“But your headmaster tells me it will be a thousand pities if you don’t go to Cambridge. I am proposing that you should go there—should matriculate this term. My dear boy”—he laid a hand on Victor’s arm—” don’t refuse me this. I have no right—perhaps—to insist; but I daresay you can guess what your acceptance would mean to me. You can choose your own career when the time comes. For your sake your mother would have liked this: ask yourself if she would not.”
Mr. Frank had not looked forward to pleading like this; yet when it came to the point this seemed his only possible attitude. Victor had removed his gaze, and his eyes were resting now on the green sunny waves rolling in at the harbour’s mouth. For almost a minute he kept silence; then—
“Yes, she would advise it,” he said. It was as though he had laid the case before an unseen counsellor and waited submissively for the answer. Mr. Frank had gained his end and without trouble: yet he felt a disappointment he could not at once explain. He was the last man in the world to expect a gratitude which he did not deserve; but in the satisfaction of carrying his point he missed something, and surmised what he missed. The boy had not turned to him for the answer, but had turned away and brought it to him. Father and son would never have the deeper joy of taking counsel together heart to heart.
So Victor went up to Trinity, and returned for the Christmas vacation on the heels of an announcement that he had won a scholarship. He had grown more manly and serious, and he smoked a tobacco which sorely tried Miss Bracy’s distinguished nose; but he kept the boyish laugh—the laugh which always seemed to them to call invitingly from the door of his soul, “Why don’t you enter and read me? The house is clean and full of goodwill—Come!” But though they never ceased trying, they could never penetrate to those inner chambers. Sometimes—though they might be talking of most trivial matters—the appeal would suddenly grow pathetic, almost plangent, “What is this that shuts me off from you? We sit together and love one another: why am I set apart?” Time was when he had seemed to them consciously reticent, almost of set purpose; but now it was they who, looking within the doorway, saw the dead woman standing there with finger on lip.
He made no intimate friends at Cambridge; yet was popular and something of a figure in his College, which had marked him down for high—perhaps the highest—university honours, and was pleasantly astonished to find him also a good cricketer. His good looks attracted men; they asked his name, were told it, and exclaimed, “Bracy? Not the man Trinity is running for Senior Wrangler?” With this double reputation he might have won a host of friends, and his father and Miss Bracy would gladly have welcomed one, in hope that such companionship might exorcise the ghost: but he kept his way, liking and liked by men, yet aloof; with many acquaintances, censorious of none, influenced by none; avoiding when he disapproved, but not judging, and in no haste even to disapprove; easy to approach, and almost eager for goodwill, yet in the end inaccessible.