The Vision Splendid The Vision Spendid
William MacLeod Raine
Part 1 out of 5
This etext was prepared by Mary Starr.
THE VISION SPLENDID
by William MacLeod Raine
Of all the remote streams of influence that pour both before and
after birth into the channel of our being, what an insignificant
few--and these only the more obvious--are traceable at all. We
swim in a sea of environment and heredity, are tossed hither and
thither by we know not what cross currents of Fate, are tugged at
by a thousand eddies of which we never dream. The sum of it all
makes Life, of which we know so little and guess so much, into
which we dive so surely in those buoyant days before time and tide
have shaken confidence in our power to snatch success and
happiness from its mysterious depths.
--From the Note Book of a Dreamer.
A REBEL IN THE MAKING
The air was mellow with the warmth of the young spring sun.
Locusts whirred in rhapsody. Bluebirds throbbed their love songs
joyously. The drone of insects, the shimmer of hear, were in the
atmosphere. One could almost see green things grow. To confine
youth within four walls on such a day was an outrage against human
A lean, wiry boy, hatchet-faced, stared with dreamy eyes out of
the window of his prison. By raising himself in his seat while the
teacher was not looking he could catch a silvery gleam of the
river through the great firs. His thoughts were far afield. They
were not concerned with the capitals of the States he was supposed
to be learning, but had fared forth to the reborn earth, to the
stir and movement of creeping things. The call of nature awakening
from its long winter sleep drummed in his heart. He could
sympathize with the bluebottle buzzing against the sunny
windowpane in its efforts to reach the free world outside.
Recess! With the sound of the gong his heart leaped, but he kept
his place in the line with perfect decorum. It would never do to
be called back now for a momentary indiscretion. From the school
yard he slipped the back way and dived into a bank of great ferns.
In the heart of this he lay until the bell had called his
classmates back to work. Cautiously he crept from his hiding place
and ran down to the river.
Flinging himself on Big Rock, with his chin over the edge, he
looked into the deep holes under the bank where the trout lay
close to the strings of shiny moss, their noses to the current,
motionless save for the fanning tails.
Idly he enjoyed himself for a happy hour, letting thoughts happen
as they would. Not till the school bell rang for dismissal did he
drag himself back with a sigh to the workaday world that called.
He had a lawn to mow and a back yard to clean up for Mr. Rawson.
With his cap stuck on the back of his head and his hands in the
pockets of his patched trousers, the boy went whistling townward
on his barefoot way. At Adams Street he met the schoolchildren
bound for home. A dozen boys from his own room closed in on him
with shouts of joyous malice.
"Played hookey! Played hookey! Jeff Farnum played hookey!" they
shrilled at him.
Ned Merrill assumed leadership of the young Apaches. "You're goin'
to catch it. Old Webber was down askin' for you. Wasn't he, Tom?
Wasn't he, Dick?"
Tom and Dick lied cheerfully to increase Jeff's dread. They added
graphic details to help the story.
The victim looked around with stoicism. He remembered the
philosophy of the optimist that a licking does not last long.
"Don't care if he was down," the boy bluffed.
"Huh! Mr. Don't Care! Mr. Don't Care!" shrieked Merrill gleefully.
They made a circle around Jeff and mocked him. Once or twice a
bolder tormentor snatched at his cap or pushed a neighbor against
him. Then, with the inconstancy of youth, they suddenly deserted
him for more diverting game.
A forlorn little Italian girl was trying to slip past on the other
side of the street. Someone caught sight of her and with a whoop
the Apaches were upon her pell-mell. She began to run, but they
hemmed her in. One tugged at her braided hair. Another flipped mud
at her dress from the end of a stick. Merrill snatched her slate
and made off with it.
Jeff cut swiftly across the street. Merrill was coming directly
toward him, his head turned to the girl. Triumphant whoops broke
from his throat. He bumped into Jeff, stumbled, and went down in
Young Merrill was up in an instant, clamorous for battle. His
hands and clothes were plastered with filth.
"I'm goin' to lick the stuffin' out of you," he bellowed.
Jeff said nothing. He was very white. His fingers worked
"Yah! Yah! He's scared," the mob jeered.
Jeff was. In that circle of hostile faces he found no sympathy. He
had to stand up to the bully of the class, a boy who could have
given him fifteen pounds. Looking around for help, he saw that
none was at hand. The thin legs of the rescued Italian girl were
flashing down the street. On the steps of the big house of P. C.
Frome a six-year-old little one was standing with her nurse.
Nobody else was in sight except his cousin, James, and the
"You're goin' to get the maulin' of your life," Ned Merrill
promised as he slipped out of his coat. "Webber'll lick you if he
finds out you been fightin'," James Farnum prophesied cheerfully
to his cousin. He intended to do his duty in the way of protest
and then watch the fight.
Ned worked his wiry little foe to the fence and pummeled him. Jeff
ducked and backed out of danger. Keeping to the defensive, he was
being badly punished. Once he slipped in the mud and went down,
but he was up again before his slower antagonist could close with
him. Blood streamed from his nose. His lip was gashed. Under the
buffeting he was getting his head began to sing.
"Punch him good, Ned," one of the champion's friends advised.
"You bet he is," another chortled.
Their jeers had an unexpected effect. Jeff's fears were blotted
out by his desperate need. Some spark of the fighting edge,
inherited from his father, was fanned to a flame in the heart of
the bruised little warrior. Like a tiger cat he leaped for Ned's
throat, twisted his slim legs round the sturdy ones of his enemy,
and went down with him in a heap.
Jeff landed on the bottom, but like an eel he squirmed to the top
before the other had time to get set. The champion's patrician
head was thumped down into the mud and a knobby little fist played
a painful tattoo on his mouth and cheek.
"Take him off! Take him off!" Merrill shrieked after he had tried
in vain to roll away the incubus clamped like a vise to his body.
His henchmen ran forward to obey. An unexpected intervention
stopped them. A one-armed little man who had drifted down the
street in time to see part of the fracas pushed forward.
"I reckon not just yet. Goliath's had a turn. Now David gets his."
"Lemme up," sobbed Goliath furiously.
"Say you're whopped." Jeff's fist emphasized the suggestion.
This kind of one-sided warfare did not suit Jeff. He made as if to
get up, but his backer stopped him.
"Hold on, son. You're not through yet. When you do a job do it
thorough." To the former champion he spoke. "Had plenty yet?"
"I--I'll have him skinned," came from the tearful champion with a
burst of profanity.
"That ain't the point. Have you had enough so you'll be good? Or
do you need some more?"
"I'm goin' to tell Webber."
"Needs just a leetle more, son," the one-armed man told Jeff,
dragging at his goatee.
But young Farnum had made up his mind. With a little twist of his
body he got to his feet.
Merrill rose, tearful and sullen. "I--I'll fix you for this," he
gulped, and went sobbing toward the schoolhouse.
"Better duck," James whispered to his cousin.
Jeff shook his head.
The little man looked at the boy sharply. The eyes under his
shaggy brows were like gimlets.
"Come up to the school with me. I'll see your teacher, son."
Jeff walked beside him. He knew by the sound of the voice that his
rescuer was a Southerner and his heart warmed to him. He wanted
greatly to ask a question. Presently it plumped out.
"Was it in the war, sir?"
"I reckon I don't catch your meaning."
"That you lost your arm?" The boy added quickly, "My father was a
soldier under General Early."
The steel-gray eyes shot at him again. "I was under Early myself."
"My father was a captain--Captain Farnum," the young warrior
"Not Phil Farnum!"
"Yes, sir. Did you know him?" Jeff trembled with eagerness. His
dead soldier-father was the idol of his heart.
"Did I?" He swung Jeff round and looked at him. "You're like him,
in a way, and, by Gad! you fight like him. What's your name?"
"Jefferson Davis Farnum."
"Shake hands, Jefferson Davis Farnum, you dashed little rebel. My
name is Lucius Chunn. I was a lieutenant in your father's company
before I was promoted to one of my own."
Jeff forgot his troubles instantly. "I wish I'd been alive to go
with father to the war," he cried.
Captain Chunn was delighted. "You doggoned little rebel!"
"I didn't know we used that word in the South' sir."
Chunn tugged at his goatee and laughed. "We're not in the South,
The former Confederate asked questions to piece out his patchwork
information. He knew that Philip Farnum had come out of the war
with a constitution weakened by the hardships of the service.
Rumors had drifted to him that the taste for liquor acquired in
camp as an antidote for sickness had grown upon his comrade and
finally overcome him. From Jeff he learned that after his father's
death the widow had sold her mortgaged place and moved to the
Pacific Coast. She had invested the few hundreds left her in some
river-bottom lots at Verden and had later discovered that an
unscrupulous real estate dealer had unloaded upon her worthless
property. The patched and threadbare clothes of the boy told him
that from a worldly point of view the affairs of the Farnums were
at ebb tide.
"Did . . . did you know father very well?" Jeff asked tremulously.
Chunn looked down at the thin dark face of the boy walking beside
him and was moved to lay a hand on his shoulder. He understood the
ache in that little heart to hear about the father who was a hero
to him. Jeff was of no importance in the alien world about him.
The Captain guessed from the little scene he had witnessed that
the lad trod a friendless, stormy path. He divined, too, that the
hungry soul was fed from within by dreams and memories.
So Lucius Chunn talked. He told about the slender, soldierly
officer in gray who had given himself so freely to serve his men,
of the time he had caught pneumonia by lending his blanket to a
sick boy, of the day he had led the charge at Battle Creek and
received the wound which pained him so greatly to the hour of his
death. And Jeff drank his words in like a charmed thing. He
visualized it all, the bitter nights in camp, the long wet
marches, the trumpet call to battle. It was this last that his
imagination seized upon most eagerly. He saw the silent massing of
troops, the stealthy advance through the woods; and he heard the
blood-curdling rebel yell as the line swept forward from cover
like a tidal wave, with his father at its head.
Captain Chunn was puzzled at the coldness with which Mr. Webber
listened to his explanation of what had taken place. The school
principal fell back doggedly upon one fact. It would not have
happened if Jeff had not been playing truant. Therefore he was to
blame for what had occurred.
Nothing would be done, of course, without a thorough
The Captain was not satisfied, but he did not quite see what more
he could do.
"The boy is a son of an old comrade of mine. We were in the war
together. So of course I have to stand by Jeff," he pleaded with a
"You were in the rebel army?" The words slipped out before the
schoolmaster could stop them.
"In the Confederate army," Chunn corrected quietly.
Webber flushed at the rebuke. "That is what I meant to say."
"I leave to-morrow for Alaska. It would be pleasant to know before
I go that Jeff is out of his trouble."
"I'm afraid Jeff always will be in trouble. He is a most
insubordinate boy," the principal answered coldly.
"Are you sure you quite understand him?"
"He is not difficult to understand." Webber, resenting the
interference of the Southerner as an intrusion, disposed of the
matter in a sentence. "I'll look into this matter carefully, Mr.
Webber called immediately at the office of Edward B. Merrill,
president of the tramway company and of the First National Bank.
It happened that the vice-president of the bank was a school
director; also that the funds of the district were kept in the
First National. The schoolteacher did not admit that he had come
to ingratiate himself with the powers that ruled his future, but
he was naturally pleased to come in direct touch with such a man
The financier was urbane and spent nearly half an hour of his
valuable time with the principal. When the latter rose to go they
shook hands. The two understood each other thoroughly.
"You may depend upon me to do my duty, Mr. Merrill, painful though
such a course may be to me."
"I am very glad to have met you, Mr. Webber. It is a source of
satisfaction to me that our educational system is in the care of
men of your stamp. I leave this matter with confidence entirely in
your hands. Do what you think best."
His confidence was justified. After school opened next morning
Jeff was called up and publicly thrashed for playing truant. As a
prelude to the corporal punishment the principal delivered a
lecture. He alluded to the details of the fight gravely, with
selective discrimination, giving young Farnum to understand that
he had reached the end of his rope. If any more such brutal
affairs were reported to him he would be punished severely.
The boy took the flogging in silence. He had learned to set his
teeth and take punishment without whimpering. From the hardest
whipping Webber had ever given he went to his seat with a white,
set face that stared straight in front of him. Young as he was, he
knew it had not been fair and his outraged soul cried out at the
injustice of it. The principal had seized upon the truancy as an
excuse to let him escape from an investigation of the cause of the
fight. Ned Merrill got off because his father was a rich man and
powerful in the city. He, Jeff, was whipped because he was an
outcast and had dared lift his hand against one of his betters.
And there was no redress. It was simply the way of the world.
Jeff and his mother were down that afternoon to see their new
friend off in the _City of Skook._ Captain Chunn found a chance to
draw the boy aside for a question.
"Is it all right with Mr. Webber? What did he do?"
"Oh, he gave me a jawing," the boy answered.
The little man nodded. "I reckoned that was what he would do. Be a
good boy, Jeff. I never knew a man more honorable than your
father. Run straight, son."
"Yes, sir," the lad promised, a lump in his throat.
It was more than ten years before he saw Captain Chunn again.
As an urchin Jeff had taken things as they came without
understanding causes. Thoughts had come to him in flashes, without
any orderly sequence, often illogically. As a gangling boy he
still took for granted the hard knocks of a world he did not
attempt to synthesize.
Even his mother looked upon him as "queer." She worried
plaintively because he was so careless about his clothes and
because his fondness for the outdoors sometimes led him to play
truant. Constantly she set before him as a model his cousin,
James, who was a good-looking boy, polite, always well dressed,
with a shrewd idea of how to get along easily.
"Why can't you be like Cousin James? He isn't always in trouble,"
she would urge in her tired way.
It was quite true that the younger cousin was more of a general
favorite than harum-scarum Jeff, but the mother might as well have
asked her boy to be like Socrates. It was not that he could not
learn or that he did not want to study. He simply did not fit into
the school groove. Its routine of work and discipline, its
tendency to stifle individuality, to run all children through the
same hopper like grist through a mill, put a clamp upon his
spirits and his imagination. Even thus early he was a rebel.
Jeff scrambled up through the grades in haphazard fashion until he
reached the seventh. Here his teacher made a discovery. She was a
faded little woman of fifty, but she had that loving insight to
which all children respond. Under her guidance for one year the
boy blossomed. His odd literary fancy for Don Quixote, for Scott's
poems and romances she encouraged, quietly eliminating the dime
novels he had read indiscriminately with these. She broke through
the shell of his shyness to find out that his diffidence was not
sulkiness nor his independence impudence.
The boy was a dreamer. He lived largely in a world of his own,
where Quentin Durward and Philip Farnum and Robert E. Lee were
enshrined as heroes. From it he would emerge all hot for action,
for adventure. Into his games then he would throw a poetic
imagination that transfigured them. Outwardly he lived merely in
that boys' world made to his hand. He adopted its shibboleths,
fought when he must, went through the annual routine of marbles,
tops, kites, hop scotch, and baseball. From his fellows he guarded
jealously the knowledge of even the existence of his secret world
His progress through the grades and the high school was
intermittent. Often he had to stop for months at a time to earn
money for their living. In turn he was newsboy, bootblack, and
messenger boy. He drove a delivery wagon for a grocer, ushered at
a theater, was even a copyholder in the proofroom of a newspaper.
Hard work kept him thin, but he was like a lath for toughness.
Seven weeks after he was graduated from the high school his mother
died. The day of the funeral a real estate dealer called to offer
three, hundred dollars for the lots in the river bottom bought
some years earlier by Mrs. Farnum.
Jeff put the man off. It was too late now to do his mother any
good. She had had to struggle to the last for the bread she ate.
He wondered why the good things in life were so unevenly
Twice during the next week Jeff was approached with offers for his
lots. The boy was no fool.
He found out that the land was wanted by a new railroad pushing
into Verden. Within three days he had sold direct to the agent of
the company for nine hundred dollars. With what he could earn on
the side and in his summers he thought that sum would take him
I wonder if Morgan, the Pirate,
When plunder had glutted his heart,
Gave part of the junk from the ships he had sunk
To help some Museum of Art;
If he gave up the role of "collector of toll"
And became a Collector of Art?
I wonder if Genghis, the Butcher,
When he'd trampled down nations like grass,
Retired with his share when he'd lost all his hair
And started a Sunday-school class;
If he turned his past under and used half his plunder
In running a Sunday-school class?
I wonder if Roger, the Rover,
When millions in looting he'd made,
Built libraries grand on the jolly mainland
To honor success and "free trade";
If he founded a college of nautical knowledge
Where Pirates could study their trade?
I wonder, I wonder, I wonder,
If Pirates were ever the same,
Ever trying to lend a respectable trend
To the jaunty old buccaneer game
Or is it because of our Piracy Laws
That philanthropists enter the game?
--Wallace Irwin, in Life.
THE REBEL IS INSTRUCTED IN THE WORSHIP OF THE GOD-OF-THINGS-AS-
Jeff was digging out a passage in the "Apology" when there came a
knock at the door of his room. The visitor was his cousin, James,
and he radiated such an air of prosperity that the plain little
bedroom shrank to shabbiness.
James nodded in offhand fashion as he took off his overcoat.
"Hello, Jeff! Thought I'd look you up. Got settled in your
diggings, eh?" Before his host could answer he rattled on: "Just
ran in for a moment. Had the devil of a time to find you. What's
the object in getting clear off the earth?"
"Cheaper," Jeff explained.
"Should think it would be," James agreed after he had let his eyes
wander critically around the room. "But you can't afford to save
that way. Get a good suite. And for heaven's sake see a tailor, my
boy. In college a man is judged by the company he keeps."
"What have my room and my clothes to do with that?" Jeff wanted to
know, with a smile.
"Everything. You've got to put up a good front. The best fellows
won't go around with a longhaired guy who doesn't know how to
dress. No offense, Jeff."
His cousin laughed. "I'll see a barber to-morrow."
"And you must have a room where the fellows can come to see you."
"What's the matter with this one?"
A hint of friendly patronage crept into the manner of the junior.
"My dear chap, college isn't worth doing at all unless you do it
right. You're here to get in with the best fellows and to make
connections that will help you later. That sort of thing, you
Into Jeff's face came the light that always transfigured its
plainness when he was in the grip of an idea. "Hold on, J. K.
Let's get at this right. Is that what I'm here for? I didn't know
it. There's a hazy notion in my noodle that I'm here to develop
"That's what I'm telling you. Go in for the things that count.
Make a good frat. Win out at football or debating. I don't give a
hang what you go after, but follow the ball and keep on the jump.
I'm strong with the crowd that runs things and I'll see they take
you in and make you a cog of the machine. But you'll have to
measure up to specifications."
"But, hang it, I don't want to be a cog in any machine. I'm here
to give myself a chance to grow--sit out in the sun and hatch an
individuality--give myself lots of free play."
"Then you've come to the wrong shop," James informed him dryly.
"If you want to succeed at college you've got to do the things the
other fellows do and you've got to do them the same way."
"You mean I've got to travel in a rut?"
"Oh, well! That's a way of putting it. I mean that you have to
accept customs and traditions. You have to work like the devil
doing things that count. If you make the team you've got to think
football, talk it, eat it, dream it."
"But is it worth while?"
James waved his protest aside. "Of course it's worth while.
Success always is. Get this in your head. Four-fifths of the
fellows at college don't count. They're also-rans. To get in with
the right bunch you've got to make a good showing. Look at me. I'm
no John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Athletics bore me. I can't sing. I
don't grind. But I'm in everything. Best frat. Won the oratorical
contest. Manager of the football team next season. President of
the Dramatic Club. Why?"
He did not wait for Jeff to guess the reason. "Because our set
runs things and I go after the honors."
"But a college ought to be a democracy," Jeff protested.
"Tommyrot! It's an aristocracy, that's what it is, just like the
little old world outside, an aristocracy of the survival of the
fittest. You get there if you're strong. You go to the wall if
you're weak. That's the law of life."
The freshman came to this squint of pragmatism with surprise. He
had thought of Verden University as a splendid democracy of
intellectual brotherhood that was to leaven the world with which
it came in touch.
"Do you mean that a fellow has to have money enough to make a good
showing before he can win any of the prizes?"
James K. nodded with the sage wisdom of a man of the world. "The
long green is a big help, but you've got to have the stuff in you.
Success comes to the fellow who goes after it in the right way."
"And suppose a fellow doesn't care to go after it?"
"He stays a nobody."
James was in evening dress, immaculate from clean-shaven cheek to
patent leather shoes. He had a well-filled figure and a handsome
face with a square, clean-cut jaw. His cousin admired the young
fellow's virile competency. It was his opinion that James K.
Farnum was the last person he knew likely to remain a nobody. He
knew how to conform, to take the color of his thinking from the
dominant note of his environment, but he had, too, a capacity for
"I'm not going to believe you if I can help it," Jeff answered
with a smile.
The upper classman shrugged. "You'd better take my advice, just
At college you don't get a chance to make two starts. You're sized
up from the crack of the pistol."
"I haven't the money to make a splurge even if I wanted to."
"Who from?" asked Jeff ungrammatically.
"You can rustle it somewhere. I'm borrowing right now."
"It's different with you. I'm used to doing without things. Don't
worry about me. I'll get along."
James came with a touch of embarrassment to the real object of his
visit. "I say, Jeff. I've had a tough time to win out. You won't--
you'll not say anything--let anything slip, you know--something
that might set the fellows guessing."
His cousin was puzzled. "About what?"
"About the reason why Mother and I left Shelby and came out to the
"What do you take me for?"
"I knew you wouldn't. Thought I'd mention it for fear you might
make a slip."
"I don't chatter about the private affairs of my people."
"Course not. I knew you didn't." The junior's hand rested
caressingly on the shoulder of the other. "Don't get sore, Jeff. I
didn't doubt you. But that thing haunts me. Some day it will come
out and ruin me when I'm near the top of the ladder."
The freshman shook his head. "Don't worry about it, James. Just
tell the plain truth if it comes out. A thing like that can't hurt
you permanently. Nothing can really injure you that does not come
from your own weakness."
"That's all poppycock," James interrupted fretfully. "Just that
sort of thing has put many a man on the skids. I tell you a young
fellow needs to start unhampered. If the fellows got onto it that
my father had been in the pen because he was a defaulting bank
cashier they would drop me like a hot potato."
"None but the snobs would. Your friends would stick the closer."
"Oh' friends!" The young man's voice had a note of angry derision.
Jeff's affectionate grin comforted him. "Don't let it get on your
nerves, J. K. Things never are as bad as we expect at their
The junior set his teeth savagely. "I tell you, sometimes I hate
him for it. That's a fine heritage for a father to give his son,
isn't it? Nothing but trouble and disgrace."
His cousin spoke softly. "He's paid a hundred times for it, old
"He ought to pay. Why shouldn't he? I've got to pay. Mother had to
as long as she lived." His voice was hard and bitter.
"Better not judge him. You're his only son, you know."
"I'm the one he's injured most. Why shouldn't I judge him? I've
been a pauper all these years, living off money given us by my
mother's people. I had to leave our home because of what he did.
I'd like to know why I shouldn't judge him."
Jeff was silent.
Presently James rose. "But there's no use talking about it. I've
got to be going. We have an eat to-night at Tucker's."
Jeff came to his new life on the full tide of an enthusiasm that
did not begin to ebb till near the close of his first semester. He
lived in a new world, one removed a million miles from the sordid
one through which he had fought his way so many years. All the
idealism of his nature went out in awe and veneration for his
college. It stood for something he could not phrase, something
spiritually fine and intellectually strong. When he thought of the
noble motto of the university, "To Serve," it was always with a
lifted emotion that was half a prayer. His professors went clothed
in majesty. The chancellor was of godlike dimensions. Even the
seniors carried with them an impalpable aura of learning.
The illusion was helped by reason of the very contrast between the
jostling competition of the street and the academic air of harmony
in which he now found himself. For the first time was lifted the
sense of struggle that had always been with him.
The outstanding notes of his boyhood had been poverty and
meagerness. It was as if he and his neighbors had been flung into
a lake where they must keep swimming to escape drowning. There had
been no rest from labor. Sometimes the tragedy of disaster had
swept over a family. But on the campus of the university he found
the sheltered life. The echo of that battling world came to him
He began to make tentative friendships, but in spite of the advice
of his cousin they were with the men who did not count. Samuel
Miller was an example. He was a big, stodgy fellow with a slow
mind which arrived at its convictions deliberately. But when he
had made sure of them he hung to his beliefs like a bulldog to a
It was this quality that one day brought them together in the
classroom. An instructor tried to drive Miller into admitting he
was wrong in an opinion. The boy refused to budge, and the teacher
"Mr. Miller will know more when he doesn't know so much," the
instructor snapped out.
Jeff's instinct for fair play was roused at once, all the more
because of the ripple of laughter that came from the class. He
spoke up quietly.
"I can't see yet but that Mr. Miller is right, sir."
"The discussion is closed," was the tart retort.
After class the dissenters walked across to chapel together.
"Poke the animal up with a stick and hear him growl," Jeff laughed
"Page always thinks a fellow ought to take his say-so as gospel,"
Most of the students saw in Jeff Farnum only a tallish young man,
thin as a rail, not particularly well dressed, negligent as to
collar and tie. But Miller observed in the tanned face a tender,
humorous mouth and eager, friendly eyes that looked out upon the
world with a suggestion of inner mirth. In course of time he found
out that his friend was an unconquerable idealist.
Jeff made discoveries. One of them was a quality of brutal
indifference in some of his classmates to those less fortunate.
These classy young gentlemen could ignore him as easily as a
hurrying business man can a newsboy trying to sell him a paper. If
he was forced upon their notice they were perfectly courteous;
otherwise he was not on the map for them.
Another point that did not escape his attention was the way in
which the institution catered to Merrill and Frome, because they
were large donors to the university. He had once heard Peter C.
Frome say in a speech to the students that he contributed to the
support of Verden University because it was a "safe and
conservative citadel which never had yielded to demagogic
assaults." At the time he had wondered just what the president of
the Verden Union Water Company had meant. He was slowly puzzling
his way to an answer.
Chancellor Bland referred often to the "largehearted Christian
gentlemen who gave of their substance to promote the moral and
educational life of the state." But Jeff knew that many believed
Frome and Merrill to be no better than robbers on a large scale.
He knew the methods by which they had gained their franchises and
that they ruled the politics of the city by graft and corruption.
Yet the chancellor was always ready to speak or write against
municipal ownership. It was common talk on the streets that
Professor Perkins, of the chair of political science, had had his
expenses paid to England by Merrill to study the street railway
system of Great Britain, and that Perkins had duly written several
bread-and-butter articles to show that public ownership was
The college was a denominational one and the atmosphere wholly
orthodox. Doubt and skepticism were spoken of only with horror. At
first it was of himself that Jeff was critical. The spirit of the
place was opposed to all his convictions, but he felt that perhaps
his reaction upon life had been affected too much by his
He asked questions, and was suppressed with severity or kindly
paternal advice. It came to him one night while he was walking
bareheaded under the stars that there was in the place no
intellectual stimulus, though there was an elaborate presence of
it. The classrooms were arid. Everywhere fences were up beyond
which the mind was not expected to travel. A thing was right,
because it had come to be accepted. That was the gospel of his
fellows, of his teachers. Later he learned that it is also the
creed of the world.
What Jeff could not understand was a mind which refused to accept
the inevitable conclusions to which its own processes pushed it.
Verden University lacked the courage which comes from intellectual
honesty. Wherefore its economics were devitalized and its theology
But Jeff had been given a mind unable to lie to itself. He was in
very essence a non-conformist. To him age alone did not lend
sanctity to the ghosts of dead yesterdays that rule to-day.
"Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist. He who would
gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of
goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last
sacred but the integrity of your own mind,"
CONVERSING ON RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY, THE REBEL LEARNS THAT IT IS
SOMETIMES WISE TO SOFT PEDAL IDEAS UNLESS THEY ARE ACCEPTED ONES
During his freshman year Jeff saw little of his cousin beyond the
usual campus greetings, except for a period of six weeks when the
junior happened to need him. But the career of James K. tickled
immensely the under classman's sense of humor. He was becoming the
most dazzling success ever developed by the college. Even with the
faculty he stood high, for if he lacked scholarship he had the
more showy gifts that went farther. He knew when to defer and when
to ride roughshod to his end. It was felt that his brilliancy had
a solidity back of it, a quality of flintiness that would endure.
James was inordinately ambitious and loved the spotlight like an
actor. The flamboyant oratory at which he excelled had won for him
the interstate contest. He was editor-in-chief of the "Verdenian,"
manager of the varsity football team, and president of the college
With the beginning of his senior year James entered another phase
of his development. He offered to the college a new, or at least
an enlarged, interpretation of himself. Some of his smiling
good-fellowship had been sloughed to make way for the benignity of
a budding statesman. He still held a tolerant attitude to the
antics of his friends, but it was easy to see that he had put away
childish things. To his many young women admirers he talked
confidentially of his aims and aspirations. The future of James
K. Farnum was a topic he never exhausted.
It was, too, a subject which greatly interested Jeff and Sam
Miller. His cousin might smile at his poses, and often did, but he
never denied James qualities likely to carry him far.
"His one best bet is his belief in himself," Sam announced one
"It's a great thing to believe in yourself."
"He's so dead sure he's cast for a big part. The egoism just oozes
out of him. He doesn't know himself that he's a faker."
"He is a long way from that," Jeff protested warmly.
"Take his oratory," Miller went on irritably. "It's all bunk. He
throws a chest and makes you feel he's a big man, but what he says
won't stand analysis--just a lot of platitudes."
"Don't forget he's young yet. James K. hasn't found himself."
"Sure there's anything to find?"
"There's a lot in him. He's the biggest man in the university
"You practically wrote the oration that won the interstate
contest. Think I don't know that?" Miller snorted.
Jeff's mouth took on a humorous twist. "I gave him some
suggestions. How did you know?"
"Knew he wasn't hanging around last term for nothing. He's selfish
as the devil."
"You're all wrong about him, Sam. He isn't selfish at all at
"Shoot the brains out of that oration and what's left would be the
part he supplied. The fellow's got a gift of absorbing new ideas
superficially and dressing them up smartly."
"Then he's got us beat there," Jeff laughed goodnaturedly. He had
not in his make-up a grain of envy. Even his laughter was
generally genial, though often irreverent to the God-of-things-
"When he won the interstate he lapped up flattery like a thirsty
pup, but his bluff was that it was only for the college he cared
"Most of us have mixed motives."
"Not J. K. Reminds me of old Johnson's 'Patriotism is the last
refuge of a scoundrel.'"
Jeff straightened. "That won't do, Sam. I believe in J. K. You've
got nothing against him except that you don't like him."
"Forgot you were his cousin, Jeff," Miller grumbled. "But it's a
fact that he works everybody to shove him along."
"He's only a kid. Give him time. He'll be a big help to any
"James K.'s biggest achievement will always be James K."
Jeff chuckled at the apothegm even while he protested. Sam capped
it with another.
"He's always sitting to himself for his own portrait."
"He'll get over that when he brushes up against the world." Jeff
added his own criticism thoughtfully. "The weak spot in him is a
sort of flatness of mind. This makes him afraid of new ideas. He
wants to be respectable, and respectability is the most damning
thing on earth."
After Miller had left Jeff buckled down to Ely's "Political
Economy." He had not been at it long when James surprised him by
dropping in. His host offered the easiest chair and shoved tobacco
"Been pretty busy with the team, I suppose?" Jeff suggested.
"It's taken a lot of my time, but I think I've put the athletic
association on a paying basis at last."
"I see by your report in the 'Verdenian' that you made good."
"A fellow ought to do well whatever he undertakes to do."
Jeff grinned across at him from where he lay on the bed with his
fingers laced beneath his head. "That's what the copybooks used to
"I want to have a serious talk with you, Jeff."
"Aren't you having it? What can be more important than the
successes of James K. Farnum?"
The senior looked at him suspiciously. He was not strongly
fortified with a sense of humor. "Just now I want to talk about
the failures of Jefferson D. Farnum," he answered gravely.
Jeff's eyes twinkled. "Is it worth while? I am unworthy of this
boon, O great Cesar."
"Now that's the sort of thing that stands in your way," James told
him impatiently. "People never know when you're laughing at them.
There is no reason why you shouldn't succeed. Your abilities are
up to the average, but you fritter them away."
"Thank you." Jeff wore an air of being immensely pleased.
"The truth is that you're your own worst enemy. Now that you have
taken to dressing better you are not bad looking. I find a good
many of the fellows like you--or they would if you'd let them."
"Because I'm so well connected," Jeff laughed.
"I suppose it does help, your being my cousin. But the thing
depends on you. Unless you make a decided change you'll never get
"What change do you suggest? Item one, please?"
James looked straight at him. "You lack bedrock principles, Jeff."
"Take your habits. Two or three times you've been seen coming out
"Expect I went in to get a drink."
"It's not generally known, of course, but if it reached Prexy he'd
fire you so quick your head would swim."
"I dare say."
The senior looked at him significantly. "You're the last man that
ought to go to such places. There's such a thing as an inherited
The jaw muscles stood out like ropes under the flesh of Jeff's
lean face. "We'll not discuss that."
"Very well. Cut it out. A drinking man is handicapped too heavily
"Much obliged. Second count in the indictment, please."
"You've got strange, unsettling notions. The profs don't like
"You know what I mean. We didn't make this world. We've got to
take it as it is. You can't make it over. There are always going
to be rich people and poor ones. Just because you've fed
indigestibly on Ibsen and Shaw you can't change facts."
"So you advise?"
"Soft pedal your ideas if you must have them."
"Hasn't a man got to see things as straight as he can?"
"That's no reason for calling in the neighbors to rejoice with him
because he has astigmatism."
Jeff came back with a tag of Emerson, whose phrases James was fond
of quoting in his speeches. "Whoso would be a man must be a
non-conformist. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of
your own mind."
"You can push that too far. It isn't practical. We've got to make
compromises, especially with established things."
Jeff sat up on the bed. Points of light were dancing in his big
eyes. "That's what the Pharisees said to Jesus when he wouldn't
stand for lies because they were deep rooted and for injustice
because it had become respectable."
"Oh, if you're going to compare yourself to Christ--"
"Verden University is supposed to stand for Christianity, isn't
it? It was because Jesus whanged away at social and industrial
freedom, at fraternity, at love on earth, that he had to endure
the Cross. He got under the upper class skin when he attacked the
traditional lies of vested interests. Now why doesn't Bland preach
the things that Jesus taught?"
"Yes, he does," Jeff scoffed. "He preaches good form,
respectability, a narrow personal righteousness, a salvation
canned and petrified three hundred years ago."
"Do you want him to preach socialism?"
"I want him to preach the square deal in our social life,
intellectual honesty, and a vital spiritual life. Think of what
this college might mean, how it might stand for democracy It ought
to pour out into the state hundreds of specialists on the problems
of the country. Instead, it is only a reflection of the caste
system that is growing up in America."
James shrugged his broad shoulders. "I've been through all that.
It's a phase we pass. You'll get over it. You've got to if you are
going to succeed."
A quizzical grin wrinkled Jeff's lean face. "What is success?"
"It's setting a high goal and reaching it. It's taking the world
by the throat and shaking from it whatever you want." James leaned
across the table, his eyes shining. "It's the journey's end for
the strong, that's what it is. I don't care whether a man is
gathering gilt or fame, he's got to pound away with his eye right
on it. And he's got to trample down the things that get in his
Jeff's eye fell upon a book on the table. "Ever hear of a chap
"Of course. He wrote 'The School for Scandal.' What's he got to do
Jeff smiled, without correcting his cousin. "I've been reading
about him. Seems to have been a poor hack writer 'who threw away
his life in handfuls.' He wrote the finest poem, the best novel,
the most charming comedy of his day. He knew how to give, but he
didn't know how to take. So he died alone in a garret. He was a
"Probably his own fault."
"And on the day of his funeral the stairway was crowded with poor
people he had helped. All of them were in tears."
"What good did that do him? He was inefficient. He might have
saved his money and helped them then."
"Perhaps. I don't know. It might have been too late then. He chose
to give his life as he was living it."
"Another reason for his poverty, wasn't there?"
Jeff flushed. "He drank."
"Thought so." James rose triumphantly and put on his overcoat.
"Well, think over what I've said."
"I will. And tell the chancellor I'm much obliged to him for
For once the Senior was taken aback. "Eh, what--what?"
"You may tell him it won't be your fault that I'll never be a
credit to Verden University."
As he walked across the campus to his fraternity house James did
not feel that his call had been wholly successful. With him he
carried a picture of his cousin's thin satiric face in which big
expressive eyes mocked his arguments. But he let none of this
sense of futility get into the report given next day to the
"Jeff's rather light-minded, I'm afraid, sir. He wanted to branch
off to side lines. But I insisted on a serious talk. Before I left
him he promised to think over what I had said."
"Let us hope he may."
"He said it wouldn't be my fault if he wasn't a credit to the
"We can all agree with him there, Farnum."
"Thank you, sir. I'm not very hopeful about him. He has other
things to contend with."
"I'm not sure I quite know what you mean."
"I can't explain more fully without violating a confidence."
"Well, we'll hope for the best, and remember him in our prayers."
"Yes, sir," James agreed.
"I met a hundred men on the road to Delhi, and they were all my
THE REBEL FLUNKS IN A COURSE ON HOW TO GET ON IN LIFE
It would be easy to overemphasize Jeff's intellectual difficulties
at the expense of the deep delight he found in many phases of his
student life. The daily routine of the library, the tennis courts,
and the jolly table talk brought out the boy in him that had been
There developed in him a vagabond streak that took him into the
woods and the hills for days at a time. About the middle of his
Sophomore year he discovered Whitman. While camping alone at night
under the stars he used to shout out,
"Strong and content, I travel the open road," or
"Allons! The road is before us!
"It is safe--I have tried it--my own feet have tried it well."
Through Stevenson's essay on Whitman Jeff came to know the Scotch
writer, and from the first paragraph of him was a sealed follower
of R. L. S. In different ways both of these poets ministered to a
certain love of freedom, of beauty, of outdoor spaces that was
ineradicably a part of his nature. The essence of vagabondage is
the spirit of romance. One may tour every corner of the earth and
still be a respectable Pharisee. One may never move a dozen miles
from the village of his birth and yet be of the happy company of
romantics. Jeff could find in a sunset, in a stretch of windswept
in the sight of water through leafless trees, something that
filled his heart with emotion.
Perhaps the very freedom of these vacation excursions helped to
feed his growing discontent. The yeast of rebellion was forever
stirring in him. He wanted to come to life with open mind. He was
possessed of an insatiable curiosity about it. This took him to
the slums of Verden, to the redlight district, to Socialist
meetings, to a striking coal camp near the city where he narrowly
escaped being killed as a scab. He knew that something was wrong
with our social life. Inextricably blended with success and
happiness he saw everywhere pain, defeat, and confusion. Why must
such things be? Why poverty at all?
But when he flung his questions at Pearson, who had charge of the
work in sociology, the explanations of the professor seemed to him
In the ethics class he met the same experience. A chance reference
to Drummond's "Natural Law in the Spiritual world" introduced him
to that stimulating book. All one night he sat up and read it--
drank it in with every fiber of his thirsty being.
The fire in his stove went out. He slipped into his overcoat. Gray
morning found him still reading. He walked out with dazed eyes
into a world that had been baptized anew during the night to a
But when he took his discovery to the lecture room Dawson was not
only cold but hostile. Drummond was not sound. There was about him
a specious charm very likely to attract young minds. Better let
such books alone for the present. In the meantime the class would
take up with him the discussion of predeterminism as outlined in
There were members of the faculty big enough to have understood
the boy and tolerant enough to have sympathized with his crude
revolt, but Jeff was diffident and never came in touch with them.
His connection with the college ended abruptly during the Spring
term of his Sophomore year.
A celebrated revivalist was imported to quicken the spiritual life
of the University. Under his exhortations the institution
underwent a religious ferment. An extraordinary excitement was
astir on the campus. Class prayer meetings were held every
afternoon, and at midday smaller groups met for devotional
exercises. At these latter those who had made no profession of
religion were petitioned for by name. James Farnum was swept into
the movement and distinguished himself by his zeal. It was
understood that he desired the prayers of friends for that
relative who had not yet cast away the burden of his sins.
It became a point of honor with his cousin's circle to win Jeff
for the cause. There was no difficulty in getting him to attend
the meetings of the revivalist. But he sat motionless through the
emotional climax that brought to an end each meeting. To him it
seemed that this was not in any vital sense religion, but he was
careful not to suggest his feeling by so much as a word.
One or two of his companions invited him to come to Jesus. He
disconcerted them by showing an unexpected familiarity with the
Scriptures as a weapon of offense against them.
James invited him to his rooms and labored with him. Jeff resorted
to the Socratic method. From what sins was he to be saved? And
when would he know he had found salvation?
His cousin uneasily explained the formula. "You must believe in
Christ and Him crucified. You must surrender your will to His.
Shall we pray together?"
"I'd rather not, J. K. First, I want to get some points clear. Do
you mean that I'm to believe in what Jesus said and to try to live
as he suggested?"
Jeff picked up his cousin's Bible and read a passage. " 'We know
that we have passed from death unto life, BECAUSE WE LOVE THE
BRETHREN. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.' That's
the test, isn't it?"
"Well, you have to be converted," James said dubiously.
"Isn't that conversion--loving your brother? And if a man is
willing to live in plenty while his brother is in poverty, if he
exploits those weaker than himself to help him get along, then he
can't be really converted, can he?"
"Now see here, Jeff, you've got the wrong idea. Christ didn't come
into the world to reform it, but to save it from its sins. He
wasn't merely a man, but the Divine Son of God."
"I don't understand the dual nature of Jesus. But when one reads
His life it is easy to believe in His divinity." After a moment
the young man added: "In one way we're all divine sons of God,
James was shocked. "Where do you get such notions? None of our
people were infidels."
"Am I one?"
"You ought to take advantage of this chance. It's not right to set
your opinion up against those that know better."
"And that's what I'm doing, isn't it?" Jeff smiled. "Can't help
it. I reckon I can't be saved by my emotions. It's going to be a
James gave him up, but he sent another Senior to make a last
attempt. The young man was Thurston Thomas and he had never
exchanged six sentences with Jeff in his life. The unrepentant
sinner sent him to the right about sharply.
"What the devil do you mean by running about officiously and
bothering about other people's souls? Better look out for your
Thomas, a scion of one of the best families in Verden, looked as
if he had been slapped in the face.
"Why Farnum, I--I spoke for your good."
"No, you didn't," contradicted Jeff flatly. "You don't care a hang
about me. You've never noticed me before. We're not friends.
You've always disliked me. But you want the credit of bringing me
into the fold. It's damned impertinent of you."
The Senior retired with a white face. He was furious, but he
thought it due himself to turn the other cheek by saying nothing.
He reported his version to a circle of friends, and from them it
spread like grass seed in the wind. Soon it was generally known
that Jeff Farnum had grossly insulted with blasphemy a man who had
tried to save his soul.
Two days later Miller met Jeff at the door of Frome 15.
"You're in bad! Jeff. What the deuce did you do to Sissy Thomas?"
"Gave him some good advice."
Miller grinned. "I'll bet you did. The little cad has been
poisoning the wells against you. Look there."
A young woman of their class had passed into the room. Her glance
had fallen upon Farnum and been quickly averted.
"That's the first time Bessie Vroom ever cut you," Sam continued
angrily. "Thomas is responsible. I've heard the story a dozen
"I only told him to mind his own business."
"He can't. He's a born meddler. Now he's queered you with the
"Can't help it. I wasn't going to let him get away with his
impudence. Why should I?"
Miller shrugged. "Policy, my boy. Better take the advice of Cousin
James and crawl into your shell till the storm has pelted past."
Half an hour later Jeff met his cousin near the chapel and was
taken to task.
"What's this I hear about your insulting Thomas?"
"You have it wrong. He insulted me," Jeff corrected with a smile.
"Tommyrot! Why couldn't you treat him right?"
"Didn't like to throw him through the window on account of
littering up the lawn with broken glass. "
James K.'s handsome square-cut face did not relax to a smile. "You
may think this a joke, but I don't. I've heard the Chancellor is
going to call you on the carpet."
"If he does he'll learn what I think."
The upper classman's anger boiled over. "You might think of me a
"Didn't know you were in this, J. K."
"They know I'm your cousin. It's hurting my reputation."
A faint ironic smile touched Jeff's face. "No, James, I'm helping
it. Ever notice how blondes and brunettes chum together. Value of
contrasts, you see. I'm a moral brunette. You're a shining example
of all a man should be. I simply emphasize your greatness."
"That's not the way it works," his cousin grumbled.
"That's just how it works. Best thing that could happen to you
would be for me to get expelled. Shall I?"
Jeff offered his suggestion debonairly.
"Of course not."
"It would give you just the touch of halo you need to finish the
picture. Think of it: your noble head bowed in grief because of
the unworthy relative you had labored so hard to save; the
sympathy of the faculty, the respect of the fellows, the shy
adoration of the co-eds. Great Brutus bowed by the sorrow of a
strong man's unrepining emotion. By Jove, I ought to give you the
chance. You'd look the part to admiration."
For a moment James saw himself in the role and coveted it. Jeff
read his thought, and his laughter brought his cousin back to
earth. He had the irritated sense of having been caught.
"It's not an occasion for talking nonsense," he said coldly.
Jeff sensed his disgrace in the stiff politeness of the professors
and in the embarrassed aloofness of his classmates. Some of the
men frankly gave him a wide berth as if he had been a moral
His temperament was sensitive to slights and he fell into one of
his rare depressions. One afternoon he took the car for the city.
He wanted to get away from himself and from his environment.
A chill mist was in the air. Drawn by the bright lights, Jeff
entered a saloon and sat down in an alcove with his arms on the
table. Why did they hammer him so because he told the truth as he
saw it? Why must he toady to the ideas of Bland as everybody else
at the University seemed to do? He was not respectable enough for
them. That was the trouble. They were pushing him back into the
gutter whence he had emerged. Wild fragmentary thoughts chased
themselves across the record of his brain.
Almost before he knew it he had ordered and drunk a highball.
Immediately his horizon lightened. With the second glass his
depression vanished. He felt equal to anything.
It was past nine o'clock when he took the University car. As
chance had it Professor Perkins and he were the only passengers.
The teacher of Economics bowed to the flushed youth and buried
himself in a book. It was not till they both rose to leave at the
University station that he noticed the condition of Farnum. Even
then he stood in momentary doubt.
With a maudlin laugh Jeff quieted any possible explanation of
"Been havin' little spree down town, Profeshor. Good deal like one
ev'body been havin' out here. Yours shpiritual; mine shpirituous.
Joke, see! Play on wor'd. Shpiritual--shpirituous."
"You're intoxicated, sir," Perkin,s told him sternly.
"Betcherlife I am, old cock! Ever get shp--shp--shpiflicated
"Go home and go to bed, sir!"
"Whaffor? 'S early yet. 'S reasonable man I ask whaffor?"
The professor turned away, but Jeff caught at his sleeve.
"Lesh not go to bed. Lesh talk economicsh."
"Release me at once, sir."
"Jush's you shay. Shancellor wants see me. I'll go now."
He did. What occurred at that interview had better be omitted.
Jeff was very cordial and friendly, ready to make up any
differences there might be between them. An ice statue would have
been warm compared to the Chancellor.
Next day Jeff was publicly expelled. At the time it did not
trouble him in the least. He had brought a bottle home with him
from town, and when the notice was posted he lay among the bushes
in a sodden sleep half a mile from the campus.
From a great distance there seemed to come to Jeff vaguely the
sound of young rippling laughter and eager girlish voices. Drawn
from heavy sleep, he was not yet fully awake. This merriment might
be the music of fairy bells, such stuff as dreams are made of. He
lay incurious, drowsiness still heavy on his eyelids.
"Oh, Virgie, here's another bunch! Oh, girls, fields of them!"
There was a little rush to the place, and with it a rustle of
skirts that sounded authentic. Jeff began to believe that his
nymphs were not born of fancy. He opened his eyes languidly to
examine a strange world upon which he had not yet focused his
Out of the ferns a dryad was coming toward him, lance straight,
slender, buoyantly youthful in the light tread and in the poise of
the golden head.
At sight of him she paused, held in her tracks, eyes grown big
"You are ill."
Before he could answer she had dropped the anemones she carried,
was on her knees beside him, and had his head cushioned against
"Tell me! What can I do for you? What is the matter?"
Jeff groaned. His head was aching as if it would blow up, but that
was not the cause of the wave of pain which had swept over him. A
realization had come to him of what was the matter with him. His
eyes fell from hers. He made as if to get up, but her hand
restrained him with a gentle firmness.
"Don't! You mustn't." Then aloud, she cried: "Girls--girls--
there's a sick man here. Run and get help. Quick."
"No--no! I--I'm not sick."
A flood of shame and embarrassment drenched him. He could not
escape her tender hands without actual force and his poignant
shyness made that impossible. She was like a fairy tale, a
creature of dreams. He dared not meet her frank pitiful eyes,
though he was intensely aware of them. The odor of violets brings
to him even to this day a vision of girlish charm and daintiness,
together with a memory of the abased reverence that filled him.
They came running, her companions, eager with question and
suggestion. And hard upon their heels a teamster from the road
broke through the thicket, summoned by their calls for help. He
stooped to pick up something that his foot had struck. It was a
bottle. He looked at it and then at Jeff.
"Nothing the matter with him, Miss, but just plain drunk," the man
said with a grin. "He's been sleeping it off."
Jeff felt the quiver run through her. She rose, trembling, and
with one frightened sidelong look at him walked quickly away. He
had seen a wound in her eyes he would not soon forget. It was as
if he had struck her down while she was holding out hands to help
Lies need only age to make them respectable. Given that, they
become traditions and are put upon a pedestal. Then the gentlest
word for him who attacks them is traitor.
--From the Note Book of a Dreamer.
THE REBEL FOLLOWS THE RAMIFICATIONS OF BIG BUSINESS AND FINDS THAT
THE PILLARS OF SOCIETY ARE NOT IN POLITICS FOR THEIR HEALTH
"Hmp! Want to be a reporter, do you?"
Warren, city editor on the Advocate, leaned back in his chair and
looked Jeff over sharply.
"It's a hell of a life. Better keep out."
"I'd like to try it."
"Only correspondence. I've had two years at college."
The city editor snorted. He had the unreasoning contempt for
college men so often found in the old-time newspaper hack.
"Then you don't want to be a reporter. You want to be a
journalist," he jeered.
"They kicked me out," Jeff went on quietly.
"Sounds better. Why?"
Jeff hesitated. "I got drunk."
"Can't use you," Warren cut in hastily.
"I've quit--sworn off."
The city editor was back on the job, his eyes devouring copy.
"Heard that before. Nothing to it," he grunted.
"Give me a trial. I'll show you."
"Don't want a man that drinks. Office crowded with 'em already."
Jeff held his ground. For five minutes the attention of Warren was
focused on his work.
Suddenly he snapped out, "Well?"
He met Farnum's ingratiating smile. "You haven't told me yet what
to start doing."
"I told you I didn't want you."
"But you do. I'm on the wagon."
"For how long?" jeered the city editor.
Warren sized him up again. He saw a cleareyed young fellow without
a superfluous ounce of flesh on him, not rugged but with a look of
strength in the slender figure and the thin face. This young man
somehow inspired confidence.
"Sent in that Colby story to us, didn't you?"
"Rotten story. Not half played up. Report to Jenkins at the City
"Now. Think I meant next year?"
The city editor was already lost in the reading of more copy.
Inside of half an hour Jeff was at work on his first assignment.
Some derelict had committed suicide under the very shadow of the
City Hall. Upon the body was a note scrawled on the bask of a
Sick and out of work. Notify Henry Simmons, 237 River Street, San
Jenkins, his hands in his pockets, looked at the body
indifferently and turned the story over to the cub with a nod of
"Go to it. Half a stick," he said.
From another reporter Jeff learned how much half a stick is. He
wrote the account. When he had read it Jenkins glanced sharply at
him. Though only the barest facts were told there was a sob in the
"That ain't just how we handle vag suicides, but we'll let 'er go
this time," he commented.
It did not take Jeff long to learn how to cover a story to the
satisfaction of the city editor. He had only to be conventional,
sensational, and in general accurate as to his facts. He
fraternized with his fellow reporters at the City Hall, shared
stories with them, listened to the cheerful lies they told of
their exploits, and lent them money they generally forgot to
return. They were a happy-go-lucky lot, full of careless
generosities and Bohemian tendencies. Often a week's salary went
at a single poker sitting. Most of them drank a good deal.
After a few months' experience Jeff discovered that while the
gathering of news tends to sharpen the wits it makes also for the
superficial. Alertness, cleverness, persistence, a nose for news,
and a surface accuracy were the chief qualities demanded of him by
the office. He had only to look around him to see that the
profession was full of keen-eyed, nimble-witted old-young men who
had never attempted to synthesize the life they were supposed to
be recording and interpreting. While at work they were always
in a hurry, for to-day's news is dead to-morrow. They wrote on the
run, without time for thought or reflection. Knowing beyond their
years, the fruit of their wisdom was cynicism. Their knowledge
withered for lack of roots.
The tendency of the city desk and of copy readers is to reduce all
reporters to a dead level, but in spite of this Jeff managed to
get himself into his work. He brought to many stories a freshness,
a point of view, an optimism that began to be noticed. From the
police run Jeff drifted to other departments. He covered hotels,
the court house, the state house and general assignments.
At the end of a couple of years he was promoted to a desk
position. This did not suit him, and he went back to the more
active work of the street. In time he became known as a star man.
From dramatics he went to politics, special stories and feature
work. The big assignments were given him.
It was his duty to meet famous people and interview them. The
chance to get behind the scenes at the real inside story was given
him. Because of this many reputations were pricked like bubbles so
far as he was concerned. The mask of greatness was like the false
faces children wear to conceal their own. In the one or two really
big men he met Jeff discovered a humility and simplicity that came
from self-forgetfulness. They were too busy with their vision of
truth to pose for the public admiration.
It was while Jeff was doing the City Hall run that there came to
him one night at his rooms a man he had known in the old days when
he had lived in the river bottom district. If he was surprised to
see him the reporter did not show it.
"Hello, Burke! Come in. Glad to see you."
Farnum took the hat of his guest and relieved his awkwardness by
guiding him to a chair and helping him get his pipe alight.
"How's everything? Little Mike must be growing into a big boy
these days. Let's see. It's three years since I've seen him."
A momentary flicker lit the gloomy eyes of the Irishman. "He's a
great boy, Mike is. He often speaks of you, Mr. Farnum.
"Glad to know it. And Mrs. Burke?"
"That leaves only Patrick Burke. I suppose he hasn't fallen off
the water wagon yet."
The occupation of Burke had been a threadbare joke between them in
the old days. He drove a street sprinkler for the city.
"That's what he has. McGuire threw the hooks into me this mor-
rning. I've drove me last day."
"What's the matter?"
"I'm too damned honest. . . . or too big a coward. Take your
"All right. I've taken it," smiled the reporter.
Pat brought his big fist down on the table so forcefully that the
books shook. "I'll not go to the penitentiary for an-ny man. . . .
He wanted me to let him put two other teams on the rolls in my
name. I wouldn't stand for it. That was six weeks ago. To-day he
lets me out."
Jeff began to see dimly the trail of the serpent graft. He lit his
pipe before he spoke.
"Don't quite get the idea, Pat. Why wouldn't you?"
"Because I'm on the level. I'll have no wan tellin' little Mike
his father is a dirty thief. . . .It's this way. The rolls were to
be padded, understand."
"I see. You were to draw pay for three teams when you've got only
"McGuire was to draw it, all but a few dollars a month." The
Irishman leaned forward, his eyes blazing. "And because I wouldn't
stand for it I'm fired for neglecting my duty. I missed a street
yesterday. If he'd been frientlly to me I might have missed forty.
. . . But he can't throw me down like that. I've got the goods to
show he's a dirty grafter. Right now he's drawing pay for seven
teams that don't exist."
"And he doesn't know you know it?"
"You bet he don't. I've guessed it for a month. To-day I went
round and made sure."
Jeff asked questions, learned all that Burke had to tell him. In
the days that followed he ran down the whole story of the graft so
secretly that not even the city editor knew what he was about.
Then he had a talk with the "old man" and wrote his story.
It was a red-hot exposure of one of the most flagrant of the City
Hall gang. There was no question of the proof. He had it in black
and white. Moreover, there was always the chance that in the row
which must follow McGuire might peach on Big Tim himself, the boss
of all the little bosses.
Within twenty-four hours Jeff was summoned to a conference at
which were present the city editor and Warren, now managing
"We've killed your story, Farnum," announced the latter as soon as
the door was closed.
"Why? I can prove every word of it."
"That was what we were afraid of."
"It's a peach of a story. With the spring elections coming on we
need some dynamite to blow up Big Tim. I tell you McGuire would
tell all he knows to save his own skin."
"My opinion, too," agreed Warren dryly. "My boy, it's too big a
story. That's the whole trouble. If we were sure it would stop at
McGuire we'd run it. But it won't. The corporations are backing
Big Tim to win this spring. It won't do to get him tied up in a
"But the _Advocate_ has been out after his scalp for years."
"Well, we're not after it any more. Of course, we're against him
on the surface still."
Jeff did some rapid thinking. "Then the program will be for us to
nominate a weak ticket and elect Big Tim's by default. Is that
"That's about it. The big fellows have to make sure of a Mayor who
will be all right about the Gas and Electric franchise. So we're
going to have four more years of Big Tim."
"Will Brownell stand for it?"
Brownell was the principal owner of the _Advocate._
"Will he?" Warren let his eyelash rest for a second upon the
cheek nearest Jeff. "He's been seen. My orders come direct from
the old man."
The story was suppressed. No more was heard about the McGuire
graft scandal exposure. It had run counter to the projects of big
Burke had to be satisfied without his revenge.
He got a job with a brewery and charged the McGuire matter to
profit and loss.
As for Jeff the incident only served to make clearer what he
already knew. More and more he began to understand the forces that
dominate our cities, the alliance between large vested interests
and the powers that prey. These great corporations were seekers of
special privileges. To secure this they financed the machines and
permitted vice and corruption. He saw that ultimately most of the
shame for the bad government of American cities rests upon the
Fromes and the Merrills.
As for the newspapers, he was learning that between the people and
an independent press stand the big advertisers. These make for
conservatism, for an unfair point of view, for a slant in both
news recording and news interpretation. Yet he saw that the press
is in spite of this a power for good. The evil that it does is
local and temporary, the good general and permanent.
The spirit of commercialism that dominated America during the
nineties and the first years of the new century never got hold of
Jeff. The air and the light of his land were often the creation of
a poet's dream. The delight of life stabbed him, so, too, did its
tragedy. Not anchored to conventions, his mind was forever asking
questions, seeking answers.
He would come out from a theater into a night that was a flood of
illumination. Electric signs poured a glare of light over the
streets. Motor cars and electrics whirled up to take away
beautifully gowned women and correctly dressed men. The windows of
the department stores were filled with imported luxuries. And he
would sometimes wonder how much of misery and trouble was being
driven back by that gay blare of wealth, how many men and women
and children were giving their lives to maintain a civilization
that existed by trampling over their broken hearts and bodies.
Preventable poverty stared at him from all sides. He saw that our
social fabric is thrown together in the most haphazard fashion,
without scientific organization, with the greatest waste, in such
a way that non-producers win all the prizes while the toilers do
without. Yet out of this system that sows hate and discontent,
that is a practical denial of brotherhood, of God, springs here
and there love like a flower in a dunghill.
He felt that art and learning, as well as beauty and truth, ought
to walk hand in hand with our daily lives. But this is impossible
so long as disorder and cruelty and disease are in the world
unnecessarily. He heard good people, busy with effects instead of
causes, talk about the way out, as if there could be any way out
which did not offer an equality of opportunity refused by the
whole cruel system of to-day.
But Jeff could be in revolt without losing his temper. The men who
profited by present conditions were not monsters. They were as
kind of heart as he was, effects of the system just as much as the
little bootblack on the corner. No possible good could come of a
blind hatred of individuals.
His Bohemian instinct sent Jeff ranging far in those days. He made
friends out of the most unlikely material. Some of the most
radical of these were in the habit of gathering informally in his
rooms about once a week. Sometimes the talk was good and pungent.
Much of it was merely wild.
His college friend, Sam Miller, now assistant city librarian, was
one of this little circle. Another was Oscar Marchant, a fragile
little Socialist poet upon whom consumption had laid its grip. He
was not much of a poet, but there burnt in him a passion for
humanity that disease and poverty could not extinguish.
One night James Farnum dropped in to borrow some money from his
cousin and for ten minutes listened to such talk as he had never
heard before. His mind moved among a group of orthodox and
accepted ideas. A new one he always viewed as if it were a
dynamite bomb timed to go off shortly. He was not only suspicious
of it; he was afraid of it.
James was, it happened, in evening dress. He took gingerly the
chair his cousin offered him between the hectic Marchant and a
little Polish Jew.
The air was blue with the smoke from cheap tobacco. More than one
of those present carried the marks of poverty. But the note of the
assembly was a cheerful at-homeness. James wondered what the devil
his cousin meant by giving this heterogeneous gathering the
freedom of his rooms.
Dickinson, the single-taxer, was talking bitterly. He was a big
man with a voice like a foghorn. His idea of emphasis appeared to
be pounding the table with his blacksmith fist.
"I tell you society doesn't want to hear about such things," he
was declaiming. "It wants to go along comfortably without being
disturbed. Ignore everything that's not pleasant, that's liable to
harrow the feelings. The sins of our neighbors make spicy reading.
Fill the papers with 'em. But their distresses and their poverty!
That's different. Let's hear as little about them as possible.
Let's keep it a well-regulated world."
Nearly everybody began to talk at once. James caught phrases here
and there out of the melee.
". . . Democratic institutions must either decay or become
revitalized. . . .To hell with such courts. They're no better than
anarchy. . . .In Verden there are only two classes: those who
don't get as much as they earn and those who get more. . . . Tell
you we've got to get back to the land, got to make it free as air.
You can't be saved from economic slavery till you have socialism.
. . ."
Suddenly the hubbub subsided and Marchant had the floor. "All of
life's a compromise, a horrible unholy giving up as unpractical
all the best things. It's a denial of love, of Christ, of God."
A young preacher who was conducting a mission for sailors on the
water front cut in. "Exactly. The church is radically wrong
"Because it hasn't been converted to Christianity yet. Mr.
Moneybags in the front pew has got a strangle hold on the parson.
Begging your pardon, Mifflin. We know you're not that kind."
Marchant won the floor again. "Here's the nub of it. A man's a
slave so long as his means of livelihood is dependent on some
other man. I don't care whether it's lands or railroads or mines.
Abolish private property and you abolish poverty."
They were all at it again, like dogs at a bone. Across the Babel
James caught Jeff's gay grin at him.
By sheer weight Dickinson's voice boomed out of the medley.
". . . just as Henry George says: 'Private ownership of land is
the nether mill-stone. Material progress is the upper mill-stone.
Between them, with an increasing pressure, the working classes are
being ground.' We're just beginning to see the effect of private
property in land. Within a few years. . . ."
"What we need is to get back to Democracy. Individualism has run
wild. . . ."
"Trouble is we can't get anywhere under the Constitution. Every
time we make a move--check. It was adopted by aristocrats to hold
back the people and that's what it's done. Law--"
Apparently nobody got a chance to finish his argument. The Polish
Jew broke in sharply. "Law! There iss no law."
"Plenty of it, Sobieski, Go out on the streets and preach your
philosophic anarchy if you don't believe it. See what it will do
to you. Law's a device to bolster up the strong and to hammer down
James had given a polite cynical indulgence to views so lost to
reason and propriety. But he couldn't quite stand any more. He
made a sign to Jeff and they adjourned to the next room.
"Your friends always so--so enthusiastic?" he asked with the
slightest lift of his upper lip.
"Not always. They're a little excited to-night because Harshaw
imprisoned those fourteen striking miners for contempt of court."
"Don't manufacture bombs here, do you?"
Jeff laughed. "We're warranted harmless."
James offered him good advice. "That sort of talk doesn't lead to
anything--except trouble. Men who get on don't question the
fundamentals of our social system. It doesn't do, you know. Take
the constitution. Now I've studied it. A wonderful document.
"Yes, I know what Gladstone said. I don't agree with him. The
constitution was devised by men with property as a protection
against those who had none."
"Why shouldn't it have been?"
"It should, if vested interests are the first thing to consider.
In there"--with a smiling wave of his hand--"they think people are
more important than things. A most unsettling notion!"
"Mean to say you believe all that rant they talk?"
"Not quite," Jeff laughed.
"Well, I'd cut that bunch of anarchists if I were you," his cousin
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