"I wish you'd let me forget him."
"I will. The question is, will he?" But he saw that the subject was unpleasant.
"We'll have to do this again. It's been mighty nice of you to come."
"You'll have to ask me, the next time."
"I certainly will. But I think I'd better let your family look me over first, just so they'll know that I don't customarily steal the silver spoons when I'm asked out to dinner. Or anything like that."
"So am I, awfully—folks! And pretty lonely folks at that. Something like that pup that has adopted me, only worse. He's got me, but I haven't anybody."
"You'll not be lonely long." She glanced up at him.
"That's cheering. Why?"
"Well, you are the sort that makes friends," she said, rather vaguely. "That crowd that drops into the shop on the evenings you're there—they're crazy about you. They like to hear you talk."
"Great Scott! I suppose I've been orating all over the place!"
"No, but you've got ideas. You give them something to think about when they go home. I wish I had a mind like yours."
He was so astonished that he stopped dead on the pavement. "My Scottish blood," he said despondently. "A Scot is always a reformer and a preacher, in his heart. I used to orate to my mother, but she liked it. She is a Scot, too. Besides, it put her to sleep. But I thought I'd outgrown it."
"You don't make speeches. I didn't mean that."
But he was very crestfallen during the remainder of the way, and rather silent. He wondered, that night before he went to bed, if he had been didactic to Lily Cardew. He had aired his opinions to her at length, he knew. He groaned as he took off his coat in his cold little room at the boarding house which lodged and fed him, both indifferently, for the sum of twelve dollars per week.
Jinx, the little hybrid dog, occupied the seat of his one comfortable chair. He eyed the animal somberly.
"Hereafter, old man," he said, "when I feel a spell of oratory coming on, you will have to be the audience." He took his dressing gown from a nail behind the door, and commenced to put it on. Then he took it off again and wrapped the dog in it.
"I can read in bed, which you can't," he observed. "Only, I can't help thinking, with all this town to pick from, you might have chosen a fellow with two dressing gowns and two chairs."
* * * * *
He was extremely quiet all the next day. Miss Boyd could hear him, behind the partition with its "Please Keep Out" sign, fussing with bottles and occasionally whistling to himself. Once it was the "Long, Long Trail," and a moment later he appeared in his doorway, grinning.
"Sorry," he said. "I've got in the habit of thinking to the fool thing. Won't do it again."
"You must be thinking hard."
"I am," he replied, grimly, and disappeared. She could hear the slight unevenness of his steps as he moved about, but there was no more whistling. Edith Boyd leaned both elbows on the top of a showcase and fell into a profound and troubled thought. Mostly her thoughts were of Willy Cameron, but some of them were for herself. Up dreary and sordid by-paths her mind wandered; she was facing ugly facts for the first time, and a little shudder of disgust shook her. He wanted to meet her family. He was a gentleman and he wanted to meet her family. Well, he could meet them all right, and maybe he would understand then that she had never had a chance. In all her young life no man had ever proposed letting her family look him over. Hardly ever had they visited her at home, and when they did they seemed always glad to get away. She had met them on street corners, and slipped back alone, fearful of every creak of the old staircase, and her mother's querulous voice calling to her:
"Edie, where've you been all this time?" And she had lied. How she had lied!
"I'm through with all that," she resolved. "It wasn't any fun anyhow. I'm sick of hating myself."
Some time later Willy Cameron heard the telephone ring, and taking pad and pencil started forward. But Miss Boyd was at the telephone, conducting a personal conversation.
"No.... No, I think not.... Look here, Lou, I've said no twice."
There was a rather lengthy silence while she listened. Then: "You might as well have it straight, Lou. I'm through.... No, I'm not sick. I'm just through.... I wouldn't.... What's the use?"
Willy Cameron, retreating into his lair, was unhappily conscious that the girl was on the verge of tears. He puzzled over the situation for some time. His immediate instinct was to help any troubled creature, and it had dawned on him that this composed young lady who manicured her nails out of a pasteboard box during the slack portion of every day was troubled. In his abstraction he commenced again his melancholy refrain, and a moment later she appeared in the doorway:
"Oh, for mercy's sake, stop," she said. She was very pale.
"Look here, Miss Edith, you come in here and tell me what's wrong. Here's a chair. Now sit down and talk it out. It helps a lot to get things off your chest."
"There's nothing the matter with me. And if the boss comes in here and finds me—"
Quite suddenly she put her head down on the back of the chair and began to cry. He was frightfully distressed. He poured some aromatic ammonia into a medicine glass and picking up her limp hand, closed her fingers around it.
"Drink that," he ordered.
She shook her head.
"I'm not sick," she said. "I'm only a fool."
"If that fellow said anything over the telephone—!"
She looked up drearily.
"It wasn't him. He doesn't matter. It's just—I got to hating myself." She stood up and carefully dabbed her eyes. "Heavens, I must be a sight. Now don't you get to thinking things, Mr. Cameron. Girls can't go out and fight off a temper, or get full and sleep it off. So they cry."
Some time later he glanced out at her. She was standing before the little mirror above the chewing gum, carefully rubbing her cheeks with a small red pad. After that she reached into the show case, got out a lip pencil and touched her lips.
"You're pretty enough without all that, Miss Edith."
"You mind your own business," she retorted acidly.
Lily had known Alston Denslow most of her life. The children of that group of families which formed the monied aristocracy of the city knew only their own small circle. They met at dancing classes, where governesses and occasionally mothers sat around the walls, while the little girls, in handmade white frocks of exquisite simplicity, their shining hair drawn back and held by ribbon bows, made their prim little dip at the door before entering, and the boys, in white Eton collars and gleaming pumps, bowed from the waist and then dived for the masculine corner of the long room.
No little girl ever intruded on that corner, although now and then a brave spirit among the boys would wander, with assumed unconsciousness but ears rather pink, to the opposite corner where the little girls were grouped like white butterflies milling in the sun.
The pianist struck a chord, and the children lined up, the girls on one side, the boys on the other, a long line, with Mrs. Van Buren in the center. Another chord, rather a long one. Mrs. Van Buren curtsied to the girls. The line dipped, wavered, recovered itself. Mrs. Van Buren turned. Another chord. The boys bent, rather too much, from the waist, while Mrs. Van Buren swept another deep curtsey. The music now, very definite as to time. Glide and short step to the right. Glide and short step to the left. Dancing school had commenced. Outside were long lines of motors waiting. The governesses chatted, and sometimes embroidered. Mademoiselle tatted.
Alton Denslow was generally known as Pink, but the origin of the name was shrouded in mystery. As "Pink" he had learned to waltz at the dancing class, at a time when he was more attentive to the step than to the music that accompanied it. As Pink Denslow he had played on a scrub team at Harvard, and got two broken ribs for his trouble, and as Pink he now paid intermittent visits to the Denslow Bank, between the hunting season in October and polo at eastern fields and in California. At twenty-three he was still the boy of the dancing class, very careful at parties to ask his hostess to dance, and not noticeably upset when she did, having arranged to be cut in on at the end of the second round.
Pink could not remember when he had not been in love with Lily Cardew. There had been other girls, of course, times when Lily seemed far away from Cambridge, and some other fair charmer was near. But he had always known there was only Lily. Once or twice he would have become engaged, had it not been for that. He was a blond boy, squarely built, good-looking without being handsome, and on rainy Sundays when there was no golf he went quite cheerfully to St. Peter's with his mother, and watched a pretty girl in the choir.
He wished at those times that he could sing.
A pleasant cumberer of the earth, he had wrapped his talents in a napkin and buried them by the wayside, and promptly forgotten where they were. He was to find them later on, however, not particularly rusty, and he increased them rather considerably before he got through.
It was this pleasant cumberer of the earth, then, who on the morning after Lily's return, stopped his car before the Cardew house and got out. Immediately following his descent he turned, took a square white box from the car, ascended the steps, settled his neck in his collar and his tie around it, and rang the bell.
The second man, hastily buttoned into his coat and with a faint odor of silver polish about him, opened the door. Pink gave him his hat, but retained the box firmly.
"Mrs. Cardew and Miss Cardew at home?" he asked. "Yes? Then you might tell Grayson I'm here to luncheon—unless the family is lunching out."
"Yes, sir," said the footman. "No, sir, they are lunching at home."
Pink sauntered into the library. He was not so easy as his manner indicated. One never knew about Lily. Sometimes she was in a mood when she seemed to think a man funny, and not to be taken seriously. And when she was serious, which was the way he liked her—he rather lacked humor—she was never serious about him or herself. It had been religion once, he remembered. She had wanted to know if he believed in the thirty-nine articles, and because he had seen them in the back of the prayer-book, where they certainly would not be if there was not authority for them, he had said he did.
"Well, I don't," said Lily. And there had been rather a bad half-hour, because he had felt that he had to stick to his thirty-nine guns, whatever they were. He had finished on a rather desperate note of appeal.
"See here, Lily," he had said. "Why do you bother your head about such things, anyhow?"
"Because I've got a head, and I want to use it."
"Life's too short."
"Eternity's pretty long. Do you believe in eternity?" And there they were, off again, and of course old Anthony had come in after that, and had wanted to know about his Aunt Marcia, and otherwise had shown every indication of taking root on the hearth rug.
Pink was afraid of Anthony. He felt like a stammering fool when Anthony was around. That was why he had invited himself to luncheon. Old Anthony lunched at his club.
When he heard Lily coming down the stairs, Pink's honest heart beat somewhat faster. A good many times in France, but particularly on the ship coming back, he had thought about this meeting. In France a fellow had a lot of distractions, and Lily had seemed as dear as ever, but extremely remote. But once turned toward home, and she had filled the entire western horizon. The other men had seen sunsets there, and sometimes a ship, or a school of porpoises. But Pink had seen only Lily.
She came in. The dear old girl! The beautiful, wonderful, dear old girl! The—
"Why, Pink—you're a man!"
"What'd you think I'd be? A girl?"
"Oh, now see here, Lily. I quit growing years ago."
"And to think you are back all right. I was so worried, Pink."
He flushed at that.
"Needn't have worried," he said, rather thickly. "Didn't get to the front until just before the end. My show was made a labor division in the south of France. If you laugh, I'll take my flowers and go home."
"Why, Pink dear, I wouldn't laugh for anything. And it was the man behind the lines who—"
"Won the war," he finished for her, rather grimly. "All right, Lily. We've heard it before. Anyhow, it's all done and over, and—I brought gardenias and violets. You used to like 'em."
"It was dear of you to remember."
"Couldn't help remembering. No credit to me. I—you were always in my mind."
She was busily unwrapping the box.
"Always," he repeated, unsteadily.
"What gorgeous things!" she buried her face in them.
"Did you hear what I said, Lily?"
"Yes, and it's sweet of you. Now sit down and tell me about things. I've got a lot to tell you, too."
He had a sort of quiet obstinacy, however, and he did not sit down. When she had done so he stood in front of her, looking down at her.
"You've been in a camp. I know that. I heard it over there. Anne Devereaux wrote me. It worried me because—we had girls in the camps over there, and every one of them had a string of suitors a mile long."
"Well, I didn't," said Lily, spiritedly. Then she laughed. He had been afraid she would laugh. "Oh, Pink, how dear and funny and masculine you are! I have a perfectly uncontrollable desire to kiss you."
Which she did, to his amazement and consternation. Nothing she could have done would more effectually have shown him the hopelessness of his situation than that sisterly impulse.
"Good Lord," he gasped, "Grayson's in the hall."
"If he comes in I shall probably do it again. Pink, you darling child, you are still the little boy at Mrs. Van Buren's and if you would only purse your lips and count one—two—three—Are you staying to luncheon?"
He was suffering terribly. Also he felt strangely empty inside, because something that he had carried around with him for a long time seemed to have suddenly moved out and left a vacancy.
"Thanks. I think not, Lily; I've got a lot to do to-day."
She sat very still. She had had to do it, had had to show him, somehow, that she loved him without loving him as he wanted her to. She had acted on impulse, on an impulse born of intention, but she had hurt him. It was in every line of his rigid body and set face.
"You're not angry, Pink dear?"
"There's nothing to be angry about," he said, stolidly. "Things have been going on, with me, and staying where they've always been, with you. That's all. I'm not very keen, you know, and I used to think—Your people like me. I mean, they wouldn't—"
"Everybody likes you, Pink."
"Well, I'll trot along." He moved a step, hesitated. "Is there anybody else, Lily?"
"You won't mind if I hang around a bit, then? You can always send me off when you are sick of me. Which you couldn't if you were fool enough to marry me."
"Whoever does marry you, dear, will be a lucky woman."
In the end he stayed to luncheon, and managed to eat a very fair one. But he had little lapses into silence, and Grace Cardew drew her own shrewd conclusions.
"He's such a nice boy, Lily," she said, after he had gone. "And your grandfather would like it. In a way I think he expects it."
"I'm not going to marry to please him, mother."
"But you are fond of Alston."
"I want to marry a man, mother. Pink is a boy. He will always be a boy. He doesn't think; he just feels. He is fine and loyal and honest, but I would loathe him in a month."
"I wish," said Grace Cardew unhappily, "I wish you had never gone to that camp."
All afternoon Lily and Grace shopped. Lily was fitted into shining evening gowns, into bright little afternoon frocks, into Paris wraps. The Cardew name was whispered through the shops, and great piles of exotic things were brought in for Grace's critical eye. Lily's own attitude was joyously carefree. Long lines of models walked by, draped in furs, in satins and velvet and chiffon, tall girls, most of them, with hair carefully dressed, faces delicately tinted and that curious forward thrust at the waist and slight advancement of one shoulder that gave them an air of languorous indifference.
"The only way I could get that twist," Lily confided to her mother, "would be to stand that way and be done up in plaster of paris. It is the most abandoned thing I ever saw."
Grace was shocked, and said so.
Sometimes, during the few hours since her arrival, Lily had wondered if her year's experiences had coarsened her. There were so many times when her mother raised her eyebrows. She knew that she had changed, that the granddaughter of old Anthony Cardew who had come back from the war was not the girl who had gone away. She had gone away amazingly ignorant; what little she had known of life she had learned away at school. But even there she had not realized the possibility of wickedness and vice in the world. One of the girls had run away with a music master who was married, and her name was forbidden to be mentioned. That was wickedness, like blasphemy, and a crime against the Holy Ghost.
She had never heard of prostitution. Near the camp there was a district with a bad name, and the girls of her organization were forbidden to so much as walk in that direction. It took her a long time to understand, and she suffered horribly when she did. There were depths of wickedness, then, and of abasement like that in the world. It was a bad world, a cruel, sordid world. She did not want to live in it.
She had had to reorganize all her ideas of life after that. At first she was flamingly indignant. God had made His world clean and beautiful, and covered it with flowers and trees that grew, cleanly begotten, from the earth. Why had He not stopped there? Why had He soiled it with passion and lust?
It was a little Red Cross nurse who helped her, finally.
"Very well," she said. "I see what you mean. But trees and flowers are not God's most beautiful gift to the world."
"I think they are."
"No. It is love."
"I am not talking about love," said Lily, flushing.
"Oh, yes, you are. You have never loved, have you? You are talking of one of the many things that go to make up love, and out of that one phase of love comes the most wonderful thing in the world. He gives us the child."
"All bodies are not whole, and not all souls. It is wrong to judge life by its exceptions, or love by its perversions, Lily."
It had been the little nurse finally who cured her, for she secured Lily's removal to that shady house on a by-street, where the tragedies of unwise love and youth sought sanctuary. There were prayers there, morning and evening. They knelt, those girls, in front of their little wooden chairs, and by far the great majority of them quite simply laid their burdens before God, and with an equal simplicity, felt that He would help them out.
"We have erred, and strayed from Thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Thy holy laws.... Restore Thou those who are penitent, according to Thy promises.... And grant, Oh most merciful Father, that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous and sober life."
After a time Lily learned something that helped her. The soul was greater and stronger than the body and than the mind. The body failed. It sinned, but that did not touch the unassailable purity and simplicity of the soul. The soul, which lived on, was always clean. For that reason there was no hell.
Lily rose and buttoned her coat. Grace was fastening her sables, and making a delayed decision in satins.
"Mother, I've been thinking it over. I am going to see Aunt Elinor."
Grace waited until the saleswoman had moved away.
"I don't like it, Lily."
"I was thinking, while we were ordering all that stuff. She is a Cardew, mother. She ought to be having that sort of thing. And just because grandfather hates her husband, she hasn't anything."
"That is rather silly, dear. They are not in want. I believe he is quite flourishing."
"She is father's sister. And she is a good woman. We treat her like a leper."
Grace was weakening. "If you take the car, your grandfather may hear of it."
"I'll take a taxi."
Grace followed her with uneasy eyes. For years she paid a price for peace, and not a small price. She had placed her pride on the domestic altar, and had counted it a worthy sacrifice for Howard's sake. And she had succeeded. She knew Anthony Cardew had never forgiven her and would never like her, but he gave her, now and then, the tribute of a grudging admiration.
And now Lily had come home, a new and different Lily, with her father's lovableness and his father's obstinacy. Already Grace saw in the girl the beginning of a passionate protest against things as they were. Perhaps, had Grace given to Lily the great love of her life, instead of to Howard, she might have understood her less clearly. As it was, she shivered slightly as she got into the limousine.
Lily Cardew inspected curiously the east side neighborhood through which the taxi was passing. She knew vaguely that she was in the vicinity of one of the Cardew mills, but she had never visited any of the Cardew plants. She had never been permitted to do so. Perhaps the neighborhood would have impressed her more had she not seen, in the camp, that life can be stripped sometimes to its essentials, and still have lost very little. But the dinginess depressed her. Smoke was in the atmosphere, like a heavy fog. Soot lay on the window-sills, and mingled with street dust to form little black whirlpools in the wind. Even the white river steamers, guiding their heavy laden coal barges with the current, were gray with soft coal smoke. The foam of the river falling in broken cataracts from their stern wheels was oddly white in contrast.
Everywhere she began to see her own name. "Cardew" was on the ore hopper cars that were moving slowly along a railroad spur. One of the steamers bore "Anthony Cardew" in tall black letters on its side. There was a narrow street called "Cardew Way."
Aunt Elinor lived on Cardew Way. She wondered if Aunt Elinor found that curious, as she did. Did she resent these ever-present reminders of her lost family? Did she have any bitterness because the very grayness of her skies was making her hard old father richer and more powerful?
Yet there was comfort, stability and a certain dignity about Aunt Elinor's house when she reached it. It stood in the district, but not of it, withdrawn from the street in a small open space which gave indication of being a flower garden in summer. There were two large gaunt trees on either side of a brick walk, and that walk had been swept to the last degree of neatness. The steps were freshly scoured, and a small brass door-plate, like a doctor's sign, was as bright as rubbing could make it. "James Doyle," she read.
Suddenly she was glad she had come. The little brick house looked anything but tragic, with its shining windows, its white curtains and its evenly drawn shades. Through the windows on the right came a flickering light, warm and rosy. There must be a coal fire there. She loved a coal fire.
She had braced herself to meet Aunt Elinor at the door, but an elderly woman opened it.
"Mrs. Doyle is in," she said; "just step inside."
She did not ask Lily's name, but left her in the dark little hall and creaked up the stairs. Lily hesitated. Then, feeling that Aunt Elinor might not like to find her so unceremoniously received, she pushed open a door which was only partly closed, and made a step into the room. Only then did she see that it was occupied. A man sat by the fire, reading. He was holding his book low, to get the light from the fire, and he turned slowly to glance at Lily. He had clearly expected some one else. Elinor, probably.
"I beg your pardon," Lily said. "I am calling on Mrs. Doyle, and when I saw the firelight—"
He stood up then, a tall, thin man, with close-cropped gray mustache and heavy gray hair above a high, bulging forehead. She had never seen Jim Doyle, but Mademoiselle had once said that he had pointed ears, like a satyr. She had immediately recanted, on finding Lily searching in a book for a picture of a satyr. This man had ears pointed at the top. Lily was too startled then to analyze his face, but later on she was to know well the high, intellectual forehead, the keen sunken eyes, the full but firmly held mouth and pointed, satyr-like ears of that brilliant Irishman, cynic and arch scoundrel, Jim Doyle.
He was inspecting her intently.
"Please come in," he said. "Did the maid take your name?"
"No. I am Lily Cardew."
"I see." He stood quite still, eyeing her. "You are Anthony's granddaughter?"
"Just a moment." He went out, closing the door behind him, and she heard him going quickly up the stairs. A door closed above, and a weight settled down on the girl's heart. He was not going to let her see Aunt Elinor. She was frightened, but she was angry, too. She would not run away. She would wait until he came down, and if he was insolent, well, she could be haughty. She moved to the fire and stood there, slightly flushed, but very straight.
She heard him coming down again almost immediately. He was outside the door. But he did not come in at once. She had a sudden impression that he was standing there, his hand on the knob, outlining what he meant to say to her when he showed the door to a hated Cardew. Afterwards she came to know how right that impression was. He was never spontaneous. He was a man who debated everything, calculated everything beforehand.
When he came in it was slowly, and with his head bent, as though he still debated within himself. Then:
"I think I have a right to ask what Anthony Cardew's granddaughter is doing in my house."
"Your wife's niece has come to call on her, Mr. Doyle."
"Are you quite sure that is all?"
"I assure you that is all," Lily said haughtily. "It had not occurred to me that you would be here."
"I dare say. Still, strangely enough, I do spend a certain amount of time in my home."
Lily picked up her muff.
"If you have forbidden her to come down, I shall go."
"Wait," he said slowly. "I haven't forbidden her to see you. I asked her to wait. I wanted a few moments. You see, it is not often that I have a Cardew in my house, and I am a selfish man."
She hated him. She loathed his cold eyes, his long, slim white hands. She hated him until he fascinated her.
"Sit down, and I will call Mrs. Doyle."
He went out again, but this time it was the elderly maid who went up the stairs. Doyle himself came back, and stood before her on the hearth rug. He was slightly smiling, and the look of uncertainty was gone.
"Now that you've seen me, I'm not absolutely poisonous, am I, Miss Lily? You don't mind my calling you that, do you? You are my niece. You have been taught to hate me, of course."
"Yes," said Lily, coldly.
"By Jove, the truth from a Cardew!" Then: "That's an old habit of mine, damning the Cardews. I'll have to try to get over it, if they are going to reestablish family relations." He was laughing at her, Lily knew, and she flushed somewhat.
"I wouldn't make too great an effort, then," she said.
He smiled again, this time not unpleasantly, and suddenly he threw into his rich Irish voice an unexpected softness. No one knew better than Jim Doyle the uses of the human voice.
"You mustn't mind me, Miss Lily. I have no reason to love your family, but I am very happy that you came here to-day. My wife has missed her people. If you'll run in like this now and then it will do her worlds of good. And if my being here is going to keep you away I can clear out."
She rather liked him for that speech. He was totally unlike what she had been led to expect, and she felt a sort of resentment toward her family for misleading her. He was a gentleman, on the surface at least. He had not been over-cordial at first, but then who could have expected cordiality under the circumstances? In Lily's defense it should be said that the vicissitudes of Elinor's life with Doyle had been kept from her always. She had but two facts to go on: he had beaten her grandfather as a young man, for a cause, and he held views as to labor which conflicted with those of her family.
Months later, when she learned all the truth, it was too late.
"Of course you're being here won't keep me away, if you care to have me come."
He was all dignity and charm then. They needed youth in that quiet place. They ought all to be able to forget the past, which was done with, anyhow. He showed the first genuine interest she had found in her work at the camp, and before his unexpected geniality the girl opened like a flower.
And all the time he was watching her with calculating eyes. He was a gambler with life, and he rather suspected that he had just drawn a valuable card.
"Thank you," he said gravely, when she had finished. "You have done a lot to bridge the gulf that lies—I am sure you have noticed it—between the people who saw service in this war and those who stayed at home."
Suddenly Lily saw that the gulf between her family and herself was just that, which was what he had intended.
When Elinor came in they were absorbed in conversation, Lily flushed and eager, and her husband smiling, urbane, and genial.
To Lily, Elinor Doyle had been for years a figure of mystery. She had not seen her for many years, and she had, remembered a thin, girlish figure, tragic-eyed, which eternally stood by a window in her room, looking out. But here was a matronly woman, her face framed with soft, dark hair, with eyes like her father's, with Howard Cardew's ease of manner, too, but with a strange passivity, either of repression or of fires early burned out and never renewed.
Lily was vaguely disappointed. Aunt Elinor, in soft gray silk, matronly, assured, unenthusiastically pleased to see her; Doyle himself, cheerful and suave; the neat servant; the fire lit, comfortable room,—there was no drama in all that, no hint of mystery or tragedy. All the hatred at home for an impulsive assault of years ago, and—this!
"Lily, dear!" Elinor said, and kissed her. "Why, Lily, you are a woman!"
"I am twenty, Aunt Elinor."
"Yes, of course. I keep forgetting. I live so quietly here that the days go by faster than I know." She put Lily back in her chair, and glanced at her husband.
"Is Louis coming to dinner, Jim?"
"I suppose you cannot stay, Lily?"
"I ought to tell you, Aunt Elinor. Only mother knows that I am here."
Aunt Elinor smiled her quiet smile.
"I understand, dear. How are they all?"
"Grandfather is very well. Father looks tired. There is some trouble at the mill, I think."
Elinor glanced at Doyle, but he said nothing.
"And your mother?"
"She is well."
Lily was commencing to have an odd conviction, which was that her Aunt Elinor was less glad to have her there than was Jim Doyle. He seemed inclined to make up for Elinor's lack of enthusiasm by his own. He built up a larger fire, and moved her chair near it.
"Weather's raw," he said. "Sure you are comfortable now? And why not have dinner here? We have an interesting man coming, and we don't often have the chance to offer our guests a charming young lady."
"Lily only came home yesterday, Jim," Elinor observed. "Her own people will want to see something of her. Besides, they do no know she is here."
Lily felt slightly chilled. For years she had espoused her Aunt Elinor's cause; in the early days she had painfully hemstitched a small handkerchief each fall and had sent it, with much secrecy, to Aunt Elinor's varying addresses at Christmas. She had felt a childish resentment of Elinor Doyle's martyrdom. And now—
"Her father and grandfather are dining out to-night." Had Lily looked up she would have seen Doyle's eyes fixed on his wife, ugly and menacing.
"Dining out?" Lily glanced at him in surprise.
"There is a dinner to-night, for the—" He checked himself "The steel manufacturers are having a meeting," he finished. "I believe to discuss me, among other things. Amazing the amount of discussion my simple opinions bring about."
Elinor Doyle, unseen, made a little gesture of despair and surrender.
"I hope you will stay, Lily," she said. "You can telephone, if you like. I don't see you often, and there is so much I want to ask you."
In the end Lily agreed. She would find out from Grayson if the men were really dining out, and if they were Grayson would notify her mother that she was staying. She did not quite know herself why she had accepted, unless it was because she was bored and restless at home. Perhaps, too, the lure of doing a forbidden thing influenced her sub-consciously, the thought that her grandfather would detest it. She had not forgiven him for the night before.
Jim Doyle left her in the back hall at the telephone, and returned to the sitting room, dosing the door behind him. His face was set and angry.
"I thought I told you to be pleasant."
"I tried, Jim. You must remember I hardly know her." She got up and placed her hand on his arm, but he shook it off. "I don't understand, Jim, and I wish you wouldn't. What good is it?"
"I've told you what I want. I want that girl to come here, and to like coming here. That's plain, isn't it? But if you're going to sit with a frozen face—She'll be useful. Useful as hell to a preacher."
"I can't use my family that way."
"You and your family! Now listen, Elinor. This isn't a matter o the Cardews and me. It may be nothing, but it may be a big thing. I hardly know yet—" His voice trailed off; he stood with his head bent, lost in those eternal calculations with which Elinor Doyle was so familiar.
The doorbell rang, and was immediately followed by the opening and closing of the front door.
From her station at the telephone Lily Cardew saw a man come in, little more than a huge black shadow, which placed a hat on the stand and then, striking a match, lighted the gas overhead. In the illumination he stood before the mirror, smoothing back his shining black hair. Then he saw her, stared and retreated into the sitting room.
"Got company, I see."
"My niece, Lily Cardew," said Doyle, dryly.
The gentleman seemed highly amused. Evidently he considered Lily's presence in the house in the nature of a huge joke. He was conveying this by pantomime, in deference to the open door, when Doyle nodded toward Elinor.
"It's customary to greet your hostess, Louis."
"Easiest thing I do," boasted the new arrival cheerily. "'Lo, Mrs. Doyle. Is our niece going to dine with us?"
"I don't know yet, Mr. Akers," she said, without warmth. Louis Akers knew quite well that Elinor did not like him, and the thought amused him, the more so since as a rule women liked him rather too well. Deep in his heart he respected Jim Doyle's wife, and sometimes feared her. He respected her because she had behind her traditions of birth and wealth, things he professed to despise but secretly envied. He feared her because he trusted no woman, and she knew too much.
She loved Jim Doyle, but he had watched her, and he knew that sometimes she hated Doyle also. He knew that could be, because there had been women he had both loved and hated himself.
Elinor had gone out, and Akers sat down.
"Well," he said, in a lowered tone. "I've written it."
Doyle closed the door, and stood again with his head lowered, considering.
"You'd better look over it," continued Lou. "I don't want to be jailed. You're better at skating over thin ice than I am. And I've been thinking over the Prohibition matter, Jim. In a sense you're right. It will make them sullen and angry. But they won't go the limit without booze. I'd advise cache-ing a lot of it somewhere, to be administered when needed."
Doyle returned to his old place on the hearth-rug, still thoughtful. He had paid no attention to Aker's views on Prohibition, nor to the paper laid upon the desk in the center of the room.
"Do you know that that girl in the hall will be worth forty million dollars some day?"
"Some money," said Akers, calmly. "Which reminds me, Jim, that I've got to have a raise. And pretty soon."
"You get plenty, if you'd leave women alone."
"Tell them to leave me alone, then," said Akers, stretching out his long legs. "All right. We'll talk about that, after dinner. What about this forty millions?"
Doyle looked at him quickly. Akers' speech about women had crystallized the vague plans which Lily's arrival had suddenly given rise to. He gave the young man a careful scrutiny, from his handsome head to his feet, and smiled. It had occurred to him that the Cardew family would loathe a man of Louis Akers' type with an entire and whole-hearted loathing.
"You might try to make her have a pleasant evening," he suggested dryly. "And, to do that, it might be as well to remember a number of things, one of which is that she is accustomed to the society of gentlemen."
"All right, old dear," said Akers, without resentment.
"She hates her grandfather like poison," Doyle went on. "She doesn't know it, but she does. A little education, and it is just possible—"
"Get Olga. I'm no kindergarten teacher."
"You haven't seen her in the light yet."
Louis Akers smiled and carefully settled his tie.
Like Doyle, Akers loved the game of life, and he liked playing for high stakes. He had joined forces with Doyle because the game was dangerous and exciting, rather than because of any real conviction. Doyle had a fanatic faith, with all his calculation, but Louis Akers had only calculation and ambition. A practicing attorney in the city, a specialist in union law openly, a Red in secret, he played his triple game shrewdly and with zest.
Doyle turned to go, then stopped and came back. "I was forgetting something," he said, slowly. "What possessed you to take that Boyd girl to the Searing Building the other night?"
"Who told you that?"
"Woslosky saw you coming out."
"I had left something there," Akers said sullenly. "That's the truth, whether you believe it or not. I wasn't there two minutes."
"You're a fool, Louis," Doyle said coldly. "You'll play that game once too often. What happens to you is your own concern, but what may happen to me is mine. And I'll take mighty good care it doesn't happen."
Doyle was all unction and hospitality when he met Lily in the hall. At dinner he was brilliant, witty, the gracious host. Akers played up to him. At the foot of the table Elinor sat, outwardly passive, inwardly puzzled, and watched Lily. She knew the contrast the girl must be drawing, between the bright little meal, with its simple service and clever talk, and those dreary formal dinners at home when old Anthony sometimes never spoke at all, or again used his caustic tongue like a scourge. Elinor did not hate her father; he was simply no longer her father. As for Howard, she had had a childish affection for him, but he had gone away early to school, and she hardly knew him. But she did not want his child here, drinking in as she was, without clearly understanding what they meant, Doyle's theories of unrest and revolution.
"You will find that I am an idealist, in a way," he was saying. "That is, if you come often. I hope you will, by the way. I am perpetually dissatisfied with things as they are, and wanting them changed. With the single exception of my wife"—he bowed to Elinor, "and this little party, which is delightful."
"Are you a Socialist?" Lily demanded, in her direct way.
"Well, you might call it that. I go a bit further."
"Don't talk politics, Jim," Elinor hastily interposed. He caught her eye and grinned.
"I'm not talking politics, my dear." He turned to Lily, smiling.
"For one thing, I don't believe that any one should have a lot of money, so that a taxicab could remain ticking away fabulous sums while a charming young lady dines at her leisure." He smiled again.
"Will it be a lot?" Lily asked. "I thought I'd better keep him, because—" She hesitated.
"Because this neighborhood is unlikely to have a cab stand? You were entirely right. But I can see that you won't like my idealistic community. You see, in it everybody will have enough, and nobody will have too much."
"Don't take him too seriously, Miss Cardew," said Akers, bending forward. "You and I know that there isn't such a thing as too much."
Elinor changed the subject; as a girl she had drawn rather well, and she had retained her interest in that form of art. There was an exhibition in town of colored drawings. Lily should see them. But Jim Doyle countered her move.
"I forgot to mention," he said, "that in this ideal world we were discussing the arts will flourish. Not at once, of course, because the artists will be fighting—"
"Per aspera ad astra," put in Louis Akers. "You cannot change a world in a day, without revolution—"
"But you don't believe that revolution is ever worth while, do you?"
"If it would drive starvation and wretchedness from the world, yes."
Lily found Louis Akers interesting. Certainly he was very handsome. And after all, why should there be misery and hunger in the world? There must be enough for all. It was hardly fair, for instance, that she should have so much, and others scarcely anything. Only it was like thinking about religion; you didn't get anywhere with it. You wanted to be good, and tried to be. And you wanted to love God, only He seemed so far away, mostly. And even that was confusing, because you prayed to God to be forgiven for wickedness, but it was to His Son our Lord one went for help in trouble.
One could be sorry for the poor, and even give away all one had, but that would only help a few. It would have to be that every one who had too much would give up all but what he needed.
Lily tried to put that into words.
"Exactly," said Jim Doyle. "Only in my new world we realize that there would be a few craven spirits who might not willingly give up what they have. In that case it would be taken from them."
"And that is what you call revolution?"
"But that's not revolution. It is a sort of justice, isn't it?"
"You think very straight, young lady," said Jim Doyle.
He had a fascinating theory of individualism, too; no man should impose his will and no community its laws, on the individual. Laws were for slaves. Ethics were better than laws, to control.
"Although," he added, urbanely, "I daresay it might be difficult to convert Mr. Anthony Cardew to such a belief."
While Louis Akers saw Lily to her taxicab that night Doyle stood in the hall, waiting. He was very content with his evening's work.
"Well?" he said, when Akers returned.
"Merry as a marriage bell. I'm to show her the Brunelleschi drawings to-morrow."
Slightly flushed, he smoothed his hair in front of the mirror over the stand.
"She's a nice child," he said. In his eyes was the look of the hunting animal that scents food.
Lily did not sleep very well that night. She was repentant, for one thing, for her mother's evening alone, and for the anxiety in her face when she arrived.
"I've been so worried," she said, "I was afraid your grandfather would get back before you did."
"I'm sorry, mother dear. I know it was selfish. But I've had a wonderful evening."
"All sorts of talk," Lily said, and hesitated. After all, her mother would not understand, and it would only make her uneasy. "I suppose it is rank hearsay to say it, but I like Mr. Doyle."
"I detest him."
"But you don't know him, do you?"
"I know he is stirring up all sorts of trouble for us. Lily, I want you to promise not to go back there."
There was a little silence. A small feeling of rebellion was rising in the girl's heart.
"I don't see why. She is my own aunt."
"Will you promise?"
"Please don't ask me, mother. I—oh, don't you understand? It is interesting there, that's all. It isn't wrong to go. And the moment you forbid it you make me want to go back."
"Were there any other people there to dinner?" Grace asked, with sudden suspicion.
"Only one man. A lawyer named Akers."
The name meant nothing to Grace Cardew.
"A young man?"
"Not very young. In his thirties, I should think," Lily hesitated again. She had meant to tell her mother of the engagement for the next day, but Grace's attitude made it difficult. To be absolutely forbidden to meet Louis Akers at the gallery, and to be able to give no reason beyond the fact that she had met him at the Doyle house, seemed absurd.
"I hardly know," Lily said frankly. "In your sense of the word, perhaps not, mother. But he is very clever."
Grace Cardew sighed and picked up her book. She never retired until Howard came in. And Lily went upstairs, uneasy and a little defiant. She must live her own life, somehow; have her own friends; think her own thoughts. The quiet tyranny of the family was again closing down on her. It would squeeze her dry, in the end, as it had her mother and Aunt Elinor.
She stood for a time by her window, looking out at the city. Behind her was her warm, luxurious room, her deep, soft bed. Yet all through the city there were those who did not sleep warm and soft. Close by, perhaps, in that deteriorated neighborhood, there were children that very night going to bed hungry.
Because things had always been like that, should they always be so? Wasn't Mr. Doyle right, after all? Only he went very far. You couldn't, for instance, take from a man the thing he had earned. What about the people who did not try to earn?
She rather thought she would be clearer about it if she talked to Willy Cameron.
She went to bed at last, a troubled young thing in a soft white night-gown, passionately in revolt against the injustice which gave to her so much and to others so little. And against that quiet domestic tyranny which was forcing her to her first deceit.
Yet the visit to the gallery was innocuous enough. Louis Akers met her there, and carefully made the rounds with her. Then he suggested tea, and chose a quiet tea-room, and a corner.
"I'll tell you something, now it's over," he said, his bold eyes fixed on hers. "I loathe galleries and pictures. I wanted to see you again. That's all. You see, I am starting in by being honest with you."
She was rather uncomfortable.
"Why don't you like pictures?"
"Because they are only imitations of life. I like life." He pushed his teacup away. "I don't want tea either. Tea was an excuse, too." He smiled at her. "Perhaps you don't like honesty," he said. "If you don't you won't care for me."
She was too inexperienced to recognize the gulf between frankness and effrontery, but he made her vaguely uneasy. He knew so many things, and yet he was so obviously not quite a gentleman, in her family's sense of the word. He had a curious effect on her, too, one that she resented. He made her insistently conscious of her sex.
And of his. His very deference had something of restraint about it. She thought, trying to drink her tea quietly, that he might be very terrible if he loved any one. There was a sort of repressed fierceness behind his suavity.
But he interested her, and he was undeniably handsome, not in her father's way but with high-colored, almost dramatic good looks. There could be no doubt, too, that he was interested in her. He rarely took his eyes off hers. Afterwards she was to know well that bold possessive look of his.
It was just before they left that he said:
"I am going to see you again, you know. May I come in some afternoon?"
Lily had been foreseeing that for some moments, and she raised frank eyes to his.
"I am afraid not," she said. "You see, you are a friend of Mr. Doyle's, and you must know that my people and Aunt Elinor's husband are on bad terms."
"What has that got to do with you and me?" Then he laughed. "Might be unpleasant, I suppose. But you go to the Doyles'."
She was very earnest.
"My mother knows, but my grandfather wouldn't permit it if he knew."
"And you put up with that sort of thing?" He leaned closer to her. "You are not a baby, you know. But I will say you are a good sport to do it, anyhow."
"I'm not very comfortable about it."
"Bosh," he said, abruptly. "You go there as often as you can. Elinor Doyle's a lonely woman, and Jim is all right. You pick your own friends, my child, and live your own life. Every human being has that right."
He helped her into a taxi at the door of the tea shop, giving her rather more assistance than she required, and then standing bare-headed in the March wind until the car had moved away. Lily, sitting back in her corner, was both repelled and thrilled. He was totally unlike the men she knew, those carefully repressed, conventional clean-cut boys, like Pink Denslow. He was raw, vigorous and possibly brutal. She did not quite like him, but she found herself thinking about him a great deal.
The old life was reaching out its friendly, idle hands toward her. The next day Grace gave a luncheon for her at the house, a gay little affair of color, chatter and movement. But Lily found herself with little to say. Her year away had separated her from the small community of interest that bound the others together, and she wondered, listening to them in her sitting room later, what they would all talk about when they had exchanged their bits of gossip, their news of this man and that. It would all be said so soon. And what then?
Here they were, and here they would always be, their own small circle, carefully guarded. They belonged together, they and the men who likewise belonged. Now and then there would be changes. A new man, of irreproachable family connections would come to live in the city, and cause a small flurry. Then in time he would be appropriated. Or a girl would come to visit, and by the same system of appropriation would come back later, permanently. Always the same faces, the same small talk. Orchids or violets at luncheons, white or rose or blue or yellow frocks at dinners and dances. Golf at the country club. Travel, in the Cardew private car, cut off from fellow travelers who might prove interesting. Winter at Palm Beach, and a bit of a thrill at seeing moving picture stars and theatrical celebrities playing on the sand. One never had a chance to meet them.
And, in quiet intervals, this still house, and grandfather shut away in his upstairs room, but holding the threads of all their lives as a spider clutches the diverging filaments of its web.
"Get in on this, Lily," said a clear young voice. "We're talking about the most interesting men we met in our war work. You ought to have known a lot of them."
"I knew a lot of men. They were not so very interesting. There was a little nurse—"
"Men, Lily dear."
"There was one awfully nice boy. He wasn't a soldier, but he was very kind to the men. They adored him."
"Did he fall in love with your?"
"Not a particle."
"Why wasn't he a soldier?"
"He is a little bit lame. But he is awfully nice."
"But what is extraordinary about him, then?"
"Not a thing, except his niceness."
But they were surfeited with nice young men. They wanted something dramatic, and Willy Cameron was essentially undramatic. Besides, it was quite plain that, with unconscious cruelty, his physical handicap made him unacceptable to them.
"Don't be ridiculous, Lily. You're hiding some one behind this kind person. You must have met somebody worth while."
"Not in the camp. I know a perfectly nice Socialist, but he was not in the army. Not a Socialist, really. Much worse. He believes in having a revolution."
That stirred them somewhat. She saw their interested faces turned toward her.
"With a bomb under his coat, of course, Lily."
"He didn't bulge."
"How old is he, Lily?" one of them asked, suspiciously.
"Almost fifty, I should say."
Their interest died. She could have revived it, she knew, if she mentioned Louis Akers; he would have answered to their prime requisite in an interesting man. He was both handsome and young. But she felt curiously disinclined to mention him.
The party broke up. By ones and twos luxuriously dressed little figures went down the great staircase, where Grayson stood in the hall and the footman on the doorstep signaled to the waiting cars. Mademoiselle, watching from a point of vantage in the upper hall, felt a sense of comfort and well-being after they had all gone. This was as it should be. Lily would take up life again where she had left it off, and all would be well.
It was now the sixth day, and she had not yet carried out that absurd idea of asking Ellen's friend to dinner.
Lily was, however, at that exact moment in process of carrying it out.
"Telephone for you, Mr. Cameron."
"Thanks. Coming," sang out Willy Cameron.
Edith Boyd sauntered toward his doorway.
"It's a lady."
"Woman," corrected Willy Cameron. "The word 'lady' is now obsolete, since your sex has entered the economic world." He put on his coat.
"I said 'lady' and that's what I mean," said Edith. "'May I speak to Mr. Cameron?'" she mimicked. "Regular Newport accent."
Suddenly Willy Cameron went rather pale. If it should be Lily Cardew—but then of course it wouldn't be. She had been home for six days, and if she had meant to call—
"Hello," he said.
It was Lily. Something that had been like a band around his heart suddenly loosened, to fasten about his throat. His voice sounded strangled and strange.
"Why, yes," he said, in the unfamiliar voice. "I'd like to come, of course."
Edith Boyd watched and listened, with a slightly strained look in her eyes.
"To dinner? But—I don't think I'd better come to dinner."
"Why not, Willy?"
Mr. William Wallace Cameron glanced around. There was no one about save Miss Boyd, who was polishing the nails of one hand on the palm of the other.
"May I come in a business suit?"
"Why, of course. Why not?"
"I didn't know," said Willy Cameron. "I didn't know what your people would think. That's all. To-morrow at eight, then. Thanks."
He hung up the receiver and walked to the door, where he stood looking out and seeing nothing. She had not forgotten. He was going to see her. Instead of standing across the street by the park fence, waiting for a glimpse of her which never came, he was to sit in the room with her. There would be—eight from eleven was three—three hours of her.
What a wonderful day it was! Spring was surely near. He would like to be able to go and pick up Jinx, and then take a long walk through the park. He needed movement. He needed to walk off his excitement or he felt that he might burst with it.
"Eight o'clock!" said Edith. "I wish you joy, waiting until eight for supper."
He had to come back a long, long way to her.
"'May I come in a business suit?'" she mimicked him. "My evening clothes have not arrived yet. My valet's bringing them up to town to-morrow."
Even through the radiant happiness that surrounded him like a mist, he caught the bitterness under her raillery. It puzzled him.
"It's a young lady I knew at camp. I was in an army camp, you know."
"Is her name a secret?"
"Why, no. It is Cardew. Miss Lily Cardew."
"I believe you—not."
"But it is," he said, genuinely concerned. "Why in the world should I give you a wrong name?"
Her eyes were fixed on his face.
"No. You wouldn't. But it makes me laugh, because—well, it was crazy, anyhow."
"What was crazy?"
"Something I had in my mind. Just forget it. I'll tell you what will happen, Mr. Cameron. You'll stay here about six weeks. Then you'll get a job at the Cardew Mills. They use chemists there, and you will be—"
She lifted her finger-tips and blew along them delicately.
"Gone—like that," she finished.
Sometimes Willy Cameron wondered about Miss Boyd. The large young man, for instance, whose name he had learned was Louis Akers, did not come any more. Not since that telephone conversation. But he had been distinctly a grade above that competent young person, Edith Boyd, if there were such grades these days; fluent and prosperous-looking, and probably able to offer a girl a good home. But she had thrown him over. He had heard her doing it, and when he had once ventured to ask her about Akers she had cut him off curtly.
"I was sick to death of him. That's all," she had said.
But on the night of Lily's invitation he was to hear more of Louis Akers.
It was his evening in the shop. One day he came on at seven-thirty in the morning and was off at six, and the next he came at ten and stayed until eleven at night. The evening business was oddly increasing. Men wandered in, bought a tube of shaving cream or a tooth-brush, and sat or stood around for an hour or so; clerks whose families had gone to the movies, bachelors who found their lodging houses dreary, a young doctor or two, coming in after evening office hours to leave a prescription, and remaining to talk and listen. Thus they satisfied their gregarious instinct while within easy call of home.
The wealthy had their clubs. The workmen of the city had their balls and sometimes their saloons. But in between was that vast, unorganized male element which was neither, and had neither. To them the neighborhood pharmacy, open in the evening, warm and bright, gave them a rendezvous. They gathered there in thousands, the country over. During the war they fought their daily battles there, with newspaper maps. After the war the League of Nations, local politics, a bit of neighborhood scandal, washed down with soft drinks from the soda fountain, furnished the evening's entertainment.
The Eagle Pharmacy had always been the neighborhood club, but with the advent of Willy Cameron it was attaining a new popularity. The roundsman on the beat dropped in, the political boss of the ward, named Hendricks, Doctor Smalley, the young physician who lived across the street, and others. Back of the store proper was a room, with the prescription desk at one side and reserve stock on shelves around the other three. Here were a table and a half dozen old chairs, a war map, still showing with colored pins the last positions before the great allied advance, and an ancient hat-rack, which had held from time immemorial an umbrella with three broken ribs and a pair of arctics of unknown ownership.
"Going to watch this boy," Hendricks confided to Doctor Smalley a night or two after Lily's return, meeting him outside. "He sure can talk."
Doctor Smalley grinned.
"He can read my writing, too, which is more than I can do myself. What do you mean, watch him?"
But whatever his purposes Mr. Hendricks kept them to himself. A big, burly man, with a fund of practical good sense a keen knowledge of men, he had gained a small but loyal following. He was a retired master plumber, with a small income from careful investments, and he had a curious, almost fanatic love for the city.
"I was born here," he would say, boastfully. "And I've seen it grow from fifty thousand to what it's got now. Some folks say it's dirty, but it's home to me, all right."
But on the evening of Lily's invitation the drug store forum found Willy Cameron extremely silent. He had been going over his weaknesses, for the thought of Lily always made him humble, and one of them was that he got carried away by things and talked too much. He did not intend to do that the next night, at the Cardew's.
"Something's scared him off," said Mr. Hendricks to Doctor Smalley, after a half hour of almost taciturnity, while Willy Cameron smoked his pipe and listened. "Watch him rise to this, though." And aloud:
"Why don't you fellows drop the League of Nations, which none of you knows a damn about anyhow, and get to the thing that's coming in this country?"
"I'll bite," said Mr. Clarey, who sold life insurance in the daytime and sometimes utilized his evenings in a similar manner. "What's coming to this country?"
The crowd laughed.
"All right," said Mr. Hendricks. "Laugh while you can. I saw the Chief of Police to-day, and he's got a line of conversation that makes a man feel like taking his savings out of the bank and burying them in the back yard."
Willy Cameron took his pipe out of his mouth, but remained dumb.
Mr. Hendricks nudged Doctor Smalley, who rose manfully to the occasion. "What does he say?"
"Says the Russians have got a lot of paid agents here. Not all Russians either. Some of our Americans are in it. It's to begin with a general strike."
"In this town?"
"All over the country. But this is a good field for them. The crust's pretty thin here, and where that's the case there is likely to be earthquakes and eruptions. The Chief says they're bringing in a bunch of gunmen, wobblies and Bolshevists from every industrial town on the map. Did you get that, Cameron? Gunmen!"
"Any of you men here dissatisfied with this form of government?" inquired Willy, rather truculently.
"Not so you could notice it," said Mr. Clarey. "And once the Republican party gets in—"
"Then there will never be a revolution."
"That's why," said Willy Cameron. "Of course you are worthless now. You aren't organized. You don't know how many you are or how strong you are. You can't talk. You sit back and listen until you believe that this country is only capital and labor. You get squeezed in between them. You see labor getting more money than you, and howling for still more. You see both capital and labor raising prices until you can't live on what you get. There are a hundred times as many of you as represent capital and labor combined, and all you do is loaf here and growl about things being wrong. Why don't you do something? You ought to be running this country, but you aren't. You're lazy. You don't even vote. You leave running the country to men like Mr. Hendricks here."
Mr. Hendricks was cheerfully unirritated.
"All right, son," he said, "I do my bit and like it. Go on. Don't stop to insult me. You can do that any time."
"I've been buying a seditious weekly since I came," said Willy Cameron. "It's preaching a revolution, all right. I'd like to see its foreign language copies. They'll never overthrow the government, but they may try. Why don't you fellows combine to fight them? Why don't you learn how strong you are? Nine-tenths of the country, and milling like sheep with a wolf around!"
Mr. Hendricks winked at the doctor.
"What'd I tell you?" whispered Hendricks. "Got them, hasn't he? If he'd suggest arming them with pop bottles and attacking that gang of anarchists at the cobbler's down the street, they'd do it this minute."
"All right, son," he offered. "We'll combine. Anything you say goes. And we'll get the Jim Doyle-Woslosky-Louis Akers outfit first. I know a first-class brick wall—"
"Akers?" said Willy Cameron. "Do you know him?"
"I do," said Hendricks. "But that needn't prejudice you against me any. He's a bad actor, and as smooth as butter. D'you know what their plan is? They expect to take the city. This city! The—" Mr. Hendrick's voice was lost in fury.
"Talk!" said the roundsman. "Where'd the police be, I'm asking?"
"The police," said Mr. Hendricks, evidently quoting, "are as filled with sedition as a whale with corset bones. Also the army. Also the state constabulary."
"The hell they are," said the roundsman aggressively. But Willy Cameron was staring through the smoke from his pipe at the crowd.
"They might do it, for a while," he said thoughtfully. "There's a tremendous foreign population in the mill towns around, isn't there? Does anybody in the crowd own a revolver? Or know how to use it if he has one."
"I've got one," said the insurance agent. "Don't know how it would work. Found my wife nailing oilcloth with it the other day."
"Very well. If we're a representative group, they wouldn't need a battery of eight-inch guns, would they?"
A little silence fell on the group. Around them the city went about its business; the roar of the day had softened to muffled night sounds, as though one said: "The city sleeps. Be still." The red glare of the mills was the fire on the hearth. The hills were its four protecting walls. And the night mist covered it like a blanket.
"Here's one representative of the plain people," said Mr. Hendricks, "who is going home to get some sleep. And tomorrow I'll buy me a gun, and if I can keep the children out of the yard I'll learn to use it."
For a long time after he went home that night Willy Cameron paced the floor of his upper room, paced it until an irate boarder below hammered on his chandelier. Jinx followed him, moving sedately back and forth, now and then glancing up with idolatrous eyes. Willy Cameron's mind was active and not particularly coordinate. The Cardews and Lily; Edith Boyd and Louis Akers; the plain people; an army marching to the city to loot and burn and rape, and another army meeting it, saying: "You shall not pass"; Abraham Lincoln, Russia, Lily.
His last thought, of course, was of Lily Cardew. He had neglected to cover Jinx, and at last the dog leaped on the bed and snuggled close to him. He threw an end of the blanket over him and lay there, staring into the darkness. He was frightfully lonely. At last he fell asleep, and the March wind, coming in through the open window, overturned a paper leaning against his collar box, on which he had carefully written:
Have suit pressed. Buy new tie. Shirts from laundry.
Going home that night Mr. Hendricks met Edith Boyd, and accompanied her for a block or two. At his corner he stopped.
"How's your mother, Edith?"
It was Mr. Hendricks' business to know his ward thoroughly.
"About the same. She isn't really sick, Mr. Hendricks. She's just low spirited, but that's enough. I hate to go home."
"Still, home's a pretty good place," he said. "Especially for a pretty girl." There was unmistakable meaning in his tone, and she threw up her head.
"I've got to get some pleasure out of life, Mr. Hendricks."
"Sure you have," he agreed affably. "But playing around with Louis Akers is like playing with a hand-grenade, Edith." She said nothing. "I'd cut him out, little girl. He's poor stuff. Mind, I'm not saying he's a fool, but he's a bad actor. Now if I was a pretty girl, and there was a nice fellow around like this Cameron, I'd be likely to think he was all right. He's got brains." Mr. Hendricks had a great admiration for brains.
"I'm sick of men."
He turned at her tone and eyed her sharply.
"Well, don't judge them all by Akers. This is my corner. Good-night. Not afraid to go on by yourself, are you?"
"If I ever was I've had a good many chances to get over it."
He turned the corner, but stopped and called after her.
"Tell Dan I'll be in to see him soon, Edith. Haven't seen him since he came back from France."
She went on, her steps lagging. She hated going home. When she reached the little house she did not go in at once. The March night was not cold, and she sat the step, hoping to see her mother's light go out in the second-story front windows. But it continued to burn steadily, and at last, with a gesture of despair, she rose and unlocked the door.
Almost at once she heard footsteps above, and a peevish voice.
"That you, Edie?"
"D'you mind bringing up the chloroform liniment and rubbing my back?"
"I'll bring it, mother."
She found it on the wainscoting in the untidy kitchen. She could hear the faint scurrying of water beetles over the oilcloth-covered floor, and then silence. She fancied myriads of tiny, watchful eyes on her, and something crunched under her foot. She felt like screaming. That new clerk at the store was always talking about homes. What did he know of squalid city houses, with their insects and rats, their damp, moldy cellars, their hateful plumbing? A thought struck her. She lighted the gas and stared around. It was as she had expected. The dishes had not been washed. They were piled in the sink, and a soiled dish-towel had been thrown over them.
She lowered the gas and went upstairs. The hardness had, somehow, gone out of her when she thought of Willy Cameron.
"Back bad again, is it?" she asked.
"It's always bad. But I've got a pain in my left shoulder and down my arm that's driving me crazy. I couldn't wash the dishes."
"Never mind the dishes. I'm not tired. Now crawl into bed and let me rub you."
Mrs. Boyd complied. She was a small, thin woman in her early fifties, who had set out to conquer life and had been conquered by it. The hopeless drab of her days stretched behind her, broken only by the incident of her widowhood, and stretched ahead hopelessly. She had accepted Dan's going to France resignedly, with neither protest nor undue anxiety. She had never been very close to Dan, although she loved him more than she did Edith. She was the sort of woman who has no fundamental knowledge of men. They had to be fed and mended for, and they had strange physical wants that made a great deal of trouble in the world. But mostly they ate and slept and went to work in the morning, and came home at night smelling of sweat and beer.
There had been one little rift in the gray fog of her daily life, however. And through it she had seen Edith well married, with perhaps a girl to do the house work, and a room where Edith's mother could fold her hands and sit in the long silences without thought that were her sanctuary against life.
"Is that the place, mother?"
"Yes." Edith's unwonted solicitude gave her courage.
"Edie, I want to ask you something."
"Well?" But the girl stiffened.
"Lou hasn't been round, lately."
"That's all over, mother."
"You mean you've quarreled? Oh, Edie, and me planning you'd have a nice home and everything."
"He never meant to marry me, if that's what you mean."
Mrs. Boyd turned on her back impatiently.
"You could have had him. He was crazy about you. Trouble is with you, you think you've got a fellow hard and fast, and you begin acting up. Then, first thing you know—"
Some of that strange new tolerance persisted in the girl. "Listen, mother," she said. "I give you my word, Lou'd run a mile if he thought any girl wanted to marry him. I know him better than you do. If any one ever does rope him in, he'll stick about three months, and then beat it."
"I don't know why we have to have men, anyhow. Put out the gas, Edie. No, don't open the window. The night air makes me cough."
Edith started downstairs and set to work in the kitchen. Something would have to be done about the house. Dan was taking to staying out at nights, because the untidy rooms repelled him. And there was the question of food. Her mother had never learned to cook, and recently more and more of the food had been something warmed out of a tin. If only they could keep a girl, one who would scrub and wash dishes. There was a room on the third floor, an attic, full now of her mother's untidy harborings of years, that might be used for a servant. Or she could move up there, and they could get a roomer. The rent would pay a woman to come in now and then to clean up.
She had played with that thought before, and the roomer she had had in mind was Willy Cameron. But the knowledge that he knew the Cardews had somehow changed all that. She couldn't picture him going from this sordid house to the Cardew mansion, and worse still, returning to it afterwards. She saw him there, at the Cardews, surrounded by bowing flunkies—a picture of wealth gained from the movies—and by women who moved indolently, trailing through long vistas of ball room and conservatory in low gowns without sleeves, and draped with ropes of pearls. Women who smoked cigarettes after dinner and played bridge for money.
She hated the Cardews.
On her way to her room she paused at her mother's door.
"Asleep yet, mother?"
"No. Feel like I'm not going to sleep at all."
"Mother," she said, with a desperate catch in her voice, "we've got to change things around here. It isn't fair to Dan, for one thing. We've got to get a girl to do the work. And to do that we'll have to rent a room."
She heard the thin figure twist impatiently.
"I've never yet been reduced to taking roomers, and I'm not going to let the neighbors begin looking down on me now."
"Now, listen, mother—"
"Go on away, Edie."
"But suppose we could get a young man, a gentleman, who would be out all but three evenings a week. I don't know, but Mr. Cameron at the store isn't satisfied where he is. He's got a dog, and they haven't any yard. We've got a yard."
"I won't be bothered with any dog," said the querulous voice, from the darkness.
With a gesture of despair the girl turned away. What was the use, anyhow? Let them go on, then, her mother and Dan. Only let them let her go on, too. She had tried her best to change herself, the house, the whole rotten mess. But they wouldn't let her.
Her mood of disgust continued the next morning. When, at eleven o'clock, Louis Akers sauntered in for the first time in days, she looked at him somberly but without disdain. Lou or somebody else, what did it matter? So long as something took her for a little while away from the sordidness of home, its stale odors, its untidiness, its querulous inmates.
"What's got into you lately, Edith?" he inquired, lowering his voice. "You used to be the best little pal ever. Now the other day, when I called up—"
"Had the headache," she said laconically. "Well?"
"Want to play around this evening?"
She hesitated. Then she remembered where Willy Cameron would be that night, and her face hardened. Had any one told Edith that she was beginning to care for the lame young man in the rear room, with his exaggerated chivalry toward women, his belief in home, and his sentimental whistling, she would have laughed. But he gave her something that the other men she knew robbed her of, a sort of self-respect. It was perhaps not so much that she cared for him, as that he enabled her to care more for herself.
But he was going to dinner with Lily Cardew.
"I might, depending on what you've got to offer."
"I've got a car now, Edith. I'm not joking. There was a lot of outside work, and the organization came over. I've been after it for six months. We can have a ride, and supper somewhere. How's the young man with the wooden leg?"
"If you want to know I'll call him out and let him tell you."
"Quick, aren't you?" He smiled down at where she stood, firmly entrenched behind a show case. "Well, don't fall in love with him. That's all. I'm a bad man when I'm jealous."
He sauntered out, leaving Edith gazing thoughtfully after him. He did not know, nor would have cared had he known, that her acceptance of his invitation was a complex of disgust of home, of the call of youth, and of the fact that Willy Cameron was dining at the Cardews that night.
Howard Cardew was in his dressing room, sitting before the fire. His man had put out his dinner clothes and retired, and Howard was sifting before the fire rather listlessly.
In Grace's room, adjoining, he could hear movements and low voices. Before Lily's return, now and then when he was tired Grace and he had dined by the fire in her boudoir. It had been very restful. He was still in love with his wife, although, as in most marriages, there was one who gave more than the other. In this case it was Grace who gave, and Howard who received. But he loved her. He never thought of other women. Only his father had never let him forget her weaknesses.
Sometimes he was afraid that he was looking at Grace with his father's eyes, rather than his own.
He had put up a hard fight with his father. Not about Grace. That was over and done with, although it had been bad while it lasted. But his real struggle had been to preserve himself, to keep his faiths and his ideals, and even his personality. In the inessentials he had yielded easily, and so bought peace. Or perhaps a truce, of a sort. But for the essentials he was standing with a sort of dogged conviction that if he lowered his flag it would precipitate a crisis. He was not brilliant, but he was intelligent, progressive and kindly. He knew that his father considered him both stupid and obstinate.
There was going to be a strike. The quarrel now was between Anthony's curt "Let them strike," and his own conviction that a strike at this time might lead to even worse things. The men's demands were exorbitant. No business, no matter how big, could concede them and live. But Howard was debating another phase of the situation.
Not all the mills would go down. A careful canvass of some of the other independent concerns had shown the men eighty, ninety, even one hundred per cent, loyal. Those were the smaller plants, where there had always been a reciprocal good feeling between the owners and the men; there the men knew the owners, and the owners knew the men, who had been with them for years.
But the Cardew Mills would go down. There had been no liaison between the Cardews and the workmen. The very magnitude of the business forbade that. And for many years, too, the Cardews had shown a gross callousness to the welfare of the laborers. Long ago he had urged on his father the progressive attitude of other steel men, but Anthony had jeered, and when Howard had forced the issue and gained concessions, it was too late. The old grievances remained in too many minds. To hate the Cardews bad become a habit. Their past sins would damn them now. The strike was wrong, a wicked thing. It was without reason and without aim. The men were knocking a hole in the boat that floated them. But—
There was a tap at his door, and he called "Come in." From her babyhood Lily had had her own peculiar method of signaling that she stood without, a delicate rapid tattoo of finger nails on the panel. He watched smilingly for her entrance.
"Well!" she said. "Thank goodness you haven't started to dress. I tried to get here earlier, but my hair wouldn't go up, I want to make a good impression to-night."
"Is there a dinner on? I didn't know it."
"Not a dinner. A young man. I came to see what you are going to wear."
"Really! Well, I haven't a great variety. The ordinary dinner dress of a gentleman doesn't lend itself to any extraordinary ornamentation. If you like, I'll pin on that medal from the Iron and Steel—Who's coming, Lily?"
"Grayson says grandfather's dining out."
"I believe so."
"What a piece of luck! I mean—you know what he'd say if I asked him not to dress for dinner."
"Am I to gather that you are asking me?"
"You wouldn't mind, would you? He hasn't any evening clothes."
"Look here, Lily," said her father, sitting upright. "Who is coming here to-night? And why should he upset the habits of the entire family?"
"Willy Cameron. You know, father. And he has the queerest ideas about us. Honestly. And I want him to like us, and it's such a good chance, with grandfather out."
He ignored that.
"How about our liking him?"
"Oh, you'll like him. Everybody does. You will try to make a good impression, won't you, father?"
He got up, and resting his hands on her shoulders, smiled down into her upturned face. "I will," he said. "But I think I should tell you that your anxiety arouses deep and black suspicions in my mind. Am I to understand that you have fixed your young affections on this Willy Cameron, and that you want your family to help you in your dark designs?"
"I love him," she said. "I really do. I could listen to him for hours. But people don't want to marry Willy Cameron. They just love him."
There was born in Howard's mind a vision of a nice pink and white young man, quite sexless, whom people loved but did not dream of marrying.
"I see," he said slowly. "Like a puppy."
"Not at all like a puppy."
"I'm afraid I'm not subtle, my dear. Well, ring for Adams, and—you think he wouldn't care for the medal?"
"I think he'd love it. He'd probably think some king gave it to you. I'm sure he believes that you and grandfather habitually hobnob with kings." She turned to go out. "He doesn't approve of kings."
"You are making me extremely uneasy," was her father's shot. "I only hope I acquit myself well."
"Hurry, then. He is sure to be exactly on the hour." Howard was still smiling slightly to himself when, a half-hour later, he descended the staircase. But he had some difficulty first in reconciling his preconceived idea of Willy with the tall young man, with the faint unevenness of step, who responded to his greeting so calmly and so easily. "We are always glad to see any of Lily's friends."
"It is very good of you to let me come, sir."
Why, the girl was blind. This was a man, a fine, up-standing fellow, with a clean-cut, sensitive face, and honest, almost beautiful eyes. How did women judge men, anyhow?
And, try as he would, Howard Cardew could find no fault with Willy Cameron that night. He tried him out on a number of things. In religion, for instance, he was orthodox, although he felt that the church had not come up fully during the war.
"Religion isn't a matter only of churches any more," said Mr. Cameron. "It has to go out into the streets, I think, sir. It's a-well, Christ left the tabernacle, you remember."
That was all right. Howard felt that himself sometimes. He was a vestryman at Saint Peter's, and although he felt very devout during the service, especially during the offertory, when the music filled the fine old building, he was often conscious that he shed his spirituality at the door, when he glanced at the sky to see what were the prospects for an afternoon's golf.
In politics Willy Cameron was less satisfactory.
"I haven't decided, yet," he said. "I voted for Mr. Wilson in 1916, but although I suppose parties are necessary, I don't like to feel that I am party-bound. Anyhow, the old party lines are gone. I rather look—"
He stopped. That terrible speech of Edith Boyd's still rankled.
"Go on, Willy," said Lily. "I told them they'd love to you talk."
"That's really all, sir," said Willy Cameron, unhappily. "I am a Scot, and to start a Scot on reform is fatal."