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.
"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.
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.
"It affects Graham. It affects us all."
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.
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.
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."
"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.
"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."
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."
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.
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.
She let him call her again.
"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!"
"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 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.
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.
"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—"
"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—"
"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."
He turned in the doorway.
"Is it all gone? Everything?"
"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."
"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!
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:
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.
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?"
"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."
"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?"
"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 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."
"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.
"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.
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.