Chapter 1

"Charlie," Jedediah Leland called from the doorway of Charles Kane's Harvard dorm room. Kane, who had been busily working before Leland made his presence known, only bothered to give him a brief grin of acknowledgement before continuing with his newest project. "You know," Leland began, attempting to chastise him, despite the fact that he was clearly succumbing to the latter's charm. "Dr. Bennet is bound to try and have you expelled from his class if you don't bother to attend it once in a while."

"I'm far too busy to attend 'Dr.' Bennet's one-sided, hopelessly outdated lectures on literature that only he finds remarkable."

"It's a literary appreciation course, Charlie. Obviously we're going to be required to read-"

"I know what the course is, Jedediah. However, I fail to appreciate the 'literature'. And I use the term 'literature' rather lightly. I have far more important matters to attend to."

Succumbing to his curiosity, Leland slowly approached the desk at which Kane was seated and glanced at the typewriter in front of him. "And what's this you're working on?" he asked, no longer attempting to conceal his interest.

"A newspaper article."

Leland furrowed an eyebrow and glanced towards him, puzzled. "You don't work on the paper..."

"No. But I know people who work on the paper. Obviously it doesn't take much more than a little persuading to..." Kane trailed off, well aware that there was no need for him to complete his thought. Leland understood Kane's methods of persuasion quite well. If his charming good nature didn't win people over, there was always the chance that they could be bought.

"What is your article about?" Leland asked, seating himself on Kane's bed.

"It's more of a petition than anything, I suppose." As he spoke, he continued pecking vehemently at his typewriter.

Leland cocked his head towards Kane, suddenly feeling anxious. "Petition? And what are you petitioning this time?"

Kane glanced towards him with another charming grin. Leland knew that this could only mean one thing. "Dr. Bennet's literary appreciation course."

Leaping from the bed, Leland snatched the paper from the typewriter and began reading.

"'...Dr. Bennet represents a new low in this supposedly prestigious university's staff. His method of teaching is nothing more than absolute mediocrity and his choice of reading material is so completely...'" Though Leland was not particularly fond of the course himself, he could hardly believe that Kane would take the trouble to have Dr. Bennet removed from his position. "There's more to this than a few bad novels, isn't there, Charlie?" Leland asked, waving the petition in his hand as he spoke.

"You've said yourself that the course was useless. I'm surprised at you, Jedediah. I assumed that yours would be the first signature on the petition. Aside from my own, of course."

"What happened, Charlie? Did he fail you? Is that it?"

After a moment of reluctance, Kane eventually gave in to Leland's prying stares. Rising from his chair, he lifted a stack of papers from his desk and thrust them towards his companion.

"Yes, I thought as much," Leland muttered, beginning to scan through the papers. After a moment, he stared up at Kane, visibly perplexed. "Charlie..." he began slowly, fingering through the papers once more. "But... Well, this is excellent. He says here that you seemed to have understood the meaning of The Scarlet Letter better than any other student he had ever taught."

"Yes," Kane said impatiently, taking the papers away. "But did you even bother to read what I had written? It was utter trash! I made Hester Prynne out to be the helpless victim and portrayed Arthur Dimmesdale as a villainous rascal."

"Isn't that what we were led to believe?" Leland asked.

"In Dr. Bennet's class, yes! That simply proves my point. I wrote this essay simply to assure myself that this petition was worth my time. But if this is what I am supposed to believe regarding The Scarlet Letter, well..." Kane tossed his paper back onto the desk in disgust.

"I liked the book," Leland said, carelessly shrugging his shoulders.

"I'm not petitioning Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jedediah!" Kane snapped. "I'm petitioning the idiot who analyzed the novel in the most unimaginative, painful way and tried to convince us to do the same!"

"Is it any wonder why you've been kicked out of every college and university you've ever attended?" Leland asked with a critical smile. "You need to let these sorts of things go, Charlie. You'll never get anywhere if you don't-"

"I have my principles, Jedediah."

"Oh yes," Leland muttered pensively to himself, crossing to the door. "I'd forgotten. Well, I suppose a man needs to have his principles. If you lose everything else, you'll still have those principles."

"And you think that I will lose everything if I continue with..." Kane swiftly gestured towards the petition, which Leland had placed on the desk.

"It's possible. If nothing else, you'll get a lot of people angry with you before you die. But I suppose that won't matter... If you remember those blessed principles of yours."