Miserably she argued the question back and forth. It she didn’t win the prize Abraham would, and he could well afford to go to college without the money. “He’d cheat if he had the chance,” she told herself. “That doesn’t help you any,” pricked the accuser. “You talk about the honor of the Winnebagos. If you use that information you would be dishonoring the Winnebagos! You’re a cheat, you’re a cheat,” it said tauntingly, and a little sparrow on the window sill outside took up the mocking refrain, “Cheat! Cheat!” Stung as though some one had pointed an accusing finger at her, Migwan flung down her pen in despair and resolutely blotted her paper. She handed in her examination with the last half of the last question unanswered, and fled from the room with unseeing eyes. And in the instant when George was trying to tell Migwan the answer, Abraham, who had also forgotten the name of Sargon, glanced over toward George’s paper and saw it written out in his easily readable hand. Without a qualm he wrote it down on his own paper with a triumphant flourish.
There was great surprise throughout the school a few days later when the grades of the examination were made public: Elsie Gardiner, 95; Abraham Goldstein, 98, winner of the Parsons cash prize of $100.
Migwan felt like a wanderer on the face of the earth after losing that history prize. She shrank from meeting the friends who had so confidently expected her to win it, and her own thoughts were too painful to be left alone with. If Hinpoha had been wandering in the Desert of Waiting for the past few months, Migwan was sunk deep in the Slough of Despond. She was at the age when death seemed preferable to defeat, and she wished miserably that she would fall ill of some mortal disease, and never have to face the world again with failure written on her forehead. “Oh, why,” she wailed in anguish of spirit, as has many an older and wiser person when confronted with this same unanswerable question, “why was I given this glimpse of Paradise only to have the gate slammed in my face?” That spectre of the winter before, the belief that success would never be hers, gripped her again with its icy hand. And was it any wonder? Twice now the means to enter college had been within her reach, and twice it had been swept away in a single day. But while Migwan was thus learning by hard experience that there is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, she was also to learn from that same schoolmistress the truth of the old saying, “Three times and out.” In the meantime, however, the skies were as gray as the wings of the Thunderbird, and life was like a jangling discord struck on a piano long out of tune.