Ambition came, with Sterling Silver Breast-Plate and Flaming Sword, and sat beside a Tad aged 5. The wee Hopeful lived in a Frame House with Box Pillars in front and Hollyhocks leading down toward the Pike.
“Whither shall I guide you?” asked Ambition. “Are you far enough from the Shell to have any definite Hankering?”
“I have spent many Hours brooding over the possibilities of the Future,” replied the Larva. “I want to grow up to be a Joey in a Circus. I fairly ache to sit in a Red Wagon just behind the Band and drive a Trick Mule with little pieces of Looking Glass in the Harness. I want to pull Mugs at all the scared Country Girls peeking out of the Wagon Beds. The Town Boys will leave the Elephant and trail behind my comical Chariot. In my Hour of Triumph the Air will be impregnated with Calliope Music and the Smell of Pop-Corn, modified by Wild Animals.”
Ambition went out to make the proper Bookings with Destiny. When he came back the Boy was ten years old.
“We started wrong,” whispered Ambition, curling up in the cool grass near the Day-Dreamer. “The Trick Mule and the Red Cart are all very well for little Fraidy-Cats and Softies, but a brave Youth of High Spirit should tread the Deck of his own Ship with a Cutlass under his Red Sash. Aye, that is Blood gauming up the Scuppers, but is the Captain chicken-hearted? Up with the Black Flag! Let it be give and take, with Pieces of Eight for the Victor!”
So it was settled that the Lad was to hurry through the Graded Schools and then get at his Buccaneering.
But Ambition came back with a revised Program. “You are now Fifteen Years of Age,” said the Wonderful Guide with the glittering Suit. “It is High Time that you planned a Noble Career, following a Straight Course from which there shall be no Deviation. The Pirate is a mere swaggering Bravo and almost Unscrupulous at times. Why not be a great Military Commander? The Procedure is Simple. Your Father gives the Finger to the Congressman and then you step off the Boat at West Point. Next thing you know, you are wearing a Nobby Uniform right out on the Parade Ground, while bevies of Debutantes from New York City and other Points admire you for the stern Profile and Military Set-Up. After that you will subdue many Savage Tribes, and then you will march up Pennsylvania Avenue at the head of the whole Regular Army, and the President of the United States will be waiting on the Front Porch of the White House to present you with a jewelled Sword on behalf of a Grateful Nation.”
“You are right,” said the Stripling. His eyes were like Saucers, and his Nostrils quivered. “I will be Commander-in-Chief, and after I am laid away, with the Cannon booming, the Folks in this very Town will put up a Statue of Me at the corner of Sixth and Main, so the Street-Cars will have to circle to get around it.”
Consequently, when he was in his 21st Year, he was sitting at a high Desk in an Office watching the Birds on a Telegraph Wire. The Knowledge he had acquired at the two Prep Schools before being pushed into the Fresh Air ahead of Time had not made him round-shouldered. He was a likely Chap, but he wore no Plumes.
He became dimly conscious that Ambition was squatted on the Stool next to him.
“Up to this time we have been Dead Wrong,” said the Periodical Visitor. “There is only one Prize worth winning and that is the Love of the Niftiest Nectarine that ever came down a Crystal Stairway from the Celestial Regions to grace this dreary World with her Holy Presence. Yes, I mean the One you passed this morning–the One with her hair in a Net and the Cameo Brooch. Why not annex her by Legal Routine and settle down in a neat Cottage purchased from the Building and Loan Association? You could raise your own Vegetables. Go to it.”