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Cope had the luck to get back to Churchton with little further in the way of homage. He was careful with Carolyn; she had perhaps addressed him in a sonnet, and she might go on and address him in an ode. He thought he had done nothing to deserve the one, and he would do almost anything to escape the other. She was a nice pleasant quiet girl; but nice pleasant quiet girls were beginning to do such equivocal things in poetical print!
Having returned to town by a method that put the minimum tax on his powers, Cope was in shape, next day, for an hour on the faculty tennis-courts. He played with no special skill or vigor, but he made a pleasing picture in his flannels; and Carolyn, who happened to pass--who passed by at about five in the afternoon, lingered for the spectacle and thought of two or three lines to start a poem with.
Cope, unconscious of this, presently turned his attention to Lemoyne, who was on the eve of his first dress rehearsal and who was a good deal occupied with wigs and lingerie. Here one detail leads to another, and anyone who goes in wholeheartedly may go in dreadfully deep. Their room came to be strown with all the disconcerting items of a theatrical wardrobe. Cope soon reached the point where he was not quite sure that he liked it all, and he began to develop a distaste for Lemoyne's preoccupation with it. He came home one afternoon to find on the corner of his desk a long pair of silk stockings and a too dainty pair of ladies' shoes. "Oh, Art!" he protested. And then,--not speaking his essential thought,--"Aren't these pretty expensive?"
"The thing has got to be done right," returned Lemoyne. "Feet are about the first thing they notice."
At the actual performance Lemoyne's feet were noticed, certainly; though perhaps not more than his head. His wig, as is usually the case with dark people, was of a sunny blond hue. Its curls, as palpably artificial as they were voluminous, made his eyes look darker and somehow more liquid than ever. The contrast was piquant, almost sensational. Of course he had sacrificed, for the time, his small moustache. Lemoyne was not "Annabella" herself, but only her chief chum; yet shorter skirts and shorter sleeves and a deliberately assumed feminine air helped distinguish him from the hearty young lads who manoeuvred in the chorus.
Just who are those who enjoy the epicene on the stage? Not many women, one prefers to think; and surely it arouses the impatience, if not worse, of many men. Most amateur drama is based, perhaps, on the attempted "escape": one likes to bolt from his own day, his own usual costume, his own range of ideas, and even from his own sex. Endeavors toward this last are most enjoyable--or least offensive--when they show frank and patent inadequacy. It was Arthur Lemoyne's fortune--or misfortune--to do his work all too well.
Mrs. Phillips found his performance as little to her taste as she had anticipated. Carolyn Thorpe got as much enjoyment out of the gauche carriage and rough voices of the "chorus girls" as she had expected, but was not observed to warm toward "Annabella's" closest friend. The Pearsons, back from their wedding trip, had seats near the big crimson velvet curtain. Pearson himself openly luxuriated in the amusing ineptitude of two or three beskirted acquaintances among the upper classmen, but frowned at Lemoyne's light tenor tones and mincing ways. Of course the right sort of fellow, even if he had to sing his solo in the lightest of light tenors, would still, on lapsing into dialogue, reinstate himself apologetically by using as rough and gruff a voice as he could summon. Not so Lemoyne: he was doing a consistent piece of "characterization," and he was feminine, even overfeminine, throughout.
"I never liked him, anyway," said George to Amy.
Amy gave a nod of agreement. Yet why this critical zeal? There was but one man to like, after all.
"That make-up! That low-cut gown!" said George, in further condemnation. "There's such a thing as going too far."
Basil Randolph met Cope in the back lobby at the close of the performance. The dramatic season in the city itself had begun to languish; besides that, Randolph, in order to maintain his place on the edge of the life academical, always made it a point to remember the Grayfriars each spring.
"A very thorough, consistent piece of work--your friend's," said Randolph. He spoke in a firm, net, withholding tone, looking Cope full in the face, meanwhile. What he said was little, perhaps, of what was in his mind; yet Cope caught a note of criticism and of condemnation.
"Yes," he almost felt constrained to say in reply, "yes, I know what you did for him--for me, rather; and possibly this is not the outcome foreseen. I hope you won't regret your aid."
Randolph went past him placidly. He seemed to have little to regret. On the contrary, he almost appeared to be pleased. He may have felt that Lemoyne had shown himself in a tolerably clear light, and that it was for Cope, should he choose, to take heed.
Two days later, Randolph gave his impression of the performance to Foster. "It's just what I should have expected," declared the cripple acrimoniously. "I'm glad you never had any taste for the fellow; and I should have been quite as well pleased if I hadn't found you caring for the other."
Randolph took refuge in a bland inexpressiveness. There was no need to school his face: he had only to discipline his voice.
"Oh, well," he said smoothly, "it's only a passing amitie--something soon to be over, perhaps." He used an alien word because he could not select, on the instant, from his stock of English, the word he needed, and because he was not quite sure what idea he wanted to express. "I only wish," he went on, in the same even tone, "that this chap had been doing better by his work. At one early stage of the rehearsals there was a lot of registration and fee-paying for the new term. Well, if he hasn't been satisfactory, they needn't blame me. Let them blame the system that diverts so much time and attention to interests quite outside the regular curriculum."
"You talk like a book!" said Foster, with blunt disdain.
"Language----" began Randolph.
"----was made to conceal thought," completed the other. "Stop talking. Stop thinking. Or, if you must think, just get your thoughts back on your business."
Foster might have expressed himself still more pungently if he had been aware, as Cope was, of an episode which took place, behind the scenes, at the close of the performance. Lemoyne's singing and dancing in the last act had had a marked success: after all, people had come to enjoy and to applaud. Following two or three recalls, a large sheaf of roses had been passed over the footlights; for a close imitation of professional procedure was held to give the advantage of strict vraisemblance. This "tribute" Lemoyne took in character, with certain graces, pirouettes and smiles. His success so mounted to his head (for he was the one person in the case who approximated a professional effect) that after he had retired he could not quiet down and leave his part. He continued to act off-stage; and in his general state of ebulliency he endeavored to bestow a measure of upwelling femininity upon another performer who was in the dress of his own sex. This downright fellow, in cutaway and silk hat, did not understand,--or at least had no patience with a role carried too far. He brusquely cleared himself of Lemoyne's arm with a good vigorous push. This effort not only propelled Lemoyne against some scenery and left him, despite the voluminous blond wig, with a bruise on his forehead; it immediately pushed him out of his part, and it ended by pushing him out of the organization and even out of the University.
"Keep off, will you!" said the young elegant crudely.
Lemoyne's "atmosphere" dissipated suddenly. His art-structure collapsed. As he looked about he saw plainly that the other man's act was approved. He had carried things too far. Well, such are the risks run by the sincere, self-revealing artist.
When all this reached Cope, he felt a personal chagrin. Truly, the art of human intercourse was an art that called for some care. Lemoyne's slight wound left no trace after forty-eight hours--perhaps his "notices" in "The Index" and "The Campus" had acted as a salve; but certain sections of opinion remained unfriendly, and there was arising a new atmosphere of distaste and disapproval.
The college authorities had not been satisfied, for some time, with his clerical labors, and some of them thought that his stage performance--an "exhibition" one of them termed it--called for reproof, or more. They laid their heads together and Lemoyne and Cope were not long in learning their decision. Lemoyne was pronounced a useless element in one field, a discrepant element in another, a detriment in both. His essentially slight connection with the real life of the University came to be more fully recognized. Alma Mater, in fine, could do without him, and meant to. Censure was the lot of the indignant boys who officered the society, and who asked Lemoyne to withdraw; and complete scission from the nourishing vine of Knowledge was his final fate.
No occupation; no source of income. Winnebago was cold; nor was it to be warmed into ardor by press-notices. It had seen too many already and was tired of them.
The two young men conferred. Again Basil Randolph was their hope.
"He ought to be able to do something for me in the city," said Lemoyne. "He's acquainted in business circles, isn't he?"
Cope bent over him--paler, thinner, more solicitous. "I'll try it," he said.
Cope once more approached Randolph, but Randolph shook his head. He had no faith in Lemoyne, and he had done enough already against his own interests and desires.
Lemoyne fluttered about to little effect for a few weeks, while Cope was finishing up his thesis. Beyond an accustomed and desired companionship, Lemoyne contributed nothing--was a drag, in truth. He returned to Winnebago a fortnight before the convocation and the conferring of degrees; and it was the understanding that, somehow, he and Cope should share together a summer divided between Winnebago and Freeford. Randolph was left to claim Cope's interest, if he could.
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