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Helen Waldo Mitchell 

335 Embarcadero Road 
Palo Alto, California 




M^^^ 




^ff/ 



Gift of 



J. Pearce Mitchell 




STANFORD 

UNIVERSITY 

LIBRARIES 



/ 



THE THOROUGHBRED 



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•Jiii; i: -al ■• l^tiir .. ." ' : 









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coftrioht 1917 
The Bobbs-Meulux Comf^avt 



wnnm or 

•RAUNWORTH A OO. 

BOOK MANUFAOTURCNB 

MI0OKI.VN. N. V. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I On Edge 1 

II The Insult 91 

III The Mornino After 47 

IV Exploration . . > 73 

V The New World 95 

VI When He Came Home 134 

VII Interlude 145 

VIII Germination 168 

IX Alfred, Meanwhile 178 

X Intervention 211 

XI In THE Dare 238 

XII The Eleventh Hour 94,9 



THE 
THOROUGHBRED 

CHAPTER I 

ON EDGE 

WHEN Celia heard his latch-key, she sang 
out from her room, the open door of which 
was at the head of the stairs : 

"You'll have to fly, Fred. It's a quarter to seven 
and they're coming at half past." 

A minute later, realizing that he had not an- 
swered, that there had indeed been no sound at all 
since the click of the closing door, she called: 

"It's you, isn't it?" 

^TTes, it's me," she heard him say. And then 
came the swish of his evening papers and the clat- 
ter of the big buttons on his overcoat as he dumped 






COPTKIOHT I91T 
Trwm BoBBS'BfEEUlX CoMPAXT 




THE. THOROUGHBRED 

it carelessly on the oak settle at the foot of the 
stairs. 

But there was another silence after that. What- 
ever was he doing down there? She even arrested 
the movement of her lamb's-wool so that she could 
listen better. Then, with a frown (not an ill- 
tempered frown; a rueful one of exasperated pa- 
tience, which one saw pretty often in her face when 
she was talking to, or about, her husband) she 
started toward the door to investigate. But before 
she had taken more than a step or two in that direc- 
tion she heard him lumbering up and went back to 
her dressing-table. 

The glimpse of the doorway that she got in her 
mirror showed her that he had stopj>ed there, but 
even without that, she could have felt him looking 
at her. So, without turning, she greeted him with 
a good-humored "Hello," and added, "You heard 
what I said, didn't you? It's nearly seven and 
they're coming at half past." 

"Are there people coming to dinner? All right." 

His voice was stiff with preoccupation — hardly 



ON EDGE 

articulate. He might have been talking in his 
sleep. 

She shot a glance at him over her shoulder. 
"You don't mean to say you'd forgotten all about 
the dinner, Fred!" 

In that same level voice, with neither surprise 
nor contrition in it, he admitted that he had. ^^But 
it's all right," he repeated. "There's plenty of 
time." 

"Not if you want to shave in the guest's bath- 
room," she warned him. "You'll have to be out of 
there with all your lathery things, and clear up 
after yourself, before a quarter past, because the 
Colliers are driving out from town and they may be 
a little early. And I can't spare Marie to pick up 
after you, because I'm going to use her myself." 

He said "All right" again, in that same dull, 
half -conscious sort of way, so that she whipped 
round upon him energetically. 

"For heaven's sake, Fred, wake up and be hu- 
man! Go down-stairs and get yourself a drink. 
That sleep-walking way of yours is growing on you 

8 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

and you've no idea how maddening it is!" She 
made as if to turn back to her dressing-table, but 
faltered. "Nothing's — ^happened, I suppose," she 
'said. 

He answered, "No. Nothing's happened." And 
added below his breath, "That's it." 

She didn't hear the last two words and would 
hardly have understood them if she had. But the 
look and the tone were unmistakable. 

"Oh, I know, you poor old dear !" she said. She 
meant her voice to sound sympathetic, but in spite 
of herself, the words came out petulantly, and a 
realization of this made her add, "You know, don't 
you, Fred, that I wouldn't keep you going like this 
if I didn't think it was really good for you to buck 
up and forget your worries for a while? You do 
slump so when we're just together and there's noth- 
ing to do. And I know that doesn't help you, and 
it's deadly for me. Don't you think you're better 
in the morning if you've forgotten to worry for a 
while at night? You don't think I'm just a selfish 
beast, do you?" 

4 



ON EDGE 

He said, "No. It's all right. I'll buck up and 
enjoy your party." But instead of going out of 
the room, he came into it ; came up close behind her 
and took her bare arms in his hands. "There's 
time enough to give a chap a kiss, isn't there?" 

She recognized his attempt to make the request 
sound good-humored and casual; as if what he 
asked for were nothing but the affectionate symbol 
good manners entitled him to. But even without 
the tell-tale evidence afforded by the edge in his 
voice and the look of his eyes in the mirror, just 
on the basis of long experience with him, she'd have 
known better. There seemed always to be some- 
thing very inviting about her for him at just this 
stage of her toilet; it was the contrast, perhaps, 
between what was so completely finished and what 
was not yet begun, that added piquancy to her 
other charms ; between the highly professional "do" 
on her hair — (it was reddish brown, but you needed 
a strong light to be made aware of the downright 
red there was in it. Under a milder illumination 
its brown looked merdj warm. She had a lot of it 

6 



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ON EDGE 

Indeed the Impact of a good muscular push would 
have been no more effective of her purpose. She 
added in a tone of fretful apology, "There isn't 
time to fool, Fred, really. It's seven o'clock. Do 
run along." 

She knew quite well that it was not because he 
smelled smoky, nor because there wasn't time for 
the embrace he wanted, that she had turned him out 
like that. If she'd been more indifferent and less 
in love with him, she wouldn't have minded. 

It was a very old instinct in her, as old as any- 
thing about herself that she could remember — as 
old as the first starched frock of her childhood, to 
hate being rumpled. She knew that. But she did 
not at all realize the first-class importance of it. 
Her whole development during more than a score of 
years had been profoundly modified by it. It is in- 
teresting to speculate whether the instinct worked 
from within out, or from without in. Was it, td be- 
gin with, just a sensuous, tactile delight in smooth 
surfaces of fine texture that kept her aloof, in her 
play, from all that clasped tight, gripped hard — 

7 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

and left marks and creases? And had the thing 
gradually worked in to her soul? Or was the child- 
ish impulse to keep everything at arm's length and 
finger's tip, the outer sign, merely, of something 
that lay, from the beginning, at the very core of 
her? It matters very little. The important thing 
is that the two surfaces of her, the outer and the 
inner, corresponded — ^whichever it was that had 
shaped the other — and that they both were only 
surfaces. 

It had not been, in her childhood, that she lacked 
energy to play, didn't want to play; and it occa- 
sionally happened that the energy bottled up 
reached a pressiure and the want an urgency that 
carried her off, had her crumpled, panting before 
she knew it. When that happened, she ran wild 
for a while. Well, no more was it, now she was 
grown, that she was incapable of strong emotions. 
Nor was it the emotions themselves that she re- 
sented ; it was their power to tumble and ruffle that 
smooth, fine-grained surface of hers. She hated 
being made to cry, or blush, or tremble^ hated the 

8 



% 



ON EDGE 

drum of ihe ptdse in her throat and ears. So, when 
she could, she held at arm's length experiences she 
suspected of the power to produce these effects. 

Like most radical instincts, it seldom obtruded 
on her consciousness. She'd have denied, quite sin- 
cerely, that it had anything to do with the major 
decisions of her life ; with, to take the supreme case, 
her marriage with Alfred Blair. But it did have a 
lot to do with it. It also explained the slight sensa- 
tion of surprise that ran around her circle of friends 
when her engagement to him was announced. 

He was perfectly eligible, of course. Only not 
just the man they'd have expected Celia French, 
with her exaggerated fastidiousness, to select. 

Alfred Blair was a man of whom every one spoke 
well. But, in speaking well of him, they were 
likely to use rather uninviting adjectives — self- 
made, steady, industrious. 

He was steady and industrious, and the adjective 
self-made was, perhaps, justified by the fact that 
though he was a licensed architect, and a skilful 
engineer, he was ornamented by no college degrees. 

9 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

He'd finished up his formal education in one of 
Chicago's technical high schools, got a job at nine- 
teen with a firm of contracting engineers that spe- 
cialized in grain-elevators and certain other forms 
of warehouses, factories and markets. At twenty- 
five, when his big opportunity came, he had the 
audacity to grasp it; borrowed every cent of his 
mother's little fortune, and launched himself in a 
similar business of his own. His first big contract, 
which had given him his opportunity, had enabled 
him to pay back his mother's loan with a consider- 
able increment as her share of the profits (he had 
insisted upon this) and left him established. At 
thirty-five, when he and Celia were married, he had 
ten successful years behind him and the assured 
sense of power that success brings. 

A man of more exuberant manners, on the 
strength of a record like that, would have been 
called brilliant. Blair's quiet, steady, unoma- 
mental way made the adjective impossible; caused 
him to be siunmed up, by casual acquaintances at 

10 




ON EDGE 

least, In a set of terms which didn't account for him 
at all. 

The thing that made it all the easier for persons 
who had mastered a social skill to patronize him, 
was that he was much too open-minded to despise 
the things he knew he lacked and too simple to 
pretend to a mild contempt of them. He wasn't 
ashamed to show an almost wistful admiration of 
and desire for the graces and refinements of life. 
Which accounted amply, of course, for his falling 
in love with Celia French. 

But what attraction had he for Celia? The less 
affectionate of her acquaintances had, of course, an 
explanation ready to hand. The Frenches had 
never been so well-to-do as they tried to look. Celia 
had never had a proper dress allowance and had 
had to do a lot of contriving even to go through 
the motions of paying off her social obligations. 
Here was a decently presentable man with plenty of 
money. It was as simple as two and two. 

Her real friends resented this imputation hotly. 

11 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

When you got to know Alfred Blair, you found 
him singularly attractive. He had such a straight 
way of looking, and speaking, and doing things. 
He had a pleasantly modulated voice. He had, ac- 
cording to one or two enthusiasts, real tact and 
charm. The question whether she'd have married 
him, had he not' been prosperous, was a perfectly 
barren one. Alfred Blair would never have asked 
her to. 

But not even her most intimate friends hit upon 
the one decisive quality about him that had seen the 
girl, happily and without misgiving, through a 
three-months' engagement and the beginnings of 
their married life. This was a touch of timidity 
about him, almost reverent, that kept him from com- 
ing too close too soon. 

Celia was twenty-six when she met him, and had 
had experience enough with her own amatory emo- 
tions to believe she understood them. She h^d been 
engaged once and half -engaged another time, to 
say nothing of an indefinite number of yoimg men 
— ^three or four, anyway — ^who had come up to 

12 



ON EDGE 

fhe point where she had had to take a line with 
them. She probably would have engaged herself to 
marry the second man, had not her break with the 
first made her wary. 

That experience with her first lover had been a 
shock. Her promise to marry him had transformed 
him unbelievably into a stranger, and her feeling 
for him, which she had confidently diagnosed as 
true love, had curdled overnight into an active 
aversion. The thing that led to her dismissal of 
the second man was a lack of confidence in herself, 
rather than in him. She'd thought a good deal and 
asked a few questions, and profound and disquiet- 
ing misgivings were the result. 

And then came Alfred Blair, who put the mis- 
givings to flight. The thing he'd given her first 
was an unfathomable sense of security. All the 
facts about him fitted in, of course; that he was 
older, that he was self-disciplined, and, it can not 
be denied, that he was prosperous. She tested him, 
cautiously at first, then with growing confidence. 
The little privileges she gave him, she freely am- 
id 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

plified when she found he never tried to amplify 
them for himself. These restraints never led her 
to doubt the genuineness of his passion for her. 
That was plain enough for the blind to see. But 
the will that reined it in was supreme. 

Her new engagement and her marriage were 
wonderful restoratives to her confidence. She felt 
her attitude to her two former lovers, which had 
caused her more doubts and unhappiness than she 
was willing to admit, triumphantly justified. Her 
instincts had not been wrong after all. Happiness 
didn't necessarily hurt nor deface. For a while she 
was utterly content, and her contentment was spiced 
by a mild pity for pretty much all the rest of the 
world, and especially for the girls who had married 
those two former lovers of hers. 

It was from an unexpected quarter that her 
Nemesis began creeping up on her — the unruly, 
Irrepressible growth within herself of a passion for 
her husband. She found the fine silken fabric of 
their life imperiled by impulses of her own that ter- 
rified her. Jealousy was one of them — ^utterly 

14 



ON EDGE 

without foundation in fact, she knew, which made 
it all the more terrifying. 

There was little Nora Brice, for example, some- 
where about twenty, whose people had lost all their 
money, and who, as much from inclination as from 
necessity, gave dancing lessons. The Blairs and 
two or three couples of their friends had her in, 
occasionally, to keep them up to the minute, and 
she and Alfred had taken an innocently shameless 
fancy to each other. She laughed at him — treated 
him like a boy, proved to him, to his intense aston- 
ishment, that he could dance as well as anybody, 
and, under the stimulus of the phonograph, pol- 
ished off a facet of him that nobody had dreamed 
existed. 

Celia's line, of course, was good-humored amuse- 
ment, and she would, she felt, have been irretriev- 
ably shamed had any one discovered, especially had 
her husband discovered, the true emotions her 
manner masked. But she could no more help feel- 
ing those sharp stabs of pain than she could have 
resisted the neuralgic twinges of a bad tooth. Jeal- 

15 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

OU8J was not the only feeling, either, that shook 
and gripped and dismayed her. 

So, from whatever motive you like to name it 
(she tried hard not to name it cowardice), she clung 
to the thing that had once not been a mask — ^the 
cool aloofness, the fastidiousness, the kindly af- 
fectionate superiority; went on pointing out, with 
humorous tolerance, his little mistakes; maintained 
the position which he had once so eagerly acqui- 
esced in and had never tried to change, that her 
duty toward him was to refine and civilize him; 
induce him to appreciate the value of the orna- 
mental and frivolous aspects of life ; get him sup- 
pler — ^more, as she used to say, human. 

There had come within the last few months, and 
within a year of their marriage, a change in him 
which made this attitude of hers all the harder to 
maintain. Something seemed to be undermining 
that quiet confidence in himself which, when she had 
first met him, had been his most distinguishing 
characteristic. She knew, of course, that he had 
business worries, due to the conditions created by 

16 



ON EDGE 

fhe outibreak of fhe war. But then, the war had 
affected everybody. All their friends groaned and 
joked about their poverty ; affected an extravagant 
ignorance as to where their next meal was coming 
from. But they all went on living, as far as she 
could see, in just about the same old way. 

There was no reason to suppose that Fred was 
any harder hit than the others. Indeed, he talked 
very much less about hard times than the other men 
did. He had, two or three times lately, looked 
pretty solemn over bills, to be sure ; hflul asked, with 
no jocular undertone, how much she'd paid for that 
rose-colored evening frock, and had made a queer 
noise like an audible shudder, over an offhand re- 
mark of hers about the possibility of trading in 
their car for a this year's modeL 

Tliat she had not taken any of these signs more 
seriously was due to the fact that she supposed all 
husbands m€Mle themselves unpleasant on the sub- 
ject of domestic expenditure. Her married friends 
of longer standing seemed to accept this convention 
quite light-heartedly, and burlesqued a lively terror 

17 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

over the effect of all of their more ornamental pur- 
chases on their respective husbands. Besides, Celia 
knew she wasn't extravagant, really. It couldn't 
be that that plunged her husband into the brooding 
melancholy that seemed to envelop him whenever 
circumstances gave it a chance. 

But this belief, quite honestly achieved, didn't 
help her much; because the melancholy was there. 
Many a time she'd surprised a haggard look, al- 
most a despairing look, in his eyes, that all but 
brought the tears to her own. And the impulse 
that came to get her arms around him tight, to 
demand to be told what the trouble was — ^all about 
it clear down to the bottom, would be almost irre- 
sistible. But the fear of losing her own self- 
control, going to pieces, crying, making a damp, 
unpleasant little fool of herself, always restrained 
her — ^had up to to-night at any rate. She'd always 
stiffened against it. In order not to go soft, she'd 
become brusk — ^bullied him a little, urged him to 
cheer up, dragged him off to the theater or a four 
of bridge with the Calvins around the comer. 

18 



ON EDGE 

Like all situations between Intimates, this be- 
tween them was a product of a thousand small ac- 
cretions. Had he come home six months ago with 
the look she'd seen In his face to-night, her wall of 
resistance would have been shattered. The troubled 
flood of compassion pent up within her would have 
engulfed him. But he wasn't so very different to- 
night from what he had been this morning, or a 
week ago; not so different but that she could turn 
back to the face In the mirror, after telling him to 
run along, and go on with the minor Improvements 
In It, just as she had been doing when she heard his 
latch-key. 

Only she eyed that mirrored face now with a 
hard alertness, as an old sergeant-major might 
watch a recruit turning blue under fire, daring the 
eyes to brim, or the lips to tremble. Her hands 
began trembling and she gripped them together 
fiercely, then slackened their clasp and set them to 
work again. 

When Marie, the maid, came up-stairs to hook 
up the rose-colored gown, the voice In which Cella 

19 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

questioned her as to the state of preparedness in 
the dining-room sounded remote and small to her 
own ears, though to Marie herself, so far as one 
could tell, it sounded natural enough. 

She stirred sharply — ^a movement like anger — 
when she heard her husband come out of his room 
and walk steadily down the stairs, without pausing 
at her now closed door for a word. It was not the 
omission that made her angry, but the sharp con- 
traction of her own heart that it caused — ^the lump 
that it brought in her throat. 



CHAPTER n 



THS INSULT 



IT was eleven o'clock that night before she saw 
him again, except in the presence of their guests. 
And during all those hours, whenever her gaze 
rested upon her husband's face, and whenever his 
voice came clearly to her ears in a lull of the voices 
of the others, heart and throat felt that same clutch 
followed by the same dull sense of outrage that this 
should be so. And all the while her voice went on 
sounding small and far away, and her smile felt 
stiff. 

As a matter of objective fact, she knew that she 
was in good form. Howard Collier, at her right, 
being a comparative stranger, did not offer, per- 
haps, a fair test of her powers. He'd probably 
have been more or less impressed anyway. But that 
Carter Worthing, on her left — Carter, the town 

21 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

bachelor, who, on coming into his inheritance fifteen 
years ago, had quit work and devoted himself to 
the graceful evasion of matrimony — ^that he should 
betray an uneasy preoccupation with what she was 
saying to Howard Collier, while Martha Walters, 
at his left, was trying her prettiest to flirt with him, 
and should fairly snatch at the smallest straw of an 
opportunity to turn back to her, was an indication 
worth paying attention to. 

But the recognition of this fact brought her 
none of the mild cool elation sheM naturally have 
felt. It hardened, excited — ^almost exasperated her. 
It was, perhaps, responsible for the attitude she 
took when the topic they were all discussing these 
days came up, the Grahams' divorce. Perhaps, too, 
it led her to put edge enough into her voice so that 
all the table stopped to listen, and presently 
joined in. 

"Oh, I'm not on his side," she said. "I never 
liked George Graham very well, and hardly knew 
him at all, anyway. But I don't see what there 
is to get so excited about. Three years ago, when 



THE INSULT 

he married her, Dora Graham was a raving beauty. 
Look at her now! I don't think it's so very sur- 
prising, what he did." 

Two or three voices took issue with her simul- 
taneously. What was the "for better, for worse*' 
clause in the marriage service for, if not to cover 
such a case? Did she seriously mean to say (this 
rather solemnly from Carter) that a wife's loss of 
her beauty justified her husband in being unfaith- 
ful to her? 

Celia said no, she didn't mean that, of course. 
"But Dora — ^why Dora was her looks, and her looks 
were Dora. Thaf s what George Graham married. 
Everybody knew it. Dora knew it. She wasn't 
like an ordinary pretty girl. She was a profes- 
sional beauty, really. She never pretended to know 
anjrthing. She never tried to amuse people. She 
knew she needn't bother to. She might have been 
a picture on the wall. Well, I don't say it's her 
fault that she's lost all that. But certainly it isn't 
his. And she just isn't the person he married, that's 
alL'» 

28 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

It was an outrageous line to take, she knew. 
She'd seized upon it to satisfy a need in her, which 
she didn't understand, for something hard and cold 
and metallic like that. And what she said wouldn't 
have mattered, had it been engulfed, as she'd ex- 
pected it to be, in the confusion of dinner-table 
chatter. 

Instead of that, to her consternation, her words 
were followed, and pointed, somehow, by a moment 
of dead silence in which they veritably seemed to 
echo. Something inexplicably kept her from look- 
ing across at her husband. And the panicky reali- 
zation — ^inexplicably, also — seized her, that if she 
didn't look out, she'd cry, right there, before them 
all — make a scene. She, of all people ! 

She flashed round on Carter Worthing. "Oh, 
don't be so solemn^** she commanded under her 
breath. "Say something silly. It's your turn." 

She couldn't have told afterward whether he had 
obeyed her or not. But from some quarter or other 
the talk started again. She got her breath once 
more. The momentary panic passed. But she felt 

ai4 



THE INSXJLT 

curiously limp all the rest of the evening, and not 
once did she meet Fred's eye. 

It was with a mixture of relief and dread that 
she saw her party beginning to break up. The 
relief was the stronger, until the front door had 
closed for the last time. But when it did, she had 
a wild impulse to rush out and call back that last 
pair of guests. 

When Fred came back into the drawing-room, 
And she tried to speak to him, her teeth were chat- 
tering. What she said was quite casual, though, 
and her voice matched it. 

**Did Howard CoUier tell you," she asked, *Hhat 
they're thinking of coming out here for a year, if 
they can get a house that's what they want?" 

He said, ^^I don't know. Yes, I think he did." 

His own voice was absent — ^level — ^lifeless again, 
just as it had been before she sent him away to 
dress, and he turned from her and leaned an elbow 
on the mantelpiece. 

A frantic exasperation took her, but it hid, for 
a mcnnent, behind a patient sigh and the statement 

26 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

timt f ince the was yery tired she thougbt she would 
go to bed. But, against her will, almost — certainly 
against her judgment, she added as she moved to- 
ward the door, ^I just can't stand that dead-alive 
voice and way of yours any more, Fred. Fm sorry, 
but I can't I can't ttofnd it !" 

At that he rounded upon her. ^^ou'U have to 
for a while, I guess," he said, and to her horror, 
she saw his lips were trembling. His hands he 
plunged bruskly into his pockets. 

''Sit down," he commanded^ ''Fve got some 
things to tell you." 

The power of habit is a wonderful thing. 
Neither her voice, nor its inflection, nor the words 
she chose, afforded any indication of what was 
boiling within her. 

She said evenly, "Oh, not to-night, Fred. You're 
tired and blue, and Fm all edges, somehow. There's 
no telling what might happen. And it's no good 
having a scene, when we might be getting a good 
night's sleep instead." 

'A good night's sleep !" he repeated. "I wonder 

S6 



a 



THE INSULT 

when I had one last. I've forgotten. Well — I'm 
through P' 

She sat down more suddenly than was her wont 
in making such movements, gripped the arm of her 
chair, and gazed at him with an uncomprehending 
stare. 

"Through!'* she echoed. "Through with what?" 

He jerked his hands from his pockets and flung 
them out in a frantic gesture. 

"I'm through with this," he shouted. **With 
everything ! With this danmed hell I've been living 
in !" And then instantly, "I'm sorry. I beg your 
pardon. You're quite right not to like scenes. I'll 
try to do better. Here's the fact that concerns you. 
I'm broke — completely broke. I'm at the end of 
my string — ^the end, that's all." 

She dropped back limply in her chair. ^TTou 
mean your business is going to fail?" she said 
shakily. Her eyes filled with tears. "Fm — ^I'm 
terribly sorry, old man." 

The words, especially the last phrase, hadn't 
quite the right ring. That was inevitable. Be- 

27 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

cause, the terrible pang that had gripped her when 
he shouted that he was through, had been the belief 
that he meant he was through with her — couldn't 
endure her any longer — ^had fallen in love with 
some one else. It was not a reasonable belief. Just 
something that hurt intolerably. 

On the other hand, business failures were phe- 
nomena that were likely to happen to anybody. 
She didn't precisely understand the nature of them, 
nor, to tell the truth, why they were taken so seri- 
ously. People went on somehow. Not quite the 
same for a while, but not so very differentiy. They 
gave up going south in the winter, perhaps. The 
women went about in cabs, instead of having a 
limousine of their own, and if one had a good 
memory, one remembered their frocks. 

It would seem harder to face, no doubt, after 
that horrible alternative she had for a moment con- 
templated, was forgotten. But the thing to do with 
him just now was to get him quieted down; get 
him to realize that, after all, the pillars of the 
world hadn't fallen. 

28 



THE INSULT 

But the passion that had caused his outbreak 
seemed ahready to have subsided. He went to the 
smoking^table, picked out a cigar — ^a big expensive 
cigar, at which he smiled in wry fashion — and 
lighted it. 

<^Do you care anything about details?" he asked. 
^^Or will you just take the situation in a lump as it 
stands?" 

^Td like to hear about it, of course," she said, 
**unless — ^unless, for to-night, you'd rather just 
forget about it." 

He echoed the word forget with a shiver, but 
immediately began with a good appearance of com- 
posiure, telling her his story. 

"I can't see that it's been my fault. There's 
nothing, now I think back over it, that I could have 
done differently, unless I'd actually known how 
things were coming out. I haven't taken any risks 
that weren't the legitimate risks of my business. 
At least, not since I asked you to marry me. I did 
blow in fifteen thousand the year before that, on a 
regular wild-cat — one of those inventions that's 

S9 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

perfectly sure to make your everlasting fortune 
and never does. But I could afford to lose it then, 
and I figured the lesson I learned was cheap at the 
price. 

^^But that hasn't anything to do with the situa- 
tion Fm in now. The thing that's really crippled 
me happened just after the war. I was half-way 
through that big Waters-Macdonald contract, when 
they went into bankruptcy as dry and clean as a 
lot of old bones. They'd have been on thin ice, I 
suppose, even without the war, but nobody sus- 
pected that. When that was cleaned up, I was out 
about a hundred thousand dollars, and there wasn't 
any other business to get it back with. There was 
nothing doing in our line of work, of course, for 
months. The whole business was paralyzed — dead. 
But we all thought it was going to pick up soon 
and the thing to do seemed to be what everybody 
was doing, sit tight and wait for the squall to blow 
over. It meant paying out money all the time, of 
course, for no return at all, just the advantage of 

80 



THE INSULT 

being there, ready to do business at the old stand 
when there should be some business to do. 

"I got together all the money I could, mort- 
gaged this house for what it would stand — you 
knew about that — ^and waited. Well, that's what 
Fve been doing ever since. I've had a few good 
prospects to tease me along, but nothing — ^not one 
thing, do you understand, has ever come through. 
Over and over again, I've been the low bidder of 
half a dozen normal bids, and lost the job because 
somebody had made a mistake — gone wild, bid 
twenty or thirty per cent, too low. 

"I suppose it's just my luck evening up. I used 
not to believe in luck. That was because mine was 
all good. When I saw men go to smash, I used to 
think that, somehow or other, it must be their own 
doing. Well, I know better now. Though I sup- 
pose there'll be plenty of people who'll have a rea- 
son for what happened to me, when they know 
about it. However — ^" 

It rose to her lips to ask what the reason was, 

81 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

but she hesitated over the question. It couldn't be 
anything to do with her — could it? 

At last he broke the silence. '^There's nothing 
more to tell, really. I stood the siege as long as I 
could. It's a relief to have got to the end of it. I 
said I'd hang on to the very last day, and I have. 
This was it. It's been — ^hell, the waiting, the — 
hoping. Because, of course, every time the post- 
man came in, every time the phone rang, it might 
be something. Only, it never was. I've been — ^half 
crazy lately. That accounts for the — ^manner you 
objected to. Well, it's over, thank Grod. Pve got 
to the end." 

"But — ^but," she stammered, **things don't end, 
Fred. They have to keep going somehow. You 
can't just — ^stop." Her face whitened then, and 
her mouth dropped open with blank horror, over 
the realization that there was a way by which a 
man could just stop. Was that what he meant? 

She tried to hide her terror. "It can't be so bad 
as it looks to-night, Fred. There must be some- 
thing you can do." 



K 




"Well, it's all over, thank God" 



THE INSULT 

^^Gret some more money somewhere, do you mean, 
to tide me over?*' 

She assented with a nod. "There must be ways.'* 

'^There's a way," he said, "My mother's little 
bit is all in my hands. I could take that, and if the 
luck changed within the next few months she need 
never know of it.*' He eyed her with a ferocious 
intentness as he made that suggestion. 

She colored. "I meant possible ways," she said. 

At that he turned away and begged her pardon. 
"There might be possible ways," he said, "one or 
two just possible." His voice dropped and dulled 
a little. "And I suppose if I wanted to take them, 
I would. But I don't. I've had all I can stand." 

She pressed her knuckles against her lips as if 
that could still their trembling, and tried to gulp 
down the lump in her throat. The tears were brim- 
ming out of her eyes and trickling down her cheeks, 
but she thought nothing of that. After a while 
she managed to say: 

**But — but what are you going to do, Fred?" 

"I sold the car to-day," he informed her, "for 

83 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

enough to pay the couple of people I have kept at 
the office, and the rent I owed down there, and the 
telephone bill. They came to-day to take it out. I 
paid up, but told them to go ahead and take it. So 
there's the end of that." 

"But you! What are you going to do?" 

The words were a cry of undisguised terror that 
brought him around. He stood for a moment look- 
ing into her face. 

"Oh, not that," he said. "Not what you're 
afraid of. I've treated you badly enough already, 
without that. It's bad enough at the best, of 
course, for you, but there'll be something. There's 
the house. The equity in that is worth something, 
if you can realize on it, and the furniture and so 
on. Perhaps — ^" He shook his head as if per- 
plexed by some memory he couldn't quite get hold 
of. "Perhaps you could rent it furnished for 
enough to pay you. And your jewelry might help 
tide you over until — ^" 

"Tide me over !" She squeezed the tears out of 
her eyes and stared at him. "Why are you talking 

84 



THE INSULT 

about me? And — ^and what do you mean about 
having treated me badly already? Tell me that 
first." 

"Oh, that's plain enough," he said. "It ought 
to be plain enough to you. False pretenses — ^not 
up to specifications. It's just as you were saying 
at dinner to-night. The man you married amounted 
to something — a comfortable, prosperous, solid and 
reliable sort of chap. Well, as you say, Fm not 
that man. That man's finished. He's gone, and 
I can't play his game. It's no use. I haven't the 
nerve for it. I haven't the >sand. I'm good for 
twenty-five dollars a week, perhaps — ^thirty at most, 
over a drafting-table in some other chap's office, 
and that lets me out. It's rotten luck for you. I'm 
sorry about it. That's why I was trying to figure 
out some way to make it easier. Fll do anything 
I can — ^anything you want me to do. And you 
could rely on me not to do anything that would 
make it harder. You understand, don't you?" 

He was not looking at her while he spoke, but 
she, to make it impossible for him to do so, pulled 

85 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

her chair around so that she could lean both dbows 
on her spinet writmg-desk. 

**Ye8," she said in a stifled voice, "I ^ess I do. 
Fm beginning to get the idea, 1 think." Her eyes 
were dry now and her cheeks were burning. "The 
idea was that the man I married was able to give 
me a house like this and all the clothes I wanted, 
and a motor, and so on. That was a part of the 
marriage service that the minister didn't read. But 
it was understood just tlie same. 

"And because that was your contract, you 
wouldn't tell me how things were going with you, 
or ask me to economize. Because you never did--^ 
never, never — ^never once, so that I understood that 
you meant anything by it. Why, you didn't even 
joke about being poor now on account of the war, 
the way the others did. That was your way of liv- 
ing up to — specifications, I suppose you'd say. 
You just let me go right up to the very last day 
— ^the day when they came to take the telephone. 
Oh! And then you tell me it's over. 

86 



THE INSULT 



M 



'And now, if I understand what you've been 
saying, you're showing me how I can pick up 
what's left out of the wreckage and scuttle back 
home to father and mother and — ^and — ^this was 
what you meant about doing anything I wanted — 
that I should get a divorce from you on some pre- 
text that you'd furnish me with, and — ^and try my 
luck again. And — and the jewelry would tide me 
over until I could find somebody else who'd meet the 
requirements." 

There was a silence of minutes after that. He 
stirred two or three times as if he meant to speak, 
but gave it up. Her way of putting the thing 
made it impossible for him to admit that she had 
taken his meaning correctly, but the essential truth 
of what she had said prevented his denying it. 

Presently she began to cry, put her head down 
on her arms and sobbed and shook. He sat frozen 
in his chair at the other end of the room. He didn't 
dare come near her. He couldn't think of a word 
to say. After a while — ^a period of time that 

87 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

seemed endless to him — she sat erect again, dried 
her wet face and began getting control of her 
breathing. 

The first thing she managed to say was, ^^Fm 
sorry to be such a mess. If anything's silly to do, 
it's to cry. But — but an insult like that makes you 
so sick you can't help yourself." 

He cried out at that. '^Celia, I didn't mean it 
for an insult." 

She choked down another miserable sob and an- 
swered. "I know it. That's what makes it so per- 
fectly unendurable. If you'd said it because you 
were — ^angry with me and w-wanted to hurt me just 
as hard as you possibly c-could, it wouldn't be so 
bad. But you really m-mean it. That's what you 
th-think I am. That's what you've thought ever 
since you married me. I suppose I ought to be 
glad I found out at last." 

He got out of his chair and there was another 
long silence while he walked slowly back and forth 
the length of the room, sometimes with his hands 
in his pockets, sometimes getting them out and 

S8 



THE INSULT 

squeezing them together, sometimes pausing to look 
at her where she sat with her back to him, drooping 
over the little spinet desk (making a wonderfully 
appealing picture with her rose-colored frock of the 
new old-fashioned cut, her gay colors and her wo- 
begone air) and then moving on again. Any one 
watching him could have seen that a momentous 
question was struggling within him trying to get 
itself asked. It is possible that Celia, without look- 
ing at him at all, was aware of this. 

It broke through at last. He said unevenly, 
^^Celia, do you mean that you're still fond of me 
without — ^without any of the things that were a 
part of me when we were married? And that you 
won't mind coming down to twenty-five dollars a 
week with me? Is that what you jnean?" 

She flushed, straightened, whipped round on him 
in a gale of wrath. **Mind !" she said. **0f course 
I mind. I mind horribly. I hate it. Poverty's not 
romantic, and it's not a lark, and there's nothing 
nice about it, and the virtuous, superior way people 
act about it makes me tired — ^pretending they like 

89 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

it, pretending they wouldn't change things if they 
could. I notice they do change pretty quickly 
when they can." ^ 

She went on to say a good deal more than that 
of the same import. She talked about the horror 
of three-room flats "out on the West Side some- 
where!'* She dwelt upon the terrors of makeshift 
home-made furniture with cretonne tacked on 
around it, the dismal results of fifty-cent-a-day 
cookery out of the back pages of domestic maga- 
zines. She brought out the fact that these trials 
were much less unbearable in the cases of certain of 
her friends who had at least assumed them with 
their eyes open. But to be asked if she'd "mind" 
going and living like that, as the result of an 
ignominious smash which she, ludicrously and in- 
tolerably, hadn't seen until it was about her ears — ! 
In short, in her tempest of anger, she whipped and 
cut him where and how she could, and had him 
looking pretty white and si^k before she got 
through. 

He might have drawn a favorable augury from 

40 



THE INSULT 

all this, but it isn't wonderful that he did not. He 
failed to remark, in the first place, that she had 
left the first half of his question unanswered — the 
question whether or not she really was in love with 
him, himself, rather than with the contented and 
prosperous citizen he had ceased to be. And, while 
he saw that she was trying frantically to hurt him, 
to draw blood wherever she could, snatching at any 
stinging phrase that would serve her purpose, he 
was unable to make the simple deduction from this 
fact that imless she were in love with him — ^very 
much in love with him — ^the exercise would have 
afforded her no satisfaction. She'd have been con- 
cerned with her own feelings, not his. 

Her words stumbled at last over a big sob and 
she pulled up short, visibly got herself in hand, and 
said very deliberately: 

- **What you said was, wasn't it, that you'd do 
anything you could — anything I wanted you to? 
I mean, as far as I was concerned?" 

He nodded, but, as she wasn't looking at him, he 
had to speak. It took a struggle to get the words 

41 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

out of his stiff throat, but he finally managed, ^^es, 
that's what I said." 

"And you mean it?" she asked. 'TTou'Il do it? 
That's a serious promise?" 

"Yes," he said. "What is it that you want me 
to do?" 

She told him to wait a minute, she wanted to 
think. It was with a question that she began, and 
the nature of it startled him into a staring speech- 
lessness, so that she had to ask it two or three 
times. 

"Can you really get that job you were talking 
about, twenty-five dollars a week or so — at a draft- 
ing-table, I think you said? I mean, can you 
count on it, as much as that a week?" 

Finally he roused himself enough to say, **Yes, I 
guess so." 

She hesitated over her next question, drew herself 
up a little more defiantly erect, and made sure she 
had command of a steady glance and a coldly re- 
mote tone before she asked. 

*^If a man and his wife were going to live on 

42 



THE INSULT 

that, how much rent could they afford to pay for a. 
flat? They'd live in a flat, wouldn't they? It 
would be cheaper than a boarding-house? If she 
did all the work herself — of course?" 

"Celia !" he cried. "You mean — ?" 

"Answer my question," she commanded furi- 
ously. She was furious because she had to look 
away from him after all. *T¥ould they have a 
small flat, I mean, instead of a boarding-house?" 

"Yes," he said raggedly, "they would. And they 
could pay about twenty-five dollars a month for it." 
Then he came up behind her, not touching her, but 
leaning close, one hand on the chair-back, the other 
on the desk beside her. Even so she could feel that 
he was trembling, and she had a giddy, irrational, 
terrifying impulse to fling her arms around him— 
around whatever of him was within reach, and press 
her face against him and cry. 

"Do you mean — ?" he asked. "Celia, do you 
mean that you're going to do it? Groing to see it 
through with me in spite of everything?" 

She flashed from the chair to her feet and backed 

4S 



V. 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

away from him. She couldn't see him for the in- 
f uriating tears that kept welling over and spilling 
down her cheeks. 

"Of course I mean it," she said. **What else is 
there that I can do? It's — ^it's not because I'm 
f-fond of you. It's because I want to show you 
what an — ^what an insufferable insult that was." 

As he gazed at her now, the blood began to come 
back into his cheeks, his breathing quickened, he 
clenched his hands. He realized now that part of 
his question had not been answered. 

"But if you weren't fond of me — ^" he stam- 
mered. "You are, aren't you, even if I am no 
good?" 

"I was," she flung at him furiously, **I was — 
p-perfectly idiotic about you, until I found to- 
night how you'd been thinking about me all the 
time — ^what sort of a person you thought I was. 
TouVe been hating me, thinking it was all my 
fault, and feeling very noble because you never 
complained. Well, Pm going to show you. You 
won't like it. You'll wish Fd gone scuttling back 

44 



THE INSULT 

to mother and lived on my jewelry, and left you 
free to think what a — ^what a vampire I was. Well, 
Fm not going to let you do it. 

**You've promised to do whatever I wanted, and 
that's it. You go and get your job, while I'm find- 
ing a flat. Then well see." 

This spirited rear-guard action sufSced to cover 
her retreat. She eyed him steadily. There was no 
longer about his look the suggestion that in an- 
other second he might laugh and cry all at once, 
and hug her up in his arms and demolish her. He 
was harmless now, for half a minute at least — ^the 
half -minute she needed. 

**I think if you don't mind, PU go to bed," she 
announced politely, and left him. 

Probably she needn't have locked her door, but 
she did, with a good defiant click she hoped he 
heard. Then she went over to her glass and took 
a look at herself. The tumbled, tear-wet, panting 
object she saw there was another creature from the 
last Celia she'd seen. That fine, smooth, unruffled 
surface she'd always guarded so carefully, was a 

45 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

rag — a mop. Celia allowed herself to laugh at it 
— a dangerous thing to do, because the laugh 
choked in mid-career; the tears came up again. 
She shot a last look of defiance into the mirror — 
she did not care — ^and let go. She laid her face 
down on her bare arms and cried to her heart's 
content. 



CHAPTER m 



THE MORNING AFTE& 



AFT]BR five or six hours of the soUdest sleep he 
k. had enjoyed in weeks, Alfred Blair came wide 
awake all at once and set himself to wrestling with 
the new factors in his situation, those that Celia's 
unexpected attitude and unprecedented display of 
emotion last night had forced upon him. 

He realized that the things women say in mo- 
ments of emotional stress do not always represent 
their considered opinions. Celia's avowal, for ex- 
ample, that she had been fond of him — ^'^perfectly 
idiotic about him" — ^up to the moment of what she 
had spoken of as his insult last night, might have 
been snatched merely as an effective background 
to set off the insult itself in more lurid colors. 

But there could be no doubt that she felt strongly 
about the matter. She was not indifferent to him. 
Chivalrously as he had meant it, he could see now 

47 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

that his suggestion of a willingness to furnish her 
^th a pretext for getting rid of him altogether, 
right on the heels of his confession of his financial 
downfall, had been inconsiderate — even brutal. It 
occurred to him that a clever, unscrupulous man, 
who wanted to goad his wife into the acceptance of 
his fallen fortimes with him could hardly have 
adopted more skilful tactics ; granted, that is, that 
he had the unmerited luck to be married to a little 
thoroughbred like Celia. 

He felt terribly contrite about it. His memories 
of the evening convicted him of about all the crimes 
in the husband's calendar. He had sworn at her, 
bellowed at her, made her cry, for the first time, so 
far as he knew, since they had been married. He 
had infuriated her into the resolution to share his 
poverty on a putative twenty-five dollars a week; 
into binding herself to it by means of that promise 
of his that he would assent to any plan for their 
future which she might propose. 

Well, it was now up to him to get her out of 
that. ' Tact was called for, clearly — self-control. 

48 



.. ^UMdMHiAM^ 



THE MORNING AFTER 

He must let her see that his happiness was bound 
up in hers; that for her to go back to her father 
and mother and to what comfort and independence 
might be derived from the salvage of his shattered 
fortune involved no disloyalty to him ; would be an 
act, indeed, of the deepest consideration for him. 
And, if she wanted to wait for him, there might 
arrive a day when he could come back to her, bring- 
ing, as it were, his sheaves with him — ^a new, per- 
haps ampler, crop of sheaves. 

He talked it all out with her three or four times, 
trying out different lines of reasoning. And, inas- 
much as he provided her half of the conversation 
as well as his own, they all came out satisfactorily. 

Over the breakfast table, naturally enough, it 
was a different story. Celia ruined his opening by 
being already seated behind the percolator when 
he came into the dining-room; by being dressed, 
unprecedentedly, in a very businesslike looking 
skirt and blouse; by having obliterated from her 
looks and. air every trace of the ravages wrought 
by last night's tempest. She was further fortified 

49 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

with a quantity of crisp directions for the maid 
which, while they did not keep her constantly in the 
dining-room during the first ten minutes after he 
came down, kept her imminent, so that there was 
no chance to say anything. 

And then, suddenly, with a "That's all'' to the 
maid, Celia took the game into her own hands. 

"The Colliers really want a house," she said, 
'^and they acted last night as if they liked this. So, 
if you think the best thing to do with it is to rent 
it furnished, we'd better try to get them — ^hadn't 
we — ^to-day?" 

It is always terribly hard to go on across a 
breakfast table from where one left off the night 
before. There is something so intensely prosaic 
and matter-of-fact about the meal and its surround- 
ings that drastic decisions — ^any projects which 
contemplate a break in the daily routine, are likely 
to appear fantastic. 

He managed something, not meeting her eye, 
about sticking it out another month. 

But her reply came cleanly back. "Not a minute 

60 



THE MORNING AFTER 

after we can get away. Eyen if you could stand 
it, I couldnt'' 

She was so clearly right about this that he 
yielded at once. He knew he couldn't stand it 
either. And this initial victory of hers gave her 
command of the situation. He never had a chance 
after that. He owned that the Colliers presented 
an opportunity not to be thrown away. A forced 
sale always meant a terrible sacrifice. The rental, 
at any sort of reasonable figure, would meet the 
interest charges on the mortgage, the taxes and so 
on; would pay off in the course of a few months 
their local bills, and would provide, after these de- 
mands had been satisfied, a steady little income, 
which would come in handy, he concluded, in any 
case. 

^^In any case** was meant as an entering wedge 
— a way of saying that a part, at least, of the 
program he had suggested last night, was still open 
to her. She could go back to her father and mother 
and wait for him. 

But the very intent look which the phrase drew 

61 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

from her, though it invited an explanation of what 
he meant by that, paralyzed his resolution. She 
so very clearly was waiting with an ax for that idea 
to thrust out its head. 

He looked out the window and said he'd try to 
see Collier some time to-day. 

** Would you mind leaving that to me?** she 
asked. Though in all but form, the request was 
a command. ^^I can see Ruth this morning and I 
think I can make a better bargain with her than 
you could with Howard." Then she flushed up a 
little and added, "That isn't the real reason. I 
want to tell her my own story about why we're 
doing it. 

"I'm going to tell her," she went on, with a rush, 
*H;hat you're all worn out, on the edge of a bad 
breakdown, and that I'm going to take you away 
west somewhere — and that'll be true, because the 
West Side's west, and I shan't tell her how far 
— ^before it gets any worse." 

"Is it your idea," he asked stiffly, for the thing 
hurt him dreadfully, "that we can disappear under 

5» 



THE MORNING AFTER 

cover of a story like that, and that no one will find 
out about the — disgrace that happened to us? If 
it is, I can tell you now that it won't work. There 
are a hundred ways for the facts to get out, even 
supposing I could slink about the streets down- 
town without encountering anybody." 

^7 don't expect it not to come out," she said. 
**But the story I was going to tell Ruth would 
give me a chance to get away before they knew — " 

"The disgraceful truth," he put in. 

She flung the phrase back at him. "Exactly. 
The disgraceful truth that I never knew, never sus- 
pected a thing, until the actual moment of the 
smash. That shows such a ghastly lot. Well, I 
want to get away before they can put two and two 
together. And I want to do it in such a way that 
they'll understand I don't want to be followed up 
and dropped in on and taken for charity rides in 
their motor-cars. I want it fixed so that if they do 
see me, they'll have to pretend they don't." And 
then, most unfairly, she stepped on the buzzer and 
summoned the maid. 

63 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

Between that act and the opening of the service- 
door, she got herself in hand again, recovered her 
tottering poise, and was able to say in parenthesis, 
between two factitious directions to Marie, ''Of 
course you can go to Howard yourself, if you'd 
rather I didn't see Ruth." 

He said into his coffee-cup, ''No, that's all 
right." 

He'd have said right then, if interrogated, that 
she had hurt and angered and humiliated him as 
far as she could. The maneuver of summoning the 
maid, the way she had phrased and timed her offer 
not to go to Ruth at all, in such a manner as to 
remind him that he had promised the night before 
to assent to anything she wanted; and to make it 

« 

impossible for him to reply except by a categorical 
Yes or No, was, he'd have said, the last arrow in 
her quiver. It proved, however, that she had one 
more. 

She rose from the table when he did, and he saw 
that she had a package in her hand — ^must have had 
it in her lap during the whole of the meal, a pack- 

54 



^ 



THE MORNING AFTER 

age whose solidly rectangular form was but indif- 
ferently disguised by the bunglesome job she had 
made of wrapping it up. 

He looked hastily away from it after one glance^ 
and said: 

"I can't promise to get that job to-day, of 
course. But I'll do my best." 

**You might call me up this afternoon, if you 
have any luck," she suggested. "Then I can tell 
you how Fve come out with Ruth about renting the 
house. You and Howard will have to settle up the 
details, of course." 

He said he supposed so, and with a nod of fare- 
well, which, in his state of mind was the only leave- 
taking he dared attempt, he turned to leave the 
room. 

She called him back. "Here's something, Fred," 
she said in a tight little voicQ^ '^for you." She held 
the package out to him. 

He knew what it contained well enough, as the 
dark flush that came up into his face, and the ab- 
surdly overacted casualness of his manner of say- 

55 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

ing, ^Oh, what is it?'' made evident, no doubt, to 
her. Also, he backed away a little as he spoke, and, 
further to secure his hands from the necessity of 
taking the package from her, he put them in his 
pockets. 

She reddened, too, and said, ^^It's the pearls and 
the other things, everything — ^practically. What 
you were telling me last night I could live on 
— while I was waiting for somebody else to 
turn up." 

Thereupon ensued what I can only characterize 
as a row — a rowdy row at that, concerning the 
details of which I feel it my duty, as a self-respect- 
ing chronicler, to maintain a decent reticence. The 
major tctctics of the battle, however, may be indi- 
cated. 

He announced very forcibly that he would have 
nothing to do with her jewels beyond acting as her 
agent for the disposal of them. If she chose, in 
spite of her avowed belief in his business incom- 
petence, to entrust the job of selling them to him, 

66 



THE MORNING AFTER 

he would make the best bargain he could, and have 
the jeweler mail the check direct to her; She an- 
nounced a passionate indifference as to what he did 
with them, provided only that she should never be 
asked to look at thejp again, or accept, or hear any- 
thing about, the proceeds of their sale. It is per- 
haps not fair to say that she flung the package on 
the floor. She propelled it vigorously in his direc- 
tion, and he declined to accept it, the law of gravi- 
tation operating in the usual manner. He sug- 
gested the ash-barrel as a proper receptacle, and 
she, by implication, agreed with him. 

When they parted, she for her room, and he for 
the seven-fifty-three train, about the most one can 
say for them is that he hadn't actually shaken her, 
nor she literally slapped him. Short of that, 
neither of them had left anything undone to pro- 
voke and justify the fury of the other. 

The wrath of a kindly, slow-tempered man, once 
it is heated up to the point of incandescence, is a 
much hotter thing than any emotion that a quicks 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

tempered man or woman can experience. Celia her- 
self would have been horrified could she have known 
the temperature of her husband's. 

All the way to town in the train, behind the shel- 
ter of his newspaper, he seethed like molten steel. 
The last look of helpless fury he had seen in Celia's 
face, and the tears that stained it, were his only 
source of satisfaction. He had given as good as 
he got in that last five minutes, anyway. He 
wished he had begun sooner. He was sorry, on the 
whole, he hadn't shaken her. 

But the episode of the jewelry was more or less 
satisfactory. The injury, which acted as a blow- 
pipe to keep his wrath from cooling, was the thing 
that had happened before that — her avowal of the 
story she meant to tell Ruth Collier about his nerv- 
ous breakdown and her intention to take him ^Svest 
somewhere" ; her admission that she felt herself dis- 
graced by his failure, to the point where nothing 
but their severance of all ties connecting with the 
old life, their total disappearance like a pair of 
absconding criminals, would satisfy her. That 

58 



THE MORNING AFTER 

rankled frightfully. He didn't know whether it 
was more maddening to believe that she really 
meant it, or that she had said it merely in the hope 
of wounding him as deeply as possible. He tried 
out each of these theories, with the idea of discov- 
ering which infuriated him the worse, and at last, 
although they were mutually contradictory, com- 
promised by adopting them both. 

It was not until the train pulled into the ter- 
minal station and imposed on him the necessity of 
deciding what he'd do next that he regretfully 
clamped down the lid upon this pot and, as it were, 
took it off the fire."^ A real rage like that was an 
unaccustomed luxury to Alfred Blair. 

But he must now turn his mind to more prac- 
tical matters. He had come to town to look for a 
joby and he must find one before he again con- 
fronted Celia. The notion of going back to her 
to-night and by confessing the failure of his quest, 
give her a chance to drop the acid of pity into his 
wounds, was intolerable. 

He realized now that he ought to have spent 

59 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

those waking hours before he came down to break- 
fast to better advantage than in sentimental maun- 
derings about his wife. He ought to have laid out 
a plan of campaign. When he had said, last night, 
that all he was good for now was twenty-five dollars 
a week or so over a drafting-board, he'd expressed 
an emotion rather than a thought-out plan. And 
even when she'd pressed him as to whether he could 
get a job at that, he'd answered, "Yes, I guess so," 
with only half his mind. Surely any one of his 
former competitors would see that he was worth 
that. But now that it was no longer a case for 
emotions or oratory, simply a question of picking 
out one of those former competitors, going to him 
and asking for a job, it wasn't so easy. 

It hAd been one thing to tell Celia, last night, 
that he was at the end of his rope ; that he had lost 
his nerve, and that all he was good for was a routine 
job. It would be another thing to go into the office 
of a man who still, regarded him as a potentially 
formidable rival and say so. 

This unexpected flare-up of pride, of pride 

60 



THE MORNING AFTER 

hardly to be differentiated from Celiacs own, discon- 
certed him frightfully. It was with an indescrib- 
able wrench that he realized how much easier it 
would be to apply to a stranger who knew nothing 
of his business history and need be told nothing of 
it, for any sort of job — street-sweeping, coal- 
shoveling — ^than to submit himself to the half- 
kindly contempt of an inhabitant of his own world. 
He tried to charge this feeling up to Celia's ac- 
count and make himself believe that he would not 
have felt that way had she not expressed a similar 
feeling, but he couldn't manage it. 

It was without any objective at all that he finally 
walked out of the station and turned up the street. 
His dread of going with his story to any one who 
knew him became absolutely inhibitory the moment 
he fixed on any one in particular, and the reflection 
came to him as a real relief at last, that such an 
errand wouldn't do any good anyway. 

What would have been his own attitude, a year 
ago, to such, a request? Supposing, for example, 
that John Abercrombie had come to him like that, 

61 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

said he was down and out and wanted a twenty-five- 
dollar job? He'd have said to himself, "Here! If 
this man is really down and out, he's dear at any 
price. He won't be much good at first, and he'll get 
steadily worse, and I'll be saddled with him. But if, 
as is more likely, he comes back, then he'll leave me 
and go in for himself again at the end of six months 
or so, with all the inside dope of my office at his 
finger-tips, twice as dangerous a competitor as be- 
fore.'' 

No, he knew what he'd say to Abercrombie in these 
circumstances. He'd say, in the most optimistic 
manner he could manage, along with a clap on the 
shoulder, and the offer of a cigar, **Look here, old 
man. You're tired out, and you've got a touch of 
liver. You forget your troubles for a while and 
take a good rest. Gro down to French Lick or some- 
where, and boil out. You will be back again in 
three months, fit to give any of us a run for our 
money. But this twenty-five-dollar-a-week stuff — 
forget it." And that, as sure as to-morrow's sun- 

68 



THE MORNING AFTER 

rise, was what Abercrombie would say to him to- 
day. 

He'd been wandering aimlessly along all the, 
while, stopping every now and then to stare down 
into a building excavation, or to watch an automo- 
bile with a balky motor trying to start. Now his 
eye was caught by a spectacle almost as familiar 
to Chicagoans — ^the long file of men waiting out- 
side one of the afternoon newspaper offices for the 
first edition, in order that they might be the first 
applicants for the jobs advertised in its "Want" 
columns. The length of that file is a pretty good 
barometer to business conditions, but, good times or 
bad, it is always there. And Alfred Blair, without 
any reflection at all, just because there it was, and 
here he was, dropped into place at the tail of it. 

Four hours or so later, a torn-out bit of news- 
paper ready for reference in his overcoat pocket, he 
was conducted by an office boy through the inde- 
scribable confusion of a big, dirty, resonant room, 
with a lot of drafting^tables in it, many of them 

6S 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

unoccupied, to a desk in the comer, where sat a 
lank, oily-looking man in his shirt-sleeves. 

To him, Alfred Blair said, «I am answering your 
advertisement for a draftsman." 

The oily man was just back from lunch, and still, 
with the aid of a. tooth-pick, ruminant over it. He 
was modeling his manners, as well as he could, on 
those of the head of the firm, who had just cashed 
in on his loyalty to the new city administration, 
with a fat municipal contract. 

The superintendent had been having his troubles, 
it must be owned. There were many other loyal 
souls coming around to be taken care of. Biit a 
few men had to be found somewhere who knew their 
business. It was this fact that had led to the in- 
sertion of the advertisement. 

The superintendent took two minutes, perhaps, 
for a searching and hostile stare at this surprising 
applicant. What business had a man in his situa- 
tion to wear clothes like that? 

He asked at last, out of one side of his mouth, 
"What experience have you had?" 

64 




"I am answering your advertisement for a draffsn 



THE MORNING AFTER 

**I'm a competent draftsman," Blair said "I 
can do anything you want me to/' 

"Where'd you work last?*' 

Blair said, deliberately, "I don't care to give any 
references." 

The superintendent smiled — ^a sneering sort of 
smile that expressed, however, real pleasure. The 
admission restored him to a sense of his own su- 
periority. 

"I suppose you're a booze-fighter," he said be- 
hind a yawn, '%ut that makes no odds to me, if you 
can deliver the goods. There's about six weeks' 
or two months' work. Take off your coat and sit 
down over there. If you're any good, you've got 
a job. Twenty a week." 

**rve got to have twenty-five," Blair said. 

The superintendent waved his hand. "Nothing 
doing." But, as Blair turned away, he said, 
**Twenty-two fifty." 

**A11 right," Celia's husband agreed. 

It was not until half past five that he had an 
opportunity to telephone Celia from a nickel phone 

66 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

in a down-town drug-store. In a more observant 
mood he might have noted that his ring was an- 
swered almost instantly, and by Celia herself, as if 
she had been waiting there at her desk for it. 

Also, his ear might have detected a change in the 
quality of her voice between her first "Hello ! What 
is it?'? and when sh(e spoke after he'd laconically 
told her he'd got a job. , 

"It's only twenty-two fifty a week, I'm sorry to 
say," he added, "instead of the twenty-five I agreed 
to get." 

"All right. I won't pay more than twenty a 
month for the flat." She added, "I've rented the 
house to the Colliers for two hundred. Pm to call 
Ruth up again and tell her if you say it's all right." 

"It's quite all right as far as I'm concerned, of 
course," he said. "That matter's in your hands." 

He didn't know whether the unclassifiable sound 
he heard just then came from Celia or was inserted 
in the conversation by the telephone company. She 
asked clearly enough the next moment, if he were 
coming home to dinner. 

66 



THE MORNING AFTER 

"No," he said. "I shall be at the office until late 
— ^my old office — ^packing up.'' 

At that she said abruptly, "Grood-by." 

It had been a ghastly day for Celia. Months 
afterward, when she could look back on the episode 
as a whole, she sometimes tried, idly, to decide 
which of those nightmare days was the worse — ^this, 
or its successor. Oftenest she concluded that this 
one was. The thing that gave it its peculiar hor- 
ror was the fact that, on the surface, it was so like 
an ordinary day ; the maids coming to her for their 
routine instructions, the housework going on, peo- 
ple calling her up and asking her to do amusing 
things, just as though she were still the secure, 
imperturbable, unruffled Celia she had been yester- 
day, and that she had still to seem to-day. 

She called up Ruth Collier as early as was decent 
in the morning, and told her, as she had declared 
to Fred she would, that they'd decided overnight 
to go away. He was frightfully tired, hadn't been 
sleeping, was on the edge of a bad smash, and be- 
fore it came, they were going to bolt. 

67 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

**0h, we don't know where. Disappear some- 
where for a good long while — a year, maybe. And 
— ^this is why I'm telling you about it — ^we want 
you to take our house. You really are looking for 
one, aren't you? Well, then, come out to-day and 
look at this with that idea. About noon? Oh, then 
you will stop for lunch. That'll be fine. Just the 
two of us." 

She could make ber voice sound all right, any- 
how, that was one comfort. She was sure from 
the way Ruth talked she had suspected nothing 
over the phone. But whether the resources of her 
toilet-table were going to prove sufficient to obliter- 
ate from her face the traces of last night's and this 
morning's tempests, she wasn't so sure. She went 
to work, deliberately and methodically, to produce 
this result. 

All the while, she nursed her wrath against her 
husband, as one nurses a dying fire. It was her 
one defense against him — ^the one thing that would 
enable her to see the day through. If ever she got 
to feeling sorry for him, to thinking about that 

68 



THE MORNING AFTER 

haggard beaten look she had seen in his face last 
night, she knew she was lost. She'd carried her 
jewel-box, still in its cumbersome wrapper, to her 
room, and whenever necessary, she glanced at it. It 
always worked. 

Half an hour before Ruth's expected arrival the 
cook brought in word that a man was at the kitchen 
door asking permission to do any sort of odd job 
for a meal. It was a common sort of occurrence. 
But to-day it stabbed her with an almost intolerable 
pang — ^the thought that her husband was to-day, 
at this very moment, perhaps, doing the same thing, 
knocking at strange inhospitable doors, asking for 
work. 

Anger flared up again, though, and saved her. 
It wasn't her fault, was it, that he had assumed 
that her interest in him was wholly mercenary, and 
had gone on keeping her in ignorance of the true 
state of affairs until it had come to this? It was 
not. So, though she toppled for an instant on the 
verge of an emotional abyss, she managed to keep 
her balance. She managed to maintain it, too, with- 

69 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

out a break, during the two hours and a half that 
her guest and prospective tenant stayed. 

While she could do the talking herself it was 
comparatively easy — ^phrases just cool enough, in- 
different enough, frivolously humorous enough, 
came readily to her lips, even while she went 
through the mockery of speculating about what she 
and Fred would do with their year's vacation, chat- 
ting about California and Honolulu. But while 
Ruth talked, she couldn't keep her mind on the 
things her guest was saying. It would bolt freak- 
ishly in unexpected directions, flash terrifying pos- 
sibilities before her eyes, stab her with memories, 
and she would frantically summon her anger to the 
rescue and repel these assaults. 

After Ruth had gone, she tried to pack. There 
was an immense lot of work to do, of course, get- 
ting things out of the way and putting the house 
in shape for the reception of its new occupants. 
But she didn't make much headway — couldn't give 
her mind to it. It was focused on the telephone, 
and that focus kept getting sharper and sharper 

70 



THE MORNING AFTER 

all the time. He'd said he'd call up in the after- 
noon to let her know what luck he'd had. Evi- 
dently he hadn't got his job jet. Suppose, in his 
discouragement and despair, he decided that it 
wasn't worth trying to get. By half past five, 
when he did call up, she was about at the end of 
her endurance. 

But his way of telling her just the bare facts 
and nothing more, his infuriating apology for hav- 

» 

ing accepted twenty-two fifty, when he'd told her 
he'd get twenty-five, and the way he'd washed his 
hands of her bargain with the Colliers, toned her 
up once more — ^gave her a good warm glow of 

I 

anger to go to work on. She was glad he wasn't 
coming home to dinner. She wouldn't see him 
again, if it were possible. She'd have no communi- 
cation with him, except what was absolutely indis- 
pensable, until she could confront him in the new 
home his contemptuous disbelief in her had reduced 
ihem to. 

He disconcerted her a little, though she didn't 
admit it to herself, by apparently wanting the same 

71 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

thing she did — making no effort, at any rate, to 
see her. He made her heart jump by pausing an 
instant outside her door — it wasn't locked — ^when 
he came home very late that night, but he went on, 
without a word, to his own room. He'd already 
left for town when she came down-stairs the next 
morning, and this program was repeated for two 
days more. They communicated with each other 
by leaving notes about — politely laconic notes, 
which they fancied Marie wouldn't see anything 
wrong with. Though why Marie should matter, it 
would be hard to say, since she, along with the 
cook, had had her notice and her two weeks' pay, 
and was leaving Saturday morning when the Col- 
liers were coming in. 



CHAPTER IV 



EXPLOBATION 



IT was on Wednesday that Alfred got his job, 
and that Ruth Collier came out to lunch and 
agreed to take the house. On Thursday morning — 
not more than an hour after her husband's depart- 
ure, Celia herself set out, on a very inadequate 
breakfast, and in very inadequate shoes, to find a 
flat that could be rented for not more than twenty 
dollars a month. 

She had been vague as to what methods she 
should pursue toward this result, until, coming 
down-stairs to get her coffee, she had happened upon 
Marie carrying off the last jiight's paper that 
Alfred had brought home. She had never made use 
of classified advertising; had always thought of it 
merely as something that added an irritating bulk 
to the newspapers she occasionally read* But a 

78 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

memory of the legend — ^Flats to rent — ^at the head 
of interminable columns of fine print, came up sud- 
denly in her mind, and she impounded the rumpled 
and disordered sheets Marie was carrying out. A 
cursory glance at them as she sipped her coffee 
made her quest look easy. There were millions of 
fiats for rent, apparently, and they were arranged 
according to neighborhood — ^West Side flats to- 
gether by themselves, two or three columns of th^i. 

She tore this part out of the sheet, and after 
satisfying herself that it listed plenty of places at 
twenty dollars, and less, she crumpled it into her 
wrist-bag and went on with her breakfast, that is 
to say, with her coffee. These had, for many years, 
been synonymous terms to Celia. How Alfred could 
eat things like liver and sausage, or even eggs, at 
this time of the day, she had never been able to 
understand. 

Her idea was, when, in the train, she got out her 
list and looked at it, that she would select a place at 
the price she wanted, go out to it, and rent it. She 
wasn't looking for luxury. She hoped — or thought 

74 



EXPLORATION 

she hoped, sitting there comfortably enough in the 
train, that it would prove as uncomfortable, and 
cramped and mean as possible. The meaner it was, 
and the more destitute of comforts the life they had 
to live in it, the more triumphantly could she dem- 
onstrate to Alfred that he had misjudged her — ^the 
more completely avenge his insulting belief that 
now he was poor, she would abandon him and begin 
a bright lookout for somebody else. 

So she picked out, more or less at random, some- 
thing she thought would do, . and dismissed the 
matter from her mind. It dicjn't occur to her, until 
after she got off the train in the terminal, that she 
hadn't the least idea where the address was, or how 
to get to it. Then, under the spur of necessity, she 
went to the information desk and asked the man. 

He wasn't looking at her, and his answer was a 
gesture toward a tattered — a vilely dirty — ^voliune 
on the shelf at her elbow, which she made out to be 
a City Directory. 

It is fair to say that Celia's first step into her 
new world began at that moment. She had never, 

75 

/ 

; 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

in her life, been compelled to submit to contact with 
anything as repulsively filthy as that volume. 

She opened it and stared at it helplessly. 

"But,*' she said, "I don't want to know what 
street and number any one lives in. I want to know 
where a certain address is." 

"Street Index,*' he said. Then, with a look at 
her, relented. "Here ! FU find it for you.'* 

But the search was a rather complicated one and 
he was interrupted three or four times before he 
got to the end of it, by impatient train-catchers, 
and the directions he finally gave her were not very 
enlightening — involved questioning conductors as 
to where to take transfers and asking a policeman, 
when she finally got in the general neighborhood, 
which way to walk. 

The morning was half gone when she finally 
found the place. She'd walked what seemed miles ; 
her feet ached excruciatingly, she felt worse than 
dirty — contaminated by the last street-car she'd 
ridden in, and she couldn't be sure she'd got a 
cinder out of her eye. 

76 



EXPLORATION 

But the place she found had at least the meijt 
of making her forget these minor troubles. 

The terrifying thing about it was that it was 
not so bad. She was escorted through it by the 
tenant of the flat below, who had charge of the 
key, and this lady praised it with genuine enthu- 
siasm. She pointed out that the floors weren't 
badly worn at all, and had recently been coated 
with shellac; she indicated the soundness of the 
plaster. Nothing would come f aUing down on your 
head here, even if the tenants of the topmost flat 
of all should rouse round a bit. There was a radi- 
ator in each of the four rooms, and the heat was 
ample. They, down below, frequently had to open 
a window somewhere for a while. It actually got 
too hot. The front room had two windows looking 
on the street, the kitchen, at the back, got the 
benefit not only of its own back yard, but of the 
vacant lot behind it on the next street, while the 
two middle rooms, thanks to the fact that the ad- 
joining, building ran up only two stories, were at 
the top of the light-well, and were almost as good 

77 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

as outside rcxHns. She was sure it was a bargain 
at the money, and Celia, with a sinking heart, was 
forced to conclude that it was. 

Because it came over her, in a wave^ that she 
couldn't stand it. There was a soul-blighting ugli- 
ness in everything about it — ^the shape of each of 
the four cramped, mean little rooms, the mean little 
doors by which they opened out, one after another, 
on a mean little four-foot corridoif that strung them 
together, the artificial oak graining of the wood- 
work, the fanciful hideousness of the gas-fixtures 
in the front room, and the water-mottled oak man- 
tel. Celia's cicerone admitted freely that the fire- 
place this mantel enclosed was not practicable, but 
pointed out that fires were a nuisance anyway, and 
that in this fiat, with an abundance of the hottest 
kind of steam-heat, they were, happily, unneces- 
sary. In the dead of winter, a little cotton tucked 
into the two west windows made everything as 
snug and tight as one could desire. 

Celia escaped from it in a good deal of panic^ 
like a fiy out of a web, with the allegation of the 

78 



EXPLORATION 

fictitious necessity of bringing her husband for a 
look at it before she decided anything. Her new 
friend understood the necessity, but regretted it. 
A bargain like this was likely to be snapped up at 
any minute. * What Celia said to herself, when she 
stood panting on the sidewalk, was that she could 
stand a sliun, but she couldn't stand that. 

The fact was, of course, that a slum was simply 
a literary expression to her, an idea made up of 
descriptions from two or three "realistic" novels, 
and the stage-sets of three or four lugubrious 
plays. But this flat she had been looking at was 
not realistic. It was real. And it brought down 
upon her an ominous sickening realization of what 
married life on a salary of twenty-two dollars and 
fifty cents a week might mean; not as the subject 
of an acrimonious scene between her and Alfred in 
the interval between an excellent dinner and their 
retirement to two comfortable beds, but as a thing 
to be endured for months — years — forever, per- 
haps. 

She began walking slowly in the direction of the 

79 



THE THOROUGHBRED 
nearest car line, and as she walked the idea insin- 

t 

uated itself into her mind that, if she couldn't stand 
it, she needn't. There was that comfortable home 
she had lived in for years before her marriage, 
where, with any excuse at all, or indeed with none, 
they'd be glad to welcome her. There was her 
room; there was her place at the table. And 
wouldn't it be better to go back to it? Wouldn't 
she be an unnecessary drag on Fred if she insisted 
on taking him out to a place like that flat? Twen- 
ty-two dollars and a half a week, to a man with 
no domestic responsibilities, would be comfortable 
enough. He'd suggested that himself. 

She got as far as that, but no further, for a 
wave of good honest wrath came surging over her 
again. That's what he'd expected her to think! 
That was the incredibly, cowardly, mercenary 
wretch he'd believed her! And he'd been nearer 
right than she knew. Well, he should never 
know it. 

The tears came smarting into her eyes so that 
she had to stop, there in the middle of uie sidewalk, 

80 



EXPLORATION 

with two or three curious idlers staring at her, and 
get out her handkerchief and mop before she could 
see to go on. She'd show him ! She'd find a place 
somewhere — ^to-day ! v 

At four o'clock, more tired than she had ever 
been before in her life, thoroughly discouraged, 
but still determined not to go home until she'd 
found a place where she and Alfred could go on 
living together, giddy with hunger, though she 
realized very imperfectly how much hunger had to 
do with her exhaustion, she turned into a little 
lunch room. 

She wanted food for its own sake. But more 
than that, she wanted it as an excuse for sitting 
down. She must have a little rest before she could 
walk another step. She was down to bedrock for 
the first time in her life. 

If the uncounted apartments she'd looked at since 
that first one hadn't by themselves affected her so 
strongly as that first one had, they had at least 
rubbed that feeling in. She'd wasted a good deal of 
energy climbing flights of stairs to places that had 

81 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

cost more than her maximum, going up a bit at a 
time, without realizing what she was doing, until she 
caught herself on the edge of taking a place that 
cost thirty-five dollars a month. When she dropped 
back from this, the twenty-dollar places looked 
worse than ever. All her fine sensibilities had been 
scraped and rasped by the sound of voices she had 
been hearing — ^the intonations of speech — ^the way 
people wore their clothes. She was more than blue. 
She was black and blue. 

That was the color of the world when she sat 

down in the little lunch room. She'd have thought 

J- 

that it was impossible that she could ever smile 
again. But she did within half a minute. 

Her opening of the street door had rung a little 
bell, and she had heard through the plain white 
board partition that cut the place transversely half- 
way back, a groan and a sort of grunting yawn. 
A door in this partition had opened almost imme- 
diately and she'd caught a glimpse of a man with- 
out a coat or collar, in the act of finishing the 

8S 



EXPLORATION 

stretch the yawn had been preliminary to. But 
the door had closed again instantly, leaving the 
man on the other side. 

But within half a minute, as I said, he appeared 
again, this time most dedorously clad in a white 
jacket with a military collar. He had, too, rather 
a military air of standing at attention — of, indeed, 
always having stood at attention, absurdly at vari- 
ance with his appearance of the moment before. 
But there was a bright engaging twinkle in his eye 
that candidly confessed the absurdity. 

Involuntarily Celia smiled at him. He'd evi- 
dently had red hair once, but it was now a dusty 
gray, and his clean-shaven sanguine face was finely 
netted all over with wrinkles. And if he wasn't 
Irish, then there isn't an Irishman in County Clare. 
When he asked, "What can I do for you. Miss?'* 
she said, rather to her own surprise, "I'm afraid I 
interrupted your nap." 

**Well, an' that's true, too," he admitted. "I've 
no key for that door, and I keep the place open 

83 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

day and night. And, as we haven't many demands 
for afternoon tea in these parts, I generally indulge 
myself as you have discovered." 

Just the sound of his mellow, pleasantly modu- 
lated voice, with the slight enrichment of its con- 
sonants that suggested a brogue without actually 
constituting it, was indescribably friendly and 
soothing to her worn nerves. 

"I hadn't thought of tea," she said. It woidd 
be impossible to address him in any other tone than 
the one she would use for a social equal. "You see, 
I forgot all about lunch. I suppose it's too late 
for that, though." 

He professed himself ready to prepare her as 
elaborate a meal as she wanted, but pointed out that 
the elaboration would take time. If instant relief 
was called for, he'd suggest a pot of tea and a 
fried-egg sandwich. 

This was a viand that, as it happened, she had 
never heard of, and the notion of it visibly amused 
her. But she was a little dubious about the tea. 
Not that she didn't like tea, but — 

84 



EXPLORATION 

^TTou needn't fear my brew," he assured her. 
"Tea's a tipple I thoroughly understand,'' 

Five minutes later, with a contented sigh more 
eloquent than words, she acknowledged the justice 
of this boast. She had kind words, too, for the 
sandwich. 

He deprecated her praise while visibly basking 
in it, but admitted that there was a considerable 
degree of art involved in the proper frying of an 

egg. 

Her eyes widened a little as she said, half imder 

her breath, "I wonder if I could fry one at all." 

**Well, there's great folly," he said, "in knowing 
too many things. Take myself, for example. I'm 
a bit of a cook, carpenter, ladies' maid, farrier, 
plumber and gas-fitter and infant's nurse, to men- 
tion a few accomplishments that 'come to mind — 
and here I ani !" 

"How in the world — ?" she gasped. 
"Fourteen years in the army, ma'am. That's 
the explanation. Too good an officer's striker ever 
to be anything else." 

86 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

She didn't know quite what to say to this, since 
in spite of the hamoroas melancholy of his Toice, 
condolence seemed not to be asked for. So she 
nmnched her fried-egg sandwich in sflence for a 
minute or two, and finaUy remarked: 

'^ou didn't say you're a real-estate agent, 
though, and that's what I need. Fm looking for a 
place out here — a flat, I suppose, where two people 
with hardly any .money at all can live." 

"WeD," he said, **there are plenty of places out 
here where people with hardly any money at all do 
live, and more perhaps where they could. But Fd 
be better able to help you if I knew just how much 
money you meant by ^hardly any at alL' " 

**! mean twenty-two dollars and fifty cents a 
week," she said with such imexpected promptness 
and precision, and with a tinge of defiance thrown 
in, that she made him smile. 

**Well, there's nothing easier than that," he told 
her. *^ know of a fine little place just around the 
comer that you can get for twelve dollars a month. 
They could live there as snugly as you please. 

86 



^ 



EXPLORATION 

Three rooms and bath, and one of them a fine large 
one." 

"Twelve dollars a month!" she echoed "And 
I've been looking at places all day about twenty, 
and they were horrible !" 

He shot a keen look at her. "Well, I wouldn't 
say," he admitted, "that it's a place you'd be carin' 
to live in yourself. And it's possible, too, since it's 
been on my hands three months — ever since my 
brother-in-law^s second wife married again and 
moved away to Kansas City, that I exaggerate the 
good points of it. But you might find it worth a 
look, and if you don't mind waiting till my daugh- 
ter comes back from school, which will be any min- 
ute now, to look after this place, I'll take you up 
there and show you around." 

In the five minutes or so that intervened late that 
night between the time when Celia got into bed and 
the time when she fell asleep the conviction estab- 
lished itself in her mind that, if Mr. Lawrence 
Doyle had not actually hypnotized her, it had at 
least been the glamour of his personal charms and 

87 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

not the desirability of the twelYe-doUar apartment 
he had shown her round, that had led her to take it 
not only promptly but with enthusiasm. 

It did indeed comprise, as he had said, three 
rooms and a bath (though the 'l)ath'' required a 
qualifying foot-note), and it was also true that the 
largest of the three rooms was, in actual feet and 
inches, commodious and pleasantly proportioned. 
Even for the combined functions of eating and ^^v- 
ing** it would be ample. 

What shook Celia's confidence in her judg- 
ment was the recollection of her enthusiasm over 
the absence of the steam heat and the presence 
instead of a ^TMuse-bumer" which Doyle would 
be glad of a chance to sell her for six dollars 
and seventy-five cents. There was nothing like a 
good old-fashioned coal fire for comfort. This 
steam heat, now; always too much or not enough, 
and nothing to do about it but pound the radiator 
with a poker. A good coal-stove you ran to suit 
yourself — or rather, it ran itself to suit you. Also 
she was able to recall a sensation of genuine delight 

88 



EXPLORATION 

over a gas-pipe In the kitchen, which would not only 
reduce culinary labors to next to nothing, by mak- 
ing it possible to cook with gas, but, for a trifling 
additional investment in a small boiler and heater, 
one could have hot water whenever one wanted it. 
day or night. Celia, who had all her life taken hot 
water for granted, exactly as she had taken air to 
breathe, was quite thrilled over this. 

She had taken an inexplicable pleasure, too, in 
the fact that their bedroom — ^it was really nothing 
but an alcove off the big room, capable of being 
shut off by curtains, and just about big enough to 
contain a double bed — ^was up two steepish steps 
from the main floor-level^ — ^a concession to the ne- 
cessity for getting the stairs up from the entry 
below. Most unreasonable of all was her delight in 
the obvious fact that the bathroom had clearly not 
been designed by the architect to serve that pur- 
pose. It had three doors, to begin with, all glazed ; 
one into the big room, one into the kitchen and one 
which let you out on the back porch — quite an ex- 
tensive back porch, formed by flooring over and 

89 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

railing In a one-story extension at the back of the 
building. The door into the kitchen had been ren- 
dered impr€u;ticable by the installation of the tub 
— a large, circular, galvanized iron tub — ^which Mr. 
Doyle pointed to with pride as a demonstration 
of his prowess as a plumber, for he had done this 
job himself and knew it was good. The pipes came 
simply and naively through a hole in the kitchen 
wall. 

Celia had been aware, even when striking her 
bargain with Mr. Doyle, that these unique advan- 
tages were not, perhaps, the sort that would appeal 
instantly to every mind, and that the place required 
to be seen with an eye. Given time to reflect, she 
might have come to the conclusion that she liked 
it all just for the same unreasonable reason that 
had made her hate the dozens of modem, mean, ma- 
chine-made places she had been looking at all day. 
This place would make poverty picturesque. 

She hadn't any leisure for reflection, though, be- 
cause of a remark Mr. Doyle made just after the 
bargain had been struck. He said that if she'd 

90 



EXPLORATION 

let him hire a man to go to cleaning first thing in 
the morning, her friends could move their furniture 
in the next afternoon. And the word furniture had 
brought her up with a jerk. Her mind had been 
running on a single track and it hadn't got to the 
furniture yet. 

She told Mr. Doyle to go ahead and get the 
cleaner, left him on a promise to turn up some time 
the next day, and settled down in a street-car, 
homeward bound, to wrestle with this new problem. 

She couldn't use any of their own furniture. 
The Colliers would want every stick of it. Every- 
thing must be bought new. She had, at first, only 
a vague idea of how much this operation would cost. 
But presently, out of nowhere, an advertisement 
that had once adorned the bill-boards came up into 
her memory. 

**We will feather your nest,'' it had read, "for 
one hundred dollars." She was grateful for the 
figure, though she meant to do her own feathering. 
But where was she going to get the hundred dol- 
lars? 

91 



THOROUGHBRED 

Well, there was the first mcmth's rent cm their 
own house — two hundred dollars payable in ad- 
yanoe. The sensible easy thing to do would be to 
go ahead and get what she wanted, at once, of one 
of the big department stores where they had a 
diarge account, and let the Colliers' check cover 
it. But this didn't satisfy her. That two hundred 
a month rent was sacred to the payment of old bills. 
For other purposes it should be treated as if it 
didn't exist. If ever she began dipping into that, 
where would her vengeance on Alfred be — her tri- 
umphant demonstration that he'd misjudged her? 

The next possibility she thought of was of buy- 
ing it on the instalment plan. She could ask Fred 
to appropriate so much a week out of his salary 
to pay it off. But this would involve taking her 
husband in on it, and she didn't like the idea. She 
wanted something to hurl at him complete. If she 
were to go to him with the problem he'd be entitled 
to a say as to what she bought. It would give him 
another opportunity to act generously and feel ag- 
grievedy which, she told herself passionately, she 

9S 



EXPLORATION 

never meant to give him again. No, somehow she 
must find that hundred dollars herself. 

Well, then she thought of her jewelry. It woulid 
be no trick at all to sell one of her good rings for 
a hundred dollars. 

But she rejected this idea with violence. She'd 
done the only thing self-respect would allow her to 
do, ajfter that maddening insult of his, in giving 
all that jewelry back to him. The fact that he had 
refused to accept it didn't alter the essentials of 
the case. The stuff was his, every scrap of it. 
The box, still in its paper wrapping, must be kept 
intact ; slipped unobtrusively in among his belong- 
ings, perhaps, after they had got settled in the flat 
— ^at all events, demonstrably untouched. 

But where was she going to get her hundred 
dollars? She thought for a while that she'd ex- 
hausted all the possibilities, and her mind slipped 
off on a new tack. 

Specifically, just what articles of furniture would 
the flat need? Her mind's eye dwelt once more 
upon its three rooms and bath, and it occurred to 

9S 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

her then that there wasn't a closet in the place. 
What In the world would she do with all her clothes? 
At that she drew in a little gasp of excitement 
and let out a sigh of relief. She knew now where 
she could get her hundred dollars. It was a perfect 
solution. Fred wouldn't have a leg to stand on. 



CHAPTER V 



THE NEW WORLD 



CELIA began operations Friday moming< — 
early Friday morning, be it said, before Al- 
fred had finished breakfast — ^and he had to take the 
seven-eighteen these days, in order to get down to 
his job on time — ^with a very careful and deliberate 
toilet. It was the first time she had paid any at- 
tention to her looks since she had donned her armor 
for Ruth Collier's visit on Wednesday. 

At a quarter to eight, just sifter Marie had 
brought up her coffee and toast, the door-bell rang. 

"Oh, that's — P' Celia began, then checked her- 
self. "Go down and see who it is," she directed. 

She took a last swift reassuring look into her 
mirror as the maid descended the stairs, then rather 
carefully arranged herself in the big chair behind 
the slim little table where Marie had deposited her 
tray. She broke off a bit of toast, but didn't eat 

95 



rit 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

it; sat listening to what was happening at the now 
open door. A man with a brusk colloquial idiom, 
and a strongly Oriental accent^ was trying to con- 
vince Marie that he had important business with her 
mistress. Marie, it seemed, was not trying to con- 
ceal her misgivings about him, which were of the 
darkest sort. But eventually she let him in and 
came up to Celia with a card. 

Celia dropped a negligent glance upon the not 
immaculate face of it, and said, ^h, yes. He 
wants to buy some clothes of mine. Bring him up. 
And, Marie," she added as the girl turned away, 
"don't leave the room till he does." Then, with a 
fine exterior calm, she took the first sip of her coffee. 

It is not to be denied that she was a little fright- 
ened. And yet there w£is something pleasurable 
about her excitement, too. A new combination of 
emotions for Celia French. She had never been an 
adventurer. 

But then, everything about her present situation 
w£is new. It was a new thing to need — ^absolutely 
to need — a hundred dollars. It was a new thing 

96 



THE NEW WORLD 

to be thrown, definitely and unescapably, upon her 
own resources for getting it. Consequently the 
thrilling excitement attendant upon her discovery 
of a way to get it w£is also new. 

After her first gasp of relief when it occurred to 
her that she could get that hundred dollars by sell- 
ing her clothes, she had, for a few minutes, fdt 
pretty sick. She'd seen herself lugging a great 
bundle from one second-hand store to another, bat- 
tered — discouraged. She had wept a few tears, 
there in the street-car, of pure self-pity, and then 
had dried them with a sudden flame of self -con- 
tempt. Why shouldn't she play the game as well 
as she could, instead of as badly? If any bullying 
was to be done, why not do it herself? 

The entertainment of that idea began an epoch 
with Celia — ^really dianged the texture of life for 
her. She had sat down at the telephone as soon 
as she reached the house, called up, out of the clas- 
sified directory, a dealer who €tdvertised a most lib- 
eral disposition toward the purchase of used gewns, 
and told him curtly that if he cared to come to her 

97 



THOROUGHBRED 

house before eight o'clock to-moirow mommg, she 
would do business with him. She was very busy 
and would be engaged later. 

There had been an enormous satisfaction in feel- 
ing that she had got just the right intimidating 
ring into her voice. There had even been a satis- 
faction in recognizing tibat the man at the other 
telephone was playing the same game — didn't know 
whether he could come or not ; doubted whether the 
things she had to show him would be worth the 
trouble. The ring at the bell at a quarter to eight 
this morning meant that she'd won this first skir- 
mish. She'd played the game better than he had. 

Now, as she waited, she was keen to follow up 
this victory. A feeling she did not even note the 
absence of was shame — ^humiliation. She didn't 
a bit mind letting Marie know the nature of the 
transaction, and W£is quite IndiiFerent as to what 
the maid might think, or whom she might confide 
her speculations about It to. It was the sort of 
secret she'd have guarded with her life a week ago. 

You see money — ^the need of money — ^had always 

98 



THE NEW WORLD 

been the skeleton in the Frenches' closet. The as- 
sumption current in that family from the time of 
Celia's earliest memories had been that all people — 
all people of the sort one met — were providentially 
provided with ample incomes. Any fact which 
threatened to give the lie to this presumption was 
ipso facto scandalous — unmentionable — indecent. 
And while, of course, there were other topics simi- 
larly tabooed, this was the only one of them that 
did not easily acquiesce in being ignored. 

The Frenches were always managing, doing 
without, stretching the not very elastic band of 
their income to make the ends of it meet around 
their necessities, and they had developed, not only 
for use before the world, but even in the intimacies 
of their domestic circle, a whole vocabulary of 
euphemistic paraphrase and circumlocution. You 
can make any subject indecent by avoiding it like 
that. 

A year of married life with Alfred Blair had 
reduced Celia's sensitiveness to the topic, but had 
not changed her ideas about it. It had still seemed 

99 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

to her, up to the night of that disastrous dinner, 
a little indelicate to ask the price of anything she 
meant to buy. Or, if not that, at least to let it 
appear that price was the determining factor 
whether she bought it or not* It still seemed intol- 
erable to her to try to drive a bargain — ^get any- 
thing cheaper than the price it was offered at. The 
mere thought of trying to sell anything of her own 
made her shiver. It always made her blue when 
women book agents came to the house and began 
reeling off the merits of some set of voliunes, Maun- 
tain Peaks of Literature, and so on, that they 
wanted her to subscribe to. She used to wonder, 
in a kind of nightmare, what she'd do if she were 
ever thrust into a situation where that W£is the only 
means open to her for keeping herself alive. And 
she decided, quite seriously, that if it ever came to 
that she'd kill herself with morphine or chloral 
instead. 

But a gyroscope, if its gyrations are rapid 
enough, will do unexpected and surprising things. 

100 



THE NEW WORLD 

It is capable even of driving a hard bargain with 
the law of gravity. If you will assume a living, 
highly conscious, self-critical gyroscope, which had 
never really revolved at all, had always leaned up 
in a comer for support, not fancying the notion 
of tumbling over and scratching itself, and then 
will imagine this gyroscope, through no volition of 
its own, suddenly set whirling at ten thousand rev- 
olutions a minute, you will gei^a pretty good notion 
of the new Celia. 

She'd have said, if questioned, that the force 
which had speeded her up and transformed her into 
so new and astonishing a person was her furious 
anger with her husband — a purely retaliatory de- 
sire to demonstrate to him how injurious and un- 
founded his opinion of her had been. 

But she hadn't time to concern herself much with 
whys and wherefores. It wasn't with any conscious 
reference to Alfred at all that she braced herself 
for the arrival of the second-hand clothes man and 
prepared to get as much of his money as she could 
for what she had to sell him. 

101 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

She sipped her coffee daintfly, and told Marie 
what things to bring out from the closet. 

Her first glance at her opponent gave her the 
mistaken idea that it was going to be easy. He 
wasn't much to look at; in most respects, a dis- 
tinctly inferior specimen. His manner, in the shock 
of their first encounter, was weak and servile. Even 
his oily black hair hatl a meek look, and the un- 
healthy pallor of his face accentuated it. 

But when Marie had brought out, one after an- 
other, all the pretty frocks the closet contained — 
evening gowns, house dresses, a smart Httle after- 
noon suit, and her two opera cloaks — and he, after 
an appraising glance at each, and the notation of 
a figure on a greasy bit of paper with the well- 
licked stub of a pencil, offered her, with a quite 
coolly indifferent air of utter finality, thirty-two 
dollars and seventy-five cents for the lot, the blow 
almost finished her. She felt a lump coming in 
her throat. For a sickening moment she actually 
believed that that was all the things were worth. 
Even after her reason had come to the rescue she 

102 



THE NEW WORLD 

went on beUevlng, for another minute, that that 
was all he thought they were worth and the utmost 
that he would ever pay. 

But anger — one of the best and most necessary 
of all our passions, never forget that — came to the 
rescue. That servile, oily little rat standing there, 
pawing over her pretty clothes, had mecmt her to 
feel sick like that. He had shot her a look out of 
his bright beady little eyes and no doubt noted the 
effect of the blow, and was gloating now, inside, 
over the prospect of getting those lovely clothes 
for so near nothing. 

Her finely penciled eyebrows flattened, and her 
blue eyes darkened beneath them. 

"Show him the way out, Marie," she commanded 
crisply. **I have too much to do this morning to 
waste time listening to vulgar jokes." 

The man began protesting volubly, but Celia cut 
him short. 

"You don't speak English very Well," she ob- 
served. *Terhaps you didn't say what you meant. 
If you meant a hundred and thirty-two dollars and 

108 



THE THOROUGHBRED 



seventy-five cents, you may stay'* — she glanced 
over at her boudoir-clock — ^^'fifteen minutes and 
well talk about it. I can't give you any more time 
than that." 

His eyes rolled in his head. He appealed to the 
high gods. The lady was beside herself — ^lunatic 
These were not the expressions he used. 

"I'm not crazy at all," said Celia warmly. *Tm 
extremely annoyed at having to listen, when I'm 
busy, to childish nonsense. I know what those 
clothes are worth, and so do you, and unless you're 
willing to pay at least half that much I simply 
won't bother with you." 

He came up, with a wrench, to fifty; with a 
groan, to seventy-five — ^to eighty. He looked the 
clothes all over again, minutely, and delivered an 
impressive ultimatum — eighty-two dollars and 
twenty cents. 

Celia got up and went over to her dressing-table ; 
sat down in front of it with her back to him, took 
an unimportant little gold pin out of her negligee, 
and, holding it between her lips, as though she had 

104 



THE NEW WORLD 

already begun the operation of dressing for the 
street, said: 

"Take him away, Marie.'' 

It was an admirable bit of stage-management, 
and it worked. 

"All right," the man said. **I'll give you a hun- 
dred for the lot." 

Celia took her pin out of her mouth. 

Now you are to note this. A hundred dollars was 
what she had to have. She had won — ^barely won 
— ^her victory. She didn't need any more. But 
the thrill of the game had got into her blood. For 
the game's own sake, and for nothing else in the 
world, she said: 

^TTou can have them for a hundred and twenty- 
five." • 

She got, eventually, one hundred and eighteen 
dollars. And the satisfaction she took in the su- 
perfluous eighteen, counted painfully out, in fright- 
fully shabby one- and two-dollar bills, was, it is 
the unexaggerated truth, one of the very keenest 
pleasures she had ever enjoyed. 

106 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

Well, by then it was half past eight, and it was 
Friday morning. By six o'clock Saturday night, 
if Alfred were to be crushed in a convincing and 
finished manner, she must have his new home ready 
for him, furnished — settled — dinner cooking on the 
stove. She had the flat. She had the hundred and 
eighteen dollars, and she had the better part of 
two days. 

In the buoyant mood of her departure from the 
house, fifteen minutes or so after that of the cha- 
stened clothing dealer, the allowance, in respect 
both of time and money, seemed ample. 

The place wouldn't need much furniture — a table 
and three or four chairs, a bed, kitchen things. It 
occurred to her, as she rode in on the train, that 
it wouldn't do to allow her possession of a large 
sum like a hundred and eighteen dollars to lead her 
to luxurious extremes in her purchases. The place 
must look Spartan, or half the moral effect would 
be lost. If she could tuck away thirty or forty 
dollars in — she smiled over this — a stocking or a 
teapot, it would be all the better. 

106 



THE NEW WORLD 

She wouldn't waste time over it, either. She'd 
go to one of the big department stores on the cheap 
side of State Street, march through her purchases 
without any shilly-shally about making up her 
mind, then go out to the flat and assist the cleaner 
whom Larry Doyle had, presimiably, put to work. 
This would leave Saturday free for putting things 
in place and getting settled. 

This program determined upon, she settled her- 
self in the train to the contemplation of her living- 
room as she wanted it to look. 

The first thing she saw was a big rag rug. They 
looked homely, and were really rather smart. A 
bright blue would go well with the smoky gray of 
the walls, she thought. It would be better, per- 
haps, not to go to the wrong side of State Street 
for that. They kept them, she knew, in all the big 
stores on her own side of that thoroughfare. And 
then two comfortable, but unpretentious, chairs — 
a big one for Fred and a smaller one, for herself, 
one on each side of the stove. And a plain old- 
fashioned table, with leaves that folded down. 

107 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

She must, at this point, have slipfSed off into a 
day-dream, since, with her waking mind, she knew 
better than to suppose she could accomplish an old- 
fashioned high-boy and a New England pre-Revo- 
lutionary side-table with her hundred and eighteen 
dollars. 

They went agreeably into the picture, though, 
and she went on adding to it with growing pleas- 
ure, until she saw herself, not in her own small 
chair, but on the arm of Alfred's big one, her own 
arm tu(;ked cozily round his neck, his nice, still 
thick, just a little bit wavy and altogether adorable 
hair where she could comfortably put her cheek 
down on it. 

At this point, properly scandalized with herself 
for such even imagined inconstancy to her fixed 
determination, she shook herself awake again, and 
reverted to more practical considerations. She'd 
have the blue rug, though. 

She went straight to Shield's and bought it for 
twenty-four dollars. Really for six, you see, be- 
cause she still had ninety-four left out of her hun- 

108 



THE NEW WORLD 

dred. Then, with the reflection that things here, 
after all, cost no more than the same things would 
across the street, and that she would save time, 
precious time, too, by not adventuring in unfamiliar 
ways, she went up to the household utilities depart- 
ment, intent on furnishing her kitchen. 

She felt very virtuously practical over beginning 
with the kitchen, instead of leaving it to the last. 

"I want,'' she said to the young man who came 
up, courteously concerned to know wherein he could 
serve her, "I want to get everything one needs for 
a kitchen — ^a little kitchen, for only two people.'' 

She caught her breath there, and turned away 
with a blush and a blink. The thing sounded so 
absurdly sentimental and honeymoonish — so ironi- 
cally at variance with the grim reality — ^the total 
smash — ^the totally hopeless smash that had over- 
taken her and Alfred. As she went on, her voice 
had the cold ring of disillusioned practicality. , 

*^1 want to get it all as cheaply as possible," she 
said. 

This injunction didn't discourage the young man 

109 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

at all. What spoke louder than words to him was 
the cut of her skirt, the look of her hat, the condi- 
tion of her gloves. Indeed, the very quality of the 
voice that pronounced the words. 

He remarked easily that cheapness was a desid- 
eratum, of course, but that cheap things were not 
really cheap. This was to say, that you got more 
service for your money, which was the real test, 
of course, by not being too sparing about your 
initial outlay. 

"We'll begin with refrigerators," he said. 
"That's one of the most important things, really." 

Celia started slightly. She'd forgotten about a 
refrigerator. Their house had had one built in. 
But of course they'd have to have one. 

She spent an agreeable quarter of an hour among 
the refrigerators, and at last tentatively agreed 
upon one. Then they moved over to the kitchen 
cabinets. 

At this point a cloud, the size of a man's hand, 
appeared on Celia's horizon. 

The young man — ^he was a very tactful young 

110 



THE NEW WORLD 

man — apparently became aware of it. Gently, but 
irresistibly, he convinced her that such a cabinet was 
indispensable. The saving it effected in such staples 
as sugar, flour, coffee, and so on, by keeping them 
in properly devised air-tight containers, was enor- 
mous — ^incalculable. Here was a charming little 
affair, not unnecessarily elaborate, done in a mod- 
est gray enamel. Not so showy as white, but more 
practical. Being constructed entirely of steel, it 
was impervious to vermin and easily kept in per- 
fectly sanitary condition. He couldn't conscien- 
tiously recommend anything inferior. 

It, tentatively too, went down on the list. 

But the cloud was getting bigger. The young 
man, aware of this perhaps, relaxed his severity 
in the matter of fireless cookers. There was really 
no need of going to great expense here. This one 
at sixteen dollars was as good as one really needed. 
An exceptional value this week — ^a special. Had 
been twenty, and would be again. 

When it came to utensils, though, the young 
man was adamant. There was really only one ma- 

111 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

terial for pots, pans, skillets, kettles and so <«. 
This was cast olununum. Not the cheap stamped 
stuflF. The solid article. The finest, the most ex- 
pensive enamel in the world would crack and flake, 
if it were allowed to bum — and such accidents 
would happen in spite of the housewife's most rig- 
orous attention. 

He led her up, unresisting — dazed a little, if Wd 
known the tmth — to the Suniptuous silvery array: 
colTee-pots, tea-kettles, stew-pans of assorted sizes, 
frying-pans, griddles. 

"Now, I'd suggest — " he said capably, and be- 
gan making a list. 

"Speaking of fireless cookers," said Celia pres- 
ently, in the midst of this — and the troubled quality 
of her voice distracted him from the labor he was 
proceeding with, obviously con omore— ''speaking 
of fireless cookers, bow mudi does a stove cost — a 
gas stove?" 

"We don't carry them," he said, "though we 
could get you one, of course. But you could get 
a pretty good one, I should say, for thirty-five or 



dollars." 




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THE NEW WORLD 

**And how much," she asked, "are the things you 
have ahready put down on that list? Not these 
cooking dishes — ^the others?" 

The refrigerator, the fireless cooker and the 
kitchen cabinet, it seemed, came to eighty-four dol- 
lars and twenty-five cents. 

Celia turned away from him, bit her lip hard, 
and clenched her hands until the fingers in her neat 
gloves felt numb. For a matter of twenty seconds 
she experienced violently the sensation one has when 
an elevator starts going down too fast. 

Here's where the difference came in. The old 
Celia would have managed a tolerably indifferent 
nod and a phrase about coming back a little later, 
or looking a little farther, together with, perhaps, 
a glance at her watch to account for the suddenness 
of her departure. And she'd have gone away — 
sick — humiliated. 

The new Celia, after just that twenty seconds 
for getting control of the elevator, turned back to 
the young man, and with a candidly rueful smile 
met his eye. 

**Pm awfully sorry to have wasted your time,** 

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THE THOROUGHBRED 

she said, '^bat the sort of things we've been looking 
at are simply out of the question. You see, I've 
only got a hundred dollars — ^ninety-four dollars, 
that is, to furnish the whole flat. It's just a little 
three-room place out on the West Side. I suppose 
it can be done somehow. It's going to be. But 
not with things I could buy here P' 

Are you waiting to be told that on hearing this 
avowal the young man looked superior and annoyed 
and said something disagreeable about our house 
of course not handling that class of goods? If so, 
you will wait in vain. But I doubt if you even 
expected that. Certainly not if you have any ade- 
quate conception of how Celia looked and how her 
voice sounded when she said it; with heightened 
color and bright eyes, wide with a look of adventure 
in them like a child's ; or of the hint of breathless- 
ness about her speech, revealing how much she had 
surprised herself by giving away this confidence. 

What the young man did was to blush to the 
hair, smile rather idiotically, he decided afterward, 
and experience a momentary twinge of the liveliest 

114 




THE NEW WORLD 

envy of the unknown man who was going to share 
the little three-room apartment and its ninety-four- 
dollar furnishings with her. 

"I'll tell you something," he said very unofficially 
— confidentially almost. In fact, he had ceased al- 
together to be the perfect salesman, and had become 
instead a man and a brother. **I never can get 
my mother to buy any of her kitchen things up 
here. She gets them all — pots and pans and such, 
you know, at the five- and ten-cent store. She says 
the things wear out, of course, but that when they 
do you can always afford to buy new ones because 
you paid so little in the first place." 

"Why, that's wonderful," said Celia. **I never 
thought of that. I'm very, very much obliged." 

She felt like shaking hands with him, and so, 
indeed, did he with her. But good manners re- 
strained them both. 

When she turned away, though, he fell in beside 
her and strolled along in the direction of the ele- 
vators. It seemed he had something more to say. 

**About stoves now — ^" 

116 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

Celia stopped short and faced him again. You 
certainly couldn't get a stove at the ten-cent store* 

**0f course, if you're going to serve elaborate 
meals, or do a lot of baking, you need a big stove 
with a couple of ovens and a plate warmer and 
all the rest. But if you aren't, why don't you 
just get a flat stove without any oven — ^the kind 
that stands on a table — or a box? You could buy 
that kind for three or four dollars." 

Celia drew in a long breath. "You simply 
haven't any idea how kind you've been," she said. 
^TTou've just — saved the situation." 

And, after he'd stammered, "Not at all," and said 
how glad he was, she went on : 

"And if I save all that, I suppose I could buy 
a really good refrigerator. Here, you know." 

The young man blushed again. What he'd done 
already was bad enough, from the point of view 
of the head of the department. But what was com- 
ing next was rank treason, nothing less. No won- 
der he hung fire for a second. But it got blurted 
out at last. 

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THE NEW WORLD 

*T; tell you what I'd do," he said. "You know 
these big storage warehouses? There are some out 
on the West Side. Well, they're always selling 
things that have been stored and not paid for, you 
know — ^all kinds of household things. You could 
probably get a really good refrigerator — ^as good 
as you'd want, for eight or nine dollars." 

This time Celia did shake hands, and blurted 
out a secret at the same time. 

"If ever I get rich again," she said, "I'll come up 
here and buy everything in sight." 

She left an excellent salesman completely demor- 
alized for the day. 

As for Celia, she went her way to her flat to see 
how the cleaning was coming on, and then to Larry 
Doyle's lunch room to find out from him where the 
best storage warehouse for buying second-hand 
furniture was, buoyant with — ^well, no, it wouldn't 
be fair to her numerous and conscientious moral 
preceptors to call it a new discovery. They must 
have told her all about nettle grasping. Very likely 
some one of them had told her about gyroscopes, 

117 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

too — ^perhaps even had demonstrated that if one 
were rotating, vigorously enough upon its proper 
axis, it would decline to topple over at the first 
push. They had expatiated, too, I am sure, on 
the importance of having an aim in life, and pursu- 
ing it energetically, and promised her ample re- 
wards in the consciousness of duty well done. 

But Celia, hot on the trail of a seven-dollar re- 
frigerator and a three-dollar stove, was indulging 
in none of these smug generalities. All she was 
aware of was that life had suddenly become a very 
eager, thrilling, glowing sort of business, and that 
she was running it herself, making it happen dif- 
ferently from the way it had set out to happen. 
She had made it happen differently to other people. 
She even made it happen differently to herself. 

That man who bought her clothes this morning 
— ^he hadn't meant to pay her a hundred and eight- 
een dollars for them. He hadn't meant to pay half 
of that. But she, Celia, all by herself, had made 
him do it. And then, up there at Shield's, with 
that thoroughly correct and highly superior young 

118 



THE NEW WORLD 

salesman. She'd gone on with him for three-quar- 
ters of an hour, feeling wretched and ashamed, and 
a little hopeless, because she knew, without acknowl- 
edging it to herself, that she couldn't afford to buy 
the things he was showing to her. But when, at 
last, for a penance really, because she was ashamed 
of herself for being ashamed, she'd made herself, 
who hadn't meant to in the least, tell him the actual 
literal truth in dollars and cents, she had found 
herself perfectly at ease at once. 

What hurt, she reflected, wasn't having people 
know things about you. It was having them sus- 
pect things that you were trying to hide. Well, 
that was easy. She need never be ashamed of any- 
thing again. 

With a little leisure for reflection she might have 
made some further discoveries just as surprising, 
or even more so. But you won't need to be told that 
she had none. She had two tasks on her hands: 
one to get the new flat ready for herself and Fred, 
the other to get their house ready for the Colliers. 
Either one of them was enough to fill to bursting 

119 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

the time at her disposal, and that she actually ac- 
compKshed both may be taken as a triiunphant dem- 
onstration that a body can occupy two different 
spaces at the same time. 

Part of the credit for this must go to Larry 
Doyle, for it was he who organized Celia's activi- 
ties, showed her the importance of doing certain 
things first. It was nearly eleven o'clock Friday 
morning when she confronted him across his lunch- 
eon bar, and she plunged into the midst of things 
without the waste of a minute. ' 

"It isn't any friends of mine that I took the place 
for,'' she began. "It's my husband and me. He's 
lost all his money, and he's got a job at twenty-two 
dollars and a half a week. I told him he could leave 
'the flat to me and that I'd have it ready to live 
in to-morrow when he comes home from work. I'll 
bring sheets and blankets and towels and table linen 
from home. Those things don't go with a fur- 
nished house, do they? And I've got a silly blue 
rug that I paid twenty-four dollars for for the 
big room, and I've got ninety-four dollars to buy 

120 



THE NEW WOULD 

everything else with. ^Oh, six of it goes for your 
stove. That leaves eighty-eight. So I want ycm to 
tell me "v^here there's a storage warehouse, or a sec- 
ond-hand shop, where I can get everything cheap." 

It's no wonder she rather took Larry Doyle's 
breath, with her bright cheeks — ^the March wind 
was sharp this moAing^and her eager voice, and 
her half -scared adventurous way of making friends 
with him. 

While he was making up his mind what to say 
first, she ran on: 

"It will be possible, won't it — ^to have everything 
ready for him, running, you know, by six o'clock 
to-morrow night? Oh, but it's got to be!" 

"Sure, it's possible," he said. "But you don't 
want to be bothering with your second-hand furni- 
ture yet a while. 60 straight to the gas office now 
— it's not far — and get your stove and tell them 
you must have it connected up with a meter to-day. 
To-morrow's a half -day, being Saturday, and you 
won't get a hand's turn of work out of those boys. 
So, if you don't want to be left till Monday—" 



\ 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

^T. see,'* she broke in, champing to be off. ^TTell 
me where it is.** 

He did, and added the warning that they'd very 
likely tell her, to begin with, that it was impossible 
for them to put the job through this week. 

"But I'm thinking," he added, "that you'll know 
what to say to them better than I could tell you." 

She nodded and smiled, partly in anticipation, 
partly in amused remembrance of a Celia who had 
ceased to exist some time during the past week, who 
had always said, with a touch of unconscious pride, 
that she couldn't beg for things. . 

"On your way back from there," Larry called 
after her, "stop in at the coal office and have them 
send up a hundred-pound sack of range for your 
stove. It won't do for you to be sitting around in 
those cold rooms." 

She might have tossed that caution off with airy 
impatience but for a phrase the Irishman sent after 
her. 

"There are them that can afford to be sick," he 
said, "and there are them that can't." 

in 



THE NEW WORLD 

She was inclined to disrelish that idea as she 
walked away with it — ^the notion that her health 
was an asset her husband was entitled to count 
upon. But she adopted it instantly, and presently 
found a certain satisfaction in that point of view, 
partly, perhaps, because she felt that Alfred's chiv- 
alrousness would be shocked by it. 

She found them, at the gas office, quite as diffi- 
cult as she had been warned they would be, and 
it took a half -hour's intensive bombardment with 
all her feminine artillery to reduce the man she 
finally got herself taken to to a weakly acquiescent 
state, in which the promise she wanted could be 
wrung out of him. Then she paid for her stove — 
a three-burner affair — and departed in triumph. 

Her activities from then on were too complex 
and multifarious to be followed in detail. She 
stalked elusive bargains from one likely lair to an- 
other, slowly, it seemed to her, but really with re- 
markable expedition, accumulating the articles she 
needed. 

She had her ups and downs. There were ex- 

128 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

ultant moments, just after finding something that 
was exactly what she wanted, and buying it for less 
than she had believed possible, when she thought 
she was going to have more money than she needed 
and revived the notion of a nest-egg hoard in a 
stocking. There were moments of despair when 
some necessity she had completely overlooked reared 
its head and stared at her. 

She wound up at the nearest ten-cent store at 
half past four in the afternoon; purchased — ^very 
much at haphazard, because she was too tired to 
think — ^a quantity of kitchen dishes, and lugged 
them, in two vast irregular bundles, from which 
the strings were constantly threatening to slip, back 
to the flat. 

She experienced a very keen pleasure in finding 
Larry Doyle there making a fire in the big base- 
burner. Not only because a fire was very much 
needed, the place being cold as a stone and damp 
into the bargain from the cleaning it had got, but 
because Larry was, by this time, such a very old 

124 



THE NEW WORLD 

and dear friend, and it warmed and rested one's 
heart to see him. 

He reported that the gas stove had come and that 
the man with the meter had already come in and 
connected it up; probably a world's record for 
promptness, he thought, and an extraordinary 
tribute to Celia's powers of persuasion. Also, a 
large roUed-up package had come from Shield's 
that must be the rug she had spoken of. Should 
he open it? t 

He did, and they spread it down on the floor and 
discussed its appearance. It would probably look 
pretty funny, Celia thought, along with the junk 
she had been buying this afternoon. 

Her voice was flat with fatigue, and he com^ 
mented upon it. 

"You'd better call it a day, now, and go home 
to bed," he advised. He must be leaving, himself, 
since another busy hour of the lunch room was com- 
ing on. 

"There are two reasons why I must stay," she 

125 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

said. ^^One of them being that I am too tired to 
stir until I have sat here for a while." She was 
on the only seat in the place, the step leading up 
to their alcove bedroom. "And the other that the 
expressman who's bringing the things from the 
storage warehouse will be along in a few minutes, 
and I've got to be here to let him in. Oh, he won't 
be long, and as soon as he comes I'll go." 

Before he left he pulled up a comer of the rug 
over the step to make it a little softer, and told her 
how to shut off the stove for the night. 

She heard the door close behind him, and almost 
instantly thereafter, she thought, a violent knock- 
ing on it, which seemed, impossibly, to have been 
going on some time. Also the room was now quite 
dark, except as it was lighted by the glow through 
the isinglass door of the stove. It was very bewil- 
dering, until she understood that she must have 
fallen asleep, sitting on that step. 

It was then seven o'clock ; a very alcoholic flavor 
about the two men who had brought her load of fur- 
niture accounting, perhaps, for their delay in ar- 

126 



THE NEW WORLD 

riving with it ; and it was a quarter to eight before 
the last article was stowed away and Celia could 
turn the key on the place. 

An even twelve hours ago she had received the 
second-hand clothing dealer for the purpose of sell- 
ing him her clothes. It had been a day sure enough. 
An ampler day, not only in the matter of material 
activities, but in its emotional content, than any 
she could remember. The people she'd encountered 
had seemed more real and alive and human than 
those her old paths had brought her into casual 
contact with. 

When had any of her conventionally made ac- 
quaintances evoked that warm spontaneous glow of 
friendliness from her that she'd felt when she found 
Larry Doyle building a fire in her stove, or when 
the salesman up at Shield's had told her where his 
mother bought her kitchen things? 

The emotions hadn't all been rosy, though, by 
any means. There had been an instant of cold ter- 
ror just at the end of the day, when, confronted 
by that gin-reeking expressman, she had read in 

127 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

his look that she was desirable, and alone. She had 
moved briskly over and thrown open a window upon 
the busy street, and with that protection had felt 
safe enough. But the mere breath of that kind of 
peril had never blown upon her before. Oh, it had 
been a day. 

She was so tired, as she made her way to the 
comer drug-store to call up the house and tell Fred 
where she was and that she was on her way home, 
that the mere exertion of walking almost brought 
tears. But even fatigue couldn't lessen the trium- 
phant sense of achieved adventure. 

None of that, naturally, got over the telephone 
to her husband, and his own tone of poignant anxi- 
ety — ^he had been waiting hours for her to come 
home and indulging in all sorts of terrors about 
her — sounded merely querulous to her. He had 
called up her mother's house two or three times, 
but they had no word from her. Was that where 
she was now? 

This supposition, naturally again, annoyed Celia. 
Why should she be at her mother's? She told him, 

128 



THE NEW WORLD 

without explanation, where she was, and that she 
was coming straight home now; would get in about 
nine. 

^TTou can't come home alone from a place like 
that at this time of night!*' And then, quite ab- 
surdly, he told her to wait there imtil he could come 
in and get her. 

This, of course, she flatly declined to do. A 
street-car that would take her to the station ran 
right past the door. "I hope you've got your 
things all packed up," she said by way of a counter- 
attack. "If you haven't, you'd better get at it 
now, because everything has got to be out of your 
closet and your bureau drawers by to-morrow morn- 
ing. You can pack a tnmk with what you'll want 
to take with you to the flat, and put the rest of the 
stuff in another trunk that Ruth says we can leave 
in the attic. I shan't have a minute to do it to- 
morrow." 

She needn't have made that last remark, she 
knew, and she didn't blame him a bit for slamming 
the hook down suddenly, the way he did, by way of 

129 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

concluding the conversation. Only, the ridiculous* 
ness of the notion that, after the things she'd been 
doing to-day, and been through to-day, she should 
finish up, like a Jane Austin heroine, by waiting 
an hour and a half as a concession to the propri- 
eties — because there was, of course, no real danger 
— so that her husbcuid could escort her home, net- 
tled her a little. 

Their meeting, when she got home, at half past 
nine or so, didn't work much better. 

He flung the door open for her as she came up 
the steps and greeted her with a, **Wherever in the 
world have you been?" 

She gave a limp little laugh and said, **Where 
haven't I been ! My, but I'm tired !" 

"Celia," he said, standing in front of her to keep 
her from walking off, as she showed a disposition 
to do, *Ve've got to have a talk." 

"AU right," she said, **but come on out into the 
kitchen and talk while I eat. I had a lunch about 
three at Larry Doyle's, but that's all since coffee 
this morning. I'm starved!" 

130 



THE NEW WORLD 

Her mapner both disconcerted and exasperated 
him. He had been prepared to meet terrible emo- 
tional stresses — ^tragedy. He felt pretty tragic 
himself. But nothing of that should be allowed 
to appear. From now on his deaHngs with Celia 
should be marked by gentleness and serenity. And, 
if she'd been the grief -stricken bewildered object 
he'd got himself keyed up for, she would have found 
him exactly that. But, as it was, he cried out: 

"Who the deuce is Larry Doyle? And where— 
where have you been — all these hours?" 

She frowned, a little puzzled over his violence, 
but said : "I've been all over the West Side. And 
Larry Doyle is a dear. Wait till you've seen him P' 

He said, "Celia, I can't do it — ^treat the thing 
in that manner, I mean. Here we are at the end 
of everything, and you're acting as if it was plans 
for a week-end visit to the coimtry. This is our 
last chance to decide anything, and — and I want 
to talk about it seriously. You aren't so angry 
with me now as you were, and I think I can make 
you see that I didn't mean what you thought the 

181 



■i 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

other night. At least, not in that ofFensive way. 
I want you to consider going back to your father 
and mother. Not to get rid of me, but to wait. 
Oh, can't you sit down and listen P' 

All the time he talked she had been eating away 
steadily, and his last exclamation was provoked by 
her getting up for a raid on the cake-box. 

**I*m listening," she said, with her mouth full, 
it must be admitted. Then, with an effort, and a 
little bit more clearly : **But it isn't any use, Fred. 
You agreed to the flat, didn't you?" 

"You won't be able to find one that you'd be 
willing to live in, for any rent I can afford to pay. 
You've no idea what it would mean; the things 
you'd have to put up with, the neighbors you'd 
have, the hardships." 

"I don't suppose I do know them all," she ad- 
mitted, "but I've found a flat and rented it for 
twelve dollars a month. It's off North Avenue, right 
near Humboldt Park." She recited the street and 
number to him. "You'd better write it down," she 

138 



THE NEW WORLD 

added, because it's where you live. I've been buy- 
ing furniture all the afternoon." 

Then, at his look of perfectly blank amazement, 
**Why — didn't you think I meant anything I said 
that night? What do you think Fve been doing all 
the afternoon? Glooming around like the heroine 
of East Lynnet Do write that address down, 
Fred, because your dinner — some sort of a dinner 
— ^is going to be ready there to-morrow night, at 
half past six, and I don't want you wandering all 
over the West Side, not knowing where you live." 

She recited the address once more, and stood 
watching, while he, like an automaton, wrote it 
down. Then, before he could get his wits together 
— ^and she had plenty of time, for they were very 
thoroughly scattered — she added: 

**Fm simply so dead tired and sleepy I can feel 
my brains slipping around inside my head. I'm 
going up to bed. Grood night." 



CaSLAPTER VI 



WHSN HE CAME HOME 



IT wasn't quite the real thing, this manner of 
hers. There was a dash of play-acting in it. 
But she wasn't conscious, to-ni^t — she was too 
tired, poor child, to be accurately conscious of any- 
thing — of the motive that led her to assume it. In 
the background of her mind, of Qourse, she knew 
that she had mislaid her rage against her husband. 
More than that, had tossed it overboard long ago. 
She knew that the motive, quite sincerely avowed on 
the night of the dinner-party — the desire to demon- 
strate, to his repentance and shame, how outra- 
geously he had misjudged her — ^had been wearing 
thinner and thinner every hour, and that it would 
collapse almost at the first touch. But she didn't 
want the collapse to happen until she got him fairly 
into their new home. 

There were a multitude of last things to be done 

1S4 



WHEN HE CAME HOME 

at the house, of course, the next morning, and she 
didn't get started on them as early as she might, 
since she slept fathoms deep till eight o'clock, and 
only by luck waked up then. So it was near noon 
before she reached the flat. Six hours and a little 
more left, and an amount to do that might well 
have swamped her with dismay. 

A description of how the place looked would be 
lugubrious, and, since I am sure you can imagine 
it, unnecessary. But Celia was not dismayed, and 
there was a good reason why. Down below the 
mere surface of her mind, which was, of course, 
completely engaged from the moment of her ar- 
rival, she was preoccupied with what was going to 
happen at half past six, and from then on. Marie 
had brought her a note from Alfred with her break- 
fast — ^he, of course, had had to go to town long be- 
fore she waked up — ^a note which merely said that 
he would come at the hour she had given him. All 
the afternoon, this one fact was vividly in focus. 
She rehearsed the event a score of different ways. 
He'd be surprised, no doubt, with what he found, 

136 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

curious as to how she had accomplished it, and he'd 
surely be repentant; especially after he'd found 
out how completely she had deprived his grievance 
of any standing ground at all; that she had not, 
for instance, either gone in debt for the furniture, 
or used a single bone of what may be called their 
skeleton of contention — ^namely, the jewelry — for 
the purchase of it. Certainly he couldn't object to 
her having sold her clothes. Tljat was so brilliantly 
reasonable a thing to have done. 

She wouldn't, of course, try to rub her own 
grievance into him. It wouldn't be necessary. The 
mere outstanding facts of the situation would cry 
aloud how he had misjudged her. No, there must 
be nothing tragic or aggrieved about her manner ; 
nothing virtuous or injured or martyrlike. She 
must be good-humored and cool. She must act in 

I 

the manner of one who expects all she has done to 
be taken for granted — accepted as a matter of 
course. 

All this, until he had acknowledged, in some way 
or other, how wildly in error he had been in his 

136 



WHEN HE CAME HOME 

opinion of her, and had, by implication at least, 
asked her forgiveness. After that — ? 

Always, when she reached this point in the 
drama, she found her hands getting shaky, and a 
stiffness coming into her throat, and with a sort of 
panicky haste she would ring down the curtain and 
begin another rehearsal at the point where she 
heard him coming up the stairs. 

But all the resolution at her conmiand wasn't 
enough to prevent fancies and memories, especially 
memories, from springing at her ; little momentary 
glimpses of her husband, their context often quite 
forgotten, just how he'd looked, or how his voice 
had sounded at one time or another. And when 
this happened, she'd go very shaky for a minute, 
and have to wipe her eyes on the sleeve of her big 
gingham apron, in order to see what she was doing. 

At two o'clock, when she went to Larry Doyle's 
for lunch, it seemed to her that she had made little 
headway. But he came back with her for an hour, 
his noon rush being over, and between them they 
accomplished miracles. 

18T 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

There was plenty to do, of course, even after 
that. At five o'clock she locked up the flat and set 
out, with her last three dollars, to buy food for 
their evening meal, and — she nearly forgot this — 
for over Sunday. 

She had a surprise up her sleeve here for Alfred. 
She was, really, despite the misgiving she had coor 
fided to Larry Doyle, not a half-bad cook. Years 
ago, when that first man she had got engaged to 
was in the ascendent, she had played, in quite a 
serious manner, at domestic science, and had really 
discovered a latent talent for cooking. Her dra- 
matic break-up, however, with the man who had 
inspired these labors, had swept her into other 
channels, and she'd never gone back. Alfred sus- 
pected nothing of this, and it had been part of her 
program to complete his annihilation, if {Possible, 
with a pretty good dinner. The fact that she had 
to buy enough for five meals, with her three dollars, 
gave her an excuse, which she was rather glad of, 
for giving up this project. 

At si:^ o'clock, with the table set, the potatoes 

138 



WHEN HE CAME HOME 

boiling vigorously in their jackets, the slice of ham 
ready to light the fire under when the moment ar- 
rived, she was seized with a panic because there 
appeared to be nothing to do but wait, and she 
simply knew she couldn't — ^not without going all 
to pieces. Already she could feel the tears com- 
ing up and a lump in her throat. It would be in- 
furiating to have everything spoUed now, just in 
the hour of her triumph, by having him find wait- 
ing for him, instead of the good-humored, self- 
possessed young person she'd been counting on all 
afternoon, a sob-shaken, semi-liquid, tear-streaked, 
grimy — 

Well, anyway, she could wash her face. That 
was something to do. And, in the bathroom, she 
scrubbed away vigorously for five minutes. After 
that, providentially, she remembered that she had 
forgotten to slice the bread, and with hands that 
strangely refused to take a proper hold on any- 
thing, she managed to get it done. 

Then she decided that the potatoes had boiled 
long enough, and began peeling them. 

139 



THi; THOROUGHBRED 

And then, half-way through her second {>otato, 
she heard a step on the stairs. It wasn't Alfred. 
It couldn't be. It wasn't his time — ^not for fifteen 

"<r 

minutes. But it was he ! Didn't she know his step ? 
He was coming up heavily — slowly, as though he 
was tired. 

She dropped her knife and the fork that empaled 
the potato, and put her face down in the orook of 
her arm. She was so limp she was sure she couldn't 
stand up. But when she heard the door open she 
did, and from the doorway of the kitchen she saw 
him standing in the other. 

She saw his gaze travel, dazedly, with a strange, 
unrealizing wistfulness, from one object to another 
about the room — from the bright stove with its 
glowing doors, to the big hollow easy chair, and the 
little spring rocker with its fringe trimmings op- 
posite it, to the table with the lamp in the middle, 
and the red checked table-cloth. It was coming 
around to her now. But before it reached her she 
saw his eyes fill up with tears. 

That was the last thing she saw. She heard him 

140 



WHEN HE CAME HOME 

saying her name, just as her voice broke over his, 
and then, somehow, they were in each other's arms. 
"Tighter !" she said. 

They had their talk, to be sure, but it wasn't 
until a good deal later. You can compute roughly 
how much later, from the fact that the potatoes 
were absolutely stone cold, and had to be warmed 
up in the frying-pan before they could begin their 
supper ; that they ate at last, in the inconstant and 
preoccupied manner of honeymoon lovers, and that 
they washed up the dishes in the same way. 

But after all that, and after they had rectified, 
temporarily, Celia's total omission to provide cur- 
tains or shades, with a sheet pinned up over each 
of the two f roflt windows, they got down to a bath- 
robe and bedroom-slipper basis, settled together in 
the big hollow chair, and told each other all about 
everything; what they'd really meant by things 
they'd said and done and omitted to do, and what 
each had thought the other meant, and what a pair 
of sillies they had been. And Celia wound it up by 

141 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

narrating, though not just as I have done here, 
how she'd spent the time since Thursday morning. 

At last, blissfully content, and a little drowsy, 
she began asking him questions ; if he was glad that 
it had all happened just as it had, down to the very 
least particular. She was, she said. There was 
nothing, not the smallest thing, that she would want 
changed. 

She couldn't get him to go as (ar aa that. 
**There were things I said to you that night," he 
insisted, "and things I — ^I couldn't quite deny I 
meant, that Fd give a good deal to wipe off the 
slate." 

^'Oh, but that," she said, sitting up suddenly, "is 
the very best part of it. That's what's done it all, 
don't you see? We might have gone on for years 
and never — ^never really been married at all, if we 
hadn't, in our rage, turned in and torn the — ^tHe 
husks off each other, so that we could see what we 
really were. You were right about me, you know, 
horribly right. That was what made me so furi- 
ous. And it was true that you weren't the man I 

142 




"Tighter!" she said 



WHEN HE CAME HOME 

married. Oh, but it's all right, silly, don't you see? 
Because I'm not the giri you married, either." 

He protested at this. She was the same Celia, 
^nly now, for the first time, he saw her with open 
eyes. 

But she, quite dispassionately, stuck to her point. 
**Surely I ought to know," she insisted, sitting up 
straight and rubbing her sleepy eyes. "I remember 
that girl well. I remember how annoyed and 
shocked she was when she found the new girl — ^the 
new me, you know — falling in love with you, in — 
in a new way which she didn't think quite ladylike. 
And the new one was rather scared and easily im- 
posed upon, and she might never have got away at 
all, if you hadn't come along — ^the new you, re- 
member; not prosperous and self-contained, and — 
don't mind — noble at all, but just raw and real and 
htunan, and fighting mad, and turned her loose." 

He still wanted to laugh her out of this fancy, 
but she was very much in earnest about it. 

^TTou must believe it," she insisted. "And you 
must never forget it. You mustn't treat me like the 

143 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

old Celia. The old one never liked to be — next to 
things, or people, but I do. I love it." She paused 
to illustrate. "I've just come alive, don't you see, 
and found out what a wonderful thing it is. 
P — ^please say that you're new too, and that this, 
to-night, is the beginning of everything." 

**The beginning of everything," he echoed. 

For the former things were passed away. 

So ends the first chapter of this episode in the 
life of the Alfred Alairs. 



CHAPTER Vn 



INTERLUDE 



U 



WE will sing," the preacher says, *Hhe first 
and third stanza, omitting the second.^ 
There are three chapters in this fragment of 

Celiacs and Alfred's story ; but we, at the conclu- 
sion of the first, are going to proceed directly to 
the third. Blessed is the nation which has no his- 
tory. And blessed, for the same reason, is the 
family which doesn't give the novelist a chance. 

The three months which followed Celia's finding 
and renting and furnishing of the flat make up this 
second chapter. To Alfred and Celia it remains, 
the outstanding one, and when they are old, I fancy 
they'll still talk to each other about it. As they 
see it retrospectively, it is their period of pure ro- 
mance — ^three golden honeymoons strung on a silver 
wire. 

Please don't take me as saying that I consider 

146 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

poverty a romantic lark, or even the perilously close 
approach to poverty that is spelled by an income, 
for two people, of twenty-two and a half dollars a 
week. 

But the Blairs were not really so poor as they 
made out. They had, for the present, plenty of 
good serviceable clothes ; they had in certain pros- 
pect, though they carefully avoided looking at it, 
the income from their house. And, too, down in the 
bottom of the mind of each, though neither ever ad- 
mitted it, was the consciousness that this state of 
things was transitory, and really terminable at wHl. 

There is no denying that this consciousness 
changed the quality of their adventure a little, 
spiced it faintly with the flavor of make-believe. 
It was easier, for example, to make a joke of it, 
when a mistake in the budget reduced them, for 
four whole days, to a famine ration; or to smile, 
as they stood together outside an enticing motion- 
picture theater around on North Avenue, and had, 
forlornly, to admit that they had exhausted their 
amusement appropriation for this week. 

146 



INTERLUDE 

I don't mean that they enjoyed these experiences. 
They honestly went hungry. They endured a gen- 
uine disappointment over not seeing Charlie Chap- 
lin in his burlesque of Greraldine Farrar. But these 
pangs could be looked at as isolated phenomena, not 
as the omens of a dreary futiure; which made an 
enormous difference. 

The most delicious thing about their new mode 
of life was, perhaps, its intimacy. They had never 
lived intimately before, and this fact had a deeper- 
lying cause than Celia's — ^the old Celia's — ^aloofness 
or her husband's shyness ; this was the spirit of the 
social group of which they formed a part. No 
group in the whole social system is so enslaved by 
its own conventions as this prosperous, rising, sub- 
urban class. It is the determination to rise, of 
course, that does it. The smaller group, just above, 
which has reached what it considers the summit, 
can afford to relax a little ; can even, within rigor- 
ous limits, of course, make a feature of its indif- 
ference to what other people think of its actions. 

But Celia and her friends and their husbands, 

147 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

with a summit in sight just ahead, had to keep in 
the procession. The number and variety of their 
entertainments were regimented with ahnost mili- 
tary precision. They gave one another more or less 
the same dinners and lunches ; they followed one an- 
other, sheephke, into the same recreations, the same 
charities; read the same books, discussed the same 
ideas. And, since their lives, in a sharply bounded 
suburban community, were very visible to one an- 
other, they conformed pretty much to the same 
domestic code — subscribed to the same standards. 

Well, and intimacy was distinctly not good form 
among them. The notion sprang, perhaps, from 
novels about the English aristocracy. Anyhow, 
between husbands and wives, the proper manner was 
one of rather hostile indifference. The sort of 
things they were to say to each other when others 
were about were sharp little witticisms. 

And this attitude carried Itself over into their 
private life, an imposition guaranteed by their serv- 
ants, who were hired from one house to another, 
and who formed almost as close a society as they 

148 



INTERLUDE 

did. That a husband and wife should have sepa- 
rate rooms to dress and sleep in was a matter of ele^ 
mentary decency. 

The three-room flat, of course, put an end to all 
that in more senses than one. Their one bedroom 
was just an alcove, really, separable by curtains — 
as yet unprovided — from their living-room. VSThen 
they turned the key in the door at the head of the 
stairs, they were as secure against intrusion as a 
pair of pioneer settlers on a prairie. And they 
reverted, in many respects, to the simplicity of 
peasants. 

But the astonishing discovery that they made was 
that this material intimacy flowered out into a spir- 
itual intimacy that neither of them had dreamed of 
before. You couldn't pretend much at close quar- 
ters like that. You couldn't nurse a grievance be- 
hind a politely intangible manner, or a noble, long- 
suffering dignity. There was no standard, not 
their own, that they must be always acting with 
deference to. And the consequence was that things 
got said out, that they came to know not only each 

149 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

otber's minds, but their ofwn. They had occasional 
sharp little quarrels, like the explosion of fire- 
crackers, during which they said and did things to 
eadi other whidi would inexpressibly have shocked 
their respectable friends. But these encounters left 
no after-effects ; no virtuous, self -pitying sulks. 

> 

They began, now that they had stopped trying 
to live up to anything, to have real fun — a rather 
rowdy, rough-and-tumble sort of fun, a good deal 
of it due perhaps to their extensive patronage of 
the movies. This was their theory of it, anyway. 

The movies, of course, weren't their only form 
of entertainment. They took extraordinary street- 
car rides. It's amazing, you know, how amusing 
a street-car ride can be to a jovially minded, rather 
outrageously behaved pair, snuggled together on 
one of the back seats and guessing, in whispers, 
most grotesquely and injuriously sometimes, about 
the condition and business of other passengers. It 
is possible to work a variant on the game, too, by 
getting on separately, at different comers, and then 

160 



INTERLUDE 

elaborately making each other's acquaintance, tp 
the scandal of the car, and getting off together. 

Celia was really shocked, though, one night, 
when Alfred suggested that they go to a dance- 
hall. Certain friends of Celiacs, in her former in- 
carnation, made it almost their one business in life 
to crush out the dance-hall evil ; or if not to crush 
it out, at least to step sharply and disconcertingly 
on its toes, and as a result of their reports concern- 
ing their slumming investigations, Celia had got 
the idea that all dance-halls were sinks of unbridled 
iniquity. 

Alfred confessed he didn't know much about it 
himself, but he passed on the remark of a friend 
of his — a man who knew the brightly lighted world 
very well: "The majority of people in any of those 
places are decent. Or, at least, they're acting de- 
cently at any given moment." He said that was 
what made all these stage and moving-picture pro- 
ductions of fast restaurants and tough dances so 
ridiculously unreal. They probably weren't, Al- 

161 



r|T 



THOROUGHBRED 

f red ooodnded, so bkck as tfaey were painted. 
Anyhow f he and Cdia could try and see. 

The place tfaey hit apon was, to tfae eyes of tlieir 
innocence at least, perfectly harmless — tfaey never 
stayed very late, it's true — and they enjoyed oc- 
casional evenings tfaere prodigiously. It was rather 
an extravagance, of course. 

The best amosemait of all came a little later, 
when the fine spring weather really set in. Alfred 
came home, guiltily, one ni^t, with two pairs of 
roller-skates. Neither of them had attempted this 
amusement since childhood, but, after one experi- 
mental and rather painful evening, they got on 
very well. The park near by afforded an admirable 
place for it. Sometimes they swung along arm in 
arm, rhythmicaDy— romantically. Sometimes, in a 
scandalous fashion, they mixed themselves up in a 
miscellaneous game of tag that one was pretty sure 
to find going on in one of the larger squares. AH 
told, there is no doubt that their standard of civili^ 
zation deteriorated very much. It was surprising 
how much younger they got. 

162 



INTERLUDE 

This change in her husband was an astonishing 
thing to Celia. 

^^The man I married,'' she confided to him one 
night, leaning her elbows on the back of his chair, 
and getting both hands, with a good tight grip, 
into his hair — ^he was like a big dog in enjoying 
the rougher and more unceremonious sort of ca- 
resses — ^*the man I married, you know, was middle- 
aged, safe and sane, and awfully dignified; 'always 
wholly serious,' the way Mrs. Humphrey Ward 
wanted her uncle Matthew to be. But you, you're 
just a big schoolboy — ^a rather outrageous sort of 
schoolboy, too." And, indeed, it was true that the 
way he had been acting all the evening, ever since 
he'd come home from work, warranted the indict- 
ment. 

He puzzled her, though, by turning rather grave 
and reflective about it. She leaned down for a bet- 
ter look at him, then came round and curled up in 
his lap. 

"Silly," she said, **don't try to pretend you dont 
know how I love to have you like that !" 

163 



i 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

He pulled her up In a voluminous embrace that 
was still a little absent-minded. 

"No, it wfiusn't that,'* he said. "I was thinking 
of something. Your speaking of a schoolboy re- 
minded me of it. You know, Fve been trying, off 
and on, ever since this happened — ever since that 
Saturday night when I found you here, to think 
what it was hke. It was like something that had 
happened once before, I knew, but I couldnH get 
hold of it. Now I have. 

*^It was when I was in fifth grade — about ten 
years old, I must have been — ^and I had a teacher 
that couldn't stand me. I don't know that I blame 
her so very much, after all. I was pretty slow and 
grubby, much as you'd expect me to have been, and 
I didn't get on at all. My special nightmare was 
arithmetic, which is queer, considering." The con- 
sideration was, though he didn't explain this to 
Celia, that he had, really, an uncanny talent for 
mathematics. "I've made up my mind since, that it 
wasn't the mathematical part of the problems I 
couldn't understand, but the English they were ex- 

154 



INTERLUDE 

pressed in. However, that wcus no help to me at 
the time. I was the teacher's horrible example. 
She used to say, over some uncommon piece of stu- 
pidity by some one else, *Why, even Alfred Blair 
wouldn't have done that.' " 

Celia made a little shudder of disgust. ^^How 
you must have hated her!" she said. Then, sus- 
piciously, ^^That teacher isn't going to turn out to 
be me, is she?" 

He answered the second question with a **Wait 
and see," but to the first, he replied more thought- 
fully. "No, I hadn't the satisfaction of hating her. 
If I could have taken her personally, that would 
have been easy. But she wasn't personal at all. 
She was — ^teacher — you see? Destiny. All I could 
do was just despair. 

"Well, it got worse and worse, and one morning, 
on the way to school, with a hopeless lesson ahead 
of me that I hadn't even tried to get, I made up 
my mind to quit. Fd have to do some desperate 
deed first, to get myself expelled from school, be- 
cause otherwise I'd be made to go back. Then Fd 

156 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

go and be a newsboy. I remember standing still, 
in the middle of the sidewalk, and^solenmly swear- 
ing to myself — ^I think I said *Grod danm' — ^that Td 
do it. Then I walked on, trying to make up my 
tnind what I'd do. 

"I considered pretty nearly everything, up to the 
actual assassination of the teacher, but the particu- 
lar crime wasn't really picked out when I got to the 
school. 

**Well — there's the point at last — ^when -I got 
there, there was a card on the door. There'd been 
a case of smallpox and the school was closed until 
further notice. 

"I'll never forget that walk home from school. 
There'd been a miracle that had changed the whole 
look of the world. You can Imagine changing in 
ten minutes from a prospective criminal who'd got 
to get himself expelled from school, in order to go 
and be a newsboy, to a kid on his way home on 
the first morning of an uncharted vacation. A 
prospector striking pay-ore is nothing to that, any- 
way. And to me — Well, there you are. That's 

156 



INTERLUDE 

the nearest approach to how Pve felt since — since 
this happened.'* 

She squeezed up a little closer to him. ''I expect 
I was the teacher, though,** she said. 

He gave a laugh at that. "No, you lamb,** he 
said. 'TTou were the smallpox notice.'* 

Celia pondered a good deal upon this parable 
during the following days. It illuminated many 
things. A schoolboy, reveling in an unforeseen 
holiday ! That gave her the clue, not only to his 
present statie of mind, but to what his state of mind 
must have been during the months that preceded the 
crfiush. Indeed, ever since their marriage — ^their 
engagement — ^before that, perhaps. 

That serious, sober, responsible way of hia wasn*t 
all her doing, of course. He had never, for one 
thing, enjoyed the four years of sunlit irresponsi- 
bility, which is what most men manage to get out 
of their term at college. He'd been shouldering 
heavy burdens through all that time. He was in the 
way of taking burdens for granted. That was why 
he hadn't revolted at the burden his marriage had 

167 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

been. Perhaps if he had come to her contidentlj 
expecting the simple satisfactions he craved, she 
might have given them to him. It made her sick 
now to think how she'd starved him witii her chilly 
superiorities and restraints, her little lectures and 
her ladjlikeness — the smooth, finely laundered gar- 
ment of unrumpled conventionality she had always 
worn before him. 

His still incredulous delight in her new ways with 
him, with the commentary it carried on what their 
old life had meant to him, was poignant to her 
almost to the point of tears. She wai tlie school- 
teacher in that allegory, althou^ the smallpox card 
as well, and the playground of his holiday. 

Well, he deserved a holiday, poor dear, and she 
meant to make it last as long as she could. 

But it's the essence of holidays, that they come 
to an end — a point she'd thought of, but not 
pressed, when he told her the parable. One had to 



INTERLUDE 

she meant, if possible, to keep him from finding out, 
was that their new life was not a letting-out of 
school for her ; was, on the contrary, the beginning 
of school — ^the first real school she'd ever gone to. 
That he didn't, apparently, even suspect it was due 
to the fact that school-hours ended for her with 
his return from the oflice. From then on, whether 
at a movie-show, or dance-hall, or roller-skating in 
the park, she was as gay and irresponsible as he. 
In the morning, too, for that matter, when the 
alarm-clock routed them sleepily out of bed, and 
they dressed and got breakfast simultaneously, all 
over the place. 

But from seven-thirty, when he started down- 
town, until the hour of his return, life to Celia was 
an intensely serious business. It was a business 
that could easily have been hatefully dull and dis- 
agreeable. Under her old system of dealing with 
nettles, stroking them just gingerly enough to get 
the maximum sting with the minimum effect upon 
the nettle, she could, in a week, have come to regard 
herself as a dismally abused martyr. 

159 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

Cooking wasn't so bad, though it was exasperat- 
ing to discover that every ingredient that made 
things taste good was expensive. But washing 
dishes! The new Celia shared the opinion of the 
old — ^that the nastiest substance in the world was 
greasy dish-water. She hated the way it was spoil- 
ing her hands. Her feet and ankles were getting 
spoiled, too. They would spread and thicken to 
appalling proportions, if this life kept up long 
enough. She was pretty soft, of course, all over, 
and during the first fortnight she was discovering 
new muscles all the time that she had never known 
existed until they began to ache. 

Her spirit ached, too, sometimes, more excruciat- 
ingly than her muscles. Determination and dash 
didn't always win you a victory. And when you 
were defeated, you did feel such a fool. To cite a 
single instance: there was a disastrous day when 
she tackled the wash. She'd blithely sent it out to 
the nearest laundry the first week, and, since it 
hadn't occurred to either of them that it was pos- 
sible to economize in this direction, the hole this 

160 



INTERLUDE 

made in their free assets for the week was shocking. 
There were holes, too, in other things. This laun- 
dry evidently didn't understand the nature of silk 
pajamas. So, with an undaunted air, but feeling 
very hollow inside, Celia told herself that of course 
it was ridiculous for a woman in her position not to 
do her own washing. 

Her direst forebodings were more than borne out 
by the event. There was, it appeared, a technique 
in this business which her own experience — ^limited 
to the washing-out of sheer little blouses and hand- 
kerchiefs, had not provided her with. And the hor- 
rible fatigue of it! Before she had even finished 
the washing part, her back ached as if she had 
broken it. 

And when it came to the ironing! Well, if you're 
curious, just try to iron a pair of double bed-sheets 
by hand yourself. Before she got through with 
them, those two sheets represented a vast, illimitable 
acreage — enough for a country estate. Then, Al- 
fred had a horrible predilection for the very thin- 
nest kind of gauzy woolen underwear and socks, 

161 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

wbi<di had to be bathed as tenderly as a young 
baby. 

She told him, when he came home that night, 
with a hysterical attempt at jocularity, that he'd 
have to wash those things for himself thereafter. 
Perhaps they'd let him go in swhrnning with them 
on, in the public bathhouse in the park. They 
could dry on him then and perhaps not shrink. 

The problem was solved by a compromise. They 
learned to be less reckless about using things that 
had to be washed, and the flat things were sent out 
to the laundry. 

But Vm not going into the details of Celia's 
schooling. They'd be voluminous. Literally, what 
she didn't know when she took on the job of being 
a wage-earner's wife would fill a book. Anyway, 
that isn't the story. 

But her spiritual attitude toward those hard les- 
Bons is a part of the story. That she kept herself 



INTERLUDE 

the consciousness that she was — ^puttmg it over 
with Alfred, to an extent she hadn't dreamed of 
when she made the threat the night of the dinner- 
party. 

He'd been dangerously near right in the opinion 
of her he'd unconsciously expressed that night. 
The old Celia, if she hadn't been burnt to ashes in 
the fire of the new Celia's wrath, might easily 
enough have done just what her husband had ex- 
pected she would. 

But you couldn't make Alfred believe that now 
— ^not on the oath of the Recording Angel. He was 
still in the depths of contrition, as far as so happy 
a man could be, over the injustice he'd done her. 
And a contrite husband, aware that he has never, 
until now, appreciated you, is a much more stimu- 
lating companion to live with than an aggrieved 
but nobly forgiving one. It was a wonderful stim- 
ulus, living up to his new and still wondering opin- 
ion of her. 

There was another, which she was less conscious 
of. This new life of hers had, extraordinarily, the 

16S 



riT 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

quality of being alive. It was reaL It took hold 
The things she did were effectual Tliey made 
things come out differently f rcnn the way they'd 
otherwise have come out. 

Take the matter of economy. There was so 
much money — real money, not an impalpable bank- 
balance — ^to meet their current necessities through 
the week. The amount of that which she had left 
on Saturday night was what they could have fun 
with through the next week. There was always 
a vivid emotion of triumph, or of chagrin, when 
it came to displaying that residuum to her husband. 

This same quality of vividness characterized, in- 
deed, pretty much everything about her new life. 
The experiences of that interminable, wonderful 
day, when she had sold her clothes and bought the 
furniture had been true omens. 

She had expected to be lonely ; and, in the social 
sense, of course, she was. For none of their sub- 
urban friends had been given a corrected version of 
the story of a flight out west somewhere, that had 
been made up for Ruth Collier. But, to her aston- 

164) 



INTERLUDE 

ishment, she found herself tasting the joys of real 
comp€knionship as she had never known them be- 
fore. I don't mean with Alfred, but during the 
daytime, while h^ was at the office — casual people 
who sold her things in the little shops, people she 
met day after day during her afternoon breath- 
taking in the park. Foremost of these, an old 
Garibaldian gardener. Then there was the librarian 
at the substation of the public library, and the 
cadaverous-looking Russian boy who brought them 
a loaf of whole-wheat bread every other afternoon, 
and who she discovered to be an absolutely au- 
thentic Nihilist. And, first and always, Larry 
Doyle with his idolized youngest daughter, who 
went to business college, and the son, who was a 
trouble-man in the employ of the telephone com- 
pany. They all came closer, somehow — gave her 
more and took more from her, than people in the 
old life, whom she'd called by their first names for 
years. 

Figuratively, she and those old acquaintances 
had always felt one another through gloves. Well, 

165 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

now, imagine the sensations of a person who has 
always worn gloves, whose hands have never known 
contact with anything except the inside of his 
gloves. Imagine his sensations when he first took 
them off; how sharp and exciting they would be 
— painful, sometimes, but worth the pain. That 
will give you a notion of CeUa. She had just come 
alive. There it is in two words. 

Coming aUve, she began experiencing a strong 
emotional interest in Uve things— growing things ; 
the vegetation of the young spring, so tenderly 
nourished by the old gardener in the park. He so 
old, but getting a fresh vicarious life out of his 
plants. 

She experienced In herself a longing to make 
things grow. Window-boxes In the flat, that was 
her first idea, which expanded to a day-dream of 
an acre, not too far from town for Alfred, where, 
while he was away at work, she could have fiowers 
and garden vegetables — chickens. 

But that was only the fringe of the Idea. The 
core of it she didn't reach till a little later. She 

166 



INTERLUDE 

came upon it, one afternoon, in the park, and 
stopped with a sob too sudden to be repressed. She 
knew now what the growing thing was she really 
wanted. Before her eyes was a common enough 
sight, a mother — ^Italian, she looked — sitting on 
one of the benches nursing a baby. 



CHAPTER Vm 



GESMINATION 



IT was this discovery of hers, reaUy, that marked 
the end of the second chapter — for Celia, any- 
way. The growing strength of her new desire car- 
ried her along like the current of a river. The grati- 
fication of it would mean an end to her husband's 
holiday. They couldn't have a baby in a place like 
this. He must have space, and clean sweet air and 
sunshine ; that acre, if possible, and a cow. 

She dwelt on the details of the dream lovingly. 
But she hesitated over telling her husband about it, 
partly from a new shyness which made it sweet to 
keep the wonder of it to herself for a while, partly 
from the very clear realization of what the accom- 
plishment of it would require from her husband. 
Often, during the first few weeks of their life here, 
he had spoken to her of the wonderful relief it was 
having merely routine work to do — ^no responsibil- 

168 



GERMINATION 

ity beyond the mere carrying out of his instruc- 
tions, after all those months of maddening worry. 

The undertaking of a baby would mean, of 
course, the end of all that; would involve the ex- 
ercise of more imaginative and better-paid powers. 
She shrank from asking him to begin looking about 
for a more responsible job, even for the reason she 
would have to ojffer. She wouldn't want to name 
this new mysterious desire of hers in that connec- 
tion at all. Of course, she might not have to. He 
might see the necessity for himself. But, equally, 
he might not. Men were ignorant about such mat- 
ters. It might not strike him that they couldn't 
have a baby right here, in this teeming neighbor- 
hood, with scarlet fever, whooping cough and mea- 
sles lurking in every street-car and along the 
benches in the park. And perhaps pretty soon 
he'd end his holiday of his own accord. 

She'd noticed something a little different about 
him lately-unexplained preoccupations, the cessa- 
tion of casual chat about the deeds of his fellow 
draftsmen and the routine of his office work. So, 

169 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

for a while, with a patience that was new to her, 
she waited. Then this happened. 

One hot Saturday night, after they'd virtuously 
decided to do up the dishes in order to leave their 
holiday to-morrow as free as possible, but still hung 
lazily over the supper-table while they summoned 
resolution enough to put the disagreeable job 
through, Alfred said: 

**I had a funny encounter in the street to-day; 
ran into Major March." But he didn't go on from 
there, as he might have been expected to, so she 
said: 

"I don't believe I ever heard of the major. Who 
is he?" 

"Not the major," he corrected. "Major. It's 
his &st name. He's a queer genius of an in- 
ventor. I had an idea I'd told you about him. You 
know, I think a man ought to be able to get heavy 
damages from his parents for naming him Major 
when his last name was going to be March. Some 
people seem to go out of their way to make people 
ridiculous with the names they give them.' 

170 



» 



GERMINATION 

**Was he the inventor," Celia asked, *Sfho was 
going to make your everlasting fortune and didn't 
— ^the one you gave the fifteen thousand dollars 
toP' 

He shot a look at her, and said, with a laugh, 
"Yes, that's the man. But I didn't realize I'd told 
you about my having gone in with him. I thought 
I'd kept that pretty dark." 

"You told me about it," she explained, "the night 
of that last dinner-party, when you told me such 
a lot of things." She went on, after a moment's 
silence. **What did he say to-day? Did he tell you 
that his great invention was coming out right, after 
afl?" 

Once more he looked at her in that rather odd 
way — surprised, but rather more than that — ^almost 
startled. But then he laughed. 

"Not exactly. It was the old story. He needed 
just two thousand dollars more. That was all that 
stood between him and untold wealth. He'd got his 
big people interested. He'd got the thing right 
beyond the shadow of a doubt. But he had to dem- 

171 



THE THOKOUGHBRED 

onstrate it to tbem vith some rather elaborate lab- 
oratory tests. The two thoiuand was to be for 
that. Then all his trouble's over." 

*'Do you suppose it's true?" she asked. 

*'0h, therms no doubt he thinks so. The poor 
little cuss is the soul of honor. And lord! He 
may be right about it. Very likely he is. He 
sounded quite couTincing." 

There was a little pause, then he went on, with 
a smile. "I'd never admit that, if there were the 
slightest poBs^ihty of my giving him the money. 
Pre had my lesson, and I don't need to be taught 
it twice. But as long as the possibility doesn't ex- 
ist — " He broke off there, thinking she meant to 
speak, hut if she had she'd changed her mind 
about it. 

"Come along," he said. "Let's get through the 
dishes." 

But she detained him with an outstrettjied hand. 



GERMINATION 

funds to cover the next week's expenditures. But 
to-night, upon her asking for it, his face went sud- 
denly blank. Then: 

"Gk)od gracious !*' he said. "I forgot to tell you. 
They've given me another raise. Thirty a week 
now. What do you think of that?" 

"Oh, that's great !" she cried. "Let's see it." 

"I haven't got it," he said. "I expect they mean 
to pay me by check from now on. Thirty a week 
counts as salary instead of wages." 

Her face paled a little, and she had to swallow 
the lump in her throat before she could speak. 

"That's true, isn't it, Fred?" she asked. "You 
— ^you aren't trying to spare me something? You 
haven't — ^lost your job?" 

He came around the table quickly and took her 
in his arms. "No, I haven't lost my job," he said. 
**I give you my word for that. Were you really 
frightened?" 

She pulled in a long breath and let it out explo- 
sively. That answered him. 

"But look here, Fred," she said earnestly, 

178 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

**Woiildn't they be willing to go on giving it to 
you in the same way — ^in real money, in an envelope, 
every Saturday night? That's the basis of every- 
thing, you see — ^knowing what we've got and what 
we've got to do without." 

He admitted she was right and said he'd get them 
to do it that way. He was sure they wouldn't mind. 

She dismissed, vigorously and contemptuously, 
from her mind a thought that popped into it, of 
the contrast between the manner in which he had 
made this announcement to-night and that with 
which he had told her of his former rise from 
the original twenty-two fifty to twenty-five. He'd 
shouted his news to her from the doorway that 
other time, and waved his envelope at her — extracted 
and displayed, in all their glory, the five, flat, new, 
five-dollar bills. And they'd spent that evening 
calculating, with the most minute exactitude, how 
they'd spend that surplus two dollars and fifty cents 
in a riotous celebration the next day. Certainly 
things hadn't gone like that to-night, and the 

174 



GERMINATION 

change might well be thought significant of some* 
thing. 

But it was easier to refrain from speculating 
about it because her mind was so well occupied by 
something else — ^a fascinating breath-taking possi- 
bility, which wouldn't consent to be dismissed as 
absurd; that came back, at all events, every time 
she did dismiss it that way, with more assurance 
about itself, more the air of a serious plan. It 
kept her awake a long time that night. It, and the 
necessity for lying very rigorously still, in order 
not to disturb Fred. When at last she did move, 
she found he'd been awake all the time. 

He said, without preface, **Celia, are you getting 
lired of it?" 

She asked, "Of what?" though somehow she 
knew. 

"Of living like this. Of the flat, and cookings 
and washing dishes. Are you beginning to hate 
it?" 

"Why, I love it," she cried, with a little catch 

176 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

in her voice. **Siirely you know that. Pve never 
been so happy. Life's never meant so much. 
Only — ^^ Her voice faded out there and there was 
a long silence — ^minutes, it seemed. 

Then, as if out of a stiff throat, he asked, "Only 
what?'' 

With a little sob she wound her arms around him 
and nestled close. "Nothing — ^yet," she said. 

With that answer he seemed content. 

She was content, too, and soon fell happily 
asleep. Because now her mind was made up. The 
fascinating possibility had become a resolution. 

On Monday morning, about half past eight, 
after the breakfast things were out of the way, 
she drew out of the bottom of Alfred's trunk, where 
it had Iain hidden beneath some things he hadn't 
happened to want, a package whose solidly rectan- 
gular form was still indifferently disguised by the 
clumsy wrappings it had worn when it had lain on 
the floor between a furiously angry husband and 
wife, who had, respectively, refused in the most 

176 



GERMINATION 

passionate manner to avail themselves of the oppor- 
tunities it offered. 

Celia looked at it with a rueful smih'ng memory 
of the row it had precipitated. It was stiU entitled 
to be called the skeleton in their closet, since it had 
never been mentioned by either of them since that 
morning. 

She dressed as well as she could, then set off 
down-town with the package under her arm. There 
were only two questions in her mind now. Could 
she sell it, this jewelry of hers, for two thousand 
dollars? And if she could not, would that inventor 
be able to get on with a little less? 



CHAPTER IX 



AliFBED, MEANWHILE 



CELIA might well have given more weight than 
she did to that new preoccupied manner of her 
husband's, and she might have taken more seriously 
than she did the contrast between \ his ofFhand way 
of announcing that his pay had been raised from 
twenty-five to thirty dollars a week, and his previous 
excitement over the announcement that it had been 
raised to twenty-five. She would have done so, no 
doubt, but for that preoccupation of her own about 
which I have told you. But even if she had allowed 
speculation to run riot — gone to her inferential 
limit, she'd hardly have come abreast of the facts. 
For a month, indeed, after Alfred Blair had 
taken his new job, he had, just as he told her, rev- 
eled in the irresponsibility of it. He had sat over 
his table from eight to twelve, and from one to five, 
doing the work before him with an almost contemp- 

178 



ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

tuous ease, exercising a set of faculties that a long 
and early training had ahnost transmuted into in* 
stincts, while the inner man of him rejoiced in long- 
drawn breaths and the delicious relaxation of racked 
nerves. He was like a man washed ashore from a 
wreck, exhausted by the struggle with tempestuous 
seas, content to lie for a while on the sun-warmed 
sands, incurious as to what his new island domain 
might have in store for him. 

The first stirrings of curiosity he repressed se- 
verely. Each time he caught his mind reaching out 
to grasp the essentials of the work he was doing, 
criticizing the engineering of his superiors, decidr 
ing how the thing really ought to be done, he 
checked the impulse vigorously. It was none of 
his business whether the job was done right or 
wrong, economically or extravagantly. Had he 
ever been as happy in his life before as he was right 
now? Well then, why spoil a good thing? Hadn't 
he had enough worry and trouble in the past year 
and a half to last him — a while longer, anyway? 
He had. A3 a means of further reassuring him- 

179 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

self on this point, he had talked to Celia about the 
pleasure he was taking in the routine nature of his 
, work. 

But he couldnH keep this up indefinitely. To 
the trained athlete it is unendurable not to ezerdse. 
Heart, lungs and muscles cry aloud for the tests 
thej are accustomed to. And tbe man who has 
made trained athletes of his judgment and imag- 
ination can't leave them out of his reckoning in- 
df&iitely. They'll begin taking hold some day, in 
spite of him. They won't be satisfied, either, by 
the mere acknowledgment on his part, of the possi- 
bility or the rightness of the things they have 
pointed out to him. They'll never let him alone 
until he has harnessed all his energy to tbe task 
of making the possibilities they have pointed out 
come true. 

Do you remember — Vm sure you will if you'rfe 
old enough — ^the classical story of the young prin- 



ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

enjoyed the complete confidence of the princess, the 
secret being that his diet was confined to milk and 
biscuits. But one day, in a fit of affection, he be- 
gan licking the princess's hand, and his rough 
tongue presently wore through the skin, so that he 
tasted blood. Whereupon, without remorse, he pro- 
ceeded to eat up the princess. 

I don't claim perfection for my analogy, since 
the princess of my tale is the oily, toothpick-chew- 
ing foreman of the drafting-room, whom I intro- 
duced to you in the act of hiring Alfred Blair. 
The parallel would be closer, too, if the tiger in the 
legend were not an innocent cub, but a reformed 
man-eater, who had gone upon a milk diet voluntar- 
ily. Apart from these defects, however, the thing 
works out pretty well, since it was a purely good- 
natured impulse to help his manifestly incompetent 
superior by showing him how a certain detail really 
ought to be managed, that led Alfred to take his 
first taste of blood ; that is, of responsibility* 

I don't know whether the tiger was surprised or 
not when he discovered that he had eaten the prin- 

181 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

cess. I do know that Alfred was genuinely aston- 
ished over the discovery that he had, inadvertently, 
eaten the foronan. He got, that is to say, this 
unfortunate gentleman's job. 

That* s what happened, however — quite inevita- 
bly, if one stops to think about it — ^within a fort- 
night from the time when he ventured to correct 
that first detaiL 

I don't know whether you will consider the other 
first step he took that day to have been inevitable 
also. I'm afraid not, without some explanation* 
The step was — and it proved quite as important 
as the other — ^that he refrained from telling Celia 
about his promotion when he got home the evening 
of the day it happened. 

I won't attempt to deny that he ought to have 
told her ; that it was cowardly and evasive of him ; 
and, I'm afraid I must add, decidedly masculine, 
not to tell. He got adequately punished for it in 
the event, as you are to be told. But while you are 
waiting for that to happen to him let me try to 
show you how it looked and felt to himu 

182 



ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

In the first place, he was informed of his pro- 
mc^ion the moment he arrived in the office one morn- 
ing. If they'd told him the last thing before he 
left for home the night before, I haven't a doubt 
he'd have gone straight to Celia with it. As it 
happened, he had a day to look his new job over 
before he went home, and it made him pretty sick. 

He'd suspected the truth about this big mu- 
nicipal contract from the day he was hired. And 
he'd been getting little fragmentary glimpses of it 
from day to day at his own drafting-board. But 
from his more elevated position as superintendent 
of the drafting-room, with only one engineer be- 
tween himself and the contractor, he now saw the 
thing in all its naked effrontery. It was the famil- 
iar formula for municipal work: fifty per cent, 
graft, fifty per cent, incompetence. 

The maddening thing about it was, too, that, 
but for the incompetence, the graft would mot be 
necessary. A man of decent ability, with that con- 
tract in his pocket, could deliver the city an honest 
job and make as much legitimate profit out of it 

18S 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

as this shifty numb-witted grafter could hope to 
steaL 

The position Alfred's incautious display of tal- 
ent had got him into was the proverbially uncom- 
fortable one between the upper and the nether mill- 
stones. He could no longer absolve himsdf , as he 
had done at his drafting-board, from all responsi- 
bility for the job. They'd picked him up and made 
him responsible. Yet they hadn't given him au- 
thority to change a thing that really mattered. 

If you win imagine Hercules, with a tin bucket 
and a scrubbing-brush, getting his first sight and 
whiff of the Augean stables, you will have some no- 
tion of Alfred Blair's state of mind. 

It's important to remember that he was Hercules 
— ^was in the habit, anyhow, of dealing with things 
in a Herculean way, turning the course of rivers 
through them, if necessary. What I mean is that 
he really was, down inside, despite the temporary 
eclipse of the past few months, the successful, au- 
dacious, highly energized big-caliber man that Celia 
married; a man accustomed to carrying heavy loads 

184 



ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

of responsibility upon his capacious shoulders; to 
the exercise of a trenchant and unquestioned au- 
thority ; to the accomplishment of big things in big 
ways. 

Yesterday a private in the ranks, he had been 
able — ^though barely — to keep alive the pretense 
that the big man Celia had married was, as he had 
told her the night of the dinner-party, done for, 
never to come back. To-day, with a sergeant's 
chevron on his sleeve, the pretense was demolished. 
He knew to-day that he had come back — that his 
old powers had come back. And the knowledge dis- 
turbed him painfully. 

All the way out to the little flat that evening 
he fretted over the situation. He wouldn't be able 
to stand the new job very long. It would be really 
maddening. Eventually — likely enough within the 
next few days — ^he'd find himself locking horns with 
the chief engineer, telling him to go to hell; put- 
ting on his coat and walking out. Well, and then 
what could he do? Try for another routine job 
at twenty-five a week? 

186 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

He wouldn't let himself admit that this was not 
a real alternative. Down inside he knew so well 
that it was not, that he told himself it was with most 
unnecessary emphasis. Put it all in a word and 
say that he was in a stew — & stew that kept getting 
hotter as the packed elevated train jolted and 
creaked around its curves. 

At his station he squeezed his way out automati- 
cally and started at a rapid walk for home. The 
little street thisy lived in was still radiating the heat 
of an unseasonably early summer's day. It radi- 
ated noise, too, from a hurdy-gurdy and a ball 
game, and from some long-distance visiting that 
was going on back and forth across the street. 

Usually Alfred liked this; refleca::g, perhaps, 
Celia's warm delight in it. But to-night he strode 
through it all unheeding, except as perhaps the 
heat and the confusion added a few degrees to the 
temperature of his interior stew. He walked fast 
because, when he got to a certain door — ^the door 
his latch-key fitted, a miracle T7as going to happen. 
It happened every night, and yet it remained none 

186 



ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

the less a miracle. He never missed a moment of 
exquisite fear just before he opened the door, lest 
to-night it wouldn't happen. The miracle was, 
quite simply, that after he'd opened that door and 
stepped inside, he was in a place called home — a, 
place unique in all the world — ^a place of ineffable 
security against all possible assaults of the world. 
To-night, more than ever, he was hungry and imr 
patient for it. 

It didn't always happen in exactly the same way. 
Sometimes Celia was cooking something noisy in 
the kitchen so that she didn't hear him until his 
latch-key clicked in the door at the head of the 
stairs. But other times she heard him at the outer 
door and had the inner one open for him before he 
was half-way up. 

This was what happened to-night, and he got 
his first hug out on the landing. They squeezed 
through the narrow doorway in one lump. Then 
she held him off for a look. 

"You're tired to-night," she said. "Almost wor- 
ried. Right up there." The spot she indicated 

' 187 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

with her lips was between his eyebrows. **Noth- 
ing's — gone wrong to-day, has it?** 

"Never less in the world," he assured her. And, 
if she'd waited a second, he might have gone on 
and said the thing right out. But she went straight 
on and supplied an' explanation for herself. 

**It's just the heat, of course. That made you 
want to smoke, and the smoker was packed — ^^ 

He pushed her away a little. *^I must be a pretty 
loathsome object, and no mistake — sweaty and 
dirty, with a little more beard than usual on ac- 
count of the heat, and then that smoking-car was 
the Umit! I ought to have freshened up a bit be- 
fore I let you come close.'' 

Her answer was to give a contented little laugh, 
hug him up as tight as she could, and cuddle her 
face down against his chest. "Do you suppose I 
mind?" she said. "Do you mind me the way / am?" 

She wore, as she usually did at this time of day, 
a big all-over apron with short sleeves, instead of 
a dress, and a little cap that she could tuck all of 
her hair into. 

188 



ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

His answer didn't require any words, but his 
memory gave him a lightning flash of a contrasting 
situation between them — the time he'd come home 
on the eve of that last dinner-party of theirs, come 
home to tell her that he was through with the life 
they'd been living; that he'd endured it up to the 
last day, and that this was it. He'd f ound^ her 
half-dressed before her toilet-table, with all her 
sensuously alluring paraphernalia about her — ^the 
rose-colored stockings and slippers which matched 
the gown which lay across the foot of the bed — 
the perfume of her powder subtly pervading the 
air as he came close and asked her for a kiss. She 
had drawn sharply away from him, charged him 
with having ridden out in the smoker, and wondered 
what unspeakable tobacco men smoked in such 
places. Then she had urged him to hurry along 
and dress, because there wasn't time to fool, really. 

That girl, against whom his resentment had 
flared almost to the temperature of hatred, had been 
— ^well, not his same Celia, but she had had his 
Celia locked up inside her, waiting to break out 

189 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

when the shock of their disaster should give her a 
chance. 

The pungent odor of the gingham, or whatever 
it was that her big apron was made of, gave him a 
thrill that none of the perfumes of the old days 
had been capable of giving, and there was a soft 
contented warmth in her voice. There clutched at 
his heart a passionate fear, .and a passionate 're- 
solve — ^the fear lest the new prosperity which 
loomed ahead of him should carry them back into 
that old artificial life where they lived, not together, 
but in two separate shells; the resolve that at all 
costs, this thing should not be allowed to happen. 

He'd say nothing of the promotion to Celia for 
— ^well, three or four days or a week. The situation 
at the office would probably have taken definite 
shape by the end of a fortnight, anyway. 

He went on to tell himself, virtuously, how much 
kinder it was to Celia not to tease her with the story 
of a promotion which so easily might prove illu- 
sory. Of course, if the thing worked out all right, 
or showed even an inclination to do so, he'd tell her 

190 



ALFRED MEANWHILE 

at once. He angrily cast off the insinuation which 
sneaked into his mind from somewhere that it might 
be a good thing to keep CeKa seriously in the dark 
for any length of time as to his improved fortunes. 
What was he making all the fuss about, anyhow? 
It wasn't an important decision he'd just taken. 
What did it matter whether he told her to-night 
or three nights from now? Perhaps he would tell 
her to-night, after all. But he didn't. 

For a week the state of things in the drafting- 
room remained as chaotic and hand-to-mouth as It 
had looked the first day. And then a new factor 
entered Into the situation — ^well, not new, but one 
that Alfred hadn't counted on — ^politics — ^a sharp 
bitter fight between the administration (that's the 
mayor and his appointees, chief of police, corpora- 
tion counsel, and so on) and the board of alder- 
men. 

The mayor of Chicago has a lot of power, and 
he can exercise it, up to a certain point, quite irre- 
sponsibly. But if he is overtaken by illusions of 
grandeur and neglects to conciliate at least an ef- 

191 



ji 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

f ective minority of the aldermanic body, that body 
can make him wish he had never been bom. 

Well, this contract that Alfred was concerned 
with had been one of the most attractive displays 
in the mayor's pre-election show-window — ^a senti- 

» 

mental, half -practical, half-baked project for a 
municipal market which should loosen the rapacious 
clutch of the commission man upon the throat of 
the ultimate consumer. And it is quite consistent 
with our American impatience of thorough study 
and expert advice, and our eagerness to do material 
things — ^to do something, it doesn't matter much 
what — ^that this great project should have boiled 
down, almost at once, to the letting of a contract 
for the first unit of a vast acreage of buildings; 
in short, to a fat job for some loyal liegeman of 
the mayor. 

And you will see, I think, how naturally it came 
about that when the desire arose to make the mayor 
uncomfortable, this job should have been picked 
out as the target. It was so picked out, and a com- 
mittee of perspicacious and able-minded reformers 

192 



ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

(the use of the word reformer is not necessarily 
derogatory) was appointed to investigate. 

The mere announcement of the appointment of 
this committee, before ever it fired a shot, brought 
the contractor down to his office in a foaming rage. 

The grafting politician, in stories and on the 
stage, is presented as formidable, wielding vast un- 
questioned powers ; giving orders (with a cigar in 
his mouth) to respectful subordinates who rush to 
do his bidding; anything from murder down. He 
is inhumanly i^droit as well as grim. Already he 
has made his millions, and he is on his way to make 
millions more. He frequently gets "crushed,** to 
be sure, in the last act or the last chapter, but never 
until he has had a long and, some might think, 
compensatory run for his money. 

But the real grafter, I venture to say, seldom 
enjoys an experience like that, even before he is 
forced to his knees by the superior adroitness of 
the young hero. For your real grafter is always 
grafted upon. Let me attempt a definition that 
will make this clear. Graft is a cash valuation upon 

193 



' 7 *^ 






T3m- 



1 *' 'tjaw* 



^^T 



^ ^ 



-» — > 



>± 



s---: nic 



i^icr 







THE THOROUGHBRED 

gratitude. The man who has just cashed in on 
somebody's gratitude to him, Alfred's contractor 
for example, with his fat job from the mayor, must 
, in turn honor drafts upon his own gratitude. If 
he were to let these drafts go to protest, try to 
get his own work done on a basis of ruthless effi- 
ciency, the vengeance upon him would be instanta- 
neous and terrible. So he's the worst-serred man 
in the world. 

A man of first-class ability, to be sure, might 
compromise his way out of the difficulty — feed his 
flock of lame ducks sufficiently with jobs where they 
couldn't do much harm, and still pay competent 
people to do the real work. But the grafter never 
IS a man of first-rate ability. If he isn't stupid, he 
isn't a grafter, since the rewards of playing the 
game within the rules are, to the man of exceptional 
ability, immensely greater than any conceivable re- 
ward for the grafter. 

So if the case of this particular grafter had been 
sorrowful before, it was really desperate after the 
appointment of that subcommittee. 

194 



ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

Alfred witnessed the tragedy — ^not completely, 
as one sees a performance in the theater from the 
fourth row, but in vivid intimate glimpses as one 
sees It from the wings — outbursts and explosions 
that came through the glass door of the private 
office, asides which he was supposed, ludicrously, 
not to understand when he'd been summoned into 
the presence for instructions as to this, or explana- 
tions as to that. The contractor had flown to the 
mayor, it seemed, and had got small comfort from 
him, His Honor having evidently made it clear that 
he had troubles enough of his own. The engineer 
talked of resigning. 

Finally there came a morning when Alfred Blair 
turned, with a shrug, from a sheet of figures he 
had been poring over, stretched his arms, grinned, 
got up and wfdked, unsununoned, into the private 
office. The contractop rasped out a **What do you 
want?" and resumed, gloomily, the contemplation 
of a sheet of figures of his own. There was still 
the suggestion of a smile on Alfred's face. 

'1 came iii to suggest," he ttoA, "ttal mie 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

to lunch with me to-daj at one o*clock at the Union 
League Club. I have a proposition to make to 
you." I 

The contractor started, stared, made a paasion- 
ate prediction as to his state in a future world, and 
demanded to be told what his subordinate meant. 
His amazement was driven home a little deeper by 
a realization he couldn't have explained, that tiie 
man who stood there the other side of the desk was 
a subordinate no longer. 

Exteriorly he looked just the same, was in his 
shirt-sleeves, his waistcoat unbuttoned, his hands 
in his trousers pockets ; but bis air was, inexplica- 
bly, one of authority. 

"I mean just that," be said. "I have a propo- 
sition to make to you. Lunch is a good time to talk. 
The club's just across tiie street." 

"Are you a member of that club ?" asked the con- 
tractor. 



ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

of pure luck that Alfred had not ^resigned from that 
club. HeM paid his dues for the year not more 
than a fortnight before the crash. He hadn't con- 
sidered it luck at the time;* but there he was mis- 
taken. The effect of Alfred's annoupcement on the 
contractor was cheap at a hundred dollars. It 
made a perf ^ dramatic preparation for the thing 
Alfred was going to suggest. The suggestion was 
the sort that wanted preparing, too. 

The contractor said he didn't object to the club. 

"You'll come then," said Alfred, not inflecting 
it like a question. 

The contractor said, yes, he'd come, but wanted 
explanations. What was the idea? 

"I'll wait till lunch to explain, if you don't 
mind," Alfred told him coolly, and went back to 
his desk. 

These tactics, a^lroit as they were, were not pre- 
calculated at all. They were just a symptom that 
Alfred's mind was once more fully on the job. His 
employer's curiosity, if imsatisfied, would be work- 
ing for him steadily till lunch-time. And the sort 

197 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

of lunch he would give him — the atmosphere with 
which the club would surround the lunch — ^would 
work for him, too. 

He gave all these influences time to do their work 
— plenty of time. Then, after the Hghting with 
one match of two admirable cigars, he made a fal- 
con Bwoop straight to the heart of the business. 

"My proposition is," he said, without preface 
or explanation, "that I guarantee you a profit of 
twenty thousand dollars on this contract in consid- 
eration of a half-interest in whatever the profits 
turn out to be ; also in consideration of your putting 
complete authority over everything concerned in the 
contract into my hands." 

Alfred was himself again, no mistake. There 
TBS the old touch about these tactics. The obvious 
method of going about the business would have been 
to begin by dwelling upon the contractor's plight 
— ^the gristly prospect ahead of him if things went 



ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

Alfred's omission to say a word about this star- 
ing fact only made its stare the more sinister. 

"Your guarantee would be worth a hell of a 
lot, wouldn't it?" said the contractor, with the best 
imitation he could manage of jovial scorn. 

*HDf course," said Alfred, "the only guarantee 
that would bo of any value would be the cash itself 
put up with a bank pending the completion of the 
contract." 

"Look here!" demanded the contractor. **Who 
in blazes are you, anyway?" 

^TTou ought to know," Alfred said. He didn't 
answer further, and when the contractor asked, 
"Are you A. C. Blair?" he merely nodded. 

The contractor blew up at this point and spoke 
at length and at large, the upshot of his harangue 
being a demand to know his competitor's motive in 
spying around his office. 

"Not spying," Alfred said quietly. "You'll see 
that for yourself in a minute. If I'd been a spy, 
instead of coming to you now, Fd be going aroimd 

199 



THE 



to the oounciTs suboommittee and gettmg a job as 
their expert. I am an expert. I know that line of 
work as well as anybody in the United States. But 
I havenH done that. Tve come to you and off ere d 
you an absolutely fair proposition.^ 

"What did you oome for, then?** persisted the 
contractor. "Did you have a tip that those fool 
aldermen were going to butt in?^ 

Blair hesitated for a second, then told the simple 
truth. 

"No,^ he said. "I needed a job and I answered 
a blind ad. in 7^ Nerti.** 

"Down and out, eh?" conmiented the contractor. 
He didn't believe a word of Alfred's story. Then, 
with a pounce, "Where did you get this twenty 
thousand dollars?" 

"I haven't it," said Alfred. "If you take up my 
proposition, I'll have to go and borrow it some- 
where." 

The contractor, stared blankly across the table. 
"Say!" he demanded roughly. **What's the idea, 
bringing me here and kidding me along with a pipe 

200 




"What's the idea bringing me here and kidding n 



p 



ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

like that, when you haven't got a cent? What do 
you think it'll get you?" 

**You don't need to worry about that," Alfred 
said. **You aren't out anything for listening, even 
if it is a pipe. All you have to do is make up your 
mind whether you will accept it or not, in case I can 
come across. That's the next step — ^yes or no 
from you. If it's yes, I'll try to borrow the money. 
But Fve got to have a proposition to borrow it on." 

**You've got no more chance to get that 
money — " the contractor murmured, and then let 
the sentence slump away while he gazed moodily at 
the table-cloth and the pattern he was drawing on 
it with his thumb-nail. **What will you dp," he 
asked at last, "if I tell you there's nothing doing?" 

«I don't know," said Alfred. "I'll cross that 
bridge when I come to it." 

It would have been almost a relief to the con- 
tractor if Alfred had threatened him with going to 
the subcommittee and getting appointed as their 
expert. That would have given him something to 
get fighting mad about, and his temper craved a 

SOI 



THE 



fig^ The tiireat was there an rig^ tlMiiig)! it 
wasn't expressed. 

Alfred drew a f dded paper from his pocket and 
handed it across, without comment, to the con- 
tractor. It was a memorandmn of the bargain he 
had proposed, stated ahnost as simply as he had 
stated it a few moments before. There was (me 
more paragraph in it, stating that the agreement 
was of no effect unless BUur put up the money 
within forty-eight hours of their signing H. 

The contractor pondered it a while longer with- 
out speaking. At last : 

^^Oh, it's all dcunned foolishness," he said. 
**YouTl never get the money." 

**Don't count on that," said Alfred, "or you're 
likely to get fooled. Here, do you want a pen?" 

Fifteen minutes later, with the signed memoran- 
dum in his pocket, he walked into his bank and sat 
down in the president's office. An hour later, he 
walked out again with the money. 

He was not in the least surprised that it had 
come out this way. The opportunity was so lumi- 

202 




ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

nously clear to him, and his confidence in Yob own 
ability to make the most of it so clearly based on 
expert knowledge and tried ability, that he could 
hardly have failed to get the help he needed. It 
was just a question of making everytlung trans- 
parently clear. 

His personal credit, it should be pointed out, was 
excellent. The way he'd poured his own money into 
the cleaning up of the Waters-Macdonald mesa, was 
a thing no banker would be likely to forgeL 

He went straight back to the office and spent the 
rest of the afternoon nailing down all four comers 
of his agreement with the contractor. He meant 
to leave no unstopped rat-holes in that document. 
For heaven knew there were rats enough! 

The contractor lost his temper a good many times, 
climbed up on his dignity, appealed to the high 
gods. His new partner was trying to convert him 
into a m&ci figurehead. 

•'Exactly," said Alfred coolly. "That's the es- 
sence of this bargain. My authority's not to be 
questioned, and everyihing else is. I'll do all the 
SOS 





hnmf^ mmA all tite fcaig. 
TWtrfrt ewvJbti from 

Tut ClQiCBKU JOHl 0B1 uWfli 

U^mt. Bui vluit rd do, if I woe yoo, livold be to 
tdke ntf wife joid go to die 
Md A0i cone kia^ tin die job's 

Tbe cpnfnMior writfacd jokI strngg^kd — vould 
h«re got swaj if he eoukL Bui die HBBcnli on 
fbftt AtA. htpt Um fucnuitcdL 

At fire e^doA it was all orer. Etoi as he had 
eaten the foreman a wcd^ or so ago, Alfred Blair 
had now eaten the c >•!. ctor. 

And it waA not until this deed was follj acoom- 
p]jAh/;d — until he had put on his hat and coat and 
tfif)(}4l TftB/Ay to walk out of the office, that the 
thr/ij^ht of Celia came into his mind at all, or of 
what the ncrw situation was goin^ to mean to them. 

Of cr/ursc it wouldn't be accurate to say that he'd 
M±f*A this morning, and subsequently, without any 
prcTfieditation at all. He had meditated. He had, 
more or less, figured the whole thing out, but as a 

204 




ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

fanciful project purely — as something he wasn't 
going to do. His imagination had to be at some- 
thing, and it had constructed, he looking on with 
indulgent amusement all the time, this project.; 
had developed it indeed, down to some of its quite 
small details — ^but always, as I said, fancifully. 
What led him to get up that morning and walk into 
the contractor's office and begin to carry the thing 
out, was impulse, motivated not by any wish to pro- 
vide an ampler life for Celia or to rehabilitate him- 
self ; springing rather from a pure impatience to 
get the job done. The muffing and fumbling that 
had gone under his eyes, had irritated him to the 
point where he couldn't stand it any longer. So he 
got up and took on the job himself. That was all 
there was to it. 

It wasn't all there was to it, though. He realized 
this the first time he thought about Celia. She 
couldn't be expected — ^it wouldn't be human to ex- 
pect that she'd want to go on living as they were, 
now that he was getting a salary of a hundred dol- 
\ lars a week (this was what he and the contractor 

206 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

had agreed upon) and a half share' in tiie profits 
besides. 

Of course there mi^tn't be any profits — at least 
not for Alfred To the eye of cold reason, that 
possibility would appear to be worth taking seri- 
ously. He didn't take it very seriously^to be sure, but 
then he knew his eye wasn't coldly reasonable. He 
knew he was going to succeed. Still, one never lost 
any chickens by refraining from counting them till 
they were hatched. And from Celia's point of view, 
mightn't it, perhaps, be a kindness not to tease her 
with hopes which she cotdd see plainly enough 
might turn out groundless? Wotddn't she be hap- 
pier if he waited till the job was done and paid for, 
and then presented her with the results, in, as it 
were, a package? To balance that evening when he 
told her of his failure? 

But, contemplated, this scene didn't alBTord him 
any whole-souled satisfaction. He couldn't see 
Celia rushing delightedly into his arms at the end 
of the recital. The heroines of the screen would, 

all right — ^but Celia — 

•♦ 

206 



k 



/ 
ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

Then there was another angle on the thing. 
She'd been a perfectly corking sport about the 
whole business — ever since that night when he*d 
told her of the smash. There hadn't been a whim- 
per — a reproach. But that was because of her un- 
questioning belief that the come-down was neces- 
sary. And wouldn't that belief be shaken, if he 
were to go to her now and tell her that he'd bor- 
rowed twenty thousand dollars, and made himself a 
partner in the enterprise? If he could get twenty 
thousand dollars as easily as that — ^just by going 
and asking for it, why hadn't he done it three 
months ago? He'd had just a touch of that feeling 
himself as he came away from the bank. The whole 
effect of the day's doings upon him, was to make 
that routine work of his over a drafting-board, at 
twenty-two fifty a week seem a little unreal — ^like 
playing a part. Wouldn't she feel that even more 
strongly — feel that she'd been sacrificed, not to ne- 
cessity, but to a mere vagary of his own tempera- 
ment? Perhaps if he waited a while before he told 
her — ^not until the job was finished, of course, but 

207 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

for — say another couple of months, and then per- 
haps broke it gradually, promoted himself by easy 
stages — 

He didn't like that notion any too well, either. 
Anyhow, the thing wanted thinking over. He could 
take time for that — a few days — ^what would they 
matter one way or another? — ^to come to the right 
conclusion. Of course he*d tell her. It would be 
outrageously imf air to try to keep her in the dark. 
The only question was just how he'd do it, and 
when. 

There is an insidious and diabolical subtlety 
about the sin of procrastination, which lies in the 
fact that while its effects go on remorselessly piling 
up, the sin itself diminishes in geometrical progres- 
sion. The difference between making a confession 
on the eighth day, instead of on the seventh, is very 
much less than the difference between making it on 
the second instead of on the first; while the differ- 
ence between making it on the thirty-first or on the 
thirtieth is almost negligible: 

This was what made it possible to go on not tell- 

208 



ALFRED, MEANWHILE 

f 

ing Cella of the change in his fortunes. It would 
be an outrage to deceive her ; he admitted that. She 
had earned, if any human being ever cotdd earn, his 
completest confidence. Well, and didn't he mean to 
give it to her? Of course he did. Only — ^not to- 
night. To-morrow, perhaps — or Sunday, when 
there'd be time for a good long talk about it. But 
Sunday they'd devoted to a picnic up the shore. 
Why spoil a perfect thing like that with a lot of 
worries about the future? Celia was happy, wasn't 
she, with things as they were? Obviously happier, 
healthier, altogether more alive than she'd ever been 
before in her life. 

So he went along, except for an oc<;asional 
twinge, rather easily, until the night when his in- 
cautious reference to little Major March, and his 
equally incautious neglect to bring home a pay-en- 
velope, brought him up standing against a fact and 
on the threshold of a surmise. The fact was that his 
pretended willingness to tell Celia, his pretended in- 
tention to tell her when the occasion should arise, was 
completely false. She'd given him the occasion, 

S09 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

and instead of taking it, he had, in a panic, delib- 
erately lied to her — made up a hasty excuse about 
having had his salary raised, so obviously flimsy 
and extemporaneous, that it was a wonder she 
hadn't seen throu^ it. 

And the surmise was that Celia was not so happy 
— ^not, at least, so contented with their present way 
of living — as he'd supposed. The way her mind 
had played with the possibility that the inventor 
might make their fortune after aU— as if, for some 
reason, a fortune were a desirable thing — had kept 
him awake for hours that night. And when at last, 
discovering that she was awake too, he had nerved 
himself to ask her, point-blank, if she was getting 
tired of the way they lived — of the hardships and 
deprivations of it all, and she had told him eagerly 
that she was not — she had begun to say something 
that would qualify her answer, and then stopped. 
"Only — " It had taken all his resolution to ask her 
to go on. "Only what?" And she'd said, "Nothing 

—yet." 

Yet. There was an immense lot to think about 
behind that one small word. 



CHAPTER X 



INTERVENTION 



BARRING one bad moment just after she en- 
tered the store, when the floor-walker came 
up and asked, rather mechanically, what he could 
do for her, Celia found no difficulty in carrying out 
the first item of her program — ^namely, the sale of 
her jewels. 

Old Colonel Forsythe, the senior partner of the 
firm, had known her father for years, and her since 
she was a little girl, and from the moment she was 
shown into his office, everything was easy for her. 
He had, probably, a bad moment of his own after 
she'd told him her errand, which she did complete, 
in one sentence, as she held out her parcel to him. 

**I want to sell these things for two thousand 
dollars," she said. She added, over the look of 
acute unhappiness she saw come into his face, ^^I 
mean I hope they're worth that much.'' 

211 



ww^ 



THE THOR0CGHBRED 

He exf^aiDcdy vbik he was cottiiig tiie fkanf^ 
and openiiig die package, wli j it was that tfae 
aa io unt tiimgs had eost was not a tmstworUiy 
goide to what thej migfat be worth when one wanted 
to fell them. '^We can't sdl 8Ccoad-hand jeweliy, ^ 
joa know, and all we can paj for is the onset slooes 
and the bollion ralae of the setting." 

His face cleared instantly, thongh, when he saw 
the contents of her treasure-box. Alfred's taste, 
luckily, had been primitiTe. It hadnt run to en- 
crusted b u tt er flies and things like that — had con- 
fined itself to what a gambler or a prof essional base- 
ball-player would speak of as rocks. 

^^These things are worth considerably more than 
two thousand dollars," said the jeweler. 

"Oh, that's nice," said Celia comfortably. "But 
it's just two thousand that I want. So if you'll 
pick out what comes to that, FU take the rest back." 

The thing could be done on that basis, but not, it 
seemed, so instantaneously as Celia had supposed. 
To his offer to mail her a check during the day, and 
send the residuum back to her by special messenger, 

212 



INTERVENTION 

she demurred. She'd like to wait for the money, if 
she might, and take it away in cash. 

To her surprise, he hesitated over this request, 
frowned, drummed his fingers on the desk — seemed 
on the point of making some sort of protest, and 
then instead, said something that struck her, for a 
moment, as utterly irrelevant, about the wild uncer- 
tainties of the stock-market. 

The course she and Alfred had been taking in 
the movies during the past three months, supplied 
her suddenly with an explanation, and she laughed. 

"Oh, I*m not going to speculate with it,'' she told 
him, and his face cleared at once. 

"If only you knew how many of them do that be- 
hind their husbands' backs — ^women who ought to 
know better — ^and put me in a position of having to 
choose between being an officious meddler, and a 
particeps crvmvim — ** 

"Do they, really?" said Celia, properly scandal- 
ized. "But how silly of them ! They always lose, 
don't they?" The movies, as I say, had made this 
perfectly clear to her, 

SIS 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

She was quite honest about this. The word spec- 
ulation had a definite meaning to her. It consisted 
in taking your money to a room with a ticker in it, 
giving it to a man, who immediately rushed out to 
the floor of the Stock Exchange with it, and made 
wild gestures, while his victim stayed by the ticker 
and watched the tape : at first with extdtation — be- 
cause you always won at first — and later with de- 
spair. Because, inevitably, you lost in the end. 
That the word speculation cotdd be applied to the 
act she contemplated; namely, giving her money- 
all her money, practically — ^to an inventor, for the 
purpose of financing the tests of his invention, 
didn't occur to her. 

His doubts removed by the unquestionable can- 
dor of Celiacs attitude, Colonel Forsythe promptly 
thought of a way to avoid keeping her waiting. 

'*I can give you two thousand dollars now,'* he 
said, "and then, when these things are precisely val- 
ued, which involves examining and weighing them 
very closely, you can come in and select, to keep, 



% 



INTERVENTION 

whatever will leave us the two thousand dollars' 
worth we have bought." He also persuaded her to 
take a check mstead of the twenty hundred-dollar 
bills she wanted. She hadn't thought of pick- 
pockets. 

Major March's address — ^ascertained from the 
telephone-book, down in the lower twenties some- 
where, just off Wabash Avenue, involving a ride in 
a crowded street-car — ^made the colonel's sugges- 
tion seem worth taking. 

A momentary fright she had on the way down 
would have been a good deal more serious if she had 
had those twenty hundred-dollar bills in her wrist- 
bag. The adventure began just a block after she 
had taken the street-car, when a man got on and 
sat down beside her. The car wasn't empty enough 
to make this action of his really marked. He'd 
have had to sit down beside somebody. Still there 
were plenty of other places where he might have 
sat, and he had chosen her seat rather abruptly — 
plumped down in it without that customary moment 

S16 



n^ 



THE THOROUGHBBED 

of heflitatkm to ghre her a diuiee to mawe over a 
little, and quite imrohmtarfly she glmcpJ anxniil 
at hiiiL 

The glance reaMored her. He seemed oompletdy 
preoccupied — unaware of her as anytlung but a 
lump that took up so mudi space in the seat. He 
had a big manila envelope in his hands, whidi were 
pale and nervousl j precise in their moyements. The 
moment he was settled in his seat, he put on a pair 
of tortoise-shell spectacles, undid the patent 
fastener of the envelope, and drew out a quantity of 
typewritten sheets, whose pristine freshness pro- 
claimed that the J were just out of the machine — a 
manuscript, evidently, that he was just fetching 
away from the typist who'd copied it for him. An 
author, probably. That would account for the 
vague oddity there was about everything he did. 
His sheets were spread out so candidly under her 
eye, that she had definitely to turn away and look 
out the window, in order to avoid reading them. 

Just before they reached the street where she was 
to get off, she pressed the motorman's signal and 

S16 



INTERVENTION 

stood up. The action seemed to startle her com- 
panion rather unnecessarily, for he snatched off his 
spectacles, crammed his pages together anyhow, 
and himself rose to let her go by. 

She said: "Oh, I'm sorry P* and "Thank you,*' in 
a tone which her faint amusement over him made a 
little less mechanically impersonal than the one 
she'd ordinarily have used. 

Even so, one would hardly have thought he heard 
anything more than common civility in it, and she 
was a good deal surprised when, obviously without 
premeditation, he followed her down the aisle and 
got off the car just behind her. It was still more 
disconcerting when she'd crossed the street and 
turned east, to observe that he was coming along 
that way, too. 

She was not really alarmed about him, of course, 
and but for the forlomness of the neighborhood, 
with its negro tenenlents, boarded-up residences, 
and rusty little stores with windows long unwashed, 
she'd hardly have given him two thoughts. As it 
was, when she saw the number she wanted, painted 

817 



rr» 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

dimly on a transom, she had an impulse to keep 
right on going as briskl j as possible to the nearest 
car line. She conquered it, of course, and went up 
the three ricket j steps to the door above which the 
number was painted. It was an unkempt little 
wooden building one story high, that had once been 
a retail shop. But its show-window — ^not plate 
glass but conunon panes — had been painted white^ 
as also the light in the door had been, to baffle the 
curiosity of the passer-by. 

She tried the door and f oiHid it locked ; knocked 
smartly on it, and got no answer, and was turning 
away, baffled, when she saw that her pursuer from 
the street-car had halted at the foot of the steps 
and seemed, indecisively, to be waiting for her to 
come down. That was when she got her momentary 
fright. 

She turned back to the door and rattled it. 
Whereupon the young man came up the steps. At 
that she rounded upon him. 

"What do you want?" she d ;manded fiercely. 

218 



k 



INTERVENTION 

^^I wanted to ^t in," he said, and then she saw 
he had a key in his hand. 

* 

She stared at him a second, then understood. The 
explanation was so simple that nothing but the ex- 
traordinary nature of the coincidence had kept her 
from seeing it sooner. In his absorption over his 
papers, he'd have ridden by his comer, if her get- 
ting up hadn't aroused him. She said: 

"Oh, then you're Major March?" Then she re- 
alized that she'd called this total stranger by his 
first name. To cover this slip, she hurried on : "I'm 
Celia Blair — ^Alfred Blair's wife." And, in the next 
breath, before he'd at all got his, she added, "Pve 
come to bring you that two thousand dollars." 

At that he stared back at her. The look in his 
eyes wasn't tax from panic. Vaguely he put his 
key back in his pocket, crumpled his carefully cher- 
ished envelope in both hands, turned very white, 
beaded out all over his forehead with sweat, and sat 
down limply on the top step. 

She rescued his envelope and said: "If you'll 

819 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

give me your key, I'll go in and get you a drink of 
water." 

He said, ^^ Just a minute," and before the expira- 
tion of that time, got to his feet again, unlocked the 
door, and with a ceremony pathetically out of place 
in the circumstances, ushered her in ahead of him. 

The little shop was pretty well filled up witli 
bulky objects which she classified loosely as ma- 
chinery, but there were two chairs — one with a 
cushion in it, in front of an old black walnUt table. 
In order to get him to sit down she promptly took 
the other one. 

^^his is made out to me," she said, taking the 
check from her wrist-bag, "so I'll have to endorse 
it." She reached over and helped herself to a pen. 
"Shall I say, *Pay to the order of Major March?' '* 

"Yes," he said blankly, "that's all right." 

When she pushed it over to him, he picked it up, 
but almost instantly laid it down again and drew 
a trembling hand across his forehead. Then, with 
an astonishing intensity, his eyes fairly burning 
into her, he demanded, "There's nothing funny 

2^0 



i 




"This is no joke? That's a good check? I can get the money?" 



INTERVENTION 

about this, is there? This is no joke? That's a 
good check? I can get the money?'* 

"Joke !" she gasped. iThen, very simply, **It's a 
good check. They're the biggest firm of jewelers 
in the city. It's quite all right." 

He offered no apology for his questions ; just sat 
there drawing in one long breath after another. 
After a moment he pulled the papers out of the 
envelope he'd brought in with him, and once more, 
unconsciously, began crumpling them. 

"Oh, please don't do that!" Celia cried, and 
would have rescued them from him. But he chucked 
them bodily into a waste-paper basket. 

"They're no good now," he said. "That check's 
the answer to them. It was a fool appeal I was go- 
ing to send out — ^hopeless, I knew, all the while." 

Then he got up and said, "I suppose you'd like 
to see about the place a little," and taking her as- 
sent for granted, began to point things out to her 
— ^a hydrogen generator, an electrical furnace — 
other things whose names were too unfamiliar to 
stick in her mind. 

221 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

But suddenly he stopped In full career, and said, 
as if it were what he had been talking about all the 
while, '^ou see, when a man really doubts himself, 
that's about the end of him. That's why my talk 
with Alfred Blair Saturday just about finished 
me. He's not one of these ordinary rich numskulls. 
He's a man of imagination — a big man. And he 
believed in me once. He was the only person who 
did. It's been, as much as anything else, the feel- 
ing that Fve got to justify that belief that's kept 
me going. I have kept going, and Fve got the 
things right that were wrong before. 

"But he didn't believe that when I told him so the 
other day. He was kind — ^he'd always be that — 
and encouraging. But it was quite plain that I'd 
become to him just one of those freak fool inventors 
that they make jokes about in the comic supple- 
ments — somebody to be sorry for and lend fifty dol- 
lars to and get rid of. 

"Well, it's pretty hard to believe a man is wrong 
when you see him surrounded with the evidence of 
his rightness about other things — see him making 

S2» 



\ 



INTERVENTION 

decisions, crisp and cool, and other people taking 
them without a moment's question. So I came away 
wondering if he wasn't right about me. That's 
why I went to pieces like that when you came' and 
told me he'd changed his mind." 

"But you didn't understand!" said Celia. "He 
didn't disbelieve in you. He told me that night 
that he thought probably you were right about it. 
But we're poor. Didn't he tell you that? We lost 
all our money. We're living in a little twelve-doUar- 
a~month flat out -near Humboldt Park. He's work- 
ing for twenty-five dollars a week — oh, but thirty ! 
He got a raise Saturday. So you see, it wasn't that 
he didn't believe in you." 

It had been a certain tense incredulity in his gaze 
at her, which had kept her piling up these confirma- 
tory details — ^a vaguely disquieting look. She was 
glad when he turned away. 

"But then, the two thousand dollars?" he asked 
suddenly, turning back again after a silence. 
"Where did that come from?" 

"Oh, that," she said, "was something that he in- 

S23 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

sisted was mine and wouldn't touch. It was mine, 
in a way, of course. So when he said he thought 
you were right about it, I went and got the money, 
without telling him, you see, and brought it to you. 
And I don't want you to tell him, either. Just 
write him a note that you've got the money for 
the test, and that you'll let him know how it comes 
out." 

*^Sit down for another minute," he said, and led 
the way back to the black walnut table, where the 
check lay, just as she'd pushed it over to him. *^ 
think I ought to tell you," he went on, **that any 
sensible man of business experience, if he knew 
about this transaction, would warn you very 
earnestly, not to go through with it. He'd beg you 
to pick up that check, if he were standing here, and 
put it back in your pocket. If he did, I shouldn't 
have a word to say, except to thank you for your 
kindness. That's wl^at I'll do if you pick it up and 
put it back in your purse now. I don't urge you to 
do it myself, because I absolutely believe that it's 
a safe, immensely profitable investment. But I'm 



INTERVENTION 

the only person in the world who believes that. 
Don't you want to take it back?" 

"No," said Celia. «I believe it, too." 

He picked up the check, folded it very deliber- 
ately, and put it in his pocketbook. Visibly he was 
thinking his way through the silence to something 
else. At last he said, "I'll do as you like about 
your husband, of course — ^tell him simply that Fve 
got the money to complete the tests; also, I'll tell 
him when they're successful. But, since you're a 
partner in this business, I'd like to notify you, too. 
Do you mind letting me have your address?" 

**Why," said Celia, "why — of course not. I — 
we'd be glad if you'd come and see us. And — ^and 
of course you may let me know as well as Alfred, if 
you like." 

He took the card she wrote for him and put it, 
too, in his pocketbook, with an air, somehow, of con- 
cluding the business between them as he did so. 

She got up and held out her hand to him. "Gk>od- 
by," she said, "and good luck ! And I hope you'll 
come out and see us." 

225 



n^ 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

She hadn't the kmit idea thmt he would. Sbe 
gare him the biTitation in an tmeasy attempt to 
obliterate the reason be had aTowed for ■iHng for 
her address. So that he ooold notify her as well as 
her husband of the snooess of his tests! (A, it waa 
natural enough that he should want to do that — 
especially considering how queer he was — a sort of 
sentimental recogniticm of her as a partner in the 
enterprise. If he'd just said something like that — 

It was his silence — his faflure to make that ob- 
vious little explanation, that made it seem queer. 
But even his queemess could hardly go to the 
length of a fear that her husband wouldn't tell her 
if the thing succeeded. 

He did run away with strange notions, though. 
His account of his scene with Alfred was so widely 
at variance with her husband's report of the casual 
encounter that had taken place between them. 

What had he meant by saying he had seen Alfred 
with all the evidences of his rightness about other 
things around him; making decisions that other 
people accepted? It must have been a most casual 

826 



INTERVENTION 

encounter, really. Hadn't Alfred said it took place 
in the street? The inventor might have walked 
along with him back to the office, of course. 

She stopped short on the way over to the street- 
car, from a sudden impulse to go back and ask the 
inventor one question. Had Alfred offered him 
fifty dollars? March hadn't said so in so many 
words. Alfred had treated him, he said, as the kind 
of inventor one offers fifty dollars to in order to get 
rid of. Of course it was an absurd idea. Alfred 
hadn't fifty dollars. She knew — didn't she? — ^al- 
most exactly, within a couple of dollars, how much 
he had on the last day before pay-day. 

All the same, it was a minute or two that she 
stood there fighting off that impulse to go back. 
And the real reason down underneath, why she did 
not go, was that she was afraid to. 



CHAPTER XI 



IN THE DAEK 



THERE is a widely hdd idea that we arrive at 
our convictions by piecing them together, 
matching up bits that fit, the way we solve picture 
puzzles. But in reality, convictions are live things, 
and they grow. Sometimes they're plants we get 
from the gardener and set out in a carefully se- 
lected spot, with an artificially enriched soil about 
their roots; sometimes they are weeds whose seed- 
ing is a mystery to us and whose rank growth is 
our despair. That is how a hateful conviction 
about her husband began to grow in Celia's mind. 

She could not have told, when first she saw it 
sprouting up, exactly what it was going to turn out 
to be. It was just a vague wonder, at first — some- 
thing not to think about. Something shaped like 
an interrogation point, which she had resolutely to 
ignore whenever she tried to tell herself, as she did 

828 



IN THE DARE 

more often every day, that she was completely in 
her husband's confidence, and he in hers. 

The thing had planted itself and begun to grow, 
although she didn't know it, at some time before her 
talk with March. 

This was evident from the fact that the invent- 
or's hints had found something in her that answered 
them — ^met them half-way. If the thing had not 
already seeded and sprouted in her, the notion 
would not have occurred to her, even though labeled 
preposterous, that Alfred might have offered Ma- 
jor March fifty dollars. 

And now that she loolped at it, she saw another 
stalk growing beside it — ^the question whether Al- 
fred's boss had really raised his wages last Satur- 
day, to thirty dollars a week, and if so, why he had 
forgotten to tell her. Forgotten ! And come home 
on a Saturday night without his week's, pay in his 
pocket! And looked so blank when she'd asked 
him for it ! 

She scolded herself furiously — ^was indeed, sin- 
cerely angry with herself — despised herself rather. 

SS9 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

It was her miserable feminine pettiness and suspi- 
cion and jealousy that were responsible. Women 
were like that, she supposed, and they'd just have 
to get over it, before the equality they were so fond 
of proclaiming nowadays would have any basis in 
fact. Love in them didn't breed a fine confidence in 
the object of it. It made them willing — eager, to 
impute the low-downest, meanest evasions and 
tricks. She remembered, years ago, having heard 
a boy say about a girl he'd quarreled with, that she 
was no gentleman. Did she want to give Alfred the 
right to say the same thing about her? 

A thorough dressing-down like that did her 
good. The first time she resorted to it, indeed, she 
thought it had effected a cure. This was on the 
afternoon of that very Monday when she took the 
two thousand dollars to Major March. She waited 
for her husband to come home that night, with noth- 
ing in her heart but a pure longing to make up to 
him in love and confidence, for the injurious mis- 
givings she'd harbored against him. 

But, just the same, when he, before she'd taken 

230 



IN THE DARK 

her arms away from around his neck, pulled out of 
his pocket a sealed envelope — a regular pay-en- 
velope — and tore it open and produced three ten- 
dollar bills, she sensed something a little unnatural 
about it all. If he'd gone to the cashier to get the 
money instead of the check as he'd promised, would 
the cashier have taken the trouble to put the money 
in an envelope? The pettiness of the doubt infuri- 
ated her, and she retorted on herself with a counter- 
attack. Wouldn't she have been just as suspicious, 
unworthy little fool that she was, if he'd taken 
three loose bills out of his pocket? Have wondered 
why they weren't in an envelope? 

She waited, breathlessly one might almost have 
said, to see whether he'd tell her that he'd heard 
from March ; assuring herself pretty often that of 
course he would, and finding herself believing, in 
between, that he wouldn't. She tried, off and on, 
to convince herself that there was no reason why he 
should. But this ground was untenable. 

He did tell her on Tuesday night — ^the very day 
he'd heard But not until quite late, after they'd 

2S1 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

gone to bed. It hadn't been a very jolly evemngi 
There was an uncomfortable sSent stretch after 
supper, which he'd broken up by suggesting the 
movies. They'd gone, and they hadn't been mudi 
amused. He had been as bored as she, she was 
sure. But it was he who had asked her what the 
matter was — ^why she hadn't liked it. 

"Oh," she exclaimed, **they're all so exactly alike, 
those people on the screen. They lie so much and 
believe each other so easily ! Somebody says some- 
thing that isn't so at all, but no matter how un- 
likely it is, the other person acts as if there weren't 
any possibility of doubting it ; goes on and believes 
it for years. I don't believe that people really can 
lie very much, or deceive each other very long, there 
are so many little ways of giving themselves away. 
That wife to-night, if she hadn't been bom an 
idiot, would have known." 

Alfred had had nothing to contribute to this con- 
versation at all, and they'd walked/ along home, 
locked up, undressed and gone to bed in an almost 
unbroken silence. It was then he said : 

2S2 



IN THE DARE 

"Oh, by the way ! I heard from March. He got 
his money.'' 

"His two thousand dollars?" It was curiously 
easy for her to manage that tone of cool indiiffer- 
ence. She despised herself, rather, for being able 
to act so well. "I suppose," she went on, "that the 
person who gave it to him must look pretty foolish 
to you." 

**0h, no," he said comforjtably, **not necessarily. 
NO) not a bit. There's a chance that he's made a 
perfectly corking investment. He probably got his 
pound of flelBh for it, all right." 

It occurred to Celia at this moment, that she'd 
made no bargain, expressed or implied, with the in- 
ventor; had simply given him the money. She 
didn't believe that he had noticed the omission 
either. 

^TUs speculation of hers occupied a rather long 
silence. Finally Alfred went on, jocularly — a little 
too jocularly, her ear told her. 

"So you see, we may make our everlasting for- 
tunes after all. I've got an iron-clad contract with 

233 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

him — not thai March would try to erade any sort 
of contract, or eren an obligation — that gives me 
half of whatever his invention brings in, cash, roy- 
alties, or stocks Old lady, we may get to be millicm- 
aires yet.** 

The only appropriate response Celia coold think 
of to this remark was a laugh of good-humored 
skepticism, and as she did not dare attempt this 
(feeling pretty sure it wouldn't sound as she meant 
it to) she lay still and waited. 

After another silence, he asked, '^o you wish 
we were?*' 

^^Millionaires? With a butler and a box at the 
opera and six motors?" 

"Oh," he said, "I didn't mean anjrthing fantastic. 
I meant, were you wishing it might run to enough 
to — put us back where we were — ^your old friends, 
the old way of living? Shall you be looking for- 
ward to it as something that would pull us out of 
this? That's what I mean. Are you getting sick 
of this?" 

The words gave Celia a chance to tell him what 

234 



I 



IN THE DARK 

she really did want. She'd hesitated to tell him be- 
fore, you will remember, that dream of hers about 
the two or three acres somewhere, from a reluctance 
to cut short his holiday. Well, whatever had come 
to take its place, his holiday was over — ^had been, 
now she came to think of it, for weeks. And this 
bubble of hope which Major March's invention had 
sent swimming before their eyes, was, no matter how 
illusory it might prove to be, a thing one could use 
for seeing all sorts of fanciful, roseate reflections 
in. Well, why couldn't she say to him: 

^^Darlingest, I wouldn't go back to that old way 
of living for a million dollars, or a hundred miUion, 
and you know it just as well as I do. It was a 
nightmare to you when we lived like that, and it 
wasn't to me. But it's grown to be a nightmare 
to me now since I've learned what really being alive 
means. But I do want to get away from here to 
somewhere where Uve growing things— young Uve 
things — ^will have a better chance ; more air and sun 
and cleanness than they'd have here. I don't want 
anything big — ^not too big for me to run myself 

235 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

while you're in town — but room enough for flowers 
and vegetables, and chickens, and a cow. And a 
baby, Fred.'* 

If she could have said that she'd have saved her- 
self some bitterly unhappy weeks ; could have said 
it aloud, that is. She did say it to herself almost 
word for word as I have reported it. But she 
couldn't say it to Alfred. And why? Well, she 
knew why. Because she believed he wasn't telling 
his true dreams and hopes to her. 

What she did say, with the kind of yawn one 
makes when he finds his teeth inclined to chatter, 
was: 

**0h, what's the use, Fred? You asked me that 
just the other night. You don't need to worry 
about me. It won't do any good in the first place, 
and there's no need of it, in the second. Of course, 
if this summer keeps on very hot, it won't be easy. 
This place gets like an oven about three in the 
afternoon, but I can go out in the park where it's 
as cool as anywhere. You're the one to worry about 

S36 




IN THE DARE 

really. You've looked awfully tired and pulled 
down the last week or two. Is it dreadfully hot in 
your oflSce?" 

He said, rather gru£9y, that he was all right, and 
she waited a good long while, lying very still, to 
see if he'd say any more. But he didn't. 

Well, then, the thing Celia had regarded, when 
she first saw its sprouts appear, as a noxious weed 
of suspicion, grew straight and tall and hard in 
fiber, until it was a great tree — ^a veritable oak of 
conviction. The conviction was that her husband, 
by means unknown, had recovered his former pros- 
perity, or at least a good part of it ; and that his 
reason for concealing the fact from her was a fail- 
ure to trust her — a fear that, given the chance, 
she would go straight back to the hard, artificial, 
pretentious life he had hated so. 

The conviction was fed and watered by nothing 
tangible enough to be called evidence. Indeed, 
when bits of evidence or opportunity to collect bits 
of evidence came her way she deliberately shut her 

237 



mid Humg^ hm biAM €i 9pttA, Ike 



1i file iMid beat hwMtuwUlj f'y*^?^ m 
mttf file fife wmdd lM:fe beat iapoHUe fo Ivr. 

ht \mA oerer lMiierc4 m lier — dUbrt bdeie m Hie 
iieir Cdia at ell; v^gnvkd bar noflf ee Hie old 



eoe in meiqiienidk^ waitnig only for Hie dmiee to 
tarn hedk to her true eolors. AD bar goennteee 
of good f aitihf flie ftDcEng end fdmidmig of tiie 
flaty the jojoof eeoeptance of hie porertj, the pee- 
fionete rentmciation of her old self, had availed 
nothing. 

She did ride out to that logical terminus some- 
times when she was alone, but the sound of his step 
on the stairs always brought her back to two quite 
simple facts: that she was in love with him and 
that he was in love with her. No asbestos fabric 
of mere ideas could withstand the white heat which 

288 



Ik 



IN THE DARK 

those two facts together generated. So, though 
she was indignant — tormented — humiliated, she 
was able, in some mysterious way, to snatch some 
hours out of the twenty-four of pure happiness 
with him. 

She punished him in various small ways ; rubbed 
the drudgery of her domestic routine into him in 
subtle ways that concealed the intent behind them. 
For example, one hot night when he came home he 
found she hadn't cooked any supper. 

**The stove before and the dish water after," she 
8€ud, *Vas too much." If he didn't mind, they'd 
go round to Larry Doyle's and get something. 
**Out to a restaurant for dinner!" she mocked. 
**What shall we have? Let's see. Sweet-breads, 
saas cloche^ and hearts of lettuce with Thousand 
Island dressing, and a peach MeJba. Doesn't that 
sound good?" 

He winced at that, then said: ^^All right. Come 
along. We'll go to the Blackstone instead of to 
Larry's, and we'll have exactly that.'* 

S39 



4 ; I -^ « ! I I I M : ) 



» 



ra k M» One IB Mj flf He 



flD dbjt irailiBg for Mndbodf te d% 

JHB0U JUKI it DflODCBCO «0 DdK* 

flM^d lof« to 09 to flie Hbdbbne. flhe 
• k»k tbit %7 i-g»ay a»Uyt .ibnl ^ «. 
iftlr irilit liif T both nccJrJ As f «r doditt. cf 
eooTfe ben wcfe all ng^ 

So tibejr w«t aadlMid a llioimig^iljr goodfiiQe. 
jUid wheii AUrtd paid flie hill Cdia pretended to 
be looking another way. The entertaimnent cot no 
figure in their weekly aocotmts, and where the 
money it cost had come from was neither asked 
nor explained. Celia went on keeping accounts, it 
may be said^ but she no longer balanced them. 

The thing that made it possible, of course, to 
go on like this from day to day was that a crisis 
was clearly coming. When Major March had com- 
pleted his tests, and driven his bargain, and in- 

240 



IN THE DARE 

formed her of the result of it,^ something would 
have to happen. If the tests were successful, and 
the bargam a good one, and Alfred didn't tell her 
then — ! 



CHAPTER Xn 



THIS EJJEVExrra houb. 



JUST six weeks after Celia took bar two thoa- 
sand dollars to Major March — six weeks and 
one day, to be precise, bringing it upon a Tuesday, 
along about eleven o'clock in the morning, right in 
the midst of her week's ironing — she got the letter 
he had promised her. 

Her husband's manner for the past three or four 
days had led her to believe it was about due. It 
had been enigmatic — ^portentous of something — 
anyhow, a manner of visibly suppressed excitement, 
during the brief periods when she had seen him 
awake. He had been staying down-town evenings, 
and even on Sunday he had gone off about nine 
o'clock, to clean up some extra work, he'd said. 

She tore open the envelope in a tangle of contra- 
dictory emotions, feeling that good news would have 
so much bad in it, and bad news so much good, that 

242 



THE ELEVENTH HOUR 

she hardly knew what to hope for. It contained 
news at all events. 

*T] haven't a doubt,'* March wrote (evidently he 
could lie better on paper than viva voce)^ **that my 
tidings, as tidings, are superfluous. But as con- 
gratulations, you will accept them. The thing has 
come out beyond my hopes. Not the tests, which 
your faith made possible. They showed precisely 
what I knew they wbuld. But the bargain we were 
able to drive on the strength of them. 

"That was all your husband's doing, of course. 
The eagles would have made a meal of me and left 
little but bones. But in Blair's office, seated about 
his broad mahogany board, where we have been 
rooted for the past four days, with important peo- 
ple clamoring for audience with him on other af- 
fairs, it has been easy to feign an Olympian In- 
difference as to whether our capitalists accepted 
our terms or left the opportunity to other and 
wiser men. Even I managed not to gasp, at least 
not so that It showed, when Alfred announced the 
wiinininTTi which we would accept as a tradiilg basis. 
There are still a few details to be ironed out, but 
the essentials are all agreed upon* 

«43 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

^nVe get fifty thousand doOars in cash — to be 
divided equaUy, of course, between Alfred and me 
— ^forty-eight per cent, of the stock in the com- 
pany to be formed, and a royalty of five per cent. 

^'I realized yesterday afternoon, for the first 
time, that between you and me no bargain had 
been struck* I shall, of course, return to you, as 
soon as I receive my check — to-morrow, I hope — 
the two thousand dollars on which the whole trans- 
action pivoted. As to the further share which is 
rightfully yours, I suggest that, since you are 
probably a worse bargainer than I, we refer the 
matter to Alfred. And I only wait your release 
from the seal of confidence which you imposed upon 
me to take it up with him. 

*^I am, with a deeper and more whole-souled lat- 
itude than it is possible for me to express, 

"Yours most sincerely, 

"Majoe March.** 

The main purport of this extremely explicit let- 
ter went by Celia almost uncomprehended. What 
her mind fastened upon were two or three phrases 
near the beginning that dealt with Alfred's already 
attained prosperity. His "broad mahogany board" 

244 



^ 



THE ELEVENTH HOUR 

in a private oflSce, where they'd all been rooted for 
the past three or four days. The Important people 
outside clamoring for audience with him and not 
getting It, obsequious secretaries and stenographers 
hovering about. He was sitting there like that 
now — ^whlle she Ironed his shirts. He'd been there 
yesterday — ^whlle she had washed them. It had 
been a steaming hot day yesterday. For how many 
weeks — ^months — ^had the farce been going on? 
Had It ever been anything but a farce? 

Well, yes, It had. She recalled with a hot fierce 
relish the night of their talk after her dinner-party. 
The agony there had been In his voice when he 
told her he couldn't stand the hell he'd been living 
In any longer. It was she who had pulled him 
out of that hell and given him a taste of Paradise 
Instead. It had been a Paradise. There could be 
no doubt about that, either. 

And this was how he had repaid her ! With dis- 
trust, deceit — oh, downright lies. Making a fool 
of her with his precious thirty dollars a week in 
an envelope! 

246 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

Well, she had him now, as the saying is, to 
rights. She'd wait a little longer, until she was 
sure he had received his twenty-five thousand dol- 
lars. And then she'd ask him, casually, how the 
great invention was coming along. And when he 
said it wasn't coming, or that those things took a 
long while, and one couldn't expect anything yet, 
she'd show him Major March's check for her two 
thousand and ask him how about that. 

She went on embroidering this lugubrious fancy 
for a while in the half-hearted belief that she found 
a sort of satisfaction in it. But she gave up the 
attempt at last and whole-heartedly wept. 

What presently dried her tears and flushed her 
cheeks with a new fury of exasperation was the 
dazzling perception that the thing wouldn't come 
out that way at all. The picture she had been 
making up was as false as any movie she had ever 
looked at. Alfred wouldn't lie to her in that whole- 
cloth sort of way. He wouldn't be silly enough 
to try to get away with that. He'd tell her the 
truth, or as much of it as he thought expedient, 

246 



k 



THE ELEVENTH HOUR 

and use it as a blanket for his past deception. He'd 
flaunt his check very likely before her eyes with a 
"Here we are, old lady. We can get a fresh start 
with this — set ourselves up in business. Cautiously, 
of course, perhaps not making any very great 
change in our way of living just yet." 

There was something subtly infuriating about 
that picture and it made Celia see red. But there 
was a way to demolish it. And the time to demolish 
it was now. She washed her face, dressed, and, 
without wasting a move or a minute, unless you 
can consider wasted the ironic glance she allowed 
to rest upon the abandoned ironing-board, she went 
down-town to her husband's oflSce. 

She went with no definite idea of what she was 
going to find, and with no plan at all as to what 
she'd do when she found it. She knew where to go. 
At least, where to go first. She'd been to the place 
just once, and that visit was made within a fort- 
night of the time Alfred answered the blind adver- 
tisement in the News and got his job at twenty-two 
dollars and a half a week. It wasn't a very pleas- 

247 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

ant experience, since the foreman of the room, of 
whom she'd had to inquire for him, had growled, 
and indeed, had made it explicit that he didn't care 
to have his employees' time frivolously broken in 
upon. And Alfred's fellow draftsmen, who had 
taken up the cry for him and sent it rolling down 
the room, had acted like a lot of sophomores. Nat- 
urally fi^e hadn't gone back. 

She had used to lunch with him occasionally in 
those early days, but their meetings were effected 
by her stopping at the drug-store on the ground 
floor of the building and telephoning up to him. 
To-day, carried on by a current which cared noth- 
ing for foremen or sophomoric young men at draft- 
ing-tables, she boldly pushed open the never-for- 
gotten door, and at a desk in a corner inquired of 
a foreman (the desk was the same, but the foreman 
was different) for Mr. Alfred Blair. 

"A. C. Blair?" questioned the foreman. "You'll 
find him down-stairs where the general offices are. 
This is just the drafting-room up here. Same door 
as this, one story down." 

^48 



THE ELEVENTH HOUR 

She went down one flight and opened the corre- 
sponding door she was directed to. She found her- 
self in the railed-out space of a very big room — 
it was a dignified mahogany fence, rather than a 
rail. Inside it there were a great many desks and 
a great many people. Some of them rather im- 
pressive-looking people, too. But none of them, 
she was able swiftly to assure herself, was Alfred. 
There was a door, though, down at the end, marked 
"A. C. Blair. Private." 

"Who was it you wanted to see?" a languid voice 
inquired. 

Turning in the direction the voice came from, 
Celia confronted a young lady at the telephone 
switchboard. 

"Pd like to speak to Mr. Blair, if you please," 
Celia said very politely indeed. 

"He's in an important conference," said the 
young lady, "and can't be disturbed." 

"Very well," said CeUa. "Pll wait." 

There was a hard mahogany bench outside the 
rail where persons were, it appeared, at liberty to 

249 




IkoJog tiie bettor pot «f n iMir dttt Cda ait 
flicre tibe imgnMinffif of bar bnbmdPs iwlaliwi 
WM f nrtiiar icfodcd tn bcr. I44b «f P^op^ tried 
to tfllk to bioi cpvcr ui0 tdipttMM^ oaly to be toned 
9mvj m moet inrfiifrf wilb tibe eme f unnabi Ast 
bad beea need for ber« 

AnoUier fbiii|f Cdui hfrMHP swave of^ timngh 
00I7 Tagudyy was fbat abe bcndtf waa an objeet 
of eome eorioettf. A maa f nm one of tbe ded^a 
down near tbe prirate door came oat and bad a 
low-voiced colloquy with the telephone girl, and 
then came over to her. Since Mr. Blair was busy, 
could no one else attend to her business for her? 
When Celia said it was Mr. Blair himself whom 
she wished to see, he told her that if she wished 
to give her name the girl would telephone it in. 
But Celia said this wasn't necessary. She would 
wait. 

250 




THE ELEVENTH HOUR 

She didn't mind waiting, as a matter of fact. 
She could afford to wait. Because when she did 
see him, at all events when he saw her, her vengeance 
would be instantaneous and terrible. He'd stand 
there before her red-handed, as it were. 

It was with a startling suddenness that the tele- 
phone girl finally spoke to her. "There's Mr. Blair 
coming out of his office now," she said. "He seems 
to be going out. But you can speak to him if you 
like. He'll come this way." 

And then followed what were, I think, the most 
eventful thirty seconds in Celia Blair's life. All 
she did with them was to get up and walk swiftly 
across the railed-out space to the telephone girl's 
desk and stand there, leaning over the switchboard, 
with her back to the little gate Alfred was coming 
through, as well as to the door he was going out of. 

Also, she said to the telephone girl, with a mirac- 
ulous kind of^mile, "I'll wait till another time, I 
think, when he isn't so busy." 

Of course, the important thing was what she did 
not do. She did not lay the irreparable ax to the 

261 



THE TH0^0^6HBBED 

tfiee of tiicir mutual km and c onfl d f i ice and hap- 
ptnesf. 

I thinky in all VSuXboodf it waa tiiafc new sym- 
pathy wHhy and kmgmg f ory and understaodnig of, 
lite growing things whidi had spnmg vp wiUun 
her with the apring of the year, that scfed her. 
A oomprdiension of the fact that idnk joa eoold 
heir maiUe, or pour iteel into forms pres^ibed by 
logic of a hard geometry, you ooold not deal witti 
living things like that. Things that were alive 
co|ild be killed. 

She' didn't think it out during those thirty sec- 
onds. All she had was a brilliant vision of what 
Alfred's face would look like when he saw her stand- 
ing there confronting him. After that, until the 
door into the corridor had closed behind him, she 
merely prayed that he wouldn't think of some last 
message to leave with the telephone girl and come 
over and see her there. 

She sat down again for two or three minutes^ 
after he'd gone, and then went home. 

She found him there waiting for her. He'd 

252 



THE ELEVENTH HOUR 

driven out, it seemed, in a taxi, and had had time 
to get rather worried. Not because she was away 
from home in the middle of the day, but because the 
look of the place indicated that she'd abandoned it 
in a hurry. 

"It was pretty hot,'* she said. **I went out for 
some air. But you — ! Home like this ? Nothing's 
gone wrong, has it?" 

"No," he said, " — right. I've got some things 
to tell you." 

She cried out. "You don't mean Major March? 
Not the great invention?" 

"Yes," he said, ^there's that. We cleaned it up 
this morning. I've got a check for twenty-five 
thousand dollars in my pocket. Thought perhaps 
you'd like to have a look before I banked it. But 
let's not get started on that yet. There's something 
else." 

From the burning intensity of the look in her 
wide-open eyes he turned away — ^walked off to the 
window. And there, with many baitings and stum- 
blings, began telling her thie story you know al- 

^53 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

ready : how his first promotion had seemed so inse- 
cure that he'd put off telling her about it. How, 
when the day came that he needed capital for buy- 
ing into the business, the very ease with which he'd 
got it made him seem rather a fool. Feel at least 
that he'd look rather a fool to her, and would make 
her suspect that the uprooting of their former life 
had been less the necessity he'd painted it than a 
sort of temperamental brainstorm on his own part. 
How, finally, he'd loved it so — exactly as it was, 
this new life of theirs — ^that he had, out of sheer 
cowardice, put off telling from day to day the thing 
that would make a change. 

"I knew I had nothing to be afraid of, really 
— that no material change, I mean, could alter the 
essentials of this new thing of ours. I funked it, 
really, as one does the dentist. I've paid for it 
— I hope you'll believe that — exactly as one pays 
for putting off the dentist. The longer I put it 
off the worse it hurt, and the worse I knew it was 
going to hurt. But — ^well, the tooth's out now! 

g54 



/ 



THE ELEVENTH HOUR 

You will forgive me, won't you? Oh, I know you 
wilir 

He turned and looked at her then, and fairly 
cried out, she had gone so white. Naturally enough 
— only he couldn't understand — ^with the sense of 
the dreadful nearness of the peril she had escaped. 
But she came straight into his arms and he at- 
tributed the whiteness to the heat. 

"We've got to get out of this," he said, "that's 
clear enough. But where we go, and how we live, 
that's in your hands." He kissed them both, and 
his voice broke. "In your hands, my dear." 

Then, to get her quiet, he told her about the 
car he'd bought. They'd promised it for to-day, 
and he was furious because they'd failed him. But 
to-morrow, they said, was sure. He'd abandon the 
office for a week, and they'd take a little trip. 
Where would she like to go? 

"We might cruise around," suggested Celia, 
"and look at places where we could live — ^not too 
far away from town for you to come in, but far 

265 



'd 



• I f-^ I i i>\ 







fppomm — iamamfmid 

A €oif # Asa ft DMDjr* 

mU tiie jcudiy and ipnc Ae tw tihoonad doflns 
to Major Matdk* 

^^Olit Ifajor dUfart giwie jm cwsyf be aamed 
hor* ^^Baty of eocme, what tlie tests tamt out tibe 
wmj ibej did mad I saw whst we luidy I talked Um 
where he^d got the money. How modi b^d had 
to pay for it* Because, of course, what he had had 
to pay ought to come out of my share as well as 
out of his. His way of refusing to tell me was so 
impressive — religious, you might ahnost call it — 
that it would have given almost anybody a hunch. 
And then, when he swore that the person who had 
given him the money hadn't driven any bargam 
for it at all, it struck me that there wasn't any- 
body else — couldn't be anybody else who'd be — ^ 

256 



THE ELEVENTH HOUR 

"Fool enough," Celia put in contentedly. 

"Oh, well," he said, "I don't care what name you 
call it by." 

He found out about her visit to the office, too. 
No later than next day. "That stenographer of 
mine," he said, "has got a queer bee in her bonnet. 
She swears that you were in my office yesterday 
morning, and that you waited there for an hour 
to see me, and then went away." 

"It must have been a lady, then, I suppose," 
mused Celia. "Somebody all dressed up, probably, 
and terribly excited because they wouldn't let her 
in. But what made her think it was me? She's 



never seen me." 



"Well, of course," said Alfred, "there are three 
pictures of you on my desk." And then, meeting 
her eyes, he cried out, "It was you !" 

Well, the new car had arrived by then, and what 
with the excitement of getting ready for their trip 
and preparing the feast that Major March had 
been invited to for that night, and the delirious 
bliss of just dropping everything now and then and 

257 



THE THOROUGHBRED 

looking at each other, I suppose it is no wonder 
that they failed to treat that potential and so nar- 
rowly averted tragedy as soberly as it deserved. 
Indeed, beyond a guilty laugh from Celia, and a 
wry grin and an exclamation from Alfred, they 
didn't treat it at alL 

Two or three nights later, though, out in the 
coimtry and under a very fine yellow moon, in the 
course of talking over the whole adventure, he 
asked her why she let him off like that« 

She said, with more meaning in her voice than 
there was in the words, "Oh, what would be the use? 
You may find me some time where you could smash 
me flat, or I find you. But I don't believe there's 
anything immoral about not paying off grudges, 
do you ? There's something in the Bible about that. 
And don't you think we're both much nicer this 
way than we would be — crushed?" 

He couldn't take it as lightly as that, but his 
feelings wouldn't go into adequate words. 

"You little thoroughbred," he said. 

THE END 



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