by Booth Tarkington
To the Memory of Billy Miller
(William Henry Harrison Miller II)
1908 - 1918
Little Patriot, Good Citizen
Friend of Mankind
When Johnnie comes marching home again,
We'll give him a hearty welcome then,
The men with the cheers, the boys with shouts,
The ladies they will all turn out,
And we'll all feel gay, when Johnnie comes marching home again!
The old man and the little boy, his grandson, sat together in the
shade of the big walnut tree in the front yard, watching the
"Decoration Day Parade," as it passed up the long street; and when
the last of the veterans was out of sight the grandfather murmured
the words of the tune that came drifting back from the now distant
band at the head of the procession.
"Yes, we'll all feel gay when Johnnie comes marching home again,"
he finished, with a musing chuckle.
"Did you, Grandpa?" the boy asked.
"Did I what?"
"Did you all feel gay when the army got home?"
"It didn't get home all at once, precisely," the grandfather
explained. "When the war was over I suppose we felt relieved, more
than anything else."
"You didn't feel so gay when the war ~was~, though, I guess!" the boy
"I guess we didn't."
"Were you scared, Grandpa? Were you ever scared the Rebels would
"No. We weren't ever afraid of that."
"Not any at all?"
"No. Not any at all."
"Well, weren't you ever scared yourself, Grandpa? I mean when you
were in a battle."
"Oh, yes; ~then~ I was." The old man laughed. "Scared plenty!"
"I don't see why," the boy said promptly. "I wouldn't be scared in
"'Course not! Grandpa, why don't you march in the Decoration Day
Parade? Wouldn't they let you?"
"I'm not able to march any more. Too short of breath and too shaky
in the legs and too blind."
"I wouldn't care," said the boy. "I'd be in the parade anyway, if
I was you. They had some sittin' in carriages, 'way at the tail end;
but I wouldn't like that. If I'd been in your place, Grandpa, and
they'd let me be in that parade, I'd been right up by the band.
Look, Grandpa! Watch me, Grandpa! This is the way I'd be, Grandpa."
He rose from the garden bench where they sat, and gave a complex
imitation of what had most appealed to him as the grandeurs of the
procession, his prancing legs simulating those of the horse of the
grand marshal, while his upper parts rendered the drums and bugles
of the band, as well as the officers and privates of the militia
company which had been a feature of the parade. The only thing he
left out was the detachment of veterans.
"Putty-boom! Putty-boom! Putty-boom-boom-boom!" he vociferated, as
the drums--and then as the bugles: "Ta, ta, ra, tara!" He addressed
his restive legs: "~Whoa~, there, you Whitey! Gee! Haw! Git up!"
Then, waving an imaginary sword: "Col-lumn right! Farwud ~March!~
Halt! Carry ~harms!~ He "carried arms." "Show-dler ~harms!~" He
"shouldered arms," and returned to his seat.
"That'd be me, Grandpa. That's the way I'd do." And as the
grandfather nodded, seeming to agree, a thought recently dismissed
returned to the mind of the composite procession and he asked:
"Well, ~why~ weren't you ever afraid the Rebels would whip the
"Oh, we knew they couldn't."
"I guess so." The little boy laughed disdainfully, thinking his
question satisfactorily asnwered. "I guess those ole Rebels couldn't
whipped a flea! They didn't know how to fight any at all, did they,
"Oh, yes, they did!"
"What?" The boy was astounded. "Weren't they all just reg'lar ole
"No," said the grandfather. "They were pretty fine soldiers."
"They were? Well, they ran away whenever you began shootin' at 'em,
"Sometimes they did, but most times they didn't. Sometimes they
fought like wildcats--and sometimes we were the ones that ran away."
"To keep from getting killed, or maybe to keep from getting
"But the Rebels were bad men, weren't they, Grandpa?"
The boy's forehead, customarily vacant, showed some little vertical
shadows, produced by a struggle to think. "Well, but--" he began,
slowly. "Listen, Grandpa, listen here!"
"Listen! Well, you said--you said you never got scared the ole
Rebels were goin' to win."
"They did win pretty often," said the grandfather. "They won a good
"I mean, you said you never got scared they'd win the war."
"No, we were never afraid of that."
"Well, but if they were good men and fought like wildcats, Grandpa,
and kep' winning battles and everything, how could that be? How
could you ~help~ bein' scared they'd win the war?"
The grandfather's feeble eyes twinkled brightly. "Why, we ~knew~ they
At this, the little vertical shadows on Ramsey's forehead became more
pronounced, for he had succeeded in thinking. "Well, ~they~ didn't
know they couldn't, did they?" he argued. "They thought they were
goin' to win, didin't they?"
"Yes, I guess they did. Up till toward the last, I suppose they
probably did. But you see they were wrong."
"Well, but--" Ramsey struggled. "Listen! Listen here, Grandpa!
Well, anyway, if they never got scared ~we'd~ win, and nobody got
scared ~they'd~ win--well, I don't see--"
"You don't see what?"
But Ramsey found himself unable to continue his concentration; he
slumped down upon the small of his back, and his brow relaxed to
its more comfortable placidity, while his eyes wandered with a new
butterfly fluttering over the irises that bordered the iron picket
fence at the south side of the yard. "Oh, nothin' much," he
"I see." And his grandfather laughed again. "You mean: If the
Rebels felt just as sure of winning the war as we did, and kept
winning battles why shouldn't we ever have had any doubts that we
were going to win? That's it, isn't it?"
"I guess so, Grandpa."
"Well, I think it was mostly because we were certain that we were
"I see," said Ramsey. "The Rebels knew they were on the side of the
Devil." But at this, the grandfather's laugh was louder than it had
been before, and Ramsey looked hurt. "Well, you can laugh if you
want to!" he objected in an aggrieved voice. "Anyway, the Sunday-
school sup'intendent told us when people knew they were on the
Devil's side they always--"
"I dare say, I dare say," the old man interrupted, a little
impatiently. "But in this world mighty few people think they're on
the Devil's side, Ramsey. There was a Frenchman once, in olden times;
he said people were crazy because, though they couldn't even make
worms, they believed they could make gods. And so whenever countries
or parts of a country get into a war, each side makes a god and a
devil, and says: "God's on our side and the Devil's on the other."
The South thought the Devil was on our side, you see."
"Well, that kind o' mixes it all up more'n ever."
"Yes, it seems so; but Abraham Lincoln wasn't mixed up about it.
When some people told him that God was on our side, he said the
important thing was to find out if we were on God's side. That was
the whole question, you see; because either side could make up a god,
the kind of a god they liked and wanted; and then they'd believe in
him, too, and fight for him--but if he was only a made-up god they'd
lose. President Lincoln didn't want to have a made-up god on his
side; he wanted to find God Himself and find out what he wanted, and
then do it. And that's what Lincoln did."
"Well, I don't understand much of all ~that~!"
"No?" Then suppose you look at it this way: The South was fighting
for what it believed to be its rights, but we weren't fighting for
our rights; we were fighting for the right. The South was fighting
for what it believed to be its right to split the Union and be a
country by itself; but we were fighting for 'Liberty and Union, now
and forever, one and inseparable.' It wasn't only the Union we
fought for; it was Freedom. The South wanted freedom to leave the
Union; but the reason the South wanted that freedom to separate from
us was because ~we~ wanted the Freedom of Man. ~There's~ the reason
we had the certain knowledge that we were going to win the war. How
plain and simple it is!"
Ramsey didn't think so. He had begun to feel bored by the
conversation, and to undergo the oppression he usually suffered in
school; yet he took a little interest in the inexplicable increase of
fervour with which his grandfather spoke, and in a shoot of sunshine
which somehow got through the foliage of the walnut tree and made a
bedazzlement of glinting fine lines in one spot, about the size of
a saucer, upon the old man's head of thick white hair. Half closing
his eyes, drowsily, Ramsey played that this sunshine spot was a white
bird's-next and, and he had a momentary half dream of a glittering
little bird that dwelt there and wore a blue soldier cap on its head.
The earnest old voice of the veteran was only a sound in the boy's
"Yes, it's simple and plain enough now, though then we didn't often
think of it in exactly this way, but just went on fighting and never
doubted. We knew the struggle and suffering of our fathers and
grandfathers to make a great country here for Freedom, and we knew
that all this wasn't just the whim of a foolish god, willing to waste
such great things--we knew that such a country couldn't have been
building up just to be wasted. But, more than that, we knew that
armies fighting for the Freedom of Man ~had~ to win, in the long run,
over armies that fought for what they considered their rights.
"We didn't set out to free the slaves, so far as we knew. Yet our
being against slavery was what made the war, and we had the
consciousness that we were on the side of God's plan, because His
plan is clearly the Freedom of Man. Long ago we began to see the
hints of His plan--a little like the way you can see what's coming
in August from what happens in April. but man has to win his freedom
from himself--men in the light have to fight against men in the dark
of their own shadow. That light is the answer; we had the light that
made us never doubt. Ours was the true light, and so we--"
"Boom--" The veterans had begun to fire their cannon on the crest
of the low hill, out at the cemetery; and from a little way down the
street came the rat-a-tat of a toy drum and sounds of a fife played
execrably. A file of children in cocked hats made of newspapers came
marching importantly up the sidewalk under the maple shade trees; and
in advance, upon a velocipede, rode a tin-sworded personage,
shrieking incessant commands but not concerning himself with whether
or not any military obedience was thereby obtained. Here was a
revivifying effect upon young Ramsey; his sluggard eyelids opened
electrically; he leaped to his feet and, abandoning his grandfather
without preface or apology, sped across the lawn and out of the gate,
charging headlong upon the commander of the company.
"You get off that 'locipede, Wesley Bender!" he bellowed. "You gimme
that sword! What rights you got to go bein' captain o' my army, I'd
like to know! Who got up this army, in the first place, I'd like to
know! I did, myself yesterd'y afternoon, and you get back in line or
I won't let you b'long to it at all!"
The pretender succumbed; he instantly dismounted, being out-shouted
and overawed. On foot he took his place in the ranks, while Ramsey
became sternly vociferous. "In-tention, company! Farwud ~march~!
Col-lumn ~right~! Right-showdler ~harms~! Halt! Far-wud ~march~.
The Army went trudging away under the continuous but unheed fire of
orders, and presently disappeared round a corner, leaving the veteran
chuckling feebly under his walnut tree and alone with the empty
street. All trace of what he had said seemed to have been wiped
from the grandson's mind; but memory has curious ways. Ramsey had
understood not a fifth nor a tenth of his grandfather's talk, and
already he had "forgotten" all of it--yet not only were there many,
many times in the boy's later life when, without ascertainable cause,
he would remember the sunlight falling upon the old man's white head,
to make that semblance of a glittering bird's-nest there, but with
the picture came recollections of words and sentences spoken by the
grandfather, though the listener, half-drowsily, had heard but the
sound of an old, earnest voice--and even the veteran's meaning
finally took on a greater definiteness till it became, in the
grandson's thoughts, something clear and bright and beautiful that
he knew without being just sure where or how he had learned it.
Ramsey Milholland sat miserably in school, his conscious being
consisting principally of a dull hate. Torpor was a little dispersed
during a fifteen-minute interval of "Music," when he and all the
other pupils in the large room of the "Five B. Grade" sang repeated
fractions of what they enunciated as "The Star Span-guh-hulled
Banner"; but afterward he relapsed into the low spirits and animosity
natural to anybody during enforced confinement under instruction. No
alleviation was accomplished by an invader's temporary usurpation of
the teacher's platform, a brisk and unsympathetically cheerful young
woman mounting thereon to "teach German."
For a long time mathematics and German had been about equally
repulsive to Ramsey, who found himself daily in the compulsory
presence of both; but he was gradually coming to regard German with
the greater horror, because, after months of patient mental
resistance, he at last began to comprehend that the German language
has sixteen special and particular ways of using the German article
corresponding to that flexible bit of a word so easily managed
English--~the~. What in the world was the use of having sixteen ways
of doing a thing that could just as well be done in one? If the
Germans had contented themselves with insisting upon sixteen useless
variations for infrequent words, such as ~hippopotamus~, for instance,
Ramsey might have thought the affair unreasonable but not necessarily
vicious--it would be easy enough to avoid talking about a
hippopotamus if he ever had to go to Germany. But the fact that the
Germans picked out ~a~ and ~the~ and many other little words in use
all the time, and gave every one of them sixteen forms, and expected
Ramsey Milholland to learn this dizzying uselessness down to the last
crotchety detail, with "When to employ Which" as a nausea to prepare
for the final convulsion when one ~didn't~ use Which, because it was
an "Exception"--there was a fashion of making easy matters hard that
was merely hellish.
The teacher was strict but enthusiastic; she told the children, over
and over, that German was a beautiful language, and her face always
had a glow when she said this. At such times the children looked
patient; they supposed it must be so, because she was an adult and
their teacher; and they believed her with the same manner of
believing which those of them who went to Sunday-school used there
when the Sunday-school teachers were pushed into explanations of
various matters set forth in the Old Testament, or gave reckless
descriptions of heaven. That is to say, the children did not
challenge or deny; already they had been driven into habits of
resignation and were passing out of the age when childhood is able
to reject adult nonsense.
Thus, to Ramsey Milholland, the German language seemed to be a
collection of perverse inventions for undeserved torment; it was
full of revolting surprises in the way of genders; vocally it often
necessitated the employment of noises suggestive of an incompletely
mastered knowledge of etiquette; and far inside him there was
something faintly but constantly antagonistic to it--yet, when the
teacher declared that German was incomparably the most beautiful
language in the world, one of the many facets of his mind submissively
absorbed the statement as light to be passed inward; it was part of
the lesson to be learned. He did not know whether the English
language was beautiful or not; he never thought about that, and no one
ever said anything to him about it. Moreover, though his deeper
inward hated "German," he liked his German teacher, and it was
pleasant to look at her when that glow came upon her face.
Sometimes, too, there were moments of relaxation in her class, when
she would stop the lesson and tell the children about Germany: what
a beautiful, good country it was, so trim and orderly, with such
pleasant customs, and all the people sensible and energetic and
healthy. There was "Music" again in the German class, which was
another alleviation; though it was the same old "Star Spangled
Banner" over again. Ramsey was tired of the song and tired of "My
Country 'Tis of Thee"; they were bores, but it was amusing to sing
them in German. In German they sounded "sort o' funny," so he didn't
mind this bit of the day's work.
Half an hour later there arrived his supreme trial of this particular
morning. Arithmetic then being the order of business before the
house, he was sent alone to the blackboard, supposedly to make lucid
the proper reply to a fatal conundrum in decimals, and under the
glare and focus of the whole room he breathed heavily and itched
everywhere; his brain at once became sheer hash. He consumed as much
time as possible in getting the terms of the problem stated in chalk;
then, affecting to be critical of his own handiwork, erased what he
had done and carefully wrote it again. After that, he erased half of
it, slowly retraced the figures, and stepped back as if to see
whether perspective improved their appearance. Again he lifted the
"Put down that eraser!"
"Yes'm. I just thought--"
Sharply bidden to get forward with his task, he explained in a feeble
voice that he had first to tie a shoe string and stooped to do so,
but was not permitted. Miss Ridgely tried to stimulate him with
hints and suggestion; found him, so far as decimals went, mere
protoplasm, and, wondering how so helpless a thing could live,
summoned to the board little Dora Yocum, the star of the class,
whereupon Ramsey moved toward his seat.
"Stand still, Ramsey! You stay right where you are and try to learn
something from the way Dora does it."
The class giggled, and Ramsey stood, but learned nothing. His
conspicuousness was unendurable, because all of his schoolmates
naturally found more entertainment in watching him than in following
the performance of the capable Dora. He put his hands in and out of
his pockets; was bidden to hold them still, also not to shuffle his
feet; and when in a false assumption of ease he would have scratched
his head Miss Ridgely's severity increased, so that he was compelled
to give over the attempt.
Instructed to watch every figure chalked up by the mathematical
wonder, his eyes, grown sodden, were unable to remove themselves from
the part in her hair at the back of her head, where two little braids
began their separate careers to end in a couple of blue-and-red
checked bits of ribbon, one upon each of her thin shoulder blades.
He was conscious that the part in Dora's shining brown hair was
odious, but he was unconscious of anything arithmetical. His
sensations clogged his intellect; he suffered from unsought notoriety,
and hated Dora Yocum; most of all he hated her busy little shoulder
He had to be "kept in" after school; and when he was allowed to go
home he averted his eyes as he went by the house where Dora lived.
She was out in the yard, eating a doughnut, and he knew it; but he
had passed the age when it is just as permissible to throw a rock at
a girl as at a boy; and stifling his normal inclinations, he walked
sturdily on, though he indulged himself so far as to engage in a
murmured conversation with one of the familiar spirits dwelling
somewhere within him. "Pfa!" said Ramsey to himself--or himself to
Ramsey, since it is difficult to say which was which. "Pfa! Thinks
she's smart, don't she?"... "Well, I guess she does, but she ain't!"
... "I hate her, don't you?"... "You bet your life I hate her!"...
"Teacher's Pet, that's what ~I~ call her!"... "Well, that's what ~I~
call her, too, don't I?" "Well, ~I~ do; that's all she is, anyway
--dirty ole Teacher's Pet!"
He had not forgiven her four years later when he entered high school
in her company, for somehow Ramsey managed to shovel his way through
examinations and stayed with the class. By this time he had a long
accumulation of reasons for hating her: Dora's persistent and
increasing competency was not short of flamboyant, and teachers
naturally got the habit of flinging their quickest pupil in the face
of their slowest and "dumbest." Nevertheless, Ramsey was unable to
deny that she had become less awful lookin' than she used to be. At
least, he was honest enough to make a partial retraction when his
friend and classmate, Fred Mitchell, insisted that an amelioration of
Dora's appearance could be actually proven.
"Well, I'll take it back. I don't claim she's every last bit as
awful lookin' as she always has been," said Ramsey, toward the
conclusion of the argument. "I'll say this for her, she's awful
lookin', but she may not be as awful lookin' as she was. She don't
come to school with the edge of some of her underclo'es showin' below
her dress any more, about every other day, and her eyewinkers have
got to stickin' out some, and she may not be so abbasa~loot~ly
skinny, but she'll haf to wait a mighty long while before ~I~ want
to look at her without gettin' sick!"
The implication that Miss Yocum cared to have Ramsey look at her,
either with or without gettin' sick, was mere rhetoric, and
recognized as such by the producer of it; she had never given the
slightest evidence of any desire that his gaze be bent upon her.
What truth lay underneath his flourish rested upon the fact that he
could not look at her without some symptoms of the sort he had
tersely sketched to his friend; and yet, so pungent is the
fascination of self-inflicted misery, he did look at her, during
periods of study, often for three or four minutes at a stretch. His
expression at such times indeed resembled that of one who has dined
unwisely; but Dora Yocum was always too eagerly busy to notice it.
He was almost never in her eye, but she was continually in his;
moreover, as the banner pupil she was with hourly frequency an exhibit
before the whole class.
Ramsey found her worst of all when her turn came in "Declamation," on
Friday afternoons. When she ascended the platform, bobbed a little
preliminary bow and began, "Listen, my children, and you shall hear,"
Ramsey included Paul Revere and the Old North Church and the whole
Revolutionary War in his antipathy, since they somehow appeared to
be the property of the Teacher's Pet. For Dora held this post in
"Declamation" as well as in everything else; here, as elsewhere,
the hateful child's prowess surpassed that of all others; and the
teacher always entrusted her with the rendition of the "patriotic
selections": Dora seemed to take fire herself when she declared:
"The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat."
Ramsey himself was in the same section of declaimers, and performed
next--a ghastly contrast. He gave a "selection from Shakespeare,"
assigned by the teacher; and he began this continuous misfortune by
stumbling violently as he ascended the platform, which stimulated a
general giggle already in being at the mere calling of his name. All
of the class were bright with happy anticipation, for the miserable
Ramsey seldom failed their hopes, particularly in "Declamation."
He faced them, his complexion wan, his expression both baleful and
horrified; and he began in a loud, hurried voice, from which every
hint of intelligence was excluded:
"Most pottent, grave, and rev--"
The teacher tapped sharply on her desk, and stopped him. "You've
forgotten to bow," she said. "And don't say 'pottent.' The word is
Ramsey flopped his head at the rear wall of the room, and began
"Most pottent potent grav and revenerd signers my very nobe and
approve good masters that I have tan away this sole man's dutter it is
mose true true I have marry dur the very headman frun tuv my fending
hath this extent no more rude am I in speech--in speech--rude am I in
speech--in speech--in speech--in speech--"
He had stalled. Perhaps the fatal truth of that phrase, and some
sense of its applicability to the occasion had interfered with
the mechanism which he had set in operation to get rid of the
"recitation" for him. At all events, the machine had to run off
its job all at once, or it wouldn't run at all. Stopped, it stayed
stopped, and backing off granted no new impetus, though he tried,
again and again. "Hath this extent no more rude am I in speech--"
He gulped audibly. "Rude rude rude am I--rude am I in speech--in
speech--in speech. Rude am I in speech--"
"Yes," the irritated teacher said, as Ramsey's failing voice
continued huskily to insist upon this point. "I think you are!"
And her nerves were a little soothed by the shout of laughter from
the school--it was never difficult for teachers to be witty. "Go sit
down, Ramsey, and do it after school."
His ears roaring, the unfortunate went to his seat, and, among all
the hilarious faces, one stood out--Dora Yocum's. Her laughter was
precocious; it was that of a confirmed superior, insufferably adult
--she was laughing at him as a grown person laughs at a child.
Conspicuously and unmistakably, there was something indulgent in her
amusement. He choked. Here was a little squirt of a high-school
girl who would trot up to George Washington himself and show off
around him, given the opportunity; and George Washington would
probably pat her on the head, or give her a medal--or something.
Well, let him! Ramsey didn't care. He didn't care for George
Washington, or Paul Revere, or Shakespeare, or any of 'em. They
could all go to the dickens with Dora Yocum. They were all a lot
of smarties anyway and he hated the whole stew of 'em!
There was one, however, whom he somehow couldn't manage to hate, even
though this one officially seemed to be as intimately associated with
Dora Yocum and superiority as the others were. Ramsey couldn't hate
Abraham Lincoln, even when Dora was chosen to deliver the "Gettysburg
Address" on the twelfth of February. Vaguely, yet reassuringly,
Ramsey felt that Lincoln had resisted adoption by the intellectuals.
Lincoln had said "Government of the people, by the people, for the
people," and that didn't mean government by the teacher and the
Teacher's Pet and Paul Revere and Shakespeare and suchlike; it meant
government by everybody, and therefore Ramsey had as much to do with
it as anybody else had. This was friendly; and he believed that if
Abraham Lincoln could have walked into the schoolroom, Lincoln would
have been as friendly with him as with Dora and the teacher herself.
Beyond a doubt, Dora and the teacher ~thought~ Lincoln belonged to
them and their crowd of exclusives; they seemed to think they owned
the whole United States; but Ramsey was sure they were mistaken about
He felt that it was just like this little Yocum snippet to assume
such a thing, and it made him sicker than ever to look at her.
Then, one day, he noticed that her eye-winkers were stickin' out
farther and farther.
His discovery irritated him the more. Next thing, this ole Teacher's
Pet would do she'd get to thinkin' she was pretty! If ~that~
happened, well, nobody ~could~ stand her! The long lashes made her
eyes shadowy, and it was a fact that her shoulder blades ceased to
insist upon notoriety; you couldn't tell where they were at all, any
more. Her back seemed to be just a regular back, not made up of a lot
of implements like shoulder blades and things.
A contemptible thing happened. Wesley Bender was well known to be
the most untidy boy in the class and had never shown any remorse for
his reputation or made the slightest effort either to improve or to
dispute it. He was content: it failed to lower his standing with
his fellows or to impress them unfavourably. In fact, he was treated
as one who has attained a slight distinction. At least, he owned one
superlative, no matter what its quality, and it lifted him out of the
commonplace. It helped him to become better known, and boys liked to
be seen with him. But one day, there was a rearrangement of the
seating in the schoolroom: Wesley Bender was given a desk next in
front of Dora Yocum's; and within a week the whole room knew that
Wesley had begun voluntarily to wash his neck--the back of it,
This was at the bottom of the fight between Ramsey Milholland and
Wesley Bender, and the diplomatic exchanges immediately preceding
hostilities were charmingly frank and unhyprocitical, although quite
as mixed-up and off-the-issue as if they had been prepared by
professional foreign office men. Ramsey and Fred Mitchell and four
other boys waylaid young Bender on the street after school, intending
jocosities rather than violence, but the victim proved sensitive.
"You take your ole hands off o' me!" he said fiercely, as they began
to push him about among them.
"Ole dirty Wes!" they hoarsely bellowed and squawked, in their
changing voices. "Washes his ears!"... "Washes his ~neck!~"...
"Dora Yocum told his mama to turn the hose on him~"... "Yay-ho!
Ole dirty Wes tryin to be a duke!"
Wesley broke from them and backed away, swinging his strapped books
in a dangerous circle. "You keep off!" he warned them. "I got as
much right to my pers'nal appearance as anybody!"
This richly fed their humour, and they rioted round him, keeping
outside the swinging books at the end of the strap. "Pers'nal
appearance!"... "Who went and bought it for you, Wes?"... "Nobody
bought it for him. Dora Yocum took and give him one!"
"You leave ladies' names alone!" cried the chivalrous Wesley. "You
ought to know better, on the public street, you--pups!"
Here was a serious affront, at least to Ramsey Milholland's way of
thinking; for Ramsey, also, now proved sensitive. He quoted his
friends--"Shut up!"--and advanced toward Wesley. "You look here!
Who you callin' 'pups'?"
"Everybody!" Wesley hotly returned. "Everybody that hasn't got any
more decency than to go around mentioning ladies' names on the public
streets. Everybody that goes around mentioning ladies' names on the
public streets are pups!"
"They are, are they?" Ramsey as hotly demanded. "Well, you just look
here a minute; my own father mentions my mother's name on the public
streets whenever he wants to, and you just try callin' my father a
pup, and you won't know what happened to you!"
"What'll ~you~ do about it?"
"I'll put a new head on you," said Ramsey. "That's what I'll do,
because anybody that calls my father or mother a pup--"
"Oh, shut up! I wasn't talking about your ole father and mother. I
said everybody that mentioned Dora Yocum's name on the public streets
was a pup, and I mean it! Everybody that mentions Dora Yocum's name
on the pub--"
"Dora Yocum!" said Ramsey. "I got a perfect right to say it anywhere
I want to. Dora Yocum, Dora Yocum, Dora Yocum!--"
"All right, then you're a pup!"
Ramsey charged upon him and received a suffocating blow full in the
face, not from Mr. Bender's fist but from the solid bundle of books
at the end of the strap. Ramsey saw eight or ten objectives
instantly: there were Wesley Benders standing full length in the
air on top of other Wesley Benders, and more Wesley Benders zigzagged
out sideways from still other Wesley Benders; nevertheless, he found
one of these and it proved to be flesh. He engaged it wildly at
fisticuffs; pounded it upon the countenance and drove it away. Then
he sat down upon the curbstone, and, with his dizzy eyes shut, leaned
forward for the better accomodation of his ensanguined nose.
Wesley had retreated to the other side of the street holding a grimy
handkerchief to the midmost parts of his pallid face. "There, you ole
damn pup!" he shouted, in a voice which threatened to sob. "I guess
~that'll~ teach you to be careful how you mention Dora Yocum's name
on the public streets!"
At this, Ramsey made a motion as if to rise and pursue, whereupon
Wesley fled, wailing back over his shoulder as he ran, "You wait till
I ketch you out alone on the public streets and I'll--"
His voice was lost in an outburst of hooting from his former friends,
who sympathetically surrounded the wounded Ramsey. But in a measure,
at least, the chivalrous fugitive had won his point. He was routed
and outdone, yet what survived the day was a rumour, which became a
sort of tenuous legend among those interested. There had been a
fight over Dora Yocum, it appeared, and Ramsey Milholland had
attempted to maintain something derogatory to the lady, while Wesley
defended her as a knightly youth should. The something derogatory
was left vague; nobody attempted to say just what it was, and the
effects of the legend divided the schoolroom strictly according to
The boys, unmindful of proper gallantry, supported Ramsey on account
of the way he had persisted in lickin' the stuffin' out of Wesley
Bender after receiving that preliminary wallop from Wesley's
blackjack bundle of books. The girls petted and championed Wesley;
they talked outrageously of his conqueror, fiercely declaring that
he ought to be arrested; and for weeks they maintained a new manner
toward him. They kept their facial expressions hostile, but perhaps
this was more for one another's benefit than for Ramsey's; and
several of them went so far out of their way to find even private
opportunities for reproving him that an alert observer might have
suspected them to have been less indignant than they seemed--but not
Ramsey. He thought they all hated him, and said he was glad of it.
Dora was a non-partisan. The little prig was so diligent at her
books she gave never the slightest sign of comprehending that there
had been a fight about her. Having no real cognizance of Messrs.
Bender and Milholland except as impediments to the advance of
learning, she did not even look demure.
With Wesley Bender, Ramsey was again upon fair terms before the
winter had run its course; the two were neighbours and, moreover,
were drawn together by a community of interests which made their
reconciliation a necessity. Ramsey played the guitar and Wesley
played the mandolin.
All ill feeling between them died with the first duet of spring, yet
the twinkling they made had no charm to soothe the savage breast of
Ramsey whenever the Teacher's Pet came into his thoughts. He
daydreamed a thousand ways of putting her in her place, but was
unable to carry out any of them, and had but a cobwebby satisfaction
in imagining discomfitures for her which remained imaginary. With a
yearning so poignant that it hurt, he yearned and yearned to show her
what she really was. "Just once!" he said to Fred Mitchell. "That's
all I ask, just once. Just gimme one chance to show that girl what
she really is. I guess if I ever get the chance she'll find out
what's the matter with her, for ~once~ in her life, anyway!" Thus it
came to be talked about and understood and expected in Ramsey's
circle, all male, that Dora Yocum's day was coming. The nature of the
disaster was left vague, but there was no doubt in the world that
retribution merely awaited its ideal opportunity. "You'll see!" said
Ramsey. "The time'll come when that ole girl'll wish she'd moved o'
this town before she ever got appointed monitor of ~our~ class! Just
They waited, but conditions appeared to remain unfavourable
indefinitely. Perhaps the great opportunity might have arrived if
Ramsey had been able to acheive a startling importance in any of
the "various divergent yet parallel lines of school endeavour"--one
of the phrases by means of which teachers and principal clogged the
minds of their unarmed auditors. But though he was far from being
the dumb driven beast of misfortune that he seemed in the schoolroom,
and, in fact, lived a double life, exhibiting in his out-of-school
hours a remarkable example of "secondary personality"--a creature
fearing nothing and capable of laughter; blue-eyed, fairly robust,
and anything but dumb--he was nevertheless without endowment or
attainment great enough to get him distinction.
He "tried for" the high-school eleven, and "tried for" the nine, but
the experts were not long in elminiating him from either of these
competitions, and he had to content himself with cheering instead of
getting cheered. He was by no manner of means athlete enough, or
enough of anything else, to put Dora Yocum in her place, and so he
and the great opportunity were still waiting in May, at the end of
the second year of high school, when the class, now the "10 A,"
reverted to an old fashion and decided to entertain itself with a
They gathered upon the sandy banks of a creek, in the blue shade of
big, patchy-barked sycamores, with a dancing sky on top of everything
and gold dust atwinkle over the water. Hither the napkin-covered
baskets were brought from the wagons and assembled in the shade,
where they appeared as an attractive little meadow of white napery,
and gave both surprise and pleasure to communities of ants and to
other original settlers of the neighbourhood.
From this nucleus or headquarters of the picnic, various expeditions
set forth up and down the creek and through the woods that bordered
it. Camera work was constant; spring wild flowers were accumulated
by groups of girls who trooped through the woods with eager eyes
searching the thickets; two envied boy fishermen established
themselves upon a bank up-stream, with hooks and lines thoughtfully
brought with them, and poles which they fashioned from young
saplings. They took mussels from the shallows, for bait, and having
gone to all this trouble, declined to share with friends less
energetic and provident the perquisites and pleasures secured to
Albert Paxton was another person who proved his enterprise. Having
visited the spot some days before, he had hired for his exclusive use
throughout the duration of the picnic an old rowboat belonging to a
shanty squatter; it was the only rowboat within a mile or two and
Albert had his own uses for it. Albert was the class lover and,
after first taking the three chaperon teachers "out for a row," an
excursion concluded in about ten minutes, he disembarked them; Sadie
Clews stepped into the boat, a pocket camera in one hand, a tennis
racket in the other; and the two spent the rest of the day, except
for the luncheon interval, solemnly drifting along the banks or
grounded on a shoal. Now and then Albert would row a few strokes,
and at almost any time when the populated shore glanced toward them,
Sadie would be seen photographing Albert, or Albert would be seen
photographing Sadie, but the tennis racket remained an enigma.
Oarsman and passenger appeared to have no conversation whatever--not
once was either seen or heard to address a remark to the other; and
they looked as placid as their own upside-down reflections in one of
the still pools they slowly floated over. They were sixteen, and had
been "engaged" more than two years.
On the borders of the little meadow of baskets there had been
deposited two black shapes, which remained undisturbed throughout
the day, a closed guitar case and a closed mandolin case, no doubt
containing each its proper instrument. So far as any use of these
went they seemed to be of the same leisure class to which Sadie's
tennis racket belonged, for when one of the teachers suggested music,
the musicians proved shy. Wesley Bender said they hadn't learned to
play anything much and, besides, he had a couple o' broken strings
he didn't know as he could fix up; and Ramsey said he guessed it
seemed kind o' too hot to play much. Joining friends, they organized
a contest in marksmanship, the target being a floating can which they
assailed with pebbles; and after that they "skipped" flat stones upon
the surface of the water, then went to join a group gathered about
Willis Parker and Heinie Krusemeyer.
No fish had been caught, a lack of luck crossly attributed by the
fishermen to the noise made by constant advice on the part of their
attendant gallery. Messrs. Milholland, Bender, and the other rock
throwers came up shouting, and were ill received.
"For heaven's sakes," Heinie Krusemeyer demanded, "can't you shut up?
Here we just first got the girls to keep their mouths shut a minute
and I almost had a big pickerel or something on my hook, and here you
got to up and yell so he chases himself away! Why can't nobody show
a little sense sometimes when they ought to?"
"I should say so!" his comrade exclaimed. "If people would only just
take and think of all the trouble we been to, it seems funny somebody
couldn't let us have half a chance to get a few good fish. What
chance they got to bite with a lot o' ~girls~ gabbin' away, and then,
just as we get 'em quieted down, all you men got to come bustin' up
here yellin' your heads off. A fish isn't goin' to bite when he
can't even hear himself think! Anybody ought to know that much."
But the new arrivals hooted. ~"Fish!"~ Ramsey vociferated. "I'll
bet a hundred dollars there hasn't been even a minny in this creek
for the last sixty years!"
"There is, too!" said Heinie, bitterly. "But I wouldn't be supprised
there wouldn't be no longer if you got to keep up this noise. If
you'd shut up just a minute you could see yourself there's fish
In whispers several of the tamed girls at once heartily corroborated
this statement, whereupon the newcomers ceased to gibe and consented
to silence. Ramsey leaned forth over the edge of the overhanging
bank, a dirt precipice five feet above the water, and peered into the
indeterminable depths below. The pool had been stirred, partly by
the inexpert pokings of the fishermen and partly by small clods and
bits of dirt dislodged from above by the feet of the audience. The
water, consequently, was but brownly translucent and revealed its
secrets reluctantly; nevertheless certain dim little shapes had been
observed to move within it, and were still there. Ramsey failed to
see them at first.
"Where's any ole fish?" he inquired, scornfully.
"Oh, my goodness!" Heinie Krusemeyer moaned. "~Can't~ you shut up?"
"Look!" whispered the girl who stood nearest to Ramsey. She pointed.
"There's one. Right down there by Willis's hook. Don't you see
Ramsey was impressed enough to whisper. "Is there? I don't see him.
The girl came closer to him, and, the better to show him, leaned
out over the edge of the bank, and, for safety in maintaining her
balance, rested her left hand upon his shoulder while she pointed
with her right. Thereupon something happened to Ramsey. The touch
upon his shoulder was almost nothing, and he had never taken the
slightest interest in Milla Rust (to whom that small warm hand
belonged), though she was the class beauty, and long established in
the office. Now, all at once, a peculiar and heretofore entirely
unfamiliar sensation suddenly became important in the upper part of
his chest. For a moment he held his breath, an involuntary action;
--he seemed to be standing in a shower of flowers.
"Don't you see it, Ramsey?" Milla whispered. "It's a great big one.
Why, it must be as long as--as your shoe! Look!"
Ramsey saw nothing but the thick round curl on Milla's shoulder.
Milla had a group of curls on each of her shoulders, for she got her
modes at the Movies and had that sort of prettiness: large, gentle,
calculating eyes, and a full, softly modelled face, implacably sweet.
Ramsey was accustomed to all this charm, and Milla had never before
been of more importance to him than an equal weight of school
furniture--but all at once some magic had enveloped her. That curl
upon the shoulder nearest him was shot with dazzling fibres of
sunshine. He seemed to be trembling.
"I don't see it," he murmured, huskily, afraid that she might remove
her hand. "I can't see any fish, Milla."
She leaned farther out over the bank. "Why, there, goosie!" she
whispered. "Right there."
"I can't see it."
She leaned still farther, bending down to point. "Why right th--"
At this moment she removed her hand from his shoulder, though
unwillingly. She clutched at him, in fact, but without avail. She
had been too amiable.
A loud shriek was uttered by throats abler to vocalize, just then,
than Milla's, for in her great surprise she said nothing whatever--
the shriek came from the other girls as Milla left the crest of the
overhanging bank and almost horizontally disappeared into the brown
water. There was a tumultuous splash, and then of Milla Rust and her
well-known beautifulness there was nothing visible in the superficial
world, nor upon the surface of that creek. The vanishment was total.
Several girls afterward admitted having used this expression, and
little Miss Floy Williams, the youngest and smallest member of the
class, was unable to deny that she had said, "Oh, God!" Nothing
could have been more natural, and the matter need not have been
brought before her with such insistence and frequency, during the
two remaining years of her undergraduate career.
Ramsey was one of those who heard this exclamation, later so famous,
and perhaps it was what roused him to heroism. He dived from the
bank, headlong, and the strange thought in his mind was "I guess
~this~'ll show Dora Yocum!" He should have been thinking of Milla,
of course, at such a time, particularly after the little enchantment
just laid upon him by Milla's touch and Milla's curls; and he knew
well enough that Miss Yocum was not among the spectators. She was
half a mile away, as it happened, gathering "botanical specimens"
with one of the teachers--which was her idea of what to do at a
Ramsey struck the water hard, and in the same instant struck
something harder. Wesley Bender's bundle of books had given him no
such shock as he received now, and if the creek bottom had not been
of mud, just there, the top of his young head might have declined the
strain. Half stunned, choking, spluttering he somehow floundered to
his feet; and when he could get his eyes a little cleared of water
he found himself wavering face to face with a blurred vision of Milla
Rust. She had risen up out of the pod and stood knee deep, like a
lovely drenched figure in a fountain.
Upon the bank above them, Willis Parker was jumping up and down,
gesticulating and shouting fiercely. "Now I guess you're satisfied
our fishin' ~is~ spoilt! Whyn't you listen me? I ~told~ you it
wasn't more'n three feet deep! I and Heinie waded all over this
creek gettin' our bait. You're a pretty sight!"
Of Milla he spoke unwittingly the literal truth. Even with her hair
thus wild and sodden, Milla rose from immersion blushing and prettier
than ever; and she was prettiest of all when she stretched out her
hand helplessly to Ramsey and he led her up out of the waters. They
had plenty of assistance to scramble to the top of the bank, and
there Milla was surrounded and borne away with a great clacketing and
tumult. Ramsey gave his coat into the hands of friends, who twisted
the water out of it for him, while he sat upon the grass in the sun,
rubbed his head, and experimented with his neck to see if it would
"work." The sunshine was strong and hot; in half an hour he and his
clothes were dry--or at least "dry enough," as he said, and except
for some soreness of head and neck, and the general crumpledness of
his apparel, he seemed to be in all ways much as usual when shouts
and whistlings summoned all the party to luncheon at the rendezvous.
The change that made him different was invisible.
The change in Ramsey was invisible, and yet something must have been
seen, for everyone appeared to take it for granted that he was to
sit next to Milla at the pastoral meal. She herself understood it,
evidently, for she drew in her puckered skirts and without any words
make a place for him beside her as he driftingly approached her,
affecting to whistle and keeping his eyes on the foliage overhead.
He still looked upward, even in the act of sitting down.
"Squirrel or something," he said, feebly, as if in explanation.
"Where?" Milla asked.
"Up there on a branch." He accepted a plate from her (she had
provided herself with an extra one), but he did not look at it or
her. "I'm not just exactly sure it's a squirrel," he said. "Kind of
hard to make out exactly what it is." He continued to keep his eyes
aloft, because he imagined that all of the class were looking at him
and Milla, and he felt unable to meet such publicity. It was to him
as if the whole United States had been scandalized to attention by
this act of his in going to sit beside Milla; he gazed upward so long
that his eyeballs became sensitive under the strain. He began to
blink. "I can't make out whether it's a squirrel or just some leaves
that kind o' got fixed like one," he said. "I can't make out yet
which it is, but I guess when there's a breeze, if it's a squirrel
he'll prob'ly hop around some then, if he's alive or anything."
It had begun to seem that his eyes must remain fixed in that upward
stare forever; he wanted to bring them down, but could not face the
glare of the world. So the fugitive ostrich is said to bury his head
in the sand; he does it, not believing himself thereby hidden but
trying to banish from his own cognizance terrible facts which his
unsheltered eyes have seemed to reveal. So, too, do nervous children
seek to bury their eyes under pillows, and nervous statesmen theirs
under oratory. Ramsey's ostrichings can happen to anybody. But
finally the brightness of the sky between the leaves settled matters
for him; he sneezed, wept, and for a little moment again faced his
fellowmen. No one was looking at him; everybody except Milla had
other things to do.
Having sneezed involuntarily, he added a spell of coughing for which
there was no necessity. "I guess I must be wrong," he muttered
"What about, Ramsey?"
"About it bein' a squirrel." With infinite timidity he turned
his head and encountered a gaze so soft, so hallowed, that it
disconcerted him, and he dropped a "drumstick" of fried chicken, well
dotted with ants, from his plate. Scarlet he picked it up, but did
not eat it. For the first time in his life he felt that eating fried
chicken held in the fingers was not to be thought of. He replaced
the "drumstick" upon his plate and allowed it to remain there
untouched, in spite of a great hunger for it.
Having looked down, he now found difficulty in looking up, but gazed
steadily at his plate, and into this limited circle of vision came
Milla's delicate and rosy fingers, bearing a gift. "There," she said
in a motherly little voice. "It's a tomato mayonnaise sandwich and
I made it myself. I want you to eat it, Ramsey."
His own fingers approached tremulousness as he accepted the thick
sandwich from her and conveyed it to his mouth. A moment later his
soul filled with horror, for a spurt of mayonnaise dressing had
caused a catastrophe the scene of which occupied no inconsiderable
area of his right cheek; which was the cheek toward Milla. He groped
wretchedly for his handkerchief but could not find it; he had lost
it. Sudden death would have been relief; he was sure that after such
grotesquerie Milla could never bear to have anything more to do with
him; he was ruined.
In his anguish he felt a paper napkin pressed gently into his hand; a
soft voice said in his ear, "Wipe it off with this, Ramsey. Nobody's
So this incredibly charitable creature was still able to be his
friend, even after seeing him mayonnaised! Humbly marvelling, he did
as she told him, but avoided all further risks. He ate nothing more.
He sighed his first sigh of inexpressibleness, had a chill or so
along the spine, and at intervals his brow was bedewed.
Within his averted eyes there dwelt not the Milla Rust who sat
beside him, but an iridescent, fragile creature who had beome
He spent the rest of the day dawdling helplessly about her; wherever
she went he was near, as near as possible, but of no deliberate
volition of his own. Something seemed to tie him to her, and Milla
was nothing loth. He seldom looked at her directly, or for longer
than an instant, and more rarely still did he speak to her except as
a reply. What few remarks he ventured upon his own initiative nearly
all concerned the landscape, which he commended repeatedly in a weak
voice, as "kind of pretty," though once he said he guessed there
might be bugs in the bark of a log on which they sat; and he became
so immoderately personal as to declare that if the bugs had to get on
anybody he'd rather they got on him than on Milla. She said that was
"just perfectly lovely" of him, asked where he got his sweet nature,
and in other ways encouraged him to continue the revelation, but
Ramsey was unable to get forward with it, though he opened and closed
his mouth a great many times in the effort to do so.
At five o'clock everybody was summoned again to the rendezvous for a
ceremony preliminary to departure: the class found itself in a large
circle, standing, and sang "The Star Spangled Banner." Ordinarily,
on such an open-air and out-of-school occasion, Ramsey would have
joined the chorus uproariously with the utmost blatancy of which his
vocal apparatus was capable; and most of the other boys expressed
their humour by drowning out the serious efforts of the girls; but he
sang feebly, not much more than humming through his teeth. Standing
beside Milla, he was incapable of his former inelegancies and his
voice was in a semi-paralyzed condition, like the rest of him.
Opposite him, across the circle, Dora Yocum stood a little in advance
of those near her, for of course she led the singing. Her clear and
earnest voice was distinguishable from all others, and though she did
not glance toward Ramsey he had a queer feeling that she was assuming
more superiority than ever, and that she was icily scornful of him
and Milla. The old resentment rose--he'd "show" that girl yet, some
When the song was over, cheers were given for the class, "the good ole
class of Nineteen Fourteen," the school, the teachers, and for the
picnic, thus officially concluded; and then the picnickers, carrying
their baskets and faded wild flowers and other souvenirs and burdens,
moved toward the big "express wagons" which were to take them back
into the town. Ramsey got his guitar case, and turned to Milla.
"Well--" he said.
"Well what, Ramsey?"
"Why, no," said Milla. "Anyways not yet. You can go back in the
same wagon with me. It's going to stop at the school and let us out
there, and then you could walk home with me if you felt like it. You
could come all the way to our gate with me, I expect, unless you'd be
late home for your supper."
"Well--well, I'd be perfectly willing," Ramsey said. "Only I heard
we all had to go back in whatever wagon we came out in, and I didn't
come in the same wagon with you, so--"
Milla laughed and leaned toward him a little. "I already 'tended to
that," she said confidentially. "I asked Johnnie Fiske, that came
out in my wagon, to go back in yours, so that makes room for you."
"Well--then I guess I could do it." He moved toward the wagon with
her. "I expect it don't make much difference one way or the other."
"And you can carry my basket if you want to," she said, adding
solicitously, "Unless it's too heavy when you already got your guitar
case to carry, Ramsey."
This thoughtfulness of hers almost overcame him; she seemed divine.
He gulped, and emotion made him even pinker than he had been under
"I--I'll be glad to carry the basket, too," he faltered. "It-it
don't weigh anything much."
"Well, let's hurry, so's we can get places together."
Then, as she manoeuvred him through the little crowd about the wagon,
with a soft push this way and a gentle pull that, and hurried him up
the improvised steps and found a place where there was room for them
to sit, Ramsey had another breathless sensation heretofore unknown to
him. He found himself taken under a dovelike protectorship; a
wonderful, inexpressible Being seemed to have become his proprietor.
"Isn't this just perfectly lovely?" she said cozily, close to his
He swallowed, but found no words, for he had no thoughts; he was only
an incoherent tumult. This was his first love.
"Isn't it, Ramsey?" she urged. The cozy voice had just the hint of
a reproach. "Don't you think it's just perfectly lovely, Ramsey?"
The next morning Ramsey came into his father's room while Mr.
Milholland was shaving, an hour before church time, and it became
apparent that the son had someting on his mind, though for a while
he said nothing.
"Did you want anything, Ramsey?"
"Didn't want to borrow my razors?"
Mr. Milholland chuckled. "I hardly supposed so, seriously! Shaving
is a great nuisance and the longer you keep away from it, the better.
And when you do, you let my razors alone, young feller!"
"Yes, sir." (Mr. Milholland's rzaors were safe, Ramsey had already
achieved one of his own, but he practised the art in secret.) He
passed his hand thoughtfully over his cheeks, and traces of white
powder were left upon his fingers, whereupon he wiped his hand
surreptitiously, and stood irresolutely waiting.
"What is it you really want, Ramsey?"
"I guess I don't want anything."
"No, sir. You gay' me some Friday."
Mr. Milholland turned from his mirror and looked over the edge of a
towel at his son. In the boy's eyes there was such a dumb agony of
interrogation that the father was a little startled.
"Why, what is it, Ramsey? Have you--" He paused, frowning and
wondering. "You haven't been getting into some mess you want to
tell me about, have you?"
His tone was meek, but a mute distress lurked within it, bringing
to the father's mind disturbing suspicions, and foreshadowings of
indignation and of pity. "See here, Ramsey," he said, "if there's
anything you want to ask me, or to tell me, you'd better out with
it and get it over. Now, what is it?"
"Well--it isn't anything."
"Are you ~sure?~"
Ramsey's eyes fell before the severe and piercing gaze of his father.
Mr. Milholland shook his head doubtfully; then, as his son walked
slowly out of the room, he turned to complete his toilet in a
somewhat uneasy frame of mind. Ramsey had undoubtedly wanted to say
something to him and the boy's expression had shown that the matter
in question was serious, distressing, and, it might be, even
In fact it was--to Ramsey. Having begun within only the last few
hours to regard haberdashery as of vital importance, and believing
his father to be possessed of the experience and authority lacking
in himself, Ramsey had come to get him to settle a question which had
been upsetting him badly, in his own room, since breakfast. What he
want to know was: Whether it was right to wear an extra handkerchief
showing out of the coat breast pocket or not, and, if it was right--
ought the handkerchief to have a coloured border or to be plain
white? But he had never before brought any such perplexities to his
father, and found himself too diffident to set them forth.
However, when he left the house, a few minutes later, he boldly
showed an inch of purple border above the pocket; then, as he was
himself about to encounter several old lady pedestrians, he blushed
and thrust the handkerchief down into deep concealment. Having gone
a block farther, he pulled it up again; and so continued to operate
this badge of fashion, or unfashion, throughout the morning; and
suffered a great deal thereby.
Meantime, his father, rather relieved that Ramsey had not told his
secret, whatever it was, dismissed the episode from his mind and
joined Mrs. Milholland at the front door, ready for church.
"Where's Ramsey?" he asked.
"He's gone ahead," she answered, buttoning her gloves as they went
along. "I heard the door quite a little while ago. Perhaps he went
over to walk down with Charlotte and Vance. Did you notice how neat
he looks this morning?"
"Why, no, I didn't; not particularly. Does he?"
"I never saw anything like it before," said Mrs. Milholland. "He
went down in the cellar and polished his own shoes."
"For about an hour, I think," she said, as one remaining calm before
a miracle. "And he only has three neckties, but I saw him several
times in each of them. He must have kept changing and changing.
I wonder--" She paused.
"I'm glad he's begun to take a little care of his appearance at
last. Business men think a good deal about that, these days, when
he comes to make his start in the world. I'll have to take a look
at him and give him a word of praise. I suppose he'll be in the pew
when we get there."
But Ramsey wasn't in the pew; and Charlotte, his sister, and her
husband, who were there, said they hadn't seen anything of him. It
was not until the members of the family were on their way home after
the services that they caught a glimpse of him.
They were passing a church a little distance from their own; here
the congregation was just emerging to the open, and among the sedate
throng descending the broad stone steps appeared an accompanied
Ramsey--and a red, red Ramsey he was when he beheld his father and
mother and sister and brother-in-law staring up at him from the
pavement below. They were kind enough not to come to an absolute
halt, but passed slowly on, so that he was just able to avoid
parading up the street in front of them. The expressions of his
father, mother, and sister were of a dumfoundedness painful to bear,
while such lurking jocosity as that apparent all over his brother-
in-law no dignified man should either exhibit or be called upon to
In hoarse whispers, Mrs. Milholland chided her husband for an
exclamation he had uttered. "John! On Sunday! You ought to be
"I couldn't help it," he exclaimed. "Who on earth is his clinging
vine? Why, she's got ~lavender~ tops on her shoes and--"
"Don't look round!" she warned him sharply. "Don't--"
"Well, what's he doing at a Baptist church? What's he fidgeting at
his handkerchief about? Why can't he walk like people? Does he
think it's obligatory to walk home from church anchored arm-in-arm
like Swedes on a Sunday Out? Who ~is~ this cow-eyed fat girl that's
got him, anyhow?"
"Hush! Don't look round again, John."
"Never fear!" said her husband, having disobeyed. "They've turned
off; they're crossing over to Bullard Street. Who is it?"
"I think her name's Rust," Mrs. Milholland informed him. "I don't
know what her father does. She's one of the girls in his class at
"Well, that's just like a boy; pick out some putty-faced flirt to
take to church!"
"Oh, she's quite pretty--in that way!" said his wife, deprecatingly.
"Of course that's the danger with public schools. It would be
pleasanter if he'd taken a fancy to someone whose family belongs
to our own circle."
"'Taken a fancy'!" he echoed, hooting. "Why, he's terrible! He
looked like a red-gilled goldfish that's flopped itself out of the
bowl. Why, he--"
"I ~say~ I wish if he felt that he had to take girls anywhere," said
Mrs. Milholland, with the primmest air of speaking to the point--"if
this sort of thing ~must~ begin, I wish he might have selected some
nice girl among the daughters of our own friends, like Dora Yocum,
Upon the spot she began to undergo the mortification of a mother who
has expected her son, just out of infancy, to look about him with the
eye of a critical matron of forty-five. Moreover, she was indiscreet
enough to express her views to Ramsey, a week later, producing thus a
scene of useless great fury and no little sound.
"I do think it's in ~very~ poor tast to see so much of any one girl,
Ramsey," she said, and, not heeding his protest that he only walked
home from school with Milla, "about every other day," and that it
didn't seem any crime to him just to go to church with her a couple
o' times, Mrs. Milholland went on: "But if you think you really
~must~ be dangling around somebody quite this much--though what in
the world you find to ~talk~ about with this funny little Milla Rust
you poor father says he really cannot see--and of course it seems
very queer to us that you'd be willing to waste so much time just now
when your mind ought to be entirely on your studies, and especially
with such an absurd ~looking~ little thing--
"No, you must listen, Ramsey, and let me speak now. What I meant
was that we shouldn't be ~quite~ so much distressed by your being
seen with a girl who dressed in better taste and seemed to have
some notion of refinement, though of course it's only natural she
~wouldn't~, with a father who is just a sort of ward politician, I
understand, and a mother we don't know, and of course shouldn't care
to. But, oh, Ramsey! if you ~had~ to make yourself so conspicuous
why couldn't you be a little ~bit~ more fastidious? Your father
wouldn't have minded nearly so much if it had been a self-respecting,
intellectual girl. We both say that if you ~must~ be so ridiculous
at your age as to persist in seeing more of one girl than another,
why, oh why, don't you go and see some really nice girl like Dora
Ramsey was already dangerously distended, as an effect of the earlier
part of her discourse, and the word "fastidious" almost exploded him;
but upon the climax, "Dora Yocum," he blew up with a shattering
report and, leaving fragments of incoherence ricochetting behind him,
fled shuddering from the house.
For the rest of the school term he walked home with Milla every
afternoon and on sundays appeared to have become a resolute Baptist.
It was supposed (by the interested members of the high-school class)
that Ramsey and Milla were "engaged." Ramsey sometimes rather
supposed they were himself, and the dim idea gave him a sensation
partly pleasant, but mostly apprehensive: he was afraid.
He was afraid that the day was coming when he ought to kiss her.
Vacation, in spite of increased leisure, may bring inconvenience to
people in Ramsey's strange but not uncommon condition. At home his
constant air was that of a badgered captive plaintively silent under
injustice; and he found it difficult to reply calmly when asked where
he was going--an inquiry addressed to him, he asserted, every time he
touched his cap, even to hang it up!
The amount of evening walking he did must also have been a trial to
his nerves, on account of fatigue, though the ground covered was not
vast. Milla's mother and father were friendly people but saw no
reason to "move out of house and home," as Mr. Rust said, when Milla
had "callers"; and on account of the intimate plan of their small
dwelling a visitor's only alternative to spending the evening with
Mr. and Mrs. Rust as well as with Milla, was to invite her to "go
Evening after evening they walked and walked and walked, usually in
company--at perhaps the distance of half a block--with Albert Paxton
and Sadie Clews, though Ramsey now and then felt disgraced by having
fallen into this class; for sometimes it was apparent that Albert
casually had his arm about Sadie's waist. This allured Ramsey
somewhat, but terrified him more. He didn't know how such matters
Usually the quartet had no destination; they just went "out walking"
until ten o'clock, when both girls had to be home--and the boys did,
too, but never admitted it. On Friday evenings there was a "public
open-air concert" by a brass band in a small park, and the four
were always there. A political speechmaker occupied the bandstand
one night, and they stood for an hour in the midst of the crowd,
The orator saddled his politics upon patriotism. "Do you intend
to let this glorious country go to wrack and ruin, oh, my good
friends," he demanded, "or do you intend to save her? Look forth
upon this country of ours, I bid you, oh, my countrymen, and tell
me what you see. You see a fair domain of forest, mountain, plain,
and fertile valleys, sweeping from ocean to ocean. Look from the
sturdy rocks of old New England, pledged to posterity by the stern
religious hardihood of the Pilgrim Fathers, across the corn-bearing
midland country, that land of milk and honey, won for us by the
pluck and endurance of the indomitable pioneers, to where in
sunshine roll the smiling Sierras of golden California, given to
our heritage by the unconquerable energy of those brave men and
women who braved the tomahawk on the Great Plains, the tempest,
of Cape Horn, and the fevers of Panama, to make American soil
of El Dorado! America! Oh, my America, how glorious you stand!
Country of Washington and Valley Forge, out of what martyrdoms
hast thou arisen! Country of Lincoln in his box at Ford's theatre,
his lifeblood staining to a brighter, holier red the red, white,
and blue of the Old Flag! Always and always I see the Old Flag
fluttering the more sacredly encrimsoned in the breeze for the
martyrs who have upheld it! Always I see that Old Flag--"
Milla gave Ramsey's arm, within her own, a little tug. "Come on,"
she said. "Sade says she don't want to hang around here any longer.
It's awful tiresome. Let's go."
He consented, placidly. The oration meant nothing to him and stirred
no one in the audience. The orator was impassioned; he shouted
himself into coughing fits, gesticulated, grew purple; he was so hot
that his collar caved in and finally swooned upon his neck in soggy
exhaustion, prostrate round his thunderings. Meanwhile, the people
listened with an air of patience, yawning here and there, and
gradually growing fewer. It was the old, old usual thing, made up
of phrases that Ramsey had heard dinning away on a thousand such
occasions, and other kinds of occasions, until they meant to him no
more than so much sound. He was bored, and glad to leave.
"Kind o' funny," he said, as they sagged along the street at their
usual tortoise gait.
"What is it, Ramsey?"
"Seems kind o' funny they never have anything to say any one can
take any interest in. Always the same ole whoopety-whoop about
George Washington and Pilgrim Fathers and so on. I bet five dollars
before long we'd of heard him goin' on about our martyred Presidents,
William McKinley and James A. Garfield and Benjamin Harrison and all
so on, and then some more about the ole Red, White, and Blue. Don't
you wish they'd ~quit~, sometimes, about the 'Ole Flag'?"
"I dunno," said Milla. "I wasn't listening any at all. I hate
"Well, I could ~stand~ 'em," Ramsey said, more generously, "if they'd
ever give anybody a little to think about. What's the use always
draggin' in George Warshington and the Ole Flag? And who wants to
hear any more ole truck about 'from ole rocky New England to golden
California,' and how big and fine the United States is and how it's
the land of the Free and all that? Why don't they ever say anything
new? That's what I'd like to know."
Milla laughed, and when he asked why, she told him she'd never heard
him talk so much "at one stretch." "I guess that speech got you kind
of wound up," she said. "Let's talk about something different."
"I just soon," he agreed. And so they walked on in silence, which
seemed to suit Milla. She hung weightily upon his arm, and they
dawdled, drifting from one side of the pavement to the other as
they slowly advanced. Ablert and Sadie, ahead of them, called
"good-night" from a corner, before turning down the side street
where Sadie lived; and then, presently, Ramsey and Milla were at
the latter's gate. He went in with her, halting at the front
"Well, g'night, Milla," he said. "Want to go out walking to-morrow
night? Albert and Sadie are."
"I can't to-morrow night," she told him with obvious regret. "Isn't
it the worst luck! I got an aunt comin' to visit from Chicago, and
she's crazy about playing 'Five Hundred,' and Mama and Papa said
I haf to stay in to make four to play it. She's liable to be here
three or four days, and I guess I got to be around home pretty much
all the time she's here. It's the worst luck!"
He was doleful, but ventured to be literary. "Well, what can't be
helped must be endured. I'll come around when she's gone."
He moved as if to depart, but she still retained his arm and did not
prepare to relinquish it.
"Well--" he said.
"Well what, Ramsey?"
She glanced up at the dark front of the house. "I guess the family's
gone to bed," she said, absently.
"I s'pose so."
"Well, good-night, Ramsey." She said this but still did not release
his arm, and suddenly, in a fluster, he felt that the time he dreaded
had come. Somehow, without knowing where, except that it was
somewhere upon what seemed to be a blurred face too full of
obstructing features, he kissed her.
She turned instantly away in the darkness, her hands over her cheeks;
and in a panic Ramsey wondered if he hadn't made a dreadful mistake.
"S'cuse me!" he said, stumbling toward the gate. "Well, I guess I
got to be gettin' along back home."
He woke in the morning to a great self-loathing: he had kissed a
girl. Mingled with the loathing was a curious pride in the very fact
that caused the loathing, but the pride did not last long. He came
downstairs morbid to breakfast, and continued this mood afterward.
At noon Albert Paxton brought him a note which Milla had asked Sadie
to ask Albert to give him.
Dearie: I am just wondering if you thought as much about something
so sweet that happened last night as I did you know what. I think
it was the sweetest thing. I send you one with this note and I
hope you will think it is a sweet one. I would give you a real
one if you were here now and I hope you would think it was sweeter
still than the one I put in this note. It is the sweetest thing
now you are mine and I am yours forever kiddo. If you come around
about friday eve it will be all right. aunt Jess will be gone
back home by then so come early and we will get Sade and Alb and
go to the band Concert. Don't forget what I said about my putting
something sweet in this note, and I hope you will think it is a
sweet one but not as sweet as the ~real~ sweet one I would like
At this point Ramsey impulsively tore the note into small pieces.
He turned cold as his imagination projected a sketch of his mother
in the act of reading this missive, and of her expression as she
read the sentence: "It is the sweetest thing now you are mine and
I am yours forever kiddo." He wished that Milla hadn't written
"kiddo." She called him that, sometimes, but in her warm little
voice the word seemed not at all what it did in ink. He wished,
too, that she hadn't said she was his forever.
Suddenly he was seized with a horror of her.
Moisture broke out heavily upon him; he felt a definite sickness,
and, wishing for death, went forth upon the streets to walk and
walk. He cared not whither, so that his feet took him in any
direction away from Milla, since they were unable to take him away
from himself--of whom he had as great a horror. Her loving face
was continually before him, and its sweetness made his flesh creep.
Milla had been too sweet.
When he met or passed people, it seemed to him that perhaps they
were able to recognize upon him somewhere the marks of his low
quality. "Softy! Ole sloppy fool!" he muttered, addressing himself.
"Slushy ole mush!... ~Spooner!~" And he added, "Yours forever,
kiddo!" Convulsions seemed about to seize him.
Turning a corner with his head down, he almost charged into Dora
Yocum. She was homeward bound from a piano lesson, and carried a
rolled leather case of sheet music--something he couldn't imagine
Milla carrying--and in her young girl's dress, which attempted to
be nothing else, she looked as wholesome as cold spring water.
Ramsey had always felt that she despised him and now, all at once,
he thought that she was justified. Leper that he had become, he
was unworthy to be even touching his cap to her! And as she nodded
and went briskly on, he would have given anything to turn and walk
a little way with her, for it seemed to him that this might fumigate
his morals. But he lacked the courage, and, besides, he considered
himself unfit to be seen walking with her.
He had a long aftgernoon of anguishes, these becoming most violent
when he tried to face the problem of his future course toward Milla.
He did not face it at all, in fact, but merely writhed, and had
evolved nothing when Friday evening was upon him and Milla waiting
for him to take her to the "band concert" with "Alb and Sade." In
his thoughts, by that time, this harmless young pair shared the
contamination of his own crime, and he regarded them with aversion;
however, he made shift to seek a short interview with Albert, just
"I got a pretty rotten headache, and my stomach's upset, too,"
he said, drooping upon the Paxton's fence. "I been gettin' worse
every minute. You and Sadie go by Milla's, Albert, and tell her
if I'm not there by ha'-pas'-seven, tell her not to wait for me
"How do you mean 'wait'?" Albert inquired. "You don't expect her
to come pokin' along with Sadie and me, do you? She'll keep on
sittin' there at home just the same, because she wouldn't have
anything else to do, if you don't come like she expects you to.
She hasn't got any way to ~stop~ waitin'!"
At this, Ramsey moaned, without affectation. "I don't expect I
~can~, Albert," he said. "I'd like to if I could, but the way it
looks now, you tell her I wouldn't be much surprised maybe I was
startin' in with typhoid fever or pretty near anything at all.
You tell her I'm pretty near as disappointed as she's goin' to be
herself, and I'd come if I could--and I ~will~ come if I get a good
deal better, or anything--but the way it's gettin' to look now,
I kind o' feel as if I might be breaking out with something any
minute." He moved away, concluding, feebly: "I guess I better
crawl on home, Albert, while I'm still able to walk some. You tell
her the way it looks now I'm liable to be right sick."
And the next morning he woke to the chafings of remorse, picturing a
Milla somewhat restored in charm waiting hopefully at the gate, even
after half-past seven, and then, as time passed and the sound of the
distant horns came faintly through the darkness, going sadly to her
room--perhaps weeping there. It was a picture to wring him with
shame and pity, but was followed by another which electrified him,
for out of school he did not lack imagination. What if Albert had
reported his illness too vividly to Milla? Milla was so fond! What
if, in her alarm, she should come here to the house to inquire of
his mother about him? What if she told Mrs. Milholland they were
"engaged"? The next moment Ramsey was projecting a conversation
between his mother and Milla in which the latter stated that she
and Ramsey were soon to be married; that she regarded him as already
virtually her husband, and demanded to nurse him.
In a panic he fled from the house before breakfast, going out by way
of a side door, and he crossed back yeards and climbed back fences to
reach Albert Paxton the more swiftly. This creature, a ladies' man
almost professionaly, was found exercising with an electric iron and
a pair of flannel trousers in a basement laundry, by way of stirring
his appetite for the morning meal.
"See here, Albert," his friend said breathlessly. "I got a favour.
I want you to go over to Milla's--"
"I'm goin' to finish pressin' these trousers," Albert interrupted.
"Then I've got my breakfast to eat."
"Well, you could do this first," said Ramsey, hurriedly. "It
wouldn't hurt you to do me this little favour first. You just slip
over and see Milla for me, if she's up yet, and if she isn't, you
better wait around there till she is, because I want you to tell
her I'm a whole lot better this morning. Tell her I'm pretty near
practick'ly all right again, Albert, and I'll prob'ly write her a
note or something right soon--or in a week or so, anyhow. You tell
"Well, you act pretty funny!" Albert exclaimed, fumbling in the
pockets of his coat. "Why can't you go on over and tell her
"I would," said Ramsey. "I'd be perfectly willing to go only I got
to get back home to breakfast."
Albert stared. "Well, I got to go upstairs and eat my own breakfast
in about a minute, haven't I? But just as it happens there wouldn't
be any use your goin' over there, or me, either."
"Milla ain't there," said Albert, still searching the pockets of his
coat. "When we went by her house last night to tell her about your
headache and stomach and all, why, her mother told us Milla'd gone
up to Chicago yesterday afternoon with her aunt, and said she left
a note for you, and she said if you were sick I better take it and
give it to you. I was goin' to bring it over to your house after
breakfast." He found it. "Here!"
Ramsey thanked him feebly, and departed in a state of partial
stupefaction, brought on by a glimpse of the instabilities of life.
He had also, not relief, but a sense of vacancy and loss; for Milla,
out of his reach, once more became mysteriously lovely.
Pausing in an alley, he read her note.
Dearie: Thought I ought to call you up but over the 'phone is just
nix for explations as Mama and Aunt Jess would hear everything and
thought I might seem cold to you not saying anything sweet on
account of them listening and you would wonder why I was so cold
when telling you good-by for a wile maybe weeks. It is this way
Uncle Purv wired Aunt Jess he has just taken in a big touring car
on a debt and his vacation starts to-morrow so if they were going
to take a trip they better start right way so Aunt Jess invited me.
It is going to be a big trip up around the lakes and I have always
wanted to go touring more than anything in the world stopping at
hotels and all and Mama said I ought to it would be so splend for
my health as she thinks I am failing some lately. Now dearie I have
to pack and write this in a hury so you will not be disappointed
when you come by for the B. C. to-night. Do not go get some other
girl and take her for I would hate her and nothing in this world
make me false for one second to my kiddo boy. I do not know just
when home again as the folks think I better stay up there for a
visit at Aunt Jess and Uncle Purvs home in Chicago after the trip
is over. But I will think of you all the time and you must think
of me every minute and believe your own dearie she will never no
not for one second be false. So tell Sade and Alb good-by for me
and do not be false to me any more than I would be to you and it
will not be long till nothing more will interupt our sweet
As a measure of domestic prudence, Ramsey tore the note into
irreparable fragments, but he did this slowly, and without
experiencing any of the revulsion created by Milla's former
He was melancholy, aggrieved that she should treat him so.
He never saw her again. She sent him a "picture postal" from
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, which his father disengaged from the family
mail, one morning at breakfast, and considerately handed to him
without audible comment. Upon it was written, ~"Oh, you Ramsey!"~
This was the last of Milla.
Just before school opened, in the autumn, Sadie Clews made some
revelations. "Milla did like you," said Sadie. "After that time
you jumped in the creek to save her she liked you better than any
boy in town, and I guess if it wasn't for her cousin Milt up in
Chicago she would of liked you the best anywhere. I guess she did,
anyway, because she hadn't seen him for about a year then.
"Well, that afternoon she went away I was over there and took in
everything that was goin' on, only she made me promise on my word of
honour I wouldn't even tell Albert. They didn't get any wire from
her uncle about the touring car; it was her cousin Milt that jumped
on the train and came down and fixed it all up for Milla to go on the
trip, and everything. You see, Ramsey, she was turned back a couple
of times in school before she came in our class and I don't exactly
know how old she is and she don't ~look~ old yet, but I'm pretty
sure she's at least eighteen, and she might be over. Her mother
kept tellin' her all the time you were just a kid, and didn't have
anything to support her on, and lots of things like that. I didn't
think such a great deal of this Milt's looks, myself, but he's anyway
twenty-one years old, and got a good position, and all their family
seem to think he's just fine! It wasn't his father that took in the
touring car on debt, like she said she was writing to you; it was
Milt himself. He started out in business when he was only fifteen
years old, and this trip he was gettin' up for his father and mother
and Milla was the first vacation he ever took. Well, of course she
wouldn't like my tellin' you, but I can't see the harm of it, now
everything's all over."
"All--all over? You mean Milla's going to be--to be married?"
"She already is," said Sadie. "They got married at her Aunt Jess
and Uncle Purv's house, up in Chicago, last Thursday. Yes, sir;
that quiet little Milla's a regular old married woman by this time,
I expect, Ramsey!"
When he got over the shock, which was not until the next day, one
predominating feeling remained: it was a gloomy pride--a pride in
his proven maturity. He was old enough, it appeared, to have been
the same thing as engaged to a person who was now a Married Woman.
His manner thenceforth showed an added trace of seriousness and
Having recovered his equipoise and something more, he entirely
forgot that moment of humble admiration he had felt for Dora Yocum
on the day of his flattest prostration. When he saw her sitting
in the classroom, smiling brightly up at the teacher, the morning
of the school's opening in the autumn, all his humility had long
since vanished and she appeared to him not otherwise than as the
scholar whose complete proficiency had always been so irksome to
"Look at her!" he muttered to himself. "Same ole Teacher's Pet!"
Now and then, as the days and seasons passed, and Dora's serene
progress continued, never checked or even flawed, there stirred
within some lingerings of the old determination to "show" her; and
he would conjure up a day-dream of Dora in loud lamentation, while
he led the laughter of the spectators. But gradually his feelings
about her came to be merely a dull oppression. He was tired of
having to look at her (as he stated it) and he thanked the Lord
that the time wouldn't be so long now until he'd be out of that
ole school, and then all he'd have to do he'd just take care never
to walk by her house; it was easy enough to use some other street
when he had to go down-town.
"The good ole class of Nineteen-Fourteen is about gone," he said
to Fred Mitchell, who was still his most intimate friend when they
reached the senior year. "Yes, sir; it's held together a good many
years, Fred, but after June it'll be busted plum up, and I hope
nobody starts a move to have any reunions. There's a good many
members of the ole class that I can stand and there's some I can't,
but there's one I just won't! If we ever did call a reunion, that
ole Yocum girl would start in right away and run the whole shebang,
and that's where I'd resign! You know, Fred, the thing ~I~ think
is the one biggest benefit of graduating from this ole school?
It's never seein' Dora Yocum again."
This was again his theme as he sat by the same friend's side, in
the rear row of the class at Commencement, listening to the delivery
of the Valedictory. "Thinks she's just sooblime, don't she!" he
whispered morosely. "She wouldn't trade with the President of the
United States right now. She prob'ly thinks bein' Valedictorian is
more important than Captain of the State University Eleven. Never
mind!" And here his tone became huskily jubilant. "Never mind!
Just about a half-an-hour more and that's the last o' ~you~, ole
girl! Yes, sir, Fred; one thing we can feel pretty good over:
this is where we get through with Dora Yocum!"
Ramsey and Fred had arranged to room together at Greenfield, the seat
of the state university, and they made the short journey in company
the following September. They arrived hilarious, anticipating
pleasurable excitements in the way of "fraternity" pledgings and
initiations, encounters with sophomores, class meetings, and
elections; and, also, they were not absolutely without interest in
the matter of Girls, for the state university was co-educational, and
it was but natural to expect in so broad a field, all new to them, a
possible vision of something rather thrilling. They whispered
cheerfully of all these things during the process of matriculation,
and signed the registrar's book on a fresh page; but when Fred had
written his name under Ramsey's, and blotted it, he took the liberty
of turning over the leaf to examine some of the autographs of their
future classmates, written on the other side. Then he uttered an
exclamation, more droll than dolorous, though it affected to be
wholly the latter; for the shock to Fred was by no means so painful
as it was to his friend.
Ramsey leaned forward and read the name indicated by Fred's
...When they got back to their pleasant quarters at Mrs. Meig's,
facing the campus, Ramsey was still unable to talk of anything except
the lamentable discovery; nor were his companion's burlesquing
efforts to console him of great avail, though Fred did become serious
enough to point out that a university was different from a high
"It's not like havin' to use one big room as a headquarters, you
know, Ramsey. Everything's all split up, and she might happen not
to be in a single of your classes."
"You don't know my luck!" the afflicted boy protested. "I wish
I'd gone to Harvard, the way my father wanted me to. Why, this
is just the worst nuisance I ever struck! You'll see! She'll
be in everything there is, just the way she was back home."
He appeared to be corroborated by the events of the next day,
when they attended the first meeting to organize the new class.
The masculine element predominated, but Dora Yocum was elected
vice-president. "You see?" Ramsey said. "Didn't I tell you?
You see what happens?"
But after that she ceased for a time to intrude upon his life,
and he admitted that his harassment was less grave than he had
anticipated. There were about five hundred students in the
freshman class; he seldom saw her, and when he did it was not more
than a distant glimpse of her on one of the campus paths, her
thoughtful head bent over a book as she hurried to a classroom.
This was bearable; and in the flattering agitations of being sought,
and even hunted, by several "fraternities" simultaneously desirous
of his becoming a sworn Brother, he almost forgot her. After a
hazardous month the roommates fell into the arms of the last "frat"
to seek them, and having undergone an evening of outrage which
concluded with touching rhetoric and an oath taken at midnight,
they proudly wore jewelled symbols on their breasts and were free
to turn part of their attention to other affairs, especially the
affairs of the Eleven.
However, they were instructed by the older brethren of their Order,
whose duty it was to assist in the proper manoeuvring of their young
careers, that, although support of the 'varsity teams was important,
they must neglect neither the spiritual nor the intellectual
by-products of undergraduate doings. Therefore they became members
of the college Y.M.C.A. and of the "Lumen Society."
According to the charter which it had granted itself, the "Lumen
Society" was an "Organization of male and female students"--so
"advanced" was this university--"for the development of the powers
of debate and oratory, intellectual and sociological progress, and
the discussion of all matters relating to philosophy, metaphysics,
literature, art, and current events." A statement so formidable was
not without a hushing effect upon Messrs. Milholland and Mitchell;
they went to their first "Lumen" meeting in a state of fear and came
away little reassured.
"I couldn't get up there," Ramsey declared, "I couldn't stand up
there before all that crowd and make a speech, or debate in a debate,
to save my soul and gizzard! Why, I'd just keel right over and haf
to be carried out."
"Well, the way I understand it," said Fred, "we can't get out of
it. The seniors in the 'frat' said we had to join, and they said we
couldn't resign, either, after we had joined. They said we just had
to go through it, and after a while we'd get used to it and not mind
"~I~ will!" Ramsey insisted. "I couldn't any more stand up there
on my feet and get to spoutin' about sociology and the radical
metempsychorus of the metaphysical bazoozum than I could fly a
flyin' machine. Why, I--"
"Oh, that wasn't anything," Fred interrupted. "The only one that
talked like that, he was that Blickens; he's a tutor, or something,
and really a member of the faculty. Most o' the others just kind
of blah-blahhed around, and what any of 'em tried to get off their
chests hardly amounted to terribly much."
"I don't care. I couldn't do it at ~all!~"
"Well, the way it looks to me," Fred observed, "we simply ~got~ to!
From what they tell me, the freshmen got to do more than anybody.
Every other Friday night, it's all freshmen and nothin' else. You
get a postal card on Monday morning in your mail, and it says
'Assignment' on it, and then it's got written underneath what you
haf to do the next Friday night--oration or debate, or maybe just
read from some old book or something. I guess we got to stand up
there and ~try~, anyway."
"All right," said Ramsey. "If they want me to commit suicide they
can send me one o' their ole 'Assignments.' I won't need to commit
suicide, though, I guess. All I'll do, I'll just fall over in a
fit, and stay in it."
And, in truth, when he received his first "Assignment," one Monday
morning, a month later, he seemed in a fair way to fulfil his
prophecy. The attention of his roommate, who sat at a window of
their study, was attracted by sounds of strangulation.
"What on earth's the matter, Ramsey?"
"Look! Look at ~this!~"
Fred took the card and examined it with an amazement gradually
merging into a pleasure altogether too perceptible:
TWELVE-MINUTE DEBATE, CLASS OF 1918.
~Subject, Resolved:~ That Germany is both legally and morally
justified in her invasion of Belgium.
(Debaters are notified that each will be held strictly to the
following schedule: Affirmative, 4 min., first. Negative, 4 min.,
first. Affirm, 2 min., second. Neg., 2 min., second.)
R. MILHOLLAND, '18 D. YOCUM, '18
Concluding his reading, which was oral, the volatile Mitchell made
use of his voice in a manner of heathenish boisterousness, and
presently reclined upon a lounge to laugh the better. His stricken
comrade, meanwhile, recovered so far as to pace the floor. "I'm
goin' to pack up and light out for home!" he declared, over and over.
And even oftener he read and reread the card to make sure of the
actuality of that fatal coincidence, "D. Yocum, '18."
"If I ~could~ do it," he vociferated, "if I ~could~ stand up there
and debate one o' their darn ole debates in the first place--if I had
the gall to even try it, why, my gosh! you don't suppose I'm goin'
to get up there and argue with ~that girl~, do you? That's a hot way
to get an education: stand up there and argue with a girl before a
couple o' hundred people! My ~gosh!~"
"You got to!" his prostrate companion cackled, weakly. "You can't
get out of it. You're a goner, ole Buddy!"
"I'll be sick. I'll be sick as a dog! I'll be sick as the sickest
dog that ever--"
"No use, ole man. The frat seniors'll be on the job. They'll know
whether you're sick or not, and they'll have you there, right on the
spot to the minute!"
The prediction was accurate. The too fatherly "frat seniors" did all
that Fred said they would, and more. For the honour of the "frat,"
they coached the desperate Ramsey in the technic of Lumen debate,
told him many more things to say than could be said in six minutes,
and produced him, despairing, ghastly, and bedewed, in the large hall
of the Lumen Society at eight o'clock on Friday evening.
Four other "twelve-minute debates" preceded his and the sound of
these, in Ramsey's ears, was the sound of Gabriel practising on
his horn in the early morning of Judgment Day. The members of the
society sat, three rows deep, along the walls of the room, leaving
a clear oblong of green carpet in the centre, where were two small
desks, twenty feet apart, the rostrums of the debaters. Upon a
platform at the head of the room sat dreadful seniors, the officers
of the society, and, upon benches near the platform, the debaters
of the evening were aligned. One of the fraternal seniors sat with
sweltering Ramsey; and the latter, as his time relentlessly came
nearer, made a last miserable squirm.
"Look here, Brother Colburn, I got to get out o' here."
"No, you don't, young fellow."
"Yes, I do!" Ramsey whispered, passionately. "Honest, I do. Honest,
Brother Colburn, I got to get a drink of water. I ~got~ to!"
"No. You can't."
"Honest, Colburn, I ~got~--"
Ramsey grunted feebly, and cast his dilating eyes along the rows of
faces. Most of them were but as blurs, swimming, yet he was aware
(he thought) of a formidable and horrible impassive scrutiny of
himself, a glare seeming to pierce through him to the back of the
belt round his waist, so that he began to have fearful doubts about
that belt, about every fastening and adjustment of his garments,
about the expression of his countenance, and about many other things
jumbling together in his consciousness. Over and over he whispered
gaspingly to himself the opening words of the sentence with which
Colburn had advised him to begin his argument. And as the moment
of supreme agony drew close, this whispering became continuous:
"In making my first appearance before this honor'ble membership
I feel constrained to say in making my first appearance before this
honor'ble membership I feel constrained to say in making my first
appearance before this honor'ble mem--"
...It had come. The chairman announced the subject of the fourth
freshman twelve-minute debate; and Dora Yocum, hitherto unperceived
by Ramsey, rose and went forward to one of the small desks in the
open space, where she stood composedly, a slim, pretty figure in
white. Members in Ramsey's neighbourhood were aware of a brief and
hushed commotion, and of Colburn's fierce whisper, "You can't! You
get up there!" And the blanched Ramsey came forth and placed himself
at the other desk.
He stood before the silent populace of that morgue, and it seemed to
him that his features had forgotten that he was supposed to be their
owner and in control of them; he felt that they were slipping all
over his face, regardless of his wishes. His head, as a whole, was
subject to an agitation not before known by him; it desired to move
rustily in eccentric ways of its own devising; his legs alternately
limbered and straightened under no direction but their own; and his
hands clutched each other fiercely behind his back; he was not one
cohesive person, evidently, but an assembled collection of parts
which had relapsed each into its own indivuality. In spite of them,
he somehow contrived the semblance of a bow toward the chairman and
the semblance of another toward Dora, of whom he was but hazily
conscious. Then he opened his mouth, and, not knowing how he had
started his voice going, heard it as if from a distance.
"In making my first appearance before this honor'ble membership I
feel restrained to say--" He stopped short, and thenceforward shook
visibly. After a long pause, he managed to repeat his opening,
stopped again, swallowed many times, produced a handkerchief and
wiped his face, an act of necessity--then had an inspiration.
"The subject assigned to me," he said, "is resolved that Germany is
mor'ly and legally justified in Belgians--Belgiums! This subject was
assigned to me to be the subject of this debate." He interrupted
himself to gasp piteously; found breathing difficult, but faltered
again: "This subject is the subject. It is the subject that was
assigned to me on a postal card." Then, for a moment or so, he had
a miraculous spurt of confidence, and continued rather rapidly: "I
feel constrained to say that the country of Belgian--Belgium, I mean
--this country has been constrained by the--invaded I mean--invaded
by the imperial German Impire and my subject in this debate is
whether it ought to or not, my being the infernative--affirmative,
I mean--that I got to prove that Germany is mor'ly and legally
justified. I wish to state that--"
He paused again, lengthily, then struggled on. "I have been
requested to state that the German Imp--Empire--that it certainly
isn't right for those Dutch--Germans, I mean--they haven't got any
more business in Belgium than I have myself, but I--I feel
constrained to say that I had to accept whatever side of this debate
I got on the postal card, and so I am constrained to take the side of
the Dutch. I mean the Germans. The Dutch are sometimes called--I
mean the Germans are sometimes called the Dutch in this country, but
they aren't Dutch, though sometimes called Dutch in this country.
Well, and so--so, well, the war began last August or about then,
anyway, and the German army invaded the Belgian army. After they got
there, the invasion began. First, they came around there and then
they commenced invading. Well, what I feel constrained--"
He came to the longest of all his pauses here, and the awful gravity
of the audience almost suffocated him. "Well," he concluded, "it
don't look right to me."
"Four minutes!" the chairman announced, for Ramsey's pauses had
worn away a great deal more of this terrible interval than had his
eloquence. "Opening statement for the negative: Miss D. Yocum.
As Dora began to speak, Ramsey experienced a little relief, but
only a little--about the same amount of relief as that felt by a
bridegroom when it is the bride's turn to "respond," not really
relief at all, but merely the slight relaxation of a continuing
strain. The audience now looked at Ramsey no more than people look
at a bridegroom, but he failed to perceive any substantial mitigation
of his frightful conspicuousness. He had not the remotest idea of
what he had said in setting forth his case for Germany, and he knew
that it was his duty to listen closely to Dora, in order to be able
to refute her argument when his two-minute closing speech fell due
but he was conscious of little more than his own condition. His legs
had now gone wild beyond all devilry, and he had to keep shifting his
weight from one to the other in order even to hope that their frenzy
might escape general attention.
He realized that Dora was speaking rapidly and confidently, and that
somewhere in his ill-assembled parts lurked a familiar bit of him
that ojbected to her even more than usual; but she had used half of
her time, at least, before he was able to gather any coherent meaning
from what she was saying. Even then he caught only a fragment, here
and there, and for the rest--so far as Ramsey was concerned--she
might as well have been reciting the Swedish alphabet.
In spite of the rather startling feebleness of her opponent's
statement, Dora went at her task as earnestly as if it were to
confute some monster of casuistry. "Thus, having demonstrated
that ~all~ war is wrong," she said, approaching her conclusion,
"it is scarcely necessary to point out that whatever the actual
circumstances of the invasion, and whatever the status of the case
in international law, or by reason of treaty, or the German oath
to respect the neutrality of Belgium, which of course was grossly
and dishonorably violated--all this, I say, ladies and gentlemen
of the Lumen Society, all this is beside the point of morals. Since,
as I have shown, ~all~ war is wrong, the case may be simplified
as follows: All war is morally wrong. ~Quod erat demonstrandum~.
Germany invaded Belgium. Invasion is war. Germany, therefore,
did moral wrong. Upon the legal side, as I began by pointing out,
Germany confessed in the Reichstag the violation of law. Therefore,
Germany was justified in the invasion neither morally nor legally;
but was both morally and legally wrong and evil. Ladies and
gentlemen of the Lumen Society, I await the refutation of my
Her opponent appeared to be having enough trouble with his legs,
without taking any added cares upon himself in the way of
refutations. But the marvellous Dora had calculated the length of
her statement with such nicety that the chairman announced "Four
minutes," almost upon the instant of her final syllable; and all
faces turned once more to the upholder of the affirmative.
"Refutation and conclusion by the affirmative," said the chairman.
"Mr. R. Milholland. Two minutes."
Therewith, Ramsey coughed as long as he could cough, and when he felt
that no more should be done in this way, he wiped his face--again an
act of necessity--and quaveringly began:
"Gentlemen and ladies, or ladies and gentlemen, in making the
refutation of my opponent, I feel that--I feel that hardly anything
more ought to be said."
He paused, looked helplessly at his uncontrollable legs, and resumed:
"I am supposed to make the reputa--the refutation of my opponent,
and I feel that I ought to say quite a good deal more. In the first
place, I feel that the invasion has taken place. I am supposed--
anyhow I got a postal card that I am supposed to be here to-night.
Well, in talking over this matter with a couple of seniors, they told
me I was supposed to claim this invasion was mor'ly and legally all
right. Well--" Here, by some chance, the recollection of a word of
Dora's flickered into his chaotic mind, and he had a brighter moment.
"My opponent said she proved all war is wrong--or something like
that, anyhow. She said she proved it was wrong to fight, no matter
what. Well, if she wasn't a girl, anybody that wanted to get her
into a fight could prob'ly do it." He did not add that he would like
to be the person to make the experiment (if Dora weren't a girl), nor
did the thought enter his mind until an hour or so later. "Well," he
added, "I suppose there is little more to be said."
He was so right, in regard to his own performance, at least, that,
thereupon drying up utterly, he proceeded to stand, a speechless
figure in the midst of a multitudinous silence, for an eternity
lasting forty-five seconds. He made a racking effort, and at the
end of this epoch found words again. "In making my argument in this
debate, I would state that--"
"Two minutes!" said the chairman. "Refutation by the negative.
Miss D. Yocum. Two minutes."
"I waive them," said Dora, primly. "I submit that the affirmative
has not refuted the argument of the negative."
"Very well." With his gavel the chairman sharply tapped the desk
before him, "The question is now before the house. 'Resolved, that
Germany is both morally and legally justified in her invasion of
Belgium.' All those in favour of the--"
But here there was an interruption of a kind never before witnessed
during any proceedings of the Lumen Society. It came from neither
of the debaters, who still remained standing at their desks until the
vote settling their comparative merits in argument should be taken.
The interruption was from the rear row of seats along the wall, where
sat new members of the society, freshmen not upon the program for the
evening. A loud voice was heard from this quarter, a loud but nasal
voice, shrill as well as nasal, and full of a strange hot passion.
"Mr. Chairman!" it cried. "Look-a-here, Mr. Chairman! Mr. Chairman,
I demand to be heard! You gotta gimme my say, Mr. Chairman! I'm
a-gunna have my ~say~! You look-a-here, Mr. Chairman!"
Shocked by such a breach of order, and by the unseemly violence of
the speaker, not only the chairman but everyone else looked there.
A short, strong figure was on its feet, gesticulating fiercely; and
the head belonging to it was a large one with too much curly black
hair, a flat, swarthy face, shiny and not immaculately shaven; there
was an impression of ill-chosen clothes, too much fat red lip, too
much tooth, too much eyeball. Fred Mitchell, half-sorrowing, yet
struggling to conceal tears of choked mirth over his roommate's late
exhibition, recognized this violent interrupter as one Linski, a
fellow freshman who sat next to him in one of his classes. "What's
~that~ cuss up to?" Fred wondered, and so did others. Linski showed
He pressed forward, shoving himself through the two rows in front of
him till he emerged upon the green carpet of the open space, and as
he came, he was cyclonic with words.
"You don't put no such stuff as this over, I tell you!" he shouted
in his hot, nasal voice. "This here's a free country, and you call
yourself a debating society, do you? Lemme tell you ~I~ belong to
a debating society in Chicago, where I come from, and them fellas up
there, they'd think they'd oughta be shot fer a fake like what you
people are tryin' to put over, here, to-night. I come down here to
git some more education, and pay fer it, too, in good hard money I've
made sweatin' in a machine shop up there in Chicago; but if ~this~
is the kind of education I'm a-gunna git, I better go on back there.
You call this a square debate, do you?"
He advanced toward the chairman's platform, shaking a frantic fist.
"Well, if you do, you got another think comin', my capitalis' frien'!
you went and give out the question whether it's right fer Choimuny
to go through Belgium; and what do you do fer the Choimun side? You
pick out this here big stiff"--he waved his passionate hand at the
paralyzed Ramsey--"you pick out a boob like that for the Choimun
side, a poor fish that gits stagefright so bad he don't know whether
he's talkin' or dead; or else he fakes it; because he's a speaker so
bum it looks more to me like he was faking. You get this big stiff
to fake the Choimun side, and then you go and stick up a goil agains'
him that's got brains and makes a pacifis' argument that wins the
case agains' the Choimuns like cuttin' through hog lard! But you
ain't a-gunna git away with it, mister! Lemme tell you right here
and now, I may be a mix blood, but I got some Choimun in me with the
rest what I got, and before you vote on this here question you gotta
hear a few woids from somebody that can ~talk!~ This whole war is
a capitalis' war, Belgium as much as Choimuny, and the United States
is sellin' its soul to the capitalis' right now, I tell you, takin'
sides agains' Choimuny. Orders fer explosives and ammanition and
guns and Red Cross supplies is comin' into this country by the
millions, and the capitalis' United States is fat already on the
blood of the workers of Europe! Yes, it is, and I'll have my ~say,~
you boorjaw faker, and you can hammer your ole gavel to pieces at
He had begun to shriek; moisture fell from his brow and his mouth;
the scandalized society was on its feet, nervously into groups.
Evidently the meeting was about to disintegrate. "I'll have my
~say~!" the frenzied Linski screamed. "You try to put up this
capitalis' trick and work a fake to carry over this debate agains'
Choimuny, but you can't work it on ~me~, lemme tell you! I'll have
The outraged chairman was wholly at a loss how to deal with the
"unprecedented situation"--so he defined it, quite truthfully; and he
continued to pound upon the desk, while other clamours began to rival
Linski's; shouts of "Put him out!" "Order!" "Shut up, Freshman!"
"Turn him over to the sophomores!"
"This meeting is ~adjourned!~" bellowed the chairman, and there was
a thronging toward the doors, while the frothing Linski asseverated:
"I'm a-gunna git my say, I tell you! I'll have my say! I'll have my
He had more than that, before the hour was over. A moment after he
emerged from the building and came out, still hot, upon the cool,
dark campus, he found himself the centre of a group of his own
classmates whom he at first mistook for sophomores, such was their
...As this group broke up, a few minutes later, a youth running to
join it, scenting somewhat of interest, detained one of those who
"What's up? What was that squealing?"
"Oh, nothing. We just talked to that Linski. Nobody else touched
him, but Ramsey Milholland gave him a ~peach~ of a punch on the
Ramsey was laconic in response to inquiries upon this subject. When
someone remarked: "You served him right for calling you a boob and
a poor fish and so on before all the society, girls and all," Ramsey
"That wasn't what I hit him for."
He declined to explain further.
The way I look at it, Ramsey," Fred Mitchell said, when they reached
their apartment, whither the benevolent Colburn accompanied them,
"the way I look at it, this Linski kind of paid you a compliment,
after all, when he called you a fake. He must have thought you
anyway ~looked~ as if you could make a better speech than you did.
And as Ramsey groaned, the jovial Mitchell gave himself up to the
divan and the mirth. "Oh, oh, oh, ~golly~!" he sputtered.
"Never you mind, Brother Milholland," Colburn said gently. "The
Lumen is used to nervous beginners. I've seen dozens in my time,
just like you; and some of 'em got to be first rate before they
quit. Besides, this crazy Linski is all that anybody'll ever
remember about to-night's meeting, anyhow. There never was any such
outbreak as that in ~my~ time, and I guess there nver was in the
whole history of the society. We'll probably suspend him until he
apologizes to the society--I'm on the board, and I'm in favour of it.
Who is the bird, anyhow? He's in your class."
"I never saw him before," Ramsey responded from the deep chair, where
he had moodily thrown himself; and, returning to his brooding upon
his oratory. "Oh, murder!" he moaned.
"Well," said the senior, "you'll know him when you see him again.
You put your mark on him where you can see it, all right!" He
chuckled. "I suppose I really ought to have interfered in that, but
I decided to do a little astronomical observation, about fifty feet
away, for a few minutes. I'm 'way behind in my astronomy, anyhow.
Do you know this Linski, Brother Mitchell?"
"I've talked to him a couple o' times on the campus," said Fred.
"He's in one of my classes. He's about the oldest in our class, I
guess--a lot older than us, anyhow. He's kind of an anarchist or
something; can't talk more'n five minutes any time without gettin off
some bug stuff about 'capitalism.' He said the course in political
economy was all 'capitalism' and the prof was bought by Wall Street."
"Poor old Prof. Craig!" Colburn laughed. "He gets fifteen hundred
"Yes; I'd heard that myself, and I told Linski, and he said he had
an uncle workin' in a steel mill got twice that much; but it didn't
make any difference, ole Craig was bought by Wall Street. He said
'capitalism' better look out; he and the foreign-born workmen were
goin' to ~take~ this country some day, and that was one of the
reasons he was after an education. He talked pretty strong pro-
German, too--about the war in Europe--but I sort of thought that was
more because he'd be pro-anything that he thought would help upset
the United States than because he cared much about Germany."
"Yes," said Colburn, "that's how he sounded to-night. I guess
there's plenty more like him in the cities, too. That reminds me,
I'd better arrange a debate on immigration for the Lumen. We'll put
Brother Milholland for the negative, this time."
Ramsey started violently. "See here--"
But the senior reassured him. "Just wanted to see you jump," he
explained. "Don't fear; you've done your share."
"I should think I have!" Ramsey groaned.
"Yes, you won't be called on again this term. By the way," said
Colburn, thoughtfully, "that was a clever girl you had against you
to-night. I don't believe in pacificism much, myself, but she used
it very niftily for her argument. Isn't she from your town, this
"Well, she's a clever young thing," said the senior, still
thoughtful. And he added: "Graceful girl, she is."
At this, the roommates looked at him with startled attention. Ramsey
was so roused as to forget his troubles and sit forward in his chair.
"Yes," said the musing Colburn, "she's a mighty pretty girl."
This exclamation was a simultaneous one; the astounded pair stared
at him in blank incredulity.
"Why, don't you think so?" Colburn mildly inquired. "She seems to me
very unusual looking."
"Well, yes," Fred assented, emphatically. "We're with you there!"
"Extraordinary eyes," continued Colburn. "Lovely figure, too;
altogether a strikingly pretty girl. Handsome, I should say,
perhaps. Yes, 'handsome' rather than 'pretty'." He looked up from
a brief reverie. "You fellows known her long?"
"You bet!" said Ramsey.
"She made a splendid impression on the Lumen," Colburn went on.
"I don't remember that I ever saw a first appearance there that
quite equalled it. She'll probably have a brilliant career in the
society, and in the university, too. She must be a very fine sort
of person." He deliberated within himself a few moments longer,
then, realizing that his hosts and Brethren did not respond with
any heartiness--or with anything at all--to the theme, he changed
it, and asked them what they thought about the war in Europe.
They talked of the war rather drowsily for a while; it was an
interesting but not an exciting topic: the thing they spoke of was
so far away. It was in foreign countries where they had never been
and had no acquaintances; and both the cause and the issue seemed to
be in confusion, though evidently Germany had "started" the trouble.
Only one thing emerged as absolutely clear and proved: there could
be no disagreement about Germany's "dirty work," as Fred defined
it, in violating Belgium. And this stirred Ramsey to declare with
justice that "dirty work" had likewise been done upon himself by the
official person, whoever he or she was, who had given him the German
side of the evening's debate. After this moment of fervour, the
conversation languished, and Brother Colburn rose to go.
"Well, I'm glad you gave that Linski a fine little punch, Brother
Milholland," he said, at the door. "It won't do you any harm in the
'frat,' or with the Lumen either. And don't be discouraged about
your debating. You'll learn. Anybody might have got rattled by
having to argue against as clever and good-looking a girl as that!"
The roommates gave each other a look of serious puzzlement as the
door closed. "Well, Brother Colburn is a mighty nice fellow," Fred
said. "He's kind of funny, though."
Ramsey assented, and then, as the two prepared for bed, they entered
into a further discussion of their senior friend. They liked him
"all right," they said, but he certainly must be kind of queer, and
they couldn't just see how he had "ever managed to get where he was"
in the "frat" and the Lumen and the university.
Ramsey passed the slightly disfigured Linski on the campus next day
without betraying any embarrassment or making a sign of recognition.
Fred Mitchell told his roommate, chuckling, that Linski had sworn
to "get" him, and, not knowing Fred's affiliations, had made him the
confidant of his oath. Fred had given his blessing, he said, upon
the enterprise, and advised Linski to use a brick. "He'll hit you
on the head with it," said the light-hearted Fred, falling back upon
this old joke. "Then you can catch it as it bounces off and throw
it back at him."
However, Linski proved to be merely an episode, not only so far as
Ramsey was concerned but in the Lumen and in the university as well.
His suspension from the Lumen was for a year, and so cruel a
punishment it proved for this born debater that he noisily declared
he would found a debating society himself, and had a poster printed
and distributed announcing the first meeting of "The Free Speech and
Masses' Rights Council." Several town loafers attended the meeting,
but the only person connected with the university who came was an
oriental student, a Chinese youth of almost intrusive amiability.
Linski made a fiery address, the townsmen loudly appluading his
advocacy of an embargo on munitions and the distribution of
everybody's "property," but the Chinaman, accustomed to see students
so madly in earnest only when they were burlesquing, took the whole
affair to be intended humour, and tittered politely without
cessation--except at such times as he thought it proper to appear
quite wrung with laughter. Then he would rock himself, clasp his
mouth with both hands and splutter through his fingers. Linski
accused him of being in the pay of "capital."
Next day the orator was unable to show himself upon the campus
without causing demonstrations; whenever he was seen a file of
quickly gathering students marched behind him chanting repeatedly
and deafeningly in chorus: "Down with Wall Street! Hoch der Kaiser!
Who loves Linski? Who, who, who? Hoo Lun! Who loves Linski? Who,
who, who? Hoo Lun!"
Linski was disgusted, resigned from the university, and disappeared.
"Well, here it isn't mid-year Exams yet, and the good ole class of
Nineteen-Eighteen's already lost a member," said Fred Mitchell. "I
guess we can bear the break-up!"
"I guess so," Ramsey assented. "That Linski might just as well
stayed here, though."
"He couldn't do any harm here. He'll prob'ly get more people to
listen to him in cities where there's so many new immigrants and all
such that don't know anything, comin' in all the time."
"Oh, well," said Fred. "What do ~we~ care what happens to Chicago!
Come on, let's behave real wild, and go on over to the 'Teria and get
us a couple egg sandwiches and sassprilly."
Ramsey was willing.
After the strain of the "mid-year Exams" in February, they lived a
free-hearted life. They had settled into the ways of their world;
they had grown used to it, and it had grown used to them; there was
no longer any ignominy in being a freshman. They romped upon the
campus and sometimes rioted harmlessly about the streets of the town.
In the evenings they visited their fellows and Brethren and were
visited in turn, and sometimes they looked so far ahead as to talk
vaguely of their plans for professions or business--though to a
freshman this concerned an almost unthinkably distant prospect. "I
guess I'll go in with my father, in the wholesale drug business,"
said Fred. "My married brother already is in the firm, and I suppose
they'll give me a show--send me out on the road a year or two first,
maybe, to try me. Then I'm going to marry some little cutie and
settle down. What you goin' to do, Ramsey? Go to Law School, and
then come back and go in your father's office?"
"I don't know. Guess so."
It was always Fred who did most of the talking; Ramsey was quiet.
Fred told the "frat seniors" that Ramsey was "developing a whole lot
these days"; and he told Ramsey himself that he could see a "big
change" in him, adding that the improvement was probably due to
Ramsey's having passed through "terrible trials like that debate."
Ramsey kept to their rooms more than his comrade did, one reason for
this domesticity being that he "had to study longer than Fred did,
to keep up"; and another reason may have been a greater shyness than
Fred possessed--if, indeed, Fred possessed any shyness at all. For
Fred was a cheery spirit difficult to abash, and by the coming of
spring knew all of the best-looking girl students in the place--knew
them well enough, it appeared, to speak of them not merely by their
first names but by abbreviations of these. He had become fashion's
sprig, a "fusser" and butterfly, and he reproached his roommate for
shunning the ladies.
"Well, the truth is, Fred," said Ramsey one day, responding darkly;
--"well, you see the truth is, Fred, I've had a--a--I've had an
So, only, did he refer to Milla.
Fred said no more; and it was comprehended between them that the past
need never be definitely referred to again, but that it stood between
Ramsey and any entertainment to be obtained of the gentler but less
trustworthy sex. And when other Brethren of the "frat" would have
pressed Ramsey to join them in various frivolous enterprises
concerning "co-eds," or to be shared by "co-eds," Fred thought it
better to explain to them privately (all being sacred among Brethren)
how Ramsey's life, so far as Girls went, had been toyed with by one
now a Married Woman.
This created a great deal of respect for Ramsey. It became
understood everywhere that he was a woman-hater.
That early spring of 1915 the two boys and their friends and Brethren
talked more of the war than they had in the autumn, though the
subject was not an all at absorbing one; for the trenches in Flanders
and France were still of the immense, remote distance. By no stretch
of imagination could these wet trenches be thought greatly to concern
the "frat," the Lumen, or the university. Really important matters
were the doings of the "Track Team," now training in the "Gym" and on
the 'Varsity Field, and, more vital still, the prospects of the Nine.
But in May there came a shock which changed things for a time.
The ~Lusitania~ brought to every American a revelation of what had
lain so deep in his own heart that often he had not realized it was
there. When the Germans hid in the sea and sent down the great
merchant ship, with American babies and their mothers, and gallantly
dying American gentlemen, there came a change even to girls and boys
and professors, until then so preoccupied with their own little aloof
world thousands of miles from the murder.
Fred Mitchell, ever volatile and generous, was one of those who went
quite wild. No orator, he nevertheless made a frantic speech at the
week's "frat meetings," cursing the Germans in the simple old English
words that their performance had demonstrated to be applicable, and
going on to demand that the fraternity prepare for its own share in
the action of the country. "I don't care ~how~ insignificant we few
fellows here to-night may seem," he cried; "we can do our little,
and if everybody in this country's ready to do their own little, why,
that'll be plenty! Brothers, don't you realize that all ~over~ the
United States to-night the people are feeling just the way we are
here? Millions and millions and millions of them! Wherever there's
an American he's ~with~ us--and you bet your bottom dollar there are
just a few more Americans in this country of ours than there are
big-mouthed lobsters like that fellow Linski! I tell you, if
Congress only gives the word, there could be an army of five million
men in this country to-morrow, and those dirty baby-killin' dachshunds
would hear a word or two from your Uncle Samuel! Brothers, I demand
that something be done right here and now, and by us! I move we
telegraph the Secretary of War to-night and offer him a regiment from
this university to go over and help ~hang~ their damn Kaiser."
The motion was hotly seconded and instantly carried. Then followed
a much flustered discussion of the form and phrasing of the proposed
telegram, but, after everything seemed to have been settled, someone
ascertained by telephone that the telegraph company would not accept
messages containing words customarily defined as profane; so the
telegram had to be rewritten. This led to further amendment, and it
was finally decided to address the senators from that state, instead
of the Secretary of War, and thus in a somewhat modified form the
message was finally despatched.
Next day, news of what the "frat" had done made a great stir in the
university; other "frats" sent telegrams, so did the "Barbarians,"
haters of the "frats" but joining them in this; while a small band
of "German-American" students found it their duty to go before the
faculty and report these "breaches of neutrality." They protested
heavily, demanding the expulsion of the "breachers" as disloyal
citizens, therefore unfit students, but suffered a disappointment;
for the faculty itself had been sending telegrams of similar spirit,
addressing not only the senators and congressmen of the state but
the President of the United States. Flabbergasted, the "German-
Americans" retired; they were confused and disgusted by this
higher-up outbreak of unneutrality--it overwhelmed them that citizens
of the United States should not remain neutral in the dispute between
the United States and Germany. All day the campus was in ferment.
At twilight, Ramsey was walking meditatively on his way to dinner
at the "frat house," across the campus from his apartment at Mrs.
Meig's. Everybody was quiet now, both town and gown; the students
were at their dinners and so were the burghers. Ramsey was late
but did not quicken his thoughtful steps, which were those of one
lost in reverie. He had forgotten that spring-time was all about
him, and, with his head down, walked unregardful of the new gayeties
flung forth upon the air by great clusters of flowering shrubs, just
come into white blossom and lavender.
He was unconscious that somebody behind him, going the same way,
came hastening to overtake him and called his name, "Ramsey! Ramsey
Milholland!" Not until he had been called three times did he realize
that he was being hailed--and in a girl's voice! By that time, the
girl herself was beside him, and Ramsey halted, quite taken aback.
The girl was Dora Yocum.
She was pale, a little breathless, and her eyes were bright and
severe. "I want to speak to you," she said, quickly. "I want to
ask you about something. Mr. Colburn and Fred Mitchell are the only
people I know in your 'frat' except you, and I haven't seen either
of them to-day, or I'd have asked one of them."
Most uncomfortably astonished, Ramsey took his hands out of his
pockets, picked a leaf from a lilac bush beside the path, and put
the stem of the leaf seriously into a corner of his mouth, before
finding anything to say. "Well--well, all right," he finally
responded. "I'll tell you--if it's anything I know about."
"You know about it," said Dora. "That is, you certainly do if you
were at your 'frat' meeting last night. Were you?"
"Yes, I was there," Ramsey answered, wondering what in the world she
wanted to know, though he supposed vaguely that it must be something
about Colburn, whom he had several times seen walking with her. "Of
course I couldn't tell you much," he added, with an afterthought.
"You see, a good deal that goes on at a 'frat' meeting isn't supposed
to be talked about."
"Yes," she said, smiling faintly, though with a satire that missed
him. "I've been a member of a sorority since September, and I think
I have an idea of what could be told or not told. Suppose we walk
on, if you don't mind. My question needn't embarrass you."
Nevertheless, as they slowly went on together, Ramsey was embarrassed.
He felt "queer." They had known each other so long; in a way had
shared so much, sitting daily for years near each other and undergoing
the same outward experiences; they had almost "grown up together,"
yet this was the first time they had ever talked together or walked
"Well--" he said. "If you want to ask anything it's all right for me
to tell you--well, I just as soon, I guess."
"It has nothing to do with the secret proceedings of your 'frat',"
said Dora, primly. "What I want to ask about has been talked of all
over the place to-day. Everyone has been saying it was ~your~ 'frat'
that sent the first telegram to members of the Government offering
support in case of war with Germany. They say you didn't even wait
until to-day, but sent off a message last night. What I wanted to
ask you was whether this story is true or not?"
"Why, yes," said Ramsey, mildly. "That's what we did."
She uttered an exclamation, a sound of grief and of suspicion
confirmed. "Ah! I was afraid so!"
"'Afraid so'? What's the matter?" he asked, and because she seemed
excited and troubled, he found himself not quite so embarrassed as
he had been at first; for some reason her agitation made him feel
easier. "What was wrong about that?"
"Oh, it's all so shocking and wicked and mistaken!" she cried.
"Even the faculty has been doing it, and half the other 'frats'
and sororities! And it was yours that started it."
"Yes, we did," he said, throughly puzzled. "We're the oldest 'frat'
here, and of course"--he chuckled modestly--"of course we think we're
the best. Do you mean you believe we ought to've sat back and let
somebody else start it?"
"Oh, ~no~!" she answered, vehemently. "Nobody ought to have started
it! That's the trouble; don't you see? If nobody had started it
none of it might have happened. The rest mightn't have caught it.
It mightn't have got into their heads. A war thought is the most
contagious thought in the world; but if it can be kept from starting,
it can be kept from being contagious. It's just when people have got
into an emotional state, or a state of smouldering rage, that
everybody ought to be so terribly careful not to think war thoughts
or make war speeches--or send war telegrams! I thought--oh, I was so
sure I'd convinced Mr. Colburn of all this, the last time we talked
of it! He seemed to understand, and I was sure he agreed with me."
She bit her lip. "He was only pretending--I see that now!"
"I guess he must 'a' been," said Ramsey, with admirable simplicity.
"He didn't talk about anything like that last night. He was as much
for it as anybody."
"I've no doubt!"
Ramsey made bold to look at her out of the side of his eye, and as
she was gazing tensely forward he continued his observation for some
time. She was obviously controlling agitation, almost controlling
tears, which seemed to threaten her very wide-open eyes; for those
now fully grown and noticeable eyewinkers of hers were subject to
fluctuations indicating such a threat. She looked "hurt," and Ramsey
was touched; there was something human about her, then, after all.
And if he had put his feeling into words at the moment, he would have
said that he guessed maybe he could stand this ole girl, for a few
minutes sometimes, better than he'd always thought he could.
"Well," he said, "Colburn prob'ly wouldn't want to hurt your feelings
or anything. Colburn--"
"He? He didn't! I haven't the faintest personal interest in what he
"Oh!" said Ramsey. "Well, excuse me; I thought prob'ly you were sore
because he'd jollied you about this pacifist stuff, and then--"
"No!" she said, sharply. "I'm not thinking of his having agreed with
~me~ and fooling ~me~ about it. He just wanted to make a pleasant
impression on a girl, and said anything he thought would please her.
I don't care whether he does things like that or not. What I care
about is that the ~principle~ didn't reach him and that he mocked it!
I don't care about a petty treachery to me, personally, but I--"
Fraternal loyalty could not quite brook this. "Brother Colburn is
a perfectly honor'ble man," said Ramsey, solemnly. "He is one of
the most honor'ble men in this--"
"Of course! she cried. "Oh, can't I make you understand that I'm not
condemning him for a little flattery to me? I don't care two straws
for his showing that ~I~ didn't influence him. He doesn't interest
me, please understand."
Ramsey was altogether perplexed. "Well, I don't see what makes you
go for him so hard, then."
"But you said he was treach--"
"I don't ~condemn~ him for it," she insisted, despairingly. "Don't
you see the difference? I'm not condemning anybody; I'm only
"About all of you that want ~war~!"
"My golly!" Ramsey exclaimed. "You don't think those Dutchmen were
right to drown babies and--"
"No! I think they were ghastly murderers! I think they were
detestable and fiendish and monstrous and--"
"Well, then, my goodness! What do you want?"
"I don't want war!"
"I want Christianity!" she cried. "I can't think of the Germans
without hating them, and so to-day, when all the world is hating
them, I keep myself from thinking of them as much as I can. Already
half the world is full of war; you want to go to war to make things
right, but it won't; it will only make more war!"
"Don't you see what you've done, you boys?" she said. "Don't you
see what you've done with your absurd telegram? That started the
rest; they thought they ~all~ had to send telegrams like that."
"Well, the faculty--"
"Even they mightn't have thought of it if it hadn't been for the
first one. Vengeance is the most terrible thought; once you put
it into people's minds that they ought to have it, it runs away
"Well, it isn't mostly vengeance we're after, at all. There's a lot
more to it than just getting even with--"
She did not heed him. "You're all blind! You don't see what you're
doing; you don't even see what you've done to this peaceful place
here. You've filled it full of thoughts of fury and killing and
"Why, no," said Ramsey. "It was those Dutch did that to us; and,
besides, there's more to it than you--"
"No, there isn't," she interrupted. "It's just the old brutal spirit
that nations inherit from the time they were only tribes; it's the
tribe spirit, and an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It's
those things and the love of fighting--men have always loved to fight.
Civilization hasn't taken it out of them; men still have the brute in
them that loves to fight!"
"I don't think so," said Ramsey. "Americans don't love to fight;
I don't know about other countries, but we don't. Of course, here
and there, there's some fellow that likes to hunt around for scrapes,
but I never saw more than three or four in my life that acted that
way. Of course a football team often has a scrapper or two on it,
but that's different."
"No," she said. "I think you all really love to fight."
Ramsey was roused to become argumentative. "I don't see where you
get the idea. Colburn isn't that way, and back at school there
wasn't a single boy that was anything like that."
"What!" She stopped, and turned suddenly to face him.
"What's the matter?" he said, stopping, too. Something he said
had startled her, evidently.
"How can you say such a thing?" she cried. "~You~ love to fight!"
"You do! You love fighting. You always have loved fighting."
He was dumbfounded. "Why, I never had a fight in my life!"
She cried out in protest of such prevarication.
"Well, I never did," he insisted, mildly.
"Why, you had a fight about ~me~!"
"No, I didn't."
"With Wesley Bender!"
Ramsey chuckled. "~That~ wasn't a fight!"
"Nothing like one. We were just guyin' him about--about gettin'
slicked up, kind of, because he at in front of you; and he hit me
with his book strap and I chased him off. Gracious, no; ~that~
wasn't a fight!"
"But you fought Linski only last fall."
Ramsey chuckled again. "That wasn't even as much like a fight as
the one with Wesley. I just told this Linski I was goin' to give
him a punch in the sn-- I just told him to look out because I was
goin' to hit him, and then I did it, and waited to see if he wanted
to do anything about it, and he didn't. That's all there was to
it, and it wasn't any more like fighting than--than feeding chickens
She laughed dolefully. "It seems to me rather more like it than
"Well, it wasn't."
They had begun to walk on again, and Ramsey was aware that they had
passed the "frat house," where his dinner was probably growing cold.
He was aware of this, but not sharply or insistently. Curiously
enough, he did not think about it. He had begun to find something
pleasant in the odd interview, and in walking beside a girl, even
though the girl was Dora Yocum. He made no attempt to account to
himself for anything so peculiar.
For a while they went slowly together, not speaking, and without
destination, though Ramsey vaguely took it for granted that Dora was
going somewhere. But she wasn't. They emerged from the part of the
small town closely built about the university and came out upon a bit
of parked land overlooking the river; and here Dora's steps slowed to
an indeterminate halt near a bench beneath a maple tree.
"I think I'll stay here a while," she said; and as he made no
response, she asked, "Hadn't you better be going back to your 'frat
house' for your dinner? I didn't mean for you to come out of your
way with me; I only wanted to get an answer to my question. You'd
better be running back."
He stood irresolute, not sure that he wanted his dinner just then.
It would have amazed him to face the fact deliberately that perhaps
he preferred being with Dora Yocum to eating. However, he faced no
such fact, nor any fact, but lingered.
"Well--" he said again.
"You'd better go."
"I guess I can get my dinner pretty near any time. I don't--" He
had a thought. "Did you--"
"Did I what?"
"Did you have your dinner before I met you?"
"Well, aren't you--"
She shook her head. "I don't want any."
"I don't think people have very much appetite to-day and yesterday,"
she said, with the hint of a sad laugh, "all over America."
"No; I guess that's so."
"It's too terrible!" she said. "I can't sit and eat when I think
of the ~Lusitania~--of all those poor, poor people strangling in
"No; I guess nobody can eat much, if they think about that."
"And of what it's going to bring, if we let it," she went on. "As
if this killing weren't enough, we want to add ~our~ killing! Oh,
that's the most terrible thing of all--the thing it makes within us!
Don't you understand?"
She turned to him appealingly, and he felt queerer than ever. Dusk
had fallen. Where they stood, under the young-leaved maple tree,
there was but a faint lingering of afterglow, and in this mystery her
face glimmered wan and sweet; so that Ramsey, just then, was like one
who discovers an old pan, used in the kitchen, to be made of chased
"Well, I don't feel much like dinner right now," he said. "We--we
could sit here awhile on this bench, prob'ly."
Ramsey kept very few things from Fred Mitchell, and usually his
confidences were immediate upon the occasion of them; but allowed
several weeks to elapse before sketching for his roommate the
outlines of this adventure.
"One thing that was kind o' funny about it, Fred," he said, "I didn't
know what to call her."
Mr. Mitchell, stretched upon the window seat in their "study," and
looking out over the town street below and the campus beyond the
street, had already thought it tactful to ambush his profound
amusement by turning upon his side, so that his face was toward the
window and away from his companion. "What did you want to call her?"
he inquired in a serious voice. "Names?"
"No. You know what I mean. I mean I had to just keep callin' her
'you'; and that gets kind of freaky when you're talkin' to anybody
a good while like that. When she'd be lookin' away from me, and I'd
want to start sayin' something to her, you know, why, I wouldn't know
how to get started exactly, without callin' her something. A person
doesn't want to be always startin' off with 'See here,' or things
"I don't see why you let it trouble you," said Fred. "From how
you've always talked about her, you had a perfectly handy way to
start off with anything you wanted to say to her."
"Why didn't you just say, 'Oh, you Teacher's Pet!' That would--"
"Get out! What I mean is, she called me 'Ramsey' without any bother;
it seems funny I got stumped every time I started to say 'Dora.'
Someway I couldn't land it, and it certainly would 'a' sounded crazy
to call her 'Miss Yocum' after sittin' in the same room with her
every day from the baby class clear on up through the end of high
school. That ~would~ 'a' made me out an idiot!"
"What did you call her?" Fred asked.
"Just nothin' at all. I started to call her something or other a
hundred times, I guess, and then I'd balk. I'd get all ready, and
kind of make a sort of a sound, and then I'd have to quit."
"She may have thought you had a cold," said Fred, still keeping his
"I expect maybe she did--though I don't know; most of the time she
didn't seem to notice me much, kind of."
"No. She was too upset, I guess, by what she was thinkin' about."
"But if it hadn't been for that," Fred suggested, "you mean she'd
have certainly paid more attention to who was sitting on the bench
"Get out! You know how it was. Everybody those few days thought we
were goin' to have war, and she was just sure of it, and it upset
her. Of course most people were a lot more upset by what those
Dutchmen did to the ~Lusitania~ than by the idea of war; and she
seemed to feel as broken up as anybody could be about the
~Lusitania~, but what got her the worst was the notion of her country
wantin' to fight, she said. She really was upset, too, Fred; there
wasn't any puttin' on about it. I guess that ole girl certainly must
have a good deal of feeling, because, doggoned, after we'd been
sittin' there a while if she didn't have to get out her handkerchief!
She kept her face turned away from me--just the same as you're doin'
now to keep from laughin'--but honestly, she cried like somebody at
a funeral. I felt like the darndest fool!"
"I'm not laughing," said Fred, but he did not prove it by turning so
that his face could be seen. "What did she say?"
"Oh, she didn't say such an awful lot. She said one kind o' funny
thing though: she said she was sorry she couldn't quite control
herself, but if anybody had to see her cry she minded it less because
it was an old schoolmate. What struck me so kind o' funny about that
is--why, it looks as if she never knew the way I always hated her
"Yes," said Fred. "It wasn't flattering!"
"Well, sir, it ~isn't~, kind of," Ramsey agreed, musingly. "It
certainly isn't when you look at it that way."
"What did you say when she said that?" Fred asked.
"Nothin'. I started to, but I sort of balked again. Well, we kept
on sitting there, and afterwhile she began to talk again and got kind
of excited about how no war could do anything or anybody any good,
and all war was wicked, no matter what it was about, and nothin'
could be good that was founded on fear and hate, and every war that
ever was fought was always founded on fear and hate. She said if the
Germans wanted to fight us we ought to go to meet them and tell them
we wouldn't fight."
"What did you say?"
"Nothin'. I kind o' started to--but what's the use? She's got that
in her head. Besides, how are you goin' to argue about a thing with
a person that's crying about it? I tell you, Fred, I guess we got to
admit, after all, that ole girl certainly must have a lost of heart
about her, anyway. There may not be much ~fun~ to her--though of
course I wouldn't know hardly any way to tell about that--but there
couldn't be hardly any doubt she's got a lot of feeling. Well, and
then she went on and said old men made wars, but didn't fight; they
left the fighting to the boys, and the suffering to the boy's
"Yes!" Fred exclaimed, and upon that he turned free of mirth for the
moment. "That's the woman of it, I guess. Send the old men to do
the fighting! For the matter of that, I guess my father'd about a
thousand times go himself than see me and my brothers go; but
Father's so fat he can't stoop! You got to be able to stoop to dig
a trench, I guess! Well, suppose we sent our old men up against
those Dutchmen; the Dutchmen would just kill the old men, and then
come after the boys anyway, and the boys wouldn't be ready, and
they'd get killed, too; and then there wouldn't be anybody but the
Dutchmen left, and that'd be one fine world, wouldn't it?"
"Yes," said Ramsey. "Course I thought of that."
"Did you tell her?"
"What did you say?"
"Nothin'. I couldn't get started anyway, but, besides, what was the
use? But she didn't want the old men to go; she didn't want anybody
"What did she want the country to do?" Fred asked, impatiently.
"Just what it has been doin', I suppose. Just let things simmer
down, and poke along, and let them do what they like to us."
"I guess so!" said Fred. "Then, afterwhile, when they get some
free time on their hands, they'll come over and make it ~really~
interesting for us, because they know we won't do anything but talk.
Yes, I guess the way things are settling down ought to suit Dora.
There isn't goin' to be any war."
"She was pretty sure there was, though," Ramsey said, thoughtfully.
"Oh, of course she was then. We all thought so those few days."
"No. She said she thought it prob'ly wouldn't come right away, but
now it was almost sure to come sometime. She said our telegrams and
all the talk and so much feeling and everything showed her that the
war thought that was always ~in~ people somewhere had been stirred up
so it would go on and on. She said she knew from the way she felt
herself about the ~Lusitania~ that a feeling like that in her would
never be absolutely wiped out as long as she lived. But she said her
other feeling about the horribleness of war taught her to keep the
first feeling from breaking out, but with other people it wouldn't;
and even if war didn't break out right then, it would always be ready
to, all over the country, and sometime it would, though she was goin'
to do her share to fight it, herself, as long as she could stand.
She asked me wouldn't I be one of the ones to help her."
He paused, and after a moment Fred asked, "Well? What did you say
"Nothin'. I started to, but--"
Again Fred thought it tactful to turn and look out the window, while
the agitation of his shoulders betrayed him."
"Go on and laugh! Well, so we stayed there quite a while, but before
we left she got kind of more like everyday, you know, the way people
do. It was half-past nine when we walked back in town, and I was
commencin' to feel kind of hungry, so I asked her if she wasn't, and
she sort of laughed and seemed to be ashamed of it, as if it were a
disgrace or something, but she said she guessed she was; so I left
her by that hedge of lilacs near the observatory and went on over to
the 'Teria and the fruit store, and got some stuffed eggs and olives
and half-a-dozen peanut butter sandwiches and a box o' strawberries
--kind of girl-food, you know--and went on back there, and we ate the
stuff up. So then she said she was afraid she'd taken me away from
my dinner and made me a lot of trouble, and so on, and she was sorry,
and she told me good-night--"
"What did you say then?"
"Noth-- Oh, shut up! So then she skipped out to her Dorm, and I
came on home."
"When did you see her next, Ramsey?"
"I haven't seen her next," said Ramsey. "I haven't seen her at all
--not to speak to. I saw her on Main Street twice since then, but
both times she was with some other girls, and they were across the
street, and I couldn't tell if she was lookin' at me--I kind of
thought not--so I thought it might look sort o' nutty to bow to her
if she wasn't, so I didn't."
"And you didn't tell her you wouldn't be one of the ones to help her
with her pacifism and anti-war stuff and all that?"
"No. I started to, but-- Shut up!"
Fred sat up, giggling. "So she thinks you ~will~ help her. You
didn't say anything at all, and she must think that means she
converted you. Why didn't you speak up?"
"Well, ~I~ wouldn't argue with her," said Ramsey. Then, after a
silence, he seemed to be in need of sympathetic comprehension. "It
~was~ kind o' funny, though, wasn't it?" he said, appealingly.
"The whole business."
"What 'whole bus'--"
"Oh, get out! Her stoppin' me, and me goin' pokin' along with her,
and her--well, her crying and everything, and me being around with
her while she felt so upset, I mean. It seems--well, it does seem
kind o' funny to me."
"Why does it?" Fred inquired, preserving his gravity. "Why should
it seem funny to you?"
"I don't mean funny like something's funny you laugh at," Ramsey
explained laboriously. "I mean funny like something that's out of
the way, and you wonder how it ever happened to happen. I mean it
seems funny I'd ever be sittin' there on a bench with that ole girl
I never spoke to in my life or had anything to do with, and talkin'
about the United States goin' to war. What we were talkin' about,
why, that seems just as funny as the rest of it. Lookin' back to our
class picnic, f'r instance, second year of high school, that day I
jumped in the creek after-- Well, you know, it was when I started
makin' a fool of myself over a girl. Thank goodness, I got ~that~
out o' my system; it makes me just sick to look back on those days
and think of the fool things I did, and all I thought about that
girl. Why, she-- Well, I've got old enough to see now she was just
about as ordinary a girl as there ever was, and if I saw her now I
wouldn't even think she was pretty; I'd prob'ly think she was sort of
loud-lookin'. Well, what's passed is past, and it isn't either here
nor there. What I started to say was this: that the way it begins
to look to me, it looks as if nobody can tell in this life a darn
thing about what's goin' to happen, and the things that do happen are
the very ones you'd swear were the last that could. I mean--you look
back to that day of the picnic--my! but I was a rube then--well, I
mean you look back to that day, and what do you suppose I'd have
thought then if somebody'd told me the time would ever come when I'd
be 'way off here at college sittin' on a bench with Dora Yocum--with
~Dora Yocum~, in the first place--and her crying, and both of us
talking about the United States goin' to war with Germany! Don't it
seem pretty funny to you, Fred, too?"
"But as near as I can make out," Fred said, "that isn't what
"Why isn't it?"
"You say 'and both us talking' and so on. As near as I can make out,
~you~ didn't say anything at all."
"Well, I didn't--much," Ramsey admitted, and returned to his point
with almost pathetic persistence. "But doesn't it seem kind o' funny
to you, Fred?"
"Well, I don't know."
"It does to me," Ramsey insisted. "It certainly does to me."
"Yes," said Fred cruelly. "I've noticed you said so, but it don't
look any funnier than you do when you say it."
Suddenly he sent forth a startling shout. "~Wow!~ You're as red as
a blushing beet."
"I am not!"
"Y'are!" shouted Fred. "Wow! The ole woman-hater's got the flushes!
Oh, look at the pretty posy!"
And, jumping down from the window seat, he began to dance round
his much perturbed comrade, bellowing. Ramsey bore with him for
a moment, then sprang upon him; they wrestled vigorously, broke a
chair, and went to the floor with a crash that gave the chandelier
in Mrs. Meig's parlour, below, an atack of jingles.
"You let me up!" Fred gasped.
"You take your solemn oath to shut up? You goin' to swear it?"
"All right. I give my solemn oath," said Fred; and they rose,
arranging their tousled attire.
"Well," said Fred, "when you goin' to call on her?"
"You look here!" Ramsey approached him dangerously. "You just gave
me your sol--"
"I beg!" Fred cried, retreating. "I mean, aside from all that, why,
I just thought maybe after such an evening you'd feel as a gentleman
you ought to go and ask about her health."
"Now, see here--"
"No, I mean it; you ought to," Fred insisted, earnestly, and as
his roommate glared at him with complete suspicion, he added, in
explanation. "You ought to go next Caller's Night, and send in your
card, and say you felt you ought to ask if she'd suffered any from
the night air. Even if you couldn't manage to say that, you ought
to start to say it, anyhow, because you-- Keep off o' me! I'm only
tryin' to do you a good turn, ain't I?"
"You save your good turns for yourself," Ramsey growled, still
advancing upon him.
But the insidious Mitchell, evading him, fled to the other end of
the room, picked up his cap, and changed his manner. "Come on, ole
bag o' beans, let's be on our way to the 'frat house'; it's time.
We'll call this all off."
"You better!" Ramsey warned him; and they trotted out together.
But as they went along, Fred took Ramsey's arm confidentially, and
said, "Now, honestly, Ram, ole man, when ~are~ you goin' to--"
Ramsey was still red. "You look here! Just say one more word--"
"Oh, ~no~," Fred expostulated. "I mean ~seriously~, Ramsey.
Honestly, I mean seriously. Aren't you seriously goin' to call on
her some Caller's Night?"
"No, I'm not!"
"But why not?"
"Because I don't want to."
"Well, seriously, Ramsey, there's only one Caller's Night before
vacation, and so I suppose it hardly will be worth while; but I
expect you'll see quite a little of her at home this summer?"
"No, I won't. I won't see her at all. She isn't goin' to be home
this summer, and I wouldn't see anything of her if she was."
"Where's she goin' to be."
"She is?" said Fred, slyly. "When'd she tell you?"
Ramsey turned on him. "You look out! She didn't tell me. I just
happened to see in the ~Bulletin~ she's signed up with some other
girls to go and do settlement work in Chicago. Anybody could see
it. It was printed out plain. You could have seen it just as well
as I could, if you'd read the ~Bulletin~."
"Oh," said Fred.
"Now look here--"
"Good heavens! Can't I even say 'oh'?"
"It depends on the way you say it."
"I'll be careful," Fred assured him, earnestly. "I really and
honestly don't mean to get you excited about all this, Ramsey. I can
see myself you haven't changed from your old opinion of Dora Yocum a
bit. I was only tryin' to get a little rise out of you for a minute,
because of course, seriously, why, I can see you hate her just the
same as you always did."
"Yes," said Ramsey, disarmed and guileless in the face of diplomacy.
"I only told you about all this, Fred, because it seemed--well, it
seemed so kind o' funny to me."
Fred affected not to hear. "What did you say, Ramsey?"
Ramsey looked vaguely disturbed. "I said--why, I said it all seemed
kind o'--" He paused, then repeated plaintively: "Well, to me, it
all seemed kind o'--kind o' funny."
"What did?" Fred inquired, but as he glanced in seeming naivete at
his companion, something he saw in the latter's eye warned him, and
suddenly Fred thought it would be better to run.
Ramsey chased him all the way to the "frat house."
Ramsey was not quite athlete enough for any of the 'varsity teams;
neither was he an antagonist safely encountered, whether in play or
in earnest, and during the next few days he taught Fred Mitchell to
be cautious. The chaffer learned that his own agility could not
save him from Ramsey, and so found it wiser to contain an
effervescence which sometimes threatened to burst him. Ramsey as a
victim was a continuous temptation, he was so good-natured and yet
After Commencement, when the roommates had gone home, Mr. Mitchell's
caution extended over the long sunshiny months of summer vacation;
he broke it but once and then in well-advised safety, for the
occasion was semi-public. The two were out for a stroll on a July
Sunday afternoon; and up and down the street young couples lolled
along, young families and baby carriages straggled to and from the
houses of older relatives, and the rest of the world of that growing
city was rocking and fanning itself on its front veranda.
"Here's a right pretty place, isn't it, Ramsey? don't you think?"
Fred remarked innocently, as they were passing a lawn of short-
clipped, bright green grass before a genial-looking house, fresh in
white paint and cool in green-and-white awnings. A broad veranda,
well populated just now, crossed the front of the house; fine trees
helped the awnings to give comfort against the sun; and Fred's
remark was warranted. Nevertheless, he fell under the suspicion
of his companion, who had begun to evince some nervousness before
"What place do you mean?"
"The Yocum place," said Mr. Mitchell. "I hear the old gentleman's
mighty prosperous these days. They keep things up to the mark,
don't they, Ramsey?"
"I don't know whether they do or whether they don't," Ramsey
Fred appeared to muse regretfully. "It looks kind of ~empty~ now,
though," he said, "with only Mr. and Mrs. Yocum and their three
married daughters, and eight or nine children on the front porch!"
"You wait till I get you where they can't see us!" Ramsey warned
"You can't do it!" said Fred, manifesting triumph. "We'll both stop
right here in plain sight of the whole Yocum family connection till
you promise not to touch me."
And he halted, leaning back implacably against the Yocum's iron
fence. Ramsey was scandalized.
"Come on!" he said, hoarsely. "Don't stop ~here~!"
"I will, and if you go on alone I'll yell at you. You got to stand
right here with all of 'em lookin' at you until--"
"I promise! My heavens, come ~on~!"
Fred consented to end the moment of agony; and for the rest of the
summer found it impossible to persuade Ramsey to pass that house
in his company. "I won't do it!" Ramsey told him. "Your word of
honour means nothin' to me; you're liable to do anything that comes
into your head, and I'm gettin' old enough to not get a reputation
for bein' seen with people that act the idiot on the public streets.
No, sir; we'll walk around the block--at least, we will if you're
goin' with ~me~!"
And to Fred's delight, though he concealed it, they would make this
The evening after their return to the university both were busy
with their trunks and various orderings and disorderings of their
apartment, but Fred several times expressed surprise that his
roommate should be content to remain at home; and finally Ramsey
comprehended the implications. Mrs. Meigs's chandelier immediately
jingled with the shock of another crash upon the floor above.
"You let me up!" Fred commanded thickly, his voice muffled by the
pile of flannels, sweaters, underwear, and raincoats wherein his
head was being forced to burrow. "You let me up, darn you! ~I~
didn't say anything." And upon his release he complained that the
attack was unprovoked. "I didn't say anything on earth to even
hint you might want to go out and look around to see if anybody
in particular had got back to college yet. I didn't even mention
the ~name~ of Dora Yo-- Keep off o' me! My goodness, but you are
As a matter of fact, neither of them saw Dora until the first meeting
of the Lumen, whither they went as sophomores to take their pleasure
in the agony of freshmen debaters. Ramsey was now able to attend the
Lumen, not with complacence but at least without shuddering over the
recollection of his own spectacular first appearance there. He had
made subsequent appearances, far from brilliant yet not disgraceful,
and as a spectator, at least, he usually felt rather at his ease in
the place. It cannot be asserted, however, that he appeared entirely
at his ease this evening after he had read the "Programme" chalked
upon the large easel blackboard beside the chairman's desk. Three
"Freshmen Debates" were announced, and a "Sophomore Oration," this
last being followed by the name, "D. Yocum, '18." Ramsey made
immediate and conspicuous efforts to avoid sitting next to his
roommate, but was not so adroit as to be successful. However, Fred
was merciful: the fluctuations of his friend's complexion were an
inspiration more to pity than to badinage.
The three debates all concerned the "Causes of the War in Europe,"
and honours appeared to rest with a small and stout, stolidly
"pro-German" girl debater, who had brought with her and translated
at sight absa-loot proofs (so she called them), printed in German,
that Germany had been attacked by Belgium at the low instigation of
the envious English. Everybody knew it wasn't true; but she made an
impression and established herself as a debater, especially as her
opponent was quite confounded by her introduction of printed matter.
When the debates and the verdicts were concluded, the orator
appeared, and Fred's compassion extended itself so far that he even
refrained from looking inquisitively at the boy in the seat next
to his; but he made one side wager, mentally--that if Ramsey had
consented to be thoroughly confidential just then, he would have
confessed to feeling kind o' funny.
Dora was charmingly dressed, and she was pale; but those notable
eyelashes of hers were all the more notable against her pallor. And
as she spoke with fire, it was natural that her colour should come
back quite flamingly and that her eyes should flash in shelter of
the lashes. "The Christian Spirit and Internationalism" was her
subject, yet she showed no meek sample of a Christian Spirit herself
when she came to attakcing war-makers generally, as well as all
those "half-developed tribesmen," and "victims of herd instinct" who
believed that war might ever be justified under any circumstances
f atrocity. She was eloquent truly, and a picture of grace and
girlish dignity, even when she was most vigorous. Nothing could
have been more militant than her denunciation of militancy.
"She's an actual wonder," Fred said, when the two had got back to
Mrs. Meigs's, afterward. "Don't you look at me like that: I'm
talkin' about her as a public character, and there's nothin'
personal about it. You let me alone."
Ramsey was not clear as to his duty. "Well--"
"If any person makes a public speech," Fred protested, "I got a
perfect right to discuss 'em, no matter what you think of 'em"--and
he added hastily--"or ~don't~ think of 'em!"
"Good heavens!" Fred exclaimed. "You aren't expecting to interfere
with me if I say anything about that little fat Werder girl that
argued for Germany, are you? Or any of the other speakers? I got
a right to talk about 'em just as public speakers, haven't I? Well,
what I say is: Dora Yocum as an orator is just an actual perfect
wonder. Got any objections?"
"All right then." Fred settled himself upon the window seat with a
pipe, and proceeded, "There's something about her, when she stands
there, she stands so straight and knows just what she's up to, and
everything, why, there's something about her makes the cold chills
go down your spine--I mean ~my~ spine, not yours particularly! You
sit down--I mean ~anybody's~ spine, doggone it!" And as Ramsey
increased the manifestations of his suspicions, lifting a tennis
racket over the prostrate figure, "Oh, murder," Fred said,
resignedly. "All right, we'll change the subject. That fat little
Werder cutie made out a pretty good case for Germany, didn't she?"
Ramsey tossed the racket away, disposed himself in an easy chair with
his feet upon the table, and presently chuckled. "You remember the
time I had the fuss with Wesley Bender, back in the ole school days?"
"All the flubdub this Werder girl got off to-night puts me in mind
of the way I talked that day. I can remember it as well as anything!
Wesley kept yelpin' that whoever mentioned a lady's name in a public
place was a pup, and of course I didn't want to hit him for that;
a boy's got a reg'lar instinct for tryin' to make out he's on the
right side in a scrap, and he'll always try to do something, or say
something, or he'll get the other boy to say someting to make it look
as if the other boy was in the wrong and began the trouble. So I
told poor ole Wes that my father spoke my mother's name in a public
place whenever he wanted to, and I dared him to say my father was a
pup. And all so on. A boy startin' up a scrap, why, half the time
he'll drag his father and mother if there's any chance to do it.
He'll fix up some way so he can say, 'Well, that's just the same as
if you called my father and mother a fool,' or something like that.
Then, afterward, he can claim he was scrappin' because he had to
defend his father and mother, and of course he'll more than half
believe it himself.
"Well, you take a Government--it's only just some ~men~, the way
I see it, and if they're goin' to start some big trouble like this
war, why, of course they'll play just about the same ole boy trick,
because it's instinct to do it, just the same for a man as it is for
a boy--or else the principle's just the same, or something. Well,
anyhow, if you want to know who started a scrap and worked it up,
you got to forget all the ~talk~ there is about it, and all what
each side ~says~, and just look at two things: Who was fixed for
it first, or thought they were, and who hit first? When you get
the answer to those two questions everything's settled about all
this being 'attacked' business. Both sides, just the same as boys,
they'll both claim they ~had~ to fight; but if you want to know
which one ~did~ have to, why forget all the arguing and don't take
your eye off just what ~happened~. As near as I can make out, this
war began with Germany and Austria startin' in to wipe out two
little countries; Austria began shootin' up Serbia, and Germany
began shootin' up Belgium. I don't need to notice any more than
that, myself--all the Werder girls in the country can debate their
heads off, they can't change what happened and they can't excuse
He was silent, appearing to feel that he had concluded conclusively,
and the young gentleman on the window seat, after staring at him for
several moments of genuine thoughtfulness, was gracious enough to
observe, "Well, ole Ram, you may be a little slow in class, but when
you think things out with yourself you do show signs of something
pretty near like real horse-sense sometimes. Why don't you ever say
anything like that to--to some of your pacifist friends?"
"What do you mean? Who you talkin' about? Whose 'pacifist
"See here!" Fred exclaimed, as Ramsey seemed about to rise. "You
keep sitting just where you are, and don't look at me out of the side
of your eye like that--pretendin' you're a bad horse. I'm ~really~
serious now, and you listen to me. I don't think argufying and
debating like that little Fraulein Werder's does much harm. She's
a right nifty young rolypoly, by the way, though you didn't notice,
"Why didn't I?" Ramsey demanded, sharply. "Why didn't I notice?"
"Oh, nothing. But, as I was saying, I don't think that sort of talk
does much harm: everybody knows it goes on among the pro-Germans,
and it's all hot air, anyhow. But I think Linski's sort of talk
does do harm, prob'ly among people that don't know much; and what's
more, I think Dora Yocum's does some, too. Well, you hit Linski in
the snoot, so what are you-- Sit still! My lord! You don't think
I'm askin' you to go and hit Dora, do you? I mean: Aren't you ever
goin' to talk to her about it and tell her what's what?"
"Oh, you go on to bed!"
"No, I'm in earnest," Fred urged. "Honestly, aren't you ever goin'
"How could I do anything like that?" Ramsey demanded explosively.
"I never see her--to speak to, that is. I prob'ly won't happen to
have another talk with her, or anything, all the time we're in
"No," Fred admitted, "I suppose not. Of course, if you did, then
you would give her quite a talking-to, just the way you did the
other time, wouldn't you?" But upon that, another resumption of
physical violence put an end to the conversation.
Throughout the term Ramsey's calculation of probabilities against
the happening of another interview with Dora seemed to be well
founded, but at the beginning of the second "semester" he found her
to be a fellow member of a class in biology. More than that, this
class had every week a two-hour session in the botanical laboratory,
where the structure of plants was studied under microscopic
dissection. The students worked in pairs, a special family of
plants being assigned to each couple; and the instructor selected
the couples with an eye to combinations of the quick with the slow.
D. Yocum and R. Milholland (the latter in a strange state of mind
and complexion) were given two chairs, but only one desk and one
microscope. Their conversation was strictly botanical.
Thenceforth it became the most pressing care of Ramsey's life to
prevent his roommate from learning that there was any conversation
at all, even botanical. Fortunately, Fred was not taking the
biological courses, though he appeared to be taking the sentimental
ones with an astonishing thoroughness; and sometimes, to Fred's
hilarious delight, Ramsey attempted to turn the tables and rally
him upon whatever last affair seemed to be engaging his fancy.
The old Victorian and pre-Victorian ~blague~ word "petticoat" had
been revived in Fred's vocabulary, and in others, as "skirt." The
lightsome sprig was hourly to be seen, even when university rulings
forbade, dilly-dallying giddily along the campus paths or the town
sidewalks with some new and pretty Skirt. And when Ramsey tried to
fluster him about such a matter Fred would profess his ardent love
for the new lady in shouts and impromptu song. Nothing could be done
to him, and Ramsey, utterly unable to defend his own sensibilities
in like manner, had always to retire in bafflement. Sometimes he
would ponder upon the question thus suggested: Why couldn't he do
this sort of thing, since Fred could? But he never discovered a
Ramsey's watchfulness was so careful (lest he make some impulsive
admission in regard to the botanical laboratory, for instance) that
Mr. Mitchell's curiosity gradually became almost quiescent; but there
arrived a day in February when it was piqued into the liveliest
activity. It was Sunday, and Fred, dressing with a fastidiousness
ever his daily habit, noticed that Ramsey was exhibiting an unusual
perplexity about neckties.
"Keep the black one on," Fred said, volunteering the suggestion, as
Ramsey muttered fiercely at a mirror. "It's in better taste for
church, anyhow. You're going to church, aren't you?"
"Yes. Are you?"
"No. I've got a luncheon engagement."
"Well, you could go to church first, couldn't you? You better;
you've got a lot of church absences against you."
"Then one more won't hurt. No church in mine this morning, thanks!
G'by, ole sox; see you at the 'frat house' for dinner."
He went forth, whistling syncopations, and began a brisk trudge into
the open country. There was a professor's daughter who also was not
going to church that morning; and she lived a little more than three
miles beyond the outskirts of the town. Unfortunately, as the
weather was threatening, all others of her family abandoned the idea
of church that day, and Fred found her before a cozy fire, but
surrounded by parents, little brothers, and big sisters. The
professor was talkative; Fred's mind might have been greatly
improved, but with a window in range he preferred a melancholy
contemplation of the snow, which had begun to fall in quantity. The
professor talked until luncheon, throughout luncheon, and was well
under way to fill the whole afternoon with talk, when Fred, repenting
all the errors of his life, got up to go.
Heartily urged to remain, for there was now something just under a
blizzard developing, he said No; he had a great deal of "cirriculum
work" to get done before the morrow, and passed from the sound of the
professor's hospitable voice and into the storm. He had a tedious
struggle against the wind and thickening snow, but finally came in
sight of the town, not long before dark. Here the road led down into
a depression, and, lifting his head as he began the slight ascent on
the other side, Fred was aware of two figures outlined upon the low
ridge before him. They were dimmed by the driving snow and their
backs were toward him, but he recognized them with perfect assurance.
They were Dora Yocum and Ramsey Milholland.
They were walking so slowly that their advance was almost
imperceptible, but it could be seen that Dora was talking with great
animation; and she was a graceful thing, thus gesticulating, in her
long, slim fur coat with the white snow frosting her brown fur cap.
Ramsey had his hands deep in his overcoat pockets and his manner was
wholly that of an audience.
Fred murmured to himself, "'What did you say to her?' 'Nothin'. I
started to, but'--" Then he put on a burst of speed and passed them,
sweeping off his hat with operatic deference, yet hurrying by as if
fearful of being thought a killjoy if he lingered. He went to the
"frat house," found no one downstairs, and established himself in a
red leather chair to smoke and ruminate merrily by a great fire in
Half an hour later Ramsey entered, stamped off the snow, hung up his
hat and coat, and sat himself down defiantly in the red leather chair
on the other side of the fireplace.
"Well, go on," he said. "Commence!"
"Not at all!" Fred returned, amiably. "Fine spring weather to-day.
Lovely to see all the flowers and the birds as we go a-strolling by.
The little bobolinks--"
"You look here!" That's the only walk I ever took with her in my
life. I mean by--by asking her and her saying she would and so
forth. That other time just sort of happened, and you know it. Well,
the weather wasn't just the best in the world, maybe, but she's an
awful conscientious girl and once she makes an engagement--"
"Why, of course," Fred finished for him, "She'd be too pious to break
it just on account of a mere little blizzard or anything. Wonder how
the weather will be next Sunday?"
"I don't know and I don't care," said Ramsey. "You don't suppose I
asked her to go ~again~, do you?"
"Well, for one thing, you don't suppose I want her to think I'm a
perfect fool, do you?"
Fred mused a moment or two, looking at the fire. "What was the
lecture?" he asked, mildly.
"She seemed to me to be--"
"That wasn't lecturing; she was just--"
"Well; she thinks war for the United States is coming closer and
"But it isn't."
"Well, she thinks so, anyhow," said Ramsey, "and she's all broken up
about it. Of course she thinks we oughtn't to fight and she's trying
to get everybody else she can to keep working against it. She isn't
goin' home again next summer, she's goin' back to that settlement
work in Chicago and work there among those people against our goin'
to war; and here in college she wants to get everybody she can to talk
against it, and--"
"What did you say?" Fred asked, and himself supplied the reply:
"Nothin'. I started to, but--"
Ramsey got up. "Now look here! You know the 'frat' passed a rule
that if we broke any more furniture in this house with our scrappin'
we'd both be fined the cost of repairs and five dollars apiece.
Well, I can afford five dollars this month better than you can,
"I take it back!" Fred interposed, hastily. "But you just listen to
me; you look out--letting her think you're on her side like that."
Ramsey looked dogged. "I'm not goin' around always arguin' about
everything when arguin' would just hurt people's feelings about
something they're all excited about, and wouldn't do a bit o' good
in the world--and you know yourself just ~talk~ hardly ever settles
anything--so I don't--"
"Aha!" Fred cried. "I thought so! Now you listen to me--"
"I won't. I--"
But at this moment they were interrupted. Someone slyly opened the
door, and a snowball deftly thrown from without caught Ramsey upon
the back of the neck and head, where it flattened and displayed
itself as an ornamental star. Shouting fiercely, both boys sprang
up, ran to the door, were caught there in a barrage of snowballs,
ducked through it in sipte of all damage, charged upon a dozen
besweatered figures awaiting them and began a mad battle in the
blizzard. Some of their opponents treacherously joined them, and
turned upon the ambushers.
In the dusk the merry conflict waged up and down the snow-covered
lawn, and the combatants threw and threw, or surged back and forth,
or clenched and toppled over into snow banks, yet all coming to chant
an extemporized battle-cry in chorus, even as they fought the most
"Who? Who? Who?" they chanted. "Who? Who? ~Who~ says there ain't
goin' to be no war?"
So everywhere over the country, that winter of 1916, there were
light-hearted boys skylarking--at college, or on the farms; and in
the towns the young machinists snowballed one another as they came
from the shops; while on this Sunday of the "frat" snow fight probably
several hundreds of thousands of youthful bachelors, between the two
oceans, went walking, like Ramsey, each with a girl who could forget
the weather. Yet boys of nineteen and in the twenties were not
light-hearted all the time that winter and that spring and that
summer. Most of them knew long, thoughtful moments, as Ramsey did,
when they seemed to be thinking not of girls or work or play--nor
of anything around them, but of some more vital matter or prospect.
And at such times they were grave, but not ungentle.
For the long strain was on the country; underneath all its outward
seeming of things going on as usual there shook a deep vibration,
like the air trembling to vast organ pipes in diapasons too profound
to reach the ear as sound: one felt, not heard, thunder in the
ground under one's feet. The succession of diplomatic Notes came to
an end after the torpedoing of the ~Sussex~; and at last the tricky
ruling Germans in Berlin gave their word to murder no more, and
people said, "This means peace for America, and all is well for us,"
but everybody knew in his heart that nothing was well for us, that
there was no peace.
They said "All is well," while that thunder in the ground never
ceased--it grew deeper and heavier till all America shook with it
and it became slowly audible as the voice of the old American soil
wherein lay those who had defended it aforetime, a soil that bred
those who would defend it again, for it was theirs; and the meaning
of it--Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness--was theirs, and
theirs to defend. And they knew they would defend it, and that more
than the glory of a Nation was at stake. The Freedom of Man was at
stake. So, gradually, the sacred thunder reached the ears of the
young men and gave them those deep moments that came to them whether
they sat in the classroom or the counting-room, or walked with the
plow, or stood to the machine, or behind the ribbon counter. Thus
the thunder shook them and tried them and slowly came into their
lives and changed everything for them.
Hate of the Germans was not bred; but a contempt for what Germany
had shown in lieu of a national heart; a contempt as mighty and
profound as the resolve that the German way and the German will
should prevail in America, nor in any country of the world that
would be free. And when the German Kaiser laid his command upon
America, that no American should take his ship upon the free seas,
death being the penalty for any who disobeyed, then the German Kaiser
got his answer, not only to this new law he had made for us, but to
many other thoughts of his. Yet the answer was for some time
There was a bitter Sunday, and its bitterness went everywhere, to
every place in the whole world that held high and generous hearts.
Its bitterness came to the special meeting in the "Frat hall," where
there were hearts, indeed, of that right sort, and one of them became
vocal in its bitterness. This was the heart of Fred Mitchell, who
was now an authority, being president of the Junior Class, chairman
of the Prom Committee, and other things pleasant to be and to live
for at his age.
"For me, Brothers," he said, "I'd think I'd a great deal rather
have been shot through the head than heard the news from Washington
to-day! I tell you, I've spent the meanest afternoon I ever did in
my life, and I guess it's been pretty much the same with all of us.
The worst of it is, it looks as though there isn't a thing in the
world we can do. The country's been betrayed by a few blatherskites
and boneheads that had the power to do it, and all we can do we've
just got to stand it. But there's some Americans that aren't just
standing it, and I want to tell you a lot of 'em are men from the
universities, just like us. They're ~over there~ right now; they
haven't said much--they just packed up and went. They're flying for
France and for England and for Canada; they're fighting under every
flag on the right side of the Western Front; and they're driving
ambulances at Verdun and ammunition trucks at the Somme. Well,
there's going to be a lot more American boys on all these jobs mighty
soon, on account of what those men did in Congress to-day. If they
won't give us a chance to do something under our own flag, then we'll
have to go and do it under some other flag; and I want to tell you
I'm one that's going to ~go!~ I'll stick it out in college up to
Easter, and then if there's still no chance to go under the Stars and
Stripes I'll maybe have to go under the flag my great-great-
randfather fought against in 1776, but, anyhow, I'll ~go!~"
It was in speaking to Ramsey of this declaration that Dora said Fred
was a "dangerous firebrand." They were taking another February walk,
but the February was February, 1917; and the day was dry and sunny.
"It's just about a year ago," she said.
"What is?" Ramsey asked.
"That first time we went walking. Don't you remember?"
"Oh, ~that~ day? Yes, I remember it was snowing."
"And so cold and blowy!" she added. "It seems a long time ago.
I like walking with you, Ramsey. You're so quiet and solid--I've
always felt I could talk to you just anyhow I pleased, and you
wouldn't mind. I'll miss these walks with you when we're out of
He chuckled. "That's funny!"
"Because we've only taken four besides this: two last year, and
another week before last, and another last week. This is only the
"Good gracious! Is that all? It seemed to me we'd gone ever so
often!" She laughed. "I'm afraid you won't think that seems much
as if I'd liked going, but I really have. And, by the way, you've
never called on me at all. Perhaps it's because I've forgotten to
"Oh, no," Ramsey said, and scuffed his shoes on the path, presently
explaining rather huskily that he "never ~was~ much of a caller";
and he added, "or anything."
"Well, you must come if you ever care to," she said, with a big-
sister graciousness. "The Dorm chaperon sits there, of course, but
ours is a jolly one and you'd like her. You've probably met her--
Mrs. Hustings?--when you've called on other girls at our old shop."
"No," said Ramsey. "I never was much of a--" He paused, fearing
that he might be repeating himself, and too hastily amended his
intention. "I never liked any girl enough to go and call on her."
"Ramsey Milholland!" she cried. "Why, when we were in school half
the room used to be talking about how you and that pretty Milla--"
"No, no!" Ramsey protested, again too hurriedly. "I never called on
her. We just went walking."
A moment later his colour suddenly became fiery. "I don't mean--I
mean--" he stammered. "It was walking, of course--I mean we did go
out walking but it wasn't walking like--like this." He concluded
with a fit of coughing which seemed to rack him.
Dora threw back her head and laughed delightfully. "Don't you
apologize!" she said. "~I~ didn't when I said it seemed to me that
we've gone walking so often, when in reality it's only four or five
times altogether. I think I can explain, though: I thhink it came
partly from a feeling I have that I can rely on you--that you're a
good, solid, reliable sort of person. I remember from the time we
were little children, you always had a sort of worried, honest look
in school; and you used to make a dent in your forehead--you meant
it for a frown--whenever I caught your eye. You hated me so
honestly, and you were so honestly afraid I wouldn't see it!"
"Oh, yes--yes!" she laughed, then grew serious. "My feeling about
you--that you were a person to be relied on, I mean--I think it began
that evening in our freshman year, after the ~Lusitania~, when I
stopped you on campus and you went with me, and I couldn't help
crying, and you were so nice and quiet. I hardly realized then that
it was the first time we'd ever really talked together--of course ~I~
did all the talking!--and yet we'd known each other so many years.
I thought of it afterward. But what gave me such a different view
of you, I'd always thought you were one of that truculent sort of
boys, always just bursting for a fight; but you showed me you'd
really never had a fight in your life and hated fighting, and that
you sympathized with my feeling about war." She stopped speaking to
draw in her breath with a sharp sigh. "Ah, don't you remember what
I've told you all along? How it keeps coming closer and closer--and
now it's almost here! Isn't it ~unthinkable?~ And what can we do
to stop it, we poor few who feel that we ~must~ stop it?"
"Well--" Ramsey began uncomfortably. "Of course I--I--"
"You can't do much," she said. "I know. None of us can. What can
any little group do? There are so few of us among the undergraduates
--and only one in the whole faculty. All the rest are for war. But
we mustn't give up; we must never feel afterward that we left anything
undone; we must fight to the last breath!"
"'Fight'?" he repeated wonderingly, then chuckled.
"Oh, as a figure of speech," she said, impatiently. "Our language
is full of barbaric figures left over from the dark ages. But, oh,
Ramsey!"--she touched his sleeve--"I've heard that Fred Mitchell is
saying that he's going to Canada after Easter, to try to get into the
Canadian aviation corps. If it's true, he's a dangerous firebrand,
I think. Is it true?"
"I guess so. He's been talking that way some."
"But why do you ~let~ him talk that way?" she cried. "He's your
roommate; surely you have more influence with him than anybody else
has. Couldn't you--"
He shook his head slowly, while upon his face the faintly indicated
modellings of a grin hinted of an inner laughter at some
surreptitious thought. "Well, you know, Fred says himself sometimes,
I don't seem to be much of a talker exactly!"
"I know. But don't you see? That sort of thing is contagious.
Others will think they ought to go if he does; he's popular and
quite a leader. Can't you do anything with him?"
She waited for him to answer. "Can't you?" she insisted.
The grin had disappeared, and Ramsey grew red again. He seemed to
wish to speak, to heave with speech that declined to be spoken and
would not rouse up from his inwards. Finally he uttered words.
"Oh, I know," she said. "A man--or a boy!--always hates to be
intruding his own convictions upon other men, especially in a case
like this, where he might be afraid of some idiot's thinking him
unmanlike. But Ramsey--" Suddenly she broke off and looked at him
attentively; his discomfort had become so obvious that suspicion
struck her. She spoke sharply. "Ramsey ~you~ aren't dreaming of
doing such a thing, are you?"
"What such a thing?"
"Fred hasn't influenced ~you~, has he? You aren't planning to go
with him, are you?"
"To join the Canadian aviation."
"No; I hadn't thought of doing it."
She sighed again, relieved. "I had a queer feeling about you just
then--that you ~were~ thinking of doing some such thing. You looked
so odd--and you're always so quiet, anybody might not really know
what you do think. But I'm not wrong about you, am I, Ramsey?"
They had come to the foot of the steps that led up to the entrance
of her dormitory, and their walk was at an end. As they stopped and
faced each other, she looked at him earnestly; but he did not meet
the scrutiny, his eyelids fell.
"I'm not wrong, am I, Ramsey?"
"About what?" he murmured, uncomfortably.
"You are my friend, aren't you?"
"Then it's all right," she said. "That relieves me and makes me
happier than I was just now, for of course if you're my friend you
wouldn't let me make any mistake about you. I believe you, and now,
just before I go in and we won't see much of each other for a week
--if you still want me to go with you again next Sunday--"
"Yes--won't you, please?"
"Yes, if you like. But I want to tell you now that I count on you
in all this, even though you don't 'talk much,' as you say; I count
on you more than I do on anybody else, and I trust you when you say
you're my friend, and it makes me happy. And I think perhaps you're
right about Fred Mitchell. Talk isn't everything, nobody knows that
better than I, who talk so much! and I think that, instead of talking
to Fred, a steady, quiet influence like yours would do more good than
any amount of arguing. So I trust you, you see? And I'm sorry I had
that queer doubt of you." She held out her hand. "Unless I happen
to see you on the campus for a minute, in the meantime, it's good-bye
until a week from to-day. So--well, so, good-bye until then!"
"Wait," said Ramsey.
"What is it?"
He made a great struggle. "I'm not influencing Fred not to go," he
said. "I--don't want you to trust me to do anything like that."
"I think it's all right for him to go, if he wants to," Ramsey said,
"You do? For him to go to ~fight?~"
He swallowed. "Yes."
"~Oh!~" she cried, turned even redder than he, and ran up the stone
steps. But before the storm doors closed upon her she looked down
to where he stood, with his eyes still lowered, a lonely-seeming
figure, upon the pavement below. Her voice caught upon a sob as she
"If you feel like that, you might as well go and enlist, yourself,"
she said, bitterly. "I can't--I couldn't--speak to you again after
It was easy enough for him to evade Fred Mitchell's rallyings these
days; the sprig's mood was truculent, not toward his roommate but
toward Congress, which was less in fiery haste than he to be
definitely at war with Germany. All through the university the
change had come: athletics, in other years spotlighted at the centre
of the stage, languished suddenly, threatened with abandonment;
students working for senior honours forgot them; everything was
forgotten except that growing thunder in the soil. Several weeks
elapsed after Dora's bitter dismissal of Ramsey before she was
mentioned between the comrades. Then, one evening, Fred asked, as
he restlessly paced their study floor:
"Have you seen your pacifist friend lately?"
"No. Not exactly. Why?"
"Well, for my part, I think she ought to be locked up," Fred said,
angrily. "Have you heard what she did this afternoon?"
"It's all over college. She got up in the class in jurisprudence and
made a speech. It's a big class, you know, over two hundred, under
Dean Burney. He's a great lecturer, but he's a pacifist--the only
one on the faculty--and a friend of Dora's. They say he encouraged
her to make this break and led the subject around so she could do it,
and then called on her for an opinion, as the highest-stand student
in the clas. She got up and claimed there wasn't any such thing as
a legitimate cause for war, either legally or morally, and said it
was a sign of weakness in a nation for it to believe that it did have
cause for war.
"Well, it was too much for that little, spunky Joe Stansbury, and
he jumped up and argued with her. He made her admit all the Germans
have done to us, the sea murders and the land murders, the blowing up
of the factories, the propaganda, the strikes, trying to turn the
United States into a German settlement, trying to get Japan and
Mexico to make war on us, and all the rest. He even made her admit
there was proof they mean to conquer us when they get through with
the others, and that they've set out to rule the world for their own
benefit, and make whoever else they kindly allow to live, to work for
"She said it might be true, but since nothing at all could be a right
cause for war, than all this couldn't be a cause of war. Of course
she had her regular pacifist 'logic' working; she said that since war
is the worst thing there is, why, all other evils were lesser, and
a lesser evil can't be a just cause for a greater. She got terribly
excited, they say, but kept right on, anyway. She said war was
murder and there couldn't be any other way to look at it; and she'd
heard there was already talk in the university of students thinking
about enlisting, and whoever did such a thing was virtualy enlisting
to return murder for murder. Then Joe Stansbury asked her if she
meant that she'd feel toward any student that enlisted the way she
would toward a murderer, and she said, yes, she'd have a horror of
any student that enlisted.
"Well, that broke up the class; Joe turned from her to the platform
and told old Burney that he was responsible for allowing such talk
in his lecture-room, and Joe said so far as ~he~ was concerned, he
resigned from Burney's classes right there. That started it, and
practically the whole class got up and walked out with Joe. They
said Burney streaked off home, and Dora was left alone in there,
with her head down on her desk--and I gues she certainly deserves it.
A good many have alread stopped speaking to her."
Ramsey fidgeted with a pen on the table by which he sat. "Well, I
don't know," he said, slowly; "I don't know if they ought to do that
"Why oughtn't they?" Fred demanded, sharply.
"Well, it looks to me as if she was only fightin' for her principles.
She believes in 'em. The more it costs a person to stick to their
principles, why, the more I believe the person must have something
pretty fine about 'em likely."
Yes!" said the hot-headed Fred. "That may be in ordinary times, but
not when a person's principles are liable to betray their country!
We won't stand that kind of principles, I tell you, and we oughtn't
to. Dora Yocum's finding that out, all right. She had the biggest
position of any girl in this place, or any boy either, up to the last
few weeks, and there wasn't any student or hardly even a member of
the faculty that had the influence or was more admired and looked up
to. She had the whole show! But now, since she's just the same as
called any student a murderer if he enlists to fight for his country
and his flag--well, now she hasn't got anything at all, and if she
keeps on she'll have even less!"
He paused in his walking to and fro and came to a halt behind his
friend's chair, looking down compassionately upon the back of
Ramsey's motionless head. His tone changed. "I guess it isn't just
the ticket--me to be talking this way to you, is it?" he said, with
a trace of huskiness.
"Oh--it's all right," Ramsey murmured, not altering his position.
"I can't help blowing up," Fred went on. "I want to say, though, I
know I'm not very considerate to blow up about her to you this way.
I've been playing horse with you about her ever since freshman year,
but--well, you must have understood, Ram, I never meant anything that
would really bother you much, and I thought--well, I ~really~ thought
it was a good thing, you--your--well, I mean about her, you know.
I'm on, all right. I know it's pretty serious with you." He paused.
Ramsey did not move, except that his right hand still fidgeted with
the pen upon the table.
"Oh--well--" he said.
"It's--it's kind of tough luck!" his friend contrived to say; and
he began to pace the floor again.
"See here, ole stick-in-the-mud," Fred broke out abruptly. "After
her saying what she did-- Well, it's none o' my business, but--
"Well, what?" Ramsey murmured. "I don't care what you say, if you
want to say anything."
"Well, I ~got~ to say it," Fred half groaned and half blurted.
"After she said ~that~--and she meant it--why, if I were in your
place I'd be darned if I'd be seen out walking with her again."
"I'm not going to be," Ramsey said, quietly.
"By George!" And now Fred halted in front of him, both being huskily
solemn. "I think I understand a little of what that means to you,
old Ramsey; I think I do. I think I know something of what it costs
you to make that resolution for your country's sake." Impulsively he
extended his hand. "It's a pretty big thing for you to do. Will you
But Ramsey shook his head. "I didn't do it. I wouldn't ever have
done anything just on account of her talkin' that way. She shut the
door on me--it was a good while ago."
"She did! What for?"
"Well, I'm not much of a talker, you know, Fred," said Ramsey,
staring at the pen he played with. "I'm not much of anything,
for that matter, prob'ly, but I--well--I--"
"Well, I had to tell her I didn't feel about things the way she did.
She'd thought I had, all along, I guess. Anyway, it made her hate me
or something, I guess; and she called it all off. I expect there
wasn't much to call off, so far as she was concerned, anyhow." He
laughed feebly. "She told me I better go and enlist."
"Pleasant of her!" Fred muttered. "Especially as we know what she
thinks enlisting means." He raised his voice cheerfully. "Well,
that's settled; and, thank God, old Mr. Bernstorff's on his way to
his sweet little vine-clad cottage home! They're getting guns on the
ships, and the big show's liable to commence any day. We can hold up
our heads now, and we're going to see some great times, old Ramsey
boy! It's hard on the home folks--Gosh! I don't like to think of
that! And I guess it's going to be hard on a lot of boys that
haven't understood what it's all about, and hard on some that their
family affairs, and business, and so on, have got 'em tied up so it's
hard to go--and of course there's plenty that just can't, and some
that aren't husky enough--but the rest of us are going to have the
big time in our lives. We got an awful lot to learn; it scares me
to think of what I don't know about being any sort of a rear-rank
private. Why, it's a regular ~profession~, like practising law, or
selling for a drug house on the road. Golly! Do you remember how we
talked about that, 'way back in freshman year, what we were going to
do when we got out of college? You were going to be practising law,
for instance, and I--well, f'r instance, remember Colburn; he was
going to be a doctor, and he did go to some medical school for one
year. Now he's in the Red Cross, somewhere in ~Persia~. Golly!"
He paused to digest this impossibility, then chattered briskly on.
"Well, there's ~one~ good old boy was with our class for a while,
back in freshman year; I bet we won't see him in any good old army!
Old rough-neck Linski that you put the knob on his nose for. Tommie
Hopper says he saw him last summer in Chicago soapboxin', yellin' his
head off cussin' every government under the sun, but mostly ours and
the Allies', you bet, and going to run the earth by revolution and
representatives of unskilled labour immigrants, nobody that can read
or write allowed to vote, except Linski. Tommie Hopper says he knows
all about Linski; he never did a day's work in his life--too busy
trying to get the workingmen stirred up against the people that
exploit 'em! Tommie says he had a big crowd to hear him, though,
and took up quite a little money for a 'cause' or something. Well,
let him holler! I guess we can attend to him when we get back from
over yonder. By George, old Ram, I'm gettin' kind of floppy in the
gills!" He administered a resounding slap to his comrade's shoulder.
"It certainly looks as if our big days were walking toward us!"
He was right. The portentous days came on apace, and each one
brought a new and greater portent. The faces of men lost a driven
look besetting them in the days of badgered waiting, and instead of
that heavy apprehension one saw the look men's faces must have worn
in 1776 and 1861, and the history of the old days grew clearer in
the new. The President went to the Congress, and the true indictment
he made there reached scoffing Potsdam with an unspoken prophecy
somewhat chiling even to Potsdam, one guesses--and then through an
April night went almost quietly the steady work: we were at war with
The bugles sounded across the continent; drums and fifes played up
and down the city streets and in town and village squares and through
the countrysides. Faintly in all ears there was multitudinous noise
like distant, hoarse cheering... and a sound like that was what Dora
Yocum heard, one night, as she sat lonely in her room. The bugles
and fifes and drums had been heard about the streets of the college
town, that day, and she thought she must die of them, they hurt her
so, and now to be haunted by this imaginary cheering--
She started. Was it imaginary?
She went downstairs and stood upon the steps of the dormitory in the
open air. No; the cheering was real and loud. It came from the
direction of the railway station, and the night air surged and beat
Below her stood the aged janitor of the building, listening. "What's
the cheering for?" she asked, remembering grimly that the janitor was
one of her acquaintances who had not yet stopped "speaking" to her.
"What's the matter?"
"It's a good matter," the old man answered. "I guess there must be
a big crowd of 'em down there. One of our students enlisted to-day,
and they're givin' him a send-off. Listen to 'em, how they ~do~
cheer. He's the first one to go."
She went back to her room, shivering, and spent the next day in bed
with an aching head. She rose in the evening, however--a handbill
had been slid under her door at five o'clock, calling a "Mass
Meeting" of the university at eight, and she felt it her duty to go;
but when she got to the great hall she found a seat in the dimmest
corner, farthest from the rostrum.
The president of the university addressed the tumultuous many
hundreds before him, for tumultuous they were until he quieted them.
He talked to them soberly of patriotism, and called upon them for
"deliberation and a little patience." There was danger of a stampede,
he said, and he and the rest of the faculty were in a measure
responsible to their fathers and mothers for them.
"You must keep your heads," he said. "God knows, I do not seek to
judge your duty in this gravest moment of your lives, nor assume to
tell you what you must or must not do. But by hurrying into service
now, without careful thought or consideration, you may impair the
extent of your possible usefulness to the very cause you are so
anxious to serve. Hundreds of you are taking technical courses
which should be completed--at least to the end of the term in June.
Instructors from the United States Army are already on the way here,
and military training will be begun at once for all who are
physically eligible and of acceptable age. A special course will
be given in preparation for flying, and those who wish to become
aviators may enroll themselves for the course at once.
"I speak to you in a crisis of the university's life, as well as that
of the nation, and the warning I utter has been made necessary by
what took place yesterday and to-day. Yesterday morning, a student
in the junior class enlisted as a private in the United States
Regular Army. Far be it from me to deplore his course in so doing;
he spoke to me about it, and in such a way that I felt I had no right
to dissuade him. I told him that it would be preferable for college
men to wait until they could go as officers, and, aside from the fact
of a greater prestige, I urged that men of education could perhaps
be more useful in that capacity. He replied that if he were useful
enough as a private a commission might in time come his way, and, as
I say, I did not feel at liberty to attempt dissuasion. He left to
join a regiment to which he had been assigned, and many of you were
at the station to bid him farewell.
"But enthusiasm may be too contagious; even a great and inspiring
motive may work for harm, and the university must not become a
desert. In the twenty-four hours since that young man went to join
the army last night, one hundred and eleven of our young men students
have left our walls; eighty-four of them went off together at three
o'clock to catch an east-bound train at the junction and enlist for
the Navy at Newport. We are, I say, in danger of a stampede."
He spoke on, but Dora was not listening; she had become obsessed by
the idea which seemed to be carrying her to the border of tragedy.
When the crowd poured forth from the building she went with it
mechanically, and paused in the dark outside. She spoke to a girl
whom she did not know.
"I beg your pardon--"
"I wanted to ask: Do you know who was the student Doctor Corvis
spoke of? I mean the one that was the first to enlist, and that they
were cheering last night when he went away to be a private in the
United States Army. Did you happen to hear his name?"
"Yes, he was a junior."
"Who was it?"
Fred Mitchell, crossing the campus one morning, ten days later, saw
Dora standing near the entrance of her dormitory, where he would pass
her unless he altered his course; and as he drew nearer her and the
details of her face grew into distinctness, he was indignant with
himself for feeling less and less indignation toward her in
proportion to the closeness of his approach. The pity that came over
him was mingled with an unruly admiration, causing him to wonder what
unpatriotic stuff he could be made of. She was marked, but not
whipped; she still held herself straight under all the hammering and
cutting which, to his knowledge, she had been getting.
She stopped him, "for only a moment," she said, adding with a wan
profoundness: "That is, if you're not one of those who feel that
I shouldn't be 'spoken to'?"
"No," said Fred, stiffly. "I may share their point of view, perhaps,
but I don't feel called upon to obtrude it on you in that manner."
"I see," she said, nodding. "I've wanted to speak with you about
She bit her lip, then asked, abruptly: "What made him do it?"
"Enlist as a private with the regulars?"
"No. What made him enlist at all?"
"Only because he's that sort," Fred returned briskly. "He may be
inexplicable to people who believe that his going out to fight for
his country is the same thing as going out to commit a mur--"
She lifted her hand. "Couldn't you--"
"I beg your pardon," Fred said at once. "I'm sorry, but I don't know
just how to explain him to you."
He laughed, apologetically. "Well, you see, as I understand it, you
don't think it's possible for a person to have something within him
that makes him care so much about his country that he--"
"Wait!" she cried. "Don't you think I'm willing to suffer a little
rather than to see my country in the wrong? Don't you think I'm
"Well, I don't want to be rude; but, of course, it seems to me that
you're suffering because you think you know more about what's right
and wrong than anybody else does."
"Oh, no. But I--"
"We wouldn't get anywhere, probably, by arguing it," Fred said.
"You asked me."
"I asked you to tell my why he enlisted."
"The trouble is, I don't think I ~can~ tell that to anybody who needs
an answer. He just went, of course. There isn't any question about
it. I always thought he'd be the first to go."
"Oh, no!" she said.
"Yes, I always thought so."
"I think you were mistaken," she said, decidedly. "It was a special
reason--to make him act so cruelly."
"Cruelly!" Fred cried.
"Cruel to whom?"
"Oh, to his mother--to his family. To have him go off that way,
without a word--"
"Oh, no' he'd been home," Fred corrected her. "He went home the
Saturday before he enlisted, and settled it with them. They're all
broken up, of course; but when the saw he'd made up his mind, they
quit opposing him, and I think they're proud of him about it, maybe,
in spite of feeling anxious. You see, his father was an artilleryman
in the war with Spain, and his grandfather was a Colonel at the end
of the War of the Rebellion, though he went into it as a private,
like Ramsey. He died when Ramsey was about twelve; but Ramsey
remembers him; he was talking of him a little the night before he
Dora made a gesture of despairing protest. "You don't understand!"
"What is it I don't understand?"
"Ramsey! ~I~ know why he went--and it's just killing me!"
Fred looked at her gravely. "I don't think you need worry about it,"
he said. "There's nothing about his going that you are responsible
She repeated her despairing gesture. "You don't understand. But
it's no use. It doesn't help any to try to talk of it, though I
thought maybe it would, somehow." She wnet a little nearer the
dormitory entrance, leaving him where he was, then turned. "I
suppose you won't see him?"
"I don't know. Most probably not till we meet-if we should--in
France. I don't know hwere he's stationed; and I'm going with the
aviation--if it's ever ready! And he's with the regulars; he'll
probably be among the first to go over."
"I see." She turned sharply away, calling back over her shoulder
in a choked voice. "Thankd you. Good-bye!"
But Fred's heart had melted; gazing after her, he saw that her proud
young head had lowered now, and that her shoulders were moving
convulsively; he ran after her and caught her as she bagan slowly
to ascend the dormitory steps.
"See here," he cried. "Don't--"
She lifted a wet face. "No, no! He went in bitterness because I
told him to, in my own bitterness! I've killed him! Long ago, when
he wasn't much more than a child, I heard he'd said that some day
he'd 'show' me, and now he's done it!"
Fred whistled low and long when she had disappeared. "Girls!" he
murmured to himself. "Some girls, anyhow--they will be girls! You
can't tell 'em what's what, and you can't change 'em, either!"
Then, as more urgent matters again occupied his attention, he went on
at an ardent and lively gait to attend his class in map-making.
That thunder in the soil, at first too deep within it to be audible,
had come to the surface now and gradually became heard as the thunder
of a million feet upon the training grounds. The bugles rang
sharper; the drums and fifes of town and village and countryside were
the drums and fifes of a war that came closer and closer to every
hearth between the two oceans.
All the old symbols became symbols bright and new, as if no one had
ever seen them before. "America" was like a new word, and the song
"America" was like a new song. All the dusty blatancies of orating
candidates, seeking to rouse bored auditors with "the old flag"; all
the mechanical patriotics of school and church and club; all these
time-worn flaccid things leaped suddenly into living colour. The
flag became brilliant and strange to see--strange with a meaning that
seemed new, a meaning long known, yet never known till now.
And so hearts that thought they knew themselves came upon ambushes
of emotion and hidden indwellings of spirit not guessed before. Dora
Yocum, listening to the "Star Spangled Banner," sung by children of
immigrants to an out-of-tune old piano in a mission clubroom, in
Chicago, found herself crying with a soul-shaking heartiness in a way
different from other ways that she had cried. Among the many things
she thought of then was this: That the banner the children were
singing about was in danger. The great country, almost a continent,
had always seemed so untouchable, so safe and sure; she had never
been able to conceive of a hostile power mighty enough to shake or
even jar it. And since so great and fundamental a thing could not be
injured, a war for its defence had appeared to be, in her eyes, not
only wicked but ridiculous. At last, less and less vaguely, she had
come to comprehend something of the colossal German threat, and the
shadow that touched this bright banner of which the immigrants'
children piped so briskly in the mission club-room.
She had begun to understand, though she could not have told just why,
or how, or at what moment understanding reached her. She began to
understand that her country, threatened to the life, had flung its
line those thousands of miles across the sea to stand and hold
Hindenburg and Ludendorff and all their Kaisers, Kings, Dukes, and
Crown Princes, their Krupp and Skoda monstrous engines, and their
monstrous other engines of men made into armies. Through the long
haze of misted sea-miles and the smoke of land-miles she perceived
that brown line of ours, and knew it stood there that Freedom, and
the Nation itself, might not perish from the earth.
And so, a week later, she went home, and came nervously to Ramsey's
mother and found how to direct the letter she wanted to write. He
was in France.
As the old phrase went, she poured out her heart. It seems to apply
to her letter.
Don't misunderstand me. I felt that my bitter speech to you had
driven you to take the step you did. I felt that I had sent you
to be killed, and that I ought to be killed for doing it, but I
knew that you had other motives, too. I knew, of course, that you
thought of the country more than you did of me, or of any mad thing
I would say--but I thought that what I said might have been the
prompting thing, the word that threw you into it so hastily and
before you were ready, perhaps. I dreaded to bear that terrible
responsibility. I hope you understand.
My great mistake has been--I thought I sas so "logical"--it's been
in my starting everything with a thought I'd never proven; that war
is the worst thing, and all other evils were lesser. I was wrong.
I was wrong, because war isn't the worst evil. Slavery is the
worse evil, and now I want to tell you I have come to see that you
are making war on those that make slavery. Yes, you are fighting
those that make both war and slavery, and you are right, and I
humbly reverence and honour all of you who are in this right war.
I have come home to work in the Red Cross here; I work there all
day, and all day I keep saying to myself--but I really mean to
~you~--it's what I pray, and oh, how I pray it: "God be with you
and grant you the victory!" For you must win and you will win.
Forgive me, oh, please--and if you will, could you write to me?
I know you have things to do more important than "girls"--but oh,
couldn't you, please?
This letter, which she had taken care not to dampen, as she wrote,
went in slow course to the "American Expeditionary Forces in France,"
and finally found him whom it patiently sought. He delayed not long
to answer, and in time she held in a shaking hand the pencilled
missive he had sent her.
You forget all that comic talk about me enlisting because of your
telling me to. I'd written my father I was going at the first
chance a month and a half before that day when you said it. My
mind was made up at the first time there was any talk of war, and
you had about as much responsibility for my going as some little
sparrow or something. Of course I don't mean I didn't pay any
attention to the different things you said, because I always did,
and I used to worry over it because I was afraid some day it would
get you in trouble, and I'm mighty glad you've cut it out. That's
right; you be a regular girl now. You always were one, and I knew
it all right. I'm not as scared to write to you as I was to talk
to you, so I guess you know I was mighty tickled to get your
letter. It sounded blue, but I was glad to get it. You ~bet~ I'll
write to you! I don't suppose you could have any idea how glad I
was to get your letter. I could sit here and write to you all day
if they'd let me, but I'm a corporal now. When you answer this, I
wish you'd say how the old town looks and if the grass in the front
yards is as green as it usually is, and everything. And tell me
some more about everything you think of when you are working down
at the Red Cross like you said. I guess I've read your letter five
million times, and that part ten million. I mean where you
underlined that "~you~" and what you said to yourself at the Red
Cross. Oh, murder, but I was glad to read that! Don't forget
about writing anything else you think of like that.
Well, I was interrupted then and this is the next day. Of course,
I can't tell you where we are, because that darned censor will read
this letter, but I guess he will let this much by. Who do you
think I ran across in a village yesterday? Two boys from the old
school days, and we certainly did shake hands a few times! It was
the old foolish Dutch Krusemeyer and Albert Paxton, both of them
lieutenants. I heard Fred Mitchell is still training in the States
and about crazy because they won't send him over yet.
If you had any idea how glad I was to get your letter, you wouldn't
lose any time answering this one. Anyhow, I'm going to write to
you again every few days if I get the chance, because maybe you'll
answer more than one of 'em.
But see here, cut out that "sent you to be killed" stuff. You've
got the wrong idea altogether. We've got the big job of our lives,
we know that, but we're going to do it. There'll be mistakes and
bad times, but we won't fall down. Now you'll excuse me for saying
it this way, Dora, but I don't know just how to express myself
except saying of course we know everybody isn't going to get back
home--but listen, we didn't come over here to get killed
particularly, we came over here to give these Dutchmen h--l!
Perhaps you can excuse language if I write it with a blank like
that, but before we get back we're going to do what we came for.
They may not all of them be as bad as some of them--it's a good
thing you don't know what we do, because some of it would make you
sick. As I say, there may be quite a lot of good ones among them;
but we know what they've done to this country, and we know what
they mean to do to ours. So we're going to attend to them. Of
course that's why I'm here. It wasn't you.
Don't forget to write pretty soon, Dora. You say in your letter--I
certainly was glad to get that letter--well, you say I have things
to do more important than "girls." Dora, I think you probably know
without my saying so that of course while I have got important
things to do, just as every man over here has, and everybody at
home, for that matter, well, the thing that is most important in
the world to me, next to helping win this war, it's reading the
next letter from you.
Don't forget how glad I'll be to get it, and don't forget you
didn't have anything to do with my being over here. That was--it
was something else. And you bet, whatever happens I'm glad I came!
Don't ever forget ~that~!
Dora knew it was "something else." Her memory went back to her first
recollection of him in school: from that time on he had been just an
ordinary, everyday boy, floundering somehow through his lessons in
school and through his sweethearting with Milla, as the millions of
other boys floundered along with their own lessons and their own
Millas. She saw him swinging his books and romping homeward from the
schoolhouse, or going whistling by her father's front yard, rattling
a stick on the fence as he went, care-free and masterful, but shy as
a deer if strangers looked at him, and always "not much of a talker."
She had always felt so superior to him, she shuddered as she thought
of it. His quiet had been so much better than her talk. His
intelligence was proven now, when it came to the great test, to be
of a stronger sort than hers. He was wise and good and gentle--and
a fighting man! "We know what they've done to this country and what
they mean to do to ours. So we're going to attend to them." She
read this over, and she knew that Ramsey, wise and gentle and good,
would fight like an unchained devil, and that he and his comrades
would indeed and indeed do what they "came for."
"It wasn't you," he said. She nodded gently, agreeing, and knew what
it was that sent him. Yet Ramsey had his own secret there, and did
not tell it. Sometimes there rose, faint in his memory, a whimsical
picture, yet one that had always meant much to him. He would see an
old man sitting with a little boy upon a rustic bench under a walnut
tree to watch the "Decoration Day Parade" go by--and Ramsey would see
a shoot of sunshine that had somehow got through the walnut tree and
made a bedazzlement of glinting fine lines over a spot about the size
of a saucer, upon the old man's thick white hair. And in Ramsey's
memory, the little boy, sitting beside the veteran, would half close
his eyes, drowsily, playing that this sunshine spot was a white
bird's-nest, until he had a momentary dream of a glittering little
bird that dwelt there and wore a blue soldier cap on its head. And
Ramsey would bring out of his memory toughts that the old man had got
into the child's head that day. "We knew that armies fighting for
the Freedom of Man ~had~ to win, in the long run.... We were on the
side of God's Plan.... Long ago we began to see hints of His
Plan.... Man has to win his freedom from himself--men in the light
have to fight against men in the dark.... That light is the
answer.... We had the light that made us never doubt."
A long while Dora sat with the letter in her hand before she answered
it and took it upon her heart to wear. That was the place for it,
since it was already within her heart, where he would find it when
he came home again. And she beheld the revelation sent to her. This
ordinary life of Ramsey's was but the outward glinting of a high and
splendid spirit, as high and splendid as earth can show. And yet it
was only the life of an everyday American boy. The streets of the
town were full, now, of boys like Ramsey.
At first they were just boys in uniform; then one saw that they were
boys no more.
They were soldiers.