O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1920
Part 5 out of 8
"Get up!" he ordered. "Take that chair. And don't start no
rough-house; whether you're a woman or not, I'll drill you!"
She groped to the indicated chair and raised herself, the single
snowshoe still dragging from one foot. Again the man surveyed her.
She saw his eyes and gave another inarticulate cry.
"Shut your mouth and keep it shut! You hear me?"
The greenish light burned brighter in his mismated eyes, which gazed
intently at the top of her head as though it held something unearthly.
"Take off your hat!" was his next command.
She pulled off the toque. Her hair fell in a mass on her
snow-blotched shoulders. Her captor advanced upon her. He reached out
and satisfied himself by touch that something was not there which he
dreaded. In hypnotic fear she suffered that touch. It reassured him.
"Your hair now," he demanded; "it don't stand up, does it? No, o'
course it don't. You ain't _him_; you're a woman. But if your hair
comes up, I'll kill you--understand? If your hair comes up, _I'll
She understood. She understood only too well. She was not only housed
with a murderer; she was housed with a maniac. She sensed, also, why
he had come to this mountain shack so boldly. In his dementia he knew
no better. And she was alone with him, unarmed now.
"I'll keep it down," she whispered, watching his face out of
The wind blew one of the rotten blankets inward. Thereby she knew
that the window-aperture on the south wall contained no sash. He
must have removed it to provide means of escape in case he were
attacked from the east door. He must have climbed out that window
when she came around the shack; that is how he had felled her from
He stepped backward now until he felt the edge of the bench touch
his calves. Then he sank down, one arm stretched along the table's
rim, the hand clutching the revolver.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"I'm Cora McB----" She stopped--she recalled in a flash the part her
husband had played in his former capture and trial. "I'm Cora Allen,"
she corrected. Then she waited, her wits in chaos. She was fighting
desperately to bring order out of that chaos.
"What you doin' up here?"
"I started for Millington, over the mountain. I lost my way."
"Why didn't you go by the road?"
"That's a lie! It ain't. And don't lie to me, or I'll kill you!"
"Who are you?" she heard herself asking. "And why are you acting
this way with me?"
The man leaned suddenly forward.
"You mean to tell me you don't know?"
"A lumberjack, maybe, who's lost his way like myself?"
His expression changed abruptly.
"What you luggin' _this_ for?" He indicated the revolver.
"There ain't no wild things in these mountains this time o' year;
they're snowed up, and you know it."
"I just felt safer to have it along."
"To protect you from men-folks, maybe?"
"There are no men in these mountains I'm afraid of!" She made the
declaration with pathetic bravado.
His eyes narrowed.
"I think I better kill you," he decided. "You've seen me; you'll
tell you seen me. Why shouldn't I kill you? You'd only tell."
"Why? What have I done to you?" she managed to stammer. "Why should
you object to being seen?"
It was an unfortunate demand. He sprang up with a snarl. Pointing
the revolver from his hip, he drew back the hammer.
"_Don't_!" she shrieked. "Are you crazy? Don't you know how to treat
a woman--in distress?"
"Distress, _hell_! You know who I be. And I don't care whether
you're a woman or not, I ain't goin' to be took--you understand?"
"Certainly I understand."
She said it in such a way that he eased the hammer back into place
and lowered the gun. For the moment again she was safe. In response
to her terrible need, some of her latent Yankee courage came now to
aid her. "I don't see what you're making all this rumpus about," she
told him in as indifferent a voice as she could command. "I don't
see why you should want to kill a friend who might help you--if
you're really in need of help."
"I want to get to Partridgeville," he muttered after a moment.
"You're not far from there. How long have you been on the road?"
"None of your business."
"Have you had any food?"
"If you'll put up that gun and let me get off this snowshoe and pack,
I'll share with you some of the food I have."
"Never you mind what I do with this gun. Go ahead and fix your foot,
and let's see what you got for grub." The man resumed his seat.
She twisted up her tangled hair, replaced her toque and untied the
Outside a tree cracked in the frost. He started in hair-trigger
fright. Creeping to the window, he peeped cautiously between casing
and blanket. Convinced that it was nothing, he returned to his seat
by the table.
"It's too bad we couldn't have a fire," suggested the woman then.
"I'd make us something hot." The stove was there, rusted but still
serviceable; available wood was scattered around. But the man shook
his bullet head.
After a trying time unfastening the frosted knots of the ropes that
had bound the knapsack upon her back, she emptied it onto the table.
She kept her eye, however, on the gun. He had disposed of it by
thrusting it into his belt. Plainly she would never recover it
without a struggle. And she was in no condition for physical conflict.
"You're welcome to anything I have," she told him.
"Little you got to say about it! If you hadn't given it up, I'd took
it away from you. So what's the difference?"
She shrugged her shoulders. She started around behind him but he
sprang toward her.
"Don't try no monkey-shines with me!" he snarled. "You stay here in
front where I can see you."
She obeyed, watching him make what poor meal he could from the
contents of her bag.
She tried to reason out what the denouement of the situation was to
be. He would not send her away peacefully, for she knew he dared not
risk the story she would tell regardless of any promises of secrecy
she might give him. If he left her bound in the cabin, she would
freeze before help came--if it ever arrived.
No, either they were going to leave the place and journey forth
together--the Lord only knew where or with what outcome--or the life
of one of them was to end in this tragic place within the coming few
minutes. For she realized she must use that gun with deadly effect
if it were to come again into her possession.
The silence was broken only by the noises of his lips as he ate
ravenously. Outside, not a thing stirred in that snowbound world.
Not a sound of civilization reached them. They were a man and woman
in the primal, in civilization and yet a million miles from it.
"The candle's going out," she announced. "Is there another?"
"There'll be light enough for what I got to do," he growled.
Despite her effort to appear indifferent, her great fear showed
plainly in her eyes.
"Are we going to stay here all night?" she asked with a pathetic
attempt at lightness.
"That's my business."
"Don't you want me to help you?"
"You've helped me all you can with the gun and food."
"If you're going to Partridgeville, I'd go along and show you the way."
He leaped up.
"_Now I know you been lyin_!'" he bellowed. "You said you was headed
for Millington. And you ain't at all. You're watchin' your chance to
get the drop on me and have me took--that's what you're doin'!"
"Wait!" she pleaded desperately. "I _was_ going to Millington. But
I'd turn back and show you the way to Partridgeville to help you."
"What's it to you?" He had drawn the gun from his belt and now was
fingering it nervously.
"You're lost up here in the mountains, aren't you?" she said.
"I couldn't let you stay lost if it was possible for me to direct
you on your way."
"You said you was lost yourself."
"I was lost--until I stumbled into this clearing. That gave me my
"Smart, ain't you? Damn' smart, but not too smart for me, you woman!"
The flare flamed up again in his crooked eyes. "You know who I be,
all right. You know what I'm aimin' to do. And you're stallin' for
time till you can put one over. But you can't--see? I'll have this
business done with. I'll end this business!"
She felt herself sinking to her knees. He advanced and gripped her
left wrist. The crunch of his iron fingers sent an arrow of pain
through her arm. It bore her down.
"For God's sake--_don't_!" she whispered hoarsely, overwhelmed with
horror. For the cold, sharp nose of the revolver suddenly punched
"I ain't leavin' no traces behind. Might as well be hung for a sheep
as a lamb. Never mind if I do----"
"Look!" she cried wildly. "Look, look, _look_!" And with her free
hand she pointed behind him.
It was an old trick. There was nothing behind him. But in that
instant of desperation instinct had guided her.
Involuntarily he turned.
With a scream of pain she twisted from his grasp and blotted out the
A long, livid pencil of orange flame spurted from the gun-point. She
sensed the powder-flare in her face. He had missed.
She scrambled for shelter beneath the table. The cabin was now in
inky blackness. Across that black four more threads of scarlet light
were laced. The man stumbled about seeking her, cursing with
Suddenly he tripped and went sprawling. The gun clattered from his
bruised fingers; it struck the woman's knee.
Swiftly her hand closed upon it. The hot barrel burned her palm.
She was on her feet in an instant. Her left hand fumbled in her
blouse, and she found what had been there all along--the flash-lamp.
With her back against the door, she pulled it forth. With the gun
thrust forward for action she pressed the button.
"I've got the gun--_get up_!" she ordered. "Don't come too near me
or I'll shoot. Back up against that wall."
The bull's-eye of radiance blinded him. When his eyes became
accustomed to the light, he saw its reflection on the barrel of the
revolver. He obeyed.
"Put up your hands. Put 'em up _high_!"
"Suppose I won't?"
"I'll kill you."
"What'll you gain by that?"
"Five thousand dollars."
"Then you know who I be?"
"And was aimin' to take me in?"
"How you goin' to do that if I won't go?"
"You're goin' to find out."
"You won't get no money shootin' me."
"Yes, I will--just as much--dead as alive."
With his hands raised a little way above the level of his shoulders,
he stood rigidly at bay in the circle of light.
"Well," he croaked at last, "go ahead and shoot. I ain't aimin' to
be took--not by no woman. Shoot, damn you, and have it done with.
"Keep up those hands!"
"I won't!" He lowered them defiantly. "I w-wanted to m-make
Partridgeville and see the old lady. She'd 'a' helped me. But
anything's better'n goin' back to that hell where I been the last
two years. Go on! Why don't you shoot?"
"You wanted to make Partridgeville and see--_who_?"
"My mother--and my wife."
"Have you got a mother? Have you got a--wife?"
"Yes, and three kids. Why don't you shoot?"
It seemed an eon that they stood so. The McBride woman was trying to
find the nerve to fire. She could not. In that instant she made a
discovery that many luckless souls make too late: _to kill a man_ is
easy to talk about, easy to write about. But to stand deliberately
face to face with a fellow-human--alive, pulsing, breathing, fearing,
hoping, loving, living,--point a weapon at him that would take his
life, blot him from the earth, negate twenty or thirty years of
childhood, youth, maturity, and make of him in an instant--nothing!
--that is quite another matter.
He was helpless before her now. Perhaps the expression on his face
had something to do with the sudden revulsion that halted her finger.
Facing certain death, some of the evil in those crooked eyes seemed
to die out, and the terrible personality of the man to fade.
Regardless of her danger, regardless of what he would have done to
her if luck had not turned the tables, Cora McBride saw before her
only a lone man with all society's hand against him, realizing he
had played a bad game to the limit and lost, two big tears creeping
down his unshaved face, waiting for the end.
"Three children!" she whispered faintly.
"You're going back to see them?"
"Yes, and my mother. Mother'd help me get to Canada--somehow."
Cora McBride had forgotten all about the five thousand dollars. She
was stunned by the announcement that this man had relatives--a mother,
a wife, _three_ babies. The human factor had not before occurred to
her. Murderers! They have no license to let their eyes well with
tears, to have wives and babies, to possess mothers who will help
them get to Canada regardless of what their earthly indiscretions
may have been.
At this revelation the gun-point wavered. The sight of those tears
on his face sapped her will-power even as a wound in her breast
might have drained her life-blood.
Her great moment had been given her. She was letting it slip away.
She had her reward in her hand for the mere pulling of a trigger and
no incrimination for the result. For a bit of human sentiment she
was bungling the situation unpardonably, fatally.
Why did she not shoot? Because she was a woman. Because it is the
God-given purpose of womanhood to give life, not take it.
The gun sank, sank--down out of the light, down out of sight.
And the next instant he was upon her.
The flash-lamp was knocked from her hand and blinked out. It struck
the stove and she heard the tinkle of the broken lens. The woman's
hand caught at the sacking before the window at her left shoulder.
Gripping it wildly to save herself from that onslaught, she tore it
away. For the second time the revolver was twisted from her raw
The man reared upward, over her.
"Where are you?" he roared again and again. "I'll show you! Lemme at
Outside the great yellow moon of early winter, arising late, was
coming up over the silhouetted line of purple mountains to the
eastward. It illumined the cabin with a faint radiance, disclosing
the woman crouching beneath the table.
The man saw her, pointed his weapon point-blank at her face and fired.
To Cora McBride, prostrate there in her terror, the impact of the
bullet felt like the blow of a stick upon her cheek-bone rocking her
head. Her cheek felt warmly numb. She pressed a quick hand
involuntarily against it, and drew it away sticky with blood.
_Click! Click! Click_!
Three times the revolver mechanism was worked to accomplish her
destruction. But there was no further report. The cylinder was empty.
"Oh, God!" the woman moaned. "I fed you and offered to help you. I
refused to shoot you because of your mother--your wife--your babies.
And yet you----"
"Where's your cartridges?" he cried wildly. "You got more; gimme
She felt his touch upon her. His crazy fingers tried to unbutton the
clasp of the belt and holster. But he could secure neither while she
fought him. He pinioned her at length with his knee. His fingers
secured a fistful of the cylinders from her girdle, and he opened
the chamber of the revolver.
She realized the end was but a matter of moments. Nothing but a
miracle could save her now.
Convulsively she groped about for something with which to strike.
Nothing lay within reach of her bleeding fingers, however, but a
little piece of dried sapling. She tried to struggle loose, but the
lunatic held her mercilessly. He continued the mechanical loading of
The semi-darkness of the hut, the outline of the moon afar through
the uncurtained window--these swam before her.... Suddenly her eyes
riveted on that curtainless window and she uttered a terrifying cry.
Outlined in the window aperture against the low-hung moon _Martin
Wiley, the murdered deputy, was staring into the cabin_!
From the fugitive's throat came a gurgle. Some of the cartridges he
held spilled to the flooring. Above her his figure became rigid.
There was no mistaking the identity of the apparition. They saw the
man's hatless head and some of his neck. They saw his dark pompadour
and the outline of his skull. As that horrible silhouette remained
there, Wiley's pompadour lifted slightly as it had done in life.
The cry in the convict's throat broke forth into words.
"Mart Wiley!" he cried, "Mart Wiley! _Mart--Wiley_!"
Clear, sharp, distinct was the shape of that never-to-be-forgotten
pompadour against the disk of the winter moon. His features could
not be discerned, for the source of light was behind him, but the
silhouette was sufficient. It was Martin Wiley; he was alive. His
head and his wirelike hair were moving--rising, falling.
Ruggam, his eyes riveted upon the phantom, recoiled mechanically to
the western wall. He finished loading the revolver by the sense of
Spurt after spurt of fire lanced the darkness, directed at the Thing
in the window. While the air of the hut reeked with the acrid smoke,
the echo of the volley sounded through the silent forest-world miles
But the silhouette in the window remained.
Once or twice it moved slightly as though in surprise; that was all.
The pompadour rose in bellicose retaliation--the gesture that had
always ensued when Wiley was angered or excited. But to bullets
fired from an earthly gun the silhouette of the murdered deputy's
ghost, arisen in these winter woods to prevent another slaughter,
Ruggam saw; he shrieked. He broke the gun and spilled out the empty
shells. He fumbled in more cartridges, locked the barrel and fired
again and again, until once more it was empty.
Still the apparition remained.
The man in his dementia hurled the weapon; it struck the sash and
caromed off, hitting the stove. Then Hap Ruggam collapsed upon the
The woman sprang up. She found the rope thongs which had bound her
pack to her shoulders. With steel-taut nerves, she rolled the
insensible Ruggam over.
She tied his hands; she tied his ankles. With her last bit of rope
she connected the two bindings tightly behind him so that if he
recovered, he would be at her mercy. Her task accomplished, on her
knees beside his prone figure, she thought to glance up at the window.
Wiley's ghost had disappeared.
Sheriff Crumpett and his party broke into the Lyons clearing within
an hour. They had arrived in answer to five successive shots given a
few moments apart, the signal agreed upon. The mystery to them,
however, was that those five shots had been fired by some one not of
The sheriff and his men found the McBride woman, her clothing half
torn from her body, her features powder-marked and blood-stained;
but she was game to the last, woman-fashion weeping only now that
all was over. They found, too, the man they had combed the country
to find--struggling fruitlessly in his bonds, her prisoner.
And they likewise found the miracle.
On the snow outside under the window they came upon a black
porcupine about the size of a man's head which, scenting food within
the cabin, had climbed to the sill, and after the habit of these
little animals whose number is legion all over the Green Mountains,
had required fifteen bullets pumped into its carcass before it would
release its hold.
Even in death its quills were raised in uncanny duplication of Mart
A MATTER OF LOYALTY
BY LAWRENCE PERRY
From _The Red Book_
Standing in the bow of the launch, Dr. Nicholls, coach of the Baliol
crew, leaned upon his megaphone, his eyes fixed upon two eight-oared
crews resting upon their oars a hundred feet away. From his hand
dangled a stop-watch. The two crews had just completed a four-mile
race against the watch.
A grim light came into the deeply set gray eyes of Jim Deacon as the
coach put the watch into his pocket. Deacon was the stroke of the
second varsity, an outfit which in aquatics bears the same relation
to a university eight as the scrub team does to a varsity football
eleven. But in the race just completed the second varsity had been
much of a factor--surprisingly, dishearteningly so. Nip and tuck it
had been, the varsity straining to drop the rival boat astern, but
unable to do so. At the finish not a quarter of a length, not fifteen
feet, had separated the two prows; a poor showing for the varsity to
have made with the great rowing classic of the season coming on
apace--a poor showing, that is, assuming the time consumed in the
four-mile trip was not especially low.
Only the coach could really know whether the time was satisfactory
or not. But Jim Deacon suspected that it was poor, his idea being
based upon knowledge he had concerning the capabilities of his own
crew; in other words, he knew it was only an average second varsity
outfit. The coach knew it too. That was the reason his jaws were set,
his eyes vacant. At length he shook his head.
"Not good, boys--not good." His voice was gentle, though usually he
was a rip-roaring mentor. "Varsity, you weren't rowing. That's the
answer--not rowing together. What's the matter, eh?"
"I thought, Dr. Nicholls, that the rhythm was very good----"
The coach interrupted Rollins, the captain, with a gesture.
"Oh, rhythm! Yes, you row prettily enough. You look well. I should
hope so, at this time of the season. But you're not shoving the boat
fast; you don't pick up and get her moving. You're leaking power
somewhere; as a matter of fact, I suspect you're not putting the
power in. I know you're not. Ashburton, didn't that lowering of your
seat fix you? Well, then,"--as the young man nodded affirmatively--
"how about your stretcher, Innis? Does it suit you now?"
As Innis nodded, signifying that it did, Deacon saw the coach's eyes
turn to Doane, who sat at stroke of the varsity.
"Now," muttered the stroke of the second varsity, his eyes gleaming,
"we'll hear something."
"Doane, is there anything the trouble with you? You're feeling well,
"Yes sir. Sure!" The boy flushed. Tall, straight, handsome he sat in
the boat, fingering the oar-handle nervously. In appearance he was
the ideal oarsman. And yet----
Deacon, watching the coach, could almost see his mind working. Now
the time had come, the issue clearly defined. Another stroke must be
tried and found not wanting, else the annual eight-oared rowing
classic between those ancient universities Baliol and Shelburne
would be decided before it was rowed.
Deacon flushed as the coach's glittering eyeglasses turned toward him.
It was the big moment of the senior's four years at college. Four
years! And six months of each of those years a galley-slave--on the
machines in the rowing-room of the gymnasium, on the ice-infested
river with the cutting winds of March sweeping free; then the more
genial months with the voice of coach or assistant coach lashing him.
Four years of dogged, unremitting toil with never the reward of a
varsity seat, and now with the great regatta less than a week away,
the big moment, the crown of all he had done.
Words seemed on the verge of the coach's lips. Deacon's eyes
strained upon them as he sat stiffly in his seat. But no words came;
the coach turned away.
"All right," he said spiritlessly. "Paddle back to the float."
The coxswains barked their orders; sixteen oars rattled in their
locks; the glistening shells moved slowly homeward.
Tingling from his plunge in the river, Jim Deacon walked up the
bluff from the boathouse to the group of cottages which constituted
Baliol's rowing-quarters. Some of the freshman crew were playing
indoor baseball on the lawn under the gnarled trees, and their
shouts and laughter echoed over the river. Deacon stood watching them.
His face was of the roughhewn type, in his two upper-class years his
heavy frame had taken on a vast amount of brawn and muscle. Now his
neck was meet for his head and for his chest and shoulders; long,
slightly bowed limbs filled out a picture of perfect physique.
No one had known him really well in college. He was working his way
through. Besides, he was a student in one of the highly scientific
engineering courses which demanded a great deal of steady application.
With no great aptitude for football--he was a bit slow-footed--with
little tune or inclination for social activities, he had
concentrated upon rowing, not only as a diversion from his arduous
studies, an ordered outlet for physical energy, but with the idea of
going out into the world with that hallmark of a Baliol varsity oar
which he had heard and believed was likely to stand him in stead in
life. Baliol alumni, which include so many men of wealth and power,
had a habit of not overlooking young graduates who have brought fame
to their alma mater.
As Deacon stood watching the freshmen at play, Dick Rollins, the
crew captain, came up.
"They sent down the time-trial results from the Shelburne quarters,
Never in his life had one of the great men of the university spoken
that many words, or half as many, to Jim Deacon, who stared at the
"The time--oh, yes; I see."
"They did twenty minutes, thirty seconds."
"Well," he said at length, "you didn't get the boat moving much
to-day." He wanted to say more, but could think of nothing. Words
came rather hard with him.
"You nearly lugged the second shell ahead of us to-day, hang you."
"No use letting a patient die because he doesn't know he's sick."
"Yes, we were sick. Doc Nicholls knows a sick crew when he sees one.
He--he thinks you're the needed tonic, Deacon."
"He told me you were to sit in at stroke in Junior Doane's place
to-morrow. I'd been pulling for the change the past few days. Now he
"You were pulling----But you're Doane's roommate."
"Yes, it's tough. But Baliol first, you know."
Deacon stared at the man. He wanted to say something but couldn't.
The captain smiled.
"Look here, Deacon; let's walk over toward the railroad a bit. I
want to talk to you." Linking his arm through Deacon's, he set out
through the yard toward the quaint old road with its little cluster
of farm cottages and rolling stone-walled meadow-land bathed in the
light of the setting sun.
"Jim, old boy, you're a queer sort of a chap, and--and--the fact is,
the situation will be a bit ticklish. You know what it means for a
fellow to be thrown out of his seat just before a race upon which he
has been counting heart and soul."
"I don't know. I can imagine."
"You see, it's Doane. You know about his father----"
"I know all about his father," was the reply.
"Eh?" Rollins stared at him, then smiled. "I suppose every rowing
man at Baliol does. But you don't know as much as I do. On the quiet,
he's the man who gave us the new boathouse last year. He's our best
spender. He was an old varsity oar himself."
"Sure, I know."
"That's the reason the situation is delicate. Frankly, Jim, Doc
Nicholls and the rest of us would have liked to see Junior Doane
come through. I think you get what I mean. He's a senior; he's my
"He stroked the boat last year."
"Yes, and Shelburne beat us. Naturally he wants to get back at that
"But he can't--not if he strokes the boat, Rollins. If you don't
know it, I'm telling you. If I thought different, I'd say so."
Deacon abruptly paused after so long a speech.
"You don't have to tell me. I know it. We're not throwing a race to
Shelburne simply to please old Cephas Doane, naturally. I know what
you've got, Jim. So does Dr. Nicholls. You'll be in the varsity
to-morrow. But here's the point of what I've been trying to say;
Junior Doane hasn't been very decent to you--"
"Oh, he's been all right."
"Yes, I know. But he's a funny fellow; not a bit of a snob--I don't
mean that, but--but--"
"You mean he hasn't paid much attention to me." Deacon smiled grimly.
"Well, that's all right. As a matter of fact, I never really have
got to know him. Still, I haven't got to know many of the fellows.
Too busy. You haven't paid much attention to me, either; but I like
Rollins, whose father was a multimillionaire with family roots going
deep among the rocks of Manhattan Island, laughed.
"Bully for you! You won't mind my saying so, Jim, but I had it in my
mind to ask you to be a bit inconsequential--especially when Doane
was around--about your taking his place. But I guess it isn't
"No,"--Deacon's voice was short--"it isn't."
"Junior Doane, of course, will be hard hit. He'll be game. He'll try
to win back his seat. And he may; I warn you."
"If he can win it back, I want him to."
"Good enough!" The captain started to walk away, then turned back
with sudden interest. "By the way, Jim, I was looking through the
college catalogue this morning. You and Doane both come from
Philadelphia, don't you?"
"I asked Doane if he knew you there. Apparently not."
"No, he didn't." Deacon paused as though deliberating. Suddenly he
spoke. "I knew of him, though. You see, my father works in the bank
of which Mr. Doane is president."
"Oh!" Rollins blinked. "I see."
Deacon stepped forward, placing his hand upon the captain's arm.
"I don't know why I told you that. It isn't important at all. Don't
say anything to Doane, will you? Not that I care. It--it just isn't
"No. I get you, Jim. It isn't important." He flung an arm over the
young man's shoulder. "Let's go back to dinner. That rotten time-row
has given me an appetite."
There was that quiet in the Baliol dining room that evening which
one might expect to find after an unsatisfactory time-trial. Nations
might be falling, cities burning, important men dying; to these boys
such events would be as nothing in the face of the fact that the
crew of a traditional rival was to be met within the week--and that
they were not proving themselves equipped for the meeting.
"If any of you fellows wish to motor down to the Groton Hotel on the
Point for an hour or two, you may go," said the coach, pushing back
his chair. He had begun to fear that his charges might be coming to
too fine a point of condition and had decided that the relaxation of
a bit of dancing might do no harm.
"Yeaa!" In an instant that subdued dining apartment was tumultuous
with vocal outcry, drawing to the doorway a crowd of curious freshmen
who were finishing dinner in their room.
"All right!" Dr. Nicholls grinned. "I gather all you varsity and
second varsity men want to go. I'll have the big launch ready at
eight. And--oh, Dick Rollins, don't forget; that boat leaves the
hotel dock at ten-forty-five precisely."
"Got you sir. Come on, fellows. Look out, you freshmen." With a yell
and a dive the oarsmen went through the doors.
Deacon followed at a more leisurely gait with that faint gleam of
amusement in his eyes which was so characteristic. His first impulse
was not to go, but upon second thought he decided that he would.
Jane Bostwick was stopping at the Groton. Her father was a successful
promoter and very close to Cephas Doane, Sr., whose bank stood back
of most of his operations. Deacon had known her rather well in the
days when her father was not a successful promoter. In fact, the two
had been neighbours as boy and girl, had played together in front of
a row of prim brick houses. He had not seen her in recent years until
the previous afternoon, when as he was walking along the country road,
she had pulled up in her roadster.
"Don't pretend you don't remember me, Jim Deacon," she had laughed
as the boy had stared at the stunning young woman.
Jim remembered her, all right. They talked as though so many
significant years had not elapsed. She was greatly interested,
"Do you know," she said, "it never occurred to me that Deacon, the
Baliol rowing man, was none other than Jim Deacon. Silly of me,
wasn't it? But then I didn't even know you were in Baliol. I'm
perfectly crazy about the crew, you know. And Mother, I think, is a
worse fan than I am. You know Junior Doane, of course."
"Oh, yes--that is, I--why, yes, I know him."
"Yes." She smiled down upon him. "If you're ever down to the Groton,
do drop in. Mother would love to see you. She often speaks of your
mother." With a wave of her hand she had sped on her way.
Curiously, that evening he had heard Doane talking to her over the
telephone, and there was a great deal in his manner of speaking that
indicated something more than mere acquaintance.
But Deacon did not see Jane Bostwick at the hotel--not to speak to,
at least. He was not a good dancer and held aloof when those of his
fellows who were not acquainted with guests were introduced around.
Finding a wicker settee among some palms at one side of the orchestra,
Deacon sat drinking in the scene.
It was not until the hour set for the return had almost arrived that
Deacon saw Jane Bostwick, and then his attention was directed to her
by her appearance with Junior Doane in one of the open French
windows at his right. Evidently the two had spent the evening in the
sequestered darkness of the veranda. No pair in the room filled the
eye so gratefully; the girl, tall, blonde, striking in a pale blue
evening gown; the man, broad-shouldered, trim-waisted, with the
handsome high-held head of a patrician.
A wave of something akin to bitterness passed over Deacon--bitterness
having nothing to do with self. For the boy was ruggedly independent.
He believed in himself; knew what he was going to do in the world.
He was thinking of his father, and of the fathers of that young man
and girl before him. His father was painstaking, honourable,
considerate--a nobleman every inch of him; a man who deserved
everything that the world had to give, a man who had everything save
the quality of acquisition. And Doane's father? And Jane Bostwick's
Of the elder Doane he knew by hearsay--a proud, intolerant wholly
worldly man whose passions, aside from finance, were his son and
Baliol aquatics. And Jane Bostwick's father he had known as a boy--a
soft-footed, sly-faced velvety sort of a man noted for converting
back lots into oil-fields and ash-dumps into mines yielding precious
metals. Jim Deacon was not so old that he had come to philosophy
concerning the way of the world.
But so far as his immediate world was concerned, Junior Doane was
going out of the varsity boat in the morning--and he, Jim Deacon,
was going to sit in his place.
It came the next morning. When the oarsmen went down to the boathouse
to dress for their morning row, the arrangement of the various crews
posted on the bulletin-board gave Deacon the seat at stroke in the
varsity boat; Junior Doane's name appeared at stroke in the second
There had been rumours of some sort of a shift, but no one seemed to
have considered the probability of Doane's losing his seat--Doane
least of all. For a moment the boy stood rigid, looking up at the
bulletin-board. Then suddenly he laughed.
"All right, Carry," he said, turning to the captain of the second
varsity. "Come on; we'll show 'em what a rudder looks like."
But it was not to be. In three consecutive dashes of a mile each,
the varsity boat moved with such speed as it had not shown all season.
There was life in the boat. Deacon, rowing in perfect form, passed
the stroke up forward with a kick and a bite, handling his oar with a
precision that made the eye of the coach glisten. And when the
nervous little coxswain called for a rousing ten strokes, the shell
seemed fairly to lift out of the water.
In the last mile dash Dr. Nicholls surreptitiously took his
stop-watch from his pocket and timed the sprint. When he replaced
the timepiece, the lines of care which had seamed his face for the
past few days vanished.
"All right, boys. Paddle in. Day after to-morrow we'll hold the
final time-trial. Deacon, be careful; occasionally you clip your
stroke at the finish."
But Deacon didn't mind the admonition. He knew the coach's policy of
not letting a man think he was too good.
"You certainly bucked up that crew to-day, Deacon." Jim Deacon, who
had been lying at full length on the turf at the top of the bluff
watching the shadows creep over the purpling waters of the river,
looked up to see Doane standing over him. His first emotion was one
of triumph. Doane, the son of Cephas Doane, his father's employer,
had definitely noticed him at last. Then the dominant emotion
came--one of sympathy.
"Well, the second crew moved better too."
"Oh, I worked like a dog." Doane laughed. "Of course you know I'm
going to get my place back, if I can."
"Of course." Deacon plucked a blade of grass and placed it in his
mouth. There was rather a constrained silence for a moment.
"I didn't know you came from my city, Deacon. I--Jane Bostwick told
me about you last night."
"I see. I used to know her." Inwardly Deacon cursed his natural
inability to converse easily, partly fearing that Doane would
mistake his reticence for embarrassment in his presence, or on the
other hand set him down as churlish and ill bred.
For his part Doane seemed a bit ill at ease.
"I didn't know, of course, anything Jane told me. If I had, of course,
I'd have looked you up more at the college."
"We're both busy there in our different ways."
Doane stood awkwardly for a moment and then walked away, not knowing
that however he may have felt about the conversation, he had at
least increased his stature in the mind of Jim Deacon.
Next day on the river Junior Doane's desperation at the outset
brought upon his head the criticism of the coach.
"Doane! Doane! You're rushing your slide. Finish out your stroke,
for heaven's sake."
Deacon, watching the oarsman's face, saw it grow rigid, saw his
mouth set. Well he knew the little tragedy through which Doane was
Doane did better after that. The second boat gave the varsity some
sharp brushes while the coxswains barked and the coach shouted
staccato objurgation and comment through his megaphone, and the
rival oarsmen swung backward and forward in the expenditure of
ultimate power and drive.
But Jim Deacon was the man for varsity stroke. There was not the
least doubt about that. The coach could see it; the varsity could
feel it; but of them all Deacon alone knew why. He knew that Doane
was practically as strong an oar as he was, certainly as finished.
And Doane's experience was greater. The difficulty as Deacon grasped
it was that the boy had not employed all the material of his
experience. The coxswain, Seagraves, was a snappy little chap, with
an excellent opinion of his head. But Deacon had doubts as to his
racing sense. He could shoot ginger into his men, could lash them
along with a fine rhythm, but in negotiating a hard-fought race he
had his shortcomings. At least so Deacon had decided in the brushes
against the varsity shell when he was stroking the second varsity.
Deacon thanked no coxswain to tell him how to row a race, when to
sprint, when to dog along at a steady, swinging thirty; nor did he
require advice on the pacing and general condition of a rival crew.
As he swung forward for the catch, his practice was to turn his head
slightly to one side, chin along the shoulder, thus gaining through
the tail of his eye a glimpse of any boat that happened to be abeam,
slightly ahead or slightly astern. This glance told him everything
he wished to know. The coach did not know the reason for this
peculiarity in Deacon's style, but since it did not affect his rowing,
he very wisely said nothing. To his mind the varsity boat had at
last begun to arrive, and this was no time for minor points.
Two days before the Shelburne race the Baliol varsity in its final
time-trial came within ten seconds of equalling the lowest
downstream trial-record ever established--a record made by a
Shelburne eight of the early eighties. There was no doubt in the
mind of any one about the Baliol crew quarters that Deacon would be
the man to set the pace for his university in the supreme test
News of Baliol's improved form began to be disseminated in the daily
press by qualified observers of rowing form who were beginning to
flock to the scene of the regatta from New York, Philadelphia, and
various New England cities. Dr. Nicholls was reticent, but no one
could say that his demeanour was marked by gloom. Perhaps his
optimism would have been more marked had the information he
possessed concerning Shelburne been less disturbing. As a fact there
was every indication that the rival university would be represented
by one of the best crews in her history--which was to say a very
great deal. In truth, Baliol rowing enthusiasts had not seen their
shell cross the line ahead of a Shelburne varsity boat in three
consecutive years, a depressing state of affairs which in the
present season had filled every Baliol rowing man with grim
determination and the graduates with alternate hope and despair.
"Jim," said the coach, drawing Deacon from the float upon which he
had been standing, watching the antics of a crew of former Baliol
oarsmen who had come from far and wide to row the mile race of
"Gentlemen's Eights" which annually marked the afternoon preceding
the classic regatta day, "Jim, you're not worried at all, are you?
You're such a quiet sort of a chap, I can't seem to get you."
Deacon smiled faintly.
"No, I'm not worried--not a bit, sir. I mean I'm going to do my best,
and if that's good enough, why--well, we win."
"I want you to do more than your best to-morrow, Jim. It's got to be
a super-effort. You're up against a great Shelburne crew, the
greatest I ever saw--that means twelve years back. I wouldn't talk
to every man this way, but I think you're a stroke who can stand
responsibility. I think you're a man who can work the better when he
knows the size of his job. It's a big one, boy--the biggest I've
The coach studied him a minute.
"How do you feel about beating Shelburne? What I mean," he went on as
the oarsman regarded him, puzzled, "is, would it break your heart to
lose? Is the thought of being beaten so serious that you can't--that
you won't consider it?"
"No sir, I won't consider it. I don't go into anything without
wanting to come out ahead. I've worked three years to get into the
varsity. I realize the position you've given me will help me, make
me stand out after graduation, mean almost as much as my
diploma--provided we can win."
"What about Baliol? Do you think of the college, too, and what a
victory will mean to her? What defeat will mean?"
"Oh," Deacon shrugged; "of course," he went on a bit carelessly,
"we want to see Baliol on top as often----" He stopped, then broke
into a chuckle as the stroke of the gentlemen's eight suddenly
produced from the folds of his sweater a bottle from which he drank
with dramatic unction while his fellow-oarsmen clamoured to share
the libation and the coxswain abused them all roundly.
The eyes of the coach never left the young man's face. But he said
nothing while Deacon took his fill of enjoyment of the jovial scene,
apparently forgetting the sentence which he had broken in the middle.
But that evening something of the coach's meaning came to Deacon as
he sat on a rustic bench watching the colours fade from one of those
sunset skies which have ever in the hearts of rowing men who have
ever spent a hallowed June on the heights of that broad placid stream.
The Baliol graduates had lost their race against the gentlemen of
Shelburne, having rowed just a bit worse than their rivals. And now
the two crews were celebrating their revival of the ways of youth
with a dinner provided by the defeated eight. Their laughter and
their songs went out through the twilight and were lost in the
recesses of the river. One song with a haunting melody caught
Deacon's attention; he listened to get the words.
Then raise the rosy goblet high,
The senior's chalice and belie
The tongues that trouble and defile,
For we have yet a little while
To linger, you and youth and I,
In college days.
A group of oarsmen down on the lawn caught up the song and sent it
winging through the twilight, soberly, impressively, with
ever-surging harmony. College days! For a moment a dim light burned
in the back of his mind. It went out suddenly. Jim Deacon shrugged
and thought of the morrow's race. It was good to know he was going
to be a part of it. He could feel the gathering of enthusiasm,
exhilaration in the atmosphere--pent-up emotion which on the morrow
would burst like a thunderclap. In the quaint city five miles down
the river hotels were filling with the vanguard of the boat-race
throng--boys fresh from the poetry of Commencement; their older
brothers, their fathers, their grandfathers, living again the thrill
of youth and the things thereof. And mothers and sisters and
sweethearts! Deacon's nerves tingled pleasantly in response to the
glamour of the hour.
"Oh, Jim Deacon!"
"Hello!" Deacon turned his face toward the building whence the voice
"Somebody wants to see you on the road by the bridge over the
"See me? All right."
Filled with wonder, Deacon walked leisurely out of the yard and then
reaching the road, followed in the wake of an urchin of the
neighbourhood who had brought the summons, and could tell Deacon
only that it was some one in an automobile.
It was, in fact, Jane Bostwick.
"Jump up here in the car, won't you, Jim?" Her voice was somewhat
tense. "No, I'm not going to drive," she added as Deacon hesitated.
"We can talk better."
"Have you heard from your father lately?" she asked as the young man
sprang into the seat at her side.
"No, not in a week. Why, is there anything the matter with him?"
"Of course not." She touched him lightly upon the arm. "You knew that
Mr. Bell, cashier of the National Penn Bank, had died?"
"No. Is that so! That's too bad." Then suddenly Deacon sat erect.
"By George! Father is one of the assistant cashiers there. I wonder
if he'll be promoted." He turned upon the girl. "Is that what you
wanted to tell me?"
She waited a bit before replying.
"No--not exactly that."
"Not exactly----What do you mean?"
"Do you know how keen Mr. Doane, I mean Junior's father is on rowing?
Well,"--as Deacon nodded,--"have you thought how he might feel
toward the father of the man who is going to sit in his son's seat
in the race to-morrow? Would it make him keen to put that father in
Mr. Bell's place?"
Deacon's exclamation was sharp.
"Who asked you to put that thought in my mind?"
"Ah!" Her hand went out, lying upon his arm. "I was afraid you were
going to take it that way. Mother was talking this afternoon. I
thought you should know. As for Junior Doane, I'm frank to admit I'm
awfully keen about him. But that isn't why I came here. I remember
how close you and your father used to be. I--I thought perhaps you'd
thank me, if--if----"
"What you mean is that because I have beaten Doane out for stroke,
his father may be sore and not promote my father at the bank."
"There's no 'may' about it. Mr. Doane will be sore. He'll be sore at
Junior, of course. But he'll be sore secretly at you, and where
there is a question of choice of cashier between _your_ father and
another man--even though the other man has not been so long in the
bank--how do you think his mind will work; I mean, if you lose? Of
course, if you can win, then I am sure everything will be all right.
"If I can win! What difference would that----" He stopped suddenly.
"I've caught what you mean." He laughed bitterly. "Parental jealousy.
All right! All right!"
"Jim, I don't want you----"
"Don't bother. I've heard all I can stand, Jane. Thank you." He
lurched out of the car and hurried away.
She called him. No answer. Waiting a moment, the girl sighed,
touched the self-starter and drove away.
Deacon had no idea of any lapse of time between the departure of the
car and himself in his cot prepared for sleep--with, however, no
idea that sleep would come. His mood was pitiable. His mind was a
mass of whirling thoughts in the midst of which he could recognize
pictures of his boyhood, a little boy doing many things--with a hand
always tucked within the fingers of a great big man who knew
everything, who could do everything, who could always explain all the
mysteries of the big, strange, booming world. There were many such
pictures, pictures not only relating to boyhood, but to his own
struggle at Baliol, to the placid little home in Philadelphia and
all that it had meant, all that it still meant, to his father, to
his mother, to him, Any act of his that would bring sorrow or dismay
or the burden of defeated hope to that home!
But on the other hand, the morrow was to bring him the crown of
toilsome years, was to make his name one to conjure with wherever
Baliol was loved or known. He knew what the varsity _cachet_ would
do for his prospects in the world. And after all, he had his own
life to live, had he not? Would not the selfish, or rather the
rigorous, settlement of this problem, be for the best in the end,
since his making good would simply be making good for his father and
his mother? But how about his father's chance for making good on his
A comrade in the cot adjoining heard a groan.
"Eh! Are you sick, Deacon? Are you all right?"
"Sure--dreaming," came the muffled reply.
There was something unreal to Deacon about the morning. The sunlight
was filled with sinister glow; the voices of the rowing men were
strange; the whole environment seemed to have changed. It was
difficult for Jim Deacon to look upon the bronzed faces of the
fellows about the breakfast table, upon the coach with his stiff
moustache and glittering eyeglasses--difficult to look upon them and
realize that within a few hours his name would be anathema to them,
that forever where loyal men of Baliol gather he would be an outcast,
That was what he would be--an outcast. For he had come to his
decision: Just what he would do he did not know. He did not know
that he would not stroke the Baliol varsity. Out of all the welter
of thought and travail had been resolved one dominant idea. His
father came first: there was no evading it. With all the
consequences that would follow the execution of his decision he was
familiar. He had come now to know what Baliol meant to him as a
place not only of education, but a place to be loved, honoured,
revered. He knew what his future might be. But--his father came first.
Arising from the breakfast-table, he spoke to but one man, Junior
"Doane," he said, drawing him to one side, "you will row at stroke
The man stared at him. "Are you crazy, Deacon?"
"No, not crazy. I'm not feeling well; that's all."
"But look here, Deacon--you want to see the coach. You're off your
head or something. Wait here, just a minute." As Doane hurried away
in search of Dr. Nicholls, Deacon turned blindly through the yard
and so out to the main road leading to a picturesque little river
city about nine miles up the stream.
June was at her loveliest in this lovable country with its walled
fields, its serene uplands and glowing pastures, its lush river
meadows and wayside flowers. But of all this Deacon marked nothing
as with head down he tramped along with swift, dogged stride. Up the
river three or four miles farther on was the little city of which he
had so often heard but never seen, the little city of Norton, so
like certain English river-cities according to a veteran Oxford
oarsman who had visited the Baliol quarters the previous season.
Deacon had an interest in strange places; he had an eye for the
picturesque and the colourful. He would wander about the place,
filling his mind with impressions. He had always wanted to go to
Norton; it had seemed like a dream city to him.
He was in fact striding along in the middle of the road when the
horn of a motorcar coming close behind startled him. As he turned,
the vehicle sped up to his side and then stopped with a grinding of
Dr. Nicholls, the coach, rose to his full height in the roadster and
glared down at Deacon, while Junior Doane, who had been driving,
stared fixedly over the wheel. The coach's voice was merely a series
of profane roars. He had ample lungs, and the things he said seemed
to echo far and wide. His stentorian anger afforded so material a
contrast to the placid environment that Deacon stood dazed under the
vocal avalanche, hearing but a blur of objurgation.
"Eh?" He paused as Junior Doane placed an admonishing hand upon his
"I beg your pardon, Doctor; but I don't think that is the right way.
May I say something to Deacon?"
The coach, out of breath, nodded and gestured, sinking into his seat.
"Look here, Jim Deacon, we've come to take you back. You can't buck
out the race this way, you know. It isn't done. Now, wait a minute!"
he cried sharply as the boy in the road made to speak. "I know why
you ran away. Jane Bostwick called me up and told me everything. She
hadn't realized quite what she was doing----"
"She--she bungled everything."
"Bungled! What do you mean, Dr. Nicholls?"
"Nothing--nothing! You young idiot, don't you realize you're trying
to kill yourself for life? Jump into the car."
"I'm not going to row." Deacon's eyes smoldered upon the two.
Studying him a moment, Dr. Nicholls suddenly grasped the seriousness
of Deacon's mood. He leaped from the car and walked up to him,
placing a hand upon his shoulder.
"Look here, my boy: You've let a false ideal run away with you. Do
you realize that some twenty-five thousand people throughout this
country are having their interests tossed away by you? You represent
them. They didn't ask you to. You came out for the crew and worked
until you won a place for yourself, a place no one but you can fill.
There are men, there are families on this riverside to-day, who have
traveled from San Francisco, from all parts of the country, to see
Baliol at her best. There are thousands who have the right to ask us
that Shelburne is not permitted to win this afternoon. Do you
realize your respons----"
Deacon raised his hand.
"I've heard it said often, Dr. Nicholls, that any one who gets in
Cephas Doane's way gets crushed. I'm not afraid of him, nor of any
one else, on my own account; but I'm afraid of him because of my
father. My father is getting to be an old man. Do you think I am
going to do anyth----" Deacon's voice, which had been gathering in
intensity, broke suddenly. He couldn't go on.
"Jim Deacon!" There was a note of exhilaration in Junior Doane's
voice. He hastily climbed out of the car and joined the coach at
Deacon's side. "I'm not going to defend my father now. No one knows
him as I do; no one knows as I do the great big stuff that is in him.
He and I have always been close, and----"
"Then you know how he'd feel about any one who took your place in
the boat. He can't hurt me. But he can break my father's heart----"
"Deacon, is that the opinion you have of my father!"
"Tell me the truth, Doane; is there the chance under the conditions
that with a choice between two men in the bank he might fail to see
Father? Isn't it human nature for a man as dominant and strong as he
is, who has always had or got most of the things he wants, to feel
"Perhaps. But not if you can win out against Shelburne. Can't you
see your chance, Deacon? Go in and beat Shelburne; Father'll be so
glad he'll fall off the observation-train. You know how he hates
Shelburne. Any soreness he has about my missing out at stroke will
be directed at me--and it won't be soreness, merely regret. Don't you
"And if we lose----"
"If we lose, there's the chance that we're all in the soup."
"I'm not, if I keep out of this thing----"
"If we lose with _me_ at stroke, do you suppose it will help you or
any one related to you with my father when he learns that Baliol
_would probably have won with you stroking_?
"My Lord, Jim Deacon," Doane went on as the other did not reply,
"do you suppose this is any fun for me, arguing with you to swing an
oar this afternoon when I would give my heart's blood to swing it in
"Why do you do it, then?"
"Why do I do it? Because I love Baliol. Because her interests stand
above mine. Because more than anything I want to see her win. I
didn't feel this way when you beat me out for stroke. I'll admit it.
I didn't show my feelings, but I was thinking of nothing but my
"Just a minute, Jim. I didn't realize the bigness of the thing,
didn't appreciate that what I wanted to do didn't count for a damn.
Baliol, only Baliol! It all came to me when you bucked out. Baliol
is all that counts, Jim. If I can help her win by rooting from the
observation-car, all right! But--don't think it's any fun for me
urging you to come back and row. For I wanted to row this race, old
Doane's voice faltered. "But I can't; that's all. Baliol needs a
better man--needs you. As for you, you've no right to consider
anything else. You go in--and win."
"Win!" Jim Deacon stood in the road, rigid, his voice falling to a
whisper. "Win!" Into his eyes came a vacant expression. For a moment
the group stood in the middle of the road as though transfixed. Then
the coach placed his hand upon Deacon's arm, gently.
"Come Jim," he said.
The afternoon had gone silently on. Jim Deacon sat on the veranda of
the crew-quarters, his eyes fixed upon the river. Some of the crew
were trying to read; others lounged about talking in low voices.
Occasionally the referee's launch would appear off the float, the
official exchanging some words with the coach while the oarsmen
watched eagerly. Then the launch would turn and disappear.
"Too rough yet, boys. They're going to postpone another hour." Twice
had the coach brought this word to the group of pent-up young men
who in a manner of speaking were sharing the emotions of the
condemned awaiting the executioner's summons. Would the up-river
breeze never subside and give them conditions that would be
satisfactory to the meticulous referee?
Deacon lurched heavily in his seat.
"What difference does it make so long as the shells won't sink?" he
"We're ready," replied Dick Rollins. "It's Shelburne holding things
up; she wants smooth water, of course. It suits me, though. Things
will soften up by sunset."
"Sunset!" Deacon scowled at the western skies. "Well, sunset isn't
so far off as it was."
Word came, as a matter of fact, shortly after five o'clock. The coach,
with solemn face, came up to the cottage, bringing the summons.
After that for a little while Jim Deacon passed through a series of
vague impressions rather than living experience. There was the swift
changing of clothes in the cavernous boathouse, the bearing of the
boat high overhead to the edge of the float, the splash as it was
lowered into the water. Mechanically he leaned forward to lace the
stretcher-shoes, letting the handle of his oar rest against his
stomach; mechanically he tried to slide, tested the oarlock.
Then some one gripped the blade of his oar, pushing gently outward.
The shell floated gingerly out into the stream.
"Starboard oars, paddle." Responsive to the coxswain's sharp command
Deacon plied his blade, and in the act there came to him clarity of
perception. He was out here to win, to win not only for Baliol, but
for himself, for his father. There could be no thought of not winning;
the imminence of the supreme test had served to fill him with the
consciousness of indomitable strength, to thrill his muscles with
the call for tremendous action.
As the shell swept around a point of land, a volume of sound rolled
across the waters. Out of the corner of his eye he caught view of
the long observation-train, vibrant with animation, the rival
colours commingled so that all emblem of collegiate affiliation was
lost in a merger of quivering hue. A hill near the starting-line on
the other side of the river was black with spectators, who indeed
filled points of vantage all down the four miles of the course. The
clouds above the western hills were turning crimson; the waters had
deepened to purple and were still and silent.
"There, you hell-dogs!" The voice of the coxswain rasped in its
combativeness. "Out there is Shelburne; ahead of us at the line. Who
says it'll be the last time she'll be ahead of us?"
Along the beautiful line of brown, swinging bodies went a low growl,
a more vicious rattle of the oarlocks.
Suddenly as Jim Deacon swung forward, a moored skiff swept past his
blade, the starting-line.
"Weigh all." The coxswain's command was immediately followed by
others designed to work the boat back to proper starting-position.
Deacon could easily see the Shelburne crew now--big men all, ideal
oarsmen to look at. Their faces were set and grim, their eyes
straight ahead. So far as they gave indication, their shell might
have been alone on the river. Now the Baliol shell had made sternway
sufficient for the man in the skiff to seize the rudder. The
Shelburne boat was already secured. Astern hovered the referee's boat,
the official standing in the bow directing operations. Still astern
was a larger craft filled with favoured representatives of the two
colleges, the rival coaches, the crew-managers and the like.
"Are you all ready, Baliol?"
"Yes, sir." Deacon, leaning forward, felt his arms grow tense.
"Are you all ready, Shelburne?"
The affirmative was followed by the sharp report of a pistol. With a
snap of his wrist Deacon beveled his oar, which bit cleanly into the
water and pulled. There followed an interval of hectic stroking,
oars in and out of the water as fast as could be done, while spray
rose in clouds and the coxswain screamed the measure of the beat.
"Fine, Baliol." The coxswain's voice went past Deacon's ear like a
bullet. "Both away together and now a little ahead at forty-two to
the minute. But down now. Down--down--down--down! That's
it--thirty-two to the minute. It's a long race, remember.
Shelburne's dropping the beat, too. You listen to Papa, all of you;
he'll keep you wise. Number three, for God's sake don't lift all the
water in the river up on your blade at the finish. Shelburne's
hitting it up a bit. Make it thirty-four."
"Not yet." Deacon scowled at the tense little coxswain. "I'll do the
timing." Chick Seagraves nodded.
Swinging forward to the catch, his chin turned against his shoulder,
Deacon studied the rival crew which with the half-mile flags
flashing by had attained a lead of some ten feet. Their blades were
biting the water hardly fifty feet from the end of his blade, the
naked brown bodies moving back and forth in perfect rhythm and with
undeniable power registered in the snap of the legs on the
stretchers and the pull of the arms. Deacon's eyes swept the face of
the Shelburne coxswain; it was composed. He glanced at the stroke.
The work, apparently, was costing him nothing.
"They're up to thirty-four," cried Seagraves as the mile flags drew
"They're jockeying us, Chick. We'll show our fire when we get ready.
Let 'em rave."
Vaguely there came to Deacon a sound from the river-bank--Shelburne
enthusiasts acclaiming a lead of a neat half a length.
"Too much--too much." Deacon shook his head. Either Shelburne was
setting out to row her rival down at the start, or else, as Deacon
suspected, she was trying to smoke Baliol out, to learn at an early
juncture just what mettle was in the rival boat. A game,
stout-hearted, confident crew will always do this, it being the part
of good racing policy to make a rival know fear as early as possible.
And Shelburne believed in herself, beyond any question of doubt.
And whether she was faking, or since Baliol could not afford to let
the bid go unanswered, a lead of a quarter of a length at the mile
had to be challenged:
"Give 'em ten at thirty-six!" Deacon's voice was thick with
gathering effort. "Talk it up, Chick."
From the coxswain's throat issued a machine-gun fusillade of
"Ten, boys! A rouser now. Ten! Come on. One--two--three--four--oh,
boy! Are we walking! Five--six--are they anchored over there?
Seven--oh, you big brown babies! Eight--Shelburne, good
Deacon, driving backward and forward with fiery intensity, feeling
within him the strength of some huge propulsive machine, was getting
his first real thrill of conflict--the thrill not only of actual
competition, but of all it meant to him, personally: his father's
well-being, his own career--everything was merged in a luminous
background of emotion for which that glittering oar he held was the
Shelburne had met the spurt, but the drive of the Baliol boat was
not to be denied. Gradually the two prows came abreast, and then
Deacon, not stopping at the call of ten, but fairly carrying the
crew along with him, swung on with undiminished ferocity, while
Seagraves' voice rose into a shrill crescendo of triumph as Baliol
forged to the lead.
"They know a little now." Deacon's voice was a growl as gradually he
reduced the beat to thirty-two, Shelburne already having diminished
Deacon studied them. They were rowing along steadily, the eyes of
their coxswain turned curiously upon the Baliol shell. He suspected
the little man would like nothing better than to have Baliol break
her back to the two-mile mark and thus dig a watery grave. He
suspected also, that, failing Baliol's willingness to do this, the
test would now be forced upon her. For Shelburne was a heavy crew
with all sorts of staying power. What Deacon had to keep in mind was
that his eight was not so rugged and had therefore to be nursed along,
conserving energy wherever possible.
It was in the third mile that the battle of wits and judgment had to
be carried to conclusion, the fourth mile lurking as a mere matter
of staying power and ability to stand the gaff. Deacon's idea was
that at present his crew was leading because Shelburne was not
unwilling for the present that this should be. How true this was
became evident after the two-mile flags had passed, when the
Shelburne oarsmen began to lay to their strokes with tremendous drive,
the boat creeping foot by foot upon the rival shell until the Baliol
lead had been overcome and Shelburne herself swept to the fore.
Deacon raised the stroke slightly, to thirty-three, but soon dropped
to thirty-two, watching Shelburne carefully lest she make a
runaway then and there. Baliol was half a length astern at the
two-and-a-half mile mark, passing which the Shelburne crew gave
themselves up to a tremendous effort to kill off her rival then and
"Jim! They're doing thirty-six--walking away."
The coxswain's face was white and drawn.
But Deacon continued to pass up a thirty-two stroke while the
Shelburne boat slid gradually away until at the three-mile mark
there was a foot of clear water between its rudder and the prow of
the Baliol shell.
Deacon glanced at the coxswain. A mile to go--one deadly mile.
"Thirty-six," he said. "Shelburne's can't have much more left."
The time had passed for study now. Gritting his teeth, Deacon bent
to his work, his eyes fixed upon the swaying body of the coxswain,
whose sharp staccato voice snapped out the measure; the beat of the
oars in the locks came as one sound.
"Right, boys! Up we come. Bully--bully--bully! Half a length now. Do
you hear? Half a length! Give me a quarter, boys. Eh, Godfrey! We've
got it. Now up and at 'em, Baliol. Oh, you hell-dogs!"
As in a dream Deacon saw the Shelburne boat drift into view, saw the
various oarsmen slide past until he and the rival stroke were rowing
"That's for you, Dad," he muttered--and smiled.
He saw the men swing with quickened rhythm, saw the spray fly like
bullets from the Shelburne blades.
"Look out." There was a note of anguish in Seagraves' voice.
"Shelburne's spurting again."
A malediction trembled upon Deacon's lips. So here was the joker
held in reserve by the rival crew! Had Baliol anything left? Had he
anything left? Grave doubt was mounting in his soul. Away swept the
Shelburne boat inches at a stroke until the difference in their
positions was nearly a length. Three miles and a half! Not an
observer but believed that this gruelling contest had been worked out.
Seagraves, his eyes running tears, believed it as he swung backward
and forward exhorting his men. Half a mile more! The crews were now
rowing between the anchored lines of yachts and excursion-craft. The
finish boat was in sight.
And now Deacon, exalted by something nameless, uttered a cry and
began to give to Baliol more than he really had. Surely, steadily,
he raised his stroke while his comrades, like the lion-hearts they
were, took it up and put the sanction of common authority upon it.
Thirty-four! Thirty-six! Not the spurt of physical prowess, but of
"Up we come!" Seagraves' voice was shrill like a bugle. He could see
expressions of stark fear in the faces of the rival oarsmen. They
had given all they had to give, had given enough to win almost any
race. But here in this race they had not given enough.
On came the Baliol shell with terrific impulse. Quarter of a mile;
Shelburne passed, her prow hanging doggedly on to the Baliol rudder.
Victory! Deacon's head became clear. None of the physical torture he
had felt in the past mile was now registered upon his consciousness.
No thought but that of impending victory!
"Less than a quarter of a mile, boys. In the stretch. Now--my God!"
Following the coxswain's broken exclamation, Deacon felt an
increased resistance upon his blade.
"Innis has carried away his oarlock." The eyes of the coxswain
strained upon Deacon's face.
Deacon gulped. Strangely a picture of his father filled his mind.
His face hardened.
"All right! Tell him to throw his oar away and swing with the rest.
Don't move your rudder now. Keep it straight as long as you can."
From astern the sharp eyes of the Shelburne cox had detected the
accident to Baliol's Number Six. His voice was chattering stridently.
Deacon, now doing the work practically of two men, was undergoing
torture which shortly would have one of two effects. Either he would
collapse or his spirit would carry him beyond the claims of
overtaxed physique. One stroke, two strokes, three strokes--a groan
escaped his lips. Then so far as personality, personal emotions,
personal feelings were concerned, Jim Deacon ceased to function. He
became merely part of the mechanism of a great effort, the principal
And of all those rowing men of Baliol only the coxswain saw the
Shelburne boat creeping up slowly, inexorably--eight men against
seven. For nearly a quarter of a mile the grim fight was waged.
"Ten strokes more, boys!"
The prow of the Shelburne shell was on a line with Baliol's Number
"One--two--three--four----" The bow of the Shelburne boat plunged up
abeam Baliol's bow oar.
The voice of the coxswain swept upward in a shrill scream. A gun
boomed; the air rocked with the screech and roar of whistles.
Slowly Deacon opened his eyes. Seagraves, the coxswain, was standing
up waving his megaphone. Rollins, at Number Seven, lay prone over
his oar. Innis, who had broken his oarlock, sat erect; Wallace, at
Number Five, was down. So was the bow oar. Mechanically Deacon's
hand sought the water, splashing the body of the man in front of him.
Then suddenly a mahogany launch dashed alongside. In the bow was a
large man with white moustache and florid face and burning black eyes.
His lips were drawn in a broad grin which seemed an anomaly upon the
face of Cephas Doane.
If so he immediately presented a still greater anomaly. He laughed
"Poor old Shelburne! I--George! The first in four years! I never saw
anything quite like that. We've talked of Baliol's rowing-spirit--eh!
Here, you Deacon, let me give you a hand out of the shell. We'll run
you back to quarters."
Deacon, wondering, was pulled to the launch and then suddenly
stepped back, his jaw falling, his eyes alight as a man advanced
from the stern.
"Yes," chuckled Doane. "We came up together--to celebrate."
"You mean--you mean--" Jim Deacon's voice faltered.
"Yes, I mean--" Cephas Doane stopped suddenly. "I think in justice
to my daughter-in-law to be, Jane Bostwick, that some explanation is
"Yes, sir." Deacon, his arm about his father's shoulder, stared at
"You see, Dr. Nicholls had the idea that you needed a finer edge put
on your rowing spirit. So I got Jane to cook up the story about that
cashier business at the bank."
"Yes. Of course your father was appointed. The only trouble was that
Jane, bright and clever as she is, bungled her lines."
"Bungled!" Deacon's face cleared. "That's what Dr. Nicholls said
about her on the road, the day I bucked out. I remember the word
"She bungled, yes. She was to have made it very clear that by
winning you would escape my alleged wrath--or rather, your father
would. I knew you would row hard for Baliol, but I thought you might
row superhumanly for your father."
"Well," Jim Deacon flushed, then glanced proudly at his father--
"you were right, sir--I would."
PROFESSOR TODD'S USED CAR
BY L. H. ROBBINS
From _Everybody's Magazine_
He was a meek little man with sagging frame, dim lamps and feeble
ignition. Anxiously he pressed the salesman to tell him which of us
used cars in the wareroom was the slowest and safest.
The salesman laid his hand upon me and declared soberly: "You can't
possibly go wrong on this one, Mr. Todd." To a red-haired boy he
called, "Willie, drive Mr. Todd out for a lesson."
We ran to the park and stopped beside a lawn. "Take the wheel," said
Mr. Todd demurred. "Let me watch you awhile," he pleaded. "You see,
I'm new at this sort of thing. In mechanical matters I am helpless.
I might run somebody down or crash into a tree. I--I don't feel
quite up to it to-day, so just let me ride around with you and get
used to the--the motion, as it were."
"All you need is nerve," Willie replied. "The quickest way for you
to get nerve is to grab hold here and, as it were, drive."
"Driving, they say, _does_ give a man self-confidence," our
passenger observed tremulously. "Quite recently I saw an
illustration of it. I saw an automobilist slap his wife's face while
traveling thirty miles an hour."
"They will get careless," said Willie.
Mr. Todd clasped the wheel with quivering hands and braced himself
for the ordeal.
"Set her in low till her speed's up," Willie directed. "Then wiggle
her into high."
It was too mechanical for Mr. Todd. Willie translated with scornful
particularity. Under our pupil's diffident manipulation we began to
romp through the park at the rate of one mile an hour.
Willie fretted. "Shoot her some gas," said he. "Give it to her.
Don't be a-scared." He pulled down the throttle-lever himself.
My sudden roaring was mingled with frightened outcries from Todd.
"Stop! Wait a minute! Whoa! Help!"
Fortunately for my radiator, the lamp-post into which he steered me
was poorly rooted. He looked at the wreckage of the glass globe on
the grass, and declared he had taken as much of the theory of
motoring as he could absorb in one session.
"This is the only lesson I can give you free," said Willie.
"You'd better keep on while the learning's cheap."
To free education and to compulsory education Mr. Todd pronounced
himself opposed. Cramming was harmful to the student; the elective
method was the only humane one. He put off the evil hour by engaging
Willie as a private tutor for the remaining afternoons of the month.
I have met many rabbits but only one Todd. He would visit me in the
barn and look at me in awe by the half-hour. Yet I liked him; I felt
drawn toward him in sympathy, for he and I were fellow victims of
the hauteur of Mrs. Todd.
In my travels I have never encountered a glacier. When I do run
across one I shall be reminded, I am certain, of Mr. Todd's lady.
"So you are still alive?" were her cordial words as we rolled into
the yard on the first afternoon.
"Yes, my dear." His tone was almost apologetic.
"Did he drive it?" she asked Willie.
"I'll say so, ma'am."
She looked me over coldly. When she finished, I had shrunk to the
dimensions of a wheelbarrow. When Todd sized me up in the warehouse
only an hour before, I had felt as imposing as a furniture van.
"Put it in the barn," said Mrs. Todd, "before a bird carries it off."
I began to suspect that a certain little stranger was not unanimously
welcome in that household. For a moment I was reassured, but only
for a moment.
"John Quincy Burton says," she observed, "that a little old used car
like this is sometimes a very good thing to own."
"That is encouraging," said Todd, brightening. In his relief he
explained to Willie that John Quincy Burton drove the largest car in
the neighbourhood and was therefore to be regarded as an authority.
"Yes," Mrs. Todd concluded, "he says he thinks of buying one himself
to carry in his tool-box."
Willie was an excellent teacher, though a severe disciplinarian.
But by way of amends for the rigours of the training, Willie would
take Mr. Todd after the practice hour for a spin around the park. At
those times I came to learn that the collision I had had with a
trolley-car before Todd bought me had not left me with any
constitutional defect. I still had power under my hood, and speed in
my wheels. But what good were power and speed to me now? I doubted
that Todd would ever push me beyond a crawl.
Yet I had hope, for when his relaxation from the tension of a lesson
had loosened his tongue he would chatter to Willie about
"Some day you say, I shall be able to drive without thinking?"
"Sure! You won't have to use your bean any more'n when you walk."
At nights, when no one knew, Mr. Todd would steal into the barn and,
after performing the motions of winding me up, would sit at the
wheel and make believe to drive.
"I advance the spark," he would mutter, "I release the brake, I set
the gear, and ever so gently I let in the clutch. Ha! We move, we
are off! As we gather speed I pull the gear-lever back, then over,
then forward. Now, was that right? At any rate we are going north,
let us say, in Witherspoon Street. I observe a limousine approaching
from the east in a course perpendicular to mine. It has the right of
way, Willie says, so I slip the clutch out, at the same time
checking the flow of gasoline...."
Thus in imagination he would drive; get out, crank, get in again,
and roll away in fancy, earnestly practising by the hour in the dark
and silent barn.
"I'm getting it," he would declare. "I really believe I'm getting it!"
And he got it. In his driving examination he stalled only once,
stopping dead across a trolley track in deference to a push-cart.
But he was out and in and off again in ten seconds, upbraiding me
like an old-timer.
Said the inspector, stepping out at last and surely offering a
prayer of thanks to his patron saint: "You're pretty reckless yet on
corners, my friend." But he scribbled his O.K.
The written examination in the City Hall Mr. Todd passed with high
honours. Willie, who was with us on the fateful morning, exclaimed
in admiration: "One hundred! Well, Mr. Todd, you're alive, after
all--from the neck up, at least."
In gratitude for the compliment, the glowing graduate pressed a
bonus of two dollars into the panegyrist's palm. "Willie," he exulted,
"did you hear the inspector call me reckless?"
I can scarcely think of the Todd of the succeeding weeks as the same
Todd who bought me. He changed even in looks. He would always be a
second, of course, but his frame had rigidity now, his lamps sparkled,
he gripped the wheel with purposeful hands and trampled the pedals
in the way an engine likes. In his new assurance he reminded me
strongly of a man who drove me for a too brief while in my younger
days--a rare fellow, now doing time, I believe, in the penitentiary.
No longer Todd and I needed the traffic cop's "Get on out of
there, you corn-sheller!" to push us past the busy intersection
of Broad and Main streets. We conquered our tendency to scamper
panic-stricken for the sidewalk at the raucous bark of a jitney bus.
In the winding roads of the park we learned to turn corners on two
wheels and rest the other pair for the reverse curve.
One remembered day we went for a run in the country. On a ten-mile
piece of new macadam he gave me all the gas I craved. It was the
final test, the consummation, and little old Mr. Todd was all there.
I felt so good I could have blown my radiator cap off to him.
For he was a master I could trust--and all my brother used cars,
whether manufactured or merely born, will understand what comfort
that knowledge gives a fellow. I vowed I would do anything for that
man! On that very trip, indeed, I carried him the last homeward mile
on nothing in my tank but a faint odour.
Mrs. Todd was one of those gentle souls who get their happiness in
being unhappy in the presence of their so-called loved ones. She was
perpetually displeased with Todd.
His Christian name was James, but she did not speak Christian to him.
When she hailed him from the house she called him "Jay-eems"--the
"eems" an octave higher than the "Jay."
He would drop the grease-can or the monkey-wrench to rush to her side.
"Look at your sleeves!" she would say. "Your best shirt!" Words
failing her, she would sigh and go into a silence that was worse
than words. He was a great burden to her.
Humbly he entreated her one day for an obsolete tooth-brush.
"I want to clean spark-plugs with it," he explained.
"Next," she replied, icily, "you'll be taking your little pet to the
dentist, I suppose."
From such encounters Jay-eems would creep back to the barn and seek
consolation in tinkering around me.
He liked to take the lid off my transmission-box and gaze at my
wondrous works. He was always tightening my axle-burrs, or dosing me
with kerosene through my hot-air pipe, or toying with my timer.
While he was never so smart as Willie about such things, he was
intelligent and quick to learn; and this was not surprising to me
after I discovered the nature of his occupation in life.
I had taken him to be a retired silk-worm fancier, a chronic juryman,
or something of the sort. But shiver my windshield if he wasn't a
professor in a college!
On the morning when first he dared to drive me to his work, the
college must have got wind of our coming, for the students turned
out in a body to cheer him as he steered in at the campus gate, and
the faculty gathered on the steps to shake his hand.
A bald-headed preceptor asked him if he meant to cyanide me and
mount me on a pin for preservation in the college museum. The
chancellor inquired if Todd had identified me. Todd said he had. He
said I was a perfect specimen of _Automobilum cursus gandium_, the
most beautiful species of the _Golikellece_ family. It was the
nearest he ever came to profanity in my hearing. I suppose he got it
from associating with Willie.
They demanded a speech, and he made one--about me. He said that my
name was _Hilaritas_, signifying joy. He said, among other
flattering things, that I was no common mundane contraption, though
such I might seem to the untutored eye. In their studies of the
Greek drama they had read of gods from the machine. I was a machine
from the gods. In my cylinders I consumed nectar vapour, in my
goo-cups ambrosia, in my radiator flowed the crystal waters of the
Fount of Bandusia.
Three other items of his eulogium I remember: The breath of Pan
inflated my tires, I could climb Olympus in high, and he, James Todd,
a mere professor in a college, while sitting at my wheel, would not
bare his head to Zeus himself, no, nor even to the chairman of the
college board of trustees.
His nonsense appeared to be as popular in that part of town as it
was unpopular in another. They gave the varsity yell with his name
at the end.
The day came when Mrs. Todd risked her life in our sportive company.
She made it clear to us that she went protesting. She began her
pleasantries by complaining that my doors were trivial.
Straightening her hat, she remarked that the John Quincy Burtons'
car top never took a woman's scalp off.
"But theirs is only a one-man top," Todd hinted vaguely.
"Whatever you mean by that is too deep for me," she said, adding
bitterly, "Yours is a one-boy top, I presume."
He waived the point and asked where she preferred to make her debut
as an automobilist.
"Back roads, by all means," she answered.
As we gained the street a pea-green Mammoth purred past, the
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