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   Chapter 2 No.2

'As Gold in the Furnace' By John E. Copus Characters: 9575

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The Motive

BEFORE proceeding to narrate the complications which beset Roy Henning's path during his last year at St. Cuthbert's, and the many curious cross-purposes of which he may be said to have been the victim, we shall endeavor to give some idea of the motive which actuated him in retiring from the arena of college sports.

It must be remembered that Roy Henning, in the previous year, was a fast friend of Claude Winters, Hunter, Selby, Clavering, and Stapleton. The companionship of these boys had helped as much to form his character as had the careful work of the professors. Under his friends' influence he had gradually lost much of his bashfulness. By the time that Winters and his other friends had graduated, he could conduct himself with an amount of ease and composure. He no longer blushed and squirmed immoderately, like a small boy, when addressed by a stranger or by one in authority. He could now speak to a Father or even the President without wishing to fall through the floor. Roy was much improved, yet the influence which his companions of the previous year had exercised over him had taken a somewhat peculiar turn.

As far as he knew, not one of his last year's friends, now graduated and gone, had any aspirations to study for the sacred ministry of the priesthood. Their joyous piety, nevertheless, and their cheerful goodness had been the means, entirely unknown to themselves, of making Henning entertain a profound veneration for the ecclesiastical state.

From often contemplating how eminently suited, both in talents and in virtue, were many of his companions for this state, Roy had passed from admiring them to the thought of the feasibility of embracing that state himself. The more he thought of this, and the more frequently he examined himself, the more enamored of the lofty idea he became; so that at the expiration of the previous year's term he had fully made up his mind to enter the priesthood should he secure the sanction of his spiritual director.

Before he left college for vacation he had a long interview with the white-haired, holy old chaplain, from which he received great encouragement, but was told to keep his intention a secret from all save his parents. He took the admonition literally and obeyed it exactly, so that he left St. Cuthbert's in the previous June without his most intimate acquaintances so much as dreaming that he entertained such exalted ambitions and aspirations to a dignity than which there is none greater on earth.

It was not remarkable that his companions should never imagine such things of him. Was he not the recognized leader of all sports and games? Who had a merrier shout? No one's laugh rang more musically across the playground. How should boys-mere boys, after all-imagine that graver thoughts and sublimer ambitions were coexistent with merry pranks, resounding cheers, or harmless escapades. Well, boys, college boys even, are gifted with only a limited prescience, and none suspected the great plan of life which was now continually in Roy's mind.

He did not broach the subject to his father until the vacation months were drawing to a close, and it was time to think about returning to St. Cuthbert's. The Hennings spent the summer months in the lake region. One beautiful calm, warm evening in August, Mr. Henning was sitting on the broad veranda of his cottage, watching in quiet content the silver pathway which the full moon made across the water, and marveling how the light made the sails of the yachts appear now black, now silver as the vessels tacked about. Roy, who for several days had been watching his opportunity to have a private talk with his father, saw that it had now come. He took a seat near his father.

"Where are Mama and the children, Roy?"

"They are down on the beach, Father, throwing sticks into the lake for Fido to swim after. The dog is almost crazy with the delight of the game."

"Why are you not down there too? You seem to be moping lately, my boy. Is anything the matter? Are you quite well?"

"Quite, thanks. I am not moping, but the fact is, Father, I have something I wish to talk to you about, and as the rest won't be back for some time, perhaps this is a good opportunity to tell you what I have to say."

"Dear me! what a lot of mystery! Say on, son. I am all attention. Let me see: how old are you? Nineteen next month, eh? You'll be graduated next year at St. Cuthbert's, will you not?"

"I hope so," replied the boy modestly.

"That's right. Well, I suppose you want to talk about the choice of a profession. It is quite time you made a choice, you know."

"That is precisely what I wish to speak about."

"Ah! Well, go on. I am willing to listen to your ideas, reserving, of course, the right of veto, Is

it to be the law, or medicine, or the army? Perhaps 'tis the navy? I have influence enough to get you into Annapolis, if you wish to follow the sea."

"It is none of these you have mentioned, sir," said Roy, nervously, and the next moment he blurted out awkwardly, "I want to enter the priesthood!"

"The priesthood," said Henning senior, with an intonation that expressed various emotions. "H-um," And he remained a long time silent.

The light from the sitting-room fell on Mr. Henning's face. Roy watched the florid features of his father. His closely-cropped white hair and side-whiskers worn in the style once designated "mutton-chop," the short-trimmed mustache, and clean-shaven, well-rounded chin, all showed distinctly in the strong light of the reading lamp, which sent a flood of light out across the veranda. Roy thought that his father's face was unusually flushed. It appeared almost purple in the artificial light, and the son became anxious, momentarily fearing that the suddenly communicated intelligence might have caused a rush of blood to the head. The family physician not long before had told Mrs. Henning that her husband was quite liable to an attack of apoplexy.

Roy could not guess what was passing within the mind of his father, who remained silent a long time. Nothing was heard except the nervous tapping of Mr. Henning's eyeglasses on the arm of the rocker.

The boy knew that his father was irascible, and he was more or less prepared for a storm. He waited for what he thought several minutes-in reality less than forty seconds-for his father to speak. No sound was heard save the nervous tap-tap-tapping on the arm of the chair. Roy twirled his cap and shifted his weight from one foot to another.

Then, as it often does, the unexpected occurred. Mr. Henning arose from his chair, and without noticing his son, or saying a word, retired into the house, leaving the surprised boy on the porch.

The young man was perplexed at this turn of affairs. Had his father flatly refused he could have pleaded and coaxed. Had he stormed, the boy knew enough of his parent to be aware that the end he desired would most probably be attained-when the storm blew over.

Roy left the porch in a dazed sort of way. He had never seen his father act so peculiarly. Wanting to be alone to think over the affair, he sauntered off to a secluded part of the large lawn.

* * *

"Hi, Roy, is that you? Where have you been? I have been searching for you everywhere. Put on your dancing pumps and come over to our villa. We are going to have a carpet dance. All the tables and chairs have been put out on the lawn, and we are going to have a jolly time. Come on."

The speaker over the hedge was Andrew Garrett, Roy's cousin, whose father had rented the adjoining villa for the summer. Garrett was on the road, seated in a stylish dogcart. He held a pair of white ribbons over a mettlesome horse whose silverplated harness ornaments shone brightly in the moonlight.

"You must make my excuses--"began Roy.

"Eh! what? Oh! come! that won't do. My sisters have netted a lot of girls, many of whom are already there, and the cry is 'still they come.' We haven't enough partners for them. I am not slow at this kind of affair, but, you know, a fellow can't make himself ubiquitous. Run and put on your dancing-shoes, and if you spoil them in the dew coming home, I'll buy you another pair to-morrow."

"The puppy," thought Roy, and the ugly word was on the tip of his tongue, but he checked himself in time, and said:

"I am sorry indeed to disappoint you, but I have more important things to think about to-night. I really can not come. You must make my excuse to auntie and your sisters."

"Oh! hang it all, man; we haven't enough dancers,"

"I am sorry, but to-night--"

"Sorry!--" We regret to say that Garrett used an expression not at all becoming to the lips of a Catholic young man.

"You won't come, then?"

"I can not, to-night."

"You won't, you mean,"

"I did not say that."

"But you mean it. Well, I can go up the road and get the Meloche boys, and the Poultneys, and others. Mark my words, Roy; I'll get even with you for this. You'll be sorry for it yet. It's a mean trick. Get up, Nance."

And he gave the mare a vicious cut, which sent her rearing and racing up the dusty country road, giving the ill-tempered boy all he could do to prevent the spirited animal from running away with him.

A week later, Roy Henning was surprised to learn that Andrew Garrett was to be a student at St. Cuthbert's the coming term. His first effort at "getting even"with his cousin was attempted as we have seen in the preceding chapter, when Henning made the unwelcome announcement of his retirement from college sports.

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