Ramsey Milholland by Booth Tarkington
Fred Mitchell, crossing the campus one morning, ten days later, saw Dora standing near the entrance of her dormitory, where he would pass her unless he altered his course; and as he drew nearer her and the details of her face grew into distinctness, he was indignant with himself for feeling less and less indignation toward her in proportion to the closeness of his approach. The pity that came over him was mingled with an unruly admiration, causing him to wonder what unpatriotic stuff he could be made of. She was marked, but not whipped; she still held herself straight under all the hammering and cutting which, to his knowledge, she had been getting.
She stopped him, "for only a moment," she said, adding with a wan profoundness: "That is, if you're not one of those who feel that I shouldn't be 'spoken to'?"
"No," said Fred, stiffly. "I may share their point of view, perhaps, but I don't feel called upon to obtrude it on you in that manner."
"I see," she said, nodding. "I've wanted to speak with you about Ramsey."
She bit her lip, then asked, abruptly: "What made him do it?"
"Enlist as a private with the regulars?"
"No. What made him enlist at all?"
"Only because he's that sort," Fred returned briskly. "He may be inexplicable to people who believe that his going out to fight for his country is the same thing as going out to commit a mur--"
She lifted her hand. "Couldn't you--"
"I beg your pardon," Fred said at once. "I'm sorry, but I don't know just how to explain him to you."
He laughed, apologetically. "Well, you see, as I understand it, you don't think it's possible for a person to have something within him that makes him care so much about his country that he--"
"Wait!" she cried. "Don't you think I'm willing to suffer a little rather than to see my country in the wrong? Don't you think I'm doing it?"
"Well, I don't want to be rude; but, of course, it seems to me that you're suffering because you think you know more about what's right and wrong than anybody else does."
"Oh, no. But I--"
"We wouldn't get anywhere, probably, by arguing it," Fred said. "You asked me."
"I asked you to tell my why he enlisted."
"The trouble is, I don't think I can tell that to anybody who needs an answer. He just went, of course. There isn't any question about it. I always thought he'd be the first to go."
"Oh, no!" she said.
"Yes, I always thought so."
"I think you were mistaken," she said, decidedly. "It was a special reason--to make him act so cruelly."
"Cruelly!" Fred cried.
"Cruel to whom?"
"Oh, to his mother--to his family. To have him go off that way, without a word--"
"Oh, no' he'd been home," Fred corrected her. "He went home the Saturday before he enlisted, and settled it with them. They're all broken up, of course; but when the saw he'd made up his mind, they quit opposing him, and I think they're proud of him about it, maybe, in spite of feeling anxious. You see, his father was an artilleryman in the war with Spain, and his grandfather was a Colonel at the end of the War of the Rebellion, though he went into it as a private, like Ramsey. He died when Ramsey was about twelve; but Ramsey remembers him; he was talking of him a little the night before he enlisted."
Dora made a gesture of despairing protest. "You don't understand!"
"What is it I don't understand?"
"Ramsey! I know why he went--and it's just killing me!"
Fred looked at her gravely. "I don't think you need worry about it," he said. "There's nothing about his going that you are responsible for."
She repeated her despairing gesture. "You don't understand. But it's no use. It doesn't help any to try to talk of it, though I thought maybe it would, somehow." She wnet a little nearer the dormitory entrance, leaving him where he was, then turned. "I suppose you won't see him?"
"I don't know. Most probably not till we meet-if we should--in France. I don't know hwere he's stationed; and I'm going with the aviation--if it's ever ready! And he's with the regulars; he'll probably be among the first to go over."
"I see." She turned sharply away, calling back over her shoulder in a choked voice. "Thankd you. Good-bye!"
But Fred's heart had melted; gazing after her, he saw that her proud young head had lowered now, and that her shoulders were moving convulsively; he ran after her and caught her as she bagan slowly to ascend the dormitory steps.
"See here," he cried. "Don't--"
She lifted a wet face. "No, no! He went in bitterness because I told him to, in my own bitterness! I've killed him! Long ago, when he wasn't much more than a child, I heard he'd said that some day he'd 'show' me, and now he's done it!"
Fred whistled low and long when she had disappeared. "Girls!" he murmured to himself. "Some girls, anyhow--they will be girls! You can't tell 'em what's what, and you can't change 'em, either!"
Then, as more urgent matters again occupied his attention, he went on at an ardent and lively gait to attend his class in map-making.