MARTA HEARS FELLER’S STORY
To tell the story as Lanstron told it is to have it from the partisan lips of a man speaking for a man out of the depths of a friendship grown into the fibre of youth. It is better written by the detached narrator.
Gustave Feller’s father had died when Gustave was twelve and his mother found it easy to spoil an only son who was handsome and popular. He suffered the misfortune of a mental brilliancy that learns too readily and of a personal charm that wins its way too easily. He danced well; he was facile at the piano; and he had so pronounced a gift as an amateur actor that a celebrated professional had advised him to go on the stage.
The two entering the cadet officers’ school at the same time, chance made them roommates and choice soon made them chums. They had in common cleverness and the abundant energy that must continually express itself in action, and a mutual attraction in the very complexity of dissimilar traits that wove well in companionship.
While they were together Lanstron was a brake on his friend’s impulses of frivolity which carried him to extremes; but they separated after receiving their commissions, Feller being assigned to the horse-artillery and Lanstron to the infantry and later to the staff. In charge of a field-battery at manoeuvres Feller was at his best. But in the comparative idleness of his profession he had much spare time for amusement, which led to gambling. Soon many debts hung over his head, awaiting liquidation at high rates of interest when he should come into the family property.
To the last his mother, having ever in mind a picture of him as a fine figure riding at the head of his guns, was kept in ignorance of this side of his life. With her death, when he had just turned thirty, a fortune was at his disposal. He made an oath of his resolution to pay his debts, marry and settle down and maintain his inheritance unimpaired. This endured for a year before it began to waver; and the wavering was soon followed by headlong obsession which fed on itself. As his passion for gambling grew it seemed to consume the better elements of his nature. Lanstron reasoned with him, then implored, then stormed; and Feller, regularly promising to reform, regularly fell each time into greater excesses. Twice Lanstron saved him from court-martial, but the third time no intercession or influence would induce his superiors to overlook the offence. Feller was permitted to resign to avoid a scandal, and at thirty-three, penniless, disgraced, he faced the world and sought the new land which has been the refuge for numbers of his kind. Only one friend bade him farewell as he boarded a steamer for New York, and this was Lanstron.
“Keep away from cities! Seek the open country! And write me, Gustave—don’t fail!” said Lanstron.