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Scarborough soon lifted himself high above the throng, and was marked by faculty and students as a man worth watching. The manner of this achievement was one of those forecasts of the future with which youth bristles for those who take the trouble to watch it.
Although Pierson was only a sophomore he was the political as well as the social leader of his fraternity. Envy said that the Sigma Alphas truckled to his wealth; perhaps the exacter truth was that his wealth forced an earlier recognition of his real capacity. His position as leader made him manager of the Sigma Alpha combination of fraternities and barbs which for six years had dominated the Washington and Jefferson Literary Society. The barbs had always voted humbly with the aristocratic Sigma Alphas; so Pierson's political leadership apparently had no onerous duties attached to it--and he was not the man to make work for himself.
As the annual election approached he heard rumors of barb disaffection, of threatened barb revolt. Vance, his barb lieutenant, reassured him.
"Always a few kickers," said Vance, "and they make a lot of noise. But they won't draw off twenty votes." Pierson made himself easy--there was no danger of one of those hard-fought contests which in past years had developed at Battle Field many of Indiana's adroit political leaders.
On election night he felt important and powerful as he sat in the front row among the arrogant Sigma Alphas, at the head of his forces massed in the left side of the hall. He had insisted on Scarborough's occupying a seat just behind him. He tilted back in his arm-chair and said, in an undertone: "You're voting with us?"
Scarborough shook his head. "Can't do it. I'm pledged to Adee."
Pierson looked amused. "Who's he? And who's putting him up?"
"I'm nominating him," replied Scarborough, "as the barb candidate."
"Take my advice don't do it, old man," said Pierson in a friendly, somewhat patronizing tone.
"You'll only get our fellows down on you--them and all the fraternity men. And--well, your candidate'll have a dozen votes or so, at most--and there'll be a laugh."
"Yes--I suppose there will be a laugh," said Scarborough, his eyes twinkling.
"Don't do it," urged Pierson. "Be practical."
"No--I leave that to your people."
Just then nominations for president were called for and the candidates of the two factions were proposed and seconded. "The nominations for president are----" began the chairman, but before he could utter the word "closed" Scarborough was on his feet--was saying, "Mr. Chairman!"
Pierson dropped his eyes and grew red with embarrassment for his friend who was thus "rushing on to make a fool of himself."
Scarborough's glance traveled slowly from row to row of expectant young men.
"Mr. Chairman and fellow-members of the Washington and Jefferson Society," he said in a conversational tone. "I have the honor of placing in nomination Frank Adee, of Terre Haute. In addition to other qualifications of which it would be superfluous for me to speak in this presence, he represents the masses of the membership of this society which has been too long dominated by and for its classes. It is time to compel the fraternities to take faction and caste and political wire-pulling away from this hall, and to keep them away. It is time to rededicate our society to equality, to freedom of thought and speech, to the democratic ideas of the plain yet proud builders of this college of ours."
Scarborough made no attempt at oratory, made not a single gesture. It was as though he were talking privately and earnestly with each one there. He sat amid silence; when a few barbs nervously applauded, the fraternity men of both factions, recovering themselves, raised a succession of ironical cheers. A shabby, frightened barb stood awkwardly, and in a trembling, weak voice seconded the nomination. There was an outburst of barb applause--strong, defiant. Pierson was anxiously studying the faces of his barbs.
"By Jove," he muttered, "Vance has been caught napping. I believe Scarborough has put up a job on us. If I can't gain time we're beat." And he sprang to his feet, his face white. In a voice which he struggled in vain to keep to his wonted affected indifferent drawl, he said: "Mr. Chairman, I move you, sir, that we adjourn." As he was bending to sit his ready lieutenant seconded the motion.
"Mr. Chairman!" It was an excited voice from the rear of the hall--the voice of a tall, lank, sallow man of perhaps thirty-five. "What right," he shouted shrilly, "has this Mr. Pierson to come here and make that there motion? He ain't never seen here except on election nights. He----"
The chairman rapped sharply.
"Motion to adjourn not debatable," he said, and then mumbled rapidly: "The question's the motion to adjourn. All in favor say Aye--all opposed, No--the ayes seem to have it--the ayes have----"
"Mr. Chairman; I call for a count of the ayes and noes!" It was Scarborough, standing, completely self-possessed. His voice was not raised but it vibrated through that room, vibrated through those three hundred intensely excited young men.
The chairman--Waller, a Zeta Rho, of the Sigma Alpha combination--knew that Pierson was scowling a command to him to override the rules and adjourn the meeting; but he could not take his eyes from Scarborough's, dared not disobey Scarborough's imperious look. "A count of the ayes and noes is called for," he said. "The secretary will call the roll."
Pierson's motion was lost--one hundred and thirty-two to one hundred and seventy-nine. For the first time in his life he was beaten; and it was an overwhelming, a public defeat that made his leadership ridiculous. His vanity was cut savagely; it was impossible for him to control himself to stay and witness the inevitable rout. He lounged down the wide aisle, his face masked in a supercilious smile, his glance contemptuously upon the jubilant barbs. They were thick about the doors, and as he passed among them he said, addressing no one in particular: "A revolt of the Helots." A barb raised a threatening fist; Pierson sneered, and the fist unclenched and dropped before his fearless eyes.
An hour later Scarborough, his ticket elected and the society adjourned, reached Mrs. Trent's porch. In its darkness he saw the glowing end of a cigarette. "That you, Pierson?" he asked in the tone of one who knows what the answer will be.
"Sit down for a few minutes," came the reply, in a strained voice.
He could not see even the outline of Pierson's face, but with those acute sensibilities which made life alternately a keen pleasure and a pain to him, he felt that his friend was struggling for self-control. He waited in silence.
At last Pierson began: "I owe you an apology. I've been thinking all sorts of things about you. I know they're unjust and--mean, which is worse. But, damn it, Scarborough, I hate being beaten. And it doesn't make defeat any the easier because you did it."
He paused; but Scarborough did not speak.
"I'm going to be frank," Pierson went on with an effort. "I know you had a perfect right to do as you pleased, but--hang it all, old man--you might have warned me."
"But I didn't do as I pleased," said Scarborough. "And as for telling you--" He paused before he interrupted himself with: "But first I want to say that I don't like to give an account of myself to my friends. What does friendship mean if it forbids freedom? I didn't approve or condemn you because you belonged to a fraternity, and because you headed a clique that was destroying the Literary Society by making it a place for petty fraternity politics instead of a place to develop speakers, writers and debaters. Yet now you're bringing me to account because I didn't slavishly accept your ideas as my own. Do you think that's a sound basis for a friendship, Pierson?"
When Scarborough began Pierson was full of a grievance which he thought real and deep. He was proposing to forgive Scarborough, forgive him generously, but not without making him realize that it was an act of generosity. As Scarborough talked he was first irritated, then, and suddenly, convinced that he was himself in the wrong--in the wrong throughout.
"Don't say another word, Scarborough," he replied, impulsively laying his hand on the arm of his friend--how powerful it felt through the sleeve! "I've been spoiled by always having my own way and by people letting me rule them. You gave me my first lesson in defeat. And--I needed it badly. As for your not telling me, you'd have ruined your scheme if you had. Besides, looking back, I see that you did warn me. I know now what you meant by always jumping on the fraternities and the combinations."
"Thank you," said Scarborough, simply. "When I saw you leaving the society hall I feared I'd lost a friend. Instead, I've found what a friend I have." Then after a brief silence he continued: "This little incident up there to-night--this little revolution I took part in--has meant a good deal to me. It was the first chance I'd had to carry out the ideas I've thought over and thought over down there on the farm while I was working in the fields or lying in the hay, staring up at the sky. And I don't suppose in all the future I'll ever have a greater temptation to be false to myself than I had in the dread that's been haunting me--the dread of losing your friendship--and the friendship of--of--some others who might see it as I was afraid you would. There may be lessons in this incident for you, Fred. But the greatest lesson of all is the one you've taught me--never to be afraid to go forward when the Finger points."
Pierson and Olivia walked to chapel together the next morning, and he told her the story of the defeat, putting himself in a worse light than he deserved. But Olivia, who never lost a chance to attack him for his shortcomings, now, to his amazement, burst out against Scarborough.
"It was contemptible," she said hotly. "It was treachery! It was a piece of cold-blooded ambition. He'd sacrifice anything, any one, to ambition. I shall never like him again."
Pierson was puzzled--being in love with her, he had been deceived by her pretense that she had a poor opinion of him; and he did not appreciate that her sense of justice was now clouded by resentment for his sake. At dinner, when the four were together, she attacked Scarborough. Though she did not confess it, he forced her to see that at least his motives were not those she had been attributing to him. When he and Pauline were alone--Olivia and Pierson had to hurry away to a lecture he said: "What do you think, Miss Gardiner? You--did you--do you--agree with your cousin?
"I?" Pauline dropped her eyes. "Oh, I----"
She hesitated so long that he said: "Go on--tell me just what you think. I'd rather know than suspect."
"I think you did right. But--I don't see how you had the courage to do it."
"That is, you think I did right--but the sort of right that's worse than wrong."
"No--no!" she protested, putting a good deal of feeling into her voice in the effort to reassure him. "I'd have been ashamed of you if you hadn't done it. And--oh, I despise weakness in a man most of all! And I like to think that if everybody in college had denounced you, you'd have gone straight on. And--you would!"
Within a week after this they were calling each the other by their first names.
For the Christmas holidays she went with her mother from Battle Field direct to Chicago, to her father's sisters Mrs. Hayden--Colonel Gardiner had been called south on business. When she came back she and Scarborough took up their friendship where they had left it. They read the same books, had similar tastes, disagreed sympathetically, agreed with enthusiasm. She saw a great deal of several other men in her class, enough not to make her preference for him significant to the college--or to herself. They went for moonlight straw-rides, on moonlight and starlight skating and ice-boat parties, for long walks over the hills--all invariably with others, but they were often practically alone. He rapidly dropped his rural manners and mannerisms--Fred Pierson's tailor in Indianapolis made the most radical of the surface changes in him.
Late in February his cousin, the superintendent of the farm, telegraphed him to come home. He found his mother ill--plainly dying. And his father--Bladen Scarborough's boast had been that he never took a "dose of drugs" in his life, and for at least seventy of his seventy-nine years he had been "on the jump" daily from long before dawn until long after sundown. Now he was content to sit in his arm-chair and, with no more vigorous protest than a frown and a growl, to swallow the despised drugs.
Each day he made them carry him in his great chair into her bedroom. And there he sat all day long, his shaggy brows down, his gaze rarely wandering from the little ridge her small body made in the high white bed; and in his stern eyes there was a look of stoic anguish. Each night, as they were carrying him to his own room, they took him near the bed; and he leaned forward, and the voice that in all their years had never been anything but gentle for her said: "Good night, Sallie." And the small form would move slightly, there would be a feeble turning of the head, a wan smile on the little old face, a soft "Good night, Bladen."
It was on Hampden's ninth day at home that the old man said "Good night, Sallie," and there was no answer--not even a stir. They did not offer to carry him in the next morning; nor did he turn his face from the wall. She died that day; he three days later--he had refused food and medicine; he had not shed a tear or made a sound.
Thus the journey side by side for fifty-one years was a journey no longer. They were asleep side by side on the hillside for ever.
Hampden stayed at home only one day after the funeral. He came back to Battle Field apparently unchanged. He was not in black, for Bladen Scarborough abhorred mourning as he abhorred all outward symbols of the things of the heart. But after a week he told Pauline about it; and as he talked she sobbed, though his voice did not break nor his eyes dim.
"He's like his father," she thought.
When Olivia believed that Dumont was safely forgotten she teased her--"Your adoring and adored Scarborough."
Pauline was amused by this. With his unfailing instinct, Scarborough had felt--and had never permitted himself to forget--that there was some sort of wall round her for him. It was in perfect good faith that she answered Olivia: "You don't understand him. He's a queer man--sometimes I wonder myself that he doesn't get just a little sentimental. I suppose I'd find him exasperating--if I weren't otherwise engaged."
Olivia tried not to show irritation at this reference to Dumont. "I think you're mistaken about which of you is queer," she said. "You are the one--not he."
"I?" Pauline laughed--she was thinking of her charm against any love but one man's, the wedding ring she always wore at her neck. "Why, I couldn't fall in love with him."
"The woman who gets him will do mighty well for herself--in every way," said Olivia.
"Indeed she will. But--I'd as soon think of falling in love with a tree or a mountain."
She liked her phrase; it seemed to her exactly to define her feeling for Scarborough. She liked it so well that she repeated it to herself reassuringly many times in the next few weeks.
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