by Annie Eliot Trumbull
THE observation train wound its way
in clumsy writhings along the bank
of the river, upon which the afternoon light
fell in modified brilliancy as the west
kindled towards the sunset. But if the
sheen and sparkle of the earlier day had
passed into something more subdued and
less exhilarating, the difference was made
up in the shifting action and color that
moved and glowed and flashed on, above
and beside the soft clearness of the stream.
The sunlight caught the turn of the wet
oars and outlined the brown muscular
backs of the young athletes who were
pulling the narrow shells. The Yale blue
spread itself in blocks and patches along
the train, and the Harvard crimson burned
in vivid stretches by its side, and all the blue
and crimson seemed instinct with animation
as they floated, quivered, and waved in the
thrilled interest of hundreds of men and
women who followed with eager eyes the
knife-blades of boats cleaving the water in
a quick, silent ripple of foam. The crowd
of launches, tugs, yachts, and steamers
pushed up the river, keeping their distance
with difficulty, and from them as well as
from the banks sounded the fluctuating
yet unbroken cheers of encouragement
and exhortation, rising and falling in
rhythmic measure, guided by public-spirited
enthusiasts, or breaking out in purely individual
tribute to the grand chorus of partisanship.
It had been a close start, and
the furor of excitement had spent itself,
somewhat, during the first seconds, and
now made itself felt more like the quick
heart-beats of restrained emotion as the
issue seemed to grow less doubtful, though
reaching now and then climaxes of renewed
"Alas for advancing age!" sighed a
woman into the ear of her neighbor, as
their eyes followed the crews, but without
that fevered intensity which marked some
"By all means," he answered. "But
why, particularly, just now? I was beginning
to fancy myself young under the
stress of present circumstances."
"Because even if one continues to keep
one's emotions creditably—effervescent—one
loses early the single-minded glow of
"A single-minded glow is a thing that
should be retained, even at considerable
"And what is worse yet, one grows
critical about language," she continued
calmly, "and gives free rein to a naturally
unpleasant disposition under cover of a
refined and sensitive taste."
Ellis Arnold smiled tolerantly.
"They are pretty sure to keep their lead
now," he said. "The other boat is more
than a length behind, and losing. They
are not pulling badly, either," he added.
"You were saying?"—and he turned
towards her for the first time since the
She was a handsome blonde-haired
woman, perfectly dressed, with the seal of
distinction set upon features, figure, and
"That was what I was saying," she
replied, "that the ones that are behind are
not pulling badly."
"More sphinx-like than ever," he murmured.
"I perceive that you speak in
Miss Normaine laughed a little. The
conversation was decidedly intermittent.
They dropped it entirely at times, and then
took it up as if there had been no pause.
It was after a brief silence that she went
on: "But you and I can see both boats—the
success, and the disappointment too.
And we can't, for the life of us, help feeling
that it's hard on those who have put
forth all their strength for defeat."
"But it isn't so bad as if it were our
boat that was behind," he said sensibly.
"Oh, no; of course not. But I maintain
that it injures the fine fleur of enjoyment
to remember that there are two
participants in a contest."
"I suppose it is useless to expect you to
"Quite. I know enough to be entirely
sure I'd rather be picturesque."
"But let me assure you, that in desiring
that there should be but one participant
in a contest, you are striking at the
very root of all successful athletic exhibitions."
She shrugged her shoulders a little.
"Oh, well, if you like to air your powers
of irony at the expense of such painful
"The exuberance of my style has been
pruned down to literalness by the relentless
shears of a cold world. With you,
of course,"—but he was interrupted by
the shouts of the crowd, as the winning
boat neared the goal. The former
enthusiasm had been the soft breathings
of approval compared to this outbreak of
the victorious. Flags, hats, handkerchiefs
rose in the air, and the university cheer
echoed, re-echoed, and began again.
Arnold cheered also, with an energy
not to be deduced from his hitherto calm
exterior, standing up on the seat and
shouting with undivided attention; and
Miss Normaine waved her silk handkerchief
and laughed in response to the
bursts of youthful joy from the seat in
front of her.
"Oh, well," said Arnold, sitting down
again, "sport is sport for both sides,
whoever wins—or else it isn't sport at
"Ah, how many crimes have been committed
in thy name!" murmured Miss
"Katharine, I think you have turned
"No, it's age, I tell you. I'm thinking
more now of the accessories than I
am of the race. That's a sure sign of
age, to have time to notice the accessories."
"There's compensation in it, though.
If we lose a little of the drama of conflict
on these occasions, we gain something
in recognizing the style of presentation."
"Yes," and she glanced down at her
niece, whose pretty eyes were making
short work of the sunburned, broad-shouldered,
smooth-faced, handsome boy,
who was entirely willing to close the festivities
of Commencement week subjected
to the ravages of a grand, even if a hopeless,
From her she looked out upon the now
darkening river. There had been some
delay before the train could begin to move
back, and the summer twilight had fallen;
for the race had been at the last available
moment. Though it was far from quiet,
the relief from the tension of the previous
moments added to the placidity of the
scene. The opposite banks were dim and
shadowy, and the water was growing
vague; there were lights on some of the
craft; a star came out, and then another;
there were no hard suggestions, no sordid
reminders. It was a beautiful world, filled
with happy people, united in a common
healthy interest; the outlines of separation
were softened into ambiguity and the differences
veiled by good breeding.
"It is only a mimic struggle, after all,"
she said at last. "The stage is well set,
and now that the curtain is down, there is
no special bitterness at the way the play
"There you exaggerate, as usual," he
replied, "and of course in another direction
from that in which you exaggerated
"The pursuit of literature has made
you not only precise but didactic," she
"There is a good deal, if not of bitterness,
of very real disappointment, and
"Which will be all gone long before
the curtain goes up for the next performance."
"Ah, yes, to be sure; but nevertheless
you underrate the disappointments of
youth,—because they are not tragic you
think they are not bitter,—you have
always underrated them."
She met his eyes calmly, though he had
spoken with a certain emphasis.
"We are talking in a circle," she replied.
"That was what I said in the first
place—that as we grow older we have
more sympathy with defeat."
"You are incorrigible," he said, smiling;
"you will accept neither consolation
"Life brings enough of both," she answered;
"it does not need to be supplemented
by one's friends."
The train was moving very slowly;
people were laughing and talking gayly all
about them; more lights had come out on
the water, and a gentle breeze had suddenly
"Just what do you mean by that, I
wonder?" he said slowly.
"Not much," she answered lightly.
"But I do mean," she added, as he looked
away from her, "that, whether it be the
consequence of the altruism of the day,
or of advancing age, as I said at first, it
has grown to be provokingly difficult to
ignore those who lose more serious things
than a college championship. Verestchagin
and such people have spoiled history
for us. Who cares who won a great
battle now?—it is such a small thing to
our consciousness compared to the number
of people who were killed—and on one
side as well as the other."
"Except, of course, where there is a
great principle, not great possessions, at
"Yes," she assented, but somewhat
doubtfully, "yes, of course."
"But it shows a terrible dearth of interest
when we get down to principles."
"Yes," she said again, laughing.
Meanwhile Miss Normaine's niece was
pursuing her own ends with that directness
which, though lacking the evasive
subtlety of maturer years, is at once effective
"It was nothing but a box of chocolate
peppermints," she insisted. "I'd
never be so reckless as to wager anything
more without thinking it over. I have an
allowance, and I'm obliged to be careful
what I spend."
He looked her over with approval.
"You spend it well," he asserted.
"I have to," she returned, "or else
boys like you would never look at me
"I don't know about that." He spoke
as one who, though convinced, is not a
"It's fortunate that I do," she replied
decidedly. "I'm mortifyingly dependent
on my clothes. There's my Aunt Katharine
now,—she has an air in anything."
"I like you better than your aunt," he
"Of course you do. I've taken pains
to have you. But it was just as much as
ever that you looked at me twice last
"I was afraid of making you too conspicuous."
"A lot you were!" she retorted rudely.
"Who was that girl you danced with?"
He smiled wearily.
"Tommy Renwick's cousin from the
"She is pretty."
"Very good goods."
"Is she as nice as Tommy?"
"No. There are not many girls as
nearly right as Tommy."
"Well, perhaps, except you."
"But then, I'm not many."
"No, separate wrapper, only one in a
box," he admitted handsomely.
Miss Normaine's niece had dark eyes,
brown hair that curled in small inadvertent
rings, and a rich warm complexion through
which the crimson glowed in her round
cheeks. She was so pretty that she ought
to have been suppressed, and had a way
of speaking that made her charming all
"It was not chocolate peppermints, and
you know quite well it wasn't," he said,
with the finished boldness compatible with
hair parted exactly in the middle and a
wide experience. Miss Normaine's niece
opened her eyes wide.
"What was it?"
"Nothing but your heart."
She considered the matter seriously.
"Was it really?"
"It was really."
"And I've lost," she pondered aloud.
"And you've lost."
She raised her eyes with a glance in
which he could read perfect faith, glad
acknowledgment, and entire surrender.
"Do you want me to keep telling
you?" she demanded with adorable petulance.
"There is Henry Donald!" exclaimed
Miss Normaine. "I didn't see him before.
He has grown stout, hasn't he?"
"Yes, and bald."
"Isn't he young to be bald and stout
too? Do tell me that he is," urged Miss
Normaine with pathos. "He seems just
out of college to me, and I don't like to
think that I've lost all sense of proportion."
"Oh, no, you haven't," said Arnold,
consolingly. "It's only he that has lost
his. He doesn't take exercise enough.
He's coming this way to speak to you.
You had better think of something more
flattering to say."
"I never thought Harry Donald would
get stout and bald," went on Miss Normaine,
to herself. "There was a period
when I let my fancy play about him, most
of the time too, but I never thought of
"Who's that man squeezing through
the crowd to speak to Aunt Katharine?"
"That? Oh, that's one of the old
"I can see that for myself."
"He's a Judge Donald of Wisconsin.
He's pretty well on, but he's a Jim-dandy
after-dinner speaker. Made a smooth
speech at his class reunion."
"They still like to come to the race
and things, don't they?"
"Oh, yes, and they're right into it all
while they're here too."
Unhappily unconscious of the kindly
feeling being extended to him from the
bench in front, Judge Donald seated himself
by Katharine, just as they drew slowly
into the station.
"You haven't been on for some years,
have you?" she asked him.
"No," he answered, "I've been busy."
"Oh, we know you've been busy,"
she interpolated, smiling.
"You're the same Katharine Normaine,"
he rejoined. "I thought you
were, by the looks, and now I'm sure.
You don't really know that I've ever had
a case, but you make me feel that my
name echoes through two worlds at the
"And you are still Harry Donald, suspicious
of the gifts that are tossed into
your lap," and they both laughed.
"This is the man of the class," went
on Judge Donald, turning to Ellis, who
had taken a seat above them. "Your
books have gotten out to Wisconsin, and
that's fame enough for any man."
"Have they really?" said Arnold. "I
supposed they only wrote notices of them
in the papers."
"Oh, yes," murmured Miss Normaine.
"Ellis has turned out clever,—one never
"I guess they're good, too," went on
Donald; "I tell 'em I used to think you
wrote well in college."
"I thought I did, too," answered Arnold.
"I don't believe we're either of
us quite so sure I write well now."
They had delayed their steps to keep
out of the crowd, for the people were
leaving the train, some hurrying to catch
other trains, some stopping to greet friends
and acquaintances; there was a general
rushing to and fro, the clamor of well-bred
voices, the calling out of names in
surprised accost, the frou-frou of gowns
and the fragrance of flowers, in the bare
and untidy station.
At last the party of which Miss Normaine
was one left the car, and with the
two men she made her way down the platform,
through the midst of the hubbub,
which waxed more insistent every moment.
"It is with a somewhat fevered anxiety
that I am keeping my eye on Alice," she
"She is with a young man," said Judge
"That statement has not the merit of
affording information. She has been with
a young man ever since we left home."
"It isn't the same one, either," supplemented
"It never is the same one," said Miss
Normaine, somewhat impatiently. "I
am under no obligation to look after or
even differentiate the young men. I simply
have to see that the child doesn't get
lost with any one of them."
"She won't get lost with one," said
Arnold, reassuringly, as they were separated
by a cross-current of determined humanity.
"She has three now, and they
are all shaking hands at a terrible
Judge Donald departed on a tour of
investigation, and returned to say that
there was no chance just at present of
their getting away. It was a scene of
confusion which only patience and time
could elucidate. The omniscience of officials
had given place to a less satisfactory
if more human ignorance; last come was
first served, and a seat in a train seemed
by no means to insure transportation. It
was as well to wait for a while outside as
in; so with many others they strolled up
and down, until their car should be more
"Alice is an example of the profound
truths we have been enunciating, Ellis,"
said Miss Normaine. "She has an ardent
admirer on the defeated crew. At one
time I did not know but his devotion
might shake her lifelong allegiance to the
other university; but now that victory has
fairly perched, you observe she has small
thought for the bearers of captured banners.
We were saying, Mr. Arnold and
I," she explained to Donald, "that it is
at our time of life that people begin to
remember that when somebody beats,
there is somebody else beaten."
Donald grew grave,—as grave as a
man can be with the feathers of an unconscious
girl tickling one ear and a
fleeting chorus of the latest "catchy"
song penetrating the other.
"Arnold and I can appreciate it better
than you, I guess," he said, "because
there have been times when we thought
it highly probable we might get beaten
"Highly," assented Arnold.
"But you, Miss Normaine, you've
never had any difficulty in getting in on
the first floor," went on the other.
"You've quaffed the foam of the beaker
and eaten the peach from the sunniest side
of the wall right along—I'm quite sure
of it just to look at you."
"The Scripture moveth us in sundry
places," said Katharine, with a lightness
that did not entirely veil something serious,
"not to put too much faith in appearances.
Even I am not above learning a
lesson now and then."
He looked at her curiously.
"I'd like to know by what right you
haven't changed more," he said.
"Did you expect to find me in ruins,
after—let me see, how many years?"
she laughed. "The hand of Time is
heavy, but not necessarily obliterating.
What has become of Alice?"
"She can't have gone far," said Arnold.
"She was with us a moment ago."
"There she is with some of the rest of
your party—I caught a glimpse of her
just now," added Donald. "She's quite
Alice stood talking with a girl of her
own age and two or three undergraduates,
on the outskirts of the crowd. One of
the youths wore in his buttonhole the losing
color, but he bore himself with a
proud dignity that forbade casual condolences.
Alice's eyes were bright, and her
pretty laugh rippled forth with readily
communicated mirth, while the very roses
of her hat nodded with the spirit of unthinking
"There's the car that belongs to our
fellows," said, half to himself, the person
of sympathies alien to those of his present
companions. "They must be about—yes,
they're getting on," he added, as a
car which had been propelled from a
neighboring switch stopped at the farther
end of the station. Alice's head turned
with a swiftness of motion that set the
roses vibrating as if a sudden breeze had
ruffled their petals.
"The crew?" she asked.
"Yes," assented the young man.
She turned more definitely towards him,
away from the rest of the group, whose
attention was called in another direction.
"Will you do something for me, Mr.
"Why, of course."
Alice had not anticipated refusal, and
her directions were prompt and lucid.
"Please go into that car and ask Mr.
Herbert to come out to the platform, at
the other end, to speak to me. There
isn't much time to lose, so please be
As he lifted his hat and moved away,
she joined in the conversation of the
others, which seemed to be largely metaphorical.
"So he got it that time," one of the
young men was explaining, "where Katy
wore the beads."
"Well, it served him quite right," said
Alice, with the generosity of ignorance.
Her whole attention was apparently given
to the matter in hand, but she was standing
so that she could see the somewhat
vague vestibule of the brilliant but curtained
"Oh, yes, but it wasn't on the tintype
that the other fellow should have been
there at all."
"No, to be sure, but that made it all
the better," said Alice's friend, with sympathetic
"Why, there's Eugene Herbert!" exclaimed
Alice. "I really must go and
tell him that he pulled beautifully, if he
didn't win, and comforting things like
that! Don't go off without me."
Before comment could be framed upon
their lips, she had left her companions and
was slipping quickly down the platform.
"She knows him very well," said the
other girl; "she'll be back in a minute."
"She must have sharp eyes," said another
of the group, as he looked after her.
But too many people were about for fixed
attention to be bestowed upon a single
figure. There was but one light under
the roof of that part of the station where
a young man was standing, looking rather
sulkily up and down. Alice was a little
breathless with her rapid walk when she
"I thought Francis was giving me a
song and dance," he said, as he grasped
the hand she held out.
"No, I sent him," she explained hurriedly.
"And I wanted to say—" She
paused an instant as she looked up at him.
He was serious, and wore a look of
fatigue, in spite of the superb physical
health of his whole appearance. The
light fell across her face under the dark
brim of her hat, and touched its beauty
into something vividly apart from the
shadows and sordidness of the place, yet
paler than its sunlit brilliancy.
"I wanted to say," she went on bravely,
"that I've changed my mind. At least,
I didn't really have any mind at all. And
if you still want me to—" she paused
again, but something in his eyes reassured
her—"I will—I'd really like to, you
know, and please be quiet, there isn't but
a minute to say it in—and I'd never
have told you—at least not for years and
years—if you had won the race. Now
let go of my hand—there are hundreds of
people all about—and you can come and
see me to-morrow."
It was all over in a moment. She had
snatched her hand away, and was speeding
back with a clear-eyed look of conscious
rectitude, and he had responded to the
exhortations of divers occupants of the
car, backed by a disinterested brakeman,
and stepped aboard.
"Oh, well, there's another race next
year," he said to somebody who spoke to
him as he sat down in the end seat. It
was early for such optimism, and they
thought Herbert had a disgustingly cheerful
Alice returned just as Miss Normaine
and Arnold came up, and they all went
back together, collecting the rest of the
party as they went to their train. It was
a vivacious progress along the homeward
route. Pæans of victory and the flash of
Roman candles filled the air. At one
time, when some particular demonstration
was absorbing the attention of the men,
Miss Normaine found her niece at her side.
"Aunt Katharine, you know I've
always adored you," she said, with a repose
of manner that disguised a trifle of
"Yes, I know, Alice, but I really can't
promise to take you anywhere to-morrow.
"I don't want you to—I only want to
confide in you."
"Oh, dear, what have you been doing
"I think," replied Alice, while the chorus
of sound about them swelled almost
to sublimity, "that I've been getting engaged—to
Eugene Herbert, you know."
"Only to Eugene Herbert," breathed
Miss Normaine. "I'm glad it occurred
to you to mention it. But why didn't
you say so before?"
"It didn't—it wasn't—before," said
Alice, faltering an instant under the calmly
judicial eye of her aunt. "You see," she
went on quickly, "it was because they
lost the race. It wouldn't have been at
all—not anyway for a long time,"—and
again her mental glance swept the vista of
the years she had mentioned to Herbert
himself,—"if it hadn't been for that;
but I couldn't let him go back without
either the race or—or me," she concluded
Arnold had been talking with a man of
his own age, and hearing things that were
very pleasant to hear about his latest work,
and yet, as he leaned back in his chair
and looked across at Katharine Normaine,
whose own expression was a little pensive,
he sighed. It was a great deal—he told
himself it was nearly everything—to
have what he had now in the line of effort
which he loved and had chosen. It
was not so good as the work itself, of
course, but the recognition was grateful.
And as his eyes dwelt again upon the distinction
of Miss Normaine's profile, with
the knot of blonde hair at the back of her
well-held head, he sighed again, as he rose
and went over to her. She looked up at
him, and her eyes were not quite so calm
"I am sitting," she said, "among the
"Indeed?" he said. "Is there room
upon a fallen column or a broken plinth
"Oh, yes," she answered, "but it is
not for a successful man like you, whose
name is upon the public lips, to gaze with
me upon demolished theories."
"I have taken my time in gazing upon
them before now," he observed.
"Everybody is talking about your
book," she said.
"Oh, no, only a very few people. But
about your theories—which of them has
proved itself unable to bear the weight of
"You may remember I dwelt somewhat
at length upon the indifference of
happy youth to the stings of outrageous
fortune when supported by some one
"I remember. I regard it as the lesson
for the day."
"It's early to mention it, but I am
obliged to give you the evidence of my
error—honor demands it—and Alice will
not mind, even if she sees fit to contradict
it to-morrow;" and she told him what
had just been told her.
He smiled as she concluded her statement,
and she, meeting his glance in all
seriousness, broke down into a moment's
"'She does not know anything but that
her side is beating,'" he quoted meditatively.
"I thought my generosity in confession
might at least forestall sarcasm," she said
"It ought to do so," he admitted.
There was a moment's pause.
"Has youth itself changed with the
times, I wonder?" he speculated. "Certainly
you did not sympathize overmuch
with defeat at Alice's age."
She did not answer, and she was looking
away from him through the glass,
beyond which the darkness was pierced
now and then by a shaft of illumination.
The pensiveness that had rested on her
face, when he had looked across the
car at her, had deepened almost into
"And now," he went on, "you have
called me successful—which shuts me
out from your more mature sympathy."
Still she did not answer. He bent a
little nearer to her.
"Believe me, Katharine," he said,
"my success is not so very intoxicating
after all. I need sympathy of a certain
kind as much as I did twenty years
She glanced at him.
"Is that all you want?" she asked
with a swift smile.
"No," he returned boldly; and she
looked away again, out into the darkness
through which they were rushing.
"I had hoped," he went on, "that my
so-called success might be something to
offer you after all this time—something
you would care for—and now I find that
your ideals are all reversed. I have not
won much, but I have won a little, and
you tell me to-day that it is only extreme
youth that cares for the winners."
"And that I have found out that I was
mistaken." Her voice was low, but quite
clear. "Have I not told you that, too?"
"And about experience of life making
us care the more for those who fail in
everything?"—he waited a moment.
"You have not mentioned that that was a
mistake also. I wish you'd stop looking
out of that confounded window," he added
irritably, "and look at me. Heaven
knows I've failed in some things!"
She laughed a little at his tone, but she
did not follow his suggestion.
"Oh, no," she said, "you have succeeded."
"And that means—what?"
"I told you I was sitting among the
ruins of my theories," she said, while a
faint color, which he saw with sudden
pleasure, rose in her cheek.
"That adverse theory—has that gone
"I have had enough of theories," she
declared softly. "What I really care for