Bertram Cope's Year
Henry Blake Fuller
Part 3 out of 5
"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
"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
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
"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.
So the vast gymnasium went for little with him, and the wide football field
for less, and the great lake, close by, for nothing. This last, however,
counted for little more with any one else. Those who knew the lake best
were best content to leave it alone. As a source of pleasure it had too
many perils: "treacherous" was the common word. Its treachery was reserved,
of course, for the smiling period of summer; especially did the great
monster lie in wait on summer's Sunday afternoons. Then the sun would shine
on its vast placid bosom and the breeze play gently, tempting the swimmer
toward its borders and the light pleasure craft toward its depths. And
then, in mid-afternoon, a sudden disastrous change; a quick gale from the
north, with a wide whipping-up of white caps; and the morrow's newspapers
told of bathers drowned in the undertow, of frail canoes dashed to pieces
against piers and breakwaters, and of gay, beflagged steam-launches swamped
by the newly-risen sea miles from shore: the toll of fickle, superheated
August. But in the late autumn the immense, savage creature was more
frankly itself: rude, blustery, tyrannical,--no more a smiling, cruel
hypocrite. It warned you, often and openly, if warning you would take.
It was on the last Sunday afternoon in October that Cope and Amy
Leffingwell were strolling along its edge. They had met casually, in front
of the chapel, after a lecture--or a service--by an eminent ethical teacher
from abroad,--a bird of passage who must pipe on this Sunday afternoon if
he were to pipe at all. Cope, who had lain abed late, made this address a
substitute for the forenoon service he had missed. And Amy Leffingwell had
gone out somewhat for the sake, perhaps, of walking by the house where Cope
They passed the Science building, with its tower crowned by an ornamental
open-work iron pyramid for wireless, and the segregated group of
theological dormitories through whose windows earnest ringing young voices
were sometimes heard at the practice of sermon-delivery, and the men's club
where the billiard tables were doubtless decorously covered with their
customary Sunday sheets of black oilcloth, and took intuitively the path
which led along the edge of the bluff. Beyond them, further bluffs and a
few low headlands; here a lighthouse, there a water-tower; elsewhere (and
not so far) the balconied roof of the life-saving station, where the boats,
light and heavy, were manned by muscular students: their vigilance and
activity, interspersed with long periods of leisure or of absence, helped
them to "pay their way." Out toward the horizon a passenger steamer en
route to some port farther north, or a long ore-freighter, singularly
uneventful between bow and far-distant afterhouse, on its way down from the
iron-ranges of Superior.
The path was narrow, but Cope, unexpectedly to himself, had no complaint to
make. Really, the girl did better here, somehow, than lots of other girls
would have done on a wide sidewalk. Most of them walked too close to you,
or too far from you, altering the interval suddenly and arbitrarily, and
tending to bump against you when you didn't expect it and didn't want it.
They were uncertain at crossings; if it was necessary for them to take your
arm, as it sometimes became, in the evening, on a crowded street, why, they
were too gingerly or else pressed too close; and if it happened to rain,
you sometimes had to take a cab, trafficking with a driver whose tariff and
whose disposition you did not know: in fact, a string of minor
embarrassments and expenses....
But the way, this afternoon, was clear and easy; and there were no
annoyances save from other walkers along the same path. The sun shone
brightly at intervals. A fresh breeze swept the wide expanse streaked with
purple and green and turned an occasional broken wave-crest toward the
western light. Some large cumuli were abroad--white, or less white, or even
darkling,--the first windy sky of autumn.
Cope and Amy passed the life-saving station, where a few people sat about
idly and where one or two visitors pressed noses against glass panes to
view the boats within; and they reached presently a sort of little public
park which lay along the water. Here a small pier ran out past the
shallows, and in front of a shack close by it a man sat resignedly near a
group of beached and upturned row-boats. One or two others were still in
the water, as was a small sloop. The fellow sat there without expectations:
the season was about over; the day was none too promising for such as knew.
His attitude expressed, in fact, the accumulated disappointment and
resignation of many months. Perhaps he was a new-comer from the interior--
some region of ponds and rivers--and had kept through an uneventful summer
the notion that so big a spread of water would surely be put to use. The
sail of the sloop, half-lowered, flapped in the breeze, and little else
Our young people overlooked both man and boat.
"It's the same lake," said Amy Leffingwell, rather dreamily, after a common
silence of several minutes.
"The same," returned Cope promptly. "It's just what it was a year ago, a
century ago; and a millennium ago, I suppose,--if there was anyone here to
She turned on him a rueful, half-protesting smile. "I wasn't thinking of a
century ago. I was thinking of a month ago."
"A month ago?"
"Yes; when we were walking along the dunes."
"Oh, I see. Why, yes, it is the same old lake, though it seems hard to
realize it. Foreground makes so much difference; and so does--well,
population. I mean the human element, or the absence of it."
"The one drawback, there, was that we couldn't go out on the water."
"Go out? I should say not. No pier for miles, and the water so shallow that
hardly more than a canoe could land. Still, those fishermen out there
manage it. But plain summerites, especially if not dressed for it, would
have an unpleasant time imitating them."
Amy cast her eye about. Here was a shore, a pier, a boat, a man to let
"Would you like to go out?" asked the man himself perfunctorily, as from
the depths of a settled despair. He pointed a thumb over his shoulder
toward the sloop.
The two young people looked at each other. Neither looked at the sky.
"Well, I don't know," replied Cope slowly. The sloop was on a pretty small
scale; still, it was more to manage than a cat-boat.
"You have the theory, you know," said Amy demurely, "and some practice."
Cope looked at her in doubt. "Can you swim?" he asked.
"Yes," she returned. "I have some practice, if not much theory."
"Could you handle a jib?"
"Well, then, if you really wish ..."
The misanthrope, with a twisted smile, helped them get away. The mainsail
took a steady set; but the jib, from the first, possessed an active life of
"Not that rope," cried Cope; "the other."
"Very well," returned Amy, scrambling across the cockpit. And so it went.
In six or eight minutes their small catastrophe overtook them. There came a
sudden flaw from out one of the racing gray cumuli, and a faint cry or two
from the distant shore. Theory had not put itself into practice as quickly
as the emergency required,--all the less so in that it had to work through
a crew encumbered with a longish skirt and a close jacket. The sloop keeled
over; Cope was instantly entangled with the mainsail and some miscellaneous
cordage; and Amy, with the water soaking her closely-fitting garments,
found herself clutching the cockpit's edge.
She saw Cope's predicament and let go her hold to set him free. He helped
shake himself loose with a loud forced laugh and a toss of the head to get
his long hair out of his eyes. "We'll leave the wreck," he spluttered, "and
make for the shore." The shore, fortunately, was scarcely more than a
hundred yards away,--yet never had the great twin towers of the library
seemed so distant or the wireless cage on Science hall so futile.
They swam, easily, side by side, he supporting her in her cramped clothes
at the start, and she, a bit concerned, somewhat supporting him toward the
end. Meanwhile, there was some stir at the life-saving station, a quarter
of a mile down the shore.
The last hundred feet meant mere wading, though there was some variability
among the sand ridges of the bottom; but the water, at its deepest, never
reached their shoulders. Their small accident now began to take on the
character of a ceremonial--an immersion incident to some religious rite or
observance; and the little Sunday crowd collecting on the water's edge
might have been members of some congregation sympathetically welcoming a
pair of converts to the faith.
"Let's hold our heads high and walk straight," said Cope, his arm in hers;
"heaven knows whom we are likely to meet. And throw your hat away--you'll
look better without it. Lord knows where mine is," he added, as he ran a
smoothing hand over his long locks.
"Very well," she said, casting away her ruined, ridiculous headgear with
her free arm. The other, in his, was giving more support to him, she felt,
than he was giving to her.
Just as they were about to reach dry land, amidst the congratulations and
the amused smiles of the little group at the foot of the bluff, the belated
crew of life-savers swept up in their smallest boat and insisted on
"Oh, Mr. Cope," said a familiar voice, "please let us save you. We haven't
saved a soul for months."
Cope recognized one of his own students and surrendered, though a kindly
house-owner on the bluff had been quick to cry across the intervening yards
of water his offer of hospitality. "All right," he said; "take us back to
your place, where we can dry and telephone." He hoped, too, that they might
have to encounter fewer people at the other spot than at this.
Meanwhile, another boat belonging to the station had set out to aid the
owner of the sloop in its recovery. It was soon righted and was brought in.
There was no damage done, and there was no charge that Cope could not meet,
as he learned next day to his great relief.
The station gave him a dry outfit of clothes, assembled from here and
there, and telephoned to Mrs. Phillips to bring fresh garments for Amy.
Neither had time to get a chill. A pair of kindly servant-maids, who were
loitering on the shore with their young men, insisted on carrying the
heroine of the afternoon into retirement, where they expeditiously
undressed her, rubbed her, and wrapped her in a quilt snatched from a life-
saving bed. Amy was cold indeed, and inclined to shiver. She understood,
now, why Cope had not encouraged that bathing party at the dunes.
In a few minutes Medora Phillips tore up in her car, with Helga and a
mountain of clothing and wraps. She was inclined to make the most of the
occasion, and she did so. With Helga she quickly superseded the pair of
sympathetic and ready maids, whom she allowed to fade into the background
with too scant recognition of their services; and when she had got Amy
thoroughly warmed and rehabilitated she turned her thought toward Cope.
Here, certainly, was a young scholastic recluse who had an admirable
faculty for getting into the public eye. If one section of Churchton
society had talked about his performance at her dinner, all sections of it
would now be discussing his new performance on the high seas. Suddenly she
was struck with the notion that possibly his first lapse had not left him
in condition to stand this second one.
"How are you feeling?" she asked anxiously. "No chill? No shock?"
"I'm all right," he declared. "One of the boys has just given me a drink
of--of----" But it was a beverage the use of which was not generally
approved in Churchton.
Mrs. Phillips turned round suddenly. "Amy, did you have a drink, too, of--
of--of--if 'Of' is what you call it?"
"I did," said Amy firmly; "and I feel the better for it."
"Well, get in, then, and I'll take you home."
Peter grinned from the front seat of the car; Mrs. Phillips placed herself
between the two victims on the back one; the life-savers, who had kept the
discarded garments to dry, gave them all a few smiles and hand wavings; the
two young women and their two young men looked on with some deference; the
general crowd gave a little mock-cheer before turning its Sunday leisure to
other forms of interest; and the small party whirled away.
Amy leaned a tired, moist head, but a happy one, on Mrs. Phillips'
shoulder. "He was so quick," she breathed, "and so brave, and so strong."
She professed to believe that he had saved her life. Cope, silent as he
looked straight ahead between Peter and Helga, was almost afraid that she
had saved his.
_COPE AMONG CROSS-CURRENTS_
Next morning, at breakfast, Amy Leffingwell kept, for the most part, a rapt
and meditative eye on her plate. Hortense gave her now and then an
impatient, half-angry glare, and had to be cut short in some stinging
observations on Cope. "But it _was_ foolish," Medora Phillips felt
obliged to concede. "What in the world made you do it?"
But Amy continued to smile at the table-cloth. She seemed to be intimating
that there was a special folly which transcended mere general folly and
After breakfast she spoke a few words to Carolyn. She had had all night to
think the matter over; she now saw it from a new angle and in a new light.
"You should have seen how he shook himself free from that sail, and all,"
she said. "And while we were swimming in he held his hand under my chin--at
least part of the time. And when we reached the sandbars he put his arm
through mine and helped me over every one." And in this state of mind she
went off to her class.
Cope was received by his own class with a subdued hilarity. His young
people felt that he had shown poor judgment in going out on the water at
all,--for the University, by tacit consent, left the lake pretty well
alone. They thought that, once out, he had shown remarkably inept
seamanship. And they thought that he had chosen a too near and too well-
lighted stage for the exhibition of both. This forenoon the "Eighteenth
Century Novelists" involved Smollett, and with every reference to the water
looks of understanding traveled from student to student: that the class was
of both sexes made the situation no better. Cope was in good enough
physical condition,--the unspeakable draught from the unspeakable flask had
ensured that,--but he felt what was in the air of the classroom and was
correspondingly ill at ease.
He had had, for several days, an understanding with Basil Randolph that
they were to go together to the next weekly reception of the president's
wife. Randolph wished to push Cope's fortunes wherever he might, and to
make him stand out from the general ranks of the young instructors. He had
the entree to the Thursdays at the president's house, and he wanted Cope to
meet personally and intimately, under the guidance he could provide, a few
of the academic dignitaries and some of the wealthier and more prominent
townspeople. Notwithstanding Mrs. Phillips' confident impression, Cope's
exploit at her own table had gained no wide currency. The people she had
entertained were people who expected and commanded a succession of daily
impressions from one quarter or another. With them, a few light words on
Cope's achievement were sufficient; they walked straight on toward the
sensation the next day was sure to bring. But of course the whole
University knew about his second performance. Some of its members had
witnessed it, and all of them had read about it, next day, in Churchton's
The president's wife was a sprightly lady, who believed in keeping up the
social end of things. Her Thursdays offered coffee and chocolate at a
handsomely appointed table, and a little dancing, now and then, for the
livelier of the young professors and the daughters of the town's best-known
families; above all, she insisted on "receiving"--even on having a
"receiving line." She would summon, for example, the wife of one of the
most eminent members of the faculty and the obliging spouse of some
educationally-minded banker or manufacturer; and she herself always stood,
of course, at the head of her line. When Cope came along with Randolph, she
intercepted the flow of material for her several assistants farther on, and
carried congestion and impatience into the waiting queue behind by
detaining him and "having it out."
She caught his hand with a good, firm, nervous grasp, and flashed on him a
broad, meaningful smile.
"Which saved which?" she asked heartily.
Mrs. Ryder, who was farther along in the line, but not too far, beamed
delightedly, yet without the slightest trace of malice. An eminent visiting
educator, five or six steps behind our hero, frowned in question and had to
have the situation explained by the lady in his company.
Cope, a trifle embarrassed, and half-inclined to wish he had not come, did
what he could to deprive the episode of both hero and heroine. It was about
an even thing, he guessed,--a matter of cooperation.
"Isn't that delightful!" exclaimed the president's wife to the wife of the
banker, before passing Cope on. "And so modern! Equality of the sexes....
Woman doing her share, et cetera! For this," she presently said to the
impatient educator from outside, "are we co-educational!" And, "Good
teamwork!" she contrived to call after Cope, who was now disappearing in
Cope lost himself from Randolph, and presently got away without seeing who
was pouring coffee or who was the lightest on foot among the younger
professors. The president's wife had asked him, besides, how the young lady
had got through it, and had even inquired after her present condition.
Well, Amy Leffingwell was enrolled among the University instructors, and
doubtless the wife of the institution's head had been well within her
rights,--even duly mindful of the proprieties. But "The Index"! That sheet,
staid and proper enough on most occasions, had seemed, on this one, to
couple their names quite unwarrantably. "Couple!" Cope repeated the word,
and felt an injury. If he had known that Amy had carefully cut out and
preserved the offending paragraph, his thought would have taken on a new
and more disquieting tone.
In the inquiry of the president's wife about the condition of his copartner
in adventure he found a second source of dissatisfaction. He had not called
up to ask after Amy; but Mrs. Phillips, with a great show of solicitude,
had called up early on Monday morning to ask after him. He had then, in
turn, made a counter-inquiry, of course; but he could take no credit for
initiative. Neither had he yet called at the house; nor did he feel greatly
prompted to do so. That must doubtless be done; but he might wait until the
first fresh impact of the event should somewhat have lost its force.
Mrs. Phillips' voice had kept, over the telephone, all its vibratory
quality; its tones expressed the most palpitating interest. It was already
clear--and it became even clearer when he finally called at the house--that
she was poetizing him into a hero, and that she regarded Amy herself as but
a means, an instrument. At this, Cope felt a little more mortified than
before. He knew that he had done poorly in the boat, and he was not sure
that, in the first moment of the upset, he should have freed himself
unaided; and he confessed that he had not been quite in condition to do
very well on the way landward. However, all passed.... Within a fortnight
or less the incident would have dropped back into its proper perspective,
and his students would have found some other matter for entertainment. In
the circumstances he grasped at the first source of consolation that came.
Randolph was now installed in his new apartment and felt that, though not
fully settled, he might risk asking Cope to dinner. "You are the first,"
Randolph had said. Cope could not escape the flattery; it was almost
His prompt acceptance was most welcome to Randolph. Cope had dwelt, for a
moment, on the actual presence of Aunt Harriet and on his need of her.
Randolph had made no precise study of recent chronology, taking the reason
given over the wire as a valid one and feeling glad that there was no hitch
Randolph gave Cope a rapid view of the apartment before they sat down to
dinner. There were fewer pictures on the newly-papered walls than there
were to be, and fewer rugs on the freshly-varnished floors. "My standing
lamp will be in that corner," said Randolph, in the living-room, "--when it
comes." He drew attention to a second bedroom where a man could be put up
on occasion: "you, for example, if you ever find yourself shut out late."
He saw Sir Galahad's gauntlets on the dresser. He even gave Cope a glimpse
of his kitchen, where a self-contained Oriental, slightly smiling but
otherwise inexpressive, seemed to be dealing competently with the gas-
range. But Cope was impressed, most of all, by the dining-room table and
its paraphernalia. At Mrs. Phillips' he had accepted the china, silver and
napery as a matter of course--an elaborate entity quite outside his own
thoughts and calculations: it was all so immensely far beyond his reach and
his needs. Randolph, however, had dealt as a bachelor with a problem which
he himself as a bachelor must soon take up, on however different a scale
and plane. For everything here was rich and handsome; he should not know
how to select such things--still less how to pay for them. He felt dashed;
he felt depressed; once more the wonder of people's "having things." He
sipped his soup in the spirit of humility, and did not quite recover with
Randolph made little talk; he was glad merely to have Cope there. He
indulged no slightest reference to the accident; he assumed, willingly
enough, that Cope had done well in a sudden emergency, but did not care to
dwell on his judgment at the beginning. Still, a young man was properly
enough experimental, venturesome...
Cope had recovered himself by the time dessert was reached. He accomplished
an adjustment to his environment, and Randolph was glad to feel his
unaffected response to good food properly cooked and served. "He sha'n't
gipsy _all_ the time," Randolph said to himself. "I shall try to have
him here at least twice a week." Once in a while the evening might be
stormy, and then the gauntlets would be laid on the dresser--perhaps after
an informal smoke in pajamas among the curios ranged round the small den.
Cope set down his demi-tasse with a slight sigh. "Well," he said, "I
suppose that, before long, I shall have to buy a few sticks of furniture
myself and a trifle of 'crockery.' And a percolator." Randolph looked
across at him in surprise.
"You are moving, then,--you too?" Not to greatly better quarters, he almost
"Yes; and we shall need a few small things by way of outfit." "We."
Randolph looked more intently. Housekeeping _a deux_? A roommate?
Matrimony? Here was the intrusion of another piece on the board--a piece
new and unexpected. Would it turn out to be an added interest for himself,
or a plain source of disconcertment? Cope, having unconsciously set the
ball rolling, gave it further impetus. He sketched his absent friend and
told of their plans for the winter and spring terms. "I shall try for a
large easy chair," he concluded, "unless Arthur can be induced to bring one
Randolph, by this time, had led Cope into the den, established him between
padded arms, and given him a cigar. He drew Cope's attention to the jades
and swordguards, to the odd assortment of primitive musical instruments
(which would doubtless, in time, find a place at the Art Museum in the
city), and to his latest acquisition--a volume of Bembo's "Le Prose." It
had reached him but a week before from Venice,--"_in Venetia, al segno
del Pozzo_, MDLVII," said the title-page, in fact. It was bound in
vellum, pierced by bookworms, and was decorated, in quaint seventeenth-
century penmanship, with marginal annotations, and also, on the fly leaves,
with repeated honorifics due to a study of the forms of address by some
young aspirant for favor. Randolph had rather depended on it to take Cope's
interest; but now the little _envoi_ from the Lagoons seemed lesser in
its lustre. Cope indeed took the volume with docility and looked at its
classical title-page and at its quaint Biblical colophon; but, "Just who
_was_ 'Pietro Bembo'?" he asked; and Randolph realized, with a slight
shock, that young instructors teach only what they themselves lately have
learned, and that, in many cases, they have not learned much.
But in truth neither paid much heed to the tabulated vocables of the
Venetian cardinal--nor to any of the other rarities near by. Basil Randolph
was wondering how he was to take Arthur Lemoyne, and was asking himself if
his trouble in setting up a new menage was likely to go for nothing; and
Bertram Cope, while he pursued the course of the bookworm through the
parchment covers and the yellowed sheets within, was wondering in what
definite way his host might aid the fortunes of Arthur Lemoyne and thus
make matters a little easier for them both. "_All' ill.'mo Sig.'r paron
ossevnd.'mo.... All' ill.'mo et ecc.'mo Sig.'r paron... All' ill'mo et
R.R.d.'mo Sig.'r, Sig.'r Pio. Francesco Bembo, Vesco et Conte di
Belluno_"--thus ran the faded brown lines on the flyleaf, in their
solicitous currying of favor; but these reiterated forms of address
conveyed no meaning to Cope, and offered no opening: now, as once before,
he let the matter wait.
Randolph thought over Cope's statement of his plans, and his slight touch
of pique did not pass away. Toward the end of the evening, he spoke of the
wreck and the rescue, after all.
"Well," he said, "you are not so completely committed as I feared."
"By your new household arrangements."
"Well, I shall have back my chum."
Randolph put forward the alternative.
"I was afraid, for a moment, that you might be taking a wife."
"Yes. Such a rescue often leads straight to matrimony--in the story-books,
Cope laughed, but with a slight disrelish. "We're in actual life still, I'm
glad to think. What I said on one stretch of the shore goes on the other,"
he declared. "I don't feel any more inclination to wedded life than ever,
nor any likelihood"--here he spoke with effort, as if conscious of a
possible danger on some remote horizon--"of entering it."
"It _would_ have been sudden, wouldn't it?" commented Randolph, with a
short laugh. "Well," he went on, "one who inclines to hospitality must work
with the material at his disposal. I shall be glad, on some occasion or
other," he proceeded, with a slight trace of formality creeping into his
tone, "to entertain your friend."
"I shall be more than glad," replied Cope, "to have you meet."
_COPE AT THE CALL OF DUTY_
Cope took his own time in calling upon the Ashburn Avenue circle; but he
finally made, in person, the inquiries for which those made by telephone
were an inadequate substitute. Yet he waited so long that, only a few hours
before the time he had set, he received a sweet but somewhat urgent little
note from Amy Leffingwell suggesting his early appearance. He felt obliged
to employ the first moments of his call in explaining that he had been upon
the point of coming, anyway, and that he had set aside the present hour two
or three days before for this particular purpose: an explanation, he
acknowledged inwardly, which held no great advantage for him.
"Why am I spinning such stuff?" he asked himself impatiently.
Amy's note of course minimized her aid to him and magnified his aid to her.
All this was in accord with established form, but it was in still stronger
accord with her determination to idealize his share in the incident. His
arm _had_ grasped hers firmly--and she felt it yet. But when she went
on to say--not for the first time, nor for the second--how kind and
sympathetic he had been in supporting her chin against those slapping waves
when the shore had seemed so far away, he wondered whether he had really
done so. For a moment or two, possibly; but surely not as part of a
conscious, reasoned scheme to save.
"She was doing all right enough," he muttered in frowning protest.
Neither did he welcome Mrs. Phillips' tendency to make him a hero. She was
as willing as the girl herself to believe that he had kept Amy's chin above
water--not for a moment merely, but through most of the transit to shore.
He sat there uneasily, pressing his thumbs between his palms and his closed
fingers and drawing up his feet crampingly within their shoes; yet it
somewhat eased his tension to find that Medora Phillips was disposed to put
Amy into a subordinate place: Amy had been but a means to an end--her prime
merit consisted in having given him a chance to function. Any other girl
would have done as well. A slight relief, but a welcome.
Another mitigation: the house, the room, was full of people. The other
young women of the household were present; even the young business-man who
had understood the stove and the pump had looked in: no chance for an
intense, segregated appreciation. There had been another weekend at the
dunes, when this youth had nimbly ranged the forest and the beach to find
wood for the great open fireplace; and he had come, now, at the end of the
season, to make due acknowledgments for privileges enjoyed. He, for his
part, was willing enough to regard Amy as a heroine; but he considered her
as a heroine linked with the wrong man and operative in the wrong place. He
cared nothing in the world for Cope, and disparaged him as before--when he
did not ignore him altogether. If Amy had but been rescued by him, George
F. Pearson, instead of by this Bertram Cope, and if she had been snatched
from a disorderly set of breakers at the foot of those disheveled sandhills
instead of from the prim, prosy, domestic edge of Churchton--well, wouldn't
the affair have been better set and better carried off? In such case it
might have been picturesque and heroic, instead of slightly silly.
Yes, the room was full. Even Joseph Foster had contrived to get himself
brought down by Peter: further practice for the day when he should make a
still more ambitious flight and dine at Randolph's new table. He sat in a
dark corner of the room and tried to get, as best he might, the essential
hang of the situation: the soft, insidious insistence of Amy; the momentum
and bravado of his sister-in-law; the veiled disparagement of Cope in which
George F. Pearson, seated on a sofa between Carolyn and Hortense, indulged
for their benefit, or for his own relief; above all, he listened for tones
and undertones from Cope himself. He had never seen Cope before (if indeed
it could be said that he really saw him now), and he had never heard his
speaking voice save at a remove of two floors. Cope had taken his hand
vigorously, as that of the only man (among many women) from whom he had
much to expect, and had given him a dozen words in a loud tone which seemed
to correspond with his pressure. But Cope's voice, in his hearing, had
lapsed from resonance to non-resonance, and from that to tonelessness, and
from that to quietude.... Was the fellow in process of making a long
diminuendo--a possible matter of weeks or of months? As before, when
confronted by what had once seemed a paragon of dash and vigor, he scarcely
knew whether to be exasperated or appeased.
Through this variety of spoken words and unspoken thoughts Hortense sat
silent and watchful. Presently the talk lapsed: with the best will in the
world a small knot of people cannot go on elaborately embroidering upon a
trivial incident forever. There was a shifting of groups, a change in
subjects. Yet Hortense continued to glower and to meditate. What had the
incident really amounted to? What did the man himself really amount to? She
soon found herself at his side, behind the library-table and its spreading
lamp-shade. He was silently handling a paper-cutter, with his eyes cast
"See me!" she said, in a tense, vibratory tone. "Speak to me!"--and she
glowered upon him. "I am no kitten, like Amy. I am no tame tabby, like
Carolyn, sending out written invitations. Throw a few poor words my way."
Cope dropped the paper-cutter. Her address was like a dash of brine in the
face, and he welcomed it.
"Tell me; did you look absurd--then?" she dashed ahead.
A return to fresh water, after all! "Why," he rejoined reluctantly, "no
man, dressed in all his clothes, looks any the better for being soaked
"And Amy,--she must have looked absolutely ridiculous! That wide, flapping
hat, and all! I had been telling her for weeks that it was out of style."
"She threw it away," said Cope shortly. "And I suppose her hair looked as
well as a woman's ever does, when she's in the water."
"Well," she observed, "it's one thing to be ridiculous and another to go on
being ridiculous. I hope you don't mean to do that?"
The pronoun "you" has its equivocal aspects. Her expression, while marked
enough, threw no clear light. Cope took the entire onus on himself.
"Of course no man would choose to be ridiculous--still less to stay so. Do,
please, let me keep on dry land; I'm beginning to feel water-logged." He
shifted his ground. "Why do you try to make it seem that I don't care to
talk with you?"
"Because you don't. Haven't I noticed it?"
"I haven't. It seems to me that I----"
"Of course you haven't. Does that make it any better?"
"I'm sure the last thing in the world I should want to do would be to----"
"I know. Would be to show partiality. To fail in treating all alike. Even
that small programme isn't much--nor likely to please any girl; but you
have failed to carry it out, small as it is. Here in this house, there on
the dunes, what have I been--and where? Put into any obscure corner, lost
in the woods, left off somewhere on the edge of things...."
Cope stared and tried to stem her protests. She was of the blood,--her
aunt's own niece. But whereas Medora Phillips sometimes "scrapped," as he
called it, merely to promote social diversion and to keep the
conversational ball a-rolling, this young person, a more vigorous organism,
and with decided, even exaggerated ideas as to her dues... Well, the room
was still full, and he was glad enough of it.
"I don't know whether I like you or not," she went on, in a low, rapid
tone; "and I don't suppose you very much like me; but I won't go on being
"Ignored? Why," stammered Cope, "my sense of obligation to this house----"
She shrugged scornfully. His sense of obligation had been made none too
apparent. Certainly it had not been brought into line with her deserts and
Cope took up the paper-cutter again and looked out across the room. Amy
Leffingwell, questioningly, was looking across at him. He could change
feet--if that made the general discomfort of his position any less. He did
Amy was standing near the piano and held a sheet or two of new music in her
hands. And Medora Phillips, with a word of general explication and
direction, made the girl's intention clear. Amy had a new song for
baritone, with a violin obbligato and the usual piano accompaniment, and
Cope was to sing it. 'Twas an extremely simple thing, quite within his
compass; and Carolyn, who could read easy music at sight ("It's awfully
easy," declared Amy), would play the piano part; and Amy herself would
perform the obbligato (with no statement as to whether it was simple or
Carolyn approached the task and the piano in the passive spirit of
accommodation. Cope came forward with reluctance: this was not an evening
when he felt like singing; besides, he preferred to choose his own songs.
Also, he would have preferred to warm up on something familiar. Amy took
her instrument from its case with a suppressed sense of ecstasy; and it is
the ecstatic who generally sets the pace.
The thing went none too well. Amy was the only one who had seen the music
before, and she was the only one who particularly wanted to make music now.
However, the immediate need was not that the song should go well, but that
it should go: that it should go on, that it should go on and on,
repetitiously, until it should come (or even not come) to go better. She
slid her bow across the strings with tasteful passion. She enjoyed still
more than her own tones the tones of Cope's voice,--tones which, whether in
happy unison with hers or not, were, after all, seldom misplaced, whatever
they may have lacked in heartiness and confidence. It was a short piece,
and on the third time it went rather well.
"How perfectly lovely!" exclaimed Mrs. Phillips, at the right moment.
Cope smiled deprecatingly. "It might be made to go very nicely," he said.
"It _has_ gone very nicely," insisted Amy; "it did, this last time."
She waved her bow with some vivacity. She had heaved the whole of her young
self into the work; she had been buoyed up by Cope's tones, which, with
repetition, had gathered assurance if not expressiveness; and she based her
estimate of the general effect on the impression which her own inner nature
had experienced. And her impression was heightened when Pearson, forging
forward, and ignoring both Cope and Carolyn, thanked her richly and
emphatically for her part--a part which, to him, seemed the whole.
Hortense, who had kept her place behind the large lampshade, twisted her
interlocked fingers and said no word. Foster, who had disposed himself on
an inconspicuous couch, kept his own counsel. After all, _omne
ignotum_: Cope's singing had sounded better from upstairs. At close
range a ringing assertiveness had somehow failed.
Cope had come with no desire to extend his stay beyond the limits of an
evening call. He declined to sing on his own account, and soon rose as if
to make his general adieux.
"You won't give us one of your own songs, then?" asked Medora Phillips, in
a disappointed tone. "And at my dinner----"
No, she could not quite say that, at her dinner, Cope, whatever he had
failed to do, had contributed no measure of entertainment for her guests.
"Give us a recitation, then," persisted Medora; "or tell us a story. Or
make up"--here she indulged herself in an airily imperious flight--"a story
of your own on the spot."
A trifling request, truly. But----
"Heavens!" said Cope. "I am not an author--still less an
"I am sure you could be," returned Medora fondly. "Just try."
Cope sat down again and began to run his eye uncomfortably about the room,
as if dredging the air for an idea. Behind one corner of a mirror was a
large bunch of drying leaves. They had been brought in from the sand dunes
as a decorative souvenir of the autumn, and had kept their place through
mere inertia: an oak bough, once crimson and russet; a convoluted length of
bittersweet, to which a few split berries still clung; and a branch of
sassafras, with its intriguing variety of leaves--a branch selected, in
fact, because it gave, within narrow compass, the plant's entire scope and
repertoire as to foliage.
Cope caught at the sassafras as a falling balloonist catches at his
"Well," he said, still reluctant and fumbling, "perhaps I can devise a
legend: the Legend, let us say, of the Sassafras Bush."
"Good!" cried Medora heartily.
Pearson, whispering to Amy Leffingwell, gave little heed to Cope and his
strained endeavor to please Mrs. Phillips. Foster, quite passive, listened
with curiosity for what might come.
"Or perhaps you would prefer folk-lore," Cope went on. "Why the Sassafras
has Three Kinds of Leaves, or something like that."
"Better yet!" exclaimed Medora. "Listen, everybody. Why the Sassafras has
Three Kinds of Leaves."
Pearson stopped his buzzings, and Cope began. "The Wood-nymphs," he said
slowly, "were a nice enough lot of girls, but they labored under one great
disadvantage: they had no thumbs."
Hortense pricked up her ears. Did he mean to be personal? If so, he should
find that one of the nymphs had a whole hand as surely as he himself had a
Cope paused. "Of course you've got to postulate _something_," he
"Of course," Medora agreed.
"So when they bought their gloves, or mittens, or whatever their handgear
might be called, they usually patronized the hickory or the beech or some
other tree with leaves that were----"
"Ovate!" cried Medora delightedly.
"Ovate, yes; or whatever just the right word may be. But a good many of
them traded at the Sign of the Sassafras, where they found leaves that were
similar, but rather more delicate."
"I believe he's going to do it," thought Foster.
"Yet the nymphs knew that they lacked thumbs and kept on wanting them. So,
during the long, dull winter, they put their minds to it, and finally
"Will-power!" said Medora.
"And early in April they went to the Sassafras and said: 'We have thumbs!
We have thumbs! So we need a different sort of mitten.'
"The Sassafras was only half awake. 'Thumbs?' he repeated. 'How many?'
"'Two!' cried the nymphs. 'Two!'
"A passing breeze roused the Sassafras. He became at least three-quarters
"I doubt it," muttered Hortense.
"'That's interesting,' he said. 'I aim to supply all new needs. Come back
in a month or so, and meanwhile I'll see what I can do for you.'
"In May the nymphs returned with their thumbs and asked, 'How about our new
The story was really under way now, and Cope went on with more confidence
and with greater animation.
"'Look and see,' said the Sassafras.
"They looked and saw. Among its simple ordinary leaves were several with
two lobes--one on each side. 'Will these do?'
"'Do?' said the nymphs. 'We said we had two thumbs, but we meant one on
each hand, stupid. Do? We should say not!'
"The Sassafras was mortified. 'Well,' he said, 'that's all I can manage
this season. I'm sorry not to have understood you young ladies and your
needs. Come back again next spring.'
"It was a long time to wait, but they waited. Next May----"
Amy, now unworried by George Pearson, began to get the thread of the thing.
Foster was sure the thread would run through. Hortense was still alert for
ulterior meanings. Poor Cope, however, had no ambition to spin a double
thread,--a single one was all he was equal to.
"Next May the nymphs, after nursing their thumbs for a year----"
"----came back again; and there, among the plain leaves and the double-
lobed leaves, were several fresh bright, smooth ones with a single lobe
well to one side,--the very thing for mittens. And------"
"Yes, he has done it," Foster acknowledged.
"And that," ended Cope rather stridently, as he rose to go on the flood of
a sudden yet unexpected success, "is Why the Sassafras----"
"Why the Sassafras has Three Kinds of Leaves!" cried Medora in triumph.
Mittens for midsummer made no difficulty.
Cope gave Carolyn careful thanks for her support at the piano, and did not
see that she felt he too could be a poet if he only would. He went out of
his way to shake hands with Hortense, and did not realize how nearly a new
quarrel had opened. He stepped over to do the like with Amy; but she went
out with him into the hall,--the only one of the party who did,--and even
accompanied him to the front door.
"Thank you so much," she said, looking up into his face smilingly and
holding his hand with a long, clinging touch. "It went beautifully; and
there are others that will go even better."
"Others?" He thought, for an instant, that she was thanking him for his
Legend and was even threatening to regard him as a flowing fount of
invention; but he soon realized that her mind was fixed exclusively on
their duet--if such it was to be called.
"The deuce!" he thought. "Enough is enough."
Despite his success with the Sassafras, he went home discomforted and even
flustered. That hand was too much like the hand of possession. The girl was
stealing over him like a light, intangible vapor. He struck ahead with a
quicker gait, as if trying to outwalk a creeping fog. One consolation,
however: Hortense had come like a puff of wind. Even a second squall from
the same quarter would not be altogether amiss.
And had there not been one further fleeting source of reassurance? Had he
not, on leaving, caught through the open door of the drawing room an
elevation of Medora Phillips' eyebrows which seemed to say fondly,
indulgently, yet a bit ironically, "Oh, you foolish girl!"? Yet if a girl
is foolish, and is going to persist in her folly, a lightly lifted pair of
eyebrows will not always stay her course. Her gathering momentum is hardly
to be checked by such slender means.
_COPE FINDS HIMSELF COMMITTED_
Amy Leffingwell, having written once, found it easier to write again. And
having strolled along the edge of the bluff with Cope on that fateful
Sunday, she found it natural to intercept him on other parts of the campus
(where their paths might easily cross), or to stroll with him, after casual
encounters carefully planned, through sheets of fallen leaves under the
wide avenues of elms just outside. Her third note almost summoned him to a
rendezvous. It annoyed him; but he might have been more than annoyed had he
known of her writing, rather simply, to a rather simple mother in Fort
Lodge, Iowa, about her hopes and her expectations. Her mother had, of
course, heard in detail of the rescue; and afterward had heard in still
greater detail, as the roseate lime-light of idealization had come to focus
more exactly on the scene. She had had also an unaffected appreciation--or
several--of Cope's personal graces and accomplishments. She had heard,
lastly, of Cope's song to her daughter's obbligato: a duet _in vacuo_,
since Carolyn had been suppressed and the surrounding company had been
banished to a remote circumference. What wonder that she began to see her
daughter and Bertram Cope in an admirable isolation and to intimate that
she hoped, very soon, for definite news?
Well, not a few of us have met an Amy Leffingwell: some plump-faced, pink-
cheeked child, with a delicate little concave nose not at all "strong," and
a fine little chin none too vigorously moulded, and a pair of timid candid
blue eyes shadowed by a wisp or so of fluffy hair--and have not always
taken her for what she was. She "wouldn't hurt a kitten," we say; and we
assume that her "striking out a line for herself" is the last thing she
would try to do. Yet such an unimpressive and disarming facade may mask
large chambers of stubbornness and tenacity.
Amy knew how long and hard she had thought of Cope, and she asked for some
evidence that he had been thinking long and hard of her. She desired a
"response." But, in fact, he had been thinking of her only when he must. He
thought of her whenever he saw himself caught in that flapping sail, and he
thought of her whenever he recalled that she had taken it on herself to
select his songs. But he did not want her to make out-and-out demands on
his time and attention. Still less did he want her to talk about
"happiness." This had come to be her favorite topic, and she discoursed on
it profusely: he was almost ungracious enough to say that she did so
glibly. "Happiness"--that conventional bliss toward which she was turning
her mind as they strolled together on these late November afternoons--was
for him a long way ahead. How furnish a house, how clothe and feed a wife?
--at least until his thesis should be written and a place, with a real
salary, found in the academic world. How, even, buy an engagement ring--
that costly superfluity? How even contrive to pay for all the small gifts
and attentions which an engagement involved? Yet why ask himself such
questions? For he was conscious of a fundamental repugnance to any such
scheme of life and was acutely aware that--for awhile, at least, and
perhaps for always--he wanted to live in quite a different mode.
Amy's confident assumptions began to fill the house, to alter its
atmosphere. Medora Phillips, who had begun by raising her eyebrows in light
criticism, now lowered them in frowning protest. She had found Cope
"charming"; but this charm of his was to add to the attractiveness of her
house and to give her a high degree of personal gratification. It was not
to be frittered away; still less was it to be absorbed elsewhere. Hortense,
who had been secretly at work on a portrait-sketch of Cope in oil, and
rather despising herself for it, now began to make another bold picture in
her own mind. She saw herself handing out the sketch to Cope in person,
with an air of high bravado; she might say, if bad came to worse, that she
had found some professional interest in his color or in his "planes." On
one occasion Medora hardily requisitioned Cope for an evening at the
theatre, in the city; miles in and miles back she had him in her car all to
herself; and if Amy, next day, appeared to feel that wealth and
organization had taken an unfair advantage of simple, honest love, Medora
herself was troubled by no stirrings of conscience.
The new atmosphere reached even Foster on the top floor; and when, one
evening in mid-December, he finally carried out his long-meditated plan to
dine with Randolph, the household situation was uppermost in his mind. That
he had not the clearest understanding of the situation did not diminish his
interest in it. Though he sat in the dark, and far apart, some sense all
his own, cultivated through years of deprivation, came to his aid. Peter
brought him down the street and round the corner; and Randolph's Chinaman,
fascinated by his green shade and his tortuous method of locomotion (once
out of his wheeled-chair), did the rest. "You had better stay all night,"
Randolph had suggested; and he was glad to avoid a second awkward trip on
the same evening.
Foster had wondered whether Cope would be present. He had not asked to meet
him--for he hardly knew whether he wished to or not. Though this was an
"occasion,"--and his,--he had left Randolph to act quite as he might
choose. There was a third chair at table and Randolph delayed dinner ten
minutes while waiting for it to be filled.
"Well, let's go in and sit down," he said presently, with a slight twist of
the mouth. He spoke lightly, as if it were as easy for Foster to sit down
as for himself. But Foster got into his place after a moment and contrived
to spread his napkin over his legs.
"I expected Bertram Cope," Randolph went on; "but he isn't here, and I have
no word from him and do not know whether----"
He paused, obviously at a loss.
"Not here?" repeated Foster. "Is there, then, one place where he is not?"
"Our house is full of him!" Foster burst out raucously. He had removed the
green _abat-jour_, for the candle-shades (as they sometimes will) were
performing their office. In the low but clear light his face seemed
"He rises to my floor like incense. The very halls and stairways reek with
his charms and perfections."
"Well, you escape him here," said Randolph ruefully.
"The whole miserable place is steaming with expectation,--with the deadly
aroma of a courtship going stale. I can't stand it! I can't stand it!"
"You may think it takes two, but it doesn't. That foolish girl has thrown
the whole place into discomfort and confusion; and I don't know who's for
or who's against----"
"What foolish girl?" asked Randolph quickly. Sing-Lo was at his elbow,
changing plates: it was assumed, justly enough, that he would not be able
to follow the intricacies of a situation purely occidental.
"Our Amy," replied Foster, with a dash of bitterness.
"Amy Leffingwell?" asked Randolph, still more quickly.
Foster had blind eyes, but alert ears. He felt that Randolph was surprised
and displeased. And indeed his host was both. That boy fallen maladroitly
in love? thought Randolph. It was a second check. He had exerted himself to
show a friendliness for Cope, had expected to enjoy him while he stayed on
for his months in town, and had hoped to help push his fortunes in whatever
other field he might enter. He had even taken his present quarters--no
light task, all the details considered--to make Cope's winter agreeable, no
less than his own. And now? First the uncounted-upon friend from Wisconsin
with whom Cope was arranging to live; next, this sudden, unexpected affair
with that girl at Medora's. Did the fellow not know his own mind? Could he
formulate no hard-and-fast plan? Here Randolph, in his disappointment,
inconsistently forgot that a hard-and-fast plan was largely his real
annoyance and grievance. Then he remembered. He looked at the vacant place,
and tried for composure and justice.
"I shall probably hear some good reason, in due time," he said.
"I hope so," rejoined Foster; "but it takes these young fellows to be
careless--and ungrateful." He made no pretense of ignoring the fact that
Randolph had moved into this apartment more on account of Cope than for any
"H'm, yes," responded Randolph thoughtfully. "I suppose it is the tendency
of a young fellow who has never quite stood on his own legs financially to
accept about everything that comes his way, and to accept it as a matter of
"It is," said Foster.
"I know that _I_ was that way," continued Randolph, looking studiously
at the nearest candle-shade. "I was beyond the middle twenties before I
quite launched out for myself, and any kindness received was taken without
much question and without much thanks. I presume that he still has some
assistance from home...."
He dropped youthful insouciance over favors received to consider the change
that marriage makes in a young man's status. "I wouldn't go so far as to
assert that a young man married is a man that's marred----"
"This _is_ stiff doctrine," Foster acknowledged.
"But somehow he does seem done for. He is placed; he is cut off from wide
ranges of interesting possibilities; he offers himself less invitingly to
the roving imagination...."
Meanwhile Cope, with Randolph's invitation driven altogether from his mind
by more urgent matters, was pacing the streets, through the first snow-
flurries of the winter, and was wondering, rather distractedly, just where
he stood. Precisely what words, at a very brief yet critical juncture, had
he said, or not said? Exactly how had he phrased--or failed to phrase--the
syllables which constituted, perhaps, a turning-point in his life?
Amy Leffingwell had demanded his attendance for one more walk, that
afternoon, and he had not been dextrous enough, face to face with her, to
refuse. She had expressed herself still more insistently on "happiness"--
(on hers, his, theirs; the two were one, in her view)--and on a future
shared together. In just what inadequate way had he tried to fend her off?
Had he said, "I shall have to wait?" Or had his blundering tongue said,
instead, "We should have to wait?"--or even worse, "We shall have to wait?"
In any event, he had used that cowardly, temporizing word "wait"--for she
had instantly seized upon it. Why, yes, indeed; she was willing to wait;
she had expected to wait....
He turned out from an avenue lighted with electric globes, past which the
snowflakes were drifting, and entered a quieter and darker side-street. In
the dusk she had put up her face, expecting to be kissed; and he, partly
out of pity for the expression that came when he hesitated, and partly out
of pure embarrassment and inexpertness, had lightly touched her lips. That
had sealed it, possibly. He saw her sitting in rapt fancy in her bedroom--
if not more vocal in the rooms below. He saw her writing to an unseen
mother in a tone of joyful complacency, and looking at her finger for a
ring which he could not place there. He saw the distaste of his own home
circle, to which this event had come at least a year too soon. He saw the
amazement, and worse, of Arthur Lemoyne, whose plans for coming to town
were now all made and to whom this turn would prove a psychological shock
which might deter him from coming at all. But, most of all, he saw--and
felt to the depths of his being--his own essential repugnance to the life
toward which he now seemed headed. What an outlook for Christmas! What an
unpleasant surprise for his parents! What opportunity in Amy Leffingwell's
holiday vacation at Fort Lodge to reinforce the written page by the spoken
word! Still forgetful of his engagement with Randolph, he continued to walk
the streets. He turned in at midnight, hoping he might sleep, and trusting
that morning would throw a less sinister light on his misadventure.
Long before this, Joseph Foster had been put to bed, by Sing-Lo, in this
spare room. It was Foster's crutch, rather than a knightly sword, which
leaned against the door-jamb; and it was Foster's crooked members, rather
than the straight young limbs of Cope, which first found place among the
sheets and blankets of that shining new brass bedstead.
_COPE HAS A DISTRESSFUL CHRISTMAS_
Cope awakened at seven. After an early interval of happy lightness, there
came suddenly and heavily the crushing sense of his predicament. How
monstrous it was that one instant of time, one ill-considered action, one
poorly-chosen word could clamp a repellent burden on a man for the rest of
Well, he must expect telephone messages and letters. They came. That
afternoon Mrs. Peck had "a lady's voice" to report: "It sounded like a
_young_ lady's voice," she added. And she looked at Cope with some
curiosity: a "young lady" asking for him over the wire was the rarest thing
in the world.
Next day came the first note. The handwriting was utterly new to him; but
his intuition, applied instantly to the envelope, told him of the source.
The nail, driven, was now to be clinched. She had the right to ask him to
come; and she did ask him to come--"soon."
Cope's troubled eyes sought the calendar above his table. How many days to
Christmas? How much time might he spend in Freeford? How long before
Christmas might he arrange to leave Churchton? The holidays at home loomed
as a harbor of refuge. By shortening as far as possible the interval here
and by lengthening as far as possible the stay with his family, he might
cut down, in some measure, the imminent threatenings of awkwardness and
constraint; then, beyond the range of anything but letters, he might study
the unpleasant situation at his leisure and determine a future course.
He set himself to answer Amy's note. He hoped, he said, to see her in a few
days, but he was immensely busy in closing the term-work before the
holidays; he also suggested that their affair--"their" affair!--be kept
quiet for the present. Yet he had all too facile a vision of beatific
meditations that were like enough to give the situation away to all the
household; and he was nervously aware of Amy Leffingwell as continually on
the verge of bubbling confidences.
He also wrote to Lemoyne. His letter was less an announcement than a
"I like this!" began Lemoyne's reply, with abrupt, impetuous sarcasm. "You
have claimed, more than once," he went on, "to have steadied me and kept me
out of harm's way; but I've never yet made any such demands on you as you
are making on me. This thing can't go on, and you know it as well as I do.
Nip it. Nip it now. Don't think that our intimacy is to end in any such
fashion as this, for it isn't--especially at this particular time."...
Lemoyne proceeded to practical matters. "If that room is still free, engage
it from the first of January. I will have a few things sent down. Father is
weakening a little. Anyhow, I've got enough money for a couple of months. I
will join you in Freeford between Christmas and New Year's (nearer the
latter, probably), and we will go back together."...
Cope rather took heart from these rough, outspoken lines. Lemoyne was
commonly neither rough nor outspoken; but here was an emergency, involving
his own interests, which must be dealt with decisively. Cope seemed to feel
salvation on the way. Perhaps that was why he still did so little to save
himself. He took the new room; he had one meeting with Amy; and he left for
home at least two days before he was strictly entitled to do so.
The meeting took place in Mrs. Phillips' drawing-room; he would trust
himself to no more strolls on the campus, to no more confabs in college
halls. There was protection in numbers, and numbers seldom failed beneath
Medora Phillips' roof. They failed this time, however. Mrs. Phillips and
Hortense were away at a reading; only Amy and Carolyn were at home. Cope
seized on Carolyn as at a straw. He thanked her warmly again for her
halting offices in the matter of that last song, and he begged that he
might hear some of her recent verse. His appeal was vehement, almost
boisterous: Carolyn, surprised, felt that he was ready at last to grant her
a definite personality.
Amy tried in vain to remove Carolyn from the board. But Carolyn, like
Hortense, had finally joined the ranks of the "recognized"; she was
determined (being still ignorant, Cope was glad to see, regarding Amy's
claims) to make this recognition so marked as to last beyond the moment.
She played a little--not well. She read. She even accompanied Amy to the
door at the close of Cope's short stay. He shook hands with them both. He
had decided that he would do no more than this with Amy, in any event, and
Carolyn's presence made his predetermined course easy, even obligatory. Yet
he went out into the night feeling, somehow, that he had acted solely on
his resolution and that he might consider himself a man of some
decisiveness, after all. Amy had looked disappointed, but had contrived to
whisper that she would write from Iowa. That, of course, was to be looked
for, and would represent the combined efforts of herself and her home
circle; yet he had a fortnight for consideration and counsel.
Cope, during his first few days at home, was moody and abstracted: his
parents found him adding little to the Christmas cheer. His mother, always
busy over domestic cares and now busier than ever, thought that he must
have been working too hard. She would stand in the kitchen door with a
half-trimmed pie on one hand and ponder him as he sat in the dining-room,
staring absorbedly at the Franklin stove. His father, who saw him chiefly
in the evening, by the gas-light of the old-fashioned house, found his face
slightly pinched: was his pocket pinched too, and would he be likely,
before leaving, to ask help toward making up a deficit? His sister Rosalys,
who lived a life of dry routine, figured him as deep in love. He let
several days pass without hinting what the real situation was.
There was interest all round when, the day before Christmas, the postman
came along the bleak and flimsy street and left a letter for him. Cope was
away from the house, and Rosalys, studying the envelope's penmanship and
even its postmark, found vague confirmation of her theory: some college
girl--one of his own students, probably--was home on vacation just as he
was. If so, a "small town" person of caste and character like themselves;
not brilliant, but safe. She set up the letter edgewise on the back parlor
When Cope came in at noon and saw the letter, his face fell. He put it in
his pocket, sat silent at table, and disappeared as soon as the meal was
over. Rosalys, whose pupils were off her mind for a few days and who had
thought to spare, began to shade her theory.
Cope read the letter in the low-ceiled back bedroom (the ceiling sloped
away on one side) which had been his for so many years. Those years of
happy boyhood--how far away they seemed now, and how completely past!
Surely he had never thought to come back to these familiar walls to such
effect as this.... Well, what did it say?
It said, in its four pages (yes, Amy had really limited herself thus), how
joyous she was that the dear Christmas season had brought her such a
beautiful love-gift; it said that mother was so pleased and happy--and even
mentioned a sudden aunt; it said how willingly she would wait on until....
That evening Cope made his announcement. They were all seated round the
reading-lamp in the back parlor, where the old Brussels carpet looked dim
and where only venerated age kept the ornate French clock from seeming
tawdry. Cope looked down at the carpet and up at the clock, and spoke.
Yes, they must have it.
His mother took the shock first and absorbed most of it. She led a humdrum
life and she was ready to welcome romance. To help adjust herself she laid
her hands, with a soft, sweeping motion, on the two brown waves that drew
smoothly across her temples, and then she transferred them to his, held his
head, and gave him a kiss. Rosalys took his two hands warmly and smiled,
and he tried to smile back. His father twisted the tip of his short gray
beard, watched his son's mien, and said little. Day after to-morrow, with
the major part of their small Christmas festivities over, he would ask how
this unexpected and unwarranted situation had come about, and how, in
heaven's name, the thing was to be carried through: by what means, with
whose help?... In his complex of thought the word "thesis" came to his
tongue, but he kept from speaking it. He had been advised that his son had
at last struck out definitely into some bookish bypath--just what bypath
mattered little, he gathered, if it were but followed to the end. Yet the
end was still far--and the boy evidently realized this. He was glad that
Bertram was sober over the prospect and over his present plan--which was a
serious undertaking, just now, in truth.
Cope had to adjust himself to all this, and to endure, besides, the
congratulations--or the comments--of a number of tiresome relatives; and it
was a relief when, on the twenty-ninth, Arthur Lemoyne finally arrived.
Lemoyne had been heralded as a young man of parts, and as the son of a
family which enjoyed, in Winnebago, some significant share of worldly
prosperity, and, therefore, of social consideration. The simpler Copes,
putting him in the other back bedroom, the ceiling of which sloped the
opposite way, wondered if they were quite giving him his just dues. When
Rosalys came to set away his handbag and to rearrange, next morning, his
brushes on the top of the dresser, she gathered from various indications
supplied by his outfit that the front chamber, at whatever inconvenience to
whomever, would have been more suitable. But, "Never mind," said her
mother; "they'll do very well as they are--side by side, with the door
conveniently between. Then Bert can look after him a little more and we a
Lemoyne presented himself to the combined family gaze as a young man of
twenty-seven or so, with dark, limpid eyes, a good deal of dark, wavy hair,
and limbs almost too plumply well-turned. In his hands the flesh minimized
the prominence of joints and knuckles, and the fingers (especially the
little fingers) displayed certain graceful, slightly affected movements of
the kind which may cause a person to be credited--or taxed--with possessing
the "artistic temperament." To end with, he carried two inches of short
black stubble under his nose. He was a type which one may admire--or not.
Rosalys Cope found in him a sort of picturesque allure. Rather liking him
herself, she found a different reason for her brother's liking. "If Bert
cares for him," she remarked, "I suppose it's largely by contrast--he's so
spare and light-colored himself."
It was evident that, on this first meeting, Lemoyne meant to ingratiate
himself--to make himself attractive and entertaining. He had determined to
say a thing or two before he went away, and it would be advantageous to
consolidate his position.
He had had five or six hours of cross-country travel, with some tedious
waits at junctions, and at about ten o'clock, after some showy converse, he
acknowledged himself tired enough for bed. Cope saw him up, and did not
come down again. The two talked till past eleven; and even much later, when
light sleepers in other parts of the house were awake for a few minutes,
muffled sounds from the same two voices reached their ears.
But Cope's words, many as they were, told Lemoyne nothing that he did not
know, little that he had not divined. The sum of all was this: Cope did not
quite know how he had got into it; but he knew that he was miserable and
wanted to get out of it.
Lemoyne had asked, first of all, to see the letter from Iowa. "Oh, come,"
Cope had replied, half-bashful, half-chivalrous, "you know it wasn't
written for anybody but me."
"The substance of it, then," Lemoyne had demanded; and Cope, reluctant and
shame-faced, had given it. "You've never been in anything of this sort, you
know," he submitted.
"I should say not!" Lemoyne retorted. "Nor you, either. You're not in it
now,--or, if you are, you're soon going to be out of it. You would help me
through a thing like this, and I'm going to help you."
The talk went on. Lemoyne presented the case for a broken engagement.
Engagements, as it was well known to human experience, might, if quickly
made, be as quickly unmade: no novelty in that. "I had never expected to
double up with an engaged man," Lemoyne declared further. "Nothing
especially jolly about that--least of all when the poor wretch is held dead
against his will." As he went on, he made Cope feel that he had violated an
_entente_ of long standing, and had almost brought a trusting friend
down from home under false pretenses.
But phrases from Amy's letter continued to plague Cope. There was a
confiding trust, a tender who-could-say-just-what?...
"Well," said Lemoyne, at about two o'clock, "let's put it off till morning.
Turn over and go to sleep."
But before he fell asleep himself he resolved that he would make the true
situation clear next day. He would address that sympathetic mother and that
romantic sister in suitably cogent terms; the father, he felt sure, would
require no effort and would even welcome his aid with a strong sense of
So next day, Lemoyne, deploying his natural graces and his dramatic
dexterities, drew away the curtain. He did not go so far as to say that
Bertram had been tricked; he did not even go so far as to say that he had
been inexpert: he contented himself with saying that his friend had been
over-chivalrous and that his fine nature had rather been played upon. The
mother took it all with a silent, inexpressive thoughtfulness, though it
was felt that she did not want her boy to be unhappy. Rosalys, if she
admired Lemoyne a little more, now liked him rather less. Her father, when
the declaration reached him by secondary impact, did feel the sense of
relief which Lemoyne had anticipated, and came to look upon him as an able,
if somewhat fantastic, young fellow.
Cope himself, when his father questioned him, said with frank
disconsolateness, "I'm miserable!" And, "I wish to heaven I were out of
it!" he added.
"_Get_ out of it," his father counselled; and when Cope's own feelings
were clearly known through the household there was no voice of dissent.
"And then buckle down for your degree," the elder added, to finish.
"If I only could!" exclaimed Cope, with a wan face,--convinced, youthfully,
that the trouble through which he was now striving must last indefinitely.
"I should be glad enough to get my mind on it, I'm sure."
He walked away to reconstruct a devastated privacy. "Arthur, I'm not quite
sure that I thank you," he said, later.
"H'm!" replied Lemoyne non-committally. "I hope," he added, more definitely
articulate, "that we're going to have a pleasanter life in our new
quarters. I'm getting mighty little pleasure--if you'll just understand me
_COPE, SAFEGUARDED, CALLS AGAIN_
If Cope came back from Freeford with the moral support of one family, Amy
Leffingwell came back from Fort Lodge with the moral support of another.
Hers was a fragmental family, true; but its sentiment was unanimous; she
had the combined support of a pleased mother and of an enthusiastic maiden
Amy reached Churchton first, and it soon transpired through the house in
which she lived that she was engaged to Bertram Cope. Cope, returning two
days later, with Lemoyne, found his new status an open book to the world--
or to such a small corner of the world as cared to read.
Cope had written from Freeford, explaining to Randolph the broken dinner-
engagement: at least he had said that immediate concerns of importance had
driven the date from his mind, and that he was sorry. Randolph, only too
willing to accept any fair excuse, good-naturedly made this one serve: the
boy was not so negligent and ungrateful, after all. He got the rest of the
story a few days later, in a message from Foster. What _was_ the boy,
then? he asked himself. He recalled their talk as they had walked past the
sand-hills on that October Sunday. Cope had disclaimed all inclination for
matrimony. He had confessed a certain inability to safeguard himself. Was
he a victim, after all? A victim to his own ineptitude? A victim to his own
highmindedness? Well, whatever the alternative, a field for the work of the
salvage-corps had opened.
At the big house on Ashburn Avenue a like feeling had come to prevail.
Medora Phillips herself had passed from the indulgently satirical to the
impatient, and almost to the indignant. Her niece thought the new relation
clearly superfluous. She put away the portrait in oil, but she rather hoped
to resume work on it, some time. Meanwhile, she was far from kind to Amy.
Cope soon made an obligatory appearance at the house. He was glad enough to
have the presence and the support of Arthur Lemoyne. The call came on a
rigorous evening at the beginning of the second week in January. The two
young men had about brought their new quarters to shape and subjection.
They had spent two or three evenings in shifting and rearranging things--
trifling purchases in person and larger things sent by express. They had
reached a good degree of snugness and comfort; but----
"We've got to go tonight!" said Cope firmly.
"Tonight?" repeated Lemoyne. "Unless I'm mistaken, we're in for a deuce of
a time." He snuggled again into the big easy chair that had just arrived
"We are!" returned Cope, with unhappy mien. "But it's got to be gone
"I'm talking about the weather," rejoined Lemoyne plumply. He was versed in
the reading of signs as they presented themselves a hundred and fifty miles
to the north, and he thought he could accurately apply his experience to a
locale somewhat beyond his earlier ken. The vast open welter of water to
the east would but give the roaring north wind a greater impetus. "We're
going to have tonight, the storm of the season."
"Storm or no storm, I can't put it off any longer. I've got to go."
As they started out the wind was keen, and a few fine flakes, driven from
the north, flew athwart their faces. When they reached Mrs. Phillips'
house, Peter, wrapped in furs, was sitting in the limousine by the curb,
and two or three people were seen in the open door of the vestibule.
"Well, the best of luck, _cher Professeur_," Cope heard the voice of
Mrs. Phillips saying, in a quick expulsion of syllables. "This is going to
be a bad night, I'm afraid; but I hope your audience will get to the hall
to hear you, and that our Pierre will be able to get you back to us."
"Oh, Madame," returned the plump little man, "what a climate!" And he ran
down the walk to the car.
Yes, Mrs. Phillips had another celebrity on her hands. It was an eminent
French historian who was going across to the campus to deliver the second
lecture of his course. "How lucky," she had said to Hortense, just after
dinner, "that we went to hear him _last_ night!" Their visitor was
handsomely accommodated--and suitably, too, she felt--in the Louis Quinze
chamber, and he was expected back in it a little after ten.
"Why, Bertram Cope!" she exclaimed, as the two young men came up the walk
while the great historian ran down; "come in, come in; don't let me stand
It turned out to be a young man's night. Mrs. Phillips had invited a few
"types" to entertain and instruct her Frenchman. They had come to dinner,
and they had stayed on afterward.
Among them was the autumn undergraduate whom Cope, at an earlier day, had
disdainfully called "Phaon," a youth of twenty. "You know," said Medora
Phillips to Randolph, a few days later, when reviewing the stay of her
newest guest, "Those sophisticated, world-worn people so appreciate our
fresh, innocent, ingenuous boys. M. Pelouse told me, on leaving, that Roddy
quite met his ideal of the young American. So open-faced, so inexperienced,
so out of the great world...."
"Good heavens!" said Randolph impatiently. "Do they constitute the world?
You might think so,--going about giving us awards, and hanging medals on
us, and certifying how well we speak French! Fudge! The world is changing.
It would be better," he added, "if more of us--college students included--
learned how to speak a decenter English. I went to their dramatic club the
other evening. Such pronunciation! Such delivery! I almost longed for the
A second "young American" was present--George F. Pearson. Pearson lived
with his parents in another big house a block down the street. Mrs.
Phillips had summoned him as a type that was purely indigenous--the "young
American business man." Pearson had just made a "kill," as he called it--a
coup executed quite without the aid of his father, and he was too full of
his success to keep still; he was more typical than ever. The Professor had
looked at him in staring wonder. So had Amy Leffingwell--in the absence of
another target for her large, intent eyes.
But Medora Phillips knew all about George and Roddy. The novelty was
Lemoyne, and she must learn about him. She readily seized the points that
composed his personal aspect, which she found good: his general darkness
and richness made him a fine foil for Cope. She quickly credited him with a
pretty complete battery of artistic aptitudes and apprehensions. She felt
certain that he would appreciate her ballroom and picture-gallery, and
would figure well within it. The company was young, the night was wild, and
cheer was the word. She presently led the way upstairs. Foster, as soon as
he heard the first voices in the hall and the first footfalls on the bare
treads of the upper stairs, shut his door.
Lemoyne felt the big bare room--bare save for a piano and a fringe of
chairs and settles, large and small--as a stage; and he surmised that he,
the new-comer, was expected to exhibit himself on it. He became consciously
the actor. He tried now the assertive note, and now the quiet note; somehow
the quiet was the louder of the two. Pearson, who was in a conquering mood
tonight, scented a rival in the general attention, and one not wholly
unworthy. Pearson was the only one of the four in evening dress, and he
felt that to be an advantage. He, at least, had been properly attired to
meet the elegant visitor from abroad. As for poor Roddy, he had come in an
ordinary sack: perhaps it was partly this which had prompted M. Pelouse
(who was of course dressed for the platform) to find the boy such a paragon
of simple innocence.
All costumes were alike to Lemoyne; he had appeared in dozens. If he lacked
costume now, he made it up in manner. He had bestowed an immensity of
manner on Amy Leffingwell, downstairs: his cue had been a high, delicate,
remote gravity. "I know, I know," he seemed to say; "and I make no
comment." Upstairs he kept close by Cope: he was proprietary; he was
protective. If Cope settled down in a large chair, Lemoyne would drape
himself over the arm of it; and his hand would fall, as like as not, on the
back of the chair, or even on Cope's shoulder. And when he came to occupy
the piano-stool, Cope, standing alongside, would lay a hand on his. Mrs.
Phillips noticed these minor familiarities and remarked on them to Foster,
who had lately wheeled his chair in. Foster, a few days later, passed the
comment on to Randolph, with an astringent comment of his own.--At all
events, Amy Leffingwell remained in the distance, and George Pearson shared
the distance with her.
Foster had broken from his retirement on hearing the voices of Cope and
Lemoyne combined in song. The song was "Larboard Watch," and he remembered
how his half-brother had sung in it during courtship, with the young fellow
who had acted, later, as his best man. Lemoyne, at the first word of
invitation, had seated himself at the instrument--a lesser than the "grand"
downstairs, but not unworthy; then, with but a measure or so of prelude,
the two voices had begun to ring out in the old nautical ballad. Lemoyne
felt the composition to be primitive, antiquated and of slight value; but
he had received his cue, and both his throat and his hands wrought with an
elaborate expressiveness. He sang and played, if not with sincerity, at
least with effect. His voice was a high, ringing tenor; not too ringing for
Cope's resonant baritone, but almost too sweet: a voice which might cloy
(if used alone) within a few moments. Cope was a perfect second, and the
two went at it with a complete unity of understanding and of sentiment.
Together they viewed--in thirds--"the gath'ring clouds"; together--still in
thirds--they roused themselves "at the welcome call" of "Larboard watch,
ahoy!" Disregarding the mere words, they attained, at the finish, to
something like feeling--or even like a touch of passion. Medora Phillips
had never heard Cope sing like that before; had never seen so much
animation in his singing face. By the fourth bar there had been tears in
her eyes, and there was a catch in her breath when she exclaimed softly,
"You dear boys!" It was too soon, of course, to make Lemoyne "dear"--the
one boy was Cope. It was really his voice which she had heard through the
soaring, insinuating tones of the other. Foster, sitting beside her,
suddenly raised his shade and peered out questioningly, both at the singers
and at his sister-in-law. He seemed surprised--and more.
Pearson was surprised too, but kept his applause within limits. However, he
praised Lemoyne for his accompaniment. Then he begged Amy for an air on the
violin; and while they were determining who should play her accompaniment,
the wind raged more wildly round the gables and the thickening snow drove
with a fiercer impetus against the windows.
Lemoyne (who was a perfectly good sight-reader) begged that he might not be
condemned to spoil another's performance. This was the result of an
understanding between Cope and himself that neither was to contribute
further. Presently a simple piece was selected through which the unskilled
Carolyn might be trusted to pick her way. Cope listened with a decorous
attention which was designed to indicate the highest degree of sympathetic
interest; but his attitude, so finely composed within, yet so ineffectively
displayed without, was as nothing to the loud promptness of Pearson's
praise. Amy glanced at Cope with questioning surprise; but she met
Pearson's excesses of commendation with a gratified smile.
Shortly before ten o'clock there was a stir at the front door. Mrs.
Phillips rose hastily. "It is M. Pelouse; let me go down and pet him."
Yes, it was M. Pelouse. "Oh, Madame!" he said, as before, but with an
expressiveness doubly charged, "what a climate!" He was panting and was
covered with fine snow. Behind him was Peter, looking very grave and dour.
"Shall I be wanted further?" asked Peter in a tense tone, and with no trace
of his usual good-natured smile.
"What! Again?" cried Mrs. Phillips, while Helga, farther up the hall, was
undoing the Professor; "three times on a night like this? No, indeed! Get
back into the garage as fast as you can."
"Oh, Madame!" said the Professor, now out of his wrappings and in better
control of his voice. "They were so faithful to our beautiful France! The
_salle_ was almost full!"
"Well," said Mrs. Phillips to herself, "they got there all right, then. I
hope most of them will get back home alive!"
"What a climate!" M. Pelouse was still saying, as he entered the ball-room.
He had not been there before. He ran an appraising eye over the pictures
and said little. But as soon as he learned that some of them were the work
of the late M. Phillips he found words. He led the company through a
tasteful jungle of verbosity, and left the ultimate impression that
Monsieur had been a remarkable man, whether as artist or as collector.
Yet he did not forget to say once more, "What a climate!"
"Is it really bad outside?" asked Pearson. M. Pelouse shrugged his
shoulders. It was _affreux_.
"It is indeed," corroborated Mrs. Phillips: she had spent her moment at the
front door. "Nobody that I can find room for leaves my house tonight." This
meant that Cope and Lemoyne were to occupy the chintz chamber.
M. Pelouse gradually regained himself. Cope interested him. Cope was, in
type, the more "American" of the two new arrivals. He was also, as M.
Pelouse had heard, the _pretendant_,--yes, the _fiance_. Well, he
was calm and inexpressive enough: no close and eager attendance; cool,
cool. "How interesting," said the observer to himself. "And Mademoiselle,
quite across the room, and quite taken up"--happily, too, it seemed--"with
another man: with the other man, perhaps?..."
At half past ten Pearson rose to leave; Cope and Lemoyne rose at the same
time. "No," said Mrs. Phillips, stopping them both; "you mustn't think of
trying to go. I can't ask Peter to take you, and you could never get across
on foot in the world. I can find a place for you."
"And about poor Roddy?" asked Hortense.
"Roddy may stay with me," declared Pearson. "I can put him up. Come on,
Aldridge," he said; "you're good for a hundred yard dash." And down they
"I don't want to stay," muttered Cope to Lemoyne, under cover of the
others' departure. "Devil take it; it's the last thing in the world I want
"It's awkward," returned Lemoyne, "but we're in for it. After all, it isn't
_her_ house, nor her family's. Besides, you've got me."
Mrs. Phillips summoned Helga and another maid, who were just on the point
of going to bed, and directed their efforts toward the chintz chamber. "Ah,
well," thought M. Pelouse, "the _fiance_, then, is going to remain
over night in the house of his _fiancee_!" It was droll; yet there
were extenuating circumstances. But--such a singular climate, such curious
temperaments, such a general chill! And M. Pelouse was presently lost to
view among the welcome trappings of Louis Quinze.
_COPE SHALL BE RESCUED_
Next morning Cope left the house before breakfast. He had had the
forethought to plead an exceptionally early engagement, and thus he avoided
meeting, after the strain of the evening before, any of the various units
of the household. He and Lemoyne, draping their parti-colored pajamas over
the foot of the bedstead, left the chintz chamber at seven and walked out
into the new day. The air was cold and tingling; the ground was white as a
sheet; the sky was a strident, implacable blue. The glitter and the glare
assaulted their sleepy eyes. They turned up their collars, thrust their
hands deep into their pockets, and took briskly the half mile which led to
their own percolator and electric toaster.
Cope threw himself down on the bed and let Lemoyne get the breakfast. Well,
he had called; he had done the just and expected thing; he had held his
face through it all; but he was tired after a night of much thought and
little sleep. Possibly he might not have to call again for a full week. If
'phone messages or letters came, he would take them as best he could.
Nor was Lemoyne very alert. He was less prompt than usual in gaining his
early morning loquacity. His coffee was lacking in spirit, and much of his
toast was burnt. But the two revived, in fair measure, after their taxing
They had talked through much of the dead middle of the night. Foster,
wakeful and restless, had become exasperated beyond all power of a return
to sleep. Concerns of youth and love kept them murmuring, murmuring in the
acute if distant ears of one whom youth had left and for whom love was
impossible. Beyond his foolish, figured wall were two contrasted types of
young vigor, and they babbled, babbled on, in the sensitized hearing of one
from whom vigor was gone and for whom hope was set.
"What do you think of her?" Cope had asked. Then he had thrown his face
into his pillow and left one ear for the reply.
"She is a clinger," returned Lemoyne. "She will cling until she is loosened
by something or somebody. Then she will cling to the second somebody as
hard as she did to the first. I'm not so sure that it's you as an
Cope had now no self-love to consider, no self-esteem to guard. He did not
raise his face from out the pillow to reply. But he found Lemoyne rather
drastic. Arthur had shown himself much in earnest, of course; he had the
right, doubtless, to be reproachful; and he was fertile in suggestions
looking toward his friend's freedom. Yet his expedients were not always
delicate or fair: Cope would have welcomed a lighter hand on his
exacerbated spirit, a more disinterested, more impartial touch. He was glad
when, one afternoon at five, a few days later, he met Randolph on the steps
of the library. Randolph, by his estimate, was disinterested and impartial.
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
"They talked half through the night, too," Foster added bitterly.
"Young men's problems," said Randolph. "Possibly they were considering
"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
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
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,
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
"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.
Back to Full Books