics of Annabella," it appeared, to acquaint himself with the routine of his new position. Randolph shrugged: he must wait to see which of the three interests would be held the most important.
COPE ESCAPES A SNARE
Lemoyne's first week in his new berth held him rather close, and Cope was able to move about with less need of accounting for his every hour. One of his first concerns was to get over his sitting with Hortense Dunton. His "sitting," he said: it was to be the first, the only and the last.
He came into her place with a show of confidence, a kind of blustery bonhomie. "I give you an hour from my treadmill," he declared brightly. "So many books, and such dry ones!"
Hortense, who had been moping, brightened too. "I thought you had forgotten me," she said chidingly. Yet her tone had less acerbity than that which she had employed, but a few moments before, to address him in his absence. For she often had in mind, at intervals longer or shorter, Cope's improvisation about the Sassafras—too truly that dense-minded shrub had failed to understand the "young ladies" and their "needs."
"My thesis," he said. "From now on, it must take a lot of my thought and every moment of my spare time." He looked at the waiting canvas. "Clinch it to-day. Hurry it through."
He spoke with a factitious vivacity which almost gave a sense of chill. She looked at him with a shade of dissatisfaction and discomfort.
"What! must it all be done in a drive?" she asked.
"By no means. Watch me relax. Is that my chair? See me drop into complete physical and mental passivity—the kef of the Arabs."
He mounted the model-throne, sank into the wide chair, and placed his hands luxuriously on its arms. His general pose mattered little: she had not gone beyond his head and shoulders.
Hortense stared. Would he push her on the moment into the right mood? Would he have her call into instant readiness her colors and brushes? Why, even a modest amateur must be allowed her minutes of preparation and approach.
"Passivity?" she repeated, beginning to get under way. "Shall I find you very entertaining in that condition?"
"Entertaining? Me, the sitter? Why, I've always heard it was an important part of a portrait-painter's work to keep the subject interested and amused."
He smiled in his cold, distant way. The north light cut across the forehead, nose and chin which made his priceless profile. The canvas itself, done on theory in a lesser light, looked dull and lifeless.
Hortense felt this herself. She did not see how she was going to key it up in a single hour. As she considered among her brushes and tubes, she began to feel nervous, and her temper stirred.
"You have a great capacity for being interested and amused," she said. "Most men are like you. Especially young ones. They are amused, diverted, entertained—and there it ends."
Cope felt the prick. "Well, we are bidden," he said; "and we come. Too many of us have little to offer in return, except appreciation and goodwill. How better appreciate such kindness as Mrs. Phillips' than by gratefully accepting more of it?" (Stilted copy-book talk; and he knew it.)
"You haven't been accepting much of it lately," she returned, feeling the point of a new brush. She spoke with the consciousness of empty evenings that might have been full.
"Hardly," he replied. And he felt that this one word sufficed.
"Well, the coast will be clear after the twentieth of April."
"That is the date, then, is it?" The more he thought of the impending ceremony, the more grateful he was for his escape. Thankfulness had salved the earlier wound; no pain now came from his touching it.
"Yes; on that day the house will see the last of them."
"The wedding, then, will——?"
"Yes. Aunt Medora says, 'Why go to Iowa?—you're at home here.' Why, indeed, drag George away out to Fort Lodge? Let her own people, who are not many, come to us. Aunt will do everything, and do it handsomely."
She slanted her palette and looked toward the skylight. Cope's own glance swept non-committally the green burlap walls. Both of them were seeing pictures of the wedding preparations. Hortense saw delivery-boys at the front door, with things that must be held to the light or draped over chairs. She saw George haling Amy to the furniture-shops and to the dealers in wall-paper. She saw them in cosy shaded confab evening after evening, in her aunt's library. It was a period of joy, of self-absorption, of unsettlement, of longing, of irritation, of exasperation—oh, would it never end! Cope saw a long string of gifts and entertainments, a diamond engagement-ring, a lavishly-furnished apartment ... How in the world could he himself have compassed all this? And how blessed was he among men that he had not been obliged to try!
Hortense went through some motions with her brush, yet seemed to be looking beyond him rather than at him.
"There will be a bridal-trip of a week or so," she concluded; "and they will be in their new home on the first of May."
"Very good," said Cope. He thought he was thinking to himself, but he spoke aloud. "And that ends it." This last he really did say to himself.
He sank more comfortably into his chair, kept his face properly immobile, and spoke no further word. Hortense brought back her gaze to focus and worked on for a little time in silence. The light was good, her palette was full, her brushes were well-chosen, her eyes were intent on his face. It was a handsome face, displayed to the best advantage. She might look as long as she liked, and a long look preceded every stroke.
Presently she paused, opening her eyes wider and holding aloft her brush. "There will be a bride's-maid," she said.
"The deuce!" he thought. "That didn't end it!" But he said no thing aloud.
"Why, how should I——?"
"Guess!" she cried peremptorily, in a tone of bitter derision. "You won't? Well, it's Carolyn—our poor, silly Carolyn! And what do you suppose she has started in to do? She is writing an epitha—an epithal——"
"——amium," contributed Cope. "An epithala-mium."
"Yes, an epithala-mium!" repeated Hortense, with an outburst of jarring laughter. "Isn't she absurd! Isn't she ridiculous!"
"Is she? Why, it seems to me a delicate attention, a very sweet thought." If Carolyn could make anything out of Amy—and of George—why, let her do it.
"You like her poetry!" cried Hortense in a high, strained voice. "You enjoy her epithalamiums, and her—sonnets...."
Cope flushed and began to grow impatient. "She is a sweet girl," he said; "and if she wishes to write verse she is quite within her rights."
"'Sweet'! There you go again! 'Sweet'—twice. She ought to know!"
"Perhaps she does know. Everybody else knows."
"And perhaps she doesn't!" cried Hortense. "Tell her! Tell her!"
Cope stared. "She is a sweet girl," he repeated; "and she has been filling very discreetly a somewhat difficult position——"
He knew something of the suppressed bitterness which, in subordinate places, was often the lot of the pen. He found himself preferring, just here, "pen" to "typewriter": he would give Carolyn a touch of idealization —though she had afflicted him with a heavy stroke of embarrassment.
"'Difficult position'?" shrilled Hortense. "With Aunt Medora the very soul of kindness? I like that! Well, if you want to rescue her from her difficult position, do it. If you admire her—and love her—tell her so! She'll be grateful—just read those sonnets over again!"
Hortense dropped her palette and brushes and burst into outrageous tears.
Cope sat bolt upright in that spacious chair. "Tell her? I have nothing to tell her. I have nothing to tell anyone!"
His resonant words cut the air. They uttered decision. He did not mean to make the same mistake twice.
Hortense drew across her eyes an apron redolent of turpentine and stepped toward the throne.
"Nothing? Why this sudden refuge in silence?" she asked, almost truculently, even if tremulously. "You usually find enough words—even though they mean little."
"I'm afraid I do," he admitted cautiously.
"You have nothing to tell anyone? Nothing to tell—me?"
Cope rose. "Nothing to tell anyone," he repeated. "Noth-ing."
"Then let me tell you something." There was an angry thrill in her voice. "For I am not so selfish and cold-hearted as you are. I have seen nobody but you all these months. I have never tried harder to please anybody. You have scarcely noticed me—you have never given me a glance or a thought. You could interest yourself in that silly Amy and in our foolish Carolyn; but for me—me—Nothing!"
Cope came down from the throne. If she had lavished her maiden thoughts on him, by day or evening or at night, he had not known and could hardly be supposed to know. Indeed, she had begun by treating him with a cursory roughness; nor had he noticed any great softening later on.
"Listen," he said. Under the stress of embarrassment and alarm his cold blue eyes grew colder and his delicate nostrils quivered with an effect a little too like disdain. "I like you as well as another; no more, no less. I am in no position to think of love and marriage, and I have no inclination that way. I am willing to be friends with everybody, and nothing more with anybody." The sentences came with the cruel detachment of bullets; but, "Not again, not twice," was his uppermost thought. Any bluntness, any ruggedness, rather than another month like that of the past holiday season.
He took a step away and looked to one side, toward the couch where his hat and coat were lying.
"Go, if you will," she said. "And go as soon as you like. You are a contemptible, cold-hearted ingrate. You have grudged me every minute of your company, everywhere—and every second you have given me here. If I have been foolish it is over now, and there shall be nothing to record my folly." She stepped to the easel and hurled the canvas to the floor, where it lay with palette and brushes.
Cope stood with his hat in his hand and his coat over his arm. He seemed to see the open volume of some "printed play." After all, there was a type which, even under emotional stress, gave a measure of instinctive heed to structure and cadence. Well, if there was relief for her in words, he could stand to hear her speak for a moment or two more, not longer.
"One word yet," she said in a panting voice. "Your Arthur Lemoyne. That preposterous friendship cannot go on for long. You will tire of him; or more likely he will tire of you. Something different, something better will be needed,—and you will live to learn so. I should be glad if I never saw either one of you again!"
She turned her stormy face away, and Cope slipped out with a blended sense of mortification, pain and relief.
COPE ABSENT FROM A WEDDING
Cope went out on the square with his being a-tingle. If Hortense, on another occasion, had thrown a dash of brine, on this occasion she had rubbed in the salt itself. And he had struck a harsh blow in turn; the flat of his mind was still stinging, as if half the shock of the blow had remained behind. "But it was no time for half-measures," he muttered to himself. "Not again; not twice!" he repeated.
Hortense remained for several days in a condition of sullen anger—she was a cloud lit up by occasional unaccountable flashes of temper. "Whatever in the world is the matter with her?" asked her aunt in more directions than one. And Amy Leffingwell, blissfully busy over her little trousseau and her selection of china-patterns, protested and opened wide, inquiring blue eyes against the intrusion of such a spirit at such a joyous time.
But Hortense, though better days intervened now and then, did not improve essentially; and she contrived at the climacteric moment of Amy's career to make herself felt—unduly felt—after all.
The wedding took place during the latter half of April, as demanded by the enterprising wooer. Then there would be a rapid ten-day wedding-journey, followed by a prompt, business-like occupancy of the new apartment on the first of May exactly.
Pearson's parents prepared to welcome Amy handsomely; and her own people— some of them—came on from Iowa to attend the ceremony. There was her mother, who had been rather disconcerted by the sudden shift, but who was satisfied with George Pearson the moment she saw him, and who found him even more vivid and agreeable than Amy's photograph of him had led her to expect. There was the aunt, who had lived a bare, starved life, and who luxuriated, along with her sister, in the splendor of the Louis Quinze chamber. And there was a friendly, wide-awake brother of fourteen who was tucked away in the chintz room up stairs, whence he issued to fraternize in the ball-room with Joe Foster, whose exacerbated spirit he did much to soothe.
This young brother was alert, cheery, chatty. He was not at all put out by Foster's wheeled chair and eyeshade, nor by the strange contortions which Foster went through when, on occasion, he left the chair for a couch or for some chair of ordinary type. He got behind the wheels, and together they made the tour of the landscapes, marines, and genre-pieces which covered the walls. The boy was sympathetic, without being obtrusively so, and his comments on the paintings were confident and unconventional. "So different from ce cher Pelouse," said Foster, with a grimace. He enjoyed immensely the fragmental half-hours given him through those two days. His young companion was lavish in his reports on life's vast vicissitudes at Fort Lodge, and was always ready with comparisons between things as observed in his home town and in Churchton itself. He came as a tonic breeze; and the evening after he departed, Foster, left moping alone in the let-down which followed the festivities, said to himself more than once, "If I had had a boy, I should have wanted him just like Dick."
Dick's mother and aunt stood up as well as they could against the bustling, emphatic geniality of Medora Phillips; and they were able, after a little, to adjust themselves to the prosperity of the Pearsons. These, they came to feel, were essentially of the same origin and traditions as themselves: just plain people who, however, had settled on the edge of the Big Town to make money and had made it. Pearson the elder was hardly more prepotent than Mr. Lusk, the banker at home. George himself was a dashing go-ahead: if he turned into a tired business-man his wife would know how to divert him.
Medora Phillips provided rice. Also she satisfied herself as to where, if the newer taste were not too delicate, she could put her hand on an old shoe. She was happy to have married off Amy; she would be still happier once Amy got away. More room would be left for other young people. By "other young people" she meant, of course, certain young men. By "certain young men" she thought she meant Cope and Lemoyne. Of course she meant Cope only.
"If Carolyn keeps amiable and if Hortense contrives to regain her good- nature, we may have some pleasant days yet," she mused.
But Hortense did not regain her good-nature; she did not even maintain her self-control. In the end, the ceremony was too much for her. George and Amy had plighted their troth in a floral bower, which ordinarily was a bay window, before a minister of a denomination which did not countenance robes nor a ritual lifted beyond the chances of wayward improvisation; and after a brief reception the new couple prepared for the motor-car dash which was to take them to a late train. In the big wide hallway, after Amy had kissed Carolyn and thanked her for her poem and was preparing for the shower of rice which she had every reason to think she must face, there was a burst of hysterical laughter from somewhere behind, and Hortense Dunton, to the sufficing words, "O Bertram, Bertram!" emitted with sufficing clearness, fainted away.
Her words, if not heard by all the company, were heard by a few to whom they mattered; and while Hortense, immediately after the departure of the happy pair, was being revived and led away, they left occasion for thought. Carolyn Thorpe cast a startled glance. The aunt from Iowa, who knew that Bertrams did not grow on every bush, and whose senses the function had preternaturally sharpened for any address from Romance, seized and shook her sister's arm; and, later on, in a Louis Quinze causeuse, up stairs, they agreed that if young Cope really had had another claimant on his attention, it was all the better that their Amy had ended by taking George. And Medora Phillips, in the front hall itself——
Well, to Medora Phillips, in the front hall, much was revealed as in a lightning-flash, and the revelation was far from agreeable. What advantage in Amy's departure if Hortense continued to cumber the ground? Hortense must go off somewhere, for a sojourn of a month or more, to recover her health and spirits and to let the house recover its accustomed tone of cheer.
Medora forced these considerations to the back of her mind and saw most of her guests out of the house. Toward the end of it all she found herself relaxing in the library, with Basil Randolph in the opposite chair. Randolph himself had figured in the ceremony. This had been a crude imitation of a time-hallowed form and had allowed for an extemporaneous prayer and for a brief address to the young couple; but it had retained the familiar inquiry, "Who giveth—?" "Who can give?" asked Medora of Amy. Poor Joe was rather out of the question, and Brother Dick was four or five years too young. Was there, then, anyone really available except that kind Mr. Randolph? So Basil Randolph, after remembering Amy with a rich and handsome present, had taken on a paternal air, had stepped forward at the right moment, and was now recovering from his novel experience.
The two, as they sat there, said little, though they looked at each other with half-veiled, questioning glances. Medora, indeed, improvised a little stretch of silent dialogue, and it made him take his share. She felt dislocated, almost defeated. Hortense's performance had set her to thinking of Bertram Cope, and she figured the same topic as uppermost in the mind of Basil Randolph.
"Well, you have about beaten me," she said.
"How so?" she made him ask, with an affectation of simplicity.
"You know well enough," she returned. "You have played off the whole University against my poor house, and you have won. Your influence with the president, your brother on the board of trustees ... If Bertram Cope has any gratitude in his composition...."
"Oh, well," she let him say, "I don't feel that I did much; and I'm not sure I'm glad for what I did do."
"You may regret it, of course. That other man is an uncertain quantity."
"Oh, come," he said; "you've had the inside track from the very start: this house and everything in it...."
"You have a house of your own, now."
"Your dinners and entertainments...."
"You have your own dinner-table."
"Your limousine, your chauffeur,—running to the opera and heaven knows where else...."
"Taxis can always be had. Yes," she went on, "you have held the advantage over a poor woman cooped up in her own house. While I have had to stick here, attending to my housekeeping, you have been careering about everywhere,—you with a lot of partners and clerks in your office, and no compulsion to look in more than two or three times a week. Of course you can run to theatres and clubs. I wonder they don't dispense with you altogether!"
"There's the advantage of a business arranged to run itself—so far as I am concerned."
"Yes, you have had the world to range through: shows and restaurants; the whole big city; strolls and excursions, and who knows what beside...."
Thus Medora Phillips continued silently, and with no exact sense of justice, to work up her grievance. Presently she surprised Randolph with a positive frown. She had made a quick, darting return to Hortense.
"I shall send her away," she said aloud. The girl might join her studio friend, who had stopped at Asheville on her way North, and stay with her for a few weeks. Yes, Hortense might go and meet the spring—or even the summer, if that must be. The spring here in town she herself would take as it came. "I shall welcome a few free, easy breaths after this past fortnight," she finished audibly.
Randolph squared himself with her mood as best he could. "You are tired and nervous," he said with banality. "Get the last of us out and go to bed. I'll lead the way, and will give these loiterers as marked an example as possible."
Medora Phillips hushed down her house finally and went thoughtfully up stairs to her room. Amy had gone off, and Hortense was sentenced to go. There remained only Carolyn. Was there any threat in her and her sonnets?
COPE AGAIN IN THE COUNTRY
Medora treated Hortense to a few cautious soundings, decided that another locale was the thing to do her good, and sent her South forthwith.
"It's a low latitude," she said to herself; "but it's a high altitude. The season is late, but she won't suffer."
Hortense, who had been sullen and fractious, met her aunt half-way, and agreed passively when Medora said:
"It will benefit you to see the spring come on in a new scene and in a new fashion. You will find the mountains more interesting than the dunes." So Hortense packed her things and joined her friend for a brief sojourn in sight of the Great Smokies.
Thus, when Medora herself went forth to meet the spring among the sand-hills, she had only Carolyn and the other members of her domestic staff. Yet no simplest week-end without a guest or so, and she asked Cope to accompany them.
"You need it," she told him bluntly; "—you need a change, however slight and brief. You are positively thin. You make me wish that thesises——"
"Theses," Cope corrected her, rather spiritlessly.
"——that theses, then, had never been invented. To speak familiarly, you are almost 'peaked.'"
Cope, with the first warm days, had gone back to the blue serge suit of the past autumn, and he filled it even less well than before. And his face was thin to correspond.
"Besides," she went on, "we need you. It will be a kind of camping-out for a day or two—merely that. We must have your help to pitch the tent, so to speak, and to pick up firewood, and to fry the bacon.... And this time," she added, "you shall not have that long tiresome trip by train. There will be room in the car."
She did not attempt to make room for Lemoyne. She was glad to have no need to do so; Lemoyne was deeply engrossed otherwise—"Annabella" and her "antics" were almost ready for the public eye. The first of May would see the performance, and the numerous rehearsals were exacting, whether as regarded the effort demanded or the time. Every spare hour was going into them, as well as many an hour that could hardly be spared. Lemoyne, who had been cast originally for a minor female part, now found himself transferred, through the failure of a principal, to a more important one. For him, then, rehearsals were more exigent than ever. He cut his Psychology once or twice, nor could he succeed, during office hours, in keeping his mind on office-routine. His superiors became impatient and then protestant. The annual spring dislocation of ordered student life was indeed a regular feature of the year's last term; yet to push indulgence as far as Arthur Lemoyne was pushing it——!
Cope was concerned; then worried. "Arthur," he said, "be reasonable about this. You've got real work to do, remember."
But Lemoyne's real work was in the musical comedy. "This is the biggest chance I've ever had in my life," he declared, "and I don't want to lose out on it."
So Cope rolled away to the dunes and left Lemoyne behind for one Saturday night rehearsal the more.
Duneland gave him a tonic welcome. Under a breezy sky the far edge of the lake stood out clear. Along its nearer edge the vivacious waves tumbled noisily. The steady pines were welcoming the fresh early foliage of such companions as dressed and undressed in accord with the calendar; the wrecked trunks which had given up life and its leafy pomps seemed somehow less sombre and stark; and in the threatened woodlands behind the hills a multiplicity of small new greeneries stirred the autumn's dead leaves and brightened up the thickets of shrubbery. The arbutus had companioned the hepatica, and the squads of the lupines were busily preparing their panoply of lavender-blue racemes. Nature was breaking bounds. On the inland horizon rose the vast bulk of the prison. As on other excursions, nobody tried too hard to see it.
"It's all too lovely," exclaimed Medora Phillips. "And what is quite as good," she was able to declare, "the house itself is all right." Winter had not weakened its roof nor wrenched away its storm-windows; no irresponsible wayfarer had used it for a lodging, nor had any casual marauder entered to despoil. Medora directed the disposition of the hamper of food with a relieved air and sent Cope down with Peter for an armful or two of driftwood from the assertive shore.
"And you, Carolyn," she said, "see if the oil-stove will really go."
Down on the beach itself, where the past winter's waste was still profusely spread, Cope rose to the greening hills, to the fresh sweep of the wind, and to the sun-shot green and purple streakings over the water. The wind, in particular, took its own way: dry light sand, blown from higher shelvings, striped the dark wet edges of the shore; and every bending blade of sandgrass drew a circle about itself with its own revolving tip.
Cope let the robust and willing Peter pick up most of the firewood and himself luxuriated in the spacious world round about him. Yes, a winter had flown—or, at any rate, had passed—and here he was again. There had been annoyances, but now he felt a wide and liberal relief. Here, for example, was the special stretch of shore on which Amy Leffingwell had praised his singing and had hinted her desire to accompany him,—but never mind that. Farther on was the particular tract where Hortense Dunton had pottered with her water-colors and had harried him with the heroines of eighteenth century fiction,—but never mind that, either. All those things were past, and he was free. Nobody remained save Carolyn Thorpe, an unaggressive girl with whom one could really trust oneself and with whom one could walk, if required, in comfort and content. Cope threw up his head to the hills and threw out his chest to the winds, and laid quick hands on a short length of weather-beaten hemlock plank. "Afraid I'm not holding up my end," he said to Peter.
At the house again, he found that Carolyn had brought the oil-stove back into service, and, with Helga, had cast the cloth over the table and had set some necessary dishes on it. He fetched a pail or two of water from the pump, and each time placed a fresh young half-grown sassafras leaf on the surface. "The trade-mark of our bottling-works," he said facetiously; "to show that our products are pure." And Carolyn, despite his facetiousness, felt more than ever that he might easily become a poet. Medora viewed the floating leaves with indulgent appreciation. "But don't let's cumber ourselves with many cares," she suggested; "we are here to make the best of the afternoon. Let's out and away,—the sooner the better."
The three soon set forth for a stroll through spring's reviving domain. Cope walked between Medora and Carolyn, or ahead of them, impartially sweeping away twigs and flowering branches from before their faces. The young junipers were putting forth tender new tips; the bright leaves of the sassafras shone forth against the pines. Above the newly-rounded tops of the oaks and maples in the valley below them the Three Witches rose gauntly; and off on their far hill the two companion pines—(how had he named them? Romeo and Juliet? Pelleas and Melisande?)—still lay their dark heads together in mysterious confidences under the heightening glow of the late afternoon sun. Carolyn looked from them back to Cope and gave him a shy smile.
He did not quite smile back. Carolyn was well enough, however. She was suitably dressed for a walk. Her shoes were sensible, and so was her hair. Amy had run to fluffiness. Hortense had often favored heavy waves and emphatic bandeaux. But Carolyn's hair was drawn back plainly from her forehead, and was gathered in a small, low-set knot. "Still, it's no concern of mine," he reminded himself, and walked on ahead.
Carolyn's sensible shoes brought her back, with the others, at twilight. The three took up rather ornamentally (with aid from Peter and Helga) the lighter details of housekeeping. Toward the end of the stroll, Cope and Carolyn,—perhaps upon the mere unconscious basis of youth,—had rather fallen in together, and Medora Phillips, once or twice, had had to safeguard for herself her face and eyesight from the young trees that bordered their path. But that evening, as they sat on a settle before the driftwood fire, Medora took pains to place herself in the middle. Carolyn was a sweet young flower, doubtless—humbler, possibly, than Amy or Hortense; yet she too perhaps must be extirpated, gently but firmly, from the garden of desire.
"You look better already," Medora said to Cope. "You'll go back to-morrow a new man."
Her elbow was on the back of the settle and close to his shoulder. His face caught the glow from the fire.
"Oh, I'm all right, I assure you," he said.
"You do look better," observed Carolyn on her own account. "This air is everything. Only a few hours of it——"
"Another bit of wood on the fire, if you please, Carolyn," said her patroness.
"Let me do it," said Cope. He rose quickly and laid on a stick or two. He remained standing on the edge of the glow. He hoped nobody would say again that he was looking rather thin and pale.
"And what is Mr. Lemoyne doing this evening?" presently asked Mrs. Phillips in a dreamy undertone. Her manner was casual and negligent; her voice was low and leisurely. She seemed to place Lemoyne at a distance of many, many leagues. "Rehearsing, I suppose?"
"Yes," replied Cope. "This new play has absorbed him completely."
"He will do well?"
"He always does. He always has."
"Men in girls' parts are so amusing," said Carolyn. "Their walk is so heavy and clumsy, even if their dancing isn't. And when they speak up in those big deep bass and baritone voices...!"
"Arthur will speak in a light tenor."
"Will his walk be heavy and clumsy?" asked Mrs. Phillips.
"He is an artist," replied Cope.
"Not too much of one, I trust," she returned. "I confess I like boys best in such parts when they frankly and honestly seem to be boys. That's half the fun—and nine-tenths of the taste."
"Yes, taste. Short for good taste. There's a great deal of room for bad. A thing may be done too thoroughly. Once or twice I've seen it done that way, by—artists."
Cope, in the half-light, seemed rather unhappy.
"He finds time for—for all this—this technique?" Mrs. Phillips asked.
"He's very clever," replied Cope, rather unhappy still. "It does take time, of course. I'm concerned," he added.
"About his other work?"
"Yes." He stepped aside a little into the shadow.
"Come back to your place," said Medora Phillips. "You look quite spectral."
Cope, with a light sigh, returned to his post on the settle and to his share in the firelight. Silence fell. From far below were heard the active waves, moaning themselves to rest. And a featureless evening moved on slowly.
COPE AS A HERO
At ten o'clock Cope found himself tucked away in a small room on the ground floor. It had been left quite as planned and constructed by the original builder of the house. It was cramped and narrow, with low ceiling and one small window. It gave on a short side-porch which was almost too narrow to sit on and which was apropos of no special prospect. Doubtless more than one stalwart youth had slept there before him,—a succession of farmers' sons who fed all day on the airs and spaces of the great out-of-doors, and who needed little of either through a short night's rest. It was more comfortable at the end of April than other guests had found it in mid- August.
A little before eleven he awoke the house with a loud, ringing cry. Some one outside had passed his narrow window; feet were heard on the back porch and hands at the kitchen door. Peter was out as quickly as Cope himself; and the women, in differing stages of dress and half-dress, followed at once.
While Mrs. Phillips and Carolyn were clinging to Cope, who had rushed out in undershirt and trousers, Peter had a short tussle on the porch with the intruder. He came in showing a scratch or two on his face, and he reported the pantry window broken open.
"Some tramp along the beach saw our lights," suggested Carolyn.
"What was he like, Peter?" asked Mrs. Phillips.
"I couldn't make out in the dark," Peter replied. "But he fought hard for what he took, and he got away with it." He felt the marks on his face. "Must have been a pretty hungry man."
"It was some refugee hiding in my woods," said Medora Phillips. She made her real thought no plainer. She never liked to see, in her walks, that distant prison, and she never spoke of it to her guests; but the fancy of some escaped convict lurking below among her thickets was often present in her mind.
Her fancy was now busy with some burglar, or even some murderer, who had made his bolt for liberty; and she clung informally to the clarion-voiced Cope as to a savior. She saw, with displeasure, that Carolyn was disposed to cling too. She asked Carolyn to control herself and told her the danger was over; she even requested her to return to her room. But Carolyn lingered.
Medora herself stood with Cope in the light of the dying fire. She was dressed almost as inadequately as he, but she felt that she must cling tremblingly to him and thank him for something or other.
"I don't know what you've saved us from," she panted. "We may owe our very lives to you!"
Peter, in the background, again thoughtfully felt his face and became conscious of a growing ache in the muscles of his arms. He retired, with a smile, to a still more distant plane. The regular did the work and the volunteer got the praise.
Mrs. Phillips presently gave up her drooping hold on the reluctant Cope and called Peter forward. "Is anything missing?" she asked.
"Only part of the breakfast, I expect," said Peter, with a grin. "And maybe some of the lunch. He surely was a hungry man!"
"Well, we sha'n't starve. See to all the doors and windows before you go back to bed."
But going back to bed was the one thing that she herself felt unable to do. She asked Carolyn to bring her a wrap of some kind or other, and sat down on the settle to talk it over. Cope had modestly slipped on a coat. The fire was dying—that was the only difference between twelve o'clock and ten.
"If I had known what was going to happen," declared Medora volubly, "I never could have gone to bed at all! And to think"—here she left Carolyn's end of the settle and drew nearer to Cope's—"that I should ever have even thought of coming out here without a man!"
She now rated her midnight intruder as a murderer, and believed more devoutly than ever that Cope had saved all their lives. Cope, who knew that he had contributed nothing but a loud pair of lungs, began to feel rather foolish.
Nor did the anomalous situation commend itself in any degree to his taste. But it hit Medora Phillips' taste precisely, and she continued to sit there, pressing an emotional enjoyment from it. An hour passed before her excitement—an excitement kept up, perhaps, rather factitiously—was calmed, and she trusted herself back in her own room.
Breakfast was a scanty affair,—it must be that if anything was to be left over for lunch. While they were busy with toast and coffee voices were heard in the woods—loud cries in call and answer.
"There!" said Medora, setting down her cup; "I knew it!"
Presently two men came climbing up to the house, while the voices of others were still audible in the humpy thickets below.
The men were part of a search-party, of course,—a posse; and they wanted to know whether....
"He tried to break in," said Medora Phillips eagerly; "but this gentleman...."
She turned appreciatively to Cope. Carolyn, really impressed by her well- sustained seriousness and ardor, almost began to believe that they owed their lives to Bertram Cope alone.
"Was he a—murderer?" asked Medora.
The men looked serious, but made no categorical reply. They glanced at the wrecked pantry window, and they looked with more intentness at the long sliding footprints which led away, down the half-bare sand-slope. Then they slid down themselves.
Medora asked Carolyn to do what she could toward constructing a lunch and then walked down to the shore with Cope to compose her nerves. No stroll today along the ridged amphitheatre of the hills, whence the long, low range of buildings, under that tall chimney, was so plainly in view. Still less relishing the idea of a tramp through the woods themselves, the certain haunt—somewhere—of some skulking desperado. No, they would take the shore itself—open to the wide firmament, clear of all snares, and free from every disconcerting sight.
"Poor Carolyn!" said Medora presently. "How fluttered and inefficient she was! A good secretary—in a routine way—but so lacking in initiative and self-possession!"
Cope's look tended to become a stare. He thought that Carolyn had been in pretty fair control of herself,—had been less fluttery and excited, indeed, than her employer.
But Medora had been piqued, the night before, by Carolyn's tendency to linger on the scene and to help skim the emotional cream from the situation.
"And in such dishabille, too! I hope you don't think she seemed immodest?"
But Cope had given small heed to their dress, or to their lack of it. In fact, he had noticed little if any difference between them. He only knew that he had felt a degree more comfortable after getting his own coat on.
"Carolyn understands her place pretty well," mused Medora. "Yet..."
"Anybody might be excused for looking anyhow, at such a time," observed Cope, fending off the intrusion of a new set of considerations; "and in such a sudden stir. I hope nobody noticed how I looked!"
"Well, you were noticeable," declared Medora, with some archness. She had been conscious enough of his spare waist, his sinewy arms, his swelling chest. "It was easy enough to see where the noise came from," she said, looking him over.
"Yes, I supplied the noise—and that only. It was Peter, please remember, who supplied the muscle."
She declined to let her mind dwell on Peter. Peter possessed no charm. Besides, he was prosaically on the payroll.
They continued to saunter along the sand. Yesterday's sparse clouds had vanished, along with much of yesterday's wind. The waters that had tumbled and vociferated now merely murmured. The lake stood calmly blue, and the new green was thickening on the hills. Confident birds flitted busily among the trees and shrubs. Spring was disclosed in its most alluring mood.
Suddenly three or four figures appeared on the beach, a quarter of a mile away. They had descended through one of the sandy and ravaged channelings which broke at intervals the regulated rim of the hills, and they came on toward our two strollers. Medora closed her eyes to peer at them. "Are they marching a prisoner?" she asked.
"They all appear to be walking free."
"Are they carrying knapsacks?"
"Khaki, puttees,—and knapsacks, I think."
"Some university men said they might happen along to-day. If they really have knapsacks, and anything to eat in them, they're welcome. Otherwise, we had better hide quick—and hope they'll lose the place and pass us by."