He took her arraignment calmly, “Hereafter,” said he, “please refrain from cleaning out my desk.”
I heard her catch her breath. “You have never talked to me like this before; never!” she said. “You have never dared. And that is precisely the trouble with you, James Todd. You won’t talk back; you won’t speak up for your rights. It is the cross of my life.”
From the sound, I think she wept.
“You are the same in the outside world as you are at home. You let the college trustees pay you what they please. You slave and slave and wear yourself out for three thousand a year when we might have twenty if you went into something else. And when your building-loan stock matures and you do get a little money, you spend it for this—this underbred little sewing-machine, and lure me out in it, and lecture me, as if I—as if I were to blame. I don’t know what has come over you.”
I knew what had come over him. I knew the secret of the new spirit animating the frail personality of Professor Todd. And Willie knew. I recalled that boy’s prophetic words: “The quickest way to get nerve is to grab hold here and drive.” I worried, nevertheless. I wondered if my little man could finish what he had started.
He could. As we rolled down the mountain into the ten-mile turnpike where he and I had rediscovered our youth, he concluded his discourse without missing an explosion. I knew his peroration by heart.
“To end this painful matter, my dear, I shall ask you in future to accord me at least the civility, if not the respect, to which a hard-working man and a faithful husband is entitled. I speak in all kindliness when I say that I have decided to endure no more hazing. I hope you understand that I have made this decision for your sake as well as for mine, for the psychological effect of hazing is quite as harmful to the hazer as to the hazed. Please govern yourself accordingly.”
He opened the throttle wide, and we touched thirty-five miles. I felt a wild wabble in my steering-gear. I heard Todd’s sharp command—“Kindly keep your hands off the wheel while I am driving.”
At the Mountain Dale Club Todd descended.
“Will you come in and have a lemonade, my dear?” he asked. There was a heartbroken little squeak in his voice.
“Thank you,” she replied frigidly. “I have had all the acid I can assimilate in one pleasant day.”
“May I remind you,” said he, stiffening with the gentle insistence of a steel spring, “that I am not to be addressed in sarcastic tones any longer?”
The Mammoth slid up beside us. The stout John Quincy Burton at the wheel shouted jovially: “I tell you what, Todd, when our soberest university professors get the speed bug, I tremble for civilization!”
My owner grinned with pleasure.
“Mrs. Todd,” said Burton, “after that trimming from your road-burning husband, I’ll stand treat. Won’t you join us?”