"My, it's nice to have you back again, Mr. Sykes," said Mrs. Pet.
"Is your big two-room suite on the next floor vacant?" said Florian, cryptically.
Mrs. Pet stared a little, wonderingly. "Yes, that's vacant since the Ostranders left, in July. Why do you ask, Mr. Sykes?"
"Nothing," Florian answered, airily. "Not a thing. Just asked."
His train had come in at nine. It was eleven now, but he was restless, and a little hungry, and very much exhilarated. "You certainly look grand," Mrs. Pet had exclaimed, admiringly. "And my, how you're sunburned!"
He left the Lexington Avenue house, now, and strolled over to the near-by white-tiled restaurant. There, in the window, was the white-capped one, flapping pancakes. Florian could have kissed him. He sat down. A waitress approached him.
"I don't know," mused Florian. "I'm sort of hungry, but I don't just——"
"The pork and beans are elegant to-night," suggested the girl.
And "Pork and beans! NO!" thundered Florian.
The girl drew herself up icily. "I ain't deef. You don't need to yell."
Florian looked up at her contritely, and smiled his winning smile. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean—I—I never want to see beans again as long as I live!"
He was down at the store early, early next morning. His practised eye swept the department for possible slackness, for changes, for needed adjustments. The two Maine ex-guides and the chap who knew the Rockies like the palm of his hand welcomed him with Judas-like slaps on the shoulder. "Like it?" they asked him. And, "God's country—the West," he answered, mechanically. After that he ignored them. At nine he ran down the two flights of stairs to the third floor. He did not wait for the elevator.
For a moment he could not find her and his heart sank. She might be away on a vacation. Then he spied her in a corner half-hidden by a rack of covert coats. She was hanging them up. The floor was empty of customers thus early. He strode over to her. She turned. Into her eyes there leaped a look which she quickly veiled as had been taught her by a thousand thousand female ancestors.
"I got your postals," she said.
Florian said nothing.
"My, you're brown!"
Florian said nothing.
"Did you—have a good time?"
Florian said nothing.
"What—what——" Her hand went to her throat, where his eyes were fastened.
Then Florian spoke. "How white your throat is!" he said. "How white your throat is!"
Myra stepped out, then, from among the covert coats on the rack. Her head was lifted high on the creamy column that supported it. She had her pride, had Myra.
"It's no whiter than it was a month ago, that I can see."
"I know it." His tone was humble, with a little pleading note in it. "I know a lot of things that I didn't know a month ago, Myra."
THE SUDDEN SIXTIES
Hannah Winter was sixty all of a sudden, as women of sixty are. Just yesterday—or the day before, at most—she had been a bride of twenty in a wine-coloured silk wedding gown, very stiff and rich. And now here she was, all of a sudden, sixty.
The actual anniversary that marked her threescore had had nothing to do with it. She had passed that day painlessly enough—happily, in fact. But now, here she was, all of a sudden, consciously, bewilderingly, sixty. This is the way it happened!
She was rushing along Peacock Alley to meet her daughter Marcia. Any one who knows Chicago knows that smoke-blackened pile, the Congress Hotel; and any one who knows the Congress Hotel has walked down that glittering white marble crypt called Peacock Alley. It is neither so glittering nor so white, nor, for that matter, so prone to preen itself as it was in the hotel's palmy '90s. But it still serves as a convenient short cut on a day when Chicago's lake wind makes Michigan Boulevard a hazard, and thus Hannah Winter was using it. She was to have met Marcia at the Michigan Boulevard entrance at two, sharp. And here it was 2.07. When Marcia said two, there she was at two, waiting, lips slightly compressed. When you came clattering up, breathless, at 2.07, she said nothing in reproach. But within the following half hour bits of her conversation, if pieced together, would have summed up something like this:
"I had to get the children off in time and give them their lunch first because it's wash day and Lutie's busy with the woman and won't do a single extra thing; and all my marketing for to-day and to-morrow because to-morrow's Memorial Day and they close at noon; and stop at the real estate agent's on Fifty-third to see them about the wall paper before I came down. I didn't even have time to swallow a cup of tea. And yet I was here at two. You haven't a thing to do. Not a blessed thing, living at a hotel. It does seem to me ..."
So then here it was 2.07, and Hannah Winter, rather panicky, was rushing along Peacock Alley, dodging loungers, and bell-boys, and travelling salesmen and visiting provincials and the inevitable red-faced delegates with satin badges. In her hurry and nervous apprehension she looked, as she scuttled down the narrow passage, very much like the Rabbit who was late for the Duchess's dinner. Her rubber-heeled oxfords were pounding down hard on the white marble pavement. Suddenly she saw coming swiftly toward her a woman who seemed strangely familiar—a well-dressed woman, harassed looking, a tense frown between her eyes, and her eyes staring so that they protruded a little, as one who runs ahead of herself in her haste. Hannah had just time to note, in a flash, that the woman's smart hat was slightly askew and that, though she walked very fast, her trim ankles showed the inflexibility of age, when she saw that the woman was not going to get out of her way. Hannah Winter swerved quickly to avoid a collision. So did the other woman. Next instant Hannah Winter brought up with a crash against her own image in that long and tricky mirror which forms a broad full-length panel set in the marble wall at the north end of Peacock Alley. Passersby and the loungers on near-by red plush seats came running, but she was unhurt except for a forehead bump that remained black-and-blue for two weeks or more. The bump did not bother her, nor did the slightly amused concern of those who had come to her assistance. She stood there, her hat still askew, staring at this woman—this woman with her stiff ankles, her slightly protruding eyes, her nervous frown, her hat a little sideways—this stranger—this murderess who had just slain, ruthlessly and forever, a sallow, lively, high-spirited girl of twenty in a wine-coloured silk wedding gown.
Don't think that Hannah Winter, at sixty, had tried to ape sixteen. She was not one of those grisly sexagenarians who think that, by wearing pink, they can combat the ochre of age. Not at all. In dress, conduct, mode of living she was as an intelligent and modern woman of sixty should be. The youth of her was in that intangible thing called, sentimentally, the spirit. It had survived forty years of buffeting, and disappointment, and sacrifice and hard work. Inside this woman who wore well-tailored black and small close hats and clean white wash gloves (even in Chicago) was the girl, Hannah Winter, still curious about this adventure known as living; still capable of bearing its disappointments or enjoying its surprises. Still capable, even, of being surprised. And all this is often the case, all unsuspected by the Marcias until the Marcias are, themselves, suddenly sixty. When it is too late to say to the Hannah Winters, "Now I understand."
We know that Hannah Winter had been married in wine-coloured silk, very stiff and grand. So stiff and rich that the dress would have stood alone if Hannah had ever thought of subjecting her wedding gown to such indignity. It was the sort of silk of which it is said that they don't make such silk now. It was cut square at the neck and trimmed with passementerie and fringe brought crosswise from breast to skirt hem. It's in the old photograph and, curiously enough, while Marcia thinks it's comic, Joan, her nine-year-old daughter, agrees with her grandmother in thinking it very lovely. And so, in its quaintness and stiffness and bravery, it is. Only you've got to have imagination.
While wine-coloured silk wouldn't have done for a church wedding it was quite all right at home; and Hannah Winter's had been a home wedding (the Winters lived in one of the old three-story red-bricks that may still be seen, in crumbling desuetude, over on Rush Street) so that wine-coloured silk for a twenty-year-old bride was quite in the mode.
It is misleading, perhaps, to go on calling her Hannah Winter, for she married Hermie Slocum and became, according to law, Mrs. Hermie Slocum, but remained, somehow, Hannah Winter in spite of law and clergy, though with no such intent on her part. She had never even heard of Lucy Stone. It wasn't merely that her Chicago girlhood friends still spoke of her as Hannah Winter. Hannah Winter suited her—belonged to her and was characteristic. Mrs. Hermie Slocum sort of melted and ran down off her. Hermie was the sort of man who, christened Herman, is called Hermie. That all those who had known her before her marriage still spoke of her as Hannah Winter forty years later was merely another triumph of the strong over the weak.
At twenty Hannah Winter had been a rather sallow, lively, fun-loving girl, not pretty, but animated; and forceful, even then. The Winters were middle-class, respected, moderately well-to-do Chicago citizens—or had been moderately well-to-do before the fire of '71. Horace Winter had been caught in the financial funk that followed this disaster and the Rush Street household, almost ten years later, was rather put to it to supply the wine-coloured silk and the supplementary gowns, linens, and bedding. In those days you married at twenty if a decent chance to marry at twenty presented itself. And Hermie Slocum seemed a decent chance, undoubtedly. A middle-class, respected, moderately well-to-do person himself, Hermie, with ten thousand dollars saved at thirty-five and just about to invest it in business in the thriving city of Indianapolis. A solid young man, Horace Winter said. Not much given to talk. That indicated depth and thinking. Thrifty and far-sighted, as witness the good ten thousand in cash. Kind. Old enough, with his additional fifteen years, to balance the lively Hannah who was considered rather flighty and too prone to find fun in things that others considered serious. A good thing she never quite lost that fault. Hannah resolutely and dutifully put out of her head (or nearly) all vagrant thoughts of Clint Darrow with the crisp black hair and the surprising blue eyes thereto, and the hat worn rakishly a little on one side, and the slender cane and the pointed shoes. A whipper-snapper, according to Horace Winter. Not a solid business man like Hermie Slocum. Hannah did not look upon herself as a human sacrifice. She was genuinely fond of Hermie. She was fond of her father, too; the rather harassed and hen-pecked Horace Winter; and of her mother, the voluble and quick-tongued and generous Bertha Winter, who was so often to be seen going down the street, shawl and bonnet-strings flying, when she should have been at home minding her household. Much of the minding had fallen to Hannah.
And so they were married, and went to the thriving city of Indianapolis to live, and Hannah Winter was so busy with her new household goods, and the linens, and the wine-coloured silk and its less magnificent satellites, that it was almost a fortnight before she realized fully that this solid young man, Hermie Slocum, was not only solid but immovable; not merely thrifty, but stingy; not alone taciturn but quite conversationless. His silences had not proceeded from the unplumbed depths of his knowledge. He merely had nothing to say. She learned, too, that the ten thousand dollars, soon dispelled, had been made for him by an energetic and shrewd business partner with whom he had quarrelled and from whom he had separated a few months before.
There never was another lump sum of ten thousand of Hermie Slocum's earning.
Well. Forty years ago, having made the worst of it you made the best of it. No going home to mother. The word "incompatibility" had not come into wide-spread use. Incompatibility was a thing to hide, not to flaunt. The years that followed were dramatic or commonplace, depending on one's sense of values. Certainly those years were like the married years of many another young woman of that unplastic day. Hannah Winter had her job cut out for her and she finished it well, and alone. No reproaches. Little complaint. Criticism she made in plenty, being the daughter of a voluble mother; and she never gave up hope of stiffening the spine of the invertebrate Hermie.
The ten thousand went in driblets. There never was anything dashing or romantic about Hermie Slocum's failures. The household never felt actual want, nor anything so picturesque as poverty. Hannah saw to that.
You should have read her letters back home to Chicago—to her mother and father back home on Rush Street, in Chicago; and to her girlhood friends, Sarah Clapp, Vinie Harden, and Julia Pierce. They were letters that, for stiff-lipped pride and brazen boasting, were of a piece with those written by Sentimental Tommy's mother when things were going worst with her.
"My wine-coloured silk is almost worn out," she wrote. "I'm thinking of making it over into a tea-gown with one of those new cream pongee panels down the front. Hermie says he's tired of seeing me in it, evenings. He wants me to get a blue but I tell him I'm too black for blue. Aren't men stupid about clothes! Though I pretend to Hermie that I think his taste is excellent, even when he brings me home one of those expensive beaded mantles I detest."
Bald, bare-faced, brave lying.
The two children arrived with mathematical promptness—first Horace, named after his grandfather Winter, of course; then Martha, named after no one in particular, but so called because Hermie Slocum insisted, stubbornly, that Martha was a good name for a girl. Martha herself fixed all that by the simple process of signing herself Marcia in her twelfth year and forever after. Marcia was a throw-back to her grandmother Winter—quick-tongued, restless, volatile. The boy was an admirable mixture of the best qualities of his father and mother; slow-going, like Hermie Slocum, but arriving surely at his goal, like his mother. With something of her driving force mixed with anything his father had of gentleness. A fine boy, and uninteresting. It was Hannah Winter's boast that Horace never caused her a moment's sorrow or uneasiness in all his life; and so Marcia, the troublous, was naturally her pride and idol.
As Hermie's business slid gently downhill Hannah tried with all her strength to stop it. She had a shrewd latent business sense and this she vainly tried to instil in her husband. The children, stirring in their sleep in the bedroom adjoining that of their parents, would realize, vaguely, that she was urging him to try something to which he was opposed. They would grunt and whimper a little, and perhaps remonstrate sleepily at being thus disturbed, and then drop off to sleep again to the sound of her desperate murmurs. For she was desperate. She was resolved not to go to her people for help. And it seemed inevitable if Hermie did not heed her. She saw that he was unsuited for business of the mercantile sort; urged him to take up the selling of insurance, just then getting such a strong and wide hold on the country.
In the end he did take it up, and would have made a failure of that, too, if it had not been for Hannah. It was Hannah who made friends for him, sought out prospective clients for him, led social conversation into business channels whenever chance presented itself. She had the boy and girl to think of and plan for. When Hermie objected to this or that luxury for them as being stuff and nonsense Hannah would say, not without a touch of bitterness, "I want them to have every advantage I can give them. I want them to have all the advantages I never had when I was young."
"They'll never thank you for it."
"I don't want them to."
Adam and Eve doubtless had the same argument about the bringing up of Cain and Abel. And Adam probably said, after Cain's shocking crime, "Well, what did I tell you! Was I right or was I wrong? Who spoiled him in the first place!"
They had been married seventeen years when Hermie Slocum, fifty-two, died of pneumonia following a heavy cold. The thirty-seven-year-old widow was horrified (but not much surprised) to find that the insurance solicitor had allowed two of his own policies to lapse. The company was kind, but businesslike. The insurance amounted, in all, to about nine thousand dollars. Trust Hermie for never quite equalling that ten again.
They offered her the agency left vacant by her husband, after her first two intelligent talks with them.
"No," she said, "not here. I'm going back to Chicago to sell insurance. Everybody knows me there. My father was an old settler in Chicago. There'll be my friends, and their husbands, and their sons. Besides, the children will have advantages there. I'm going back to Chicago."
She went. Horace and Bertha Winter had died five years before, within less than a year of each other. The old Rush Street house had been sold. The neighbourhood was falling into decay. The widow and her two children took a little flat on the south side. Widowed, one might with equanimity admit stress of circumstance. It was only when one had a husband that it was disgraceful to show him to the world as a bad provider.
"I suppose we lived too well," Hannah said when her old friends expressed concern at her plight. "Hermie was too generous. But I don't mind working. It keeps me young."
And so, truly, it did. She sold not only insurance but coal, a thing which rather shocked her south side friends. She took orders for tons of this and tons of that, making a neat commission thereby. She had a desk in the office of a big insurance company on Dearborn, near Monroe, and there you saw her every morning at ten in her neat sailor hat and her neat tailored suit. Four hours of work lay behind that ten o'clock appearance. The children were off to school a little after eight. But there was the ordering to do; cleaning; sewing; preserving, mending. A woman came in for a few hours every day but there was no room for a resident helper. At night there were a hundred tasks. She helped the boy and girl with their home lessons, as well, being naturally quick at mathematics. The boy Horace had early expressed the wish to be an engineer and Hannah contemplated sending him to the University of Wisconsin because she had heard that there the engineering courses were particularly fine. Not only that, she actually sent him.
Marcia showed no special talent. She was quick, clever, pretty, and usually more deeply engaged in some school-girl love affair than Hannah Winter approved. She would be an early bride, one could see that. No career for Marcia, though she sketched rather well, sewed cleverly, played the piano a little, sang just a bit, could trim a hat or turn a dress, danced the steps of the day. She could even cook a commendable dinner. Hannah saw to that. She saw to it, as well, that the boy and the girl went to the theatre occasionally; heard a concert at rare intervals. There was little money for luxuries. Sometimes Marcia said, thoughtlessly, "Mother, why do you wear those stiff plain things all the time?"
Hannah, who had her own notion of humour, would reply, "The better to clothe you, my dear."
Her girlhood friends she saw seldom. Two of them had married. One was a spinster of forty. They had all moved to the south side during the period of popularity briefly enjoyed by that section in the late '90s. Hannah had no time for their afternoon affairs. At night she was too tired or too busy for outside diversions. When they met her they said, "Hannah Winter, you don't grow a day older. How do you do it!"
"A person never sees you. Why don't you take an afternoon off some time? Or come in some evening? Henry was saying only yesterday that he enjoyed his talk with you so much, and that you were smarter than any man insurance agent. He said you sold him I don't know how many thousand dollars' worth before he knew it. Now I suppose I'll have to go without a new fur coat this winter."
Hannah smiled agreeably. "Well, Julia, it's better for you to do without a new fur coat this winter than for me to do without any."
The Clint Darrow of her girlhood dreams, grown rather paunchy and mottled now, and with the curling black hair but a sparse grizzled fringe, had belied Horace Winter's contemptuous opinion. He was a moneyed man now, with an extravagant wife, but no children. Hannah underwrote him for a handsome sum, received his heavy compliments with a deft detachment, heard his complaints about his extravagant wife with a sympathetic expression, but no comment—and that night spent the ten minutes before she dropped off to sleep in pondering the impenetrable mysteries of the institution called marriage. She had married the solid Hermie, and he had turned out to be quicksand. She had not married the whipper-snapper Clint, and now he was one of the rich city's rich men. Had she married him against her parents' wishes would Clint Darrow now be complaining of her extravagance, perhaps, to some woman he had known in his youth? She laughed a little, to herself, there in the dark.
"What in the world are you giggling about, Mother?" called Marcia, who slept in the bedroom near by. Hannah occupied the davenport couch in the sitting room. There had been some argument about that. But Hannah had said she preferred it; and the boy and girl finally ceased to object. Horace in the back bedroom, Marcia in the front bedroom, Hannah in the sitting room. She made many mistakes like that. So, then, "What in the world are you giggling about, Mother?"
"Only a game," answered Hannah, "that some people were playing to-day."
"A new game?"
"Oh, my, no!" said Hannah, and laughed again. "It's old as the world."
Hannah was forty-seven when Marcia married. Marcia married well. Not brilliantly, of course, but well. Edward was with the firm of Gaige & Hoe, Importers. He had stock in the company and an excellent salary, with prospects. With Horace away at the engineering school Hannah's achievement of Marcia's trousseau was an almost superhuman feat. But it was a trousseau complete. As they selected the monogrammed linens, the hand-made lingerie, the satin-covered down quilts, the smart frocks, Hannah thought, quite without bitterness, of the wine-coloured silk. Marcia was married in white. She was blonde, with a fine fair skin, in her father's likeness, and she made a picture-book bride. She and Ed took a nice little six-room apartment on Hyde Park Boulevard, near the Park and the lake. There was some talk of Hannah's coming to live with them but she soon put that right.
"No," she had said, at once. "None of that. No flat was ever built that was big enough for two families."
"But you're not a family, Mother. You're us."
Hannah, though, was wiser than that.
She went up to Madison for Horace's commencement. He was very proud of his youthful looking, well-dressed, intelligent mother. He introduced her, with pride, to the fellows. But there was more than pride in his tone when he brought up Louise. Hannah knew then, at once. Horace had said that he would start to pay back his mother for his university training with the money earned from his very first job. But now he and Hannah had a talk. Hannah hid her own pangs—quite natural pangs of jealousy and something very like resentment.
"There aren't many Louises," said Hannah. "And waiting doesn't do, somehow. You're an early marrier, Horace. The steady, dependable kind. I'd be a pretty poor sort of mother, wouldn't I, if——" etc.
Horace's first job took him out to South America. He was jubilant, excited, remorseful, eager, downcast, all at once. He and Louise were married a month before the time set for leaving and she went with him. It was a job for a young and hardy and adventurous. On the day they left, Hannah felt, for the first time in her life, bereaved, widowed, cheated.
There followed, then, ten years of hard work and rigid economy. She lived in good boarding houses, and hated them. She hated them so much that, toward the end, she failed even to find amusement in the inevitable wall pictures of plump, partially draped ladies lounging on couches and being tickled in their sleep by overfed cupids in mid-air. She saved and scrimped with an eye to the time when she would no longer work. She made some shrewd and well-advised investments. At the end of these ten years she found herself possessed of a considerable sum whose investment brought her a sufficient income, with careful management.
Life had tricked Hannah Winter, but it had not beaten her. And there, commonplace or dramatic, depending on one's viewpoint, you have the first sixty years of Hannah Winter's existence.
This is the curious thing about them. Though heavy, these years had flown. The working, the planning, the hoping, had sped them by, somehow. True, things that never used to tire her tired her now, and she acknowledged it. She was older, of course. But she never thought of herself as old. Perhaps she did not allow herself to think thus. She had married, brought children into the world, made their future sure—or as sure as is humanly possible. And yet she never said, "My work is done. My life is over." About the future she was still as eager as a girl. She was a grandmother. Marcia and Ed had two children, Joan, nine, and Peter, seven (strong simple names were the mode just then).
Perhaps you know that hotel on the lake front built during the World's Fair days? A roomy, rambling, smoke-blackened, comfortable old structure, ringed with verandas, its shabby facade shabbier by contrast with the beds of tulips or geraniums or canna that jewel its lawn. There Hannah Winter went to live. It was within five minutes' walk of Marcia's apartment. Rather expensive, but as homelike as a hotel could be and housing many old-time Chicago friends.
She had one room, rather small, with a bit of the lake to be seen from one window. The grim, old-fashioned hotel furniture she lightened and supplemented with some of her own things. There was a day bed—a narrow and spindling affair for a woman of her height and comfortable plumpness. In the daytime this couch was decked out with taffeta pillows in rose and blue, with silk fruit and flowers on them, and gold braid. There were two silk-shaded lamps, a shelf of books, the photographs of the children in flat silver frames, a leather writing set on the desk, curtains of pale tan English casement cloth at the windows. A cheerful enough little room.
There were many elderly widows like herself living in the hotel on slender, but sufficient, incomes. They were well-dressed women in trim suits or crepes, and Field's special walking oxfords; and small smart hats. They did a little cooking in their rooms—not much, they hastened to tell you. Their breakfasts only—a cup of coffee and a roll or a slice of toast, done on a little electric grill, the coffee above, the toast below. The hotel dining room was almost free of women in the morning. There were only the men, intent on their papers, and their eggs and the 8.40 I. C. train. It was like a men's club, except, perhaps, for an occasional business woman successful enough or indolent enough to do away with the cooking of the surreptitious matutinal egg in her own room. Sometimes, if they were to lunch at home, they carried in a bit of cold ham, or cheese, rolls, butter, or small dry groceries concealed in muffs or handbags. They even had diminutive iceboxes in closets. The hotel, perforce, shut its eyes to this sort of thing. Even permitted the distribution of tiny cubes of ice by the hotel porter. It was a harmless kind of cheating. Their good dinners they ate in the hotel dining room when not invited to dine with married sons or daughters or friends.
At ten or eleven in the morning you saw them issue forth, or you saw "little" manicures going in. One spoke of these as "little" not because of their size, which was normal, but in definition of their prices. There were "little" dressmakers as well, and "little" tailors. In special session they confided to one another the names or addresses of any of these who happened to be especially deft, or cheap, or modish.
"I've found a little tailor over on Fifty-fifth. I don't want you to tell any one else about him. He's wonderful. He's making me a suit that looks exactly like the model Hexter's got this year and guess what he's charging!" The guess was, of course, always a triumph for the discoverer of the little tailor.
The great lake dimpled or roared not twenty feet away. The park offered shade and quiet. The broad veranda invited one with its ample armchairs. You would have thought that peace and comfort had come at last to this shrewd, knowledgeous, hard-worked woman of sixty. She was handsomer than she had been at twenty or thirty. The white powdering her black hair softened her face, lightened her sallow skin, gave a finer lustre to her dark eyes. She used a good powder and had an occasional facial massage. Her figure, though full, was erect, firm, neat. Around her throat she wore an inch-wide band of black velvet that becomingly hid the chords and sagging chin muscles.
Yet now, if ever in her life, Hannah Winter was a slave.
Every morning at eight o'clock Marcia telephoned her mother. The hotel calls cost ten cents, but Marcia's was an unlimited phone. The conversation would start with a formula.
"Hello—Mama?... How are you?"
"Sleep all right?"
"Oh, yes. I never sleep all night through any more."
"Oh, you probably just think you don't.... Are you doing anything special this morning?"
"Nothing. I just wondered if you'd mind taking Joan to the dentist's. Her brace came off again this morning at breakfast. I don't see how I can take her because Elsie's giving that luncheon at one, you know, and the man's coming about upholstering that big chair at ten. I'd call up and try to get out of the luncheon, but I've promised, and there's bridge afterward and it's too late now for Elsie to get a fourth. Besides, I did that to her once before and she was furious. Of course, if you can't ... But I thought if you haven't anything to do, really, why——"
Through Hannah Winter's mind would flash the events of the day as she had planned it. She had meant to go downtown shopping that morning. Nothing special. Some business at the bank. Mandel's had advertised a sale of foulards. She hated foulards with their ugly sprawling patterns. A nice, elderly sort of material. Marcia was always urging her to get one. Hannah knew she never would. She liked the shops in their spring vividness. She had a shrewd eye for a bargain. A bite of lunch somewhere; then she had planned to drop in at that lecture at the Woman's Club. It was by the man who wrote "Your Town." He was said to be very lively and insulting. She would be home by five, running in to see the children for a minute before going to her hotel to rest before dinner.
A selfish day, perhaps. But forty years of unselfish ones had paid for it. Well. Shopping with nine-year-old Joan was out of the question. So, too, was the lecture. After the dentist had mended the brace Joan would have to be brought home for her lunch. Peter would be there, too. It was Easter vacation time. Hannah probably would lunch with them, in Marcia's absence, nagging them a little about their spinach and chop and apple sauce. She hated to see the two children at table alone, though Marcia said that was nonsense.
Hannah and Marcia differed about a lot of things. Hannah had fallen into the bad habit of saying, "When you were children I didn't——"
"Yes, but things are different now, please remember, Mother. I want my children to have all the advantages I can give them. I want them to have all the advantages I never had."
If Ed was present at such times he would look up from his paper to say, "The kids'll never thank you for it, Marsh."
"I don't want them to."
There was something strangely familiar about the whole thing as it sounded in Hannah's ears.
The matter of the brace, alone. There was a tiny gap between Joan's two front teeth and, strangely enough, between Peter's as well. It seemed to Hannah that every well-to-do child in Hyde Park had developed this gap between the two incisors and that all the soft pink child mouths in the district parted to display a hideous and disfiguring arrangement of complicated wire and metal. The process of bringing these teeth together was a long and costly one, totalling between six hundred and two thousand dollars, depending on the reluctance with which the parted teeth met, and the financial standing of the teeths' progenitors. Peter's dental process was not to begin for another year. Eight was considered the age. It seemed to be as common as vaccination.
From Hannah: "I don't know what's the matter with children's teeth nowadays. My children's teeth never had to have all this contraption on them. You got your teeth and that was the end of it."
"Perhaps if they'd paid proper attention to them," Marcia would reply, "there wouldn't be so many people going about with disfigured jaws now."
Then there were the dancing lessons. Joan went twice a week, Peter once. Joan danced very well the highly technical steps of the sophisticated dances taught her at the Krisiloff School. Her sturdy little legs were trained at the practice bar. Her baby arms curved obediently above her head or in fixed relation to the curve of her body in the dance. She understood and carried into effect the French technical terms. It was called gymnastic and interpretive dancing. There was about it none of the spontaneity with which a child unconsciously endows impromptu dance steps. But it was graceful and lovely. Hannah thought Joan a second Pavlowa; took vast delight in watching her. Taking Joan and Peter to these dancing classes was one of the duties that often devolved upon her. In the children's early years Marcia had attended a child study class twice a week and Hannah had more or less minded the two in their mother's absence. The incongruity of this had never struck her. Or if it had she had never mentioned it to Marcia. There were a good many things she never mentioned to Marcia. Marcia was undoubtedly a conscientious mother, thinking of her children, planning for her children, hourly: their food, their clothes, their training, their manners, their education. Asparagus; steak; French; health shoes; fingernails; dancing; teeth; hair; curtseys.
"Train all the independence out of 'em," Hannah said sometimes, grimly. Not to Marcia, though. She said it sometimes to her friends Julia Pierce or Sarah Clapp, or even to Vinie Harding, the spinster of sixty, for all three, including the spinster Vinie, who was a great-aunt, seemed to be living much the same life that had fallen to Hannah Winter's lot.
Hyde Park was full of pretty, well-dressed, energetic young mothers who were leaning hard upon the Hannah Winters of their own families. You saw any number of grey-haired, modishly gowned grandmothers trundling go-carts; walking slowly with a moist baby fist in their gentle clasp; seated on park benches before which blue rompers dug in the sand or gravel or tumbled on the grass. The pretty young mothers seemed very busy, too, in another direction. They attended classes, played bridge, marketed, shopped, managed their households. Some of them had gone in for careers. None of them seemed conscious of the frequency with which they said, "Mother, will you take the children from two to five this afternoon?" Or, if they were conscious of it, they regarded it as a natural and normal request. What are grandmothers for?
Hannah Winter loved the feel of the small velvet hands in her own palm. The clear blue-white of their eyes, the softness of their hair, the very feel of their firm, strong bare legs gave her an actual pang of joy. But a half hour—an hour—with them, and she grew restless, irritable. She didn't try to define this feeling.
"You say you love the children. And yet when I ask you to be with them for half a day——"
"I do love them. But they make me nervous."
"I don't see how they can make you nervous if you really care about them."
Joan was Hannah's favourite; resembled her. The boy, Peter, was blond, like his mother. In Joan was repeated the grandmother's sallow skin, dark eyes, vivacity, force. The two, so far apart in years, were united by a strong natural bond of sympathy and alikeness. When they were together on some errand or excursion they had a fine time. If it didn't last too long.
Sometimes the young married women would complain to each other about their mothers. "I don't ask her often, goodness knows. But I think she might offer to take the children one or two afternoons during their vacation, anyway. She hasn't a thing to do. Not a thing."
Among themselves the grandmothers did not say so much. They had gone to a sterner school. But it had come to this: Hannah was afraid to plan her day. So often had she found herself called upon to forego an afternoon at bridge, a morning's shopping, an hour's mending, even, or reading.
She often had dinner at Marcia's, but not as often as she was asked. More and more she longed for and appreciated the orderly quiet and solitude of her own little room. She never analyzed this, nor did Marcia or Ed. It was a craving for relaxation on the part of body and nerves strained throughout almost half a century of intensive living.
Ed and Marcia were always doing charming things for her. Marcia had made the cushions and the silk lampshades for her room. Marcia was always bringing her jellies, and a quarter of a freshly baked cake done in black Lutie's best style. Ed and Marcia insisted periodically on her going with them to the theatre or downtown for dinner, or to one of the gardens where there was music and dancing and dining. This was known as "taking mother out." Hannah Winter didn't enjoy these affairs as much, perhaps, as she should have. She much preferred a mild spree with one of her own cronies. Ed was very careful of her at street crossings and going down steps, and joggled her elbow a good deal. This irked her, though she tried not to show it. She preferred a matinee, or a good picture or a concert with Sarah, or Vinie, or Julia. They could giggle, and nudge and comment like girls together, and did. Indeed, they were girls in all but outward semblance. Among one another they recognized this. Their sense of enjoyment was un-dulled. They liked a double chocolate ice cream soda as well as ever; a new gown; an interesting book. As for people! Why, at sixty the world walked before them, these elderly women, its mind unclothed, all-revealing. This was painful, sometimes, but interesting always. It was one of the penalties—and one of the rewards—of living.
After some such excursion Hannah couldn't very well refuse to take the children to see a Fairbanks film on a Sunday afternoon when Ed and Marcia were spending the half-day at the country club. Marcia was very strict about the children and the films. They were allowed the saccharine Pickford, and of course Fairbanks's gravity-defying feats, and Chaplin's gorgeous grotesqueries. You had to read the titles for Peter. Hannah wasn't as quick at this as were Ed or Marcia, and Peter was sometimes impatient, though politely so.
And so sixty swung round. At sixty Hannah Winter had a suitor. Inwardly she resented him. At sixty Clint Darrow, a widower now and reverent in speech of the departed one whose extravagance he had deplored, came to live at the hotel in three-room grandeur, overlooking the lake. A ruddy, corpulent, paunchy little man, and rakish withal. The hotel widows made much of him. Hannah, holding herself aloof, was often surprised to find her girlhood flame hovering near now, speaking of loneliness, of trips abroad, of a string of pearls unused. There was something virgin about the way Hannah received these advances. Marriage was so far from her thoughts; this kindly, plump little man so entirely outside her plans. He told her his troubles, which should have warned her. She gave him some shrewd advice, which encouraged him. He rather fancied himself as a Lothario. He was secretly distressed about his rotund waist line and, theoretically, never ate a bite of lunch. "I never touch a morsel from breakfast until dinner time." Still you might see him any day at noon at the Congress, or at the Athletic Club, or at one of the restaurants known for its savoury food, busy with one of the richer luncheon dishes and two cups of thick creamy coffee.
Though the entire hotel was watching her Hannah was actually unconscious of Clint Darrow's attentions, or their markedness, until her son-in-law Ed teased her about him one day. "Some gal!" said Ed, and roared with laughter. She resented this indignantly; felt that they regarded her as senile. She looked upon Clint Darrow as a fat old thing, if she looked at him at all; but rather pathetic, too. Hence her kindliness toward him. Now she avoided him. Thus goaded he actually proposed marriage and repeated the items of the European trip, the pearls, and the unused house on Woodlawn Avenue. Hannah, feeling suddenly faint and white, refused him awkwardly. She was almost indignant. She did not speak of it, but the hotel, somehow, knew. Hyde Park knew. The thing leaked out.
"But why?" said Marcia, smiling—giggling, almost. "Why? I think it would have been wonderful for you, Mother!"
Hannah suddenly felt that she need not degrade herself to explain why—she who had once triumphed over her own ordeal of marriage.
Marcia herself was planning a new career. The children were seven and nine—very nearly eight and ten. Marcia said she wanted a chance at self-expression. She announced a course in landscape gardening—"landscape architecture" was the new term.
"Chicago's full of people who are moving to the suburbs and buying big places out north. They don't know a thing about gardens. They don't know a shrub from a tree when they see it. It's a new field for women—in the country, at least—and I'm dying to try it. That youngest Fraser girl makes heaps, and I never thought much of her intelligence. Of course, after I finish and am ready to take commissions, I'll have to be content with small jobs, at first. But later I may get a chance at grounds around public libraries and hospitals and railway stations. And if I can get one really big job at one of those new-rich north shore places I'll be made."
The course required two years and was rather expensive. But Marcia said it would pay, in the end. Besides, now that the war had knocked Ed's business into a cocked hat for the next five years or more, the extra money would come in very handy for the children and herself and the household.
Hannah thought the whole plan nonsense. "I can't see that you're pinched, exactly. You may have to think a minute before you buy fresh strawberries for a meringue in February. But you do buy them." She was remembering her own lean days, when February strawberries would have been as unattainable as though she had dwelt on a desert island.
On the day of the mirror accident in Peacock Alley, Hannah was meeting Marcia downtown for the purpose of helping her select spring outfits for the children. Later, Marcia explained, there would be no time. Her class met every morning except Saturday. Hannah tried to deny the little pang of terror at the prospect of new responsibility that this latest move of Marcia's seemed about to thrust upon her. Marcia wasn't covering her own job, she told herself. Why take another! She had given up an afternoon with Sarah because of this need of Marcia's to-day. Marcia depended upon her mother's shopping judgment more than she admitted. Thinking thus, and conscious of her tardiness (she had napped for ten minutes after lunch) Hannah Winter had met, face to face, with a crash, this strange, strained, rather haggard elderly woman in the mirror.
It was, then, ten minutes later than 2.07 when she finally came up to Marcia waiting, lips compressed, at the Michigan Avenue entrance, as planned.
"I bumped into that mirror——"
"Oh, Mom! I'm sorry. Are you hurt? How in the world?... Such a morning ... wash day ... children their lunch ... marketing ... wall paper ... Fifty-third Street ... two o'clock ..."
Suddenly, "Yes, I know," said Hannah Winter, tartly. "I had to do all those things and more, forty years ago."
Marcia had a list.... Let's see ... Those smocked dresses for Joan would probably be all picked over by this time ... Light-weight underwear for Peter ... Joan's cape ...
Hannah Winter felt herself suddenly remote from all this; done with it; finished years and years ago. What had she to do with smocked dresses, children's underwear, capes? But she went in and out of the shops, up and down the aisles, automatically, gave expert opinion. By five it was over. Hannah felt tired, depressed. She was to have dinner at Marcia's to-night. She longed, now, for her own room. Wished she might go to it and stay there, quietly.
"Marcia, I don't think I'll come to dinner to-night. I'm so tired. I think I'll just go home——"
"But I got the broilers specially for you, and the sweet potatoes candied the way you like them, and a lemon cream pie."
When they reached home they found Joan, listless, on the steps. One of her sudden sore throats. Stomach, probably. A day in bed for her. By to-morrow she would be quite all right. Hannah Winter wondered why she did not feel more concern. Joan's throats had always thrown her into a greater panic than she had ever felt at her own children's illnesses. To-day she felt apathetic, indifferent.
She helped tuck the rebellious Joan in bed. Joan was spluttering about some plan for to-morrow. And Marcia was saying, "But you can't go to-morrow, Joan. You know you can't, with that throat. Mother will have to stay home with you, too, and give up her plans to go to the country club with Daddy, and it's the last chance she'll have, too, for a long, long time. So you're not the only one to suffer." Hannah Winter said nothing.
They went in to dinner at 6.30. It was a good dinner. Hannah Winter ate little, said little. Inside Hannah Winter a voice—a great, strong voice, shaking with its own earnestness and force—was shouting in rebellion. And over and over it said, to the woman in the mirror at the north end of Peacock Alley: "Three score—and ten to go. That's what it says—'and ten.' And I haven't done a thing I've wanted to do. I'm afraid to do the things I want to do. We all are, because of our sons and daughters. Ten years. I don't want to spend those ten years taking care of my daughter's children. I've taken care of my own. A good job, too. No one helped me. No one helped me. What's the matter with these modern mothers, with their newfangled methods and their efficiency and all? Maybe I'm an unnatural grandmother, but I'm going to tell Marcia the truth. Yes, I am. If she asks me to stay home with Joan and Peter to-morrow, while she and Ed go off to the country club, I'm going to say, 'No!' I'm going to say, 'Listen to me, Ed and Marcia. I don't intend to spend the rest of my life toddling children to the park and playing second assistant nursemaid. I'm too old—or too young. I've only got ten years to go, according to the Bible, and I want to have my fun. I've sown. I want to reap. My teeth are pretty good, and so is my stomach. They're better than yours will be at my age, for all your smart new dentists. So are my heart and my arteries and my liver and my nerves. Well. I don't want luxury. What I want is leisure. I want to do the things I've wanted to do for forty years, and couldn't. I want, if I feel like it, to start to learn French and read Jane Austen and stay in bed till noon. I never could stay in bed till noon, and I know I can't learn now, but I'm going to do it once, if it kills me. I'm too old to bring up a second crop of children, I want to play. It's terrible to realize that you don't learn how to live until you're ready to die; and, then it's too late. I know I sound like a selfish old woman, and I am, and I don't care. I don't care. I want to be selfish. So will you, too, when you're sixty, Martha Slocum. You think you're young. But all of a sudden you'll be sixty, like me. All of a sudden you'll realize——"
"Mother, you're not eating a thing." Ed's kindly voice.
Marcia, flushed of face, pushed her hair back from her forehead with a little frenzied familiar gesture. "Eat! Who could eat with Joan making that insane racket in there! Ed, will you tell her to stop! Can't you speak to her just once! After all, she is your child, too, you know.... Peter, eat your lettuce or you can't have any dessert."
How tired she looked, Hannah Winter thought. Little Martha. Two babies, and she only a baby herself yesterday. How tired she looked.
"I wanna go!" wailed Joan, from her bedroom prison. "I wanna go to-morrow. You promised me. You said I could. I wanna GO!"
"And I say you can't. Mother has to give up her holiday, too, because of you. And yet you don't hear me——"
"You!" shouted the naughty Joan, great-granddaughter of her great-grandmother, and granddaughter of her grandmamma. "You don't care. Giving up's easy for you. You're an old lady."
And then Hannah Winter spoke up. "I'll stay with her to-morrow, Marcia. You and Ed go and have a good time."
IF I SHOULD EVER TRAVEL!
The fabric of my faithful love No power shall dim or ravel Whilst I stay here,—but oh, my dear, If I should ever travel! —Millay.
If you've spent more than one day in Okoochee, Oklahoma, you've had dinner at Pardee's. Someone—a business acquaintance, a friend, a townsman—has said, "Oh, you stopping at the Okmulgee Hotel? WON—derful, isn't it? Nothing finer here to the Coast. I bet you thought you were coming to the wilderness, didn't you? You Easterners! Think we live in tents and eat jerked venison and maize, huh? Never expected, I bet, to see a twelve-story hotel with separate ice-water faucet in every bathroom and a bath to every room. What'd you think of the Peacock grill, h'm?"
"Well—uh"—hesitatingly—"very nice, but why don't you have something native ... Decorations and ... Peacock grill is New York, not Okla——"
"Z'that so! Well, let me tell you you won't find any better food or service in any restaurant, New York or I don't care where. But say, hotel meals are hotel meals. You get tired of 'em. Ever eat at Pardee's, up the street? Say, there's food! If you're going to be here in town any time why'n't you call up there some evening before six—you have to leave 'em know—and get one of Pardee's dinners? Thursday's chicken. And when I say chicken I mean——Well, just try it, that's all.... And for God's sake don't make a mistake and tip Maxine."
Pardee's you find to be a plain box-like two-story frame house in a quiet and commonplace residential district. Plainly—almost scantily—furnished as to living room and dining room. The dining room comfortably seats just twenty, but the Pardees "take" eighteen diners—no more. This because Mrs. Pardee has eighteen of everything in silver. And that means eighteen of everything from grapefruit spoons to cheese knives; and finger bowls before and after until you feel like an early Roman. As for Maxine—the friendly warning is superfluous. You would as soon have thought of slipping Hebe a quarter on Olympus—a rather severe-featured Hebe in a white silk blouse ordered through Vogue.
All this should have been told in the past tense, because Pardee's is no more. But Okoochee, Oklahoma, is full of paradoxes like Pardee's. Before you understand Maxine Pardee and her mother in the kitchen (dishing up) you have to know Okoochee. And before you know Okoochee you have to know Sam Pardee, missing.
There are all sorts of stories about Okoochee, Oklahoma—and almost every one of them is true. Especially are the fantastic ones true—the incredible ones. The truer they are the more do they make such Arabian knights as Aladdin and Ali Baba appear dull and worthy gentlemen in the retail lamp and oil business, respectively. Ali Baba's exploit in oil, indeed, would have appeared too trivial for recounting if compared with that of any one of a dozen Okoochee oil wizards.
Take the tale of the Barstows alone, though it hasn't the slightest bearing on this story. Thirteen years ago the Barstows had a parched little farm on the outskirts of what is now the near-metropolis of Okoochee, but what was then a straggling village in the Indian Territory. Ma Barstow was a woman of thirty-five who looked sixty; withered by child-bearing; scorched by the sun; beaten by the wind; gnarled with toil; gritty with dust. Ploughing the barren little farm one day Clem Barstow had noticed a strange oily scum. It seeped up through the soil and lay there, heavily. Oil! Weeks of suspense, weeks of disappointment, weeks of hope. Through it all Ma Barstow had washed, scrubbed, cooked as usual, and had looked after the welfare of the Barstow litter. Seventeen years of drudgery dull the imagination. When they struck the great gusher—it's still known as Barstow's Old Faithful—they came running to her with the news. She had been washing a great tubful of harsh greasy clothes—overalls, shirts, drawers. As the men came, shouting, she appeared in the doorway of the crazy wooden lean-to, wiping her hands on her apron.
"Oil!" they shouted, idiotically. "Millions! Biggest gusher yet! It'll mean millions! You're a millionaire!" Then, as she looked at them, dazedly, "What're you going to do, Mis' Barstow, huh? What're you going to do with it?"
Ma Barstow had brought one hand up to push back a straggling wisp of damp hair. Then she looked at that hand as she brought it down—looked at it and it's mate, parboiled, shrunken, big-knuckled from toil. She wiped them both on her apron again, bringing the palms down hard along her flat thighs. "Do?" The miracles that millions might accomplish burst full force on her work-numbed brain. "Do? First off I'm a-going to have the washing done out."
Last week Mrs. Clement Barstow was runner-up in the women's amateur golf tournament played on the Okoochee eighteen-hole course. She wore tweed knickers. The Barstow place on the Edgecombe Road is so honeycombed with sleeping porches, sun dials, swimming pools, bird baths, terraces, sunken gardens, and Italian marble benches that the second assistant Japanese gardener has to show you the way to the tennis courts.
It was inevitable that Sam Pardee should hear of Okoochee; and, hearing of it, drift there. Sam Pardee was drawn to a new town, a boom town, as unerringly as a small boy scents a street fight. Born seventy-five years earlier he would certainly have been one of those intrepid Forty-niners; a fearless canvas-covered fleet crawling painfully across a continent, conquering desert and plain and mountain; starving, thirsting, fighting Indians, eating each other if necessity demanded, with equal dexterity and dispatch. Perhaps a trip like this would have satisfied his wanderlust. Probably not. He was like a child in a berry patch. The fruit just beyond was always the ripest and reddest. The Klondike didn't do it. He was one of the first up the Yukon in that mad rush. He returned minus all the money and equipment with which he had started, including the great toe of his right foot—tribute levied by the frozen North. From boom town to boom town he went. The first stampede always found him there, deep in blue-prints, engineering sheets, prospectuses. But no sooner did the town install a water-works and the First National Bank house itself in a Portland-cement Greek temple with Roman pillars and a mosaic floor than he grew restless and was on the move.
A swashbuckler, Sam Pardee, in tan shoes and a brown derby. An 1890 Villon handicapped by a home-loving wife; an incurable romantic married to a woman who judged as shiftless any housewife possessed of less than two dozen bath towels, twelve tablecloths, eighteen wash cloths, and at least three dozen dish towels, hand-hemmed. Milly Pardee's idea of adventure was testing the recipes illustrated in the How To Use The Cheaper Cuts page in the back of the woman's magazines.
Perversely enough, they had been drawn together by the very attraction of dissimilarity. He had found her feminine home-loving qualities most appealing. His manner of wearing an invisible cloak, sword and buckler, though actually garbed in ready-mades, thrilled her. She had come of a good family; he of, seemingly, no family at all. When the two married, Milly's people went through that ablutionary process known as washing their hands of her. Thus ideally mismated they tried to make the best of it—and failed. At least, Sam Pardee failed. Milly Pardee said, "Goodness knows I tried to be a good wife to him." The plaint of all unappreciated wives since Griselda.
Theirs was a feast-and-famine existence. Sometimes Sam Pardee made sudden thousands. Mrs. Pardee would buy silver, linen, and other household furnishings ranging all the way from a grand piano to a patent washing machine. The piano and the washing machine usually were whisked away within a few weeks or months, at the longest. But she cannily had the linen and silver stamped—stamped unmistakably and irrevocably with a large, flourishing capital P, embellished with floral wreaths. Eventually some of the silver went the way of the piano and washing machine. But Milly Pardee clung stubbornly to a dozen and a half of everything. She seemed to feel that if once she had less than eighteen fish forks the last of the solid ground of family respectability would sink under her feet. For years she carried that silver about wrapped in trunks full of the precious linen, and in old underwear and cotton flannel kimonos and Sam's silk socks and Maxine's discarded baby-clothes. She clung to it desperately, as other women cling to jewels, knowing that when this is gone no more will follow.
When the child was born Milly Pardee wanted to name her Myrtle but her husband had said, suddenly, "No, call her Maxine."
"After whom?" In Mrs. Pardee's code you named a child "after" someone.
He had seen Maxine Elliott in the heyday of her cold, clear, brainless beauty, with her great, slightly protuberant eyes set so far apart, her exquisitely chiselled white nose, and her black black hair. She had thrilled him.
"After my Uncle Max that lives in—uh—Australia."
"I've never heard you talk of any Uncle Max," said Mrs. Pardee, coldly.
But the name had won. How could they know that Maxine would grow up to be a rather bony young woman who preferred these high-collared white silk blouses; and said "eyether."
Maxine had been about twelve when Okoochee beckoned Sam Pardee. They were living in Chicago at the time; had been there for almost three years—that is, Mrs. Pardee and Maxine had been there. Sam was in and out on some mysterious business of his own. His affairs were always spoken of as "deals" or "propositions." And they always, seemingly, required his presence in a city other than that in which they were living—if living can be said to describe the exceedingly impermanent perch to which they clung. They had a four-room flat. Maxine was attending a good school. Mrs. Pardee was using the linen and silver daily. There was a linen closet down the hall, just off the dining room. You could open the door and feast your eyes on orderly piles of neatly laundered towels, sheets, tablecloths, napkins, tea towels. Mrs. Pardee marketed and cooked, contentedly. She was more than a merely good cook; she was an alchemist in food stuffs. Given such raw ingredients as butter, sugar, flour, eggs, she could evolve a structure of pure gold that melted on the tongue. She could take an ocherous old hen, dredge its parts in flour, brown it in fat sizzling with onion at the bottom of an iron kettle, add water, a splash of tomato and a pinch of seasoning, and bear triumphantly to the table a platter heaped with tender fricassee over which a smooth, saddle-brown gravy simmered fragrantly. She ate little herself, as do most expert cooks, and found her reward when Sam or Maxine uttered a choked and appreciative "Mmm!"
In the midst of creature comforts such as these Sam Pardee said, one evening, "Oil."
Mrs. Pardee passed it, but not without remonstrance. "It's the same identical French dressing you had last night, Sam. I mixed enough for twice. And you didn't add any oil last night."
Sam Pardee came out of his abstraction long enough to emit a roar of laughter and an unsatisfactory explanation. "I was thinking of oil in wells, not in cruets. Millions of barrels of oil, not a spoonful. Crude, not olive."
She saw her child, her peace, her linen closet threatened. "Sam Pardee, you don't mean——"
"Oklahoma. That's what I meant by oil. It's oozing with it."
Real terror leaped into Milly Pardee's eyes. "Not Oklahoma. Sam, I couldn't stand——" Suddenly she stiffened with resolve. Maxine's report card had boasted three stars that week. Oklahoma! Why, there probably were no schools at all in Oklahoma. "I won't bring my child up in Oklahoma. Indians, that's what! Scalped in our beds."
Above Sam Pardee's roar sounded Maxine's excited treble. "Oo, Oklahoma! I'd love it."
Her mother turned on her, almost fiercely. "You wouldn't."
The child had thrown out her arms in a wide gesture. "It sounds so far away and different. I like different places. I like any place that isn't here."
Milly Pardee had stared at her. It was the father talking in the child. Any place that isn't here. Different.
Out of years of bitter experience she tried to convince the child of her error; tried, as she had striven for years to convince Sam Pardee.
"Places are just the same," she said, bitterly, "and so are people, when you get to 'em."
"They can't be," the child argued, stubbornly. "India and China and Spain and Africa."
Milly Pardee had turned accusing eyes on her amused husband. "I hope you're satisfied."
He shrugged. "Well, the kid's right. That's living."
She disputed this, fiercely. "It is not. Living's staying in a place, and helping it grow, and growing up with it and belonging. Belong!" It was the cry of the rolling stone that is bruised and weary.
Sam Pardee left for Oklahoma the following week. Milly Pardee refused to accompany him. It was the first time she had taken this stand. "If you go there, and like it, and want to settle down there, I'll come. I know the Bible says, 'Whither thou goest, I will go,' but I guess even What'shername would have given up at Oklahoma."
For three years, then, Sam Pardee's letters reeked of oil: wells, strikes, gushers, drills, shares, outfits. It was early Oklahoma in the rough. This one was getting five hundred a day out of his well. That one had sunk forty thousand in his and lost out.
"Five hundred what?" Maxine asked. "Forty thousand what?"
"Dollars, I guess," Milly Pardee answered. "That's the way your father always talks. I'd rather have twenty-five a week, myself, and know it's coming without fail."
"I wouldn't. Where's the fun in that?"
"Fun! There's more fun in twenty-five a week in a pay envelope than in forty thousand down a dry well."
Maxine was fifteen now. "I wish we could live with Father in Oklahoma. I think it's wrong not to."
Milly Pardee was beginning to think so, too. Especially since her husband's letters had grown rarer as the checks they contained had grown larger. On his occasional trips back to Chicago he said nothing of their joining him out there. He seemed to have grown accustomed to living alone. Liked the freedom, the lack of responsibility. In sudden fright and resolve Milly Pardee sold the furnishings of the four-room flat, packed the peripatetic linen and silver, and joined a surprised and rather markedly unenthusiastic husband in Okoochee, Oklahoma. A wife and a fifteen-year-old daughter take a good deal of explaining on the part of one who has posed for three years as a bachelor.
The first thing Maxine said as they rode (in a taxi) to the hotel, was: "But the streets are paved!" Then, "But it's all electric lighted with cluster lights!" And, in final and utter disgust, "Why, there's a movie sign that says, 'The Perils of Pauline.' That was showing at the Elite on Forty-third Street in Chicago just the night before we left."
Milly Pardee smiled grimly. "Palestine's paved, too," she observed. "And they're probably running that same reel there next week."
Milly Pardee and her husband had a plain talk. Next day Sam Pardee rented the two-story frame house in which, for years, the famous Pardee dinners were to be served. But that came later. The house was rented with the understanding that the rent was to be considered as payment made toward final purchase. The three lived there in comfort. Maxine went to the new pressed-brick, many-windowed high school. Milly Pardee was happier than she had been in all her wedded life. Sam Pardee had made no fortune in oil, though he talked in terms of millions. In a burst of temporary prosperity, due to a boom in some oil-stocks Sam Pardee had purchased early in the game, they had paid five thousand dollars down on the house and lot. That left a bare thousand to pay. There were three good meals a day. Milly Pardee belonged to the Okoochee Woman's Thursday Club. All the women in Okoochee seemed to have come from St. Louis, Columbus, Omaha, Cleveland, Kansas City, and they spoke of these as Back East. When they came calling they left cards, punctiliously. They played bridge, observing all the newest rulings, and speaking with great elaborateness of manner.
"Yours, I believe, Mrs. Tutwiler."
"Pardon, but didn't you notice I played the ace?"
Maxine graduated in white, with a sash. Mrs. Pardee was on the committee to beautify the grounds around the M. K. & T. railroad station. When relatives from Back East (meaning Nebraska, Kansas, or Missouri) visited an Okoocheeite cards were sent out for an "At Home," and everything was as formal as a court levee in Victoria's time. Mrs. Pardee began to talk of buying an automobile. The town was full of them. There were the flivvers and lower middle-class cars owned by small merchants, natives (any one boasting twelve year's residence) and unsuccessful adventurers of the Sam Pardee type. Then there were the big, high-powered scouting cars driven by steely-eyed, wiry, cold-blooded young men from Pennsylvania and New York. These young men had no women-folk with them. Held conferences in smoke-filled rooms at the Okmulgee Hotel. The main business street was called Broadway, and the curb on either side was hidden by lines of cars drawn up slantwise at an angle of ninety. No farmer wagons. A small town with all the airs of a big one; with none of the charming informality of the old Southern small town; none of the engaging ruggedness of the established Middle-Western town; none of the faded gentility of the old New England town. A strident dame, this, in red satin and diamonds, insisting that she is a lady. Interesting, withal, and bulging with personality and possibility.
Milly Pardee loved it. She belonged. She was chairman of this committee and secretary of that. Okoochee was always having parades, with floats, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Okoochee and distinguished by schoolgirls grouped on bunting-covered motor trucks, their hair loose and lately relieved from crimpers, three or four inches of sensible shirt-sleeve showing below the flowing lines of their cheesecloth Grecian robes. Maxine was often one of these. Yes, Milly Pardee was happy.
Sam Pardee was not. He began, suddenly, to talk of Mexico. Frankly, he was bored. For the first time in his life he owned a house—or nearly. There was eleven hundred dollars in the bank. Roast on Sunday. Bathroom shelf to be nailed Sunday morning. Y.M.C.A., Rotary Club, Knights of Columbus, Kiwanis, Boy Scouts.
"Hell," said Sam Pardee, "this town's no good."
Milly Pardee took a last stand. "Sam Pardee, I'll never leave here. I'm through traipsing up and down the world with you, like a gypsy. I want a home. I want to be settled. I want to stay here. And I'm going to."
"You're sure you want to stay?"
"I've moved for the last time. I—I'm going to plant a Burbank clamberer at the side of the porch, and they don't begin to flower till after the first ten years. That's how sure I am."
There came a look into Sam Pardee's eyes. He rubbed his neat brown derby round and round with his coat sleeve. He was just going out.
"Well, that's all right. I just wanted to know. Where's Max?"
"She stayed late. They're rehearsing for the Pageant of Progress down at the Library."
Sam Pardee looked thoughtful—a little regretful, one might almost have said. Then he clapped on the brown derby, paused on the top step of the porch to light his cigar, returned the greeting of young Arnold Hatch who was sprinkling the lawn next door, walked down the street with the quick, nervous step that characterized him, boarded the outgoing train for God knows where, and was never heard from again.
"Well," said the worse-than-widowed (it was her own term), "we've got the home."
She set about keeping it. We know that she had a gift for cooking that amounted almost to culinary inspiration. Pardee's dinners became an institution in Okoochee. Mrs. Pardee cooked. Maxine served. And not even the great new stucco palaces on the Edgecombe Road boasted finer silver, more exquisite napery. As for the food—old Clem Barstow himself, who had a chef and a butler and sent east for lobster and squabs weekly, came to Pardee's when he wanted a real meal. From the first they charged one dollar and fifty cents for their dinners. Okoochee, made mellow by the steaming soup, the savoury meats, the bland sauces and rich dessert, paid it ungrudgingly. They served only eighteen—no more, though Okoochee could never understand why. On each dinner Mrs. Pardee made a minimum of seventy-five cents. Eighteen times seventy-five ... naught and carry the four ... naught ... five ... thirteen-fifty ... seven times ... well, ninety-five dollars or thereabouts each week isn't so bad. Out of this Mrs. Pardee managed to bank a neat sum. She figured that at the end of ten or fifteen years....
"I hate them," said Maxine, washing dishes in the kitchen. "Greedy pigs."
"They're nothing of the kind. They like good food, and I'm thankful they do. If they didn't I don't know where I'd be."
"We might be anywhere—so long as it could be away from here. Dull, stupid, stick-in-the-muds, all of them."
"Why, they're no such thing, Maxine Pardee! They're from all over the world, pretty nearly. Why, just last Thursday they were counting there were sixteen different states represented in the eighteen people that sat down to dinner."
"Pooh! States! That isn't the world."
"What is, then?"
Maxine threw out her arms, sprinkling dish-water from her dripping finger tips with the wide-flung gesture. "Cairo! Zanzibar! Brazil! Trinidad! Seville—uh—Samar—Samarkand."
"I don't know. And I'm going to see it all some day. And the different people. The people that travel, and know about what kind of wine with the roast and the fish. You know—the kind in the novels that say, 'You've chilled this sauterne too much, Bemish."
"And when you do see all these places," retorted Mrs. Pardee, with the bitterness born of long years of experience, "you'll find that in every one of them somebody's got a boarding house called Pardee's, or something like that, where the people flock same's they do here, for a good meal."
"Yes, but what kind of people?"
"Same kind that comes here." Sam Pardee had once taken his wife to see a performance of The Man From Home when that comedy was at the height of its popularity. A line from this play flashed into Mrs. Pardee's mind now, and she paraphrased it deftly. "There are just as many kinds of people in Okoochee as there are in Zanzibar."
"I don't believe it."
"Well, it's so. And I'm thankful we've got the comforts of home."
At this Maxine laughed a sharp little laugh that was almost a bark. Perhaps she was justified.
The eighteen straggled in between six and six-thirty, nightly. A mixture of townspeople and strangers. While Maxine poured the water in the dining room the neat little parlour became a mess. The men threw hats and overcoats on the backs of the chairs. Their rubbers slopped under them. They rarely troubled to take them off. While waiting avidly for dinner to be served they struck matches and lighted cigarettes and cigars. Sometimes they called in to Maxine, "Say, girlie, when'll supper be ready? I'm 'bout gone."
The women trotted upstairs, chattering, and primped and fussed in Maxine's neat and austere little bedroom. They used Maxine's powder and dropped it about on the tidy dresser and the floor. They brushed away only what had settled on the front of their dresses. They forgot to switch off the electric light, leaving Maxine to do it, thriftily, between serving courses. Every penny counted. Every penny meant release.
After dinner Maxine and her mother sat down to eat off the edge of the kitchen table. It was often nine o'clock before the last straggling diner, sprawling on the parlour davenport with his evening paper and cigar, departed, leaving Maxine to pick up the scattered newspapers, cigarette butts, ashes; straighten chairs, lock doors.
Then the dishes. The dishes!
When Arnold Hatch asked her to go to a movie she shook her head, usually. "I'm too tired. I'm going to read, in bed."
"Read, read! That's all you do. What're you reading?"
"Oh, about Italy. La bel Napoli!" She collected travel folders and often talked in their terms. In her mind she always said "brooding Vesuvius"; "blue Mediterranean"; "azure coasts"; "Egypt's golden sands."
Arnold Hatch ate dinner nightly at Pardee's. He lived in the house next door, which he owned, renting it to an Okoochee family and retaining the upstairs front bedroom for himself. A tall, thin, eye-glassed young man who worked in the offices of the Okoochee Oil and Refining Company, believed in Okoochee, and wanted to marry Maxine. He had twice kissed her. On both these occasions his eyeglasses had fallen off, taking the passion, so to speak, out of the process. When Maxine giggled, uncontrollably, he said, "Go on—laugh! But some day I'm going to kiss you and I'll take my glasses off first. Then look out!"
You have to have a good deal of humour to stand being laughed at by a girl you've kissed; especially a girl who emphasizes her aloofness by wearing those high-collared white silk blouses.
"You haven't got a goitre, have you?" said Arnold Hatch, one evening, brutally. Then, as she had flared in protest, "I know it. I love that little creamy satin hollow at the base of your throat."
"You've never s——" The scarlet flamed up. She was human.
"I know it. But I love it just the same." Pretty good for a tall thin young man who worked in the offices of the Okoochee Oil and Refining Company.
Sometimes he said, "I'm darned certain you like me"—bravely—"love me. Why won't you marry me? Cut out all this slaving. I could support you. Not in much luxury, maybe, but——"
"And settle down in Okoochee! Never see anything! Stuck in this God-forsaken hole! This drab, dull, oil-soaked village! When there are wonderful people, wonderful places, colour, romance, beauty! Damascus! Mandalay! Singapore! Hongkong!... Hongkong! It sounds like a temple bell. It thrills me."
"Over in Hongkong," said Arnold Hatch, "I expect some Chinese Maxine Pardee would say, Okoochee! It sounds like an Indian war drum. It thrills me.'"
Sometimes Maxine showed signs of melting. But she always congealed again under the influence of her resolve. One evening an out-of-town diner, on hearing her name, said, "Pardee! Hm. Probably a corruption of Pardieu. A French name originally, I suppose."
After that there was no approaching her for a week. Maxine Pardieu. Pardieu. "By God!" it meant. A chevalier he must have been, this Pardieu. A musketeer! A swashbuckler, with lace falling over his slim white hand, and his hand always ready on his sword. Red heels. Plumed hat. Pardieu!
How she hated anew the great oil tanks that rose on the town's outskirts, guarding it like giant sentinels. The new houses. The new country club. Twenty-one miles of asphalt road. Population in 1900, only 467. In 1920 over 35,000. Slogan, Watch Us Grow. Seventeen hundred oil and gas wells. Fields of corn and cotton. Skyscrapers. The Watonga Building, twelve stories. Haynes Block, fourteen stories. Come West, young man! Ugh!
Sometimes she made little rhymes in her mind.
There's Singapore and Zanzibar, And Cairo and Calais. There's Samarkand and Alcazar, Rangoon and Mandalay.
"Yeh," said Arnold Hatch, one evening, when they were talking in the Pardee back yard. It was nine o'clock. Dishes done. A moon. October. Maxine had just murmured her little quatrain. They were standing by the hedge of pampas grass that separated the Pardee yard from Hatch's next door.
"Yeh," said Arnold Hatch. "Likewise:
"There's Seminole and Shawnee, Apache, Agawam. There's Agua and Pawnee, Walonga, Waukeetom."
He knew his Oklahoma.
"Oh!" exclaimed Maxine, in a little burst of fury; and stamped her foot down hard. Squ-ush! said something underfoot. "Oh!" said Maxine again; in surprise this time. October was a dry month. She peered down. Her shoe was wet. A slimy something clung to it. A scummy something shone reflected in the moonlight. She had not lived ten years in Oklahoma for nothing. Arnold Hatch bent down. Maxine bent down. The greasy wet patch lay just between the two back yards. They touched it, fearfully, with their forefingers. Then they straightened and looked at each other. Oil. Oil!
Things happened like that in Oklahoma.
You didn't try to swing a thing like that yourself. You leased your land for a number of years. A well cost between forty and sixty thousand dollars. You leased to a company represented by one or two of those cold-blooded steely-eyed young men from Pennsylvania or New York. There was a good deal of trouble about it, too. This was a residence district—one of the oldest in this new town. But they bought the Pardee place and the Hatch place. And Arnold Hatch, who had learned a thing or two in the offices of the Okoochee Oil and Refining Company, drove a hard bargain for both. The yard was overrun with drillers, lawyers, engineers, superintendents, foremen, machinery.
Arnold came with papers to sign. "Five hundred a day," he said, "and a percentage." He named the percentage. Maxine and her mother repeated this after him, numbly.
Mrs. Pardee had been the book-keeper in the Pardee menage. She tried some mathematical gymnastics now and bumped her arithmetical nose.
"Five hundred a day. Including Sundays, Arnold?"
Her lips began to move. "Seven times five ... thirty-five hundred a ... fifty-two times thirty——"
She stopped, overcome. But she began again, wildly, as a thought came to her. "Why, I could build a house. A house, up on Edgecombe. A house like the Barstows' with lawns, and gardens, and sleeping porches, and linen closets!... Oh, Maxine! We'll live there——"
"Not I," said Maxine, crisply. Arnold, watching her, knew what she was going to say before she said it. "I'm going to see the world. I want to penetrate a civilization so old that its history wanders down the centuries and is lost in the dim mists of mythology." [See Baedeker.]
Sudden wealth had given Arnold a new masterfulness. "Marry me before you go."
"Not at all," replied Maxine. "On the boat going over——"
"Honolulu, on my way to Japan, I'll meet a tall bearded stranger, sunburned, with the flame of the Orient in his eyes, and on his thin, cruel, sensual mouth——"
Arnold Hatch took off his glasses. Maxine stiffened. "Don't you d——" But she was too late.
"There," said Arnold, "he'll have to have some beard, and some flame, and some thin, cruel, sensual mouth to make you forget that one."
Maxine started, alone, against her mother's remonstrances. After she'd picked out her boat she changed to another because she learned, at the last minute, that the first boat was an oil-burner. Being an inexperienced traveller she took a good many trunks and was pretty unpopular with the steward before he could make her understand that one trunk to the stateroom was the rule. On the first two days out on the way to the Hawaiian Islands she spent all her time (which was twenty-four hours a day in her bed) hoping that Balboa was undergoing fitting torment in punishment for his little joke about discovering the so-called Pacific Ocean. But the swell subsided, and the wind went down, and Maxine appeared on deck and in another twelve hours had met everyone from the purser to the honeymoon couple, in the surprising way one does on these voyages. She looked for the tall bearded stranger with the sunburn of the Orient and the thin, cruel, sensual lips. But he didn't seem to be about. Strangely enough, everyone she talked to seemed to be from Nebraska, or Kansas, or Iowa, or Missouri. Not only that, they all were very glib with names and places that had always seemed mythical and glamorous.
"Oh, yes, Mr. Tannenbaum and I went to India last year, and Persia and around. Real interesting. My, but they're dirty, those towns. We used to kick about Des Moines, now that they use so much soft coal, and all the manufacturing and all. But my land, it's paradise compared to those places. And the food! Only decent meals we had in Egypt was a place in Cairo called Pardee's, run by a woman whose husband's left her or died, or something. Real home-loving woman she was. Such cooking.... Why, that's so! Your name's Pardee, too, isn't it! Well, I always say to Mr. Tannenbaum, it's a small world, after all. No relation, of course?"
"Of course not." How suddenly safe Oklahoma seemed. And Arnold Hatch.
"Where you going from Honolulu, Miss Pardee?"
"Oh, yeh. Samar—le' see now, where is that, exactly? I used to know, but I'm such a hand for forgetting——"
"I don't know," said Maxine, distinctly.
"Don't—but I thought you said you were going——"
"I am. But I don't know where it is."
"You just go to an office, where there are folders and a man behind the desk, and you say you want to go to Samarkand. He shows you. You get on a boat. That's all."
The people from Iowa, and Kansas, and Nebraska and Missouri said, Oh, yes, and there was nothing like travel. So broadening. Maxine asked them if they knew about the Vale of Kashmir and one of them, astoundingly enough, did. A man from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who had spent a year there superintending the erection of a dredge. A plump man, with eyeglasses and perpetually chewing a dead cigar.
Gold and sunlight, myrrh and incense, the tinkling of anklets. Maxine clung to these wildly, in her mind.
But Honolulu, the Moana Hotel on Waikiki Beach, reassured her. It was her dream come true. She knew it would be so when she landed and got her first glimpse of the dark-skinned natives on the docks, their hats and necks laden with leis of flowers. There were palm trees. There were flaming hibiscus hedges. Her bed was canopied with white netting, like that of a princess (the attendant explained it was to keep out the mosquitoes).
You ate strange fruits (they grew a little sickening, after a day or two). You saw Duke, the Hawaiian world champion swimmer, come in on a surf-board, standing straight and slim and naked like a god of bronze, balancing miraculously on a plank carried in on the crest of a wave with the velocity of a steam engine. You saw Japanese women in tight kimonos and funny little stilted flapping footgear running to catch a street car; and you laughed at the incongruity of it. You made the three-day trip to the living volcano at Hilo and sat at the crater's brink watching the molten lava lake tossing, hissing, writhing. You hung there, between horror and fascination.
"Certainly a pretty sight, isn't it?" said her fellow travellers. "Makes the Grand Canyon look sick, I think, don't you?"
"I've never seen it."
On her return from Hilo she saw him. A Vandyke beard; smouldering eyes; thin red lips; lean nervous hands; white flannel evening clothes; sunburned a rich brown. Maxine drew a long breath as if she had been running. It was after dinner. The broad veranda was filled with gayly gowned women; uniformed officers from the fort; tourists in white. They were drinking their after-dinner coffee, smoking, laughing. The Hawaiian orchestra made ready to play for the dancing on the veranda. They began to play. Their ukeleles throbbed and moaned. The musicians sang in their rich, melodious voices some native song of a lost empire and a dead king. It tore at your heart. You ached with the savage beauty of it. It was then she saw him. He was seated alone, smoking, drinking, watching the crowd with amused, uneager glance. She had seen him before. It was a certainty, this feeling. She had known him—seen him—before. Perhaps not in this life. Perhaps only in her dreams. But they had met.
She stared at him until her eye caught his. It was brazen, but she was shameless. Nothing mattered. This was no time for false modesty. Her eyes held his. Then, slowly, she rose, picked up her trailing scarf, and walked deliberately past him, glancing down at him as she passed. He half rose, half spoke. She went down the steps leading from the veranda to the court-yard, down this walk to the pier, down the pier to the very end, where the little roofed shelter lay out in the ocean, bathed in moonlight, fairylike, unreal. The ocean was a thing of molten silver. The sound of the wailing voices in song came to her on the breeze, agonizing in its beauty. There, beyond, lay Pearl Harbour. From the other side, faintly, you heard the music and laughter from the Yacht Club.
Maxine seated herself. The after-dinner couples had not yet strolled out. They were waiting for the dancing up there on the hotel veranda. She waited. She waited. She saw the glow of his cigar as he came down the pier, a tall, slim white figure in the moonlight. It was just like a novel. It was a novel, come to life. He stood a moment at the pier's edge, smoking. Then he tossed his cigar into the water and it fell with a little s-st! He stood another moment, irresolutely. Then he came over to her.
In Okoochee you would have said, "Sir!" But not here. Not now. Not Maxine Pardieu. "Yes, isn't it!"
The mellow moon fell full on him—bronzed, bearded, strangely familiar.
At his next question she felt a little faint. "Haven't we—met before?"
She toyed with the end of her scarf. "You feel that, too?"
He nodded. He took a cigarette from a flat platinum case. "Mind if I smoke? Perhaps you'll join me?" Maxine took a cigarette, uncertainly. Lighted it from the match he held. Put it to her lips. Coughed, gasped. "Maybe you're not used to those. I smoke a cheap cigarette because I like 'em. Dromedaries, those are. Eighteen cents a package."
Maxine held the cigarette in her unaccustomed fingers. Her eyes were on his face. "You said you thought—you felt—we'd met before?"
"I may be mistaken, but I never forget a face. Where are you from, may I ask?"
Maxine hesitated a moment. "Oklahoma."
He slapped his leg a resounding thwack. "I knew it! I'm hardly ever mistaken. Name's—wait a minute—Pardee, isn't it?"
"Yes. But how——"
"One of the best meals I ever had in my life, Miss Pardee. Two years ago, it was. I was lecturing on Thibet and the Far East."
"Lecturing?" Her part of the conversation was beginning to sound a good deal like the dialogue in a badly written play.
"Yes, I'm Brainerd, you know. I thought you knew, when you spoke up there on the veranda."
"Brainerd?" It was almost idiotic.
"Brainerd. Paul Brainerd, the travelogue man. I remember I gave you and your mother complimentary tickets to the lecture. I've got a great memory. Got to have, in my business. Let's see, that town was——"