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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

But there's no such thing as an individualist


suppose," she was saying, in her voice that was deeper than most women's voices, and musical and agreeable to hear,--"I suppose that college is designed to save us all a lot of hard knocks; I wonder if it does?"

"If you're asking me personally, I'll say that there are lumps on my brow where I have bumped hard, in spite of my A.B. degree. I'm disposed to think that college only postpones the day of our awakening; we've got to shoot the chutes anyhow. It is so written."

She laughed at his way of putting it.

"Oh, you're not so much older that you can frighten me. People on the toboggan always seem to be having a good time; the percentage of those whose car jumps the track isn't formidable."

"Just enough fatalities to flavor the statistics. The seniors over there have stopped singing; I dare say they're talking about life in large capital letters."

"Well, there are plenty of chances. I'm rather of the opinion that we're all here to do something for somebody. Nobody's life is just his own. Whether we want it that way or not, we are all links in the chain, and it's our business not to be the weakest."

"I'm an individualist," he said, "and I'm very largely concerned in seeing what Daniel Harwood, a poor young lawyer of mediocre abilities, can do with this thing we hear mentioned

as life."

"Oh, but there's no such thing as an individualist; the idea is purely academic!" and she laughed again, but less lightly. "We're all debtors to somebody or something--to the world itself, for example."

"For the stars up there, for grass and trees, for the moon by night and the sun by day--for the gracious gift of friends?"

"A little, yes; but they don't count so much. I owe my debt to people--real human beings, who may not be as lucky as I. For a good many thousand years people have been at work trying to cheer up the world--brighten it and make it a better place to live in. I owe all those people something; it's not merely a little something; it's a tremendous lot, and I must pay these other human beings who don't know what they're entitled to. You have felt that; you have felt it just as I have, I'm sure."

"You are still in college, and that is what undergraduates are taught to call ideals, Miss Garrison. I hope you will hold on to them: I had mine, but I'm conscious of late that I'm losing my grip on them. It's inevitable, in a man's life. It's a good thing that women hold on to them longer; without woman's faith in such things the world would be a sad old cinder, tumbling aimlessly around in the void."

She stopped abruptly in the path, very tall and slim in the dusk of starlight and moonlight. He had been carrying his hat in his hand and he leaned on his stick wondering whether she were really in earnest, whether he had displeased her by the half-mocking tone in which he had spoken.

"Please don't talk this old, romantic, mediaeval nonsense about women! This is the twentieth century, and I don't believe for a minute that a woman, just by being a woman, can keep the world sweet and beautiful. Once, maybe; but not any more! A woman's ideals aren't a bit better than a man's unless she stands up for them and works for them. You don't have to take that from a college senior; you can ask dear Mrs. Owen. I suppose she knows life from experience if any woman ever did, and she has held to her ideals and kept working away at them. But just being a woman, and being good, and nice, and going to church, and belonging to a missionary society--well, Mr. Harwood?"

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