The Professor's Chance

THE professor seated himself at the breakfast table, with the listless air of a man who has abstracted several hours from his sleep to little purpose. He turned over his mail carelessly. It consisted chiefly of two book catalogues with German postmarks, a publishers’ circular, a letter from a former student asking for help in his efforts to secure a position, and the usual handful of advertisements.

“I don’t see why they keep sending us all these advertisements of robes et manteaux, pianos, etchings, trips to Norway, and other little luxuries ! ” the professor exclaimed pettishly, pushing the letters toward his wife. “ Don’t they know by this time that professors never have a dollar to throw away ? ”

The professor’s wife gathered up the rejected advertisements, and glanced at them sympathetically.

“ They ’re better than nothing,” she answered, as she saved Madame Renoir’s card from the grasping hand of a small child.

“ I have n’t ordered a book from old Schmid in two years,” the professor continued, turning over the egg on his plate critically.

“ And I never ordered a gown from Renoir; and what is more, I never shall order one, I suppose,” she added gayly.

“A liberal profession!” the professor commented, rejecting finally the egg.

“ Was n’t there something else? ” she asked hopefully.

“ Only this business letter. Something from the shop, I suppose.”

The professor opened the typewritten letter and spread it out on the rumpled tablecloth before him. There were three sheets, and the professor’s interest seemed to increase as his eye fell down the pages. At the end of the third page he turned back, and re-read the whole more slowly. When he had finished he said, “ This is very important! ”

“ What is it, James? ” his wife asked briskly.

It was already after nine o’clock, and all the fresh things would be gone at Stein’s if she did not go to market at once. And this delay at breakfast always put the maid in a rebellious mood.

“ It is something very important,” the professor repeated impressively, handing the letter to his wife.

While she was reading it he rose from the table and walked nervously about the room. He glanced out of the window, where he could see the neighbors’ children climbing the fence into his back yard. He noticed also that the rear porch needed painting badly, and he speculated how it would be possible to make the agent see the propriety of painting it.

“Well, Jim,” his wife exclaimed at last, “ the chance has come ! ”

“ It is n’t a permanent position,” the professor protested.

“ Something else will turn up when you have finished there.”

“ I don’t know about that. You can’t get back into a university place every day in the week.”

“ But you won’t want to get back ! Mr. Prome says that such positions always lead to other things.”

“ If you have good luck. The teacher’s salary is sure, such as it is. A man with a family ” —

“ You always said, if the chance came ” —

“ I don’t know whether this is the chance.”

“ You will never find anything more assured. Just think how uncertain business is. Jack has changed his business four times.”

“ I must see the president.”

“ I don’t see why ! ”

“ This is very important.”

“ But it’s your affair, James ! The president is n’t going to decide it! I thought”—

“ I must talk it over with the president,” the professor reiterated more feebly. “ It is a very important step, and I do not wish to act precipitately.”

“ I’d go out and telegraph Mr. Prome ! I would n’t lose a minute ! ” the professor’s wife exhorted warmly. “ You know your own mind, my dear. You have said many and many a time that teaching tended to dry a man up, and that the salary was too small, and you did n’t like being shut off here in this little town. And when Bert Prome offers you the chance to get out into the world, and to measure yourself with the rest, you talk about seeing the president, as if he would know what you want to do!”

She sternly took the muffin dish from the small boy, who at once protested.

“ I thought you liked Eureka,” the professor suggested hesitatingly. “You would n’t know any one in Washington, and four thousand there would n’t go much farther than eighteen hundred does here, I guess.”

“ Of course I like Eureka ! I never wanted to leave it! But what difference does that make ? To hear you go over all these things ” —

She started to leave the room, with an abruptness that was a distinct reproof.

“ This demands consideration,” the professor repeated, following her into the little room behind the parlor, which he used for a study. “ It is n’t a light matter to change your profession, when you have started well and are becoming an influence in the university. There’s my book, too.”

She waved these hesitations aside. Then she remarked resignedly: “ Of course you must consider everything. I thought you had.”

He was about to resent the tone of irony in his wife’s voice, when the door opened, and one of his colleagues appeared. The professor greeted him heartily. The interruption was opportune.

“I came in on my way to my teno’clock,” the newcomer said hastily, with a rapid, birdlike enunciation. “ I wanted to make sure that you would be at faculty this afternoon. Those science fellows will try to push through their new schedule of hours.”

The two professors discussed the matter of hours and other faculty questions for the next twenty minutes, while the professor’s wife watched them, a smile of alien feeling creeping over her face at times. She had listened to many similar conferences before or after the weekly meeting of the faculty, and she had a well-deserved reputation for discretion. She knew all about the different cliques in the faculty; for three years she had heard the admission requirement question debated in all its aspects. She knew the president’s attitude on this matter and many others as well as that potentate did himself, — perhaps better. It had occurred to her to wonder, as she did this morning, that so many brilliant men of mature years could find these little questions of college administration and the nothings of institutional gossip vital and ever absorbing. Yet she was proud of the fact that her husband was one of the most energetic younger members of the faculty.

“ I think I ’ll see the president this morning about that point,” her husband was saying to Professor Gray. “We can’t have Dodge riding over us like that. And I have another matter to see him about. I ’d like your opinion on it, too.” He cleared his throat, and went on deprecatingly, as if the subject were of trivial importance : “ They want me to take the secretaryship of the new educational commission. I should have to throw up my position here, I ’m afraid ; it would take all my time, and we should have to live in Washington. It is rather upsetting, just as I have got settled here, — taken root, so to speak.”

Gray looked at him shrewdly, and then turned away his head.

“ You were always a lucky dog ! ” he murmured. He wanted to ask Drake how the position had happened to come his way. Drake knew what was in his colleague’s mind, but preferred to act as if offers like this were events of common occurrence.

“You would think well of it, then ? ” the professor asked.

“ Oh ! For myself I can’t say ; I am very comfortably placed here. As Bump grows old I have things pretty much my own way. And I like college work, you know,—the faculty and all. The university is growing very fast, and I prefer the scholar’s life ” —

“ So do I,” the professor said hastily. His friend’s speech had contrived to arouse various tender sensibilities. Gray was a junior professor, like himself, but the department of political science was much less crowded than the department of sociology. It was said about the place that Gray was working for the headship of his department, on Bump’s retirement.

The professor’s wife, who had been listening eagerly to this discussion, finally broke in : —

“ It seems as if it were the very thing that James has been looking for, — a chance to get out of the rut of teaching boys ” —

“ If that is the way he feels ” — Professor Gray interposed, rather ruffled.

The professor frowned at his wife. It was one of her rare indiscretions, and he trembled as he thought of the metamorphosis those simple words would suffer at Mrs. Gray’s hands. It determined him to go at once and see the president, before any story could reach that official’s ear.

“ I think I will step over to the library for a book,” he said.

Gray smiled at the subterfuge, and turned to talk with Mrs. Drake while her husband was putting on his boots.

“We shall miss you two!” he observed tentatively.

“ I hope so,” she replied simply. “ I like Eureka so much. I am very §orry at the thought of leaving it.”

“ You speak as if you had already decided the matter,” he said quickly.

“ James will have to decide it. But I don’t see how he can hesitate. Of course he will have anxiety about the future, — all men have that more or less, — and he will have time to look around for something to take the place of the secretaryship. There are lots of things he could do. He likes mixing with people and seeing the world. I don’t think he ever was exactly suited for the restrictions of a college life. He does n’t like to live in a small way.”

“ Few do,” Gray added whimsically. “ I hope he ’ll succeed. It is a good deal of a risk.”

“'Nothing venture,’ ” she quoted merrily. “ I’d rather see him fail than never dare ! ”

“You are plucky! ” he exclaimed admiringly, thinking of the three small Drakes.

At this point Drake returned with his hat. He looked at his watch and frowned. It was nearly ten o’clock ; he had to verify some references and revise his notes before the afternoon lectures. This business of the secretaryship was time-wasting.

The two men went off, and Mrs. Drake hurried out to the kitchen, and then to the market, where she met Mrs. Gray, who was hunting for a bargain. She did not like Mrs. Gray, but in the present crisis she was glad to talk to some one. When that inquisitive lady asked if the Drakes were to keep their house another year, she was so extremely vague that her neighbor at once began to imagine important events. Then, on Mrs. Drake’s asking certain things about housekeeping in the South, — Washington, for example, — Mrs. Gray, who was a Southern woman, made up her mind forthwith, and went her way to spread the news. Several of the instructors who had late morning classes had the story.

At the League for Social Reform, that afternoon, there were two versions of the affair : that the Drakes had been called to a Southern college, and that they would be obliged to leave Eureka on account of disagreements in the department. It was further rumored that Drake’s courses had not been going well this year, but on that point there was no certain report. It was merely the rumor which was started on every occasion of departmental disturbance.

Meantime the two professors walked to the university, chatting intimately of college affairs, and not alluding to the subject which was uppermost in their minds. At the library steps Drake said casually : —

“ Oh. about that matter of the offer to me, I had a little rather you would not say anything. It very likely won’t go any farther, you know, and it is n’t one of the things to get around; looks as if a man were restless, and makes a bad impression. I feel that Eureka is my home.”

“ I shall not say anything,” the other professor replied cordially, “ and I am glad that you are not thinking seriously of it. It’s a bad thing to change horses in the middle of the stream, you know.”

Drake was afraid, afterwards, that he had given Gray too strongly the impression that he was not considering the offer : when he had read the letter, he had felt there could hardly be any doubt about his action. He was going to see the president merely as a matter of courtesy, — to let him know his plans at the earliest moment.

A student in his advanced course accosted him in the library, and asked for help. They went into the stack together to look up some pamphlets, and it was nearly half an hour before the professor could get away from the importunate seeker for knowledge. The delay annoyed him : he had really done nothing with his morning. And yet he liked the student, felt flattered by his deferential bearing, and was pleased with the ready manner in which he had been able to turn at once to the right materials for the problem. He had always felt that his best work was with the advanced students, who knew the difference between journalism and learning.

The anteroom of the president’s office was well filled with waiting petitioners of one sort or another. There were several students who had special favors to obtain from the head of the institution, or had been summoned for one of the president’s famous confidential talks. These sat in a corner by themselves, whispering nonchalantly. There were also two or three young assistants, who looked like careworn students. They were probably there on the difficult mission of getting their salaries increased. Drake pitied them sincerely; he remembered certain unpleasant hours that he had passed in a similar suspense. Payson, he thought, was a married man, — married on five hundred dollars a year, and what he could pick up outside the college. How could the man have been so rash! But he remembered that he himself was getting only eight hundred when he had married, bravely confident that two devoted souls could make that sum go twice as far as a single soul. And they had managed it somehow, — he scarcely knew how, —until the first rise in rank, with its accompanying few hundreds of dollars’ increase in pay, had come. There had been dire need of every additional rise ; it made him blush to think how anxiously he had looked for these petty additions to his income. He realized how much of the last six years had been occupied by thoughts of ways and means, instead of by the traditional Arcadian musings incident to “ plain living and high thinking.” The new job would give him some relief for the present from that debasing hunger after an additional two or three hundred dollars.

The door into the inner office opened a little way, and for a moment every one was breathlessly alert. Drake could feel his heart beating a little faster, and he despised himself for his perturbation. It was Payson’s turn. From time to time a secretary appeared, crossed the anteroom, looked about with an air of command, and returned to his desk. To Drake, the secretary had an unpleasant air of intelligence, as if he had assisted at many little dramas of this kind, and could tell stories that would make Eureka buzz, if he would. The professor grew increasingly restive ; his morning had almost gone, and he should be obliged to meet his two - o’clock class without looking over his notes. He felt more sure than ever what his decision would be. There would always be more or less of this waiting at the doors of the great, but he thought it would be more tolerable if the game were larger.

Finally his turn came. Young Payson passed him as he entered the inner office ; the assistant’s pale face was relaxed. Evidently he had found some comfort, — promises of help, at least.

“ I am glad you dropped in,” the president said cordially, preserving the fiction that the younger professors were in the habit of “ dropping in.” “ I think you are the man to represent us at the Manwan Conference. I want to send some one there who will give them a good talk, and who will make an agreeable impression. You can get it in ? ”

The president threw himself back in his deep chair, and turned his distinguished profile to the light. He had the air of offering an honor to one in whom he had confidence. The professor felt flattered, and yet he was uneasily conscious that the president had a deft habit of disarming you if he suspected that your visit might embarrass him. They discussed the Manwan Conference for a few minutes ; then the president suggested several departmental and faculty matters upon which he seemed anxious to get the professor’s views. When the president settled forward in his chair, as if he were waiting for the next case, the professor summoned up his courage, and hesitatingly broached his news. At the first words the president seemed to withdraw himself defensively, and eyed the stammering man opposite him a little coldly. He had the air of a man of the larger world dealing tolerantly with a person of provincial experience. His wide intercourse with men of affairs gave him this advantage over his professors, — much the same advantage that a business man has over women. He knew their weaknesses pretty well, and they knew his only approximately. Moreover, he had the consciousness of final power within his domain, small as that might be ; and this advantage he was convinced he exerted for the best good of the men and of the institution which he was responsible for.

He had been over this ground many times before : it was one of his chief duties to soothe the restlessness of his men, to keep them content with their verymodest stipends, to suggest hopes without committing the corporation too far. It was a delicate art, and one in which he had been especially successful. Yet he held the men who approached him in the manner of Drake rather cheap. If they had made up their minds to leave Eureka, it was useless to see him unless they wished to be persuaded into remaining. In other words, they were trying to “ hold him up.” Of course, both men, in these delicate interviews, were too dignified to call things by such vulgar names, but that was what it amounted to. So his attitude to the professor was kindly, but distant. The new chill in the atmosphere did not help Drake to express himself to the best advantage. As the professor talked, he felt more and more that it was all very silly : he either wanted to go, or he did not. And he thought he wanted to go ; he had always thought he should when the time came, unless his position improved. He closed his lame remarks by saying : —

“ I am not clear about what is the best thing for me to do, but it seems a great opportunity, — a rare chance to combine something of the scholar’s life with a more active life. I have always felt rather stifled in college work.”

“ It is near the close of the term,” the president observed, with a smile. “ Your vacation is coming on. These long vacations are one of the boons of our profession.”

“ I know, I know,” the professor hastened to say. “ And there are other great attractions in our profession.”

In the talk that followed, many idealistic terms floated about, — “ service to the world,” “ disinterestedness,” “ love of learning,” “ scholarly leisure,” “ devotion to science,” etc. The tone of the interview rose to unexpected heights. The president disclosed confidentially the story of certain sacrifices he had made in his youth, beside which the professor’s personal ambition was indeed sordid. There was no direct reference to the secretaryship. The president refrained from giving advice ; he seemed to suggest merely the considerations that should have weight with a high-minded man. In the light of these considerations the secretaryship appeared utterly trivial.

When the professor rose, his soul was in a glow of lofty feeling. The thing that had disturbed him so powerfully all the morning had disappeared like fog before the sun. The faces of the two men reflected the generous ideas in which they had been indulging, and they shook hands with real enthusiasm. Drake hurried through the anteroom, scarcely noticing the restless, bored faces of the men. The number had increased while he had been with the president, and they scowled at him for keeping them waiting. Outside the hall, the campus appeared to him to be more beautiful than he had ever thought it. At this hour — it was past twelve — a few students were lounging and smoking in the shade of one of the buildings. Their indolent pose recalled his own student days, not so far away that the charm of the life had utterly faded. He was rather ashamed that he had been so ready to forswear all the warm dreams of his youth at the first wile of the material world. There was something more than salary and fame in life, and, as the president had said, the country needed, more than anything else, men who had the character to renounce the cheap ideals of success.

He turned into the college club for luncheon. At the long table in the centre of the dining room, a number of the younger men were disposing of the rather meagre meal the club provided. Gray was there, — it was said that Gray arranged his hours in such a way that he was never called upon to lunch at home, — and Dexter, who lived across the river, in the little city of Ultonia, where he had a large house and kept horsesDrake took the vacant seat between them. He had scarcely unfolded the damp napkin, before the talk, that had subsided on his entrance, broke out afresh, and rippled up and down the table.

“ The text to-day was, ‘ Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt ’ ” —

“ What is it ? The presidency of Exonia ? ” another colleague asked.

Exonia had been without a president nearly as often as the Grays had been without a servant.

“ You did n’t give any other man a chance,” Dexter put in affably. “ I wanted to see his Highness about Moltman’s case. The university council is going to vote to give him his doctor’s degree. His thesis was disgraceful, — showed he couldn’t write an English sentence.”

“ Pretty man says Moltman is n’t up to a first-class senior,” Saunders observed.

The talk went on about the graduate students, the higher degrees, the real purpose of university graduate instruction. Dexter, who had some reputation as a man in fashionable society, denounced “ degree-getting business,” the “ Ph. D. mill,” and the poor quality of the graduate work, with the air of a gentleman who was interested primarily in culture. Drake found something to say on the other side. He had always rather disliked Dexter; suspected him of holding aloof from the poor beggars in Eureka, and priding himself on his worldly connections.

Dexter knew how to dress, however, and his well-made, well-pressed clothes quite shamed the ill-fitting, ready-made suits of the other professors. As the discussion waxed, Drake found himself looking closely at Dexter’s clothes, especially at his neat, carefully-laundered shirt and soft, fresh tie. It was all so subtly different from his own respectable, clean, indifferently.fitting garments. He had heard Dexter once say that a teacher should dress like a gentleman, as an example to the slovenly boys in his classes. He was inclined to agree with him to-day.

After luncheon, Dexter joined him on the way to the recitation hall. He was still growling about Moltman’s case.

“ American universities are getting to be normal schools, teachers’ institutes,— anything but institutions for the promotion of learning and cultivation. These fellows come here to get a certificate, a tag, to show that they know enough to teach in some beggarly high school or small college. Why, all that Moltman knows is just enough of his little trivial subject to get a degree! And he is an unkempt, half-fed ” —

“ Yes, yes,” Drake responded. “ There is a danger there : it’s been the rage, this graduate school business. But we shall have to depend upon our own A. B.’s for better stuff. I feel that the undergraduate courses are the important ones. In them we are making men.”

He was conscious that this view was not precisely in harmony with one he had taken in the morning, but Dexter’s society was a great solvent of opinions. They parted very cordially at the door of Drake’s lecture room.

The professor ran over his notes for the day’s lecture while the class assembled. The notes for this course were three years old. Each year he had intended to prepare a new set, but had contented himself with revising the old ones here and there. He had been doing a good deal of hack work for a firm of publishers, and what time he could get for himself had gone into reading for his book.

As he cleared his throat and began the familiar sentences of his manuscript, he reproached himself for not having taken the time to prepare fresh material. This lecture seemed especially stale, and he could not summon his usual enthusiasm to enliven it. The sentences sounded rhetorical and young. The students were listless ; they paid the halfhearted attention that the much-lecturedat college boy so quickly falls into when the teacher offers him nothing personally enticing. Drake realized how unformed they were in face and figure, how young. Every year it would be worse, as the gulf between their experience and his widened. There were only two ways of bridging that gulf: sympathy with youth, or an enkindling love of scholarship. He was afraid he lacked the first, and he had not yet attained the second. The hour dragged, and finally he dismissed the class five minutes before the electric bell tinkled. One or two students lingered to ask him some simple questions, which he answered shortly.

Usually, on this day of the week, he went into the library of the department to get some books and to see any students who wished to consult with him. He had a much-praised reputation for helping earnest students. The president had often referred to that element of his success as a teacher.

To-day he wandered back to the clubrooms to spend the hour before his fouro’clock seminar. The library was empty, and he stood for some minutes examining an oil portrait of one of the Eureka worthies, —John Wakem, formerly professor of history. The shrewd, whitehaired old gentleman beamed from the wall in kindly fashion. Once in his freshman year Drake had heard the famous scholar lecture. There was a professor for you, — deeply cultivated, rarely witty, widely known, — traveled, learned, — a gentleman ! The vision of Wakem’s career had always brightened the dark spots of his routine, had made him believe in the glory of the humanities.

Wakem belonged to another generation, when statesmen, jurists, and poets entered proudly the academic profession ; when teaching was not onerous, and the word “ research ” was not heard in the land.

With a sigh the professor turned to a photograph that had been recently hung in the library. It was the portrait of a young assistant in the university, who had enlisted as a private, and had died before Santiago. He wore his gown and doctor’s hood, but these peaceful symbols hung about a broad-shouldered, athletic form. The alert eyes glanced out almost fiercely ; small wonder that he had gone! The big world called him, and he had responded buoyantly. Drake envied him that thrill of joyous will, of effort in the world of men.

The seminar went off better than the lecture. The subject under discussion related indirectly to the material he was preparing for his book, and the student who had sought his help in the library had carried out his suggestions intelligently. He found his enthusiasm rising, and it was not until long after the bell had rung that he noticed the restlessness of his listeners, who were anxious to get out into the May afternoon.

Most of the instructors had left the lecture hall by this time. Even the assistants in the laboratories were drifting across the green campus in the direction of the club. The tennis courts adjoining the clubhouse were filled with the younger men taking their afternoon exercise. Others were looking over the magazines in the reading room, or talking in little groups. A committee on the dates for examinations was holding a meeting on the veranda. It was the most charming hour at Eureka, when the sun played around the brick buildings, and crisscrossed softly the lawns. There was an air of leisure, of gentle indolence, of unexacting tasks that would get themselves fulfilled sometime.

Dexter was smoking a cigarette and glancing over a review. Smoking was an uncommon indulgence in the Eureka faculty, and cigarettes were a defiant vice. When Drake came in, Dexter removed his cigarette nonchalantly, and asked him to “ run over to the Ultonia Country Club Friday morning and have a round of golf.”

“You ’ll have to practice your golf, if you’re going to Washington. They all play there,” Dexter added pleasantly.

“What’s this about Washington ? ” a voice called out from a corner of the room. Helfredge’s pudgy little face appeared from behind a newspaper. He strolled over to the two men, talking all the time.

“ Saunders was saying something about it. Is it true ? ”

“ Oh, I guess I shan’t accept,” Drake answered lightly. “ Eureka will stand me a little longer.”

Dexter extricated himself quietly from the conversation. Helfredge, assistant professor of biology, was of the new style of university professors, the type that Dexter refused to associate with. Helfredge sank into Dexter’s chair, and began a serious cross-examination to extract all the facts of the case. He got them at first unwillingly, but later abundantly, as Drake, in the need of his harassed soul, poured out his day’s embarrassments.

“ So you don’t know what you want,” the man in biology remarked bluntly, at the close. “ That’s a disease I’ve noticed to be prevalent among members of our profession. They rarely know just what they want.”

Helfredge was given to social and moral diagnosis.

“ That’s about it! ” Drake smiled. “ I’ve been weighing the matter all day. It’s all so very attractive here, rather seductive when one takes it up in detail, and our work — purely scientific work — is a great thing.”

Helfredge grunted at the assumption that anything outside of biology could be called scientific.

“ Sometimes I feel that I’d like to see a bit of the world, to meet a different lot of people. One gets pretty stale in college work,” Drake said, feeling the necessity of defending his longings.

“ That ain’t what a man is here for,” Helfredge snapped, relapsing into his native idiom, “to trot around in society.”

“No, not society, such as Dexter goes in for. But do you remember Strethson ? He’s just got out a book that’s making a good deal of a stir.”

“ Little Jew ! ” Helfredge grunted.

“ Jew or Gentile, he could play around us. He knew something besides his subject.”

“ What he wants is publicity,” the biologist sneered.

“ Well,” Drake retorted, flushing, “ the worst thing in the world is n’t publicity.”

“ You ’d better try it; your mind seems made up.”

“ Oh no ; I was just considering it sympathetically. I don’t think I shall take it.”

Helfredge looked at his companion critically, and then took up the newspaper. “ You’ve got it bad, old man ! You need rest.”

“ I must think of my wife and children. I want to give them the. best opportunities,” Drake suggested, eyeing his dusty boots critically and pulling down his cuffs. “ Academic success is n’t likely to do much for them, and now I’ve got this chance ” —

“ Are you sure ? ” the biologist asked keenly.

Drake did not answer. The implications in the remark puzzled him.

The men came in from tennis. The younger ones, who were unmarried, dined at the club, and the odors of their dinner rose from the basement kitchen. Stralparo, professor of Germanic philology, passed the club, his odd little bag stuffed with books for the long hours of night work. He was reported to be a veritable mountain of learning. His sallow face and shrunken form seemed to prove it. The least possible time for meals and sleep, the longest possible hours for the library, — the incessant unwearied labor of the brain ! Drake followed his halting gait up the street. That was a type of university career that did not attract him. On the other hand, Dexter, who lived more humanly and jovially, was always pronounced superficial. And Gray, who was a fair scholar, a fair teacher, and an active man on committees and boards of administration, was neither one thing nor the other. Gray was the kind of professor he should be, if he remained, — active, useful, undistinguished. He could not be a Stralparo if he wanted to be. The easy, uneonfined life, with liberal margins of indolent half hours, had eaten into his resolution. In any other life he should miss that more than anything, — the power to waste bits of his days, if he felt like it.

So he carried his indecision home with him, as he frequently did. The two older children were playing in the little open grass plot in front of the house. They were neither very shabby nor very neat. Mrs. Drake struggled hard to keep them dressed at the mean of propriety. It would be a greater struggle later ; he ought to try to better their fortunes. . . .

At dinner his wife looked at him in eager anticipation, but refrained from broaching the subject before the children. After the meal he went back to his study, lit his pipe, and, settling with infinite comfort into his lounging chair, took up volume one of Strethson’s new work, which he found to be a brilliant book, but unsound. Strethson’s rash generalizations and easy errors gave the professor a pleasant feeling of superiority. He began to think of his own book, which would touch on the same topics, in a surer way. He was quite happy when, an hour later, his wife came into the room.

“ Well ? ” she said timidly.

“ What is it ? ” Drake asked, uneasily conscious of the interruption.

“ Did you send the telegram ? ”

“ What telegram ? ”

“ Why, Mr. Prome said to telegraph your decision, — to let him know if he should send your name in ! ”

“ Oh, Prome always gets excited!” After a few moments, he added : “ I shall write him a letter. That will do better.”

Mrs. Drake got up and stood near his chair, her hand falling gently on his shoulder.

“ I hope you ’ll never regret it, dear.”

“ Regret what ? ” he replied evasively. “I thought you did n’t want to change,” he added.

“ Oh, you know I always liked Eureka, and we ’ve got on somehow.”

“ Regret what ? ” her husband repeated, remembering Helfredge’s enigmatic phrase.

“ Regret the chance,” she murmured, giving him another caress.

Robert Herrick.