The Fraser Scholarship by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Elliot Campbell came down the main staircase of Marwood College and found himself caught up with a whoop into a crowd of Sophs who were struggling around the bulletin board. He was thumped on the back and shaken hands with amid a hurricane of shouts and congratulations.
"Good for you, Campbell! You've won the Fraser. See your little name tacked up there at the top of the list, bracketed off all by itself for the winner? 'Elliott H. Campbell, ninety-two per cent.' A class yell for Campbell, boys!"
While the yell was being given with a heartiness that might have endangered the roof, Elliott, with flushed face and sparkling eyes, pushed nearer to the important typewritten announcement on the bulletin board. Yes, he had won the Fraser Scholarship. His name headed the list of seven competitors.
Roger Brooks, who was at his side, read over the list aloud:
"'Elliott H. Campbell, ninety-two.' I said you'd do it, my boy. 'Edward Stone, ninety-one'--old Ned ran you close, didn't he? But of course with that name he'd no show. 'Kay Milton, eighty-eight.' Who'd have thought slow-going old Kay would have pulled up so well? 'Seddon Brown, eighty-seven; Oliver Field, eighty-four; Arthur McIntyre, eighty-two'--a very respectable little trio. And 'Carl McLean, seventy.' Whew! what a drop! Just saved his distance. It was only his name took him in, of course. He knew you weren't supposed to be strong in mathematics."
Before Elliott could say anything, a professor emerged from the president's private room, bearing the report of a Freshman examination, which he proceeded to post on the Freshman bulletin board, and the rush of the students in that direction left Elliott and Roger free of the crowd. They seized the opportunity to escape.
Elliott drew a long breath as they crossed the campus in the fresh April sunshine, where the buds were swelling on the fine old chestnuts and elms that surrounded Marwood's red brick walls.
"That has lifted a great weight off my mind," he said frankly. "A good deal depended on my winning the Fraser. I couldn't have come back next year if I hadn't got it. That four hundred will put me through the rest of my course."
"That's good," said Roger Brooks heartily.
He liked Elliott Campbell, and so did all the Sophomores. Yet none of them was at all intimate with him. He had no chums, as the other boys had. He boarded alone, "dug" persistently, and took no part in the social life of the college. Roger Brooks came nearest to being his friend of any, yet even Roger knew very little about him. Elliott had never before said so much about his personal affairs as in the speech just recorded.
"I'm poor--woefully poor," went on Elliott gaily. His success seemed to have thawed his reserve for the time being. "I had just enough money to bring me through the Fresh and Soph years by dint of careful management. Now I'm stone broke, and the hope of the Fraser was all that stood between me and the dismal certainty of having to teach next year, dropping out of my class and coming back in two or three years' time, a complete, rusty stranger again. Whew! I made faces over the prospect."
"No wonder," commented Roger. "The class would have been sorry if you had had to drop out, Campbell. We want to keep all our stars with us to make a shining coruscation at the finish. Besides, you know we all like you for yourself. It would have been an everlasting shame if that little cad of a McLean had won out. Nobody likes him."
"Oh, I had no fear of him," answered Elliott. "I don't see what induced him to go in, anyhow. He must have known he'd no chance. But I was afraid of Stone--he's a born dabster at mathematics, you know, and I only hold my own in them by hard digging."
"Why, Stone couldn't have taken the Fraser over you in any case, if you made over seventy," said Roger with a puzzled look. "You must have known that. McLean was the only competitor you had to fear."
"I don't understand you," said Elliott blankly.
"You must know the conditions of the Fraser!" exclaimed Roger.
"Certainly," responded Elliott. "'The Fraser scholarship, amounting to four hundred dollars, will be offered annually in the Sophomore class. The competitors will be expected to take a special examination in mathematics, and the winner will be awarded two hundred dollars for two years, payable in four annual instalments, the payment of any instalment to be conditional on the winner's attending the required classes for undergraduates and making satisfactory progress therein.' Isn't that correct?"
"So far as it goes, old man. You forget the most important part of all. 'Preference is to be given to competitors of the name Fraser, Campbell or McLean, provided that such competitor makes at least seventy per cent in his examination.' You don't mean to tell me that you didn't know that!"
"Are you joking?" demanded Elliott with a pale face.
"Not a joke. Why, man, it's in the calendar."
"I didn't know it," said Elliott slowly. "I read the calendar announcement only once, and I certainly didn't notice that condition."
"Well, that's curious. But how on earth did you escape hearing it talked about? It's always discussed extensively among the boys, especially when there are two competitors of the favoured names, which doesn't often happen."
"I'm not a very sociable fellow," said Elliott with a faint smile. "You know they call me 'the hermit.' As it happened, I never talked the matter over with anyone or heard it referred to. I--I wish I had known this before."
"Why, what difference does it make? It's all right, anyway. But it is odd to think that if your name hadn't been Campbell, the Fraser would have gone to McLean over the heads of Stone and all the rest. Their only hope was that you would both fall below seventy. It's an absurd condition, but there it is in old Professor Fraser's will. He was rich and had no family. So he left a number of bequests to the college on ordinary conditions. I suppose he thought he might humour his whim in one. His widow is a dear old soul, and always makes a special pet of the boy who wins the Fraser. Well, here's my street. So long, Campbell."
Elliott responded almost curtly and walked onward to his boarding-house with a face from which all the light had gone. When he reached his room he took down the Marwood calendar and whirled over the leaves until he came to the announcement of bursaries and scholarships. The Fraser announcement, as far as he had read it, ended at the foot of the page. He turned the leaf and, sure enough, at the top of the next page, in a paragraph by itself, was the condition: "Preference shall be given to candidates of the name Fraser, Campbell or McLean, provided that said competitor makes at least seventy per cent in his examination."
Elliott flung himself into a chair by his table and bowed his head on his hands. He had no right to the Fraser Scholarship. His name was not Campbell, although perhaps nobody in the world knew it save himself, and he remembered it only by an effort of memory.
He had been born in a rough mining camp in British Columbia, and when he was a month old his father, John Hanselpakker, had been killed in a mine explosion, leaving his wife and child quite penniless and almost friendless. One of the miners, an honest, kindly Scotchman named Alexander Campbell, had befriended Mrs. Hanselpakker and her little son in many ways, and two years later she had married him. They returned to their native province of Nova Scotia and settled in a small country village. Here Elliott had grown up, bearing the name of the man who was a kind and loving father to him, and whom he loved as a father. His mother had died when he was ten years old and his stepfather when he was fifteen. On his deathbed he asked Elliott to retain his name.
"I've cared for you and loved you since the time you were born, lad," he said. "You seem like my own son, and I've a fancy to leave you my name. It's all I can leave you, for I'm a poor man, but it's an honest name, lad, and I've kept it free from stain. See that you do likewise, and you'll have your mother's blessing and mine."
Elliott fought a hard battle that spring evening.
"Hold your tongue and keep the Fraser," whispered the tempter. "Campbell is your name. You've borne it all your life. And the condition itself is a ridiculous one--no fairness about it. You made the highest marks and you ought to be the winner. It isn't as if you were wronging Stone or any of the others who worked hard and made good marks. If you throw away what you've won by your own hard labour, the Fraser goes to McLean, who made only seventy. Besides, you need the money and he doesn't. His father is a rich man."
"But I'll be a cheat and a cad if I keep it," Elliott muttered miserably. "Campbell isn't my legal name, and I'd never again feel as if I had even the right of love to it if I stained it by a dishonest act. For it would be stained, even though nobody but myself knew it. Father said it was a clean name when he left it, and I cannot soil it."
The tempter was not silenced so easily as that. Elliott passed a sleepless night of indecision. But next day he went to Marwood and asked for a private interview with the president. As a result, an official announcement was posted that afternoon on the bulletin board to the effect that, owing to a misunderstanding, the Fraser Scholarship had been wrongly awarded. Carl McLean was posted as winner.
The story soon got around the campus, and Elliott found himself rather overwhelmed with sympathy, but he did not feel as if he were very much in need of it after all. It was good to have done the right thing and be able to look your conscience in the face. He was young and strong and could work his own way through Marwood in time.
"No condolences, please," he said to Roger Brooks with a smile. "I'm sorry I lost the Fraser, of course, but I've my hands and brains left. I'm going straight to my boarding-house to dig with double vim, for I've got to take an examination next week for a provincial school certificate. Next winter I'll be a flourishing pedagogue in some up-country district."
He was not, however. The next afternoon he received a summons to the president's office. The president was there, and with him was a plump, motherly-looking woman of about sixty.
"Mrs. Fraser, this is Elliott Hanselpakker, or Campbell, as I understand he prefers to be called. Elliott, I told your story to Mrs. Fraser last evening, and she was greatly interested when she heard your rather peculiar name. She will tell you why herself."
"I had a young half-sister once," said Mrs. Fraser eagerly. "She married a man named John Hanselpakker and went West, and somehow I lost all trace of her. There was, I regret to say, a coolness between us over her marriage. I disapproved of it because she married a very poor man. When I heard your name, it struck me that you might be her son, or at least know something about her. Her name was Mary Helen Rodney, and I loved her very dearly in spite of our foolish quarrel."
There was a tremour in Mrs. Fraser's voice and an answering one in Elliott's as he replied: "Mary Helen Rodney was my dear mother's name, and my father was John Hanselpakker."
"Then you are my nephew," exclaimed Mrs. Fraser. "I am your Aunt Alice. My boy, you don't know how much it means to a lonely old woman to have found you. I'm the happiest person in the world!"
She slipped her arm through Elliott's and turned to the sympathetic president with shining eyes.
"He is my boy forever, if he will be. Blessings on the Fraser Scholarship!"
"Blessings rather on the manly boy who wouldn't keep it under false colours," said the president with a smile. "I think you are fortunate in your nephew, Mrs. Fraser."
So Elliott Hanselpakker Campbell came back to Marwood the next year after all.