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Full text of "Passing"

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Please 

handle this volume 

with care. 

The University of Connecticut 
Libraries, Storrs 



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PZ 



3.L33Pas 
Passing, 



3 T1S3 DOS 



EE37 D 



IN! 
CO 



BY NELLA LARSEN 



QUICKSAND 
1928 



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PA 



ING 



X 



BY 



U- 



f< 



C 



NELLA LA RS EN 




NEW YORK y LONDON 

ALFRED-A-KNOPF 
1929 



COPYRIGHT 1929 
BY ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC 



MANUFACTURED 

IN THE UNITED STATES OF 

AMERICA 



FIRST AND SECOND PRINTINGS 

BEFORE PUBLICATION 

PUBLISHED APRIL, 1929 



FOR 

Carl Van Vechten 

AND 

Fania Marinoff 



(Jne three centuries removed 
From the scenes his fathers loved, 
Spicy grovey cinnamon tree, 
What is Africa to me? 

— Countee Cullen 



CONTENTS 



PART ONE 
ENCOUNTER 



PART TWO 

RE-ENCOUNTER 

85 



PART THREE 

FINALE 
151 



PART ONE 



ENCOUNTER 



ONE 

It was the last letter in Irene Redfield's little 
pile of morning mail. After her other ordinary 
and clearly directed letters the long envelope 
of thin Italian paper with its almost illegible 
scrawl seemed out of place and alien. And there 
was, too, something mysterious and slightly fur- 
tive about it. A thin sly thing which bore no 
return address to betray the sender. Not that 
she hadn't immediately known who its sender 
was. Some two years ago she had one very like 
it in outward appearance. Furtive, but yet in 
some peculiar, determined way a little flaunt- 
ing. Purple ink. Foreign paper of extraordinary 
size. 

It had been, Irene noted, postmarked in 
New York the day before. Her brows came to- 
gether in a tiny frown. The frown, however, 
was more from perplexity than from annoy- 
ance; though there was in her thoughts an ele- 
ment of both. She was wholly unable to compre- 

3 



PASSING 

hend such an attitude towards danger as she was 
sure the letter's contents would reveal; and she 
disliked the idea of opening and reading it. 

This, she reflected, was of a piece with 
all that she knew of Clare Kendry. Stepping al- 
ways on the edge of danger. Always aware, but 
not drawing back or turning aside. Certainly 
not because of any alarms or feeling of outrage 
on the part of others. 

And for a swift moment Irene Redfield 
seemed to see a pale small girl sitting on a 
ragged blue sofa, sewing pieces of bright red 
cloth together, while her drunken father, a 
tall, powerfully built man, raged threateningly 
up and down the shabby room, bellowing 
curses and making spasmodic lunges at her 
which were not the less frightening because 
they were, for the most part. Ineffectual. Some- 
times he did manage to reach her. But only 
the fact that the child had edged herself and 
her poor sewing over to the farthermost cor- 
ner of the sofa suggested that she was in any 
way perturbed by this menace to herself and 
her work. 



ENCOUNTER 

Clare had known well enough that it 
was unsafe to take a portion of the dollar that 
was her weekly wage for the doing of many 
errands for the dressmaker who lived on the 
top floor of the building of which Bob Kendry 
was janitor. But that knowledge had not de- 
terred her. She wanted to go to her Sunday 
school's picnic, and she had made up her mind 
to wear a new dress. So, In spite of certain un- 
pleasantness and possible danger, she had 
taken the money to buy the material for that 
pathetic little red frock. 

There had been, even In those days, 
nothing sacrificial In Clare Kendry's Idea of 
life, no allegiance beyond her own Immediate 
desire. She was selfish, and cold, and hard. And 
yet she had, too, a strange capacity of trans- 
forming warmth and passion, verging some- 
times almost on theatrical heroics. 

Irene, who was a year or more older 
than Clare, remembered the day that Bob Ken- 
dry had been brought home dead, killed in 
a silly saloon-fight. Clare, who was at that 
time a scant fifteen years old, had just stood 

5 



PASSING 

there with her lips pressed together, her thin 
arms folded across her narrow chest, staring 
down at the familiar pasty-white face of her 
parent with a sort of disdain in her slanting 
black eyes. For a very long time she had stood 
like that, silent and staring. Then, quite sud- 
denly, she had given way to a torrent of weep- 
ing, swaying her thin body, tearing at her 
bright hair, and stamping her small feet. The 
outburst had ceased as suddenly as it had be- 
gun. She glanced quickly about the bare room, 
taking everyone in, even the two policemen, in 
a sharp look of flashing scorn. And, in the next 
instant, she had turned and vanished through 
the door. 

Seen across the long stretch of years, 
the thing had more the appearance of an out- 
pouring of pent-up fury than of an overflow of 
grief for her dead father; though she had been, 
Irene admitted, fond enough of him In her own 
rather catlike way. 

Catlike. Certainly that was the word 
which best described Clare Kendry, if any sin- 
gle word could describe her. pometlmes she 

6 



ENCOUNTER 

was hard and apparently without feeling at all; 
sometimes she was affectionate and rashly Im- 
pulsive. And there was about her an amazing 
soft malice, hidden well away until provoked. 
Then she was capable of scratching, and very 
effectively too. Or, driven to anger, she would 
fight with a ferocity and impetuousness that 
disregarded or forgot any danger; superior 
strength, numbers, or other unfavourable cir- 
cumstances. How savagely she had clawed 
those boys the day they had hooted her parent 
and sung a derisive rhyme, of their own com- 
posing, which pointed out certain eccentricities 
in his careening gait! And how deliberately 
she had — 

Irene brought her thoughts back to the 
present, to the letter from Clare Kendry that 
she still held unopened in her hand. With a lit- 
tle feeling of apprehension, she very slowly cut 
the envelope, drew out the folded sheets, spread 
them, and began to read. 

It was, she saw at once, what she had 
expected since learning from the postmark 
that Clare was in the city. An extravagantly 

7 



PASSING 

phrased wish to see her again. Well, she 
needn't and wouldn't, Irene told herself, ac- 
cede to that. Nor would she assist Clare to 
realize her foolish desire to return for a mo- 
ment to that life which long ago, and of her 
own choice, she had left behind her. 

She ran through the letter, puzzling 
out, as best she could, the carelessly formed 
words or making instinctive guesses at them. 

". . . For I am lonely, so lonely . . . 
cannot help longing to be with you again, as I 
have never longed for anything before; and I 
have wanted many things in my life. . . . You 
can't know how in this pale life of mine I am 
all the time seeing the bright pictures of that 
other that I once thought I was glad to be free 
of. . . . It's like an ache, a pain that never 
ceases. . . ." Sheets upon thin sheets of it. 
And ending finally with, "and it's your fault, 
'Rene dear. At least partly. For I wouldn't 
now, perhaps, have this terrible, this wild de- 
sire if I hadn't seen you that time in Chi- 
cago. . . ." 

8 



ENCOUNTER 

Brilliant red patches flamed in Irene 
Redfield's warm olive cheeks. 

"That time in Chicago." The words 
stood out from among the many paragraphs of 
other words, bringing with them a clear, sharp 
remembrance, in which even now, after two 
years, humiliation, resentment, and rage were 
mingled. 



TWO 

This is what Irene Redfield remembered. 

Chicago. August. A brilliant day, hot, 
with a brutal staring sun pouring down rays 
that were like molten rain. A day on which the 
very outlines of the buildings shuddered as if 
In protest at the heat. Quivering lines sprang 
up from baked pavements and wriggled along 
the shining car-tracks. The automobiles parked 
at the kerbs were a dancing blaze, and the 
glass of the shop-windows threw out a blind- 
ing radiance. Sharp particles of dust rose from 
the burning sidewalks, stinging the seared or 
dripping skins of wilting pedestrians. What 
small breeze there was seemed like the breath 
of a flame fanned by slow bellows. 

It was on that day of all others that 
Irene set out to shop for the things which 
she had promised to take home from Chicago 
to her two small sons, Brian junior and Theo- 
dore. Characteristically, she had put it off un- 

lO 



ENCOUNTER 

til only a few crowded days remained of her 
long visit. And only this sweltering one was 
free of engagements till the evening. 

Without too much trouble she had got 
the mechanical aeroplane for Junior. But the 
drawing-book, for which Ted had so gravely 
and insistently given her precise directions, had 
sent her in and out of five shops without suc- 
cess. 

It was while she was on her way to a 
sixth place that right before her smarting eyes 
a man toppled over and became an inert 
crumpled heap on the scorching cement. About 
the lifeless figure a little crowd gathered. Was 
the man dead, or only faint? someone asked 
her. But Irene didn't know and didn't try to 
discover. She edged her way out of the increas- 
ing crowd, feeling disagreeably damp and 
sticky and soiled from contact with so many 
sweating bodies. 

For a moment she stood fanning her- 
self and dabbing at her moist face with an In- 
adequate scrap of handkerchief. Suddenly she 
was aware that the whole street had a wobbly 

II 



PASSING 

look, and realized that she was about to faint. 
With a quick perception of the need for Im- 
mediate safety, she lifted a wavering hand In 
the direction of a cab parked directly In front 
of her. The perspiring driver jumped out and 
guided her to his car. He helped, almost lifted 
her In. She sank down on the hot leather seat. 

For a minute her thoughts were neb- 
ulous. They cleared. 

*^I guess,'* she told her Samaritan, "It's 
tea I need. On a roof somewhere." 

"The Drayton, ma'am?" he suggested. 
"They do say as how it's always a breeze up 
there." 

"Thank you. I think the Drayton'll do 
nicely," she told him. 

There was that little grating sound of 
the clutch being slipped in as the man put 
the car in gear and slid deftly out into the boil- 
ing traffic. Reviving under the warm breeze 
stirred up by the moving cab, Irene made some 
small attempts to repair the damage that the 
heat and crowds had done to her appear- 
ance. 

12 



ENCOUNTER 

All too soon the rattling vehicle shot 
towards the sidewalk and stood still. The 
driver sprang out and opened the door before 
the hotel's decorated attendant could reach It. 
She got out, and thanking him smilingly as well 
as in a more substantial manner for his kind 
helpfulness and understanding, went In through 
the Drayton's wide doors. 

Stepping out of the elevator that had 
brought her to the roof, she was led to a table 
just In front of a long window whose gently 
moving curtains suggested a cool breeze. It 
was, she thought, like being wafted upward on 
a magic carpet to another world, pleasant, 
quiet, and strangely remote from the sizzling 
one that she had left below. 

The tea, when it came, was all that 
she had desired and expected. In fact, so much 
was it what she had desired and expected that 
after the first deep cooling drink she was able 
to forget It, only now and then sipping, a little 
absently, from the tall green glass, while she 
surveyed the room about her or looked out 
over some lower buildings at the bright un- 

13 



PASSING 

Stirred blue of the lake reaching away to an 
undetected horizon. 

She had been gazing down for some 
time at the specks of cars and people creeping 
about in streets, and thinking how silly they 
looked, when on taking up her glass she was 
surprised to find it empty at last. She asked 
for more tea and while she waited, began to re- 
call the happenings of the day and to wonder 
what she was to do about Ted and his book. 
Why was it that almost invariably he wanted 
something that was difficult or impossible to 
get? Like his father. For ever wanting some- 
thing that he couldn't have. 

Presently there were voices, a man's 
booming one and a woman's slightly husky. A 
waiter passed her, followed by a sweetly 
scented woman in a fluttering dress of green 
chifi^on whose mingled pattern of narcissuses, 
jonquils, and hyacinths was a reminder of pleas- 
antly chill spring days. Behind her there was 
a man, very red In the face, who was mopping 
his neck and forehead with a big crumpled 
handkerchief. 

14 



ENCOUNTER 

"Oh dear I" Irene groaned, rasped by 
annoyance, for after a little discussion and com- 
motion they had stopped at the very next table. 
She had been alone there at the window and 
It had been so satisfylngly quiet. Now, of 
course, they would chatter. 

But no. Only the woman sat down. The 
man remained standing, abstractedly pinching 
the knot of his bright blue tie. Across the small 
space that separated the two tables his voice 
carried clearly. 

"See you later, then," he declared, look- 
ing down at the woman. There was pleasure 
in his tones and a smile on his face. 

His companion's lips parted In some 
answer, but her words were blurred by the 
little intervening distance and the medley of 
noises floating up from the streets below. They 
didn't reach Irene. But she noted the peculiar 
caressing smile that accompanied them. 

The man said: "Well, I suppose I'd 
better," and smiled again, and said good-bye, 
and left. 

An attractive-looking woman, was 

15 



PASSING 

Irene's opinion, with those dark, almost black, 
eyes and that wide mouth like a scarlet flower 
against the Ivory of her skin. Nice clothes too, 
just right for the weather, thin and cool with- 
out being mussy, as summer things were so 
apt to be. 

A waiter was taking her order. Irene 
saw her smile up at him as she murmured some- 
thing — thanks, maybe. It was an odd sort of 
smile. Irene couldn't quite define it, but she 
was sure that she would have classed It, com- 
ing from another woman, as being just a shade 
too provocative for a waiter. About this one, 
however, there was something that made her 
hesitate to name It that. A certain impression 
of assurance, perhaps. 

The waiter came back with the order. 
Irene watched her spread out her napkin, saw 
the silver spoon in the white hand slit the dull 
gold of the melon. Then, conscious that she had 
been staring, she looked quickly away. 

Her mind returned to her own affairs. 
She had settled, definitely, the problem of the 
proper one of two frocks for the bridge party 

i6 



ENCOUNTER 

that night, In rooms whose atmosphere would 
be so thick and hot that every breath would be 
like breathing soup. The dress decided, her 
thoughts had gone back to the snag of Ted's 
book, her unseeing eyes far away on the lake, 
when by some sixth sense she was acutely 
aware that someone was watching her. 

Very slowly she looked around, and 
into the dark eyes of the woman In the green 
frock at the next table. But she evidently failed 
to realize that such intense interest as she was 
showing might be embarrassing, and continued 
to stare. Her demeanour was that of one who 
with utmost singleness of mind and purpose 
was determined to impress firmly and accu- 
rately each detail of Irene's features upon her 
memory for all time, nor showed the slightest 
trace of disconcertment at having been detected 
in her steady scrutiny. 

Instead, it was Irene who was put out. 
Feeling her colour heighten under the continued 
Inspection, she slid her eyes down. What, she 
wondered, could be the reason for such per- 
sistent attention? Had she. In her haste In the 

17 



PASSING 

taxi, put her hat on backwards? Guardedly she 
felt at it. No. Perhaps there was a streak of 
powder somewhere on her face. She made a 
quick pass over it with her handkerchief. Some- 
thing wrong with her dress? She shot a glance 
over it. Perfectly all right. What was it? 

Again she looked up, and for a mo- 
ment her brown eyes politely returned the 
stare of the other's black ones, which never 
for an instant fell or wavered. Irene made a 
little mental shrug. Oh well, let her look! She 
tried to treat the woman and her watching 
with indifference, but she couldn't. All her ef- 
forts to ignore her, it, were futile. She stole 
another glance. Still looking. What strange 
languorous eyes she had! 

And gradually there rose in Irene a 
small inner disturbance, odious and hatefully 
familiar. She laughed softly, but her eyes 
flashed. 

Did that woman, could that woman, 
somehow know that here before her very eyes 
on the roof of the Drayton sat a Negro? 

Absurd! Impossible! White people were 
i8 



ENCOUNTER 

SO stupid about such things for all that they 
usually asserted that they were able to tell; and 
by the most ridiculous means, finger-nails, 
palms of hands, shapes of ears, teeth, and 
other equally silly rot. They always took her 
for an Italian, a Spaniard, a Mexican, or a 
gipsy. Never, when she was alone, had they 
even remotely seemed to suspect that she was a 
Negro. No, the woman sitting there staring at 
her couldn't possibly know. 

Nevertheless, Irene felt, in turn, anger, 
scorn, and fear slide over her. It wasn't that 
she was ashamed of being a Negro, or even of 
having it declared. It was the idea of being 
ejected from any place, even in the polite and 
tactful way in which the Drayton would prob- 
ably do it, that disturbed her. 

But she looked, boldly this time, back 
into the eyes still frankly intent upon her. 
They did not seem to her hostile or resentful. 
Rather, Irene had the feeling that they were 
ready to smile if she would. Nonsense, of 
course. The feeling passed, and she turned 
away with the firm intention of keeping her 

19 



PASSING 

gaze on the lake, the roofs of the buildings 
across the way, the sky, anywhere but on that 
annoying woman. Almost immediately, how- 
ever, her eyes were back again. In the midst of 
her fog of uneasiness she had been seized by a 
desire to outstare the rude observer. Suppose 
the woman did know or suspect her race. She 
couldn't prove it. 

Suddenly her small fright Increased. 
Her neighbour had risen and was coming 
towards her. What was going to happen now? 

"Pardon me," the woman said pleas- 
antly, *'but I think I know you." Her slightly 
husky voice held a dubious note. 

Looking up at her, Irene's suspicions 
and fears vanished. There was no mistaking 
the friendliness of that smile or resisting Its 
charm. Instantly she surrendered to it and 
smiled too, as she said: "I'm afraid you're mis- 
taken." 

"Why, of course, I know you !" the 
other exclaimed. "Don't tell me you're not 
Irene Westover. Or do they still call you 
'Rene?" 

20 



ENCOUNTER 

In the brief second before her answer, 
Irene tried vainly to recall where and when 
this woman could have known her. There, in 
Chicago. And before her marriage. That much 
was plain. High school? College? Y. W. C. A. 
committees? High school, most likely. What 
white girls had she known well enough to have 
been familiarly addressed as 'Rene by them? 
The woman before her didn't fit her memory 
of any of them. Who was she? 

"Yes, I'm Irene Westover. And though 
nobody calls me 'Rene any more, it's good to 
hear the name again. And you — " She hesi- 
tated, ashamed that she could not remember, 
and hoping that the sentence would be finished 
for her. 

"Don't .you know me? Not really, 
'Rene?" 

"I'm sorry, but just at the minute I 
can't seem to place you." 

Irene studied the lovely creature stand- 
ing beside her for some clue to her identity. 
Who could she be? Where and when had they 
met? And through her perplexity there came 

21 



PASSING 

the thought that the trick which her memory 
had played her was for some reason more 
gratifying than disappointing to her old ac- 
quaintance, that she didn't mind not being 
recognized. 

And, too, Irene felt that she was just 
about to remember her. For about the woman 
was some quality, an intangible something, too 
vague to define, too remote to seize, but which 
was, to Irene Redfield, very familiar. And that 
voice. Surely she'd heard those husky tones 
somewhere before. Perhaps before time, con- 
tact, or something had been at them, making 
them into a voice remotely suggesting England. 
Ah ! Could it have been in Europe that they 
had met? 'Rene. No. 

"Perhaps," Irene began, "you — " 

The woman laughed, a lovely laugh, a 
small sequence of notes that was like a trill and 
also like the ringing of a delicate bell fashioned 
of a precious metal, a tinkling. 

Irene drew a quick sharp breath. 
"Clare!" she exclaimed, "not really Clare 
Kendry?" 

22 



ENCOUNTER 

So great was her astonishment that she 
had started to rise. 

^'No, no, don't get up," Clare Kendry 
commanded, and sat down herself. "You've 
simply got to stay and talk. We'll have some- 
thing more. Tea ? Fancy meeting you here ! It's 
simply too, too lucky!" 

*'It's awfully surprising," Irene told 
her, and, seeing the change In Clare's smile, 
knew that she had revealed a corner of her 
own thoughts. But she only said: "I'd never 
In this world have known you If you hadn't 
laughed. You are changed, you know. And yet, 
in a way, you're just the same." 

"Perhaps," Clare replied. "Oh, just a 
second." 

She gave her attention to the waiter 
at her side. "M-mm, let's see. Two teas. And 
bring some cigarettes. Y-es, they'll be all right. 
Thanks." Again that odd upward smile. Now, 
Irene was sure that it was too provocative for 
a waiter. 

While Clare had been giving the order, 
Irene made a rapid mental calculation. It must 

23 



PASSING 

be, she figured, all of twelve years since she, 
or anybody that she knew, had laid eyes on 
Clare Kendry. 

After her father's death she'd gone to 
live with some relatives, aunts or cousins two or 
three times removed, over on the west side : 
relatives that nobody had known the Kendry's 
possessed until they had turned up at the fu- 
neral and taken Clare away with them. 

For about a year or more afterwards 
she would appear occasionally among her old 
friends and acquaintances on the south side for 
short little visits that were, they understood, 
always stolen from the endless domestic tasks 
in her new home. With each succeeding one 
she was taller, shabbier, and more belligerently 
sensitive. And each time the look on her face 
was more resentful and brooding. "I'm wor- 
ried about Clare, she seems so unhappy," Irene 
remembered her mother saying. The visits 
dwindled, becoming shorter, fewer, and further 
apart until at last they ceased. 

Irene's father, who had been fond of 
Bob Kendry, made a special trip over to the 

^4 



ENCOUNTER 

west side about two months after the last time 
Clare had been to see them and returned with 
the bare information that he had seen the rela- 
tives and that Clare had disappeared. What 
else he had confided to her mother, in the pri- 
vacy of their own room, Irene didn't know. 

But she had had something more than a 
vague suspicion of its nature. For there had 
been rumours. Rumours that were, to girls of 
eighteen and nineteen years, interesting and 
exciting. 

There was the one about Clare Ken- 
dry's having been seen at the dinner hour in a 
fashionable hotel in company with another 
woman and two men, all of them white. And 
dressed! And there was another which told of 
her driving in Lincoln Park with a man, un- 
mistakably white, and evidently rich. Packard 
limousine, chauffeur in livery, and all that. 
There had been others whose context Irene 
could no longer recollect, but all pointing in 
the same glamorous direction. 

And she could remember quite vividly 
how, when they used to repeat and discuss these 

25 



PASSING 

tantalizing stories about Clare, the girls would 
always look knowingly at one another and then, 
with little excited giggles, drag away their 
eager shining eyes and say with lurking under- 
tones of regret or disbelief some such thing as: 
"Oh, well, maybe she's got a job or something," 
or "After all, it mayn't have been Clare," or 
"You can't believe all you hear." 

And always some girl, more matter-of- 
fact or more frankly malicious than the rest, 
would declare: "Of course it was Clare! Ruth 
said it was and so did Frank, and they cer- 
tainly know her when they see her as well as 
we do." And someone else would say: "Yes, 
you can bet it was Clare all right." And then 
they would all join in asserting that there could 
be no mistake about it's having been Clare, 
and that such circumstances could mean only 
one thing. Working indeed! People didn't take 
their servants to the Shelby for dinner. Cer- 
tainly not all dressed up like that. There would 
follow insincere regrets, and somebody would 
say: "Poor girl, I suppose it's true enough, but 

26 



ENCOUNTER 

what can you expect. Look at her father. And 
her mother, they say, would have run away If 
she hadn't died. Besides, Clare always had a — 
a — having way with her." 

Precisely that ! The words came to Irene 
as she sat there on the Drayton roof, facing 
Clare Kendry. "A having way." Well, Irene 
acknowledged, judging from her appearance 
and manner, Clare seemed certainly to have 
succeeded In having a few of the things that 
she wanted. 

It was, Irene repeated, after the Inter- 
val of the waiter, a great surprise and a very 
pleasant one to see Clare again after all those 
years, twelve at least. 

"Why, Clare, you're the last person In 
the world I'd have expected to run Into. I guess 
that's why I didn't know you." 

Clare answered gravely: "Yes. It Is 
twelve years. But I'm not surprised to see you, 
'Rene. That Is, not so very. In fact, ever since 
I've been here, I've more or less hoped that I 
should, or someone. Preferably you, though. 

27 



PASSING 

Still, I Imagine that's because I've thought of 
you often and often, while you — I'll wager 
you've never given me a thought." 

It was true, of course. After the first 
speculations and indictments, Clare had gone 
completely from Irene's thoughts. And from 
the thoughts of others too — if their conversa- 
tion was any indication of their thoughts. 

Besides, Clare had never been exactly 
one of the group, just as she'd never been 
merely the janitor's daughter, but the daughter 
of Mr. Bob Kendry, who, it was true, was a 
janitor, but who also, it seemed, had been in 
college with some of their fathers. Just how or 
why he happened to be a janitor, and a very in- 
efficient one at that, they none of them quite 
knew. One of Irene's brothers, who had put the 
question to their father, had been told: "That's 
something that doesn't concern you," and given 
him the advice to be careful not to end in the 
same manner as "poor Bob." 

No, Irene hadn't thought of Clare 
Kendry. Her own life had been too crowded. 
So, she supposed, had the lives of other peo- 

28 



ENCOUNTER 

pie. She defended her — their — forgetfulness. 
"You know how It is. Everybody's so busy. 
People leave, drop out, maybe for a little 
while there's talk about them, or questions; 
then, gradually they're forgotten." 

*'Yes, that's natural," Clare agreed. 
And what, she inquired, had they said of her 
for that little while at the beginning before 
they'd forgotten her altogether? 

Irene looked away. She felt the tell- 
tale colour rising in her cheeks. "You can't," 
she evaded, "expect me to remember trifles 
like that over twelve years of marriages, births, 
deaths, and the war." 

There followed that trill of notes that 
was Clare Kendry's laugh, small and clear and 
the very essence of mockery. 

"Oh, 'Rene!" she cried, "of course you 
remember I But I won't make you tell me, be- 
cause I know just as well as if I'd been there 
and heard every unkind word. Oh, I know, I 
know. Frank Danton saw me in the Shelby 
one night. Don't tell me he didn't broadcast 
that, and with embroidery. Others may have 

29 



PASSING 

seen me at other times. I don't know. But once 
I met Margaret Hammer In Marshall Field's. 
I'd have spoken, was on the very point of doing 
it, but she cut me dead. My dear 'Rene, I as- 
sure you that from the way she looked through 
me, even I was uncertain whether I was actually 
there In the flesh or not. I remember It clearly, 
too clearly. It was that very thing which, In 
a way, finally decided me not to go out and 
see you one last time before I went away to 
stay. Somehow, good as all of you, the whole 
family, had always been to the poor forlorn 
child that was me, I felt I shouldn't be able 
to bear that. I mean if any of you, your mother 
or the boys or — Oh, well, I just felt I'd rather 
not know It if you did. And so I stayed away. 
Silly, I suppose. Sometimes I've been sorry I 
didn't go." 

Irene wondered if it was tears that 
made Clare's eyes so luminous. 

"And now 'Rene, I want to hear all 
about you and everybody and everything. 
You're married, I s'pose?" 

Irene nodded. 

30 



ENCOUNTER 

"Yes," Clare said knowingly, "you 
would be. Tell me about it/' 

And so for an hour or more they had 
sat there smoking and drinking tea and filling 
in the gap of twelve years with talk. That is, 
Irene did. She told Clare about her marriage 
and removal to New York, about her husband, 
and about her two sons, who were having their 
first experience of being separated from their 
parents at a summer camp, about her mother's 
death, about the marriages of her two brothers. 
She told of the marriages, births and deaths In 
other families that Clare had known, opening 
up, for her, new vistas on the lives of old 
friends and acquaintances. 

Clare drank it all In, these things which 
for so long she had wanted to know and hadn't 
been able to learn. She sat motionless, her 
bright lips slightly parted, her whole face lit by 
the radiance of her happy eyes. Now and then 
she put a question, but for the most part she 
was silent. 

Somewhere outside, a clock struck. 
Brought back to the present, Irene looked down 

31 



PASSING 

at her watch and exclaimed: *'0h, I must go, 
Clare!" 

A moment passed during which she was 
the prey of uneasiness. It had suddenly occurred 
to her that she hadn't asked Clare anything 
about her own life and that she had a very 
definite unwillingness to do so. And she was 
quite well aware of the reason for that re- 
luctance. But, she asked herself, wouldn't it, 
all things considered, be the kindest thing not 
to ask? If things with Clare were as she — as 
they all — had suspected, wouldn't it be more 
tactful to seem to forget to Inquire how she 
had spent those twelve years? 

Iff It was that "if" which bothered her. 
It might be, it might just be, in spite of all gos- 
sip and even appearances to the contrary, that 
there was nothing, had been nothing, that 
couldn't be simply and innocently explained. 
Appearances, she knew now, had a way some- 
times of not fitting facts, and if Clare hadn't — 
Well, If they had all been wrong, then certainly 
she ought to express some Interest In what had 
happened to her. It would seem queer and rude 

32 



ENCOUNTER 

if she didn't. But how was she to know? There 
was, she at last decided, no way; so she merely 
said again. "I must go, Clare." 

"Please, not so soon, 'Rene," Clare 
begged, not moving. 

Irene thought: ''She's really almost too 
good-looking. It's hardly any wonder that 
she—" 

''And now, 'Rene dear, that I've found 
you, I mean to see lots and lots of you. We're 
here for a month at least. Jack, that's my hus- 
band, is here on business. Poor dear! in this 
heat. Isn't it beastly? Come to dinner with us 
tonight, won't you?" And she gave Irene a cu- 
rious little sidelong glance and a sly, ironical 
smile peeped out on her full red lips, as if she 
had been in the secret of the other's thoughts 
, and was mocking her. 

Irene was conscious of a sharp intake 
of breath, but whether it was relief or chagrin 
that she felt, she herself could not have told. 
She said hastily: "I'm afraid I can't, Clare. I'm 
filled up. Dinner and bridge. I'm so sorry." 

"Come tomorrow instead, to tea," Clare 

33 



PASSING 

insisted. *'Then you'll see Margery — she's just 
ten — and Jack too, maybe, if he hasn't got an 
appointment or something." 

From Irene came an uneasy little laugh. 
She had an engagement for tomorrow also and 
she was afraid that Clare would not believe It. 
Suddenly, now, that possibility disturbed her. 
Therefore It was with a half-vexed feeling at 
the sense of undeserved guilt that had come 
upon her that she explained that It wouldn't 
be possible because she wouldn't be free for 
tea, or for luncheon or dinner either. "And the 
next day's Friday when I'll be going away for 
the week-end, Idlewlld, you know. It's quite 
the thing now." And then she had an Inspira* 
tlon. 

"Clare!" she exclaimed, "why don't 
you come up with me? Our place Is probably 
full up — Jim's wife has a way of collecting 
mobs of the most Impossible people — but we 
can always manage to find room for one more. 
And you'll see absolutely everybody." 

In the very moment of giving the in- 

34 



ENCOUNTER 

vltatlon she regretted It. What a foolish, what 
an idiotic Impulse to have given way to ! She 
groaned Inwardly as she thought of the endless 
explanations In which it would Involve her, of 
the curiosity, and the talk, and the lifted eye- 
brows. It wasn't she assured herself, that she 
was a snob, that she cared greatly for the petty 
restrictions and distinctions with which what 
called Itself Negro society chose to hedge It- 
self about; but that she had a natural and 
deeply rooted aversion to the kind of front- 
page notoriety that Clare Kendry's presence In 
Idlewlld, as her guest, would expose her to. And 
here she was, perversely and against all reason, 
inviting her. 

But Clare shook her head. "Really, I'd 
love to, 'Rene," she said, a little mournfully. 
^'There's nothing I'd like better. But I couldn't. 
I mustn't, you see. It wouldn't do at all. I'm 
sure you understand. I'm simply crazy to go, 
but I can't." The dark eyes glistened and there 
was a suspicion of a quaver in the husky voice. 
"And believe me, 'Rene, I do thank you for 

35 



PASSING 

asking me. Don't think I've entirely forgotten 
just what it would mean for you if I went. That 
is, if you still care about such things." 

All indication of tears had gone from 
her eyes and voice, and Irene Redfield, search- 
ing her face, had an offended feeling that be- 
hind what was now only an ivory mask lurked 
a scornful amusement. She looked away, at the 
wall far beyond Clare. Well, she deserved it, 
for, as she acknowledged to herself, she was 
relieved. And for the very reason at which 
Clare had hinted. The fact that Clare had 
guesssed her perturbation did not, however. In 
any degree lessen that relief. She was annoyed 
at having been detected in what might seem to 
be an insincerity; but that was all. 

The waiter came with Clare's change. 
Irene reminded herself that she ought imme- 
diately to go. But she didn't move. 

The truth was, she was curious. There 
were things that she wanted to ask Clare Ken- 
dry. She wished to find out about this hazardous 
business of "passing," this breaking away from 
all that was famihar and friendly to take one's 

36 



ENCOUNTER 

chance in another environment, not entirely 
strange, perhaps, but certainly not entirely 
friendly. What, for example, one did about 
background, how one accounted for oneself. 
And how one felt when one came into contact 
with other Negroes. But she couldn't. She was 
unable to think of a single question that in its 
context or its phrasing was not too frankly cu- 
rious, if not actually impertinent. 

As if aware of her desire and her hesi- 
tation, Clare remarked, thoughtfully: "You 
know, 'Rene, I've often wondered why more 
coloured girls, girls like you and Margaret 
Hammer and Esther Dawson and — oh, lots of 
others — never ^passed' over. It's such a fright- 
fully easy thing to do. If one's the type, all 
that's needed is a little nerve." 

"What about background? Family, I 
mean. Surely you can't just drop down on peo- 
ple from nowhere and expect them to receive 
you with open arms, can you?" 

"Almost," Clare asserted. "You'd be 
surprised, 'Rene, how much easier that is with 
white people than with us. Maybe because there 

37 



PASSING 

are so many more of them, or maybe because 
they are secure and so don't have to bother. I've 
never quite decided." 

Irene was Inclined to be incredulous. 
"You mean that you didn't have to explain 
where you came from? It seems impossible." 
Clare cast a .glance of repressed amuse- 
ment across the table at her. "As a matter of 
fact, I didn't. Though I suppose under any 
other circumstances I might have had to pro- 
vide some plausible tale to account for myself. 
I've a good imagination, so I'm sure I could 
have done it quite creditably, and credibly. But 
it wasn't necessary. There were my aunts, you 
see, respectable and authentic enough for any- 
thing or anybody." 

"I see. They were 'passing' too." 
"No. They weren't. They were white." 
"Oh!" And in the next instant it came 
back to Irene that she had heard this mentioned 
before; by her father, or, more likely, her 
mother. They were Bob Kendry's aunts. He had 
been a son of their brother's, on the left hand. 
A wild oat. 

38 



ENCOUNTER 

*'They were nice old ladies," Clare ex- 
plained, "very religious and as poor as church 
mice. That adored brother of theirs, my grand- 
father, got through every penny they had after 
he'd finished his own little bit." 

Clare paused in her narrative to light 
another cigarette. Her smile, her expression, 
Irene noticed, was faintly resentful. 

"Being good Christians," she continued, 
"when dad came to his tipsy end, they did their 
duty and gave me a home of sorts. I was, it was 
true, expected to earn my keep by doing all the 
housework and most of the washing. But do you 
realize, 'Rene, that if it hadn't been for them, 
I shouldn't have had a home in the world?" 

Irene's nod and little murmur were com- 
prehensive, understanding. 

Clare made a small mischievous grim- 
ace and proceeded. "Besides, to their notion, 
hard labour was good for me. I had Negro 
blood and they belonged to the generation that 
had written and read long articles headed: 
'Will the Blacks Work?' Too, they weren't 
quite sure that the good God hadn't intended 

39 



PASSING 

the sons and daughters of Ham to sweat be- 
cause he had poked fun at old man Noah once 
when he had taken a drop too much. I remem- 
ber the aunts telling me that that old drunkard 
had cursed Ham and his sons for all time." 

Irene laughed. But Clare remained quite 
serious. 

"It was more than a joke, I assure you, 
'Rene. It was a hard life for a girl of sixteen. 
Still, I had a roof over my head, and food, and 
clothes — such as they were. And there were the 
Scriptures, and talks on morals and thrift and 
industry and the loving-kindness of the good 
Lord." 

"Have you ever stopped to think, 
Clare," Irene demanded, "how much unhappi- 
ness and downright cruelty are laid to the lov- 
ing-kindness of the Lord? And always by His 
most ardent followers, it seems." 

"Have I?" Clare exclaimed. "It, they, 
made me what I am today. For, of course, I 
was determined to get away, to be a person 
and not a charity or a problem, or even a 
daughter of the indiscreet Ham. Then, too, I 

40 



ENCOUNTER 

wanted things. I knew I wasn't bad-looking and 
that I could 'pass.' You can't know, 'Rene, how, 
when I used to go over to the south side, I 
used almost to hate all of you. You had all the 
things I wanted and never had had. It made me 
all the more determined to get them, and oth- 
ers. Do you, can you understand what I felt?" 

She looked up with a pointed and ap- 
pealing effect, and, evidently finding the sympa- 
thetic expression on Irene's face sufficient an- 
swer, went on. "The aunts were queer. For 
all their Bibles and praying and ranting about 
honesty, they didn't want anyone to know that 
their darling brother had seduced — ruined, they 
called It — a Negro girl. They could excuse the 
ruin, but they couldn't forgive the tar-brush. 
They forbade me to mention Negroes to the 
neighbours, or even to mention the south side. 
You may be sure that I didn't. I'll bet they 
were good and sorry afterwards." 

She laughed and the ringing bells In 
her laugh had a hard metallic sound. 

"When the chance to get away came, 
that omission was of great value to me. When 

41 



PASSING 

Jack, a schoolboy acquaintance of some peo- 
ple In the neighbourhood, turned up from 
South America with untold gold, there was no 
one to tell him that I was coloured, and many 
to tell him about the severity and the religious- 
ness of Aunt Grace and Aunt Edna. You can 
guess the rest. After he came, I stopped slip- 
ping off to the south side and slipped off to meet 
him Instead. I couldn't manage both. In the 
end I had no great difficulty In convincing him 
that It was useless to talk marriage to the 
aunts. So on the day that I was eighteen, we 
went off and were married. So that's that. 
Nothing could have been easier." 

*'Yes, I do see that for you It was easy 
enough. By the way ! I wonder why they didn't 
tell father that you were married. He went 
over to find out about you when you stopped 
coming over to see us. I'm sure they didn't tell 
him. Not that you were married." 

Clare Kendry's eyes were bright with 

tears that didn't fall. "Oh, how lovely! To 

have cared enough about me to do that. The 

dear sweet man! Well, they couldn't tell him 

• 42 



ENCOUNTER 

because they didn't know it. I took care of that, 
for I couldn't be sure that those consciences of 
theirs wouldn't begin to work on them after- 
wards and make them let the cat out of the 
bag. The old things probably thought I was 
living In sin, wherever I was. And it would be 
about what they expected." 

An amused smile lit the lovely face for 
the smallest fraction of a second. After a little 
silence she said soberly: "But I'm sorry if they 
told your father so. That was something I 
hadn't counted on." 

"I'm not sure that they did," Irene told 
her. "He didn't say so, anyway.'* 

"He wouldn't, 'Rene dear. Not your 
father." 

"Thanks. I'm sure he wouldn't." 

"But you've never answered my ques- 
tion. Tell me, honestly, haven't you ever 
thought of 'passing' ?" 

Irene answered promptly: "No. Why 
should I?" And so disdainful was her voice 
and manner that Clare's face flushed and her 
eyes glinted. Irene hastened to add: "You see, 

43 



PASSING 

Clare, I've everything I want. Except, perhaps, 
a little more money." 

At that Clare laughed, her spark of 
anger vanished as quickly as it had appeared. 
"Of course," she declared, "that's what every- 
body wants, just a little more money, even the 
people who have it. And I must say I don't 
blame them. Money's awfully nice to have. In 
fact, all things considered, I think, 'Rene, that 
it's even worth the price." 

Irene could only shrug her shoulders. 
Her reason partly agreed, her instinct wholly 
rebelled. And she could not say why. And 
though conscious that if she didn't hurry away, 
she was going to be late to dinner, she still 
lingered. It was as if the woman sitting on the 
other side of the table, a girl that she had 
known, who had done this rather dangerous 
and, to Irene Redfield, abhorrent thing success- 
fully and had announced herself well satisfied, 
had for her a fascination, strange and com- 
pelling. 

Clare Kendry was still leaning back in 
the tall chair, her sloping shoulders against 

44 



ENCOUNTER 

the carved top. She sat with an air of indif- 
ferent assurance, as if arranged for, desired. 
About her clung that dim suggestion of polite 
insolence with which a few women are born 
and which some acquire with the coming of 
riches or importance. 

Clare, it gave Irene a little prick of 
satisfaction to recall, hadn't got that by pass- 
ing herself off as white. She herself had always 
had it. 

Just as she'd always had that pale gold 
hair, which, unsheared still, was drawn loosely 
back from a broad brow, partly hidden by the 
small close hat. Her lips, painted a brilliant 
geranium-red, were sweet and sensitive and a 
little obstinate. A tempting mouth. The face 
across the forehead and cheeks was a trifle too 
wide, but the ivory skin had a peculiar soft 
lustre. And the eyes were magnificent! dark, 
sometimes absolutely black, always luminous, 
and set in long, black lashes. Arresting eyes, 
slow and mesmeric, and with, for all their 
warmth, something withdrawn and secret about 
them. 

45 



PASSING 

Ah! Surely! They were Negro eyes! 
mysterious and concealing. And set in that ivory 
face under that bright hair, there was about 
them something exotic. 

Yes, Clare Kendry's loveliness was ab- 
solute, beyond challenge, thanks to those eyes 
which her grandmother and later her mother 
and father had given her. 

Into those eyes there came a smile and 
over Irene the sense of being petted and ca- 
ressed. She smiled back. 

"Maybe," Clare suggested, "you can 
come Monday, if you're back. Or, if you're not, 
then Tuesday." ^ 

With a small regretful sigh, Irene in- 
formed Clare that she was afraid she wouldn't 
be back by Monday and that she was sure she 
had dozens of things for Tuesday, and that she 
was leaving Wednesday. It might be, how- 
ever, that she could get out of something Tues- 
day. 

"Oh, do try. Do put somebody else off. 
The others can see you any time, while I — Why, 
I may never see you again! Think of that, 

46 



ENCOUNTER 

'Rene! You'll have to come. You'll simply 
have to ! I'll never forgive you if you don't." 

At that moment It seemed a dreadful 
thing to think of never seeing Clare Kendry 
again. Standing there under the appeal, the 
caress, of her eyes, Irene had the desire, the 
hope, that this parting wouldn't be the last. 

"I'll try, Clare," she promised gently. 
"I'll call you — or will you call me?" 

"I think, perhaps, I'd better call you. 
Your father's In the book, I know, and the ad- 
dress Is the same. Sixty-four eighteen. Some 
memory, what? Now remember, I'm going to 
expect you. You've got to be able to come." 

Again that peculiar mellowing smile. 

"I'll do my best, Clare." 

Irene gathered up her gloves and bag. 
They stood up. She put out her hand. Clare 
took and held It. 

"It has been nice seeing you again, 
Clare. How pleased and glad father'll be to 
hear about you!" 

"Until Tuesday, then," Clare Kendry 
replied. "I'll spend every minute of the time 

47 



PASSING 

from now on looking forward to seeing you 
again. Good-bye, 'Rene dear. My love to your 
father, and this kiss for him." 

The sun had gone from overhead, but 
the streets were still like fiery furnaces. The 
languid breeze was still hot. And the scurry- 
ing people looked even more wilted than be- 
fore Irene had fled from their contact. 

Crossing the avenue In the heat, far 
from the coolness of the Drayton's roof, away 
from the seduction of Clare Kendry's smile, 
she was aware of a sense of Irritation with her- 
self because she had been pleased and a little 
flattered at the other's obvious gladness at their 
meeting. 

With her perspiring progress homeward 
this irritation grew, and she began to wonder 
just what had possessed her to make her prom- 
ise to find time, In the crowded days that re- 
mained of her visit, to spend another afternoon 
with a woman whose life had so definitely and 
deliberately diverged from hers; and whom, 

48 



ENCOUNTER 

as had been pointed out, she might never see 
again. 

Why In the world had she made such a 
promise? 

As she went up the steps to her father's 
house, thinking with what interest and amaze- 
ment he would listen to her story of the after- 
noon's encounter, It came to her that Clare 
had omitted to mention her marriage name. 
She had referred to her husband as Jack. That 
was all. Had that, Irene asked herself, been 
intentional ? 

Clare had only to pick up the telephone 
to communicate with her, or to drop her a card, 
or to jump into a taxi. But she couldn't reach 
Clare in any way. Nor could anyone else to 
whom she might speak of their meeting. 

"As if I should!" 

Her key turned In the lock. She went in. 
Her father, it seemed, hadn't come in yet. 

Irene decided that she wouldn't, after 
all, say anything to him about Clare Kendry. 
She had, she told herself, no inclination to 

49 



PASSING 

Speak of a person who held so low an opinion 
of her loyalty, or her discretion. And certainly 
she had no desire or Intention of making the 
slightest effort about Tuesday. Nor any other 
day for that matter. 

She was through with Clare Kendry. 



THREE 

On TUESDAY morning a dome of grey sky rose 
over the parched city, but the stifling air was 
not reHeved by the silvery mist that seemed to 
hold a promise of rain, which did not fall. 

To Irene Redfield this soft foreboding 
fog was another reason for doing nothing 
about seeing Clare Kendry that afternoon. 

But she did see her. 

The telephone. For hours it had rung 
like something possessed. Since nine o'clock she 
had been hearing its insistent jangle. Awhile 
she was resolute, saying firmly each time: "Not 
in, Liza, take the message." And each time the 
servant returned with the information: "It's the 
same lady, ma'am; she says she'll call again." 

But at noon, her nerves frayed and her 
conscience smiting her at the reproachful look 
on Liza's ebony face as she withdrew for an- 
other denial, Irene weakened. 

"Oh, never mind. I'll answer this time, 
Liza." 

51 



ENCOUNTER 



'It's her again." 

^'Hello. . . . Yes.'' 

"It's Clare, 'Rene. . . . Where have 
you been? . . . Can you be here around four? 
. . . What? . . . But, 'Rene, you promised! 
Just for a little while. . . . You can if you 
want to. ... I am so disappointed. I had 
counted so on seeing you. . . . Please be nice 
and come. Only for a minute. I'm sure you can 
manage it If you try. ... I won't beg you to 
stay. . . . Yes. . . . I'm going to expect you 
. . . It's the Morgan. . . Oh, yes! The 
name's Bellew, Mrs. John Bellew. . . . About 
four, then. . . . I'll be so happy to see 
you! . . . Goodbye." 

"Damn!" 

Irene hung up the receiver with an em- 
phatic bang, her thoughts immediately filled 
with self-reproach. She'd done it again. Al- 
lowed Clare Kendry to persuade her into prom- 
ising to do something for which she had neither 
time nor any special desire. What was it about 
Clare's voice that was so appealing, so very 
seductive ? 

52 



ENCOUNTER 

Clare met her in the hall with a kiss. 
She said: "You're good to come, 'Rene. But, 
then, you always were nice to me." And under 
her potent smile a part of Irene's annoyance 
with herself fled. She was even a little glad that 
she had come. 

Clare led the way, stepping lightly, to- 
wards a room whose door was standing partly 
open, saying: "There's a surprise. It's a real 
party. See." 

Entering, Irene found herself in a sit- 
ting-room, large and high, at whose windows 
hung startling blue draperies which triumph- 
antly dragged attention from the gloomy choco- 
late-coloured furniture. And Clare was wearing 
a thin floating dress of the same shade of blue, 
which suited her and the rather difficult room 
to perfection. 

For a minute Irene thought the room 
was empty, but turning her head, she dis- 
covered, sunk deep in the cushions of a huge 
sofa, a woman staring up at her with such in- 
tense concentration that her eyelids were drawn 
as though the strain of that upward glance had 

53 



PASSING 

paralysed them. At first Irene took her to be 
a stranger, but In the next instant she said in an 
unsympathetic, almost harsh voice: "And how 
are you, Gertrude?" 

The woman nodded and forced a smile 
to her pouting lips. "I'm all right," she replied. 
"And you're just the same, Irene. Not changed 
a bit." 

"Thank you." Irene responded, as she 
chose a seat. She was thinking: "Great good- 
ness! Two of them." 

For Gertrude too had married a white 
man, though It couldn't be truthfully said that 
she was "passing." Her husband — what was 
his name? — had been In school with her 
and had been quite well aware, as had his 
family and most of his friends, that she was 
a Negro. It hadn't, Irene knew, seemed to 
matter to him then. Did it now, she won- 
dered? Had Fred — Fred Martin, that was 
It — had he ever regretted his marriage 
because of Gertrude's race? Had Ger- 
trude ? 

Turning to Gertrude, Irene asked: 

54 



ENCOUNTER 

"And Fred, how Is he? It's unmentionable years 
since I've seen him." 

*'0h, he's all right," Gertrude an- 
swered briefly. 

For a full minute no one spoke. Finally 
out of the oppressive little silence Clare's voice 
came pleasantly, conversationally: "We'll have 
tea right away. I know that you can't stay long, 
'Rene. And I'm so sorry you won't see Mar- 
gery. We went up the lake over the week end 
to see some of Jack's people, just out of Mil- 
waukee. Margery wanted to stay with the 
children. It seemed a shame not to let her, es- 
pecially since It's so hot In town. But I'm ex- 
pecting Jack any second." 

Irene said briefly: "That's nice." 

Gertrude remained silent. She was. It 
was plain, a little 111 at ease. And her presence 
there annoyed Irene, roused in her a defensive 
and resentful feeling for which she had at the 
moment no explanation. But It did seem to 
her odd that the woman that Clare was now 
should have Invited the woman that Ger- 
trude was. Still, of course, Clare couldn't 

55 



PASSING 

have known. Twelve years since they had met. 

Later, when she examined her feeHng 
of annoyance, Irene admitted, a shade reluc- 
tantly, that it arose from a feeling of being out- 
numbered, a sense of aloneness, in her adher- 
ence to her own class and kind; not merely in 
the great thing of marriage, but in the whole 
pattern of her life as well. 

Clare spoke again, this time at length. 
Her talk was of the change that Chicago pre- 
sented to her after her long absence in Euro- 
pean cities. Yes, she said in reply to some ques- 
tion from Gertrude, she'd been back to 
America a time or two, but only as far as New 
York and Philadelphia, and once she had spent 
a few days in Washington. John Bellew, who, 
it appeared, was some sort of international 
banking agent, hadn't particularly wanted her 
to come with him on this trip, but as soon as 
she had learned that it would probably take him 
as far as Chicago, she made up her mind to 
come anyway. 

"I simply had to. And after I once got 
here, I was determined to see someone I knew 



ENCOUNTER 

and find out what had happened to everybody. 
I didn't quite see how I was going to manage 
It, but I meant to. Somehow. I'd just about 
decided to take a chance and go out to your 
house, 'Rene, or call up and arrange a meet- 
ing, when I ran Into you. What luck!" 

Irene agreed that It was luck. "It's the 
first time I've been home for five years, and 
now I'm about to leave. A week later and I'd 
have been gone. And how In the world did you 
find Gertrude?" 

"In the book. I remembered about 
Fred. His father still has the meat mar- 
ket." 

"Oh, yes," said Irene, who had only 
remembered It as Clare had spoken, "on Cot- 
tage Grove near — " 

Gertrude broke In. "No. It's moved. 
We're on Maryland Avenue — used to be Jack- 
son — now. Near Sixty-third Street. And the 
market's Fred's. His name's the same as his 
father's." 

Gertrude, Irene thought, looked as If 
her husband might be a butcher. There was left 

57 



PASSING 

of her youthful prettiness, which had been so 
much admired In their high-school days, no 
trace. She had grown broad, fat almost, and 
though there were no lines on her large white 
face. Its very smoothness was somehow pre- 
maturely ageing. Her black hair was dipt, and 
by some unfortunate means all the live curliness 
had gone from It. Her over-trimmed Geor- 
gette crepe dress was too short and showed an 
appalling amount of leg, stout legs In sleazy 
stockings of a vivid rose-beige shade. Her 
plump hands were newly and not too compe- 
tently manicured — for the occasion, probably. 
And she wasn't smoking. 

Clare said — and Irene fancied that her 
husky voice held a slight edge — "Before you 
came, Irene, Gertrude was telling me about her 
two boys. Twins. Think of It ! Isn't It too mar- 
vellous for words?" 

Irene felt a warmness creeping Into her 
cheeks. Uncanny, the way Clare could divine 
what one was thinking. She was a little put out, 
but her manner was entirely easy as she said: 
"That Is nice. I've two boys myself, Gertrude. 

58 



ENCOUNTER 

Not twins, though. It seems that Clare's rather 
behind, doesn't It?" 

Gertrude, however, wasn't sure that 
Clare hadn't the best of It. "She's got a girl. I 
wanted a girl. So did Fred." 

"Isn't that a bit unusual?" Irene asked. 
"Most men want sons. Egotism, I suppose." 

"Well, Fred didn't." 

The tea-things had been placed on a low 
table at Clare's side. She gave them her atten- 
tion now, pouring the rich amber fluid from the 
tall glass pitcher Into stately slim glasses, which 
she handed to her guests, and then offered them 
lemon or cream and tiny sandwiches or cakes. 

After taking up her own glass she in- 
formed them: "No, I have no boys and I don't 
think I'll ever have any. I'm afraid. I nearly 
died of terror the whole nine months before 
Margery was born for fear that she might be 
dark. Thank goodness, she turned out all right. 
But I'll never risk It again. Never ! The strain 
Is simply too — too hellish." 

Gertrude Martin nodded in complete 
comprehension. 

59 



PASSING 

This time it was Irene who said noth- 
ing. 

"You don't have to tell me !" Gertrude 
said fervently. ''I know what it is all right. 
Maybe you don't think I wasn't scared to death 
too. Fred said I was silly, and so did his mother. 
But, of course, they thought it was just a no- 
tion I'd gotten into my head and they blamed 
it on my condition. They don't know like we 
do, how it might go way back, and turn out 
dark no matter what colour the father and 
mother are." 

Perspiration stood out on her forehead. 
Her narrow eyes rolled first in Clare's, then in 
Irene's direction. As she talked she waved her 
heavy hands about. 

"No," she went on, "no more for me 
either. Not even a girl. It's awful the way it 
skips generations and then pops out. Why, he 
actually said he didn't care what colour it 
turned out, if I would only stop worrying about 
it. But, of course, nobody wants a dark child." 
Her voice was earnest and she took for granted 

60 



ENCOUNTER 

that her audience was In entire agreement with 
her. 

Irene, whose head had gone up with a 
quick little jerk, now said in a voice of whose 
even tones she was proud: "One of my boys 
IS dark." 

Gertrude jumped as if she had been 
shot at. Her eyes goggled. Her mouth flew 
open. She tried to speak, but could not imme- 
diately get the words out. Finally she managed 
to stammer: "Oh! And your husband, is he — is 
he — er — dark, too?" 

Irene, who was struggling with a flood 
of feelings, resentment, anger, and contempt, 
was, however, still able to answer as coolly as 
if she had not that sense of not belonging to 
and of despising the company in which she 
found herself drinking iced tea from tall am- 
ber glasses on that hot August afternoon. Her 
husband, she informed them quietly, couldn't 
exactly "pass." 

At that reply Clare turned on Irene her 
seductive caressing smile and remarked a little 

6i 



PASSING 

scoffingly: "I do think that coloured people — 
we — are too silly about some things. After all, 
the thing's not Important to Irene or hundreds 
of others. Not awfully, even to you, Gertrude. 
It's only deserters like me who have to be 
afraid of freaks of the nature. As my inesti- 
mable dad used to say, 'Everything must be 
paid for.' Now, please one of you tell me what 
ever happened to Claude Jones. You know, the 
tall, lanky specimen who used to wear that com- 
ical little moustache that the girls used to laugh 
at so. Like a thin streak of soot. The mous- 
tache, I mean." 

At that Gertrude shrieked with laughter. 
^'Claude Jones!" and launched into the story of 
how he was no longer a Negro or a Christian 
but had become a Jew. 

"A Jew!" Clare exclaimed. 

"Yes, a Jew. A black Jew, he calls him- 
self. He won't eat ham and goes to the syna- 
gogue on Saturday. He's got a beard now as 
well as a moustache. You'd die laughing if you 
saw him. He's really too funny for words. Fred 
says he's crazy and I guess he Is. Oh, he's a 

62 



ENCOUNTER 

scream all right, a regular scream!" And she 
shrieked again. 

Clare's laugh tinkled out. "It certainly 
sounds funny enough. Still, it's his own business. 
If he gets along better by turning — " 

At that, Irene, who was still hugging 
her unhappy don't-care feeling of rightness, 
broke In, saying bitingly: "It evidently doesn't 
occur to either you or Gertrude that he might 
possibly be sincere In changing his religion. 
Surely everyone doesn't do everything for 
gain." 

Clare Kendry had no need to search for 
the full meaning of that utterance. She red- 
dened slightly and retorted seriously: "Yes, I 
admit that might be possible — his being sincere, 
I mean. It just didn't happen to occur to me, 
that's all. I'm surprised," and the seriousness 
changed to mockery, "that you should have ex- 
pected it to. Or did you really?" 

"You don't, I'm sure, imagine that that 
Is a question that I can answer," Irene told her. 
"Not here and now." 

Gertrude's face expressed complete be- 

63 



PASSING 

wilderment. However, seeing that little smiles 
had come out on the faces of the two other 
women and not recognizing them for the smiles 
of mutual reservations which they were, she 
smiled too. 

Clare began to talk, steering carefully 
away from anything that might lead towards 
race or other thorny subjects. It was the most 
brilliant exhibition of conversational weight- 
lifting that Irene had ever seen. Her words 
swept over them in charming well-modulated 
streams. Her laughs tinkled and pealed. Her 
little stories sparkled. 

Irene contributed a bare "Yes" or 
"No" here and there. Gertrude, a "You don't 
say!" less frequently. 

For a while the Illusion of general con- 
versation was nearly perfect. Irene felt her re- 
sentment changing gradually to a silent, some- 
what grudging admiration. 

Clare talked on, her voice, her gestures, 
colouring all she said of wartime In France, of 
after-the-wartlme In Germany, of the excite- 
ment at the time of the general strike in Eng- 

64 



ENCOUNTER 

land, of dressmaker's openings in Paris, of the 
new gaiety of Budapest. 

But It couldn't last, this verbal feat. 
Gertrude shifted In her seat and fell to fidget- 
ing with her fingers. Irene, bored at last by all 
this repetition of the selfsame things that she 
had read all too often in papers, magazines, and 
books, set down her glass and collected her bag 
and handkerchief. She was smoothing out the 
tan fingers of her gloves preparatory to put- 
ting them on when she heard the sound of the 
outer door being opened and saw Clare spring 
up with an expression of relief saying: "How 
lovely! Here's Jack at exactly the right minute. 
You can't go now, 'Rene dear." 

John Bellew came Into the room. The 
first thing that Irene noticed about him was 
that he was not the man that she had seen 
with Clare Kendry on the Drayton roof. This 
man, Clare's husband, was a talllsh person, 
broadly made. His age she guessed to be some- 
where between thirty-five and forty. His hair 
was dark brown and waving, and he had a soft 
mouth, somewhat womanish, set In an un- 

6s 



PASSING 

healthy-looking dough-coloured face. His steel- 
grey opaque eyes were very much alive, moving 
ceaselessly between thick bluish lids. But there 
was, Irene decided, nothing unusual about him, 
unless it was an Impression of latent physical 
power. 

*'Hello, Nig," was his greeting to 
Clare. 

Gertrude who had started slightly, set- 
tled back and looked covertly towards Irene, 
who had caught her lip between her teeth and 
sat gazing at husband and wife. It was hard to 
believe that even Clare Kendry would permit 
this ridiculing of her race by an outsider, 
though he chanced to be her husband. So he 
knew, then, that Clare was a Negro? From her 
talk the other day Irene had understood that 
he didn't. But how rude, how positively Insult- 
ing, for him to address her in that way in the 
presence of guests ! 

In Clare's eyes, as she presented her 
husband, was a queer gleam, a jeer. It might be. 
Irene couldn't define It. 

The mechanical professions that attend 
66 



ENCOUNTER 

an introduction over, she inquired: *'Did you 
hear what Jack called me?'^ 

*'Yes," Gertrude answered, laughing 
with a dutiful eagerness. 

Irene didn't speak. Her gaze remained 
level on Clare's smiling face. 

The black eyes fluttered down. *'Tell 
them, dear, why you call me that." 

The man chuckled, crinkling up his eyes, 
not, Irene was compelled to acknowledge, un- 
pleasantly. He explained: "Well, you see, it's 
like this. When we were first married, she was 
as white as — as — well as white as a lily. But 
I declare she's gettin' darker and darker. I tell 
her if she don't look out, she'll wake up one 
of these days and find she's turned into a 
nigger." 

He roared with laughter. Clare's ring- 
ing bell-like laugh joined his. Gertrude after 
another uneasy shift in her seat added her 
shrill one. Irene, who had been sitting with lips 
tightly compressed, cried out: "That's good!" 
and gave way to gales of laughter. She laughed 
and laughed and laughed. Tears ran down her 

67 



PASSING 

cheeks. Her sides ached. Her throat hurt. She 
laughed on and on and on, long after the oth- 
ers had subsided. Until, catching sight of 
Clare's face, the need for a more quiet enjoy- 
ment of this priceless joke, and for caution, 
struck her. At once she stopped. 

Clare handed her husband his tea and 
laid her hand on his arm with an affectionate 
little gesture. Speaking with confidence as well 
as with amusement, she said: "My goodness, 
Jack! What difference would it make if, after 
all these years, you were to find out that I was 
one or two per cent coloured?" 

Bellew put out his hand in a repudiat- 
ing fling, definite and final. "Oh, no. Nig," he 
declared, "nothing like that with me. I know 
you're no nigger, so it's all right. You can get 
as black as you please as far as I'm concerned, 
since I know you're no nigger. I draw the line 
at that. No niggers in my family. Never have 
been and never will be." 

Irene's lips trembled almost uncontrol- 
lably, but she made a desperate effort to fight 
back her disastrous desire to laugh again, and 

68 



ENCOUNTER 

succeeded. Carefully selecting a cigarette from 
the lacquered box on the tea-table before her, 
she turned an oblique look on Clare and en- 
countered her peculiar eyes fixed on her with 
an expression so dark and deep and unfathom- 
able that she had for a short moment the sen- 
sation of gazing into the eyes of some creature 
utterly strange and apart. A faint sense of dan- 
ger brushed her, like the breath of a cold fog. 
Absurd, her reason told her, as she accepted 
Bellew's proffered light for her cigarette. An- 
other glance at Clare showed her smiling. So, 
as one always ready to oblige, was Gertrude. 

An on-looker, Irene reflected, would 
have thought It a most congenial tea-party, all 
smiles and jokes and hilarious laughter. She 
said humorously : ''So you dislike Negroes, Mr. 
Bellew?" But her amusement was at her 
thought, rather than her words. 

John Bellew gave a short denying laugh. 
"You got me wrong there, Mrs. Redfield. 
Nothing like that at all. I don't dislike them, I 
hate them. And so does Nig, for all she's try- 
ing to turn Into one. She wouldn't have a nigger 

69 



PASSING 

maid around her for love nor money. Not that 
I'd want her to. They give me the creeps. The 
black scrlmy devils.'' 

This wasn't funny. Had Bellew, Irene 
inquired, ever known any Negroes? The defen- 
sive tone of her voice brought another start 
from the uncomfortable Gertrude, and, for all 
her appearance of serenity, a quick apprehen- 
sive look from Clare. 

Bellew answered: "Thank the Lord, 
no! And never expect to! But I know people 
who've known them, better than they know 
their black selves. And I read in the papers 
about them. Always robbing and killing people. 
And," he added darkly, "worse." 

From Gertrude's direction came a queer 
little suppressed sound, a snort or a giggle. 
Irene couldn't tell which. There was a brief 
silence, during which she feared that her self- 
control was about to prove too frail a bridge 
to support her mounting anger and indignation. 
She had a leaping desire to shout at the man 
beside her: "And you're sitting here surrounded 
by three black devils, drinking tea." 

70 



ENCOUNTER 

The impulse passed, obliterated by her 
consciousness of the danger in which such rash- 
ness would involve Clare, who remarked with 
a gentle reprovingness : "Jack dear, I'm sure 
'Rene doesn't care to hear all about your pet 
aversions. Nor Gertrude either. Maybe they 
read the papers too, you know." She smiled on 
him, and her smile seemed to transform him, 
to soften and mellow him, as the rays of the 
sun does a fruit. 

"All right. Nig, old girl. I'm sorry," 
he apologized. Reaching over, he playfully 
touched his wife's pale hands, then turned back 
to Irene. '^Didn't mean to bore you, Mrs. Red- 
field. Hope you'll excuse me," he said sheep- 
ishly. "Clare tells me you're living in New 
York. Great city. New York. The city of the 
future." 

In Irene, rage had not retreated, but 
was held by some dam of caution and allegiance 
to Clare. So, in the best casual voice she could 
muster, she agreed with Bellew. Though, she 
reminded him, it was exactly what Chicagoans 
were apt to say of their city. And all the while 

71 



PASSING 

she was speaking, she was thinking how amaz- 
ing it was that her voice did not tremble, that 
outwardly she was calm. Only her hands shook 
slightly. She drew them inward from their rest 
in her lap and pressed the tips of her fingers 
together to still them. 

"Husband's a doctor, I understand. 
Manhattan, or one of the other boroughs?" 

Manhattan, Irene informed him, and 
explained the need for Brian to be within easy 
reach of certain hospitals and clinics. 

"Interesting life, a doctor's." 

"Ye-es. Hard, though. And, in a way, 
monotonous. Nerve-racking too." 

"Hard on the wife's nerves at least, 
eh? So many lady patients." He laughed, en- 
joying, with a boyish heartiness, the hoary 
joke. 

Irene managed a momentary smile, but 
her voice was sober as she said: "Brian doesn't 
care for ladies, especially sick ones. I some- 
times wish he did. It's South America that at- 
tracts him." 

"Coming place, South America, if they 
72 



ENCOUNTER 

ever get the niggers out of it. It's run over — " 

^'Really, Jack!" Clare's voice was on 
the edge of temper. 

"Honestly, Nig, I forgot." To the 
others he said: "You see how hen-pecked I 
am." And to Gertrude: "You're still in Chi- 
cago, Mrs. — er — Mrs. Martin?" 

He was, it was plain, doing his best to 
be agreeable to these old friends of Clare's. 
Irene had to concede that under other condi- 
tions she might have liked him. A fairly good- 
looking man of amiable disposition, evidently, 
and in easy circumstances. Plain and with no 
nonsense about him. 

Gertrude replied that Chicago was 
good enough for her. She'd never been out of it 
and didn't think she ever should. Her hus- 
band's business was there. 

"Of course, of course. Can't jump up 
and leave a business." 

There followed a smooth surface of 
talk about Chicago, New York, their differ- 
ences and their recent spectacular changes. 

It was, Irene, thought, unbelievable 

73 



PASSING 

and astonishing that four people could sit so 
unruffled, so ostensibly friendly, while they 
were In reality seething with anger, mortifica- 
tion, shame. But no, on second thought she 
was forced to amend her opinion. John Bellew, 
most certainly, was as undisturbed within as 
without. So, perhaps, was Gertrude Martin. At 
least she hadn't the mortification and shame 
that Clare Kendry must be feeling, or. In such 
full measure, the rage and rebellion that she, 
Irene, was repressing. 

"More tea, 'Rene," Clare offered. 

^'Thanks, no. And I must be going. I'm 
leaving tomorrow, you know, and I've still got 
packing to do." 

She stood up. So did Gertrude, and 
Clare, and John Bellew. 

"How do you like the Drayton, Mrs. 
Redfield?" the latter asked. 

"The Drayton? Oh, very much. Very 
much Indeed," Irene answered, her scornful 
eyes on Clare's unrevealing face. 

"Nice place, all right. Stayed there a 
time or two myself," the man informed her. 

74 



ENCOUNTER 

"Yes, Jt is nice," Irene agreed. "Almost 
as good as our best New York places." She had 
withdrawn her look from Clare and was search- 
ing in her bag for some non-existent something. 
Her understanding was rapidly increasing, as 
was her pity and her contempt. Clare was so 
daring, so lovely, and so "having." 

They gave their hands to Clare with 
appropriate murmurs. "So good to have seen 
you." ... "I do hope I'll see you again 



soon." 



"Good-bye," Clare returned. "It was 
good of you to come, 'Rene dear. And you too, 
Gertrude." 

"Good-bye, Mr. Bellew." . . . "So 
glad to have met you." It was Gertrude who 
had said that. Irene couldn't, she absolutely 
couldn't bring herself to utter the polite fic- 
tion or anything approaching it. 

He accompanied them out into the hall, 
summoned the elevator. 

"Good-bye," they said again, stepping 
in. 

Plunging downward they were silent. 

75 



PASSING 

They made their way through the lobby 
without speaking. 

But as soon as they had reached the 
street Gertrude, In the manner of one unable 
to keep bottled up for another minute that 
which for the last hour she had had to retain, 
burst out: "My God! What an awful chance! 
She must be plumb crazy." 

"Yes, It certainly seems risky," Irene ad- 
mitted. 

"Risky! I should say It was. Risky! My 
God ! What a word ! And the mess she's liable 
to get herself Into !" 

"Still, I Imagine she's pretty safe. They 
don't live here, you know. And there's a child. 
That's a certain security." 

"It's an awful chance, just the same," 
Gertrude Insisted. "I'd never In the world have 
married Fred without him knowing. You can't 
tell what will turn up." 

"Yes, I do agree that It's safer to tell. 
But then Bellew wouldn't have married her. 
And, after all, that's what she wanted." 

Gertrude shook her head. "I wouldn't 

76 



ENCOUNTER 

be in her shoes for all the money she's getting 
out of it, when he finds out. Not with him feel- 
ing the way he does. Gee! Wasn't it awful? 
For a minute I was so mad I could have 
slapped him." 

It had been, Irene acknowledged, a dis- 
tinctly trying experience, as well as a very un- 
pleasant one. "I was more than a little angry 
myself." 

"And imagine her not telling us about 
him feeling that way ! Anything might have 
happened. We might have said something." 

That, Irene pointed out, was exactly 
like Clare Kendry. Taking a chance, and not at 
all considering anyone else's feelings. 

Gertrude said: "Maybe she thought 
we'd think it a good joke. And I guess you did. 
The way you laughed. My land! I was scared 
to death he might catch on." 

"Well, it was rather a joke," Irene told 
her, "on him and us and maybe on her." 

"All the same, it's an awful chance. I'd 
hate to be her." 

"She seems satisfied enough. She's got 

77 



PASSING 

what she wanted, and the other day she told 
me It was worth It.'' 

But about that Gertrude was sceptical. 
"She'll find out different," was her verdict. 
"She'll find out different all right." 

Rain had begun to fall, a few scattered 
large drops. 

The end-of-the-day crowds were scurry- 
ing In the directions of street-cars and elevated 
roads. 

Irene said: "You're going south? I'm 
sorry. I've got an errand. If you don't mind, 
I'll just say good-bye here. It has been nice 
seeing you, Gertrude. Say hello to Fred for 
me, and to your mother If she remembers me. 
Good-bye." 

She had wanted to be free of the other 
woman, to be alone; for she was still sore and 
angry. 

What right, she kept demanding of her- 
self, had Clare Kendry to expose her, or even 
Gertrude Martin, to such humiliation, such 
downright Insult? 

And all the while, on the rushing ride 

78 



ENCOUNTER 

out to her father's house, Irene Redfield was 
trying to understand the look on Clare's face 
as she had said good-bye. Partly mocking, it 
had seemed, and partly menacing. And some- 
thing else for which she could find no name. 
For an instant a recrudescence of that sensa- 
tion of fear which she had had while looking 
into Clare's eyes that afternoon touched her. 
A slight shiver ran over her. 

"It's nothing," she told herself. "Just 
somebody walking over my grave, as the chil- 
dren say." She tried a tiny laugh and was an- 
noyed to find that it was close to tears. 

What a state she had allowed that hor- 
rible Bellew to get her into ! 

And late that night, even, long after the 
last guest had gone and the old house was 
quiet, she stood at her window frowning out 
Into the dark rain and puzzling again over that 
look on Clare's incredibly beautiful face. She 
couldn't, however, come to any conclusion 
about Its meaning, try as she might. It was un- 
fathomable, utterly beyond any experience or 
comprehension of hers. 

79 



PASSING 

She turned away from the window, at 
last, with a still deeper frown. Why, after all, 
worry about Clare Kendry? She was well able 
to take care of herself, had always been able. 
And there were, for Irene, other things, more 
personal and more Important to worry about. 

Besides, her reason told her, she had 
only herself to blame for her disagreeable aft- 
ernoon and Its attendant fears and questions. 
She ought never to have gone. 



FOUR 

The next morning, the day of her departure 
for New York, had brought a letter, which, at 
first glance, she had instinctively known came 
from Clare Kendry, though she couldn't re- 
member ever having had a letter from her be- 
fore. Ripping it open and looking at the signa- 
ture, she saw that she had been right in her 
guess. She wouldn't, she told herself, read it. 
She hadn't the time. And, besides, she had no 
wish to be reminded of the afternoon before. 
As it was, she felt none too fresh for her jour- 
ney; she had had a wretched night. And all be- 
cause of Clare's innate lack of consideration 
for the feelings of others. 

But she did read it. After father and 
friends had waved good-bye, and she was be- 
ing hurled eastward, she became possessed of 
an uncontrollable curiosity to see what Clare 
had said about yesterday. For what, she asked, 
as she took it out of her bag and opened it, 

8i 



PASSING 

could she, what could anyone, say about a thing 
like that? 

Clare Kendry had said: 

'Rene dear: 

However am I to thank you for your visit? 
I know you are feeling that under the circumstances 
I ought not to have asked you to come, or, rather, in- 
sisted. But if you could know how glad, how excit- 
ingly happy, I was to meet you and how I ached to 
see more of you (to see everybody and couldn't), you 
would understand my wanting to see you again, and 
maybe forgive me a little. 

My love to you always and always and to your 
dear father, and all my poor thanks. 

Clare. 

And there was a postcript which said: 

It may be, 'Rene dear, it may just be, that, 
after all, your way may be the wiser and infinitely hap- 
pier one. I'm not sure just now. At least not so sure as 
I have been. 

c. 

But the letter hadn't conciliated Irene. 
Her Indignation was not lessened by Clare's 
flattering reference to her wiseness. As if, she 

82 



ENCOUNTER 

thought wrathfully, anything could take away 
the humiliation, or any part of it, of what she 
had gone through yesterday afternoon for 
Clare Kendry. 

With an unusual methodicalness she 
tore the offending letter into tiny ragged 
squares that fluttered down and made a small 
heap in her black crepe de Chine lap. The de- 
struction completed, she gathered them up, rose, 
and moved to the train's end. Standing there, 
she dropped them over the railing and watched 
them scatter, on tracks, on cinders, on forlorn 
grass, in rills of dirty water. 

And that, she told herself, was that. 
The chances were one in a million that she 
would ever again lay eyes on Clare Kendry. If, 
however, that millionth chance should turn up, 
she had only to turn away her eyes, to refuse 
her recognition. 

She dropped Clare out of her mind and 
turned her thoughts to her own affairs. To 
home, to the boys, to Brian. Brian, who in the 
morning would be waiting for her in the great 
clamourous station. She hoped that he had been 

83 



PASSING 

comfortable and not too lonely without her and 
the boys. Not so lonely that that old, queer, un- 
happy restlessness had begun again within him; 
that craving for some place strange and dif- 
ferent, which at the beginning of her marriage 
she had had to make such strenuous efforts to 
repress, and which yet faintly alarmed her, 
though it now sprang up at gradually lessen- 
ing intervals. 



PART TWO 



RE-EN CO UNTER 



ONE 

StJCH WERE Irene Redfield's memories as she 
sat there in her room, a flood of October sun- 
light streaming in upon her, holding that sec- 
ond letter of Clare Kendry's. 

Laying it aside, she regarded with an as- 
tonishment that had in it a mild degree of 
amusement the violence of the feelings which it 
stirred in her. 

It wasn't the great measure of anger 
that surprised and slightly amused her. That, 
she was certain, was justified and reasonable, 
as was the fact that it could hold, still strong 
and unabated, across the stretch of two years' 
time entirely removed from any sight or sound 
of John Bellew, or of Clare. That even at this 
remote date the memory of the man's words 
and manner had power to set her hands to 
trembling and to send the blood pounding 
against her temples did not seem to her extra- 
ordinary. But that she should retain that dim 

87 



PASSING 

sense of fear, of panic, was surprising, 
silly. 

That Clare should have written, should, 
even all things considered, have expressed a 
desire to see her again, did not so much amaze 
her. To count as nothing the annoyances, the 
bitterness, or the suffering of others, that was 
Clare. 

Well — Irene's shoulders went up — one 
thing was sure : that she needn't, and didn't 
intend to, lay herself open to any repetition of 
a humiliation as galling and outrageous as that 
which, for Clare Kendry's sake, she had borne 
"that time in Chicago." Once was enough. 

If, at the time of choosing, Clare hadn't 
precisely reckoned the cost, she had, neverthe- 
less, no right to expect others to help make 
up the reckoning. The trouble with Clare was, 
not only that she wanted to have her cake and 
eat it too, but that she wanted to nibble at the 
cakes of other folk as well. 

Irene Redfield found it hard to sympa- 
thize with this new tenderness, this avowed 
yearning of Clare's for "my own people." 

88 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

The letter which she just put out of her 
hand was, to her taste, a bit too lavish in its 
wordiness, a shade too unreserved in the man- 
ner of its expression. It roused again that old 
suspicion that Clare was acting, not consciously, 
perhaps — that is, not too consciously — but, 
none the less, acting. Nor was Irene inclined 
to excuse what she termed Clare's downright 
selfishness. 

And mingled with her disbelief and re- 
sentment was another feeling, a question. Why 
hadn't she spoken that day? Why, in the face 
of Bellew's ignorant hate and aversion, had 
she concealed her own origin? Why had she 
allowed him to make his assertions and express 
his misconceptions undisputed? Why, simply 
because of Clare Kendry, who had exposed her 
to such torment, had she failed to take up the 
defence of the race to which she belonged? 

Irene asked these questions, felt them. 
They were, however, merely rhetorical, as she 
herself was well aware. She knew their an- 
swers, every one, and it was the same for them 
all. The sardony of it! She couldn't betray 

89 



PASSING 

Clare, couldn't even run the risk of appearing 
to defend a people that were being maligned, 
for fear that that defence might in some infini- 
tesimal degree lead the way to final discovery of 
her secret. She had to Clare Kendry a duty. She 
was bound to her by those very ties of race, 
which, for all her repudiation of them, Clare 
had been unable to completely sever. 

And it wasn't, as Irene knew, that Clare 
cared at all about the race or what was to be- 
come of it. She didn't. Or that she had for any 
of its members great, or even real, affection, 
though she professed undying gratitude for the 
small kindnesses which the Westover family 
had shown her when she was a child. Irene 
doubted the genuineness of it, seeing herself 
only as a means to an end where Clare was 
concerned. Nor could it be said that she had 
even the slight artistic or sociological interest 
In the race that some members of other races 
displayed. She hadn't. No, Clare Kendry cared 
nothing for the race. She only belonged to It. 

"Not another damned thing!" Irene de- 
90 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

clared aloud as she drew a fragile stocking 
over a pale beige-coloured foot. 

"Aha ! Swearing again, are you, madam ? 
Caught you in the act that time." 

Brian Redfield had come into the room 
in that noiseless way which, in spite, of the 
years of their life together, still had the power 
to disconcert her. He stood looking down on 
her with that amused smile of his, which was 
just the faintest bit supercilious and yet was 
somehow very becoming to him. 

Hastily Irene pulled on the other stock- 
ing and slipped her feet into the slippers beside 
her chair. 

"And what brought on this particular 
outburst of profanity? That is, if an indulgent 
but perturbed husband may inquire. The mother 
of sons too ! The times, alas, the times !" 

"I've had this letter," Irene told him. 
"And I'm sure that anybody'll admit it's enough 
to make a saint swear. The nerve of her!" 

She passed the letter to him, and in 
the act made a little mental frown. For, with 

91 



PASSING 

a nicety of perception, she saw that she was 
doing it Instead of answering his question with 
words, so that he might be occupied while she 
hurried through her dressing. For she was late 
again, and Brian, she well knew, detested that. 
Why, oh why, couldn't she ever manage to be 
on time? Brian had been up for ages, had made 
some calls for all she knew, besides having 
taken the boys downtown to school. And she 
wasn't dressed yet; had only begun. Damn 
Clare ! This morning it was her fault. 

Brian sat down and bent his head over 
the letter, puckering his brows slightly in his 
effort to make out Clare's scrawl. 

Irene, who had risen and was standing 
before the mirror, ran a comb through her 
black hair, then tossed her head with a light 
characteristic gesture. In order to disarrange a 
little the set locks. She touched a powder-puff 
to her warm olive skin, and then put on her 
frock with a motion so hasty that It was with 
some difficulty properly adjusted. At last she 
was ready, though she didn't Immediately say 
so, but stood, Instead, looking with a sort of 

92 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

curious detachment at her husband across the 
room. 

Brian, she was thinking, was extremely 
good-looking. Not, of course, pretty or effemi- 
nate; the slight irregularity of his nose saved 
him from the prettiness, and the rather marked 
heaviness of his chin saved him from the ef- 
feminacy. But he was, in a pleasant masculine 
way, rather handsome. And yet, wouldn't he, 
perhaps, have been merely ordinarily good- 
looking but for the richness, the beauty of his 
skin, which was of an exquisitely fine texture 
and deep copper colour. 

He looked up and said: "Clare? That 
must be the girl you told me about meeting the 
last time you were out home. The one you 
went to tea with?" 

Irene's answer to that was an inclina- 
tion of the head. 

"I'm ready," she said. 

They were going downstairs, Brian 
deftly, unnecessarily, piloting her round the 
two short curved steps, just before the centre 
landing. 

93 



PASSING 

"You're not," he asked, "going to see 
her?" 

His words, however, were In reality not 
a question, but, as Irene was aware, an admoni- 
tion. 

Her front teeth just touched. She spoke 
through them, and her tones held a thin sar- 
casm. "Brian, darling, I'm really not such an, 
idiot that I don't realize that if a man calls me 
a nigger, it's his fault the first time, but mine 
if he has the opportunity to do It again." 

They went Into the dining-room. He 
drew back her chair and she sat down behind 
the fat-bellied German coffee-pot, which sent 
out Its morning fragrance, mingled with the 
smell of crisp toast and savoury bacon, In the 
distance. With his long, nervous fingers he 
picked up the morning paper from his own 
chair and sat down. 

Zulena, a small mahogany-coloured 
creature, brought In the grapefruit. 

They took up their spoons. 

Out of the silence Brian spoke. Blandly. 
94 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

''My dear, you misunderstand me entirely. I 
simply meant that I hope you're not going to 
let her pester you. She will, you know, if you 
give her half a chance and she's anything at all 
like your description of her. Anyway, they al- 
ways do. Besides," he corrected, "the man, her 
husband, didn't call you a nigger. There's a 
difference, you know." 

"No, certainly he didn't. Not actually. 
He couldn't, not very well, since he didn't 
know. But he would have. It amounts to the 
same thing. And I'm sure it was just as un- 
pleasant." 

"U-mm, I don't know. But it seems to 
me," he pointed out, "that you, my dear, had 
all the advantage. You knew what his opinion 
of you was, while he — Well, 'twas ever thus. 
We know, always have. They don't. Not quite. 
It has, you will admit, it's humorous side, and, 
sometimes, its conveniences." 

She poured the coffee. 

"I can't see It. I'm going to write Clare. 
Today, If I can find a minute. It's a thing we 

95 



PASSING 

might as well settle definitely, and immediately. 
Curious, isn't it, that knowing, as she does, his 
unqualified attitude, she still — " 

Brian interrupted: "It's always that 
way. Never known it to fail. Remember Al- 
bert Hammond, how he used to be for ever 
haunting Seventh Avenue, and Lenox Avenue, 
and the dancing-places, until some 'shine' took 
a shot at him for casting an eye towards his 
'sheba?' They always come back. I've seen it 
happen time and time again." 

''But why?" Irene wanted to know. 
"Why?" 

"If I knew that, I'd know w^hat race is." 

"But wouldn't you think that having 
got the thing, or things, they were after, and at 
such risk, they'd be satisfied? Or afraid?" 

"Yes," Brian agreed, "you certainly 
would think so. But, the fact remains, they 
aren't. Not satisfied, I mean. I think they're 
scared enough most of the time, when they give 
way to the urge and slip back. Not scared 
enough to stop them, though. Why, the good 
God only knows." 

96 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

Irene leaned forward, speaking, she 
was aware, with a vehemence absolutely un- 
necessary, but which she could not control. 

"Well, Clare can just count me out. 
I've no intention of being the link between her 
and her poorer darker brethren. After that 
scene in Chicago too! To calmly expect me — " 
She stopped short, suddenly too wrathful for 
words. 

"Quite right. The only sensible thing to 
do. Let her miss you. It's an unhealthy busi- 
ness, the whole affair. Always is." 

Irene nodded. "More coffee," she of- 
fered. 

"Thanks, no." He took up his paper 
again, spreading it open with a little rattling 
noise. 

Zulena came In bringing more toast. 
Brian took a slice and bit into it with that audi- 
ble crunching sound that Irene disliked so in- 
tensely, and turned back to his paper. 

She said: "It's funny about ^passing.' 
We disapprove of it and at the same time con- 
done It. It excites our contempt and yet we 

97 



PASSING 

rather admire It. We shy away from it with 
an odd kind of revulsion, but we protect it." 

"Instinct of the race to survive and ex- 
pand." 

"Rot ! Everything can't be explained by 
some general biological phrase." 

"Absolutely everything can. Look at 
the so-called whites, who've left bastards all 
over the known earth. Same thing in them. In- 
stinct of the race to survive and expand." 

With that Irene didn't at all agree, but 
many arguments in the past had taught her the 
futility of attempting to combat Brian on 
ground where he was more nearly at home than 
she. Ignoring his unqualified assertion, she slid 
away from the subject entirely. 

"I wonder," she asked, "if you'll have 
time to run me down to the printing-office. It's 
on a Hundred and Sixteenth Street. I've got to 
see about some handbills and some more tick- 
ets for the dance." 

"Yes, of course. How's it going? Every- 
thing all set?" 

"Ye-es. I guess so. The boxes are all 

98 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

sold and nearly all the first batch of tickets. 
And we expect to take in almost as much again 
at the door. Then, there's all that cake to sell. 
It's a terrible lot of work, though." 

"I'll bet it is. Uplifting the brother's 
no easy job. I'm as busy as a cat with fleas, my- 
self." And over his face there came a shadow. 
*'Lord! how I hate sick people, and their stupid, 
meddling families, and smelly, dirty rooms, and 
climbing filthy steps In dark hallways." 

"Surely," Irene began, fighting back the 
fear and irritation that she felt, "surely — " 

Her husband silenced her, saying 
sharply: "Let's not talk about it, please." And 
immediately, in his usual, slightly mocking tone 
he asked: "Are you ready to go now? I haven't 
a great deal of time to wait." 

He got up. She followed him out Into 
the hall without replying. He picked up his soft 
brown hat from the small table and stood a 
moment whirling it round on his long tea- 
coloured fingers. 

Irene, watching him, was thinking: "It 
Isn't fair, It isn't fair." After all these years to 

99 



PASSING 

Still blame her like this. Hadn't his success 
proved that she'd been right in insisting that he 
stick to his profession right there in New York? 
Couldn't he see, even now, that it had been 
best? Not for her, oh no, not for her — she had 
never really considered herself — but for him 
and the boys. Was she never to be free of it, 
that fear which crouched, always, deep down 
within her, stealing away the sense of security, 
the feeling of permanence, from the life which 
she had so admirably arranged for them all, 
and desired so ardently to have remain as it 
was? That strange, and to her fantastic, notion 
of Brian's of going off to Brazil, which, though 
unmentioned, yet lived within him; how it 
frightened her, and — yes, angered her I 

"Well?" he asked lightly. 

"I'll just get my things. One minute," 
she promised and turned upstairs. 

Her voice had been even and her step 
was firm, but in her there was no slackening of 
the agitation, of the alarms, which Brian's ex- 
pression of discontent had raised. He had never 
spoken of his desire since that long-ago time of 

100 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

Storm and strain, of hateful and nearly disas- 
trous quarrelling, when she had so firmly op- 
posed him, so sensibly pointed out its utter 
impossibility and its probable consequences to 
her and the boys, and had even hinted at a dis- 
solution of their marriage in the event of his 
persistence in his idea. No, there had been, in 
all the years that they had lived together since 
then, no other talk of It, no more than there 
had been any other quarrelling or any other 
threats. But because, so she insisted, the bond 
of flesh and spirit between them was so strong, 
she knew, had always known, that his dissatis- 
faction had continued, as had his dislike and 
disgust for his profession and his country. 

A feeling of uneasiness stole upon her 
at the inconceivable suspicion that she might 
have been wrong in her estimate of her hus- 
band's character. But she squirmed away from 
it. Impossible ! She couldn't have been wrong. 
Everything proved that she had been right. 
More than right, if such a thing could be. And 
all, she assured herself, because she understood 
him so well, because she had, actually, a special 

lOI 



PASSING 

talent for understanding him. It was, as she 
saw it, the one thing that had been the basis of 
the success which she had made of a marriage 
that had threatened to fail. She knew him as 
well as he knew himself, or better. 

Then why worry? The thing, this dis- 
content which had exploded into words, would 
surely die, flicker out, at last. True, she had in 
the past often been tempted to believe that it 
had died, only to become conscious, in some 
instinctive, subtle way, that she had been merely 
deceiving herself for a while and that it still 
lived. But it would die. Of that she was certain. 
She had only to direct and guide her man, to 
keep him going in the right direction. 

She put on her coat and adjusted her 
hat. 

Yes, it would die, as long ago she had 
made up her mind that it should. But in the 
meantime, while it was still living and still had 
the power to flare up and alarm her, it would 
have to be banked, smothered, and something 
offered in Its stead. She would have to make 
some plan, some decision, at once. She frowned, 

I02 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

for it annoyed her intensely. For, though tem- 
porary, it would be important and perhaps dis- 
turbing. Irene didn't like changes, particularly 
changes that affected the smooth routine of her 
household. Well, it couldn't be helped. Some- 
thing would have to be done. And immediately. 

She took up her purse and drawing on 
her gloves, ran down the steps and out through 
the door which Brian held open for her and 
stepped into the waiting car. 

*'You know," she said, settling herself 
into the seat beside him, "I'm awfuly glad to 
get this minute alone with you. It does seem 
that we're always so busy — I do hate that — 
but what can we do? I've had something on my 
mind for ever so long, something that needs 
talking over and really serious consideration." 

The car's engine rumbled as it moved 
out from the kerb and into the scant traffic of 
the street under Brian's expert guidance. 

She studied his profile. 

They turned into Seventh Avenue. Then 
he said: "Well, let's have it. No time like the 
present for the settling of weighty matters." 

103 



PASSING 

*'It's about Junior. I wonder if he isn't 
going too fast in school? We do forget that 
he's not eleven yet. Surely it can't be good for 
him to — well, if he is, I mean. Going too fast, 
you know. Of course, you know more about 
these things than I do. You're better able to 
judge. That is, if you've noticed or thought 
about it at all." 

*'I do wish, Irene, you wouldn't be for 
ever fretting about those kids. They're all 
right. Perfectly all right. Good, strong, healthy 
boys, especially Junior. Most especially 
Junior." 

"We-11, I s'pose you're right. You're 
expected to know about things like that, and 
I'm sure you wouldn't make a mistake about 
your own boy." (Now, why had she said that?) 
''But that isn't all. I'm terribly afraid he's 
picked up some queer ideas about things — some 
things — from the older boys, you know." 

Her manner was consciously light. Ap- 
parently she was intent of the maze of traffic, 
but she was still watching Brian's face closely. 
On it was a peculiar expression. Was it, could 

104 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

It possibly be, a mixture of scorn and distaste? 

''Queer Ideas?" he repeated. "D'you 
mean Ideas about sex, Irene?" 

"Ye-es. Not quite nice ones. Dreadful 
jokes, and things like that." 

"Oh, I see," he threw at her. For a 
while there was silence between them. After a 
moment he demanded bluntly: "Well, what of 
it? If sex isn't a joke, what Is It? And what Is 
a joke?" 

"As you please, Brian. He's your son, 
you know." Her voice was clear, level, disap- 
proving. 

"Exactly! And you're trying to make a 
molly-coddle out of him. Well, just let me tell 
you, I won't have it. And you needn't think 
I'm going to let you change him to some nice 
kindergarten kind of a school because he's get- 
ting a little necessary education. I won't! He'll 
stay right where he is. The sooner and the more 
he learns about sex, the better for him. And 
most certainly if he learns that it's a grand 
joke, the greatest in the world. It'll keep him 
from lots of disappointments later on." 

105 



PASSING 

Irene didn't answer. 

They reached the printing-shop. She got 
out, emphatically slamming the car's door be- 
hind her. There was a piercing agony of misery 
In her heart. She hadn't Intended to behave 
like this, but her extreme resentment at his at- 
titude, the sense of having been wilfully mis- 
understood and reproved, drove her to fury. 

Inside the shop, she stilled the trembling 
of her lips and drove back her rising anger. 
Her business transacted, she came back to the 
car In a chastened mood. But against the ar- 
mour of Brian's stubborn silence she heard her- 
self saying In a calm, metallic voice: "I don't 
believe I'll go back just now. I've remembered 
that I've got to do something about getting 
something decent to wear. I haven't a rag that's 
fit to be seen. I'll take the bus downtown." 

Brian merely doffed his hat In that mad- 
dening polite way which so successfully curbed 
and yet revealed his temper. 

''Good-bye," she said bitlngly. "Thanks 
for the lift," and turned towards the avenue. 

What, she wondered contritely, was she 
io6 



RE-ENCOUNTER '^ 

to do next? She was vexed with herself for 
having chosen, as it had turned out, so clumsy 
an opening for what she had intended to sug- 
gest: some European school for Junior next 
year, and Brian to take him over. If she had 
been able to present her plan, and he had ac- 
cepted it, as she was sure that he would have 
done, with other more favourable opening 
methods, he would have had that to look for- 
ward to as a break in the easy monotony that 
seemed, for some reason she was wholly un- 
able to grasp, so hateful to him. 

She was even more vexed at her own 
explosion of anger. What could have got into 
her to give way to it in such a moment? 

Gradually her mood passed. She drew 
back from the failure her first attempt at sub- 
stitution, not so much discouraged as disap- 
pointed and ashamed. It might be, she reflected, 
that, in addition to her ill-timed loss of temper, 
she had been too hasty in her eagerness to dis- 
tract him, had rushed too closely on the heels 
of his outburst, and had thus aroused his sus- 
picions and his obstinacy. She had but to wait. 

107 



PASSING 

Another more appropriate time would come, 
tomorrow, next week, next month. It wasn't 
now, as It had been once, that she was afraid 
that he would throw everything aside and rush 
off to that remote place of his heart's desire. 
He wouldn't, she knew. He was fond of her, 
loved her, in his slightly undemonstrative way. 

And there were the boys. 

It was only that she wanted him to be 
happy, resenting, however, his inability to be 
so with things as they were, and never acknowl- 
edging that though she did want him to be 
happy. It was only In her own way and by some 
plan of hers for him that she truly desired him 
to be so. Nor did she admit that all other plans, 
all other ways, she regarded as menaces, more 
or less Indirect, to that security of place and 
substance which she Insisted upon for her sons 
and in a lesser degree for herself. 



io8 



TWO 

Five days had gone by since Clare Kendry's 
appealing letter. Irene Redfield had not replied 
to it. Nor had she had any other word from 
Clare. 

She had not carried out her first inten- 
tion of writing at once because on going back 
to the letter for Clare's address, she had come 
upon something which, in the rigour of her de- 
termination to maintain unbroken between them 
the wall that Clare herself had raised, she had 
forgotten, or not fully noted. It was the fact 
that Clare had requested her to direct her an- 
swer to the post office's general delivery. 

That had angered Irene, and increased 
her disdain and contempt for the other. 

Tearing the letter across, she had flung 
it into the ' scrap-basket. It wasn't so much 
Clare's carefulness and her desire for secrecy in 
their relations — Irene understood the need for 
that — as that Clare should have doubted her 
discretion, implied that she might not be cau- 

109 



PASSING 

tious in the wording of her reply and the choice 
of a posting-box. Having always had complete 
confidence in her own good judgment and tact, 
Irene couldn't bear to have anyone seem to 
question them. Certainly not Clare Kendry. 

In another, calmer moment she decided 
that It was, after all, better to answer nothing, 
to explain nothing, to refuse nothing; to dis- 
pose of the matter simply by not writing at all. 
Clare, of whom it couldn't be said that she 
was stupid, would not mistake the imphcation 
of that silence. She might — and Irene was sure 
that she would — choose to ignore it and write 
again, but that didn't matter. The whole thing 
would be very easy. The basket for all letters, 
silence for their answers. 

Most likely she and Clare would never 
meet again. Well, she, for one, could endure 
that. Since childhood their lives had never really 
touched. Actually they were strangers. Stran- 
gers in their ways and means of living. Stran- 
gers in their desires and ambitions. Strangers 
even in their racial consciousness. Between them 
the barrier was just as high, just as broad, and 

no 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

just as firm as If in Clare did not run that strain 
of black blood. In truth, it was higher, broader, 
and firmer; because for her there were perils, 
not known, or imagined, by those others who 
had no such secrets to alarm or endanger them. 

The day was getting on toward evening. 
It was past the middle of October. There had 
been a week of cold rain, drenching the rotting 
leaves which had fallen from the poor trees 
that lined the street on which the Redfields' 
house was located, and sending a damp air of 
penetrating chill into the house, with a hint of 
cold days to come. In Irene's room a low fire 
was burning. Outside, only a dull grey light was 
left of the day. Inside, lamps had already been 
lighted. 

From the floor above there was the 
sound of young voices. Sometimes Junior's seri- 
ous and positive; again, Ted's deceptively gra- 
cious one. Often there was laughter, or the 
noise of commotion, tussling, or toys being 
slammed down. 

Junior, tall for his age, was almost in- 
III 



PASSING 

credibly like his father in feature and colour- 
ing; but his temperament was hers, practical 
and determined, rather than Brian's. Ted, 
speculative and withdrawn, was, apparently, 
less positive in his ideas and desires. About him 
there was a deceiving air of candour that was, 
Irene knew, like his father's show of reason- 
able acquiescence. If, for the time being, and 
with a charming appearance of artlessness, he 
submitted to the force of superior strength, or 
some other immovable condition or circum- 
stance, it was because of his intense dislike of 
scenes and unpleasant argument. Brian over 
again. 

Gradually Irene's thought slipped away 
from Junior and Ted, to become wholly ab- 
sorbed in their father. 

The old fear, with strength increased, 
the fear for the future, had again laid its hand 
on her. And, try as she might, she could not 
shake it off. It was as if she had admitted to 
herself that against that easy surface of her 
husband's concordance with her wishes, which 
had, since the war had given him back to her 

112 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

physically unimpaired, covered an Increasing 
Inclination to tear himself and his possessions 
loose from their proper setting, she was help- 
less. 

The chagrin which she had felt at her 
first failure to subvert this latest manifestation 
of his discontent had receded, leaving In Its 
wake an uneasy depression. Were all her efforts, 
all her labours, to make up to him that one loss, 
all her silent striving to prove to him that her 
way had been best, all her ministrations to him, 
all her outward sinking of self, to count for 
nothing In some unpercelved sudden moment? 
And If so, what, then, would be the conse- 
quences to the boys? To her? To Brian him- 
self? Endless searching had brought no answer 
to these questions. There was only an Intense 
weariness from their shuttle-like procession In 
her brain. 

The noise and commotion from above 
grew Increasingly louder. Irene was about to go 
to the stairway and request the boys to be 
quieter In their play when she heard the door- 
bell ringing. 

113 



PASSING 

Now, who was that likely to be? She 
listened to Zulena's heels, faintly tapping on 
their way to the door, then to the shifting sound 
of her feet on the steps, then to her light knock 
on the bedroom door. 

*'Yes. Come In,^' Irene told her. 

Zulena stood In the doorway. She said: 
"Someone to see you, Mrs. Redfield." Her 
tone was discreetly regretful, as If to convey 
that she was reluctant to disturb her mistress 
at that hour, and for a stranger. "A Mrs. Bel- 
lew.'^ 

Clare I 

''Oh dear! Tell her, Zulena," Irene be- 
gan, '*that I can't — No. I'll see her. Please 
bring her up here." 

She heard Zulena pass down the hall, 
down the stairs, then stood up, smoothing out 
the tumbled green and Ivory draperies of her 
dress with light stroking pats. At the mirror 
she dusted a little powder on her nose and 
brushed out her hair. 

She meant to tell Clare Kendry at once, 
and definitely, that It was of no use, her com- 

114 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

ing, that she couldn't be responsible, that she'd 
talked it over with Brian, who had agreed with 
her that it was wiser, for Clare's own sake, to 
refrain — 

But that was as far as she got in her 
rehearsal. For Clare had come softly into the 
room without knocking, and before Irene could 
greet her, had dropped a kiss on her dark 
curls. 

Looking at the woman before her, Irene 
Redfield had a sudden inexplicable onrush of 
affectionate feeling. Reaching out, she grasped 
Clare's two hand in her own and cried with 
something like awe in her voice: "Dear God! 
But aren't you lovely, Clare!" 

Clare tossed that aside. Like the furs 
and small blue hat which she threw on the bed 
before seating herself slantwise in Irene's fa- 
vourite chair, with one foot curled under her. 

"Didn't you mern to answer my letter, 
*Rene?" she asked gravely. 

Irene looked away. She had that un- 
comfortable feeling that one has when one has 
not been wholly kind or wholly true. 

115 



PASSING 

Clare went on: ''Every day I went to 
that nasty little post-office place. I'm sure they 
were all beginning to think that I'd been carry- 
ing on an illicit love-affair and that the man had 
thrown me over. Every morning the same an- 
swer: 'Nothing for you.' I got into an awful 
fright, thinking that something might have 
happened to your letter, or to mine. And half 
the nights I would lie awake looking out at 
the watery stars — hopeless things, the stars — 
worrying and wondering. But at last it soaked 
in, that you hadn't written and didn't Intend 
to. And then — well, as soon as ever I'd seen 
Jack off for Florida, I came straight here. And 
now, 'Rene, please tell me quite frankly why 
you didn't answer my letter." 

"Because, you see — " Irene broke off 
and kept Clare waiting while she lit a cigarette, 
blew out the match, and dropped it Into a tray. 
She was trying to collect her arguments, for 
some sixth sense warned her that It was going 
to be harder than she thought to convince Clare 
Kendry of the folly of Harlem for her. Finally 
she proceeded: "I can't help thinking that you 

ii6 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

ought not to come up here, ought not to run 
the risk of knowing Negroes." 

"You mean you don't want me, 'Rene?" 

Irene hadn't supposed that anyone could 
look so hurt. She said, quite gently, "No, Clare, 
it's not that. But even you must see that it's 
terribly foolish, and not just the right thing." 

The tinkle of Clare's laugh rang out, 
while she passed her hands over the bright 
sweep of her hair. "Oh, 'Rene!" she cried, 
"you're priceless ! And you haven't changed a 
bit. The right thing!" Leaning forward, she 
looked curiously into Irene's disapproving 
brown eyes. "You don't, you really can't mean 
exactly that! Nobody could. It's simply unbe- 
lievable." 

Irene was on her feet before she real- 
ized that she had risen. "What I really mean," 
she retorted, "is that it's dangerous and that 
you ought not to run such silly risks. No one 
ought to. You least of all." 

Her voice was brittle. For into her 
mind had come a thought, strange and irrele- 
vant, a suspicion, that had surprised and 

117 



PASSING 

shocked her and driven her to her feet. It was 
that in spite of her determined selfishness the 
woman before her was yet capable of heights 
and depths of feeling that she, Irene Redfield, 
had never known. Indeed, never cared to know. 
The thought, the suspicion, was gone as quickly 
as it had come. 

Clare said: '*0h, me!" 
/ Irene touched her arm caressingly, as if 
in contrition for that flashing thought. "Yes, 
Clare, you. It's not safe. Not safe at all." 

"Safe!" 

It seemed to Irene that Clare had 
snapped her teeth down on the word and then 
flung It from her. And for another flying sec- 
ond she had that suspicion of Clare's ability for 
a quality of feeling that was to her strange, and 
even repugnant. She was aware, too, of a dim 
premonition of some impending disaster. It was 
as If Clare Kendry had said to her, for whom 
safety, security, were all-important: "Safe! 
Damn being safe!" and meant it. 

With a gesture of impatience she sat 
down. In a voice of cool formality, she said: 

ii8 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

''Brian and I have talked the whole thing over 
carefully and decided that it isn't wise. He 
says it's always a dangerous business, this com- 
ing back. He's seen more than one come to 
grief because of it. And, Clare, considering 
everything — Mr. Bellew's attitude and all that 
— don't you think you ought to be as careful as 
you can?" 

Clare's deep voice broke the small si- 
lence that had followed Irene's speech. She 
said, speaking almost plaintively: *'I ought to 
have known. It's Jack. I don't blame you for 
being angry, though I must say you behaved 
beautifully that day. But I did think you'd 
understand, 'Rene. It was that, partly, that has 
made me want to see other people. It just 
swooped down and changed everything. If it 
hadn't been for that, I'd have gone on to the 
end, never seeing any of you. But that did 
something to me, and I've been so lonely since! 
You can't know. Not close to a single soul. 
Never anyone to really talk to." 

Irene pressed out her cigarette. While 
doing so, she saw again the vision of Clare 

119 



PASSING 

Kendry staring disdainfully down at the face of 
her father, and thought that it would be like 
that that she would look at her husband if he 
lay dead before her. 

Her own resentment was swept aside 
and her voice held an accent of pity as she ex- 
claimed: "Why, Clare! I didn't know. For- 
give me. I feel like seven beasts. It was stupid 
of me not to realize." 

"No. Not at all. You couldn't. Nobody, 
none of you, could," Clare moaned. The black 
eyes filled with tears that ran down her cheeks 
and spilled into her lap, ruining the priceless 
velvet of her dress. Her long hands were a little 
uplifted and clasped tightly together. Her ef- 
fort to speak moderately was obvious, but not 
successful. "How could you know? How could ' 
you? You're free. You're happy. And," with 
faint derision, "safe." 

Irene passed over that touch of deri- 
sion, for the poignant rebellion of the other's 
words had brought the tears to her own eyes, 
though she didn't allow them to fall. The truth 
was that she knew weeping did not become her. 

I20 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

Few women, she imagined, wept as attractively 
as Clare. I'^Tm beginning to believe," she mur- 
mured, "that no one is ever completely happy, 
or free, or safe." ) 

"Well, tfien, what does it matter? One 
risk more or less, if we're not safe anyway, if 
even you're not, it can't make all the difference 
in the world. It can't to me. Besides, I'm used 
to risks. And this isn't such a big one as you're 
trying to make it." 

"Oh, but it is. And it can make all the 
difference in the world. There's your little girl, 
Clare. Think of the consequences to her." 

Clare's face took on a startled look, as 
though she were totally unprepared for this 
new weapon with which Irene had assailed her. 
Seconds passed, during which she sat with 
stricken eyes and compressed lips. "I think," 
she said at last, "that being a mother is the 
cruellest thing in the world." Her clasped hands 
swayed forward and back again, and her scarlet 
mouth trembled irrepressibly. 

"Yes," Irene softly agreed. For a mo- 
ment she was unable to say more, so accurately 

121 



PASSING 

had Clare put into words that which, not so 
definitely defined, was so often in her own heart 
of late. At the same time she was conscious that 
here, to her hand, was a reason which could not 
be lightly brushed aside. "Yes," she repeated, 
"and the most responsible, Clare. We mothers 
are all responsible for the security and happi- 
ness of our children. Think what it would mean 
to your Margery if Mr. Bellew should find out. 
You'd probably lose her. And even if you 
didn't, nothing that concerned her would ever 
be the same again. He'd never forget that she 
had Negro blood. And if she should learn — 
Well, I believe that after twelve it is too late 
to learn a thing like that. She'd never forgive 
you. You may be used to risks, but this is one 
you mustn't take, Clare. It's a selfish whim, an 
unnecessary and — 

"Yes, Zulena, what is it?" she inquired, 
a trifle tartly, of the servant who had silently 
materialized in the doorway. 

"The telephone's for you, Mrs. Red- 
field. It's Mr. Wentworth." 

"All right. Thank you. I'll take it 

122 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

here." And, with a muttered apology to Clare, 
she took up the Instrument. 

^'Hello. . . . Yes, Hugh. ... Oh, 
quite. . . . And you? . . . I'm sorry, every 
single thing's gone. . . . Oh, too bad. . . . 
Ye-es, I s'pose you could. Not very pleasant, 
though. . . . Yes, of course. In a pinch every- 
thing goes. . . . Walt! I've got It! I'll change 
mine with whoever's next to you, and you can 
have that. . . . No. ... I mean It. . . . 
I'll be so busy I shan't know whether I'm sit- 
ting or standing. ... As long as Brian has a 
place to drop down now and then. . . . Not a 
single soul. . . . No, don't. ., . . That's 
nice. . . . My love to Blanca. . . . I'll see 
to It right away and call you back. . . . Good- 
bye." 

She hung up and turned back to Clare, a 
little frown on her softly chiselled features. 
"It's the N. W. L. dance," she explained, "the 
Negro Welfare League, you know. I'm on the 
ticket committee, or, rather, I am the com- 
mittee. Thank heaven It comes off tomorrow 
night and doesn't happen again for a year. I'm 

123 



PASSING 

about crazy, and now I've got to persuade 
somebody to change boxes with me." 

"That wasn't," Clare asked, "Hugh 
Wentworth? Not the Hugh Wentworth?" 

Irene incHned her head. On her face 
was a tiny triumphant smile. "Yes, the Hugh 
Wentworth. D'you know him?" 

"No. How should I? But I do know 
about him. And I've read a book or two of 
his." 

"Awfully good, aren't they?" 

"U-umm, I s'pose so. Sort of contemp- 
tuous, I thought. As if he more or less despised 
everything and everybody." 

"I shouldn't be a bit surprised if he did. 
Still, he's about earned the right to. Lived on 
the edges of nowhere in at least three conti- 
nents. Been through every danger in all kinds 
of savage places. It's no wonder he thinks the 
rest of us are a lazy self-pampering lot. Hugh's 
a dear, though, generous as one of the twelve 
disciples ; give you the shirt off his back. Bianca 
— that's his wife — is nice too." 

124 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

"And he's coming up here to your 
dance?" 

Irene asked why not. 

"It seems rather curious, a man like 
that, going to a Negro dance." 

This, Irene told her, was the year 1927 
in the city of New York, and hundreds of 
white people of Hugh Wentworth's type came 
to affairs in Harlem, more all the time. So 
many that Brian had said: "Pretty soon the 
coloured people won't be allowed in at all, or 
will have to sit in Jim Crowed sections." 

"What do they come for?" 

"Same reason you're here, to see Ne- 
groes." 

"But why?" 

"Various motives," Irene explained. "A 
few purely and frankly to enjoy themselves. 
Others to get material to turn into shekels. 
More, to gaze on these great and near great 
while they gaze on the Negroes." 

Clare clapped her hand. " 'Rene, sup- 
pose I come too ! It sounds terribly Interesting 

125 



PASSING 

and amusing. And I don't see why I shouldn't." 

Irene, who was regarding her through 
narrowed eyelids, had the same thought that 
she had had two years ago on the roof of the 
Drayton, that Clare Kendry was just a shade 
too good-looking. Her tone was on the edge of 
irony as she said: "You mean because so many 
other white people go?" 

A pale rose-colour came Into Clare's 
ivory cheeks. She lifted a hand In protest. 
"Don't be silly! Certainly not! I mean that in 
a crowd of that kind I shouldn't be noticed." 

On the contrary, was Irene's opinion. 
It might be even doubly dangerous. Some friend 
or acquaintance of John Bellew or herself 
might see and recognize her. 

At that, Clare laughed for a long time, 
little musical trills following one another in 
sequence after sequence. It was as if the 
thought of any friend of John Bellew's going 
to a Negro dance was to her the most amusing 
thing in the world. 

"I don't think," she said, when she had 
done laughing, "we need worry about that.'* 

126 



^ RE-ENCOUNTER 

'^ / ^y Irene, however, wasn't so sure. But all 
her efforts to dissuade Clare were useless. To 
her, "You never can tell whom you're likely to 
meet there," Clare's rejoinder was: "I'll take 
my chance on getting by." 

"Besides, you won't know a soul and I 
shall be too busy to look after you. You'll be 
bored stiff." 

"I won't, I won't. If nobody asks me to 
dance, not even Dr. Redfield, I'll just sit and 
gaze on the great and the near great, too. Do, 
'Rene, be polite and invite me." 

Irene turned away from the caress of 
Clare's smile, saying promptly and positively: 
"I will not." 

"I mean to go anyway," Clare retorted, 
and her voice was no less positive than Irene's. 

"Oh, no. You couldn't possibly go there 
alone. It's a public thing. All sorts of people 
go, anybody who can pay a dollar, even ladies 
of easy virtue looking for trade. If you were 
to go there alone, you might be mistaken for 
one of them, and that wouldn't be too pleas- 



ant." 



127 



PASSING 

Clare laughed again. "Thanks. I never 
have been. It might be amusing. I'm warning 
you, 'Rene, that if you're not going to be nice 
and take me, I'll still be among those present. 
I suppose, my dollar's as good as anyone's." 

"Oh, the dollar! Don't be a fool, 
Claire. I don't care where you go, or what you 
do. All I'm concerned with is the unpleasant- 
ness and possible danger which your going 
might incur, because of your situation. To put 
it frankly, I shouldn't like to be mixed up in 
any row of the kind." She had risen again as 
she spoke and was standing at the window 
lifting and spreading the small yellow chrysan- 
themums in the grey stone jar on the sill. Her 
hands shook slightly, for she was in a near 
rage of impatience and exasperation. 

Claire's face looked strange, as if she 
wanted to cry again. One of her satin-covered 
feet swung restlessly back and forth. She said 
vehemently, violently almost: "Damn Jack! 
He keeps me out of everything. Everything I 
want. I could kill him ! I expect I shall, some 
day." 

128 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

"I wouldn't," Irene advised her, "you 
see, there's still capital punishment, In this state 
at least. And really, Clare, after everything's 
said, I can't see that you've a right to put all the 
blame on him. You've got to admit that there's 
his side to the thing. You didn't tell him you 
were coloured, so he's got no way of knowing 
about this hankering of yours after Negroes, 
or that It galls you to fury to hear them called 
niggers and black devils. As far as I can see, 
you'll just have to endure some things and give 
up others. As we've said before, everything 
must be paid for. Do, please, be reasonable." 

But Clare, It was plain, had shut away 
reason as well as caution. She shook her head. 
"I can't, I can't," she said. "I would If I could, 
but I can't. You don't know, you can't realize 
how I want to see Negroes, to be with them 
again, to talk with them, to hear them laugh." 

And In the look she gave Irene, there 
was something groping, and hopeless, and yet 
so absolutely determined that It was like an 
Image of the futile searching and the firm reso- 
lution In Irene's own soul, and Increased the 

129 



PASSING 

feeling of doubt and compunction that had 
been growing within her about Clare Kendry. 

She gave in. 

*'0h, come if you want to. I s'pose 
you're right. Once can't do such a terrible lot 
of harm." 

Pushing aside Clare's extravagant 
thanks, for immediately she was sorry that she 
had consented, she said briskly: "Should you 
like to come up and see my boys?" 

"I'd love to." 

They went up, Irene thinking that Brian 
would consider that she'd behaved like a spine- 
less fool. And he would be right. She certainly 
had. 

Clare was smiling. She stood in the 
doorway of the boys' playroom, her shadowy 
eyes looking down on Junior and Ted, who had 
sprung apart from their tusselling. Junior's face 
had a funny little look of resentment. Ted's 
was blank. 

Clare said: "Please don't be cross. Of 
course, I know I've gone and spoiled every- 

130 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

thing. But maybe, If I promise not to get too 
much in the way, you'll let me come in, just 
the same." 

"Sure, come in if you want to," Ted told 
her. "We can't stop you, you know." He 
smiled and made her a little bow and then 
turned away to a shelf that held his favourite 
books. Taking one down, he settled himself in 
a chair and began to read. 

Junior said nothing, did nothing, merely 
stood there waiting. 

"Get up, Ted! That's rude. This is 
Theodore, Mrs. Bellew. Please excuse his bad 
manners. He does know better. And this is 
Brian junior. Mrs. Bellew is an old friend of 
mother's. We used to play together when we 
were little girls." 

Clare had gone and Brian had tele- 
phoned that he'd been detained and would have 
his dinner downtown. Irene was a little glad 
for that. She was going out later herself, and 
that meant she wouldn't, probably, see Brian 

131 



PASSING 

until morning and so could put off for a few 
more hours speaking of Clare and the N. W. L. 
dance. 

She was angry with herself and with 
Clare. But more with herself, for having per- 
mitted Clare to tease her Into doing something 
that Brian had, all but expressly, asked her not 
to do. She didn't want him ruffled, not just 
then, not while he was possessed of that un- 
reasonable restless feeling. 

She was annoyed, too, because she was 
aware that she had consented to something 
which, if It went beyond the dance, would In- 
volve her In numerous petty inconveniences and 
evasions. And not only at home with Brian, but 
outside with friends and acquaintances. The dis- 
agreeable possibilities in connection with Clare 
Kendry's coming among them loomed before 
her In endless irritating array. 

Clare, It seemed, still retained her abil- 
ity to secure the thing that she wanted in the 
face of any opposition, and in utter disregard 
of the convenience and desire of others. About 
her there was some quality, hard and persistent, 

132 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

with the strength and endurance of rock, that 
would not be beaten or ignored. She couldn't, 
Irene thought, have had an entirely serene life. 
Not with that dark secret for ever crouching 
in the background of her consciousness. And 
yet she hadn't the air of a woman whose life 
had been touched by uncertainty or suffering. 
Pain, fear, and grief were things that left their 
mark on people. Even love, that exquisite tor- 
turing emotion, left its subtle traces on the 
countenance. 

But Clare — she had remained almost 
what she had always been, an attractive, some- 
what lonely child — selfish, wilful, and disturb- 
ing. 



THREE 

The things which Irene Redfield remembered 
afterward about the Negro Welfare League 
dance seemed, to her, unimportant and unre- 
lated. 

She remembered the not quite derisive 
smile with which Brian had cloaked his vexa- 
tion when she informed him — oh, so apologet- 
ically — that she had promised to take Clare, 
and related the conversation of her visit. 

She remembered her ov/n little choked 
exclamation of admiration, when, on coming 
downstairs a few minutes later than she had 
intended, she had rushed into the living-room 
where Brian was waiting and had found Clare 
there too. Clare, exquisite, golden, fragrant, 
flaunting, in a stately gown of shining black 
taffeta, whose long, full skirt lay in graceful 
folds about her slim golden feet; her glisten- 
ing hair drawn smoothly back into a small 
twist at the nape of her neck; her eyes spar- 

134 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

kllng like dark jewels. Irene, with her new rose- 
coloured chiffon frock ending at the knees, and 
her cropped curls, felt dowdy and common- 
place. She regretted that she hadn't counselled 
Clare to wear something ordinary and incon- 
spicuous. What on earth would Brian think of 
deliberate courting of attention? But if Clare 
Kendry's appearance had in it anything that 
was, to Brian Redfield, annoying or displeasing, 
the fact was not discernible to his wife as, with 
an uneasy feeling of guilt, she stood there look- 
ing into his face while Clare explained that she 
and he had made their own introductions, ac- 
companying her words with a little deferential 
smile for Brian, and receiving in return one of 
his amused, slightly mocking smiles. 

She remembered Clare's saying, as they 
sped northward: "You know, I feel exactly as 
I used to on the Sunday we went to the Christ- 
mas-tree celebration. I knew there was to be a 
surprise for me and couldn't quite guess what 
it was to be. I am so excited. You can't possibly 
imagine ! It's marvellous to be really on the 
way! I can hardly believe it!" 

^3S 



PASSING 

At her words and tone a chilly wave of 
scorn had crept through Irene. All those super- 
latives ! She said, taking care to speak indiffer- 
ently: "Well, maybe in some ways you will be 
surprised, more, probably, than you anticipate." 

Brian, at the wheel, had thrown back: 
"And then again, she won't be so very sur- 
prised after all, for it'll no doubt be about what 
she expects. Like the Christmas-tree." 

She remembered rushing around here 
and there, consulting with this person and that 
one, and now and then snatching a part of a 
dance with some man whose dancing she par- 
ticularly liked. 

She remembered catching glimpses of 
Clare in the whirling crowd, dancing, some- 
times with a white man, more often with a 
Negro, frequently with Brian. Irene was glad 
that he was being nice to Clare, and glad that 
Clare was having the opportunity to discover 
that some coloured men were superior to some 
white men. 

She remembered a conversation she had 
with Hugh Wentworth in a free half-hour when 

136 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

she had dropped into a chair in an emptied box 
and let her gaze wander over the bright crowd 
below. 

Young men, old men, white men, black 
men; youthful women, older women, pink 
women, golden women; fat men, thin men, tall 
men, short men; stout women, slim women, 
stately women, small women moved by. An old 
nursery rhyme popped into her head. She 
turned to Wentworth, who had just taken a 
seat beside her, and recited it: 

''Rich man, poor man, 
Beggar man, thief, 
Doctor, lawyer, 
Indian chief." 

'Tes," Wentworth said, "that's it. 
Everybody seems to be here and a few more. 
But what I'm trying to find out is the name, 
status, and race of the blonde beauty out of the 
fairy-tale. She's dancing with Ralph Hazelton 
at the moment. Nice study in contrasts, that." 

It was. Clare fair and golden, like a 
sunlit day. Hazelton dark, with gleaming eyes, 
like a moonlit night. 

137 



PASSING 

"She's a girl I used to know a long 
time ago In Chicago. And she wanted especially 
to meet you." 

" 'S awfully good of her, Fm sure. And 
now, alas ! the usual thing's happened. All these 
others, these — er — 'gentlemen of colour' have 
driven a mere Nordic from her mind." 

''Stuff!" 

" 'S a fact, and what happens to all the 
ladles of my superior race who're lured up 
here. Look at Blanca. Have I laid eyes on her 
tonight except In spots, here and there, being 
twirled about by some Ethiopian? I have not." 

"But, Hugh, you've got to admit that 
the average coloured man is a better dancer 
than the average white man — that Is, If the 
celebrities and 'butter and egg' men who find 
their way up here are fair specimens of white 
Terpslchorean art." 

"Not having tripped the light fantastic 
with any of the males, I'm not In a position to 
argue the point. But I don't think It's merely 
that. 'S something else, some other attraction. 
They're always raving about the good looks of 

138 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

some Negro, preferably an unusually dark one. 
Take Hazelton there, for example. Dozens of 
women have declared him to be fascinatingly 
handsome. How about you, Irene? Do you 
think he's — er — ravishingly beautiful?" 

"I do not! And I don't think the 
others do either. Not honestly, I mean. I think 
that what they feel Is — well, a kind of emo- 
tional excitement. You know, the sort of thing 
you feel in the presence of something strange, 
and even, perhaps, a bit repugnant to you; 
something so different that it's really at the 
opposite end of the pole from all your accus- 
tomed notions of beauty." 

"Damned if I don't think you're half- 
way right!" 

"I'm sure I am. Completely. (Except, 
of course, when it's just patronizing kindness 
on their part.) And I know coloured girls 
who've experienced the same thing — the other 
way round, naturally." 

"And the men? You don't subscribe to 
the general opinion about their reason for com- 
ing up here. Purely predatory. Or, do you?" 

139 



PASSING 

"N-no. More curious, I should say." 

Wentworth, whose eyes were a clouded 
amber colour, had given her a long, searching 
look that was really a stare. He said: "All 
this is awfully interestin', Irene. We've got to 
havw. a long talk about it some time soon. 
There's your friend from Chicago, first time up 
here and all that. A case in point." 

Irene's smile had only just lifted the 
corners of her painted lips. A match blazed in 
Wentworth's broad hands as he lighted her 
cigarette and his own, and flickered out before 
he asked: ''Or isn't she?" 

Her smile changed to a laugh. "Oh, 
Hugh! You're so clever. You usually know 
everything. Even how to tell the sheep from 
the goats. What do you think? Is she?" 

He blew a long contemplative wreath 
of smoke. "Damned if I know! I'll be as sure 
as anything that I've learned the trick. And 
then In the next minute I'll find I couldn't pick 
some of 'em if my life depended on It." 

"Well, don't let that worry you. No- 
body can. Not by looking.'* 

140 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

"Not by looking, eh? Meaning?" 

"I'm afraid I can't explain. Not clearly. 
There are ways. But they're not definite or 
tangible." 

"Feeling of kinship, or something like 
that?" 

"Good heavens, no ! Nobody has that, 
except for their in-laws." 

"Right again 1 But go on about the sheep 
and the goats." 

"Well, take my own experience with 
Dorothy Thompkins. I'd met her four or five 
times, in groups and crowds of people, before 
I knew she wasn't a Negro. One day I went to 
an awful tea, terribly dicty. Dorothy was there. 
We got talking. In less than five minutes, I 
knew she was 'fay.' Not from anything she did 
or said or anything In her appearance. Just — 
just something. A thing that couldn't be regis- 
tered." 

"Yes, I understand what you mean. 
Yet lots of people 'pass' all the time." 

"Not on our side, Hugh. It's easy for 
a Negro to 'pass' for white. But I don't think 

141 



PASSING 

it would be so simple for a white person to 
*pass' for coloured." 

*'Never thought of that." 

"No, you wouldn't. Why should you?" 

He regarded her critically through mists 
of smoke. "Slippln' me, Irene?" 

She said soberly: "Not you, Hugh. I'm 
too fond of you. And you're too sincere." 

And she remembered that towards the 
end of the dance Brian had come to her and 
said: "I'll drop you first and then run Clare 
down." And that he had been doubtful of her 
discretion when she had explained to him that 
he wouldn't have to bother because she had 
asked Bianca Wentworth to take her down 
with them. Did she, he had asked, think It had 
been wise to tell them about Clare? 

"I told them nothing," she said sharply, 
for she was unbearably tired, "except that she 
was at the Walsingham. It's on their way. And, 
really, I haven't thought anything about the 
wisdom of it, but now that I do, I'd say it's 
much better for them to take her than you.'* 

"As you please. She's your friend, you 
142 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

know/' he had answered, with a disclaiming 
shrug of his shoulders. 

Except for these few unconnected things 
the dance faded to a blurred memory, its out- 
lines mingling with those of other dances of its 
kind that she had attended in the past and 
would attend in the future. 



FOUR 

But undistinctive as the dance had seemed, 
it was, nevertheless, Important. For It marked 
the beginning of a new factor In Irene Redfield's 
life, something that left its trace on all 
the future years of her existence. It was the 
beginning of a new friendship with Clare Ken- 
dry. 

She came to them frequently after that. 
Always with a touching gladness that welled 
up and overflowed on all the Redfield house- 
hold. Yet Irene could never be sure whether 
her comings were a joy or a vexation. 

Certainly she was no trouble. She had 
not to be entertained, or even noticed — if any- 
one could ever avoid noticing Clare. If Irene 
happened to be out or occupied, Clare could 
very happily amuse herself with Ted and 
Junior, who had conceived for her an admira- 
tion that verged on adoration, especially Ted. 
Or, lacking the boys, she would descend to the 
kitchen and, with — to Irene — an exasperating 

144 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

childlike lack of perception, spend her visit in 
talk and merriment with Zulena and Sadie. 

Irene, while secretly resenting these 
visits to the playroom and kitchen, for some ob- 
scure reason which she shied away from putting 
into words, never requested that Clare make an 
end of them, or hinted that she wouldn't have 
spoiled her own Margery so outrageously, nor 
been so friendly with white servants. 

Brian looked on these things with the 
same tolerant amusement that marked his entire 
attitude toward Clare. Never since his faintly 
derisive surprise at Irene's information that 
she was to go with them the night of the dance, 
had he shown any disapproval of Clare's pres- 
ence. On the other hand, it couldn't be said 
that her presence seemed to please him. It 
didn't annoy or disturb him, so far as Irene 
could judge. That was all. 

Didn't he, she once asked him, think 
Clare was extraordinarily beautiful? 

*'No," he had answered. "That is, not 
particularly." 

"Brian, you're fooling!" 

145 



PASSING 

"No, honestly. Maybe Fm fussy. I 
s'pose she'd be an unusually good-looking white 
woman. I like my ladies darker. Beside an A- 
number-one sheba, she simply hasn't got 'em." 

Clare went, sometimes with Irene and 
Brian, to parties and dances, and on a few 
occasions when Irene hadn't been able or in- 
clined to go out, she had gone alone with Brian 
to some bridge party or benefit dance. 

Once in a while she came formally to 
dine with them. She wasn't, however, in spite 
of her poise and air of worldliness, the ideal 
dinner-party guest. Beyond the aesthetic pleas- 
ure one got from watching her, she contributed 
little, sitting for the most part silent, an odd 
dreaming look in her hypnotic eyes. Though she 
could for some purpose of her own — the desire 
to be included in some party being made up to 
go cabareting, or an invitation to a dance or a 
tea — talk fluently and entertainingly. 

She was generally liked. She was so 
friendly and responsive, and so ready to press 
the sweet food of flattery on all. Nor did she 
object to appearing a bit pathetic and ill-used, 

146 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

SO that people could feel sorry for her. And, no 
matter how often she came among them, she 
still remained someone apart, a little mysteri- 
ous and strange, someone to wonder about and 
to admire and to pity. 

Her visits were undecided and uncer- 
tain, being, as they were, dependent on the 
presence or absence of John Bellew in the city. 
But she did, once in a while, manage to steal 
uptown for an afternoon even when he was not 
away. As time went on without any apparent 
danger of discovery, even Irene ceased to be 
perturbed about the possibiHty of Clare's hus- 
band's stumbling on her racial identity. 

The daughter, Margery, had been left 
in Switzerland in school, for Clare and Bellew 
would be going back in the early spring. In 
March, Clare thought. "And how I do hate to 
think of it!" she would say, always with a sug- 
gestion of leashed rebellion; *'but I can't see 
how I'm going to get out of it. Jack won't 
hear of my staying behind. If I could have just 
a couple of months more in New York, alone I 
mean, I'd be the happiest thing in the world." 

147 



PASSING 

"I Imagine you'll be happy enough, once 
you get away," Irene told her one day when 
she was bewailing her approaching departure. 
"Remember, there's Margery. Think how 
glad you'll be to see her after all this time." 

"Children aren't everything," was Clare 
Kendry's answer to that. "There are other 
things in the world, though I admit some peo- 
ple don't seem to suspect It." And she laughed, 
more. It seemed, at some secret joke of her own 
than at her words. 

Irene replied: "You know you don't 
mean that, Clare. You're only trying to tease 
me. I know very well that I take being a mother 
rather seriously, I am wrapped up in my boys 
and the running of my house. I can't help It. 
And, really, I don't think it's anything to laugh 
at." And though she was aware of the slight 
primness in her words and attitude, she had 
neither power nor wish to efface it. 

Clare, suddenly very sober and sweet, 
said: "You're right. It's no laughing matter. 
It's shameful of me to tease you, 'Rene. You are 
so good." And she reached out and gave Irene's 

148 



RE-ENCOUNTER 

hand an affectionate little squeeze. ^'Don't 
think," she added, ^Vhatever happens, that 
I'll ever forget how good you've been to me." 

"Nonsense!" 

"Oh, but you have, you have. It's just 
that I haven't any proper morals or sense of 
duty, as you have, that makes me act as I do." 

"Now you are talking nonsense." 

"But it's true, 'Rene. Can't you realize 
that I'm not like you a bit? Why, to get the 
things I want badly enough, I'd do anything, 
hurt anybody, throw anything away. Really, 
'Rene, I'm not safe." Her voice as well as the 
look on her face had a beseeching earnestness 
that made Irene vaguely uncomfortable. 

She said: "I don't believe it. In the first 
place what you're saying is so utterly, so 
wickedly wrong. And as for your giving up 
things — " She stopped, at a loss for an accept- 
able term to express her opinion of Clare's 
"having" nature. 

But Clare Kendry had begun to cry, 
audibly, with no effort at restraint, and for no 
reason that Irene could discover. 

149 



PART THREE 



FINALE 



ONE 

X HE YEAR was getting on towards its end. 
October, November had gone. December had 
come and brought with it a httle snow and then 
a freeze and after that a thaw and some soft 
pleasant days that had in them a feeling of 
spring. 

It wasn't, this mild weather, a bit 
Christmasy, Irene Redfield was thinking, as 
she turned out of Seventh Avenue into her own 
street. She didn't like it to be warm and 
springy when it should have been cold and 
crisp, or grey and cloudy as if snow was about 
to fall. The weather, like people, ought to en- 
ter into the spirit of the season. Here the holi- 
days were almost upon them, and the streets 
through which she had come were streaked 
with rills of muddy water and the sun shone so 
warmly that children had taken off their hats 
and scarfs. It was all as soft, as like April, as 
possible. The kind of weather for Easter. Cer- 
tainly not for Christmas. 

153 



PASSING 

Though, she admitted, reluctantly, she 
herself didn't feel the proper Christmas spirit 
this year, either. But that couldn't be helped, it 
seemed, any more than the weather. She was 
weary and depressed. And for all her trying, 
she couldn't be free of that dull, indefinite 
misery which with increasing tenaciousness had 
laid hold of her. The morning's aimless wan- 
dering through the teeming Harlem streets, 
long after she had ordered the flowers which 
had been her excuse for setting out, was but 
another effort to tear herself loose from it. 

She went up the cream stone steps, into 
the house, and down to the kitchen. There were 
to be people in to tea. But that, she found, after 
a few words with Sadie and Zulena, need give 
her no concern. She was thankful. She didn't 
want to be bothered. She went upstairs and 
took off her things and got into bed. 

She thought: "Bother those people 
coming to tea !" 

She thought: "If I could only be sure 
that at bottom it's just Brazil." 

154 



FINALE 

She thought : "Whatever It is, if I only 
knew what it was, I could manage it." 

Brian again. Unhappy, restless, with- 
drawn. And she, who had prided herself on 
knowing his moods, their causes and their rem- 
edies, had found it first unthinkable, and then 
intolerable, that this, so like and yet so unlike 
those other spasmodic restlessnesses of his, 
should be to her incomprehensible and elusive. 

He was restless and he was not restless. 
He was discontented, yet there were times 
when she felt he was possessed of some intense 
secret satisfaction, like a cat who had stolen the 
cream. He was irritable with the boys, espe- 
cially Junior, for Ted, who seemed to have an 
uncanny knowledge of his father's periods of 
off moods, kept out of his way when possible. 
They got on his nerves, drove him to violent 
outbursts of temper, very different from his 
usual gently sarcastic remarks that constituted 
his idea of discipline for them. On the other 
hand, with her he was more than customarily 
considerate and abstemious. And It had been 

155 



PASSING 

weeks since she had felt the keen edge of his 
irony. 

He was Hke a man marking time, wait- 
ing. But what was he waiting for? It was ex- 
traordinary that, after all these years of ac- 
curate perception, she now lacked the talent to 
discover what that appearance of waiting 
meant. It was the knowledge that, for all her 
watching, all her patient study, the reason for 
his humour still eluded her which filled her 
with foreboding dread. That guarded reserve 
of his seemed to her unjust. Inconsiderate, and 
alarming. It was as If he had stepped out be- 
yond her reach into some section, strange and 
walled, where she could not get at him. 

She closed her eyes, thinking what a 
blessing it would be if she could get a little 
sleep before the boys came in from school. She 
couldn't, of course, though she was so tired, 
having had, of late, so many sleepless nights. 
Nights filled with questionings and premoni- 
tions. 

But she did sleep — several hours. 

She wakened to find Brian standing at 

156 



FINALE 

her bedside looking down at her, an unfathom- 
able expression in his eyes. 

She said: "I must have dropped off to 
sleep," and watched a slender ghost of his old 
amused smile pass over his face. 

"It's getting on to four," he told her, 
meaning, she knew, that she was going to be 
late again. 

She fought back the quick answer that 
rose to her lips and said instead: "I'm getting 
right up. It was good of you to think to call 
me." She sat up. 

He bowed. "Always the attentive hus- 
band, you see." 

"Yes indeed. Thank goodness, every- 
thing's ready." 

"Except you. Oh, and Clare's down- 



stairs." 



"Clare ! What a nuisance ! I didn't ask 
her. Purposely." 

"I see. Might a mere man ask why? Or 
is the reason so subtly feminine that it wouldn't 
be understood by him?" 

A little of his smile had come back. 

157 



PASSING 

Irene, who was beginning to shake off some of 
her depression under his famlHar banter, said, 
almost gaily: "Not at all. It just happens that 
this party happens to be for Hugh, and that 
Hugh happens not to care a great deal for 
Clare; therefore I, who happen to be giving 
the party, didn't happen to ask her. Nothing 
could be simpler. Could it?" 

"Nothing. It's so simple that I can 
easily see beyond your simple explanation and 
surmise that Clare, probably, just never hap- 
pened to pay Hugh the admiring attention that 
he happens to consider no more than his just 
due. Simplest thing in the world." 

Irene exclaimed in amazement: "Why, 
I thought you liked Hugh ! You don't, you 
can't, believe anything so idiotic!" 

"Well, Hugh does think he's God, you 
know." 

"That," Irene declared, getting out of 
bed, "is absolutely not true. He thinks ever so 
much better of himself than that, as you, who 
know and have read him, ought to be able to 
guess. If you remember what a low opinion he 

158 



FINALE 

has of God, you won't make such a silly mis- 
take." 

She went into the closet for her things 
and, coming back, hung her frock over the back 
of a chair and placed her shoes on the floor 
beside it. Then she sat down before her 
dressing-table. 

Brian didn't speak. He continued to 
stand beside the bed, seeming to look at noth- 
ing in particular. Certainly not at her. True, 
his gaze was on her, but in it there was some 
quality that made her feel that at that moment 
she was no more to him than a pane of glass 
through which he stared. At what? She didn't 
know, couldn't guess. And this made her un- 
comfortable. Piqued her. 

She said: "It just happens that Hugh 
prefers intelligent women." 

Plainly he was startled. "D'you mean 
that you think Clare is stupid?" he asked, re- 
garding her with lifted eyebrows, which em- 
phasized the disbelief of his voice. 

She wiped the cold cream from her face, 
before she said: "No, I don't. She isn't stupid. 

159 



PASSING 

She's intelligent enough In a purely feminine 
way. Eighteenth-century France would have 
been a marvellous setting for her, or the old 
South if she hadn't made the mistake of being 
born a Negro." 

"I see. Intelligent enough to wear a 
tight bodice and keep bowing swains whisper- 
ing compliments and retrieving dropped fans. 
Rather a pretty picture. I take it, though, as 
slightly feline in Its Implication." 

*'Well, then, all I can say is that you 
take it wrongly. Nobody admires Clare more 
than I do, for the kind of Intelligence she has, 
as well as for her decorative qualities. But 
she's not — She isn't — She hasn't — Oh, I can't 
explain it. Take Bianca, for example, or, to 
keep to the race, Felise Freeland. Looks and 
brains. Real brains that can hold their own with 
anybody. Clare has got brains of a sort, the 
kind that are useful too. Acquisitive, you know. 
But she'd bore a man like Hugh to suicide. Still, 
I never thought that even Clare would come to 
a private party to which she hadn't been asked. 
But, it's like her." 

1 60 



FINALE 

For a minute there was silence. She 
completed the bright red arch of her full lips. 
Brian moved towards the door. His hand was 
on the knob. He said: "I'm sorry, Irene. It's 
my fault entirely. She seemed so hurt at being 
left out that I told her I was sure you'd for- 
gotten and to just come along." 

Irene cried out: "But, Brian, I — " and 
stopped, amazed at the fierce anger that had 
blazed up In her. 

Brian's head came round with a jerk. 
His brows lifted In an odd surprise. 

Her voice, she realized, had gone queer. 
But she had an Instinctive feeling that It hadn't 
been the whole cause of his attitude. And that 
little straightening motion of the shoulders. 
Hadn't It been like that of a man drawing him- 
self up to receive a blow? Her fright was like 
a scarlet spear of terror leaping at her heart. 

Clare Kendry! So that was It! Impos- 
sible. It couldn't be. 

In the mirror before her she saw that 
he was still regarding her with that air of slight 
amazement. She dropped her eyes to the jars 

i6i 



PASSING 

and bottles on the table and began to fumble 
among them with hands whose fingers shook 
slightly. 

''Of course," she said carefully, 'Tm 
glad you did. And in spite of my recent re- 
marks, Clare does add to any party. She's so 
easy on the eyes." 

When she looked again, the surprise 
had gone from his face and the expectancy 
from, his bearing. 

"Yes," he agreed. "Well, I guess Til run 
along. One of us ought to be down, I s'pose." 

"You're right. One of us ought to." 
She was surprised that it was in her normal 
tones she spoke, caught as she was by the heart 
since that dull indefinite fear had grown sud- 
denly into sharp panic. "I'll be down before 
you know it," she promised. 

"All right." But he still lingered. 
"You're quite certain. You don't mind my ask- 
ing her? Not awfully, I mean? I see now that 
I ought to have spoken to you. Trust women to 
have their reasons for everything." 

She made a little pretence at looking at 
162 



FINALE 

him, managed a tiny smile, and turned away. 
Clare! How sickening! 

*'Yes, don't they?" she said, striving to 
keep her voice casual. Within her she felt a 
hardness from feeling, not absent, but re- 
pressed. And that hardness was rising, swell- 
ing. Why didn't he go? Why didn't he? 

He had opened the door at last. "You 
won't be long?" he asked, admonished. 

She shook her head, unable to speak, 
for there was a choking in her throat, and the 
confusion in her mind was like the beating of 
wings. Behind her she heard the gentle Impact 
of the door as it closed behind him, and knew 
that he had gone. Down to Clare. 

For a long minute she sat in strained 
stiffness. The face in the mirror vanished from 
her sight, blotted out by this thing which had 
so suddenly flashed across her groping mind. 
Impossible for her to put it immediately into 
words or give it outline, for, prompted by some 
impulse of self-protection, she recoiled from 
exact expression. 

She closed her unseeing eyes and 
163 



PASSING 

clenched her fists. She tried not to cry. But her 
Hps tightened and no effort could check the hot 
tears of rage and shame that sprang into her 
eyes and flowed down her cheeks; so she laid 
her face in her arms and wept silently. 

When she was sure that she had done 
crying, she wiped away the warm remaining 
tears and got up. After bathing her swollen 
face in cold, refreshing water and carefully 
applying a stinging splash of toilet water, she 
went back to the mirror and regarded herself 
gravely. Satisfied that there lingered no be- 
traying evidence of weeping, she dusted a little 
powder on her dark-white face and again ex- 
amined it carefully, and with a kind of ridi- 
culing contempt. 

"I do think," she confided to it, "that 
youVe been something — oh, very much — of a 
damned fool." 

Downstairs the ritual of tea gave her 
some busy moments, and that, she decided, was 
a blessing. She wanted no empty spaces of time 
in which her mind would immediately return to 
that horror which she had not yet gathered suf- 

164 



FINALE 

ficient courage to face. Pouring tea properly 
and nicely was an occupation that required a 
kind of well-balanced attention. 

In the room beyond, a clock chimed. A 
single sound. Fifteen minutes past five o'clock. 
That was all ! And yet in the short space of 
half an hour all of life had changed, lost its 
colour, Its vividness, its whole meaning. No, 
she reflected, it wasn't that that had happened. 
Life about her, apparently, went on exactly as 
before. 

"Oh, Mrs. Runyon. ... So nice to see 
you. . . . Two? . . . Really? . . . How ex- 
citing! . . . Yes, I think Tuesday's all 
right. . . ." 

Yes, life went on precisely as before. 
It was only she that had changed. Knowing, 
stumbling on this thing, had changed her. It 
was as If In a house long dim, a match had been 
struck, showing ghastly shapes where had been 
only blurred shadows. 

Chatter, chatter, chatter. Someone 
asked her a question. She glanced up with what 
she felt was a rigid smile. 

165 



PASSING 

*'Yes . . . Brian picked it up last win- 
ter in Haiti. Terribly weird, isn't it? ... It 
is rather marvellous in its own hideous way. 
. . . Practically nothing, I believe. A few 
cents. . . .'* 

Hideous. A great weariness came over 
her. Even the small exertion of pouring golden 
tea into thin old cups seemed almost too much 
for her. She went on pouring. Made repetitions 
of her smile. Answered questions. Manufac- 
tured conversation. She thought: "I feel like 
the oldest person in the world with the longest 
stretch of life before me." 

"Josephine Baker? . . . No. I've never 
seen her. . . . Well, she might have been in 
Shuffle Along when I saw it, but if she was, I 
don't remember her. . . . Oh, but you're 
wrong I ... I do think Ethel Waters is aw- 
fully good. ..." 

There were the familiar little tinkling 
sounds of spoons striking against frail cups, the 
soft running sounds of inconsequential talk, 
punctuated now and then with laughter. In ir- 
regular small groups, disintegrating, coalesc- 

i66 



FINALE 

ing, striking just the right note of disharmony, 
disorder in the big room, which Irene had fur- 
nished with a sparingness that was almost 
chaste, moved the guests with that slight fa- 
miliarity that makes a party a success. On the 
floor and the walls the sinking sun threw long, 
fantastic shadows. 

So like many other tea-parties she had 
had. So unlike any of those others. But she 
mustn't think yet. Time enough for that after. 
All the time in the world. She had a second's 
flashing knowledge of what those words might 
portend. Time with Brian. Time without him. 
It was gone, leaving in its place an almost un- 
controllable impulse to laugh, to scream, to hurl 
things about. She wanted, suddenly, to shock 
people, to hurt them, to make them notice her, 
to be aware of her suffering. 

''Hello, Dave. . . . Felise. . . . Really 
your clothes are the despair of half the women 
in Harlem. . . . How do you do it? . . . 
Lovely, is it Worth or Lanvin? . . . Oh, a 
mere Babani. ..." 

"Merely that," Felise Freeland ac- 
167 



PASSING 

knowledged. "Come out of it, Irene, whatever 
it is. You look like the second grave-digger/' 

"Thanks, for the hint, Felise. I'm not 
feeling quite up to par. The weather, I guess." 

"Buy yourself an expensive new frock, 
child. It always helps. Any time this child gets 
the blues, it means money out of Dave's pocket. 
How're those boys of yours?" 

The boys! For once she'd forgotten 
them. 

They were, she told Felise, very well. 
Felise mumbled something about that being 
awfully nice, and said she'd have to fly, because 
for a wonder she saw Mrs. Bellew sitting by 
herself, "and I've been trying to get her alone 
all afternoon. I want her for a party. Isn't she 
stunning today?" 

Clare was. Irene couldn't remember 
ever having seen her look better. She was wear- 
ing a superlatively simple cinnamon-brown 
frock which brought out all her vivid beauty, 
and a little golden bowl of a hat. Around 
her neck hung a string of amber beads that 
would easily have made six or eight like 

i68 



FINALE 

one Irene owned. Yes, she was stunning. 

The ripple of talk flowed on. The fire 
roared. The shadows stretched longer. 

Across the room was Hugh. He wasn't, 
Irene hoped, being too bored. He seemed as he 
always did, a bit aloof, a little amused, and 
somewhat weary. And as usual he was hover- 
ing before the book-shelves. But he was not, 
she noticed, looking at the book he had taken 
down. Instead, his dull amber eyes were held 
by something across the room. They were a 
little scornful. Well, Hugh had never cared for 
Clare Kendry. For a minute Irene hesitated, 
then turned her head, though she knew what it 
was that held Hugh's gaze. Clare, who had 
suddenly clouded all her days. Brian, the 
father of Ted and Junior. 

Clare's ivory face was what It always 
was, beautiful and caressing. Or maybe today a 
little masked. Unrevealing. Unaltered and un- 
disturbed by any emotion within or without. 
Brian's seemed to Irene to be pitiably bare. Or 
was it too as it always was? That half-effaced 
seeking look, did he always have that? Queer, 

169 



PASSING 

that now she didn't know, couldn't recall. Then 
she saw him smile, and the smile made his face 
all eager and shining. Impelled by some inner 
urge of loyalty to herself, she glanced away. 
But only for a moment. And when she turned 
towards them again, she thought that the look 
on his face was the most melancholy and yet 
the most scoffing that she had ever seen upon it. 

In the next quarter of an hour she prom- 
ised herself to Bianca Wentworth in Sixty- 
second Street, Jane Tenant at Seventh Avenue 
and a Hundred and Fiftieth Street, and the 
Dashields in Brooklyn for dinner all on the 
same evening and at almost the same hour. 

Oh well, what did it matter? She had 
no thoughts at all now, and all she felt was a 
great fatigue. Before her tired eyes Clare 
Kendry was talking to Dave Freeland. Scraps 
of their conversation, in Clare's husky voice, 
floated over to her: ". . . always admired you 
... so much about you long ago . . . every- 
body says so ... no one but you. . . ." And 
more of the same. The man hung rapt on her 
words, though he was the husband of Felise 

170 



FINALE 

Freeland, and the author of novels that re- 
vealed a man of perception and a devastating 
irony. And he fell for such pish-posh ! And all 
because Clare had a trick of sliding down ivory 
lids over astonishing black eyes and then lift- 
ing them suddenly and turning on a caressing 
smile. Men like Dave Freeland fell for it. And 
Brian. 

Her mental and physical languor re- 
ceded. Brian. What did it mean? How would it 
affect her and the boys? The boys! She had a 
surge of relief. It ebbed, vanished. A feeling of 
absolute unimportance followed. Actually, she 
didn't count. She was, to him, only the mother 
of his sons. That was all. Alone she was noth- 
ing. Worse. An obstacle. 

Rage boiled up in her. 

There was a slight crash. On the floor 
at her feet lay the shattered cup. Dark stains 
dotted the bright rug. Spread. The chatter 
stopped. Went on. Before her, Zulena gathered 
up the white fragments. 

As from a distance Hugh Wentworth's 
dipt voice came to her, though he was, she 

171 



PASSING 

w^s aware, somehow miraculously at her side. 
"Sorry," he apologized. "Must have pushed 
you. Clumsy of me. Don't tell me it's priceless 
and irreplaceable." 

It hurt. Dear God! How the thing 
hurt! But she couldn't think of that now. Not 
with Hugh sitting there mumbling apologies 
and lies. The significance of his words, the 
power of his discernment, stirred in her a sense 
of caution. Her pride revolted. Damn Hugh! 
Something would have to be done about him. 
Now. She couldn't, it seemed, help his know- 
ing. It was too late for that. But she could and 
would keep him from knowing that she knew. 
She could, she would bear it. She'd have to. 
There were the boys. Her whole body went 
taut. In that second she saw that she could bear 
anything, but only if no one knew that she had 
anything to bear. It hurt. It frightened her, but 
she could bear it. 

She turned to Hugh. Shook her head. 
Raised innocent dark eyes to his concerned pale 
ones. "Oh, no," she protested, "you didn't push 

172 



FINALE 

me. Cross your heart, hope to die, and I'll tell 
you how it happened." 

''Done!" 

*'Did you notice that cup? Well, you're 
lucky. It was the ugliest thing that your an- 
cestors, the charming Confederates ever owned. 
I've forgotten how many thousands of years 
ago It was that Brian's great-great-grand-uncle 
owned it. But It has, or had, a good old hoary 
history. It was brought North by way of the 
subway. Oh, all right ! Be English if you want 
to and call It the underground. What I'm com- 
ing to is the fact that I've never figured out a 
way of getting rid of It until about five minutes 
ago. I had an inspiration. I had only to break 
it, and I was rid of it for ever. So simple ! And 
I'd never thought of it before." 

Hugh nodded and his frosty smile 
spread over his features. Had she convinced 
him? 

"Still," she went on with a little laugh 
that didn't, she was sure, sound the least bit 
forced, ''I'm perfectly willing for you to take 

173 



PASSING 

the blame and admit that you pushed me at the 
wrong moment. What are friends for, if not to 
help bear our sins? Brian will certainly be told 
that it was your fault. 

^'More tea, Clare? ... I haven't had 
a minute with you. . . . Yes, it is a nice party. 
. . . You'll stay to dinner, I hope. . . . Oh, 
too bad! . . . I'll be alone with the boys. . . . 
They'll be sorry. Brian's got a medical meeting, 
or something. . . . Nice frock you're wearing. 
. . . Thanks. . . . Well, good-bye; see you 
soon, I hope." 

The clock chimed. One. Two, Three. 
Four. Five. Six. Was It, could it be, only a little 
over an hour since she had come down to tea? 
One little hour. 

*'Must you go? . . . Good-bye. . . . 
Thank you so much. ... So nice to see 
you. . . . Yes, Wednesday. . . . My love to 
Madge. . . . Sorry, but Fm filled up for 
Tuesday. . . . Oh, really? . . . Yes. . . . 
Good-bye. . . . Good-bye. . . ." 

It hurt. It hurt like hell. But It didn't 

174 



FINALE 

matter, If no one knew. If everything could go 
on as before. If the boys were safe. 

It did hurt. 

But it didn't matter. 



TWO 

But it did matter. It mattered more than 
anything had ever mattered before. 

What bitterness ! That the one fear, the 
one uncertainty, that she had felt, Brian's ache 
to go somewhere else, should have dwindled to 
a childish triviality ! And with It the quality of 
the courage and resolution with which she had 
met It. From the visions and dangers which she 
now perceived she shrank away. For them she 
had no remedy or courage. Desperately she 
tried to shut out the knowledge from which 
had risen this turmoil, which she had no power 
to moderate or still, within her. And half suc- 
ceeded. 

For, she reasoned, what was there, 
what had there been, to show that she was even 
half correct In her tormenting notion? Nothing. 
She had seen nothing, heard nothing. She had 
no facts or proofs. She was only making herself 
unutterably wretched by an unfounded suspl- 

176 



FINALE 

cion. It had been a case of looking for trouble 
and finding it in good measure. Merely that. 

With this self-assurance that she had no 
real knowledge, she redoubled her efforts to 
drive out of her mind the distressing thought of 
faiths broken and trusts betrayed which every 
mental vision of Clare, of Brian, brought with 
them. She could not, she would not, go again 
through the tearing agony that lay just behind 
her. 

She must, she told herself, be fair. In 
all their married life she had had no slightest 
cause to suspect her husband of any Infidelity, 
of any serious flirtation even. If — and she 
doubted it — he had had his hours of outside 
erratic conduct, they were unknown to her. 
Why begin now to assume them? And on noth- 
ing more concrete than an idea that had leapt 
into her mind because he had told her that he 
had invited a friend, a friend of hers, to a party 
in his own house. And at a time when she had 
been, it was likely, more asleep than awake. 
How could she without anything done or said, 
or left undone or unsaid, so easily believe him 

177 



PASSING 

guilty? How be so ready to renounce all con- 
fidence in the worth of their life together? 

And if, perchance, there were some 
small something — well, what could it mean? 
Nothing. There were the boys. There was John 
Bellew. The thought of these three gave her 
some slight relief. But she did not look the fu- 
ture in the face. She wanted to feel nothing, to 
think nothing; simply to believe that it was all 
silly invention on her part. Yet she could not. 
Not quite. 

Christmas, with its unreality, Its hectic 
rush. Its false gaiety, came and went. Irene was 
thankful for the confused unrest of the season. 
Its Irksomeness, Its crowds, Its Inane and Insin- 
cere repetitions of genialities, pushed between 
her and the contemplation of her growing un- 
happlness. 

She was thankful, too, for the continued 
absence of Clare, who, John Bellew having re- 
turned from a long stay in Canada, had with- 
drawn to that other life of hers, remote and In- 
accessible. But beating against the walled 

178 



FINALE 

prison of Irene's thoughts was the shunned 
fancy that, though absent, Clare Kendry was 
still present, that she was close. 

Brian, too, had withdrawn. The house 
contained his outward self and his belongings. 
He came and went with his usual noiseless ir- 
regularity. He sat across from her at table. 
He slept in his room next to hers at night. But 
he was remote and inaccessible. No use pre- 
tending that he was happy, that things were 
the same as they had always been. He wasn't 
and they weren't. However, she assured her- 
self, it needn't necessarily be because of any- 
thing that involved Clare. It was, it must be, 
another manifestation of the old longing. 

But she did wish it were spring, March, 
so that Clare would be sailing, out of her life 
and Brian's. Though she had come almost to 
believe that there was nothing but generous 
friendship between those two, she was very 
tired of Clare Kendry. She wanted to be free 
of her, and of her furtive comings and goings. 
If something would only happen, something 
that would make John Bellew decide on an 

179 



PASSING 

earlier departure, or that would remove Clare. 
Anything. She didn't care what. Not even if it 
were that Clare's Margery were ill, or dying. 
Not even if Bellew should discover— 

She drew a quick, sharp breath. And for 
a long time sat staring down at the hands in 
her lap. Strange, she had not before realized 
how easily she could put Clare out of her life ! 
She had only to tell John Bellew that his wife 
— No. Not that! But if he should somehow 
learn of these Harlem visits — Why should she 
hesitate? Why spare Clare? 

But she shrank away from the idea of 
telling that man, Clare Kendry's white husband, 
anything that would lead him to suspect that 
his wife was a Negro. Nor could she write it, 
or telephone it, or tell it to someone else who 
would tell him. 

She was caught between two allegiances, 
different, yet the same. Herself. Her race. 
Race ! The thing that bound and suffocated her. 
Whatever steps she took, or if she took none 
at all, something would be crushed. A person 
or the race. Clare, herself, or the race. Or, it 

i8o 



FINALE 

might be, all three. Nothing, she Imagined, was 
ever more completely sardonic. 

Sitting alone In the quiet living-room In 
the pleasant fire-light, Irene Redfield wished, 
for the first time In her life, that she had not 
been born a Negro. For the first time she suf- 
fered and rebelled because she was unable to 
disregard the burden of race. It was, she cried 
silently, enough to suffer as a woman, an indi- 
vidual, on one's own account, without having 
to suffer for the race as well. It was a brutality, 
and undeserved. Surely, no other people so 
cursed as Ham's dark children. 

Nevertheless, her weakness, her shrink- 
ing, her own inability to compass the thing, did 
not prevent her from wishing fervently that. In 
some way with which she had no concern, John 
Bellew would discover, not that his wife had a 
touch of the tar-brush — Irene didn't want that 
— ^but that she was spending all the time that 
he was out of the city In black Harlem. Only 
that. It would be enough to rid her forever of 
Clare Kendry. 



i8i 



THREE 

As IF In answer to her wish, the very next day 
Irene came face to face with Bellew. 

She had gone downtown with Fellse 
Freeland to shop. The day was an exceptionally 
cold one, with a strong wind that had whipped 
a dusky red into Felise's smooth golden cheeks 
and driven moisture Into Irene's soft brown 
eyes. 

Clinging to each other, with heads bent 
against the wind, they turned out of the Ave- 
nue into Fifty-seventh Street. A sudden bluster 
flung them around the corner with unexpected 
quickness and they collided with a man. 

"Pardon," Irene begged laughingly, 
and looked up Into the face of Clare Kendry's 
husband. 

"Mrs. Redfield!" 

His hat came off. He held out his 
hand, smiling genially. 

But the smile faded at once. Surprise, 
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FINALE 

incredulity, and — was it understanding? — 
passed over his features. 

He had, Irene knew, become conscious 
of Felise, golden, with curly black Negro hair, 
whose arm was still linked in her own. She 
was sure, now, of the understanding in his 
face, as he looked at her again and then back at 
Felise. And displeasure. 

He didn't, however, withdraw his out- 
stretched hand. Not at once. 

But Irene didn't take it. Instinctively, 
in the first glance of recognition, her face had 
become a mask. Now she turned on him a 
totally uncomprehending look, a bit question- 
ing. Seeing that he still stood with hand out- 
stretched, she gave him the cool appraising 
stare which she reserved for mashers, and 
drew Felise on. 

Felise drawled: "Aha! Been ^passing,' 
have you? Well, I've queered that." 

"Yes, I'm afraid you have." 

"Why, Irene Redfield! You sound as if 
you cared terribly. I'm sorry." 

"I do, but not for the reason you think. 

183 



PASSING 

I don't believe I've ever gone native in my life 
except for the sake of convenience, restaurants, 
theatre tickets, and things like that. Never so- 
cially I mean, except once. You've just passed 
the only person that I've ever met disguised as 
a white woman." 

"Awfully sorry. Be sure your sin will 
find you out and all that. Tell me about it." 

'Td like to. It would amuse you. But I 
can't." 

Felise's laughter was as languidly non- 
chalant as her cool voice. "Can it possible that 
the honest Irene has — Oh, do look at that 
coat! There. The red one. Isn't it a dream?" 

Irene was thinking: "I had my chance 
and didn't take It. I had only to speak and to 
Introduce him to Felise with the casual remark 
that he was Clare's husband. Only that. Fool. 
Fool." That Instinctive loyalty to a race. Why 
couldn't she get free of It? Why should It In- 
clude Clare? Clare, who'd shown little enough 
consideration for her, and hers. What she felt 
was not so much resentment as a dull despair 
because she could not change herself In this re- 

184 



FINALE 

spect, could not separate individuals from the 
race, herself from Clare Kendry. 

"Let's go home, Felise. I'm so tired I 
could drop." 

"Why, we haven't done half the things 
we planned." 

"I know, but it's too cold to be running 
all over town. But you stay down if you want 



to. 



"I think I'll do that, if you don't mind." 



And now another problem confronted 
Irene. She must tell Clare of this meeting. 
Warn her. But how? She hadn't seen her for 
days. Writing and telephoning were equally 
unsafe. And even if it was possible to get in 
touch with her, what good would it do? If Bel- 
lew hadn't concluded that he'd made a mistake, 
if he was certain of her Identity — and he was 
nobody's fool — telling Clare wouldn't avert the 
results of the encounter. Besides, it was too 
late. Whatever was in store for Clare Kendry 
had already overtaken her. 

Irene was conscious of a feeling of re- 
i8s 



PASSING 

lleved thankfulness at the thought that she 
was probably rid of Clare, and without having 
lifted a finger or uttered one word. 

But she did mean to tell Brian about 
meeting John Bellew. 

But that, it seemed, was impossible. 
Strange. Something held her back. Each time 
she was on the verge of saying: "I ran into 
Clare's husband on the street downtown to- 
day. I'm sure he recognized me, and Felise was 
with me," she failed to speak. It sounded too 
much like the warning she wanted it to be. Not 
even in the presence of the boys at dinner could 
she make the bare statement. 

The evening dragged. At last she said 
good-night and went upstairs, the words un- 
said. 

She thought: *'Why didn't I tell him? 
Why didn't I? If trouble comes from this, I'll 
never forgive myself. I'll tell him when he 
comes up." 

She took up a book, but she could not 
read, so oppressed was she by a nameless fore- 
boding. 

i86 



FINALE 

What if Bellew should divorce Clare? 
Could he? There was the Rhinelander case. 
But in France, in Paris, such things were very 
easy. If he divorced her — If Clare were free — 
But of all the things that could happen, that 
was the one she did not want. She must get her 
mind away from that possibility. She must. 

Then came a thought which she tried to 

drive away. If Clare should die ! Then — Oh, 

it was vile! To think, yes, to wish that! She 

" felt faint and sick. But the thought stayed with 

her. She could not get rid of it. 

She heard the outer door open. Close. 
Brian had gone out. She turned her face into 
her pillow to cry. But no tears came. 

She lay there awake, thinking of things 
past. Of her courtship and marriage and Jun- 
ior's birth. Of the time they had bought the ^ 
house in which they had lived so long and so 
happily. Of the time Ted had passed his pneu- 
monia crisis and they knew he would live. And 
of other sweet painful memories that would 
never come again. 

Above everything else she had wanted, 

187 



PASSING 

had striven, to keep undisturbed the pleasant 
routine of her life. And now Clare Kendry had 
come into It, and with her the menace of Im- 
permanence. 

''Dear God," she prayed, "make March 
come quickly." 

By and by she slept. 



FOUR 

X HE NEXT MORNING brought With it a snow- 
storm that lasted throughout the day. 

After a breakfast, which had been eaten 
almost in silence and which she was relieved to 
have done with, Irene Redfield lingered for a 
little while in the downstairs hall, looking out 
at the soft flakes fluttering down. She was 
watching them immediately fill some ugly ir- 
regular gaps left by the feet of hurrying pedes- 
trians when Zulena came to her, saying: "The 
telephone, Mrs. Redfield. It's Mrs. Bellew." 
"Take the message, Zulena, please." 
Though she continued to stare out of 
the window, Irene saw nothing now, stabbed as 
she was by fear — and hope. Had anything 
happened between Clare and Bellew? And if 
so, what? And was she to be freed at last from 
the aching anxiety of the past weeks? Or was 
there to be more, and worse? She had a wrest- 
ling moment, in which it seemed that she must 

189 



PASSING 

rush after Zulena and hear for herself what it 
was that Clare had to say. But she waited. 

Zulena, when she came back, said: "She 
says, ma'am, that she'll be able to go to Mrs. 
Freeland's tonight. She'll be here some time be- 
tween eight and nine." 

"Thank you, Zulena." 

The day dragged on to its end. 

At dinner Brian spoke bitterly of a 
lynching that he had been reading about in the 
evening paper. 

"Dad, why is it that they only lynch 
coloured people?" Ted asked. 

"Because they hate 'em, son." 

"Brian !" Irene's voice was a plea and a 
rebuke. 

Ted said: "Oh! And why do they hate 



em 



"Because they are afraid of them." 
"But what makes them afraid of 'em?" 
"Because — " 
"Brian!" 

"It seems, son, that is a subject we can't 
190 



FINALE 



go into at the moment without distressing the 
ladies of our family," he told the boy with mock 
seriousness, "but we'll take it up some time 
when we're alone together." 

Ted nodded in his engaging grave way. "I 
see. Maybe we can talk about it tomorrow on 
the way to school." 

'That'll be line." 

"Brian!" 

"Mother," Junior remarked, "that's 
the third time you've said 'Brian' like that." 

"But not the last. Junior, never you 
fear," his father told him. 

After the boys had gone up to their own 
floor, Irene said suavely: "I do wish, Brian, 
that you wouldn't talk about lynching before 
Ted and Junior. It was really inexcusable for 
you to bring up a thing like that at dinner. 
There'll be time enough for them to learn 
about such horrible things when they're older." 

"You're absolutely wrong! If, as you're 
so determined, they've got to live in this 
damned country, they'd better find out what 

191 



PASSING 

sort of thing they're up against as soon as pos- 
sible. The earlier they learn it, the better pre- 
pared they'll be." 

"I don't agree. I want their childhood 
to be happy and as free from the knowledge of 
such things as It possibly can be." 

"Very laudable," was Brian's sarcastic 
answer. "Very laudable indeed, all things con- 
sidered. But can it?" 

"Certainly It can. If you'll only do your 
part." 

"Stuff ! You know as well as I do, Irene, 
that It can't. What was the use of our trying 
to keep them from learning the word 'nigger' 
and its connotation? They found out, didn't 
they? And how? Because somebody called Jun- 
ior a dirty nigger." 

"Just the same you're not to talk to 
them about the race problem. I won't have It." 

They glared at each other. 

"I tell you, Irene, they've got to know 
these things, and it might as well be now as 
later." 

"They do not!" she insisted, forcing 
192 



FINALE 

back the tears of anger that were threatening 
to fall. 

Brian growled : "I can't understand how 
anybody as intelligent as you like to think you 
are can show evidences of such stupidity." He 
looked at her in a puzzled harassed way. 

"Stupid!" she cried. "Is it stupid to 
want my children to be happy?" Her lips were 
quivering. 

"At the expense of proper preparation 
for life and their future happiness, yes. And Td 
feel I hadn't done my duty by them if I didn't 
give them some inkling of what's before them. 
It's the least I can do. I wanted to get them 
out of this hellish place years ago. You 
wouldn't let me. I gave up the idea, because you 
objected. Don't expect me to give up every- 
thing." 

Under the lash of his words she was 
silent. Before any answer came to her, he had 
turned and gone from the room. 

Sitting there alone in the forsaken 
dining-room, unconsciously pressing the hands 
lying in her lap, tightly together, she was seized 

193 



PASSING 

by a convulsion of shivering. For, to her, there 
had been something ominous in the scene that 
she had just had with her husband. Over and 
over in her mind his last words: "Don't expect 
me to give up everything," repeated themselves. 
What had they meant? What could they mean? 
Clare Kendry? 

Surely, she was going mad with fear 
and suspicion. She must not work herself up. 
She must not ! Where were all the self-control, 
the common sense, that she was so proud of? 
Now, if ever, was the time for it. 

Clare would soon be there. She must 
hurry or she would be late again, and those two 
would wait for her downstairs together, as they 
had done so often since that first time, which 
now seemed so long ago. Had it been really 
only last October? Why, she felt years, not 
months, older. 

Drearily she rose from her chair and 
went upstairs to set about the business of dress- 
ing to go out when she would far rather have 
remained at home. During the process she won- 
dered, for the hundredth time, why she hadn't 

194 



FINALE 

told Brian about herself and Fellse running 
into Bellew the day before, and for the hun- 
dredth time she turned away from acknowledg- 
ing to herself the real reason for keeping back 
the information. 

When Clare arrived, radiant in a shin- 
ing red gown, Irene had not finished dressing. 
But her smile scarcely hesitated as she greeted 
her, saying: ''I always seem to keep C. P. time, 
don't I? We hardly expected you to be able to 
come. Felise will be pleased. How nice you 
look.'' 

Clare kissed a bare shoulder, seeming 
not to notice a slight shrinking. 

"I hadn't an idea in the world, myself, 
that I'd be able to make it; but Jack had to 
run down to Philadelphia unexpectedly. So here 
I am." 

Irene looked up, a flood of speech on 
her lips. "Philadelphia. That's not very far, is 
it? Clare, I—?" 

She stopped, one of her hands clutch- 
ing the side of her stool, the other lying 
clenched on the dressing-table. Why didn't she 

195 



PASSING 

go on and tell Clare about meeting Bellew? 
Why couldn't she? 

But Clare didn't notice the unfinished 
sentence. She laughed and said lightly: "It's far 
enough for me. Anywhere, away from me, is 
far enough. I'm not particular." 

Irene passed a hand over her eyes to 
shut out the accusing face in the glass before 
her. With one corner of her mind she wondered 
how long she had looked like that, drawn and 
haggard and — yes, frightened. Or was it only 
Imagination? 

"Clare," she asked, "have you ever seri- 
ously thought what It would mean If he should 
find you out?" 
, "Yes." 

"Oh! You have! And what you'd do In 
that case?" 

"Yes." And having said it, Clare Ken- 
dry smiled quickly, a smile that came and went 
like a flash, leaving untouched the gravity of 
her face. 

That smile and the quiet resolution of 
196 



FINALE 

that one word, ''yes," filled Irene with a 
primitive paralysing dread. Her hands were 
numb, her feet like ice, her heart like a stone 
weight. Even her tongue was like a heavy 
dying thing. There were long spaces between 
the words as she asked: "And what should 
you do?" 

Clare, who was sunk in a deep chair, her 
eyes far away, seemed wrapped in some pleas- 
ant impenetrable reflection. To Irene, sitting ex- 
pectantly upright, it was an interminable time 
before she dragged herself back to the present 
to say calmly: 'Td do what I want to do more 
than anything else right now. I'd come up here 
to live. Harlem, I mean. Then I'd be able to do 
as I please, when I please." 

Irene leaned forward, cold and tense. 
''And what about Margery?" Her voice was a 
strained whisper. 

"Margery?" Clare repeated, letting her 
eyes flutter over Irene's concerned face. "Just 
this, 'Rene. If It wasn't for her, I'd do it any- 
way. She's all that holds me back. But if Jack 

197 



PASSING 

finds out, if our marriage is broken, that lets 
me out. Doesn't it?" 

Her gentle resigned tone, her air of in- 
nocent candour, appeared, to her listener, spuri- 
ous. A conviction that the words were intended 
as a warning took possession of Irene. She re- 
membered that Clare Kendry had always 
seemed to know what other people were think- 
ing. Her compressed lips grew firm and ob- 
durate. Well, she wouldn't know this time. 

She said: "Do go downstairs and talk 
to Brian. He's got a mad on." 

Though she had determined that Clare 
should not get at her thoughts and fears, the 
words had sprung, unthought of, to her lips. It 
was as if they had come from some outer layer 
of callousness that had no relation to her tor- 
tured heart. And they had been, she realized, 
precisely the right words for her purpose. 

For as Clare got up and went out, she 
saw that that arrangement was as good as her 
first plan of keeping her waiting up there while 
she dressed — or better. She would only have 

198 



FINALE 

hindered and rasped her. And what matter if 
those two spent one hour, more or less, alone 
together, one or many, now that everything had 
happened between them? 

Ah ! The first time that she had allowed 
herself to admit to herself that everything had 
happened, had not forced herself to believe, to 
hope, that nothing irrevocable had been con- 
summated ! Well, it had happened. She knew it, 
and knew that she knew it. 

She was surprised that, having thought 
the thought, conceded the fact, she was no 
more hurt, cared no more, than during her pre- 
vious frenzied endeavours to escape it. And this 
absence of acute, unbearable pain seemed to her 
unjust, as If she had been denied some exquisite 
solace of suffering which the full acknowledg- 
ment should have given her. 

Was it, perhaps, that she had endured 
all that a woman could endure of tormenting 
humiliation and fear? Or was it that she 
lacked the capacity for the acme of suffering? 
*'No, no!'^ she denied fiercely. "I'm human 

199 



PASSING 

like everybody else. It's just that rm so tired, 
so worn out, I can't feel any more." But she 
did not really believe that. 

Security. Was It just a word? If not, 
then was It only by the sacrifice of other things, 
happiness, love, or some wild ecstasy that she 
had never known, that It could be obtained? 
And did too much striving, too much faith In 
safety and permanence, unfit one for these 
other things? 

Irene didn't know, couldn't decide, 
though for a long time she sat questioning and 
trying to understand. Yet all the while. In spite 
of her searchlngs and feeling of frustration, 
she was aware that, to her, security was the 
most Important and desired thing In life. Not 
for any of the others, or for all of them, 
would she exchange it. She wanted only to be 
tranquil. Only, unmolested, to be allowed to 
direct for their own best good the lives of her 
sons and her husband. 

Now that she had relieved herself of 
what was almost like a guilty knowledge, ad- 
mitted that which by some sixth sense she had 

200 



FINALE 

long known, she could again reach out for 
plans. Could think again of ways to keep Brian 
by her side, and in New York. For she would 
not go to Brazil. She belonged In this land of 
rising towers. She was an American. She grew 
from this soil, and she would not be uprooted. 
Not even because of Clare Kendry, or a hun- 
dred Clare Kendrys. 

Brian, too, belonged here. His duty was 
to her and to his boys. 

Strange, that she couldn't now be sure 
that she had ever truly known love. Not even 
for Brian. He was her husband and the father 
of her sons. But was he anything more? Had 
she ever wanted or tried for more ? In that hour 
she thought not. 

Nevertheless, she meant to keep him. 
Her freshly painted lips narrowed to a thin 
straight line. True, she had left off trying to 
believe that he and Clare loved and yet did not 
love, but she still intended to hold fast to the 
outer shell of her marriage, to keep her life 
fixed, certain. Brought to the edge of distaste- 
ful reality, her fastidious nature did not recoil. 

20I 



PASSING 

Better, far better, to share him than to lose him 
completely. Oh, she could close her eyes, if 
need be. She could bear it. She could bear any- 
thing. And there was March ahead. March 
and the departure of Clare. 

Horribly clear, she could now see the 
reason for her instinct to withhold — omit, 
rather — her news of the encounter with Bellew. 
If Clare was freed, anything might happen. 

She paused in her dressing, seeing with 
perfect clearness that dark truth which she had 
from that first October afternoon felt about 
Clare Kendry and of which Clare herself had 
once warned her — that she got the things she 
wanted because she met the great condition of 
conquest, sacrifice. If she wanted Brian, Clare 
wouldn't revolt from the lack of money or 
place. It was as she had said, only Margery 
kept her from throwing all that away. And if 
things were taken out of her hands — Even if 
she was only alarmed, only suspected that such 
a thing was about to occur, anything might 
happen. Anything. 

No ! At all costs, Clare was not to know 
202 



FINALE 

of that meeting with Bellew. Nor was Brian. 
It would only weaken her own power to keep 
him. 

They would never know from her that 
he was on his way to suspecting the truth about 
his wife. And she would do anything, risk any- 
thing, to prevent him from finding out that 
truth. How fortunate that she had obeyed her 
Instinct and omitted to recognize Bellew ! 

"Ever go up to the sixth floor, Clare?" 
Brian asked as he stopped the car and got out 
to open the door for them. 

"Why, of course ! We're on the seven- 
teenth." 

"I mean, did you ever go up by nigger- 
power?" 

'That's good!" Clare laughed. "Ask 
'Rene. My father was a janitor, you know. In 
the good old days before every ramshackle flat 
had Its elevator. But you can't mean we've got 
to walk up ? Not here !" 

"Yes, here. And Fellse lives at the very 
top," Irene told her. 

203 



PASSING 

"What on earth for?'' 

"I beheve she claims it discourages the 
casual visitor." 

"And she's probably right. Hard on 
herself, though." 

Brian said "Yes, a bit. But she says 
she'd rather be dead than bored." 

"Oh, a garden! And how lovely with 
that undisturbed snow I" 

"Yes, Isn't It? But keep to the walk with 
those foolish thin shoes. You too, Irene." 

Irene walked beside them on the cleared 
cement path that split the whiteness of the 
courtyard garden. She felt a something In the 
air, something that had been between those 
two and would be again. It was like a live thing 
pressing against her. In a quick furtive glance 
she saw Clare clinging to Brian's other arm. 
She was looking at him with that provocative 
upward glance of hers, and his eyes were fas- 
tened on her face with what seemed to Irene 
an expression of wistful eagerness. 

"It's this entrance, I believe," she In- 
formed them in quite her ordinary voice. 

204 



FINALE 

''Mind," Brian told Clare, "you don't 
fall by the wayside before the fourth floor. 
They absolutely refuse to carry anyone up more 
than the last two flights." 

''Don't be silly!" Irene snapped. 

The party began gaily. 

Dave Freeland was at his best, brilliant, 
crystal clear, and sparkling. Felise, too, was 
amusing, and not so sarcastic as usual, because 
she liked the dozen or so guests that dotted 
the long, untidy living-room. Brian was witty, 
though, Irene noted, his remarks were some- 
what more barbed than was customary even 
with him. And there was Ralph Hazelton, 
throwing nonsensical shining things into the 
pool of talk, which the others, even Clare, 
picked up and flung back with fresh adornment. 

Only Irene wasn't merry. She sat almost 
silent, smiling now and then, that she might 
appear amused. 

"What's the matter, Irene?" someone 
asked. "Taken a vow never to laugh, or some- 
thing? You're as sober as a judge." 

205 



PASSING 

* "No. It's simply that the rest of you are 
so clever that I'm speechless, absolutely 
stunned." 

"No wonder," Dave Freeland re- 
marked, "that you're on the verge of tears. You 
haven't a drink. What'll you take?" 

"Thanks. If I must take something, 
make It a glass of ginger-ale and three drops of 
Scotch. The Scotch first, please. Then the ice, 
then the ginger ale." 

"Heavens! Don't attempt to mix that 
yourself, Dave darling. Have the butler in," 
Fellse mocked. 

"Yes, do. And the footman." Irene 
laughed a little, then said: "It seems dread- 
fully warm in here. Mind if I open this win- 
dow?" With that she pushed open one of the 
long casement-windows of which the Freelands 
were so proud. 

It had stopped snowing some two or 
three hours back. The moon was just rising, and 
far behind the tall buildings a few stars were 
creeping out. Irene finished her cigarette and 

206 



FINALE 

threw It out, watching the tiny spark drop 
slowly down to the white ground below. 

Someone in the room had turned on the 
phonograph. Or was it the radio? She didn't 
know which she disliked more. And nobody was 
listening to its blare. The talking, the laughter 
never for a minute ceased. Why must they have 
more noise? 

Dave came with her drink. "You ought 
not," he told her, "to stand there like that. 
You'll take cold. Come along and talk to me, or 
listen to me gabble." Taking her arm, he led 
her across the room. They had just found seats 
when the door-bell rang and Felise called over 
to him to go and answer it. 

In the next moment Irene heard his 
voice in the hall, carelessly polite: "Your wife? 
Sorry. I'm afraid you're wrong. Perhaps 
next — " 

Then the roar of John Bellew's voice 
above all the other noises of the room: "I'm 
not wrong! I've been to the Redfields and I 
know she's with them. You'd better stand out 

207 



PASSING 

of my way and save yourself trouble in the 
end." 

"What is it, Dave?" Felise ran out to 
the door. 

And so did Brian. Irene heard him say- 
ing: "I'm Redfield. What the devil's the matter 
with you?" 

But Bellew didn't heed him. He pushed 
past them all into the room and strode towards 
Clare. They all looked at her as she got up 
from her chair, backing a little from his ap- 
proach. 

"So you're a nigger, a damned dirty 
nigger!" His voice was a snarl and a moan, an 
expression of rage and of pain. 

Everything was in confusion. The men had 
sprung forward. Felise had leapt between them 
and Bellew. She said quickly: "Careful. You're 
the only white man here." And the silver chill 
of her voice, as well as her words, was a warn- 
ing. 

Clare stood at the window, as composed 
as if everyone were not staring at her in curi- 
osity and wonder, as if the whole structure of 

208 



FINALE 

her life were not lying In fragments before her. 
She seemed unaware of any danger or uncaring. 
There was even a faint smile on her full, red 
lips, and in her shining eyes. 

It was that smile that maddened Irene. 
She ran across the room, her terror tinged with 
ferocity, and laid a hand on Clare's bare arm. 
One thought possessed her. She couldn't have 
Clare Kendry cast aside by Bellew. She couldn't 
have her free. 

Before them stood John Bellew, speech- 
less now in his hurt and anger. Beyond them 
the little huddle of other people, and Brian 
stepping out from among them. 

What happened next, Irene Redfield 
never afterwards allowed herself to remember. 
Never clearly. 

One moment Clare had been there, a 
vital glowing thing, like a flame of red and 
gold. The next she was gone. 

There was a gasp of horror, and above 
it a sound not quite human, like a beast In 
agony. "Nig! My God! Nig!" 

A frenzied rush of feet down long 
209 



PASSING 

flights of stairs. The slamming of distant doors. 
Voices. 

Irene stayed behind. She sat down and 
remained quite still, staring at a ridiculous 
Japanese print on the wall across the room. 

Gone ! The soft white face, the bright 
hair, the disturbing scarlet mouth, the dream- 
ing eyes, the caressing smile, the whole tortur- 
ing loveliness that had been Clare Kendry. That 
beauty that had torn at Irene's placid Hfe. 
Gone! The mocking daring, the gallantry of 
her pose, the ringing bells of her laughter. 

Irene wasn't sorry. She was amazed, in- 
credulous almost. 

What would the others think? That 
Clare had fallen? That she had deliberately 
leaned backward? Certainly one or the other. 
Not— 

But she mustn't, she warned herself, 
think of that. She was too tired, and too 
shocked. And, indeed, both were true. She was 
utterly weary, and she was violently staggered. 
But her thoughts reeled on. If only she could 
be as free of mental as she was of bodily 

2IO 



FINALE 

vigour; could only put from her memory the 
vision of her hand on Clare's arm ! 

^'It was an accident, a terrible accident," 
she muttered fiercely. "It wasT 

People were coming up the stairs. 
Through the still open door their steps and 
talk sounded nearer, nearer. 

Quickly she stood up and went noise- 
lessly into the bedroom and closed the door 
softly behind her. 

Her thoughts raced. Ought she to have 
stayed? Should she go back out there to them? 
But there would be questions. She hadn't 
thought of them, of afterwards, of this. She 
had thought of nothing in that sudden moment 
of action. 

It was cold. Icy chills ran up her spine 
and over her bare neck and shoulders. 

In the room outside there were voices. 
Dave Freeland's and others that she did not 
recognize. 

Should she put on her coat? Felise had 
rushed down without any wrap. So had all the 
others. So had Brian. Brian! He mustn't take 

211 



PASSING 

cold. She took up his coat and left her own. At 
the door she paused for a moment, listening 
fearfully. She heard nothing. No voices. No 
footsteps. Very slowly she opened the door. 
The room was empty. She went out. 

In the hall below she heard dimly the 
sound of feet going down the steps, of a door 
being opened and closed, and of voices far 
away. 

Down, down, down, she went, Brian's 
great coat clutched in her shivering arms and 
trailing a little on each step behind her. 

What was she to say to them when at 
last she had finished going down those endless 
stairs? She should have rushed out when they 
did. What reason could she give for her dally- 
ing behind? Even she didn't know why she had 
done that. And what else would she be asked? 
There had been her hand reaching out towards 
Clare. What about that? 

In the midst of her wonderings and 
questionings came a thought so terrifying, so 
horrible, that she had had to grasp hold of the 
banister to save herself from pitching down- 

212 



FINALE 

wards. A cold perspiration drenched her shak- 
ing body. Her breath caipe short in sharp and 
painful gasps. 

What if Clare was not dead? 

She felt nauseated, as much at the idea 
of the glorious body mutilated as from fear. 

How she managed to make the rest of 
the journey without fainting she never knew. 
But at last she was down. Just at the bottom 
she came on the others, surrounded by a little 
circle of strangers. They were all speaking in 
whispers, or in the awed, discreetly lowered 
tones adapted to the presence of disaster. In 
the first instant she wanted to turn and rush 
back up the way she had come. Then a calm 
desperation came over her. She braced herself, 
physically and mentally. 

"Here's Irene now," Dave Freeland 
announced, and told her that, having only just 
missed her, they had concluded that she had 
fainted or something like that, and were on the 
way to find out about her. Felise, she saw, was 
holding on to his arm, all the insolent non- 
chalance gone out of her, and the golden brown 

213 



PASSING 

of her handsome face changed to a queer mauve 
colour. 

Irene made no Indication that she had 
heard Freeland, but went straight to Brian. His 
face looked aged and altered, and his lips were 
purple and trembling. She had a great longing 
to comfort him, to charm away his suffering 
and horror. But she was helpless, having 
so completely lost control of his mind and 
heart. 

She stammered: *'Is she — is she — ?" 

It was Felise who answered. "Instantly, 
we think." 

f^ Irene struggled against the sob of 
[ than kfulness that rose in her throat. Choked 
down, it turned to a whimper, like a hurt 
child's. Someone laid a hand on her shoulder in 
a soothing gesture. Brian wrapped his coat 
about her. She began to cry rackingly, her en- 
tire body heaving with convulsive sobs. He 
made a slight perfunctory attempt to comfort 
her. 

"There, there, Irene. You mustn't. 
214 



FINALE 

You'll make yourself sick. She's — " His voice 
broke suddenly. 

As from a long distance she heard 
Ralph Hazelton's voice saying: "I was look- 
ing right at her. She just tumbled over and was 
gone before you could say 'Jack Robinson.' 
Fainted, I guess. Lord! It was quick. Quickest 
thing I ever saw in all my life." 

"It's impossible, I tell you I Absolutely 
impossible !" 

It was Brian who spoke in that frenzied 
hoarse voice, which Irene had never heard be- 
fore. Her knees quaked under her. 

Dave Freeland said: "J^st a minute, 
Brian. Irene was there beside her. Let's hear 
what she has to say." 

She had a moment of stark craven fear. 
*'0h God," she thought, prayed, "help me." 

A strange man, official and authorita- 
tive, addressed her. "You're sure she fell? Her 
husband didn't give her a shove or anything 
like that, as Dr. Redfield seems to think?" 

For the first time she was aware that 
215 



PASSING 

Bellew was not in the little group shivering In 
the small hallway. What did that mean? As she 
began to work it out in her numbed mind, she 
was shaken with another hideous trembling. 
Not that! Oh, not that! 

"No, no!" she protested. ^Tm quite 
certain that he didn't. I was there, too. As close 
as he was. She just fell, before anybody could 
stop her. I — " 

Her quaking knees gave way under her. 
She moaned and sank down, moaned again. 
Through the great heaviness that submerged 
and drowned her she was dimly conscious of 
strong arms lifting her up. Then everything 
was dark. 

Centuries after, she heard the strange 
man saying: 'JDeath by misadventure, I'm In- 
clined to believe. Let's go up and have another 
look at that window." 



A NOTE ON THE TYPE 
IN WHICH THIS BOOK IS SET 



1 HIS book has been set in a modern adaptation of 
a type designed by PVilliam Caslon, the first {l6g2- 
1766), who, it is generally conceded, brought the 
old-style letter to its highest perfection. 

An artistic, easily-read type, Caslon has had two 
centuries of ever-increasing popularity in our own 
country — // is of interest to note that the first copies 
of the Declaration of Independence and the first 
paper currency distributed to the citizens of the 
new-born nation were printed in this type face. 




SET UP, ELECTROTYPED, PRINTED, 

AND BOUND BY 

THE VAIL-BALLOU PRESS, 

BINGHAMTON, N. Y. 

PAPER M ADE BY 

S. D. WARREN CO., BOSTON 



7k7t 



D 



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