Elizabeth House was hospitable to male visitors, and Dan found Sylvia ther_ften on the warm, still summer evenings, when the young women of th_ousehold filled the veranda and overflowed upon the steps. Sylvia's choice o_ boarding-house had puzzled Dan a good deal, but there were a good man_hings about Sylvia that baffled him. For example, this preparation fo_eaching in a public school when she might have had an assistant professorshi_n a college seemed a sad waste of energy and opportunity. She was going t_chool to her inferiors, he maintained, submitting to instruction as meekly a_hough she were not qualified to enlighten her teachers in any branch o_nowledge. It was preposterous that she should deliberately elect to spend th_ottest of summers in learning to combine the principles of Pestalozzi wit_he methods of Dewey and Kendall.
The acquaintance of Sylvia and Allen prospered from the start. She was no_nly a new girl in town, and one capable of debating the questions tha_nterested him, but he was charmed with Elizabeth House, which was the kind o_hing, he declared, that he had always stood for. The democracy of th_eranda, the good humor and ready give and take of the young women delighte_im. They liked him and openly called him "our beau." He established himsel_n excellent terms with the matron to the end that he might fill hi_utomobile with her charges frequently and take them for runs into th_ountry. When Dan grumbled over Sylvia's absurd immolation on the altar o_ducation, Allen pronounced her the grandest girl in the world and the glor_f the Great Experiment.
Sylvia was intent these days upon fitting herself as quickly as possible fo_eaching, becoming a part of the established system and avoiding none of th_rocesses by which teachers are created. Her fellow students, most of who_ere younger than she, were practically all the green fruitage of hig_chools, but she asked no immunities or privileges by reason of her colleg_raining; she yielded herself submissively to the "system," and establishe_erself among the other novices on a footing of good comradeship. During th_ot, vexatious days she met them with unfailing good cheer. The inspirin_xample of her college teachers, and not least the belief she had absorbed o_he Madison campus in her girlhood, that teaching is a high calling, eased th_ay for her at times when—as occasionally happened—she failed to appreciat_he beauty of the "system."
The superintendent of schools, dropping into the Normal after hours, caugh_ylvia in the act of demonstrating a problem in geometry on the blackboard fo_he benefit of a fellow student who had not yet abandoned the hope of enterin_he state university that fall. The superintendent had been in quest of _eacher of mathematics for the Manual Training School, and on appealing to th_ellesley authorities they had sent him Sylvia's name. Sylvia, the chalk stil_n her fingers, met his humorous reproaches smilingly. She had made him appea_idiculous in the eyes of her _alma mater_ , he said. Sylvia declined hi_ffer and smiled. The superintendent was not used to smiles like that in hi_orps. And this confident young woman seemed to know what she was about. H_ent away mystified, and meeting John Ware related his experience. War_aughed and slapped his knee. "You let that girl alone," the minister said.
"She has her finger on Time's wrist. Physician of the golden age. Remembe_atthew Arnold's lines on Goethe? Good poem. Sylvia wants to know 'the cause_f things.' Watch her. Great nature."
At seven o'clock on a morning of September, Sylvia left Elizabeth House t_egin her novitiate as a teacher. Allen had declared his intention of sendin_is automobile for her every morning, an offer that was promptly declined.
However, on that bright morning when the young world turned schoolward, Harwood lay in wait for her.
"This must never happen again, sir! And of course you may not carry m_ooks—they're the symbol of my profession. Seventeen thousand young person_bout like me are on the way to school this morning right here in Indiana. I_ould be frightfully embarrassing to the educational system if young gentleme_ere allowed to carry the implements of our trade."
"You can't get rid of me now: I never get up as early as this unless I'_atching a train."
"So much the worse for you, then!"
"There will be mornings when you won't think it so much fun. It rains an_nows in Indiana sometimes."
He still resented the idea of her sacrifice, as he called it, in the cause o_ducation. They were now so well acquainted that they were not always carefu_o be polite in their talk; but he had an uneasy feeling that she didn'_holly approve of him. All summer, when they had discussed politics, she ha_voided touching upon his personal interests and activities. His alliance wit_assett, emphasized in the state convention, was a subject she clearl_voided. This morning, as he kept time to her quick step, he craved he_nterest and sympathy. Her plain gray suit and simple cloth hat could no_isguise her charm or grace. It seemed to him that she was putting herself _ittle further away from him, that she was approaching the business of lif_ith a determination, a spirit, a zest, that dwarfed to insignificance his ow_reoccupation with far less important matters. She turned to glance back at _roup of children they had passed audibly speculating as to the character o_eacher the day held in store for them.
"Don't you think they're worth working for?" Sylvia asked.
Dan shrugged his shoulders.
"I suppose more lives are ground up in the school-teaching machine than in an_ther way. Go on! The girl who taught me my alphabet in the little red school- house in Harrison County earned her salary, I can tell you. She was seventee_nd wore a pink dress."
"I'm sorry you don't approve of me or my clothes. Now Allen approves of me: _ike Allen."
"His approval is important, I dare say."
"Yes, very. It's nice to be approved of. It helps some."
"And I suppose there ought to be a certain reciprocity in approval an_isapproval?"
"Oh, there's bound to be!"
Their eyes met and they laughed lightheartedly.
"I'm going to tell you something," said Dan. "On the reciprocal theory I can'_xpect anything, but I'm lonesome and have no friends anyhow, so I'll give yo_ chance to say something withering and edged with a fine scorn."
"Good! I'll promise not to disappoint you."
"I'm going to be put on the legislature ticket to-day—to fill a vacancy. _uppose you'll pray earnestly for my defeat."
"Why should I waste prayers on that? Besides, Allen solemnly declares that th_eople are to be trusted. It's not for me to set my prayers against the wil_f the pee-pull."
"If you had a vote," he persisted, "you wouldn't vote for me?"
"I should have to know what you want to go to the legislature for befor_ommitting myself. What _are_ you doing it for?"
"To do all the mischief I can, of course; to support all the worst measure_hat come up; to jump when the boss's whip cracks!"
She refused to meet him on this ground. He saw that any expectation he migh_ave that she would urge him to pledge himself to noble endeavor and hig_chievements as a state legislator were doomed to disappointment. He was take_back by the tone of her retort.
"I hope you will do all those things. You could do nothing better calculate_o help your chances."
"Your chances—and we don't any of us have too many of coming to some goo_ometime."
"I believe you are really serious; but I don't understand you."
"Then I shall be explicit. Just this, then, to play the ungrateful part of th_rank friend. The sooner you get your fingers burnt, the sooner you will le_he fire alone. I suppose Mr. Bassett has given the word that you ar_raciously to be permitted to sit in his legislature. He could hardly do les_or you than that, after he sent you into the arena last June to prod the sic_ion for his entertainment."
They were waiting at a corner for a break in the street traffic, and he turne_oward her guardedly.
"You put it pretty low," he mumbled.
"The thing itself is not so bad. From what I have heard and read about Mr.
Bassett, I don't think he is really an evil person. He probably didn't star_ith any sort of ideals of public life: you did. I read in an essay the othe_ight that the appeal of the highest should be always to the lowest. Bu_ou're not appealing to anybody; you're just following the band wagon to th_entre of the track. Stop, Look, Listen! You've come far enough with me now.
The walls of my prison house loom before me. Good-morning!"
"Good-morning and good luck!"
That night Sylvia wrote a letter to one of her classmates in Boston. "I'm _chool-teacher," she said,—"a member of the gray sisterhood of American nuns.
All over this astonishing country my sisters of this honorable order rise u_n the morning, even as you and I, to teach the young idea how to shoot. _ook with veneration upon those of our sisterhood who have grown old in th_lassroom. I can see myself reduced to a bundle of nerves, irascible, worthless, ready for the scrap-pile at, we will say, forty-two—only twent_ears ahead of me! My work looks so easy and I like it so much that I went i_right to the dictionary to look up the definition of teacher. I find that I'_ne who teaches or instructs. Think of it—I! That definition should be revise_o read, 'Teacher: one who, conveying certain information to others, reads i_ifty faces unanswerable questions as to the riddle of existence.' 'School: _lace where the presumably wise are convinced of their own folly.' Note well, my friend: I am a gray sister, in a gray serge suit that fits, with whit_uffs and collar, and with chalk on my fingers. Oh, it's not what I'm require_o teach, but what I'm going to learn that worries me!"
Lüders's shop was not far from Sylvia's school and Allen devised many excuse_or waylaying her. His machine being forbidden, he hung about until sh_ppeared and trudged homeward with her. Often he came in a glow from th_abinetmaker's and submitted for her judgment the questions that had bee_ebated that day at the shop. There was something sweet and wistful an_harming in his boyishness; and she was surprised, as Harwood had been fro_he first, by the intelligence he evinced in political and social questions.
He demanded absolute answers to problems that were perplexing wise men al_ver the world.
"If I could answer that," she would say to him, "I should be entitled to _onument more enduring than brass. The comfort and happiness of mankind isn'_o be won in a day: we mustn't pull up the old tree till we've got a new on_lanted and growing."
"The Great Experiment will turn out all right yet! Some fellow we never hear_f will give the lever a jerk some day, and there will be a rumble and a flas_nd it will run perfectly," he asserted.
The state campaign got under way in October, and Harwood was often discusse_n relation to it. Allen always praised Dan extravagantly, and was ever aler_o defend him against her criticisms.
"My dad will run the roller over Bassett, but Dan will be smart enough to ge_rom under. It's the greatest show on earth—continuous vaudeville—thi_olitics! Dan's all right. He's got more brains than Bassett. One of thes_ays Dan will take a flop and land clean over in the Thatcher camp. It's onl_ matter of time. Gratitude and considerations like that are holding him back.
But I'm not a partisan—not even on dad's side. I'm the philosopher who sits o_he fence and keeps the score by innings."
It seemed to her, in those days and afterward, that Allen symbolized th_nknown quantity in all the problems that absorbed him. His idealism was not _hing of the air, but a flowering from old and vigorous roots. His politic_as a kind of religion, and it did not prove upon analysis to be either s_antastical or so fanatical as she had believed at first. As the day_hortened, he would prolong their walk until the shops and factorie_ischarged their employees upon the streets. The fine thing about the peopl_as, he said, the fact that they were content to go on from day to day, doin_he things they did, when the restraints upon them were so light,—it prove_he enduring worth of the Great Experiment. Then they would plunge into th_hick of the crowd and cross the Monument plaza, where he never failed to pa_ tribute in his own fashion to the men the gray shaft commemorated. In thes_alks they spoke French, which he employed more readily than she: in his hig_oods it seemed to express him better than English. It amused him to apply ne_ames to the thoroughfares they traversed. For example, he gayly rename_onument Place the Place de la Concorde, assuring her that the southward vist_n the Rue de la Méridienne, disclosing the lamp-bestarred terrace of the ne_ederal Building, and the electric torches of the Monument beyond, was highl_eminiscent of Paris. Sylvia was able to dramatize for herself, from th_bundant material he artlessly supplied, the life he had led abroad during hi_ong exile: as a youngster he had enjoyed untrammeled freedom of the street_f Paris and Berlin, and he showed a curiously developed sympathy for th_ives of the poor and unfortunate that had been born of those earl_xperiences. He was a great resource to her, and she enjoyed him as she woul_ave enjoyed a girl comrade. He confessed his admiration for Marian in th_rankest fashion. She was adorable; the greatest girl in the world.