Зображення сторінки

flection and I had used it. I knew that “But what have I done?” Wolffert did not like me. He had no reason “Nothing more than you have always to do so, for I had not only left him, but done; treated the Jew with contempt. But had been cold and distant with him. Still, they were all there, and I chose you as the I had always treated him civilly, and had leader when you said that about the Jew." spoken of him respectfully, which was “I said nothing about a Jew. Here, more than Peck had always done. Yet, wait! Did you think I insulted you as a here, without the least provocation, he had Jew this afternoon ?” I had risen and insulted me grossly. I knew there must be walked over in front of him. some misunderstanding, and I determined “Yes." He bowed. on my own hook” to find out what it was. “Well, I did not." Fortune favored me. Just then Wolffert “You did-you said I was a 'damned opened the door. He had gone to his own Jew.”” room for a few moments and, on his return, “What! I never said a word like it, mistook the number and opened the wrong yes, I did I said to Sam Pleasants, that door. Seeing his error, he drew back with you did not see the play, and said, 'Sam, an apology, and was just closing the door you tell him.' Wait. Let me think a mowhen I called him.

ment. Wolffert, I owe you an apology, and “Wolffert! Come in here a moment. I will make it. I know there are some who want to speak to you alone.”

will think I do it because I am afraid to fight. He re-entered and closed the door; But I do not care. I am not, and I will standing stiff and silent.

fight Peck if he says so. If you will come “Wolffert, there has been some mistake, with me, I will make you a public apology, and I want to know what it is." He made and then if you want to fight still, I will not the least sign that he heard, except a meet you." flash, deep in his eyes, like a streak of He suddenly threw his right arm up lightning in a far-off cloud.

across his face, and, turning his back on “I am ready to fight you in any way you me, leaned on it against the door, his whole wish," I went on. “But I want to know person shaken with sobs. what the trouble is. Why did you insult I walked up close to him and laid my me out of a clear sky. What had I done?” hand on his shoulder, helplessly. “Everything."

“Calm yourself," I began, but could “What! Specify. What was it?” think of nothing else to say.

"You have made my life Hell-all of He shook for a moment and then, turnyou!” His face worked, and he made a ing, with his left arm still across his face, wild sweep with his arm and brought it he held out his right hand, and I took it. back to his side with clenched fist.

“I do not want you to do that. All I "But I?"

want is decent treatment-ordinary civil“You were the head. You have all done ity," he faltered between his sobs. Then it. You have treated me as an outcast-a he turned back and leant against the door, Jew! You have given me credit for noth- for he could scarcely stand. And so standing, because I was a Jew. I could have ing, he made the most forcible, the most stood the personal contempt and insult, and eloquent, and the most burning defence of I have tried to stand it; but I will put up his people I have ever heard. with it no longer. It is appointed once for When he was through I was ready. a man to die, and I can die in no better I had reached my decision. cause than for my people.”

"I will go with you," I said, "not on He was gasping with suppressed emo- your account, but on my own, and make tion, and I was beginning to gasp also—but my statement before the whole crowd. for a different reason. He went on:

They are still on the hill. Then, if any one “You thought I was a coward because I wants to fight, he can get it. I will fight was a Jew, and because I wanted peace - Peck.” treated me as a poltroon because I was a He repeated that he did not want me to Jew. And I made up my mind to stop it. do this, and he would not go; which was So this evening my chance came. That is as well, for I might not have been able to alone with my seconds, whom I imme

say so much in his presence. So I went



IV diately sought. I found the latter working over a cartel

DELILAH at a table in the next room, and I walked in. They looked as solemn as owls, but I brokeM y career at college promised at one them up in a moment.

time after that to be almost creditable, but “You can stop this infernal foolishness. it ended in nothing. I was not a good stuI have apologized to Wolffert. I have treated dent, because, I flattered myself, I was too him like a pig, and so have you. And I good a fellow. I loved pleasure too much have told him so, and now I am going out to apply myself to work, and was too selfto tell the other fellows."

indulgent to deny myself anything. I deTheir astonishment was unbounded and, spised the plodding ways of cold blooded at least, one of the group was sincerely dis- creatures like Peck even more than I did appointed. I saw Peck's face fall at my the dulness of John Marvel. Why should I words and then he elevated his nose and delve at Latin and Greek and Mathematics gave a little sniff.

when I had all the poets and novelists. “Well, it did not come from our side,” I was sure that when the time came I could he said in a half undertone with a sneer. read up and easily overtake and surpass the

I suddenly exploded. His cold face was tortoise-like monotony of Peck's plodding. so evil.

I now and then had an uneasy realization "No, it did not. I made it freely and that Peck was developing, and that John frankly, and I am going to make it publicly. Marvel, to whom I used to read Latin, had But if you are disappointed, I want to tell somehow come to understand the language you that you can have a little affair on your better than I. However, this was only an own account. And in order that there may occasional awakening, and the idea was be no want of pretext, I wish to tell you too unpleasant for me to harbor it long. that I believe you have been telling lies on Meantime, I would enjoy myself and preme, and I consider you a damned, sneak- pare to bear off the more shining honors of ing hypocrite."

the orator and society-medalist. There was a commotion, of course, and At the very end I did, indeed, arouse the others all jumped in between us. And myself, for I had a new incentive. I fell when it was over, I walked out. Three in love. Toward the mid-session holiminutes later I was on the hill among the day the place always filled up with pretty crowd, which now numbered several hun- girls. Usually they came just after “the dred, for they were all waiting to learn the exams”; but occasionally some of them result; and, standing on a bench, I told came a little in advance: those who were them what I had said to Wolffert and how I bent on conquest. At such times, only felt I owed him a public apology, not for cold anchorites like Marvel, or calculatone insult, but for a hundred. There was ing machines like Peck, stuck to their a silence for a second, and then such a cheer books. Among the fair visitants this year broke out as I never got any other time in was one whose reputation for beauty had my life! Cheers for Wolffert. Cheers for already preceded her: Miss Lilian Poole. Marvel, and even cheers for me. And then a She was the daughter of a banker in the freckled youth with a big mouth and a blue, capital of the State, and by all accounts merry eye broke the tension by saying: was a tearing belle. She had created a

“All bets are off and we sha'n't have a sensation at the Mardi Gras the year beholiday to-morrow at all.” The repro- fore, and one who could do that must be a bates had been betting on which of us beauty. She was reported more beautiful would fall, and had been banking on a than Isabelle Henderson, the noted beauty possible holiday.

of the Crescent city. Certainly, she was not Quite a crowd went to Wolffert's room lacking in either looks or intelligence; for to make atonement for any possible slight those who had caught a glimpse of her, the they had put on him; but he was nowhere afternoon she arrived, declared her a Godto be found. But that night, he and Mar- dess. I immediately determined that I vel sat at our table and always sat there would become her cavalier for the occasion. afterward.

And I so announced to the dozen or more

fellows who composed our set. They ment of a Roman gentleman, who wrote, laughed at me.

istam vocant fidem." “Why, you do not know her."

We were all in a room, the windows of “But I shall know her.”

which looked across the lawn toward the "You are not on speaking terms with pillared portico of Professor Sterner's house, Professor Sterner”—the Professor of Math- and some of the boys were gazing over ematics at whose house she was stopping toward the mansion that sheltered the subThe Professor and I had had a falling out ject of our thoughts. And as it happened, not long before. He had called on me for at that moment, the door opened and out a recitation, one morning after a dance, stepped the young lady herself, in a smart and I had said, “I am not prepared, sir.” walking costume, topped by a large hat

“You never are prepared,” he said, with a great, drooping, beguiling, white which the class appeared to think amusing. ostrich feather. An exclamation drew us He glanced over the room.

all to the window. "Mr. Peck."

“There she is now!” Without doubt, Peck, also, had been at the dance the that was she. night before, though he said he had a "Jove! What a stunner!” headache, and caused much amusement by "She is alone. There is your chance." his gambols and antics, which were like “Yes, this is the first time you have seen those of a cow; I therefore expected him her; now stop jawing and play ball." to say, “unprepared” also. But not so. “Or pay up." “I was unwell last night, sir.”

“Yes, supper for the crowd: porterhouse “Ah! Well, I am glad, at least, that you steak; chicken, and waffles to end with." have some sort of a legitimate excuse." So they nagged me, one and all. I flamed out and rose to my feet.

"Done,” I said, "I will do it now." "Are you alluding to me, sir?”

“You have never seen her before ?" "Take your seat, sir. I deny your right “Never.” I was arranging my tie and to question me."

brushing my hair. "I will not take my seat. I do not pro- “You swear it?”. pose to sit still and be insulted. I demand But I hurried out of the door and an answer to my question.”

slammed it behind me. "Take your seat, I say. I will report I turned down the walk that led across you to the Faculty," he shouted.

the campus to the point whither Miss “Then you will have to do so very Poole was directing her steps, and I took quickly; for I shall report you immedi- a gait that I judged should meet her at the ately." And with that, I stalked out of intersection of the walks. I was doing the room. The Faculty met that afternoon some hard thinking, for I knew the window and I laid my complaint before them, and behind me was crowded with faces. as the students, knowing the inside facts, As I approached her, I cut my eye at her, took my side, the Faculty held that the Pro- and a glance nearly overthrew my resolufessor committed the first breach and rep- tion. She was, indeed, a charming picture rimanded us both. I was well satisfied as she advanced, though I caught little after I had met and cut the Professor pub- more than a general impression of a slim,

straight figure, a pink face, surmounted I now acknowledged the untowardness by a profusion of light hair, under a big of the situation; but when the boys hat with white feathers, and a pair of bluish laughed, I pooh-poohed it.

eyes. I glanced away, but not before she "I do not speak to old Sterner, but I will had caught my eye. Just then a whistle speak to her the first time I meet her.” sounded behind me, and my nerve returned.

“I will bet you do not,” cried Sam I suddenly quickened my pace, and held Pleasants.

out my hand. “Supper for the crowd," chimed in sev- “Why, how do you do?” I exclaimed eral. They were always as ready to bet as with well-feigned surprise and pleasure, their long-haired ancestors were in the plumping myself directly in front of her. German forests, where they bet themselves She paused; looked at me, hesitated, and away, and kept their faith, to the amaze- then drew back slightly.

[ocr errors]

“I think-,1–. You have made a mis- lessly entangled in the web at which I had take, I think."

hitherto scoffed. I fell violently in love. “Why, do you not remember Henry I soon overcame the little difficulty that Glave? Is this not Miss Belle Henderson?” stood in my way. And, indeed, I think I asked in a mystified way.

Miss Lilian Poole rather helped me out “No, I am not Miss Henderson.” about this. I did not allow grass to grow

“Oh! I beg your pardon-I thought—" under my feet, or any impression I had I began. Then, as I moved back a little, I made to become effaced. I quickly beadded, “Then you must be Miss Lilian came acquainted with my Diana-like young Poole; for there cannot be more than two lady; that is, to speak more exactly, I got like you on earth. I beg your pardon.” myself presented to her, for my complete I backed away.

acquaintance with her was of later date, "I am," she said. Her mounting color when I had spent all the little patrimony I showed that she was at least not angry, had. I saw immediately that she knew the and she gave proof of it.

story of the wager, though she did not at “Can you tell me? Is not that the way that time refer to it, and so far as I could tell, to Dr. Davis's house?

she did not resent it. She, at least, gave no “Yes I will show you which it is.” sign of it. I asked her to allow me to escort My manner had become most respectful. her to a German, but she had an engage

“Oh! Don't trouble yourself, I beg ment. you.”

“Who is it?" I inquired rather enviously. "It is not the least trouble," I said sin. She had a curious expression in her eyescerely, and it was the only truth I had told. which, by the way, were a cool blue or I walked back a few steps, hat in hand, gray, I never could be sure which, and at pointing eagerly to the house. And as I times looked rather like steel. left, I said, “I hope you will pardon my She hesitated a moment and her little stupid mistake.”

mouth drew in somewhat closely. “Oh! I do not think it stupid. She is “Mr. Peck.” Her voice was a singular a beauty.”

instrument. It had so great a compass and “I think so." I bowed low. I saw the possessed some notes that affected me color rise again as I turned away, much strangely; but it also could be without the pleased with myself, and yet a good deal least expression. So it was now when she ashamed, too.

said, “Mr. Peck," but she colored slightly, When I returned to “the lair,” as we as I burst out laughing. termed Sam Pleasants's room, the boys “Peck! Pecksniff? Did you ever see seized me. They were like howling der- him dance? I should as soon have thought vishes. But I had grown serious. I was of your dancing with a clothes-horse." very much ashamed of myself. And I did She appeared somewhat troubled. the only decent thing I could—I lied, or as “Does he dance so badly as that? He good as lied.

told me he danced.” “I will give the supper if you will stop “So he does, like this.” I gave an imithis yelling. Do you suppose I would make tation of Peck’s gyrations, in which I was so a bet about a girl I did not know?”

earnest that I knocked over a table and This took the spirit out of the thing, and broke a fine lamp, to my great consternaonly one of them knew the truth. Marvel, tion. who was present, looked at me seriously, “Well, you are realistic," observed Miss and that night said to me half sadly, Poole, calmly, who struck me as not so

“You ought not to have done that.” much concerned at my misfortune as I

“What? I know it. It was an ungen- might have expected. When, however, tlemanly thing."

she saw how really troubled I was, she was "I do not mean that. You ought not to more sympathetic. have told a story afterward.”

“Perhaps, if we go out, they will not How he knew it I never knew.

know who did it," she observed. But I had gotten caught in my own “Well, no, I could not do that," I said, mesh. I had walked into the little parlor thinking of Peck, and then as her expreswithout any invitation, and I was soon hope- sion did not change, I fired a shot that I

meant to tell. “Peck would do that sort charms, I, at the time, set down to sheer of a thing. I shall tell them.”

envy, for Peck could not turn a rhyme; but To this she made no reply. She only since I have discovered that it has a founlooked inscrutably pretty. But it often dation of truth. came back to me afterward how calmly and quite as a matter of course she suggested my concealing the accident, and I wondered if she thought I was a liar.

THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE She had a countenance that I once thought one of the most beautiful in the MEANTIME, my studies—if any part of world; but which changed rarely. Its only my occupation could be so termed-sufvariations were from an infantile beauty fered undeniably. My appearance at the to a statuesque firmness.

classroom door with a cigarette, which I Yet that girl, with her rather set expres- flung away just in time not to carry it into sion and infantile face, her wide open eyes the room, together with my chronic excuse and pink prettiness, was as deep as a well, of being "unprepared," moved the driest and an artesian well at that.

of my professors to the witticism that I I soon distanced all rivals. Peck was “divided my time between a smoke and a quickly disposed of; though, with his nag- flame." It was only as the finals drew near ging persistence, he still held on. This that I began to appreciate that I would bored me exceedingly and her too, if I have the least trouble in “making my tickcould judge by her ridicule of him and her ets," as the phrase went. Sam Pleasants, sarcasm which he somehow appeared too Leo Wolffert and my other friends had stupid to see. He succumbed, however, to begun to be anxious for me for some time my mimicry of his dancing; for I was a before-and both Wolffert and John Marvel good mimic, and Peck, in a very high collar, had come to me and suggested my working, and with very short trousers on his dumpy at least, a little: Wolffert with delicacy and legs, was really a fair mark. Miss Poole warmth; John Marvel with that awkward was by no means indifferent to public opin- bluntness with which he always went at ion, and a shaft of satire could penetrate her anything. I felt perfectly easy in my mind mail of complacency. So when she re- then and treated their entreaties scornfully. turned later to the classic shades of the “Why, I did well enough at the Interuniversity, as she did a number of times for mediates," I said. Germans and other social functions, I made “Yes, but,” said John Marvel, “Delilah a good deal of hay. A phrase of Peck's, was not here then— " apropos of this, stuck in my memory. Some I was conscious of being a little angered; one-it was, I think, Leo Wolffert-said but John Marvel looked so innocent and so that I appeared to be making hay, and hopelessly friendly that I passed it by with Peck said, “Yes, I would be eating it some a laugh and paid Miss Poole more attenday." I often wondered afterward how he tion than ever. stumbled on the witticism.

The Debater's Medal had for a long Those visits of my tall young dulcinea time been in the general estimation, as good cost me dear in the sequel. While the as accorded me; for I was a fluent, and I other fellows were boning I was lounging in personally thought, eloquent speaker, and the drawing-room or in the shade of the had some reading. But when Wolffert enbig trees in some secluded nook, writing tered the debate, his speeches so far outher very warm poems of the character which shone mine that I knew at once that I was Horace says is hated both of Gods and men. beat. Wolffert, who had begun to speak Several of these poems were published in without any design of entering the contest the college magazine. The constant allu- for the Medal, would generously have resions to her physical charms caused Peck tired, but I would not hear of that. I to say that I evidently considered Miss called Peck to account for a speech which Poole to be "composed wholly of eyes and I had heard of his making: that "the conhair." His observation that a man was a test was between a Jew and a jug”; but he fool to write silly verses to a girl he loved, denied making it, so I lost even that satisbecause it gave her a wrong idea of her faction.

« НазадПродовжити »