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   Chapter 3 ROSCOE BENT

Tom Slade with the Colors By Percy K. Fitzhugh Characters: 6396

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Indeed, Tom had felt so highly flattered that the memory of young Mr. Roscoe Bent's condescension had lingered with him all day, and now he was going to give himself the pleasure of walking through Rockwood Place for a passing glimpse of the beautiful house wherein young Roscoe resided.

Tom knew well enough that Roscoe had to thank the friendship between his father and Mr. Temple for his position in the bank. In his heart he knew that there was not much to be said for Roscoe; that he could do many things which Roscoe couldn't begin to do; but Roscoe on the other hand could do all those little things which poor Tom never could master; he could joke and make people laugh, and he always knew what to say and how to say it-especially to girls.

Tom's long trousers had not brought him this accomplishment, and in his clumsiness of speech and manner he envied this sprightly youth who had become so much of a celebrity in his thoughts that he actually took a certain pleasure in walking past the Bent residence just because it was where Roscoe and his well-to-do parents lived.

He was a little ashamed of doing this, just as he was ashamed of his admiration for Roscoe, and he knew that neither Roscoe, with his fine airs, nor Roscoe's home would have had any attractions for Roy at all. But then Roy's father was rich, whereas Tom's father had been poor, and he had come out of the slums and in some ways he would never change.

"He isn't so bad, anyway," Tom muttered to himself, as he kicked another stone along. "I knew he'd be really interested some day. Any feller's got to be interested in a camp like that. If he only went there once, he'd see what it was like and he'd fall for it, all right. I bet in the summer he goes to places where they dance and bow, and all that, but he'd fall for Temple Camp if he ever went there-he would."

Tom was greatly elated at Roscoe's sudden interest, and he believed that great things would come of it.

"If he could only once see that shack up on the mountain," he said to himself, "and make that climb, I bet he'd knock off his cigarettes. If he thought those pictures were good-gee, what would he think of the shack itself!"

When he reached the Bent house he was surprised to see an automobile standing directly in front of it which he had not noticed as he approached because its lights were out. Not even the little red light which should have illuminated the car's number was visible, nor was there a single light either in the entrance hall or in any of the windows of the big house.

In the car sat a dark figure in the chauffeur's place, and Tom, as he passed, fancied that this person turned away from him. He was rather surprised, and perhaps a little curious, for he knew that the Bents did not keep a car, and he thought that if the presence of the machine meant visitors, or a doctor, there would be some light in the house.

Reaching the corner, he looked back just in time to see another figure, carrying luggage, descend the steps and enter the car. He was still close enough to know that not a word was spoken nor a sound made; there was not even the familiar and usual bang of the automobile door. But a certa

in characteristic swing of the person with the luggage, as he passed one bag and then the other into the car, showed Tom that the figure was that of young Roscoe Bent. Then the car rolled away, leaving him gaping and speculating in the concealment of a doorway near the corner.

"I wonder where he can be going this time of night," Tom mused. "Gee, that was funny! If he was going on a vacation or anything like that, he'd have said so this morning-and he'd have said good-bye to me. Anyway, he'd have said good-bye to Miss Ellison...."

Tom boarded with a private family in Culver Street, and after he reached home he sat up in his room for a while working with a kind of sullen resignation on the few registration badges which had still to have pins attached to them.

It was while he was engaged in this heroic labor that a thought entered his mind which he put away from him, but which kept recurring again and again, and which ended by cheating him out of his night's sleep. Why should Roscoe Bent be leaving home with two suitcases at twelve o'clock at night when he would have to register for the selective draft the next day?

After this rather puzzling question had entered his mind and refused to be ousted or explained away, other puzzling questions began to follow it. Why had the lights of the automobile been out? Why had there been no lights in the house? Why had no one come out on the porch to bid Roscoe good-bye? Why had not Roscoe slammed the auto door shut, as one naturally did, that being the easiest way to shut it?

Well, all that was Roscoe's business, not his, thought Tom, as he settled down to go to sleep, and perhaps he had closed the door quietly because he wished not to disturb any one so late at night. That was very thoughtful of Roscoe....

But just the same Tom could not go to sleep, and he lay in bed thinking uneasily.

He had just about conquered his misgivings and had begun to think how suspicious and ungenerous he was, when another question occurred to him which had the effect of a knockout blow to his peace of mind.

Why had Roscoe Bent told Miss Ellison that it was better to be a live coward than a dead hero?

-Why, he had only been joking, of course, when he said that! It was one of those silly, careless things that he was always saying. Miss Ellison had not seemed to think it was very funny, but that had only made Roscoe laugh the more. "I'd rather kill time than kill Germans," he had said lightly. And Miss Ellison had said, "You're quite brave at killing time, aren't you?"

It was just joking and jollying, thought Tom, as he turned over for the fourth or fifth time, and he wished that he could joke and jolly like that. He made up his mind that when Roscoe came upstairs in the morning he would ask him whether the Germans weren't cowards to murder innocent women and children, and whether he would really want to be like them. He believed he could say that much without a tremor, even in front of Miss Ellison.

He wished morning would come so that he could be sure that Roscoe ... so that he could say that when Roscoe came upstairs.

"I'll bet he'll be sleepy after being out so late," thought Tom.

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