Infomotions, Inc.Dangerous Days / Rinehart, Mary Roberts, 1876-1958



Author: Rinehart, Mary Roberts, 1876-1958
Title: Dangerous Days
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): natalie; clayton; graham; audrey; rudolph; herman; rodney; spencer; anna; marion; clayton spencer; chris; clay; anna klein; marion hayden
Contributor(s): Bright, Mynors, 1818-1883 [Translator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
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Identifier: etext1693
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DANGEROUS DAYS

by Mary Roberts Rinehart

April, 1999  [Etext #1693]
[Date last updated: September 12, 2003]


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DANGEROUS DAYS

by Mary Roberts Rinehart





CHAPTER I

Natalie Spencer was giving a dinner.  She was not an easy hostess.
Like most women of futile lives she lacked a sense of proportion,
and the small and unimportant details of the service absorbed her.
Such conversation as she threw at random, to right and left, was
trivial and distracted.

Yet the dinner was an unimportant one.  It had been given with an
eye more to the menu than to the guest list, which was characteristic
of Natalie's mental processes.  It was also characteristic that when
the final course had been served without mishap, and she gave a sigh
of relief before the gesture of withdrawal which was a signal to the
other women, that she had realized no lack in it.  The food had been
good, the service satisfactory.  She stood up, slim and beautifully
dressed, and gathered up the women with a smile.

The movement found Doctor Haverford, at her left, unprepared and
with his coffee cup in his hand.  He put it down hastily and rose,
and the small cup overturned in its saucer, sending a smudge of
brown into the cloth.

"Dreadfully awkward of me!" he said.  The clergyman's smile of
apology was boyish, but he was suddenly aware that his hostess was
annoyed.  He caught his wife's amiable eyes on him, too, and they
said quite plainly that one might spill coffee at home - one quite
frequently did, to confess a good man's weakness - but one did not
do it at Natalie Spencer's table.  The rector's smile died into a
sheepish grin.

For the first time since dinner began Natalie Spencer had a clear
view of her husband's face.  Not that that had mattered particularly,
but the flowers had been too high.  For a small dinner, low flowers,
always.  She would speak to the florist.  But, having glanced at
Clayton, standing tall and handsome at the head of the table, she
looked again.  His eyes were fixed on her with a curious intentness.
He seemed to be surveying her, from the top of her burnished hair to
the very gown she wore.  His gaze made her vaguely uncomfortable.
It was unsmiling, appraising, almost - only that was incredible in
Clay - almost hostile.

Through the open door the half dozen women trailed out, Natalie in
white, softly rustling as she moved, Mrs. Haverford in black velvet,
a trifle tight over her ample figure, Marion Hayden, in a very brief
garment she would have called a frock, perennial debutante that she
was, rather negligible Mrs. Terry Mackenzie, and trailing behind the
others, frankly loath to leave the men, Audrey Valentine.  Clayton
Spencer's eyes rested on Audrey with a smile of amused toleration,
on her outrageously low green gown, that was somehow casually
elegant, on her long green ear-rings and jade chain, on the cigaret
between her slim fingers.

Audrey's audacity always amused him.  In the doorway she turned and
nonchalantly surveyed the room.

"For heaven's sake, hurry!" she apostrophized the table.  "We are
going to knit - I feel it.  And don't give Chris anything more to
drink, Clay.  He's had enough."

She went on, a slim green figure, moving slowly and reluctantly
toward the drawing-room, her head held high, a little smile still
on her lips.  But, alone for a moment, away from curious eyes, her
expression changed, her smile faded, her lovely, irregular face took
on a curious intensity.  What a devilish evening!  Chris drinking
too much, talking wildly, and always with furtive eyes on her.
Chris!  Oh, well, that was life, she supposed.

She stopped before a long mirror and gave a bit of careless
attention to her hair.  With more care she tinted her lips again
with a cosmetic stick from the tiny, diamond-studded bag she carried.
Then she turned and surveyed the hall and the library beyond.  A new
portrait of Natalie was there, hanging on the wall under a shaded
light, and she wandered in, still with her cigaret, and surveyed it.
Natalie had everything.  The portrait showed it.  It was beautiful,
smug, complacent.

Mrs.  Valentine's eyes narrowed slightly.  She stood there, thinking
about Natalie.  She had not everything, after all.  There was
something she lacked.  Charm, perhaps.  She was a cold woman.  But,
then, Clay was cold, too.  He was even a bit hard.  Men said that;
hard and ambitious, although he was popular.  Men liked strong men.
It was only the weak they deplored and loved.  Poor Chris!

She lounged into the drawing-room, smiling her slow, cool smile.
In the big, uncarpeted alcove, where stood Natalie's great painted
piano, Marion Hayden was playing softly, carefully posed for the
entrance of the men.  Natalie was sitting with her hands folded, in
the exact center of a peacock-blue divan.  The others were knitting.

"Very pretty effect, Toots!" Audrey called.  And Miss Hayden gave
her the unashamed smile of one woman of the world to another.

Audrey had a malicious impulse.  She sat down beside Natalie, and
against the blue divan her green gown shrieked a discord.  She was
vastly amused when Natalie found an excuse and moved away, to
dispose herself carefully in a tall, old-gold chair, which framed
her like a picture.

"We were talking of men, my dear," said Mrs. Haverford, placidly
knitting.

"Of course," said Audrey, flippantly.

"Of what it is that they want more than anything else in the world."

"Children-sons," put in Mrs. Mackenzie.  She was a robust, big
woman with kindly eyes, and she was childless.

"Women!" called Toots Hayden.  She was still posed, but she had
stopped playing.  Mrs. Haverford's eyes rested on her a moment,
disapprovingly.

"What do you say, Natalie?" Audrey asked.

"I hadn't thought about it.  Money, probably."

"You are all wrong," said Audrey, and lighted a fresh cigaret.
"They want different things at different ages.  That's why marriage
is such a rotten failure.  First they want women; any woman will do,
really.  So they marry - any woman.  Then they want money.  After
that they want power and place. And when they've got that they
begin to want - love."

"Good gracious, Audrey, what a cynical speech!" said Mrs. Mackenzie.
"If they've been married all that time - "

"Oh, tut!" said Audrey, rudely.

She had the impulse of the unhappy woman to hurt, but she was rather
ashamed of herself, too.  These women were her friends.  Let them go
on believing that life was a thing of lasting loves, that men were
true to the end, and that the relationships of life were fixed and
permanent things.

"I'm sorry," she said.  "I was just being clever!  Let's talk about
the war.  It's the only thing worth talking about, anyhow."

In the dining-room Clayton Spencer, standing tall and erect, had
watched the women go out.  How typical the party was of Natalie, of
her meticulous care in small things and her indifference or real
ignorance as to what counted.  Was it indifference, really, or was
it supreme craftiness, the stupidity of her dinners, the general
unattractiveness of the women she gathered around her, the
ill-assortment of people who had little in themselves and nothing
whatever in common?

Of all the party, only Audrey and the rector had interested him
even remotely.  Audrey amused him.  Audrey was a curious mixture
of intelligence and frivolity.  She was a good fellow.  Sometimes
he thought she was a nice woman posing as not quite nice.  He
didn't know.  He was not particularly analytical, but at least she
had been one bit of cheer during the endless succession of courses.

The rector was the other, and he was relieved to find Doctor
Haverford moving up to the vacant place at his right.

"I've been wanting to see you, Clay," he said in an undertone.
"It's rather stupid to ask you how you found things over there.
But I'm going to do it."

"You mean the war?"

"There's nothing else in the world, is there?"

"One wouldn't have thought so from the conversation here to-night."

Clayton Spencer glanced about the table.  Rodney Page, the
architect, was telling a story clearly not for the ears of the
clergy, and his own son, Graham, forced in at the last moment to
fill a vacancy, was sitting alone, bored and rather sulky, and
sipping his third cognac.

"If you want my opinion, things are bad."

"For the Allies? Or for us?"

"Good heavens, man, it's the same thing.  It is only the Allies who
are standing between us and trouble now.  The French are just
holding their own.  The British are fighting hard, but they're
fighting at home too.  We can't sit by for long.  We're bound to
be involved."

The rector lighted an excellent cigar.

"Even if we are," he said, hopefully, "I understand our part of it
will be purely naval.  And I believe our navy will give an excellent
account of itself."

"Probably," Clay retorted.  "If it had anything to fight!  But with
the German fleet bottled up, and the inadvisability of attempting
to bombard Berlin from the sea - "

The rector made no immediate reply, and Clayton seemed to expect
none.  He sat back, tapping the table with long, nervous fingers,
and his eyes wandered from the table around the room.  He surveyed
it all with much the look he had given Natalie, a few moments before,
searching, appraising, vaguely hostile.  Yet it was a lovely room,
simple and stately.  Rodney Page, who was by way of being decorator
for the few, as he was architect for the many, had done the room,
with its plainly paneled walls, the over-mantel with an old painting
inset, its lion chairs, its two console tables with each its pair of
porcelain jars.  Clayton liked the dignity of the room, but there
were times when he and Natalie sat at the great table alone, with
only the candles for light and the rest of the room in a darkness
from which the butler emerged at stated intervals and retreated
again, when he felt the oppression of it.  For a dinner party, with
the brilliant colors of the women's gowns, it was ideal.  For
Natalie and himself alone, with the long silences between them that
seemed to grow longer as the years went on, it was inexpressibly
dreary.

He was frequently aware that both Natalie and himself were talking
for the butler's benefit.

From the room his eyes traveled to Graham, sitting alone,
uninterested, dull and somewhat flushed.  And on Graham, too, he
fixed that clear appraising gaze that had vaguely disconcerted
Natalie.  The boy had had too much to drink, and unlike the group
across the table, it had made him sullen and quiet.  He sat there,
staring moodily at the cloth and turning his glass around in
fingers that trembled somewhat.

Then he found himself involved in the conversation.

"London as dark as they say?" inquired Christopher Valentine.  He
was a thin young man, with a small, affectedly curled mustache.
Clayton did not care for him, but Natalie found him amusing.  "I
haven't been over - " he really said 'ovah'- "for ages.  Eight
months or so."

"Very dark.  Hard to get about."

"Most of the fellows I know over there are doing something.  I'd
like to run over, but what's the use?  Nobody around, street's
dark, no gayety, nothing."

"No.  You'd better stay at home.  They - don't particularly want
visitors, anyhow."

"Unless they go for war contracts, eh?" said Valentine pleasantly,
a way he had of taking the edge off the frequent impertinence of
his speech.  "No, I'm not going over.  We're not popular over
there, I understand.  Keep on thinking we ought to take a hand in
the dirty mess."

Graham spoke, unexpectedly.

"Well, don't you think we ought?"

"If you want my candid opinion, no.  We've been waving a red flag
called the Monroe Doctrine for some little time, as a signal that
we won't stand for Europe coming over here and grabbing anything.
If we're going to be consistent, we can't do any grabbing in
Europe, can we?"

Clayton eyed him rather contemptuously.

"We might want to 'grab' as you term it, a share in putting the
madmen of Europe into chains," he said.  "I thought you were
pro-British, Chris."

"Only as to clothes, women and filet of sole," Chris returned
flippantly.  Then, seeing Graham glowering at him across the table,
he dropped his affectation of frivolity.  "What's the use of our
going in now?" he argued.  "This Somme push is the biggest thing
yet.  They're going through the Germans like a hay cutter through
a field.  German losses half a million already."

"And what about the Allies?  Have they lost nothing?"  This was
Clayton's attorney, an Irishman named Denis Nolan.  There had been
two n's in the Denis, originally, but although he had disposed of
a part of his birthright, he was still belligerently Irish.  "What
about Rumania?  What about the Russians at Lemberg?  What about
Saloniki?"

"You Irish!" said the rector, genially.  "Always fighting the world
and each other.  Tell me, Nolan, why is it that you always have
individual humor and collective ill-humor?"

He felt that that was rather neat.  But Nolan was regarding him
acrimoniously, and Clayton apparently had not heard at all.

The dispute went on, Chris Valentine alternately flippant and
earnest, the rector conciliatory, Graham glowering and silent.
Nolan had started on the Irish question, and Rodney baited him with
the prospect of conscription there.  Nolan's voice, full and mellow
and strangely sweet, dominated the room.

But Clayton was not listening.  He had heard Nolan air his views
before.  He was a trifle acid, was Nolan.  He needed mellowing, a
woman in his life.  But Nolan had loved once, and the girl had died.
With the curious constancy of the Irish, he had remained determinedly
celibate.

"Strange race," Clayton reflected idly, as Nolan's voice sang on.
"Don't know what they want, but want it like the devil.  One-woman
men, too.  Curious!"

It occurred to him then that his own reflection was as odd as the
fidelity of the Irish.  He had been faithful to his wife.  He had
never thought of being anything else.

He did not pursue that line of thought.  He sat back and resumed
his nervous tapping of the cloth, not listening, hardly thinking,
but conscious of a discontent that was beyond analysis.

Clayton had been aware, since his return from the continent and
England days before, of a change in himself.  He had not recognized
it until he reached home.  And he was angry with himself for feeling
it.  He had gone abroad for certain Italian contracts and had
obtained them.  A year or two, if the war lasted so long, and he
would be on his feet at last, after years of struggle to keep his
organization together through the hard times that preceded the war.
He would be much more than on his feet.  Given three more years of
war, and he would be a very rich man.

And now that the goal was within sight, he was finding that it was
not money he wanted.  There were some things money could not buy.
He had always spent money.  His anxieties had not influenced his
scale of living.  Money, for instance, could not buy peace for the
world; or peace for a man, either.  It had only one value for a man;
it gave him independence of other men, made him free.

"Three things," said the rector, apropos of something or other, and
rather oratorically, "are required by the normal man.  Work, play,
and love.  Assure the crippled soldier that he has lost none of
these, and - "

Work and play and love.  Well, God knows he had worked.  Play? He
would have to take up golf again more regularly.  He ought to play
three times a week.  Perhaps he could take a motor-tour now and then,
too.  Natalie would like that.

Love? He had not thought about love very much.  A married man of
forty-five certainly had no business thinking about love.  No, he
certainly did not want love.  He felt rather absurd, even thinking
about it.  And yet, in the same flash, came a thought of the violent
passions of his early twenties.  There had been a time when he had
suffered horribly because Natalie had not wanted to marry him.  He
was glad all that was over.  No, he certainly did not want love.

He drew a long breath and straightened up.

"How about those plans, Rodney?" he inquired genially.  "Natalie
says you have them ready to look over."

"I'll bring them round, any time you say."

"To-morrow, then.  Better not lose any time.  Building is going to
be a slow matter, at the best."

"Slow and expensive," Page added.  He smiled at his host, but
Clayton Spencer remained grave.

"I've been away," he said, "and I don't know what Natalie and you
have cooked up between you.  But just remember this: I want a
comfortable country house.  I don't want a public library."

Page looked uncomfortable.  The move into the drawing-room covered
his uneasiness, but he found a moment later on to revert to the
subject.

"I have tried to carry out Natalie's ideas, Clay," he said.  "She
wanted a sizeable place, you know.  A wing for house-parties, and
- that sort of thing."

Clayton's eyes roamed about the room, where portly Mrs. Haverford
was still knitting placidly, where the Chris Valentines were
quarreling under pretense of raillery, where Toots Hayden was
smoking a cigaret in a corner and smiling up at Graham, and where
Natalie, exquisite and precise, was supervising the laying out of
a bridge table.

"She would, of course," he observed, rather curtly, and, moving
through a French window, went out onto a small balcony into the night.

He was irritated with himself.  What had come over him?  He shook
himself, and drew a long breath of the sweet night air.  His tall,
boyishly straight figure dominated the little place.  In the
half-light he looked, indeed, like an overgrown boy.  He always
looked like Graham's brother, anyhow; it was one of Natalie's
complaints against him.  But he put the thought of Natalie away,
along with his new discontent.  By George, it was something to feel
that, if a man could not fight in this war, at least he could make
shells to help end it.  Oblivious to the laughter in the room behind
him, the clink of glass as whiskey-and-soda was brought in, he
planned there in the darkness, new organization, new expansions
- and found in it a great content.

He was proud of his mills.  They were his, of his making.  The small
iron foundry of his father's building had developed into the colossal
furnaces that night after night lighted the down-town district like
a great conflagration.  He was proud of his mills and of his men.
He liked to take men and see them work out his judgment of them.  He
was not often wrong.  Take that room behind him: Rodney Page,
dilettante, liked by women, who called him "Roddie," a trifle
unscrupulous but not entirely a knave, the sort of man one trusted
with everything but one's wife; Chris, too - only he let married
women alone, and forgot to pay back the money he borrowed.  There
was only one man in the room about whom he was beginning to mistrust
his judgment, and that was his own son.

Perhaps it was because he had so recently come from lands where
millions of boys like Graham were pouring out their young lives
like wine, that Clayton Spencer was seeing Graham with a new vision.
He turned and glanced back into the drawing-room, where Graham, in
the center of that misfit group and not quite himself, was stooping
over Marion Hayden.  They would have to face that, of course, the
woman urge in the boy.  Until now his escapades had been boyish ones,
a few debts frankly revealed and as frankly regretted, some college
mischiefs, a rather serious gambling fever, quickly curbed.  But
never women, thank God.

But now the boy was through with college, and already he noticed
something new in their relationship.  Natalie had always spoiled
him, and now there were, with increasing frequency, small
consultations in her room when he was shut out, and he was beginning
to notice a restraint in his relations with the boy, as though
mother and son had united against him.

He was confident that Natalie was augmenting Graham's allowance
from her own.  His salary, rather, for he had taken the boy into
the business, not as a partner - that would come later - but as the
manager of a department.  He never spoke to Natalie of money.  Her
house bills were paid at the office without question.  But only
that day Miss Potter, his secretary, had reported that Mrs. Spencer's
bank had called up and he had made good a considerable overdraft.

He laid the cause of his discontent to Graham, finally.  The boy
had good stuff in him.  He was not going to allow Natalie to spoil
him, or to withdraw him into that little realm of detachment in
which she lived.  Natalie did not need him, and had not, either as
a lover or a husband, for years.  But the boy did.

There was a little stir in the room behind.  The Haverfords were
leaving, and the Hayden girl, who was plainly finding the party
dull.  Graham was looking down at her, a tall, handsome boy, with
Natalie's blonde hair but his father's height and almost insolent
good looks.

"Come around to-morrow," she was saying.  "About four.  There's
always a crowd about five, you know."

Clayton knew, and felt a misgiving.  The Hayden house was a late
afternoon loafing and meeting place for the idle sons and daughters
of the rich.  Not the conservative old families, who had developed
a sense of the responsibility of wealth, but of the second
generation of easily acquired money.  As she went out, with Graham
at her elbow, he heard Chris, at the bridge table.

"Terrible house, the Haydens.  Just one step from the Saturday night
carouse in Clay's mill district."

When Graham came back, Mrs. Haverford put her hand on his arm.

"I wish you would come to see us, Graham.  Delight so often speaks
of you."

Graham stiffened almost imperceptibly.

"Thanks, I will."  But his tone was distant.

"You know she comes out this winter."

"Really?"

"And - you were great friends.  I think she misses you a little."

"I wish I thought so!"

Gentle Mrs. Haverford glanced up at him quickly.

"You know she doesn't approve of me."

"Why, Graham!"

 "Well, ask her," he said.  And there was a real bitterness under
the lightness of his tone.  "I'll come, of course, Mrs. Haverford.
Thank you for asking me.  I haven't a lot of time.  I'm a sort of
clerk down at the mill, you know."

Natalie overheard, and her eyes met Clayton's, with a glance of
malicious triumph.  She had been deeply resentful that he had not
made Graham a partner at once.  He remembered a conversation they
had had a few months before.

"Why should he have to start at the bottom?" she had protested.
"You have never been quite fair to him, Clay."  His boyish diminutive
had stuck to him.  "You expect him to know as much about the mill
now as you do, after all these years."

"Not at all.  I want him to learn.  That's precisely the reason why
I'm not taking him in at once."

"How much salary is he to have?"

"Three thousand a year."

"Three thousand!  Why, it will take all of that to buy him a car."

"There are three cars here now; I should think he could manage."

"Every boy wants his own car."

"I pay my other managers three thousand," he had said, still patient.
"He will live here.  His car can be kept here, without expense.
Personally, I think it too much money for the service he will be
able to give for the first year or two."

And, although she had let it go at that, he had felt in her a keen
resentment.  Graham had got a car of his own, was using it hard,
if the bills the chauffeur presented were an indication, and
Natalie had overdrawn her account two thousand five hundred dollars.

The evening wore on.  Two tables of bridge were going, with Denis
Nolan sitting in at one.  Money in large amounts was being written
in on the bridge scores.  The air of the room was heavy with smoke,
and all the men and some of the women were drinking rather too much.
There were splotches of color under the tan in Graham's cheeks, and
even Natalie's laughter had taken on a higher note.

Chris's words rankled in Clayton Spencer's mind.  A step from the
Saturday night carouse.  How much better was this sort of thing?
A dull party, driven to cards and drink to get through the evening.
And what sort of home life were he and Natalie giving the boy?
Either this, or the dreary evenings when they were alone, with
Natalie sifting with folded hands, or withdrawing to her boudoir
upstairs, where invariably she summoned Graham to talk to him
behind closed doors.

He went into the library and shut the door.  The room rested him,
after the babble across.  He lighted a cigar, and stood for a
moment before Natalie's portrait.  It had been painted while he
was abroad at, he suspected, Rodney's instigation.  It left him
quite cold, as did Natalie herself.

He could look at it dispassionately, as he had never quite cared
to regard Natalie.  Between them, personally, there was always the
element she never allowed him to forget, that she had given him a
son.  This was Natalie herself, Natalie at forty-one, girlish,
beautiful, fretful and - selfish.  Natalie with whom he was to live
the rest of his life, who was to share his wealth and his future,
and with whom he shared not a single thought in common.

He had a curious sense of disloyalty as he sat down at his desk and
picked up a pad and pencil.  But a moment later he had forgotten
her, as he had forgotten the party across the hall.  He had work to
do.  Thank God for work.




CHAPTER II

Natalie was in bed when he went up-stairs.  Through the door of his
dressing-room he could see her lying, surrounded by papers.
Natalie's handsome bed was always covered with things, her
handkerchief, a novel, her silk dressing-gown flung over the
footboard, sometimes bits of dress materials and lace.  Natalie did
most of her planning in bed.

He went in and, clearing a space, sat down on the foot of the bed,
facing her.  Her hair was arranged in a loose knot on top of her
head, and there was a tiny space, perhaps a quarter of an inch,
slightly darker than the rest.  He realized with a little start that
she had had her hair touched up during his absence.  Still, she
looked very pretty, her skin slightly glistening with its night's
bath of cold cream, her slim arms lying out on the blue silk
eiderdown coverlet.

"I told Doctor Haverford to-night that we would like to give him a
car, Natalie," he began directly.  It was typical of him, the "we."

"A car? What for?"

"To ride about in, my dear.  It's rather a large parish, you know.
And I don't feel exactly comfortable seeing him tramping along when
most people are awheel.  He's not very young."

"He'll kill himself, that's all."

"Well, that's rather up to Providence, of course."

"You are throwing a sop to Providence, aren't you?" she asked
shrewdly.  "Throwing bread on the waters!  I daresay he angled for
it.  You're easy, Clay.  Give you a good dinner - it was a nice
dinner, wasn't it?"

"A very nice dinner," he assented.  But at the tone she looked up.

"Well, what was wrong?" she demanded.  "I saw when I went out that
you were angry about something.  Your face was awful."

"Oh, come now, Natalie," he protested.  "It wasn't anything of the
sort.  The dinner was all right.  The guests were - all right.  I
may have unconsciously resented your attitude about Doctor Haverford.
Certainly he didn't angle for it, and I had no idea of throwing a
sop to Providence."

"That isn't what was wrong at dinner."

"Do you really want me to tell you?"

"Not if it's too disagreeable."

"Good heavens, Natalie.  One would think I bullied you!"

"Oh, no, you don't bully.  It's worse.  It's the way you look.  Your
face sets.  Well?"

"I didn't feel unpleasant.  It's rather my misfortune that my face - "

"Didn't you like my gown?"

"Very much.  It seemed a trifle low, but you know I always like your
clothes."  He was almost pathetically anxious to make up to her for
that moment's disloyalty in the library.

"There!" she said, brushing the papers aside.  "Now we're getting
at it.  Was I anything like as low as Audrey Valentine?  Of course
not!  Her back - You just drive me to despair, Clay.  Nothing I do
pleases you.  The very tone of that secretary of yours to-day, when
I told her about that over-draft - it was positively insulting!"

"I don't like overdrafts," he said, without any irritation.  "When
you want extra amounts you have only to let me know."

"You are always finding fault with me," she complained.  "It's
either money, or my clothes, or Graham, or something."  Her eyes
filled.  She looked young and absurdly childish.  But a talk he had
had with the rector was still in his mind.  It was while they were
still at the table, and Nolan had been attacking the British
government.

"We get out of this world largely what we put into it," he had said.
"You give largely, Clay, and you receive largely.  I rejoice in your
prosperity, because you have earned it."

"You think, then," he had asked, "that we only receive as we give?
I don't mean material things, of course."

The rector had fixed him with kindly, rather faded old eyes.  "That
has been my experience," he said.  "Happiness for instance only
comes when we forget our eternal search for it, and try to make
others happy.  Even religion is changing.  The old selfish idea
of saving our own souls has given way largely to the saving of
others, by giving them a chance to redeem themselves.  Decent
living conditions - "

He had gone on, but Clayton had not listened very intently.  He had
been wondering if happiness was not the thing he had somehow missed.
It was then that he had decided to give the car.  If, after all,
that would make for the rector's happiness -

"I don't want to find fault with you, Natalie," he said gravely.
"I would like to see you happy.  Sometimes I think you are not.
I have my business, but you have nothing to do, and - I suppose you
wouldn't be interested in war-work, would you?  There are a lot of
committees, and since I've been in England I realize what a vast
amount is needed.  Clothes, you know, and bandages, and - well,
everything."

"Nothing to do," she looked up, her eyes wide and indignant.  "But
of course you would think that.  This house runs itself, I suppose."

"Let's be honest, Natalie," he said, with a touch of impatience.
"Actually how much time each day do you give this house?  You have
plenty of trained servants.  An hour?  Two hours?"

"I'll not discuss it with you." She took up a typewritten sheet and
pretended to read it carefully.  Clayton had a half-humorous,
half-irritated conviction that if he was actually hunting happiness
he had begun his search for it rather badly.  He took the paper
from her, gently.

"What's this?" he inquired.  "Anything I should not see?"

"Decorator's estimates for the new house."  Her voice was resentful.
"You'll have to see them some time."

"Library curtains, gray Chippendale velvet, gold gimp, faced with
colonial yellow," he read an item picked at random, "two thousand
dollars!  That's going some for curtains, isn't it?"

"It's not too much for that sort of thing."

"But, look here, Natalie," he expostulated.  "This is to be a country
house, isn't it?  I thought you wanted chintzed and homey things.
This looks like a city house in the country."

He glanced down at the total.  The hangings alone, with a tapestry
or two, were to be thirty-five thousand dollars.  He whistled.

"Hangings alone!  And - what sort of a house has Rodney planned,
anyhow?"

"Italian, with a sunken garden.  The landscape estimates are there,
too."

He did not look at them.

"It seems to me you and Rodney have been pretty busy while I've been
away," he remarked.  "Well, I want you to be happy, my dear.  Only
- I don't want to tie up a fortune just now.  We may get into this
war, and if we do - "  He rose, and yawned, his arms above his head.
"I'm off to bed," he said.  "Big day to-morrow.  I'll want Graham at
the office at 8:30."

She had sat up in bed, and was staring at him.  Her face was pale.

"Do you mean that we are going to get into this war?"

"I think it very likely, my dear."

"But if we do, Graham - "

"We might as well face it.  Graham will probably want to go."

"He'll do nothing of the sort," she said sharply.  "He's all I have.
All.  Do you think I'm going to send him over there to be
cannon-fodder?  I won't let him go."

She was trembling violently.

"I won't want him to go, of course.  But if the thing comes - he's
of age, you know."

She eyed him with thinly veiled hostility.

"You're hard, Clay," she accused him.  "You're hard all the way
through.  You're proud, too.  Proud and hard.  You'd want to be
able to say your son was in the army.  It's not because you care
anything about the war, except to make money out of it.  What is
the war to you, anyhow?  You don't like the English, and as for
French - you don't even let me have a French butler."

He was not the less angry because he realized the essential truth of
part of what she said.  He felt no great impulse of sympathy with
any of the combatants.  He knew the gravity of the situation rather
than its tragedy.  He did not like war, any war.  He saw no reason
why men should kill.  But this war was a fact.  He had had no hand
in its making, but it was made.

His first impulse was to leave her in dignified silence.  But she
was crying, and I he disliked leaving her in tears.  Dead as was his
love for her, and that night, somehow, he knew that it was dead, she
was still his wife.  They had had some fairly happy years together,
long ago.  And he felt the need, too, of justification.

"Perhaps you are right, Natalie," he said, after a moment.  "I
haven't cared about this war as much as I should.  Not the human
side of it, anyhow.  But you ought to understand that by making
shells for the Allies, I am not only making money for myself; they
need the shells.  And I'll give them the best.  I don't intend only
to profit by their misfortunes."

She had hardly listened.

"Then, if we get into it, as you say, you'll encourage Graham to go?"

"I shall allow him to go, if he feels it his duty."

"Oh, duty, duty!  I'm sick of the word." She bent forward and
suddenly caught one of his hands.  "You won't make him go, Clay?"
she begged.  You - you'll let him make his own decision?"

"If you will."

"What do you mean?"

"If you'll keep your hands off, too.  We're not in it, yet.  God
knows I hope we won't be.  But if I promise not to influence him,
you must do the same thing."

"I haven't any more influence over Graham than that," she said, and
snapped her finger.  But she did not look at him.

"Promise," he said, steadily.

"Oh, all right." Her voice and face were sulky.  She looked much as
Graham had that evening at the table.

"Is that a promise?"

"Good heavens, do you want me to swear to it?"

"I want you to play fair.  That's all."

She leaned back again among her pillows and gathered her papers.

"All right," she said, indifferently.  "Have you any preference as
to color for your rooms in the new house?"

He was sorry for his anger, and after all, these things which seemed
so unimportant to him were the things that made up her life.  He
smiled.

"You might match my eyes.  I'm not sure what color they are.  Perhaps
you know."

But she had not forgiven him.

"I've never noticed," she replied.  And, small bundle of samples in
her hand, resumed her reading and her inspection of textiles.

"Good night, Natalie."

"Good night."  She did not look up.

Outside his wife's door he hesitated.  Then he crossed and without
knocking entered Graham's bedroom.  The boy was lounging in a long
chair by an open fire.  He was in his dressing gown and slippers,
and an empty whiskey-and-soda glass stood beside him on a small
stand.  Graham was sound asleep.  Clayton touched him on the shoulder,
but he slept on, his head to one side, his breathing slow and heavy.
It required some little effort to waken him.

"Graham!" said Clayton sharply.

"Yes." He stirred, but did not open his eyes.

"Graham!  Wake up, boy."

Graham sat up suddenly and looked at him.  The whites of his eyes
were red, but he had slept off the dinner wine.  He was quite
himself.

"Better get to bed," his father suggested.  "I'll want you early
to-morrow."

"What time, sir?"

He leaned forward and pressed a button beside the mantel-piece.

"What are you doing that for?"

"Ice water.  Awfully thirsty."

"The servants have gone to bed.  Go down and get it yourself."

Graham looked up at the tone.  At his father's eyes, he looked away.

"Sorry, sir," he said.  "Must have had too much champagne.  Wasn't
much else to do, was there? Mother's parties - my God, what a
dreary lot!"

Clayton inspected the ice water carafe on the stand and found it
empty.

"I'll bring you some water from my room," he said.  "And - I don't
want to see you this way again, Graham.  When a man cannot take a
little wine at his own table without taking too much he fails to be
entirely a gentleman."

He went out.  When he came back, Graham was standing by the fire in
his pajamas, looking young and rather ashamed.  Clayton had a flash
of those earlier days when he had come in to bid the boy good night,
and there had always been that last request for water which was to
postpone the final switching off of the light.

"I'm sorry, father."

Clayton put his hand on the boy's shoulder and patted him.

"We'll have to do better next time.  That's all."

For a moment the veil of constraint of Natalie's weaving lifted
between them.

"I'm a pretty bad egg, I guess.  You'd better shove me off the dock
and let me swim - or drown."

"I'd hardly like to do that, you know.  You are all I have."

"I'm no good at the mill."

"You haven't had very much time.  I've been a good many years
learning the business."'

"I'll never be any good.  Not there.  If there was something to
build up it would be different, but it's all done.  You've done it.
I'm only a sort of sublimated clerk.  I don't mean," he added
hastily, "that I think I ought to have anything more.  It's only
that - well, the struggle's over, if you know what I mean."

"I'll talk to you about that to-morrow.  Get to bed now.  It's one
o'clock."

He moved to the doorway.  Graham, carafe in hand, stood staring
ahead of him.  He had the courage of the last whiskey-and-soda, and
a sort of desperate contrition.

"Father."

"Yes, Graham."

"I wish you'd let me go to France and fly."

Something like a cold hand seemed to close round Clayton's heart.

"Fly!  Why?"

"Because I'm not doing any good here.  And - because I'd like to
see if I have any good stuff in me.  All the fellows are going," he
added, rather weakly.

"That's not a particularly worthy reason, is it?"

"It's about as worthy as making money out of shells, when we haven't
any reason for selling them to the Allies more than the Germans,
except that we can't ship to the Germans."

He looked rather frightened then.  But Clayton was not angry.  He
saw Natalie's fine hand there, and the boy's impressionable nature.

"Think that over, Graham," he said gravely.  "I don't believe you
quite mean it.  Good-night."

He went across to his own bedroom, where his silk pajamas, neatly
folded, lay on his painted Louis XVI bed.  Under his reading lamp
there was a book.  It was a part of Natalie's decorative scheme for
the room; it's binding was mauve, to match the hangings.  For the
first time since the room had been done over during his absence he
picked up the book.

"Rodney's idea, for a cent!" he reflected, looking rather grimly at
the cover.

He undressed slowly, his mind full of Graham and the problem he
presented.  Then he thought of Natalie, and of the little things
that made up her life and filled her days.  He glanced about the
room, beautiful, formal, exquisitely appointed.  His father's
portrait was gone from over the mantel, and an old French
water-color hung there instead.  That was too bad of Natalie.  Or
had it been Rodney?  He would bring it back.  And he gave a fleeting
thought to Graham and his request to go abroad.  He had not meant
it.  It was sheer reaction.  But he would talk to Graham.

He lighted a cigaret, and getting into bed turned on his reading
lamp.  Queer how a man could build, and then find that after all he
did not care for the achievement.  It was the building alone that
was worth while.

He picked up the book from the table, and opened it casually.

   "When first I loved I gave my very soul
    Utterly unreserved to Love's control,
    But Love deceived me, wrenched my youth away,
    And made the gold of life forever gray.
    Long I lived lonely, yet I tried in vain
    With any other joy to stifle pain;
    There is no other joy, I learned to know,
    And so returned to love, as long ago,
    Yet I, this little while ere I go hence,
    Love very lightly now, in self defense."

"Twaddle," said Clayton Spencer, and put the book away.  That was
the sort of stuff men like Rodney lived on.  In a mauve binding, too.

After he had put out the light he lay for a long time, staring into
the darkness.  It was not love he wanted: he was through with all
that.  Power was the thing, integrity and power.  To yield to no
man, to achieve independence for one's soul - not that he put it
that way.  He formulated it, drowsily: 'Not to give a damn for any
one, so long as you're right.'  Of course, it was not always possible
to know if one was right.  He yawned.  His conscious mind was
drowsing, and from the depths below, released of the sentry of his
waking hours, came the call of his starved imagination.




CHAPTER III

There was no moral to be adduced from Graham's waking the next
morning.  He roused, reluctantly enough, but blithe and hungry.  He
sang as he splashed in his shower, chose his tie whistling, and went
down the staircase two steps at a time to a ravenous breakfast.

Clayton was already at the table in the breakfast room, sitting back
with the newspaper, his coffee at his elbow, the first cigarette of
the morning half smoked.  He looked rather older in the morning light.
Small fine threads had begun to show themselves at the corners of his
eyes.  The lines of repression from the nostrils to the corners of
the mouth seemed deeper.  But his invincible look of boyishness
persisted, at that.

There was no awkwardness in Graham's "Morning, dad."  He had not
forgotten the night before, but he had already forgiven himself.  He
ignored the newspaper at his plate, and dug into his grapefruit.

"Anything new?" he inquired casually.

"You might look and see," Clayton suggested, good-naturedly.

"I'll read going down in the car.  Can't stand war news on an empty
stomach.  Mother all right this morning?"

"I think she is still sleeping."

"Well, I should say she needs it, after last night.  How in the
world we manage, with all the interesting people in the world, to
get together such a dreary lot as that - Lord, it was awful."

Clayton rose and folded his paper.

"The car's waiting," he said.  "I'll be ready in five minutes."

He went slowly up the stairs.  In her pink bedroom Natalie had just
wakened.  Madeleine, her elderly French maid, had brought her
breakfast, and she was lying back among the pillows, the litter of
the early mail about her and a morning paper on her knee.  He bent
over and kissed her, perfunctorily, and he was quick to see that her
resentment of the evening before had survived the night.

"Sleep well?" he inquired, looking down at her.  She evaded his eyes.

"Not particularly."

"Any plans for to-day?"

"I'll just play around.  I'm lunching out, and I may run out with
Rodney to Linndale.  The landscape men are there today."

She picked up the newspaper as though to end the discussion.  He
saw then that she was reading the society news, and he rather more
than surmised that she had not even glanced at the black headings
which on the first page announced the hideous casualties of the
Somme.

"Then you've given the planting contract?"

"Some things have to go in in the fall, Clay.  For heaven's sake,
don't look like a thunder cloud."

"Have you given the landscape contract?"

"Yes.  And please go out.  You make my head ache."

"How much is it to be?"

"I don't know.  Ask Rodney."

"I'll do nothing of the sort, my dear.  This is not Rodney's
investment."

"Nor mine, I suppose!"

"All I want you to do, Natalie, is to consult me.  I want you to
have a free hand, but some one with a sense of responsibility ought
to check up these expenditures.  But it isn't only that.  I'd like
to have a hand in the thing myself.  I've rather looked forward to
the time when we could have the sort of country place we wanted."

"You don't like any of the strings to get out of your fingers,
do you?"

"I didn't come up to quarrel, Natalie.  I wish you wouldn't force
it on me."

"I force it on you," she cried, and laughed in a forced and
high-pitched note.  "Just because I won't be over-ridden without a
protest!  I'm through, that's all.  I shan't go near the place again."

"You don't understand," he persisted patiently.  "I happen to like
gardens.  I had an idea - I told you about it - of trying to
duplicate the old garden at home.  You remember it.  When we went
there on our honeymoon - "

"You don't call that a garden?"

"Of course I didn't want to copy it exactly.  It was old and out of
condition.  But there were a lot of old-fashioned flowers -  However,
if you intend to build an Italian villa, naturally - "

"I don't intend to build anything, or to plant anything."  Her voice
was frozen.  "You go ahead.  Do it in your own way.  And then you
can live there, if you like.  I won't."

Which was what he carried away with him that morning to the mill.
He was not greatly disturbed by her threat to keep her hands off.
He knew quite well, indeed, that the afternoon would find her, with
Rodney Page, picking her way in her high-heeled shoes over the waste
that was some day to bloom, not like the rose of his desire but
according to the formal and rigid blueprint which Rodney would be
carrying.  But in five minutes he had put the incident out of his
mind.  After all, if it gave her happiness and occupation, certainly
she needed both.  And his powers of inhibition were strong.  For
many years he had walled up the small frictions of his married life
and its disappointments, and outside that wall had built up an
existence of his own, which was the mill.

When he went down-stairs he found that Graham had ordered his own
car and was already in it, drawing on his gloves.

"Have to come back up-town early, dad," he called in explanation,
and drove off, going at the reckless speed he affected.

Clayton rode down alone in the limousine.  He had meant to outline
his plans of expansion to Graham, but he had had no intention of
consulting him.  In his own department the boy did neither better
nor worse than any other of the dozens of young men in the
organization.  If he had shown neither special aptitude for nor
interest in the business, he had at least not signally failed to
show either.  Now, paper and pencil in hand, Clayton jotted down
the various details of the new system in their sequence; the building
of a forging plant to make the rough casts for the new Italian shells
out of the steel from the furnaces, the construction of a new spur
to the little railway which bound the old plant together with its
shining steel rails.  There were questions of supplies and shipping
and bank credits to face, the vast and complex problems of the
complete new munition works, to be built out of town and involving
such matters as the housing of enormous numbers of employees.  He
scrawled figures and added them.  Even with the size of the foreign
contract their magnitude startled him.  He leaned back, his mouth
compressed, the lines from the nostrils to the corners deeper than
ever.

He had completely forgotten Natalie and the country house.

Outside the gates to the mill enclosure he heard an early extra
being called, and bought it.  The Austrian premier had been
assassinated.  The successful French counter-attack against Verdun
was corroborated, also.  On the center of the front page was the
first photograph to reach America of a tank.  He inspected it with
interest.  So the Allies had at last shown same inventive genius
of their own!  Perhaps this was but the beginning.  Even at that,
enough of these fighting mammoths, and the war might end quickly.
With the tanks, and the Allied offensive and the evidence of
discontent in Austria, the thing might after all be over before
America was involved.

He reflected, however, that an early peace would not be an unmixed
blessing for him.  He wanted the war to end: he hated killing.  He
felt inarticulately that something horrible was happening to the
world.  But personally his plans were premised on a war to last at
least two years more, until the fall of 1918.  That would let him
out, cover the cost of the new plant, bring renewals of his foreign
contracts, justify those stupendous figures on the paper in his hand.

He wondered, rather uncomfortably, what he would do, under the
circumstances, if it were in his power to declare peace to-morrow.

In his office in the mill administration building, he found the
general manager waiting.  Through the door into the conference room
beyond he could see the superintendents of the various departments,
with Graham rather aloof and detached, and a sprinkling of the most
important foremen.  On his desk, neatly machined, was the first
tentative shell-case made in the mill machine-shop, an experiment
rather than a realization.

Hutchinson, the general manager, was not alone.  Opposite him, very
neatly dressed in his best clothes, his hat in his hand and a set
expression on his face, was one of the boss rollers of the steel
mill, Herman Klein.  At Clayton's entrance he made a motion to
depart, but Hutchinson stopped him.

"Tell Mr. Spencer what you've been telling me, Klein," he said
curtly.

Klein fingered his hat, but his face remained set.

"I've just been saying, Mr. Spencer," he said, in good English, but
with the guttural accent which thirty years in America had not
eliminated, "that I'll be leaving you now."

"Leaving!  Why?"

"Because of that l" He pointed, without intentional drama, at the
shell-case.  "I can't make those shells for you, Mr. Spencer, and
me a German."

"You're an American, aren't you?"

"I am, sir.  It is not that.  It iss that I - "  His face worked.
He had dropped back to the old idiom, after years of painful
struggle to abandon it.  "It iss that I am a German, also.  I have
people there, in the war.  To make shells to kill them - no."

"He is determined, Mr. Spencer," said Hutchinson.  "I have been
arguing with him, but - you can't argue with a German."

Clayton was uneasily aware of something like sympathy for the man.

"I understand how you feel, Klein," he observed.  "But of course
you know, whether you go or stay, the shells will be made, anyhow."

"I know that."

"You are throwing up a good position."

"I'll try to get another."

The prospective loss of Klein was a rather serious one.  Clayton,
seated behind his great desk, eyed him keenly, and then stooped to
bribery.  He mentioned a change in the wage scale, with bonuses to
all foremen and rollers.  He knew Klein's pride in the mill, and he
outlined briefly the growth that was about to be developed.  But
the boss roller remained obdurate.  He understood that such things
were to be, but it was not necessary that he assist Germany's enemies
against her.  Against the determination in his heavy square figure
Clayton argued in vain.  When, ten minutes later, he went into the
conference room, followed by a secretary with a sheaf of papers, the
mill was minus a boss roller, and there was rankling in his mind
Klein's last words.

"I haf no objection, Mr. Spencer, to your making money out of this
war, but I will not."

There had been no insolence in his tone.  He had gone out, with his
heavy German stolidity of mien unchanged, and had closed the door
behind him with quiet finality.




CHAPTER IV

Graham left the conference that morning in a rather exalted mood.
The old mill was coming into its own at last.  He had a sense of
boyish triumph in the new developments, a feeling of being a part
of big activities that would bring rich rewards.  And he felt a
new pride in his father.  He had sat, a little way from the long
table, and had watched the faces of the men gathered about it as
clearly and forcibly the outlines of the new departure were given
out.  Hitherto "Spencer's" had made steel only.  Now, they were
not only to make the steel, but they were to forge the ingots into
rough casts; these casts were then to be carried to the new munition
works, there to be machined, drilled, polished, provided with fuses,
which "Spencer's" were also to make, and shipped abroad.

The question of speeding production had been faced and met.  The
various problems had been discussed and the bonus system tentatively
taken up.  Then the men had dispersed, each infected with the drive
of his father's contagious force.  "Pretty fine old boy," Graham had
considered.  And he wondered vaguely if, when his time came, he
would be able to take hold.  For a few minutes Natalie's closetings
lost their effect.  He saw his father, not as one from whom to hide
extravagance and unpaid bills, but as the head of a great concern
that was now to be a part of the war itself.  He wandered into his
father's office, and picked up the shell.  Clayton was already at
his letters, but looked up.

"Think we rather had them, eh, Graham?"

"Think you did, sir.  Carried them off their feet.  Pretty, isn't
it?"  He held up the shell-case.  "If a fellow could only forget
what the damned things are for!"

"They are to help to end the war," said Clayton, crisply.  "Don't
forget that, boy."  And went back to his steady dictation.

Graham went out of the building into the mill yard.  The noise always
irritated him.  He had none of Clayton's joy and understanding of it.
To Clayton each sound had its corresponding activity.  To Graham it
was merely din, an annoyance to his ears, as the mill yard outraged
his fastidiousness.  But that morning he found it rather more
bearable.  He stooped where, in front of the store, the storekeeper
had planted a tiny garden.  Some small late-blossoming chrysanthemums
were still there and he picked one and put it in his buttonhole.

His own office was across the yard.  He dodged in front of a yard
locomotive, picked his way about masses of lumber and the general
litter of all mill yards, and opened the door of his own building.
Just inside his office a girl was sitting on a straight chair, her
hat a trifle crooked, and her eyes red from crying.  He paused in
amazement.

"Why, Miss Klein!" he said.  "What's the matter?"

She was rather a pretty girl, even now.  She stood up at his voice
and made an effort to straighten her hat.

"Haven't you heard?" she asked.

"I haven't heard anything that ought to make Miss Anna Klein weep
of a nice, frosty morning in October.  Unless - " he sobered, for
her grief was evident.  "Tell me about it."

"Father has given up his job."

"No!"!

"I'm telling you, Mr. Spencer.  He won't help to make those shells.
He's been acting queer for three or four days and this morning he
told your father."

Graham whistled.

"As if it made any difference," she went on irritably.  "Some one
else will get his job.  That's all.  What does he care about the
Germans?  He left them and came to America as soon as he could walk."

Graham sat down.

"Now let's get this," he said.  "He won't make shells for the Allies
and so he's given up his position.  All right.  That's bad, but he's
a good workman.  He'll not have any trouble getting another job.  Now,
why are you crying?"

"I didn't think you'd want me to stay on."

Putting her fear into words brought back her long hours of terror.
She collapsed into the chair again and fell to unquiet sobbing.
Graham was disturbed.

"You're a queer girl," he said.  "Why should that lose me my most
valued assistant?"

When she made no reply he got up and going over to her put a hand
on her shoulder.  "Tell me that," he said.

He looked down at her.  The hair grew very soft and blonde at the
nape of her neck, and he ran a finger lightly across it.  "Tell me
that."

"I was afraid it would."

"And, even if it had, which you are a goose for thinking, you're
just as good in your line as your father is in his.  I've been
expecting any time to hear of your leaving me for a handsomer man!"

He had been what he would have termed jollying her back to normality
again.  But to his intense surprise she suddenly leaned back and
looked up into his face.  There was no doubting what he saw there.
Just for a moment the situation threatened to get out of hand.  Then
he patted her shoulders and put the safety of his desk between them.

"Run away and bathe your eyes," he said, "and then come back here
looking like the best secretary in the state, and not like a winter
thaw.  We have the deuce of a lot of work to do."

But after she had gone he sat for some little time idly rapping a
pencil on the top of his desk.  By Jove!  Anna Klein!  Of all girls
in the world!  It was rather a pity, too.  She was a nice little
thing, and in the last few months she had changed a lot.  She had
been timid at first, and hideously dressed.  Lately she had been
almost smart.  Those ear-rings now - they changed her a lot.  Queer
- how things went on in a girl's mind, and a fellow didn't know
until something happened.  He settled his tie and smoothed back his
heavy hair.

During the remainder of the day he began to wonder if he had not
been a fatuous idiot.  Anna did her work with the thoroughness of
her German blood plus her American training.  She came back minus
her hat, and with her eyes carefully powdered, and not once during
the morning was he able to meet her eyes fully.  By the middle of
the afternoon sex vanity and curiosity began to get the better of
his judgment, and he made an excuse, when she stood beside him over
some papers, her hand on the desk, to lay his fingers over hers.
She drew her hand away quickly, and when he glanced up, boyishly
smiling, her face was flushed.

"Please," she said.  And he felt hurt and rebuffed.  He had no
sentiment for her whatever, but the devil of mischief of twenty-two
was behind him, urging him on to the eternal experiment.  He was
very formal with her for the rest of the day, and had the
satisfaction of leaving her, at four o'clock, white-faced and
miserable over her machine in the little office next to his.

He forgot her immediately, in the attempt to leave the mill without
encountering his father.  Clayton, he knew, would be staying late,
and would be exacting similar tribute to the emergency from the
entire force.  Also, he had been going about the yard with
contractors most of the afternoon.  But Graham made his escape
safely.  It was two hours later when his father, getting into the
limousine, noticed the absence of the boy's red car, and asked the
gateman how long it had been gone.

"Since about four o'clock, Mr. Spencer."

Suddenly Clayton felt a reaction from the activities of the day.
He sank back in the deeply padded seat, and felt tired and - in some
odd fashion - lonely.  He would have liked to talk to Graham on the
way up-town, if only to crystallize his own thoughts.  He would have
liked to be going home to review with Natalie the day's events, the
fine spirit of his men, the small difficulties.  But Natalie hated
the mention of the mill.

He thought it probable, too, that they were dining out.  Yes, he
remembered.  They were dining at the Chris Valentines.  Well, that
was better than it might have been.  They were not dull, anyhow.
His mind wandered to the Valentine house, small, not too
well-ordered, frequently noisy, but always gay and extremely smart.

He thought of Audrey, and her curious friendship with Natalie.
Audrey the careless, with her dark lazy charm, her deep and rather
husky contralto, her astonishing little French songs, which she
sang with nonchalant grace, and her crowds of boyish admirers whom
she alternately petted and bullied - surely she and Natalie had
little enough in common.

Yet, in the last year or so, he had been continually coming across
them together - at the club, at luncheon in the women's dining room,
at his own house, Natalie always perfectly and expensively dressed,
Audrey in the casual garments which somehow her wearing made
effective.

He smiled a little.  Certain of Audrey's impertinences came to his
mind.  She was an amusing young woman.  He had an idea that she was
always in debt, and that the fact concerned her very little.  He
fancied that few things concerned her very deeply, including Chris.
But she knew about food.  Her dinners were as casual as her house,
as to service, but they were worth eating.  She claimed to pay for
them out of her bridge winnings, and, indeed, her invitation for
to-night had been frankness itself.

"I'm going to have a party, Clay," she had said.  "I've made two
killings at bridge, and somebody has shipped Chris some ducks.  If
you'll send me some cigarets like the last, I'll make it Tuesday."

He had sent the cigarets, and this was Tuesday.

The pleasant rolling of the car soothed him.  The street flashed by,
brilliant with lights that in far perspective seemed to meet.  The
shop windows gleamed with color.  From curb to curb were other cars
like the one in which he rode, carrying home other men like himself
to whatever the evening held in store.  He remembered London at this
hour, already dark and quiet, its few motors making their cautious
way in the dusk, its throngs of clerks, nearly all women now,
hurrying home to whatever dread the night might hold.  And it made
him slightly more complacent.  These things that he had taken for
granted before had since his return assumed the quality of luxury.

"Pray God we won't get into it," he said to himself.

He reviewed his unrest of the night before, and smiled at it.
Happiness.  Happiness came from a sense of achievement.  Integrity
and power, that was the combination.  The respect of one's fellow
men, the day's work well done.  Romance was done, at his age, but
there remained the adventure of success.  A few years more, and he
would leave the mill to Graham and play awhile.  After that - he
had always liked politics.  They needed business men in politics.
If men of training and leisure would only go in for it there would
be some chance of cleaning up the situation.  Yes, he might do that.
He was an easy speaker, and -

The car drew up at the curb and the chauffeur got out.  Natalie's
car had drawn up just ahead, and the footman was already opening
the door.  Rodney Page got out, and assisted Natalie to alight.
Clayton smiled.  So she had changed her mind.  He saw Rodney bend
over her hand and kiss it after his usual ceremonious manner.
Natalie seemed a trifle breathless when she turned and saw him.

"You're early, aren't you?" she said.

"I fancy it is you who are late."

Then he realized that the chauffeur was waiting to speak to him.

"Yes, Jackson?"

"I'm sorry, sir.  I guess I'll be leaving at the end of my month,
Mr. Spencer."

"Come into the library and I'll talk to you.  What's wrong?"

"There's nothing wrong, sir.  I have been very well suited.  It's
only - I used to be in the regular army, sir, and I guess I'm going
to be needed again."

"You mean - we are going to be involved?"

"Yes, sir.  I think we are."

"There's no answer to that, Jackson," he said.  But a sense of
irritation stirred him as he went up the steps to the house door.
Jackson was a good man.  Jackson and Klein, and who knew who would
be next?

"Oh, damn the war," he reflected rather wearily.




CHAPTER V

The winter which preceded the entrance of the United States into
the war was socially an extraordinary one.  It was marked by an
almost feverish gayety, as though, having apparently determined to
pursue a policy dictated purely by self interest, the people wished
to forget their anomalous position.  Like a woman who covers her
shame with a smile.  The vast number of war orders from abroad had
brought prosperity into homes where it had long been absent.  Mills
and factories took on new life.  Labor was scarce and high.

It was a period of extravagance rather than pleasure.  People played
that they might not think.  Washington, convinced that the nation
would ultimately be involved, kept its secret well and continued to
preach a neutrality it could not enforce.  War was to most of the
nation a great dramatic spectacle, presented to them at breakfast
and in the afternoon editions.  It furnished unlimited conversation
at dinner-parties, led to endless wrangles, gave zest and point to
the peace that made those dinner parties possible, furnished an
excuse for retrenchment here and there, and brought into vogue great
bazaars and balls for the Red Cross and kindred activities.

But although the war was in the nation's mind, it was not yet in
its soul.

Life went on much as before.  An abiding faith in the Allies was
the foundation stone of its complacency.  The great six-months
battle of the Somme, with its million casualties, was resulting
favorably.  On the east the Russians had made some gains.  There
were wagers that the Germans would be done in the Spring.

But again Washington knew that the British and French losses at the
Somme had been frightful; that the amount of lost territory
regained was negligible as against the territory still held; that
the food problem in the British Islands was acute; that the submarine
sinkings were colossal.  Our peace was at a fearful cost.

And on the edge of this volcano America played.

When Graham Spencer left the mill that Tuesday afternoon, it was to
visit Marion Hayden.  He was rather bored now at the prospect.  He
would have preferred going to the Club to play billiards, which was
his custom of a late afternoon.  He drove rather more slowly than
was his custom, and so missed Marion's invitation to get there
before the crowd.

Three cars before the house showed that she already had callers,
and indeed when the parlor-maid opened the door a burst of laughter
greeted him.  The Hayden house was a general rendezvous.  There
were usually, by seven o'clock, whiskey-and-soda glasses and
tea-cups on most of the furniture, and half-smoked cigarets on
everything that would hold them, including the piano.

Marion herself met him in the hall, and led him past the
drawing-room door.

"There are people in every room who want to be left alone," she
volunteered.  "I kept the library as long as I could.  We can sit
on the stairs, if you like."

Which they proceeded to do, quite amiably.  From various open doors
came subdued voices.  The air was pungent with tobacco smoke
permeated with a faint scent of late afternoon highballs.

"Tommy!" Marion called, when she had settled herself.

"Yes," from a distance.

"Did you leave your cigaret on the piano?"

"No, Toots dear.  But I can, easily."

"Mother," Marion explained, "is getting awfully touchy about the
piano.  Well, do you remember half the pretty things you told me
last night?"

"Not exactly.  But I meant them."

He looked up at her admiringly.  He was only a year from college,
and he had been rather arbitrarily limited to the debutantes.  He
found, therefore, something rather flattering in the attention he
was receiving from a girl who had been out five years, and who was
easily the most popular young woman in the gayer set.  It gave him
a sense of maturity Since the night before he had been rankling
under a sense of youth.

"Was I pretty awful last night?" he asked.

"You were very interesting.  And - I imagine - rather indiscreet."

"Fine!  What did I say?"

"You boasted, my dear young friend."

"Great Scott!  I must have been awful."

"About the new war contracts."

"Oh, business!"

"But I found it very interesting.  You know, I like business.  And
I like big figures.  Poor people always do.  Has it really gone
through?  I mean, those things do slip up sometimes, don't they.

"It's gone through, all right.  Signed, sealed, and delivered."

Encouraged by her interest, he elaborated on the new work.  He even
developed an enthusiasm for it, to his own surprise.  And the girl
listened intently, leaning forward so that her arm brushed his
shoulder.  Her eyes, slightly narrowed, watched him closely.  She
knew every move of the game she was determining to play.

Marion Hayden, at twenty-five, knew already what her little world
had not yet realized, that such beauty as she had had was the
beauty of youth only, and that that was going.  Late hours, golf,
perhaps a little more champagne than was necessary at dinners, and
the mornings found her almost plain.  And, too, she had the far
vision of the calculating mind.  She knew that if the country
entered the war, every eligible man she knew would immediately
volunteer.

At twenty-five she already noticed a change in the personnel of her
followers.  The unmarried men who had danced with her during her
first two winters were now sending flowers to the debutantes, and
cutting in on the younger men at balls.  Her house was still a
rendezvous, but it was for couples like the ones who had preempted
the drawing-room, the library and the music room that afternoon.
They met there, smoked her cigarets, made love in a corner,
occasionally became engaged.  But she was of the game, no longer
in it.

Men still came to see her, a growing percentage of them married.
They brought or sent her tribute, flowers, candy, and cigarets. She
was enormously popular at dances.  But more and more her dinner
invitations were from the older crowd.  Like Natalie Spencer's
stupid party the night before.

So she watched Graham and listened.  He was a nice boy and a
handsome one.  Also he promised to be sole heir to a great business.
If the war only lasted long enough -

"Imagine your knowing all those things," she said admiringly.
"You're a partner, aren't you?"

He flushed slightly.

"Not yet.  But of course I shall be."

"When you really get going, I wonder if you will take me round and
show me how shells are made.  I'm the most ignorant person you ever
knew."

"I'll be awfully glad to."

"Very well.  For that promise you shall have a highball.  You're an
awful dear, you know."

She placed a slim hand on his shoulder and patted it.  Then, leaning
rather heavily on him for support, she got to her feet.

"We'll go in and stir up some of the lovers," she suggested.  "And
if Tommy Hale hasn't burned up the piano we can dance a bit.  You
dance divinely, you know."

It was after seven when he reached home.  He felt every inch a man.
He held himself very straight as he entered the house, and the
boyish grin with which he customarily greeted the butler had given
place to a dignified nod.

Natalie was in her dressing-room.  At his knock she told the maid
to admit him, and threw a dressing-gown over her bare shoulders.
Then she sent the maid away and herself cautiously closed the door
into Clayton's room.

"I've got the money for you, darling," she said.  From her jewel
case she took a roll of bills and held them out to him.  "Five
hundred."

"I hate to take it, mother."

"Never mind about taking it.  Pay those bills before your father
learns about them.  That's all."

He was divided between gratitude and indignation.  His new-found
maturity seemed to be slipping from him.  Somehow here at home they
always managed to make him feel like a small boy.

"Honestly, mother, I'd rather go to father and tell him about it.
He'd make a row, probably, but at least you'd be out of it."

She ignored his protest, as she always ignored protests against her
own methods of handling matters.

"I'm accustomed to it," was her sole reply.  But her resigned voice
brought her, as it always had, the ready tribute of the boy's
sympathy.  "Sit down, Graham, I want to talk to you."

He sat down, still uneasily fingering the roll of bills.  Just how
far Natalie's methods threatened to undermine his character was
revealed when, at a sound in Clayton's room, he stuck the money
hastily into his pocket.

"Have you noticed a change in your father since he came back?"

Her tone was so ominous that he started.

"He's not sick, is he?"

"Not that.  But - he's different.  Graham, your father thinks we
may be forced into the war."

"Good for us.  It's time, that's sure."

"Graham!"

"Why, good heavens, mother," he began, "we should have been in it
last May.  We should - "

She was holding out both hands to him, piteously.

"You wouldn't go, would you?"

"I might have to go," he evaded.

"You wouldn't, Graham.  You're all I have.  All I have left to live
for.  You wouldn't need to go.  It's ridiculous.  You're needed here.
Your father needs you."

"He needs me the hell of a lot," the boy muttered.  But he went over
and, stooping down, kissed her trembling face.

"Don't worry about me," he said lightly.  "I don't think we've got
spine enough to get into the mix-up, anyhow.  And if we have - "

"You won't go.  Promise me you won't go."

When he hesitated she resorted to her old methods with both Clayton
and the boy.  She was doing all she could to make them happy.  She
made no demands, none.  But when she asked for something that meant
more than life to her, it was refused, of course.  She had gone
through all sorts of humiliation to get him that money, and this was
the gratitude she received.

Graham listened.  She was a really pathetic figure, crouched in her
low chair, and shaken with terror.  She must have rather a bad time;
there were so many things she dared not take to his father.  She
brought them to him instead, her small grievances, her elaborate
extravagances, her disappointments.  It did not occur to him that
she transferred to his young shoulders many of her own burdens.  He
was only grateful for her confidence, and a trifle bewildered by it.
And she had helped him out of a hole just now.

"All right.  I promise," he said at last.  "But you're worrying
yourself for nothing, mother."

She was quite content then, cheered at once, consulted the jewelled
watch on her dressing table and rang for the maid.

"Heavens, how late it is!" she exclaimed.  "Run out now, dear.  And,
Graham, tell Buckham to do up a dozen dinner-napkins in paper.
Audrey Valentine has telephoned that she has just got in, and finds
she hasn't enough.  If that isn't like her!"




CHAPTER VI

Months afterward, Clayton Spencer, looking back, realized that the
night of the dinner at the Chris Valentines marked the beginning of
a new epoch for him.  Yet he never quite understood what it was that
had caused the change.  All that was clear was that in retrospect
he always commenced with that evening, when he was trying to trace
his own course through the months that followed, with their various
changes, to the momentous ones of the following Summer.

Everything pertaining to the dinner, save the food, stood out with
odd distinctness.  Natalie's silence during the drive, broken only
by his few questions and her brief replies.  Had the place looked
well?  Very.  And was the planting going on all right? She supposed
so.  He had hesitated, rather discouraged.  Then:

"I don't want to spoil your pleasure in the place, Natalie - " he
had said, rather awkwardly.  "After all, you will be there more than
I shall.  You'd better have it the way you like it."

She had appeared mollified at that and had relaxed somewhat.  He
fancied that the silence that followed was no longer resentful, that
she was busily planning.  But when they had almost reached the house
she turned to him.

"Please don't talk war all evening, Clay," she said.  "I'm so
ghastly sick of it."

"All right," he agreed amiably.  "Of course I can't prevent the
others doing it."

"It's generally you who lead up to it.  Ever since you came back
you've bored everybody to death with it."

"Sorry," he said, rather stiffly.  "I'll be careful."

He had a wretched feeling that she was probably right.  He had come
back so full of new impressions that he had probably overflowed
with them.  It was a very formal, extremely tall and reticent
Clayton Spencer who greeted Audrey that night.

Afterward he remembered that Audrey was not quite her usual
frivolous self that evening.  But perhaps that was only in
retrospect, in view of what he learned later.  She was very daringly
dressed, as usual, wearing a very low gown and a long chain and
ear-rings of black opals, and as usual all the men in the room were
grouped around her.

"Thank heaven for one dignified man," she exclaimed, looking up at
him.  "Clayton, you do give tone to my parties."

It was not until they went in to dinner that he missed Chris.  He
heard Audrey giving his excuses.

"He's been called out of town," she said.  "Clay, you're to have
his place.  And the flowers are low, so I can look across and
admire you."

There were a dozen guests, and things moved rapidly.  Audrey's
dinners were always hilarious.  And Audrey herself, Clayton perceived
from his place of vantage, was flirting almost riotously with the man
on her left.  She had two high spots of color in her cheeks, and
Clayton fancied - or was that in retrospect, too? - that her gayety
was rather forced.  Once he caught her eyes and it seemed to him
that she was trying to convey something to him.

And then, of course, the talk turned to the war, and he caught a
flash of irritation on Natalie's face.

"Ask the oracle," said Audrey's clear voice, "Ask Clay.  He knows
all there is to know."

"I didn't hear it, but I suppose it is when the war will end?"

"Amazing perspicacity," some one said.

"I can only give you my own opinion.  Ten years if we don't go in.
Possibly four if we do."

There were clamors of dissent.

"None of them can hold out so long."

"If we go in it will end in six months."

"Nonsense!  The Allies are victorious now:"

"I only gave an opinion," he protested.  "One man's guess is just
as good as another's.  All I contend is that it is going on to a
finish.  The French and English are not going to stop until they
have made the Hun pay in blood for what he has cost them."

"I wish I were a man," Audrey said' suddenly.  "I don't see how any
man with red blood in his veins can sit still, and not take a gun
and try to stop it.  Sometimes I think I'll cut off my hair, and go
over anyhow.  I've only got one accomplishment.  I can shoot.  I'd
like to sit in a tree somewhere and pick them off.  The butchers!"

There was a roar of laughter, not so much at the words as at the
fierceness with which she delivered them.  Clayton, however, felt
that she was in earnest and liked her the better for it.  He
surmised, indeed, that under Audrey's affectations there might be
something rather fine if one could get at it.  She looked around
the table, coolly appraising every man there.

"Look at us," she said.  "Here we sit, over-fed, over-dressed.
Only not over-wined because I can't afford it.  And probably - yes,
I think actually - every man at this table is more or less making
money out of it all.  There's Clay making a fortune.  There's
Roddie, making money out of Clay.  Here am I, serving Clayton's
cigarets - I don't know why I pick on you, Clay.  The rest are
just as bad.  You're the most conspicuous, that's all."

Natalie evidently felt that the situation required saving.

"I'm sure we all send money over," she protested.  "To the Belgians
and all that.  And if they want things we have to sell - "

"Oh, yes, I know all that," Audrey broke in, rather wearily.  "I
know.  We're the saviors of the Belgians, and we've given a lot of
money and shiploads of clothes.  But we're not stopping the war.
And it's got to be stopped!"

Clayton watched her.  Somehow what she had just said seemed to
crystallize much that he had been feeling.  The damnable butchery
ought to be stopped.

"Right, Audrey," he supported her.  "I'd give up every prospect I
have if the thing could be ended now."

He meant it then.  He might not have meant it, entirely, to-morrow
or the day after.  But he meant it then.  He glanced down the table,
to find Natalie looking at him with cynical amusement.

The talk veered then, but still focused on the war.  It became
abstract as was so much of the war talk in America in 1916.  Were
we, after this war was over, to continue to use the inventions of
science to destroy mankind, or for its welfare?  Would we ever again,
in wars to come, go back to the comparative humanity of the Hague
convention?  Were such wickednesses as the use of poison gas, the
spreading of disease germs and the killing of non-combatants, all
German precedents, to inaugurate a new era of cruelty in warfare.

Was this the last war?  Would there ever be a last war?  Would there
not always be outlaw nations, as there are outlaw individuals?
Would there ever be a league of nations to enforce peace?

From that to Christianity.  It had failed.  On the contrary, there
was a great revival of religious faith.  Creeds, no.  Belief, yes.
Too many men were dying to permit the growth of any skepticism as
to a future life.  We must have it or go mad.

In the midst of that discussion Audrey rose.  Her color had faded,
and her smile was gone.

"I won't listen any longer," she said.  "I'm ready to talk about
fighting, but not about dying."

Clayton was conscious that he had had, in spite of Audrey's speech
about the wine, rather more to drink than he should have.  He was
not at all drunk, but a certain excitement had taken the curb off
his tongue.  After the departure of the women he found himself,
rather to his own surprise, delivering a harangue on the Germans.

"Liars and cheats," he said.  And was conscious of the undivided
attention of the men.  "They lied when they signed the Hague
Convention; they lie when they claim that they wanted peace, not
war; they lie when they claim the mis-use by the Allies of the Red
Cross; they lie to the world and they lie to themselves.  And their
peace offers will be lies.  Always lies."

Then, conscious that the table was eying him curiously, he subsided
into silence.

"You're a dangerous person, Clay," somebody said.  "You're the kind
who develops a sort of general hate, and will force the President's
hand if he can.  You're too old to go yourself, but you're willing
to send a million or two boys over there to fight a war that is
still none of our business."

"I've got a son," Clayton said sharply.  And suddenly remembered
Natalie.  He would want to boast, she had said, that he had a son
in the army.  Good God, was he doing it already?  He subsided into
the watchful silence of a man not entirely sure of himself.

He took no liquor, and with his coffee he was entirely himself again.
But he was having a reaction.  He felt a sort of contemptuous scorn
for the talk at the table.  The guard down, they were either
mouthing flamboyant patriotism or attacking the Government.  It had
done too much.  It had done too little.  Voices raised, faces
flushed, they wrangled, protested, accused.

And the nation, he reflected, was like that, divided apparently
hopelessly.  Was there anything that would unite it, as for instance
France was united?  Would even war do it?  Our problem was much
greater, more complicated.  We were of every race.  And the country
was founded and had grown by men who had fled from the quarrels of
Europe.  They had come to find peace.  Was there any humanitarian
principle in the world strong enough to force them to relinquish
that peace?

Clayton found Audrey in the hall as they moved at last toward the
drawing-room.  He was the last of the line of men, and as he paused
before her she touched him lightly on the arm.

"I want to talk to you, Clay.  Unless you're going to play."

"I'd rather not, unless you need me."

"I don't.  I'm not playing either.  And I must talk to some one."

There was something wrong with Audrey.  Her usual insouciance was
gone, and her hands nervously fingered the opal beads of her long
necklace.

"What I really want to do," she added, "is to scream.  But don't
look like that.  I shan't do it.  Suppose we go up to Chris's study."

She was always a casual hostess.  Having got her parties together,
and having fed them well, she consistently declined further
responsibility.  She kept open house, her side board and her
servants at the call of her friends, but she was quite capable of
withdrawing herself, without explanation, once things were moving
well, to be found later by some one who was leaving, writing letters,
fussing with her endless bills, or sending a check she could not
possibly afford to some one in want whom she happened to have heard
about.  Her popularity was founded on something more substantial
than her dinners.

Clayton was liking Audrey better that night than he had ever liked
her, though even now he did not entirely approve of her.  And to
the call of any woman in trouble he always responded.  It occurred
to him, following her up the stairs, that not only was something
wrong with Audrey, but that it was the first time he had ever known
her to show weakness.

Chris's study was dark.  She groped her way in and turned on the
lamp, and then turned and faced him.

"I'm in an awful mess, Clay," she said.  "And the worst of it is,
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
it."

"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,
after all."

"Good heavens, Audrey.  And you went through dinner with all this
to bear!"

"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
income."

"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
either way."

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
borrowed.




CHAPTER VII

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
extent.

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.

Nolan chuckled.

"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
under thirty."

"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."

"Chris!"

"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.

Poor Audrey!

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.




CHAPTER VIII

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
wealthy parish.

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
money's worth.

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
soon."

"Leaving!"

"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
important."

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
his feet.

"Well?" she inquired, looking up.  "Did you get it?"

"I did, indeed.  A beauty, Delight."

"A flivver?"

"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."

"Graham!"

"Why not?"

"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
remonstrance.

"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
firmly.

"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
willingly.

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
Graham's.

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.

"Sorry."

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
beat it?"

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
behind.

"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
a bit."

"I'm older than I look, Mr. Spencer."

"How old are you?"

"Sixteen."

"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
responsibility.

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
wasn't it?"

"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
in mind."

"Not very much." But after a moment: "Why don't you make Natalie
play golf?"

"She hates it."

He rather wondered if she thought Natalie was one of the things he
managed badly.

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
service."

"Good for Chris."

But she came out very frankly, when they started back to the
clubhouse.

"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
sharply.

A ball caught the caddie on the side of the head and he dropped like
a shot.

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
own ears.

"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,
tremulous smile.

"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.




CHAPTER IX

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
her amazement.

"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
anything?"

"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,
Natalie."

Natalie colored.

"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
deserved."

"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
dear."

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
what.

"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
from me."

"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
her eyes.

"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?"

"Not yet."

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?"

"Of course."

"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
confidential."

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
humorous face.

"Mr. Spencer?"

"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?"

"None whatever."

"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
work."

"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.

"I wonder!"

Mr. Dunbar reached into his breast pocket, and produced a long typed
memorandum.

"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
thinking profoundly.

"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
there, empty.

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.




CHAPTER X

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
mouth.

"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."

"My dear!"

"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
clock.

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
very small.

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
get."

"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,
or soon."

"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
hurry.

"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,
thinking!

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
about four."

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
ridiculous.

"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
pencil-sharpener.

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."

"Frightfully so."

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!"

"Studying!  What?"

"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 - "

She hesitated.

"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,
anywhere."

"You've released Chris."

"He released himself.  And he's not fighting.  He's driving an
ambulance."

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.

"How's Natalie?"

"Very well."

"And the house?"

"Held up by cold weather now.  It should be finished by the end of
April."

"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."

"Thanks."

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?"

"Nonsense."

"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
look here!"

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"




CHAPTER XI

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
his arms.

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
absolute evidence.

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
kow-towing."

"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!"

"About me?"

"About me."

"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."

"Who?"

"Delight.  She's exactly the sort he thinks you'll need.  He still
thinks you are a little boy, Graham, so he picks out a nice little
girl for you.  Such a nice little girl."

The amused contempt in her voice made him angry - for Delight rather
than himself.  He was extremely grown-up and dignified the rest of
the afternoon; he stood very tall and straight, and spoke in his
deepest voice.

It became rather an obsession in him to prove his manhood, and added
to that was the effect of Marion's constant, insidious appeal to the
surging blood of his youth.  And, day after day, he was shut in his
office with Anna Klein.

He thought he was madly in love with Marion.  He knew that he was
not at all in love with Anna Klein.  But she helped to relieve the
office tedium.

He was often aware, sitting at his desk, with Anna before him,
notebook in hand, that while he read his letters her eyes were on
him.  More than once he met them, and there was something in them
that healed his wounded vanity.  He was a man to her.  He was
indeed almost a god, but that he did not know.  In his present
frame of mind, he would have accepted even that, however.

Then, one day he kissed her.  She was standing very close, and the
impulse was quick and irresistible.  She made no effort to leave
his arms, and he kissed her again.

"Like me a little, do you?" he had asked, smiling into her eyes.

"Oh, I do, I do!" she had replied, hoarsely.

It was almost an exact reversal of his relationship with Marion.
There the huskiness was his, the triumphant smile was Marion's.  And
the feeling of being adored without stint or reservation warmed him.

He released her then, but their relationship had taken on a new
phase.  He would stand against the outer door, to prevent its sudden
opening.  And she would walk toward him, frightened and helpless
until his arms closed about her.  It was entirely a game to him.
There were days, when Marion was trying, or the work of his
department was nagging him, when he scarcely noticed her at all.
But again the mischief in him, the idler, the newly awakened hunting
male, took him to her with arms outheld and the look of triumph in
his eyes that she mistook for love.

On one such occasion Joey came near to surprising a situation, so
near that his sophisticated young mind guessed rather more than the
truth.  He went out, whistling.

He waited until Graham had joined the office force in the mill
lunchroom, and invented an errand back to Graham's office.  Anna
was there, powdering her nose with the aid of a mirror fastened
inside her purse.

Joey had adopted Clayton with a sort of fierce passion, hidden
behind a pose of patronage.

"He's all right," he would say to the boys gathered at noon in the
mill yard.  "He's kinda short-tempered sometimes, but me, I
understand him.  And there ain't many of these here money kings
that would sit up in a hospital the way he did with me."

The mill yard had had quite enough of that night in the hospital.
It would fall on him in one of those half-playful, half-vicious
attacks that are the humor of the street, and sometimes it was
rather a battered Joey who returned to Clayton's handsome office,
to assist him in running the mill.

But it was a very cool and slightly scornful Joey who confronted
Anna that noon hour.  He lost no time in preliminaries.

"What do you think you're doing, anyhow?" he demanded.

"Powdering my nose, if you insist on knowing."

They spoke the same language.  Anna knew what was coming, and was
on guard instantly.

"You cut it out, that's all."

"You cut out of this office.  And that's all."

Joey sat down on Graham's desk and folded his arms.

"What are you going to get out of it, anyhow?" he said with a shift
from bullying to argument.

"Out of what?"

"You know, all right."

She whirled on him.

"Now see here, Joey," she said.  "You run out and play.  I'll not
have any little boys meddling in my affairs."

Joey slid off the desk and surveyed her with an impish smile.  "Your
affairs!" he repeated.  "What the hell do I care about your affairs?
I'm thinking of the boss.  It's up to him if he wants to keep German
spies on the place.  But it's up to some of us here to keep our eyes
open, so that they don't do any harm."

Sheer outrage made Anna's face pale.  She had known for some time
that the other girls kept away from her, and she had accepted it
with the stolidity of her blood.  She had no German sympathies; her
sympathies in the war lay nowhere.

But - she a spy!

"You get out of here," she said furiously, "or I'll go to Mr. Spencer
and complain about you.  I'm no more a spy than you are.  Not as
much! - the way you come sneaking around listening and watching!
Now you get out."

And Joey had gone, slowly to show that the going was of his own free
will, and whistling.  He went out and closed the door.  Then he
opened it and stuck his head in.

"You be good," he volunteered, "and when the little old U.S. gets
to mixing up with the swine over there, I'll bring you a nice fat
Hun as a present."




CHAPTER XII

Two days before Christmas Delight came out.  There was an afternoon
reception at the rectory, and the plain old house blossomed with the
debutante's bouquets and baskets of flowers.

For weeks before the house had been getting ready.  The rector,
looking about for his accustomed chair, had been told it was at the
upholsterer's, or had found his beloved and ragged old books
relegated to dark corners of the bookcases.  There were always
stepladders on the landings, and paper-hangers waiting until a man
got out of bed in the morning.  And once he put his ecclesiastical
heel in a pail of varnish, and slid down an entire staircase, to
the great imperilment of his kindly old soul.

But he had consented without demur to the coming-out party, and he
had taken, during all the morning of the great day, a most mundane
interest in the boxes of flowers that came in every few minutes.
He stood inside a window, under pretense of having no place to sit
down, and called out regularly,

"Six more coming, mother!  And a boy with three ringing across the
street.  I think he's made a mistake.  Yes, he has.  He's coming
over!"

When all the stands and tables were overflowing, the bouquets were
hung to the curtains in the windows.  And Delight, taking a last
survey, from the doorway, expressed her satisfaction.

"It's heavenly," she said.  "Imagine all those flowers for me.  It
looks" - she squinted up her eyes critically - "it looks precisely
like a highly successful funeral."

But a part of her satisfaction was pure pose, for the benefit of
that kindly pair who loved her so.  Alone in her room, dressed to
go down-stairs, Delight drew a long breath and picked up her flowers
which Clayton Spencer had sent.  It had been his kindly custom for
years to send to each little debutante, as she made her bow, a great
armful of white lilacs and trailing tiny white rosebuds.

"Fifty dollars, probably," Delight reflected.  "And the Belgians
needing flannels.  It's dreadful."

Her resentment against Graham was dying.  After all, he was only a
child in Toots Hayden's hands.  And she made one of those curious
"He-loves-me-he-loves-me-not" arrangements in her own mind.  If
Graham came that afternoon, she would take it as a sign that
there was still some good in him, and she would try to save him
from himself.  She had been rather nasty to him.  If he did not
come -

A great many came, mostly women, with a sprinkling of men.  The
rector, who loved people, was in his element.  He was proud of
Delight, proud of his home; he had never ceased being proud of his
wife.  He knew who exactly had sent each basket of flowers, each
hanging bunch.  "Your exquisite orchids," he would say; or, "that
perfectly charming basket.  It is there, just beside Mrs. Haverford."

But when Natalie Spencer came in alone, splendid in Russian sables,
he happened to be looking at Delight, and he saw the light die out
of her eyes.

Natalie had tried to bring Graham with her.  She had gone into his
room that morning while he was dressing and asked him.  To tell the
truth, she was uneasy about Marion Hayden and his growing intimacy
there.

"You will, won't you, Graham, dear?"

"Sorry, mother.  I just can't.  I'm taking a girl out."

"I suppose it's Marion."

Her tone caused him to turn and look at her.

"Yes, it's Marion.  What's wrong with that?"

"It's so silly, Graham.  She's older than you are.  And she's not
really nice, Graham.  I don't mean anything horrid, but she's
designing.  She knows you are young and - well, she's just playing
with you.  I know girls, Graham.  I - "

She stopped, before his angry gaze.

"She is nice enough for you to ask here," he said hastily.

"She wants your money.  That's all."

He had laughed then, an ugly laugh.

"There's a lot of it for her to want."

And Natalie had gone away to shed tears of fury and resentment in
her own room.

She was really frightened.  Bills for flowers sent to Marion were
coming in, to lie unpaid on Graham's writing table.  She had
over-drawn once again to pay them, and other bills, for theater
tickets, checks signed at restaurants, over-due club accounts.

So she went to the Haverfords alone, and managed very effectually
to snub Mrs. Hayden before the rector's very eyes.

Mrs. Hayden thereupon followed an impulse.

"If it were not for Natalie Spencer," she said, following that lady's
sables with malevolent eyes, "I should be very happy in something I
want to tell you.  Can we find a corner somewhere?"

And Doctor Haverford had followed her uneasily, behind some palms.
She was a thin little woman with a maddening habit of drawing her
tight veil down even closer by a contortion of her lower jaw, so
that the rector found himself watching her chin rather than her eyes.

"I want you to know right away, as Marion's clergyman, and ours,"
she had said, and had given her jaw a particularly vicious wag and
twist.  "Of course it is not announced - I don't believe even the
Spencers know it yet.  I am only telling you now because I know how
dearly" - she did it again - "how dearly interested you are in all
your spiritual children.  Marion is engaged to Graham Spencer."

The rector had not been a shining light for years without learning
how to control his expression.  He had a second, too, while she
contorted her face again, to recover himself.

"Thank you," he said gravely.  "I much appreciate your telling me."

Mrs. Hayden had lowered her voice still more.  The revelation took
on the appearance of conspiracy.

"In the early spring, probably," she said, "we shall need your
services, and your blessing."

So that was the end of one dream.  He had dreamed so many - in his
youth, of spiritualizing his worldly flock; in middle life, of a
bishopric; he had dreamed of sons, to carry on the name he had meant
to make famous.  But the failures of those dreams had been at once
his own failure and his own disappointment.  This was different.

He was profoundly depressed.  He wandered out of the crowd and,
after colliding with a man from the caterer's in a dark rear hall,
found his way up the servant's staircase to the small back room
where he kept the lares and penates of his quiet life, his pipe, his
fishing rods, a shabby old smoking coat, and back files of magazines
which he intended some day to read, when he got round to it.

The little room was jammed with old furniture, stripped from the
lower floor to make room for the crowd.  He had to get down on his
knees and crawl under a table to reach his pipe.  But he achieved
it finally, still with an air of abstraction, and lighted it.  Then,
as there was no place to sit down, he stood in the center of the
little room and thought.

He did not go down again.  He heard the noise of the arriving and
departing motors subside, its replacement by the sound of clattering
china, being washed below in the pantry.  He went down finally, to
be served with a meal largely supplemented by the left-overs of the
afternoon refreshments, ornate salads, fancy ices, and an
overwhelming table decoration that shut him off from his wife and
Delight, and left him in magnificent solitude behind a pyramid of
flowers.

Bits of the afternoon's gossip reached him; the comments on Delight's
dress and her flowers; the reasons certain people had not come.  But
nothing of the subject nearest his heart.  At the end of the meal
Delight got up.

"I'm going to call up Mr. Spencer," she said.  "He has about fifty
dollars' worth of thanks coming to him."

"I didn't see Graham," said Mrs. Haverford.  "Was he here?"

Delight stood poised for flight.

"He couldn't come because he had enough to do being two places at
once.  His mother said he was working, and Mrs. Hayden said he had
taken Marion to the Country Club.  I don't know why they take the
trouble to lie to me."




CHAPTER XIII

Christmas day of the year of our Lord, 1916, dawned on a world
which seemed to have forgotten the Man of Peace.  In Asia Minor the
Allies celebrated it by the capture of a strong Turkish position at
Maghdadah.  The Germans spent it concentrating at Dead Man's Hill;
the British were ejected from enemy positions near Arras.  There
was no Christmas truce.  The death-grip had come.

Germany, conscious of her superiority in men, and her hypocritical
peace offers unanimously rejected, was preparing to free herself
from the last restraint of civilization and to begin unrestricted
submarine warfare.

On Christmas morning Clayton received a letter from Chris.  Evidently
it had come by hand, for it was mailed in America.

"Dear Clay: I am not at all sure that you will care to hear from me.
In fact, I have tried two or three times to write to you, and have
given it up.  But I am lonelier than Billy-be-damned, and if it were
not for Audrey's letters I wouldn't care which shell got me and my
little cart.

"I don't know whether you know why I got out, or not.  Perhaps you
don't.  I'd been a fool and a scoundrel, and I've had time, between
fusses, to know just how rotten I've been.  But I'm not going to
whine to you.  What I am trying to get over is that I'm through with
the old stuff for good.

"God only knows why I am writing to you, anyhow - unless it is
because I've always thought you were pretty near right.  And I'd
like to feel that now and then you are seeing Audrey, and bucking
her up a bit.  I think she's rather down.

"Do you know, Clay, I think this is a darned critical time.  The
press, hasn't got it yet, but both the British and the French are
hard up against it.  They'll fight until there is no one left to
fight, but these damned Germans seem to have no breaking-point.
They haven't any temperament, I daresay, or maybe it is soul they
lack.  But they'll fight to the last man also, and the plain truth
is that there are too many of them.

"It looks mighty bad, unless we come in.  And I don't mind saying
that there are a good many eyes over here straining across the old
Atlantic.  Are we doing anything, I wonder?  Getting ready?  The
officers here say we can't expand an army to get enough men without
a draft law.  Can you see the administration endangering the next
election with a draft law?  Not on your life.

"I'm on the wagon, Clay.  Honestly, it's funny.  I don't mind
telling you I'm darned miserable sometimes.  But then I get busy,
and I'm so blooming glad in a rush to get water that doesn't smell
to heaven that I don't want anything else.

"I suppose they'll give us a good hate on Christmas.  Well, think
of me sometimes when you sit down to dinner, and you might drink to
our coming in.  If we have a principle to divide among us we shall
have to."

Clayton read the letter twice.

He and Natalie lunched alone, Natalie in radiant good humor.  His
gift to her had been a high collar of small diamonds magnificently
set, and Natalie, whose throat commenced to worry her, had welcomed
it rapturously.  Also, he had that morning notified Graham that his
salary had been raised to five thousand dollars.

Graham had shown relief rather than pleasure.

"I daresay I won't earn it, Father," he had said.  "But I'll at
east try to keep out of debt on it."

"If you can't, better let me be your banker, Graham."

The boy had flushed.  Then he had disappeared, as usual, and Clayton
and Natalie sat across from each other, in their high-armed lion
chairs, and made a pretense of Christmas gayety.  True to Natalie's
sense of the fitness of things, a small Nuremberg Christmas tree,
hung with tiny toys and lighted with small candles, stood in the
center of the table.

"We are dining out," she explained.  "So I thought we'd use it now."

"It's very pretty," Clayton acknowledged.  And he wondered if Natalie
felt at all as he did, the vast room and the two men serving, with
Graham no one knew where, and that travesty of Christmas joy between
them.  His mind wandered to long ago Christmases.

"It's not so very long since we had a real tree," he observed.  "Do
you remember the one that fell and smashed all the things on it?
And how Graham heard it and came down?"

"Horribly messy things," said Natalie, and watched the second man
critically.  He was new, and she decided he was awkward.

She chattered through the meal, however, with that light gayety of
hers which was not gayety at all, and always of the country house.

"The dining-room floor is to be oak, with a marble border," she said.
"You remember the ones we saw in Italy?  And the ceiling is blue and
gold.  You'll love the ceiling, Clay."

There was claret with the luncheon, and Clayton, raising his glass,
thought of Chris and the water that smelled to heaven.

Natalie's mind was on loggias by that time.

"An upstairs loggia, too," she said.  "Bordered with red geraniums.
I loathe geraniums, but the color is good.  Rodney wants Japanese
screens and things, but I'm not sure.  What do you think?"

"I think you're a better judge than I am," he replied, smiling.  He
had had to come back a long way, but he made the effort.

"It's hardly worth while struggling to have things attractive for
you," she observed petulantly.  "You never notice, anyhow.  Clay,
do you know that you sit hours and hours, and never talk to me?"

"No!  Do I?  I'm sorry."

"You're a perfectly dreary person to have around."

"I'll talk to you, my dear.  But I'm not much good at houses.  Give
me something I understand."

"The mill, I suppose!  Or the war!"

"Do I really talk of the war?"

"When you talk at all.  What in the world do you think about, Clay,
when you sit with your eyes on nothing?  It's a vicious habit."

"Oh, ships and sails and sealing wax and cabbages and kings," he
said, lightly.

That afternoon Natalie slept, and the house took on the tomb-like
quiet of an establishment where the first word in service is silence.
Clay wandered about, feeling an inexpressible loneliness of spirit.
On those days which work did not fill he was always discontented.
He thought of the club, but the vision of those disconsolate groups
of homeless bachelors who gathered there on all festivals that
centered about a family focus was unattractive.

All at once, he realized that, since he had wakened that morning,
he had been wanting to see Audrey.  He wanted to talk to her, real
talk, not gossip.  Not country houses.  Not personalities.  Not
recrimination.  Such talk as Audrey herself had always led at
dinner parties: of men and affairs, of big issues, of the war.

He felt suddenly that he must talk about the war to some one.

Natalie was still sleeping when he went down-stairs.  It had been
raining, but a cold wind was covering the pavement with a glaze
of ice.  Here and there men in top hats, like himself, were making
their way to Christmas calls.  Children clinging to the arms of
governesses, their feet in high arctics, slid laughing on the ice.
A belated florist's wagon was still delivering Christmas plants
tied with bright red bows.  The street held more of festivity to
Clayton than had his house.  Even the shop windows, as he walked
toward Audrey's unfashionable new neighborhood, cried out their
message of peace.  Peace - when there was no peace.

Audrey was alone, but her little room was crowded with gifts and
flowers.

"I was hoping you would come, Clay," she said.  "I've had some
visitors, but they're gone.  I'll tell them down-stairs that I'm
not at home, and we can really talk."

"That's what I came for."

And when she had telephoned; "I've had a letter from Chris, Audrey."

She read it slowly, and he was surprised, when she finally looked
up, to find tears in her eyes.

"Poor old Chris!" she said.  "I've never told you the story, have I,
Clay?  Of course I know perfectly well I haven't.  There was another
woman.  I think I could have understood it, perhaps, if she had been
a different sort of a woman.  But - I suppose it hurt my pride.  I
didn't love him.  She was such a vulgar little thing.  Not even
pretty.  Just - woman."

He nodded.

"He was fastidious, too.  I don't understand it.  And he swears he
never cared for her.  I don't believe he did, either.  I suppose
there's no explanation for these things.  They just happen.  It's
the life we live, I dare say.  When I look back - She's the girl
I sent into the mill."

He was distinctly shocked.

"But, Audrey," he protested, "you are not seeing her, are you?"

"Now and then.  She has fastened herself on me, in a way.  Don't
scowl like that.  She says she is straight now and that she only
wants a chance to work.  She's off the stage for good.  She - danced.
That money I got from you was for her.  She was waiting, up-stairs.
Chris was behind with her rent, and she was going to lose her
furniture."

"That you should have to do such a thing!" he protested. "It's
- well, it's infamous."

But she only smiled.

"Well, I've never been particularly shielded.  It hasn't hurt me.
I don't even hate her.  But I'm puzzled sometimes.  Where there's
love it might be understandable.  Most of us would hate to have to
stand the test of real love, I daresay.  There's a time in every
one's life, I suppose, when love seems to be the only thing that
matters."

That was what the poet in that idiotic book had said: "There is no
other joy."

"Even you, Clay," she reflected, smilingly.  "You big, grave men go
all to pieces, sometimes."

"I never have," he retorted.

She returned Chris's letter to him.

"There," she said.  "I've had my little whimper, and I feel better.
Now talk to me."

The little clock was striking six when at last he rose to go.  The
room was dark, with only the glow of the wood fire on Audrey's face.
He found her very lovely, rather chastened and subdued, but much
more appealing than in her old days of sparkle and high spirits.

"You are looking very sweet, Audrey."

"Am I? How nice of you!"

She got up and stood on the hearth-rug beside him, looking up at
him.  Then, "Don't be startled, Clay," she announced, smilingly.
"I am going to kiss you - for Christmas."

And kiss him she did, putting both hands on his shoulders, and
rising on her toes to do it.  It was a very small kiss, and Clayton
took it calmly, and as she intended him to take it.  But it was, at
that, rather a flushed Audrey who bade him good-night and God bless
you.

Clayton took away with him from that visit a great peace and a great
relief.  He had talked out to her for more than an hour of the many
things that puzzled and bewildered him.  He had talked war, and the
mill, and even Graham and his problems.  And by talking of them some
of them had clarified.  A little of his unrest had gone.  He felt
encouraged, he had a new strength to go on.  It was wonderful, he
reflected, what the friendship of a woman could mean to a man.  He
was quite convinced that it was only friendship.

He turned toward home reluctantly.  Behind him was the glow of
Audrey's fire, and the glow that had been in her eyes when he
entered.  If a man had such a woman behind him...

He went into his great, silent house, and the door closed behind
him like a prison gate.

For a long time after he had gone, Audrey, doors closed to visitors,
sat alone by her fire, with one of his roses held close to her cheek.

In her small upper room, in a white frame cottage on the hill
overlooking the Spencer furnaces, Anna Klein, locked away from
prying eyes, sat that same Christmas evening and closely inspected
a tiny gold wrist-watch.  And now and then, like Audrey, she pressed
it to her face.

Not the gift, but the giver.




CHAPTER XIV

Having turned Dunbar and his protective league over to Hutchinson,
the general manager, Clayton had put him out of his mind.  But
during the week after Christmas he reached the office early one
morning to find that keen and rather shabby gentleman already there,
waiting.

Not precisely waiting, for he was standing by one of the windows,
well back from it, and inspecting the mill yard with sharp, darting
glances.

"Hello, Dunbar," said Clayton, and proceeded to shed his fur-lined
coat.  Dunbar turned and surveyed him with the grudging admiration
of the undersized man for the tall one.

"Cold morning," he said, coming forward.  "Not that I suppose you
know it."  He glanced at the coat.

"I thought Hutchinson said that you'd gone away."

"Been to Washington.  I brought something back that will interest
you."

From inside his coat he produced a small leather case, and took from
it a number of photographs.

"I rather gathered, Mr. Spencer," he said dryly, "when I was here
last that you thought me an alarmist.  I don't know that I blame
you.  We always think the other fellow may get it, but that we are
safe.  You might glance at those photographs."

He spread them out on the desk.  Beyond the windows the mill roared
on; men shouted, the locomotive whistled, a long file of laborers
with wheelbarrows went by.  And from a new building going up came
the hammering of the riveting-machines, so like the rapid explosions
of machine guns.

"Interesting, aren't they?" queried Dunbar.  "This is a clock-bomb
with a strap for carrying it under a coat.  That's a lump of coal
- only it isn't.  It's got enough explosive inside to blow up a
battleship.  It's meant for that, primarily.  That's fire-confetti
- damnable stuff - understand it's what burned up most of Belgium.
And that's a fountain-pen.  What do you think of that? Use one
yourself, don't you?  Don't leave it lying around.  That's all"

"What on earth can they do with a fountain-pen?"

"One of their best little tricks," said Mr. Dunbar, with a note of
grudging admiration in his voice.  "Here's a cut of the mechanism.
You sit down, dip your pen, and commence to write.  There's the
striking pin, or whatever they call it.  It hits here, and - good
night!"

"Do you mean to say they're using things like that here?"

"I mean to say they're planning to, if they haven't already.  That
coal now, you'd see that go into your furnaces, or under your boilers,
or wherever you use it, and wouldn't worry, would you?"

"Are these actual photographs?"

"Made from articles taken from a German officer's trunk, in a neutral
country.  He was on his way somewhere, I imagine."

Clayton sat silent.  Then he took out his fountain-pen and surveyed
it with a smile.

"Rather off fountain-pens for a time, I take it!" observed Dunbar.
"Well, I've something else for you.  You've got one of the best
little I.W.W.  workers in the country right here in your mill.  Some
of them aren't so bad - hot air and nothing else.  But this fellow's
a fanatic.  Which is the same as saying he's crazy."

"Who is he?"

"Name's Rudolph Klein.  He's a sort of relation to the chap that
got out.  Old man's been sore on him, but I understand he's hanging
around the Klein place again."

Clayton considered.

"I don't remember him.  Of course, I can't keep track of the men.
We'll get rid of him."

Mr. Dunbar eyed him.

"That's the best thing you can think of?"

"I don't want him round, do I?"

"Nine of you men out of ten say that.  You'd turn him loose and so
warn him.  Not only that, but he'll be off on his devil's work
somewhere.  Perhaps here.  Perhaps elsewhere.  And we want him where
we can find him.  See here, Mr. Spencer, d'you ever hear of
counter-espionage?"

Clayton never had, but the term explained itself.

"Set a spy to watch a spy," said Dunbar.  "Let him think he's going
on fine.  Find his confederates.  Let them get ready to spring
something.  And then - get them.  Remember," he added with sarcasm,
"we're still neutral.  You can't lock a man up because he goes
around yelling 'Down with capital!'  The whole country is ready to
yell it with him.  And, even if you find him with a bomb under his
coat, labeled 'made in Germany,' it's hard to link Germans up with
the thing.  He can say that he always buys his bombs in Germany.
That they make the best bombs in the world.  That he likes the way
they pack 'em, and their polite trade methods."

Clayton listened, thinking hard.

"We have a daughter of Klein's here.  She is my son's secretary."

Dunbar glanced at him quickly, but his eyes were on the window.

"I know that."

"Think I should get rid of her?"

Dunbar hesitated.  He liked Clayton Spencer, and it was his business
just then to know something about the Kleins.  It would be a good
thing for Clayton Spencer's boy if they got rid of the girl.

On the other hand, to keep her there and watch her was certainly a
bigger thing.  If she stayed there might be trouble, but it would
concern the boy only.  If she left, and if she was one link in the
chain to snare Rudolph, there might be a disaster costing many
lives.  He made his decision quickly.

"Keep her, by all means," he said.  "And don't tell Mr. Graham
anything.  He's young, and he'd be likely to show something.  I
suppose she gets considerable data where she is?"

"Only of the one department.  But that's a fair indication of the
rest."

Dunbar rose.

"I'm inclined to think there's nothing to that end of it," he said.
"The old chap is sulky, but he's not dangerous.  It's Rudolph I'm
afraid of."

At the luncheon hour that day Clayton, having finished his mail,
went to Graham's office.  He seldom did that, but he was uneasy.
He wanted to see the girl.  He wanted to look her over with this
new idea in his mind.  She had been a quiet little thing, he
remembered; thorough, but not brilliant.  He had sent her to Graham
from his own office.  He disliked even the idea of suspecting her;
his natural chivalry revolted from suspecting any woman.

Joey, who customarily ate his luncheon on Clayton's desk in his
absence, followed by one of Clayton's cigarets, watched him across
the yard, and whistled as he saw him enter Graham's small building.

"Well, what do you think of that?" he reflected.  "I hope he coughs
before he goes in."

But Clayton did not happen to cough.  Graham's office was empty,
but there was a sound of voices from Anna Klein's small room beyond.
He crossed to the door and opened it, to stand astonished, his hand
on the door-knob.

Anna Klein was seated at her desk, with her luncheon spread before
her on a newspaper, and seated on the desk, a sandwich in one hand,
the other resting on Anna's shoulder, was Graham.  He was laughing
when Clayton opened the door, but the smile froze on his face.  He
slid off her desk.

"Want me, father?"

"Yes," said Clayton, curtly.  And went out, leaving the door open.
A sort of stricken silence followed his exit, then Graham put down
the sandwich and went out, closing the door behind him.  He stood
just inside it in the outer room, rather pale, but looking his father
in the eyes.

"Sorry, father," he said.  "I didn't hear you.  I - "

"What has that to do with it?"

The boy was silent.  To Clayton he looked furtive, guilty.  His
very expression condemned him far more than the incident itself.
And Clayton, along with his anger, was puzzled as to his best course.
Dunbar had said to leave the girl where she was.  But - was it
feasible under these circumstances?  He was rather irritated than
angry.  He considered a flirtation with one's stenographer rotten
bad taste, at any time.  The business world, to his mind, was
divided into two kinds of men, those who did that sort of thing,
and those who did not.  It was a code, rather than a creed, that
the boy had violated.

Besides, he had bad a surprise.  The girl who sat laughing into
Graham's face was not the Anna Klein he remembered, a shy, drab
little thing, badly dressed, rather sallow and unsmiling.  Here
was a young woman undeniably attractive; slightly rouged, trim in
her white blouse, and with an air of piquancy that was added, had
he known it, by the large imitation pearl earrings she wore.

"Get your hat and go to lunch, Graham," he said.  "And you might
try to remember that a slightly different standard of conduct is
expected from my son, here, than may be the standard of some of
the other men."

"It doesn't mean anything, that sort of fooling."

"You and I may know that.  The girl may not."

Then he went out, and Graham returned unhappily to the inner room.
Anna was not crying; she was too frightened to cry.  She had sat
without moving, her hand still clutching her untouched sandwich.
Graham looked at her and tried to smile.

"I'm gone, I suppose?"

"Don't you worry about that," he said, with boyish bravado.  "Don't
you worry about that, little girl."

"Father will kill me," she whispered.  "He's queer these days, and
if I go home and have to tell him - "  She shuddered.

"I'll see you get something else, if the worst comes, you know."

She glanced up at him with that look of dog-like fidelity that
always touched him.

"I'll find you something good," he promised.

"Something good," she repeated, with sudden bitterness.  "And you'll
get another girl here, and flirt with her, and make her crazy about
you, and - "

"Honestly, do you like me like that?"

"I'm just mad about you," she said miserably.

Frightened though he was, her wretchedness appealed to him.  The
thought that she cared for him, too, was a salve to his outraged
pride.  A moment ago, in the other room, he had felt like a bad
small boy.  As with Marion, Anna made him feel every inch a man.
But she gave him what Marion did not, the feeling of her complete
surrender.  Marion would take; this girl would give.

He bent down and put his arms around her.

"Poor little girl!" he said.  "Poor little girl!"




CHAPTER XV

The gay and fashionable crowd of which Audrey had been the center
played madly that winter.  The short six weeks of the season were
already close to an end.  By mid-January the south and California
would have claimed most of the women and some of the men.  There
were a few, of course, who saw the inevitable catastrophe: the
Mackenzies had laid up their house-boat on the west coast of Florida.
Denis Nolan had let his little place at Pinehurst.  The advance wave
of the war tide, the increased cost of living, had sobered and made
thoughtful the middle class, but above in the great businesses, and
below among the laboring people, money was plentiful and
extravagance ran riot.

And Audrey Valentine's world missed her.  It refused to accept her
poverty as an excuse, and clamored for her.  It wanted her to sit
again at a piano, somewhere, anywhere, with a lighted cigaret on
the music-rack, and sing her husky, naive little songs.  It wanted
her cool audacity.  It wanted her for week-end parties and bridge,
and to canter on frosty mornings on its best horses and make slaves
of the park policemen, so that she might jump forbidden fences.  It
wanted to see her oust its grinning chauffeurs, and drive its best
cars at their best speed.

Audrey Valentine leading a cloistered life!  Impossible!  Selfish!

And Audrey was not cut out for solitude.  She did not mind poverty.
She found it rather a relief to acknowledge what had always been
the fact.  But she did mind loneliness.  And her idea of making
herself over into something useful was not working out particularly
well.  She spent two hours a day, at a down-town school, struggling
with shorthand, and her writing-table was always littered with
papers covered with queer hooks and curves, or with typed sheets
beginning:

    "Messrs Smith and Co.,: Dear Sirs."

Clayton Spencer met her late in December, walking feverishly along
with a book under her arm, and a half-desperate look in her eyes.
He felt a little thrill when he saw her, which should have warned
him but did not.

She did not even greet him.  She stopped and held out her book to
him.

"Take it!" she said.  "I've thrown it away twice, and two wretched
men have run after me and brought it back."

He took it and glanced at it.

"Spelling!  Can't you spell?"

"Certainly I can spell," she said with dignity.  "I'm a very good
speller.  Clay, there isn't an "i" in business, is there?"

"It is generally considered necessary to have two pretty good eyes
in business."  But he saw then that she was really rather despairing.
"There is, one 'i,'" he said.  "It seems foolish, doesn't it?
Audrey dear, what are you trying to do?  For heaven's sake, if it's
money?"

"It isn't that.  I have enough.  Honestly, Clay, I just had some
sort of an idea that I'd been playing long enough.  But I'm only
good for play.  That man this morning said as much, when we fussed
about my spelling.  He said I'd better write a new dictionary."

Clayton threw back his head and laughed, and after a moment she
laughed, too.  But as he went on his face was grave.  Somebody ought
to be looking after her.  It was not for some time that he realized
he carried the absurd little spelling-book.  He took it back to the
office with him, and put it in the back of a drawer of his desk.
Joey, coming in some time later, found him, with the drawer open,
and something in his hands which he hastily put away.  Later on,
Joey investigated that drawer, and found the little book.  He
inspected it with a mixture of surprise and scorn.

"Spelling!" he muttered.  "And a hundred dollar a month girl to
spell for him!"

It was Rodney Page who forced Audrey out of her seclusion.

Rodney had had a prosperous year, and for some time his conscience
had been bothering him.  For a good many years he had blithely
accepted the invitations of his friends - dinners, balls, week-end
and yachting parties, paying his way with an occasional box of
flowers.  He decided, that last winter of peace, to turn host and,
true to instinct, to do the unusual.

It was Natalie who gave him the suggestion.

"Why don't you turn your carriage-house into a studio, and give a
studio warming, Roddie?  It would be fun fixing it up.  And you
might make it fancy dress."

Before long, of course, he had accepted the idea as of his own
originating, and was hard at work.

Rodney's house had been his father's.  He still lived there,
although the business district had encroached closely.  And for
some time he had used the large stable and carriage-house at the
rear as a place in which to store the odd bits of furniture, old
mirrors and odds and ends that he had picked up here and there.
Now and then, as to Natalie, he sold some of them, but he was a
collector, not a merchant.  In his way, he was an artist.

In the upper floor he had built a skylight, and there, in odd hours,
he worked out, in water-color, sketches of interiors, sometimes
for houses he was building, sometimes purely for the pleasure of
the thing.

The war had brought him enormous increase in his collection.
Owners of French chateaus, driven to poverty, were sending to
America treasures of all sorts of furniture, tapestries, carpets,
old fountains, porcelains, even carved woodwork and ancient mantels,
and Rodney, from the mixed motives of business and pride, decided
to exhibit them.

The old brick floor of the stable he replaced with handmade tiles.
The box-stalls were small display-rooms, hung with tapestries and
lighted with candles in old French sconces.  The great carriage-room
became a refectory, with Jacobean and old monastery chairs, and the
vast loft overhead, reached by a narrow staircase that clung to the
wall, was railed on its exposed side, waxed as to floor, hung with
lanterns, and became a ballroom.

Natalie worked with him, spending much time and a prodigious amount
of energy.  There was springing up between them one of those curious
and dangerous intimacies, of idleness on the woman's part, of
admiration on the man's, which sometimes develop into a wholly
spurious passion.  Probably Rodney realized it; certainly Natalie
did not.  She liked his admiration; she dressed, each day, for
Rodney's unfailing comment on her clothes.

"Clay never notices what I wear," she said, once, plaintively.

So it was Rodney who brought Audrey Valentine out of her seclusion,
and he did it by making her angry.  He dropped in to see her between
Christmas and New-years, and made a plea.

"A stable-warming!" she said.  "How interesting!  And fancy dress!
Are you going to have them come as grooms, or jockeys? If I were
going I'd go as a circus-rider.  I used to be able to stand up on a
running horse.  Of course you're having horses.  What's a stable
without a horse?"

He saw she was laughing at him and was rather resentful.

"I told you I have made it into a studio."

But when he implored her to go, she was obdurate.

"Do go away and let me alone, Rodney," she said at last.  "I loathe
fancy-dress parties."

"It won't be a party without you."

"Then don't have it.  I've told you, over and over, I'm not going
out.  It isn't decent this year, in my opinion.  And, anyhow, I
haven't any money, any clothes, any anything.  A bad evening at
bridge, and I shouldn't be able to pay my rent."

"That's nonsense.  Why do you let people say you are moping about
Chris? You're not."

"Of course not."

She sat up.

"What else are they saying?"

"Well, there's some talk, naturally.  You can't be as popular as
you have been, and then just drop out, without some gossip.  It's
not bad."

"What sort of talk?"

He was very uncomfortable.

"Well, of course, you have been pretty strong on the war stuff?"

"Oh, they think I sent him!"

"If only you wouldn't hide, Audrey.  That's what has made the talk.
It's not Chris's going."

"I'm not hiding.  That's idiotic.  I was bored to death, if you want
the truth.  Look here, Rodney.  You're not being honest.  What do
they say about Chris and myself?"

He was cornered.

"Is it - about another woman?"

"Well, of course now and then - there are always such stories.  And
of course Chris - "

"Yes, they knew Chris."  Her voice was scornful.  "So they think I'm
moping and hiding because - How interesting!"

She sat back, with her old insolent smile.

"Poor Chris!" she said.  "The only man in the lot except Clay
Spencer who is doing his bit for the war, and they - when is your
party, Roddie?"

"New-year's Eve."

"I'll come," she said.  And smiling again, dangerously, "I'll come,
with bells on."




CHAPTER XVI

There had been once, in Herman Klein the making of a good American.
He had come to America, not at the call of freedom, but of peace
and plenty.  Nevertheless, he had possibilities.

Taken in time he might have become a good American.  But nothing
was done to stimulate in him a sentiment for his adopted land.  He
would, indeed, have been, for all his citizenship papers, a man
without a country but for one thing.

The Fatherland had never let go.  When he went to the Turnverein,
it was to hear the old tongue, to sing the old songs.  Visiting
Germans from overseas were constantly lecturing, holding before him
the vision of great Germany.  He saw moving-pictures of Germany; he
went to meetings which commenced with "Die Wacht am Rhine."  One
Christmas he received a handsome copy of a photograph of the Kaiser
through the mail.  He never knew who sent it, but he had it framed
in a gilt frame, and it hung over the fireplace in the sitting-room.

He had been adopted by America, but he had not adopted America,
save his own tiny bit of it.  He took what the new country gave him
with no faintest sense that he owed anything in return beyond his
small yearly taxes.  He was neither friendly nor inimical.

His creed through the years had been simple: to owe no man money,
even for a day; to spend less than he earned; to own his own home;
to rise early, work hard, and to live at peace with his neighbors.
He had learned English and had sent Anna to the public school.  He
spoke English with her, always.  And on Sunday he put on his best
clothes, and sat in the German Lutheran church, dozing occasionally,
but always rigidly erect.

With his first savings he had bought a home, a tiny two-roomed frame
cottage on a bill above the Spencer mill, with a bit of waste land
that he turned into a thrifty garden.  Anna was born there, and her
mother had died there ten years later.  But long enough before that
he had added four rooms, and bought an adjoining lot.  At that time
the hill had been green; the way to the little white house had been
along and up a winding path, where in the spring the early wild
flowers came out on sunny banks, and the first buds of the
neighborhood were on Klein's own lilac-bushes.

He had had a magnificent sense of independence those days, and of
freedom.

He voted religiously, and now and then in the evenings he had been
the moderate member of a mild socialist group.  Theoretically, he
believed that no man should amass a fortune by the labor of others.
Actually he felt himself well paid, a respected member of society,
and a property owner.

In the early morning, winter and summer, he emerged into the small
side porch of his cottage and there threw over himself a pail of
cold water from the well outside.  Then he rubbed down, dressed in
the open air behind the old awning hung there, took a dozen deep
breaths and a cup of coffee, and was off for work.  The addition of
a bathroom, with running hot water, had made no change in his daily
habits.

He was very strict with Anna, and with the women who, one after
another, kept house for him.

"I'll have no men lounging around," was his first instruction on
engaging them.  And to Anna his solicitude took the form almost of
espionage.  The only young man he tolerated about the place was a
distant relative.  Rudolph Klein.

On Sunday evenings Rudolph came in to supper.  But even Rudolph
found it hard to get a word with the girl alone.

"What's eating him, anyhow," he demanded of Anna one Sunday evening,
when by the accident of a neighbor calling old Herman to the gate,
he had the chance of a word.

"He knows a lot about you fellows," Anna had said.  "And the more
he knows the less he trusts you.  I don't wonder."

"He hasn't anything on me."

But Anna had come to the limit of her patience with her father at
last.

"What's the matter with you?" she demanded angrily one night, when
Herman had sat with his pipe in his mouth, and had refused her
permission to go to the moving-pictures with another girl.  "Do you
think I'm going on forever like this, without a chance to play?
I'm sick of it.  That's all."

"You vill not run around with the girls on this hill."  He had
conquered all but the English "w."  He still pronounced it like a "v."

"What's the matter with the girls on this hill?"  And when he smoked
on in imperturbable silence, she had flamed into a fury.

"This is free America," she reminded him.  "It's not Germany.  And
I've stood about all I can.  I work all day, and I need a little
fun.  I'm going."

And she had gone, rather shaky as to the knees, but with her head
held high, leaving him on the little veranda with his dead pipe in
his mouth and his German-American newspaper held before his face.
She had returned, still terrified, to find the house dark and the
doors locked, and rather than confess to any one, she had spent the
night in a chair out of doors.

At dawn she had heard him at the side of the house, drawing water
for his bath.  He had gone through his morning program as usual,
by the sounds, and had started off for work without an inquiry about
her.  Only when she heard the gate click had she hammered at the
front door and been admitted by the untidy servant.

"Fine way to treat me!" she had stormed, and for a part of that day
she was convinced that she would never go back home again.  But fear
of her father was the strongest emotion she knew, and she went back
that night, as usual.  It not being Herman's way to bother with
greetings, she had passed him on the porch without a word, and that
night, winding a clock before closing the house, he spoke to her
for the first time.

"There is a performance at the Turnverein Hall to-morrow night.
Rudolph vill take you."

"I don't like Rudolph."

"Rudolph viii take you," he had repeated, stolidly.  And she had
gone.

He had no conception of any failure in himself as a parent.  He had
the German idea of women.  They had a distinct place in the world,
but that place was not a high one.  Their function was to bring
children into the world.  They were breeding animals, and as such
to be carefully watched and not particularly trusted.  They had no
place in the affairs of men, outside the home.

Not that he put it that way.  In his way he probably loved the girl.
But never once did he think of her as an intelligent and reasoning
creature.  He took her salary, gave her a small allowance for
car-fare, and banked the rest of it in his own name.  It would all
be hers some day, so what difference did it make?

But the direst want would not have made him touch a penny of it.

He disliked animals.  But in a curious shame-faced fashion he liked
flowers.  Such portions of his garden as were useless for vegetables
he had planted out in flowers.  But he never cut them and brought
them into the house, and he watched jealously that no one else
should do so.  He kept poisoned meat around for such dogs in the
neighborhood as wandered in, and Anna had found him once callously
watching the death agonies of one of them.

Such, at the time the Spencer mill began work on its new shell
contract, was Herman Klein, sturdily honest, just according to his
ideas of justice, callous rather than cruel, but the citizen of a
world bounded by his memories of Germany, his life at the mill, and
his home.

But, for all that, he was not a man the German organization in
America put much faith in.  Rudolph, feeling his way, had had one
or two conversations with him early in the war that had made him
report adversely.

"Let them stop all this fighting," Herman had said.  "What matter
now who commenced it?  Let them all stop.  It is the only way."

"Sure, let them stop!" said Rudolph, easily.  "Let them stop trying
to destroy Germany."

"That is nonsense," Herman affirmed, sturdily.  "Do you think I
know nothing?  I, who was in the Prussian Guard for five years.
Think you I know nothing of the plan?"

The report of the German atrocities, however, found him frankly
incredulous, and one noon hour, in the mill, having read the Belgian
King's statement that the German army in Belgium had protected its
advance with women and children, Rudolph found him tearing the
papers to shreds furiously.

"Such lies!" he cried.  "It is not possible that they should be
believed."

The sinking of the Lusitania, however, left him thoughtful and
depressed.  In vain Rudolph argued with him.

"They were warned," he said.  "If they chose to take the chance, is
it Germany's fault?  If you tell me not to put my hand on a certain
piece in a machine and I do it anyhow, is it your fault if I lose a
hand?"

Old Herman eyed him shrewdly.

"And if Anna had been on the ship, you think the same, eh?"

Rudolph had colored.

For some time now Rudolph had been in love with Anna.  He had not
had much encouragement.  She went out with him, since he was her
only means of escape, but she treated him rather cavalierly,
criticized his clothes and speech, laughed openly at his occasional
lapses into sentiment, and was, once in a long time, so kind that
she set his heart leaping.

Until the return of Graham Spencer, all had gone fairly well.  But
with his installment in the mill, Rudolph's relations with Anna had
changed.  She had grown prettier - Rudolph was not observant enough
to mark what made the change, but he knew that he was madder about
her than ever.  And she had assumed toward him an attitude of almost
scornful indifference.  The effect on his undisciplined young mind
was bad.  He had no suspicion of Graham.  He only knew his own
desperate unhappiness.  In the meetings held twice weekly in a hall
on Third Street he was reckless, advocating violence constantly.
The conservative element watched him uneasily; the others kept an
eye on him, for future use.

The closing week of the old year found the situation strained in
the Klein house.  Herman had had plenty of opportunities for
situations, but all of them had to do directly or indirectly with
the making of munitions for the Allies.  Old firms in other lines
were not taking on new men.  It was the munition works that were
increasing their personnel.  And by that time the determination not
to assist Germany's enemies had become a fixed one.

The day after Christmas, in pursuit of this idea, he commanded Anna
to leave the mill.  But she had defied him, for the second time in
her, life, her face pale to the lips.

"Not on your life," she had said.  "You may want to starve.  I
don't."

"There is plenty of other work."

"Don't you kid yourself.  And, anyhow, I'm not looking for it.  I
don't mind working so you can sit here and nurse a grouch, but I
certainly don't intend to start hunting another job."

She had eyed him morosely.  "If you ask me," she continued, "you're
out of your mind.  What's Germany to you?  You forgot it as fast as
you could, until this war came along.  You and Rudolph!  You're long
distance patriots, you are."

"I will not help my country's enemies," he had said doggedly.

"Your country s enemies.  My word!  Isn't this your country?  What's
the old Kaiser to you?"

He had ordered her out of the house, then, but she had laughed at
him.  She could always better him in an argument.

"Suppose I do go?" she had inquired.  "What are you going to live
on?  I'm not crazy in the head, if you are."

She rather thought he would strike her.  He had done it before, with
the idea of enforcing discipline.  If he did, she would leave him.
Let him shift for himself.  He had taken her money for years, and
he could live on that.  But he had only glared at her.

"We would have done better to remain in Germany," he said.  "America
has no respect for parents.  It has no discipline.  It is a country
without law."

She felt a weakening in him, and followed up her advantage.

"And another thing, while we're at it," she flung at him.  "Don't
you go on trying to shove Rudolph down my throat.  I'm off Rudolph
for keeps."

She flung out her arm, and old Herman saw the gleam of something
gold on her wrist.  He caught her hand in his iron grip and shoved
up her sleeve.  There was a tiny gold wrist-watch there, on a
flexible chain.  His amazement and rage gave her a moment to think,
although she was terrified.

"Where did you get that?"

"The mill gave them to the stenographers for Christmas."

"Why did you not tell me?"

"We're not talking much these days, are we?"

He let her go then, and that night, in the little room behind Gustav
Shroeder's saloon, he put the question to Rudolph.  Because he was
excited and frightened he made slow work of his inquiry, and Rudolph
had a moment to think.

"Sure," he replied.  "All the girls in the executive offices got them."

But when the meeting was over, Rudolph did not go back to his
boarding-house.  He walked the streets and thought.

He had saved Anna from her father.  But he was of no mind to save
her from himself.  She would have to account to him for that watch.

Anna herself lay awake until late.  She saw already the difficulties
before her.  Herman was suspicious.  He might inquire.  There were
other girls from the mill offices on the hill.  And he might speak
to Rudolph.

The next evening she found Rudolph waiting for her outside the mill
gate.  Together they started up what had been, when Herman bought
the cottage, a green hill with a winding path.  But the smoke and
ore from the mill had long ago turned it to bareness, had killed
the trees and shrubbery, and filled the little hollows where once
the first arbutus had hidden with cinders and ore dust.  The path
had become a crooked street, lined with wooden houses, and paved
with worn and broken bricks.

Where once Herman Klein had carried his pail and whistled bits of
Shubert as he climbed along, a long line of blackened men made their
evening way.  Untidy children sat on the curb, dogs lay in the
center of the road, and women in all stages of dishabille hung over
the high railings of their porches and watched for their men.

Under protest of giving her a lift up the hill, Rudolph slipped his
hand through Anna's left arm.

Immediately she knew that the movement was a pretext.  She could
not free herself.

"Be good, now," he cautioned her.  "I've got you.  I want to see
that watch."

"You let me alone."

"I'm going to see that watch."

With his free hand he felt under her sleeve and drew down the
bracelet.

"So the mill gave it to you, eh?  That's a lie, and you know it."

"I'll tell you, Rudolph," she temporized.  "Only don't tell father.
All the girls have watches, and I wanted one.  So I bought it."

"That's a lie, too."

"On the installment plan," she insisted.  "A dollar a week, that's
straight.  I've paid five on it already."

He was almost convinced, not quite.  He unfastened it awkwardly and
took it off her wrist.  It was a plain little octagonal watch, and
on the back was a monogram.  The monogram made him suspicious again.

"It's only gold filled, Rudolph."

"Pretty classy monogram for a cheap watch."  He held it close; on
the dial was the jeweler's name, a famous one.  He said nothing
more, put it back on Anna's arm and released her.  At the next
corner he left her, with a civil enough good-bye, but with rage in
his heart.




CHAPTER XVII

The New-year, destined to be so crucial, came in cheerfully enough.
There was, to be sure, a trifle less ostentation in the public
celebrations, but the usual amount of champagne brought in the most
vital year in the history of the nation.  The customary number of
men, warmed by that champagne, made reckless love to the women who
happened to be near them and forgot it by morning.  And the women
themselves presented pictures of splendor of a peculiar gorgeousness.

The fact that almost coincident with the war there had come into
prominence an entirely new school of color formed one of the
curious contrasts of the period.  Into a drab world there flamed
strange and bizarre theatrical effects, in scenery and costume.
Some of it was beautiful, most of it merely fantastic.  But it was
immediately reflected in the clothing of fashionable women. Europe,
which had originated it, could use it but little; but great opulent
America adopted it and made it her own.

So, while the rest of the world was gray, America flamed, and Natalie
Spencer, spending her days between dressmakers and decorators, flamed
with the rest.

On New-year's Eve Clayton Spencer always preceded the annual ball
of the City Club, of which he was president, by a dinner to the
board of governors and their wives.  It was his dinner.  He, and
not Natalie, arranged the seating, ordered the flowers, and planned
the menu.  He took considerable pride in it; he liked to think that
it was both beautiful and dignified.  His father had been president
before him, and he liked to think that he was carrying on his
father's custom with the punctilious dignity that had so
characterized him.

He was dressed early.  Natalie had been closeted with Madeleine,
her maid, and a hair-dresser, for hours.  As he went down-stairs
he could hear her voice raised in querulous protest about something.

When he went into the library Buckham was there stooping over the
fire, his austere old face serious and intent.

"Well, another year almost gone, Buckham!" he said.

"Yes, Mr. Spencer."

"It would be interesting to know what the New-year holds."

"I hope it will bring you peace and happiness, sir."

"Thank you."

And after Buckham had gone he thought that rather a curious
New-year's wish.  Peace and happiness!  Well, God knows he wanted
both.  A vague comprehension of the understanding the upper servants
of a household acquire as to the inner life of the family stirred in
him; how much they knew and concealed under their impassive service.

When Natalie came down the staircase a few minutes later she was
swathed in her chinchilla evening wrap, and she watched his face,
after her custom when she expected to annoy him, with the furtive
look that he had grown to associate with some unpleasantness.

"I hate dressing for a ball at this hour," she said, rather
breathlessly.  "I don't feel half-dressed by midnight."

Madeleine, in street costume, was behind her with a great box.

"She has something for my hair," she explained.  Her tone was
nervous, but he was entirely unsuspicious.

"You don't mind if I don't go on to Page's, do you?  I'm rather
tired, and I ought to stay at the club as late as I can."

"Of course not.  I shall probably pick up some people, anyhow.
Everybody is going on."

In the car she chattered feverishly and he listened, lapsing into
one of the silences which her talkative spells always enforced.

"What flowers are you having?" she asked, finally.

"White lilacs and pussy-willow.  Did your orchids come?"

"Thanks, yes.  But I'm not wearing them.  My gown is flame color.
They simply shrieked."

"Flame color?"

"A sort of orange," she explained.  And, in a slightly defiant tone:
"Rodney's is a costume dance, you know."

"Do you mean you are in fancy dress?"

"I am, indeed."

He was rather startled.  The annual dinner of the board of governors
of the City Club and their wives was a most dignified function
always.  He was the youngest by far of the men; the women were all
frankly dowagers.  They represented the conservative element of the
city's social life, that element which frowned on smartness and did
not even recognize the bizarre.  It was old-fashioned, secure in its
position, influential, and slightly tedious.

"There will be plenty in fancy dress."

"Not at the dinner."

"Stodgy old frumps!" was Natalie's comment.  "I believe you would
rather break one of the ten commandments than one of the
conventions," she added.

It was when he saw her coming down the staircase in the still empty
clubhouse that he realized the reason for her defiant attitude when
she acknowledged to fancy dress.  For she wore a peacock costume of
the most daring sort.  Over an orange foundation, eccentric in
itself and very short, was a vivid tunic covered with peacock
feathers on gold tissue, with a sweeping tail behind, and on her
head was the towering chest of a peacock on a gold bandeau.  She
waved a great peacock fan, also, and half-way down the stairs she
paused and looked down at him, with half-frightened eyes.

"Do you like it?"

"It is very wonderful," he said, gravely.

He could not hurt her.  Her pleasure in it was too naive.  It dawned
on him then that Natalie was really a child, a spoiled and wilful
child.  And always afterward he tried to remember that, and to judge
her accordingly.

She came down, the upturned wired points of the tunic trembling as
she stepped.  When she came closer he saw that she was made up for
the costume ball also, her face frankly rouged, fine lines under
her eyes, her lashes blackened.  She looked very lovely and quite
unfamiliar.  But he had determined not to spoil her evening, and he
continued gravely smiling.

"You'd better like it, Clay," she said, and took a calculating
advantage of what she considered a softened mood.  "It cost a
thousand dollars."

She went on past him, toward the room where the florist was still
putting the finishing touches to the flowers on the table.  When the
first guests arrived, she came back and took her place near him, and
he was uncomfortably aware of the little start of surprise with
which she burst upon each new arrival, In the old and rather staid
surroundings of the club she looked out of place - oriental,
extravagant, absurd.

And Clayton Spencer suffered.  To draw him as he stood in the club
that last year of our peace, 1916, is to draw him not only with his
virtues but with his faults; his over emphasis on small things; his
jealousy for his dignity; his hatred of the conspicuous and the
unusual.

When, after the informal manner of clubs, the party went in to
dinner, he was having one of the bad hours of his life to that time.
And when, as was inevitable, the talk of the rather serious table
turned to the war, it seemed to him that Natalie, gorgeous and
painted, represented the very worst of the country he loved,
indifference, extravagance, and ostentatious display.

But Natalie was not America.  Thank God, Natalie was not America.

Already with the men she was having a triumph.  The women, soberly
clad, glanced at each other with raised eye-brows and cynical smiles.
Above the band, already playing in the ballroom, Clayton could hear
old Terry Mackenzie paying Natalie extravagant, flagrant compliments.

"You should be sitting in the sun, or on a balcony," he was saying,
his eyes twinkling.  "And pretty gentlemen with long curls and their
hats tucked under their arms should be feeding you nightingale
tongues, or whatever it is you eat."

"Bugs," said Natalie.

"But - tell me," Terry bent toward her, and Mrs. Terry kept
fascinated eyes on him.  "Tell me, lovely creature - aren't peacocks
unlucky?"

"Are they? What bad luck can happen to me because I dress like this?"

"Frightfully bad luck," said Terry, jovially.  "Some one will
undoubtedly carry you away, in the course of the evening, and go
madly through the world hunting a marble balustrade to set you on.
I'll do it myself if you'll give me any encouragement."

Perhaps, had Clayton Spencer been entirely honest with himself that
night, he would have acknowledged that he had had a vague hope of
seeing Audrey at the club.  Cars came up, discharged their muffled
occupants under the awning and drove away again.  Delight and Mrs.
Haverford arrived and he danced with Delight, to her great anxiety
lest she might not dance well.  Graham came very late, in the wake
of Marion Hayden.

But Audrey did not appear.

He waited until the New-year came in.  The cotillion was on then,
and the favors for the midnight figure were gilt cornucopias filled
with loose flowers.  The lights went out for a moment on the hour,
the twelve strokes were rung on a triangle in the orchestra, and
there was a moment's quiet.  Then the light blazed again, flowers
and confetti were thrown, and club servants in livery carried round
trays of champagne.

Clayton, standing glass in hand, surveyed the scene with a mixture
of satisfaction and impatience.  He found Terry Mackenzie at his
elbow.

"Great party, Clay," he said.  "Well, here's to 1917, and may it
bring luck."

"May it bring peace," said Clayton, and raised his glass.

Some time later going home in the car with Mrs. Mackenzie, quiet
and slightly grim beside him, Terry spoke out of a thoughtful
silence.

"There's something wrong with Clay," he said.  "If ever a fellow
had a right to be happy - he has a queer look.  Have you noticed it?"

"Anybody married to Natalie Spencer would develop what you call a
queer look," she replied, tartly.

"Don't you think he is in love with her?"

"If you ask me, I think he has reached the point where he can't bear
the sight of her.  But he doesn't know it."

"She's pretty."

"So is a lamp-shade," replied Mrs. Terry, acidly.  "Or a kitten, or
a fancy ice-cream.  But you wouldn't care to be married to them,
would you?"

It was almost dawn when Natalie came in.  Clayton had not been
asleep.  He had got to thinking rather feverishly of the New-year.
Without in any way making a resolution, he had determined to make
it a better year than the last; to be more gentle with Natalie,
more understanding with Graham; to use his new prosperity wisely;
to forget his own lack of happiness in making others happy.  He
was very vague about that.  The search of the ages the rector had
called happiness, and one found it by giving it.

To his surprise, Natalie came into his bedroom, looking like some
queer oriental bird, vivid and strangely unlike herself.

"I saw your light.  Heavens, what a party!"

"I'm glad you enjoyed it.  I hope you didn't mind my not going on."

"I wish you had.  Clay, you'll never guess what happened."

"Probably not.  What?"

"Well, Audrey just made it, that's all.  Funny!  I wish you'd seen
some of their faces.  Of course she was disgraceful, but she took
it off right away.  But it was like her - no one else would have
dared."

His mouth felt dry.  Audrey - disgraceful!

"It was in the stable, you know, I told you.  And just at midnight
the doors opened and a big white horse leaped in with Audrey on his
back.  No saddle - nothing.  She was dressed like a bare-back rider
in the circus, short tulle skirts and tights.  They nearly mobbed
her with joy."  She yawned.  "Well, I'm off to bed."

He roused himself.

"A happy New-year, my dear."

"Thanks," she said, and wandered out, her absurd feathered tail
trailing behind her.

He lay back and closed his eyes.  So Audrey had done that, Audrey,
who had been in his mind all those sleepless hours; for he knew now
that back of all his resolutions to do better had been the thought
of her.

He felt disappointed and bitter.  The sad disillusion of the middle
years, still heroically clinging to faiths that one after another
destroyed themselves, was his.




CHAPTER XVIII

Audrey was frightened.  She did not care a penny's worth what her
little world thought.  Indeed, she knew that she had given it a new
thrill and so had won its enthusiastic approval.  She was afraid of
what Clayton would think.

She was absurdly quiet and virtuous all the next day, gathered out
her stockings and mended them; began a personal expenditure account
for the New-year, heading it carefully with "darning silk, 50 cents";
wrote a long letter to Chris, and - listened for the telephone.  If
only he would call her, so she could explain.  Still, what could she
explain?  She had done it.  It was water over the dam - and it is
no fault of Audrey's that she would probably have spelled it "damn."

By noon she was fairly abject.  She did not analyze her own anxiety,
or why the recollection of her escapade, which would a short time
before have filled her with a sort of unholy joy, now turned her
sick and trembling.

Then, in the middle of the afternoon, Clay called her up.  She gasped
a little when she heard his voice.

"I wanted to tell you, Audrey," he said, "that we can probably use
the girl you spoke about, rather soon."

"Very well.  Thank you.  Is - wasn't there something else, too?"

"Something else?"

"You are angry, aren't you?"

He hesitated.

"Surprised.  Not angry.  I haven't any possible right to be angry."

"Will you come up and let me tell you about it, Clay?"

"I don't see how that will help any."

"It will help me."

He laughed at that; her new humility was so unlike her.

"Why, of course I'll come, Audrey," he said, and as he rang off he
was happier than he had been all day.

He was coming.  Audrey moved around the little room, adjusting
chairs, rearranging the flowers that had poured in on New-year's
day, brushing the hearth.  And as she worked she whistled.  He
would be getting into the car now.  He would be so far on his way.
He would be almost there.  She ran into her bedroom and powdered
her nose, with her lips puckered, still whistling, and her heart
singing.

But he scolded her thoroughly at first.

"Why on earth did you do it," he finished.  "I still can't
understand.  I see you one day, gravity itself, a serious young
woman - as you are to-day.  And then I hear - it isn't like you,
Audrey."

"Oh yes, it is.  It's exactly like me.  Like one me.  There are
others, of course."

She told him then, making pitiful confession of her own pride and
her anxiety to spare Chris's name.

"I couldn't bear to have them suspect he had gone to the war because
of a girl.  Whatever he ran away from, Clay, he's doing all right
now."

He listened gravely, with, toward the end, a jealousy he would not
have acknowledged even to himself.  Was it possible that she still
loved Chris?  Might she not, after the fashion of women, be building
a new and idealized Chris, now that he had gone to war, out of his
very common clay?

"He has done splendidly," he agreed.

Again the warmth and coziness of the little room enveloped him.
Audrey's low huskily sweet voice, her quick smile, her new and
unaccustomed humility, and the odd sense of her understanding,
comforted him.  She made her indefinite appeal to the best that
was in him.

Nothing so ennobles a man as to have some woman believe in his
nobility.

"Clay," she said suddenly, "you are worrying about something."

"Nothing that won't straighten out, in time."

"Would it help to talk about it?"

He realized that he had really come to her to talk about it.  It
had been in the back of his head all the time.

"I'm rather anxious about Graham."

"Toots Hayden?"

"Partly."

"I'm afraid she's got him, Clay.  There isn't a trick in the game
she doesn't know.  He had about as much chance as I have of being
twenty again.  She wants to make a wealthy marriage, and she's
picked on Graham.  That's all."

"It isn't only Marion.  I'm afraid there's another girl, a girl at
the mill - his stenographer.  I have no proof of anything.  In fact,
I don't think there is anything yet.  She's in love with him,
probably, or she thinks she is.  I happened on them together, and
she looked - Of course, if what you say about Marion is true, he
can not care for her, even, well, in any way."

"Oh, nonsense, Clay.  A man - especially a boy - can love a
half-dozen girls.  He can be crazy about any girl he is with.  It
may not be love, but it plays the same tricks with him that the
real thing does."

"I can't believe that."

"No.  You wouldn't."

She leaned back and watched him.  How much of a boy he was himself,
anyhow!  And yet how little he understood the complicated problems
of a boy like Graham, irresponsible but responsive, rich without
labor, with time for the sort of dalliance Clay himself at the same
age had had neither leisure nor inclination to indulge.

He was wandering about the room, his hands in his pockets, his head
bent.  When he stopped:

"What am I to do with the girl, Audrey?"

"Get rid of her.  That's easy."

"Not so easy as it sounds."

He told her of Dunbar and the photographs, of Rudolph Klein, and
the problem as he saw it.

"So there I am," he finished.  "If I let her go, I lose one of the
links in Dunbar's chain.  If I keep her?"

"Can't Natalie talk to him?  Sometimes a woman can get to the bottom
of these things when a man can't.  He might tell her all about it."

"Possibly.  But I think it unlikely Natalie would tell me."

She leaned over and patted his hand impulsively.

"What devils we women are!" she said.  "Now and then one of us gets
what she deserves.  That's me.  And now and then one of us get's
something she doesn't deserve.  And that's Natalie.  She's
over-indulgent to Graham."

"He is all she has."

"She has you."

Something in her voice made him turn and look at her.

"That ought to be something, you know," she added.  And laughed a
little.

"Does Natalie pay his debts?"

"I rather think so."

But that was a subject he could not go on with.

"The fault is mine.  I know my business better than I know how to
handle my life, or my family.  I don't know why I trouble you with
it all, anyhow.  You have enough."  He hesitated.  "That's not
exactly true, either.  I do know.  I'm relying on your woman's wit
to help me.  I'm wrong somehow."

"About Graham?"

"I have a curious feeling that I am losing him.  I can't ask for
his confidence.  I can't, apparently, even deserve it.  I see him,
day after day, with all the good stuff there is in him, working as
little as he can, drinking more than he should, out half the night,
running into debt - good heavens, Audrey, what can I do?"

She hesitated.

"Of course, you know one thing that would save him, Clay?"

"What?"

"Our getting into the war."

"I ought not to have to lose my boy in order to find him.  But - we
are going to be in it."

He had risen and was standing, an elbow on the mantel-piece, looking
down at her.

"I suppose every man wonders, once in a while, how he'd conduct
himself in a crisis.  When the Lusitania went down I dare say a
good many fellows wondered if they'd have been able to keep their
coward bodies out of the boats.  I know I did.  And I wonder about
myself now.  What can I do if we go into the war?  I couldn't do a
forced march of more than five miles.  I can't drill, or whatever
they call it.  I can shoot clay pigeons, but I don't believe I
could hit a German coming at me with a bayonet at twenty feet.  I'd
be pretty much of a total loss.  Yet I'll want to do something."

And when she sat, very silent, looking into the fire:  "You see,
you think it absurd yourself."

"Hardly absurd," she roused herself to look up at him.  "If it is,
it's the sort of splendid absurdity I am proud of.  I was wondering
what Natalie would say."

"I don't believe it lies between a man and his wife.  It's between
him and his God."

He was rather ashamed of that, however, and soon after he went away.




CHAPTER XIX

Natalie Spencer was finding life full of interest that winter.  Now
and then she read the headings in the newspapers, not because she
was really interested, but that she might say, at the dinner-party
which was to her the proper end of a perfect day:

"What do you think of Turkey declaring her independence?"

Or:

"I see we have taken the Etoile Wood."

Clayton had overheard her more than once, and had marveled at the
dexterity with which, these leaders thrown out, she was able to
avoid committing herself further.

The new house engrossed her.  She was seeing a great deal of Rodney,
too, and now and then she had fancied that there was a different
tone in Rodney's voice when he addressed her.  She never analyzed
that tone, or what it suggested, but it gave her a new interest in
life.  She was always marceled, massaged, freshly manicured.  And
she had found a new facial treatment.  Clayton, in his room at night,
could hear the sharp slapping of flesh on flesh, as Madeleine gently
pounded certain expensive creams into the skin of her face and neck.

She refused all forms of war activity, although now and then she
put some appeal before Clayton and asked him if he cared to send a
check.  He never suggested that she answer any of these demands
personally, after an experience early in the winter.

"Why don't you send it yourself?" he had asked.  "Wouldn't you like
it to go in your name?"

"It doesn't matter.  I don't know any of the committee."

He had tried to explain what he meant.

"You might like to feel that you are doing something."

"I thought my allowance was only to dress on.  If I'm to attend to
charities, too, you'll have to increase it."

"But," he argued patiently, "if you only sent them twenty-five
dollars, did without some little thing to do it, you'd feel rather
more as though you were giving, wouldn't you?"

"Twenty-five dollars!  And be laughed at!"

He had given in then.

"If I put an extra thousand dollars to your account to-morrow, will
you check it out to this fund?"

"It's too much."

"Will you?'

"Yes, of course," she had agreed, indifferently.  And he had notified
her that the money was in the bank.  But two months later the list of
contributors was published, and neither his name nor Natalie's was
among them.

Toward personal service she had no inclination whatever.  She would
promise anything, but the hour of fulfilling always found her with
something else to do.  Yet she had kindly impulses, at times, when
something occurred to take her mind from herself.  She gave liberally
to street mendicants.  She sent her car to be used by those of her
friends who had none.  She was lavish with flowers to the sick
- although Clayton paid her florist bills.

She was lavish with money - but never with herself.

In the weeks after the opening of the new year Clayton found himself
watching her.  He wondered sometimes just what went on in her mind
during the hours when she sat, her hands folded, gazing into space.
He could not tell.  He surmised her planning, always planning; the
new house, a gown, a hat, a party.

But late in January he began to think that she was planning something
else.  Old Terry Mackenzie had been there one night, and he had
asserted not only that war was coming, but that we would be driven
to conscription to raise an army.

"They've all had to come to it," he insisted.  "And we will, as sure
as God made little fishes.  You can't raise a million volunteers for
a war that's three thousand miles away."

"You mean, conscription among the laboring class?"  Natalie had asked
naively, and there had been a roar of laughter.

"Not at all," Terry had said.  And chuckled.  "This war, if it comes,
is every man's burden, rich and poor.  Only the rich will give most,
because they have most to give."

"I think that's ridiculous," Natalie had said.

It was after that that Clayton began to wonder what she was planning.

He came home late one afternoon to find that they were spending the
evening in, and to find a very serious Natalie waiting, when he came
down-stairs dressed for dinner.  She made an effort to be
conversational, but it was a failure.  He was uneasily aware that
she was watching him, inspecting, calculating, choosing her moment.
But it was not until they were having coffee that she spoke.

"I'm uneasy about Graham, Clay."

He looked up quickly.

"Yes?"

"I think he ought to go away somewhere."

"He ought to stay here, and make a man of himself," he came out,
almost in spite of himself.  He knew well enough that such a note
always roused Natalie's antagonism, and he waited for the storm.
But none came.

"He's not doing very well, is he?"

"He's not failing entirely.  But he gives the best of himself
outside the mill.  That's all."

She puzzled him.  Had she heard of Marion?

"Don't you think, if he was away from this silly crowd he plays
with, as he calls it, that he would be better off?"

"Where, for instance?"

"You keep an agent in England.  He could go there.  Or to Russia,
if the Russian contract goes through."

He was still puzzled.

"But why England or Russia?"

"Anywhere out of this country."

"He doesn't have to leave this country to get away from a designing
woman."

From her astonished expression, he knew that he had been wrong.  She
was not trying to get him away from Marion.  From what?

She bent forward, her face set hard.

"What woman?"

Well, it was out.  She might as well know it.  "Don't you think it
possible, Natalie, that he may intend to marry Marion Hayden?"

There was a very unpleasant half-hour after that.  Marion was a
parasite of the rich.  She had abused Natalie's hospitality.  She
was designing.  She played bridge for her dress money.  She had
ensnared the boy.

And then:

"That settles it, I should think.  He ought to leave America.  If
you have a single thought for his welfare you'll send him to
England."

"Then you hadn't known about Marion when you proposed that before?"

"No.  I knew he was not doing well.  And I'm anxious.  After all,
he's my boy.  He is - "

"I know," he supplemented gravely.  "He is all you have.  But I
still don't understand why he must leave America."

It was not until she had gone up-stairs to her room, leaving him
uneasily pacing the library floor, that he found the solution.  Old
Terry Mackenzie and his statement about conscription.  Natalie
wanted Graham sent out of the country, so he would be safe.  She
would purchase for hint a shameful immunity, if war came.  She would
stultify the boy to keep him safe.  In that hour of clear vision he
saw how she had always stultified the boy, to keep him safe.  He saw
her life a series of small subterfuges, of petty indulgences, of
little plots against himself, all directed toward securing Graham
immunity - from trouble at school, from debt, from his own authority.

A wave of unreasoning anger surged over him, but with it there was
pity, too; pity for the narrowness of her life and her mind, pity
for her very selfishness.  And for the first time in his life he
felt a shamefaced pity for himself.  He shook himself violently.
When a man got sorry for himself -




CHAPTER XX

Rudolph Klein had not for a moment believed Anna's story about the
watch, and on the day after he discovered it on her wrist he
verified his suspicions.  During his noon hour he went up-town and,
with the confident swagger of a certain type of man who feels
himself out of place, entered the jeweler's shop in question.

He had to wait for some little time, and he spent it in surveying
contemptuously the contents of the show-cases.  That even his
wildest estimate fell far short of their value he did not suspect,
but his lips curled.  This was where the money earned by honest
workmen was spent, that women might gleam with such gewgaws.  Wall
Street bought them, Wall Street which was forcing this country into
the war to protect its loans to the Allies.  America was to pull
England's chestnuts out of the fire that women, and yet more women,
might wear those strings of pearls, those glittering diamond baubles.

Into his crooked mind there flashed a line from a speech at the
Third Street hall the night before: "War is hell.  Let those who want
to, go to hell."

So - Wall Street bought pearls for its women, and the dissolute sons
of the rich bought gold wrist-watches for girls they wanted to
seduce.  The expression on his face was so terrible that the clerk
behind the counter, waiting to find what he wanted, was startled.

"I want to look at gold wrist-watches," he said.  And eyed the clerk
for a trace of patronage.

"Ladies?"

"Yes."

He finally found one that was a duplicate of Anna's, and examined
it carefully.  Yes, it was the same, the maker's name on the dial,
the space for the monogram on the back, everything.

"How much is this one?"

"One hundred dollars."

He almost dropped it.  A hundred dollars!  Then he remembered Anna's
story.

"Have you any gold-filled ones that look like this?"

"We do not handle gold-filled cases."

He put it down, and turned to go.  Then he stopped.

"Don't sell on the installment plan, either, I suppose?"  The sneer
in his voice was clearer than his anxiety.  In his mind, he already
knew the answer.

"Sorry.  No."

He went out.  So he had been right.  That young skunk had paid a
hundred dollars for a watch for Anna.  To Rudolph it meant but one
thing.

That had been early in January.  For some days he kept his own
counsel, thinking, planning, watching.  He was jealous of Graham,
but with a calculating jealousy that set him wondering how to turn
his knowledge to his own advantage.  And Anna's lack of liberty
comforted him somewhat.  He couldn't meet her outside the mill, at
least not without his knowing it.

He established a system of espionage over her that drove her almost
to madness.

"What're you hanging round for?" she would demand when he stepped
forward at the mill gate.  "D'you suppose I never want to be by
myself?"

Or:

"You just go away, Rudolph Klein.  I'm going up with some of the
girls."

But she never lost him.  He was beside her or at her heels, his
small crafty eyes on her.  When he walked behind her there was a
sensuous gleam in them.

After a few weeks she became terrified.  There was a coldness of
deviltry in him, she knew.  And he had the whip-hand.  She was
certain he knew about the watch, and her impertinence masked an
agony of fear.  Suppose he went to her father?  Why, if he knew,
didn't he go to her father?

She suspected him, but she did not know of what.  She knew he was
an enemy of all government, save that of the mob, that he was an
incendiary, a firebrand who set on fire the brutish passions of a
certain type of malcontents.  She knew, for all he pretended to be
the voice of labor, he no more represented the honest labor of the
country than he represented law and order.

She watched him sometimes, at the table, when on Sundays he ate the
mid-day meal with them; his thin hatchet face, his prominent
epiglottis.  He wore a fresh cotton shirt then, with a flaming
necktie, but he did not clean his fingernails.  And his talk was
always of tearing down, never of building up.

"Just give us time, and we'll show them," he often said.  And "them"
was always the men higher up.

He hated policemen.  He and Herman had had many arguments about
policemen.  Herman was not like Rudolph.  He believed in law and
order.  He even believed in those higher up.  But he believed very
strongly in the fraternity of labor.  Until the first weeks of that
New-year, Herman Klein, outside the tyranny of his home life,
represented very fairly a certain type of workman, believing in the
dignity and integrity of his order.  But, with his failure to
relocate himself, something went wrong in Herman.  He developed, in
his obstinate, stubborn, German head a suspicion of the land of his
adoption.  He had never troubled to understand it.  He had taken it
for granted, as he took for granted that Anna should work and turn
over her money to him.

Now it began to ask things of him.  Not much.  A delegation of women
came around one night and asked him for money for Belgian Relief.
The delegation came, because no one woman would venture alone.

"I have no money for Belgians," he said.  He would not let them come
in.  "Why should I help the Belgians?  Liars and hypocrites!"

The story went about the neighborhood, and he knew it.  He cared
nothing for popularity, but he resented losing his standing in the
community.  And all along he was convinced that he was right; that
the Belgians had lied.  There had been, in the Germany he had left,
no such will to wanton killing.  These people were ignorant.  Out
of the depths of their ignorance they talked.

He read only German newspapers.  In the little room back of Gustav
Shroeder's he met only Germans.  And always, at his elbow, there
was Rudolph.

Until the middle of January Rudolph had not been able to get him to
one of his incendiary meetings.  Then one cold night while Anna
sewed by the lamp inside the little house, Rudolph and Herman walked
in the frozen garden, Herman with his pipe, Rudolph with the cheap
cigarets he used incessantly.  Anna opened the door a crack and
listened at first.  She was watchful of Rudolph, always, those days.
But the subject was not Anna.

"You think we get in, then?" Herman asked.

"Sure."

"But for what?"

"So 'Spencers' can make more money out of it," said Rudolph bitterly.
"And others like them.  But they and their kind don't do the dying.
It's the workers that go and die.  Look at Germany!"

"Yes.  It is so in Germany."

"All this talk about democracy - that's bunk.  Just plain bunk.
Why should the workers in this country kill the workers in another?
Why?  To make money for capital - more money."

"Ja," Herman assented.  "That is what war is.  Always the same.  I
came here to get away from war."

"Well, you didn't get far enough.  You left a king behind, but we've
got a Czar here."

Herman was slowly, methodically, following an earlier train of
thought.

"I am a workman," he said.  "I would not fight against other workmen.
Just as I, a German, will not fight against other Germans."

"But you would sit here, on the hill, and do nothing."

"What can I do?  One man, and with no job."

"Come to the meeting to-night."

"You and your meetings!" the old German said impatiently.  "You talk.
That's all."

Rudolph lowered his voice.

"You think we only talk, eh?  Well, you come and hear some things.
Talk!  You come," he coaxed, changing his tone.  "And we'll have
some beer and schnitzel at Gus's after.  My treat.  How about it?"

Old Herman assented.  He was tired of the house, tired of the frozen
garden, tired of scolding the slovenly girl who pottered around all
day in a boudoir cap and slovenly wrapper.  Tired of Anna's rebellious
face and pert answers.

He went inside the house and put a sweater under his coat, and got
his cap.

"I go out," he said, to the impassive figure under the lamp.  "You
will stay in."

"Oh, I don't know.  I may take a walk."

"You will stay in," he repeated, and followed Rudolph outside.
There he reached in, secured the key, and locked the door on the
outside.  Anna, listening and white with anger, heard his ponderous
steps going around to the back door, and the click as he locked that
one also.

"Beast!" she muttered.  "German schwein."

It was after midnight when she heard him coming back.  She prepared
to leap out of her bed when he came up-stairs, to confront him
angrily and tell him she was through.  She was leaving home.  But
long after she had miserably cried herself to sleep, Herman sat
below, his long-stemmed pipe in his teeth, his stockinged feet
spread to the dying fire.

In that small guarded hail that night he had learned many surprising
things, there and at Gus's afterward.  The Fatherland's war was
already being fought in America, and not only by Germans.  The
workers of the world had banded themselves together, according to
the night's speakers.  And because they were workers they would not
fight the German workers.  It was all perfectly simple.  With the
cooperation of the workers of the world, which recognized no country
but a vast brotherhood of labor, it was possible to end war, all war.

In the meantime, while all the workers all over the world were being
organized, one prevented as much as possible any assistance going to
capitalistic England.  One did some simple thing - started a strike,
or sawed lumber too short, or burned a wheat-field, or put nails in
harvesting machinery, or missent perishable goods, or changed
signal-lights on railroads, or drove copper nails into fruit-trees,
so they died.  This was a pity, the fruit-trees.  But at least they
did not furnish fruit for Germany's enemies.

So each one did but one thing, and that small, so small that it was
difficult to discover.  But there were two hundred thousand men to
do them, according to Rudolph, and that meant a great deal.

Only one thing about the meeting Herman had not liked.  There were
packages of wicked photographs going about.  Filthy things.  When
they came to him he had dropped them on the floor.  What had they to
do with Germany's enemies, or preventing America from going into
the war?

Rudolph laughed when he dropped them.

"They won't bite you!" he had said, and had stooped to pick them up.
But Herman had kept his foot on them.

So - America would go into the war against the Fatherland, unless
many hundreds of thousands did each their little bit.  And if they
did not, America would go in, and fight for England to control the
seas, and the Spencer plant would make millions of shells that honest
German workers, sweat-brothers of the world, might die.

He remembered word for word the peroration of the evening's speech.

"We would extend the hand of brotherhood to the so-called enemy,
and strangle the cry for war in the fat white throats of the
blood-bloated money-lenders of Wall Street, before it became
articulate."

He was very tired.  He stooped and picked up his shoes, and with them
in his hand, drawn to his old-time military erectness, he stood for
some time before the gilt-framed picture on the wall.  Then he went
slowly and ponderously up-stairs to bed.




CHAPTER XXI

From the moment, the day before Christmas, when Graham had taken
the little watch from his pocket and fastened it on Anna's wrist,
he was rather uneasily aware that she had become his creature.  He
had had no intention of buying Anna.  He was certainly not in love
with her.  But he found her amusing and at times comforting.

He had, of course, expected to lose her after the unlucky day when
Clayton had found them together, but Dunbar had advised that she be
kept on for a time at least.  Mentally Graham figured that the first
of January would see her gone, and the thought of a Christmas present
for her was partly compounded of remorse.

He had been buying a cigaret case for Marion when the thought came
to him.  He had not bought a Christmas present for a girl, except
flowers, since the first year he was at college.  He had sent Delight
one that year, a half-dozen little leather-bound books of poetry.
What a precious young prig he must have been!  He knew now that
girls only pretended to care for books.  They wanted jewelry, and
they got past the family with it by pretending it was not real, or
that they had bought it out of their allowances.  One of Toots'
friends was taking a set of silver fox from a man, and she was as
straight as a die.  Oh, he knew girls, now.

The next day he asked Anna Klein: "What would you like for
Christmas?"

Anna, however, had insisted that she did not want a Christmas present.

Later on, however, she had seen a watch one of the girls on the hill
had bought for twelve dollars, and on his further insistence a day
or so later she had said:

"Do you really want to know?"

"Of course I do."

"You oughtn't to spend money on me, you know."

"You let me attend to that.  Now, out with it!"

So she told him rather nervously, for she felt that twelve dollars
was a considerable sum.  He had laughed, and agreed instantly, but
when he went to buy it he found himself paying a price that rather
startled him.

"Don't you lose it, young lady!" he admonished her when, the day
before Christmas, he fastened it on her wrist.  Then he had stooped
down to kiss her, and the intensity of feeling in her face had
startled him.  "It's a good watch," he had said, rather uneasily;
"no excuse for your being late now!"

All the rest of the day she was radiant.

He meant well enough even then.  He had never pretended to love
her.  He accepted her adoration, petted and teased her in return,
worked off his occasional ill humors on her, was indeed conscious
sometimes that he was behaving extremely well in keeping things
as they were.

But by the middle of January he began to grow uneasy.  The atmosphere
at Marion's was bad; there was a knowledge of life plus an easy
toleration of certain human frailties that was as insidious as a slow
fever.  The motto of live and let live prevailed.  And Marion refused
to run away with him and marry him, or to let him go to his father.

In his office all day long there was Anna, so yielding, so surely
his to take if he wished.  Already he knew that things there must
either end or go forward.  Human emotions do not stand still; they
either advance or go back, and every impulse of his virile young body
was urging him on.

He made at last an almost frenzied appeal to Marion to marry him at
once, but she refused flatly.

"I'm not going to ruin you," she said.  "If you can't bring your
people round, we'll just have to wait."

"They'd be all right, once it is done."

"Not if I know your father!  Oh, he'd be all right - in ten years
or so.  But what about the next two or three?  We'd have to live,
wouldn't we?"

He lay awake most of the night thinking things over.  Did she really
care for him, as Anna cared, for instance?  She was always talking
about their having to live.  If they couldn't manage on his salary
for a while, then it was because Marion did not care enough to try.

For the first time he began to question Marion's feeling for him.
She had been rather patronizing him lately.  He had overheard her,
once, speaking of him as a nice kid, and it rankled.  In sheer
assertion of his manhood he met Anna Klein outside the mill at the
noon hour, the next day, and took her for a little ride in his car.
After that he repeatedly did the same thing, choosing infrequented
streets and roads, dining with her sometimes at a quiet hotel out
on the Freeland road.

"How do you get away with this to your father?" he asked her once.

"Tell him you're getting ready to move out to the new plant, and
we're working.  He's not round much in the evenings now.  He's at
meetings, or swilling beer at Gus's saloon.  They're a bad lot,
Graham, that crowd at Gus's."

"How do you mean, bad?"

"Well, they're Germans, for one thing, the sort that shouts about
the Fatherland.  They make me sick."

"Let's forget them, honey," said Graham, and reaching under the
table-cloth, caught and held one of her hands.

He was beginning to look at things with the twisted vision of
Marion's friends.  He intended only to flirt a little with Anna
Klein, but he considered that he was extremely virtuous and,
perhaps, a bit of a fool for letting things go at that.  Once,
indeed, Tommy Hale happened on them in a road-house, sitting very
quietly with a glass of beer before Graham and a lemonade in front
of Anna, and had winked at him as though he had received him into
the brotherhood of those who were seeing life.

Then, near the end of January, events took another step forward.
Rudolph Klein was discharged from the mill.

Clayton, coming down one morning, found the manager, Hutchinson,
and Dunbar in his office.  The two men had had a difference of
opinion, and the matter was laid before him.

"He is a constant disturbing element," Hutchinson finished;  "I
understand Mr. Dunbar's position, but we can't afford to have the
men thrown into a ferment, constantly."

"If you discharge him you rouse his suspicions and those of his
gang," said Dunbar, sturdily.

"There is a gang, then?"

"A gang!  My God!"

In the end, however, Clayton decided to let Rudolph go.  Hutchinson
was insistent.  Production was falling down.  One or two accidents
to the machinery lately looked like sabotage.  He had found a black
cat crudely drawn on the cement pavement outside his office-door
that very morning, the black cat being the symbol of those I.W.W.'s
who advocated destruction.

"What about the girl?" Dunbar asked, when the manager had gone.

"I have kept her, against my better judgment, Mr. Dunbar."

For just a moment Dunbar hesitated.  He knew certain things that
Clayton Spencer did not, things that it was his business to know.
The girl might be valuable one of these days.  She was in love with
young Spencer.  The time might come when he, Dunbar, would need to
capitalize that love and use it against Rudolph and the rest of the
crowd that met in the little room behind Shroeder's saloon.  It was
too bad, in a way.  He was sorry for this man with the strong,
repressed face and kindly mouth, who sat across from him.  But these
were strange times.  A man could not be too scrupulous.

"Better keep her on for a month or two, anyhow," he said.  "They're
up to something, and I miss my guess if it isn't directed against
you."

"How about Herman Klein?"

"Nothing doing," stated Mr. Dunbar, flatly.  "Our informer is
tending bar at Gus's.  Herman listens and drinks their beer, but
he's got the German fear of authority in him.  He's a beer socialist.
That's all."

But in that Mr. Dunbar left out of account the innate savagery that
lurked under Herman's phlegmatic surface.

"You don't think it would do if she was moved to another office?"

"The point is this." Dunbar moved his chair forward.  "The time may
come when we will need the girl as an informer.  Rudolph Klein is
infatuated with her.  Now I understand that she has a certain feeling
of - loyalty to Mr.  Graham.  In that case" - he glanced at Clayton
- "the welfare of the many, Mr. Spencer, against the few."

For a long time after he was gone Clayton sat at his desk, thinking.
Every instinct in him revolted against the situation thus forced on
him.  There was something wrong with Dunbar's reasoning.  Then it
flashed on him that Dunbar probably was right, and that their points
of view were bitterly opposed.  Dunbar would have no scruples,
because he was not quite a gentleman.  But war was a man's game.
It was not the time for fine distinctions of ethics.  And Dunbar
was certainly a man.

If only he could talk it over with Natalie!  But he knew Natalie
too well to expect any rational judgment from her.  She would
demand at once that the girl should go.  Yet he needed a woman's
mind on it.  In any question of relationship between the sexes men
were creatures of impulse, but women had plotted and planned through
the ages.  They might lose their standards, but never their heads.
Not that he put such a thought into words.  He merely knew that
women were better at such things than men.

That afternoon, as a result of much uncertainty, he took his problem
to Audrey.  And Audrey gave him an answer.

"You've got to think of the mill, Clay," she said.  "The Dunbar man
is right.  And all you or any other father of a boy can do is to
pray in season, and to trust to Graham's early training."

And all the repressed bitterness in Clayton Spencer's heart was in
his answer.

"He never had any early training, Audrey.  Oh, he had certain things.
His manners, for instance.  But other things?  I ought not to say
that.  It was my fault, too.  I'm not blaming only Natalie.  Only
now, when it is all we have to count on - "

He was full of remorse when he started for home.  He felt guilty of
every disloyalty.  And in masculine fashion he tried to make up to
Natalie for the truth that had been wrung from him.  He carried
home a great bunch of roses for her.  But he carried home, too, a
feeling of comfort and vague happiness, as though the little room
behind him still reached out and held him in its warm embrace.




CHAPTER XXII

In the evening of the thirty-first of January Clayton and Graham
were waiting for Natalie to come down to dinner when the bell rang,
and Dunbar was announced.  Graham welcomed the interruption.  He
had been vaguely uneasy with his father since that day in his office
when Clayton had found him on Anna Klein's desk.  Clayton had tried
to restore the old friendliness of their relation, but the boy had
only half-heartedly met his advances.  Now and then he himself made
an overture, but it was the almost timid advance of a puppy that
has been beaten.  It left Clayton discouraged and alarmed, set him
to going back over the past for any severity on his part to justify
it.  Now and then he wondered if, in Graham's frequent closetings
with Natalie, she did not covertly undermine his influence with the
boy, to increase her own.

But if she did, why?  What was going on behind the impassive, lovely
mask that was her face.

Dunbar was abrupt, as usual.

"I've brought you some news, Mr. Spencer," he said.  He looked oddly
vital and alive in the subdued and quiet room.  "They've shown their
hand at last.  But maybe you've heard it."

"I've heard nothing new."

"Then listen," said Dunbar, bending forward over a table, much as
it was his habit to bend over Clayton's desk.  "We're in it at last.
Or as good as in it.  Unrestricted submarine warfare!  All
merchant-ships bound to and from Allied ports to be sunk without
warning!  We're to be allowed - mark this, it's funny! - we're to
be allowed to send one ship a week to England, nicely marked and
carrying passengers only."

There was a little pause.  Clayton drew a long breath.

"That means war," he said finally.

"Hell turned over and stirred up with a pitch-fork, if we have any
backbone at all," agreed Dunbar.  He turned to Graham.  "You young
fellows'll be crazy about this."

"You bet we will," said Graham.

Clayton slipped an arm about the boy's shoulders.  He could not
speak for a moment.  All at once he saw what the news meant.  He
saw Graham going into the horror across the sea.  He saw vast
lines of marching men, boys like Graham, boys who had frolicked
through their careless days, whistled and played and slept sound
of nights, now laden like pack-animals and carrying the implements
of death in their hands, going forward to something too terrible
to contemplate.

And a certain sure percentage of them would never come back.

His arm tightened about the boy.  When he withdrew it Graham
straightened.

"If it's war, it's my war, father."

And Clayton replied, quietly:

"It is your war, old man."

Dunbar turned his back and inspected Natalie's portrait.  When he
faced about again Graham was lighting a cigaret, and Natalie herself
was entering the room.  In her rose-colored satin she looked exotic,
beautiful, and Dunbar gave her a fleeting glance of admiration as
he bowed.  She looked too young to have a boy going to war.  Behind
her he suddenly saw other women, thousands of other women, living
luxurious lives, sheltered and pampered, and suddenly called on to
face sacrifice without any training for it.

"Didn't know you were going out," he said.  "Sorry.  I'll run along
now."

"We are dining at home," said Natalie, coldly.  She remained
standing near the door, as a hint to the shabby gentleman with the
alert eyes who stood by the table.  But Dunbar had forgotten her
already.

"I came here right away," he explained, "because you may be having
trouble now.  In fact, I'm pretty sure you will.  If we declare war
to-morrow, as we may?"

"War!" said Natalie, and took a step forward.

Dunbar remembered her.

"We will probably declare war in a day or two.  The Germans..."

But Natalie was looking at Clayton with a hostility in her eyes she
took no trouble to conceal.

"I hope you'll be happy, now.  You've been talking war, wanting war
- and now you've got it."

She turned and went out of the room.  The three men in the library
below heard her go up the stairs and the slam of her door behind
her.  Later on she sent word that she did not care for any dinner,
and Clayton asked Dunbar to remain.  Practical questions as to the
mill were discussed, Graham entering into them with a new interest.
He was flushed and excited.  But Clayton was rather white and very
quiet.

Once Graham took advantage of Dunbar's preoccupation with his
asparagus to say:

"You don't object to the aviation service, father?"

"Wherever you think you can be useful."

After coffee Graham rose.

"I'll go and speak to mother," he said.  And Clayton felt in him a
new manliness.  It was as though his glance said, "She is a woman,
you know.  War is men's work, work for you and me.  But it's hard
on them."

Afterward Clayton was to remember with surprise how his friends
gathered that night at the house.  Nolan came in early, his twisted
grin rather accentuated, his tall frame more than usually stooped.
He stood in the doorway of the library, one hand in his pocket, a
familiar attitude which made him look oddly boyish.

"Well!" he drawled, without greeting.  "They've done it.  The
English have got us.  We hadn't a chance.  The little Welshman - "

"Come in," Clayton said, "and talk like an American and not an
Irishman.  I don't want to know what you think about Lloyd George.
What are you going to do?"

"I was thinking," Nolan observed, advancing, "of blowing up
Washington.  We'd have a fresh start, you see.  With Washington gone
root and branch we would have some sort of chance, a clear sweep,
with the capital here or in Boston.  Or London."

Clayton laughed.  Behind Nolan's cynicism he felt a real disturbance.
But Dunbar eyed him uncertainly.  He didn't know about some of these
Irish.  They'd fight like hell, of course, if only they'd forget
England.

"Don't worry about Washington," Clayton said.  "Let it work out its
own problems.  We will have our own.  What do you suppose men like
you and myself are going to do?  We can't fight."

Nolan settled himself in a long chair.

"Why can't we fight?" he asked.  "I heard something the other day.
Roosevelt is going to take a division abroad - older men.  I rather
like the idea.  Wherever he goes there'll be fighting.  I'm no Rough
Rider, God knows; but I haven't spent a half hour every noon in a
gymnasium for the last ten years for nothing.  And I can shoot."

"And you are free," Clayton observed, quietly.

Nolan looked up.

"It's going to be hard on the women," he said.  "You're all right.
They won't let you go.  You're too useful where you are.  But of
course there's the boy."

When Clayton made no reply Nolan glanced at him again.

"I suppose he'll want to go," he suggested.

Clayton's face was set.  For more than an hour now Graham had been
closeted with his mother, and as the time went on, and no slam of
a door up-stairs told of his customary method of leaving a room, he
had been conscious of a growing uneasiness.  The boy was soft; the
fiber in him had not been hardened yet, not enough to be proof
against tears.  He wanted desperately to leave Nolan, to go up and
learn what arguments, what coaxing and selfish whimperings Natalie
was using with the boy.  But he wanted, also desperately, to have
the boy fight his own fight and win.

"He will want to go, I think.  Of course, his mother will be shaken
just now.  It'll all new to her.  She wouldn't believe it was coming."

"He'll go," Nolan said reflectively.  "They'll all go, the best of
them first.  After all, we've been making a lot of noise about
wanting to get into the thing.  Now we're in, and that's the first
price we pay - the boys."

A door slammed up-stairs, and Clayton heard Graham coming down.  He
passed the library door, however, and Clayton suddenly realized that
he was going out.

"Graham!" he called.

Graham stopped, and came back slowly.

"Yes, father," he said, from the doorway.

"Aren't you coming in?"

"I thought I'd go out for a hit of a spin, if you don't mind.
Evening, Mr.  Nolan."

The boy was shaken.  Clayton knew it from his tone.  All the fine
vigor of the early evening was gone.  And an overwhelming rage
filled him, against Natalie, against himself, even against the boy.
Trouble, which should have united his house, had divided it.  The
first threat of trouble, indeed.

"You can go out later," he said rather sharply.  "We ought to talk
things over, Graham.  This is a mighty serious time."

"What's the use of talking things over, father?  We don't know
anything but that we may declare war."

"That's enough, isn't it?"

But he was startled when he saw Graham's face.  He was very pale
and his eyes already looked furtive.  They were terribly like
Natalie's eyes sometimes.  The frankness was gone out of them.  He
came into the room, and stood there, rigid.

"I promised mother to get her some sleeping-powders."

"Sleeping-powders!"

"She's nervous."

"Bad things, sleeping-powders," said Nolan.  "Get her to take some
setting-up exercises by an open window and she'll sleep like a top."

"Do you mind, if I go, father?"

Clayton saw that it was of no use to urge the boy.  Graham wanted to
avoid him, wanted to avoid an interview.  The early glow of the
evening faded.  Once again the sense of having lost his son almost
overwhelmed him.

"Very well," he said stiffly.  And Graham went out.

However, he did not leave the house.  At the door he met Doctor
Haverford.  and Delight, and Clayton heard the clergyman's big bass
booming through the hall.

" - like a lamb to the slaughter!" he was saying.  "And I a man of
peace!"

When he came into the library he was still holding forth with an
affectation of rage.

"I ask you, Clayton," he said, "what refuge is there for a man of
peace?  My own child, leading me out into the night, and inquiring
on the way over if I did not feel that the commandment not to kill
was a serious error."

"Of course he's going," she said.  "He has been making the most
outrageous excuses, just to hear mother and me reply to them.  And
all the time nothing would hold him back."

"My dear," said the rector solemnly.  "T shall have to tell you
something.  I shall have to lay bare the secrets of my heart.  How
are you, Nolan?  Delight, they will not take me.  I have three back
teeth on a plate.  I have never told you this before.  I did not
wish to ruin your belief that I am perfect.  But - "

In the laugh that greeted this Graham returned.  He was, Clayton
saw, vaguely puzzled by the rector and rather incredulous as to
Delight's attitude.

"Do you really want him to go?" he asked her.

"Of course.  Aren't you going?  Isn't everybody who is worth
anything going?  I'd go myself if I could.  You don't know how
lucky you are."

"But is your Mother willing?"

"Why, what sort of a mother do you think I have?"

Clayton overheard that, and he saw Graham wince.  His own hands
clenched.  What a power in the world a brave woman was!  And what
evil could be wrought by a woman without moral courage, a selfish
woman.  He brought himself up short at that.

Others came in.  Hutchinson, from the mill.  Terry Mackenzie, Rodney
Page, in evening clothes and on his way from the opera to something
or other.  In a corner Graham and Delight talked.  The rector, in a
high state of exaltation, was inclined to be oratorical and a trifle
noisy.  He dilated on the vast army that would rise overnight, at
the call.  He considered the raising of a company from his own
church, and nominated Clayton as its captain.  Nolan grinned
sardonically.

"Precisely," he said dryly.  "Clayton, because he looks like a Greek
god, is ideally fitted to lead a lot of men who never saw a bayonet
outside of a museum.  Against trained fighting men.  There's a
difference you know, dominie, between a clay pigeon and a German
with a bomb in one hand and a saw-toothed bayonet in the other."

"We did that in the Civil War."

"We did.  And it took four years to fight a six-months war."

"We must have an army.  I daresay you'll grant that."

"Well, you can bet on one thing; we're not going to have every ward
boss who wants to make a record raising a regiment out of his
henchmen and leading them to death."

"What would you suggest?" inquired the rector, rather crestfallen.

"I'd suggest training men as officers.  And then - a draft."

"Never come to it in the world."  Hutchinson spoke up.  "I've heard
men in the mill talking.  They'll go, some of them, but they won't
be driven.  It would be civil war."

Clayton glanced at Graham as he replied.  The boy was leaning
forward, listening.

"There's this to be said for the draft," he said.  "Under the
volunteer system the best of our boys will go first.  That's what
happened in England.  And they were wiped out.  It's every man's
war now.  There is no reason why the few should be sacrificed for
the many."

"And there's this, too," Graham broke in.  He was flushed and
nervous.  "A fellow would have to go.  He wouldn't be having to
think whether his going would hurt anybody or not.  He wouldn't have
to decide.  He'd - just go."

There was a little hush in the room.  Then Nolan spoke.

"Right-o!" he said.  "The only trouble about it is that it's likely
to leave out some of us old chaps, who'd like to have a fist in it."

Hutchinson remained after the others had gone.  He wanted to discuss
the change in status of the plant.

"We'll be taken over by the government, probably," Clayton told him.
"They have all the figures, capacity and so on.  The Ordnance
Department has that in hand."

Hutchinson nodded.  He had himself made the report.

"We'll have to look out more than ever, I suppose," he said, as he
rose to go.  "The government is guarding all bridges and railways
already.  Met a lot of National Guard boys on the way."

Graham left when he did, offering to take him to his home, and
Clayton sat for some time alone, smoking and thinking.  So the
thing had come at last.  A year from now, and where would they all
be?  The men who had been there to-night, himself, Graham?  Would
they all be even living?  Would Graham - ?

He looked back over the years.  Graham a baby, splashing water in
his bath and shrieking aloud with joy; Graham in his first
little-boy clothes, riding a velocipede in the park and bringing in
bruises of an amazing size and blackness; Graham going away to
school, and manfully fixing his mind on his first long trousers, so
he would not cry; Graham at college, coming in with the winning
crew, and stumbling, half collapsed, into the arms of a waiting,
cheering crowd.  And the Graham who had followed his mother up the
stairs that night, to come down baffled, thwarted, miserable.

He rose and threw away his cigar.  He must have the thing out with
Natalie.  The boy's soul was more important than his body.  He
wanted him safe.  God, how he wanted him safe!  But he wanted him
to be a man.

Natalie's room was dark when he went in.  He hesitated.  Then he
heard her in bed, sobbing quietly.  He was angry at himself for his
impatience at the sound.  He stood beside the bed, and forced a
gentleness he did not feel.

"Can I get you anything?" he asked.

"No, thank you."  And he moved toward the lamp.  "Don't turn the
light on.  I look dreadful."

"Shall I ring for Madeleine?"

"No.  Graham is bringing me a sleeping-powder."

"If you are not sleepy, may I talk to you about some things?"

"I'm sick, Clay.  My head is bursting."

"Sometimes it helps to talk out our worries, dear."  He was still
determinedly gentle.

He heard her turning her pillow, and settling herself more
comfortably.

"Not to you.  You've made up your mind.  What's the use?"

"Made up my mind to what?"

"To sending Graham to be killed."

"That's hardly worthy of you, Natalie," he said gravely.  "He is my
son, too.  I love him at least as much as you do.  I don't think this
is really up to us, anyhow.  It is up to him.  If he wants to go?"

She sat up, suddenly, her voice thin and high.

"How does he know what he wants?" she demanded.  "He's too young.
He doesn't know what war is; you say so yourself.  You say he is
too young to have a position worth while at the plant, but of
course he's old enough to go to war and have a leg shot off, or to
be blinded, or something."  Her voice broke.

He sat down on the bed and felt around until he found her hand.
But she jerked it from him.

"You promised me once to let him make his own decision if the time
came."

"When did I promise that?"

"In the fall, when I came home from England."

"I never made such a promise."

"Will you make it now?"

"No!"

He rose, more nearly despairing than he had ever been.  He could
not argue with a hysterical woman.  He hated cowardice, but far
deeper than that was his conviction that she had already exacted
some sort of promise.  And the boy was not like her in that respect.
He regarded a promise as almost in the nature of an oath.  He
himself had taught him that in the creed of a gentleman a promise
was a thing of his honor, to be kept at any cost.

"You are compelling me to do a strange and hateful thing," he said.
"If you intend to use your influence to keep him out, I shall have
to offset it by urging him to go.  That is putting a very terrible
responsibility on me."

He heard her draw her breath sharply.

"If you do that I shall leave you," she said, in a frozen voice.

Suddenly he felt sorry for her.  She was so weak, so childish, so
cowardly.  And this was the nearest they had come to a complete
break.

"You're tired and nervous," he said.  "We have come a long way from
what I started out to say.  And a long way from - the way things
used to be between us.  If this thing, to-night, does not bring two
people together - "

"Together!" she cried shrilly.  "When have we been together?  Not
in years.  You have been married to your business.  I am only your
housekeeper, and Graham's mother.  And even Graham you are trying
to take away from me.  Oh, go away and let me alone."

Down-stairs, thoughts that were almost great had formulated
themselves in his mind; that to die that others might live might
be better than to live oneself; that he loved his country, although
he had been shamefaced about it; that America was really the
melting-pot of the world, and that, perhaps, only the white flame
of war would fuse it into a great nation.

But Natalie made all these thoughts tawdry.  She cheapened them.
She found in him nothing fine; therefore there was probably nothing
fine in him.  He went away, to lie awake most of the night.




CHAPTER XXIII

But, with the breaking off of diplomatic relations, matters remained
for a time at a standstill.  Natalie dried her eyes and ordered some
new clothes, and saw rather more of Rodney Page than was good for her.

With the beginning of February the country house was far enough under
way for it to be promised for June, and Natalie, the fundamentals of
its decoration arranged for, began to haunt old-furniture shops,
accompanied always by Rodney.

"Not that your taste is not right, Natalie," he explained.  "It is
exquisite.  But these fellows are liars and cheats, some of them.
Besides, I like trailing along, if you don't mind."

Trailing along was a fairly accurate phrase.  There was scarcely a
day now when Natalie's shining car, with its two men in livery, did
not draw up before Rodney's office building, or stand, as
unostentatiously as a fire engine, not too near the entrance of his
club.  Clayton, going in, had seen it there once or twice, and had
smiled rather grimly.  He considered its presence there in
questionable taste, but he felt no uneasiness.  Determined as he
was to give Natalie such happiness as was still in him to give, he
never mentioned these instances.

But a day came, early in February, which was to mark a change in
the relationship between Natalie and Rodney.

It started simply enough.  They had lunched together at a down-town
hotel, and then went to look at rugs.  Rodney had found her rather
obdurate as to old rugs.  They were still arguing the matter in the
limousine.

"I just don't like to think of all sorts of dirty Turks and Arabs
having used them," she protested.  "Slept on them, walked on them,
spilled things on the - ? ugh!"

"But the colors, Natalie dear!  The old faded 'copper-tones, the
dull-blues, the dead-rose!  There is a beauty about age, you know.
Lovely as you are, you'll be even lovelier as an old woman."

"I'm getting there rather rapidly."

He turned and looked at her critically.  No slightest aid that she
had given her beauty missed his eyes, the delicate artificial
lights in her hair, her eyebrows drawn to a hair's breadth and
carefully arched, the touch of rouge under her eyes and on the
lobes of her ears.  But she was beautiful, no matter what art had
augmented her real prettiness.  She was a charming, finished product,
from her veil and hat to her narrowly shod feet.  He liked finished
things, well done.  He liked the glaze on a porcelain; he liked the
perfect lacquering on the Chinese screen he had persuaded Natalie
to buy; he preferred wood carved into the fine lines of Sheraton
to the trees that grow in the Park, for instance, through which
they were driving.

A Sheraton sideboard was art.  Even certain forms of Colonial
mahogany were art, although he was not fond of them.  And Natalie
was - art.  Even if she represented the creative instincts of her
dressmaker and her milliner, and not her own - he did not like a
Louis XV sofa the less that it had not carved itself.

Possibly Natalie appealed then to his collective instinct, he had
not analyzed it.  He only knew that he liked being with her, and
he was not annoyed, certainly, by the fact that he knew their
constant proximity was arousing a certain amount of comment.

So:

"You are very beautiful," he said with his appraising glance full
on her.  "You are quite the loveliest woman I know."

"Still?  With a grown son?"

"I am not a boy myself, you know."

"What has that to do with it?"

He hesitated, then laughed a little.

"I don't know," he said.  "I didn't mean to say that, exactly.  Of
course, that fact is that I'm rather glad you are not a debutante.
You would be giving me odds and ends of dances if you were, you
know, and shifting me as fast as possible.  As it is - "

The coquetry which is a shallow woman's substitute for passion
stirred in her.

"Well?  I'm awfully interested."

He turned and faced her.

"I wonder if you are!"

"Go on, Roddie.  As it is??"

"As it is," he said, rather rapidly, "you give me a great deal of
happiness.  I can't say all I would like to, but just being with
you - Natalie, I wonder if you know how much it means to me to see
you every day."

"I like it, or I wouldn't do it."

"But - I wonder if it means anything to you?"

Curiously enough, with the mere putting it into words, his feeling
for her seemed to grow.  He was even somewhat excited.  He bent
toward her, his eyes on her face, and caught one of her gloved hands.
He was no longer flirting with a pretty woman.  He was in real
earnest.  But Natalie was still flirting.

"Do you want to know why I like to be with you?  Because of course
I do, or I shouldn't be."

"Does a famishing man want water?"

"Because you are sane and sensible.  You believe, as I do, in going
on as normally as possible.  All these people who go around glooming
because there is a war across the Atlantic!  They are so tiresome.
Good heavens, the hysterical attitude of some women!  And Clay!"

He released her hand.

"So you like me because I'm sensible!  Thanks."

"That's a good reason, isn't it?"

"Good God, Natalie, I'm only sensible because I have to be.  Not
about the war.  I'm not talking about that.  About you."

"What have I got to do with your being sensible and sane?"

"Just think about things, and you'll know."

She was greatly thrilled and quite untouched.  It was a pleasant
little game, and she held all the winning cards.  So she said,
very softly:

"We mustn't go on like this, you know.  We mustn't spoil things."

And by her very "we" let him understand that the plight was not his
but theirs.  They were to suffer on, she implied, in a mutual,
unacknowledged passion.  He flushed deeply.

But although he was profoundly affected, his infatuation was as
spurious as her pretense of one.  He was a dilettante in love, as
he was in art.  His aesthetic sense, which would have died of an
honest passion, fattened on the very hopelessness of his beginning
an affair with Natalie.  Confronted just then with the privilege
of marrying her, he would have drawn back in dismay.

Since no such privilege was to be his, however, he found a deep
satisfaction in considering himself hopelessly in love with her.
He was profoundly sorry for himself.  He saw himself a tragic figure,
hopeless and wretched.  He longed for the unattainable; he held up
empty hands to the stars, and by so mimicking the gesture of youth,
he regained youth.

"You won't cut me out of your life, Natalie?" he asked wistfully.

And Natalie, who would not have sacrificed this new thrill for
anything real in the world, replied:

"It would be better, wouldn't it?"

There was real earnestness in his voice when he spoke.  He had
dramatized himself by that time.

"Don't take away the only thing that makes life worth living, dear!"

Which Natalie, after a proper hesitation, duly promised not to do.

There were other conversations after that.  About marriage, for
instance, which Rodney broadly characterized as the failure of the
world; he liked treading on dangerous ground.

"When a man has married, and had children, he has fulfilled his duty
to the State.  That's all marriage is - duty to the State.  After
that he follows his normal instincts, of course."

"If you are defending unfaithfulness?"

"Not at all.  I admire faithfulness.  It's rare enough for
admiration.  No.  I'm recognizing facts.  Don't you suppose even
dear old Clay likes a pretty woman?  Of course he does.  It's a
total difference of view-point, Natalie.  What is an incident to a
man is a crime to a woman."

Or:

"All this economic freedom of women is going to lead to other
freedoms, you know."

"What freedoms?"

"The right to live wherever they please.  One liberty brings
another, you know.  Women used to marry for a home, for some one to
keep them.  Now they needn't, but - they have to live just the same."

"I wish you wouldn't, Rodney.  It's so - cheap."

It was cheap.  It was the old game of talking around conversational
corners, of whispering behind mental doors.  It was insidious,
dangerous, and tantalizing.  It made between them a bond of lowered
voices, of being on the edge of things.  Their danger was as spurious
as their passion, but Natalie, without humor and without imagination,
found the sense of insecurity vaguely attractive.

Fundamentally cold, she liked the idea of playing with fire;




CHAPTER XXIV

When war was not immediately declared the rector, who on the Sunday
following that eventful Saturday of the President's speech to
Congress had preached a rousing call to arms, began to feel a bit
sheepish about it.

"War or no war, my dear," he said to Delight, "it made them think
for as much as an hour.  And I can change it somewhat, and use it
again, if the time really comes."

"Second-hand stuff!" she scoffed.  "You with your old sermons, and
Mother with my old dresses!  But it was a good sermon," she added.
"I have hardly been civil to that German laundress since."

"Good gracious, Delight.  Can't you remember that we must love our
enemies?"

"Do you love them?  You know perfectly well that the moment you get
on the other side, if you do, you'll be jerking the cross off your
collar and bullying some wretched soldier to give you his gun."

He had a guilty feeling that she was right.

It was February then, and they were sitting in the parish house.
Delight had been filling out Sunday-school reports to parents, an
innovation she detested.  For a little while there was only the
scratching of her pen to be heard and an occasional squeal from
the church proper, where the organ was being repaired.  The rector
sat back in his chair, his fingertips together, and whistled
noiselessly, a habit of his when he was disturbed.  Now and then
he glanced at Delight's bent head.

"My dear," he commented finally.

"Just a minute.  That wretched little Simonton girl has been absent
three Sundays out of four.  And on the fourth one she said she had
a toothache and sat outside on the steps.  Well, daddy?"

"Do you see anything of Graham Spencer now?"

"Very little." She looked at him with frank eyes.  "He has changed
somehow, daddy.  When we do meet he is queer.  I sometimes think he
avoids me."

He fell back on his noiseless whistling.  And Delight, who knew his
every mood, got up and perched herself on the arm of his chair.

"Don't you get to thinking things," she said.  And slipped an arm
around his neck.

"I did think, in the winter - "

"I'll tell you about that," she broke in, bravely.  "I suppose, if
he'd cared for me at all, I'd have been crazy about him.  It isn't
because he's good looking.  I - well, I don't know why.  I just
know, as long as I can remember, I - however, that's not important.
He thinks I'm a nice little thing and lets it go at that.  It's a
good bit worse, of course, than having him hate me."

"Sometimes I think you are not very happy."

"I'm happier than I would be trying to make him fall in love with
me.  Oh, you needn't be shocked.  It can be done.  Lots of girls do
it.  It isn't any moral sense that keeps me from it, either.  It's
just pride."

"My dear!"

"And there's another angle to it.  I wouldn't marry a man who hasn't
got a mind of his own.  Even if I had the chance, which I haven't.
That silly mother of his - she is silly, daddy, and selfish - Do
you know what she is doing now?"

"We ought not to discuss her.  She - "

"Fiddlesticks.  You love gossip and you know it."

Her tone was light, but the rector felt that arm around his neck
tighten.  He surmised a depth of feeling that made him anxious.

"She is trying to marry him to Marion Hayden."

The rector sat up, almost guiltily.

"But - are you sure she is doing that?"

"Everybody says so.  She thinks that if he is married, and there is
a war, he won't want to go if he has a wife."  She was silent for a
moment.  "Marion will drive him straight to the devil, daddy."

The rector reached up and took her hand.  She cared more than she
would admit, he saw.  She had thought the thing out, perhaps in the
long night - when he slept placidly.  Thought and suffered, he
surmised.  And again he remembered his worldly plans for her, and
felt justly punished.

"I suppose it is hard for a father to understand how any one can
know his little girl and not love her.  Or be the better for it."

She kissed him and slid off the arm of his chair.

"Don't you worry," she said cheerfully.  "I had to make an ideal
for myself about somebody.  Every girl does.  Sometimes it's the
plumber.  It doesn't really matter who it is, so you can pin your
dreams to him.  The only thing that hurts is that Graham wasn't
worth while."

She went back to her little cards, but some ten minutes later the
rector, lost in thought, heard the scratching of her pen cease.

"Did you ever think, daddy," she said, "of the influence women have
over men? Look at the Spencers.  Mrs. Spencer spoiling Graham, and
making her husband desperately unhappy.  And - "

"Unhappy?  What makes you think that?"

"He looks unhappy."

The rector was startled.  He had an instant vision of Clayton
Spencer, tall, composed, handsome, impeccably clothed.  He saw him
in the setting that suited him best, the quiet elegance of his home.
Clayton unhappy!  Nonsense.  But he was uneasy, too.  That very
gravity which he had noticed lately, that was certainly not the
gravity of an entirely happy man.  Clayton had changed, somehow.
Was there trouble there?  And if there were, why?

The rector, who reduced most wretchedness to terms of dollars and
cents, of impending bills and small deprivations found himself at
a loss.

"I am sure you are wrong," he objected, rather feebly.

Delight eyed him with the scorn of nineteen for fifty.

"I wonder what you would do," she observed, "if mother just lay
around all day, and had her hair done, and got new clothes, and
never thought a thought of her own, and just used you as a sort of
walking bank-account?"

"My dear, I really can not - "

"I'll tell you what you'd do," she persisted.  "You'd fall in love
with somebody else, probably.  Or else you'd just naturally dry up
and be made a bishop."

He was extremely shocked at that, and a little hurt.  It took her
some time to establish cheerful relations again, and a very humble
apology.  But her words stuck in the rector's mind.  He made a note
for a sermon, with the text: "Her children arise up, and call her
blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her."

He went quietly into the great stone building and sat down.  The
organist was practicing the Introit anthem, and half way up the
church a woman was sitting quietly.

The rector leaned back, and listened to the music.  He often did
that when he had a sermon in his mind.  It was peaceful and quiet.
Hard to believe, in that peace of great arches and swelling music,
that across the sea at that moment men were violating that
fundamental law of the church, "Thou shalt not kill."

The woman turned her head, and he saw that it was Audrey Valentine.
He watched her with kindly, speculative eyes.  Self-reliant,
frivolous Audrey, sitting alone in the church she had so casually
attended - surely that was one of the gains of war.  People all
came to it ultimately.  They held on with both hands as long as
they could, and then they found their grasp growing feeble and
futile, and they turned to the Great Strength.

The organist had ceased.  Audrey was kneeling now.  The rector,
eyes on the gleaming cross above the altar, repeated softly:

"Save and deliver us, we humbly beseech Thee, from the hands of
our enemies; that we, being armed with Thy defense, may be
preserved evermore from all perils."

Audrey was coming down the aisle.  She did not see him.  She had,
indeed, the fixed eyes of one who still looks inward.  She was
very pale, but there was a new look of strength in her face, as
of one who has won a victory.

"To glorify Thee, who are the only giver of all victory, through
the merits of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord," finished the rector.




CHAPTER XXV

On the last day of February Audrey came home from her shorthand
class and stood wearily by the window, too discouraged even to
remove her hat.  The shorthand was a failure; the whole course was
a failure.  She had not the instinct for plodding, for the
meticulous attention to detail that those absurd, irrational lines
and hooks and curves demanded.

She could not even spell!  And an idiot of an instructor had found
fault with the large square band she wrote, as being uncommercial.
Uncommercial!  Of course it was.  So was she uncommercial.  She had
dreamed a dream of usefulness, but after all, why was she doing it?
We would never fight.  Here we were, saying to Germany that we had
ceased to be friends and letting it go at that.

She might go to England.  They needed women there.  But not
untrained women.  Not, she thought contemptuously, women whose only
ability lay in playing bridge, or singing French chansons with no
particular voice.

After all, the only world that was open to her was her old world.
It liked her.  It even understood her.  It stretched out a tolerant,
pleasure-beckoning hand to her.

"I'm a fool," she reflected bitterly.  "I'm not happy, and I'm not
useful.  I might as well play.  It's all I can do."

But her real hunger was for news of Clayton.  Quite suddenly he had
stopped dropping in on his way up-town.  He had made himself the
most vital element in her life, and then taken himself out of it.
At first she had thought he might be ill.  It seemed too cruel
otherwise.  But she saw his name with increasing frequency in the
newspapers.  It seemed to her that every relief organization in
the country was using his name and his services.  So he was not ill.

He had tired of her, probably.  She had nothing to give, had no
right to give anything.  And, of course, he could not know how much
he had meant to her, of courage to carry on.  How the memory of his
big, solid, dependable figure had helped her through the bad hours
when the thought of Chris's defection had left her crushed and
abject.

She told herself that the reason she wanted to see Natalie was
because she had neglected her shamefully.  Perhaps that was what
was wrong with Clay; perhaps he felt that, by avoiding Natalie,
she was putting their friendship on a wrong basis.  Actually, she
had reached that point all loving women reach, when even to hear
a beloved name, coming out of a long silence, was both torture
and necessity.

She took unusual pains with her dress that afternoon, and it was
a very smart, slightly rouged and rather swaggering Audrey who made
her first call in weeks on Natalie that afternoon.

Natalie was a little stiff, still slightly affronted.

"I thought you must have left town," she said.  "But you look as
though you'd been having a rest cure."

"Rouge," said Audrey, coolly.  "No, I haven't been entirely resting."

"There are all sorts of stories going about.  That you're going into
a hospital; that you're learning to fly; that you're in the secret
service?"

"Just because I find it stupid going about without a man!"
Natalie eyed her shrewdly, but there was no self-consciousness in
Audrey's face.  If the stories were true, and there had been
another woman, she was carrying it off well.

"At least Chris is in France.  I have to go, when I go, without
Clay.  And there is no excuse whatever."

"You mean - he is working?"

"Not at night.  He is simply obstinate.  He says he is tired. I
don't really mind any more.  He is so hatefully heavy these days."

"Heavy!  Clay!"

"My dear!" Natalie drew her chair closer and lowered her voice.
"What can one do with a man who simply lives war?  He spends hours
over the papers.  He's up if the Allies make a gain, and impossible
if they don't.  I can tell by the very way he slams the door of his
room when he comes home what the news is.  It's dreadful."

Audrey flushed.

"I wish there were more like him."

But Natalie smiled tolerantly.

"You are not married to him.  I suppose the war is important, but I
don't want it twenty-four hours a day.  I want to forget it if I can.
It's hideous."

Audrey's mouth twitched.  After all, what was the good of talking to
Natalie.  She would only be resentful.

"How is the house coming on?" she asked.

She had Natalie on happy ground there.  For a half-hour she looked
at blueprints and water-color sketches, heard Rodney's taste
extolled, listened to plans for a house-party which she gathered
was, rather belatedly, to include her.  And through it all she was
saying to herself,

"This is his wife.  This is the woman he loves.  He has had a child
by her.  He is building this house for her.  He goes into her room
as Chris came into mine.  And she is not good enough.  She is not
good enough."

Now that she had seen Natalie, she knew why she had not seen her
before.  She was jealous of her.  Jealous and contemptuous.  Suddenly
she hated Natalie.  She hated her because she was Clayton
Spencer's wife, with all that that implied.  She hated her because
she was unworthy of him.  She hated her because she loved Clay, and
hated her more because she loved herself more than she loved him.

Audrey sat back in her chair and saw that she had traveled a long
way along a tragic road.  For the first time in her brave and
reckless life she was frightened.  She was even trembling.  She
lighted a cigaret from the stand at Natalie's elbow to steady
herself.

Natalie chattered on, and Audrey gave her the occasional nod that
was all she needed.  She thought,

"Does he know about her?  Is he still fooled?  She is almost
beautiful.  Rodney is falling in love with her, probably.  Does he
know that?  Will he care terribly if he finds it out?  She looks
cold, but one can't tell, and some men - has she a drop of honest,
unselfish passion in her?"

She got up suddenly.

"Heavens, how late it is!" she said.  "I must run on."

"Why not stay on to dinner?  Graham is seldom home, and we can talk,
if Clay doesn't."

The temptation to see Clay again was strong in Audrey.  But suddenly
she knew that she did not want to see them together, in the intimacy
of their home.  She did not want to sit between them at dinner, and
then go away, leaving them there together.  And something
fundamentally honest in her told her that she had no right to sit at
their table.

"I'll come another time, if you'll ask me.  Not to-day," she said.
And left rather precipitately.  It hurt her, rather, to have Natalie,
with an impulsive gesture, gather the flowers out of a great jar and
insist on her carrying them home with her.  It gave her a miserable
sense of playing unfairly.

She walked home.  The fresh air, after Natalie's flower-scented,
overheated room, made her more rational.  She knew where she stood,
anyhow.  She was in love with Clayton Spencer.  She had, she
reflected cynically, been in love before.  A number of times before.
She almost laughed aloud.  She had called those things love, those
sickly romances, those feeble emotions!

Then her eyes filled with unexpected tears.  She had always wanted
some one to make her happy.  Now she wanted to make some one happy.
She cared nothing for the cost.  She would put herself out of it
altogether.  He was not happy.  Any one could see that.  He had
everything, but he was not happy.  If he belonged to her, she would
live to make him happy.  She would -

Suddenly she remembered Chris.  Perhaps she did not know how to
hold a man's love.  She had not held him.  He had protested that
she was the only woman he had ever loved, but all the time there
had been that other girl.  How account for her, then?

"He did not think of me," she reflected defiantly, "I shall not
think of him."

She was ashamed of that instantly.  After all, Chris was doing a
man's part now.  She was no longer angry with him.  She had written
him that, over and over, in the long letters she had made a point
of sending him.  Only, she did not love him any more.  She thought
now that she never had loved him.

What about the time when he came back?  What would she do then?
She shivered.

But Chris, after all, was not to come back.  He would never come
back again.  The cable was there when she reached her apartment
- a cold statement, irrefutable, final.

She had put the flowers on the table and had raised her hands to
unpin her hat when she saw it.  She read it with a glance first,
then slowly, painfully, her heart contracted as if a hand had
squeezed it.  She stood very still, not so much stricken as
horrified, and her first conscious thought was of remorse, terrible,
gasping remorse.  All that afternoon, while she had been hating
Natalie and nursing her love for Clay, Chris had been lying dead
somewhere.

Chris was dead.

She felt very tired, but not faint.  It seemed dreadful, indeed,
that she could be standing there, full of life, while Chris was
dead.  Such grief as she felt was for him, not for herself.  He had
loved life so, even when he cheapened it.  He had wanted to live
and now he was dead.  She, who did not care greatly to live, lived
on, and he was gone.

All at once she felt terribly alone.  She wanted some one with her.
She wanted to talk it all out to some one who understood.  She
wanted Clay.  She said to herself that she did not want him because
she loved him.  All love was dead in her now.  She wanted him
because he was strong and understanding.  She made this very clear
to herself, because she had a morbid fancy that Chris might be
watching her.  There were people who believed that sort of thing.
To her excited fancy it seemed as though Chris's cynical smile might
flash out from any dusky corner.

She knew she was not being quite rational.  Which was strange,
because she felt so strong, and because the voice with which she
called Clayton's number was so steady.  She knew, too, that she was
no longer in love with Clay, because his steady voice over the
telephone left her quite calm and unmoved.

"I want you to come up, Clay," she said.  "If you can, easily."

"I can come at once.  Is anything wrong?"

"Chris has been killed," she replied, and hung up the receiver.
Then she sat down to wait, and to watch for Chris's cynical smile
to flash in some dusky corner.

Clayton found her there, collapsed in her chair, a slim, gray-faced
girl with the rouge giving a grotesque vitality to her bloodless
cheeks.  She got up very calmly and gave him the cablegram.  Then
she fainted in a crumpled heap at his feet.




CHAPTER XXVI

The new munition plant was nearing completion.  Situated on the
outskirts of the city, it spread over a vast area of what had once
been waste land.  Of the three long buildings, two were already in
operation and the third was well under way.

To Clayton Spencer it was the realization of a dream.  He never
entered the great high-walled enclosure without a certain surprise
at the ease with which it had all been accomplished, and a thrill
of pride at the achievement.  He found the work itself endlessly
interesting.  The casts, made of his own steel, lying in huge rusty
heaps in the yard; the little cars which carried them into the plant;
the various operations by which the great lathes turned them out,
smooth and shining, only to lose their polish when, heated again,
they were ready for the ponderous hammer to close their gaping jaws.
The delicacy of the work appealed to him, the machining to a
thousandth of an inch, the fastidious making of the fuses, tiny
things almost microscopic, and requiring the delicate touch of
girls, most of whom had been watchmakers and jewelry-workers.

And with each carload of the finished shells that left the plant
he felt a fine glow of satisfaction.  The output was creeping up.
Soon they would be making ten thousand shells a day.  And every
shell was one more chance for victory against the Hun.  It became
an obsession with him to make more, ever more.

As the work advanced, he found an unexpected enthusiasm in Graham.
Here was something to be done, a new thing.  The steel mill had been
long established.  Its days went on monotonously.  The boy found it
noisy, dirty, without appeal to his imagination.  But the shell
plant was different.  There were new problems to face, of labor, of
supplies, of shipping and output.

He was, however, reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the
break with Germany was the final step that the Government intended
to take.  That it would not declare war.

However, the break had done something.  It had provided him with
men from the local National Guard to police the plant, and he found
the government taking a new interest, an official interest, in his
safety.  Agents from the Military Intelligence and the Department
of Justice scanned his employment lists and sent agents into the
plant.  In the building where men and women were hired, each
applicant passed a desk where they were quietly surveyed by two
unobstrusive gentlemen in indifferent business suits who eyed them
carefully.  Around the fuse department, where all day girls and
women handled guncotton and high-explosive powder, a special guard
was posted, day and night.

Early in March Clayton put Graham in charge of the first of the
long buildings to be running full, and was rewarded by a new look
in the boy's face.  He was almost startled at the way he took it.

"I'll do my very best, sir," he said, rather huskily.  "If I can't
fight, I can help put the swine out of business, anyhow."

He was by that time quite sure that Natalie had extracted a promise
of some sort from the boy.  On the rare occasions when Graham was
at home he was quiet and suppressed.

He was almost always at Marion Hayden's in the evenings, and from
things he let fall, Clayton gathered that the irresponsible group
which centered about Marion was, in the boy's own vernacular,
rather "shot to pieces."  Tommy Hale had gone to England to join
the Royal Flying Corps.  One or two of them were in Canada, trying
to enlist there, and one evening Graham brought home to dinner
an inordinately tall and thin youngster in the kilts of a
Scotch-Canadian regiment, with an astounding length of thin leg
below his skirts, who had been one of Marion's most reckless
satellites.

"Look like a fool, I know, sir," said the tall individual sheepishly.
"Just had to get in it somehow.  No camouflage about these skirts,
is there?"

And Clayton had noticed, with a thrill of sympathy, how wistfully
Graham eyed the debonnair young Scot by adoption, and how Buckham
had hovered over him, filling his plate and his glass.  Even Graham
noticed Buckham.

"Old boy looks as though he'd like to kiss you, Sid," he said.
"It's the petticoats.  Probably thinks you're a woman."

"I look better with my legs under the table," said the tall boy,
modestly.

Clayton was still determined that Graham should fight the thing out
for himself.  He wished, sometimes, that he knew Marion Hayden's
attitude.  Was she like Natalie?  Would she, if the time came, use
her undeniable influence for or against?  And there again he
resented the influence of women in the boy's life.  Why couldn't
he make his own decisions?  Why couldn't they let him make his own
decisions?

He remembered his father, and how his grandmother, in '61, had put
a Bible into one pocket and a housewife into another, and had sent
him off to war.  Had the fiber of our women weakened since then?
But he knew it had not.  All day, in the new plant, women were
working with high-explosives quite calmly.  And there were Audrey
and the Haverford women, strong enough, in all conscience.

Every mental path, those days, somehow led eventually to Audrey.
She was the lighted window at the end of the long trail.

Graham was, as a matter of fact, trying to work out his own
salvation.  He blundered, as youth always blunders, and after a
violent scene with Marion Hayden he made an attempt to break off
his growing intimacy with Anna Klein - to find, as many a man had
before him, that the sheer brutality of casting off a loving woman
was beyond him.

The scene with Marion came one Sunday in the Spencer house, with
Natalie asleep up-stairs after luncheon, and Clayton walking off
a sense of irritation in the park.  He did not like the Hayden
girl.  He could not fathom Natalie's change of front with regard
to Graham and the girl.  He had gone out, leaving them together,
and Marion had launched her attack fiercely.

"Now!" she cried.

"I couldn't come last night.  That's all, Marion."

 "It is certainly not all.  Why couldn't you come?"

"I worked late."

"Where?"

"At the plant."

"That's a lie, Graham.  I called the plant.  I'll tell you where
you were.  You were out with a girl.  You were seen, if you want
to know it."

"Oh, if you are going to believe everything you hear about me?"

"Don't act like a child.  Who was the girl?"

"It isn't like you to be jealous, Marion.  I let you run around all
the time with other fellows, but the minute I take a girl out for a
little spin, you're jealous."

"Jealous!" She laughed nastily.  But she knew she was losing her
temper; and brought herself up short.  Let him think she was jealous.
What really ailed her was deadly fear lest her careful plan go
astray.  She was terrified.  That was all.  And she meant to learn
who the girl was.

"I know who it was," she hazarded.

"I think you are bluffing."

"It was Delight Haverford."

"Delight!"

She knew then that she was wrong, but it was her chance to assail
Delight and she took it.

"That - child!" she continued contemptuously.  "Don't you suppose
I've seen how she looks at you?  I'm not afraid of her.  You are
too much a man of the world to let her put anything over on you.  At
least, I thought you were.  Of course, if you like milk and water?"

"It was not Delight," he said doggedly.  "And I don't think we need
to bring her into this at all.  She's not in love with me.  She
wouldn't wipe her feet on me."

Which was unfortunate.  Marion smiled slowly.

"Oh!  But you are good enough for me to be engaged to!  I wonder!"

He went to the window and stood for a moment looking out.  Then he
went slowly back to her.

"I'm not good enough for you to be engaged to, Marion," he said.
"I - don't you want to call it a day?"

She was really terrified then.  She went white and again, miserably,
he mistook her agitation for something deeper.

"You want to break the engagement?"

"Not if you still want me.  I only mean - I'm a pretty poor sort.
You ought to have the best, and God help this country if I'm the
best."

"Graham, you're in some sort of trouble?"

He drew himself up in boyish bravado.  He could not tell her the
truth.  It opened up too hideous a vista.  Even his consciousness
of the fact that the affair with Anna was still innocent did not
dull his full knowledge of whither it was trending.  He was cold
and wretched.

"It's nothing," he muttered.

"You can tell me.  You can tell me anything.  I know a lot, you see.
I'm no silly kitten.  If you're in a fix, I'll help you.  I don't
care what it is, I'll help you.  I?  I'm crazy about you, Graham."

Anna's words, too!

"Look here, Marion," he said, roughly, "you've got to do one of two
things.  Either marry me or let me go."

"Let you go!  I like that.  If that is how you feel?"

"Oh - don't." He threw up his arm.  "I want you.  You know that.
Marry me - to-morrow."

"I will not.  Do you think I'm going to come into this family and
have you cut off?  Don't you suppose I know that Clayton Spencer
hates the very chair I sit on?  He'll come and beg me to marry you,
some day.  Until then?"

"You won't do it?"

"To-morrow?  Certainly not."

And again he felt desperately his powerlessness to loosen the coils
that were closing round him, fetters forged of his own red blood,
his own youth, the woman-urge.

She was watching him with her calculating glance.

"You must be in trouble," she said.

"If I am, it's you and mother who have driven me there."

He was alarmed then, and lapsed into dogged silence.  His anxiety
had forced into speech thoughts that had never before been
articulate.  He was astounded to hear himself uttering them,
although with the very speaking he realized now that they were true.

"Sorry, Marion," he muttered.  "I didn't mean all that.  I'm excited.
That's all."

When he sat down beside her again and tried to take her hand, she
drew it away.

"You've been very cruel, Graham," she said.  "I've been selfish.
Every girl who is terribly in love is selfish.  I am going to give
you your ring, and leave you free to do whatever you want."

Her generosity overcame him.  He was instantly ashamed, humbled.

"Don't!" he begged.  "Don't let me go.  I'll just go to the dogs.
If you really care?"

"Care!" she said softly.  And as he buried his head in her lap she
stroked his hair softly.  Her eyes, triumphant, surveyed the long
room, with its satin-paneled walls, its French furniture, its
long narrow gilt-framed mirrors softening the angles of the four
corners.

Some day all this would be hers.  For this she would exchange the
untidy and imitation elegance of her present setting.

She stroked the boy's head absently.

Graham made an attempt to free himself the next day.  He was about
to move his office to the new plant, and he made a determination
not to take Anna with him.

He broke it to her as gently as he could.

"Mr. Weaver is taking my place here," he said, avoiding her eyes.

"Yes, Graham."

"He'll - there ought to be some one here who knows the ropes."

"Do you mean me?"

"Well, you know them, don't you?"  He had tried to smile at her.

"Do you mean that you are going to have another secretary at the
plant?"

"Look here, Anna," he said impulsively.  "You know things can't 
go on indefinitely, the way we are now.  You know it, don't you."

She looked down and nodded.

"Well, don't you think I'd better leave you here?"

She fumbled nervously with her wrist-watch.

"I won't stay here if you go," she said finally.  "I hate Mr. Weaver.
I'm afraid of him.  I - oh, don't leave me, Graham.  Don't.  I
haven't anybody but you.  I haven't any home - not a real home.
You ought to see him these days."  She always referred to her father
as "him."  "He's dreadful.  I'm only happy when I'm here with you."

He was angry, out of sheer despair.

"I've told you," he said.  "Things can't go on as they are.  You
know well enough what I mean.  I'm older than you are, Anna.  God
knows I don't want any harm to come to you through me.  But, if we
continue to be together - "

"I'm not blaming you." She looked at him honestly.  "I'd just rather
have you care about me than marry anybody else."

He kissed her, with a curious mingling of exultation and despair.
He left her there when he went away that afternoon, a rather
downcast young figure, piling up records and card-indexes, and
following him to the door with worshiping, anxious eyes.  Later on
in the afternoon Joey, wandering in from Clayton's office on one of
his self-constituted observation tours, found her crying softly while
she wiped her typewriter, preparatory to covering it for the night.

"Somebody been treatin' you rough?" he asked, more sympathetic than
curious.

"What are you doing here, anyhow?" she demanded, angrily.  "You're
always hanging around, spying on me."

"Somebody's got to keep an eye on you."

"Well, you don't."

"Look here," he said, his young-old face twitching with anxiety.
"You get out from under, kid.  You take my advice, and get out from
under.  Something's going to fall."

"Just mind your own business, and stop worrying about me.  That's
all."

He turned and started out.

"Oh, very well," he said sharply.  "But you might take a word of
warning, anyhow.  That cousin of yours has got an eye on you, all
right.  And we don't want any scandal about the place."

"We?  Who are 'we'?"

"Me and Mr. Clayton Spencer," said Joey, smartly, and went out,
banging the door cheerfully.

Anna climbed the hill that night wearily, but with a sense of relief
that Rudolph had not been waiting for her at the yard gate.  She was
in no mood to thrust and parry with him.  She wondered, rather dully,
what mischief Rudolph was up to.  He was gaining a tremendous
ascendency over her father, she knew.  Herman was spending more and
more of his evenings away from home, creaking up the stairs late at
night, shoes in hand, to undress in the cold darkness across the hall.

"Out?" she asked Katie, sitting by the fire with the evening paper.
Conversation in the cottage was almost always laconic.

"Ate early," Katie returned.  "Rudolph was here, too.  I'm going to
quit if I've got to cook for that sneak any longer.  You'd think he
had a meal ticket here.  Your supper's on the stove."

"I'm not hungry." She ate her supper, however, and undressed by the
fire.  Then she went up-stairs and sat by her window in the gathering
night.  She was suffering acutely.  Graham was tired of her.  He
wanted to get rid of her.  Probably he had a girl somewhere else, a
lady.  Her idea of the life of such a girl had been gathered from
novels.

"The sort that has her breakfast in bed," she muttered, "and has her
clothes put on her by somebody.  Her underclothes, too!"

The immodesty of the idea made her face burn with anger.

Late that night Herman came back.

Herman had been a difficult proposition for Rudolph to handle.  His
innate caution, his respect for law and, under his bullying
exterior, a certain physical cowardice, made him slow to move in
the direction Rudolph was urging.  He was controversial.  He liked
to argue over the beer and schnitzel Rudolph bought.  And Rudolph
was growing impatient.

Rudolph himself was all eagerness and zeal.  It was his very zeal
that was his danger, although it brought him slavish followers.  He
was contemptuous, ill-tempered, and impatient, but, of limited
intelligence himself, he understood for that very reason the mental
processes of those he would lead.  There was a certain simplicity
even in his cunning.  With Herman he was a ferret driving out of
their hiding-places every evil instinct that lay dormant.  Under
his goading, Herman was becoming savage, sullen, and potentially
violent.

He was confused, too.  Rudolph's arguments always confused him.

He was confused that night, heavy with fatigue and with Rudolph's
steady talk in his ear.  He was tired of pondering great questions,
tired of hearing about the Spencers and the money they were making.

Anna's clothing was scattered about the room, and he frowned at
it.  She spent too much money on her clothes.  Always sewing at
something -

He stooped down to gather up his shoes, and his ear thus brought
close to the table was conscious in the silence of a faint
rhythmical sound.  He stood up and looked about.  Then he moved
the newspaper on the table.  Underneath it, forgotten in her
anxiety and trouble, lay the little gold watch.

He picked it up, still following his train of thought.  It fitted
into the evening's inflammable proceedings.  So, with such
trinkets as this, capital would silence the cry of labor for its
just share in the products of its skill and strength!  It would
bribe, and cheaply.  Ten dollars, perhaps, that ticking insult.
For ten dollars -

He held it close to his spectacles.  Ah, but it was not so cheap.
It came from the best shop in the city.  He weighed it carefully
in his hand, and in so doing saw the monogram.  A doubt crept into
his mind, a cold and chilling fear.  Since when had the Spencer
plant taken to giving watches for Christmas?  The hill girls who
worked as stenographers in the plant; they came in often enough and
he did not remember any watches, or any mention of watches.  His
mind, working slowly, recalled that never before had he seen the
watch near at hand.  And he went into a slow and painful calculation.
Fifty dollars at least it had cost.  A hundred stenographers - that
would be five thousand dollars for watches.

Suddenly he knew that Anna had lied to him.  One of two things, then:
either she had spent money for it, unknown to him, or some one had
given it to her.  There was, in his mind, not much difference in
degree between the two alternatives.  Both were crimes of the first
magnitude.

He picked the watch up between his broad thumb and forefinger, and
then, his face a cold and dreadful mask, he mounted the stairs.




CHAPTER XXVII

Clayton Spencer was facing with characteristic honesty a situation
that he felt was both hopeless and shameful.

He was hopelessly in love with Audrey.  He knew now that he had
known it for a long time.  Here was no slender sentiment, no thin
romance.  With every fiber of him, heart and soul and body, he
loved her and wanted her.  There was no madness about it, save
the fact itself, which was mad enough.  It was not the single
attraction of passion, although he recognized that element as
fundamental in it.  It was the craving of a strong man who had
at last found his woman.

He knew that, as certainly as he knew anything.  He did not even
question that she cared for him.  It was as though they both had
passed through the doubting period without knowing it, and had
arrived together at the same point, the crying need of each other.

He rather thought, looking back, that Audrey had known it sooner
than he had.  She had certainly known the night she learned of
Chris's death.  His terror when she fainted, the very way he had put
her out of his arms when she opened her eyes - those had surely told
her.  Yet, had Chris's cynical spirit been watching, there had been
nothing, even then.

There was, between them, nothing now.  He had given way to the
people who flocked to her with sympathy, had called her up now and
then, had sent her a few books, some flowers.  But the hopelessness
of the situation held him away from her.  Once or twice, at first,
he had called her on the telephone and had waited, almost trembling,
for her voice over the wire, only to ask her finally, in a voice
chilled with repression, how she was feeling, or to offer a car for
her to ride in the park.  And her replies were equally perfunctory.
She was well.  She was still studying, but it was going badly.  She
was too stupid to learn all those pot-hooks.

Once she had said:

"Aren't you ever coming to see me, Clay?"

Her voice had been wistful, and it had been a moment before he had
himself enough in hand to reply, formally:

"Thank you.  I shall, very soon."

But he had not gone to the little fiat again.

Through Natalie he heard of her now and then.

"I saw Audrey to-day," she said once.  "She is not wearing mourning.
It's bad taste, I should say.  When one remembers that she really
drove Chris to his death - "

He had interrupted her, angrily.

"That is a cruel misstatement, Natalie.  She did nothing of the
sort."

"You needn't bite me, you know.  He went, and had about as much
interest in this war as - as - "

"As you have," he finished.  And had gone out, leaving Natalie
staring after him.

He was more careful after that, but the situation galled him.  He
was no hypocrite, but there was no need of wounding Natalie
unnecessarily.  And that, after all, was the crux of the whole
situation.  Natalie.  It was not Natalie's fault that he had found
the woman of his heart too late.  He had no thought of blame for
her.  In decency, there was only one thing to do.  He could not
play the lover to her, but then he had not done that for a very
long time.  He could see, however, that she was not hurt.

Perhaps, in all her futile life, Natalie had, for all her
complaining, never been so content in her husband as in those
early spring months when she had completely lost him.  He made no
demands whatever.  In the small attentions, which he had never
neglected, he was even more assiduous.  He paid her ever-increasing
bills without comment.  He submitted, in those tense days when
every day made the national situation more precarious, to hours of
discussion as to the country house, to complaints as to his own
lack of social instinct, and to that new phase of her attitude
toward Marion Hayden that left him baffled and perplexed.

Then, on the Sunday when he left Graham and Marion together at the
house, he met Audrey quite by accident in the park.  He was almost
incredulous at first.  She came like the answer to prayer, a little
tired around the eyes, showing the strain of the past weeks, but
with that same easy walk and unconscious elegance that marked her,
always.

She was not alone.  There was a tall blonde girl beside her,
hideously dressed, but with a pleasant, shallow face.  Just before
they met Audrey stopped and held out her hand.

"Then you'll let me know, Clare?"

"Thank you.  I will, indeed, Mrs. Valentine."

With a curious glance at Clayton the girl went on.  Audrey smiled
at him.

"Please don't run!" she said.  "There are people looking.  It would
be so conspicuous."

"Run!" he replied.  He stood looking down at her, and at something
in his eyes her smile died.

"It's too wonderful, Clay."

For a moment he could not speak.  After all those weeks of hunger
for her there was no power in him to dissemble.  He felt a mad,
boyish impulse to hold out his arms to her, Malacca stick, gloves,
and all!

"It's a bit of luck I hadn't expected, Audrey," he said, at last,
unsteadily.

She turned about quite simply, and faced in the direction he was
going.

"I shall walk with you," she said, with a flash of her old
impertinence.  "You have not asked me to, but I shall, anyhow.  Only
don't call this luck.  It isn't at all.  I walk here every Sunday,
and every Sunday I say to myself - he will think he needs exercise.
Then he will walk, and the likeliest place for him to go is the park.
Good reasoning, isn't it?"

She glanced up at him, but his face was set and unsmiling.  "Don't
pay any attention to me, Clay.  I'm a little mad, probably.  You
see" - she hesitated - "I need my friends just now.  And when the
very best of them all hides away from me?"

"Don't say that.  I stayed away, because - " He hesitated.

"I'm almost through.  Don't worry!  But I was walking along before
I met Clare - I'll tell you about her presently - and I was saying
to myself that I thought God owed me something.  I didn't know just
what.  Happiness, maybe.  I've been careless and all that, but I've
never been wicked.  And yet I can look back, and count the really
happy days of my life on five fingers."

She held out one hand.

"Five fingers!" she repeated, "and I am twenty-eight.  The percentage
is pretty low, you know."

"Perhaps you and I ask too much?"

He was conscious of her quick, searching glance.

"Oh!  You feel that way, too?  I mean - as I do, that it's all hardly
worth while?  But you seem to have everything, Clay."

"You have one thing I lack.  Youth."

"Youth!  At twenty-eight!"

"You can still mold your life, Audrey dear.  You have had a bad time,
but - with all reverence to Chris's memory - his going out of it,
under the circumstances, is a grief.  But it doesn't spell shipwreck."

"Do you mean that I will marry again?" she asked, in a low tone.

"Don't you think you will, some time?  Some nice young chap who will
worship you all the days of his life?  That - well, that is what I
expect for you.  It's at least possible, you know."

"Is it what you want for me?"

"Good God!" he burst out, his restraint suddenly gone.  "What do
you want me to say?  What can I say, except that I want you to be
happy?  Don't you think I've gone over it all, over and over again?
I'd give my life for the right to tell you the things I think, but
- I haven't that right.  Even this little time together is wrong,
the way things are.  It is all wrong."

"I'm sorry, Clay.  I know.  I am just reckless to-day.  You know I
am reckless.  It's my vice.  But sometimes - we'd better talk about
the mill."

But he could not talk about the mill just then.  They walked along
in silence, and after a little he felt her touch his arm.

"Wouldn't it be better just to have it out?" she asked, wistfully.
"That wouldn't hurt anybody, would it?"

"I'm afraid, Audrey."

"I'm not," she said proudly.  "I sometimes think - oh, I think such
a lot these days - that if we talked these things over, I'd recover
my - friend.  I've lost him now, you see.  And I'm so horribly
lonely, Clay."

"Lost him!"

"Lost him," she repeated.  "I've lost my friend, and I haven't
gained anything.  It didn't hurt anybody for us to meet now and
then, Clay.  You know that.  I wish you would understand," she
added impatiently.  "I only want to go back to things as they were.
I want you to come in now and then.  We used to talk about all
sorts of things, and I miss that.  Plenty of people come, but that's
different.  It's only your occasional companionship I want.  I don't
want you to come and make love to me."

"You say you have missed the companionship," he said rather
unsteadily.  "I wonder if you think I haven't?"

"I know you have, my dear.  And that is why I want you to come.  To
come without being afraid that I expect or want anything else.
Surely we can manage that."

He smiled down at her, rather wryly, at her straight courageous
figure, her brave eyes, meeting his so directly.  How like her it
all was, the straightforwardness of it, the absence of coquetry.
And once again he knew, not only that he loved her with all the
depths of him, of his strong body and his vigorous mind, but that
she was his woman.  The one woman in the world for him.  It was as
though all his life he had been searching for her, and he had
found her, and it was too late.  She knew it, too.  It was in her
very eyes.

"I have wanted to come, terribly," he said finally.  And when she
held out her hand to him, he bent down and kissed it.

"Then that's settled," she said, in a matter-of-fact tone.  "And now
I'll tell you about Clare.  I'm rather proud of her."

"Clare?"

The tension had been so great that he had forgotten the blonde girl
entirely.

"Do you remember the night I got a hundred dollars from you?  And
later on, that I asked you for work in your mill for the girl I got
it for?"

"Do you mean?" He looked at her in surprise.

"That was the girl.  You see, she rather holds onto me.  It's awful
in a way, too.  It looks as though I am posing as magnanimous.  I'm
not, Clay.  If I had cared awfully it would have been different.
But then, if I had cared awfully, perhaps it would never have
happened."

"You have nothing to blame yourself for, Audrey."

"Well, I do, rather.  But that's not the point.  Sometimes when I
am alone I have wicked thoughts, you know, Clay.  I'm reckless, and
sometimes I think maybe there is only one life, and why not get
happiness out of it.  I realize that, but for some little kink in
my brain, I might be in Clare's position.  So I don't turn her out.
She's a poor, cheap thing, but - well, she is fond of me.  If I
had children - it's funny, but I rather mother her!  And she's
straight now, straight as a string!"

She was sensitive to his every thought, and she knew by the very
change in the angle of his head that he was thinking that over and
not entirely approving.  But he said finally:

"You're a big woman, Audrey."

"But you don't like it!"

"I don't like her troubling you."

"Troubling me!  She doesn't borrow money, you know.  Why, she makes
more money from your plant than I have to live on!  And she brings
me presents of flowers and the most awful embroidery, that she does
herself."

"You ought not to know that side of life."

She laughed a little bitterly.

"Not know it!" she said.  "I've had to know it.  I learned it pretty
well, too.  And don't make any mistake, Clay."  She looked up at him
with her clear, understanding gaze.  "Being good, decent, with a lot
of people is only the lack of temptation.  Only, thank God, there are
some who have the strength to withstand it when it comes."

And he read in her clear eyes her promise and her understanding;
that they loved each other, that it was the one big thing in both
their lives, but that between them there would be only the secret
inner knowledge of that love.  There would be no shipwreck.  And
for what she gave, she demanded his strength and his promise.  It
was to what he read in her face, not to her words, that he replied:

"I'll do my very best, Audrey dear."

He went back to her rooms with her, and she made him tea, while he
built the fire in the open fireplace and nursed it tenderly to a
healthy strength.  Overnursed it, she insisted.  They were rather
gay, indeed, and the danger-point passed by safely.  There was so
much to discuss, she pretended.  The President's unfortunate phrase
of "peace without victory"; the deportation of the Belgians, the
recent leak in Washington to certain stock-brokers, and more and
more imminent, the possibility of a state of war being recognized
by the government.

"If it comes," she said, gayly, "I shall go, of course.  I shall go
to France and sing them into battle.  My shorthand looks like a music
score, as it is.  What will you do?"

"I can't let you outshine me," he said.  "And I don't want to think
of your going over there without me.  My dear!  My dear!"

She ignored that, and gave him his tea, gravely.




CHAPTER XXVIII

When Natalie roused from her nap that Sunday afternoon, it was to
find Marion gone, and Graham waiting for her in her boudoir.
Through the open door she could see him pacing back and forward and
something in his face made her vaguely uneasy.  She assumed the
child-like smile which so often preserved her from the disagreeable.

"What a sleep I've had," she said, and yawned prettily.  "I'll have
one of your cigarets, darling, and then let's take a walk."

Graham knew Natalie's idea of a walk, which was three or four blocks
along one of the fashionable avenues, with the car within hailing
distance.  At the end of the fourth block she always declared that
her shoes pinched, and called the machine.

"You don't really want to walk, mother."

"Of course I do, with you.  Ring for Madeleine, dear."

She was uncomfortable.  Graham had been very queer lately.  He
would have long, quiet spells, and then break out in an
uncontrollable irritation, generally at the servants.  But Graham
did not ring for Madeleine.  He lighted a cigaret for Natalie, and
standing off, surveyed her.  She was very pretty.  She was prettier
than Toots.  That pale blue wrapper, or whatever it was, made her
rather exquisite.  And Natalie, curled up on her pale rose chaise
longue, set to work as deliberately to make a conquest of her son
as she had ever done to conquer Rodney Page, or the long list of
Rodney's predecessors.

"You're growing very handsome, you know, boy," she said.  "Almost
too handsome.  A man doesn't need good looks.  They're almost a
handicap.  Look at your father."

"They haven't hurt him any, I should say."

"I don't know." She reflected, eyeing her cigaret.  "He presumes on
them, rather.  And a good many men never think a handsome man has
any brains."

"Well, he fools them there, too."

She raised her eyebrows slightly.

"Tell me about the new plant, Graham."

"I don't know anything about it yet," he said bluntly.  "And you
wouldn't be really interested if I did."

"That's rather disagreeable of you."

"No; I'm just trying to talk straight, for once.  We - you and I
- we always talk around things.  I don't know why."

"You look terribly like your father just now.  You are quite savage."

"That's exactly what I mean, mother.  You don't say father is savage.
God knows he isn't that.  You just say I act like father, and that I
am savage."

Natalie blew a tiny cloud of cigaret smoke, and watched it for a
moment.

"You sound fearfully involved.  But never mind about that.  I daresay
I've done something; I don't know what, but of course I am guilty."

"Why did you bring Marion here to-day, mother?"

"Well, if you want to know exactly, I met her coming out of church,
and it occurred to me that we were having rather a nice luncheon,
and that it would be a pity not to ask some one to come in.  It was
a nice luncheon, wasn't it?"

"That's why you asked her?  For food?"

"Brutally put, but correct."

"You have been asking her here a lot lately.  And yet the last time
we discussed her you said she was fast.  That she wanted to marry
me for my money.  That people would laugh if I fell for it."

"I hardly used those words, did I?"

"For heaven's sake, mother," he cried, exasperated.  "Don't quibble.
Let's get down to facts.  Does your bringing her here mean that
you've changed your mind?"

Natalie considered.  She was afraid of too quick a surrender lest
he grow suspicious.  She decided to temporize, with the affectation
of frankness that had once deceived Clayton, and that still, she
knew, affected Graham.

"I'll tell you exactly," she said, slowly.  "At first I thought it
was just an infatuation.  And - you really are young, Graham,
although you look and act like such a man.  But I feel, now that
time has gone on and you still care about her, that after all, your
happiness is all that matters."

"Mother!"

But she held up her hand.

"Remember, I am only speaking for myself.  My dearest wish is to
make you happy.  You are all I have.  But I cannot help you very
much.  Your father looks at those things differently.  He doesn't
quite realize that you are grown up, and have a right to decide
some things for yourself."

"He has moved me up, raised my salary."

"That's different.  You're valuable to him, naturally.  I don't mean
he doesn't love you," she added hastily, as Graham wheeled and
stared at her.  "Of course he does, in his own way.  It's not my way,
but then - I'm only a woman and a mother."

"You think he'll object?"

"I think he must be handled.  If you rush at him, and demand the
right to live your own life - "

"It is my life."

"Precisely.  Only he may not see it that way."

He took a step toward her.

"Mother, do you really want me to marry Marion?"

"I think you ought to be married."

"To Marion?"

"To some one you love."

"Circles again," he muttered.  "You've changed your mind, for some
reason.  What is it, mother?"

He had an uneasy thought that she might have learned of Anna.  There
was that day, for instance, when his father had walked into the
back room.

Natalie was following a train of thought suggested by her own anxiety.

"You might be married quietly," she suggested.  "Once it was done,
I am sure your father would come around.  You are both of age, you
know."

He eyed her then with open-eyed amazement.

"Tm darned if I understand you," he burst out.  And then, in one of
his quick remorses, "I'm sorry, mother.  I'm just puzzled, that's
all.  But that plan's no good, anyhow.  Marion won't do it.  She
will have to be welcome in the family, or she won't come."

"She ought to be glad to come any way she can," Natalie said sharply.
And found Graham's eyes on her, studying her.

"You don't want her.  That's plain.  But you do want her.  That's
not so plain.  What's the answer, mother?"

And Natalie, with an irritable feeing that she had bungled somehow,
got up and flung away the cigaret.

"I am trying to give you what you want," she said pettishly.  "That's
clear enough, I should think."

"There's no other reason?"

"What other reason could there be?"

Dressing to dine at the Hayden's that night, Graham heard Clayton
come in and go into his dressing-room.  He had an impulse to go
over, tie in hand as he was, and put the matter squarely before his
father.  The marriage-urge - surely a man would understand that.
Even Anna, and his predicament there.  Anything was better than this
constant indirectness of gaining his father's views through his
mother.

Had he done so, things would have been different later.  But by
continual suggestion a vision of his father as hard, detached,
immovable, had been built up in his mind.  He got as far as the
door, hesitated, turned back.

It was Marion herself who solved the mystery of Natalie's changed
attitude, when Graham told of it that night.  She sat listening, her
eyes slightly narrowed, restlessly turning her engagement ring.

"Well, at least that's something," she said, noncommittally.  But
in her heart she knew, as one designing woman may know another.  She
knew that Natalie had made Graham promise not to enlist at once, if
war was declared, and now she knew that she was desperately
preparing to carry her fear for Graham a step further, even at the
cost of having her in the family.

She smiled wryly.  But there was triumph in the smile, too.  She had
them now.  The time would come when they would crawl to her to marry
Graham, to keep him from going to war.  Then she would make her own
terms.

In the meantime the thing was to hold him by every art she knew.

There was another girl, somewhere.  She had been more frightened
about that than she cared to admit, even to herself.  She must hold
him close.

She used every art she knew.  She deliberately inflamed him.  And
the vicious circle closed in about him, Natalie and Marion and Anna
Klein.  And to offset them, only Delight Haverford, at evening
prayer in Saint Luke's, and voicing a tiny petition for him, that
he might walk straight, that he might find peace, even if that peace
should be war.




CHAPTER XXIX

Herman Klein, watch between forefinger and thumb, climbed heavily
to Anna's room.  She heard him pause outside the door, and her
heart almost stopped beating.  She had been asleep, and rousing
at his step, she had felt under the pillow for her watch to see
the time.  It was not there.

She remembered then; she had left it below, on the table.  And he
was standing outside her door.  She heard him scratching a match,
striking it against the panel of her door.  For so long as it would
take the match to burn out, she heard him there, breathing heavily.
Then the knob turned.

She leaped out of the bed in a panic of fear.  The hall, like the
room, was dark, and she felt his ponderous body in the doorway,
rather than saw it.

"You will put on something and come down-stairs," he said harshly.

"I will not." She tried to keep her voice steady.  "I've got to
work, if you haven't.  I've got to have my sleep."  Her tone rose,
hysterically.  "If you think you can stay out half the night, and
guzzle beer, and then come here to get me up, you can think again."

"You are already up," he said, in a voice slowed and thickened by
rage.  "You will come down-stairs."

He turned away and descended the creaking stairs again.  She
listened for the next move, but he made none.  She knew then that
he was waiting at the foot of the stairs.

She was half-maddened with terror by that time, and she ran to the
window.  But it was high.  Even if she could have dropped out, and
before she could put on enough clothing to escape in, he would be
back again, his rage the greater for the delay.  She slipped into
a kimono, and her knees giving way under her she went down the
stairs.  Herman was waiting.  He moved under the lamp, and she saw
that he held the watch, dangling.

"Now!" he said.  "Where you got this?  Tell me."

"I've told you how I got it."

"That was a lie."

So - Rudolph had told him!

"I like that!" she blustered, trying to gain time.  "I guess it's
time they gave me something - I've worked hard enough.  They gave
them to all the girls."

"That is a lie also."

"I like that.  Telling me I'm lying.  You ask Mr.  Graham Spencer.
He'll tell you."

"If that is true, why do you shake so?"

"You scare me, father."  She burst into frightened tears.  "I don't
know what's got into you.  I do my best.  I give you all I make.
I've kept this house going, and" -  she gained a little courage
- "I've had darned little thanks for it."

"You think I believe the mill gave five thousand dollars in watches
last Christmas?  To-morrow I go, with this to Mr. Clayton Spencer,
not to that degenerate son of his, and I ask him.  Then I shall
know."

He turned, as if about to leave her, but the alternative he offered
her was too terrible.

"Father!" she said.  "I'll tell you the truth.  I bought it myself."

"With what money?"

"I had a raise.  I didn't tell you.  I had a raise of five dollars a
week.  I'm paying for it myself.  Honest to heaven, that's right,
father."

"So - you have had a raise, and you have not told me?"

"I give all the rest to you.  What do I get out of all my hard work?
Just a place to live.  No clothes.  No fun.  No anything.  All the
other girls have a good time now and then, but I'm just like a
prisoner.  You take all I earn, and I get - the devil."

Her voice rose to a terrified squeal.  Behind her she heard the
slovenly servant creaking down the stairs.  As Herman moved toward
her she screamed.

"Katie!" she called.  "Quick.  Help!"

But Herman had caught her by the shoulder and was dragging her
toward a corner, where there hung a leather strap.

Katie, peering round the door of the enclosed staircase, saw him
raise the strap, and Anna's white face upraised piteously.

"For God's sake, father."

The strap descended.  Even after Katie had rushed up the stairs and
locked herself in the room, she could hear, above Anna's cries, the
thud of the strap, relentless, terrible, lusty with cruelty.

Herman went to church the next morning.  Lying in her bed, too sore
and bruised to move, Anna heard him carefully polishing his boots on
the side porch, heard him throw away the water after he had shaved,
heard at last the slam of the gate as he started, upright in his
Sunday clothes, for church.

Only when he had reached the end of the street, and Katie could see
him picking his way down the blackened hill, did she venture up with
a cup of coffee.  Anna had to unlock her door to admit her, to
remove a further barricade of chairs.  When Katie saw her she almost
dropped the cup.

"You poor little rat," she said compassionately.  "Gee!  He was
crazy.  I never saw such a face.  Gee!"

Anna said nothing.  She dropped on the side of the bed and took the
coffee, drinking gingerly through a lip swollen and cut.

"I'm going to leave," Katie went on.  "It'll be my time next.  If
he tries any tricks on me I'll have the law on him.  He's a beast;
that's what he is."

"Katie," Anna said, "if I leave can you get my clothes to me?  I'll
carry all I can."

"He'd take the strap to me."

"Well, if you're leaving anyhow, you can put some of my things in
your trunk."

"Good and right you are to get out," Katie agreed.  "Sure I'll do
it.  Where do you think you'll go?"

"I thought last night I'd jump in the river.  I've changed my mind,
though.  I'll pay him back, and not the way he expects."

"Give it to him good," assented Katie.  "I'd have liked to slip
some of that Paris green of his in his coffee this morning.  And
now he's off for church, the old hypocrite!"

To Katie's curious inquiries as to the cause of the beating Anna
was now too committal.

"I held out some money on him," was all she said.

Katie regarded her with a mixture of awe and admiration.

"You've got your nerve," she said.  "I wonder he didn't kill you.
What's yours is his and what's his is his own!"

But Anna could not leave that morning.  She lay in her bed, cold
compresses on her swollen face and shoulders, a bruised and broken
thing, planning hideous reprisals.  Herman made no inquiry for her.
He went stolidly about the day's work, carried in firewood and
coal from the shed, inspected the garden with a view to early
planting, and ate hugely of the mid-day dinner.

In the afternoon Rudolph came.

"Where's Anna?" he asked briskly.

"She is in her room.  She is not well."

If Rudolph suspected anything, it was only that Anna was sulking.
But later on he had reason to believe that there trouble.  Out of
a clear sky Herman said:

"She has had a raise."  Anna was "she" to him.

"Since when?" Rudolph asked with interest.

"I know nothing.  She has not given it to me.  She has been buying
herself a watch."

"So!" Rudolph's tone was wary.

"She will buy herself no more watches," said Herman, with an air of
finality.

Rudolph hesitated.  The organization wanted Herman; he had had great
influence with the millworkers.  Through him many things would be
possible.  The Spencers trusted him, too.  At any time Rudolph knew
they would be glad to reinstate him, and once inside the plant,
there was no limit to the mischief he could do.  But Herman was too
valuable to risk.  Suppose he was told now about Graham Spencer and
Anna, and beat the girl and was jailed for it?  Besides, ugly as
Rudolph's suspicions were, they were as yet only suspicions.  He
decided to wait until he could bring Herman proof of Graham Spencer's
relations with Anna.  When that time came he knew Herman.  He would
be clay for the potter.  He, Rudolph, intended to be the potter.

Katie had an afternoon off that Sunday.  When she came back that
night, Herman, weary from the late hours of Saturday, was already
snoring in his bed.  Anna met Katie at her door and drew her in.

"I've found a nice room," Katie whispered.  "Here's the address
written down.  The street cars go past it.  Three dollars a week.
Are you ready?"

Anna was ready, even to her hat.  Over it she placed a dark veil,
for she was badly disfigured.  Then, with Katie crying quietly, she
left the house.  In the flare from the Spencer furnaces Katie
watched until the girl reappeared on the twisting street below
which still followed the old path - that path where Herman, years
ago, had climbed through the first spring wild flowers to the
cottage on the hill.

Graham was uncomfortable the next morning on his way to the mill.
Anna's face had haunted him.  But out of all his confusion one
thing stood out with distinctness.  If he was to be allowed to
marry Marion, he must have no other entanglement.  He would go
to her clean and clear.

So he went to the office, armed toward Anna with a hardness he was
far from feeling.

"Poor little kid!" he reflected on the way down.  "Rotten luck, all
round."

He did not for a moment believe that it would be a lasting grief.
He knew that sort of girl, he reflected, out of his vast experience
of twenty-two.  They were sentimental, but they loved and forgot
easily.  He hoped she would forget him; but even with that, there
was a vague resentment that she should do so.

"She'll marry some mill-hand," he reflected, "and wear a boudoir
cap, and have a lot of children who need their noses wiped."

But he was uncomfortable.

Anna was not in her office.  Her coat and hat were not there.  He
was surprised, somewhat relieved.  It was out of his hands, then;
she had gone somewhere else to work.  Well, she was a good
stenographer.  Somebody was having a piece of luck.

Clayton, finding him short-handed, sent Joey over to help him pack
up his office belongings, the fittings of his desk, his personal
papers, the Japanese prints and rugs Natalie had sent after her
single visit to the boy's new working quarters.  And, when Graham
came back from luncheon, Joey had a message for him.

"Telephone call for you, Mr. Spencer."

"What was it?"

"Lady called up, from a pay phone.  She left her number and said
she'd wait."  Joey lowered his voice confidentially.  "Sounded like
Miss Klein," he volunteered.

He was extremely resentful when Graham sent him away on an errand.
And Graham himself frowned as he called the number on the pad.  It
was like a girl, this breaking off clean and then telephoning,
instead of letting the thing go, once and for all.  But his face
changed as he heard Anna's brief story over the wire.

"Of course I'll come," he said.  "I'm pretty busy, but I can steal
a half-hour.  Don't you worry.  We'll fix it up some way."

He was more concerned than deeply anxious when he rang off.  It was
unfortunate, that was all.  And the father was a German swine, and
ought to be beaten himself.  To think that his Christmas gift had
brought her to such a pass!  A leather strap!  God!

He was vaguely uneasy, however.  He had a sense of a situation being
forced on him.  He knew, too, that Clayton was waiting for him at
the new plant.  But Anna's trouble, absurd as its cause seemed to
him, was his responsibility.

It ceased to be absurd, however, when he saw her discolored features.
It would be some time before she could even look for another
situation.  Her face was a swollen mask, and since such attraction
as she had had for him had been due to a sort of evanescent
prettiness of youth, he felt a repulsion that he tried his best to
conceal.

"You poor little thing!" he said.  "He's a brute.  I'd like - "  He
clenched his fists.  "Well, I got you into it.  I'm certainly going
to see you through."

She had lowered her veil quickly, and he felt easier.  The telephone
booth was in the corner of a quiet hotel, and they were alone.  He
patted her shoulder.

"I'll see you through," he repeated.  "Don't you worry about anything.
Just lie low."

"See me through?  How?"

"I can give you money; that's the least I can do.  Until you are
able to work again."  And as she drew away, "We'll call it a loan,
if that makes you feel better.  You haven't anything, have you?"

"He has everything I've earned..  I've never had a penny except
carfare."

"Poor little girl!" he said again.

She was still weak, he saw, and he led her into the deserted cafe.
He took a highball himself, not because he wanted it, but because
she refused to drink, at first.  He had never before had a drink
in the morning, and he felt a warm and reckless glow to his very
finger-tips.  Bending toward her, while the waiter's back was turned,
he kissed her marred and swollen cheek.

"To think I have brought you all this trouble!"

"You mustn't blame yourself."

"I do.  But I'll make it up to you, Anna.  Yon don't hate me for
it, do you?"

"Hate you!  You know better than that."

"I'll come round to take you out now and then, in the evenings.
I don't want you to sit alone in that forsaken boarding-house and
mope."  He drew out a bill-fold, and extracted some notes.  "Don't
be silly," he protested, as she drew back.  "It's the only way I
can get back my self-respect.  You owe it to me to let me do it."

She was not hard to persuade.  Anything was better than going back
to the cottage on the hill, and to that heavy brooding figure, and
the strap on the wall.  But the taking of the money marked a new
epoch in the girl's infatuation.  It bought her.  She did not know
it, nor did he.  But hitherto she had been her own, earning her own
livelihood.  What she gave of love, of small caresses and intimacies,
had been free gifts.

From that time she was his creature.  In her creed, which was the
creed of the girls on the hill, one did not receive without giving.
She would pay him back, but all that she had to give was herself.

"You'll come to see me, too.  Won't you?"

The tingling was very noticeable now.  He felt warm, and young, and
very, very strong.

"Of course I'll come to see you," he said, recklessly.  "You take a
little time off - you've worked hard - and we'll play round together."

She bent down, unexpectedly, and put her bruised cheek against his
hand, as it lay on the table.

"I love you dreadfully," she whispered.




CHAPTER XXX

February and March were peaceful months, on the surface.  Washington
was taking stock quietly of national resources and watching for
Germany's next move.  The winter impasse in Europe gave way to the
first fighting of spring, raids and sorties mostly, since the ground
was still too heavy for the advancement of artillery.  On the high
seas the reign of terror was in full swing, and little tragic echoes
of the world drama began again to come by cable across the Atlantic.
Some of Graham's friends, like poor Chris, found the end of the path
of glory.  The tall young Canadian Highlander died before Peronne in
March.  Denis Nolan's nephew was killed in the Irish Fusileers.

One day Clayton came home to find a white-faced Buckham taking his
overcoat in the hall, and to learn that he had lost a young brother.

Clayton was uncomfortable at dinner that night.  He wondered what
Buckham thought of them, sitting there around the opulent table, in
that luxurious room.  Did he resent it?  After dinner he asked him
if he cared to take a few days off, but the old butler shook his
head.

"I'm glad to have my work to keep me busy, sir," he said.  "And
anyhow, in England, it's considered best to go on, quite as though
nothing had happened.  It's better for the troops, sir."

There was a new softness and tolerance in Clayton that early spring.
He had mellowed, somehow, a mellowing that had nothing to do with
his new prosperity.  In past times he had wondered how he would
stand financial success if it ever came.  He had felt fairly sure
he could stand the other thing.  But success - Now he found that it
only increased his sense of responsibility.  He was, outside of the
war situation, as nearly happy as he had been in years.  Natalie's
petulant moods, when they came, no longer annoyed him.  He was
supported, had he only known it, by the strong inner life he was
living, a life that centered about his weekly meetings with Audrey.

Audrey gave him courage to go on.  He left their comradely hours
together better and stronger.  All the week centered about that
one hour, out of seven days, when he stood on her hearth-rug, or
lay back in a deep chair, listening or talking - such talk as
Natalie might have heard without resentment.

Some times he felt that that one hour was all he wanted; it
carried so far, helped so greatly.  He was so boyishly content in
it.  And then she would make a gesture, or there would be, for a
second, a deeper note in her voice, and the mad instinct to catch
her to him was almost overwhelming.

Some times he wondered if she were not very lonely, not knowing that
she, too, lived for days on that one hour.  She was not going out,
because of Chris's death, and he knew there were long hours when she
sat alone, struggling determinedly with the socks she was knitting.

Only once did they tread on dangerous ground, and that was on her
birthday.  He stopped in a jeweler's on his way up-town and brought
her a black pearl on a thin almost invisible chain, only to have
her refuse to take it.

"I can't Clay!"

"Why not?"

"It's too valuable.  I can't take valuable presents from men."

"It's value hasn't anything to do with it."

"I'm not wearing jewelry, anyhow."

"Audrey," he said gravely, "it isn't the pearl.  It isn't its value.
That's absurd.  Don't you understand that I would like to think that
you have something I have given you?"

When she sat still, thinking over what he had said, he slipped the
chain around her neck and clasped it.  Then he stooped down, very
gravely, and kissed her.

"For my silent partner!" he said.

In all those weeks, that was the only time he had kissed her.  He
knew quite well the edge of the gulf they stood on, and he was
determined not to put the burden of denial on her.  He felt a real
contempt for men who left the strength of refusal to a woman, who
pleaded, knowing that the woman's strength would save them from
themselves, and that if she weakened, the responsibility was hers.

So he fed on the husks of love, and was, if not happy, happier.

Graham, too, was getting on better.  For one thing, Anna Klein had
been ill.  She lay in her boarding-house, frightened at every step
on the stairs, and slowly recovered from a low fever.  Graham had
not seen her, but he sent her money for a doctor, for medicines,
for her room rent, enclosed in brief letters, purely friendly and
interested.  But she kept them under her pillow and devoured them
with feverish eyes.

But something had gone out of life for Graham.  Not Anna.  Natalie,
watching him closely, wondered what it was.  He had been strange
and distant with her ever since that tall boy in kilts had been
there.  He was studiously polite and attentive to her, rose when
she entered a room and remained standing until she was seated,
brought her the book she had forgotten, lighted her occasional
cigaret, kissed her morning and evening.  But he no longer came
into her dressing-room for that hour before dinner when Natalie,
in dressing-gown and slippers, had closed the door to Clayton's
room and had kept him for herself.

She was jealous of Clayton those days.  Some times she found the
boy's eyes fixed on his father, with admiration and something more.
She was jealous of the things they had in common, of the days at
the mill, of the bits of discussion after dinner, when Clayton sat
back with his cigar, and Graham voiced, as new discoveries, things
about the work that Clayton had realized for years.

He always listened gravely, with no hint of patronage.  But Natalie
would break in now and then, impatient of a conversation that
excluded her.

"Your father knows all these things, Graham," she said once.  "You
talk as though you'd just discovered the mill, like Columbus
discovering America."

"Not at all," Clayton said, hastily.  "He has a new viewpoint.  I
am greatly interested.  Go on, Graham."

But the boy's enthusiasm had died.  He grew self-conscious,
apologetic.  And Clayton felt a resentment that was close to despair.

The second of April fell on a Saturday.  Congress, having ended the
session the fourth of March, had been hastily reconvened, and on
the evening of that day, Saturday, at half past eight, the President
went before the two Houses in joint session.

Much to Clayton's disgust, he found on returning home that they
were dining out.

"Only at the Mackenzies.  It's not a party,"  Natalie said.  As
usual, she was before the dressing-table, and she spoke to his
reflection in the mirror.  "I should think you could do that,
without looking like a thunder-cloud.  Goodness knows we've been
quiet enough this Lent."

"You know Congress has been re-convened?"

"I don't know why that should interfere."

"It's rather a serious time." He tried very hard to speak pleasantly.
Her engrossment in her own reflection irritated him, so he did not
look at her.  "But of course I'll go."

"Every time is a serious time with you lately," she flung after him.
Her tone was not disagreeable.  She was merely restating an old
grievance.  A few moments later he heard her calling through the
open door.

"I got some wonderful old rugs to-day, Clay."

"Yes?"

"You'll scream when you pay for them."

"I've lost my voice screaming, my dear."

"You'll love these.  They have the softest colors, dead rose, and
faded blue, and old copper tones."

"I'm very glad you're pleased."

She was in high good humor when they started.  Clayton, trying to
meet her conversational demands found himself wondering if the
significance of what was to happen in Washington that night had
struck home to her.  If it had, and she could still be cheerful,
then it was because she had forced a promise from Graham.

He made his decision then; to force her to release the boy from any
promise; to allow him his own choice.  But he felt with increasing
anxiety that some of Natalie's weakness of character had descended
to Graham, that in him, as in Natalie, perhaps obstinacy was what
he hoped was strength.  He wondered listening to her, what it would
be to have beside him that night some strong and quiet woman, to
whom he could carry his problems, his perplexities.  Some one to
sit, hand in his, and set him right as such a woman could, on many
things.

And for a moment, he pictured Audrey.  Audrey, his wife, driving
with him in their car, to whatever the evening might hold.  And
after it was all over, going back with her, away from all the
chatter that meant so little, to the home that shut them in
together.

He was very gentle to Natalie that night.

Natalie had been right.  It was a small and informal group, gathered
together hastily to discuss the emergency; only Denis Nolan, the
Mackenzies, Clayton and Natalie, and Audrey.

"We brought her out of her shell," said Terry, genially, "because
the country is going to make history to-night.  The sort of history
Audrey has been shouting for for months."

The little party was very grave.  Yet, of them all, only the Spencers
would be directly affected.  The Mackenzies had no children.

"Button, my secretary," Terry announced, "is in Washington.  He is to
call me here when the message is finished."

"Isn't it possible," said Natalie, recalling a headline from the
evening paper, "that the House may cause an indefinite delay?"

And, as usual, Clayton wondered at the adroitness with which, in
the talk that followed, she escaped detection.

They sat long at the table, rather as though they clung together.
And Nolan insisted on figuring the cost of war in money.

"Queer thing," he said.  "In ancient times the cost of war fell
almost entirely on the poor.  But it's the rich who will pay for
this war.  All taxation is directed primarily against the rich."

"The poor pay in blood," said Audrey, rather sharply.  "They give
their lives, and that is all they have."

"Rich and poor are going to do that, now," old Terry broke in.
"Fight against it all you like, you members of the privileged class,
the draft is coming.  This is every man's war."

But Clayton Spencer was watching Natalie.  She had paled and was
fingering her liqueur-glass absently.  Behind her lowered eyelids he
surmised that again she was planning.  But what?  Then it came to
him, like a flash.  Old Terry had said the draft would exempt married
men.  She meant to marry Graham to a girl she detested, to save him
from danger.

Through it all, however, and in spite of his anger and apprehension,
he was sorry for her.  Sorry for her craven spirit.  Sorry even with
an understanding that came from his own fears.  Sorry for her, that
she had remained an essential child in a time that would tax the
utmost maturity.  She was a child.  Even her selfishness was the
selfishness of a spoiled child.  She craved things, and the spirit,
the essence of life, escaped her.

And beside him was Audrey, valiant-eyed, courageous, honest.  Natalie
and Audrey!  Some time during the evening his thoughts took this
form: that there were two sorts of people in the world: those who
seized their own happiness, at any cost; and those who saw the
promised land from a far hill, and having seen it, turned back.




CHAPTER XXXI

Graham was waiting in Clayton's dressing-room when he went up-stairs.
Through the closed door they could hear Natalie's sleepy and rather
fretful orders to her maid.  Graham rose when he entered, and threw
away his cigaret.

"I guess it has come, father."

"It looks like it."

A great wave of tenderness for the boy flooded over him.  That tall,
straight body, cast in his own mold, but young, only ready to live,
that was to be cast into the crucible of war, to come out - God
alone knew how.  And not his boy only, but millions of other boys.
Yet - better to break the body than ruin the soul.

"How is mother taking it?"

Natalie's voice came through the door.  She was insisting that the
house be kept quiet the next morning.  She wanted to sleep late.
Clayton caught the boy's eyes on him, and a half smile on his face.

"Does she know?"

"Yes."

"She isn't taking it very hard, is she?"  Then his voice changed.
"I wish you'd talk to her, father.  She's - well, she's got me!
You see, I promised her not to go in without her consent."

"When did you do that?"

"The night we broke with Germany in February.  I was a fool, but
she was crying, and I didn't know what else to do.  And" - there was
a ring of desperation in his voice - "she's holding me to it.  I've
been to her over and over again."

"And you want to go?"

"Want to go!  I've got to go."

He broke out then into a wild appeal.  He wanted to get away.  He
was making a mess of all sorts of things.  He wasn't any good.  He
would try to make good in the army.  Maybe it was only the
adventure he wanted - he didn't know.  He hadn't gone into that.
He hated the Germans.  He wanted one chance at them, anyhow.  They
were beasts.

Clayton, listening, was amazed at the depth of feeling and anger in
his voice.

"I'll talk to your mother," he agreed, when the boy's passion had
spent itself.  "I think she will release you."  But he was less
certain than he pretended to be.  He remembered Natalie's drooping
eyelids that night at dinner.  She might absolve him from the
promise, but there were other ways of holding him back than promises.

"Perhaps we would better go into the situation thoroughly," he
suggested.  "I have rather understood, lately, that you - what about
Marion Hayden, Graham?"

"I'm engaged to her."

There was rather a long pause.  Clayton's face was expressionless.

"Since when?"

"Last fall, sir."

"Does your mother know?"

"I told her, yes."  He looked up quickly.  "I didn't tell you.  I
knew you disliked her, and mother said?"  He checked himself.
"Marion wanted to wait.  She wanted to be welcome when she came
into the family."

"I don't so much dislike her as I - disapprove of her."

"That's rather worse, isn't it?"

Clayton was tired.  His very spirit was tired.  He sat down in his
big chair by the fire.

"She is older than you are, you know."

"I don't see what that has to do with it, father."

In Clayton's defense was his own situation.  He did not want the
boy to repeat his mistakes, to marry the wrong woman, and then find,
too late, the right one.  During the impassioned appeal that
followed he was doggedly determined to prevent that.  Perhaps he
lost the urgency in the boy's voice.  Perhaps in his new conviction
that the passions of the forties were the only real ones, he took
too little count of the urge of youth.

He roused himself.

"You think you are really in love with her?"

"I want her.  I know that."

"That's different.  That's - you are too young to know what you
want."

"I ought to be married.  It would settle me.  I'm sick of batting
round."

"You want to marry before you enter the army?"

"Yes."

"Do you think for a moment that your wife will be willing to let
you go?"

Graham straightened himself.

"She would have to let me go."

And in sheer despair, Clayton played his last card.  Played it, and
regretted it bitterly a moment later.

"We must get this straight, Graham.  It's not a question of your
entering the army or not doing it.  It's a question of your
happiness.  Marriage is a matter of a life-time.  It's got to be
based on something more than - " he hesitated.  "And your mother?"

"Please go on."

"You have just said that your mother does not want you to go into
the army.  Has it occurred to you she would even see you married
to a girl she detests, to keep you at home?"

Graham's face hardened.

"So;" he said, heavily, "Marion wants me for the money she thinks
I'm going to have, and mother wants me to marry to keep me safe!
By God, it's a dirty world, isn't it?"

Suddenly he was gone, and Clayton, following uneasily to the doorway,
heard a slam below.  When, some hours later, Graham had not come
back, he fell into the heavy sleep that follows anxiety and brings
no rest.  In the morning he found that Graham had gone back to the
garage and taken his car, and that he had not returned.

Afterward Clayton was to look back and to remember with surprise
how completely the war crisis had found him absorbed in his own
small group.  But perhaps in the back of every man's mind war was
always, first of all, a thing of his own human contacts.  It was
only when those were cleared up that he saw the bigger problem.
The smaller questions loomed so close as to obscure the larger
vision.

He went out into the country the next day, a cold Sunday, going
afoot, his head down against the wind, and walked for miles.  He
looked haggard and tired when he came back, but his quiet face held
a new resolve.  War had come at last.  He would put behind him the
selfish craving for happiness, forget himself.  He would not make
money out of the nation's necessity.  He would put Audrey out of
his mind, if not out of his heart.  He would try to rebuild his
house of life along new and better lines.  Perhaps he could bring
Natalie to see things as he saw them, as they were, not as she
wanted them to be.

Some times it took great crises to bring out women.  Child-bearing
did it, often.  Urgent need did it, too.  But after all the real
test was war.  The big woman met it squarely, took her part of the
burden; the small woman weakened, went down under it, found it a
grievance rather than a grief.

He did not notice Graham's car when it passed him, outside the
city limits, or see Anna Klein's startled eyes as it flashed by.

Graham did not come in until evening.  At ten o'clock Clayton found
the second man carrying up-stairs a tray containing whisky and soda,
and before he slept he heard a tap at Graham's door across the hall,
and surmised that he had rung for another.  Later still he heard
Natalie cross the hall, and rather loud and angry voices.  He
considered, ironically, that a day which had found a part of the
nation on its knees found in his own house only dissension and
bitterness.

In the morning, at the office, Joey announced a soldier to see him,
and added, with his customary nonchalance:

"We'll be having a lot of them around now, I expect."

Clayton, glancing up from the visitor's slip in his hand, surprised
something wistful in the boy's eyes.

"Want to go, do you?"

"Give my neck to go - sir."  He always added the "sir," when he
remembered it, with the air of throwing a sop to a convention he
despised.

"You may yet, you know.  This thing is going to last a while.  Send
him in, Joey."

He had grown attached to this lad of the streets.  He found in his
loyalty a thing he could not buy.

Jackson was his caller.  Clayton, who had been rather more familiar
with his back in its gray livery than with any other aspect of him,
found him strange and impressive in khaki.

"I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner, Mr. Spencer," he explained.
"I've been down on the border.  Yuma.  I just got a short leave,
and came back to see my family."

He stood very erect, a bronzed and military figure.  Suddenly it
seemed strange to Clayton Spencer that this man before him had only
a few months before opened his automobile door for him, and stood
waiting with a rug to spread over his knees.  He got up and shook
hands.

"You look like a different man, Jackson."

"Well, at least I feel like a man."

"Sit down," he said.  And again it occurred to him that never
before had he asked Jackson to sit down in his presence.  It was
wrong, somehow.  The whole class system was absurd.  Maybe war
would change that, too.  It was doing many queer things, already.

He had sent for Jackson, but he did not at once approach the reason.
He sat back, while Jackson talked of the border and Joey slipped in
and pretended to sharpen lead pencils.

Clayton's eyes wandered to the window.  Outside in the yard were
other men, now employees of his, who would soon be in khaki.  Out
of every group there in a short time some would be gone, and of
those who would go a certain number would never come back.  That
was what war was; one day a group of men, laboring with their hands
or their brains, that some little home might live; that they might
go back at evening to that home, and there rest for the next day's
toil.  And the next, gone.  Every man out there in the yard was
loved by some one.  To a certain number of them this day meant
death, or wounding.  It meant separation, and suffering, and
struggle.

And all over the country there were such groups.

The roar of the plant came in through the open window.  A freight
car was being loaded with finished shells.  As fast as it was filled,
another car was shunted along the spur to take its place.  Over in
Germany, in hundreds of similar plants, similar shells were being
hurried to the battle line, to be hurled against the new army that
was soon to cross the seas.

All those men, and back of every man, a woman.

Jackson had stopped.  Joey was regarding him with stealthy admiration,
and holding his breast bone very high.  Already in his mind Joey was
a soldier.

"You did not say in your note why you wanted to see me, Mr. Spencer."

He roused himself with a visible effort.

"I sent for you, yes," he said.  "I sent - I'll tell you why I sent
for you, Jackson.  I've been meaning to do it for several weeks.
Now that this has come I'm more than glad I did so.  You can't keep
your family on what you are getting.  That's certain."

"My wife is going to help me, sir.  The boy will soon be weaned.
Then she intends to get a position.  She was a milliner when we
were married."

"But - Great Scott!  She ought not to leave a child as young as that."

Jackson smiled.

"She's going to fix that, all right.  She wants to do it.  And
we're all right so far I had saved a little."

Then there were women like that!  Women who would not only let their
men go to war, but who would leave their homes and enter the struggle
for bread, to help them do it.

"She says it's the right thing," volunteered Jackson, proudly.
Women who felt that a man going into the service was a right thing.
Women who saw war as a duty to be done, not a wild adventure for the
adventurous.

"You ought to be very proud of her," he said slowly.  "There are not
many like that."

"Well," Jackson said, apologetically, "they'll come round, sir.
Some of them kind of hate the idea, just at first.  But I look to
see a good many doing what my wife's doing."

Clayton wondered grimly what Jackson would think if he knew that at
that moment he was passionately envious of him, of his uniform, of
the youth that permitted him to wear that uniform, of his bronzed
skin, of his wife, of his pride in that wife.

"You're a lucky chap, Jackson," he said.  "I sent for you because I
wanted to say that, as long as you are in the national service, I
shall feel that you are on a vacation" - he smiled at the word - "on
pay.  Under those circumstances, I owe you quite a little money."

Jackson was too overwhelmed to reply at once.

"As a matter of fad," Clayton went on, "it's a national move, in a
way.  You don't owe any gratitude.  We need our babies, you see.
More than we do hats!  If this war goes on, we shall need a good
many boy babies."

And his own words suddenly crystallized the terror that was in him.
It was the boys who would go; boys who whistled in the morning; boys
who dreamed in the spring, long dreams of romance and of love.

Boys.  Not men like himself, with their hopes and dreams behind them.
Not men who had lived enough to know that only their early dreams
were real.  Not men, who, having lived, knew the vast disillusion
of living and were ready to die.

It was only after Jackson had gone that he saw the fallacy of his
own reasoning.  If to live were disappointment, then to die, still
dreaming the great dream, was not wholly evil.  He found himself
saying,

"To earn some honorable advancement for one's soul."

Deep down in him, overlaid with years of worldliness, there was a
belief in a life after death.  He looked out the window at the
little, changing group.  In each man out there there was something
that would live on, after he had shed that sweating, often dirty,
always weary, sometimes malformed shell that was the body.  And
then the thing that would count would be not how he had lived but
what he had done.

This war was a big thing.  It was the biggest thing in all the
history of the world.  There might be, perhaps, some special heaven
for those who had given themselves to it, some particular honorable
advancement for their souls.  Already he saw Jackson as one apart,
a man dedicated.

Then he knew that all his thinking was really centered about his
boy.  He wanted Graham to go.  But in giving him he was giving him
to the chance of death.  Then he must hold to his belief in
eternity.  He must feel that, or the thing would be unbearable.
For the first time in his life he gave conscious thought to
Natalie's religious belief.  She believed in those things.  She
must.  She sat devoutly through the long service; she slipped, with
a little rustle of soft silk, so easily to her knees.  Perhaps, if
he went to her with that?




CHAPTER XXXII

For a week after Anna's escape Herman Klein had sat alone and
brooded.  Entirely alone now, for following a stormy scene on his
discovery of Anna's disappearance, Katie had gone too.

"I don't know where she is," she had said, angrily, "and if I did
know I wouldn't tell you.  If I was her I'd have the law on you.
Don't you look at that strap.  You lay a hand on me and I'll kill
you.  If you think I'm afraid of you, you can think again."

"She is my daughter, and not yet of age," Herman said heavily.
"You tell her for me that she comes back, or I go and bring her."

"Yah!" Katie jeered.  "You try it!  She's got marks on her that'll
jail you."  And on his failure to reply her courage mounted.  "This
ain't Germany, you know.  They know how to treat women over here.
And you ask me" - her voice rose - "and I'll just say that there's
queer comings and goings here with that Rudolph.  I've heard him
say some things that'll lock him up good and tight."

For all his rage, Teutonic caution warned him not to lay hands on
the girl.  But his anger against her almost strangled him.  Indeed,
when she came down stairs, dragging her heavy suitcase, he took a
step or two toward her, with his fists clenched.  She stopped,
terrified.

"You old bully!" she said, between white lips.  "You touch me, and
I'll scream till I bring in every neighbor in the block.  There's a
good lamp-post outside that's just waiting for your sort of German."

He had refused to pay her for the last week, also.  But that she
knew well enough was because he was out of money.  As fast as Anna's
salary had come in, he had taken out of it the small allowance that
was to cover the week's expenses, and had banked the remainder.  But
Anna had carried her last pay envelope away with her, and added to
his anger at her going was his fear that he would have to draw on
his savings.

With Katie gone, he set heavily about preparing his Sunday dinner.
Long years of service done for him, however, had made him clumsy.
He cooked a wretched meal, and then, leaving the dishes as they were,
he sat by the fire and brooded.  When Rudolph came in, later, he
found him there, in his stocking-feet, a morose and untidy figure.

Rudolph's reception of the news roused him, however.  He looked up,
after the telling, to find the younger man standing over him and
staring down at him with blood-shot eyes.

"You beat her!" he was saying.  "What with?"

"What does that matter - She had bought herself a watch - "

"What did you beat her with?" Rudolph was licking his lips.
Receiving no reply, he called "Katie!"

"Katie has gone."

"Maybe you beat her, too."

"She wasn't my daughter."

"No by God!  You wouldn't dare to touch her.  She didn't belong to
you.  You - "

"Get out," said Herman, somberly.  He stood up menacingly.  "You go,
now."

Rudolph hesitated.  Then he laughed.

"All right, old top," he said, in a conciliatory tone.  "No offense
meant.  I lost my temper."

He picked up the empty coal-scuffle, and went out into the shed
where the coal was kept.  He needed a minute to think.  Besides,
he always brought in coal when he was there.  In the shed, however,
he put down the scuttle and stood still.

"The old devil!" he muttered.

But his rage for Anna was followed by rage against her.  Where was
she to-night?  Did Graham Spencer know where she was?  And if he
did, what then?  Were they at that moment somewhere together?
Hidden away, the two of them?  The conviction that they were
together grew on him, and with it a frenzy that was almost madness.
He left the coal scuttle in the shed, and went out into the air.
For a half hour he stood there, looking down toward the Spencer
furnace, sending up, now red, now violet bursts of flame.

He was angry enough, jealous enough.  But he was quick, too, to see
that that particular lump of potters' clay which was Herman Klein
was ready for the wheel.  Even while he was cursing the girl his
cunning mind was already plotting, revenge for the Spencers,
self-aggrandizement among his fellows for himself.  His inordinate
conceit, wounded by Anna's defection, found comfort in the early
prospect of putting over a big thing.  He carried the coal in, to
find Herman gloomily clearing his untidy table.  For a moment they
worked in silence, Rudolph at the stove, Herman at the sink.

Then Rudolph washed his hands under the faucet and faced the older
man.  "How do you know she bought herself that watch," he demanded.

Herman eyed him.

"Perhaps you gave it to her!"  Something like suspicion of Rudolph
crept into his eyes.

"Me?  A hundred-dollar watch!"

"How do you know it cost a hundred dollars?"

"I saw it.  She tried that story on me, too.  But I was too smart
for her.  I went to the store and asked.  A hundred bucks!"

Herman's lips drew back over his teeth.

"You knew it, eh?  And you did not tell me?"

"It wasn't my funeral," said Rudolph coolly.  "If you wanted to
believe she bought it herself?"

"If she bought it herself!"  Rudolph's shoulder was caught in an
iron grip.  "You will tell me what you mean."

"Well, I ask you, do you think she'd spend that much on a watch?
Anyhow, the installment story doesn't go.  That place doesn't sell
on installments."

"Who is there would buy her such a watch?"  Herman's voice was thick.

"How about Graham Spencer?  She's been pretty thick with him."

"How you mean - thick?"

Rudolph shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't mean anything.  But he's taken her out in his car.  And
the Spencers think there's nothing can't be bought with money."

Herman put down the dish-cloth and commenced to draw down his
shirt sleeves.

"Where you going?" Rudolph demanded uneasily.

"I go to the Spencers!"

"Listen!" Rudolph said, excitedly.  "Don't you do it; not yet.  You
got to get him first.  We don't know anything; we don't even know
he gave her that watch.  We've got to find her, don't you see?  And
then, we've got to learn if he's going there - wherever she is."

"I shall bring her back," Herman said, stubbornly.  "I shall bring
her back, and I shall kill her."

"And get strung up yourself!  Now listen?" he argued.  "You leave
this to me.  I'll find her.  I've got a friend, a city detective,
and he'll help me, see?  We'll get her back, all right.  Only you've
got to keep your hands off her.  It's the Spencers that have got
to pay."

Herman went back to the sink, slowly.

"That is right.  It is the Spencers," he muttered.

Rudolph went out.  Late in the evening he came back, with the news
that the search was on.  And, knowing Herman's pride, he assured
him that the hill need never learn of Anna's flight, and if any
inquiries came he advised him to say the girl was sick.

In Rudolph's twisted mind it was not so much Anna's delinquency that
enraged him.  The hill had its own ideas of morality.  But he was
fiercely jealous, with that class-jealousy which was the fundamental
actuating motive of his life.  He never for a moment doubted that
she had gone to Graham.

And, sitting by the fire in the little house, old Herman's untidy
head shrunk on his shoulders, Rudolph almost forgot Anna in plotting
to use this new pawn across the hearth from him in his game of
destruction.

By the end of the week, however, there was no news of Anna.  She
had not returned to the mill.  Rudolph's friend on the detective
force had found no clew, and old Herman had advanced from brooding
by the fire to long and furious wanderings about the city streets.

He felt no remorse, only a growing and alarming fury.  He returned
at night, to his cold and unkempt house, to cook himself a frugal
and wretched meal.  His money had run very low, and with true
German stubbornness he refused to draw any from the savings bank.

Rudolph was very busy.  There were meetings always, and to the
little inner circle that met behind Gus's barroom one night later
in March, he divulged the plan for the destruction of the new
Spencer munition plant.

"But - will they take him back?" one of the men asked.  He was of
better class than the rest, with a military bearing and a heavy
German accent, for all his careful English.

"Will a dog snatch at a bone?" countered Rudolph.  "Take him back!
They'll be crazy about it."

"He has been there a long time.  He may, at the last, weaken."

But Rudolph only laughed, and drank more whisky of the German agent's
providing.

"He won't weaken," he said.  "Give me a few days more to find the
girl, and all hell won't hold him."

On the Sunday morning after the President had been before Congress,
he found Herman dressed for church, but sitting by the fire.  All
around him lay the Sunday paper, and he barely raised his head when
Rudolph entered.

"Well, it's here!" said Rudolph.

"It has come.  Yes."

"Wall Street will be opening champagne to-day."

Herman said nothing.  But later on he opened up the fountain of
rage in his heart.  It was wrong, all wrong.  We had no quarrel
with Germany.  It was the capitalists and politicians who had done
it.  And above all, England.

He went far.  He blamed America and Americans for his loss of work,
for Anna's disappearance.  He searched his mind for grievances and
found them in the ore dust on the hill, which killed his garden; in
the inefficiency of the police, who could not find Anna; in the very
attitude of Clayton Spencer toward his resignation.

And on this smoldering fire Rudolph piled fuel Not that he said a
great deal.  He worked around the cottage, washed dishes, threw
pails of water on the dirty porches, swept the floor, carried in
coal and wood.  And gradually he began to play on the older man's
vanity.  He had had great influence with the millworkers.  No one
man had ever had so much.

Old Herman sat up, and listened sourly.  But after a time he got up
and pouring some water out of the kettle, proceeded to shave himself.
And Rudolph talked on.  If now he were to go back, and it were to
the advantage of the Fatherland and of the workers of the world to
hamper the industry, who so able to do it as Herman.

"Hamper?  How?"  Herman asked, suspiciously, holding his razor aloft.
He had a great fear of the law.

Rudolph re-assured him, cunning eyes averted.

"Well, a strike," he suggested.  "The men'll listen to you.  God
knows they've got a right to strike."

"I shall not go back," said Herman stolidly, and finished his
shaving.

But Rudolph was satisfied.  He left Herman sitting again by the
fire, but his eyes were no longer brooding.  He was thinking,
watching the smoke curl up from the china-bowled German pipe which
he had brought from the Fatherland, and which he used only on
special occasions.




CHAPTER XXXIII

The declaration of war found Graham desperately unhappy.  Natalie
held him rigidly to his promise, but it is doubtful if Natalie
alone could have kept, him out of the army.  Marion was using her
influence, too!  She held him by alternating between almost
agreeing to runaway marriage and threats of breaking the engagement
if he went to war.  She had tacitly agreed to play Natalie's game,
and she was doing it.

Graham did not analyze his own misery.  What he said to himself was
that he was making a mess of things.  Life, which had seemed to be
a simple thing, compounded of work and play, had become involved,
difficult and wretched.

Some times he watched Clayton almost with envy.  He seemed so sure
of himself; he was so poised, so calm, so strong.  And he wondered
if there had been a tumultuous youth behind the quiet of his
maturity.  He compared the even course of Clayton's days, his work,
his club, the immaculate orderliness of his life, with his own
disordered existence.

He was hedged about with women.  Wherever he turned, they obtruded
themselves.  He made plans and women brushed them aside.  He tried
to live his life, and women stepped in and lived it for him.  His
mother, Marion, Anna Klein.  Even Delight, with her friendship
always overclouded with disapproval.  Wherever he turned, a woman
stood in the way.  Yet he could not do without them.  He needed
them even while he resented them.

Then, gradually, into his self-engrossment there penetrated a
conviction that all was not well between his father and his mother.
He had always taken them for granted much as he did the house and
the servants.  In his brief vacations during his college days they
had agreed or disagreed, amicably enough.  He had considered, in
those days, that life was a very simple thing.  People married and
lived together.  Marriage, he considered, was rather the end of
things.

But he was older now, and he knew that marriage was a beginning and
not an end.  It did not change people fundamentally.  It only
changed their habits.

His discovery that his father and mother differed about the war was
the first of other discoveries; that they differed about him; that
they differed about many matters; that, indeed, they had no common
ground at all on which to meet; between them, although Graham did
not put it that way, was a No-Man's Land strewn with dead happiness,
lost desires, and the wreckage of years of dissension.

It was incredible to Graham that he should ever reach the forties,
but he wondered some times if all of life was either looking
forward or looking back.  And it seemed to him rather tragic that
for Clayton, who still looked like a boy, there should be nothing
but his day at the mill, his silent evening at home, or some
stodgy dinner-party where the women were all middle-aged, and the
other men a trifle corpulent.

For the first time he was beginning to think of Clayton as a man,
rather than a father.

Not that all of this was coherently thought out.  It was a series
of impressions, outgrowth of his own beginning development and of
his own uneasiness.

He wondered, too, about Rodney Page.  He seemed to be always around,
underfoot, suave, fastidious, bowing Natalie out of the room and in
again.  He had deplored the war until he found his attitude
unfashionable, and then he began, with great enthusiasm, to arrange
pageants for Red Cross funds, and even to make little speeches,
graceful and artificial, patterned on his best after-dinner manner.

Graham was certain that he supported his mother in trying to keep
him at home, and he began to hate him with a healthy young hate.
However, late in April, he posed in one of the pageants, rather
ungraciously, in a khaki uniform.  It was not until the last minute
that he knew that Delight Haverford was to be the nurse bending
over his prostrate figure.  He turned rather savage.

"Rotten nonsense," he said to her, "when they stood waiting to be
posed.

"Oh, I don't know.  They're rather pretty;"

"Pretty!  Do you suppose I want it be pretty?"

"Well, I do," said Delight, calmly.

"It's fake.  That's what I hate.  If you were really a nurse, and
 was really in uniform -!  But this parading in somebody else's
clothes, or stuff hired for the occasion - it's sickening."

Delight regarded him with clear, appraising eyes.

"Why don't you get a uniform of your own, then?" she inquired.  She
smiled a little.

He never knew what the effort cost her.  He was pale and angry, and
his face in the tableau was so set that it brought a round of
applause.  With the ringing down of the curtain he confronted her,
almost menacingly.

"What did you mean by that?" he demanded.  "We've hardly got into
this thing yet."

"We are in it, Graham."

"Just because I don't leap into the first recruiting office and beg
them to take me - what right have you got to call me a slacker?"

"But I heard - "

"Go on!"

"It doesn't matter what I heard, if you are going."

"Of course I'm going," he said, truculently.

He meant it, too.  He would get Anna settled somewhere - she had
begun to mend - and then he would have it out with Marion and his
mother.  But there was no hurry.  The war would last a long time.
And so it was that Graham Spencer joined the long line of those
others who had bought a piece of ground, or five yoke of oxen, or
had married a wife.

It was the morning after the pageant that Clayton, going down-town
with him in the car, voiced his expectation that the government
would take over their foreign contracts, and his feeling that, in
that case, it would be a mistake to profit by the nation's
necessities.

"What do you mean, sir?"

"I mean we should take only a small profit.  A banker's profit."

Graham had been fairly stunned, and had sat quiet while Clayton
explained his attitude.  There were times when big profits were
allowable.  There was always the risk to invested capital to
consider.  But he did not want to grow fat on the nation's
misfortunes.  Italy was one thing.  This was different.

"But - we are just getting on our feet!"

"Think it over!" said Clayton.  "This is going to be a long war,
and an expensive one.  We don't particularly want to profit by it,
do we?"

Graham flushed.  He felt rather small and cheap, but with that there
was a growing admiration of his father.  Suddenly he saw that this
man beside him was a big man, one to be proud of.  For already he
knew the cost of the decision.  He sat still, turning this new
angle of war over in his mind.

"I'd like to see some of your directors when you put that up to
them!"

Clayton nodded rather grimly.  He did not anticipate a pleasant hour.

"How about mother?"

"I think we may take it for granted that she feels as we do."

Graham pondered that, too.

"What about the new place?"

"It's too soon to discuss that.  We are obligated to do a certain
amount.  Of course it would be wise to cut where we can."

Graham smiled.

"She'll raise the deuce of a row," was his comment.

It had never occurred to him before to take sides between his father
and his mother, but there was rising in him a new and ardent
partisanship of his father, a feeling that they were, in a way, men
together.  He had, more than once, been tempted to go to him with
the Anna Klein situation.  He would have, probably, but a fellow
felt an awful fool going to somebody and telling him that a girl
was in love with him, and what the dickens was he to do about it?

He wondered, too, if anybody would believe that his relationship
with Anna was straight, under the circumstances.  For weeks now he
had been sending her money, out of a sheer sense of responsibility
for her beating and her illness.  He took no credit for altruism.
He knew quite well the possibilities of the situation.  He made no
promises to himself.  But such attraction as Anna had had for him
had been of her prettiness, and their propinquity.  Again she was
girl, and that was all.  And the attraction was very faint now.  He
was only sorry for her.

When she could get about she took to calling him up daily from a
drug-store at a near-by corner, and once he met her after dark and
they walked a few blocks together.  She was still weak, but she was
spiritualized, too.  He liked her a great deal that night.

"Do you know you've loaned me over a hundred dollars, Graham?" she
asked.

"That's not a loan.  I owed you that."

"I'll pay it back.  I'm going to start to-morrow to look for work,
and it won't cost me much to live."

"If you send it back, I'll buy you another watch!"

And, tragic as the subject was, they both laughed.

"I'd have died if I hadn't had you to think about when I was sick,
Graham.  I wanted to die - except for you."

He had kissed her then, rather because he knew she expected him to.
When they got back to the house she said:

"You wouldn't care to come up?"

"I don't think I had better, Anna."

"The landlady doesn't object.  There isn't any parlor.  All the
girls have their callers in their rooms."

"I have to go out to-night," he said evasively.  "I'll come some
other time."

As he started away he glanced back at her.  She was standing in the
doorway, eying him wistfully, a lonely and depressed little figure.
He was tempted to throw discretion to the wind and go back.  But he
did not.

On the day when Clayton had broached the subject of offering their
output to the government at only a banker's profit, Anna called him
up at his new office in the munition plant.

He was rather annoyed.  His new secretary was sitting across the
desk, and it was difficult to make his responses noncommittal.

"Graham!"

"Yes."

"Is anybody there? Can you talk?"

"Not very well."

"Then listen; I'll talk.  I want to see you."

"I'm busy all day.  Sorry."

"Listen, Graham, I must see you.  I've something to tell you."

"All right, go ahead."

"It's about Rudolph.  I was out looking for a position yesterday
and I met him."

"Yes?"

He looked up.  Miss Peterson was absently scribbling on the cover
of her book, and listening intently.

"He was terrible, Graham.  He accused me of all sorts of things,
about you."

He almost groaned aloud over the predicament he was in.  It began
to look serious.

"Suppose I pick you up and we have dinner somewhere?"

"At the same corner?"

"Yes."

He was very irritable all morning.  He felt as though a net was
closing in around him, and his actual innocence made him the more
miserable.  Miss Peterson found him very difficult that day, and
shed tears in her little room before she went to lunch.

Anna herself was difficult that evening.  Her landlady's son had
given up a good job and enlisted.  Everybody was going.  She
supposed Graham would go next, and she'd be left alone.

"I don't know.  I'd like to."

"Oh, you'll go, all right.  And you'll forget I ever existed."  She
made an effort.  "You're right, of course.  I'm only looking ahead.
If anything happens to you, I'll kill myself."

The idea interested her.  She began to dramatize herself, a forlorn
figure, driven from home, and deserted by her lover.  She saw
herself lying in the cottage, stately and mysterious, while the
hill girls went in and out, and whispered.

"I'll kill myself," she repeated.

"Nothing will happen to me, Anna, dear."

"I don't know why I care so.  I'm nothing to you."

"That's not so;"

"If you cared, you'd have come up the other night.  You left me
alone in that lonesome hole.  It's hell, that place.  All smells
and whispering and dirt."

"Now listen to me, Anna.  You're tired, or you wouldn't say that.
You know I'm fond of you.  But I've got you into trouble enough.
I'm not - for God's sake don't tempt me, Anna."

She looked at him half scornfully.

"Tempt you!"  Then she gave a little scream.  Graham following
her eyes looked through the window near them.

"Rudolph!" she whimpered.  And began to weep out of pure terror.

But Graham saw nobody.  To soothe her, however, he went outside and
looked about.  There were half a dozen cars, a group of chauffeurs,
but no Rudolph.  He went hack to her, to find her sitting, pale and
tense, her hands clenched together.

"They'll pay you out some way," she said.  "I know them.  They'll
never believe the truth.  That was Rudolph, all right.  He'll think
we're living together.  He'd never believe anything else."

"Do you think he followed you the other day?"

"I gave him the shake, in the crowd."

"Then I don't see why you're worrying.  We're just where we were
before, aren't we?"

"You don't know them.  I do.  They'll be up to something."

She was excited and anxious, and with the cocktail he ordered for
her she grew reckless.

"I'm just hung around your neck like a stone," she lamented.  "You
don't care a rap for me; I know it.  You're just sorry for me."

Her eyes filled again, and Graham rose, with an impatient movement.

"Let's get out of this," he said roughly.  "The whole place is
staring at you."

But on the road the fact that she had been weeping for him made him
relent.  He put an arm around her and drew her to him.

"Don't cry, honey," he said.  "It makes me unhappy to see you
miserable."

He kissed her.  And they clung together, finding a little comfort
in the contact of warm young bodies.

He went up to her room that night.  He was more anxious as to
Rudolph than he cared to admit, but he went up, treading softly on
stairs that creaked with every step.  He had no coherent thoughts.
He wanted companionship rather than love.  He was hungry for what
she gave him, the touch of her hands about his neck, the sense of
his manhood that shone from her faithful eyes, the admiration and
unstinting love she offered him.

But alone in the little room he had a reaction, not the less keen
because it was his fastidious rather than his moral sense that
revolted.  The room was untidy, close, sordid.  Even Anna's youth
did not redeem it.  Again he had the sense, when he had closed the
door, of being caught in a trap, and this time a dirty trap.  When
she had taken off her hat, and held up her face to be kissed, he
knew he would not stay.

"It's awful, isn't it?" she asked, following his eyes.

"It doesn't look like you.  That's sure."

"I hurried out.  It's not so bad when it's tidy."

He threw up the window, and stood there a moment.  The spring air
was cool and clean, and there was a sound of tramping feet below.
He looked down.  The railway station was near-by, and marching
toward it, with the long swing of regulars, a company of soldiers
was moving rapidly.  The night, the absence of drums or music, the
businesslike rapidity of their progress, held him there, looking
down.  He turned around.  Anna had slipped off her coat, and had
opened the collar of her blouse.  Her neck gleamed white and young.
She smiled at him.

"I guess I'll be going," he stammered.

"Going!"

"I only wanted to see how you are fixed." His eyes evaded hers.
"I'll see you again in a day or two.  I - "

He could not tell her the thoughts that were surging in him.  The
country was at war.  Those fellows below there were already in it,
of it.  And here in this sordid room, he had meant to take her,
not because he loved her, but because she offered herself.  It was
cheap.  It was terrible.  It was - dirty.

"Good night," he said, and tried to kiss her.  But she turned her
face away.  She stood listening to his steps on the stairs as he
went down, steps that mingled and were lost in the steady tramp of
the soldiers' feet in the street below.




CHAPTER XXXIV

With his many new problems following the declaration of war,
Clayton Spencer found a certain peace.  It was good to work hard.
It was good to fill every working hour, and to drop into sleep at
night too weary for consecutive thought.

Yet had he been frank with himself he would have acknowledged that
Audrey was never really out of his mind.  Back of his every
decision lay his desire for her approval.  He did not make them
with her consciously in his mind, but he wanted her to know and
understand, In his determination, for instance, to offer his shells
to the government at a nominal profit, there was no desire to win
her approbation.

It was rather that he felt her behind him in the decision.  He
shrank from telling Natalie.  Indeed, until he had returned from
Washington he did not broach the subject.  And then he was tired
and rather discouraged, and as a result almost brutally abrupt.

Coming on top of a hard fight with the new directorate, a fight
which he had finally won, Washington was disheartening.  Planning
enormously for the future it seemed to have no vision for the things
of the present.  He was met vaguely, put off, questioned.  He waited
hours, as patiently as he could, to find that no man seemed to have
power to act, or to know what powers he had.

He found something else, too - a suspicion of him, of his motives.
Who offered something for nothing must be actuated by some deep and
hidden motive.  He found his plain proposition probed and searched
for some ulterior purpose behind it.

"It's the old distrust, Mr. Spencer," said Hutchinson, who had gone
with him to furnish figures and various data.  "The Democrats are
opposed to capital.  They're afraid of it.  And the army thinks all
civilians are on the make - which is pretty nearly true."

He saw the Secretary of War, finally, and came away feeling better.
He had found there an understanding that a man may - even should
- make sacrifices for his country during war.  But, although he
carried away with him the conviction that his offer would ultimately
be accepted, there was nothing actually accomplished.  He sent
Hutchinson back, and waited for a day or two, convinced that his
very sincerity must bring a concrete result, and soon.

Then, lunching alone one day in the Shoreham, he saw Audrey
Valentine at another table.  He had not seen her for weeks, and
he had an odd moment of breathlessness when his eyes fell on her.
She was pale and thin, and her eyes looked very tired.  His first
impulse was to go to her.  The second, on which he acted, was to
watch her for a little, to fill his eyes for the long months of
emptiness ahead.

She was with a man in uniform, a young man, gay and smiling.  He was
paying her evident court, in a debonair fashion, bending toward her
across the table.  Suddenly Clayton was jealous, fiercely jealous.

The jealousy of the young is sad enough, but it is an ephemeral
thing.  Life calls from many directions.  There is always the
future, and the things of the future.  And behind it there is the
buoyancy and easy forgetfulness of youth.  But the jealousy of later
years knows no such relief.  It sees time flying and happiness
evading it.  It has not the easy self-confidence of the twenties.
It has learned, too, that happiness is a rare elusive thing, to be
held and nursed and clung to, and that even love must be won and
held.

It has learned that love must be free, but its instinct is to hold
it with chains.

He suffered acutely, and was ashamed of his suffering.  After all,
Audrey was still young.  Life had not been kind to her, and she
should be allowed to have such happiness as she could.  He could
offer her nothing.

He would give her up.  He had already given her up.  She knew it.

Then she saw him, and his determination died under the light that
came in her eyes.  Give her up!  How could he give her up, when she
was everything he had in the world?  With a shock, he recognized in
the thought Natalie's constant repetition as to Graham.  So he had
come to that!

He felt Audrey's eyes on him, but he did not go to her.  He signed
his check, and went out.  He fully meant to go away without seeing
her.  But outside he hesitated.  That would hurt her, and it was
cowardly.  When, a few moments later, she came out, followed by the
officer, it was to find him there, obviously waiting.

"I wondered if you would dare to run away!" she said.  "This is
Captain Sloane, Clay, and he knows a lot about you."

Close inspection showed Sloane handsome, bronzed, and with a soft
Southern voice, somewhat like Audrey's.  And it developed that he
came from her home, and was on his way to one of the early camps.
He obviously intended to hold on to Audrey, and Clayton left them
there with the feeling that Audrey's eyes were following him,
wistful and full of trouble.  He had not even asked her where she
was stopping.

He took a long walk that afternoon, and re-made his noon-hour
resolution.  He would keep away from her.  It might hurt her at
first, but she was young.  She would forget.  And he must not stand
in her way.  Having done which, he returned to the Shoreham and
spent an hour in a telephone booth, calling hotels systematically
and inquiring for her.

When he finally located her his voice over the wire startled her.

"Good heavens, Clay," she said.  "Are you angry about anything?"

"Of course not.  I just wanted to - I am leaving to-night and I'm
saying good-by.  That's all."

"Oh!" She waited.

"Have you had a pleasant afternoon?"

"Aren't you going to see me before you go?"

"I don't think so."

"Don't you want to know what I am doing in Washington?"

"That's fairly clear, isn't it?"

"You are being rather cruel, Clay."

He hesitated.  He was amazed at his own attitude.  Then,  "Will you
dine with me to-night?"

"I kept this evening for you."

But when he saw her, his sense of discomfort only increased.  Their
dining together was natural enough.  It was not even faintly
clandestine.  But the new restraint he put on himself made him
reserved and unhappy.  He could not act a part.  And after a time
Audrey left off acting, too, and he found her watching him.  On the
surface he talked, but underneath it he saw her unhappiness, and
her understanding of his.

"I'm going back, too," she said.  "I came down to see what I can
do, but there is nothing for the untrained woman.  She's a cumberer
of the earth.  I'll go home and knit.  I daresay I ought to be able
to learn to do that well, anyhow."

"Have you forgiven me for this afternoon?"

"I wasn't angry.  I understood."

That was it, in a nutshell.  Audrey understood.  She was that sort.
She never held small resentments.  He rather thought she never felt
them.

"Don't talk about me," she said.  "Tell me about you and why you
are here.  It's the war, of course."

So, rather reluctantly, he told her.  He shrank from seeming to want
her approval, but at the same time he wanted it.  His faith in
himself had been shaken.  He needed it restored.  And some of the
exaltation which had led him to make his proffer to the government
came back when he saw how she flushed over it.

"It's very big," she said, softly.  "It's like you, Clay.  And
that's the best thing I can say.  I am very proud of you."

"I would rather have you proud of me than anything in the world,"
he said, unsteadily.

They drifted, somehow, to talking of happiness.  And always,
carefully veiled, it was their own happiness they discussed.

"I don't think," she said, glancing away from him, "that one finds
it by looking for it.  That is selfish, and the selfish are never
happy.  It comes - oh, in queer ways.  When you're trying to give
it to somebody else, mostly."

"There is happiness, of a sort, in work."

Their eyes met.  That was what they had to face, she dedicated to
service, he to labor.

"It's never found by making other people unhappy, Clay."

"No.  And yet, if the other people are already unhappy?"

"Never!" she said.  And the answer was to the unspoken question in
both their hearts.

It was not until they were in the taxicab that Clayton forced the
personal note, and then it came as a cry, out of the very depths
of him.  She had slipped her hand into his, and the comfort of even
that small touch broke down the barriers he had so carefully erected.

"I need you so!" he said.  And he held her hand to his face.  She
made no movement to withdraw it.

"I need you, too," she replied.  "I never get over needing you.
But we are going to play the game, Clay.  We may have our weak
hours - and this is one of them - but always, please God, we'll
play the game."

The curious humility he felt with her was in his voice.

"I'll need your help, even in that."

And that touch of boyishness almost broke down her reserve of
strength.  She wanted to draw his head down on her shoulder, and
comfort him.  She wanted to smooth back his heavy hair, and put
her arms around him and hold him.  There was a great tenderness in
her for him.  There were times when she would have given the world
to have gone into his arms and let him hold her there, protected
and shielded.  But that night she was the stronger, and she knew it.

"I love you, Audrey.  I love you terribly,"

And that was the word for it.  It was terrible.  She knew it.

"To have gone through all the world," he said, brokenly, "and then
to find the Woman, when it is too late.  Forever too late."  He
turned toward her.  "You know it, don't you?  That you are my woman?"

"I know it," she answered, steadily.  "But I know, too - "

"Let me say it just once.  Then never again.  I'll bury it, but
you will know it is there.  You are my woman.  I would go through
all of life alone to find you at the end.  And if I could look
forward, dear, to going through the rest of it with you beside me,
so I could touch you, like this - "

"I know."

"If I could only protect you, and shield you - oh, how tenderly I
could care for you, my dear, my dear!"

The strength passed to him, then.  Audrey had a clear picture of
what life with him might mean, of his protection, his tenderness.
She had never known it.  Suddenly every bit of her called out for
his care, his quiet strength.

"Don't make me sorry for myself."  There were tears in her eyes.
"Will you kiss me, Clay?  We might have that to remember."

But they were not to have even that, for the taxicab drew up before
her hotel.  It was one of the absurd anti-climaxes of life that
they should part with a hand-clasp and her formal "Thank you for a
lovely evening."

Audrey was the better actor of the two.  She went in as casually as
though she had not put the only happiness of her life away from her.
But Clayton Spencer stood on the pavement, watching her in, and all
the tragedy of the empty years ahead was in his eyes.




CHAPTER XXXV

Left alone in her untidy room after Graham's abrupt departure, Anna
Klein was dazed.  She stood where he left her, staring ahead.  What
had happened meant only one thing to her, that Graham no longer
cared about her, and, if that was true, she did not care to live.

It never occurred to her that he had done rather a fine thing, or
that he had protected her against herself.  She felt no particular
shame, save the shame of rejection.  In her small world of the hill,
if a man gave a girl valuable gifts or money there was generally a
quid pro quo.  If the girl was unwilling, she did not accept such
gifts.  If the man wanted nothing, he did not make them.  And men
who made love to girls either wanted to marry them or desired some
other relationship with them.

She listened to his retreating footsteps, and then began,
automatically to unbutton her thin white blouse.  But with the
sound of the engine of his car below she ran to the window.  She
leaned out, elbows on the sill, and watched him go, without a look
up at her window.

So that was the end of that!

Then, all at once, she was fiercely angry.  He had got her into this
scrape, and now he had left her.  He had pretended to love her, and
all the time he had meant to do just this, to let her offer herself
so he might reject her.  He had been playing with her.  She had lost
her home because of him, had been beaten almost insensible, had been
ill for weeks, and now he had driven away, without even looking back.

She jerked her blouse off, still standing by the window, and when
the sleeve caught on her watch, she jerked that off, too.  She stood
for a moment with it in her hand, her face twisted with shame and
anger.  Then recklessly and furiously she flung it through the open
window.

In the stillness of the street far below she heard it strike and
rebound.

"That for him!" she muttered.

Almost immediately she wanted it again.  He had given it to her.
It was all she had left now, and in a curious way it had, through
long wearing, come to mean Graham to her.  She leaned out of the
window.  She thought she saw it gleaming in the gutter, and already,
attracted by the crash, a man was crossing the street to where it
lay.

"You let that alone," she called down desperately.  The figure was
already stooping over it.  Entirely reckless now, she ran,
bare-armed and bare-bosomed, down the stairs and out into the
street.  She had thought to see its finder escaping, but he was
still standing where he had picked it up.

"It's mine," she began.  "I dropped it out of the window. I - "

"You threw it out of the window.  I saw you."

It was Rudolph.

"You - "  He snarled, and stood with menacing eyes fixed on her
bare neck.

"Rudolph!"

"Get into the house," he said roughly.  "You're half-naked."

"Give me my watch."

"I'll give it to you, all right.  What's left of it.  When we get
in."

He followed her into the hail, but when she turned there and held
out her hand, he only snarled again.

"We'll talk up-stairs."

"I can't take you up.  The landlady don't allow it."

"She don't, eh?  You had that Spencer skunk up there."

His face frightened her, and she lied vehemently.

"That's not so, and you know it, Rudolph Klein.  He came inside,
just like this, and we stood and talked.  Then he went away.  He
wasn't inside ten minutes."  Her voice rose hysterically, but
Rudolph caught her by the arm, and pushing her ahead of him, forced
her up the stairs.

"We're going to have this out," he muttered, viciously.

Half way up she stopped.

"You're hurting my arm."

"You be glad I'm not breaking it for you."

He climbed in a mounting fury.  He almost threw her into her room,
and closing the door, he turned the key in it.  His face reminded
her of her father's the night he had beaten her, and her instinct
of self-preservation made her put the little table between them.

"You lay a hand on me," she panted, "and I'll yell out the window.
The police would be glad enough to have something on you, Rudolph
Klein, and you know it."

"They arrest women like you, too."

"Don't you dare say that."  And as he took a step or two toward her
she retreated to the window.  "You stay there, or I'll jump out of
the window."

She looked desperate enough to do it, and Rudolph hesitated.

"He was up here.  I saw him at the window.  I've been trailing you
all evening.  Keep off that window-sill, you little fool!  I'm not
going to kill you.  But I'm going to get him, all right, and don't
you forget it."

His milder tone and the threat frightened her more than ever.  He
would get Graham; he was like that.  Get him in some cruel, helpless
way; that was the German blood in him.  She began to play for time,
with instinctive cunning.

"Listen, Rudolph," she said.  "I'll tell you all about it.  He did
come up, but he left right away.  We quarreled.  He threw me over,
Rudolph.  That's what he did."

Her own words reminded her of her humiliation, and tears came into
her eyes.

"He threw me over!  Honest he did.  That's why I threw his watch out
of the window.  That's straight, Rudolph. That's straight goods.
I'm not lying now."

"God!" said Rudolph.  "The dirty pup.  Then - then you're through
with him, eh?"

"I'm through, all right."

Her tone carried conviction.  Rudolph's face relaxed, and seeing
that, she remembered her half-dressed condition.

"Throw me that waist," she said.

"Come around and get it."

"Aw, Rudolph, throw it.  Please!"

"Getting modest, all at once," he jeered.  But he picked it up and
advanced to the table with it.  As she held out her hand for it he
caught her and drew her forward toward him, across the table.

"You little devil!" he said, and kissed her.

She submitted, because she must, but she shivered.  If she was to
save Graham she must play the game.  And so far she was winning.
She was feminine enough to know that already the thing he thought
she had done was to be forgiven her.  More than that, she saw a
half-reluctant admiration in Rudolph's eyes, as though she had
gained value, if she had lost virtue, by the fact that young Spencer
had fancied her.  And Rudolph's morals were the morals of many of
his kind.  He admired chastity in a girl, but he did not expect it.

But she was watchful for the next move he might make.  That it was
not what she expected did not make it the less terrifying.

"You get your hat and coat on."

"I'll not do anything of the kind."

"D'you think I'm going to leave you here, where he can come back
whenever he wants to?  You think again!"

"Where are you going to take me?"

"I'm going to take you home."

When pleading made no impression on him, and when he refused to
move without her, she threw her small wardrobe into the suitcase,
and put her hat and coat on.  She was past thinking, quite hopeless.
She would go back, and her father would kill her, which would be
the best thing anyhow; she didn't care to live.

Rudolph had relapsed into moody silence.  Down the stairs, and on
the street he preceded her, contemptuously letting her trail behind.
He carried her suitcase, however, and once, being insecurely
fastened, it opened and bits of untidy apparel littered the pavement.
He dropped the suitcase and stood by while she filled it again.  The
softness of that moment, when, lured by her bare arms he had kissed
her, was gone.

The night car jolted and swayed.  After a time he dozed, and Anna,
watching him, made an attempt at flight.  He caught her on the rear
platform, however, with a clutch that sickened her.  The conductor
eyed them with the scant curiosity of two o'clock in the morning,
when all the waking world is awry.

At last they were climbing the hill to the cottage, while behind
and below them the Spencer furnaces sent out their orange and
violet flames, and the roar of the blast sounded like the coming of
a mighty wind.

The cottage was dark.  Rudolph put down the suitcase, and called
Herman softly through his hands.  Above they could hear him moving,
and his angry voice came through the open window.

"What you want?"

"Come down.  It's Rudolph."

But when he turned Anna was lying in a dead faint on the garden path,
a crumpled little heap of blissful forgetfulness.  When Herman came
down, it was to find Rudolph standing over her, the suitcase still
in his hand, and an ugly scowl on his face.

"Well, I got her," he said.  "She's scared, that's all."  He prodded
her with his foot, but she did not move, and Herman bent down with
his candle.

He straightened.

"Bring her in," he said, and led the way into the house.  When
Rudolph staggered in, with Anna in his arms, he found Herman waiting
and fingering the leather strap.




CHAPTER XXXVI

Audrey had found something to do at last.  It was Captain Sloane who
had given her the idea.

"You would make a great hit, Audrey," he had said.  "It's your
voice, you know.  There's something about it - well, you know the
effect it always has on me.  No?  All right, I'll be good."

But she had carried the idea home with her, and had proceeded, with
her customary decision, to act on it.

Then, one day in May, she was surprised by a visit from Delight
Haverford.  She had come home, tired and rather depressed, to find
the Haverford car at the door, and Delight waiting for her in her
sitting-room.

Audrey's acquaintance with Delight had been rather fragmentary, but
it had covered a long stretch of time.  So, if she was surprised,
it was not greatly when Delight suddenly kissed her.  She saw then
that the girl had brought her some spring flowers, and the little
tribute touched her.

"What a nice child you are!" she said, and standing before the
mirror proceeded to take off her hat.  Before her she could see the
reflection of Delight's face, and her own tired, slightly haggard
eyes.

"And how unutterably old you make me look!" she added, smiling.

"You are too lovely for words, Mrs.  Valentine."

Audrey patted her hair into order, and continued her smiling
inspection of the girl's face.

"And now we have exchanged compliments," she said, "we will have
some tea, and then you shall tell me what you are so excited about."

"I am excited; I - "

"Let's have the tea first."

Audrey's housekeeping was still rather casual.  Tidiness of Natalie's
meticulous order would always be beyond her, but after certain
frantic searches for what was needed, she made some delicious tea.

"Order was left out of me, somehow," she complained.  "Or else things
move about when I'm away.  I'm sure it is that, because I certainly
never put the sugar behind my best hat.  Now - let's have it."

Delight was only playing with her tea.  She flushed delicately, and
put the cup down.

"I was in the crowd this morning," she said.

"In the crowd? Oh, my crowd!"

"Yes."

"I see," said Audrey, thoughtfully.  "I make a dreadful speech, you
know."

"I thought you were wonderful.  And, when those men promised to enlist,
I cried.  I was horribly ashamed.  But you were splendid."

"I wonder!" said Audrey, growing grave.  Delight was astonished to
see that there were tears in her eyes.  "I do it because it is all
I can do, and of course they must go.  But some times at night - you
see, my dear, some of them are going to be killed.  I am urging them
to go, but the better the day I have had, the less I sleep at night."

There was a little pause.  Delight was thinking desperately of
something to say.

"But you didn't come to talk about me, did you?"

"Partly.  And partly about myself.  I want to do something, Mrs.
Valentine.  I can drive a car, but not very well.  I don't know a
thing about the engine.  And I can nurse a little.  I like nursing."

Audrey studied her face.  It seemed to her sad beyond words that
this young girl, who should have had only happiness, was facing the
horrors of what would probably be a long war.  It was the young who
paid the price of war, in death, in empty years.  Already the
careless gayety of their lives was gone.  For the dream futures they
had planned they had now to substitute long waiting; for happiness,
service.

"The Red Cross is going to send canteen workers to France.  You might
do that."

"If I only could!  But I can't leave mother.  Not entirely.  Father
is going.  He wants to go and fight, but I'm afraid they won't take
him.  He'll go as a chaplain, anyhow.  But he's perfectly helpless,
you know.  Mother says she is going to tie his overshoes around his
neck."

"I'll see if I can think of something for you, Delight.  There's
one thing in my mind.  There are to be little houses built in all
the new training-camps for officers, and they are to be managed by
women.  They are to serve food - sandwiches and coffee, I think.
They may be even more pretentious.  I don't know, but I'll find out."

"I'll do anything," said Delight, and got up.  It was then that
Audrey realized that there was something more to the visit than had
appeared, for Delight, ready to go, hesitated.

"There is something else, Mrs. Valentine," she said, rather slowly.
"What would you do if a young man wanted to go into the service,
and somebody held him back?"

"His own people?"

"His mother.  And - a girl."

"I would think the army is well off without him."

Delight flushed painfully.

"Perhaps," she admitted.  "But is it right just to let it go at
that?  If you like people, it seems wrong just to stand by and let
others ruin their lives for them."

"Only very weak men let women ruin their lives."

But already she began to understand the situation.

"There's a weakness that is only a sort of habit.  It may come from
not wanting to hurt somebody."  Delight was pulling nervously at her
gloves.  "And there is this to be said, too.  If there is what you
call weakness, wouldn't the army be good for it?  It makes men, some
times, doesn't it?"

For a sickening moment, Audrey thought of Chris.  War had made Chris,
but it had killed him, too.

"Have you thought of one thing?" she asked.  "That in trying to make
this young man, whoever it is, he may be hurt, or even worse?"

"He would have to take his chance, like the rest."

She went a little pale, however.  Audrey impulsively put an arm
around her.

"And this - woman is the little long-legged girl who used to give
signals to her father when the sermon was too long!  Now - what can
I do about this youth who can't make up his own mind?"

"You can talk to his mother."

"If I know his mother - ? and I think I do - it won't do the slightest
good."

"Then his father.  You are great friends, aren't you?"

Even this indirect mention of Clayton made Audrey's hands tremble.
She put them behind her.

"We are very good friends," she said.  But Delight was too engrossed
to notice the deeper note in her voice.  "I'll see what I can do.
But don't count on me too much.  You spoke of a girl.  I suppose I
know who it is."

"Probably.  It is Marion Hayden.  He is engaged to her."

And again Audrey marveled at her poise, for Delight's little tragedy
was clear by that time.  Clear, and very sad.

"I can't imagine his really being in love with her."

"But he must be.  They are engaged."

Audrey smiled at the simple philosophy of nineteen, smiled and was
extremely touched.  How brave the child was!  Audrey's own
courageous heart rather swelled in admiration.

But after Delight had gone, she felt depressed again, and very tired.
How badly these things were handled!  How strange it was that love
so often brought suffering!  Great loves were almost always great
tragedies.  Perhaps it was because love was never truly great until
the element of sacrifice entered into it.

Her own high courage failed her somewhat.  During these recent days
when, struggling against very real stage fright, she made her
husky, wholly earnest but rather nervous little appeals to the
crowds before the enlisting stations, she got along bravely enough
during the day.  But the night found her sad, unutterably depressed.

At these times she was haunted by a fear that persisted against
all her arguments.  In Washington Clayton had not looked well.
He had been very tired and white, and some of his natural buoyancy
seemed to have deserted him.  He needed caring for, she would
reflect bitterly.  There should be some one to look after him.  He
was tired and anxious, but it took the eyes of love to see it.
Natalie would never notice, and would consider it a grievance if
she did.  The fiercely, maternal tenderness of the childless woman
for the man she loves kept her awake at night staring into the
darkness and visualizing terrible things.  Clayton ill, and she
unable to go to him.  Ill, and wanting her, and unable to ask for
her.

She was, she knew, not quite normal, but the fear gripped and held
her.  These big strong men, no one ever looked after them.  They
spent their lives caring for others, and were never cared for.

There were times when a sort of exaltation of sacrifice kept her
head high, when the thing she was forced to give up seemed trifling
compared with the men and boys who, some determinedly, some
sheepishly, left the crowd around the borrowed car from which she
spoke, and went into the recruiting station.  There was sacrifice
and sacrifice, and there was some comfort in the thought that both
she and Clayton were putting the happiness of others above their own.

They had both, somehow, somewhere, missed the path.  But they must
never go back and try to find it.

Delight's visit left her thoughtful.  There must be some way to
save Graham.  She wondered how much of Clayton's weariness was due
to Graham.  And she wondered, too, if he knew of the talk about
Natalie and Rodney Page.  There was a great deal of talk.  Somehow
such talk cheapened his sacrifice and hers.

Not that she believed it, or much of it.  She knew how little such
gossip actually meant.  Practically every woman she knew, herself
included, had at one time or another laid herself open to such
invidious comment.  They had all been idle, and they sought amusement
in such spurious affairs as this, harmless in the main, but taking
on the appearance of evil.  That was part of the game, to appear
worse than one really was.  The older the woman, the more eager she
was often in her clutch at the vanishing romance of youth.

Only - it was part of the game, too, to avoid scandal.  A fierce
pride for Clayton's name sent the color to her face.

On the evening after Delight's visit, she had promised to speak at
a recruiting station far down-town in a crowded tenement district,
and tired as she was, she took a bus and went down at seven o'clock.
She was uneasy and nervous.  She had not spoken in the evening
before, and in all her sheltered life she had never seen the milling
of a night crowd in a slum district.

There was a wagon drawn up at the curb, and an earnest-eyed young
clergyman was speaking.  The crowd was attentive, mildly curious.
The clergyman was emphatic without being convincing.  Audrey watched
the faces about her, standing in the crowd herself, and a sense of
the futility of it all gripped her.  All these men, and only a
feeble cheer as a boy still in his teens agreed to volunteer.  All
this effort for such scant result, and over on the other side such
dire need!  But one thing cheered her.  Beside her, in the crowd,
a portly elderly Jew was standing with his hat in his hand, and
when a man near him made some jeering comment, the Jew brought his
hand down on his shoulder.

"Be still and listen," he said.  "Or else go away and allow others
to listen.  This is our country which calls."

"It's amusing, isn't it?"  Audrey heard a woman's voice near her,
carefully inflected, slightly affected.

"It's rather stunning, in a way.  It's decorative; the white faces,
and that chap in the wagon, and the gasoline torch."

"I'd enjoy it more if I'd had my dinner."

The man laughed.

"You are a most brazen combination of the mundane and the spiritual,
Natalie.  You are all soul - after you are fed.  Come on.  It's
near here."

Audrey's hands were very cold.  By the movement of the crowd behind
her, she knew that Natalie and Rodney were making their escape,
toward food and a quiet talk in some obscure restaurant in the
neighborhood.  Fierce anger shook her.  For this she and Clayton
were giving up the only hope they had of happiness - that Natalie
might carry on a cheap and stealthy flirtation.

She made a magnificent appeal that night, and a very successful
one.  The lethargic crowd waked up and pressed forward.  There
were occasional cheers, and now and then the greater tribute of
convinced silence.  And on a box in the wagon the young clergyman
eyed her almost wistfully.  What a woman she was!  With such a
woman a man could live up to the best in him.  Then he remembered
his salary in a mission church of twelve hundred a year, and sighed.

He gained courage, later on, and asked Audrey if she would have
some coffee with him, or something to eat.  She looked tired.

"Tired!" said Audrey.  "I am only tired these days when I am not
working."

"You must not use yourself up.  You are too valuable to the country."

She was very grateful.  After all, what else really mattered?  In a
little glow she accepted his invitation.

"Only coffee," she said.  "I have had dinner.  Is there any place
near?"

He piloted her through the crowd, now rapidly dispersing.  Here and
there some man, often in halting English, thanked her for what she
had said.  A woman, slightly the worse for drink, but with friendly,
rather humorous eyes, put a hand on her arm.

"You're all right, m'dear," she said.  "You're the stuff.  Give it
to them.  I wish to God I could talk.  I'd tell 'em something."

The clergyman drew her on hastily.

In a small Italian restaurant, almost deserted, they found a table,
and the clergyman ordered eggs and coffee.  He was a trifle uneasy.
In the wagon Audrey's plain dark clothes had deceived him.  But the
single pearl on her finger was very valuable.  He fell to apologizing
for the place.

"I often come here," he explained.  "The food is good, if you like
Italian cooking.  And it is near my work.  I - "

But Audrey was not listening.  At a corner, far back, Natalie and
Rodney were sitting, engrossed in each other.  Natalie's back was
carefully turned to the room, but there was no mistaking her.
Audrey wanted madly to get away, but the coffee had come and the
young clergyman was talking gentle platitudes in a rather sweet
but monotonous voice.  Then Rodney saw her, and bowed.

Almost immediately afterward she heard the soft rustle that was
Natalie, and found them both beside her.

"Can we run you up-town?" Natalie asked.  "That is, unless - "

She glanced at the clergyman.

"Thank you, no, Natalie.  I'm going to have some supper first."

Natalie was uneasy.  Audrey made no move to present the clergyman,
whose name she did not know.  Rodney was looking slightly bored.

"Odd little place, isn't it?"  Natalie offered after a second's
silence.

"Rather quaint, I think."

Natalie made a desperate effort to smooth over an awkward situation.
She turned to the clergyman.

"We heard you speaking.  It was quite thrilling."

He smiled a little.

"Not so thrilling as this lady.  She carried the crowd, absolutely."

Natalie turned and stared at Audrey, who was flushed with annoyance.

"You!" she said.  "Do you mean to say you have been talking from that
wagon?"

"I haven't said it.  But I have."

"For heaven's sake!" Then she laughed and glanced at Rodney.  "Well,
if you won't tell on me, I'll not tell on you."  And then seeing
Audrey straighten, "I don't mean that, of course.  Clay's at a
meeting to-night, so I am having a holiday."

She moved on, always with the soft rustle, leaving behind her a
delicate whiff of violets and a wide-eyed clergyman, who stared
after her admiringly.

"What a beautiful woman!" he said.  There was a faint regret in his
voice that Audrey had not presented him, and he did not see that
her coffee-cup trembled as she lifted it to her lips.

At ten o'clock the next morning Natalie called her on the 'phone.
Natalie's morning voice was always languid, but there was a trace
of pleading in it now.

"It's a lovely day," she said.  "What are you doing?"

"I've been darning."

"You!  Darning!"

"I rather like it."

"Heavens, how you've changed!  I suppose you wouldn't do anything
so frivolous as to go out with me to the new house."

Audrey hesitated.  Evidently Natalie wanted to talk, to try to
justify herself.  But the feeling that she was the last woman in
the world to be Natalie's father-confessor was strong in her.  On
the other hand, there was the question of Graham.  On that, before
long, she and Natalie would have, in one of her own occasional
lapses into slang, to go to the mat.

"I'll come, of course, if that's an invitation."

"I'll be around in an hour, then."

Natalie was unusually prompt.  She was nervous and excited, and was
even more carefully dressed than usual.  Over her dark blue velvet
dress she wore a loose motor-coat, with a great chinchilla collar,
but above it Audrey, who would have given a great deal to be able
to hate her, found her rather pathetic, a little droop to her mouth,
dark circles which no veil could hide under her eyes.

The car was in its customary resplendent condition.  There were
orchids in the flower-holder, and the footman, light rug over his
arm, stood rigidly waiting at the door.

"What a tone you and your outfit do give my little street," Audrey
said, as they started.  "We have more milk-wagons than limousines,
you know."

"I don't see how you can bear it."

Audrey smiled.  "It's really rather nice," she said.  "For one
thing, I haven't any bills.  I never lived on a cash basis before.
It's a sort of emancipation."

"Oh, bills!" said Natalie, and waved her hands despairingly.  "If
you could see my desk!  And the way I watch the mail so Clay won't
see them first.  They really ought to send bills in blank envelopes."

"But you have to give them to him eventually, don't you?"

"I can choose my moment.  And it is never in the morning.  He's
rather awful in the morning."

"Awful?"

"Oh, not ugly.  Just quiet.  I hate a man who doesn't talk in the
mornings.  But then, for months, he hasn't really talked at all.
That's why" - she was rather breathless - "that's why I went out
with Rodney last night."

"I don't think Clayton would mind, if you told him first.  It's
your own affair, of course, but it doesn't seem quite fair to him."

"Oh, of course you'd side with him.   Women always side with the
husband."

"I don't 'side' with any one," Audrey protested.  "But I am sure,
if he realized that you are lonely - "

Suddenly she realized that Natalie was crying.  Not much, but enough
to force her, to dab her eyes carefully through her veil.

"I'm awfully unhappy, Audrey," she said.  "Everything's wrong, and
I don't know why.  What have I done?  I try and try and things just
get worse."

Audrey was very uncomfortable.  She had a guilty feeling that the
whole situation, with Natalie pouring out her woes beside her, was
indelicate, unbearable.

"But if Clay - " she began.

"Clay!   He's absolutely ungrateful.  He takes me for granted, and
the house for granted.  Everything.  And if he knows I want a thing,
he disapproves at once.  I think sometimes he takes a vicious
pleasure in thwarting me."

But as she did not go on, Audrey said nothing.  Natalie had raised
her veil, and from a gold vanity-case was repairing the damages
around her eyes.

"Why don't you find something to do, something to interest you?"
Audrey suggested finally.

But Natalie poured out a list of duties that lasted for the last
three miles of the trip, ending with the new house.

"Even that has ceased to be a satisfaction," she finished.  "Clayton
wants to stop work on it, and cut down all the estimates.  It's too
awful.  First he told me to get anything I liked, and now he says
to cut down to nothing.  I could just shriek about it."

"Perhaps that's because we are in the war, now."

"War or no war, we have to live, don't we?   And he thinks I ought
to do without the extra man for the car, and the second man in the
house, and heaven alone knows what.  I'm at the end of my patience."

Audrey made a resolution.  After all, what mattered was that things
should be more tolerable for Clayton.  She turned to Natalie.

"Why don't you try to do what he wants, Natalie?  He must have a
reason for asking you.  And it would please him a lot."

"If I start making concession, I can just keep it up.  He's like
that."

"He's so awfully fine, Natalie.  He's - well, he's rather big.
And sometimes I think, if you just tried, he wouldn't be so hard
to please.  He probably wants peace and happiness?"

"Happiness!"  Natalie's voice was high.  "That sounds like Clay.
Happiness!  Don't you suppose I want to be happy?"

"Not enough to work for it," said Audrey, evenly.

Natalie turned and stared at her.

"I believe you're half in love with Clay yourself!"

"Perhaps I am."

But she smiled frankly into Natalie's eyes.

"I know if I were married to him, I'd try to do what he wanted."

"You'd try it for a year.  Then you'd give it up.  It's one thing
to admire a man.  It's quite different being married to him, and
having to put up with all sorts of things?"

Her voice trailed off before the dark vision of her domestic,
unhappiness.  And again, as with Graham and his father, it was what
she did not say that counted.  Audrey came close to hating her just
then.

So far the conversation had not touched on Graham, and now they
were turning in the new drive.  Already the lawns Were showing
green, and extensive plantings of shrubbery were putting out their
pale new buds.  Audrey, bending forward in the car, found it very
lovely, and because it belonged to Clay, was to be his home, it
thrilled her, just as the towering furnaces of his mill thrilled
her, the lines of men leaving at nightfall.  It was his, therefore
it was significant.

The house amazed her.  Even Natalie's enthusiasm had not promised
anything so stately or so vast.  Moving behind her through great
empty rooms, to the sound of incessant hammering, over which
Natalie's voice was raised shrilly, she was forced to confess that,
between them, Natalie and Rodney had made a lovely thing.  She felt
no jealousy when she contrasted it with her own small apartment.
She even felt that it was the sort of house Clayton should have.

For, although it had been designed as a setting for Natalie,
although every color-scheme, almost every chair, had been bought
with a view to forming a background for her, it was too big, too
massive.  It dwarfed her.  Out-of-doors, Audrey lost that feeling.
In the formal garden Natalie was charmingly framed.  It was like
her, beautifully exact, carefully planned, already with its spring
borders faintly glowing.

Natalie cheered in her approval.

"You're so comforting," she said.  "Clay thinks it isn't homelike.
He says it's a show place - which it ought to be.  It cost enough
- and he hates show places.  He really ought to have a cottage.
Now let's see the swimming-pool."

But at the pool she lost her gayety.  The cement basin, still empty,
gleamed white in the sun, and Natalie, suddenly brooding, stood
beside it staring absently into it.

"It was for Graham," she said at last.  "We were going to have
week-end parties, and all sorts of young people.  But now!"

"What about now?"

Natalie raised tragic eyes to hers.

"He's probably going into the army.  He'd have never thought of it,
but Clayton shows in every possible way that he thinks he ought to
go.  What is the boy to do?  His father driving him to what may be
his death!"

"I don't think he'd do that, Natalie."

Natalie laughed, her little mirthless laugh.

"Much you know what his father would do!  I'll tell you this, Audrey.
If Graham goes, and anything - happens to him, I'll never forgive
Clay.  Never."

Audrey had not suspected such depths of feeling as Natalie's eyes
showed under their penciled brows.  They were desperate, vindictive
eyes.  Suddenly Natalie was pleading with her.

"You'll talk to Clay, won't you?  He'll listen to you.  He has a
lot of respect for your opinion.  I want you to go to him, Audrey.
I brought you here to ask you.  I'm almost out of my mind.  Why do
you suppose I play around with Rodney?  I've got to forget, that's
all.  And I've tried everything I know, and failed.  He'll go, and
I'll lose him, and if I do it will kill me."

"It doesn't follow that because he goes he won't come back."

"He'll be in danger.  I shall be worrying about him every moment."
She threw out her hands in what was as unrestrained a gesture as
she ever made.  "Look at me!" she cried.  "I'm getting old under
it.  I have lines about my eyes already.  I hate to look at myself
in the morning.  And I'm not old.  I ought to be at my best now."

Natalie's anxiety was for Graham, but her pity was for herself.
Audrey's heart hardened.

"I'm sorry," she said.  "I can't go to Clay.  I feel as I think he
does.  If Graham wants to go, he should be free to do it.  You're
only hurting him, and your influence on him, by holding him back."

"You've never had a child."

"If I had, and he wanted to go, I should be terrified, but I should
be proud."

"You and Clay!  You even talk alike.  It's all a pose, this exalted
attitude.  Even this war is a pose.  It's a national attitude we've
struck, a great nation going to rescue humanity, while the rest of
the world looks on and applauds!  It makes me ill."

She turned and went back to the house, leaving Audrey by the
swimming-pool.  She sat on the edge of one of the stone benches,
feeling utterly dreary and sad.  To make a sacrifice for a worthy
object was one thing.  To throw away a life's happiness for a
spoiled, petulant woman was another.  It was too high a price to
pay.  Mingled with her depression was pity for Clayton; for all
the years that he had lived with this woman: and pride in him,
that he had never betrayed his disillusion.

After a time she saw the car waiting, and she went slowly back to
the house.  Natalie was already inside, and she made no apologies
whatever.  The drive back was difficult.  Natalie openly sulked,
replied in monosyllables, made no effort herself until they were
in the city again.  Then she said, "I'm sorry I asked you to speak
to Clay.  Of course you needn't do it."

"Not if it is to do what you said.  But I wish you wouldn't
misunderstand me, Natalie.  I'm awfully sorry.  We just think
differently."

"We certainly do," said Natalie briefly.  And that was her good-by.




CHAPTER XXXVII

When Clayton had returned from Washington, one of the first
problems put up to him had been Herman Klein's application to be
taken on again.  He found Hutchinson in favor of it.

"He doesn't say much," he said.  "Never did.  But I gather things
are changed, now we are in the war ourselves."

"I suppose we need him."

"You bet we need him."

For the problem of skilled labor was already a grave one.

Clayton was doubtful.  If he could have conferred with Dunbar he
would have felt more comfortable, but Dunbar was away on some
mysterious errand connected with the Military Intelligence
Department.  He sat considering, tapping on his desk with the
handle of his pen.  Of course things were different now.  A good
many Germans whose sympathies had, as between the Fatherland and
the Allies, been with Germany, were now driven to a decision
between the land they had left and the land they had adopted.  And
behind Herman there were thirty years of good record.

"Where is the daughter?"

"I don't know.  She left some weeks ago.  It's talk around the plant
that he beat her up, and she got out.  Those Germans don't know the
first thing about how to treat women."

"Then she is not in Weaver's office?"

There was more talk in the offices than Hutchinson repeated.
Graham's fondness for Anna, her slavish devotion to him, had been
pretty well recognized.  He wondered if Clayton knew anything about
it, or the further gossip that Graham knew where Anna Klein had been
hiding.

"What about Rudolph Klein?  He was a nephew, wasn't he?"

"Fired," said Hutchinson laconically.  "Got to spreading the
brotherhood of the world idea - sweat brothers, he calls them.  But
he was mighty careful never to get in a perspiration himself."

"We might try Herman again.  But I'd keep an eye on him."

So Herman was taken on at the new munition plant.  He was a citizen,
he owned property, he had a record of long service behind him.  And,
at first, he was minded to preserve that record intact.  While he
had by now added to his rage against the Fatherland's enemies a vast
and sullen fury against invested capital, his German caution still
remained.

He would sit through fiery denunciations of wealth, nodding his
head slowly in agreement.  He was perfectly aware that in Gus's
little back room dark plots were hatched.  Indeed, on a certain
April night Rudolph had come up and called him onto the porch.

"In about fifteen minutes," he said, consulting his watch in the
doorway, "I'm going to show you something pretty."

And in fifteen minutes to the dot the great railroad warehouses
near the city wharf had burst into flames.  Herman had watched
without comment, while Rudolph talked incessantly, boasting of
his share in the enterprise.

"About a million dollars' worth of fireworks there," he said, as
the glare dyed their faces red.  "All stuff for the Allies."  And
he boasted, "When the cat sits on the pickhandle, brass buttons
must go."

By that time Herman knew that the "cat" meant sabotage.  He had
nodded slowly.

"But it is dangerous," was his later comment.  "Sometimes they
will learn, and then?"

His caution had exasperated Rudolph almost to frenzy.  And as
time went on, and one man after another of the organization was
ferreted out at the new plant and dismissed, the sole remaining
hope of the organization was Herman.  With his reinstatement their
hopes had risen again, but to every suggestion so far he had been
deaf.  He would listen approvingly, but at the end, when he found
the talk veering his way, and a circle of intent faces watching
him, he would say:

"It is too dangerous.  And it is a young man's work.  I am not
young."

Then he would pay his score, but never by any chance Rudolph's or
the others, and go home to his empty house.  But recently the plant
had gone on double turn, and Herman was soon to go on at night.
Here was the gang's opportunity.  Everything was ready but Herman
himself.  He continued interested, but impersonal.  For the sake
of the Fatherland he was willing to have the plant go, and to lose
his work.  He was not at all daunted by the thought of the deaths
that would follow.  That was war.  Anything that killed and
destroyed was fair in war.  But he did not care to place himself
in danger.  Let those young hot-heads do the work.

Rudolph, watching him, bided his time.  The ground was plowed and
harrowed, ready for the seed, and Rudolph had only to find the seed.

The night he had carried Anna into the cottage on the hill, he had
found it.

Herman had not beaten Anna.  Rudolph had carried her up to her bed,
and Herman, following slowly, strap in hand, had been confronted by
the younger man in the doorway of the room where Anna lay, conscious
but unmoving, on the bed.

"You can use that thing later," Rudolph said.  "She's sick now.
Better let her alone."

"I will teach her to run away," Herman muttered thickly.  "She left
me, her father, and threw away a good job - I - "

"You come down-stairs.  I've something to say to you."

And, after a time, Herman had followed him down, but he still clung
doggedly to the strap.

Rudolph led the way outside, and here in the darkness he told Anna's
story, twisted and distorted through his own warped mind, but
convincing and partially true.  Herman's silence began to alarm him,
however, and when at last he rose and made for the door, Rudolph
was before him.

"What are you going to do?"

Herman said nothing, but he raised the strap and held it menacingly.

"Get out of my way."

"Don't be a fool," Rudolph entreated.  "You can beat her to death,
and what do you get out of it?  She'll run away again if you touch
her.  Put that strap down.  I'm not afraid of you."

Their voices, raised and angry, penetrated through Anna's haze of
fright and faintness.  She sat up in the bed, ready to spring to
the window if she heard steps on the stairs.  When none came, but
the voices, lowered now, went on endlessly below, she slipped out
of her bed and crept to the doorway.

Sounds traveled clearly up the narrow enclosed stairway.  She stood
there, swaying slightly, until at last her legs would no longer
support her.  She crouched on the floor, a hand clutching her throat,
lest she scream.  And listened.

She did not sleep at all.  The night had been too full of horrors.
And she was too ill to attempt a second flight.  Besides, where
could she go?  Katie was not there.  She could see her empty little
room across, with its cot bed and tawdry dresser.  Before, too,
she had had Grahams protection to count on.  Now she had nothing.

And the voices went on.

When she went back to bed it was almost dawn.  She heard Herman
come up, heard the heavy thump of his shoes on the floor, and the
creak immediately following that showed he had lain down without
undressing.  By the absence of his resonant snoring she knew he
was not sleeping, either.  She pictured him lying there, his eyes
on the door, in almost unwinking espionage.

At half past six she got up and went down-stairs.  Almost immediately
she heard his stockinged feet behind her.  She turned and looked up
at him.

"What are you going to do?"

"Going to make myself some coffee."

He came down, and sat down in the sitting-room.  From where he sat
he could survey the kitchen, and she knew his eyes were on her.
His very quiet terrified her, but although the strap lay on the
table he made no move toward it.  She built a fire and put on the
kettle, and after a time she brought him some coffee and some
bread.  He took it without a word.  Sick as she was, she fell to
cleaning up the dirty kitchen.  She went outside for a pail, to
find him behind her in the doorway.  Then she knew what he intended
to do.  He was afraid, for some reason, to beat her again, but he
was going to watch her lest again she make her escape.  The silence,
under his heavy gaze, was intolerable.

All day she worked, and only once did Herman lose sight of her.
That was when he took a ladder, and outside the house nailed all
the upper windows shut.  He did it with German thoroughness,
hammering deliberately, placing his nails carefully.  After that
he went to the corner grocery, but before he went he spoke the
first words of the day.

"You will go to your room."

She went, and he locked her in.  She knew then that she was a
prisoner.  When he was at the mill at night, while he slept during
the day, she was to be locked up in her stuffy, airless room.  When
he was about she would do the housework, always under his silent,
contemptuous gaze.

She made one appeal to him, and only one, and that was to his
cupidity.

"I've been sick, but I'm able to work now, father."

He paid no attention to her.

"If you lock me up and don't let me work," she persisted, "you'll
only be cutting off your nose to spite your face.  I make good money,
and you know it."

She thought he was going to speak then, but he did not.  She put
his food on the table and he ate gluttonously, as he always did.
She did not sit down.  She drank a little coffee, standing at the
stove, and watched the back of his head with hate in her eyes.
He could eat like that, when he stood committed to a terrible thing!

It was not until late in the day that it began to dawn on her how
she was responsible.  She was getting stronger then and more able
to think.  She followed as best she could the events of the last
months, and she saw that, as surely as though a malevolent power
had arranged it, the thing was the result of her infatuation for
Graham.

She was in despair, and she began to plan how to get word to Graham
of what was impending.  She scrawled a note to Graham, telling him
where she was and to try to get in touch with her somehow.  If he
would come around four o'clock Herman was generally up and off to
the grocer's, or to Gus's saloon for his afternoon beer.

"I'll break a window and talk to you," she wrote.  "I'm locked in
when he's out.  My window is on the north side.  Don't lose any time.
There's something terrible going to happen."

But several days went by and the postman did not appear.  Herman
had put a padlock on the outside of her bedroom door, and her hope
of finding a second key to fit the door-lock died then.

It had become a silent, bitter contest between the two of them, with
two advantages in favor of the girl.  She was more intelligent than
Herman, and she knew the thing he was planning to do.  She made a
careful survey of her room, and she saw that with a screw-driver
she could unfasten the hinge of her bedroom door.  Herman, however,
always kept his tools locked up.  She managed, apparently by
accident, to break the point off a knife, and when she went up to
her room one afternoon to be locked in while Herman went to Gus's
saloon, she carried the knife in her stocking.

It was a sorry tool, however.  Driven by her shaking hand, there
was a time when she almost despaired.  And time was flying.  The
postman, when he came, came at five, and she heard the kitchen
clock strike five before the first screw fell out into her hand.
She got them all out finally, and the door hung crazily, held
only by the padlock.  She ran to the window.  The postman was
coming along the street, and she hammered madly at the glass.  When
he saw her he turned in at the gate, and she got her letter and
ran down the stairs.

She heard his step on the porch outside, and called to him.

"Is that you, Briggs?"

The postman was "Briggs" to the hill.

"Yes."

"If I slide a letter out under the door, will you take it to the
post-office for me?  It's important."

"All right.  Slide."

She had put it partially under the door when a doubt crept into her
mind.  That was not Briggs's voice.  She made a frantic effort to
draw the letter back, but stronger fingers than hers had it beyond
the door.  She clutched, held tight.  Then she heard a chuckle, and
found herself with a corner of the envelope in her hand.

There were voices outside, Briggs's and Rudolph's.

"Guess that's for me."

"Like hell it is."

She ran madly up the stairs again, and tried with shaking fingers
to screw the door-hinges into place again.  She fully expected that
they would kill her.  She heard Briggs go out, and after a time she
heard Rudolph trying to kick in the house door.  Then, when the
last screw was back in place, she heard Herman's heavy step outside,
and Rudolph's voice, high, furious, and insistent.

Had Herman not been obsessed with the thing he was to do, he might
have beaten her to death that night.  But he did not.  She remained
in her room, without food or water.  She had made up her mind to
kill herself with the knife if they came up after her, but the only
sounds she heard were of high voices, growing lower and more sinister.

After that, for days she was a prisoner.  Herman moved his bed
down-stairs and slept in the sitting-room, the five or six hours of
day-light sleep which were all he required.  And at night, while he
was at the mill, Rudolph sat and dozed and kept watch below.  Twice
a day some meager provisions were left at the top of the stairs and
her door was unlocked.  She would creep out and get them, not
because she was hungry, but because she meant to keep up her strength.
Let their vigilance slip but once, and she meant to be ready.

She learned to interpret every sound below.  There were times when
the fumes from burning food came up the staircase and almost
smothered her.  And there were times, she fancied, when Herman
weakened and Rudolph talked for hours, inciting and inflaming him
again.  She gathered, too, that Gus's place was under surveillance,
and more than once in the middle of the night stealthy figures came
in by the garden gate and conferred with Rudolph down-stairs.  Then,
one evening, in the dusk of the May twilight, she saw three of them
come, one rather tall and military of figure, and one of them
carried, very carefully, a cheap suitcase.

She knew what was in that suitcase.




CHAPTER XXXVIII

One morning, in his mail, Clayton Spencer received a clipping.  It
had been cut from a so-called society journal, and it was clamped
to the prospectus of a firm of private detectives who gave
information for divorce cases as their specialty.

First curiously, then with mounting anger, Clayton read that the
wife of a prominent munition manufacturer was being seen constantly
in out of the way places with the young architect who was building
a palace for her out of the profiteer's new wealth.  "It is quite
probable," ended the notice, "that the episode will end in an
explosion louder than the best shell the husband in the case ever
turned out."

Clayton did not believe the thing for a moment.  He was infuriated,
but mostly with the journal, and with the insulting inference of
the prospectus.  He had a momentary clear vision, however, of Natalie,
of her idle days, of perhaps a futile last clutch at youth.  He had
no more doubt of her essential integrity than of his own.  But he
had a very distinct feeling that she had exposed his name to cheap
scandal, and that for nothing.

Had there been anything real behind it, he might have understood,
in his new humility, in his new knowledge of impulses stronger than
any restraints of society, he would quite certainly have made every
allowance.  But for a whim, an indulgence of her incorrigible vanity!
To get along, to save Natalie herself, he was stifling the best that
was in him, while Natalie -

That was one view of it.  The other was that Natalie was as starved
as he was.  If he got nothing from her, he gave her nothing.  How
was he to blame her?  She was straying along dangerous paths, but
he himself had stood at the edge of the precipice, and looked down.

Suddenly it occurred to him that perhaps, for once, Natalie was in
earnest.  Perhaps Rodney was, too.  Perhaps each of them had at
last found something that loomed larger than themselves.  In that
case?  But everything he knew of Natalie contradicted that.  She
was not a woman to count anything well lost for love.  She was
playing with his honor, with Rodney, with her own vanity.

Going up-town that night he pondered the question of how to take up
the matter with her.  It would be absurd, under the circumstances,
to take any virtuous attitude.  He was still undetermined when he
reached the house.

He found Marion Hayden there for dinner, and Graham, and a spirited
three-corner discussion going on which ceased when he stood in the
doorway.  Natalie looked irritated, Graham determined, and Marion
was slightly insolent and unusually handsome.

"Hurry and change, Clay," Natalie said.  "Dinner is waiting."

As he went away he had again the feeling of being shut out of
something which concerned Graham.

Dinner was difficult.  Natalie was obviously sulking, and Graham
was rather taciturn.  It was Marion who kept the conversation going,
and he surmised in her a repressed excitement, a certain triumph.

At last Natalie roused herself.  The meal was almost over, and the
servants had withdrawn.

"I wish you would talk sense to Graham, Clay," she said, fretfully.
"I think he has gone mad."

"I don't call it going mad to want to enlist, father."

"I do.  With your father needing you, and with all the men there
are who can go."

"I don't understand.  If he wants to enter the army, that's up to
him, isn't it?"

There was a brief silence.  Clayton found Natalie's eyes on him,
uneasy, resentful.

"That's just it.  I've promised mother not to, unless she gives her
consent.  And she won't give it."

"I certainly will not."

Clayton saw her appealing glance at Marion, but that young lady was
lighting a cigaret, her eyelids lowered.  He felt as though he were
watching a play, in which he was the audience.

"It's rather a family affair, isn't it?" he asked.  "Suppose we wait
until we are alone.  After all, there is no hurry."

Marion looked at him, and he caught a resentment in her glance.  The
two glances struck fire.

"Say something, Marion," Natalie implored her.

"I don't think my opinion is of any particular importance.  As Mr.
Spencer says, it's really a family matter."

Her insolence was gone.  Marion was easy.  She knew Natalie's game;
it was like her own.  But this big square-jawed man at the head of
the table frightened her.  And he hated her.  He hardly troubled to
hide it, for all his civility.  Even that civility was contemptuous.

In the drawing-room things were little better.  Natalie had counted
on Marion's cooperation, and she had failed her.  She pleaded a
headache and went up-stairs, leaving Clayton to play the host as
best he could.

Marion wandered into the music-room, with its bare polished floor,
its lovely painted piano, and played a little - gay, charming little
things, clever and artful.  Except when visitors came, the piano
was never touched, but now and then Clayton had visualized Audrey
there, singing in her husky sweet voice her little French songs.

Graham moved restlessly about the room, and Clayton felt that he
had altered lately.  He looked older, and not happy.  He knew the
boy wanted to talk about Natalie's opposition, but was hoping that
he would broach the subject.  And Clayton rather grimly refused to
do it.  Those next weeks would show how much of the man there was
in Graham, but the struggle must be between his mother and himself.

He paused, finally.
Marion was singing.

      "Give me your love for a day;
       A night; an hour.
       If the wages of sin are Death
       I'm willing to pay."

She sang it in her clear passionless voice.  Brave words, Clayton
thought, but there were few who would pay such wages.  This girl at
the piano, what did she know of the thing she sang about?  What did
any of the young know?

They always construed love in terms of passion.  But passion was
ephemeral.  Love lived on.  Passion took, but love gave.

He roused himself.

"Have you told Marion about the new arrangement?"

"I didn't know whether you cared to have it told."

"Don't you think she ought to know?  If she intends to enter the
family, she has a right to know that she is not marrying into great
wealth.  I don't suggest," he added, as Graham colored hotly, "that
it will make any difference.  I merely feel she ought to know your
circumstances."

He was called to the telephone, and when he came back he found them
in earnest conversation.  The girl turned toward him smiling.

"Graham has just told me.  You are splendid, Mr. Spencer."

And afterward Clayton was forced to admit an element of sincerity
in her voice.  She had had a disappointment, but she was very game.
Her admiration surprised him.  He was nearer to liking her than he
had ever been.

Even her succeeding words did not quite kill his admiration for her.

"And I have told Graham that he must not let you make all the
sacrifices.  Of course he is going to enlist."

She had turned her defeat into a triumph against Natalie.  Clayton
knew then that she would never marry Graham.  As she went out he
followed her with a faint smile of tribute.

The smile died as he turned to go up the stairs.

Natalie was in her dressing-room.  She had not undressed, but was
standing by a window.  She made no sign that she heard him enter,
and he hesitated.  Why try to talk things out with her?  Why hurt
her?  Why not let things drift along?  There was no hope of
bettering them.  One of two things he must do, either tear open
the situation between them, or ignore it.

"Can I get anything for your head, my dear?"

"I haven't any headache."

"Then I think I'll go to bed.  I didn't sleep much last night."

He was going out when she spoke again.

"I came up-stairs because I saw how things were going."

"Do you really want to go into that, to-night?"

"Why not to-night?  We'll have to go into it soon enough."

Yet when she turned to him he saw the real distress in her face,
and his anger died.

"I didn't want to hurt you, Natalie.  I honestly tried.  But you
know how I feel about that girl."

"Even the servants know it.  It is quite evident."

"We parted quite amiably."

"I dare say!  You were relieved that she was going.  If you would
only be ordinarily civil to her - oh, don't you see?  She could
keep Graham from going into this idiotic war.  You can't.  I
can't.  I've tried everything I know.  And she knows she can.
She's - hateful about it."

"And you would marry him to that sort of a girl?"

"I'd keep him from being blinded, or mutilated, or being killed."

"You can kill his soul."

"His soul!" She burst into hysterical laughter.  "You to talk about
souls!  That's - that's funny."

"Natalie, dear."  He was very grave, very gentle.  "Has it occurred
to you that we are hitting it off rather badly lately?"

She looked at him quickly.

"How?  Because I don't think as you do?  We got on well enough
before this war came along."

"Do you think it is only that?"

"If it's the house, just remember you gave me carte blanche there."

He made a little gesture of despair.

"I just thought perhaps you are not as happy as you might be."

"Happiness again!  Did you come up-stairs to-night, with this thing
hanging over us, to talk about happiness?  That's funny, too."  But
her eyes were suddenly suspicious.  There was something strange in
his voice.

"Let's forget that for a moment.  Graham will make his own decision.
But, before we leave that, let me tell you that I love him as much
as you do.  His going means exactly as much.  It's only - "

"Another point we differ on," she finished for him.  "Go on.  You
are suddenly concerned about my happiness.  I'm touched, Clay.  You
have left me all winter to go out alone, or with anybody who might
be sorry enough for me to pick me up, and now?"  Suddenly her eyes
sharpened, and she drew her breath quickly.  "You've seen that
scandalous thing in the paper!"

"It was sent to me."

"Who sent it?"

"A firm of private detectives."

She was frightened, and the terror in her face brought him to her
quickly.

"Natalie!  Don't look like that!  I don't believe it, of course.
It's stupid.  I wasn't going to tell you.  You don't think I believe
it, do you?"

She let him put an arm around her and hold her, as he would a scared
child.  There was no love for her in it, but a great pity, and acute
remorse that he could hold her so and care for her so little.

"Oh, Clay!" she gasped.  "I've been perfectly sick about it!"

His conviction of his own failure to her made him very tender.  He
talked to her, as she stood with her face buried in the shoulder of
his coat, of the absurdity of her fear, of his own understanding,
and when she was calmer he made a futile effort to make his position
clear.

"I am not angry," he said.  "And I'm not fudging you in any way.
But you know how things are between us.  We have been drifting
apart for rather a long time.  It's not your fault.  Perhaps it is
mine.  Probably it is.  I know I don't make you happy.  And
sometimes I think things have either got to be better or worse."

"If I'm willing to go along as we are, I think you should be."

"Then let's try to get a little happiness out of it all, Natalie."

"Oh, happiness!  You are always raving about happiness.  There isn't
any such thing."

"Peace, then.  Let's have peace, Natalie."

She drew back, regarding him.

"What did you mean by things having to be better or worse?"

When he found no immediate answer, she was uneasy.  The prospect of
any change in their relationship frightened her.  Like all weak
women, she was afraid of change.  Her life suited her.  Even her
misery she loved and fed on.  She had pitied herself always.  Not
love, but fear of change, lay behind her shallow, anxious eyes.  Yet
he could not hurt her.  She had been foolish, but she had not been
wicked.  In his new humility he found her infinitely better than
himself.

"I spoke without thinking."

"Then it must have been in your mind.  Let me see the clipping, Clay.
I've tried to forget what it said."

She took it, still pinned to the prospectus, and bent over them both.
When she had examined them, she continued to stand with lowered
eyelids, turning and crumpling them.  Then she looked up.

"So that is what you meant!  It was a - well, a sort of a threat."

"I had no intention of threatening you, my dear.  You ought to know
me better.  That clipping was sent me attached to the slip.  The
only reason I let you see it was because I think you ought to know
how the most innocent things are misconstrued."

"You couldn't divorce me if you wanted to."  Then her defiance faded
in a weak terror.  She began to cry, shameless frightened tears that
rolled down her cheeks.  She reminded him that she was the mother of
his child, that she had sacrificed her life to both of them, and
that now they would both leave her and turn her adrift.  She had
served her purpose, now let her go.

Utter hopelessness kept him dumb.  He knew of old that she would
cry until she was ready to stop, or until she had gained her point.
And he knew, too, that she expected him to put his arms around her
again, in token of his complete surrender.  The very fact hardened
him.  He did not want to put his arms around her.  He wanted,
indeed, to get out into the open air and walk off his exasperation.
The scent in the room stifled him.

When he made no move toward her she gradually stopped crying, and
gave way to the rage that was often behind her tears.

"Just try to divorce me, and see!"

"Good God, I haven't even mentioned divorce.  I only said we must
try to get along better.  To agree."

"Which means, I dare say, that I am to agree with you!"  But she
had one weapon still.  Suddenly she smiled a little wistfully, and
made the apparently complete surrender that always disarmed him.

"I'll be good from now on, Clay.  I'll be very, very good. Only
- don't be always criticizing me."

She held up her lips, and after a second's hesitation he kissed her.
He knew he was precisely where he had been when he started, and he
had a hopeless sense of the futility of the effort he had made.
Natalie had got by with a bad half-hour, and would proceed to forget
it as quickly as she always forgot anything disagreeable.  Still,
she was in a more receptive mood than usual, and he wondered if that
would not be as good a time as any to speak about his new plan as
to the mill.  He took an uneasy turn or two about the room, feeling
her eyes on him.

"There is something else, Natalie."

She had relaxed like a kitten in her big chair, and was lighting one
of the small, gilt-tipped cigarets she affected.

"About Graham?"

"It affects Graham.  It affects us all."

"Yes?"

He hesitated.  To talk to Natalie about business meant reducing it
to its most elemental form.

"Have you ever thought that this war of ours means more than merely
raising armies?"

"I haven't thought about this war at all.  It's too absurd.  A lot
of politicians?"  She shrugged her shoulders.

"It means a great deal of money."

"'Well, the country is rich, isn't it?"

"The country?  That means the people."

"I knew we'd get to money sooner or later," she observed, resignedly.
"All right.  We'll be taxed, so we'll cut down on the country house
- go on.  I can say it before you do.  But don't say we'll have to
do without the greenhouses, because we can't."

"We may have to go without more than greenhouses."

His tone made her sit bolt upright.  Then she laughed a little.

"Poor old Clay," she said, with the caressing tone she used when
she meant to make no concession.  "I do spend money, don't I?  But
I do make you comfortable, you know.  And what is what I spend,
compared with what you are making?"

"It's just that.  I don't think I can consistently go on making a
profit on this war, now that we are in it."

He explained then what he meant, and watched her face set into the
hard lines he knew so well.  But she listened to the end and when
he had finished she said nothing.

"Well?" he said.

"I don't think you have the remotest idea of doing it.  You like
to play at the heroic.  You can see yourself doing it, and every
one pointing to you as the man who threw away a fortune.  But you
are humbugging yourself.  You'll never do it.  I give you credit
for too much sense."

He went rather white.  She knew the weakness in his armor, his
hatred of anything theatrical, and with unfailing accuracy she
always pierced it.

"Suppose I tell you I have already offered the plant to the
government, at a nominal profit."

Suddenly she got up, and every vestige of softness was gone.

"I don't think you would be such a fool."

"I have done it."

"Then you are insane.  There is no other possible explanation."

She passed him, moving swiftly, and went into her bedroom.  He heard
her lock the door behind her.




CHAPTER XXXIX

Audrey had made a resolution, and with characteristic energy had
proceeded to carry it out.  She was no longer needed at the
recruiting stations.  After a month's debate the conscription law
was about to be passed, made certain by the frank statement of the
British Commission under Balfour as to the urgency of the need of
a vast new army in France.

For the first time the Allies laid their cards face up on the table,
and America realized to what she was committed.  Almost overnight
a potential army of hundreds of thousands was changing to one of
millions.  The situation was desperate.  Germany had more men than
the Allies, and had vast eastern resources to draw on for still
more.  To the Allies only the untapped resources of America remained.

In private conference with the President Mr. Balfour had urged haste,
and yet more haste.

Audrey, reading her newspapers faithfully, felt with her exaltation
a little stirring of regret.  Her occupation, such as it was, was
gone.  For the thin stream of men flowing toward the recruiting
stations there was now to be a vast movement of the young manhood
of the nation.  And she could have no place in it.

Almost immediately she set to work to find herself a new place.  At
first there seemed to be none.  She went to a hospital, and offered
her strong body and her two willing hands for training.

"I could learn quickly," she pleaded, "and surely there will not be
enough nurses for such an army as we are to have."

"Our regular course is three years."

"But a special course.  Surely I may have that.  There are so many
things one won't need in France."

The head of the training school smiled rather wistfully.  They came
to her so often now, these intelligent, untrained women, all
eagerness to help, to forget and unlive, if they could, their
wasted lives.

"You want to go to France, of course?"

"If I can.  My husband was killed over there."

But she did not intend to make capital of Chris's death.  "Of course,
that has nothing to do with my going.  I simply want to work."

"It's hard work.  Not romantic."

"I am not looking for romance."

In the end, however, she had to give it up.  In some hospitals they
were already training nurses helpers, but they were to relieve
trained women for France.  She went home to think it over.  She had
felt that by leaving the country she would solve Clayton's problem
and her own.  To stay on, seeing him now and then, was torture for
them both.

But there was something else.  She had begun, that afternoon, to
doubt whether she was fitted for nursing after all.  The quiet of
the hospital, the all-pervading odor of drugs, the subdued voice
and quiet eyes of the head of the training school, as of one who
had looked on life and found it infinitely sad, depressed her.  She
had walked home, impatient with herself, disappointed in her own
failure.  She thought dismally:

"I am of no earthly use.  I've played all my life, and now I'm
paying for it.  I ought to."  And she ran over her pitiful
accomplishments: "golf, bridge, ride, shoot, swim, sing (a little),
dance, tennis, some French - what a sickening list!"

She was glad that day to find Clare Gould waiting for her.  As
usual, the girl had brought her tribute, this time some early
strawberries.  Audrey found her in the pantry arranging their
leaves in a shallow dish.

"Clare!" she said.  "Aren't you working?"

"I've gone on night-turn now."

The girl's admiration salved her wounded pride in herself.  Then
she saw, on a table, an envelope with her name on it.  Clare's eyes
followed hers.

 "That's the rest of the money, Mrs.  Valentine."

She colored, but Audrey only smiled at her.

"Fine!" she said.  "Are you sure you can spare it?"

"I couldn't rest until it was all paid up.  And I'm getting along
fine.  I make a lot, really."

"Tell me about the night work."

"We've gone on double turn.  I rather like it at night.  It's
- well, it's like something on the stage.  The sparks fly from the
lathes, and they look like fireworks.  And when they hammer on hot
metal it's lovely."

She talked on, incoherent but glowing.  She liked her big turret
lathe.  It gave her a sense of power.  She liked to see the rough
metal growing smooth and shining like silver under her hands.  She
was naively pleased that she was doing a man's work, and doing it
well.

Audrey leaned back in her chair and listened.  All this that Clare
was talking about was Clayton's doing.  He at least had dreamed
true.  He was doing a man's part, too, in the war.  Even this girl,
whose hand Natalie Spencer would not have touched, this girl was
dreaming true.

Clare was still talking.  The draft would be hard on the plant.
They were short-handed now.  There was talk of taking in more girls
to replace the men who would be called.

"Do you think I could operate a lathe, Clare?"

"You!  Why, Mrs.  Valentine, it's not work for a lady! Look at my
hands."

But Audrey made an impatient gesture.

"I don't care about my hands.  The question is, could I do it?  I
don't seem able to do anything else."

"Why, yes." Clare was reluctant.  "I can, and you're a lot cleverer
than I am.  But it's hard.  It's rough, and some of the talk - oh,
I hope you don't mean it, Mrs.  Valentine."

Audrey, however, was meaning it.  It seemed to her, all at once,
the way out.  Here was work, needed work.  Work that she could do.
For the first time in months she blessed the golf and riding that
had kept her fit.

"Mr. Spencer is a friend of yours.  He'll never let you do it."

"He is not to know, Clare," Audrey said briskly.  "You are quite
right.  He would probably be very - mannish about it.  So we won't
tell him.  And now, how shall I go about getting in?  Will they
teach me, or shall I have to lust learn?  And whatever shall I wear?"

Clare explained while, for she was determined not to lose a minute,
Audrey changed into her plainest clothes.  They would be in time,
if they hurried, before the employment department closed.  There
were women in charge there.  They card-indexed you, and then you
were investigated by the secret service and if you were all right,
well, that was all.

"Mercy!  It's enough," said Audrey, impatiently.  "Do you mean to
say they'll come here?"

She glanced around her rooms, littered with photographs of people
well known to the public through the society journals, with its
high bright silver vases, its odd gifts of porcelain, its grand
piano taking up more than its share of room.

"If they come here," she deliberated, "they won't take me, Clare.
They'll be thinking I'm living on German money!"

So, in the end, she did not go to the munition works.  She went
room-hunting instead, with Clare beside her, very uncomfortable
on the street for fear Audrey would be compromised by walking with
her.  And at six o'clock that evening a young woman with a softly
inflected voice and an air of almost humorous enjoyment of
something the landlady failed to grasp, was the tenant, for one
month's rent in advance, of a room on South Perry Street.

Clare was almost in tears.

"I can't bear to think of your sleeping in that bed, Mrs. Valentine,"
she protested.  "It dips down so."

"I shan't have much time to sleep, anyhow.  And when I do so I shall
be so tired! -  What was the name I gave her, Clare?"

"Thompson.  Mary Thompson."

"She surprised me, or I'd have thought of a prettier one."  She was
absurdly high-spirited, although the next day's ordeal rather
worried her when she thought about it.  She had, oddly enough, no
trepidation about the work itself.  It was passing the detectives
in the employment department that worried her.  As a matter of fact,
however, there was no ordeal.  Her card was carried to the desk in
the corner, where the two men sat on whose decisions might so easily
rest the safety of the entire plant, and they surveyed her carefully.
Audrey looked ahead, and waited.  They would come over and question
her, and the whole fabric she had built would be destroyed.  But
nothing happened.  She was told she would be notified in a day or
two if she would be taken on, and with that she was forced to be
content.

She had a bad moment, however, for Graham came through the office
on his way out, and stopped for a moment directly in front of her.
Her heart almost stopped beating, and she dropped her glove and
stooped to pick it up.  When she sat erect again he was moving on.
But even her brief glance had showed her that the boy looked tired
and depressed.

She went to her rented room at once, for she must be prepared for
inquiries about her.  During the interval she arranged for the
closing of her apartment and the storing of her furniture.  With
their going would depart the last reminders of the old life, and
she felt a curious sense of relief.  They had little happiness to
remind her of, and much suffering.  The world had changed since
she had gathered them together, and she had changed with it.  She
was older and sadder.  But she would not have gone back.  Not for
anything would she have gone back.

She had one thing to do, however, before she disappeared.  She had
promised to try to find something for Delight, and she did it with
her usual thoroughness and dispatch.  She sent for her that last
day in the apartment, when in the morning she had found at the
Perry Street room a card telling her to report the following night.
When Delight came in she found the little apartment rather bare and
rather dreary, but Audrey was cheerful, almost gay.

"Going away for a little while," she explained.  "I've stored a
lot of stuff.  And now, my dear, do you really want to work?"

"I just must do something."

"All right.  That's settled.  I've got the thing I spoke about, in
one of the officers' training-camps.  But remember, Delight, this
is not going to be a romantic adventure.  It's to be work."

"I don't want a romantic adventure, Mrs. Valentine."

"Poor little thing," Audrey reflected to herself.  And aloud: "Good!
Of course I know you're sincere about working.  I - I understand,
awfully well."

Delight was pleased, but Audrey saw that she was not happy.  Even
when the details had been arranged she still sat in her straight
chair and made no move to go.  And Audrey felt that the next move
was up to her.

"What's the news about Graham Spencer?" she inquired.  "He'll be
drafted, I suppose."

"Not if they claim exemption.  He's making shells, you know."

She lifted rather heavy eyes to Audrey's.

"His mother is trying that now," she said.  "Ever since his
engagement was broken?"

"Oh, it was broken, was it?"

"Yes.  I don't know why.  But it's off.  Anyhow Mrs. Spencer is
telling everybody he can't be spared."

"And his father?"

"I don't know.  He doesn't talk about it, I think."

"Perhaps he wants him to make his own decision."

Delight rose and drew down her veil with hands that Audrey saw were
trembling a little.

"How can he make his own decision?" she asked.  "He may think it's
his own, but it's hers, Mrs. Spencer's.  She's always talking,
always.  And she's plausible.  She can make him think black is
white, if she wants to."

"Why don't you talk to him?"

"I?  He'd think I'd lost my mind!  Besides, that isn't it.  If you
- like a man, you want him to do the right thing because he wants
to, not because a girl asks him to."

"I wonder," Audrey said, slowly, "if he's worth it, Delight?"

"Worth what?" She was startled.

"Worth your - worth our worrying about him."

But she did not need Delight's hasty and flushed championship of
Graham to tell her what she already knew.

After she had gone, Audrey sat alone in her empty rooms and faced
a great temptation.  She was taking herself out of Clayton's life.
She knew that she would be as lost to him among the thousands of
workers in the munition plant as she would have been in Russia.
According to Clare, he rarely went into the shops themselves, and
never at night.

Of course "out of his life" was a phrase.  They would meet again.
But not now, not until they had had time to become resigned to what
they had already accepted.  The war would not last forever.  And
then she thought of their love, which had been born and had grown,
always with war at its background.  They had gone along well enough
until this winter, and then everything had changed.  Chris, Natalie,
Clayton, herself - none of them were quite what they had been.  Was
that one of the gains of war, that sham fell away, and people
revealed either the best or the worst in them?

War destroyed, but it also revealed.

The temptation was to hear Clayton's voice again.  She went to the
telephone, and stood with the instrument in her hands, thinking.
Would it comfort him?  Or would it only bring her close for a moment,
to emphasize her coming silence?

She put it down, and turned away.  When, some time later, the
taxicab came to take her to Perry Street, she was lying on her bed
in the dusk, face-down and arms outstretched, a lonely and pathetic
figure, all her courage dead for the moment, dead but for the
desire to hear Clayton's voice again before the silence closed down.

She got up and pinned on her hat for the last time, before the
mirror of the little inlaid dressing-table.  And she smiled rather
forlornly at her reflection in the glass.

"Well, I've got the present, anyhow," she considered.  "I'm not
going either to wallow in the past or peer into the future.  I'm
going to work."

The prospect cheered her.  After all, work was the great solution.
It was the great healer, too.  That was why men bore their griefs
better than women.  They could work.

She took a final glance around her stripped and cheerless rooms.
How really little things mattered!  All her life she had been
burdened with things.  Now at last she was free of them.

The shabby room on Perry Street called her.  Work called, beckoned
to her with calloused, useful hands.  She closed and locked the
door and went quietly down the stairs.




CHAPTER XL

One day late in May, Clayton, walking up-town in lieu of the golf
he had been forced to abandon, met Doctor Haverford on the street,
and found his way barred by that rather worried-looking gentleman.

"I was just going to see you, Clayton," he said.  "About two things.
I'll walk back a few blocks with you."

He was excited, rather exalted.

"I'm going in," he announced.  "Regimental chaplain.  I've got a
year's leave of absence.  I'm rather vague about what a chaplain
does, but I rather fancy he can be useful."

"You'll get over, of course.  You're lucky.  And you'll find plenty
to do."

"I've been rather anxious," Doctor Haverford confided.  "I've been
a clergyman so long that I don't know just how I'll measure up as
a man.  You know what I mean.  I am making no reflection on the
church.  But I've been sheltered and - well, I've been looked after.
I don't think I am physically brave.  It would be a fine thing,"
he said wryly, "if the chaplain were to turn and run under fire!"

"I shouldn't worry about that."

"My salary is to go on.  But I don't like that, either.  If I hadn't
a family I wouldn't accept it.  Delight thinks I shouldn't, anyhow.
As a matter of fact, there ought to be no half-way measures about
our giving ourselves.  If I had a son to give it would be different."

Clayton looked straight ahead.  He knew that the rector had, for the
moment, forgotten that he had a son to give and that he had not yet
given.

"Why don't you accept a small allowance?" he inquired quietly.  "Or,
better still, why don't you let me know how much it will take and
let me do it?  I'd like to feel that I was represented in France
- by you," he added.

And suddenly the rector remembered.  He was most uncomfortable, and
very flushed.

"Thanks.  I can't let you do that, of course."

"Why not?"

"Because, hang it all, Clayton, I'm not a parasite.  I took the car,
because it enabled me to do my parish work better.  But I'm not
going to run off to war and let you keep my family."

Clayton glanced at him, at his fine erect old figure, his warmly
flushed face.  War did strange things.  There was a new light in the
rector's once worldly if kindly eyes.  He had the strained look of a
man who sees great things, as yet far away, and who would hasten
toward them.  Insensibly he quickened his pace.

"But I can't go myself, so why can't I send a proxy?"

Clayton asked, smiling.  "I've an idea I'd be well represented."

"That's a fine way to look at it, but I can't do it.  I've saved
something, not much, but it will do for a year or two.  I'm glad
you made the offer, though.  It was like you, and - it showed me
the way.  I can't let any man, or any group of men, finance my
going."

And he stuck to it.  Clayton, having in mind those careful canvasses
of the congregation of Saint Luke's which had every few years
resulted in raising the rector's salary, was surprised and touched.
After all, war was like any other grief.  It brought out the best
or the worst in us.  It roused or it crushed us.

The rector had been thinking.

"I'm a very fortunate man," he said, suddenly.  "They're standing
squarely behind me, at home.  It's the women behind the army that
will make it count, Clayton."

Clayton said nothing.

"Which reminds me," went on the rector, "that I find Mrs. Valentine
has gone away.  I called on her to-day, and she has given up her
apartment.  Do you happen to know where she is?  She has left no
address."

"Gone away?" Clayton repeated.  "Why, no.  I hadn't heard of it."

There in the busy street he felt a strange sense of loneliness.
Always, although he did not see her, he felt her presence.  She
walked the same streets.  For the calling, if his extremity became
too great, he could hear her voice over the telephone.  There was
always the hope, too, of meeting her.  Not by design.  She had
forbidden that.  But some times perhaps God would be good to them
both, if they earned it, and they could touch hands for a moment.

But - gone!

"You are certain she left no address?"

"Quite certain.  She has stored her furniture, I believe."

There was a sense of hurt, then, too.  She had made this decision
without telling him.  It seemed incredible.  A dozen decisions a
day he made, and when they were vital there was always in his mind
the question as to whether she would approve or not.  He could not
go to her with them, but mentally he was always consulting with
her, earning her approbation.  And she had gone without a word.

"Do you think she has gone to France?"  He knew his voice sounded
stiff and constrained.

"I hope not.  She was being so useful here.  Of course, the draft
law - amazing thing, the draft law!  Never thought we'd come to it.
But it threw her out, in a way, of course."

"What has the draft law to do with Mrs.  Valentine?"

"Why, you know what she was doing, don't you?"

"I haven't seen her recently."

The rector half-stopped.

"Well!" he said.  "Let me tell you, Clayton, that that girl has
been recruiting men, night after night and day after day.  She's
done wonders.  Standing in a wagon, mind you, in the slums, or
anywhere; I heard her one night.  By George, I went home and tore
up a sermon I had been working on for days."

Why hadn't he known?  Why hadn't he realized that that was exactly
the sort of thing she would do?  There was bitterness in his heart,
too.  He might easily have stood unseen in the crowd, and have
watched and listened and been proud of her.  Then, these last weeks,
when he had been working, or dining out, or sitting dreary and
bored in a theater, she had been out in the streets.  Ah, she lived,
did Audrey.  Others worked and played, but she lived.  Audrey!
Audrey!

" - in the rain," the rector was saying.  "But she didn't mind it.
I remember her saying to the crowd, 'It's raining over here, and
maybe it's raining on the fellows in the trenches.  But I tell you,
I'd rather be over there, up to my waist in mud and water, than
scurrying for a doorway here.'  They had started to run out of the
shower, but at that they grinned and stopped.  She was wonderful,
Clayton."

In the rain!  And after it was over she would go home, in some
crowded bus or car, to her lonely rooms, while he rolled about the
city in a limousine!  It was cruel of her not to have told him, not
to have allowed him at least to see that she was warm and dry.

"I've been very busy.  I hadn't heard," he said, slowly.  "Is it
- was it generally known?"

Had Natalie known, and kept it from him?

"I think not.  Delight saw her and spoke to her, I believe."

"And you have no idea where she is now."

"None whatever."

He learned that night that Natalie had known, and he surprised a
little uneasiness in her face.

"I - heard about it," she said.  "I can't imagine her making a
speech.  She's not a bit oratorical."

"We might have sent out one of the cars for her, if I'd known."

"Oh, she was looked after well enough."

"Looked after?"

Natalie had made an error, and knew it.

"I heard that a young clergyman was taking her round," she said,
and changed the subject.  But he knew that she was either lying or
keeping something from him.  In those days of tension he found her
half-truths more irritating than her rather childish falsehoods.
In spite of himself, however, the thought of the young clergyman
rankled.

That night, stretched in the low chair in his dressing-room, under
the reading light, he thought over things carefully.  If he loved
her as he thought he did, he ought to want her to be happy.  Things
between them were hopeless and wretched.  If this clergyman, or
Sloane, or any other man loved her, and he groaned as he thought
how lovable she was, then why not want for her such happiness as
she could find?

He slept badly that night, and for some reason Audrey wove herself
into his dreams of the new plant.  The roar of the machinery took
on the soft huskiness of her voice, the deeper note he watched for
and loved.




CHAPTER XLI

Anna Klein stood in her small room and covered her mouth with her
hands, lest she shriek aloud.  She knew quite well that the bomb
in the suit-case would not suffice to blow up the whole great
plant.  But she knew what the result of its explosion would be.

The shells were not loaded at the Spencer plant.  They were shipped
away for that.  But the fuses were loaded there, and in the small
brick house at the end of the fuse building there were stored
masses of explosive, enough to destroy a town.  It was there, of
course, that Herman was to place the bomb.  She knew how he would
do it, carefully, methodically, and with what a lumbering awkward
gait he would make his escape.

Her whole mind was bent on giving the alarm.  On escaping, first,
and then on arousing the plant.  But when the voices below continued,
long after Herman had gone, she was entirely desperate.  Herman had
not carried out the suit-case.  He had looked, indeed, much as usual
as he walked out the garden path and closed the gate behind him.  He
had walked rather slowly, but then he always walked slowly.  She
seemed to see, however, a new caution in his gait, as of one who
dreaded to stumble.

She dressed herself, with shaking fingers, and pinned on her hat.
The voices still went on below, monotonous, endless; the rasping of
Rudolph's throat, irritated by cheap cigarets, the sound of glasses
on the table, once a laugh, guttural and mirthless.  It was ten
o'clock when she knew, by the pushing back of their chairs, that
they were preparing to depart.  Ten o'clock!

She was about to commence again the feverish unscrewing of the door
hinges, when she heard Rudolph's step on the stairs.  She had only
time to get to the back of her room, beside the bed, when she heard
him try the knob.

"Anna?"

She let him call her again.

"Anna!"

"What is it?"

"You in bed?"

"Yes.  Go away and let me alone.  I've got a right to sleep, anyhow."

"I'm going out, but I'll be back in ten minutes.  You try any tricks
and I'll get you.  See?"

"You make me sick," she retorted.

She heard him turn and run lightly down the stairs.  Only when she
heard the click of the gate did she dare to begin again at the door.
She got down-stairs easily, but she was still a prisoner.  However,
she found the high little window into the coal-shed open, and crawled
through it, to stand listening.  The street was quiet.

Once outside the yard she started to run.  They would let her
telephone from the drug-store, even without money.  She had no
money.  But the drug-store was closed and dark, and the threat of
Rudolph's return terrified her.  She must get off the hill, somehow.

There were still paths down the steep hill-side, dangerous things
that hugged the edge of small, rocky precipices, or sloped steeply
to sudden turns.  But she had played over the hill all her young
life.  She plunged down, slipping and falling a dozen times, and
muttering, some times an oath, some times a prayer,

"Oh, God, let me be in time.  Oh, God, hold him up a while until
I - " then a slip.  "If I fall now - "

Only when she was down in the mill district did she try to make any
plan.  It was almost eleven then, and her ears were tense with
listening for the sound she dreaded.  She faced her situation, then.
She could not telephone from a private house, either to the mill or
to the Spencer house, what she feared, and the pay-booths of the
telephone company demanded cash in advance.  She was incapable of
clear thought, or she would have found some way out, undoubtedly.
What she did, in the end, was to board an up-town car and throw
herself on the mercy of the conductor.

"I've got to get up-town," she panted.  "I'll not go in.  See?
I'll stand here and you take me as far as you can.  Look at me!
I don't look as though I'm just bumming a ride, do I?"

The conductor hesitated.  He had very little faith in human nature,
but Anna's eyes were both truthful and desperate.  He gave the
signal to go on.

"What's up?" he said.  "Police after you?"

"Yes," Anna replied briefly.

There is, in certain ranks, a tacit conspiracy against the police.
The conductor hated them.  They rode free on his car, and sometimes
kept an eye on him in the rush hours.  They had a way, too, of
letting him settle his own disputes with inebriated gentlemen who
refused to pay their fares.

"Looks as though they'd come pretty close to grabbing you," he
opened, by way of conversation.  "But ten of 'em aren't a match for
one smart girl.  They can't run.  All got flat feet."

Anna nodded.  She was faint and dizzy, and the car seemed to creep
along.  It was twenty minutes after eleven when she got out.  The
conductor leaned down after her, hanging to the handrail.

"Good luck to you!" he said.  "And you'd better get a better face
on you than that.  It's enough to send you up, on suspicion!"

She hardly heard him.  She began to run, and again she said over
and over her little inarticulate prayer.  She knew the Spencer
house.  More than once she had walked past it, on Sunday afternoons,
for the sheer pleasure of seeing Graham's home.  Well, all that was
over now.  Everything was over, unless -

The Spencer house was dark, save for a low light in the hall.  A
new terror seized her.  Suppose Graham saw her.  He might not
believe her story.  He might think it a ruse to see his father.
But, as it happened, Clayton had sent the butler to bed, and
himself answered the bell from the library.

He recognized her at once, and because he saw the distress on her
face he brought her in at once.  In the brief moment that it
required to turn on the lights he had jumped to a sickening
conviction that Graham was at the bottom of her visit, and her
appearance in full light confirmed this.

"Come into the library," he said.  "We can talk in there."  He led
the way and drew up a chair for her.  But she did not sit down.  She
steadied herself by its back, instead.

"You think it's about Graham," she began.  "It isn't, not directly,
that is.  And my coming is terrible, because it's my own father.
They're going to blow up the munition plant, Mr. Spencer!"

"When?"

"To-night, I think.  I came as fast as I could.  I was locked in.

"Locked in?"  He was studying her face.

"Yes.  Don't bother about that now.  I'm not crazy or hysterical.
I tell you I heard them.  I've been a prisoner or I'd have come
sooner.  To-day they brought something - dynamite or a bomb - in a
suit-case - and it's gone to-night.  He took it - my father."

He was already at the telephone as she spoke.  He called the mill
first, and got the night superintendent.  Then he called a number
Anna supposed was the police station, and at the same time he was
ringing the garage-signal steadily for his car.  By the time he
had explained the situation to the police, his car was rolling
under the porte-cochere beside the house.  He was starting out,
forgetful of the girl, when she caught him by the arm.

"You mustn't go!" she cried.  "You'll be killed, too.  It will all
go, all of it.  You can't be spared, Mr. Spencer.  You can build
another mill, but - "

He shook her off, gently.

"Of course I'm going," he said.  "We'll get it in time.  Don't you
worry.  You sit down here and rest, and when it's all straightened
out I'll come back.  I suppose you can't go home, after this?"

"No," she said, dully.

He ran out, hatless, and a moment later she heard the car rush out
into the night.

Five minutes passed.  Ten.  Anna Klein stood, staring ahead of her.
When nothing happened she moved around and sat down in the chair.
She was frightfully tired.  She leaned her head back and tried to
think of something to calm her shaking nerves, - that this was
Graham's home, that he sometimes sat in that very chair.  But she
found that Graham meant nothing to her.  Nothing mattered, except
that her warning had been in time.

So intent was she on the thing that she was listening for that
smaller, near-by sounds escaped her.  So she did not hear a door
open up-stairs and the soft rustle of a woman's negligee as it
swept from stair to stair.  But as the foot-steps outside the door
she stood up quickly and looked back over her shoulder.

Natalie stood framed in the doorway, staring at her.

"Well?" she said.  And on receiving no answer from the frightened
girl, "What are you doing here?"

The ugly suspicion in her voice left Anna speechless for a moment.

"Don't move, please," said Natalie's cold voice.  "Stay just where
you are."  She reached behind the curtain at the doorway, and Anna
heard the far-away ringing of a bell, insistent and prolonged.  The
girl roused herself with an effort.

"I came to see Mr. Spencer."

"That is a likely story!  Who let you in?"

"Mr. Spencer."

"Mr. Spencer is not in."

"But he did.  I'm telling you the truth.  Indeed I am.  I rang the
bell, and he came to the door.  I had something to tell him."

"What could you possibly have to tell my husband at this hour."

But Anna Klein did not answer.  From far away there came a dull
report followed almost immediately by a second one.  The windows
rattled, and the house seemed to rock rather gently on its
foundation.  Then silence.

Anna Klein picked up her empty pocket-book from the table and looked
at it.

"I was too late," she said dully, and the next moment she was lying
at Natalie's feet.




CHAPTER XLII

It was not until dawn that the full extent of the disaster was
revealed.  All night, by the flames from the sheds in the yard,
which were of wood and still burning, rescue parties had worked
frantically.  Two of the long buildings, nearest to the fuse
department, had collapsed entirely.  Above the piles of fallen
masonry might be seen, here and there, the black mass of some
machine or lathe, and it was there the search parties were
laboring.  Luckily the fuse department had not gone double turn,
and the night shift in the machine-shop was not a full one.

The fuse department was a roaring furnace, and repeated calls
had brought in most of the fire companies of the city.  Running
back and forth in the light of the flames were the firemen and such
volunteer rescuers as had been allowed through the police cordon.
Outside that line of ropes and men were gathered a tragic crowd,
begging, imploring to be allowed through to search for some beloved
body.  Now and then a fresh explosion made the mob recoil, only to
press close again, importuning, tragic, hopeless.

The casualty list ran high.  All night long ambulances stood in a
row along the street, backed up to the curb and waiting, and ever
so often a silent group, in broken step, carried out some quiet
covered thing that would never move again.

With the dawn Graham found his father.  He had thrown off his coat
and in his shirt-sleeves was, with other rescuers, digging in the
ruins.  Graham himself had been working.  He was nauseated, weary,
and unutterably wretched, for he had seen the night superintendent
and had heard of his father's message.

"Klein!" he said.  "You don't mean Herman Klein?"

 "That was what he said.  I was to find him and hold him until he
got here.  But I couldn't find him.  He may have got out.  There's
no way of telling now."

Waves of fresh nausea swept over Graham.  He sat down on a pile of
bricks and wiped his forehead, clammy with sweat.

"I hope to God he was burned alive," muttered the other man,
surveying the scene.  His eyes were reddened with smoke from the
fire, his clothing torn.

"I was knocked down myself," he said.  "I was out in the yard
looking for Klein, and I guess I lay there quite a while.  If I
hadn't gone out?"  He shrugged his shoulders.

"How many women were on the night shift?"

"Not a lot.  Twenty, perhaps.  If I had my way I'd take every
German in the country and boil 'em in oil.  I didn't want Klein
back, but he was a good workman.  Well, he's done a good job now."

It was after that that Graham saw his father, a strange, wild-eyed
Clayton who drove his pick with a sort of mad strength, and at the
same time gave orders in an unfamiliar voice.  Graham, himself a
disordered figure, watched him for a moment.  He was divided between
fear and resolution.  Some place in that debacle there lay his own
responsibility.  He was still bewildered, but the fact that Anna's
father had done the thing was ominous.

The urge to confession was stronger than his fears.  Somehow, during
the night, he had become a man.  But now he only felt, that somehow,
during the night, he had become a murderer.

Clayton looked up, and he moved toward him."

"Yes?"

"I've had some coffee made at a house down the street.  Won't you
come and have it?"

Clayton straightened.  He was very tired, and the yard was full of
volunteers now, each provided at the gate with a pick or shovel.  A
look at the boy's face decided him.

"I'll come," he said, and turned his pick over to a man beside him.
He joined Graham, and for a moment he looked into the boy's eyes.
Then he put a hand on his shoulder, and together they walked out,
past the line of ambulances, into a street where the scattered
houses showed not a single unshattered window, and the pavements
were littered with glass.

His father's touch comforted the boy, but it made even harder the
thing he had to do.  For he could not go through life with this
thing on his soul.  There had been a moment, after he learned of
Herman's implication, when he felt the best thing would be to kill
himself, but he had put that aside.  It was too easy.  If Herman
Klein had done this thing because of Anna and himself, then he was
a murderer.  If he had done it because he was a German, then he
- Graham - had no right to die.  He would live to make as many
Germans as possible pay for this night's work.

"I've got something to tell you, father," he said, as they paused
before the house where the coffee was ready.  Clayton nodded, and
together they went inside.  Even this house was partially destroyed.
A piece of masonry had gone through the kitchen, and standing on
fallen bricks and plaster, a cheerful old woman was cooking over a
stove which had somehow escaped destruction.

"It's bad," she said to Graham, as she poured the coffee into cups,
"but it might have been worse, Mr. Spencer.  We're all alive.  And
I guess I'll understand what my boy's writing home about now.
They've sure brought the war here this night."

Graham carried the coffee into the little parlor, where Clayton sat
dropped on a low chair, his hands between his knees.  He was a
strange, disheveled figure, gray of face and weary, and the hand
he held out for the cup was blistered and blackened.  Graham did not
touch his coffee.  He put it on the mantel, and stood waiting while
Clayton finished his.

"Shall I tell you now, sir?"

Clayton drew a long breath.

"It was Herman Klein who did it?"

"Probably.  I had a warning last night, but it was too late.  I
should have known, of course, but somehow I didn't.  He'd been with
us a long time.  I'd have sworn he was loyal."

For the first time in his life Graham saw his father weaken, the
pitiful, ashamed weakness of a strong man.  His voice broke, his
face twitched.  The boy drew himself up; they couldn't both go to
pieces.  He could not know that Clayton had worked all that night
in that hell with the conviction that in some way his own son was
responsible; that he knew already what Graham was about to tell him.

"If Herman Klein did it, father, it was because he was the tool of
a gang.  And the reason he was a tool was because he thought I was
- living with Anna.  I wasn't.  I don't know why I wasn't.  There
was every chance.  I suppose I meant to some time.  Anyhow, he
thought I was."

If he had expected any outbreak from Clayton, he met none.  Clayton
sat looking ahead, and listening.  Inside of the broken windows the
curtains were stirring in the fresh breeze of early morning, and in
the kitchen the old woman was piling the fallen bricks noisily.

"I had been flirting with her a little - it wasn't much more than
that, and I gave her a watch at Christmas.  He found it out, and he
beat her.  Awfully.  She ran away and sent for me, and I met her.
She had to hide for days.  Her face was all bruised.  Then she got
sick from it.  She was sick for weeks."

"Did he know where she was?"

"I think not, or he'd have gone to get her.  But Rudolph Klein knew
something.  I took her out to dinner, to a roadhouse, a few days ago,
and she said she saw him there.  I didn't.  All that time, weeks,
I'd never - I'd never gone to her room.  That night I did.  I don't
know why.  I - "

"Go on."

"Well, I went, but I didn't stay.  I couldn't.  I guess she thought
I was crazy.  I went away, that's all.  And the next day I felt that
she might be feeling as though I'd turned her down or something.
And I felt responsible.  Maybe you won't understand.  I don't quite
myself.  Anyhow, I went back, to let her know I wasn't quite a brute,
even if -  But she was gone.  I'm not trying to excuse myself.  It's
a rotten story, for I was engaged to Marion then."

Suddenly he sat down beside Clayton and buried his face in his hands.
For some reason or other Clayton found himself back in the hospital,
that night when Joey lay still and quiet, and Graham was sobbing like
a child, prostrate on the white covering of the bed.  With the
incredible rapidity of thought in a mental crisis, he saw the last
months, the boy's desire to go to France thwarted, his attempt to
interest himself in the business, the tool Marion Hayden had made of
him, Anna's doglike devotion, all leading inevitably to catastrophe.
And through it all he saw Natalie, holding Graham back from war,
providing him with extra money, excusing him, using his confidences
for her own ends, insidiously sapping the boy's confidence in his
father and himself.

"We'll have to stand up to this together, Graham."

The boy looked up.

"Then - you're not going to throw me over altogether - "

"No."

"But - all this - !"

"If Herman Klein had not done it, there were others who would,
probably.  It looks as though you had provided them with a tool,
but I suppose we were vulnerable in a dozen ways."

He rose, and they stood, eyes level, father and son, in the early
morning sunlight.  And suddenly Graham's arms were around his
shoulders, and something tight around Clayton's heart relaxed.
Once again, and now for good, he had found his boy, the little boy
who had not so long ago stood on a chair for this very embrace.
Only now the boy was a man.

"I'm going to France, father," he said.  "I'm going to pay them back
for this.  And out of every two shots I fire one will be for you."

Perhaps he had found his boy only to lose him, but that would have
to be as God willed.

At ten o'clock he went up to the house, to change his wet and
draggled clothing.  The ruins were being guarded by soldiers, and
the work of rescue was still going on, more slowly now, since there
was little or no hope of finding any still living thing in that
flame-swept wreckage.  He found Natalie in bed, with Madeleine in
attendance, and he learned that her physician had just gone.

He felt that he could not talk to her just then.  She had a morbid
interest in horrors, and with the sights of that night fresh in
his mind he could not discuss them.  He stopped, however, in her
doorway.

"I'm glad you are resting," he said, "Better stay in bed to-day.
It's been a shock."

"Resting!  I've been frightfully ill."

"I'm sorry, my dear.  I'll come in again on my way out."

"Clay!"

He turned in the doorway.

"Is it all gone?  Everything?"

"Practically.  Yes."

"But you were insured?"

"I'll tell you about that later.  I haven't given it much thought
yet.  I don't know just how we stand."

"I shall never let Graham go back to it again.  I warn you.  I've
been lying here for hours, thinking that it might have happened as
easily as not while he was there."

He hardly listened.  He had just remembered Anna.

"I left a girl here last night, Natalie," he said.  "Do you happen
to know what became of her?"

Natalie stirred on her pillows.

"I should think I do.  She fainted, or pretended to faint.  The
servants looked after her."

"Has she gone?"

"I hope so.  It is almost noon.  Oh, by the way," she called, as
he moved off, "there is a message for you.  A woman named Gould,
from the Central Hospital.  She wants to see you at once.  They
have kept the telephone ringing all the morning."

Clare Gould!  That was odd.  He had seen her taken out, a bruised
and moaning creature, her masses of fair hair over her shoulders,
her eyes shut.  The surgeons had said she was not badly hurt.  She
might be worse than they thought.  The mention of her name brought
Audrey before him.  He hoped, wherever she was, she would know that
he was all right.

As soon as he had changed he called the hospital.  The message came
back promptly and clearly.

"We have a woman named Gould here.  She is not badly hurt, but she
is hysterical.  She wants to see you, but if you can't come at once
I am to give you a message.  Wait a moment.  She has written it,
but it's hardly legible."

Clayton waited.

"It's about somebody you know, who had gone on night turn recently
at your plant.  I can't read the name.  It looks like Ballantine."

"It isn't Valentine, is it?"

"Perhaps it is.  It's just a scrawl.  But the first name is clear
enough - Audrey."

Afterward he did not remember hanging up the receiver, or getting
out of the house.  He seemed to come to himself somewhat at the
hospital, and at the door to Clare's ward his brain suddenly cleared.
He did not need Clare's story.  It seemed that he knew it all, had
known it long ages before.  Her very words sounded like infinite
repetitions of something he had heard, over and over.

"She was right beside me, and I was showing her about the lathe.
They'd told me I could teach her.  She was picking it up fast, too.
And she liked it.  She liked it - "

The fact that Audrey had liked it broke down his scanty reserve of
restraint.  Clayton found himself looking down at her from a great
distance.  She was very remote.  Clare pulled herself together.

"When the first explosion came it didn't touch us.  But I guess she
knew it meant more.  She said something about the telephone and
getting help and there'd be more, and she started to run.  I just
stood there, watching her run, and waiting.  And then the second
one came, and - "

Suddenly Clare seemed to disappear altogether.  He felt something
catch his arm, and the nurse's voice, very calm and quiet:

"Sit down.  I'll get you something."

Then he was swallowing a fluid that burned his throat, and Clare
was crying with the sheet drawn to her mouth, and somewhere
Audrey -

He got up, and the nurse followed him out.

"You might look for the person here," she suggested.  "We have had
several brought in."

He was still dazed, but he followed her docilely.  Audrey was not
there.  He seemed to have known that, too.  That there would be a
long search, and hours of agony, and at the end - the one thing he
did not know was what was to be at the end.

All that afternoon he searched, going from hospital to hospital.
And at each one, as he stopped, that curious feeling of inner
knowledge told him she was not there.  But the same instinct told
him she was not dead.  He would have known it if she was dead.
There was no reasoning in it.  He could not reason.  But he knew,
somehow.

Then, late in the afternoon, he found her.  He knew that he had
found her.  It was as though, at the entrance of the hospital, some
sixth sense had told him this was right at last.  He was quite
steady, all at once.  She was here, waiting for him to come.  And
now he had come, and it would be all right.

Yet, for a time, it seemed all wrong.  She was not conscious, had
not roused since she was brought it.  There were white screens
around her bed, and behind them she lay alone.  They had braided
her hair in two long dark braids, and there was a bandage on one
of her arms.  She looked very young and very tired, but quite
peaceful.

His arrival had caused a small stir of excitement, his own
prominence, the disaster with which the country was ringing.  But
for a few minutes, before the doctors arrived, he was alone with
her behind the screen.  It was like being alone with his dead.
Bent over her, his face pressed to one of her quiet hands, he
whispered to her all the little tendernesses, the aching want of
her, that so long he had buried in his heart.  Things he could not
have told her, waking, he told her then.  It seemed, too, that she
must rouse to them, that she must feel him there beside her,
calling her back.  But she did not move.

It was then, for the first time, that he wondered what he would do
if she should die.

The doctors, coming behind the screen, found him sitting erect and
still, staring ahead of him, with a strange expression on his face.
He had just decided that he could not, under any circumstances,
live if she died.

It was rather a good thing for Clayton's sanity that they gave him
hope.  He was completely unnerved, tired and desperate.  Indeed,
when they came in he had been picturing Audrey and himself,
wandering hand in hand, very quietly and contentedly, in some
strange world which was his rather hazy idea of the Beyond.  It
seemed to him quite sane and extraordinarily happy.

The effort of meeting the staff roused him, and, with hope came a
return to normality.  There was much to be done, special nurses,
a private room, and - rather reluctantly -  friends and relatives
to be notified.  Only for a few minutes, out of all of life, had
she been his.  He must give her up now.  Life had become one long
renunciation.

He did not go home at all that night.  He divided his time between
the plant and the hospital, going back and forward.  Each time he
found the report good.  She was still strong; no internal injuries
had manifested themselves, and the concussion would probably wear
off before long.  He wanted to be there when she first opened her
eyes.  He was afraid she might be frightened, and there would be
a bad minute when she remembered - if she did remember.

At midnight, going into the room, he found Mrs. Haverford beside
Audrey's bed, knitting placidly.  She seemed to accept his being
there as perfectly natural, and she had no sick-room affectations.
She did not whisper, for one thing.

"The nurse thinks she is coming round, Clayton," she said.  "I
waited, because I thought she ought to see a familiar face when
she does."

Mrs. Haverford was eminently good for him.  Her cheerful
matter-of-factness her competent sanity, restored his belief in a
world that had seemed only chaos and death.  How much, he wondered
later, had Mrs. Haverford suspected?  He had not been in any
condition to act a part.  But whatever she suspected he knew was
locked in her kindly breast.

Audrey moved slightly, and he went over to her.  When he glanced
up again Mrs. Haverford had gone out.

So it was that Audrey came back to him, and to him alone.  She asked
no questions.  She only lay quite still on her white pillows, and
looked at him.  Even when he knelt beside her and drew her toward
him, she said nothing, but she lifted her uninjured hand and softly
caressed his bent head.  Clayton never knew whether Mrs. Haverford
had come back and seen that or not.  He did not care, for that
matter.  It seemed to him just then that all the world must know
what was so vitally important, so transcendently wonderful.

Not until Audrey's eyes closed again, and he saw that she was
sleeping, did he loosen his arms from around her.

When at last he went out to the stiffly furnished hospital parlor,
he found Mrs. Haverford sitting there alone, still knitting.  But
he rather thought she had been crying.  There was an undeniably
moist handkerchief on her knee.

"She roused a little while ago," he said, trying to speak quietly,
and as though Audrey's rousing were not the wonder that it was.
"She seemed very comfortable.  And now she's sleeping."

"The dear child!" said Mrs. Haverford.  "If she had died, after
everything - "  Her plump face quivered.  "Things have never been
very happy for her, Clayton."

"I'm afraid not."  He went to a window and stood looking out.  The
city was not quiet, but its mighty roar of the day was lowered to a
monotonous, drowsy humming.  From the east, reflected against
low-hanging clouds, was the dull red of his own steel mills, looking
like the reflection of a vast conflagration.

"Not very happy," he repeated.

"Some times," Mrs. Haverford was saying, "I wonder about things.
People go along missing the best things in life, and - I suppose
there is a reason for it, but some times I wonder if He ever meant
us to go on, crucifying our own souls."

So she did know!

"What would you have us do?"

"I don't know.  I suppose there isn't any answer."

Afterward, Clayton found that that bit of conversation with Mrs.
Haverford took on the unreality of the rest of that twenty-four
hours.  But one part of it stood out real and hopelessly true.
There wasn't any answer!




CHAPTER XLIII

Anna Klein had gone home, at three o'clock that terrible morning,
a trembling, white-faced girl.  She had done her best, and she
had failed.  Unlike Graham, she had no feeling of personal
responsibility, but she felt she could never again face her father,
with the thing that she knew between them.  There were other
reasons, too.  Herman would be arrested, and she would be called
to testify.  She had known.  She had warned Mr. Spencer.  The gang,
Rudolph's gang, would get her for that.

She knew where they were now.  They would be at Gus's, in the back
room, drinking to the success of their scheme, and Gus, who was a
German too, would be with them, offering a round of drinks on the
house now and then as his share of the night's rejoicing.  Gus,
who was already arranging to help draft-dodgers by sending them
over the Mexican border.

She would have to go back, to get in and out again if she could,
before Herman came back.  She had no clothes, except what she stood
up in, and those in her haste that night were, only her print
house-dress with a long coat.  She would have to find a new position,
and she would have to have her clothing to get about in.  She
dragged along, singularly unmolested.  Once or twice a man eyed her,
but her white face and vacant eyes were unattractive, almost sodden.

She was barely able to climb the hill, and as she neared the house
her trepidation increased.  What if Herman had come back?  If he
suspected her he would kill her.  He must have been half mad to
have done the thing, anyhow.  He would surely be half mad now.  And
because she was young and strong, and life was still a mystery to
be solved, she did not want to die.  Strangely enough, face to face
with danger there was still, in the back of her head, an exultant
thrill in her very determination to live.  She would start over
again, and she would work hard and make good.

"You bet I'll make good," she resolved.  "Just give me a chance and
I'll work my fool head off."

Which was by way of being a prayer.

It was the darkest hour before the dawn when she reached the cottage.
It was black and very still, and outside the gate she stooped and
slipped off her shoes.  The window into the shed by which she had
escaped was still open, and she crouched outside, listening.  When
the stillness remained unbroken she climbed in, tense for a movement
or a blow.

Once inside, however, she drew a long breath.  The doors were still
locked, and the keys gone.  So Herman had not returned.  But as she
stood there, hurried stealthy footsteps came along the street and
turned in at the gate.  In a panic she flew up the stairs and into
her room, where the door still hung crazily on its hinges.  She
stood there, listening, her heart pounding in her ears, and below
she distinctly heard a key in the kitchen door.  She did the only
thing she could think of.  She lifted the door into place, and
stood against it, bracing it with her body.

Whoever it was was in the kitchen now, moving however more swiftly
than Herman.  She heard matches striking. Then:

"Hsst!"

She knew that it was Rudolph, and she braced herself mentally.
Rudolph was keener than Herman.  If he found her door in that
condition, and she herself dressed?!  Working silently and still
holding the door in place, she flung off her coat.  She even
unpinned her hair and unfastened her dress.

When his signal remained unanswered a second time he called her
by name, and she heard him coming up.

"Anna!" he repeated.

"Yes?"

He was startled to hear her voice so close to the door.  In the
dark she heard him fumbling for the knob.  He happened on the
padlock instead, and he laughed a little.  By that she knew that
he was not quite sober.

"Locked you in, has he?"

"What do you want?"

"Has Herman come home yet?"

"He doesn't get home until seven."

"Hasn't he been back at all, to-night?"

She hesitated.

"How do I know? I've been asleep!"

"Some sleep!" he said, and suddenly lurched against the door.
In spite of her it yielded, and although she braced herself with
all her strength, his weight against it caused it to give way.  It
was a suspicious, crafty Rudolph who picked himself up and made a
clutch at her in the dark.

"You little liar," he said thickly.  And struck a match.  She
cowered away from him.

"I was going to run away, Rudolph," she cried.  "He hasn't any
business locking me in, I won't stand for it."

"You've been out."

"No!"

"Out - after him!"

"Honest to God, Rudolph, no.  I hate him.  I don't ever want to
see him again."

He put a hand out into the darkness, and finding her, tried to draw
her to him.  She struggled, and he released her.  All at once she
knew that he was weak with fright.  The bravado had died out of him.
The face she had touched was covered with a clammy sweat.

"I wish to God Herman would come."

"What d' you want with him?"

"Have you got any whisky?"

"You've had enough of that stuff."

Some one was walking along the street outside.  She felt that he
was listening, crouched ready to run; but the steps went on.

"Look here, Anna," he said, when he had pulled himself together
again.  "I'm going to get out of this.  I'm going away."

"All right.  You can go for all of me."

"D'you mean to say you've been asleep all night?  You didn't hear
anything?"

"Hear what?"

He laughed.

"You'll know soon enough."  Then he told her, hurriedly, that he
was going away.  He'd come back to get her to promise to follow
him.  He wasn't going to stay here and -

"And what?"

"And be drafted," he finished, rather lamely.

"Gus has a friend in a town on the Mexican border," he said.  "He's
got maps of the country to Mexico City, and the Germans there fix
you up all right.  I'll get rich down there and some day I'll send
for you?  What's that?"

He darted to the window, faintly outlined by a distant street-lamp.
Three men were standing quietly outside the gate, and a fourth was
already in the garden, silently moving toward the house.  She felt
Rudolph brush by her, and the trembling hand he laid on her arm.

"Now lie!" he whispered fiercely.  "You haven't seen me.  I haven't
been here to-night."

Then he was gone.  She ran to the window.  The other three men were
coming in, moving watchfully and slowly, and Rudolph was at Katie's
window, cursing.  If she was a prisoner, so was Rudolph.  He
realized that instantly, and she heard him breaking out the sash
with a chair.  At the sound the three figures broke into a run, and
she heard the sash give way.  Almost instantly there was firing.
The first shot was close, and she knew it was Rudolph firing from
the window.  Some wild design of braining him from behind with a
chair flashed into her desperate mind, but when she had felt her
way into Katie's room he had gone.  The garden below was quiet,
but there was yelling and the crackling of underbrush from the
hill-side.  Then a scattering of shots again, and silence.  The
yard was empty.

The hill paid but moderate attention to shots.  They were usually
merely pyrotechnic, and indicated rejoicing rather than death.  But
here and there she heard a window raised, and then lowered again.
The hill had gone back to bed.  Anna went into her room and dressed.
For the first time it had occurred to her that she might be held by
the police, and the thought was unbearable.  It was when she was
making her escape that she found a prostrate figure in the yard,
and knew that one of Rudolph's shots had gone home.  She could not
go away and leave that, not unless - A terrible hatred of Herman
and Rudolph and all their kind suddenly swept over her.  She would
not run away.  She would stay and tell all the terrible truth.  It
was her big moment, and she rose to it.  She would see it through.
What was her own safety to letting this band of murderers escape?
And all that in the few seconds it took to reach the fallen figure.
It was only when she was very close that she saw it was moving.

"Tell Dunbar he went to the left," a voice was saying.  "The left!
They'll lose him yet."

"Joey!"

"Hello," said Joey's voice.  He considered that he was speaking
very loud, but it was hardly more than a whisper.  "That wasn't
your father, was it?  The old boy couldn't jump and run like that."

"Are you hurt?"

He coughed a little, a gurgling cough that rather startled himself.
But he was determined to be a man.

"No.  I just lay down here for a nap.  Who was it that jumped?"

"My cousin Rudolph.  Do you think I can help you into the house?"

"I'll walk there myself in a minute.  Unless your cousin Rudolph
- "  His head dropped back on her arm.  "I feel sort of all in."
His voice trailed off.

"Joey!"

"Lemme alone," he muttered.  "I'm the first casualty in the
American army!  I - "  He made a desperate effort to speak in a
man's voice, but the higher boyish notes of sixteen conquered.
"They certainly gave us hell to-night.  But we're going to build
again; me and - Clayton Spen - "

All at once he was very still.  Anna spoke to him and, that failing,
gave him a frantic little shake.  But Joey had gone to another
partnership beyond the stars.




CHAPTER XLIV

The immediate outstanding result of the holocaust at the munitions
works was the end of Natalie's dominion aver Graham.  She never
quite forgave him the violence with which he threw off her shackles.

"If I'd been half a man I'd have been over there long ago," he
said, standing before her, tall and young and flushed.  "I'd have
learned my job by now, and I'd be worth something, now I'm needed."

"And broken my heart."

"Hearts don't break that way, mother."

"Well, you say you are going now.  I should think you'd be
satisfied.  There's plenty of time for you to get the glory you
want."

"Glory!  I don't want any glory.  And as for plenty of time - that's
exactly what there isn't."

During the next few days she preserved an obstinate silence on the
subject.  She knew he had been admitted to one of the officers'
training-camps, and that he was making rather helpless and puzzled
purchases.  Going into his room she would find a dressing-case of
khaki leather, perhaps, or flannel shirts of the same indeterminate
hue.  She would shed futile tears over them, and order them put out
of sight.  But she never offered to assist him.

Graham was older, in many ways.  He no longer ran up and down the
stairs whistling, and he sought every opportunity to be with his
father.  They spent long hours together in the library, when, after
a crowded day, filled with the thousand, problems of reconstructions,
Clayton smoked a great deal, talked a little, rather shame-facedly
after the manner of men, of personal responsibility in the war, and
quietly watched the man who was Graham.

Out of those quiet hours, with Natalie at the theater or reading
up-stairs in bed, Clayton got the greatest comfort of his life.  He
would neither look back nor peer anxiously ahead.

The past, with its tragedy, was gone.  The future might hold even
worse things.  But just now he would live each day as it came,
working to the utmost, and giving his evenings to his boy.  The
nights were the worst.  He was not sleeping well, and in those
long hours of quiet he tried to rebuild his life along stronger,
sterner lines.  Love could have no place in it, but there was
work left.  He was strong and he was still young.  The country
should have every ounce of energy in him.  He would re-build the
plant, on bigger lines than before, and when that was done, he
would build again.  The best he could do was not enough.

He scarcely noticed Natalie's withdrawal from Graham and himself.
When she was around he was his old punctilious self, gravely kind,
more than ever considerate.  Beside his failure to her, her own
failure to him faded into insignificance.  She was as she was, and
through no fault of hers.  But he was what he had made himself.

Once or twice he had felt an overwhelming remorse toward her, and
on one such occasion he had made a useless effort to break down the
barrier of her long silence.

"Don't go up-stairs, Natalie," he had begged.  "I am not very
amusing, I know, but - I'll try my best.  I'll promise not to touch
on anything disagreeable."  He had been standing in the hail,
looking up at her on the stair-case, and he smiled.  There was
pleading behind the smile, an inarticulate feeling that between
them there might at least be friendship.

"You are never disagreeable," she had said, looking down with
hostile eyes.  "You are quite perfect."

"Then won't you wait?"

"Perfection bores me to tears," she said, and went on up the stairs.

On the morning of Graham's departure, however, he found her prepared
to go to the railway-station.  She was red-eyed and pale, and he was
very sorry for her.

"Do you think it is wise?" he asked.

"I shall see him off, of course.  I may never see him again."

And his own tautened nerves almost gave way.

"Don't say that!" he cried.  "Don't even think that.  And for God's
sake, Natalie, send him off with a smile.  That's the least we can
do."

"I can't take it as casually as you do."

He gave up then in despair.  He saw that Graham watched her uneasily
during the early breakfast, and he surmised that the boy's own grip
on his self-control was weakened by the tears that dropped into her
coffee-cup.  He reflected bitterly that all over the country strong
women, good women, were sending their boys away to war, giving them
with prayer and exaltation.  What was wrong with Natalie?  What was
wrong with his whole life?

When Graham was up-stairs, he turned to her.

"Why do you persist in going, Natalie?"

"I intend to go.  That's enough."

"Don't you think you've made him unhappy enough?"

"He has made me unhappy enough."

"You.  It is always yourself, Natalie.  Why don't you ever think of
him?"  He went to the door.  "Countermand the order for the
limousine," he said to the butler, "and order the small car for Mr.
Graham and myself."

"How dare you do that?"

"I am not going to let you ruin the biggest day in his life."

She saw that he meant it.  She was incredulous, reckless, angry,
and thwarted for the first time in her self-indulgent life.

"I hate you," she said slowly.  "I hate you!"

She turned and went slowly up the stairs.  Graham, knocking at her
door a few minutes later, heard the sound of hysterical sobbing,
within, but received no reply.

"Good-by, mother," he called.  "Good-by.  Don't worry. I'll be all
right."

When he saw she did not mean to open the door or to reply, he went
rather heavily down the stairs.

"I wish she wouldn't," he said.  "It makes me darned unhappy."

But Clayton surmised a relief behind his regret, and in the train
the boy's eyes were happier than they had been for months.

"I don't know how I'll come out, dad," he said.  "But if I don't
get through it won't be because I didn't try."

And he did try.  The enormous interest of the thing gripped him from
the start; There was romance in it, too.  He wore his first uniform,
too small for him as it was, with immense pride.  He rolled out in
the morning at reveille, with the feeling that he had just gone to
bed, ate hugely at breakfast, learned to make his own cot-bed, and
lined up on a vast dusty parade ground for endless evolutions in a
boiling sun.

It was rather amusing to find himself being ordered about, in a
stentorian voice, by Jackson.  And when, in off moments, that
capable ex-chauffeur condescended to a few moments of talk and
relaxation, the boy was highly gratified.

"Do you think I've got anything in me?" he would inquire anxiously.

And Jackson always said heartily, "Sure you have."

There were times when Graham doubted himself, however.  There was
one dreadful hour when Graham, in the late afternoon, and under
the eyes of his commanding officer and a group of ladies, conducting
the highly formal and complicated ceremony of changing the guard,
tied a lot of grinning men up in a knot which required the captain
of the company and two sergeants to untangle.

"I'm no earthly good," he confided to Jackson that night, sitting
on the steps of his barracks.  "I know it like a-b-c, and then I
get up and try it and all at once I'm just a plain damned fool."

"Don't give up like that, son," Jackson said.  "I've seen 'em march
a platoon right into the C.O's porch before now.  And once I just
saved a baby-buggy and a pair of twins."

Clayton wrote him daily, and now and then there came a letter from
Natalie, cheerful on the surface, but its cheerfulness obviously
forced.  And once, to his great surprise, Marion Hayden wrote him.

"I just want you to know," she said, "that I am still interested
in you, even if it isn't going to be anything else.  And that I
am ridiculously proud of you.  Isn't it queer to look back on last
Winter and think what a lot of careless idiots we were?  I suppose
war doesn't really change us, but it does make us wonder what
we've got in us.  I am surprised to find that I am a great deal
better than I ever thought I was!"

There was comfort in the letter, but no thrill.  He was far away
from all that now, like one on the first stage of a long journey,
with his eyes ahead.

Then one day he saw a familiar but yet strange figure striding
along the country road.  Graham was map-sketching that day, and
the strange but familiar figure was almost on him when he looked
up.  It was extremely military, and looked like a general at least.
Also it was very red in the face, and was clutching doggedly in
its teeth an old briar pipe.  But what had appeared from the front
to be an ultra military figure on closer inspection turned out to
be a procession.  Pulling back hard on a rope behind was the company
goat, Elinor.

The ultra-military figure paused by Graham's sketching-stool, and
said, "Young man, do you know where this creature belongs?  I found
her trying to commit suicide on the rifle range - why, Graham!"

It was Doctor Haverford.  He grew a trifle less military then, and
borrowed some pipe tobacco.  He looked oddly younger, Graham thought,
and rather self-conscious of his uniform.

"Every inch a soldier, Graham," he chuckled.  "Still have to use a
hook and eye at the bottom of the coat - blouse," he corrected
himself.  "But I'm getting my waist-line again.  How's the - whoa!"
he called, as Elinor wrapped the rope around his carefully putted
legs.  "Infernal animal!" he grumbled.  "I just paid a quarter to
have these puttees shined.  How's the family?"

"Mother has gone to Linndale.  The house is finished.  Have you
been here long, sir?"

"Two weeks.  Hang it all, Graham, I wish I'd let this creature
commit suicide.  She's - do you know Delight is here?"

"Here?  Why, no."

"At the hostess house," said the chaplain, proudly.  "Doing her bit,
too.  Mrs. Haverford wanted to come too, and sew buttons on, or
something.  But I told her two out of three was a fair percentage.
I hear that Washington has sent for your father.

"I hadn't heard."

"He's a big man, Graham.  We're going to hear from him.  Only - I
thought he looked tired when I saw him last.  Somebody ought to
look after him a bit."  He was patiently untangling himself from
Elinor's rope.  "You know there are two kinds of people in the
world: those who look after themselves and those who look after
others.  That's your father - the last."

Graham's face clouded.  How true that was!  He knew now, as he had
not known before.  He was thinking clearly those days.  Hard work
and nothing to drink had clarified his mind, and he saw things at
home as they really were.  Clayton's infinite patience, his strength
and his gentleness.  But he only said:

"He has had a hard year."  He raised his eyes and looked at the
chaplain.  "I didn't help him any, you know, sir."

"Well, well, that's all over now.  We've just one thing to think of,
and that's to beat those German devils back to Berlin.  And then
burn Berlin," he added, militantly.

The last Graham saw of him, he was dragging Elinor down the road,
and a faint throaty humming came back, which sounded suspiciously
like "Where do we go from here, boys?  Where do we go from here?"

Candidate Spencer took great pains with his toilet that afternoon.
He polished his shoes, and shaved, and he spent a half hour on
some ten sadly neglected finger-nails.  At retreat he stood at
attention in the long line, and watched the flag moving slowly and
majestically to the stirring bugle notes.  Something swelled almost
to bursting in his throat.  That was his flag.  He was going to
fight for it.  And after that was done he was going to find some
girl, some nice girl - the sort, for instance, that would leave
her home to work in a hostess house.  And having found her, he
would marry her, and love and cherish her all his life.  Unless,
of course, she wouldn't have him.  He was inclined to think she
wouldn't.

He ate very little supper that night, little being a comparative
term, of course.  And then he went to discover Delight.  It appeared,
however, that she had been already discovered.  She was entirely
surrounded by uniforms, and Graham furiously counted a colonel, two
majors, and a captain.

"Pulling rank, of course!" he muttered, and retired to a corner,
where he had at least the mild gratification of seeing that even
the colonel could not keep Delight from her work.

"Silly asses!" said Graham, again, and then she saw him.  There was
no question about her being pleased.  She was quite flushed with it,
but a little uncomfortable, too, at Graham's attitude.  He was
oddly humble, and yet he had a look of determination that was almost
grim.  She filled in a rather disquieting silence by trying to let
him know, without revealing that she had ever been anything else,
how proud she was of him.  Then she realized that he was not
listening, and that he was looking at her with an almost painful
intensity.

"When can you get away, Delight?" he asked abruptly.

"From here?"  She cast an appraising glance over the room.  "Right
away, I think.  Why?"

"Because I want to talk to you, and I can't talk to you here."

She brought a bright colored sweater and he helped her into it,
still with his mouth set and his eyes a trifle sunken.  All about
there were laughing groups of men in uniform.  Outside, the parade
glowed faintly in the dusk, and from the low barrack windows there
came the glow of lights, the movement of young figures, voices,
the thin metallic notes of a mandolin.

"How strange it all is," Delight said.  "Here we are, you and
father and myself - and even Jackson.  I saw him to-day.  All here,
living different lives, doing different things, even thinking
different thoughts.  It's as though we had all moved into a
different world."

He walked on beside her, absorbed in his own thoughts, which were
yet only of her.

"I didn't know you were here," he brought out finally.

"That's because you've been burying yourself.  I knew you were here."

"Why didn't you send me some word?"

She stiffened somewhat in the darkness.

"I didn't think you would be greatly interested, Graham."

And again, struggling with his new humility, he was silent.  It was
not until they had crossed the parade ground and were beyond the
noises of the barracks that he spoke again.

"Do you mind if I talk to you, Delight?  I mean, about myself?  I
- since you're here, we're likely to see each other now and then,
if you are willing.  And I'd like to start straight."

"Do you really want to tell me?"

"No.  But I've got to.  That's all."

He told her.  He made no case for himself.  Indeed, some of it
Delight understood far better than he did himself.  He said
nothing against Marion; on the contrary, he blamed himself rather
severely.  And behind his honest, halting sentences, Delight read
his own lack of understanding.  She felt infinitely older than this
tall, honest-eyed boy in his stained uniform - older and more
sophisticated.  But if she had understood the Marion Hayden
situation, she was totally at a loss as to Anna.

"But I don't understand!" she cried.  "How could you make love to
her if you didn't love her?"

"I don't know.  Fellows do those things.  It's just mischief - some
sort of a devil in them, I suppose."

When he reached the beating and Anna's flight, however, she
understood a little better.

"Of course you had to stand by her," she agreed.

"You haven't heard it all," he said quietly.  "When I'm through,
if you get up and leave me, I'll understand, Delight, and I won't
blame you."

He told her the rest of the story in a voice strained with anxiety.
It was as though he had come to a tribunal for judgment.  He spared
her nothing, the dinner at the road-house with Rudolph at the window,
his visit to Anna's room, and her subsequent disappearance.

"She told the Department of Justice people that Rudolph found her
that night, and, took her home.  She was a prisoner then, poor
little kid.  But she overheard her father and Rudolph plotting to
blow up the mill.  That's where I came in, Delight.  He was crazy
at me.  He was a German, of course, and he might have done it
anyhow.  But Rudolph told him a lot of lies about me, and - he did
it.  When I think about it all, and about Joey, I'm crazy."

She slipped her hand over his.

"Of course they would have done it anyhow," she said softly.

"You aren't going to get up and go away?"

"Why should I?" she asked.  "I only feel - oh, Graham, how wretched
you must have been."

Something in her voice made him sit up straighter.  He knew now
that it had always been Delight, always.  Only she had been too
good for him.  She had set a standard he had not hoped to reach.
But now things were different.  He hadn't amounted to much in other
things, but he was a soldier now.  He meant to be a mighty good
soldier.  And when he got his commission -

"You won't mind, then, if I come in to see you now and then?"

"Mind?  Why, Graham!"

"And you don't think I'm quite hopeless, do you?"

There were tears in her eyes, but she answered bravely:

"I believe in you every minute.  But then I think I always have."

"Like fun you have!"  But although he laughed, it was a shaky laugh.
Suddenly he stood up and shook himself.  He felt young and strong
and extremely happy.  There had been a bad time, but it was behind
him now.  Ahead there lay high adventure, and here, beside him in
the dusk, was the girl of his heart.  She believed in him.  Work to
do and a woman who believed in a fellow - that was life.

"Aren't you cold?" he asked, and drew the gaudy sweater tenderly
around her shoulders.




CHAPTER XLV

The fact that Audrey Valentine, conspicuous member of a conspicuous
social group that she was, had been working in the machine-shop of
the Spencer munitions works at the time of the explosion was in
itself sufficient to rouse the greatest interest.  When a young
reporter, gathering human-interest stories about the event from the
pitiful wreckage in the hospitals, happened on Clare Gould, he got
a feature-story for the Sunday edition that made Audrey's own world,
reading it in bed or over its exquisite breakfast-tables, gasp with
amazement.

For, following up Clare's story, he found that Audrey had done much
more than run toward the telephone.  She had reached it, had found
the operator gone, and had succeeded, before the roof fell in on her,
in calling the fire department and in sending in a general alarm to
all the hospitals.

The reporter found the night operator who had received the message.
He got a photograph of her, too, and, from the society file, an old
one of Audrey, very delicate and audacious, and not greatly
resembling the young woman who lay in her bed and read the article
aloud, between dismay and laughter, to old Terry Mackenzie.

"Good heavens, Terry," she said.  "Listen!  'I had heard the
explosion, but did not of course know what it was.  And then I
got a signal, and it was the Spencer plant.  A sweet Southern
voice said, very calmly, "Operator, this is important.  Listen
carefully.  There has been an explosion at the Spencer plant and
the ruins are on fire.  There will probably be more explosions in
a minute.  Send in a general fire-alarm, and then get all the
ambulances and doctors - "  Then there was another explosion, and
their lines went out of commission.  I am glad she is not dead.  She
certainly had her nerve.'"

"Fame at last, Audrey!" said old Terry, very gently.

"It's shameless!"  But she was a little pleased, nevertheless.
Not at the publicity.  That was familiar enough.  But that, when
her big moment came, she had met it squarely.

Terry was striding about the room.  His visits were always rather
cyclonic.  He moved from chair to chair, leaving about each one an
encircling ring of cigaret ashes, and carefully inspecting each new
vase of flowers.  He stopped in front of a basket of exquisite
small orchids.

"Who sent this?" he demanded.

"Rodney Page.  Doesn't it look like him?"

He turned and stared at her.

"What's come over Clayton Spencer? Is he blind?"

"Blind?"

"About Rodney.  He's head over heels in love with Natalie Spencer,
God alone knows why."

"I daresay it isn't serious.  He is always in love with somebody."

"There's a good bit of talk.  I don't give a hang for either of
them, but I'm fond of Clayton.  So are you.  Natalie's out in the
country now, and Rodney is there every week-end.  It's a scandal,
that's all.  As for Natalie herself, she ought to be interned as a
dangerous pacifist.  She's a martyr, in her own eyes.  Thank heaven
there aren't many like her."

Audrey leaned back against her pillows.

"I wonder, Terry," she said, "if you haven't shown me what to do
next.  I might be able to reach some of the women like Natalie.
There are some of them, and they've got to learn that if they don't
stand behind the men, we're lost."

"Fine!" he agreed.  "Get 'em to knit less and write more letters,
cheerful letters.  Tell 'em to remember that by the time their man
gets the letter the baby's tooth will be through.  There are a good
many men in the army-camps to-day vicariously cutting teeth.  Get
after 'em, Audrey!  A worried man is a poor soldier."

After he had gone, she had the nurse bring her paper and pencil,
and she wrote, rather incoherently, it is true, her first appeal to
the women of the country.  It was effective, too.  Audrey was an
effective person.  When Clayton came for his daily visit she had
just finished it, and was reading it over with considerable
complacency.

"I've become an author, Clay," she said, "I think myself I'm
terribly good at it.  May I read it to you?"

He listened gravely, but with a little flicker of amusement in his
eyes.  How like her it was, to refuse to allow herself even time to
get entirely well!  But when she finished he was thoughtful.  She
had called it "Slacker Women."  That was what Natalie was; he had
never put it into words before.  Natalie was a slacker.

He had never discussed Natalie's attitude toward the war with
Audrey.  He rather thought she was entirely ignorant of it.  But her
little article, glowing with patriotism, frank, simple, and
convincing, might have been written to Natalie herself.

"It is very fine," he said.  "I rather think you have found
yourself at last.  There aren't a lot of such women and I daresay
they will be fewer all the time.  But they exist, of course."

She glowed under his approval.

There was, in all their meetings, a sub-current of sadness, that
they must be so brief, that before long they must end altogether,
that they could not put into words the things that were in their
eyes and their hearts.  After that first hour of her return to
consciousness there had been no expressed tenderness between them.
The nurse sat in the room, eternally knitting, and Clayton sat near
Audrey, or read to her, or, like Terry, wandered about the room.
But now and then Audrey, enthroned, like a princess on her pillows,
would find his eyes on her, and such a hungry look in them that
she would clench her hands.  And after such times she always said:
"Now, tell me about the mill."  Or about Washington, where he was
being summoned with increasing frequency.  Or about Graham.
Anything to take that look out of his eyes.  He told her all his
plans; he even brought the blue-prints of the new plant and spread
them out on the bed.  He was dreaming a great dream those days, and
Audrey knew it.  He was building again, this time not for himself,
but for the nation.

After he had gone, looking boyish and reluctant, she would lie for
a little while watching the door.  Perhaps he had forgotten
something, and would come back!  One day he did, and was surprised
to find her suddenly in tears.

"You came back!" she said half hysterically.  "You came back."

That was the only time in all those weeks that he kissed her.  The
nurse had gone out, and suddenly he caught her in his arms and held
her to him.  He put her back very gently, and she saw that he was
pale.

"I think I'd better go now, and not come back," he said.

And for two long and endless days he did not come.  Then on the
third he came, very stiff and formal, and with himself well in hand.
Audrey, leaning back and watching him, felt what a boy he was after
all, so determined to do the right thing, so obvious with his
blue-prints, and so self-conscious.

In June she left the hospital and went to the country.  She had
already made a little market for her work, and she wanted to carry
it on.  By that time, too, she knew that the break must come between
Clayton and herself if it came at all.

"No letters, no anything, Clay," she said, and he acquiesced
quietly.  But the night she left, the butler, coming downstairs to
investigate a suspicious sound, found him restlessly pacing the
library floor.

In August he went abroad, and some time about the middle of the
month while he was in London, he received a cable from Graham.  He
had been commissioned a first lieutenant in the infantry.  Clayton
had been seeing war at first hand then, and for a few moments he
was fairly terrified.  On that first of August the Germans had
used liquid fire for the first time, thus adding a new horror.  Men
in the trenches swept by it had been practically annihilated.
Attacks against it were practically suicide.  Already the year had
seen the last of Kitchener's army practically destroyed, and the
British combing the country for new divisions.

In the deadly give and take of that summer, where gains and losses
were measured by yards, the advantage was steadily on the German
side, and it would be a year before the small force of American
regulars could be augmented to any degree by the great new army.
It was the darkest hour.

Following on the heels of Graham's cable came a hysterical one from
Natalie.

"Graham probably ordered abroad.  Implore you use influence with
Washington."

He resorted to his old remedy when he was in trouble.  He walked
the streets.  He tried to allow for Natalie's lack of exaltation by
the nature of her life.  If she could have seen what he had seen,
surely she would have felt, as he did, that no sacrifice could be
too great to end this cancer of the world.  But deep in his heart
he knew that Natalie was - Natalie.  Nothing would change her.

As it happened, he passed Graham on the Atlantic.  There was a
letter for him at the office, a boyish, exultant letter:

"Dad dear, I'm married!" it began.  "Married and off for France.
It is Delight, of course.  It always was Delight, altho I know that
sounds queer.  And now I'm off to kill a Hun or two.  More than
that, I hope.  I want two Germans for every poor devil they got at
the works.  That's the minimum.  The maximum - !

"You'll look after Delight, I know.  She has been perfectly bully,
but it's hard on her.  We were married two days ago, and already I
feel as though I've always been married.  She's going on with the
canteen work, and I shall try not to be jealous.  She's popular!
And if you'd seen the General when we were married you'd have thought
he was losing a daughter.

"I wired Mother, but she was too cut up about my leaving to come.
I wish she had, for it was a strange sort of wedding.  The division
was about to move, and at the last minute five girls turned up to
be married to fellows who were leaving.  They came from all over,
and believe me there was some excitement.  All day the General and
Chaplain Haverford were fussing about licenses, and those girls sat
around and waited, and looked droopy but sort of happy - you know
what I mean.

"It was nine o'clock in the evening before everything was ready.
Delight had trimmed up the little church which is in the camp and
had a flag over the altar.  Then we had a multiple wedding.
Honestly!  The organ played a squeaky wedding march, and we went
in, six couples.  The church was full of soldiers, and - I don't
mind saying I was ready to shed tears.

"We lined up, and Doctor Haverford married us.  Delight says she
is sure we are only one-sixth married.  Quiet!  You never heard
such quiet - except for the General blowing his nose.  I think
myself he was weeping, and there was a rumor about the camp to that
effect.  You know - the flag over the altar, and all that.  I tell
you it made a fellow think.

"Well, I'm going over now.  Quick work, isn't it?  And to think
that a few months ago I was hanging around the club and generally
making a mess of life.  That's all over now, thank God.  I'm going
to make good.  Try to buck mother up.  It's pretty hard for her.
It's hard for all women, just waiting.  And while I know I'm coming
back, safe and sound, I'd like to feel that you are going to keep
an eye on Delight.  She's the most important thing in the world to
me now."

Then scrawled in a corner he had added,

"You've been mighty fine with me always, dad.  I was a good bit of
a pup last winter.  If I make anything of myself at all, it will be
because I want to be like you."

Clayton sat for a long time with the letter in his hand.  The
happiness and hope that fairly radiated from it cheered and warmed
him.  He was nearly happy.  And it came to him then that, while
every man had the right to happiness, only those achieved it who
craved it for others, and having craved it for them, at last saw
the realization of their longing.




CHAPTER XLVI

Natalie had had a dull Spring.  With Graham's departure for camp
she moved to the country house, carrying with her vast amounts of
luggage, the innumerable thing, large and small, which were
necessary for her comfort.  The installing of herself in her new
and luxurious rooms gave her occupation for several days.  She
liked her new environment.  She liked herself in it.  The
rose-colored taffetas of her bedroom brought out the delicacy of
her skin.  The hangings of her bed, small and draped, reflected a
faint color into her face, and the morning inspection with a
hand-mirror, which always followed her coffee, showed her at her
best instead of her worst.

Of her dressing-room she was not so sure.  It's ivory-paneled walls,
behind whose sliding panels were hung her gowns, her silk and satin
chiffon negligees, her wraps and summer furs - all the vast
paraphernalia with which she armed herself, as a knight with armor
- the walls seemed cold.  She hated old-blue, but old-blue Rodney
had insisted upon.

He had held a bit of the taffeta to her cheek.

"It is delicious, Natalie," he said.  "It makes your eyes as blue
as the sea."

"Always a decorator!" she had replied, smiling.

And, standing in her blue room, the first day of her arrival, and
frowning at her reflection, she remembered his reply.

"Because I have no right, with you, to be anything else."  He had
stopped for a moment, and had absently folded and refolded the bit
of blue silk.  Suddenly he said, "What do you think I am going to
do, now that our work together is done?  Have you ever thought about
that, Natalie?"

"You are coming often to enjoy your handiwork?"

He had made an impulsive gesture.

"I'm not coming.  I've been seeing too much of you as it is.  If
you want the truth, I'm just wretchedly unhappy, Natalie.  You know
I'm in love with you, don't you?"

"I believe you think you are."

"Don't laugh." He almost snarled.  "I may laugh at my idiocy, but
you haven't any right to.  I know I'm ridiculous.  I've known it
for months.  But it's pretty serious for me."

He had meant it.  There could be no doubt of that.  It is the
curious quality of very selfish women that they inspire a certain
sort of love.  They are likely to be loved often, even tho the
devotion they inspire is neither deep nor lasting.  Big and
single-hearted women are loved by one man, and that forever.

Natalie had not laughed, but she had done what was almost as bad.
She had patted him on the arm.

"Don't talk like that," she said, gently.  "You are all I have now,
Rodney, and I don't want to lose you.  I'm suffering horribly these
days.  You're my greatest comfort."

"I've heard you say that of a chair."

"As for loving me, you must not talk like that.  Under the
circumstances, it's indelicate."

"Oh!" he had said, and looked at her quickly.  "I can love you, but
it's indelicate to tell you about it!"

"I am married, Rodney."

"Good God, do you think I ever forget it?"

There was a real change in their relationship, but neither of them
understood it.  The change was that Rodney was no longer playing.
Little by little he had dropped his artistic posing for her benefit,
his cynical cleverness, his adroit simulation of passion.  He no
longer dramatized himself, because rather often he forgot himself
entirely.  His passion had ceased to be spurious, and it was none
the less real because he loved not a real woman, but one of his
own artistic creation.

He saw in Natalie a misunderstood and suffering woman, bearing the
burdens he knew of with dignity and a certain beauty.  And behind
her slightly theatrical silences he guessed at other griefs, nobly
borne and only gently intimated.  He developed, after a time, a
certain suspicion of Clayton, not of his conduct but of his
character.  These big men were often hard.  It was that quality
which made them successful.  They married tender, gentle girls, and
then repressed and trampled on them.

Natalie became, in his mind, a crushed and broken thing, infinitely
lonely and pathetic.  And, without in the least understanding,
Natalie instinctively knew it was when she was wistful and dependent
that he found her most attractive, and became wistful and dependent
to a point that imposed even on herself.

"I've been very selfish with you, Rodney, dear," she said, lifting
sad eyes to his.  "I am going to be better.  You must come often
this summer, and I'll have some nice girls for you to play with."

"Thank you," he said, stiffly.

"We'll have to be as gay as we can," she sighed.  "I'm just a little
dreary these days, you know."

It was rather absurd that they were in a shop, and that the clerk
should return just then with curtain cords, and that the discussion
of certain shades of yellow made an anti-climax to it all.  But in
the car, later, he turned to her, roughly.

"You needn't ask any girls for me," he said.  "I only want one woman,
and if I can't have her I don't want any one."

At first the very fact that he could not have her had been,
unconsciously, the secret of her attraction.  She was a perfect
thing, and unattainable.  He could sigh for her with longing and
perfect safety.  But as time went on, with that incapacity of any
human emotion to stand still, but either to go on or to go back,
his passion took on a more human and less poetic aspect.  She
satisfied him less, and he wanted more.

For one thing, he dreamed that strange dream of mankind, of making
ice burn, of turning snow to fire.  The old chimera of turning the
cold woman to warmth through his own passion began to obsess him.
Sometimes he watched Natalie, and had strange fancies.  He saw her
lit from within by a fire, which was not the reflection of his, but
was recklessly her own.  How wonderful she would be, he thought.
And at those times he had wild visions of going away with her into
some beautiful wilderness and there teaching her what she had
missed in life.

But altho now he always wanted her, he was not always thinking of
a wilderness.  It was in his own world that he wanted her, to fit
beautifully into his house, to move, exquisitely dressed, through
ball-rooms beside him.  He wanted her, at those times, as the most
perfect of all his treasures.  He was still a collector!

The summer only served to increase his passion.  During the long
hot days, when Clayton was abroad or in Washington, or working late
at night, as he frequently did how, they were much together.
Natalie's plans for gayety had failed dismally.  The city and the
country houses near were entirely lacking in men.  She found it a
real grievance.

"I don't know what we are coming to," she complained.  "The country
club is like a girl's boarding-school.  I wish to heaven the war
was over, and things were sensible again."

So, during his week-end visits, they spent most of the time together.
There were always girls there, and now and then a few men, who always
explained immediately that they had been turned down for the service,
or were going in the fall.

"I'm sure somebody has to stay home and attend to things here," she
said to him one August night.  "But even when they are in America,
they are rushing about, pretending to do things.  One would think
to see Clayton that he is the entire government.  It's absurd."

"I wish I could go," he said unexpectedly.

"Don't be idiotic.  You're much too old."

"Not as old as Clay."

"Oh, Clay!  He's in a class by himself."  She laughed lightly.

"Where is he now?"

"In France, I think.  Probably telling them how to run the war."

"When is he coming back?"

"I don't know.  What do you mean by wishing you could go?"

"Do you want me to tell you the truth?"

"Not if it's disagreeable."

"Well, I will, and it's not very agreeable.  I can't keep this up,
Natalie.  I can't keep on coming here, being in Clayton's house,
and eating his bread, while I'm in love with his wife.  It isn't
decent."

He flung away his cigaret, and bent forward.

"Don't you see that?" he asked gently.  "Not while he is working for
the country, and Graham is abroad."

"I don't see why war needs to deprive me of my friends.  I've lost
everything else."

His morals were matters of his private life, and they had been
neither better nor worse than the average.  But he had breeding and
a sure sense of the fitness of things, and this present week-end
visit, with the ostentatious care the younger crowd took to allow
him time to see Natalie alone, was galling to him.  It put him in
a false position; what hurt more, perhaps, in an unfavorable light.
The war had changed standards, too.  Men were being measured,
especially by women, and those who failed to measure up were being
eliminated with cruel swiftness, especially the men who stayed at
home.

With all this, too, there was a growing admiration for Clayton
Spencer in their small circle.  His name had been mentioned in
connection with an important position in Washington.  In the clubs
there was considerable praise and some envy.  And Rodney knew that
his affair with Natalie was the subject of much invidious comment.

"Do you love him?" he asked, suddenly.

"I - why, of course I do."

"Do you mean that?"

"I don't see what that has to do with our friendship."

"Oh - friendship!  You know how I feel, and yet you go on, bringing
up that silly word.  If you love him, you don't- love me, and yet
you've let me hang around all these months, knowing I am mad about
you.  You don't play the game, Natalie."

"What do you want to say?"

"If you don't love Clayton, why don't you tell him so?  He's honest
enough.  And I miss my guess if he wants a wife who - cares for
somebody else."

She sat in the dusk, thinking, and he watched her.  She looked very
lovely in the setting which he himself had designed for her.  She
hated change; she loathed trouble, of any sort.  And she was, those
days, just a little afraid of that strange, quiet Clayton who seemed
eternally engrossed in war and the things of war.  She glanced about,
at the white trellises that gleamed in the garden, at the silvery
fleur de lis which was the fountain, at all the lovely things with
which Clayton's wealth had allowed her to surround herself.  And
suddenly she knew she could not give them up.

"I don't see why you have to spoil everything," she said fretfully.
"It had been so perfect.  Of course I'm not going to say anything to
Clay.  He has enough to worry him now," she added, virtuously.

Suddenly Rodney stooped and kissed her, almost savagely.

"Then I'm going," he said.  And to her great surprise he went.

Alone in his room up-stairs Rodney had, in his anger, a glimpse of
insight.  He saw her, her life filled with small emotions, lacking
the courage for big ones.  He saw her, like a child, clutching one
piece of cake and holding out a hand for another.  He saw her,
taking always, giving never.

"She's not worth it," he muttered.

On the way to the station he reflected bitterly over the past year.
He did not blame her so much as he blamed himself.  He had been
playing a game, an attractive game.  During the first months of it
his interest in Natalie had been subordinate to his interest in her
house.  He had been creating a beautiful thing, and he had had a
very real joy in it.  But lately he knew that his work on the house
had been that he might build a background for Natalie.  He had put
into it the best of his ability, and she was not worth it.

For some days he neither wrote nor called her up.  He was not happy,
but he had a sense of relief.  He held his head a trifle higher,
was his own man again, and he began to make tentative inquiries as
to whether he could be useful in the national emergency or not.  He
was half-hearted at first, but he found out something.  The mere
fact that he wanted to work in some capacity brought back some of
his old friends.  They had seemed to drop away, before, but they
came back heartily and with hands out.

"Work?" said Terry Mackenzie, at the club one day, looking up from
the billiard table, where he was knocking balls about, rather at
haphazard.  "Why, of course you can work.  What about these new
cantonments we're building all over the country?  You ought to be
useful there.  They don't want 'em pretty, tho."  And Terry had
laughed.  But he put down his cue and took Rodney by the arm.

"Let's ask Nolan about it," he said.  "He's in the reading-room,
tearing the British strategy to pieces.  He knows everything these
days, from the draft law to the month's shipping losses.  Come along."

It was from Nolan, however, that Rodney first realized how seriously
Clayton's friends were taking his affair with Natalie, and that not
at first from anything he said.  It was an indefinable aloofness of
manner, a hostility of tone.  Nolan never troubled himself to be
agreeable unless it suited his inclination, and apparently Terry
found nothing unusual in his attitude.  But Rodney did.

"Something he could build?" said Nolan, repeating Terry's question.
"How do I know?  There's a lot of building going on, Page, but it's
not exactly your sort."  And there was a faint note of contempt in
his voice.

"Who would be the man to see in Washington?" Rodney inquired.

"I'll look it up and let you know.  You might call me up to-morrow."

Old Terry, having got them together, went back to his billiards and
left them.  Nolan sat down and picked up his paper, with an air of
ending the interview.  But he put it down again as Rodney turned to
leave the room.

"Page!"

"Yes?"

"D'you mind having a few minutes talk?"

Rodney braced himself.

"Not at all."

But Nolan was slow to begin.  He sat, newspaper on his knee, his
deep-set eyes thoughtful.  When he began it was slowly.

"I am one of Clay Spencer's oldest friends," he said.  "He's a
white man, the whitest man I know.  Naturally, anything that touches
him touches me, in a way."

"Well?"

"The name stands for a good bit, too.  His father and his grandfather
were the same sort.  It's not often in this town that we have three
generations without a breath of scandal against them."

Rodney flushed angrily.

"What has that got to do with me?" he demanded.

"I don't know.  I don't want to know.  I simply wanted to tell you
that there are a good many of us who take a peculiar pride in
Clayton Spencer, and who resent anything that reflects on a name we
respect rather highly."

"That sounds like a threat."

"Not at all.  I was merely calling your attention to something I
thought perhaps you had forgotten."  Then he got up' and his tone
changed, became brisk, almost friendly.  "Now, about this building
thing.  If you're in earnest I think it can be managed.  You won't
get any money to speak of, you know."

"I don't want any money," sullenly.

"Fine.  You'll probably have to go west somewhere, and you'll be
set down in the center of a hundred corn-fields and told to make
them overnight into a temporary town.  I suppose you've thought of
all that?"

"I'll go wherever I'm sent."

"Come along to the telephone, then."

Rodney hesitated.  He felt cheap and despicable, and his anger was
still hot.  They wanted to get him out of town.  He saw that.  They
took little enough trouble to hide it.  Well, he would go.  He
wanted to go anyhow, and he would show them something, too, if he
got a chance.  He would show them that he was as much a man as
Clayton Spencer.  He eyed Nolan's insolently slouching figure with
furious eyes.  But he followed him.

Had he secured an immediate appointment things might have been
different for him.  Like Chris Valentine, he had had one decent
impulse, and like Chris too, there was a woman behind it.  But
Chris had been able to act on his impulse at once, and Rodney was
compelled to wait while the mills of the government ground slowly.

Then, on the fourteenth of August, Natalie telegraphed him:

"Have had bad news about Graham.  Can you come?"

He thought of Graham ill, possibly dead, and he took the next train,
late in the evening.  It was mid-week and Natalie was alone.  He
had thought of that possibility in the train and he was miserably
uncomfortable, with all his joy at the prospect of seeing her again.
He felt that the emergency must be his justification.  Clayton was
still abroad, and even his most captious critics would admit that
Natalie should have a friend by if she were in trouble.  Visions of
Graham wounded filled his mind.  He was anxious, restless and in a
state of the highest nervous tension.

And there was no real emergency.

He found Natalie in the drawing-room, pacing the floor.  She was
still in her morning dress, and her eyes were red and swollen.  She
gave him both her hands, and he was surprised to find them cold as
ice.

"I knew you would come," she said.  "I am so alone, so terrified."

He could hardly articulate.

"What is it?"

"Graham has been ordered abroad."

He stood still, staring at her, and then he dropped her hands.

"Is that all?" he asked, dully.

"No."

"Good heavens, Natalie!  Tell me.  I've been frantic with anxiety
about you."

"He was married to-night to Delight Haverford."

And still he stared at her.

"Then he's not hurt, or ill?"

"I didn't say he was.  Good gracious, Rodney, isn't that bad enough?"

"But - what did you expect?  He would have to go abroad some time.
You knew that.  I'm sorry, but - why in God's name didn't you say
in your wire what the trouble was?"

"You sound exactly like Clay."

She was entirely incapable of understanding.  She stood before him,
straight and resentful, and yet strangely wistful and appealing.

"I send you word that my only son is going to France, that he has
married without so much as consulting me, that he is going to war
and may never come back.  I needed you, and you said once that when
I needed you, wherever you were, you would come.  So I sent for
you, and now you act like - like Clay."

"Have you any one here?"

"The servants.  Good gracious, Rodney, are you worrying about that?"

"Only for you, Natalie."

"We resent anything that reflects on a name we respect rather
highly."  That was what Nolan had said.

"I'm sorry about Graham, dearest.  I am sorry about any trouble that
comes to you.  You know that, Natalie.  I'm only regretful that you
have let me place you in an uncomfortable position.  If my being
here is known - Look here, Natalie, dear, I hate to bother you, but
I'll have to take one of the cars and go back to the city to-night."

"Aren't you being rather absurd?"

He hesitated.  He could not tell her of that awkward talk with Nolan.
There were many things he would not tell her; his own desire to
rehabilitate himself among the men he knew, his own new-born feeling
that to take advantage of Clayton's absence on business connected
with the war was peculiarly indefensible.

"I shall order the car at once," she said, and touched a bell.  When
she turned he was just behind her, but altho he held out his arms
she evaded them, her eyes hard and angry.

"I wish you would try to understand," he said.

"I do, very thoroughly.  Too thoroughly.  You are afraid for
yourself, not for me.  I am in trouble, but that is a secondary
consideration.  Don't bother about me, Rodney.  I have borne a great
deal alone in my life, and I can bear this."

She turned, and went with considerable dignity out of the door.

"Natalie!" he called.  But he heard her with a gentle rustle of
silks going up the staircase.  It did not add to his comfort that
she had left him to order the car.

All through the night Rodney rode and thought.  He was angry at
Natalie, but he was angrier at himself.  He felt that he had been
brutal, unnecessarily callous.  After all, her only son was on his
way to war.  It was on the cards that he might not come back.  And
he had let his uneasiness dominate his sympathy.  He had lost her,
but then he had never had her.  He never could have her.


Half way to town, on a back road, the car broke down, and after
vainly endeavoring to start it the chauffeur set off on foot to
secure help.  Rodney slept, uncomfortably, and wakened with the
movement of the machine to find it broad day.  That was awkward, for
Natalie's car was conspicuous, marked too with her initials.  He
asked to be set down at a suburban railway station, and was dismayed
to find it crowded with early commuters, who stared at the big car
with interest.  On the platform, eyeing him with unfriendly eyes,
was Nolan.  Rodney made a movement toward him.  The situation was
intolerable, absurd.  But Nolan turned his back and proceeded to
read his newspaper.

Perhaps not in years had Rodney Page faced the truth about himself
so clearly as he did that morning, riding into the city on the train
which carried, somewhere ahead, that quietly contemptuous figure
that was Denis Nolan.  Faced the truth, saw himself for what he was,
and loathed the thing he saw.  For a little time, too, it was given
him to see Natalie for what she was, for what she would always be,
her sole contribution to life the web of her selfishness, carefully
woven, floating apparently aimlessly, and yet snaring and holding
relentlessly whatever it touched.  Killing freedom.  He saw Clayton
and Graham and himself, feeders for her monstrous complacency and
vanity, and he made a definite determination to free himself.

"I'm through," he reflected savagely.  "I'll show them something,
too.  I'll - "

He hesitated.  How lovely she was!  And she cared for him.  She was
small and selfish and unspeakably vain, but she cared for him.

The war had done something for Rodney Page.  He no longer dreamed
the old dream, of turning her ice to fire.  But he dreamed, for a
moment, something finer.  He saw Natalie his, and growing big and
fine through love.  He saw himself and Natalie, like cards in the
game of life, re-dealt.  A new combination; a winning hand -




CHAPTER XLVII

Very quietly Audrey had taken herself out of Clayton's life.  She
sent him a little note of farewell:

"We have had ten very wonderful months, Clay," she wrote.  "We ought
to be very happy.  So few have as much.  And we both know that this
can't go on.  I am going abroad.  I have an opportunity to go over
and see what Englishwomen are doing in the way of standing behind
their men at war.  Then I am to tell our women at home.  Not that
they need it now, bless them!

"I believe you will be glad to know that I am to be on the same side
of the ocean with Graham.  I could get to him, I think, if anything
should go wrong.  Will you send him the enclosed address?

"But, my dear, the address is for him, not for you.  You must not
write to me.  I have used up every particle of moral courage I
possess, as it is.  And I am holding this in my mind, as you must.
Time is a great healer of all wounds.  We could have been happy
together; oh, my dear, so very happy together!  Now that I am going,
let me be frank for once.  I have given you the finest thing I am
capable of.  I am better for caring for you as I have, as I do.

"But those days in the hospital told me we couldn't go on.  Things
like that don't stand still.  Maybe - we are only human, Clay - maybe
if the old days were still here we might have compromised with life.
I don't know.  But I do know that we never will, now.

"After all, we have had a great deal, and we still have.  It is a
wonderful thing to know that somewhere in the world is some one
person who loves you.  To waken up in the morning to it.  To go to
sleep remembering it.  And to have kept that love fine and clean is
a wonderful thing, too.

"I am not always on a pinnacle.  There have been plenty of times
when the mere human want of you has sent me to the dust.  Is it
wrong to tell you that?  But of course not.  You know it.  But you
and I know this; Clay, dear.  Love that is hopeless, that can not
end in marriage, does one of two things.  Either it degrades or it
exalts.  It leaves its mark, always, but that mark does not need
to be a stain."

Clayton lived, for a time after that, in a world very empty and very
full.  The new plant was well under way.  Not only was he about to
make shells for the government at a nominal profit, but Washington
was asking him to assume new and wide responsibilities.  He accepted.
He wanted so to fill the hours that there would be no time to
remember.  But, more than that, he was actuated by a fine and glowing
desire to serve.  Perhaps, underlying it all was the determination to
be, in every way, the man Audrey thought him to be.  And there was,
too, a square-jawed resolution to put behind Graham, and other boys
like Graham, all the shells and ammunition they needed.

He worked hard; more than hard.  Old Terry, meeting him one day in
the winter that followed, was shocked at his haggard face.

"Better take a little time off, Clay," he suggested.  "We're going
to Miami next week.  How about ten days or so?  Fishing is good
this year."

"Can't very well take a holiday just now.  Too much to do, Terry."

Old Terry went home and told his wife.

"Looks like the devil," he said.  "He'll go down sick one of these
days.  I suppose it's no use telling Natalie."

"None whatever," said Mrs.  Terry.  "And, anyhow, it's a thing I
shouldn't care to tell Natalie."

"What do you mean, not care to tell Natalie?"

"Hard work doesn't make a man forget how to smile."

"Oh, come now.  He's cheerful enough.  If you mean because Graham's
fighting?"

"That's only part of it," said Mrs.  Terry, sagely, and relapsed
into one of the poignant silences that drove old Terry to a perfect
frenzy of curiosity.

Then, in January of 1918, a crisis came to Clayton and Natalie
Spencer.  Graham was wounded.

Clayton was at home when the news came.  Natalie had been having
one of her ill-assorted, meticulously elaborate dinner-parties,
and when the guests had gone they were for a moment alone in the
drawing-room of their town house.  Clayton was fighting in himself
the sense of irritation Natalie's dinners always left, especially
the recent ones.  She was serving, he knew, too much food.  In the
midst of the agitation on conservation, her dinners ran their
customary seven courses.  There was too much wine, too.  But it
occurred to him that only the wine had made the dinner endurable.

Then he tried to force himself into better humor.  Natalie was as
she was, and if, in an unhappy, struggling, dying world she found
happiness in display, God knew there was little enough happiness.
He was not at home very often.  He could not spoil her almost
childish content in the small things that made up her life.

"I think it was very successful," she said, surveying herself in
one of the corner mirrors.  "Do you like my gown, Clay?"

"It's very lovely."

"It's new.  I've been getting some clothes, Clay.  You'll probably
shriek at the bills.  But all this talk about not buying clothes is
nonsense, you know.  The girls who work in the shops have to live."

"Naturally.  Of course there is other work open to them now,"

"In munition plants, I daresay.  To be blown up!"

He winced.  The thought of that night the year before, when the
plant went, still turned him sick.

"Don't buy too many things, my dear," he said, gently.  "You know
how things are."

"I know it's your fault that they are as they are," she persisted.
"Oh, I know it was noble of you, and all that.  The country's crazy
about you.  But still I think it was silly.  Every one else is
making money out of things, and you - a lot of thanks you'll get,
when the war's over."

"I don't particularly want thanks."

Then the door-bell rang in the back of the house, and Buckham
answered it.  He was conscious at once that Natalie stiffened, and
that she was watchful and a trifle pale.  Buckham brought in a
telegram on a tray.

"Give it to me, Buckham," Natalie said, in a strained voice.  And
held out her hand for it.  When she saw it was for Clayton, however,
she relaxed.  As he tore it open, Clayton was thinking.  Evidently
Natalie had been afraid of his seeing some message for her.  Was
it possible that Natalie - He opened it.  After what seemed a long
time he looked up.  Her eyes were on him.

"Don't be alarmed, my dear," he said.  "It is not very bad.  But
Graham has been slightly wounded.  Sit down," he said sharply, as
he saw her sway.

"You are lying to me," she said in a dreadful voice.  "He's dead!"

"He is not dead, Natalie."  He tried to put her into a chair, but
she resisted him fiercely.

"Let me alone.  I want to see that telegram."

And, very reluctantly, at last he gave it to her.  Graham was
severely wounded.  It was from a man in his own department at
Washington who had just seen the official list.  The nature of
his wounding had not been stated.

Natalie looked up from the telegram with a face like a painted
mask.

"This is your doing," she said.  "You wanted him to go.  You sent
him into this.  He will die, and you will have murdered him."

The thought came to him, in that hour of stress, that she was right.
Pitifully, damnably right.  He had not wanted Graham to go, but he
had wanted him to want to go.  A thousand thoughts flashed through
his mind, of Delight, sleeping somewhere quietly after her day's
work at the camp; of Graham himself, of that morning after the
explosion, and his frank, pitiful confession.  And again of Graham,
suffering, perhaps dying, and with none of his own about him.  And
through it all was the feeling that he must try to bring Natalie to
reason, that it was incredible that she should call him his own son's
murderer.

"We must not think of his dying," he said.  "We must only think
that he is going to live, and to come back to us, Natalie dear."

She flung off the arm he put around her.

"And that," he went on, feeling for words out of the dreadful
confusion in his mind, "if - the worst comes, that he has done a
magnificent thing.  There is no greater thing, Natalie."

"That won't bring him back to us," she said, still in that frozen
voice.  And suddenly she burst into hard, terrible crying.

All that night he sat outside her door, for she would not allow him
to come in.  He had had Washington on the telephone, but when at
last he got the connection it was to learn that no further details
were known.  Toward dawn there came the official telegram from the
War Department, but it told nothing more.

Natalie was hysterical.  He had sent for a doctor, and with
Madeleine in attendance the medical man had worked over her for
hours.  Going out, toward morning, he had found Clayton in the
hall and had looked at him sharply.

"Better go to bed, Mr. Spencer," he advised.  "It may not be as bad
as you think.  And they're doing fine surgery over there."

And, as Clayton shook his head:

"Mrs.  Spencer will come round all right.  She's hysterical,
naturally.  She'll be sending for you before long."

With the dawn, Clayton's thoughts cleared.  If he and Natalie were
ever to get together at all, it should be now, with this common
grief between them.  Perhaps, after all, it was not too late to
re-build his house of life.  He had failed.  Perhaps they had both
failed, but the real responsibility was his.  Inside the room he
could hear her moaning, a low, monotonous, heart-breaking moan.
He was terribly sorry for her.  She had no exaltation to help her,
no strength of soul, no strength of any sort.  And, as men will
under stress, he tried to make a bargain with his God.

"Let him live," he prayed.  "Bring him back to us, and I will try
again.  I'll do better.  I've been a rotten failure, as far as she
is concerned.  But I'll try."

He felt somewhat better after that, altho he felt a certain
ignominy, too, that always, until such a time, he had gone on his
own, .as it were, and that now, when he no longer sufficed for
himself, he should beseech the Almighty.

Natalie had had a sleeping-powder, and at last he heard her moaning
cease and the stealthy movements of her maid as she lowered the
window shades.  It was dawn.

During the next two days Clayton worked as he never had worked
before, still perhaps with that unspoken pact in mind.  Worked too,
to forget.  He had sent several cables, but no reply came until
the third day.  He did not sleep at night.  He did not even go to
bed.  He sat in the low chair in his dressing-room, dozing
occasionally, to waken with a start at some sound in the hall.
Now and again, as the trained nurse who was watching Natalie at
night moved about the hallways, he would sit up, expecting a
summons that did not come.

She still refused to see him.  It depressed and frightened him, for
how could he fulfill his part of the compact when she so sullenly
shut him out of her life?

He was singularly simple in his fundamental beliefs.  There was a
Great Power somewhere, call it what one might, and it dealt out
justice or mercy as one deserved it.  On that, of course, had been
built an elaborate edifice of creed and dogma, but curiously enough
it all fell away now.  He was, in those night hours, again the boy
who had prayed for fair weather for circus day and had promised in
return to read his Bible through during the next year.  And had
done it.

In the daytime, however, he was a man, suffering terribly, and
facing the complexities of his life alone.  One thing he knew.  This
was decisive.  Either, under the stress of a common trouble, he and
Natalie would come together, to make the best they could of the
years to come, or they would be hopelessly alienated.

But that was secondary to Graham.  Everything was secondary to
Graham, indeed.  He had cabled Audrey, and he drew a long breath
when, on the third day, a cable came from her.  She had located
Graham at last.  He had been shot in the chest, and there were
pneumonia symptoms.

"Shall stay with him,"' she ended, "and shall send daily reports."

Next to his God, he put his faith in Audrey.  Almost he prayed to
her.

Dunbar, now a captain in the Military Intelligence Bureau, visiting
him in his office one day, found Clayton's face an interesting study.
Old lines of repression, new ones of anxiety, marked him deeply.

"The boy, of course," he thought.  And then reflected that it takes
time to carve such lines as were written in the face of the man
across the desk from him.  Time and a woman, he considered shrewdly.
His mind harked back to that dinner in the Spencer house when
diplomatic relations had been broken off with.  Germany, and war
seemed imminent.  It was the wife, probably.  He remembered that
she had been opposed to war, and to the boy's going.  There were
such women in the country.  There were fewer of them all the time,
but they existed, women who saw in war only sacrifice.  Women who
counted no cost too high for peace.  If they only hurt themselves
it did not matter, but they could and did do incredible damage.

Clayton was going through some papers he had brought, and Dunbar
had time to consider what to him was an interesting problem.  Mrs.
Spencer had kept the boy from immediate enlistment.  He had wanted
to go; Dunbar knew that.  If she had allowed him to go the affair
with Anna Klein would have been ended.  He knew all that story now.
Then, if there had been no affair, Herman would not have blown up
the munition works and a good many lives, valuable to themselves at
least, might have been saved.

"Curious!" he reflected.  "One woman!  And she probably sleeps well
at nights and goes to church on Sundays!"

Clayton passed back his papers, and ran a hand over his heavy hair.

"They seem to be all right," he said.

Dunbar rose.

"Hope the next news will be better, Mr. Spencer."

"I hope so."

"I haven't told you, I think, that we have traced Rudolph Klein."

Clayton's face set.

"He's got away, unfortunately.  Over the border into Mexico.  They
have a regular system there, the Germans - an underground railway
to Mexico City.  They have a paymaster on our side of the line.
They even bank in one of our banks!  Oh, we'll get them yet, of
course, but they're damnably clever."

"I suppose there is no hope of getting Rudolph Klein?"

"Not while the Germans are running Mexico," Captain Dunbar replied,
dryly.  "He's living in a Mexican town just over the border.  We're
watching him.  If he puts a foot on this side we'll grab him."

Clayton sat back after he had gone.  He was in his old office at
the mill, where Joey had once formed his unofficial partnership with
the firm.  Outside in the mill yard there was greater activity than
ever, but many of the faces were new.  The engineer who had once
run the yard engine was building bridges in France.  Hutchinson had
heard the call, and was learning to fly in Florida, The service
flag over his office door showed hundreds of stars, and more were
being added constantly.  Joey dead.  Graham wounded, his family
life on the verge of disruption, and Audrey -

Then, out of the chaos there came an exaltation.  He had given
himself, his son, the wealth he had hoped to have, but, thank God,
he had had something to give.  There were men who could give nothing,
like old Terry Mackenzie, knocking billiard-balls around at the
club, and profanely wistful that he had had no son to go.  His mind
ranged over those pathetic, prosperous, sonless men who filed into
the club late in the afternoons, and over the last editions and
whisky-and-sodas fought their futile warfare, their battle-ground a
newspaper map, their upraised voices their only weapons.

On parade days, when the long lines of boys in khaki went by, they
were silent, heavy, inutile.  They were too old to fight.  The
biggest thing in their lives was passing them by, as passed the
lines of marching boys, and they had no part in it.  They were
feeding their hungry spirits on the dregs of war, on committee
meetings and public gatherings, and they were being useful.  But
the great exaltation of offering their best was not for them.

He was living a tragedy, but a greater tragedy was that of the
childless.  And back of that again was the woman who had not wanted
children.  There were many men to-day who were feeling the
selfishness of a woman at home, men who had lost, somehow, their
pride, their feeling of being a part of great things.  Men who went
home at night to comfortable dwellings, with no vacant chair at
the table, and dined in a peace they had not earned.

Natalie had at least given him a son.

He took that thought home with him in the evening.  He stopped at
a florist's and bought a great box of flowers for her, and sent them
into her room with a little note,

"Won't you let me come in and try to comfort you?"

But Madeleine brought the box out again, and there was pity in her
eyes.

"Mrs.  Spencer can not have them in the room, sir.  She says the
odor of flowers makes her ill."

He knew Madeleine had invented the excuse, that Natalie had simply
rejected his offering.  He went down-stairs, and made a pretense
of dining alone in the great room.

It was there that Audrey's daily cable found him.  Buckham brought
it in in shaking fingers, and stood by, white and still, while he
opened it.

Clayton stood up.  He was very white, but his voice was full and
strong.

"He is better, Buckham!  Better!"

Suddenly Buckham was crying.  His austere face was distorted, his
lean body trembling.  Clayton put his arm around the bowed old
shoulders.

And in that moment, as they stood there, master and man, Clayton
Spencer had a flash of revelation.  There was love and love.  The
love of a man for a woman, and of a woman for a man, of a mother
for the child at her knee, of that child for its mother.  But that
the great actuating motive of a man's maturity, of the middle span,
was vested along with his dreams, his pride and his love, in his son,
his man-child.

Buckham, carrying his coffee into the library somewhat later, found
him with his head down on his desk, and the cablegram clutched in
his outstretched hands.  He tip-toed out, very quietly.




CHAPTER XLVIII

Clayton's first impulse was to take the cable to Natalie, to brush
aside the absurd defenses she had erected, and behind which she
cowered, terrified but obstinate.  To say to her,

"He is living.  He is going to live.  But this war is not over yet.
If we want him to come through, we must stand together.  We must
deserve to have him come back to us."

But by the time he reached the top of the stairs he knew he could
not do it.  She would not understand.  She would think he was using
Graham to further a reconciliation; and, after her first joy was
over, he knew that he would see again that cynical smile that always
implied that he was dramatizing himself.

Nothing could dim his strong inner joy, but something of its outer
glow faded.  He would go to her, later.  Not now.  Nothing must
spoil this great thankfulness of his.

He gave Madeleine the cable, and went down again to the library.

After a time he began to go over the events of the past eighteen
months.  His return from the continent, and that curious sense of
unrest that had followed it, the opening of his eyes to the
futility of his life.  His failure to Natalie and her failure to
him.  Graham, made a man by war and by the love of a good woman.
Chris, ending his sordid life in a blaze of glory, and forever
forgiven his tawdry sins because of his one big hour.

War took, but it gave also.  It had taken Joey, for instance, but
Joey had had his great moment.  It was better to have one great
moment and die than to drag on through useless years.  And it was
the same way with a nation.  A nation needed its hour.  It was
only in a crisis that it could know its own strength.  How many
of them, who had been at that dinner of Natalie's months before,
had met their crisis bravely!  Nolan was in France now.  Doctor
Haverford was at the front.  Audrey was nursing Graham.  Marion
Hayden was in a hospital training-School.  Rodney Page was still
building wooden barracks in a cantonment in Indiana, and was
making good.  He himself -

They could never go back, none of them, to the old smug, complacent,
luxurious days.  They could no more go back than Joey could return
to life again.  War was the irrevocable step, as final as death
itself.  And he remembered something Nolan had said, just before he
sailed.

"We have had one advantage, Clay.  Or maybe it is not an advantage,
after all.  Do you realize that you and I have lived through the
Golden Age?  We have seen it come and seen it go.  The greatest
height of civilization, since the world began, the greatest
achievements, the most opulent living.  And we saw it all crash.
It will be a thousand years before the world will be ready for
another."

And later,

"I suppose every life has its Golden Age.  Generally we think it
is youth.  I'm not so sure.  Youth is looking ahead.  It has its
hopes and its disappointments.  The Golden Age in a man's life
ought to be the age of fulfillment.  It's nearer the forties than
the twenties."

"Have you reached it?"

"I'm going to, on the other side."

And Clayton had smiled.

"You are going to reach it," he said.  "We are always going to find
it, Nolan.  It is always just ahead."

And Nolan had given him one of his quick understanding glances.

There could be no Golden Age for him.  For the Golden Age for a man
meant fulfillment.  The time came to every man when he must sit at
the west window of his house of life and look toward the sunset.  If
he faced that sunset alone -

He heard Madeleine carrying down Natalie's dinner-tray, and when
she left the pantry she came to the door of the library.

"Mrs.  Spencer would like to see you, sir."

"Thank you, Madeleine.  I'll go up very soon."

Suddenly he knew that he did not want to go up to Natalie's scented
room.  She had shut him out when she was in trouble.  She had not
cared that he, too, was in distress.  She had done her best to
invalidate that compact he had made.  She had always invalidated him.

To go back to the old way, to the tribute she enforced to feed her
inordinate vanity, to the old hypocricy of their relationship, to
live again the old lie, was impossible.

He got up.  He would not try to buy himself happiness at the cost
of turning her adrift.  But he must, some way, buy his self-respect.

He heard her then, on the staircase, that soft rustle which, it
seemed to him, had rasped the silk of his nerves all their years
together with its insistence on her dainty helplessness, her
femininity, her right to protection.  The tap of her high heels came
closer.  He drew a long breath and turned, determinedly smiling, to
face the door.

Almost at once he saw that she was frightened.  She had taken pains
to look her best - but then she always did that.  She was rouged to
the eyes, and the floating white chiffon of her negligee gave to her
slim body the illusion of youth, that last illusion to which she so
desperately clung.  But - she was frightened.

She stood in the doorway, one hand holding aside the heavy velvet
curtain, and looked at him with wide, penciled eyes.

"Clay?"

"Yes.  Come in.  Shall I have Buckham light a fire?"

She came in, slowly.

"Do you suppose that cable is reliable?"

"I should think so."

"He may have a relapse."

"We mustn't worry about what may come.  He is better now.  The
chances are that he'll stay better."

"Probably.  I suppose, because I have been so ill - "

He felt the demand for sympathy, but he had none to give.  And he
felt something else.  Natalie was floundering, an odd word for her,
always so sure of herself.  She was frightened, unsure of herself,
and - floundering.  Why?

"Are you going to be in to-night?"

"Yes."

She gave a curious little gesture.  Then she evidently made up her
mind and she faced him defiantly.

"Of course, if I had known he was going to be better, I'd - Clay,
I wired yesterday for Rodney Page.  He arrives to-night."

"Rodney?"

"Yes."

"I don't think I quite understand, Natalie.  Why did you wire for
him?"

"You wouldn't understand, of course.  I was in trouble.  He has been
my best friend.  I tried to bear it alone, but I couldn't.  I - "

"Alone!  You wouldn't see me."

"I couldn't, Clay."

"Why?"

"Because - if Graham had died - "

Her mouth trembled.  She put her hand to her throat.

"You would have blamed me for his death?"

"Yes."

"Then.  even now, if - "

"Yes."

The sheer cruelty of it sent him pale.  Yet it was not so much
deliberate as unconscious.  She was forcing herself to an unwonted
honesty.  It was her honest conviction that he was responsible for
Graham's wounding and danger.

"Let me get to the bottom of this," he said quietly.  "You hold me
responsible.  Very well.  How far does that take us?  How far does
that take you?  To Rodney!"

"You needn't be brutal.  Rodney understands me.  He - he cares for
me, Clay."

"I see.  And, since you sent for him I take it you care for Rodney."

"I don't know.  I - "

"Isn't it time you do know?  For God's sake, Natalie, make up your
mind to some course and stick to it."

But accustomed as he was to the curious turns of her mind, he was
still astounded to have her turn on him and accuse him of trying to
get rid of her.  It was not until later that he realized in that
attitude of hers her old instinct of shifting the responsibility
from her own shoulders.

And then Rodney was announced.

The unreality of the situation persisted.  Rodney's strained face
and uneasy manner, his uniform, the blank pause when he had learned
that Graham was better, and when the ordinary banalities of greeting
were over.  Beside Clayton he looked small, dapper, and wretchedly
uncomfortable, and yet even Clayton had to acknowledge a sort of
dignity in the man.

He felt sorry for him, for the disillusion that was to come.  And
at the same time he felt an angry contempt for him, that he should
have forced so theatrical a situation.  That the night which saw
Graham's beginning recovery should be tarnished by the wild clutch
after happiness of two people who had done so little to earn it.

He saw another, totally different scene, for a moment.  He saw
Graham in his narrow bed that night in some dimly-lighted hospital
ward, and he saw Audrey beside him, watching and waiting and praying.
A wild desire to be over there, one of that little group, almost
overcame him.  And instead -

"Natalie has not been well, Rodney," he said.  "I rather think, if
you have anything to say to me, we would better talk alone."

Natalie went out, her draperies trailing behind her.  Clayton
listened, as she moved slowly up the stairs.  For the last time he
heard that soft rustling which had been the accompaniment to so
many of the most poignant hours of his life.  He listened until it
had died away.




CHAPTER XLIX

For months Rudolph Klein had been living in a little Mexican town
on the border.  There were really two towns, but they were built
together with only a strip of a hundred feet between.  Along this
strip ran the border itself, with a tent pitched on the American
side, and patrols of soldiers guarding it.  The American side was
bright and clean, orderly and self-respecting, but only a hundred
feet away, unkempt, dusty, with adobe buildings and a notorious
gambling-hell in plain view, was Mexico itself - leisurely,
improvident, not overscrupulous Mexico.

At first Rudolph was fairly contented.  It amused him.  He liked
the idleness of it.  He liked kicking the innumerable Mexican dogs
out of his way.  He liked baiting the croupiers in the "Owl."  He
liked wandering into that notorious resort and shoving Hindus,
Chinamen, and Mexicans out of the way, while he flung down a silver
dollar and watched the dealers with cunning, avaricious eyes.

He liked his own situation, too.  It amused him to think that here
he was safe, while only a hundred feet away he was a criminal,
fugitive from the law.  He liked to go to the very border itself,
and jeer at the men on guard there.

"If I was on that side," he would say, "you'd have me in one of
those rotten uniforms, wouldn't you?  Come on over, fellows.  The
liquor's fine."

Then, one day, a Chinaman he had insulted gave him an unexpected
shove, and he had managed to save himself by a foot from the clutch
of a quiet-faced man in plain clothes who spent a certain amount of
time lounging on the other side of the border.

That had sobered him.  He kept away from the border itself after
that, although the temptation of it drew him.  After a few weeks,
when the novelty had worn off, he began to hunger for the clean
little American town across the line.  He wanted to talk to some
one.  He wanted to boast, to be candid.  These Mexicans only
laughed when he bragged to them.  But he dared not cross.

There was a high-fenced enclosure behind the "Owl," the segregated
district of the town.  There, in tiny one-roomed houses built in
rows like barracks were the girls and women who had drifted to this
jumping-off place of the world.  In the daytime they slept or sat
on the narrow, ramshackle porches, untidy, noisy, unspeakably
wretched.  At night, however, they blossomed forth in tawdry finery,
in the dancing-space behind the gambling-tables.  Some of them were
fixtures.  They had drifted there from New Orleans, perhaps, or
southern California, and they lacked the initiative or the money
to get away.  But most of them came in, stayed a month or two, found
the place a nightmare, with its shootings and stabbings, and then
disappeared.

At first Rudolph was popular in this hell of the underworld.  He
spent money easily, he danced well, he had audacity and a sort of
sardonic humor.  They asked no questions, those poor wretches who
had themselves slid over the edge of life.  They took what came,
grateful for little pleasures, glad even to talk their own tongue.

And then, one broiling August day, late in the afternoon, when the
compound was usually seething with the first fetid life of the day,
Rudolph found it suddenly silent when he entered it, and hostile,
contemptuous eyes on him.

A girl with Anna Klein's eyes, a girl he had begun to fancy,
suddenly said,

"Draft-dodger!"

There was a ripple of laughter around the compound.  They commenced
to bait him, those women he would not have wiped his feet on at home.
They literally laughed him out of the compound.

He went home to his stifling, windowless adobe room, with its
sagging narrow bed, its candle, its broken crockery, and he stood
in the center of the room and chewed his nails with fury.  After
a time he sat down and considered what to do next.  He would have
to move on some time.  As well now as ever.  He was sick of the
place.

He began preparations to move on, gathering up the accumulation of
months of careless living for destruction.  He picked up some
newspapers preparatory to throwing them away, and a name caught his
attention.  Standing there, inside his doorway in the Mexican dusk,
he read of Graham's recent wounding, his mending, and the fact that
he had won the Croix de Guerre.  Supreme bitterness was Rudolph's
then.

"Stage stuff!" he muttered.  But in the depths of his warped soul
there was bitter envy.  He knew well with what frightened yet
adoring eyes Anna Klein had devoured that news of Graham Spencer.
While for him there was the girl in the compound back of the "Owl,"
with Anna Klein's eyes, filled when she looked at him with that
bitterest scorn of all, the contempt of the wholly contemptible.

That night he went to the Owl.  He had shaved and had his hair cut
and he wore his only remaining decent suit of clothes.  He passed
through the swinging gate in the railing which separated the
dancing-floor from the tables and went up to the line of girls,
sitting in that saddest waiting of all the world, along the wall.
There was an ominous silence at his approach.  He planted himself
in front of the girl with eyes like Anna Klein.

"Are you going to dance?"

"Not with you," she replied, evenly.  And again the ripple of
laughter spread.

"Why not?"

"Because you're a coward," she said.  "I'd rather dance with a
Chinaman."

"If you think I'm here because I'm afraid to fight you can think
again.  Not that I care what you think."

He had meant to boast a little, to intimate that he had pulled off
a big thing, but he saw that he was ridiculous.  The situation
infuriated him.  Suddenly he burst into foul-mouthed invective,
until one of the girls said, wearily,

"Oh, cut that out, you slacker."

And he knew that no single word he had used against them, out of a
vocabulary both extensive and horrible, was to them so degraded as
that single one applied to him.

Late that night he received a tip from a dealer at one of
vingt-et-un tables.  There were inquiries being made for him across
the border.  That very evening he, the dealer, had gone across for
a sack of flour, and he had heard about it.

"You'd better get out," said the dealer.

"I'm as safe here as I'd be in Mexico City."

"Don't be too sure, son.  You're not any too popular here. There's
such a thing as being held up and carried over the border.  It's
been done before now."

"I'm sick of this hole, anyhow," Rudolph muttered, and moved away
in the crowd.  The mechanical piano was banging in the dance-hall
as he slipped out into the darkness, under the clear starlight of
the Mexican night, and the gate of the compound stood open.  He
passed it with an oath.

Long before, he had provided for such a contingency.  By the same
agency which had got him to the border, he could now be sent
further on.  At something after midnight, clad in old clothes and
carrying on his back a rough outfit of a blanket and his remaining
wardrobe, he knocked at the door of a small adobe house on the
border of the town.  An elderly German with a candle admitted him.

"Well, I'm off," Rudolph said roughly.

"And time enough, too," said the German, gruffly.

Rudolph was sullenly silent.  He was in this man's power, and he
knew it.  But the German was ready enough to do his part.  For
months he had been doing this very thing, starting through the
desert toward the south slackers and fugitives of all descriptions.
He gathered together the equipment, a map with water-holes marked,
a canteen covered with a dirty plaid-cloth casing, a small supply
of condensed foods, in tins mostly, and a letter to certain
Germans in Mexico City who would receive hospitably any American
fugitives and ask no questions.

"How about money?" Rudolph inquired.

The German shrugged his shoulders.

"You will not need money in the desert," he said.  "And you haf
spent much money here, on the women.  You should have safed it."

"I was told you would give me money."

But the German shook his head.

"You viii find money in Mexico City, if you get there," he said,
cryptically.  And Rudolph found neither threats nor entreaties of
any avail.

He started out of the town, turning toward the south and west.
Before him there stretched days of lonely traveling through the
sand and cactus of the desert, of blistering sun and cold nights,
of anxious searches for water-holes.  It was because of the
water-holes that he headed southwest, for such as they were they
lay in tiny hidden oases in the canyons.  Almost as soon as he
left the town he was in the desert; a detached ranch, a suggestion
of a road, a fenced-in cotton-field or two, an irrigation ditch, and
then - sand.

He was soft from months of inaction, from the cactus whisky of
Mexico, too, that ate into a man like a corrosive acid.  But he
went on steadily, putting behind him as rapidly as possible the
border, and the girls who had laughed at him.  He traveled by a
pointed mountain which cut off the stars at the horizon, and as
the miles behind him increased, in spite of his growing fatigue
his spirits rose.  Before him lay the fulness of life again.
Mexico City was a stake worth gambling for.  He was gambling, he
knew.  He had put up his life, and his opponent was thirst.  He
knew that, well enough, too, and the figure rather amused him.

"Playing against that, all right," he muttered.  He paused and
turned around.  The sun had lifted over the rim of the desert, a
red disc which turned the gleaming white alkali patches to rose.
"By God," he said, "that's the ante, is it - A red chip!"

A caravan of mules was coming up from the head of the Gulf of
California.  It moved in a cloud of alkali dust and sand, its
ore-sacks coated white.  The animals straggled along, wandering out
of the line incessantly and thrust back into place by muleteers who
cracked long whips and addressed them vilely.

At a place where a small rock placed on another marked a side trail
to water, the caravan turned and moved toward the mountains.  Close
as they appeared, the outfit was three hours getting to the foot
hills.  There was a low meadow now, covered with pale green grass.
Quail scurried away under the mesquite bushes, stealthily whistling,
and here and there the two stones still marked the way.

With the instinct of desert creatures the mules hurried their pace.
Pack-saddles creaked, spurs jingled.  Life, insistent, thirsty life,
quickened the dead plain.

A man rode ahead.  He dug his spurs into his horse and cantered,
elbows flapping, broad-brimmed hat drawn over his eyes.  For hours
he had been fighting the demon of thirst.  His tongue was dry, his
lips cracking.  The trail continued to be marked with its double
stones, but it did not enter the cool canyon ahead.  It turned and
skirted the base of the bare mountain slope.  The man's eyes
sharpened.  He knew very definitely what he was looking for, and
at last he saw it, a circle of flat stones, some twenty feet across,
the desert sign for a buried spring.

But there was something inside the circle, something which lay still.
The man put his horse to the gallop again.  There was a canteen
lying in the trail, a canteen covered with a dirty plaid casing.  The
horse's hoof struck it, and it gave out a dry, metallic sound.

"Poor devil!" muttered the rider.

He dismounted and turned the figure over.

"God!" he said.  "And water under him all the time!"

Then he dragged the quiet figure outside the ring of stones, and
getting a spade from his saddle, fell to digging in the center.
A foot below the surface water began to appear, clear, cold water.
He lay down, flat and drank out of the pool.

Clayton Spencer was alone in his house.  In the months since Natalie
had gone, he had not been there a great deal.  He had been working
very hard.  He had not been able to shoulder arms, but he had,
nevertheless, fought a good fight.

He was very tired.  During the day, a sort of fierce energy upheld
him.  Because in certain things he had failed he was the more
determined to succeed in others.  Not for himself; ambition of that
sort had died of the higher desire to serve his country.  But
because the sense of failure in his private life haunted him.

The house was very quiet.  Buckham came in to mend the fire, issuing
from the shadows like a lean old ghost and eyeing him with tender,
faded old eyes.

"Is there anything else, sir?"

"Thanks, no.  Buckham."

"Yes, Mr. Spencer."

"I have not spoken about it, but I think you have understood.  Mrs.
Spencer is - not coming back."

"Yes, Mr. Spencer."

"I had meant to close the house, but certain things - Captain
Spencer's wife expects a child.  I would rather like to have her
come here, for the birth.  After that, if the war is over, I shall
turn the house over to them.  You would stay on, I hope, Buckham."

"I'll stay, sir.  I - "  His face worked nervously.  "I feel toward
the Captain as I would to my own son, sir.  I have already thought
that perhaps - the old nursery has been cleaned and aired for weeks,
Mr. Spencer."

Clayton felt a thrill of understanding for the old man through all
the years he had watched and served them.  He had reflected their
joys and their sorrows.  He had suffered the family destiny without
having shaped it.  He had lived, vicariously, their good hours and
their bad.  And now, in his old age, he was waiting again for the
vicarious joy of Graham's child.

"But you'll not be leaving the house, sir?"

"I don't know.  I shall keep my rooms.  But I shall probably live
at the club.  The young people ought to be alone, for a while.
There are readjustments - You never married, Buckham?"

"No, Mr. Spencer.  I intended to, at one time.  I came to this
country to make a home, and as I was rather a long time about it,
she married some one else."

Clayton caught the echo of an old pain in Buckham's repressed voice.
Buckham, too!  Was there in the life of every man some woman tragedy?
Buckham, sitting alone in his west window and looking toward the
sunset, Buckham had his memories.

"She lost her only son at Neuve Chapelle," Buckham was saying quietly.
"In a way, it was as tho I had lost a boy.  She never cared for the
man she married.  He was a fine boy, sir.  I - you may remember the
night I was taken ill in the pantry."

"Is her husband still living?"

"No, Mr. Spencer."

"Do you ever think of going back and finding her?"

"I have, sir.  But I don't know.  I like to remember her as she
used to be.  I have some beautiful memories.  And I think sometimes
it is better to live on memories.  They are more real than - well,
than reality, sir."

Long after Buckham had withdrawn, Clayton paced the floor of the
library.  Was Buckham right?  Was the real life of a man his mental
life?  Was any love so great as a man's dream of love?  Peace was
on the way.  Soon this nightmare of war would be over, and in the
great awakening love would again take the place of hate.  Love of
man for man, of nation for nation.  Peace and the things of peace.
Time to live.  Time to hope, with the death-cloud gone.  Time to
work and time to play.  Time to love a woman and cherish her for
the rest of life, if only -

His failure with Natalie had lost him something.  She had cost him
his belief in himself.  Her last words had crystallized his own
sense of failure.

"I admit all your good qualities, Clay.  Heaven knows they are
evident enough.  But you are the sort people admire.  They don't
love you.  They never will."

Yet that night he had had a curious sense that old Buckham loved him.
Maybe he was the sort men loved and women admired.

He sat down and leaned back in his chair, watching the fire-logs.
He felt very tired.  What was that Buckham had said about memories?
But Buckham was old.  He was young, young and strong.  There would
be many years, and even his most poignant memories would grow dim.

Audrey!  Audrey!

From the wall over the mantel Natalie's portrait still surveyed the
room with its delicate complacence.  He looked up at it.  Yes,
Natalie had been right, he was not the sort to make a woman happy.
There were plenty of men, young men, men still plastic, men who had
not known shipwreck, and some such man Audrey would marry.  Perhaps
already, in France -

He got up.  His desk was covered with papers, neatly endorsed by
his secretary.  He turned out all the lights but his desk lamp.
Natalie's gleaming flesh-tones died into the shadows, and he stood
for a moment, looking up at it, a dead thing, remote, flat, without
significance.  Then he sat down at his desk and took up a bundle
of government papers.

There was still work.  Thank God for work.




CHAPTER L

Audrey was in Paris on the eleventh of November.  Now and then she
got back there, and reveled for a day or two in the mere joy of
paved streets and great orderly buildings.  She liked the streets
and the crowds.  She liked watching the American boys swaggering
along, smoking innumerable cigarets and surveying the city with
interested, patronizing eyes.  And, always, walking briskly along
the Rue Royale or the Avenue de l'Opera, or in the garden of the
Tuileries where the school-boys played their odd French games, her
eyes were searching the faces of the men she met.

Any tall man in civilian clothes set her heart beating faster.  She
was quite honest with herself; she knew that she was watching for
Clay, and she had a magnificent shamelessness in her quest.  And now
at last The Daily Mail had announced his arrival in France, and at
first every ring of her telephone had sent her to it, somewhat
breathless but quite confident.  He would, she considered, call up
the Red Cross at the Hotel Regina, and they would, by her
instructions, give her hotel.

Then, on that Monday morning, which was the eleventh, she realized
that he would not call her up.  She knew it suddenly and absolutely.
She sat down, when the knowledge came to her, with a sickening
feeling that if he did not come to her now he never would come.  Yet
even then she did not doubt that he cared.  Cared as desperately as
she did.  The bond still held.

She tried very hard, sitting there by her wood fire in the orderly
uniform which made her so quaintly young and boyish, to understand
the twisted mental processes that kept him away from her, now that
he was free.  And, in the end, she came rather close to the truth:
his sense of failure; his loss of confidence in himself where his
love life was concerned; the strange twisting and warping that were
Natalie's sole legacy from their years together.

For months she had been tending broken bodies and broken spirits.
But the broken pride of a man was a strange and terrible thing.

She did not know where he was stopping, and in the congestion of
the Paris hotels it would be practically impossible to trace him.
And there, too, her own pride stepped in.  He must come to her.
He knew she cared.  She had been honest with him always, with a
sort of terrible honesty.

Surveying the past months she wondered, not for the first time,
what had held them apart so long, against the urge that had become
the strongest thing in life to them both.  The strength in her had
come from him.  She knew that.  But where had Clay got his strength?
Men were not like that, often.  Failing final happiness, they so
often took what they could get.  Like Chris.

Perhaps, for the first and last time, she saw Clayton Spencer that
morning with her mind, as well as with her heart.  She saw him big
and generous and fine, but she saw him also not quite so big as his
love, conventional, bound by tradition and early training, somewhat
rigid, Calvinistic, and dominated still by a fierce sex pride.

At once the weaknesses of the middle span, and its safety.  And,
woman-fashion, she loved him for both his weakness and his strength.
A bigger man might have taken her.  A smaller man would have let her
go.  Clay was - just Clay; single-hearted, intelligent but not
shrewd, blundering, honest Clay.

She was one great ache for the shelter of his arms.

She had a small sense of shame that, on that day of all others, she
should be obsessed with her own affairs.

This was a great day.  That morning, if all went well, the war was
to cease.  The curtain was to fall on the great melodrama, and those
who had watched it and those who had played in it would with the
drop of the curtain turn away from the illusion that is war, to the
small and quiet things of home.

"Home!" she repeated.  She had no home.  But it was a great day,
nevertheless.  Only that morning the white-capped femme de chambre
had said, with exaltation in her great eyes:

"So!  It is finished, Madame, or soon it will be - in an hour or
two."

"It will be finished, Suzanne."

"And Madame will go back to the life she lived before."  Her eyes
had turned to where, on the dressing-table, lay the gold fittings
of Audrey's dressing-case.  She visualized Audrey, back in rich,
opulent America, surrounded by the luxury the gold trinkets would
indicate.

"Madame must be lovely in the costume for a ball," she said, and
sighed.  For her, a farm in Brittany, the endless round of small
duties; for the American -

Sitting there alone Audrey felt already the reactions of peace.
The war had torn up such roots as had held her.  She was terribly
aware, too, that she had outgrown her old environment.  The old
days were gone.  The old Audrey was gone; and in her place was a
quiet woman, whose hands had known service and would never again
be content to be idle.  Yet she knew that, with the war, the world
call would be gone.  Not again, for her, detached, impersonal
service.  She was not of the great of the earth.  What she wanted,
quite simply, was the service of love.  To have her own and to
care for them.  She hoped, very earnestly, that she would be able
to look beyond her own four walls, to see distress and to help it,
but she knew, as she knew herself, that the real call to her would
always be love.

She felt a certain impatience at herself.  This was to be the
greatest day in the history of the world, and while all the earth
waited for the signal guns, she waited for a man who had apparently
determined not to take her back into his life.

She went out onto her small stone balcony, on the Rue Danou, and
looked out to where, on the Rue de la Paix, the city traffic moved
with a sort of sporadic expectancy.  Men stopped and consulted their
watches.  A few stood along the curb, and talked in low voices.
Groups of men in khaki walked by, or stopped to glance into the shop
windows.  They, too, were waiting.  She could see, far below, her
valet de chambre in his green felt apron, and the concierge in his
blue frock coat and brass buttons, unbending in the new democracy of
hope to talk to a cabman.

Suddenly Audrey felt the same exaltation that had been in Suzanne's
eyes.  Those boys below in uniform - they were not tragic now.  They
were the hope of the world, not its sacrifice.  They were going to
live.  They were going to live.

She went into her bedroom and put on her service hat.  And as she
opened the door Suzanne was standing outside, one hand upraised.
Into the quiet hallway there came the distant sound of the signal
guns.

"C'est l'armistice!" cried Suzanne, and suddenly broke into wild
hysterical sobbing.

All the way down-stairs Audrey was praying, not articulately, but
in her heart, that this was indeed the end; that the grapes of
wrath had all been trampled; that the nations of the world might
again look forward instead of back.  And - because she was not of
the great of the earth, but only a loving woman - that somewhere
Clay was hearing the guns, as she was, and would find hope in them,
and a future.

When a great burden is lifted, the relief is not always felt at
once.  The galled places still ache.  The sense of weight persists.
And so with Paris.  Not at once did the city rejoice openly.  It
prayed first, and then it counted the sore spots, and they were
many.  And it was dazed, too.  There had been no time to discount
peace in advance.

The streets filled at once, but at first it was with a chastened
people.  Audrey herself felt numb and unreal.  She moved mechanically
with the shifting crowd, looking overhead as a captured German plane
flew by, trying to comprehend the incomprehensible.  But by mid-day
the sober note of the crowds had risen to a higher pitch.  A file
of American doughboys, led by a corporal with a tin trumpet and
officered by a sergeant with an enormous American cigar,
goose-stepped down the Avenue de l'Opera, gaining recruits at every
step.  It snake-danced madly through the crowd, singing that one
lyric stand-by of Young America: "Hail!  hail!  the gang's all here!"

But the gang was not all there, and they knew it.  Some of them lay
in the Argonne, or at Chateau-Thierry, and for them peace had come
too late.  But the Americans, like the rest of the world, had put
the past behind them.  Here was the present, the glorious present,
and Paris on a sunny Monday.  And after that would be home.

     "Hail, hail, the gang's all here,
      What the hell do we care?
      What the hell do we care?
      Hail, hail, the gang's all here,
      What the hell do we care now?"

Gradually the noise became uproarious.  There were no bands in Paris,
and any school-boy with a tin horn or a toy drum could start a
procession.  Bearded little poilus, arm in arm from curb to curb,
marched grinning down the center of the streets, capturing and
kissing pretty midinettes, or surrounding officers and dancing madly;
Audrey saw an Algerian, ragged and dirty from the battle-fields,
kiss on both cheeks a portly British Admiral of the fleet, and was
herself kissed by a French sailor, with extreme robustness and a
slight tinge of vin ordinaire.  She went on smiling.

If only Clay were seeing all this!  He had worked so hard.  He had
a right to this wonderful hour, at least.  If he had gone to the
front, to see Graham - but then it must be rather wonderful at the
front, too.  She tried to visualize it; the guns quiet, and the
strained look gone from the faces of the men, with the wonderful
feeling that as there was to-day, now there would also be to-morrow.

She felt a curious shrinking from the people she knew.  For this
one day she wanted to be alone.  This peace was a thing of the soul,
and of the soul alone.  She knew what it would be with the people
she knew best in Paris, - hastily arranged riotous parties, a
great deal of champagne and noise, and, overlying the real sentiment,
much sentimentality.  She realized, with a faint smile, that the old
Audrey would have welcomed that very gayety.  She was even rather
resentful with herself for her own aloofness.

She quite forgot luncheon, and early afternoon found her on the
balcony of the Crillon Hotel, overlooking the Place de la Concorde.
Paris was truly awake by that time, and going mad.  The long-quiet
fountains were playing, Poilus and American soldiers had seized
captured German cannon and were hauling them wildly about.  If in
the morning the crowd had been largely khaki, now the French blue
predominated.  Flags and confetti were everywhere, and every motor,
as it, pushed slowly through the crowd, carried on roof and running
board and engine hood crowds of self-invited passengers.  A British
band was playing near the fountain.  A line of helmets above the
mass and wild cheers revealed French cavalry riding through, and,
heralded by jeers and much applause came a procession of the
proletariat, of odds and ends, soldiers and shop-girls, mechanics
and street-sweepers and cabmen and students, carrying an effigy
of the Kaiser on a gibbet.

As the sun went down, the outlines of the rejoicing city took on
the faint mist-blue of a dream city.  It softened the outlines of
the Eiffel tower to strange and fairy-like beauty and gave to the
trees in the Tuileries gardens the lack of definition of an old
engraving.  And as if to remind the rejoicing of the price of their
happiness, there came limping through the crowd a procession of the
mutilees.  They stumped along on wooden legs or on crutches; they
rode in wheeled chairs; they were led, who could not see.  And
they smiled and cheered.  None of them was whole, but every one
was a full man, for all that.

Audrey cried, shamelessly like Suzanne, but quietly.  And, not for
the first time that day, she thought of Chris.  She had never loved
him, but it was pitiful that he could not have lived.  He had so
loved life.  He would have so relished all this, the pageantry of
it, and the gayety, and the night's revelry that was to follow.
Poor Chris!  He had thrown everything away, even life.  The world
perhaps was better that these mutilees below had given what they
had.  But Chris had gone like a pebble thrown into a lake.  He had
made his tiny ripple and had vanished.

Then she remembered that she was not quite fair.  Perhaps she had
never been fair to Chris.  He had given all he had.  He had not
lived well, but he had died well.  And there was something to be
said for death.  For the first time in her healthy life she
wondered about death, standing here on the Crillon balcony, with
the city gone mad with life below her.  Death was quiet.  It might
be rather wonderful.  She thought, if Clay did not want her, that
perhaps it would be very comforting just to die and forget about
everything.

From beneath the balcony there came again, lustily the shouts of
a dozen doughboys hauling a German gun:

     "Hail!  hail!  the gang's all here!
      What the hell do we care?
      What the hell do we care?
      Hail, hail, the gang's all here!
      What the hell do we care now?"

Then, that night, Clay came.  The roistering city outside had made
of her little sitting-room a sort of sanctuary, into which came only
faintly the blasts of horns, hoarse strains of the "Marseillaise"
sung by an un-vocal people, the shuffling of myriad feet, the
occasional semi-hysterical screams of women.

"Mr. Spencer is calling," said the concierge over the telephone, in
his slow English.  And suddenly a tight band snapped which had
seemed to bind Audrey's head all day.  She was calm.  She was
herself again.  Life was very wonderful; peace was very wonderful.
The dear old world.  The good old world.  The kind, loving, tender
old world, which separated people that they might know the joy of
coming together again.  She wanted to sing, she wanted to hang over
her balcony and teach the un-vocal French the "Marseillaise."

Yet, when she had opened the door, she could not even speak.  And
Clay, too, after one long look at her, only held out his arms.  It
was rather a long time, indeed, before they found any words at all.
Audrey was the first, and what she said astounded her.  For she said:

"What a dreadful noise outside."

And Clay responded, with equal gravity: "Yes, isn't it!"

Then he took off his overcoat and put it down, and placed his hat
on the table, and said, very simply: "I couldn't stay away.  I
tried to."

"You hadn't a chance in the world, Clay, when I was willing you to
come."

Then there was one of those silences which come when words have
shown their absolute absurdity.  It seemed a long time before he
broke it.

"I'm not young, Audrey.  And I have failed once."

"It takes two to make a failure," she said dauntlessly.  "I
- wouldn't let you fail again, Clay.  Not if you love me."

"If I love you!"  Then he was, somehow, in that grotesque position
that is only absurd to the on-looker, on his knees beside her.  His
terrible self-consciousness was gone.  He only knew that, somehow,
some way, he must prove to her his humility, his love, his terrible
fear of losing her again, his hope that together they might make up
for the wasted years of their lives.  "I worship you," he said.

The little room was a sanctuary.  The war lay behind them.  Wasted
and troubled years lay behind them.  Youth, first youth, was gone,
with its illusions and its dreams.  But before them lay the years
of fulfilment, years of understanding.  Youth demanded everything,
and was discontented that it secured less than its demands.  Now
they asked but three things, work, and peace, and love.  And the
greatest of these was love.

Something like that he said to her, when the first
inarticulateness had passed, and when, as is the way of a man with
the woman who loves him, he tried to lay his soul as well as his
heart at her feet.  The knowledge that the years brought.  That
love in youth was a plant of easy growth, springing up in many soils.
But that the love of the middle span of a man's life, whether that
love be the early love purified by fire, or a new love, sowed in
sacrifice and watered with tears, the love that was to carry a man
and a woman through to the end, the last love, was God's infinitely
precious gift.  A gift to take the place of the things that had gone
with youth, of high adventure and the lilt of the singing heart.

The last gift.





End of Project Gutenberg Etext Dangerous Days, by Mary Roberts Rinehart



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