Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 2 out of 9
I don't know just what sort of a mess it is."
"Are you going to tell me about it?"
"Some of it. And if I don't start to yelling like a tom-cat."
"You're not going to do that. Let me get you something."
He was terrified by her eyes. "Some aromatic ammonia." That was
Natalie's cure for everything.
"I'm not going to faint. I never do. Close the door and sit down.
And then - give me a hundred dollars, if you have it. Will you?"
"Is that enough?" he asked. And drew out his black silk evening
wallet, with its monogram in seed pearls. He laid the money on her
knee, for she made no move to take it. She sat back, her face
colorless, and surveyed him intently.
"What a comfort you are, Clay," she said. "Not a word in question.
Just like that! Yet you know I don't borrow money, usually."
"The only thing that is important is that I have the money with me.
Are you sure it's enough?"
"Plenty. I'll send it back in a week or so. I'm selling this house.
It's practically sold. I don't know why anybody wants it. It's a
poky little place. But - well, it doesn't matter about the house.
I called up some people to-day who have been wanting one in this
neighborhood and I'm practically sure they'll take it."
"But - you and Chris - "
"We have separated, Clay. At least, Chris has gone. There's a
long story behind it. I'm not up to telling it to-night. And this
money will end part of it. That's all I'm going to tell about the
money. It's a small sum, isn't it, to break up a family!"
"Why, it's absurd! It's - it's horrible, Audrey."
"Oh, it isn't the money. That's a trifle. I just had to have it
quickly. And when I learned I needed it of course the banks were
closed. Besides, I fancy Chris had to have all there was."
Clayton was puzzled and distressed. He had not liked Chris. He
had hated his cynicism, his pose of indifference. His very
fastidiousness had never seemed entirely genuine. And this going
away and taking all Audrey's small reserve of money -
"Where is he?"
"I don't know. I believe on his way to Canada."
"Do you mean - "
"Oh, no, he didn't steal anything. He's going to enlist in the
Canadian army. Or he said so when he left."
"Look here, Audrey, you can't tell me only part of the story. Do
you mean to say that Chris has had a magnificent impulse and gone
to fight? Or that he's running away from something?"
"Both," said Audrey. "I'll tell you this much, Clay. Chris has
got himself into a scrape. I won't tell you about that, because
after all that's his story. And I'm not asking for sympathy. If
you dare to pity me I'll cry, and I'll never forgive you."
"Why didn't he stay and face it like a man? Not leave you to face
"Because the only person it greatly concerned was myself. He didn't
want to face me. The thing that is driving me almost mad is that
he may be killed over there. Not because I love him so much. I
think you know how things have been. But because he went to - well,
I think to reinstate himself in my esteem, to show me he's a man,
"Good heavens, Audrey. And you went through dinner with all this
"I've got to carry it right along, haven't I? You know how I've
been about this war, Clay. I've talked and talked about wondering
how our men could stay out of it. So when the smash came, he just
said he was going. He would show me there was some good stuff in
him still. You see, I've really driven him to it, and if he's
killed - "
A surge of resentment against the absent man rose in Clayton
Spencer's mind. How like the cynicism of Chris's whole attitude
that he should thrust the responsibility for his going onto Audrey.
He had made her unhappy while he was with her, and now his death,
if it occurred, would be a horror to her.
"I don't know why I burden you with all this," she said, rather
impatiently. "I daresay it is because I knew you'd have the money.
No, I don't mean that. I'd rather go to you in trouble than to
any one else; that's why."
"I hope you always will."
"Oh, I shall! Don't worry." But her attempt at gayety fell flat.
She lighted a cigaret from the stand beside her and fell to
studying his face.
"What's happened to you?" she asked. "There's a change in you,
somehow. I've noticed it ever since you came home. You ought to
be smug and contented, if any man should. But you're not, are you?"
"I'm working hard. That's all. I don't want to talk about myself,"
he added impatiently. "What about you? What are you going to do?"
"Sell my house, pay my debts and live on my own little bit of an
"But, good heavens, Audrey! Chris has no right to cut off like
this, and leave you. I don't know the story, but at least he must
support you. A man can't just run away and evade every obligation.
I think I'll have to go after him and give him a talking to."
"No!" she said, bending forward. "Don't do that. He has had a bad
scare. But he's had one decent impulse, too. Let him alone, Clay."
She placed the money on the stand, and rose. As she faced him, she
impulsively placed her hands on his shoulders.
"I wish I could tell you, Clay," she said, in her low, slightly
husky voice, "how very, very much I admire you. You're pretty much
of a man, you know. And - there aren't such a lot of them."
For an uneasy moment he thought she was going to kiss him. But she
let her hands fall, and smiling faintly, led the way downstairs.
Once down, however, she voiced the under lying thought in her mind.
"If he comes out, Clay, he'll never forgive me, probably. And if
he is - if he doesn't, I'll never forgive myself. So I'm damned
But ten minutes later, with a man on either side of her, she was
sitting at the piano with a cigaret tucked behind her ear, looking
distractingly pretty and very gay and singing a slightly indecorous
but very witty little French song.
Clayton Spencer, cutting in on the second rubber, wondered which
of the many he knew was the real Audrey. He wondered if Chris had
not married, for instance, the girl at the piano, only to find she
was the woman upstairs. And he wondered, too, if that were true,
why he should have had to clear out. So many men married the sort
Audrey had been, in Chris's little study, only to find that after
all the thing they had thought they were getting was a pose, and
it was the girl at the piano after all.
He missed her, somewhat later. She was gone a full half hour, and
he fancied her absence had something to do with the money she had
Two things helped greatly to restore Clayton to a more normal state
of mind during the next few days. One of them undoubtedly was the
Valentine situation. Beside Audrey's predicament and Chris's
wretched endeavor to get away and yet prove himself a man, his own
position seemed, if not comfortable, at least tenable. He would
have described it, had he been a man to put such a thing into words,
as that "he and Natalie didn't exactly hit it off."
There were times, too, during those next few days, when he wondered
if he had not exaggerated their incompatibility. Natalie was
unusually pleasant. She spent some evening hours on the arm of his
big chair, talking endlessly about the Linndale house, and he would
lean back, smiling, and pretend to a mad interest in black and white
tiles and loggias.
He made no further protest as to the expense.
"Tell me," he said once, "what does a fellow wear in this - er
- Italian palace? If you have any intention of draping me in a toga
and putting vine leaves in my hair, or whatever those wreaths were
made of -!"
Natalie had no sense of humor, however. She saw that he meant to
be amusing, and she gave the little fleeting smile one gives to a
child who is being rather silly.
"Of course," he went on, "we'll have Roman baths, and be anointed
with oil afterwards by lady Greek slaves. Perfumed oil."
"Don't be vulgar, Clay." And he saw she was really offended.
While there was actually no change in their relationship, which
remained as it had been for a dozen years, their surface life was
pleasanter. And even that small improvement cheered him greatly.
He was thankful for such a peace, even when he knew that he had
bought it at a heavy price.
The other was his work. The directorate for the new munition plant
had been selected, and on Thursday of that week he gave a dinner at
his club to the directors. It had been gratifying to him to find
how easily his past reputation carried the matter of the vast
credits needed, how absolutely his new board deferred to his
judgment. The dinner became, in a way, an ovation. He was vastly
pleased and a little humbled. He wanted terribly to make good, to
justify their faith in him. They were the big financial men of his
time, and they were agreeing to back his judgment to the fullest
When the dinner was over, a few of the younger men were in no mood
to go home. They had dined and wined, and the night was young.
Denis Nolan, who had been present as the attorney for the new
concern, leaned back in his chair and listened to them with a sort
of tolerant cynicism.
"Oh, go home, you fellows," he said at last. "You make me sick.
Enough's enough. Why the devil does every dinner like this have to
end in a debauch?"
In the end, however, both he and Clayton went along, Clayton at
least frankly anxious to keep an eye on one or two of them until
they started home. He had the usual standards, of course, except
for himself. A man's private life, so long as he was not a bounder,
concerned him not at all. But this had been his dinner. He meant
to see it through. Once or twice he had seen real tragedy come to
men as a result of the recklessness of long dinners, many toasts
and the instinct to go on and make a night of it.
Afterward they went to a midnight roof-garden, and at first it was
rather dreary. Their youth was only comparative after all, and
the eyes of the girls who danced and sang passed over them, to
rest on boys in their twenties.
"Pathetic!" he said. "The saddest sight in the world! Every one
of you here would at this moment give up everything he's got to be
"Oh, shut up!" some one said, almost savagely.
"Of course, there are compensations," he drawled. "At twenty you
want to take the entire bunch home and keep 'em. At thirty you
know you can't, but you still want to. At forty and over you
don't want them at all, but you think it's damned curious they
don't want you."
Clayton had watched the scene with a rather weary interest. He was,
indeed, trying to put himself in Graham's place, at Graham's age.
He remembered once, at twenty, having slipped off to see "The Black
Crook," then the epitome of wickedness, and the disillusionment of
seeing women in tights with their accentuated curves and hideous
lack of appeal to the imagination. The caterers of such wares had
learned since then. Here were soft draperies instead, laces and
chiffons. The suggestion was not to the eyes but to the mind. How
devilishly clever it all was.
Perhaps there were some things he ought to discuss with Graham. He
wondered how a man led up to such a thing.
Nolan bent toward him.
"I've been watching for a girl," he said, "but I don't see her.
Last time I was here I came with Chris. She was his girl."
"Yes. It stumped me, at first. She came and sat with us, not a
bad little thing, but - Good Lord, Clay, ignorant and not even
pretty! And Chris was fastidious, in a way. I don't understand it."
The ancient perplexity of a man over the sex selections of his
friends puckered his forehead.
"Damned if I understand it," he repeated.
A great wave of pity for Audrey Valentine surged in Clayton Spencer's
heart. She had known it, of course; that was why Chris had gone
away. How long had she known it? She was protecting Chris's name,
even now. For all her frivolity, there was something rather big in
Audrey. The way she had held up at her dinner, for instance - and
he rather fancied that the idea of his going into the army had come
from her, directly or indirectly. So Chris, from being a fugitive,
was already by way of being a hero to his friends.
He made a mental note to send her some flowers in the morning.
He ordered them on his way down-town, and for some curious reason
she was in his mind most of the day. Chris had been a fool to
throw away a thing so worth having. Not every man had behind him
a woman of Audrey's sort.
That afternoon, accompanied by a rather boyishly excited elderly
clergyman, he took two hours off from the mill and purchased a new
car for Doctor Haverford.
The rector was divided between pleasure at the gift and apprehension
at its cost, but Clayton, having determined to do a thing, always
did it well.
"Nonsense," he said. "My dear man, the church has owed you this
car for at least ten years. If you get half the pleasure out of
using it that I'm having in presenting it to you, it will be well
worth while. I only wish you'd let me endow the thing. It's
likely to cost you a small fortune."
Doctor Haverford insisted that he could manage that. He stood off,
surveying with pride not unmixed with fear its bright enamel, its
leather linings, the complicated system of dials and bright levers
which filled him with apprehension.
"Delight says I must not drive it," he said. "She is sure I would
go too fast, and run into things. She is going to drive for me."
"How is Delight?"
"I wish you could see her, Clayton. She - well, all young girls
are lovely, but sometimes I think Delight is lovelier than most.
She is much older than I am, in many ways. She looks after me
like a mother. But she has humor, too. She has been drawing the
most outrageous pictures of me arrested for speeding, and she has
warned me most gravely against visiting road houses!"
"But Delight will have to be taught, if she is to run the car."
"The salesman says they will send some one."
"They give one lesson, I believe. That's not enough. I think
Graham could show her some things. He drives well."
Flying uptown a little later in Clayton's handsome car, the rector
dreamed certain dreams. First his mind went to his parish visiting
list, so endless, so never cleaned up, and now about to be made a
pleasure instead of a penance. And into his mind, so strangely
compounded of worldliness and spirituality, came a further dream
- of Delight and Graham Spencer - of ease at last for the girl after
the struggle to keep up appearances of a clergyman's family in a
Money had gradually assumed an undue importance in his mind. Every
Sunday, every service, he dealt in money. He reminded his people
of the church debt. He begged for various charities. He tried hard
to believe that the money that came in was given to the Lord, but
he knew perfectly well that it went to the janitor and the plumber
and the organist. He watched the offertory after the sermon, and
only too often as he stood waiting, before raising it before the
altar, he wondered if the people felt that they had received their
He had started life with a dream of service, but although his own
sturdy faith persisted, he had learned the cost of religion in
dollars and cents. So, going up town, he wondered if Clayton would
increase his church subscription, now that things were well with him.
"After all," he reflected, "war is not an unmixed evil," and
outlined a sermon, to be called the Gains of War, and subsequently
reprinted in pamphlet form and sold for the benefit of the new
altar fund. He instructed Jackson to drive to the parish house
instead of to the rectory, so that he might jot down the headings
while they were in his mind. They ran like this: Spiritual growth;
the nobility of sacrifice; the pursuit of an ideal; the doctrine
of thy brother's keeper.
He stopped to speak to Jackson from the pavement.
"I daresay we shall be in frequent difficulties with that new car
of ours, Jackson," he said genially. "I may have to ask you to
come round and explain some of its mysterious interior to me."
Jackson touched his cap.
"Thank you, sir, I'll be glad to come. But I am leaving Mr. Spencer
"Going back to the army, sir."
In the back of his mind the rector had been depending on Jackson,
and he felt vaguely irritated.
"I'm sorry to hear it. I'd been counting on you."
"Very sorry, sir. I'm not leaving immediately."
"I sometimes think," observed the rector, still ruffled, "that a
man's duty is not always what it appears on the surface. To keep
Mr. Spencer - er - comfortable, while he is doing his magnificent
work for the Allies, may be less spectacular, but it is most
Jackson smiled, a restrained and slightly cynical smile.
"That's a matter for a man's conscience, isn't it, sir?" he asked.
And touching his cap again, moved off. Doctor Haverford felt
reproved. Worse than that, he felt justly reproved. He did not
touch the Gains of War that afternoon.
In the gymnasium he found Delight, captaining a basket-ball team.
In her knickers and middy blouse she looked like a little girl, and
he stood watching her as, flushed and excited, she ran round the
long room. At last she came over and dropped onto the steps at
"Well?" she inquired, looking up. "Did you get it?"
"I did, indeed. A beauty, Delight."
"Not at all. A very handsome car." He told her the make, and she
flushed again with pleasure.
"Joy and rapture!" she said. "Did you warn him I am to drive it?"
"I did. He suggests that Graham give you some lessons."
"He'll be bored to insanity. That's all. You - you didn't suggest
it, did you, daddy?"
With all her adoration of her father, Delight had long recognized
under his real spirituality a certain quality of worldly calculation.
That, where it concerned her, it was prompted only by love did not
make her acceptance of it easier.
"Certainly not," said the rector, stiffly.
"Graham's changed, you know. He used to be a nice little kid. But
he's - I don't know what it is. Spoiled, I suppose."
"He'll steady down, Delight."
She looked up at him with clear, slightly humorous eyes.
"Don't get any queer ideas about Graham Spencer and me, Daddy," she
said. "In the first place, I intend to choose my own husband. He's
to look as much as possible like you, but a trifle less nose. And
in the second place, after I've backed the car into a telegraph pole;
and turned it over in a ditch, Graham Spencer is just naturally
going to know I am no woman to tie to."
She got up and smiled at him.
"Anyhow, I wouldn't trust him with the communion service," she
added, and walking out onto the floor, blew shrilly on her whistle.
The rector watched her with growing indignation. These snap
judgments of youth! The easy damning of the young! They left no
room for argument. They condemned and walked away, leaving careful
plans in ruin behind them.
And Delight, having gone so far, went further. She announced that
evening at dinner that she would under no circumstances be
instructed by Graham Spencer. Her mother ventured good-humored
"The way to learn to drive a car," said Delight, "is to get into it
and press a few things, and when it starts, keep on going. You've
got to work it out for yourself."
And when Clayton, calling up with his usual thoughtfulness that
evening, offered Graham as instructor, she refused gratefully but
"You're a dear to think of it," she said, "and you're a dear to have
given Daddy the car. But I'm just naturally going to fight it out
in my own way if it takes all winter."
Natalie, gathering her refusal from Clayton's protest, had heaved
a sigh of relief. Not that she objected to Delight Haverford. She
liked her as much as she liked and understood any young girl, which
was very little. But she did not want Graham to marry. To marry
would be to lose him. And again, watching Clayton's handsome head
above his newspaper, she reflected that Graham was all she had.
Nevertheless, Delight received a lesson in driving from Graham, and
that within two days.
On Saturday afternoon, finding the mill getting on his nerves,
Clayton suggested to Graham what might be the last golf of the
autumn and Graham consented cheerfully enough. For one thing, the
offices closed at noon, and Anna Klein had gone. He was playing a
little game with Anna - a light-hearted matter of a glance now and
then caught and held, a touched hand, very casually done, and an
admiring comment now and then on her work. And Anna was blossoming
like a flower. She sat up late to make fresh white blouses for the
office, and rose early to have abundance of time to dress. She had
taken to using a touch of rouge, too, although she put it on after
she reached the mill, and took it off before she started for home.
Her father, sullen and irritable these days, would have probably
beaten her for using it.
But Anna had gone, and a telephone call to Marion Hayden had told
him she was not at home. He thought it possible she had gone to
the country club, and accepted his father's suggestion of golf
From the moment he left the mill Anna had left his mind. He was at
that period when always in the back of his mind there was a girl.
During the mill hours the girl was Anna, because she was there. In
the afternoon it was Marion, just then, but even at that there were
entire evenings when, at the theater, a pretty girl in the chorus
held and absorbed his entire attention - or at a dance a debutante,
cloudy and mysterious in white chiffon, bounded his universe for
a few hours.
On this foundation of girl he built the superstructure of his days.
Not evil, but wholly irresponsible. The urge of vital youth had
caught him and held him. And Clayton, sitting that day beside him
in the car, while Graham drove and the golf clubs rattled in their
bags at his feet, remembered again the impulses of his own
adolescence, and wondered. There had been a time when he would
have gone to the boy frankly, with the anxieties he was beginning
to feel. There were so many things he wanted to tell the boy. So
many warnings he should have.
But Natalie had stolen him. That was what it amounted to. She had
stolen his confidence, as only a selfish woman could. And against
that cabal of mother and son he felt helpless. It was even more
than that. As against Natalie's indulgence he did not wish to pose
as a mentor pointing out always the way of duty.
"How old are you, Graham?" he said suddenly.
"Twenty-two." Graham glanced at him curiously. His father knew
his age, of course.
"I was married at your age."
"Tough luck," said Graham. And then: "I'm sorry, father, I didn't
mean that. But it's pretty early, isn't it? No time for a good
time, or anything."
"I fancy Nature meant men to marry young, don't you? It saves a
lot of - complications."
"The girl a fellow marries at that age isn't often the one he'd
marry at thirty," said Graham. And feeling that he had said the
wrong thing, changed the subject quickly. Clayton did not try to
turn it back into its former channel. The boy was uncomfortable,
unresponsive. There was a barrier between them, of
self-consciousness on his part, of evasion and discomfort on
On the way over they had sighted Delight in the new car. She had
tried to turn, had backed into a ditch and was at that moment
ruefully surveying a machine which had apparently sat down on its
rear wheels with its engine pointed pathetically skyward.
Delight's face fell when she recognized them.
"Of course it would have to be you," she said. "Of all the people
who might have seen my shame - I'm going on with you. I never want
to see the old thing again."
"Anything smashed?" Graham inquired.
"It looks smashed. I can't tell."
It was not until the car was out of the ditch, and Clayton had
driven off in Graham's car toward the club that Delight remembered
her father's voice the day he had told her Graham would teach her
to drive. She stiffened and he was quick to see the change in her
manner. The total damage was one flat tire, and while the engine
was inflating it, he looked at her. She had grown to be quite
pretty. His eyes approved her.
"Better let me come round and give you a few lessons, Delight."
"I'd rather learn by myself, if you don't mind."
"You'll have a real smash unless you learn properly."
But she remained rather obstinately silent.
"What's the matter with me, Delight? You're not exactly crazy
about me, are you?"
"That's silly. I don't know anything about you any more."
"That's your fault. You know I've been away for four years, and
since I came back I haven't seen much of you. But, if you'll let
me come round - "
"You can come if you like. You'll be bored, probably."
"You're being awfully nasty, you know. Here I come to pull you out
of a ditch and generally rescue you, and - Come, now, Delight, what
is it? There's something. We used to be pals."
"I don't know, Graham," she said truthfully. "I only know - well,
I hear things, of course. Nothing very bad. Just little things.
I wish you wouldn't insist. It's idiotic. What does it matter
what I think?"
Graham flushed. He knew well enough one thing she had heard. Her
father and mother had been at dinner the other night, and he had
had too much to drink.
He stopped the pump and put away the tools, all in silence. Good
heavens, was all the world divided into two sorts of people: the
knockers - and under that heading he placed his father, Delight,
and all those who occasionally disapproved of him - and the decent
sort who liked a fellow and understood him?
But his training had been too good to permit him to show his angry
scorn. He made an effort and summoned a smile.
"All ready," he said. "And since you won't let me teach you,
perhaps I'd better take you home."
"You were going to the club."
"Oh, that's all right. Father's probably found some one."
But she insisted that he drive them both to the club, and turn the
car round there. Then, with a grinding of gear levers that made
him groan, she was off toward home, leaving Graham staring after her.
"Well, can you beat it?" he inquired of the empty air. "Can you
And wounded in all the pride of new manhood, he joined Marion and
her rather riotous crowd around the fire inside the clubhouse.
Clayton had given him up and was going around alone, followed by a
small caddie. The links were empty, and the caddie lonely. He
ventured small bits of conversation now and then, looking up with
admiration at Clayton's tall figure. And, after a little, Clayton
took the bag from him and used him only for retrieving balls. The
boy played round, whistling.
"Kinda quiet to-day, ain't it?" he offered, trudging a foot or two
"It is, rather, young man."
"Mostly on Saturdays I caddie for Mr. Valentine. But he's gone
to the war."
"Oh, he has, has he?" Clayton built a small tee, and placed his
ball on it. "Well, maybe we'll all be going some day."
He drove off and started after the ball. It was not until he was
on the green that he was conscious of the boy beside him again.
"How old d'you have to be to get into the army, Mr. Spencer?"
inquired the caddie, anxiously.
Clayton looked at him quizzically.
"Want to try for it, do you? Well, I'm afraid you'll have to wait
"I'm older than I look, Mr. Spencer."
"How old are you?"
"Afraid you'll have to wait a while," said Clayton and achieved a
well-nigh perfect long putt.
"I'd just like to get a whack at them Germans," offered the boy,
and getting no response, trudged along again at his heels.
Suddenly it struck Clayton as rather strange that, in all the time
since his return from Europe, only four people had shown any but a
sort of academic interest in the war, and that, ironically enough,
a German had been the first to make a sacrifice for principle.
Chris had gone, to get out of trouble. The little caddie wanted to
go, to get a "whack" at the madmen of Europe. And Jackson, the
chauffeur, was going, giving up his excellent wages to accept the
thirty-odd dollars a month of a non-com, from a pure sense of
But, among the men he knew best, in business and in the clubs, the
war still remained a magnificent spectacle. A daily newspaper drama.
Suddenly Clayton saw Audrey Valentine. She was swinging toward him,
her bag with its clubs slung over her shoulder, her hands in the
pockets of an orange-colored sweater. In her black velvet tam and
short skirt she had looked like a little girl, and at first he did
not recognize her. She had seen him, however, and swung toward him.
"Hello, Clay," she called, when they were within hailing distance.
"Bully shot, that last."
"Where's your caddie?"
"I didn't want one. I had a feeling that, if I took one, and he
lost a ball in these impecunious times of mine, I'd murder him.
Saw you at the fifth hole. I'd know your silhouette anywhere."
Under her rakish cap her eyes were rather defiant. She did not
want pity; she almost dared him to pity her.
"Come round again with me, Audrey, won't you?"
"I'm off my game to-day. I'll wander along, if you don't mind.
I'll probably sneeze or something when you're driving, of course."
"Nothing," he said, gravely approaching his ball, "so adds distance
to my drive as a good explosive sneeze just behind it."
They talked very little. Audrey whistled as she walked along with
the free swinging step that was characteristic of her, and Clayton
was satisfied merely to have her companionship. She was not like
some women; a man didn't have to be paying her compliments or making
love to her. She even made no comments on his shots, and after a
time that rather annoyed him.
"Well?" he demanded, after an excellent putt. "Was that good or
"Very good," she said gravely. "I am only surprised when you do a
thing badly. Not when you do it well."
He thought that over.
"Have you anything in mind that I do badly? I mean, particularly
"Not very much." But after a moment: "Why don't you make Natalie
"She hates it."
He rather wondered if she thought Natalie was one of the things he
The sense of companionship warmed him. Although neither of them
realized it, their mutual loneliness and dissatisfaction had brought
them together, and mentally at least they were clinging, each
desperately to the other. But their talk was disjointed:
"I'll return that hundred soon. I've sold the house."
"I wish you wouldn't worry about it. It's ridiculous, Audrey."
And, a hundred yards or so further on, "They wouldn't have Chris
in Canada. His heart. He's going into the French Ambulance
"Good for Chris."
But she came out very frankly, when they started back to the
"It's done me a lot of good, meeting you, Clay. There's something
so big and solid and dependable about you. I wonder - I suppose
you don't mind my using you as a sort of anchor to windward?"
"Good heavens, Audrey! If I could only do something."
"You don't have to do a thing." She smiled up at him, and her old
audacity was quite gone. "You've just got to be. And - you don't
have to send me flowers, you know. I mean, I understand that you're
sorry for me, without that. You're the only person in the world
I'd allow to be sorry for me."
He was touched. There was no coquetry in her manner. She paid her
little tribute quite sincerely and frankly.
"I've been taking stock to-day," she went on, "and I put you among
my assets. One reliable gentleman, six feet tall, weight about a
hundred and seventy, in good condition. Heavens, what a lot of
liabilities you had to off-set!"
He stopped and looked down at her.
"Audrey dear," he said, "what am I to say to all that? What can I
do? How can I help?"
"You might tell me - No, that's silly."
"V/hat is silly?"
But she did not answer. She called "Joey!" and gave him her clubs.
"Joey wants to be a soldier," she observed.
"So he says."
"I want to be a soldier, too, Clay. A good soldier."
He suspected that she was rather close to unusual tears.
As they approached the clubhouse they saw Graham and Marion Hayden
standing outside. Graham was absently dropping balls and swinging
at them. It was too late when Clayton saw the danger and shouted
A ball caught the caddie on the side of the head and he dropped like
All through that night Clayton and Audrey Valentine sat by the boy's
white bed in the hospital. Clayton knew Graham was waiting outside,
but he did not go out to speak to him. He was afraid of himself,
afraid in his anger that he would widen the breach between them.
Early in the evening Natalie had come, in a great evening-coat that
looked queerly out of place, but she had come, he knew, not through
sympathy for the thin little figure on the bed, but as he had known
she would come, to plead for Graham. And her cry of joy when the
surgeons had said the boy would live was again for Graham.
She had been too engrossed to comment on Audrey's presence there,
and Audrey had gone out immediately and left them together. Clayton
was forced, that night, to an unwilling comparison of Natalie with
another woman. On the surface of their lives, where only they met,
Natalie had always borne comparison well. But here was a new
standard to measure by, and another woman, a woman with hands to
serve and watchful, intelligent eyes, outmeasured her.
Not that Clayton knew all this. He felt, in a vague way, that
Natalie was out of place there, and he felt, even more strongly,
that she had not the faintest interest in the still figure on
its white bed - save as it touched Graham and herself.
He was resentful, too, that she felt it necessary to plead with him
for his own boy. Good God, if she felt that way about him, no
wonder Graham -
She had placed a hand on Clayton's arm, as he sat in that endless
vigil, and bent down to whisper, although no sound would have
penetrated that death-like stupor.
"It was an accident, Clay," she pled. "You know Graham's the
kindest soul in the world. You know that, Clay."
"He had been drinking." His voice sounded cold and strained to his
"Not much. Almost nothing, Toots says positively."
"Then I'd rather he had been, Natalie. If he drove that ball out
of wanton indifference - "
"He didn't see the boy."
"He should have looked."
In her anger she ceased her sibilant whispering, and stood erect.
"I told him you'd be hard," she said. "He's outside, half-sick
with fright, because he is afraid. Afraid of you," she added, and
went out, her silks rustling in the quiet corridor.
She had gone away soon after that, the nurse informed him. And
toward dawn Clayton left Audrey in the sick room and found Graham.
He was asleep in a chair in the waiting-room, and looked boyish and
very tired. Clayton's heart contracted.
He went back to his vigil, and let Graham sleep on.
Some time later he roused from a doze in his chair. Graham was
across the bed from him, looking down. Audrey was gone. And the
injured boy stirred and opened his eyes.
"H-hello, Joey," said Graham, with a catch in his voice.
Joey lay still, his eyes taking in his new surroundings. Then he
put out a hand and touched the bandage on his head.
"What I got on?" he demanded, faintly.
Graham caught his father's eyes across the bed, and smiled a shaky,
"I guess he's all right, Father," he said. And suddenly crumpled
up beside the bed, and fell into a paroxysm of silent sobbing. With
his arm around the boy's shoulders, Clayton felt in that gray dawn
the greatest thankfulness of his life. Joey would live. That cup
was taken from his boy's lips. And he and Graham were together
again, close together. The boy's grip on his hand was tight. Please
God, they would always be together from now on.
Clayton did not care to tell Natalie of Chris's flight. She would
learn it soon enough, he knew, and he felt unwilling to discuss the
affair as Natalie would want to discuss it. Not that he cared
about Chris, but he had begun to feel a protective interest in
Audrey Valentine, an interest that had in it a curious aversion to
hearing her name in connection with Chris's sordid story.
He and Natalie met rarely in the next few days. He dined
frequently at his club with men connected in various ways with the
new enterprise, and transacted an enormous amount of business over
the dinner or luncheon table. Natalie's door was always closed on
those occasions when he returned, and he felt that with the
stubbornness characteristic of her she was still harboring resentment
against him for what he had said at the hospital.
He knew she was spending most of her days at Linndale, and he had
a vague idea that she and Rodney together had been elaborating still
further on the plans for the house. It was the furtiveness of it
rather than the fact itself that troubled him. He was open and
straightforward himself. Why couldn't Natalie be frank with him?
It was Mrs. Haverford, punctually paying her dinner-call in an age
which exacts dinner-calls no longer - even from its bachelors - who
brought Natalie the news of Chris's going. Natalie, who went down
to see her with a mental protest, found her at a drawing-room window,
making violent signals at somebody without, and was unable to conceal
"It's Delight," explained Mrs. Haverford. "She's driving me round.
She won't come in, and she's forgotten her fur coat. And it's
simply bitter outside. Well, my dear, how are you?"
Natalie was well, and said so. She was conscious that Mrs. Haverford
was listening with only half an ear, and indeed, a moment later she
had risen again and hurried to the window.
"Natalie!" she cried. "Do come and watch. She's turning the car.
We do think she drives wonderfully. Only a few days, too."
"Why won't she come in?"
"I'm sure I don't know. Unless she is afraid Graham may be here."
"What in the world has Graham got to do with it?" Natalie's voice
was faintly scornful.
"I was going to ask you that, Natalie. Have they quarreled, or
"I don't think they meet at all, do they?"
"They met once since Clayton gave Doctor Haverford the car. Graham
helped her when she had got into a ditch, I believe. And I thought
perhaps they had quarreled about something."
"That would imply a degree of intimacy that hardly exists, does it?"
Natalie said, sharply.
But Mrs. Haverford had not fought the verbal battles of the parish
for twenty years in vain.
"It was the day of that unfortunate incident at the country club,
"Accident, rather than incident."
"How is the poor child?"
"He is quite well again," Natalie said impatiently "I can not
understand the amount of fuss every one makes over the boy. He ran
in front of where Graham was driving and got what he probably
"I understand Clayton has given him a position."
"He has made him an office boy."
"How like dear Clayton!" breathed Mrs. Haverford, and counted the
honors as hers. But she had not come to quarrel. She had had,
indeed, a frankly benevolent purpose in coming, and she proceeded
to carry it out at once.
"I do think, my dear," she said, "that some one ought to tell Audrey
Valentine the stories that are going about."
"What has she been doing?" Natalie asked, with her cool smile.
"There is always some story about Audrey, isn't there?"
"Do you mean to say you haven't heard?"
"I don't hear much gossip."
Mrs. Haverford let that pass.
"You know how rabid she has been about the war. Well, the story
is," she went on, with a certain unction, "that she has driven
Chris to enlisting in the Foreign Legion, or something. Anyhow, he
sailed from Halifax last week."
Natalie straightened in her chair.
"Are you certain?"
"It's town talk, my dear. Doctor Haverford spoke to Clayton about
it some days ago. He rather gathered Clayton already knew."
That, too, was like dear Clayton, Natalie reflected bitterly. He
had told her nothing. In her heart she added secretiveness to the
long list of Clayton's deficiencies toward her.
"Personally, I imagine they were heavily in debt," Mrs. Haverford
went on. "They had been living beyond their means, of course. I
like Mrs. Valentine, but I do think, to drive a man to his death,
or what may be his death - "
"I don't believe it. I don't believe he went to fight, anyway. He
was probably in some sort of a scrape."
"She has sold her house."
Natalie's impulse of sympathy toward Audrey was drowned in her
rising indignation. That all this could happen and Audrey not let
her know was incredible.
"I haven't seen her recently," she said coldly.
"Nobody has. I do think she might have seen her clergyman. There
is a time when only the church can give us the comfort we need, my
And whatever Mrs. Haverford's faults, she meant that quite simply.
"And you say Clay knew?"
"It's rather likely he would. They were golfing together, weren't
they, when that caddie was hurt?"
Natalie was not a jealous woman. She had, for years, taken Clay's
faithfulness for granted, and her own complacency admitted no chance
of such a possibility. But she was quick to realize that she had
him at a disadvantage.
"How long have you known it?" she asked him that night, when, after
the long dinner was over, she sat with her elbows on the table and
faced him across the candles.
He was tired and depressed, and his fine face looked drawn. But he
roused and smiled across at her. He had begun to have a feeling
that he must make up to Natalie for something - he hardly knew for
"Known what, dear?"
"About Chris and Audrey?"
He was fundamentally honest, so he answered her directly.
"Since the day Chris left."
"When was that?"
"The day we dined there."
"And Audrey told you?"
"She had to, in a way. I'm sure she'll tell you herself. She's
been rather hiding away, I imagine."
"Why did she have to tell you?"
"If you want the exact truth, she borrowed a small sum from me, as
the banks were closed, naturally. There was some emergency - I
don't know what."
"She borrowed from you!"
"A very small amount, my dear. Don't look like that, Natalie. She
knew I generally carried money with me."
"Oh, I'm not jealous! Audrey probably thinks of you as a sort of
grandfather, anyhow. It's not that. It is your keeping the thing
"It was not my secret."
But Natalie was jealous. She had that curious jealousy of her
friends which some women are cursed with, of being first in their
regard and their confidence. A slow and smoldering anger against
Audrey, which had nothing whatever to do with Clayton, darkened
"I'm through with Audrey. That's all," she said.
And the man across regarded her with a sort of puzzled wonder.
Her indignation against Clayton took the form of calculation; and
she was quick to pursue her advantage. In the library she produced
the new and enlarged plans for the house.
"Roddie says he has tried to call you at the mill, but you are
always out of your office. So he sent these around to-day."
True to the resolution he had made that night in the hospital, he
went over them carefully. And even their magnitude, while it
alarmed him, brought no protest from him. After all the mill and
the new plant were his toys to play with. He found there something
to fill up the emptiness of his life. If a great house was
Natalie's ambition, if it gave her pleasure and something to live
for, she ought to have it.
She had prepared herself for a protest, but he made none, even when
the rather startling estimate was placed before him.
"I just want you to be happy, my dear," he said. "But I hope you'll
arrange not to run over the estimate. It is being pretty expensive
as it is. But after all, success doesn't mean anything, unless we
are going to get something out of it."
They were closer together that evening than they had been for months.
And at last he fell to talking about the mill. Natalie, curled up
on the chaise longue in her boudoir, listened attentively, but with
small comprehension as he poured out his dream, for himself now, for
Graham later. A few years more and he would retire. Graham could
take hold then. He might even go into politics. He would be fifty
then, and a man of fifty should be in his prime. And to retire and
do nothing was impossible. A fellow went to seed.
Eyes on the wood fire, he talked on until at last, roused by
Natalie's silence, he glanced up. She was sound asleep.
Some time later, in his dressing-gown and slippers, he came and
roused her. She smiled up at him like a drowsy child.
"Awfully tired," she said. "Is Graham in?"
She held up her hands, and he drew her to her feet.
"You've been awfully dear about the house," she said. And standing
on tiptoe, she kissed him on the cheek. Still holding both her
hands, he looked down at her gravely.
"Do you really think that, Natalie?"
"Then - will you do something in return?"
Her eyes became shrewd, watchful.
"Anything in reason."
"Don't, don't, dear, make Graham afraid of me."
"As if I did! If he is afraid of you, it is your own fault"
"Perhaps it is. But I try - good God, Natalie, I do try. He needs
a curb now and then. All boys do. But if we could only agree on
it - don't you see how it is now?" he asked, trying to reason gently
with her. "All the discipline comes from me, all the indulgence
from you. And - I don't want to lose my boy, my dear."
She freed her hands.
"So we couldn't even have one happy evening!" she said. "I won't
quarrel with you, Clay. And I won't be tragic over Graham. If
you'll just be human to him, he'll come out all right."
She went into her bedroom, the heavy lace of her negligee trailing
behind her, and closed the door.
Clayton had a visitor the next morning at the mill, a man named
Dunbar, who marked on his visitors' slip, under the heading of his
business with the head of the concern, the words, "Private and
Clayton, looking up, saw a small man, in a suit too large for him,
and with ears that projected wide on either side of a shrewd, rather
"Yes. Sit down, please."
Even through the closed window the noise of the mill penetrated.
The yard-engine whistled shrilly. The clatter of motor-trucks, the
far away roar of the furnaces, the immediate vicinity of many
typewriters, made a very bedlam of sound. Mr. Dunbar drew his
chair closer, and laid a card on the desk.
"My credentials," he explained.
Clayton read the card.
"Very well, Mr. Dunbar. What can I do for you?"
Dunbar fixed him with shrewd, light eyes, and bent forward.
"Have you had any trouble in your mill, Mr. Spencer?"
"Are you taking any measures to prevent trouble?"
"I had expected to. Not that I fear anything, but of course no one
can tell. We have barely commenced to get lined up for our new
"May I ask the nature of the precautions?"
Clayton told him, with an uneasy feeling that Mr. Dunbar was finding
them childish and inefficient.
"Exactly," said his visitor. "And well enough as far as they go.
They don't go far enough. The trouble with you manufacturers is
that you only recognize one sort of trouble, and that's a strike.
I suppose you know that the Kaiser has said, if we enter the war,
that he need not send an army here at all. That his army is here
already, armed and equipped."
"Bravado," said Clayton.
Mr. Dunbar reached into his breast pocket, and produced a long typed
"You might just glance at that."
Clayton read it carefully. It was a list of fires, mostly in
granaries and warehouses, and the total loss was appalling.
"All German work," said his visitor. "Arson, for the Fatherland.
All supplies for the Allies, you see. I've got other similar lists,
here, all German deviltry. And they're only commencing. If we go
into the war - "
The immediate result of the visit was that Clayton became a member
of a protective league which undertook, with his cooperation, to
police and guard the mill. But Mr. Dunbar's last words left him
"We're going to be in it, that's sure. And soon. And Germany's
army is here. It's not only Germans either. It's the I.W.W., for
one thing. We've got a list through the British post-office censor,
of a lot of those fellows who are taking German money to-day.
They're against everything. Not only work. They're against law and
order. And they're likely to raise hell."
He rose to leave.
"How do your Germans like making shells for the Allies?" he asked.
"We haven't a great many. We've had no trouble. One man resigned
- a boss roller. That's all."
"Watch him. He's got a grievance."
"He's been here a long time. I haven't an idea he'd do us any harm.
It was a matter of principle with him."
"Oh, it's a matter of principle with all of them. They can justify
themselves seven ways to the ace. Keep an eye on him, or let us do
it for you."
Clayton sat for some time after Dunbar had gone. Was it possible
that Klein, or men like Klein, old employees and faithful for years,
could be reached by the insidious wickedness of Germany? It was
incredible. But then the whole situation was incredible; that a
peaceful and home-loving people, to all appearances, should suddenly
shed the sheep skin of years of dissimulation, and appear as the
wolves of the world.
One of his men had died on the Lusitania, a quiet little chap, with
a family in the suburbs and a mania for raising dahlias. He had
been in the habit of bringing in his best specimens, and putting
them in water on Clayton's desk. His pressed glass vase was still
Then his mind went back to Herman Klein. He had a daughter in the
mill. She was earning the livelihood for the family now, temporarily.
And the Germans were thrifty. If for no other reason he thought
Klein would not imperil either his daughter's safety or her salary.
There was a good bit of talk about German hate, but surely there was
no hate in Klein.
Something else Dunbar had said stuck in his mind.
"We've got to get wise, and soon. It's too big a job for the
regular departments to handle. Every city in the country and every
town ought to have a civilian organization to watch and to fight it
if it has to. They're hiding among us everywhere, and every citizen
has got to be a sleuth, if we're to counter their moves. Every man
his own detective!"
He had smiled as he said it, but Clayton had surmised a great
earnestness and considerable knowledge behind the smile.
Delight Haverford was to come out in December, but there were times
when the Doctor wondered if she was really as keen about it as she
pretended to be. He found her once or twice, her usually active
hands idle in her lap, and a pensive droop to her humorous young
"Tired, honey?" he asked, on one of those occasions.
"No. Just talking to myself."
"Say a few nice things for me, while you're about it, then."
"Nice things! I don't deserve them."
"What awful crime have you been committing? Break it to me gently.
You know my weak heart."
"Your tobacco heart!" she said, severely. "Well, I've been
committing a mental murder, if you want to know the facts. Don't
protest. It's done. She's quite dead already."
"Good gracious! And I have reared this young viper! Who is she?"
"I don't intend to make you an accessory, daddy."
But' behind her smile he felt a real hurt. He would have given a
great deal to have taken her in his arms and tried to coax out her
trouble so he might comfort her. But that essential fineness in
him which his worldliness only covered like a veneer told him not
to force her confidence. Only, he wandered off rather disconsolately
to hunt his pipe and to try to realize that Delight was now a woman
grown, and liable to woman's heart-aches.
"What do you think it is?" he asked that night, when after her
nightly custom Mrs. Haverford had reached over from the bed beside
his and with a single competent gesture had taken away his book and
switched off his reading lamp, and he had, with the courage of
darkness, voiced a certain uneasiness.
"Who do you think it is, you mean."
"Very well, only the word is 'whom.'"
Mrs. Haverford ignored this.
"It's that Hayden girl," she said. "Toots. And Graham Spencer."
"Do you think that Delight - "
"She always has. For years."
Which was apparently quite clear to them both.
"If it had only been a nice girl," Mrs. Haverford protested,
plaintively. "But Toots! She's fast, I'm sure of it."
"And that boy needs a decent girl, if anybody ever did. A shallow
mother, and a money-making father - all Toots Hay den wants is his
money. She's ages older than he is. I hear he is there every day
and all of Sundays."
The rector had precisely as much guile as a turtle dove, and long,
after Mrs. Haverford gave unmistakable evidences of slumber, he
lay with his arms above his head, and plotted. He had no conscience
whatever about it. He threw his scruples to the wind, and if it is
possible to follow the twists of a theological mind turned from the
straight and narrow way into the maze of conspiracy, his thoughts
ran something like this:
"She is Delight. Therefore to see her is to love her. To see her
with any other girl is to see her infinite superiority and charm.
Therefore - "
Therefore, on the following Sunday afternoon, the totally
unsuspecting daughter of a good man gone wrong took a note from
the rector to the Hayden house, about something or other of no
importance, and was instructed to wait for an answer. And the
rector, vastly uneasy and rather pleased with himself, took refuge
in the parish house and waited ten eternities, or one hour by the
Delight herself was totally unsuspicious. The rectory on a Sunday
afternoon was very quiet, and she was glad to get away. She drove
over, and being in no hurry she went by the Spencer house. She did
that now and then, making various excuses to herself, such as liking
the policeman at the corner or wanting to see the river from the
end of the street. But all she saw that day was Rodney Page going
in, in a top hat and very bright gloves.
"Precious!" said Delight to herself. Her bump of reverence was
But she felt a little thrill, as she always did, when she passed
the house. Since she could remember she had cared for Graham. She
did not actually know that she loved him. She told herself bravely
that she was awfully fond of him, and that it was silly, because he
never would amount to anything. But she had a little argument of
her own, for such occasions, which said that being really fond of
any one meant knowing all about them and liking them anyhow.
She stopped the car at the Hayden house, and carried her note to
the door. When she went in, however, she was instantly uncomfortable.
The place reeked with smoke, and undeniably there was dancing going
on somewhere. A phonograph was scraping noisily. Delight's small
nose lifted a little. What a deadly place! Coming in from the fresh
outdoors, the noise and smoke and bar-room reek stifled her.
Then a door opened, and Marion Hayden was drawing her into a room.
"How providential, Delight!" she said. "You'll take my hand, won't
you? It's Graham's dummy, and we want to dance."
The two connecting rooms were full of people, and the air was heavy.
Through the haze she saw Graham, and nodded to him, but with a
little sinking of the heart. She was aware, however, that he was
looking at her with a curious intentness and a certain expectancy.
Maybe he only hoped she would let him dance with Toots.
"No, thanks," she said. "Sorry."
"Why not, Delight? Just a hand, anyhow."
"Three good reasons: I don't play cards on Sunday; I don't ever play
for money; and I'm stifling for breath already in this air."
She was, indeed, a little breathless.
There was, had she only seen it, relief in Graham's face. She did
not belong there, he felt. Delight was - well, she was different.
He had not been thinking of her before she came in; he forgot her
promptly the moment she went out. But she had given him, for an
instant, a breath of the fresh out-doors, and quietness and - perhaps
something clean and fine.
There was an insistent clamor that she stay, and Tommy Hale even
got down on his knees and made a quite impassioned appeal. But
Delight's chin was very high, although she smiled.
"You are all very nice," she said. "But I'm sure I'd bore you in
a minute, and I'm certain you'd bore me. Besides, I think you're
quite likely to be raided."
Which met with great applause.
But there was nothing of Delight of the high head when she got out
of her car and crept up the rectory steps. How could she even have
cared? How could she? That was his life, those were the people he
chose to play with. She had a sense of loss, rather than injury.
The rector, tapping at her door a little later, received the answer
to his note through a very narrow crack, and went away feeling that
the way of the wicked is indeed hard.
Clayton had been watching with growing concern Graham's intimacy
with the gay crowd that revolved around Marion Hayden. It was more
thoughtless than vicious; more pleasure-seeking than wicked; but
its influence was bad, and he knew it.
But he was very busy. At night he was too tired to confront the
inevitable wrangle with Natalie that any protest about Graham always
evoked, and he was anxious not to disturb the new rapprochement
with the boy by direct criticism.
The middle of December, which found the construction work at the
new plant well advanced, saw the social season definitely on, also,
and he found himself night after night going to dinners and then on
to balls. There were fewer private dances than in previous Winters,
but society had taken up various war activities and made them
fashionable. The result was great charity balls.
On these occasions he found himself watching for Audrey, always.
She had, with a sort of diabolical cleverness, succeeded in losing
herself. Her house was sold, he knew, and he had expected that she
would let him know where to find her. She had said she counted on
him, and he had derived an odd sort of comfort from the thought.
It had warmed him to think that, out of all the people he knew, to
one woman he meant something more than success.
But although he searched the gayest crowds with his eyes, those
hilarious groups of which she had been so frequently the center,
he did not find her. And there had been no letter save a brief
one without an address, enclosing her check for the money she had
borrowed. She had apparently gone, not only out of her old life,
but out of his as well.
At one of the great charity balls he met Nolan, and they stood
together watching the crowd.
"Pretty expensive, I take it," Nolan said, indicating the scene.
"Orchestra, florist, supper - I wonder how much the Belgians will
"Personally, I'd rather send the money and get some sleep."
"Precisely. But would you send the money? We've got to have a
quid pro quo, you know-most of us." He surveyed the crowd with
cynical, dissatisfied eyes. "At the end of two years of the war,"
he observed, apropos of nothing, "five million men are dead, and
eleven million have been wounded. A lot of them were doing this
sort of thing two years ago."
"I would like to know where we will be two years from now."
"Some of us won't be here. Have you seen Lloyd George's speech on
the German peace terms? That means going on to the end. A speedy
peace might have left us out, but there will be no peace. Not yet,
"And still we don't prepare!"
"The English tradition persists," said the Irishman, bitterly.
"We want to wait, and play to the last moment, and then upset our
business and overthrow the whole country, trying to get ready in a
"I wonder what they will do, when the time comes, with men like
you and myself?"
"Take our money," said Nolan viciously. "Tax our heads off. Thank
God I haven't a son."
Clayton eyed him with the comprehension of long acquaintance.
"Exactly," he said. "But you'll go yourself, if you can,"
"And fight for England? I will not."
He pursued the subject further, going into an excited account of
Ireland's grievances. He was flushed and loquacious. He quoted
Lloyd George's "quagmire of distrust" in tones raised over the noise
of the band. And Clayton was conscious of a growing uneasiness.
How much of it was real, how much a pose? Was Nolan representative
of the cultured Irishman in America? And if he was, what would be
the effect of their anti-English mania? Would we find ourselves,
like the British, split into factions? Or would the country be drawn
together by trouble until it changed from a federation of states to
a great nation, united and unbeatable?
Were we really the melting pot of the world, and was war the fiery
furnace which was to fuse us together, or were there elements, like
Nolan, like the German-Americans, that would never fuse?
He left Nolan still irritable and explosive, and danced once with
Natalie, his only dance of the evening. Then, finding that Rodney
Page would see her to her car later, he went home.
He had a vague sense of disappointment, a return of the critical
mood of the early days of his return from France. He went to his
room and tried to read, but he gave it up, and lay, cigaret in hand,
There ought to have come to a man, when he reached the middle span,
certain compensations for the things that had gone with his youth,
the call of adventure, the violent impulses of his early love life.
There should come, to take their place, friends, a new zest in the
romance of achievement, since other romance had gone, and - peace.
But the peace of the middle span of life should be the peace of
fulfillment, and of a home and a woman.
Natalie was not happy, but she seemed contented enough. Her life
satisfied her. The new house in the day-time, bridge, the theater
in the evening or the opera, dinners, dances, clothes - they seemed
to be enough for her. But his life was not enough for him. What
did he want anyhow? In God's name, what did he want?
One night, impatient with himself, he picked up the book of love
lyrics in its mauve cover, from his bedside table. He read one,
then another. He read them slowly, engrossingly. It was as though
something starved in him was feeding eagerly on this poor food.
Their passion stirred him as in his earlier years he had never been
stirred. For just a little time, while Natalie danced that night,
Clayton Spencer faced the tragedy of the man in his prime, still
strong and lusty with life, with the deeper passions of the
deepening years, who has outgrown and outloved the woman he married.
A man's house must be built on love. Without love it can not stand.
Natalie, coming in much later and seeing his light still on, found
him sleeping, with one arm under his head, and a small black hole
burned in the monogrammed linen sheet. The book of poems had slipped
to the floor.
The next day she missed it from its place, and Clayton's man,
interrogated, said he had asked to have it put away somewhere. He
did not care for it. Natalie raised her eyebrows. She had thought
the poems rather pretty.
One resolution Clayton made, as a result of that night. He would
not see Audrey again if he could help it. He was not in love with
her and he did not intend to be. He was determinedly honest with
himself. Men in his discontented state were only too apt to build
up a dream-woman, compounded of their own starved fancy, and
translate her into terms of the first attractive woman who happened
to cross the path. He was not going to be a driveling idiot, like
Chris and some of the other men he knew. Things were bad, but they
could be much worse.
It happened then that when Audrey called him at the mill a day or
so later it was a very formal voice that came back to her over the
wire. She was quick to catch his tone.
"I suppose you hate being called in business hours, Clay!"
"Not at all."
"That means yes, you know. But I'm going even further. I'm coming
down to see you."
"Why, is anything wrong?"
He could hear her laughter, a warm little chuckle.
"Don't be so urgent," she said gayly. "I want to consult you.
That's all. May I come?"
There was a second's pause. Then,
"Don't you think I'd better come to see you?"
"I've only a little flat. I don't think you'll like it."
"That's nonsense. Where is it?"
She gave him the address.
"When shall I come?"
"Whenever it suits you. I have nothing to do. Say this afternoon
That "nothing to do" was an odd change, in itself, for Audrey had
been in the habit of doling out her time like sweetmeats.
"Where in the world have you been all this time?" he demanded,
almost angrily. To his own surprise he was suddenly conscious of
a sense of indignation and affront. She had said she depended on
him, and then she had gone away and hidden herself. It was
"Just getting acquainted with myself," she replied, with something
of her old airy manner. "Good-by."
His irritation passed as quickly as it came. He felt calm and very
sure of himself, and rather light-hearted. Joey, who was by now
installed as an office adjunct, and who commonly referred to the
mill as "ours," heard him whistling blithely and cocked an ear in
the direction of the inner room.
"Guess we've made another million dollars," he observed to the
Clayton was not in the habit of paying afternoon calls on women.
The number of such calls that he had paid without Natalie during
his married life could have been numbered on the fingers of his two
hands. Most of the men he knew paid such visits, dropping in
somewhere for tea or a highball on the way uptown. He had preferred
his club, when he had a little time, the society of other men.
He wondered if he should call Natalie and tell her. But he decided
against it. It was possible, for one thing, that Audrey still did
not wish her presence in town known. If she did, she would tell
Natalie herself. And it was possible, too, that she wanted to
discuss Chris, and the reason for his going.
He felt a real sense of relief, when at last he saw her, to find
her looking much the same as ever. He hardly knew what he had
expected. Audrey, having warned him as to the apartment, did not
mention its poverty again. It was a tiny little place, but it had
an open fire in the living-room, and plain, pale-yellow walls, and
she had given it that curious air of distinction with which she
managed, in her casual way, to invest everything about her.
"I hope you observe how neat I am," she said, as she gave him her
hand. "My rooms, of course."
He towered in the low room. Audrey sat down and surveyed him as he
stood by the fire.
"It is nice to have a man about again."
"Do you mean to say you have been living here, without even visitors,
for two months?"
"You'll laugh. Clay, I'm studying!"
"Stenography. Oh, it's not as bad as that. I don't have to earn
my living. I've just got to do something for my soul's sake. I
went all over the ground, and I saw I was just a cumberer of the
earth, and then I thought - "
"What did you think?"
"If, some time or other, I could release a man to go and fight, it
would be the next best thing to giving myself. Not here,
necessarily; I don't believe we will ever go in. But in England,
"You've released Chris."
"He released himself. And he's not fighting. He's driving an
He waited, hoping she would go on. He was not curious, but he
thought it might be good for her to talk Chris and the trouble over
with some one. But she sat silent, and suddenly asked him if he
cared for tea. He refused.
"And the house?"
"Held up by cold weather now. It should be finished by the end of
"Clay," she said, after a moment, "are you going to employ women in
the new munition works?"
"In certain departments, yes."
"I have a girl I want work for. She's not trained, of course."
"None of them are. We have to teach them. I can give you a card
to the employment department if you want it."
There was a short silence. She sat looking at the fire, and he had
a chance to notice the change in her. She had visualized it herself.
Her long ear-rings were gone, and with them some of the insolence
they had seemed to accentuate. She was not rouged, and he had
thought at first, for that reason, that she looked ill. She was
even differently dressed, in something dark and girlish with a
boyish white Eton collar.
"I wonder if you think I'm hiding, Clay," she said, finally.
"Well, what are you doing?" He smiled down at her from the hearth-rug.
"Paying my bills! That's not all the truth, either. I'll tell you,
Clay. I just got sick of it all. When Chris left I had a chance
to burn my bridges and I burned them. The same people, the same
talk, the same food, the same days filled with the same silly things
that took all my time and gave me nothing."
"How long had you been feeling like that?"
"I don't know. Ever since the war, I suppose. I just got to
thinking - "
Her voice trailed off.
"I have some of Chris's Scotch, if you want a high-ball."
"Thanks, no. Audrey, do you hear from Chris?"
"Yes. He's in a dangerous place now, and sometimes at night - I
suppose I did force him, in a way. He was doing no good here, and
I thought he would find himself over there. But I didn't send him.
He - Tell me about making shells."
He was a little bit disappointed. Evidently she did not depend on
him enough to tell him Chris's story. But again, she was being
loyal to Chris.
He told her about the mill, phrasing his explanation in the simplest
language; the presses drilling on white-hot metal; the great anvils;
the forge; the machine-shop, with its lathes, where the rough
surfaces of the shells were first rough-turned and then machined to
the most exact measurements. And finding her interested, he told
her of England's women workers, in their khaki-colored overalls and
caps, and of the convent-like silence and lack of movement in the
filling-sheds, where one entered with rubber-shod feet, and the
women, silent and intent, sat all day and all night, with queer
veils over their faces, filling shells with the death load.
Audrey listened, her hands clasped behind her head.
"If other women can do that sort of thing, why can't I, Clay?"
"But why? I'm intelligent."
"It's not work for a lady."
"Lady! How old-fashioned you are! There are no ladies any more.
Just women. And if we aren't measured by our usefulness instead
of our general not-worth-a-damn-ness, well, we ought to be. Oh,
I've had time to think, lately."
He was hardly listening. Seeing her, after all those weeks, had
brought him a wonderful feeling of peace. The little room, with
its fire, was cozy and inviting. But he was quite sure, looking
down at her, that he was not in danger of falling in love with her.
There was no riot in him, no faint stirring of the emotions of
that hour with the mauve book.
There was no suspicion in him that the ways of love change with the
years, that the passions of the forties, when they come, are to
those of the early years as the deep sea to a shallow lake, less
easily roused, infinitely more terrible.
"This girl you spoke about, that was the business you mentioned?"
"Yes." She hesitated. "I could have asked you that over the
telephone, couldn't I? The plain truth is that I've had two bad
months - never mind why, and Christmas was coming, and - I just
wanted to see your perfectly sane and normal face again."
"I wish you'd let me know sooner where you were."
She evaded his eyes.
"I was getting settled, and studying, and learning to knit, and
- oh, I'm the most wretched knitter, Clay! I just stick at it
doggedly. I say to myself that hands that can play golf, and use
a pen, and shoot, and drive a car, have got to learn to knit. But
She held up a forlorn looking sock to his amused gaze. "And I think
I'm a clever woman."
"You're a very brave woman, Audrey," he said. "You'll let me come
back, won't you?"
"Heavens, yes. Whenever you like. And I'm going to stop being a
recluse. I just wanted to think over some things."
On the way home he stopped at his florist's, and ordered a mass of
American beauties for her on Christmas morning. She had sent her
love to Natalie, so that night he told Natalie he had seen her, and
such details of her life as he knew.
"I'm glad she's coming to her senses," Natalie said. "Everything's
been deadly dull without her. She always made things go - I don't
know just how," she added, as if she had been turning her over in
her mind. "What sort of business did she want to see you about?"
"She has a girl she wants to get into the mill."
"Good gracious, she must be changed," said Natalie. And proceeded
- she was ready to go out to dinner - to one of her long and critical
surveys of herself in the cheval mirror. Recently those surveys had
been rather getting on Clayton's nerves. She customarily talked,
not to him, but to his reflection over her shoulder, when, indeed,
she took her eyes from herself.
"I wonder," she said, fussing with a shoulder-strap, "who Audrey
will marry if anything happens to Chris?"
She saw his face and raised her eyebrows.
"You needn't scowl like that. He's quite as likely as not never
to come back, isn't he? And Audrey didn't care a pin for him."
"We're talking rather lightly of a very terrible thing, aren't we?"
"Oh, you're not," she retorted. "You think just the same things as
I do, but you're not so open about them. That's all"
Graham was engaged. He hardly knew himself how it had come about.
His affair with Marion had been, up to the very moment of his
blurted - out "I want you," as light-hearted as that of any of the
assorted young couples who flirted and kissed behind the closed
doors of that popular house.
The crowd which frequented the Hayden home was gay, tolerant and
occasionally nasty. It made ardent love semi-promiscuously, it
drank rather more than it should, and its desire for a good time
often brought it rather close to the danger line. It did not
actually step over, but it hovered gayly on the brink.
And Toots remained high-priestess of her little cult. The men liked
her. The girls imitated her. And Graham, young as he was, seeing
her popularity, was vastly gratified to find himself standing high
in her favor.
Marion was playing for the stake of the Spencer money. In her
intimate circle every one knew it but Graham.
"How's every little millionaire?" was Tommy Hale's usual greeting.
She knew only one way to handle men, and with the stake of the
Spencer money she tried every lure of her experience on Graham.
It was always Marion who on cold nights sat huddled against him in
the back seat of the Hayden's rather shabby car, her warm ungloved
hand in his. It was Marion who taught him to mix the newest of
cocktails, and who later praised his skill. It was Marion who
insisted on his having a third, too, when the second had already
set his ears drumming.
The effect on the boy of her steady propinquity, of her constant
caressing touches, of the general letting-down of the bars of
restraint, was to rouse in him impulses of which he was only vaguely
conscious, and his proposal of marriage, when it finally came, was
by nature of a confession. He had kissed her, not for the first
time, but this time she had let him hold her, and he had rained
kisses on her face.
"I want you," he had said, huskily.
And even afterward, when the thing was done, and she had said she
would marry him, she had to ask him if he loved her.
"I - of course I do," he had said. And had drawn her back into
He wanted to marry her at once. It was the strongest urge of his
life, and put into his pleading an almost pathetic earnestness.
But she was firm enough now.
"I don't think your family will be crazy about this, you know."
"What do we care for the family? They're not marrying you, are they?"
"They will have to help to support me, won't they?"
And he had felt a trifle chilled.
It was not a part of Marion's program to enter the Spencer family
unwelcomed. She had a furtive fear of Clayton Spencer, the fear of
the indirect for the direct, of the designing woman for the
essentially simple and open male. It was not on her cards to marry
Graham and to try to live on his salary.
So for a few weeks the engagement was concealed even from Mrs.
Hayden, and Graham, who had received some stock from his father on
his twenty-first birthday, secretly sold a few shares and bought
the engagement ring. With that Marion breather easier. It was
Her methods were the methods of her kind and her time. To allure
a man by every wile she knew, and having won him to keep him
uncertain and uneasy, was her perfectly simple creed. So she
reduced love to its cheapest terms, passion and jealousy, played
on them both, and made Graham alternately happy and wretched.
Once he found Rodney Page there, lounging about with the manner of
a habitue. It seemed to Graham that he was always stumbling over
Rodney those days, either at home, with drawings and color sketches
spread out before him, or at the Hayden house.
"What's he hanging around here for?" he demanded when Rodney, having
bent over Marion's hand and kissed it, had gone away. "If he could
see that bare spot on the top of his head he'd stop all that
"You're being rather vulgar, aren't you?" Marion had said. "He's a
very old friend and a very dear one."
"Probably in love with you once, like all the rest?"
He had expected denial from her, but she had held her cigaret up in
the air, and reflectively regarded its small gilt tip.
"I'm afraid he's rather unhappy. Poor Rod!"
"Look here, Toots," he burst out. "I'm playing square with you.
I never go anywhere but here. I - I'm perfectly straight with you.
But every time here I find some of your old guard hanging round.
It makes me wild."
"They've always come here, and as long as our engagement isn't known,
I can't very well stop them."
"Then let me go to father."
"He'll turn you out, you know. I know men, dear old thing, and
father is going to raise a merry little hell about us. He's the
sort who wants to choose his son's wife for him. He'd like to play
Providence." She watched him, smiling, but with slightly narrowed
eyes. "I rather think he has somebody in mind for you now."
"I don't believe it."
"Of course you don't. But he has."
"Delight. She's exactly the sort he thinks you'll need. He still
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