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Going West

118 pages
Library of Alexandria
He was not a born fighter, in spite of a big, husky frame through which the urge of physical life was strong. On the contrary, he was a civilian and a business man in every nerve of his body. Eight generations on American soil had bred a type essentially industrious, notwithstanding all the fighting in which the family had been engaged. His father had fought in the Spanish-American War; his grandfather in the Civil War; his great-great-grandfather in the Revolution; farther back, his ancestors in the Connecticut Valley had beaten off the French and Indians for nearly a hundred years. All that, however, had been alien to the main purposes of life. It had been incidental, not professional. Its chief influence on Lester lay in the assumption that, men being called for on the borders of Texas and in Mexico, he had no choice but to go. True, he was just beginning, after certain wayward years, to see success as a broker ahead of him; and within the month he had become engaged to Molly Dove. But these considerations could not weigh against the appeal of country, nor annul those traditions of duty that had come to him from the past. So in the course of time, and with the march of events, he found himself in the enemy trenches, facing a burly blue-eyed Teuton holding a rifle by the barrel and swinging the butt about his head, while he himself held a bayonet in his hand. Amid the wreckage, the carnage, the tumult, he was desperately trying to recall his instructions as to how to stick the weapon in. Before telling what happened then, let us go back and follow rapidly the stages by which Lester found himself in a situation which two or three years earlier he would have laughed out of the list of possibilities. The son of a well-to-do bookseller in a great Atlantic city, he was an instance of that reaction against the paternal bent with which we are all familiar. His father was a gentle, scholarly man who loved books as books. The Spanish-American campaign had left him with one leg slightly shorter than the other, and the air of a retired general. All his longings had once focused themselves into the hope that his son would enter into, and one day inherit, a business built up on years of diligence and judgment—only to be disappointed. Lester had no interest in books. He was not only an open-air fellow with a zest for sports, but he had all the inclinations of a genial, jovial soul. Taking wine, women, and song as kindred joys, he chose brokerage as the profession that would give him closest touch with the merry give and take of life. As a broker he could steal all the time he needed to "root" at games, after he had ceased to play them actively, while the same career rendered him more free to marry a girl like Molly Dove, a waitress in the café where he generally lunched, to whom his family bitterly objected. His mother was a small, square-shouldered woman, with a smile so bright that it was difficult for the most penetrating eye to see behind it. Lester had inherited her dark color, her beetling brows, and her vigorous physique. A gay audacity, as real as it looked, was also not the least among the legacies she passed on to her son.