_If you were born to honor, show it now; if put upon you, make the judgment good that thought you worthy of it_. --SHAKESPEARE
_They enslave their children's children who make compromise with sin_. --LOWELL
IT was mid-December before Lloyd Fenneben saw Lagonda Ledge again. In the murderous attempt upon his life, he had been hurled, head-downward, upon the hidden rock-ledge with such force that even his strong nervous system could barely overcome the shock. Hours of unconsciousness were followed by a raging brain fever, and paralysis, insanity, and death strove together against him. His final complete recovery was slow, and he was wise enough to let nature have ample time for rebuilding what had been so cruelly wrenched out of line. It was this very patience and willingness to take life calmly, when most men would have been in a fever of anxiety about neglected business, that brought Lloyd Fenneben back to Lagonda Ledge in December, a perfectly well man; and aside from the holiday given in honor of the event, aside from the display of flags and the big "Welcome" done in electric lights awaiting him at the railroad station, where all the portable population of Lagonda Ledge and most of the Walnut Valley, headed by the Sunrise contingent, en masse, seemed to be waiting also--aside from the demonstration and general hilarity and thanksgiving and rejoicing, there seemed no difference between the Dean of the days that followed and the Dean of the years before. His black hair was as long and heavy as ever. His black eyes had lost nothing of their keenness. His smile was just the same old, genial outbreak of good will, as he heard the wildly enthusiastic refrain:
Rah for Funnybone! Rah for Funnybone! Rah for Funnybone! _Rah!_ RAH!! RAH!!!
It was twilight when the train pulled up to the station. The December evening was clear and crisp as southern Kansas Decembers usually are. The lights of the town were twinkling in the dusk. Out beyond the river a gorgeous purple and scarlet after-sunset glow was filling the west with that magnificence of coloring only the hand of Nature dares to paint.
Several passengers left the train, but the company had eyes only for the Pullman car where Fenneben was riding. Nobody, except Bond Saxon, and a cab driver on the edge of the crowd, noticed a gray-haired woman who alighted so quietly and slipped to the cab so quickly that she was almost out to Pigeon Place before Fenneben had been able to clear the platform.
Behind the Dean was his niece, who halted on the car steps while her uncle went into the outstretched arms of Lagonda Ledge. At sight of her, the hats went high in air, as she stood there smiling above the crowd. It was Maytime when she went away. They had remembered her in dainty Maytime gowns. They were not prepared for her in her handsome traveling costume of golden brown, her brown beaver hat, and pretty furs. A beautiful girl can be so charming in her winter feathers. She had expected that Burgess would be first to meet her, and she was ready, she thought, to greet him, becomingly. But as the porter helped her to the platform, the crowd closed in, shutting him away momentarily, and a hand caught hers, a big, strong hand whose clasp, so close and warm, seemed to hold her hand by right of eternal possession. And Victor Burleigh's brown eyes full of a joyous light were looking down at her. It was all such a sweet, shadowy time that nobody crowding about them could see clearly how Elinor, with shining face, nestled involuntarily close to his arm for just one instant, and her low murmured words, "I am glad you were first," were lost to all but the big fellow before her, and a bigger, vastly lazy fellow, Trench, just behind her. It was Trench's bulk that had blocked the way for the professor a moment before. Then she was swallowed in the jolly greetings of goodfellowship, and Vincent Burgess carried her away to the carriage where her uncle waited.
"The thing is settled now," the young folks thought. But Dennie Saxon and Trench, who walked home together, knew that many things were hopelessly unsettled. By the law of natural fitness, Dennie and Trench should have fallen in love with each other. They were so alike in goodness of heart. But such mating of like with like, is rare, and under its ruling the world would grow so monotonously good, on the one hand, and bad, on the other, that life would be uninteresting.