THE GRAND CROSS OF THE CRESCENT
Of some college students it has been said that, in order to pass their examinations, they will deceive and cheat their kind professors. This may or may not be true. One only can shudder and pass hurriedly on. But whatever others may have done, when young Peter Hallowell in his senior year came up for those final examinations which, should he pass them even by a nose, would gain him his degree, he did not cheat. He may have been too honest, too confident, too lazy, but Peter did not cheat. It was the professors who cheated.
At Stillwater College, on each subject on which you are examined you can score a possible hundred. That means perfection, and in, the brief history of Stillwater, which is a very, new college, only one man has attained it. After graduating he "accepted a position" in an asylum for the insane, from which he was, promoted later to the poor-house, where he died. Many Stillwater undergraduates studied his career and, lest they also should attain perfection, were afraid to study anything else. Among these Peter was by far the most afraid.
The marking system at Stillwater is as follows: If in all the subjects in which you have been examined your marks added together give you an average of ninety, you are passed "with honors"; if of seventy-five, you pass "with distinction"; if Of fifty, You just "pass." It is not unlike the grocer's nice adjustment of fresh eggs, good eggs, and eggs. The whole college knew that if Peter got in among the eggs he would be lucky, but the professors and instructors of Stillwater 'were determined that, no matter what young Hallowell might do to prevent it, they would see that he passed his examinations. And they constituted the jury of awards. Their interest in Peter was not because they loved him so much, but because each loved his own vine-covered cottage, his salary, and his dignified title the more. And each knew that that one of the faculty who dared to flunk the son of old man Hallowell, who had endowed Stillwater, who supported Stillwater, and who might be expected to go on supporting Stillwater indefinitely, might also at the same time hand in his official resignation.
Chancellor Black, the head of Stillwater, was an up-to-date college president. If he did not actually run after money he went where money was, and it was not his habit to be downright rude to those who possessed it. And if any three- thousand-dollar-a-year professor, through a too strict respect for Stillwater's standards of learning, should lose to that institution a half-million-dollar observatory, swimming-pool, or gymnasium, he was the sort of college president, who would see to it that the college lost also the services of that too conscientious instructor.
He did not put this in writing or in words, but just before the June examinations, when on, the campus he met one of the faculty, he would inquire with kindly interest as to the standing of young Hallowell.
"That is too bad!" he would exclaim, but, more in sorrow than in anger. "Still, I hope the boy can pull through. He is his dear father's pride, and his father's heart is set upon his son's obtaining his degree. Let us hope he will pull through." For four years every professor had been pulling Peter through, and the conscience of each had become calloused. They had only once more to shove him through and they would be free of him forever. And so, although they did not conspire together, each knew that of the firing squad that was to aim its rifles at, Peter, HIS rifle would hold the blank cartridge.
The only one of them who did not know this was Doctor Henry Gilman. Doctor Gilman was the professor of ancient and modern history at Stillwater, and greatly respected and loved. He also was the author of those well-known text-books, "The Founders of Islam," and "The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire." This latter work, in five volumes, had been not unfavorably compared to Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." The original newspaper comment, dated some thirty years back, the doctor had preserved, and would produce it, now somewhat frayed and worn, and read it to visitors. He knew it by heart, but to him it always possessed a contemporary and news interest.
"Here is a review of the history," he would say--he always referred to it as "the" history--"that I came across in my TRANSCRIPT."
In the eyes of Doctor Gilman thirty years was so brief a period that it was as though the clipping had been printed the previous after-noon.
The members of his class who were examined on the "Rise and Fall," and who invariably came to grief over it, referred to it briefly as the Fall," sometimes feelingly as "the. . . . Fall." The" history began when Constantinople was Byzantium, skipped lightly over six centuries to Constantine, and in the last two Volumes finished up the Mohammeds with the downfall of the fourth one and the coming of Suleiman. Since Suleiman, Doctor Gilman did not recognize Turkey as being on the map. When his history said the Turkish Empire had fallen, then the Turkish Empire fell. Once Chancellor Black suggested that he add a sixth volume that would cover the last three centuries.
"In a history of Turkey issued as a text-book," said the chancellor, "I think the Russian-Turkish War should be included."
Doctor Gilman, from behind his gold-rimmed spectacles, gazed at him in mild reproach. "The war in the Crimea!" he exclaimed. "Why, I was alive at the time. I know about it. That is not history."
Accordingly, it followed that to a man who since the seventeenth century knew of no event, of interest, Cyrus Hallowell, of the meat-packers' trust, was not an imposing figure. And such a man the son of Cyrus Hallowell was but an ignorant young savage, to whom "the" history certainly had been a closed book. And so when Peter returned his examination paper in a condition almost as spotless as that in which he had received it, Doctor Gilman carefully and conscientiously, with malice toward none and, with no thought of the morrow, marked" five."
Each of the other professors and instructors had marked Peter fifty. In their fear of Chancellor Black they dared not give the boy less, but they refused to be slaves to the extent of crediting him with a single point higher than was necessary to pass him. But Doctor Gilman's five completely knocked out the required average of fifty, and young Peter was "found" and could not graduate. It was an awful business! The only son of the only Hallowell refused a degree in his father's own private college--the son of the man who had built the Hallowell Memorial, the new Laboratory, the Anna Hallowell Chapel, the Hallowell Dormitory, and the Hallowell Athletic Field. When on the bulletin board of the dim hall of the Memorial to his departed grandfather Peter read of his own disgrace and downfall, the light the stained-glass window cast upon his nose was of no sicklier a green than was the nose itself. Not that Peter wanted an A.M. or an A.B., not that he desired laurels he had not won, but because the young man was afraid of his father. And he had cause to be. Father arrived at Stillwater the next morning. The interviews that followed made Stillwater history.
"My son is not an ass!" is what Hallowell senior is said to have said to Doctor Black. "And if in four years you and your faculty cannot give him the rudiments of an education, I will send him to a college that can. And I'll send my money where I send Peter."
In reply Chancellor Black could have said that it was the fault of the son and not of the college; he could have said that where three men had failed to graduate one hundred and eighty had not. But did he say that? Oh, no, he did not say that! He was not that sort of, a college president. Instead, he remained calm and sympathetic, and like a conspirator in a comic opera glanced apprehensively round his, study. He lowered his voice.
"There has been contemptible work here, "he whispered--"spite and a mean spirit of reprisal. I have been making a secret investigation, and I find that this blow at your son and you, and at the good name of our college was struck by one man, a man with a grievance--Doctor Gilman. Doctor Gilman has repeatedly desired me to raise his salary." This did not happen to be true, but in such a crisis Dotor Black could not afford to be too particular.
"I have seen no reason for raising his salary--and there you have the explanation. In revenge he has made this attack. But he overshot his mark. In causing us temporary embarrassment he has brought about his own downfall. I have already asked for his resignation."
Every day in the week Hallowell was a fair, sane man, but on this particular day he was wounded, his spirit was hurt, his self-esteem humiliated. He was in a state of mind to believe anything rather than that his son was an idiot.
"I don't want the man discharged," he protested, "just because Peter is lazy. But if Doctor Gilman was moved by personal considerations, if he sacrificed my Peter in order to get even . . . ."
"That," exclaimed Black in a horrified whisper, "is exactly what he did! Your generosity to the college is well known. You are recognized all over America as its patron. And he believed that when I refused him an increase in salary it was really you who refused it--and he struck at you through your son. Everybody thinks so. The college is on fire with indignation. And look at the mark he gave Peter! Five! That in itself shows the malice. Five is not a mark, it is an insult! No one, certainly not your brilliant son--look how brilliantly he managed the glee-club and foot-ball tour--is stupid enough to deserve five. No, Doctor Gilman went too far. And he has been justly punished!"
What Hallowell senior was willing to believe of what the chancellor told him, and his opinion of the matter as expressed to Peter, differed materially.
"They tell me," he concluded, "that in the fall they will give you another examination, and if you pass then, you will get your degree. No one will know you've got it. They'll slip it to you out of the side-door like a cold potato to a tramp. The only thing people will know is that when your classmates stood up and got their parchments--the thing they'd been working for four years, the only reason for their going to college at all--YOU were not among those present. That's your fault; but if you don't get your degree next fall that will be my fault. I've supported you through college and you've failed to deliver the goods. Now you deliver them next fall, or you can support yourself."
"That will be all right," said Peter humbly; "I'll pass next fall."
"I'm going to make sure of that," said Hallowell senior. "To- morrow you will take those history books that you did not open, especially Gilman's 'Rise and Fall,' which it seems you have not even purchased, and you will travel for the entire summer with a private tutor . . . ."
Peter, who had personally conducted the foot-ball and base- ball teams over half of the Middle States and daily bullied and browbeat them, protested with indignation. "WON'T travel with a private tutor!"
"If I say so," returned Hallowell senior grimly, "you'll travel with a governess and a trained nurse, and wear a strait jacket. And you'll continue to wear it until you can recite the history of Turkey backward. And in order that you may know it backward--and forward you will spend this summer in Turkey--in Constantinople--until I send you permission to come home."
"Constantinople!" yelled Peter. "In August! Are you serious?"
" Do I look it?" asked Peter's father. He did.
"In Constantinople," explained Mr. Hallowell senior, "there will be nothing to distract you from your studies, and in spite of yourself every minute you will be imbibing history and local color."
"I'll be imbibing fever,", returned Peter, "and sunstroke and sudden death. If you want to get rid of me, why don't you send me to the island where they sent Dreyfus? It's quicker. You don't have to go to Turkey to study about Turkey."
"You do!" said his father.
Peter did not wait for the festivities of commencement week. All day he hid in his room, packing his belongings or giving them away to e members of his class, who came to tell him what a rotten shame it was, and to bid him good-by. They loved Peter for himself alone, and at losing him were loyally enraged. They sired publicly to express their sentiments, and to that end they planned a mock trial of the Rise and Fall," at which a packed jury would sentence it to cremation. They planned also to hang Doctor Gilman in effigy. The effigy with a rope round its neck was even then awaiting mob violence. It was complete to the silver-white beard and the gold spectacles. But Peter squashed both demonstrations. He did not know Doctor Gilman had been forced to resign, but he protested that the horse-play of his friends would make him appear a bad loser. "It would look, boys," he said, "as though I couldn't take my medicine. Looks like kicking against the umpire's decision. Old Gilman fought fair. He gave me just what was coming to me. I think a darn sight more of him than do of that bunch of boot-lickers that had the colossal nerve to pretend I scored fifty!"
Doctor Gilman sat in his cottage that stood the edge of the campus, gazing at a plaster bust of Socrates which he did not see. Since that morning he had ceased to sit in the chair of history at Stillwater College. They were retrenching, the chancellor had told him curtly, cutting down unnecessary expenses, for even in his anger Doctor Black was too intelligent to hint at his real motive, and the professor was far too innocent of evil, far too detached from college politics to suspect. He would remain a professor emeritus on half pay, but he no longer would teach. The college he had served for thirty years-since it consisted of two brick buildings and a faculty of ten young men--no longer needed him. Even his ivy-covered cottage, in which his wife and he had lived for twenty years, in which their one child had died, would at the beginning of the next term be required of him. But the college would allow him those six months in which to "look round." So, just outside the circle of light from his student lamp, he sat in his study, and stared with unseeing eyes at the bust of Socrates. He was not considering ways and means. They must be faced later. He was considering how he could possibly break the blow to his wife. What eviction from that house would mean to her no one but he understood. Since the day their little girl had died, nothing in the room that had been her playroom, bedroom, and nursery had been altered, nothing had been touched. To his wife, somewhere in the house that wonderful, God-given child was still with them. Not as a memory but as a real and living presence. When at night the professor and his wife sat at either end of the study table, reading by the same lamp, he would see her suddenly lift her head, alert and eager, as though from the nursery floor a step had sounded, as though from the darkness a sleepy voice had called her. And when they would be forced to move to lodgings in the town, to some students' boarding-house, though they could take with them their books, their furniture, their mutual love and comradeship, they must leave behind them the haunting presence of the child, the colored pictures she had cut from the Christmas numbers and plastered over the nursery walls, the rambler roses that with her own hands she had planted and that now climbed to her window and each summer peered into her empty room.
Outside Doctor Gilman's cottage, among the trees of the campus, paper lanterns like oranges aglow were swaying in the evening breeze. In front of Hallowell the flame of a bonfire shot to the top of the tallest elms, and gathered in a circle round it the glee club sang, and cheer succeeded cheer-cheers for the heroes of the cinder track, for the heroes of the diamond and the gridiron , cheers for the men who had flunked especially for one man who had flunked. But for that man who for thirty years in the class room had served the college there were no cheers. No one remembered him, except the one student who had best reason to remember him. But this recollection Peter had no rancor or bitterness and, still anxious lest he should be considered a bad loser, he wished Doctor Gilman a every one else to know that. So when the celebration was at its height and just before train was due to carry him from Stillwater, ran across the campus to the Gilman cottage say good-by. But he did not enter the cottage He went so far only as half-way up the garden walk. In the window of the study which opened upon the veranda he saw through frame of honeysuckles the professor and wife standing beside the study table. They were clinging to each other, the woman weep silently with her cheek on his shoulder, thin, delicate, well-bred hands clasping arms, while the man comforted her awkward unhappily, with hopeless, futile caresses.
Peter, shocked and miserable at what he had seen, backed steadily away. What disaster had befallen the old couple he could not imagine. The idea that he himself might in any way connected with their grief never entered mind. He was certain only that, whatever the trouble was, it was something so intimate and personal that no mere outsider might dare to offer his sympathy. So on tiptoe he retreated down the garden walk and, avoiding the celebration at the bonfire, returned to his rooms. An hour later the entire college escorted him to the railroad station, and with "He's a jolly good fellow" and "He's off to Philippopolis in the morn--ing" ringing in his ears, he sank back his seat in the smoking-car and gazed at the lights of Stillwater disappearing out of his life. And he was surprised to find that what lingered his mind was not the students, dancing like Indians round the bonfire, or at the steps of the smoking-car fighting to shake his hand, but the man and woman alone in the cottage stricken with sudden sorrow, standing like two children lost in the streets, who cling to each other for comfort and at the same moment whisper words of courage.
Two months Later, at Constantinople, Peter, was suffering from remorse over neglected opportunities, from prickly heat, and from fleas. And it not been for the moving-picture man, and the poker and baccarat at the Cercle Oriental, he would have flung himself into the Bosphorus. In the mornings with the tutor he read ancient history, which he promptly forgot; and for the rest of the hot, dreary day with the moving- picture man through the bazaars and along the water-front he stalked suspects for the camera.
The name of the moving-picture man was Harry Stetson. He had been a newspaper reporter, a press-agent, and an actor in vaudeville and in a moving-picture company. Now on his own account he was preparing an illustrated lecture on the East, adapted to churches and Sunday-schools. Peter and he wrote it in collaboration, and in the evenings rehearsed it with lantern slides before an audience of the hotel clerk, the tutor, and the German soldier of fortune who was trying to sell the young Turks very old battleships. Every other foreigner had fled the city, and the entire diplomatic corps had removed itself to the summer capital at Therapia.
There Stimson, the first secretary of the embassy and, in the absence of the ambassador, CHARGE D'AFFAIRES, invited Peter to become his guest. Stimson was most anxious to be polite to Peter, for Hallowell senior was a power in the party then in office, and a word from him at Washington in favor of a rising young diplomat would do no harm. But Peter was afraid his father would consider Therapia "out of bounds."
"He sent me to Constantinople," explained Peter, "and if he thinks I'm not playing the game the Lord only knows where he might send me next-and he might cut off my allowance."
In the matter of allowance Peter's father had been most generous. This was fortunate, for poker, as the pashas and princes played it at he Cercle, was no game for cripples or children. But, owing to his letter-of-credit and his illspent life, Peter was able to hold his own against men three times his age and of fortunes nearly equal to that of his father. Only they disposed of their wealth differently. On many hot evening Peter saw as much of their money scattered over the green table as his father had spent over the Hallowell athletic field.
In this fashion Peter spent his first month of exile--in the morning trying to fill his brain with names of great men who had been a long time dead, and in his leisure hours with local color. To a youth of his active spirit it was a full life without joy or recompense. A Letter from Charley Hines, a classmate who lived at Stillwater, which arrived after Peter had endured six weeks of Constantinople, released him from boredom and gave life a real interest. It was a letter full of gossip intended to amuse. One paragraph failed of its purpose. It read: "Old man Gilman has got the sack. The chancellor offered him up as a sacrifice to your father, and because he was unwise enough to flunk you. He is to move out in September. I ran across them last week when I was looking for rooms for a Freshman cousin. They were reserving one in the same boarding-house. It's a shame, and I know you'll agree. They are a fine old couple, and I don't like to think of them herding with Freshmen in a shine boardinghouse. Black always was a swine."
Peter spent fully ten minutes getting to the cable office.
"Just learned," he cabled his father, "Gilman dismissed because flunked me consider this outrageous please see he is reinstated."
The answer, which arrived the next day, did not satisfy Peter. It read: "Informed Gilman acted through spite have no authority as you know to interfere any act of black."
Since Peter had learned of the disaster that through his laziness had befallen the Gilmans, his indignation at the injustice had been hourly increasing. Nor had his banishment to Constantinople strengthened his filial piety. On the contrary, it had rendered him independent and but little inclined to kiss the paternal rod. In consequence his next cable was not conciliatory.
"Dismissing Gilman Looks more Like we acted through spite makes me appear contemptible Black is a toady will do as you direct please reinstate."
To this somewhat peremptory message his father answered:
"If your position unpleasant yourself to blame not Black incident is closed."
"Is it?" said the son of his father. He called Stetson to his aid and explained. Stetson reminded him of the famous cablegram of his distinguished contemporary: "Perdicaris alive and Raisuli dead!"
Peter's paraphrase of this ran: "Gilman returns to Stillwater or I will not try for degree."
The reply was equally emphatic:
"You earn your degree or you earn your own living."
This alarmed Stetson, but caused Peter to deliver his ultimatum: "Choose to earn my own living am leaving Constantinople."
Within a few days Stetson was also leaving Constantinople by steamer via Naples. Peter, who had come to like him very much, would have accompanied him had he not preferred to return home more leisurely by way of Paris and London.
"You'll get there long before I do," said Peter, "and as soon as you arrive I want you to go to Stillwater and give Doctor Gilman some souvenir of Turkey from me. Just to show him I've no hard feelings. He wouldn't accept money, but he can't refuse a present. I want it to be something characteristic of the country, Like a prayer rug, or a scimitar, or an illuminated Koran, or "
Somewhat doubtfully, somewhat sheepishly, Stetson drew from his pocket a flat morocco case and opened it. "What's the matter with one of these?" he asked.
In a velvet-lined jewel case was a star of green enamel and silver gilt. To it was attached a ribbon of red and green.
"That's the Star of the Crescent," said Peter. "Where did you buy it?"
"Buy it!" exclaimed Stetson. "You don't buy them. The Sultan bestows them."
"I'll bet the Sultan didn't bestow that one," said Peter.
"I'll bet," returned Stetson, "I've got something in my pocket that says he did."
He unfolded an imposing document covered with slanting lines of curving Arabic letters in gold. Peter was impressed but still skeptical.
"What does that say when it says it in English?" he asked.
"It says," translated Stetson, "that his Imperial Majesty, the Sultan, bestows upon Henry Stetson, educator, author, lecturer, the Star of the Order of the Crescent, of the fifth class, for services rendered to Turkey."
Peter interrupted him indignantly.
"Never try to fool the fakirs, my son," he protested. "I'm a fakir myself. What services did you ever . . . ."
"Services rendered," continued Stetson undisturbed, "in spreading throughout the United States a greater knowledge of the customs, industries, and religion of the Ottoman Empire. That," he explained, "refers to my--I should say our-- moving-picture lecture. I thought it would look well if, when I lectured on Turkey, I wore a Turkish decoration, so I went after this one."
Peter regarded his young friend with incredulous admiration.
"But did they believe you," he demanded, "when you told them you were an author and educator?"
Stetson closed one eye and grinned. "They believed whatever I paid them to believe."
"If you can get one of those, "cried Peter, Old man Gilman ought to get a dozen. I'll tell them he's the author of the longest and dullest history of their flea-bitten empire that was ever written. And he's a real professor and a real author, and I can prove it. I'll show them the five volumes with his name in each. How much did that thing cost you?"
"Two hundred dollars in bribes," said Stetson briskly, "and two months of diplomacy."
"I haven't got two months for diplomacy," said Peter, "so I'll have to increase the bribes. I'll stay here and get the decoration for Gilman, and you work the papers at home. No one ever heard of the Order of the Crescent, but that only makes it the easier for us. They'll only know what we tell them, and we'll tell them it's the highest honor ever bestowed by a reigning sovereign upon an American scholar. If you tell the people often enough that anything is the best they believe you. That's the way father sells his hams. You've been a press-agent. From now on you're going to be my press-agent--I mean Doctor Gilman's press-agent. I pay your salary, but your work is to advertise him and the Order of the Crescent. I'll give you a letter to Charley Hines at Stillwater. He sends out college news to a syndicate and he's the local Associated Press man. He's sore at their discharging Gilman and he's my best friend, and he'll work the papers as far as you like. Your job is to make Stillwater College and Doctor Black and my father believe that when they lost Gilman they lost the man who made Stillwater famous. And before we get through boosting Gilman, we'll make my father's million-dollar gift laboratory look like an insult."
In the eyes of the former press-agent the light of battle burned fiercely, memories of his triumphs in exploitation, of his strategies and tactics in advertising soared before him.
"It's great!" he exclaimed. "I've got your idea and you've got me. And you're darned lucky to get me. I've been press- agent for politicians, actors, society leaders, breakfast foods, and horse-shows--and I'm the best! I was in charge of the publicity bureau for Galloway when he ran for governor. He thinks the people elected him. I know I did. Nora Nashville was getting fifty dollars a week in vaudeville when I took hold of her; now she gets a thousand. I even made people believe Mrs. Hampton-Rhodes was a society leader at Newport, when all she ever saw of Newport was Bergers and the Muschenheim-Kings. Why, I am the man that made the American People believe Russian dancers can dance!"
"It's plain to see you hate yourself," said 'Peter. "You must not get so despondent or you might commit suicide. How much money will you want?"
"How much have you got?"
"All kinds," said Peter. "Some in a letter-of-credit that my father earned from the fretful pig, and much more in cash that I won at poker from the pashas. When that's gone I've got to go to work and earn my living. Meanwhile your salary is a hundred a week and all you need to boost Gilman and the Order of the Crescent. We are now the Gilman Defense, Publicity, and Development Committee, and you will begin by introducing me to the man I am to bribe."
"In this country you don't need any introduction to the man you want to bribe," exclaimed Stetson; "you just bribe him!"
That same night in the smoking-room of the hotel, Peter and Stetson made their first move in the game of winning for Professor Gilman the Order of the Crescent. Stetson presented Peter to a young effendi in a frock coat and fez. Stetson called him Osman. He was a clerk in the foreign office and appeared to be "a friend of a friend of a friend" of the assistant third secretary.
The five volumes of the "Rise and Fall" were spread before him, and Peter demanded to know why so distinguished a scholar as Doctor Gilman had not received some recognition from the country he had so sympathetically described. Osman fingered the volumes doubtfully, and promised the matter should be brought at once to the attention of the grand vizier .
After he had departed Stetson explained that Osman had just as little chance of getting within speaking distance of the grand vizier as of the ladies of his harem.
"It's like Tammany," said Stetson; "there are sachems, district leaders, and lieutenants. Each of them is entitled to trade or give away a few of these decorations, just as each district leader gets his percentage of jobs in the streetcleaning department. This fellow will go to his patron, his patron will go to some undersecretary in the cabinet, he will put it up to a palace favorite, and they will divide your money.
"In time the minister of foreign affairs will sign your brevet and a hundred others, without knowing what he is signing; then you cable me, and the Star of the Crescent will burst upon the United States in a way that will make Halley's comet look like a wax match."
The next day Stetson and the tutor sailed for home and Peter was left alone to pursue, as he supposed, the Order of the Crescent. On the contrary, he found that the Order of the Crescent was pursuing him. He had not appreciated that, from underlings and backstair politicians, an itinerant showman like Stetson and the only son of an American Croesus would receive very different treatment.
Within twenty-four hours a fat man with a blue-black beard and diamond rings called with Osman to apologize for the latter. Osman, the fat man explained--had been about to make a fatal error. For Doctor Gilman he had asked the Order of the Crescent of the fifth class, the same class that had been given Stetson. The fifth class, the fat man explained, was all very well for tradesmen, dragomans, and eunuchs, but as an honor for a savant as distinguished as the friend of his. Hallowell, the fourth class would hardly be high enough. The fees, the fat man added, would Also be higher; but, he pointed out, it was worth the difference, because the fourth class entitled the wearer to a salute from all sentries.
"There are few sentries at Stillwater," said Peter; "but I want the best and I want it quick. Get me the fourth class."
The next morning he was surprised by an early visit from Stimson of the embassy. The secretary was considerably annoyed.
"My dear Hallowell," he protested, "why the devil didn't you tell me you wanted a decoration? Of course the State department expressly forbids us to ask for one for ourselves, or for any one else. But what's the Constitution between friends? I'll get it for you at once--but, on two conditions: that you don't tell anybody I got it, and that you tell me why you want it, and what you ever did to deserve it."
Instead, Peter explained fully and so sympathetically that the diplomat demanded that he, too, should be enrolled as one of the Gilman Defense Committee.
"Doctor Gilman's history," he said, "must be presented to the Sultan. You must have the five volumes rebound in red and green, the colors of Mohammed, and with as much gold tooling as they can carry. I hope," he added, they are not soiled."
"Not by me," Peter assured him.
"I will take them myself," continued Stimson, "to Muley Pasha, the minister of foreign affairs, and ask him to present them to his Imperial Majesty. He will promise to do so, but he won't; but he knows I know he won't so that is all right. And in return he will present us with the Order of the Crescent of the third class."
"Going up!" exclaimed Peter. "The third class. That will cost me my entire letter-of-credit."
"Not at all," said Stimson. "I've saved you from the grafters. It will cost you only what you pay to have the books rebound. And the THIRD class is a real honor of which any one might be proud. You wear it round your neck, and at your funeral it entitles you to an escort of a thousand soldiers."
"I'd rather put up with fewer soldiers," said Peter, " and wear it longer round my neck What's the matter with our getting the second class or the first class?"
At such ignorance Stimson could not repress a smile.
"The first class," he explained patiently, "is the Great Grand Cross, and is given only to reigning sovereigns. The second is called the Grand Cross, and is bestowed only on crowned princes, prime ministers, and men of world-wide fame . . . . "
"What's the matter with Doctor Gilman's being of world-wide fame?" said Peter. "He will be some day, when Stetson starts boosting."
"Some day," retorted Stimson stiffly, " I may be an ambassador. When I am I hope to get the Grand Cross of the Crescent, but not now. I'm sorry you're not satisfied," he added aggrievedly. "No one can get you anything higher than the third class, and I may lose my official head asking for that."
"Nothing is too good for old man Gilman," said Peter, "nor for you. You get the third class for him, and I'll have father make you an ambassador."
That night at poker at the club Peter sat next to Prince Abdul, who had come from a reception at the Grand vizier 's and still wore his decorations. Decorations now fascinated Peter, and those on the coat of the young prince he regarded with wide-eyed awe. He also regarded Abdul with wide-eyed awe, because he was the favorite nephew of the Sultan, and because he enjoyed the reputation of having the worst reputation in Turkey. Peter wondered why. He always had found Abdul charming, distinguished, courteous to the verge of humility, most cleverly cynical, most brilliantly amusing. At poker he almost invariably won, and while doing so was so politely bored, so indifferent to his cards and the cards held by others, that Peter declared he had never met his equal.
In a pause in the game, while some one tore the cover off a fresh pack, Peter pointed at the star of diamonds that nestled behind the lapel of Abdul's coat.
"May I ask what that is?" said Peter.
The prince frowned at his diamond sunburst as though it annoyed him, and then smiled delightedly.
"It is an order," he said in a quick aside, "bestowed only upon men of world-wide fame. I dined to-night," he explained, "with your charming compatriot, Mr. Joseph Stimson."
"And Joe told?" said Peter.
The prince nodded. "Joe told," he repeated; "but it is all arranged. Your distinguished friend, the Sage of Stillwater, will receive the Crescent of the third class."
Peter's eyes were still fastened hungrily upon the diamond sunburst.
"Why," he demanded, "can't some one get him one like that?"
As though about to take offense the prince raised his eyebrows, and then thought better of it and smiled.
"There are only two men in all Turkey," he said, "who could do that."
"And is the Sultan the other one?" asked Peter. The prince gasped as though he had suddenly stepped beneath a cold shower, and then laughed long and silently.
"You flatter me," he murmured.
"You know you could if you liked!" whispered Peter stoutly.
Apparently Abdul did not hear him. "I will take one card," he said.
Toward two in the morning there was seventy-five thousand francs in the pot, and all save Prince Abdul and Peter had dropped out. "Will you divide?" asked the prince.
"Why should I?" said Peter. "I've got you beat now. Do you raise me or call?" The prince called and laid down a full house. Peter showed four tens.
"I will deal you one hand, double or quits," said the prince.
Over the end of his cigar Peter squinted at the great heap of mother-of-pearl counters and gold-pieces and bank-notes.
"You will pay me double what is on the table," he said, "or you quit owing me nothing."
The prince nodded.
"Go ahead," said Peter.
The prince dealt them each a hand and discarded two cards. Peter held a seven, a pair of kings, and a pair of fours. Hoping to draw another king, which might give him a three higher than the three held by Abdul, he threw away the seven and the lower pair. He caught another king. The prince showed three queens and shrugged his shoulders.
Peter, leaning toward him, spoke out of the corner of his mouth.
"I'll make you a sporting proposition," he murmured. "You owe me a hundred and fifty thousand francs. "I'll stake that against what only two men in the empire can give me."
The prince allowed his eyes to travel slowly round the circle of the table. But the puzzled glances of the other players showed that to them Peter's proposal conveyed no meaning.
The prince smiled cynically.
"For yourself?" he demanded.
"For Doctor Gilman," said Peter.
"We will cut for deal and one hand will decide," said the prince. His voice dropped to a whisper. "And no one must ever know," he warned.
Peter also could be cynical.
"Not even the Sultan," he said.
Abdul won the deal and gave himself a very good hand. But the hand he dealt Peter was the better one.
The prince was a good loser. The next afternoon the GAZETTE OFFICIALLY announced that upon Doctor Henry Gilman, professor emeritus of the University of Stillwater, U. S. A., the Sultan had been graciously pleased to confer the Grand Cross of the Order of the Crescent.
Peter flashed the great news to Stetson. The cable caught him at Quarantine. It read: "Captured Crescent, Grand Cross. Get busy."
But before Stetson could get busy the campaign of publicity had been brilliantly opened from Constantinople. Prince Abdul, although pitchforked into the Gilman Defense Committee, proved himself one of its most enthusiastic members.
"For me it becomes a case of NOBLESSE OBLIGE," he declared. "If it is worth doing at all it is worth doing well. To-day the Sultan will command that the "Rise and Fall" be translated into Arabic, and that it be placed in the national library. Moreover, the University of Constantinople, the College of Salonica, and the National Historical Society have each elected Doctor Gilman an honorary member. I proposed him, the Patriarch of Mesopotamia seconded him. And the Turkish ambassador in America has been instructed to present the insignia with his own hands."
Nor was Peter or Stimson idle. To assist Stetson in his press-work, and to further the idea that all Europe was now clamoring for the "Rise and fall," Peter paid an impecunious but over-educated dragoman to translate it into five languages, and Stimson officially wrote of this, and of the bestowal of the Crescent to the State Department. He pointed out that not since General Grant had passed through Europe had the Sultan so highly honored an American. He added he had been requested by the grand vizier --who had been requested by Prince Abdul--to request the State Department to inform Doctor Gilman of these high honors. A request from such a source was a command and, as desired, the State Department wrote as requested by the grand vizier to Doctor Gilman, and tendered congratulations. The fact was sent out briefly from Washington by Associated Press. This official recognition by the Government and by the newspapers was all and more than Stetson wanted. He took off his coat and with a megaphone, rather than a pen, told the people of the United States who Doctor Gilman was, who the Sultan was, what a Grand Cross was, and why America's greatest historian was not without honor save in his own country. Columns of this were paid for and appeared as "patent insides," with a portrait of Doctor Gilman taken from the STILLWATER COLLEGE ANNUAL, and a picture of the Grand Cross drawn from imagination, in eight hundred newspapers of the Middle, Western, and Eastern States. special articles, paragraphs, portraits, and pictures of the Grand Cross followed, and, using Stillwater as his base, Stetson continued to flood the country. Young Hines, the local correspondent, acting under instructions by cable from Peter, introduced him to Doctor Gilman as a traveller who lectured on Turkey, and one who was a humble admirer of the author of the "Rise and fall." Stetson, having studied it as a student crams an examination, begged that he might sit at the feet of the master. And for several evenings, actually at his feet, on the steps of the ivy-covered cottage, the disguised press-agent drew from the unworldly and unsuspecting scholar the simple story of his life. To this, still in his character as disciple and student, he added photographs he himself made of the master, of the master's ivy-covered cottage, of his favorite walk across the campus, of the great historian at work at his desk, at work in his rose garden, at play with his wife on the croquet lawn. These he held until the insignia should be actually presented. This pleasing duty fell to the Turkish ambassador, who, much to his astonishment, had received instructions to proceed to Stillwater, Massachusetts, a place of which he had never heard, and present to a Doctor Gilman, of whom he had never heard, the Grand Cross of the Crescent. As soon as the insignia arrived in the official mail-bag a secretary brought it from Washington to Boston, and the ambassador travelled down from Bar Harbor to receive it, and with the secretary took the local train to Stillwater.
The reception extended to him there is still remembered by the ambassador as one of the happiest incidents of his distinguished career. Never since he came to represent his imperial Majesty in the Western republic had its barbarians greeted him in a manner in any way so nearly approaching his own idea of what was his due.
"This ambassador," Hines had explained to the mayor of Stillwater, who was also the proprietor of its largest department store, "is the personal representative of the Sultan. So we've got to treat him right."
"It's exactly," added Stetson, "as though the Sultan himself were coming."
"And so few crowned heads visit Stillwater," continued Hines, "that we ought to show we appreciate this one, especially as he comes to pay the highest honor known to Europe to one of our townsmen."
The mayor chewed nervously on his cigar.
"What'd I better do?" he asked.
"Mr. Stetson here," Hines pointed out, "has lived in Turkey, and he knows what they expect. Maybe he will help us."
"Will you?" begged the mayor.
"I will," said Stetson.
Then they visited the college authorities. Chancellor Black and most of the faculty were on their vacations. But there were half a dozen professors still in their homes around the campus, and it was pointed out to them that the coming honor to one lately of their number reflected glory upon the college and upon them, and that they should take official action.
It was also suggested that for photographic purposes they should wear their academic robes, caps, and hoods. To these suggestions, with alacrity--partly because they all loved Doctor Gilman and partly because they had never been photographed by a moving-picture machine--they all agreed. So it came about that when the ambassador, hot and cross and dusty stepped off the way-train at Stillwater station he found to his delighted amazement a red carpet stretching to a perfectly new automobile, a company of the local militia presenting arms, a committee, consisting of the mayor in a high hat and white gloves and three professors in gowns and colored hoods, and the Stillwater silver Cornet Band playing what, after several repetitions, the ambassador was graciously pleased to recognize as his national anthem.
The ambassador forgot that he was hot and cross. He forgot that he was dusty. His face radiated satisfaction and perspiration. Here at last were people who appreciated him and his high office. And as the mayor helped him into the automobile, and those students who lived in Stillwater welcomed him with strange yells, and the moving-picture machine aimed at him point blank, he beamed with condescension. But inwardly he was ill at ease.
inwardly he was chastising himself for having, through his ignorance of America, failed to appreciate the importance of the man he had come to honor. When he remembered he had never even heard of Doctor Gilman he blushed with confusion. And when he recollected that he had been almost on the point of refusing to come to Stillwater, that he had considered leaving the presentation to his secretary, he shuddered. What might not the Sultan have done to him! What a narrow escape!
Attracted by the band, by the sight of their fellow townsmen in khaki, by the sight of the stout gentleman in the red fez, by a tremendous liking and respect for Doctor Gilman, the entire town of Stillwater gathered outside his cottage. And inside, the old professor, trembling and bewildered and yet strangely happy, bowed his shoulders while the ambassador slipped over them the broad green scarf and upon his only frock coat pinned the diamond sunburst. In woeful embarrassment Doctor Gilman smiled and bowed and smiled, and then, as the delighted mayor of Stillwater shouted, "Speech," in sudden panic he reached out his hand quickly and covertly, and found the hand of his wife.
"Now, then, three Long ones!" yelled the cheer leader. "Now, then, 'See the Conquering Hero!'" yelled the bandmaster. "Attention! Present arms!" yelled the militia captain; and the townspeople and the professors applauded and waved their hats and handkerchiefs. And Doctor Gilman and his wife, he frightened and confused, she happy and proud, and taking it all as a matter of course, stood arm in arm in the frame of honeysuckles and bowed and bowed and bowed. And the ambassador so far unbent as to drink champagne, which appeared mysteriously in tubs of ice from the rear of the ivy-covered cottage, with the mayor, with the wives of the professors, with the students, with the bandmaster. Indeed, so often did he unbend that when the perfectly new automobile conveyed him back to the Touraine, he was sleeping happily and smiling in his sleep.
Peter had arrived in America at the same time as had the insignia, but Hines and Stetson would not let him show himself in Stillwater. They were afraid if all three conspirators foregathered they might inadvertently drop some clew that would lead to suspicion and discovery.
So Peter worked from New York, and his first act was anonymously to supply his father and Chancellor Black with All the newspaper accounts of the great celebration at Stillwater. When Doctor black read them he choked. Never before had Stillwater College been brought so prominently before the public, and never before had her president been so utterly and completely ignored. And what made it worse was that he recognized that even had he been present he could not have shown his face. How could he, who had, as every one connected with the college now knew, out of spite and without cause, dismissed an old and faithful servant, join in chanting his praises. He only hoped his patron, Hallowell senior, might not hear of Gilman's triumph. But Hallowell senior heard little of anything else. At his office, at his clubs, on the golf-links, every one he met congratulated him on the high and peculiar distinction that had come to his pet college.
"You certainly have the darnedest luck in backing the right horse," exclaimed a rival pork-packer enviously. "Now if I pay a hundred thousand for a Velasquez it turns out to be a bad copy worth thirty dollars, but you pay a professor three thousand and he brings you in half a million dollars' worth of free advertising. Why, this Doctor Gilman's doing as much for your college as Doctor Osler did for Johns Hopkins or as Walter Camp does for Yale."
Mr. Hallowell received these Congratulations as gracefully as he was able, and in secret raged at Chancellor Black. Each day his rage increased. It seemed as though there would never be an end to Doctor Gilman. The stone he had rejected had become the corner-stone of Stillwater. Whenever he opened a newspaper he felt like exclaiming: "Will no one rid me of this pestilent fellow?" For the "Rise and Fall," in an edition deluxe limited to two hundred copies, was being bought up by all his book-collecting millionaire friends; a popular edition was on view in the windows of every book- shop; It was offered as a prize to subscribers to all the more sedate magazines, and the name and features of the distinguished author had become famous and familiar. Not a day passed but that some new honor, at least so the newspapers stated, was thrust upon him. Paragraphs announced that he was to be the next exchange professor to Berlin; that in May he was to lecture at the Sorbonne; that in June he was to receive a degree from Oxford.
A fresh-water college on one of the Great Lakes leaped to the front by offering him the chair of history at that seat of learning at a salary of five thousand dollars a year. Some of the honors that had been thrust upon Doctor Gilman existed only in the imagination of Peter and Stetson, but this offer happened to be genuine.
"Doctor Gilman rejected it without consideration. He read the letter from the trustees to his wife and shook his head.
"We could not be happy away from Stillwater," he said. " We have only a month more in the cottage, but after that we still can walk past it; we can look into the garden and see the flowers she planted. We can visit the place where she lies. But if we went away we should be lonely and miserable for her, and she would be lonely for us."
Mr. Hallowell could not know why Doctor Gilman had refused to leave Stillwater; but when he read that the small Eastern college at which Doctor Gilman had graduated had offered to make him its president, his jealousy knew no bounds.
He telegraphed to Black: "Reinstate Gilman at once; offer him six thousand--offer him whatever he wants, but make him promise for no consideration to leave Stillwater he is only member faculty ever brought any credit to the college if we lose him I'll hold you responsible."
The next morning, hat in hand, smiling ingratiatingly, the Chancellor called upon Doctor Gilman and ate so much humble pie that for a week he suffered acute mental indigestion. But little did Hallowell senior care for that. He had got what he wanted. Doctor Gilman, the distinguished, was back in the faculty, and had made only one condition--that he might live until he died in the ivy-covered cottage.
Two weeks later, when Peter arrived at Stillwater to take the history examination, which, should he pass it, would give him his degree, he found on every side evidences of the "worldwide fame" he himself had created. The newsstand at the depot, the book-stores, the drugstores, the picture-shops, all spoke of Doctor Gilman; and postcards showing the ivy- covered cottage, photographs and enlargements of Doctor Gilman, advertisements of the different. editions of "the" history proclaimed his fame. Peter, fascinated by the success of his own handiwork, approached the ivy-covered cottage in a spirit almost of awe. But Mrs. Gilman welcomed him with the same kindly, sympathetic smile with which she always gave courage to the unhappy ones coming up for examinations, and Doctor Gilman's high honors in no way had spoiled his gentle courtesy.
The examination was in writing, and when Peter had handed in his papers Doctor Gilman asked him if he would prefer at once to know the result.
"I should indeed!" Peter assured him.
"Then I regret to tell you, Hallowell," said the professor, "that you have not passed. I cannot possibly give you a mark higher than five." In real sympathy the sage of Stillwater raised his eyes, but to his great astonishment he found that Peter, so far from being cast down or taking offense, was smiling delightedly, much as a fond parent might smile upon the precocious act of a beloved child.
"I am afraid," said Doctor Gilman gently, "that this summer you did not work very hard for your degree!"
Peter Laughed and picked up his hat.
"To tell you the truth, Professor," he said, "you're right I got working for something worth while--and I forgot about the degree."