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The Sign And Seal








From: Still Jim

"The river forever flows yet she sees no farther than I who
am forever silent, forever still."

MUSINGS OF THE ELEPHANT.


"Jim Manning, you've no right to speak to me that way," said Penelope.

Jim returned her look clearly. "You are to stay here, Pen," he repeated
slowly.

"You've got your nerve, Still!" exclaimed Sara. "Pen's as much my
company as she is yours. Quit trying to start something. Pen, come
along."

Jim did not stir for a moment, then he jerked his head toward the bath
house. "Go ahead and get into your suit, Sara. Penelope and I will wait
here for you."

Sara had seen Jim in this guise before, on the football field. For a
moment he scowled, then he shrugged his shoulders. "You old mule!" he
grunted. "All right, Pen. You pacify the brute and I'll be back in a few
minutes."

Pen did not yield so gracefully. She sat down in the sand with her back
half turned to Jim and he, with his boyish jaw set, eyed her
uncomfortably. She did not speak to him until Sara appeared and, with
an airy wave of the hand, waded into the water.

"I think Sara looks like a Greek god in a bathing suit," she said.
"You'd know he was going to be a duke, just to look at him."

Jim gave a good imitation of one of Uncle Denny's grunts and said: "He
isn't a duke--yet--and he's gone in too soon after eating."

"And he's got beautiful manners," Pen continued. "You treat me as if I
were a child. He never forgets that I am a lady."

"Oh, slush!" drawled Jim.

Pen turned her back, squarely. Sara did not remain long in the water but
came up dripping and shivering to burrow in the hot sand. Pen
deliberately sifted sand over him, patting it down as she saw the others
do, while she told Sara how wonderfully he swam.

Sara eyed Jim mischievously, while he answered: "Never mind, Pen. When
I'm the duke, you shall be the duchess and have a marble swimming pool
all of your own. And old Prunes will be over here coaching Anthony
Comstock while you and I are doing Europe--in our bathing suits."

Penelope flushed quickly and Sara's halo of romance shone brighter than
ever.

"The Duchess Pen," he went on largely. "Not half bad. For my part, I
can't see any objection to a girl as pretty as you are wearing a bathing
suit anywhere, any time."

Pen looked at Sara adoringly. At sixteen one loves the gods easily. Jim,
with averted face, watched the waves dumbly. It had been easy that
morning to toss speech back and forth with the boat crowd. But now, as
always, when he felt that his need for words was dire, speech deserted
him. Suddenly he was realizing that Pen was no longer a little girl and
that she admired Saradokis ardently. When the young Greek strolled away
to dress, Jim looked at Pen intently. She was so lovely, so rosy, so
mischievous, so light and sweet as only sixteen can be.

"Cross patch. Draw the latch! Sit by the sea and grouch," she sang.

Jim flushed. "I'm not grouchy," he protested.

"Oh, yes you are!" cried Pen. "And when Sara comes back, he and I are
going up for some ice cream while you stay here and get over it. You can
meet us for supper with Aunt Mary and Uncle Denny."

Jim, after the two had left, sat for a long time in the sand. He wished
that he could have a look at the old swimming hole up at Exham. He
wished that he and Uncle Denny and his mother and Pen were living at
Exham. For the first time he felt a vague distrust of Sara. After a time
he got into his bathing suit and spent the rest of the afternoon in and
out of the water, dressing only in time to meet the rest for supper.

After supper the whole party went to one of the great dancing pavilions.
Uncle Denny and Jim's mother danced old-fashioned waltzes, while Sara
and Jim took turn about whirling Penelope through two steps and
galloping through modern waltz steps. The music and something in Jim's
face touched Pen. As he piloted her silently over the great floor in
their first waltz, she looked up into his face and said:

"I was horrid, Still Jim. You were so bossy. But you were right; it was
no place for me."

Jim's arm tightened round her soft waist. "Pen," he said, "promise me
you'll shake Sara and the rest and walk home from the boat with me
tonight."

Pen hesitated. She would rather have walked home with Sara, but she was
very contrite over Jim's lonely afternoon, so she promised. Sara left
the boat at the Battery to get a subway train home. When the others
reached 23rd street, it was not difficult for Jim and Pen to drop well
behind Uncle Denny and Jim's mother. Jim drew Pen's arm firmly within
his own. This seemed very funny to Penelope and yet she enjoyed it.
There had come a subtle but decided change in the boy's attitude toward
her that day, that she felt was a clear tribute to her newly acquired
young ladyhood. So, while she giggled under her breath, she enjoyed
Jim's sedulous assistance at the street crossings immensely.

But try as he would, Jim could say nothing until they reached the old
brownstone front. He mounted the steps with her slowly. In the dimly
lighted vestibule he took both her hands.

"Look up at me, Pen," he said.

The girl looked up into the tall boy's face. Jim looked down into her
sweet eyes. His own grew wistful.

"I wish I were ten years older," he said. Then very firmly: "Penelope,
you belong to me. Remember that, always. We belong to each other. When
I have made a name for myself I'm coming back to marry you."

"But," protested Pen, "I'd much rather be a duchess."

Jim held her hands firmly. "You belong to me. You shall never marry
Saradokis."

Pen's soft gaze deepened as she looked into Jim's eyes. She saw a light
there that stirred something within her that never before had been
touched. And Jim, his face white, drew Penelope to him and laid his soft
young lips to hers, holding her close with boyish arms that trembled at
his own audacity, even while they were strong with a man's desire to
hold.

Penelope gave a little sobbing breath as Jim released her.

"That's my sign and seal," he said slowly, "that kiss. That's to hold
you until I'm a man."

The little look of tragedy that often lurked in Pen's eyes was very
plain as she said: "It will be a long time before you have made a name
for yourself, Still Jim. Lots of things will happen before then."

"I won't change," said Jim. "The Mannings don't." Then with a great sigh
as of having definitely settled his life, he added: "Gee, I'm hungry! Me
stomach is touching me backbone. Let's see if there isn't something in
the pantry. Come on, Pen."

And Pen, with a sudden flash of dimples, followed him.

It was not long after Pen's birthday that the college year ended and Jim
and Sara went to work. Jim had spent his previous vacations with the
family at the shore. Saradokis was planning to become a construction
engineer, with New York as his field. He wanted Jim to go into
partnership with him when they were through college. So he persuaded Jim
that it would be a good experience for them to put in their junior
vacation at work on one of the mighty skyscrapers always in process of
construction.

They got jobs as steam drillmen. Jim liked the work. He liked the mere
sense of physical accomplishment in working the drill. He liked to be a
part of the creative force that was producing the building. But to his
surprise, his old sense of suffocation in being crowded in with the
immigrant workman returned to him. There came back, too, some of the old
melancholy questioning that he had known as a boy.

He said to Sara one day: "My father used to say that when he was a boy
the phrase, 'American workman' stood for the highest efficiency in the
world, but that even in his day the phrase had become a joke. How could
you expect this rabble to know that there might be such a thing as an
American standard of efficiency?"

Sara laughed. "Junior Economics stick out all over you, Still. This
bunch does as good work as the American owners will pay for."

Jim was silent for a time, then he said: "I wonder what's the matter
with us Americans? How did we come to give our country away to this
horde?"

"'Us Americans!'" mimicked Saradokis. "What is an American, anyhow?"

"I'm an American," returned Jim, briefly.

"Sure," answered the Greek, "but so am I and so are most of these
fellows. And none of us knows what an American is. I'll admit it was
your type founded the government. But you are goners. There is no
American type any more. And by and by we'll modify your old Anglo-Saxon
institutions so that G. Washington will simply revolve in his grave.
We'll add Greek ideas and Yiddish and Wop and Bohunk and Armenian and
Nigger and Chinese and Magyar. Gee! The world will forget there ever was
one of you big-headed New Englanders in this country. Huh! What is an
American? The American type will have a boarding house hash beaten for
infinite variety in a generation or so."

The two young men were marching along 23rd street on their way to Jim's
house for dinner. At Sara's words Jim stopped and stared at the young
Greek. His gray eyes were black.

"So that's the way you feel about us, you foreigners!" exclaimed Jim.
"We blazed the trail for you fellows in this country and called you over
here to use it. And you've suffocated us and you are glad of it. Good
God! Dad and the Indians!"

"What did you call us over here for but to make us do your dirty work
for you?" chuckled the Greek. "Serves you right. Piffle! What's an
American want to talk about my race and thine for? There's room for all
of us!"

Jim did not answer. All that evening he scarcely spoke. That night he
dreamed again of his father's broken body and dying face against the
golden August fields. All the next day as he sweated on the drill, the
futile questionings of his childhood were with him.

At noon, Sara eyed him across the shining surface of a Child's
restaurant table. Each noon they devoured a quarter of their day's wages
in roast beef and baked apples.

"Are you sore at me, Still?" asked Sara. "I wasn't roasting you,
personally, last night."

Jim shook his head. Sara waited for words but Jim ate on in silence.

"Oh, for the love of heaven, come out of it!" groaned Sara. "Tell me
what ails you, then you can go back in and shut the door. What has got
your goat? You can think we foreigners are all rotters if you want to."

"You don't get the point," replied Jim. "I don't think for a minute that
you newcomers haven't a perfect right to come over here. But I have race
pride. You haven't. I can't see America turned from North European to
South in type without feeling suffocated."

The young Greek stared at Jim fixedly. Then he shook his head. "You are
in a bad way, my child. I prescribe a course at vaudeville tonight. I
see you can still eat, though."

Jim stuck by his drill until fall. During these three months he pondered
more over his father's and Exham's failure than he had for years. Yet he
reached no conclusion save the blind one that he was going to fight
against his own extinction, that he was going to found a family, that he
was going to make the old Manning name once more known and respected.

It was after this summer that the presence of race barrier was felt by
Jim and Sara. And somehow, too, after Pen's birthday there was a new
restraint between the two boys. Both of them realized then that Pen was
more to them than the little playmate they had hitherto considered her.
Jim believed that the kiss in the vestibule bound Pen to him
irretrievably. But this did not prevent him from feeling uneasy and
resentful over Sara's devotion to her.

Nothing could have been more charming to a girl of Pen's age than Sara's
way of showing his devotion. Flowers and candy, new books and music he
showered on her endlessly, to Mrs. Manning's great disapproval. But
Uncle Denny shrugged his shoulders.

"Let it have its course, me dear. 'Tis the surest cure. And Jim must
learn to speak for himself, poor boy."

So the pretty game went on. Something in Sara's heritage made him a
finished man of the world, while Jim was still an awkward boy. While
Jim's affection manifested itself in silent watchfulness, in
unobtrusive, secret little acts of thoughtfulness and care, Saradokis
was announcing Pen as the Duchess to all their friends and openly
singing his joy in her beauty and cleverness.

For even at sixteen Pen showed at times the clear minded thoughtfulness
that later in life was to be her chief characteristic. This in spite of
the fact that Uncle Denny insisted on her going to a fashionable private
school. She read enormously, anything and everything that came to hand.
Uncle Denny's books on social and political economy were devoured quite
as readily as Jim's novels of adventure or her own Christina Rossetti.
And Sara was to her all the heroes of all the tales she read, although
after the episode of the Sign and Seal some of the heroes showed a
surprising and uncontrollable likeness to Jim. Penelope never forgot the
kiss in the vestibule. She never recalled it without a sense of loss
that she was too young to understand and with a look in her eyes that
did not belong to her youth but to her Celtic temperament.

She looked Jim over keenly when the family came up from the shore and
Jim was ready for his senior year. "You never were cut out for city
work, Jimmy," she said.

"I'm as fit as I ever was in my life," protested Jim.

"Physically, of course," answered Pen. "But you hate New York and so
it's bad for you. Get out into the big country, Still Jim. I was brought
up in Colorado, remember. I know the kind of men that belong there. I
love that color of necktie on you."

"Have you heard about the Reclamation Service?" asked Jim eagerly. Then
he went on: "The government is building big dams to reclaim the arid
west. It puts up the money and does the work and then the farmers on the
Project--that's what they call the system and the land it waters--have
ten years or so to pay back what it cost and then the water system
belongs to them. They are going to put up some of the biggest dams in
the world. I'd like to try to get into that work. Somehow I like the
idea of working for Uncle Sam. James Manning, U.S.R.S.--how does that
sound?"

"Too lovely for anything. I'm crazy about it. Sounds like Kipling and
the pyramids and Sahara, somehow."

"Will you come out there after I get a start, Pen?" asked Jim.

"Gee! I should say not! About the time you're beginning your second dam,
I'll be overwhelming the courts of Europe," Pen giggled. Then she added,
serenely: "You don't realize, Still, that I'm going to be a duchess."

"Aw, Pen, cut out that silly talk. You belong to me and don't you ever
think your flirtation with Sara is serious for a minute. If I thought
you really did, I'd give up the Reclamation idea and go into partnership
with Sara so as to watch him and keep him from getting you."

"You and Sara would never get along in business together," said Pen,
with one of her far-seeing looks. "Sara would tie you in a bowknot in
business, and the older you two grow the more you are going to develop
each other's worst sides."

"Nevertheless, Sara shall never get you," said Jim grimly.

Penelope gave Jim an odd glance. "Sara is my fate, Still Jim," she said
soberly.

"Oh, pickles!" exclaimed Jim.

Pen tossed her head and left him.

It was in the spring of their senior year that Jim and Sara ran the
Marathon. It was a great event in the world of college athletics. Men
from every important college in the country competed in the tryout. For
the final Marathon there were left twenty men, Sara and Jim among them.

The course was laid along Broadway from a point near Van Cortlandt Park
to Columbus Circle, ten long, clean miles of asphalt. Early on the
bright May morning of the race crowds began to gather along the course.
At first, a thin line of enthusiasts, planting themselves on camp stools
along the curb. Then at the beginning and end of the course the line,
thickened to two or three deep until at last the police began to
establish lines. Mounted police appeared at intervals to turn traffic.
The crowd as it thickened grew more noisy. Strange college yells were
emitted intermittently. Street fakirs traveled diligently up and down
the lines selling college banners. At last, Broadway lay a shining black
ribbon, bordered with every hue of the rainbow, awaiting the runners.

Uncle Denny had an elaborate plan for seeing the race. He and Jim's
mother and Penelope established themselves at 159th street, with a
waiting automobile around the corner. After the runners had passed this
point, the machine was to rush them to the grand stand at Columbus
Circle for the finish.

The three stood on the curb at 159th street, waiting. It was
mid-afternoon when to the north, above the noise of the city, an
increasing roar told of the coming of the runners. Pen, standing between
Uncle Denny and Jim's mother, seized a hand of each. Far up the shining
black asphalt ribbon appeared a group of white dots. The roar grew with
their approach.

Suddenly Penelope leaned forward. "Sara! Sara! Jim! Jim!" she screamed.

Four men were leading the Marathon. A Californian, a Wisconsin man, Jim
and Sara. Sara led, then Jim and the Californian, then the Wisconsin man
with not a foot between any two of them.

Jim was running easier than Sara. He had the advantage of less weight
with the same height. Sara's running pants and jersey were drenched with
sweat. He was running with his mouth dropped open, head back, every
superb line of his body showing under his wet clothes. His tawny hair
gleamed in the sun. No sculptured marble of a Greek runner was ever more
beautiful than Sara as he ran the Marathon.

Jim was running "with his nerves," head forward, teeth clenched, fists
tight to his side, long, lean and lithe. His magnificent head outlined
itself for an instant against the sky line of the Hudson, fine, tense,
like the painting of a Saxon warrior. Pen carried this picture of him in
her heart for years.

The moment the boys had passed, Uncle Denny made a run for the machine.
The three entered the grand stand just as the white dots appeared under
the elevated tracks at 66th street. There was a roar, a fluttering of
banners, a crash of music from a band and a single runner broke from the
group and staggered against the line. Saradokis had won the race.

Jim was not to be seen. Uncle Denny was frantic.

"Where's me boy?" he shouted. "He was fit to finish at the Battery when
he passed us. Give me deck room here. I'm going to find him!"





Next: The Marathon

Previous: Jim Finds Sara And Pen



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