Arrowsmith, by Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 9

The persistent yammer of a motor horn drew Martin to the window of the laboratory, a late afternoon in February. He looked down on a startling roadster, all streamlines and cream paint, with enormous headlights. He slowly made out that the driver, a young man in coffee-colored loose motor coat and hectic checked cap and intense neckwear, was Clif Clawson, and that Clif was beckoning.

He hastened down, and Clif cried:

“Oh, boy! How do you like the boat? Do you diagnose this suit? Scotch heather — honest! Uncle Clif has nabbed off a twenty-five-buck-a-week job WITH commissions, selling autos. Boy, I was lost in your old medic school. I can sell anything to anybody. In a year I’ll be making eighty a week. Jump in, old son. I’m going to take you in to the Grand and blow you to the handsomest feed you ever stuffed into your skinny organism.”

The thirty-eight miles an hour at which Clif drove into Zenith was, in 1908, dismaying speed. Martin discovered a new Clif. He was as noisy as ever, but more sure, glowing with schemes for immediately acquiring large sums of money. His hair, once bushy and greasy in front, tending to stick out jaggedly behind, was sleek now, and his face had the pinkness of massage. He stopped at the fabulous Grand Hotel with a jar of brakes; before he left the car he changed his violent yellow driving-gauntlets for a pair of gray gloves with black stitching, which he immediately removed as he paraded through the lobby. He called the coat-girl “Sweetie,” and at the dining-room door he addressed the head-waiter:

“Ah, Gus, how’s the boy, how’s the boy feeling tonight? How’s the mucho famoso majordomoso? Gus, want to make you ‘quainted with Dr. Arrowsmith. Any time the doc comes here I want you to shake a leg and hand him out that well-known service, my boy, and give him anything he wants, and if he’s broke, you charge it to me. Now, Gus, I want a nice little table for two, with garage and hot and cold water, and wouldst fain have thy advice, Gustavus, on the oysters and hore duffers and all the ingredients fair of a Maecenan feast.”

“Yes, sir, right this way, Mr. Clawson,” breathed the headwaiter.

Clif whispered to Martin, “I’ve got him like that in two weeks! You watch my smoke!”

While Clif was ordering, a man stopped beside their table. He resembled an earnest traveling-man who liked to get back to his suburban bungalow every Saturday evening. He was beginning to grow slightly bald, slightly plump. His rimless eyeglasses, in the midst of a round smooth face, made him seem innocent. He stared about as though he wished he had someone with whom to dine. Clif darted up, patted the man’s elbow, and bawled:

“Ah, there, Babski, old boy. Feeding with anybody? Come join the Sporting Gents’ Association.”

“All right, be glad to. Wife’s out of town,” said the man.

“Shake hands with Dr. Arrowsmith Mart, meet George F. Babbitt, the hoch-gecelebrated Zenith real-estate king. Mr. Babbitt has just adorned his thirty-fourth birthday by buying his first benzine buggy from yours truly and beg to remain as always.”

It was, at least on the part of Clif and Mr. Babbitt, a mirthful affair, and when Martin had joined them in cocktails, St. Louis beer, and highballs, he saw that Clif was the most generous person now living, and Mr. George F. Babbitt a companion of charm.

Clif explained how certain he was — apparently his distinguished medical training had something to do with it — to be president of a motor factory, and Mr. Babbitt confided:

“You fellows are a lot younger than I am, eight-ten years, and you haven’t learned yet, like I have, that where the big pleasure is, is in Ideals and Service and a Public Career. Now just between you and me and the gatepost, my vogue doesn’t lie in real estate but in oratory. Fact, one time I planned to study law and go right in for politics. Just between ourselves, and I don’t want this to go any farther, I’ve been making some pretty good affiliations lately — been meeting some of the rising young Republican politicians. Of course a fellow has got to start in modestly, but I may say, sotto voce, that I expect to run for alderman next fall. It’s practically only a step from that to mayor and then to governor of the state, and if I find the career suits me, there’s no reason why in ten or twelve years, say in 1918 or 1920, I shouldn’t have the honor of representing the great state of Winnemac in Washington, D. C.!”

In the presence of a Napoleon like Clif and a Gladstone like George F. Babbitt, Martin perceived his own lack of power and business skill, and when he had returned to Mohalis he was restless. Of his poverty he had rarely thought, but now, in contrast to Clif’s rich ease, his own shabby clothes and his pinched room seemed shameful.

ii

A long letter from Leora, hinting that she might not be able to return to Zenith, left him the more lonely. Nothing seemed worth doing. In that listless state he was mooning about the laboratory during elementary bacteriology demonstration hour, when Gottlieb sent him to the basement to bring up six male rabbits for inoculation. Gottlieb was working eighteen hours a day on new experiments; he was jumpy and testy; he gave orders like insults. When Martin came dreamily back with six females instead of males, Gottlieb shrieked at him, “You are the worst fool that was ever in this lab!”

The groundlings, second-year men who were not unmindful of Martin’s own scoldings, tittered like small animals, and jarred him into raging, “Well, I couldn’t make out what you said. And it’s the first time I ever fell down. I won’t stand your talking to me like that!”

“You will stand anything I say! Clumsy! You can take your hat and get out!”

“You mean I’m fired as assistant?”

“I am glad you haf enough intelligence to understand that, no matter how wretched I talk!”

Martin flung away. Gottlieb suddenly looked bewildered and took a step toward Martin’s retreating back. But the class, the small giggling animals, they stood delighted, hoping for more, and Gottlieb shrugged, glared them into terror, sent the least awkward of them for the rabbits, and went on, curiously quiet.

And Martin, at Barney’s dive, was hotly drinking the first of the whiskys which sent him wandering all night, by himself. With each drink he admitted that he had an excellent chance to become a drunkard, and with each he boasted that he did not care. Had Leora been nearer than Wheatsylvania twelve hundred miles away, he would have fled to her for salvation. He was still shaky next morning, and he had already taken a drink to make it possible to live through the morning when he received the note from Dean Silva bidding him report to the office at once.

The dean lectured:

“Arrowsmith, you’ve been discussed a good deal by the faculty council of late. Except in one or two courses — in my own I have no fault to find — you have been very inattentive. Your marks have been all right, but you could do still better. Recently you have also been drinking. You have been seen in places of very low repute, and you have been intimate with a man who took it upon himself to insult me, the Founder, our guests, and the University. Various faculty members have complained of your superior attitude — making fun of our courses right out in class! But Dr. Gottlieb has always warmly defended you. He insisted that you have a real flair for investigative science. Last night, however, he admitted that you had recently been impertinent to him. Now unless you immediately turn over a new leaf, young man, I shall have to suspend you for the rest of the year and, if that doesn’t do the work, I shall have to ask for your resignation. And I think it might be a good thing for your humility — you seem to have the pride of the devil, young man! — it might be a good idea for you to see Dr. Gottlieb and start off your reformation by apologizing —”

It was the whisky spoke, not Martin:

“I’m damned if I will! He can go to the devil! I’ve given him my life, and then he tattles on me —”

“That’s absolutely unfair to Dr. Gottlieb. He merely —”

“Sure. He merely let me down. I’ll see him in hell before I’ll apologize, after the way I’ve worked for him. And as for Clif Clawson that you were hinting at — him ‘take it on himself to insult anybody’? He just played a joke, and you went after his scalp. I’m glad he did it!”

Then Martin waited for the words that would end his scientific life.

The little man, the rosy, pudgy, good little man, he stared and hummed and spoke softly:

“Arrowsmith, I could fire you right now, of course, but I believe you have good stuff in you. I decline to let you go. Naturally, you’re suspended, at least till you come to your senses and apologize to me and to Gottlieb.” He was fatherly; almost he made Martin repent; but he concluded, “And as for Clawson, his ‘joke’ regarding this Benoni Carr person — and why I never looked the fellow up is beyond me, I suppose I was too busy — his ‘joke,’ as you call it, was the action either of an idiot or a blackguard, and until you are able to perceive that fact, I don’t think you will be ready to come back to us.”

“All right,” said Martin, and left the room.

He was very sorry for himself. The real tragedy, he felt, was that though Gottlieb had betrayed him and ended his career, ended the possibility of his mastering science and of marrying Leora, he still worshiped the man.

He said good-by to no one in Mohalis save his landlady. He packed, and it was a simple packing. He stuffed his books, his notes, a shabby suit, his inadequate linen, and his one glory, the dinner clothes, into his unwieldy imitation-leather bag. He remembered with drunken tears the hour of buying the dinner jacket.

Martin’s money, from his father’s tiny estate, came in bimonthly checks from the bank at Elk Mills. He had now but six dollars.

In Zenith he left his bag at the interurban trolley station and sought Clif, whom he found practicing eloquence over a beautiful pearl-gray motor hearse, in which a beer-fed undertaker was jovially interested. He waited, sitting hunched and twisted on the steel running-board of a limousine. He resented but he was too listless to resent greatly the stares of the other salesmen and the girl stenographers.

Clif dashed up, bumbling, “Well, well, how’s the boy? Come out and catchum little drink.”

“I could use one.”

Martin knew that Clif was staring at him. As they entered the bar of the Grand Hotel, with its paintings of lovely but absent-minded ladies, its mirrors, its thick marble rail along a mahogany bar, he blurted:

“Well, I got mine, too. Dad Silva’s fired me, for general footlessness. I’m going to bum around a little and then get some kind of a job. God, but I’m tired and nervous! Say, can you lend me some money?”

“You bet. All I’ve got. How much you want?”

“Guess I’ll need a hundred dollars. May drift around quite some time.”

“Golly, I haven’t got that much, but prob’ly I can raise it at the office. Here, sit down at this table and wait for me.”

How Clif obtained the hundred dollars has never been explained, but he was back with it in a quarter-hour. They went on to dinner, and Martin had much too much whisky. Clif took him to his own boarding-house — which was decidedly less promissory of prosperity than Clif’s clothes — firmly gave him a cold bath to bring him to, and put him to bed. Next morning he offered to find a job for him, but Martin refused and left Zenith by the northbound train at noon.

Always, in America, there remains from pioneer days a cheerful pariahdom of shabby young men who prowl causelessly from state to state, from gang to gang, in the power of the Wanderlust. They wear black sateen shirts, and carry bundles. They are not permanently tramps. They have home towns to which they return, to work quietly in the factory or the section-gang for a year — for a week — and as quietly to disappear again. They crowd the smoking cars at night; they sit silent on benches in filthy stations; they know all the land yet of it they know nothing, because in a hundred cities they see only the employment agencies, the all-night lunches, the blind-pigs, the scabrous lodging-houses. Into that world of voyageurs Martin vanished. Drinking steadily, only half-conscious of whither he was going, of what he desired to do, shamefully haunted by Leora and Clif and the swift hands of Gottlieb, he flitted from Zenith to the city of Sparta, across to Ohio, up into Michigan, west to Illinois. His mind was a shambles. He could never quite remember, afterward, where he had been. Once, it is clear, he was soda-fountain clerk in a Minnemagantic drug-store. Once he must have been, for a week, dishwasher in the stench of a cheap restaurant. He wandered by freight trains, on blind baggages, on foot. To his fellow prospectors he was known as “Slim,” the worst-tempered and most restless of all their company.

After a time a sense of direction began to appear in his crazy drifting. He was instinctively headed westward, and to the west, toward the long prairie dusk, Leora was waiting. For a day or two he stopped drinking. He woke up feeling not like the sickly hobo called “Slim,” but like Martin Arrowsmith, and he pondered, with his mind running clear, “Why shouldn’t I go back? Maybe this hasn’t been so bad for me. I was working too hard. I was pretty high-strung. Blew up. Like to, uh — Wonder what happened to my rabbits? . . . Will they ever let me do research again?”

But to return to the University before he had seen Leora was impossible. His need of her was an obsession, making the rest of earth absurd and worthless. He had, with blurry cunning, saved most of the hundred dollars he had taken from Clif; he had lived — very badly, on grease — swimming stews and soda-reeking bread — by what he earned along the way. Suddenly, on no particular day, in no particular town in Wisconsin, he stalked to the station, bought a ticket to Wheatsylvania, North Dakota, and telegraphed to Leora, “Coming 2:43 tomorrow Wednesday Sandy.”

iii

He crossed the wide Mississippi into Minnesota. He changed trains at St. Paul; he rolled into gusty vastnesses of snow, cut by thin lines of fence-wire. He felt free, in release from the little fields of Winnemac and Ohio, in relaxation from the shaky nerves of midnight study and midnight booziness. He remembered his days of wire-stringing in Montana and regained that careless peace. Sunset was a surf of crimson, and by night, when he stepped from the choking railroad coach and tramped the platform at Sauk Centre, he drank the icy air and looked up to the vast and solitary winter stars. The fan of the Northern Lights frightened and glorified the sky. He returned to the coach with the energy of that courageous land. He nodded and gurgled in brief smothering sleep; he sprawled on the seat and talked with friendly fellow vagrants; he drank bitter coffee and ate enormously of buckwheat cakes at a station restaurant; and so, changing at anonymous towns, he came at last to the squatty shelters, the two wheat-elevators, the cattle-pen, the oil-tank, and the red box of a station with its slushy platform, which composed the outskirts of Wheatsylvania. Against the station, absurd in a huge coonskin coat, stood Leora. He must have looked a little mad as he stared at her from the vestibule, as he shivered with the wind. She lifted to him her two open hands, childish in red mittens. He ran down, he dropped his awkward bag on the platform and, unaware of the gaping furry farmers, they were lost in a kiss.

Years after, in a tropic noon, he remembered the freshness of her wind-cooled cheeks.

The train was gone, pounding out of the tiny station. It had stood like a dark wall beside the platform, protecting them, but now the light from the snowfields glared in on them and left them exposed and self-conscious.

“What — what’s happened?” she fluttered. “No letters. I was so frightened.”

“Off bumming. The dean suspended me — being fresh to profs. D’ y’ care?”

“Course not, if you wanted to —”

“I’ve come to marry you.”

“I don’t see how we can, dearest, but — All right. There’ll be a lovely row with Dad.” She laughed. “He’s always so surprised and HURT when anything happens that he didn’t plan out. It’ll be nice to have you with me in the scrap, because you aren’t supposed to know that he expects to plan out everything for everybody and — Oh, Sandy, I’ve been so lonely for you! Mother isn’t really a bit sick, not the least bit, but they go on keeping me here. I think probably somebody hinted to Dad that folks were saying he must be broke, if his dear little daughter had to go off and learn nursing, and he hasn’t worried it all out yet — it takes Andrew Jackson Tozer about a year to worry out anything. Oh, Sandy! You’re here!”

After the clatter and jam of the train, the village seemed blankly empty. He could have walked around the borders of Wheatsylvania in ten minutes. Probably to Leora one building differed from another — she appeared to distinguish between the general store of Norblom and that of Frazier & Lamb — but to Martin the two-story wooden shacks creeping aimlessly along the wide Main Street were featureless and inappreciable. Then “There’s our house, end of the next block,” said Leora, as they turned the corner at the feed and implement store, and in a panic of embarrassment Martin wanted to halt. He saw a storm coming: Mr. Tozer denouncing him as a failure who desired to ruin Leora, Mrs. Tozer weeping.

“Say — say — say — have you told ’em about me?” he stammered.

“Yes. Sort of. I said you were a wonder in medic school, and maybe we’d get married when you finished your internship, and then when your wire came, they wanted to know why you were coming, and why it was you wired from Wisconsin, and what color necktie you had on when you were sending the wire, and I couldn’t make ’em understand I didn’t know. They discussed it. Quite a lot. They do discuss things. All through supper. Solemn. Oh, Sandy, do curse and swear some at meals.”

He was in a funk. Her parents, formerly amusing figures in a story, became oppressively real in sight of the wide, brown, porchy house. A large plate-glass window with a colored border had recently been cut through the wall, as a sign of prosperity, and the garage was new and authoritative.

He tagged after Leora, expecting the blast. Mrs. Tozer opened the door, and stared at him plaintively — a thin, faded, unhumorous woman. She bowed as though he was not so much unwelcome as unexplained and doubtful.

“Will you show Mr. Arrowsmith his room, Ory, or shall I?” she peeped.

It was the kind of house that has a large phonograph but no books, and if there were any pictures, as beyond hope there must have been, Martin never remembered them. The bed in his room was lumpy but covered with a chaste figured spread, and the flowery pitcher and bowl rested on a cover embroidered in red with lambs, frogs, water lilies, and a pious motto.

He took as long as he could in unpacking things which needed no unpacking, and hesitated down the stairs. No one was in the parlor, which smelled of furnace-heat and balsam pillows; then, from nowhere apparent, Mrs. Tozer was there, worrying about him and trying to think of something polite to say.

“Did you have a comfortable trip on the train?”

“Oh, yes, it was — Well, it was pretty crowded.”

“Oh, was it crowded?”

“Yes, there were a lot of people traveling.”

“Were there? I suppose — Yes. Sometimes I wonder where all the people can be going that you see going places all the time. Did you — was it very cold in the Cities — in Minneapolis and St. Paul?”

“Yes, it was pretty cold.”

“Oh, was it cold?”

Mrs. Tozer was so still, so anxiously polite. He felt like a burglar taken for a guest, and intensely he wondered where Leora could be. She came in serenely, with coffee and a tremendous Swedish coffee-ring voluptuous with raisins and glistening brown sugar, and she had them talking, almost easily, about the coldness of winter and the value of Fords when into the midst of all this brightness slid Mr. Andrew Jackson Tozer, and they drooped again to politeness.

Mr. Tozer was as thin and undistinguished and sun-worn as his wife, and like her he peered, he kept silence and fretted. He was astonished by everything in the world that did not bear on his grain elevator, his creamery, his tiny bank, the United Brethren Church, and the careful conduct of an Overland car. It was not astounding that he should have become almost rich, for he accepted nothing that was not natural and convenient to Andrew Jackson Tozer.

He hinted a desire to know whether Martin “drank,” how prosperous he was, and how he could possibly have come all this way from the urbanities of Winnemac. (The Tozers were born in Illinois, but they had been in Dakota since childhood, and they regarded Wisconsin as the farthest, most perilous rim of the Eastern horizon.) They were so blank, so creepily polite, that Martin was able to avoid such unpleasant subjects as being suspended. He dandled an impression that he was an earnest young medic who in no time at all would be making large and suitable sums of money for the support of their Leora, but as he was beginning to lean back in his chair he was betrayed by the appearance of Leora’s brother.

Bert Tozer, Albert R. Tozer, cashier and vice-president of the Wheatsylvania State Bank, auditor and vice-president of the Tozer Grain and Storage Company, treasurer and vice-president of the Star Creamery, was not in the least afflicted by the listening dubiousness of his parents. Bertie was a very articulate and modern man of affairs. He had buck teeth, and on his eye-glasses was a gold chain leading to a dainty hook behind his left ear. He believed in town-boosting, organized motor tours, Boy Scouts, baseball, and the hanging of I.W.W.‘s; and his most dolorous regret was that Wheatsylvania was too small — as yet — to have a Y.M.C.A. or a Commercial Club. Plunging in beside him was his fiancee, Miss Ada Quist, daughter of the feed and implement store. Her nose was sharp, but not so sharp as her voice or the suspiciousness with which she faced Martin.

“This Arrowswith?” demanded Bert. “Huh! Well, guess you’re glad to be out here in God’s country!”

“Yes, it’s fine —”

“Trouble with the Eastern states is, they haven’t got the git, or the room to grow. You ought to see a real Dakota harvest! Look here, how come you’re away from school this time of year?”

“Why —”

“I know all about school-terms. I went to business college in Grand Forks. How come you can get away now?”

“I took a little lay-off.”

“Leora says you and her are thinking of getting married.”

“We —”

“Got any cash outside your school-money?”

“I have not!”

“Thought so! How juh expect to support a wife?”

“I suppose I’ll be practicing medicine some day.”

“Some day! Then what’s the use of talking about being engaged till you can support a wife?”

“That,” interrupted Bert’s lady-love, Miss Ada Quist, “that’s just what I said, Ory!” She seemed to speak with her pointed nose as much as with her button of a mouth. “If Bert and I can wait, I guess other people can!”

Mrs. Tozer whimpered, “Don’t be too hard on Mr. Arrowsmith, Bertie. I’m sure he wants to do the right thing.”

“I’m not being hard on anybody! I’m being sensible. If Pa and you would tend to things instead of standing around fussing, I wouldn’t have to butt in. I don’t believe in interfering with anybody else’s doings, or anybody interfering with mine. Live and let live and mind your own business is my motto, and that’s what I said to Alec Ingleblad the other day when I was in there having a shave and he was trying to get funny about our holding so many mortgages, but I’ll be blamed if I’m going to allow a fellow that I don’t know anything about to come snooping around My Sister till I find out something about his prospects!”

Leora crooned, “Bertie, lamb, your tie is climbing your collar again.”

“Yes and YOU, Ory,” shrieked Bert, “if it wasn’t for me you’d have married Sam Petchek, two years ago!”

Bert further said, with instances and illustrations, that she was light-minded, and as for nursing — NURSING!

She said that Bert was what he was, and tried to explain to Martin the matter of Sam Petchek. (It has never yet been altogether explained.)

Ada Quist said that Leora did not care if she broke her dear parents’ hearts and ruined Bert’s career.

Martin said, “Look here, I—” and never got farther. Mr. and Mrs. Tozer said they were all to be calm, and of course Bert didn’t mean — But really, it was true; they had to be sensible, and how Mr. Arrowsmith could expect to support a wife —

The conference lasted till nine-thirty, which, as Mr. Tozer pointed out, was everybody’s bedtime, and except for the five-minute discussion as to whether Miss Ada Quist was to stay to supper, and the debate on the saltiness of this last cornbeef, they clave faithfully to the inquiry as to whether Martin and Leora were engaged. All persons interested, which apparently did not include Martin and Leora, decided that they were not. Bert ushered Martin upstairs. He saw to it that the lovers should not have a chance for a good-night kiss; and until Mr. Tozer called down the hall, at seven minutes after ten, “You going to stay up and chew the rag the whole blessed night, Bert?” he made himself agreeable by sitting on Martin’s bed, looking derisively at his shabby baggage, and demanding the details of his parentage, religion, politics, and attitude toward the horrors of card-playing and dancing.

At breakfast they all hoped that Martin would stay one more night in their home — plenty of room.

Bert stated that Martin would come down-town at ten and be shown the bank, creamery, and wheat elevator.

But at ten Martin and Leora were on the eastbound train. They got out at the county seat, Leopolis, a vast city of four thousand population, with a three-story building. At one that afternoon they were married, by the German Lutheran pastor. His study was a bareness surrounding a large, rusty wood-stove, and the witnesses, the pastor’s wife and an old German who had been shoveling walks, sat on the wood-box and looked drowsy. Not till they had caught the afternoon train for Wheatsylvania did Martin and Leora escape from the ghostly apprehension which had hunted them all day. In the fetid train, huddled close, hands locked, innocently free of the alienation which the pomposity of weddings sometimes casts between lovers, they sighed, “Now what are we going to do — what ARE we going to do?”

At the Wheatsylvania station they were met by the whole family, rampant.

Bert had suspected elopement. He had searched half a dozen towns by long-distance telephone, and got through to the county clerk just after the license had been granted. It did not soften Bert’s mood to have the clerk remark that if Martin and Leora were of age, there was nothing he could do, and he didn’t “care a damn who’s talking — I’m running this Office!”

Bert had come to the station determined to make Martin perfect, even as Bert Tozer was perfect, and to do it right now.

It was a dreadful evening in the Tozer mansion.

Mr. Tozer said, with length, that Martin had undertaken responsibilities.

Mrs. Tozer wept, and said that she hoped Ory had not, for certain reasons, HAD to be married —

Bert said that if such was the case, he’d kill Martin —

Ada Quist said that Ory could now see what came of pride and boasting about going off to her old Zenith —

Mr. Tozer said that there was one good thing about it, anyway: Ory could see for herself that they couldn’t let her go back to nursing school and get into more difficulties —

Martin from time to time offered remarks to the effect that he was a good young man, a wonderful bacteriologist, and able to take care of HIS wife; but no one save Leora listened.

Bert further propounded (while his father squeaked, “Now don’t be TOO hard on the boy,”) that if Martin THOUGHT for one single SECOND that he was going to get one red CENT out of the Tozers because he’d gone and butted IN where nobody’d INVITED him, he, Bert, wanted to KNOW about it, that was all, he certainly wanted to KNOW about it!

And Leora watched them, turning her little head from one to another. Once she came over to press Martin’s hand. In the roughest of the storm, when Martin was beginning to glare, she drew from a mysterious pocket a box of very bad cigarettes, and lighted one. None of the Tozers had discovered that she smoked. Whatever they thought about her sex morals, her infidelity to United Brethrenism, and her general dementia, they had not suspected that she could commit such an obscenity as smoking. They charged on her, and Martin caught his breath savagely.

During these fulminations Mr. Tozer had somehow made up his mind. He could at times take the lead away from Bert, whom he considered useful but slightly indiscreet, and unable to grasp the “full value of a dollar.” (Mr. Tozer valued it at one dollar and ninety, but the progressive Bert at scarce more than one-fifty.) Mr. Tozer mildly gave orders:

They were to stop “scrapping.” They had no proof that Martin was necessarily a bad match for Ory. They would see. Martin would return to medical school at once, and be a good boy and get through as quickly as he could and begin to earn money. Ory would remain at home and behave herself — and she certainly would never act like a Bad Woman again, and smoke cigarettes. Meantime Martin and she would have no, uh, relations. (Mrs. Tozer looked embarrassed, and the hungrily attentive Ada Quist tried to blush.) They could write to each other once a week, but that was all. They would in no way, uh, act as though they were married till he gave permission.

“Well?” he demanded.

Doubtless Martin should have defied them and with his bride in his arms have gone forth into the night. But it seemed only a moment to graduation, to beginning his practice. He had Leora now, forever. For her, he must be sensible. He would return to work, and be Practical. Gottlieb’s ideals of science? Laboratories? Research? Rot!

“All right,” he said.

It did not occur to him that their abstention from love began tonight; it did not come to him till, holding out his hands to Leora, smiling with virtue at having determined to be prudent, he heard Mr. Tozer cackling, “Ory, you go on up to bed now — in your own room!”

That was his bridal night; tossing in his bed, ten yards from her.

Once he heard a door open, and thrilled to her coming. He waited, taut. She did not come. He peeped out, determined to find her room. His deep feeling about his brother-inlaw suddenly increased. Bert was parading the hall, on guard. Had Bert been more formidable, Martin might have killed him, but he could not face that buck-toothed and nickering righteousness. He lay and resolved to curse them all in the morning and go off with Leora, but with the coming of the three-o’clock depression he perceived that with him she would probably starve, that he was disgraced, that it was not at all certain he would not become a drunkard.

“Poor kid, I’m not going to spoil her life. God, I do love her! I’m going back, and the way I’m going to work — Can I stand this?”

That was his bridal night and the barren dawn.

Three days later he was walking into the office of Dr. Silva, dean of the Winnemac Medical School.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38