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It was midday six weeks later, and Pauline and Dumont were landing at Liverpool, when Scarborough read in the college-news column of the Battle Field Banner that she had "married the only son of Henry Dumont, of Saint Christopher, one of the richest men in our state, and has departed for an extended foreign tour." Olivia--and Pierson naturally--had known, but neither had had the courage to tell him.
Scarborough was in Pierson's room. He lowered the paper from in front of his face after a few minutes.
"I see Pauline has married and gone abroad," he said.
"Yes, so I heard from Olivia," replied Pierson, avoiding Scarborough's eyes.
"Why didn't you tell me?" continued Scarborough, tranquil so far as Pierson could judge. "I'd have liked to send her a note."
Pierson was silent.
"I thought it would cut him horribly," he was thinking. "And he's taking it as if he had only a friendly interest." Scarborough's face was again behind the newspaper. When he had finished it he sauntered toward the door. He paused there to glance idly at the titles of the top row in the book-case. Pierson was watching him. "No--it's all right," he concluded. Scarborough was too straight and calm just to have received such a blow as that news would have been had he cared for Pauline. Pierson liked his look better than ever before--the tall, powerful figure; the fair hair growing above his wide and lofty brow, with the one defiant lock; and in his aquiline nose and blue-gray eyes and almost perfect mouth and chin the stamp of one who would move forward irresistibly, moving others to his will.
"How old are you, Scarborough?" he asked.
"Twenty-three-nearly twenty-four. I ought to be ashamed to be only a freshman, oughtn't I?" He shrugged his shoulders. "I'm tired of it all." And he strolled out.
He avoided Pierson and Olivia and all his friends for several days, went much into the woods alone, took long walks at night. Olivia would have it that he had been hard hit, and almost convinced Pierson.
"He's the sort of person that suffers the most," she said. "I've a brother like him--won't have sympathy, keeps a wound covered up so that it can't heal."
"But what shall I do for him?" asked Pierson.
"Don't do anything--he'd hate you if you did."
After a week or ten days he called on Pierson and, seating himself at the table, began to shuffle a pack of cards. He looked tired.
"I never saw cards until I was fifteen," he said.
"At home they thought them one of the devil's worst devices--we had a real devil in our house."
"So did we," said Pierson.
"But not a rip-snorter like ours--they don't have him in cities, or even in towns, any more. I've seen ours lots of times after the lights were out--saw him long after I'd convinced myself in daylight that he didn't exist. But I never saw him so close as the night of the day I learned to play casino."
"Did you learn in the stable?" asked Pierson.
"That's where I learned, and mother slipped up behind me--I didn't know what was coming till I saw the look in the other boy's face. Then--" Pierson left the rest to imagination.
"I learned in the hay-loft--my sister and my cousin Ed and I. One of the farm-hands taught us. The cards were so stained we could hardly see the faces. That made them look the more devilish. And a thunder-storm came up and the lightning struck a tree a few rods from the barn."
"Horrible!" exclaimed Pierson. "I'll bet you fell to praying."
"Not I. I'd just finished Tom Paine's Age of Reason--a preacher's son down the pike stole it from a locked closet in his father's library and loaned it to me. But I'll admit the thunderbolt staggered me. I said to them--pretty shakily, I guess: `Come on, let's begin again.' But the farm-hand said: `I reckon I'll get on the safe side,' and began to pray--how he roared! And I laughed--how wicked and reckless and brave that laugh did sound to me. 'Bella and Ed didn't know which to be more afraid of--my ridicule or the lightning. They compromised--they didn't pray and they didn't play."
"And so you've never touched a card since."
"We played again the next afternoon--let's have a game of poker. I'm bored to death today."
This was Scarborough's first move toward the fast set of which Pierson was leader. It was a small fast set--there were not many spoiled sons at Battle Field. But its pace was rapid; for every member of it had a constitution that was a huge reservoir of animal spirits and western energy. They "cribbed" their way through recitations and examinations--as the faculty did not put the students on honor but watched them, they reasoned that cribbing was not dishonorable provided one did barely enough of it to pull him through. They drank a great deal--usually whisky, which they disliked but poured down raw, because it was the "manly" drink and to take it undiluted was the "manly" way. They made brief excursions to Indianapolis and Chicago for the sort of carousals that appeal to the strong appetites and undiscriminating tastes of robust and curious youth.
Scarborough at once began to reap the reward of his advantages--a naturally bold spirit, an unnaturally reckless mood. In two weeks he won three hundred dollars, half of it from Pierson. He went to Chicago and in three nights' play increased this to twenty-nine hundred. The noise of the unprecedented achievement echoed through the college. In its constellation of bad examples a new star had blazed out, a star of the first magnitude.
Bladen Scarborough had used his surplus to improve and extend his original farm. But farms were now practically unsalable, and Hampden and Arabella were glad to let their cousin Ed--Ed Warfield--stay on, rent free, because with him there they were certain that the place would be well kept up. Hampden, poor in cash, had intended to spend the summer as a book agent. Instead, he put by a thousand dollars of his winnings to insure next year's expenses and visited Pierson at his family's cottage in the summer colony at Mackinac. He won at poker there and went on East, taking Pierson. He lost all he had with him, all Pierson could lend him, telegraphed to Battle Field for half his thousand dollars, won back all he had lost and two thousand besides.
When he reappeared at Battle Field in September he was dazzling to behold. His clothes were many and had been imported for him by the Chicago agent of a London tailor. His shirts and ties were in patterns and styles that startled Battle Field. He had taken on manners and personal habits befitting a "man of the world"--but he had not lost that simplicity and directness which were as unchangeably a part of him as the outlines of his face or the force which forbade him to be idle for a moment. He and Pierson--Pierson was pupil, now--took a suite of rooms over a shop in the town and furnished them luxuriously. They had brought from New York to look after them and their belongings the first English manservant Battle Field had seen.
Scarborough kept up his college work; he continued regularly to attend the Literary Society and to be its most promising orator and debater; he committed no overt act--others might break the college rules, might be publicly intoxicated and noisy, but he was always master of himself and of the situation. Some of the fanatical among the religious students believed and said that he had sold himself to the devil. He would have been expelled summarily but for Pierson--Pierson's father was one of the two large contributors to the support of the college, and it was expected that he would will it a generous endowment. To entrap Scarborough was to entrap Pierson. To entrap Pierson-- The faculty strove to hear and see as little as possible of their doings.
In the college Y.M.C.A. prayers were offered for Scarborough--his name was not spoken, but every one understood. A delegation of the religious among his faithful fellow barbs called upon him to pray and to exhort. They came away more charmed than ever with their champion, and convinced that he was the victim of slander and envy. Not that he had deliberately deceived them, for he hadn't; he was simply courteous and respectful of their sincerity.
"The fraternities are in this somewhere," the barbs decided. "They're trying to destroy him by lying about him." And they liked it that their leader was the brilliant, the talked-about, the sought-after person in the college. When he stood up to speak in the assembly hall or the Literary Society they always greeted him with several rounds of applause.
To the chagrin of the faculty and the irritation of the fraternities a jury of alumni selected him to represent Battle Field at the oratorical contest among the colleges of the state. And he not only won there but also at the interstate contest--a victory over the orators of the colleges of seven western states in which public speaking was, and is, an essential part of higher education. His oratory lacked style, they thought at Battle Field. It was the same then, essentially, as it was a few years later when the whole western country was discussing it. He seemed to depend entirely upon the inherent carrying power of his ably constructed sentences--like so many arrows, some flying gracefully, others straight and swift, all reaching the mark at which they were aimed. In those days, as afterward, he stood upon the platform almost motionless; his voice was clear and sweet, never noisy, but subtly penetrating and, when the sense demanded it, full of that mysterious quality which makes the blood run more swiftly and the nerves tingle. "Merely a talker, not an orator," declared the professor of elocution, and few of those who saw him every day appreciated his genius then. It was on the subject-matter of his oration, not on his "delivery," that the judges decided for him--so they said and thought.
In February of this resplendent sophomore year there came in his mail a letter postmarked Battle Field and addressed in printed handwriting. The envelope contained only a newspaper cutting--from the St. Christopher Republic:
At four o'clock yesterday afternoon a boy was born to Mr. and Mrs. John Dumont. It is their first child, the first grandchild of the Dumont and Gardiner families. Mother and son are reported as doing well.
Scarborough spent little time in the futile effort to guess what coward enemy had sped this anonymous shaft on the chance of its hitting him. His only enemies that interested him were those within himself. He destroyed envelope and clipping, then said to Pierson: "I neglected to celebrate an important event not long ago." He paused to laugh--so queerly that Pierson looked at him uneasily. "We must go to Chicago to celebrate it."
"Very good," said Fred. "We'll get Chalmers to go with us to-morrow."
"No-to-day--the four-o'clock train--we've got an hour and a half. And we'll have four clear days."
"But there's the ball to-night and I'm down for several dances."
"We'll dance them in Chicago. I've never been really free to dance before." He poured out a huge drink. "I'm impatient for the ball to begin." He lifted his glass. "To our ancestors," he said, "who repressed themselves, denied themselves, who hoarded health and strength and capacity for joy, and transmitted them in great oceans to us--to drown our sorrows in!"
He won six hundred dollars at faro in a club not far from the Auditorium, Pierson won two hundred at roulette, Chalmers lost seventy--they had about fourteen hundred dollars for their four days' "dance." When they took the train for Battle Field they had spent all they had with them--had flung it away for dinners, for drives, for theaters, for suppers, for champagne. All the return journey Scarborough stared moodily out of the car window. And at every movement that disturbed his clothing there rose to nauseate him, to fill him with self-loathing, the odors of strong, sickening-sweet perfumes.
The next day but one, as he was in the woods near Indian Rock, he saw Olivia coming toward him. They had hardly spoken for several months. He turned to avoid her but she came on after him.
"I wish to talk with you a few minutes, Mr. Scarborough," she said coldly, storm in her brave eyes.
"At your service," he answered with strained courtesy. And he walked beside her.
"I happen to know," she began, "that they're going to expel you and Fred Pierson the next time you leave here without permission."
"Indeed! You are very kind to warn me of my awful danger." He looked down at her with a quizzical smile.
"And I wish to say I think it's a disgrace that they didn't do it long ago," she went on, her anger rising to the bait of his expression.
"Your opinions are always interesting," he replied. "If you have nothing further I'll ask your permission to relieve you of----"
"No," she interrupted. "I've not said what I wished to say. You're making it hard for me. I can't get accustomed to the change in you since last year. There used to be a good side to you, a side one could appeal to. And I want to talk about--Fred. You're ruining him."
"You flatter me." He bowed mockingly. "But I doubt if he'd feel flattered."
"I've told him the same thing, but you're too strong for me." Her voice trembled; she steadied it with a frown. "I can't influence him any longer."
"Really, Miss Shrewsbury----"
"Please!" she said. "Fred and I were engaged. I broke it last night. I broke it because--you know why."
Scarborough flushed crimson.
"Oh," he said. "I didn't know he was engaged."
"I know you, Hampden Scarborough," Olivia continued. "I've understood why you've been degrading yourself. And I haven't blamed you--though I've wondered at your lack of manhood."
"You are imposing on my courtesy," he said haughtily.
"I can't help it. You and I must talk this thing to the end. You're robbing me of the man I love. Worse than that, you're destroying him, dragging him down to a level at which he may stay, while you are sure to rise again. You've got your living to make--I don't agree with those who think you'll become a professional gambler. But he his father's rich and indulgent, and--God only knows how low he'll sink if you keep on pushing him."
"You are excited, hysterical. You misjudge him, believe me," said Scarborough, gently.
"No--I know he's not depraved--yet. Do you think _I_ could care for him if he were?"
"I hope so. That's when he'd need it most."
Olivia grew red. "Well, perhaps I should. I'm a fool, like all women. But I ask you to let him alone, to give his better self a chance."
"Why not ask him to let me alone--to give my better nature a chance?"
"You--laughing at me in these circumstances! You who pretended to be a man, pretended to love Pauline Gardiner----"
He started and his eyes blazed, as if she had cut him across the face with a whip. Then he drew himself up with an expression of insolent fury. His lips, his sharp white teeth, were cruel.
She bore his look without flinching.
"Yes," she went on, "you think you love her. Yet you act as if her love were a degrading influence in your life, as if she were a bad woman instead of one who ought to inspire a man to do and be his best. How ashamed she'd be of you, of your love, if she could see you as you are now--the tempter of all the bad impulses in this college."
He could not trust himself to reply. He was suffocating with rage and shame. He lifted his hat, walked rapidly away from her and went home. Pierson had never seen him in an ugly mood before. And he, too, was in an ugly mood--disgusted with his own conduct, angry at Scarborough, whom he held responsible for the unprecedented excesses of this last trip to Chicago and for their consequences.
"What's happened?" he asked sourly. "What's the matter with you?"
"Your Olivia," replied Scarborough, with a vicious sneer, "has been insulting me for your sins. She is a shrew! I don't wonder you dropped her."
Pierson rose slowly and faced him.
"You astonish me," he said. "I shouldn't have believed you capable of a speech which no gentleman could possibly utter."
"You, sitting as a court of honor to decide what's becoming a gentleman!" Scarborough looked amused contempt. "My dear Pierson, you're worse than offensive--you are ridiculous."
"No man shall say such things to me especially a man who notoriously lives by his wits."
Scarborough caught him up as if he had been a child and pinned him against the wall. "Take that back," he said, "or I'll kill you." His tone was as colorless as his face.
"Kill and be damned," replied Pierson, cool and disdainful. "You're a coward."
Scarborough's fingers closed on Pierson's throat. Then flashed into his mind that warning which demands and gets a hearing in the wildest tempest of passion before an irrevocable act can be done. It came to him in the form of a reminder of his laughing remark to Pauline when he told her of the traditions of murder in his family. He released Pierson and fled from the apartment.
Half an hour later Pierson was reading a note from him:
"I've invited some friends this evening. I trust it will be convenient for you to absent yourself. They'll be out by eleven, and then, if you return, we can decide which is to stay in the apartment and which to leave."
Pierson went away to his fraternity house and at half-past eight Scarborough, Chalmers, Jack Wilton and Brigham sat down to a game of poker. They had played about an hour, the cards steadily against Chalmers and Brigham--the cards were usually against Brigham. He was a mere boy, with passionate aspirations to be considered a sport. He had been going a rapid gait for a year. He had lost to Scarborough alone as much as he had expected to spend on the year's education.
Toward ten o'clock there was a jack-pot with forty-three dollars in it and Brigham was betting wildly, his hands and his voice trembling, his lips shriveled. With a sudden gesture Chalmers caught the ends of the table and jerked it back. There--in Brigham's lap--were two cards.
"I thought so!" exclaimed Chalmers. "You dirty little cheat! I've been watching you."
The boy looked piteously at Chalmers' sneering face, at the faces of the others. The tears rolled down his cheeks. "For God's sake, boys," he moaned, "don't be hard on me. I was desperate. I've lost everything, and my father can't give me any more. He's a poor man, and he and mother have been economizing and sacrificing to send me here. And when I saw I was ruined--God knows, I didn't think what I was doing." He buried his face in his hands. "Don't be hard on me," he sobbed. "Any one of you might have done the same if he was in my fix."
"You sniveling cur," said Chalmers, high and virtuous, "how dare you say such a thing! You forget you're among gentlemen----"
"None of that, Chalmers," interrupted Scarborough. "The boy's telling the truth. And nobody knows it better than you." This with a significant look into Chalmers' eyes. They shifted and he colored.
"I agree with Scarborough," said Wilton. "We oughtn't to have let the boy into our games. We must never mention what has happened here this evening."
"But we can't allow a card sharp to masquerade as a gentleman," objected Chalmers. "I confess, Scarborough, I don't understand how you can be so easy-going in a matter of honor."
"You think I must have a fellow-feeling for dishonor, eh?" Scarborough smiled satirically. "I suppose because I was sympathetic enough with you to overlook the fact that you were shy on your share of our Chicago trip."
"What do you mean?"
"The three hundred you borrowed of Pierson when you thought he was too far gone to know what he was doing. My back was turned--but there was the mirror."
Chalmers' sullen, red face confirmed Scarborough's charge.
"No," continued Scarborough, "we gentlemen ought to be charitable toward one another's discovered lapses." He seated himself at his desk and wrote rapidly:
We, the undersigned, exonerate Edwin Brigham of cheating in the poker game in Hampden Scarborough's rooms on Saturday evening, February 20, 18--. And we pledge ourselves never to speak of the matter either to each other or to any one else.
"I've signed first," said Scarborough, rising and holding the pen toward Chalmers. "Now, you fellows sign. Chalmers!"
Chalmers signed, and then Wilton.
"Take Chalmers away with you," said Scarborough to Wilton in an undertone. "I've something to say to Brigham."
When they were gone he again seated himself at his desk and, taking his check-book, wrote a check and tore it out.
"Now, listen to me, Brig," he said friendlily to Brigham, who seemed to be in a stupor. "I've won about six hundred dollars from you, first and last--more, rather than less. Will that amount put you in the way of getting straight?"
"Yes," said Brigham, dully.
"Then here's a check for it. And here's the paper exonerating you. And--I guess you won't play again soon."
The boy choked back his sobs.
"I don't know how I ever came to do it, Scarborough. Oh, I'm a dog, a dog! When I started to come here my mother took me up to her bedroom and opened the drawer of her bureau and took out a savings-bank book--it had a credit of twelve hundred dollars. `Do you see that?' she said. `When you were born I began to put by as soon as I was able--every cent I could from the butter and the eggs--to educate my boy. And now it's all coming true,' she said, Scarborough, and we cried together. And----" Brigham burst into a storm of tears and sobs. "Oh, how could I do it!" he said. "How could I!"
"You've done wrong," said Scarborough, shakily, "but I've done much worse, Eddie. And it's over now, and everything'll be all right."
"But I can't take your money, Scarborough. I must pay for what I've done."
"You mean, make your mother pay. No, you must take it back, Brigham. I owe it to you--I owe it to your mother. This, is the butter and egg money that I--I stole from her."
He put the papers into the boy's pocket. "You and I are going to be friends," he went on.
"Come round and see me to-morrow--no, I'll look you up." He put out his hand and held Brigham's hand in a courage-giving grasp. "And--I hope I'll have the honor of meeting your mother some day."
Brigham could only look his feelings. Soon after he left Pierson came. His anger had evaporated and his chief emotion was dread lest Scarborough might still be angry. "I want to take back----" he began eagerly, as soon as his head was inside the door.
"I know you do, but you shan't," replied Scarborough. "What you said was true, what Olivia said was true. I've been acting like a blackguard."
"No," said Pierson, "what I said was a disgraceful lie. Will you try to forget it, Scarborough?"
"Forget it?" Scarborough looked at his friend with brilliant eyes. "Never! So help me God, never! It's one of three things that have occurred to-day that I must never forget."
"Then we can go on as before. You'll still be my friend?"
"Not still, Fred, but for the first time."
He looked round the luxurious study with a laugh and a sigh. "It'll be a ghastly job, getting used to the sort of surroundings I can earn for myself. But I've got to grin and bear it. We'll stay on here together to the end of the term--my share's paid, and besides, I'm not going to do anything sensational. Next year--we'll see."
While Pierson was having his final cigarette before going to bed he looked up from his book to see before him Scarborough, even more tremendous and handsome in his gaudy pajamas.
"I wish to register a solemn vow," said he, with mock solemnity that did not hide the seriousness beneath. "Hear me, ye immortal gods! Never again, never again, will I engage in any game with a friend where there is a stake. I don't wish to tempt. I don't wish to be tempted."
"What nonsense!" said Pierson. "You're simply cutting yourself off from a lot of fun."
"I have spoken," said Scarborough, and he withdrew to his bedroom. When the door was closed and the light out he paused at the edge of the bed and said: "And never again, so long as he wishes to retain his title to the name man, will Hampden Scarborough take from anybody anything which he hasn't honestly earned."
And when he was in bed he muttered: "I shall be alone, and I may stay poor and obscure, but I'll get back my self-respect--and keep it--Pauline!"
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