Susan Lenox: Her Rise and Fall by David Graham Phillips
At breakfast Tempest was precisely as usual, and so were the others. Nor was there effort or any sort of pretense in this. We understand only that to which we are accustomed; the man of peace is amazed by the veteran's nonchalance in presence of danger and horror, of wound and death. To these river wanderers, veterans in the unconventional life, where the unusual is the usual, the unexpected the expected, whatever might happen was the matter of course, to be dealt with and dismissed. Susan naturally took her cue from them. When Tempest said something to her in the course of the careless conversation round the breakfast table, she answered--and had no sense of constraint. Thus, an incident that in other surroundings would have been in some way harmful through receiving the exaggeration of undue emphasis, caused less stir than the five huge and fiery mosquito bites Eshwell had got in the night. And Susan unconsciously absorbed one of those lessons in the science and art of living that have decisive weight in shaping our destinies. For intelligent living is in large part learning to ignore the unprofitable that one may concentrate upon the profitable.
Burlingham announced that they would cast off and float down to Bethlehem. There was a chorus of protests. "Why, we ought to stay here a week!" cried Miss Anstruther. "We certainly caught on last night."
"Didn't we take in seventeen dollars?" demanded Eshwell. "We can't do better than that anywhere."
"Who's managing this show?" asked Burlingham in his suave but effective way. "I think I know what I'm about."
He met their grumblings with the utmost good-humor and remained inflexible. Susan listened with eyes down and burning cheeks. She knew Burlingham was "leaving the best cow unmilked," as Connemora put it, because he wished to protect her. She told him so when they were alone on the forward deck a little later, as the boat was floating round the bend below Sutherland.
"Yes," he admitted. "I've great hopes from your ballads. I want to get you on." He looked round casually, saw that no one was looking, drew a peculiarly folded copy of the Sutherland Courier from his pocket. "Besides"--said he, holding out the paper--"read that."
George Warham, Esq., requests us to announce that he has increased the reward for information as to the whereabouts of Mrs. Susan Ferguson, his young niece, nee Susan Lenox, to one thousand dollars. There are grave fears that the estimable and lovely young lady, who disappeared from her husband's farm the night of her marriage, has, doubtless in a moment of insanity, ended her life. We hope not.
Susan lifted her gaze from this paragraph, after she had read it until the words ran together in a blur. She found Burlingham looking at her. Said he: "As I told you before, I don't want to know anything. But when I read that, it occurred to me, if some of the others saw it they might think it was you--and might do a dirty trick." He sighed, with a cynical little smile. "I was tempted, myself. A thousand is quite a bunch. You don't know--not yet--how a chance to make some money--any old way--compels a man--or a woman--when money's as scarce and as useful as it is in this world. As you get along, you'll notice, my dear, that the people who get moral goose flesh at the shady doings of others are always people who haven't ever really been up against it. I don't know why I didn't----" He shrugged his shoulders. "Now, my dear, you're in on the secret of why I haven't got up in the world." He smiled cheerfully. "But I may yet. The game's far from over."
She realized that he had indeed made an enormous sacrifice for her; for, though very ignorant about money, a thousand dollars seemed a fortune. She had no words; she looked away toward the emerald shore, and her eyes filled and her lip quivered. How much goodness there was in the world--how much generosity and affection!
"I'm not sure," he went on, "that you oughtn't to go back. But it's your own business. I've a kind of feeling you know what you're about."
"No matter what happens to me," said she, "I'll never regret what I've done. I'd kill myself before I'd spend another day with the man they made me marry."
"Well--I'm not fond of dying," observed Burlingham, in the light, jovial tone that would most quickly soothe her agitation, "but I think I'd take my chances with the worms rather than with the dry rot of a backwoods farm. You may not get your meals so regular out in the world, but you certainly do live. Yes--that backwoods life, for anybody with a spark of spunk, is simply being dead and knowing it." He tore the Courier into six pieces, flung them over the side. "None of the others saw the paper," said he. "So--Miss Lorna Sackville is perfectly safe." He patted her on the shoulder. "And she owes me a thousand and two dollars."
"I'll pay--if you'll be patient," said the girl, taking his jest gravely.
"It's a good gamble," said he. Then he laughed. "I guess that had something to do with my virtue. There's always a practical reason--always."
But the girl was not hearing his philosophies. Once more she was overwhelmed and stupefied by the events that had dashed in, upon, and over her like swift succeeding billows that give the swimmer no pause for breath or for clearing the eyes.
"No--you're not dreaming," said Burlingham, laughing at her expression. "At least, no more than we all are. Sometimes I suspect the whole damn shooting-match is nothing but a dream. Well, it's a pretty good one eh?"
And she agreed with him, as she thought how smoothly and agreeably they were drifting into the unknown, full of the most fascinating possibilities. How attractive this life was, how much at home she felt among these people, and if anyone should tell him about her birth or about how she had been degraded by Ferguson, it wouldn't in the least affect their feeling toward her, she was sure. "When do--do you--try me?" she asked.
"Tomorrow night, at Bethlehem--a bum little town for us. We'll stay there a couple of days. I want you to get used to appearing." He nodded at her encouragingly. "You've got stuff in you, real stuff. Don't you doubt it. Get self-confidence--conceit, if you please. Nobody arrives anywhere without it. You want to feel that you can do what you want to do. A fool's conceit is that he's it already. A sensible man's conceit is that he can be it, if he'll only work hard and in the right way. See?"
"I--I think I do," said the girl. "I'm not sure."
Burlingham smoked his cigar in silence. When he spoke, it was with eyes carefully averted. "There's another subject the spirit moves me to talk to you about. That's the one Miss Connemora opened up with you yesterday." As Susan moved uneasily, "Now, don't get scared. I'm not letting the woman business bother me much nowadays. All I think of is how to get on my feet again. I want to have a theater on Broadway before the old black-flagger overtakes my craft and makes me walk the plank and jump out into the Big Guess. So you needn't think I'm going to worry you. I'm not."
"Oh, I didn't think----"
"You ought to have, though," interrupted he. "A man like me is a rare exception. I'm a rare exception to my ordinary self, to be quite honest. It'll be best for you always to assume that every man you run across is looking for just one thing. You know what?"
Susan, the flush gone from her cheeks, nodded.
"I suppose Connemora has put you wise. But there are some things even she don't know about that subject. Now, I want you to listen to your grandfather. Remember what he says. And think it over until you understand it."
"I will," said Susan.
"In the life you've come out of, virtue in a woman's everything. She's got to be virtuous, or at least to have the reputation of it--or she's nothing. You understand that?"
"Yes," said Susan. "I understand that--now."
"Very well. Now in the life you're going into, virtue in a woman is nothing--no more than it is in a man anywhere. The woman who makes a career becomes like the man who makes a career. How is it with a man? Some are virtuous, others are not. But no man lets virtue bother him and nobody bothers about his virtue. That's the way it is with a woman who cuts loose from the conventional life of society and home and all that. She is virtuous or not, as she happens to incline. Her real interest in herself, her real value, lies in another direction. If it doesn't, if she continues to be agitated about her virtue as if it were all there is to her--then the sooner she hikes back to respectability, to the conventional routine, why the better for her. She'll never make a career, any more than she could drive an automobile through a crowded street and at the same time keep a big picture hat on straight. Do you follow me?"
"I'm not sure," said the girl. "I'll have to think about it."
"That's right. Don't misunderstand. I'm not talking for or against virtue. I'm simply talking practical life, and all I mean is that you won't get on there by your virtue, and you won't get on by your lack of virtue. Now for my advice."
Susan's look of unconscious admiration and attention was the subtlest flattery. Its frank, ingenuous showing of her implicit trust in him so impressed him with his responsibility that he hesitated before he said:
"Never forget this, and don't stop thinking about it until you understand it: Make men as men incidental in your life, precisely as men who amount to anything make women as women incidental."
Her first sensation was obviously disappointing. She had expected something far more impressive. Said she:
"I don't care anything about men."
"Be sensible! How are you to know now what you care about and what you don't?" was Burlingham's laughing rebuke. "And in the line you've taken--the stage--with your emotions always being stirred up, with your thoughts always hovering round the relations of men and women--for that's the only subject of plays and music, and with opportunity thrusting at you as it never thrusts at conventional people you'll probably soon find you care a great deal about men. But don't ever let your emotions hinder or hurt or destroy you. Use them to help you. I guess I'm shooting pretty far over that young head of yours, ain't I?"
"Not so very far," said the girl. "Anyhow, I'll remember."
"If you live big enough and long enough, you'll go through three stages. The first is the one you're in now. They've always taught you without realizing it, and so you think that only the strong can afford to do right. You think doing right makes the ordinary person, like yourself, easy prey for those who do wrong. You think that good people--if they're really good--have to wait until they get to Heaven before they get a chance."
"Isn't that so?"
"No. But you'll not realize it until you pass into the second stage. There, you'll think you see that only the strong can afford to do wrong. You'll think that everyone, except the strong, gets it in the neck if he or she does anything out of the way. You'll think you're being punished for your sins, and that, if you had behaved yourself, you'd have got on much better. That's the stage that's coming; and what you go through with there--how you come out of the fight--will decide your fate--show whether or not you've got the real stuff in you. Do you understand?"
Susan shook her head.
"I thought not. You haven't lived long enough yet. Well, I'll finish, anyhow."
"I'll remember," said Susan. "I'll think about it until I do understand."
"I hope so. The weather and the scenery make me feel like philosophizing. Finally, if you come through the second stage all right, you'll enter the third stage. There, you'll see that you were right at first when you thought only the strong could afford to do right. And you'll see that you were right in the second stage when you thought only the strong could afford to do wrong. For you'll have learned that only the strong can afford to act at all, and that they can do right or wrong as they please because they are strong."
"Then you don't believe in right, at all!" exclaimed the girl, much depressed, but whether for the right or for her friend she could not have told.
"Now, who said that?" Demanded he, amused. "What did I say? Why--if you want to do right, be strong or you'll be crushed; and if you want to do wrong, take care again to be strong--or you'll be crushed. My moral is, be strong! In this world the good weaklings and the bad weaklings had better lie low, hide in the tall grass. The strong inherit the earth."
They were silent a long time, she thinking, he observing her with sad tenderness. At last he said:
"You are a nice sweet girl--well brought up. But that means badly brought up for the life you've got to lead--the life you've got to learn to lead."
"I'm beginning to see that," said the girl. Her gravity made him feel like laughing, and brought the tears to his eyes. The laughter he suppressed.
"You're going to fight your way up to what's called the triumphant class--the people on top--they have all the success, all the money, all the good times. Well, the things you've been taught--at church--in the Sunday School--in the nice storybooks you've read--those things are all for the triumphant class, or for people working meekly along in `the station to which God has appointed them' and handing over their earnings to their betters. But those nice moral things you believe in--they don't apply to people like you--fighting their way up from the meek working class to the triumphant class. You won't believe me now--won't understand thoroughly. But soon you'll see. Once you've climbed up among the successful people you can afford to indulge--in moderation--in practicing the good old moralities. Any dirty work you may need done you can hire done and pretend not to know about it. But while you're climbing, no Golden Rule and no turning of the cheek. Tooth and claw then--not sheathed but naked--not by proxy but in your own person."
"But you're not like that," said the girl.
"The more fool I," repeated he.
She was surprised that she understood so much of what he had said--childlike wonder at her wise old heart, made wise almost in a night--a wedding night. When Burlingham lapsed into silence, laughing at himself for having talked so far over the "kiddie's" head, she sat puzzling out what he had said. The world seemed horribly vast and forbidding, and the sky, so blue and bright, seemed far, far away. She sighed profoundly. "I am so weak," she murmured. "I am so ignorant."
Burlingham nodded and winked. "Yes, but you'll grow," said be. "I back you to win."
The color poured into her cheeks, and she burst into tears. Burlingham thought he understood; for once his shrewdness went far astray. Excusably, since he could not know that he had used the same phrase that had closed Spenser's letter to her.
Late in the afternoon, when the heat had abated somewhat and they were floating pleasantly along with the washing gently a-flutter from lines on the roof of the auditorium, Burlingham put Eshwell at the rudder and with Pat and the violin rehearsed her. "The main thing, the only thing to worry about," explained he, "is beginning right." She was standing in the center of the stage, he on the floor of the auditorium beside the seated orchestra. "That means," he went on, "you've simply got to learn to come in right. We'll practice that for a while."
She went to the wings--where there was barely space for her to conceal herself by squeezing tightly against the wall. At the signal from him she walked out. As she had the utmost confidence in his kindness, and as she was always too deeply interested in what she and others were doing to be uncomfortably self-conscious, she was not embarrassed, and thought she made the crossing and took her stand very well. He nodded approvingly. "But," said he, "there's a difference between a stage walk and walking anywhere else--or standing. Nothing is natural on the stage. If it were it would look unnatural, because the stage itself is artificial and whatever is there must be in harmony with it. So everything must be done unnaturally in such a way that it seems natural. Just as a picture boat looks natural though it's painted on a flat surface. Now I'll illustrate."
He gave her his hand to help her jump down; then he climbed to the stage. He went to the wings and walked out. As he came he called her attention to how he poised his body, how he advanced so that there would be from the auditorium no unsightly view of crossing legs, how he arranged hands, arms, shoulders, legs, head, feet for an attitude of complete rest. He repeated his illustration again and again, Susan watching and listening with open-eyed wonder and admiration. She had never dreamed that so simple a matter could be so complex. When he got her up beside him and went through it with her, she soon became as used to the new motions as a beginner at the piano to stretching an octave. But it was only after more than an hour's practice that she moved him to say:
"That'll do for a beginning. Now, we'll sing."
She tried "Suwanee River" first and went through it fairly well, singing to him as he stood back at the rear door. He was enthusiastic--cunning Burlingham, who knew so well how to get the best out of everyone! "Mighty good--eh, Pat? Yes, mighty good. You've got something better than a great voice, my dear. You've got magnetism. The same thing that made me engage you the minute you asked me is going to make you--well, go a long ways--a long ways. Now, we'll try `The Last Rose of Summer.'"
She sang even better. And this improvement continued through the other four songs of her repertoire. His confidence in her was contagious; it was so evident that he really did believe in her. And Pat, too, wagged his head in a way that made her feel good about herself. Then Burlingham called in the others whom he had sent to the forward deck. Before them the girl went all to pieces. She made her entrance badly, she sang worse. And the worse she sang, the worse she felt and the worse her next attempt was. At last, with nerves unstrung, she broke down and sobbed. Burlingham climbed up to pat her on the shoulder.
"That's the best sign yet," said he. "It shows you've got temperament. Yes--you've got the stuff in you."
He quieted her, interested her in the purely mechanical part of what she was doing. "Don't think of who you're doing it before, or of how you're doing it, but only of getting through each step and each note. If your head's full of that, you'll have no room for fright." And she was ready to try again. When she finished the last notes of "Suwanee River," there was an outburst of hearty applause. And the sound that pleased her most was Tempest's rich rhetorical "Bravo!" As a man she abhorred him; but she respected the artist. And in unconsciously drawing this distinction she gave proof of yet another quality that was to count heavily in the coming days. Artist he was not. But she thought him an artist. A girl or boy without the intelligence that can develop into flower and fruit would have seen and felt only Tempest, the odious personality.
Burlingham did not let her off until she was ready to drop with exhaustion. And after supper, when they were floating slowly on, well out of the channel where they might be run down by some passing steamer with a flint-hearted captain or pilot, she had to go at it again. She went to bed early, and she slept without a motion or a break until the odor of the cooking breakfast awakened her. When she came out, her face was bright for the first time. She was smiling, laughing, chatting, was delighted with everything and everybody. Even the thought of Roderick Spenser laid up with a broken leg recurred less often and less vividly. It seemed to her that the leg must be about well. The imagination of healthy youth is reluctant to admit ideas of gloom in any circumstances. In circumstances of excitement and adventure, such as Susan's at that time, it flatly refuses to admit them.
They were at anchor before a little town sprawled upon the fields between hills and river edge. A few loafers were chewing tobacco and inspecting the show boat from the shady side of a pile of lumber. Pat had already gone forth with the bundle of handbills; he was not only waking up the town, but touring the country in horse and buggy, was agitating the farmers--for the show boat was to stay at least two nights at Bethlehem. "And we ought to do pretty well," said Burlingham. "The wheat's about all threshed, and there's a kind of lull. The hayseeds aren't so dead tired at night. A couple of weeks ago we couldn't have got half a house by paying for it."
As the afternoon wore away and the sun disappeared behind the hills to the southwest, Susan's spirits oozed. Burlingham and the others--deliberately--paid no attention to her, acted as if no great, universe-stirring event were impending. Immediately after supper Burlingham said:
"Now, Vi, get busy and put her into her harness. Make her a work of art."
Never was there a finer display of unselfishness than in their eagerness to help her succeed, in their intense nervous anxiety lest she should not make a hit. The bad in human nature, as Mabel Connemora had said, is indeed almost entirely if not entirely the result of the compulsion of circumstances; the good is the natural outcropping of normal instincts, and resumes control whenever circumstances permit. These wandering players had suffered too much not to have the keenest and gentlest sympathy. Susan looked on Tempest as a wicked man; yet she could not but be touched by his almost hysterical excitement over her debut, when the near approach of the hour made it impossible for his emotional temperament longer to hide its agitation. Every one of them gave or loaned her a talisman--Tempest, a bit of rabbit's foot; Anstruther, a ring that had twice saved her from drowning (at least, it had been on her finger each time); Connemora, a hunchback's tooth on a faded velvet string; Pat, a penny which happened to be of the date of her birth year (the presence of the penny was regarded by all as a most encouraging sign); Eshwell loaned her a miniature silver bug he wore on his watch chain; Burlingham's contribution was a large buckeye----"Ever since I've had that, I've never been without at least the price of a meal in my pocket."
They had got together for her a kind of evening dress, a pale blue chiffon-like drapery that left her lovely arms and shoulders bare and clung softly to the lines of her figure. They did her hair up in a graceful sweep from the brow and a simple coil behind. She looked like a woman, yet like a child dressed as a woman, too, for there was as always that exuberant vitality which made each of the hairs of her head seem individual, electric. The rouge gave her color, enhanced into splendor the brilliance of her violet-gray eyes--eyes so intensely colored and so admirably framed that they were noted by the least observant. When Anstruther had put the last touches to her toilet and paraded her to the others, there was a chorus of enthusiasm. The men no less than the women viewed her with the professional eye.
"Didn't I tell you all?" cried Burlingham, as they looked her up and down like a group of connoisseurs inspecting a statue. "Wasn't I right?"
"`It is the dawn, and Juliet is the east,'" orated Tempest in rich, romantic tones.
"A damn shame to waste her on these yaps," said Eshwell.
Connemora embraced her with tearful eyes. "And as sweet as you are lovely, you dear!" she cried. "You simply can't help winning."
The two women thought her greatest charms were her form and her feet and ankles. The men insisted that her charm of charms was her eyes. And certainly, much could be said for that view. Susan's violet-gray eyes, growing grayer when she was thoughtful, growing deeper and clearer and softer shining violet when her emotions were touched--Susan's eyes were undoubtedly unusual even in a race in which homely eyes are the exception.
When it was her turn and she emerged into the glare of the footlights, she came to a full stop and an awful wave of weakness leaped up through legs and body to blind her eyes and crash upon her brain. She shook her head, lifted it high like a swimmer shaking off a wave. Her gaze leaped in terror across the blackness of the auditorium with its thick-strewn round white disks of human faces, sought the eyes of Burlingham standing in full view in the center of the rear doorway--where he had told her to look for him. She heard Pat playing the last of the opening chords; Burlingham lifted his hand like a leader's baton. And naturally and sweetly the notes, the words of the old darkey song of longing for home began to float out through the stillness.
She did not take her gaze from Burlingham. She sang her best, sang to please him, to show him how she appreciated what he had done for her. And when she finished and bowed, the outburst of applause unnerved her, sent her dizzy and almost staggering into the wings. "Splendid! Splendid!" cried Mabel, and Anstruther embraced her, and Tempest and Eshwell kissed her hands. They all joined in pushing her out again for the encore--"Blue Alsatian Mountains." She did not sing quite so steadily, but got through in good form, the tremolo of nervousness in her voice adding to the wailing pathos of the song's refrain:
Ade, ade, ade, such dreams must pass away, But the Blue Alsatian Mountains seem to watch and wait alway.
The crowd clapped, stamped, whistled, shouted; but Burlingham defied it. "The lady will sing again later," he cried. "The next number on the regular program is," etc., etc. The crowd yelled; Burlingham stood firm, and up went the curtain on Eshwell and Connemora's sketch. It got no applause. Nor did any other numbers on the program. The contrast between the others and the beauty of the girl, her delicate sweetness, her vital youth, her freshness of the early morning flower, was inevitable.
The crowd could think only of her. The quality of magnetism aside, she had sung neither very well nor very badly. But had she sung badly, still her beauty would have won her the same triumph. When she came on for her second number with a cloud-like azure chiffon flung carelessly over her dark hair as a scarf, Spanish fashion, she received a stirring welcome. It frightened her, so that Pat had to begin four times before her voice faintly took up the tune. Again Burlingham's encouraging, confident gaze, flung across the gap between them like a strong rescuing hand, strengthened her to her task. This time he let the crowd have two encores--and the show was over; for the astute manager, seeing how the girl had caught on, had moved her second number to the end.
Burlingham lingered in the entrance to the auditorium to feast himself on the comments of the crowd as it passed out. When he went back he had to search for the girl, found her all in a heap in a chair at the outer edge of the forward deck. She was sobbing piteously. "Well, for God's sake!" cried he. "Is this the way you take it!"
She lifted her head. "Did I do very badly?" she asked.
"You swept 'em off their big hulking feet," replied he.
"When you didn't come, I thought I'd disappointed you."
"I'll bet my hand there never was such a hit made in a river show boat--and they've graduated some of the swells of the profession. We'll play here a week to crowded houses--matinees every day, too. And this is a two-night stand usually. I must find some more songs." He slapped his thigh. "The very thing!" he cried. "We'll ring in some hymns. `Rock of Ages,' say--and `Jesus, Lover of my Soul'--and you can get 'em off in a churchy kind of costume something like a surplice. That'll knock 'em stiff. And Anstruther can dope out the accompaniments on that wheezer. What d'you think?"
"Whatever you want," said the girl. "Oh, I am so glad!"
"I don't see how you got through so well," said he.
"I didn't dare fail," replied Susan. "If I had, I couldn't have faced you." And by the light of the waning moon he saw the passionate gratitude of her sensitive young face.
"Oh--I've done nothing," said he, wiping the tears from his eyes--for he had his full share of the impulsive, sentimental temperament of his profession. "Pure selfishness."
Susan gazed at him with eyes of the pure deep violet of strongest feeling. "I know what you did," she said in a low voice. "And--I'd die for you."
Burlingham had to use his handkerchief in dealing with his eyes now. "This business has given me hysterics," said he with a queer attempt at a laugh. Then, after a moment, "God bless you, little girl. You wait here a moment. I'll see how supper's getting on."
He wished to go ahead of her, for he had a shrewd suspicion as to the state of mind of the rest of the company. And he was right. There they sat in the litter of peanut hulls, popcorn, and fruit skins which the audience had left. On every countenance was jealous gloom.
"What's wrong?" inquired Burlingham in his cheerful derisive way. "You are a nice bunch, you are!"
They shifted uneasily. Mabel snapped out, "Where's the infant prodigy? Is she so stuck on herself already that she won't associate with us?"
"You grown-up babies," mocked Burlingham. "I found her out there crying in darkness because she thought she'd failed. Now you go bring her in, Conny. As for the rest of you, I'm disgusted. Here we've hit on something that'll land us in Easy Street, and you're all filled up with poison."
They were ashamed of themselves. Burlingham had brought back to them vividly the girl's simplicity and sweetness that had won their hearts, even the hearts of the women in whom jealousy of her young beauty would have been more than excusable. Anstruther began to get out the supper dishes and Mabel slipped away toward the forward deck. "When the child comes in," pursued Burlingham, "I want to see you people looking and acting human."
"We are a lot of damn fools," admitted Eshwell. "That's why we're bum actors instead of doing well at some respectable business."
And his jealousy went the way of Violet's and Mabel's. Pat began to remember that he had shared in the triumph--where would she have been without his violin work? But Tempest remained somber. In his case better nature was having a particularly hard time of it. His vanity had got savage wounds from the hoots and the "Oh, bite it off, hamfat," which had greeted his impressive lecture on the magic lantern pictures. He eyed Burlingham glumly. He exonerated the girl, but not Burlingham. He was convinced that the manager, in a spirit of mean revenge, had put up a job on him. It simply could not be in the ordinary course that any audience, without some sly trickery of prompting from an old expert of theatrical "double-crossing," would be impatient for a mere chit of an amateur when it might listen to his rich, mellow eloquence.
Susan came shyly--and at the first glance into her face her associates despised themselves for their pettiness. It is impossible for envy and jealousy and hatred to stand before the light of such a nature as Susan's. Away from her these very human friends of hers might hate her--but in her presence they could not resist the charm of her sincerity.
Everyone's spirits went up with the supper. It was Pat who said to Burlingham, "Bob, we're going to let the pullet in on the profits equally, aren't we?"
"Sure," replied Burlingham. "Anybody kicking?"
The others protested enthusiastically except Tempest, who shot a glance of fiery scorn at Burlingham over a fork laden with potato salad. "Then--you're elected, Miss Sackville," said Burlingham.
Susan's puzzled eyes demanded an explanation. "Just this," said he. "We divide equally at the end of the trip all we've raked in, after the rent of the boat and expenses are taken off. You get your equal share exactly as if you started with us."
"But that wouldn't be fair," protested the girl. "I must pay what I owe you first."
"She means two dollars she borrowed of me at Carrollton," explained Burlingham. And they all laughed uproariously.
"I'll only take what's fair," said the girl.
"I vote we give it all to her," rolled out Tempest in tragedy's tone for classic satire.
Before Mabel could hurl at him the probably coarse retort she instantly got her lips ready to make, Burlingham's cool, peace-compelling tones broke in:
"Miss Sackville's right. She must get only what's fair. She shares equally from tonight on--less two dollars."
Susan nodded delightedly. She did not know--and the others did not at the excited moment recall--that the company was to date eleven dollars less well off than when it started from the headwaters of the Ohio in early June. But Burlingham knew, and that was the cause of the quiet grin to which he treated himself.