Keep Your Card in This Pocket
Books will be issued only on presentation of proper
Unless labeled otherwise, books may be retained
for two weeks. Borrowers finding* books marked, de-
faced or mutilated are expected to report same at
library desk; otherwise the last borrower will be held
responsible for all imperfections discovered-
'The card holder is responsible for all books drawn
Penalty for over-due books 2c a day plus cost of
Lost "cards and ciiange of residence must be
ported prompfy. ( , '
Kansas City, Mo.
3 1148 0098
SEP 22 S S
-N jtf t __.
A NOVEL BY
Simon and Schuster, New York,
ABOUT THE APPEARANCE OF BOOKS IN WARTIME
A recent ruling by the War Production Board has cur-
tailed the use of paper by book publishers in 1943 and
In line with this ruling and in order to conserve
materials and manpower, we are co-operating by:
1. Using lighter- weight paper, which reduces the bulk
of our books substantially.
2. Printing books with smaller margins and with more
words to each page. Result: fewer pages per book.
Slimmer and smaller books will save paper and plate
metal and labor. We are sure that readers will understand
the publishers' desire to co-operate as fully as possible
with the objectives of the War Production Board and
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
INCLUDING THE RIGHT OF REPRODUCTION
IN WHOLE OR IN PART IN ANY FORM
COPYRIGHT, 1944, BY SIMON AND SCHUSTER, INC.
PUBLISHED BY SIMON AND SCHUSTER, INC.
ROCKEFELLER CENTER, 1230 SIXTH AVENUE,
NEW YORK, 20, N. Y.
PRINTED AND BOUND IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BY THE HADDON CRAFTSMEN INC., SCRANTON, PA.
The characters and situations in this work are wholly
fictional and imaginative: do not portray, and are not
intended to portray, any actual persons or parties.
Wait For Mrs. Willard
"I'D LIKE my library card, Charles," said Mrs. Willard. It was
not yet seven o'clock in the morning, but she was breathing
hard. Her husband, as usual, noticed nothing.
"Certainly, dear/ 5 he replied, turning with a gleam of his
glasses to remove it from the edge of his bedroom mirror.
"When youVe taken out the books, you will remember to
give it back to me so that I can keep track of the date, won't
Mrs. Willard's expression, in anticipation of argument,
was already stubborn. She pushed back her slender shoulders
and set her small chin forward. Her face, in repose that of a
wistful small girl looking for a friend an expression some-
how intensified by the five solemn freckles on her slightly
tilted nose bore marks of long-continued strain, and even
the timidly curling hair about her temples wore its natural
brightness with an odd appearance of apology. Her tone,
however, was firm.
"I am not going to take out any books today," she said.
"What?" Mr. Willard stared at her, his small black eyes
seeming to grow smaller and blacker. "Then what do you
want with your card?"
"I want to put it in my purse. Yesterday I wanted books,
and I didn't have my card. Last week I wanted books, and I
didn't have my card. The week before that "
Mr. Willard turned his back on her. "You are quite well
aware of my reasons for keeping your card. If you had any
sense of responsibility in financial matters "
Mrs. Willard breathed harder. "Financial "
Her husband lifted a hand for silence. "A library fine to
you is nothing. To me, as to any responsible person, it repre-
sents waste. I will not permit waste in my household to satisfy
a whim of yours, my dear. I am the head of this house. If you
wish books, ask me for the card in the morning, take out the
books, and return me the card when you come home in the
evening. That is all."
"I won't/' said Mrs. Willard.
"Eh?" He turned, his spectacles flashing, to look at her.
"I earn my own money. I pay my library fines if I have any."
This was true. Mrs. Willard was a compiler of indexes.
She worked every day in the offices of a publisher who issued
semiannually a cumulative bibliography of scientific publica-
tions. She was paid thirty dollars every week, and five dollars
of this she was always allowed to keep. Her husband, who
earned a somewhat larger sum, also limited himself to five
dollars weekly. All the rest of their joint income went into
what he called their common fund, a term highly irritating
to Mrs. Willard, to whom "common" seemed a bizarre adjec-
tive to apply to a fund.
"If you won't give me my library card to do as I see with
fit," she cried, beginning to stammer a little, "I'll I mean,
to do as I see fit with 111 tell them it's lost and pay the fee
and get a duplicate and "
Mr. Willard darkened visibly. "Do you want me to swear
at you?" he demanded, for he could be ruthless.
"If you like," she replied recklessly.
"That will be nice for the children to hear, won't it?"
Mrs. Willard made an exasperated gesture; there were
times, really, she thought, when Charles had to be heard to
be believed. This was, she supposed, what those had meant
who once had warned her that Mr. Willard was "of another
generation." Mention of the children, nevertheless, was
ordinarily enough to quell her. It was not so today. Her mind
was made up. "I want my "
The hall clock struck seven. Not a moment longer, though
ready to bleed and die for principle, could she remain. The
publisher's office was an hour's ride away, and Mrs. Willard
was expected to punch the time clock at eight.
She was very good at indexing. Lessons learned on the rack,
if the pupils survive, are said to be lasting; and Mrs. Willard's
mind, originally constructed for registering things like new
toadstools in moss and the improbable ears of cocker-spaniel
pups, had learned indexing on the rack. It was a durable
mind in spite of its deceptive delicacy, and it had survived,
though not without trauma. It was a little worn here and
there, so that it incurred library fines, lost track of telephone
bills, and neglected to remind her to order starch. Mrs. Wil-
lard was philosophic about it as a rule, for she understood
that even excellent machinery may be expected to show wear
after being driven for years by such a driver as Charles.
This was indeed the picture she had of her mind, a machine
driven inexorably by her husband. How such a state of things
had come about she was not sure. There had been a few
dreadful years in which nobody wanted either of their minds,
and Charles, who was much older than Mrs. Willard as well
as far less elastic, and who prior to the economic cataclysm
had been a professor of archeology, took this to be tragic. In
fact, for some time it appeared that he had taken it to be final,
for he went to bed and remained there seven months. This
was a true hibernation, taking place in the bitterest winter
known to Chicago, that city of bitter winters, for eleven years,
and it was during this period that Mrs. Willard committed
her two crimes.
She was inclined to think that the humility which placed
her library card at Charles* disposal dated from her first
realization of her true character as thief and trickster. Guilty,
she had quickly formed the habit of fleeing, and Charles was
not the man to miss so obvious an opportunity to get the
reins, as he would have expressed it, into his own capable
Not that Charles had ever known of either o her crimes.
Mrs. Willard turned cold at the thought. Strangely enough,
the first of these, an actual theft, had not much disturbed her
conscience. It was only a thirty-five-cent theft, and she had
long ago returned this amount in stamps, wrapped in a sheet
of paper labeled, with dogged conventionality, "Conscience
It had taken place on the day before Christmas, when she
was wearied out with 3. long day of battering her way through
the frantic downtown crowds to make the few piteous pur-
chases that would represent the bounty of Santa Glaus to her
two fortunately very young children. The boy, Richard, she
had successfully provided for. The baby, Laura, had set her
heart upon a doll popular that year because of her indelicately
lifelike habits and known by the consistently indelicate name
of Petsy Wetsy.
Petsy Wetsy cost, according to size, from three to fifteen
dollars. Mrs. Willard, limited to seventy-five cents, had
already made heroic progress toward assembling a pass-
able counterfeit. For fifty cents she had bought a rubber
baby somewhat resembling the dewy darling of the season;
with a pair of manicure scissors she had performed the slight
operation necessary to enable this doll to function acceptably,
and with the remaining twenty-five cents she had bought a
little knitted sacque of pink wool and a generous length of
pink satin ribbon. Diapers were made at home, defiantly out
of Charles* handkerchiefs; there was lacking but one detail,
an important one. Petsy Wetsy lay on a magnificent fluffy
pink blanket, and the pink ribbon was intended to tie her
there. Mrs. Willard needed a pink doll blanket, and at the
end of her day of shopping, exhausted, aching, and rebellious,
she came upon an immense pile of them, radiantly pink, in-
effably fluffy, and marked down to thirty-five cents. She
looked at them hungrily and turned away. Then suddenly,
seized by an unfamiliar but heady impulse, she returned to
the table, folded the top blanket to a convenient size, laid it on
top of her little heap of parcels and walked out of the store.
She made no effort whatever to conceal it.
Her second and darker misdeed, which still dragged at her
mind like a weight of heavy metal and brought the brackish
taste of metal into her mouth when she recalled it, was also
committed by Mrs. Willard in her maternal capacity. Phrases
setting forth the ennobling influence of motherhood had
since acquired for her an almost leering aspect of cynicism.
Her children had delighted, amused, disarmed, and awed her;
they had ravished her heart, and she loved them so deeply, so
nearly desperately, that she relinquished only with most wist-
ful regret the hope that they had perhaps, according to speci-
fications, also sanctified her. She was forced to conclude that
they had not, for concerning the baseness of her second
criminal transaction no two opinions could be held.
Christmas had marked the end of the Willards* resources;
their savings were gone, and they were stranded. Mrs. Wil-
lard read avidly the Male Help Wanted columns in the daily
paper, hoping to discover something that might entice into
vigor tfie reticent energies of her husband, who was still in -
bed, although he had become active enough to groan and did
so constantly. Several times she carried the paper in to him,
always timidly, for she was afraid of seeming to reproach him
in his misfortune, but although he looked at the item each
time he only groaned after doing so, and on the sixth occasion
he not only groaned but turned his face to the wall.
Mrs. Willard, with a strange feeling of uncertainty and
vertigo, left him and went down to the kitchen. She found
the children as she had left them, sitting in their high chairs
finishing their supper of oatmeal porridge. The cylindric
pasteboard carton that had contained the cereal lay on the
floor, rocking gently to and fro; Richard had knocked it oft.
the table with a flourish of his spoon* She picked it up and set
it absent-mindedly on a shelf; then, realizing that it was
empty, she dropped it into the wastebasket, sickness gathering
at her throat as it left her hand. There would not be many
more boxes of oatmeal. Then what of Richard behind the
tray of his high chair, industrious spoon upright in sturdy
fist? What of Laura with her blue eyes round and expectant
over her bib of Turkish toweling embroidered with two blue
Mrs. Willard moved to the fading light at the window and
stared out into the cold and barren twilight with eyes gone
brightly primitive. She did not think now of Charles. Her
young were at her breast again, squeezing her with soft fingers,
tugging at her, their confident eyes on hers, for the life that
she alone could give them. She snatched open the daily paper
and searched its columns anew. This time it was the Female
Help Wanted column that she read.
The beginning of the next week found Mrs. Willard in a
training class for saleswomen who were to distribute to the
public a one-volume encyclopedia for school children. Ten
days after this she was ready to sell. The price of the book was
ten dollars. For each copy sold she would receive three dollars
in advance, the customer's "down payment/* Her still buoy-
ant mind, rebounding joyously from the black moment in
her kitchen, found the devious sales talk endlessly diverting
and the nods and becks and wreathed smiles advocated by
Mr. Stapleton, the sales manager, entrancingly funny. The
whole affair seemed to her a cheerful game to be played
between the salesperson and the customer, with both sides
knowing all the rules and no holds, so to speak, barred; for it
was inconceivable to Mrs. Willard that anyone could fail to
perceive the absurdity of the premises upon which the sales
talk was based, in spite of the fact that Mr. Stapleton ap-
proached the subject with reverence and what amounted to
bating of the breath. The tendency of Mrs. Willard to treat
the sales talk with levity was to Mr. Stapleton the only source
of doubt about her success. In every other way he considered
her a find.
"You've got what it takes, Mrs. Willard/ 1 he assured her.
"I'm expecting big things of you right from the start/*
The start appeared to justify his most brilliant expecta-
tions. Mrs. Willard set forth on her first day's endeavor feel-
ing as joyous, friendly, energetic, and uninhibited as a healthy
puppy. She made three sales and trotted home in the winter
dusk entirely unfatigued, the miraculous nine dollars clutched
in her hand (not entrusted to her purse) and triumph singing
paeans in her heart. Pausing only to shop for dinner, she sped
home lightly, effortlessly, to the children and to Charles.
Charles, however, groaned more loudly than ever at this
accent set upon his destitution. "So it has come to this," he
moaned exhaustedly, "so it has come to thisl"
Mrs. Willard could not be instantly dashed from the
heights of her elation, but she was a little damped. "Where
are the children?" she asked as she took off her coat. "Did
you give them their lunch at noon?"
He nodded, wearily. "Asleep," he sighed.
She went into the nursery. Both children lay with flushed
faces, deeply asleep. Both had been crying, Richard apparently
with violence. They had been fed recently too recently;
there were drops of spilled milk on their rompers, and these
were still moist.
Mrs. Willard, no longer elated, covered them lightly and
went down to the kitchen, where she prepared a tray of
dinner for Charles and afterward ate a little, abstractedly.
There was a listening stillness at her heart, the beginning of
fear; for Charles, in the first articulate utterance he had
achieved in weeks, had borrowed three dollars of her. Sub-
sequently he arose and dressed and left the house, stirring up
in his wife's bosom a storm of hope; but an hour later he re-
turned bringing an imported bath towel of Scotch linen,
which he showed to Mrs. Willard before taking off the tag
marked "$3." "I have needed it for a long time," he ex-
plained, and returned to bed.
Hope woke within her next day, however, and she made
two more sales. With the acid memory of the first night's inci-
dent in her mind, she was cunning; she did not again carry
the money home but stopped at the grocery and spent it all,
together with what remained from her previous sales, for
packaged food and tinned milk. This food she hid and
hoarded like a squirrel, adding to the store a little nearly
every day at first. A little less each day, however; for Mrs.
Willard was frightened, and a frightened person cannot sell.
Mr. Stapleton was disturbed. "What's the trouble, Mrs.
"I don't know," she replied.
"Little out of sorts, eh? You made a grand start. Mustn't
lose confidence, you know; that'll get anybody down. We've
got the best little encyclopedia on the market none better
anywhere. Can't do anybody a bigger favor than to sell him
one. Yes, by golly, even if he doesn't want it you're still doing
him a favor. Remember that." He paused and looked at her
keenly. "If I were to guess what's wrong, Mrs. Willard," he
suggested, "I'd say you were struggling against some kind of
negative influence from outside yourself."
She did not reply.
"Don't you ever pay any attention to anything like that.
You know you can sell this book; you've proved it. Keep your
eye on that and forget everything else. You'll be all right,
Mrs. Willard. You'll be fine." He patted her shoulder kindly.
Thanks so much, Mrs. Willard thought satirically. Yes;
that is what I must do. Keep my eye on that and forget every-
thing else. Forget Charles lying at home in bed, groaning;
forget Richard and Laura neglected, needing me, not under-
standing, hunting for me, helpless, dependent on what little
attention Charles can spare them from his absorption in his
own despair; forget what it is like to whip my will into action
against the steady counterthrust of that despair; forget the
closed doors, the rudenesses, the insulting patronages; con-
centrate, concentrate, concentrate on selling this book, this
wonder of the ages, this three-pound compendium of all
wisdom. . . .
She gave up on the morning she found herself praying, as
she waited in the icy wind outside her first prospective cus-
tomer's door, that the customer would not be in. This, she
knew, was the end of her brief success, a defeat less bitter
than numbing; the long agony of gradually lessening con-
fidence had left her no strength for bitterness. But on the
next day and the next and the next, and for many days there-
after, she stayed at home. In vain Mr. Stapleton wrote, tele-
phoned, even came to call; in vain he argued, pleaded, swore,
and all but wept at this determined defection of the most
promising pupil in his latest class. Mrs. Willard would not
However, she made one more sale a sale that destroyed at
one blow her final chance of a saleswoman's career and her
patient hope that in spite of the pink doll blanket she was a
person of fundamental integrity. The stored food in the
pantry was running low. Mrs. Willard had formed a bleak
habit of making a daily definite report of the state of the
larder to Charles, who groaned. It had become a dreary
routine; at five o'clock in the afternoon Mrs. Willard would
appear at his bedroom door and announce that there was only
enough food left for six days, or five days, or four days;
Charles would groan, and Mrs. Willard would go down to the
kitchen to cook dinner. She did not know what her purpose
was in pursuing this course; she no longer really hoped to
rouse him. Her mind was" like a sailing vessel becalmed for
years in some impossible sea and beginning to decay.
There came a day at last when there was no food in the
house but a little cereal for the children's luncheon, part of a
loaf of stale bread, and a spoonful of tea. Tonight there would
be no cereal. Tonight the children would go hungry.
In the afternoon Mrs. Willard put on her coat and hat.
"Watch the children/' she said to Charles with unaccustomed
curtness. "I'm going out."
She took the now loathly prospectus from its shelf and
dusted it off. Mr. Stapleton had refused to take it back. "I'm
giving you time, Mrs. Willard," he had told her, more in
sorrow than in anger, "to come to yourself and get back on
the job. You keep that prospectus awhile. You'll use it again.
Let me hear from you."
In the back of the prospectus was a list of possible buyers,
names gathered for her use by scouts of the company. These
she had been accustomed to cross off after each interview.
The first name remaining was that of Mrs. Albert Peasley of
West Sixty-eighth Street. Mrs. Willard set forth in search of
The house was a shabby little place with a grocery on the
first floor. "Outside stairs," the woman in the grocery directed
her. Then, with a shrewd glance at the prospectus, "You
ain't goin' to sell no books up there, missus. They got eight
kids and he don't work steady."
Mrs. Willard smiled vaguely. "Thank you," she said, and
hurried out of the store to the outside stairs. If the Peasleys
had eight children, she could hear Mr. Stapleton saying firmly,
it was impossible that they needed anything more than they
needed the encyclopedia. They might think they did, but
they didn't. Future pundits, future statesmen, and she to give
them their start. Oh, thank you, Mr. Stapleton, you are such
a comfort! she thought savagely.
She knocked on the door. Mrs. Peasley came at once. She
was a thin, clean, anxious-looking woman in the late thirties,
with a disarming innocence and courtesy of manner. She had
been ironing; the clean folded garments, studded with neat
patches, hung here and there about the room. A half-grown
girl was winding a clock; she looked interestedly over her
shoulder, smiling politely. A twelve-year-old boy, reading in a
corner, got to his feet at his mother's admonishing look and
set a chair for the visitor. Several smaller children playing on
the floor arose and came with eager interest to peer over Mrs.
Willard's shoulder at the pictures in the prospectus. They
were nice children, intelligent and responsive. Perhaps, Mrs.
Willard thought wretchedly, perhaps this time there was
truth in what Mr. Stapleton would have said; where else
could fine children like these get so much for so little? But
ten dollars, Mrs. Willard now knew, is not little, even when
there are two children; when there are eight . . .
She shut her thoughts off angrily and began the meretri-
cious sales talk, displaying the wonders of the volume with
unscrupulous unction. Mrs. Peasley was as much impressed as
anybody could have desired; she exclaimed, she marveled, she
praised. There was reservation, however, in her gentle voice.
"My! It's a wonderful book/' she sighed. "It would be
grand for Albert junior. He's awful good at his books."
"Can we get it, Ma?" Albert junior put in excitedly.
Mrs. Peasley smiled apologetically. "I wish we could, son/*
she said. "It's a wonderful book, and here Mrs. Willard has
been so kind, taking so much time and all. But you know
your father can't get regular work " She looked plead-
ingly at Mrs. Willard. "And there's so many of them, you
Mrs. Willard hardened her heart. "I know, Mrs. Peasley/'
she murmured sympathetically. "But when a child is as ambi-
tious as Albert isn't it worth any sacrifice to "
Mrs. Peasley flushed painfully. "I'd want to do anything on
earth I could for the boy, God knows," she said.
"I'm sure you would. And do you know, Mrs. Peasley, I
think our sales manager, Mr. Stapleton, is right. He always
says, 'Where else can an ambitious child get so much for so
Mrs. Peasley twisted her apron. "Yes, that's so; it's a won-
derful book." She was silent a moment. "If Ma did get it for
you, Albert, it would have to be your birthday present."
Albert's eager expression altered, but only momentarily.
"That'd be O.K.," he said.
Mrs. Willard beamed at him with Mr. Stapleton's own
brand of approval. "There's a boy who's going to amount to
something," she said. Albert swelled with self-approbation.
Mrs. Peasley hesitated. "I wish I could. But ten dol-
"It's only three dollars down, Mrs. Peasley. You can pay the
rest in installments."
Mrs. Peasley shook her head. "No; I don't like to buy that
way. It's like a drag on me all the time. If I took it, I'd pay
for it when it come." She hesitated again, fingering the glossy
The girl spoke. "Ma, I think we ought to get it. Maybe
there's something in it that would help me with my geom-
"Indeed there is!" Mrs. Willard exclaimed. She turned
quickly to the section on mathematics, displaying the impres-
sive diagrams, the clear black printed explanations. BotK
the girl and her mother examined the page with awe and
"Why, Ma, it makes it just as clear!" the girl cried.
Mrs. Peasley half rose from her chair, glancing toward a
shabby black leather purse that lay on the mantel Then she
sat down again.
"I'd just love to," she said, looking at Mrs. Willard with
the beseeching eyes of a child anxious to please. "It's been a
real treat, seeing such a wonderful book and having you ex-
plain it so kind and all. I know it'd be grand for the children,
and maybe I'm doing wrong not to buy it. But I guess I can't.
I'm downright afraid to."
Richard and Laura will go hungry tonight. . . .
Mrs. Willard closed the prospectus and stood up. She
smiled, but it was a slightly altered smile, and there was an
intentional faint condescension now in her tone. "I am sorry,
Mrs. Peasley, and I am afraid you may be, someday. Your
neighbor downstairs in the store seemed to think that I would
find it useless to call on you " She paused to note the
effect of this. It told. Mrs. Peasley flinched a little; her eyes
fell, and she twisted her apron. "But I hoped, with so many
children to start decently in life " Mrs. Willard picked
up her purse and half turned as if to go.
Mrs. Peasley stopped her. "Let me see that geometry page
again," she said. She bent above it, trembling with hurt,
making a pathetic show of examining it with leisurely dignity.
"Albert, bring Ma her purse, please," she said too quickly.
She signed the dotted line with shaking fingers and took
out of the purse, one at a time, three worn one-dollar notes.
Mrs. Willard could see into the pocketbook; there was a little
loose change, but there were no other notes. She made an in-
voluntary half gesture of protest.
Richard and Laura will go hungry tonight. . . *
She clenched her teeth. "I'm sure you'll never regret this
investment, Mrs. Peasley/* she said. "Albert and all your
other children will thank you for it someday/'
Mrs. Peasley smiled with some stiffness. Her manner was
still courteous but no longer warm. "I don't know what my
husband will say, I'm sure," she replied. "But it's a wonderful
There was a sort of fury of extravagance in Mrs. Willard's
shopping that night. All through her early weeks of earning
she had bought frugally and cautiously. Tonight she reck-
lessly bought steak, vegetables, fresh milk, fruit, butter, eggs,
sugar, little cakes, jelly; and laden with this booty she went
home to feed her family. Grimly she fed them Mrs. Peasley's
pride, her peace of mind for many weeks, the hard labor of
her clean gnarled hands; implacably she watched them
devour Albert junior's birthday present and, one after an-
other, seven additional one-dollar notes drawn out of a
shabby purse, slowly, one at a time, with trembling fingers.
She herself dined on tea without sugar and three slices of dry
toast from the end of a stale loaf of bread.
SHE committed no further crimes, although a little later she
refused honorable employment. Charles' only sister, Laura,
was a widow who for years had held the same position, that of
personal secretary and companion to a wealthy semi-invalid,
also a widow, and who lived in pre-eminent comfort and
security on an immense luxurious estate. The increasing
invalidism of the mistress of the house had resulted in Laura's
eventually assuming complete superintendence; she directed
the housekeeping, employed and discharged the domestics,
and attended to her regular duties in addition. The cook had
recently left, and her vacant position, at twenty dollars a week,
Laura now offered (through Charles) to Mrs. Willard.
Mrs. Willard was more amused than indignant, but she ex-
pected indignation of Charles, and her astonishment at find-
ing him inclined to look with favor on this project deprived
her of speech long enough to enable him to point out a few
of its many advantages.
"She says you could have the children with you that is,
you could board them in the village. You would all be per-
fectly comfortable. It would mean a great deal to me, dear,
stricken as I am, to know that you and the children at least
were comfortable and secure." He paused, searching her im-
passive face for some sign of acquiescence. "We should never
be ashamed of any honorable work, my dear. And you could
give your maiden name. Or/' as Mrs. Willard's bosom heaved
and her eyes suddenly blazed, "a fictitious name, for that
"My maiden name," said Mrs. JVillard in a small tight
voice, "was Edith Pearce Armitage. Do you think that's a
much better name for a cook than Mrs. Willard? Whose idea
was it that I use my maiden name? Yours or Laura's?"
"Laura merely suggested "
Mrs. Willard's eyes filled and overflowed with furious tears.
All the strain, suspense, and weariness of the long winter, all
the humiliations and petty indignities she had suffered as a
saleswoman, all that she had endured through Charles* apathy
in the face of her struggles, rose in her throat and constricted
it, seeming to culminate unbearably in this final insult, this
monumental callousness from one of his family. "How dare
she! How dare she!" she gasped, sobbing.
Her husband stared at her in blank amazement. "Laura
meant no offense. She knew, naturally, that I would not
permit my name to be "
Mrs. Willard controlled herself and became icy. "I shall
never speak to her again. And I shall change the baby's
Mr. Willard flashed his glasses at her, severely. "This is
hysteria. Get hold of yourself. The child's name is fixed.
She was christened Laura, and Laura Is the name she will
"Then God owes her an apology," said Mrs. Willard, her
"He permitted it. It's His church, isn't it?"
At this piece of unexampled childishness Mr. Willard gave
her an expressive glance and left the room. His sister's letter
had caused him to leave his bed, for he knew that the supine
position is ineffective for one who wishes to take direction o
affairs, and he had meant to direct the usually pliable will of
his wife toward acceptance of Laura's offer.
Now, however, finding her without reason or sense, he did
not return to bed. He felt a sudden distaste for the idea.
Spring was rapidly approaching; the little pools of melted
snow were gold in the morning light, and he had always been
fond of walking In the sunshine. He would go for a long walk,
and perhaps on his return Mrs. Willard would have realized
that she had made a fool of herself. He was surprised at her.
He had never suspected her of snobbishness. And that non-
sense about her name. As though a name made a fig's worth of
difference, thought Charles impatiently. To be sure he would
not have allowed her to use his, but that was another matter
altogether, as anybody not a child ought to be able to see.
Why had women so little sense?
Mrs. Willard, meanwhile, was wondering whether she had
not indeed acted like the fool Charles obviously thought her.
Twenty dollars a week and safety for the children and what
did a name matter?
Yet it did matter. It mattered a great deal. It kept on mat-
tering. Nothing changed it. No logic influenced it. Mrs. Wil-
lard found herself immovably determined that she would
enter domestic service, if and when she entered it, as Willard,
She would not enter domestic service, however, without
making one more effort. She would put Charles* pride in her
pocket had he not been more than willing to do the same
with hers? and go to see Lloyd. She would ask him if he
could not find work of some sort for Charles.
Lloyd Willard, Charles' cousin, was a prosperous executive
In a chain of food markets. Mrs. Willard thought of him in
capitals, as the Meat Man. Every time his enormous, expen-
sively upholstered bulk loomed up in front of her the irre-
sponsible half of her mind set diligently to work, while the
other half listened with outward respect to his rumbling pro-
nouncements, to mark him off from head to foot in tidy sec-
tions, exuberantly labeling these Neck, Shoulder, Brisket,
Chine, Loin, Chuck, Rib, Round, Rump, and Shank. Having
accomplished this, it sat back and congratulated her briefly;
then it returned to mark down beneath the name of each sec-
tion the principal culinary qualifications of that part. This
regrettable segment of Mrs. Willard's brain had, among its
other eccentricities, a great liking for completeness, for get-
ting all the ends tucked in, and it had one perennial source
of frustration; namely, the fact that there was manifestly no
part of the prodigally lipid Lloyd that could be ticketed as
suitable for the construction of a good clear consomme.
Having reached, as usual, this impasse, it gave up and
relaxed into moodiness, and Mrs. Willard was free to listen
to her cousin-in-law as anybody else could have done from
Lloyd was not encouraging. "My dear girl, Charles doesn't
know one damn thing about business or food markets or
chain stores. What in tunket could I do with him in my
"I thought perhaps some small clerical job "
"Clerical job!" Lloyd barked mirthlessly. "Can he write?"
"I I think so," faltered Mrs. Willard.
"Figures, I mean, and words. As far as I can make out he
doesn't know a damn thing about anything but hyro
"Whatever the damn things are. Not a chance, my dear
girl, not a chance. Not a damn thing stirring. The only
thing I could possibly do with him would be to put him in
the headquarters meat market, where the packing employees
buy meat for their families, and I couldn't do that because
he's too damn high-hat. The first time he sent that cold boiled
gaze of his traveling down his nose in the direction of one
of those big boys he'd get his face bashed in, and serve him
damn well right. Besides, he couldn't do the work without
knowing something about cutting."
The insane half of Mrs. Willard's mind, immediately brisk,
popped Charles down behind a counter, put a cleaver in his
hand, tied a white apron on him, sprinkled him with saw-
dust, hung over his head a placard lettered EMPLOYEES' MEAT
MARKET, CHARLES EDWARD WILLARD, PH.D., DISPENSER, and Sat
down again, rubbing its hands. Mrs. Willard laughed
"Now, you," Lloyd continued, looking at her reflectively,
"that's different. Sensible girl, I take it. Not afraid of any
decent work, I take it."
"Yes. No," said Mrs. Willard.
"Know anything about shorthand?"
"Could you learn something about it?"
"I suppose so."
" L Work yourself up some shorthand and I'll find you a job
somewhere here at headquarters. It'll tide you over. Don't
worry about looking for anything else right now. Charles
was in here yesterday to see me." He nodded with heavy
significance. "Didn't tell you? No, of course not. Hates to
admit a low-brow cousin can come in handy, I reckon. Well,
maybe hell learn maybe he'll learn. He was always the
grand boy for his books, and his folks favored him too much.
Spoiled him rotten, In fact. G'by." He shook hands with
THUS passed the Willards' period of near destitution, and so
began a period scarcely less troubled, during which Mrs.
Willard learned a great deal more than shorthand. She
learned, first of all, that her puckish pleasure in subdividing
Lloyd was a thing of the past. Not even her irresponsible
mind was capable of regarding a man to whom she was
Indebted with anything but soberness. If she had been able
really to like Lloyd it might have been different, but she did
not really like him; she only found him a relief after Charles.
At the headquarters office she saw a good deal of him. She
thought him noisy and arrogant and inexcusably incon-
siderate of his workers and more than a little ridiculous, but
she could not laugh at him; what she saw engendered only
Soberness, indeed, that alien characteristic, became more
nearly a habit with Mrs. Willard than she had ever imagined
was possible, for in the long hard curriculum of those months
there were lessons to try the stanchest. She learned to work
all day under heavy pressure and go home to several hours of
cooking and housework accompanied with lectures from
Charles on the necessity of standing on her dignity even
in her present position and allowing nobody to impose upon
her. She learned to rise before it was light to prepare the day
as well as she could for her family and to control the nausea,
mental and physical, that automatically assailed her at
thought of her own day. She learned what it meant to leave
her little children, all day and every day, in the care of a
man who had no gift for parenthood.
More often than not when she returned at night the eyes
of Richard and Laura were dark with bewildered reproach
and their round cheeks grimy with tearstains. Too often, as
she approached the house, she heard a shriek from one of
them or a bellow of fury from Charles, for screaming at them
had become a habit with him. She learned what it was to feel
red hate surge up behind her eyeballs as Richard, ordered by
his father to replace a certain book in a certain exact spot in
a large bookcase, could not find the place and begged her in
panic terror to help him, whispering frantically: "Mother,
Mother, show me where it is, Mother show me where it
is!" Mrs. Willard, lying in the dark that night with Richard's
stubby little head pressed tight against her shoulder, writhed
on her pillow; what happened when she was not there to
This state of affairs reached a wry climax, tragicomic, as
Mrs. Willard's climaxes were likely to be, late in the summer.
She heard the children, not one but both, crying wildly as she
came up the walk one evening, and she began to run. As she
reached the door there came a man's roar of rage and mount-
ing shrieks from the children. Her hand shook so that she
could not manage her latchkey. Dropping her purse and
newspaper on the porch floor, she seized the key with both
hands and at last managed to open the door. At the sound
of her entrance the children began crying, "Mother! Mother!"
She flew up the stairs and snatched them into her arms. She
could not speak. She could only glare at her husband, whose
face was livid with rage.
"Do you know what those damned little fools have done
now? I warn you here and now, my dear, that 111 teach them
to keep out of my room if I have to break their damned
meddlesome little necks. Look at my bed!"
Mrs. Willard, over the heads of the screaming, clinging
children, looked at the bed. The spring was broken, so that
the mattress sagged down in a deep hole in the middle. She
remained silent, knowing it useless to remind him that in
his moments of good humor he permitted and even encour-
aged them to romp on the beds. She turned her back on him
without a word and led the children downstairs.
She had much ado to quiet them this time; they were
beside themselves. Richard clung and clung, pressing his
fingers into her neck and holding her as if he would never
let her go. Laura at last subsided into a pathetically patient
attitude with her little hands folded and her lower lip trem-
bling. Mrs. Willard tried to feed them, but they could not
eat. Both fell asleep within a few minutes after they had
Later, twisting her handkerchief into a hard ball as she
gazed out into the dark and windy night, Mrs. Willard made
up her mind. She would leave her husband. She would take
the children and go the next day, as soon as he was out of the
house. She would go to work as usual, then return home on
a plea of illness. Charles would have gone then; he had
formed a habit of going for his constitutional and presum-
ably to look for work at about nine o'clock every morning.
A high-school girl of the neighborhood had been engaged to
look after Richard and Laura for three hours each day.
She had no idea where she would go, except that she would
leave Chicago. She had no idea what she could do, with two
small children and no work. She knew that she might be
driven to go on relief. "But I could use my maiden name,"
she thought viciously. She did not know, even, that she could
protect her children from outrage any better in another place
than here; well, if not, there was always one way she could
protect them. Mrs. Willard looked despair in the face and,
like many another beleaguered heart before her, found it less
dreadful than perpetually sinking hope. At least from now on
her life should be her own, a clean and separate thing; her
children, while she had them, her own.
She arose and left the house next morning with her deter-
mination unaltered. At a little after nine o'clock she returned.
She dismissed the girl, who was reading to the children in the
bay window, and set about her packing. Richard and Laura
followed her about, questioning.
''We're going away. Yes, on the train. To Milwaukee, I
think. Yes, it's a city. No, Daddy isn't going. Just Mother
and the babies/'
Richard stopped short, directly in front of her. "Poor
Daddy?" he inquired uncertainly.
"Poor Daddy! Po-o-o-r Daddy!" echoed Laura in tones of
intense pity, shaking her head.
"Daddy won't know where we are!" Richard pointed out.
"Daddy can't find us!" Laura instantly supported him.
"He'll look all over the house," Richard argued. "He'll
look everywhere and everywhere and in the basement! and
hell say, 'Where's Mother? Where's the babies?' Poor
Laura supplied the antiphon. "Where's a babies? Poor
Mrs. Willard looked at them in horrified incredulity; no,
she thought, it was not possible that real children, children
who lived in a house and not in a melodrama, actually talked
like this. For a moment she wavered, but at this point Laura
overplayed. "/ love my Daddy!" she cried, elaborately
This restored Mrs. Willard to common sense. "I dare say
you do; you're looking very much like your Aunt Laura," she
retorted crushingly as she snapped the catch of her suitcase.
It was half-past ten; she telephoned for a cab. A few minutes
later the doorbell rang. Two men in overalls stood outside.
"This the place where they was a busted bed?" one of
them Inquired. "Gentleman sent us to pick it up. Baker's
"Oh. Oh, yes. Come in. I'll show you." Hurriedly she
directed them to Charles' room. Her cab was already at the
gate. She called over her shoulder to the men: "Please close
the front door as you go out. It'll lock itself."
She picked up her purse and her gloves and handed the
two large suitcases to the chauffeur, who now waited at the
door. She turned a last hasty glance on the children, who were
still murmuring "Poor Daddy" at intervals, and hurried
them out of the house. The men followed, carrying the
broken bedspring. The cabby, reaching the door of his car,
turned to inquire her destination, caught sight of the men
and the spring, and broke into a delighted grin, which he
controlled with the utmost difficulty. Two half-grown youths
sauntering along the sidewalk looked at the interesting
cavalcade, the suitcases, the hurrying woman, the bewildered
children, the amused cabby, and the broken spring. One of
them whistled openly, and the other snickered.
Mrs. Willard, her cheeks scarlet and her head high, entered
the cab. The cabby banged the door. The children, with a
final glance backward and a final "Poor Daddy!" turned
interested eyes on the passing landscape.
"Where'd you say you wanted to go, lady?" the cabby
"The Sixty-third Street elevated will do," she replied
"Sixty-third," he repeated.
Silence supervened during the few moments of the ride.
Mrs. Willard made a supreme effort to control herself. At
least the die was cast. At least she was on her way.
But she was not. At the entrance of the Sixty-third Street
elevated, glancing over the morning Tribune, stood Charles.
Through what followed, not only on that morning but on
many days thereafter, Mrs. Willard conducted herself with
surprising composure. Indeed, the effect of this dramatic
denouement was, in a sense, permanent, for ever thereafter,
when stormy impulses assailed her with regard to Charles,
Mrs. Willard merely remarked brusquely to herself that she
hoped she knew an act of God when she saw one; and this
reflection seldom failed to exert a calming, if not a hearten-
ing, influence upon her volatile and unreliable tempera-
ment. It was years before she made another attempt to leave
THE first few of these might be called peaceful years, for
Charles in spite of Lloyd's detractions did know a few things
besides hieroglyphics. He was an abundant linguist, and
after a time he obtained a post as editor-translator, which
enabled Mrs. Willard thankfully to return to her children
and her domestic duties.
But it was an unorthodox peace, full of unfamiliar under-
currents and discontents as vague as they were disquieting.
Mrs. Willard felt that, like Charles' bedspring, she would
never be the same again. Time and the repair shop had done
what they could, but a certain buoyancy had been lost, and
the bedspring had had eventually to be replaced. Prejudice,
tradition, and a certain inconvenience preventing the re-
placement o Mrs. Willard, she continued ostensibly in
full service. "Business as usual during alterations," the once
effervescent half of her mind offered, feebly; and this being
the best it could do it was small wonder that, undiverted
except by the immature rejoicings of Richard and Laura, she
knew periods of bewilderment and indecision. Life was not
clear to Mrs. Willard.
It was so far from clear, in fact, that for a time she toyed
dangerously with the idea of taking to drink. It seemed to
her during this period that she was continually being con-
fronted with the more engaging types of inebriate, and a
wistfulness akin to envy began to possess her. Riding home
on the elevated one evening, she glanced up from her book
to meet the wavering but beatific gaze of a white-haired
beldame of reeling habit and rich bouquet, who clung bliss-
fully to the leather strap above her head and beamed even
more ecstatically as she caught Mrs. Willard's eye.
"Me, oh, tny!" crooned this venerable bacchante to Mrs.
Willard, in the manner of one imparting a heavenly secret.
"I have such a good time! Eighty-one years old tomorrow,
and I have such a good time!"
Mrs. Willard believed her.
Only a few days later, on her way to market, as she waited
for a trolley in the damp midmorning, she was accosted by
a jovial young gentleman who came weaving strangely down
the street and halted four or five feet away, smiling unsurely
but happily. "Hiya, pretty baby/* he said.
"Hello/' said Mrs. Willard.
"Lost iny car/' the young man explained joyously. "Had
it last night. All gone now. Don't know where in the hell I
put it. Well "
He lifted his hat with a courtly flourish and replaced it,
thoughtfully, not upon his own head but upon that of a wait-
ing milkman's horse. "Good morning to you, and happy New
Year!" he concluded.
Mrs. Willard watched him affectionately away.
It was unprofitable, she knew, to while away the hours and
exorcise the ever-present shadow of trouble by dreaming
of carefree carousings in the company of these bright spirits
and others of their kind. It was even immoral; the mother of
Richard and Laura could not, must not carouse. And at the
thought of what Charles would say even the muscular im-
agination of Mrs. Willard boggled. Yet to carouse was exactly,
Mrs. Willard felt, what she wanted to carouse and forget.
Because of deep imbibings the ancient woman on the
elevated and the young man bereft of his car had alike for-
gotten their Charleses, if Charleses they had. Could even
liquor, Mrs. Willard wondered, do as much for her? She
had little hope of it. Even as the question took form she
could hear the rasping voice of Charles attacking her: "Have
you no dignity? Have you no conscience? Have you no regard
for the amenities of the situation?"
The closing phrase caught in Mrs. Willard's flighty mind.
"The amenities of the situation," she imagined herself reply-
ing, waving an empty bottle and speaking dreamily but with
tipsy dignity as she steadied herself by a faltering elbow
propped against the mantel, "the amenities of the situation
seem to me completely uncalled for."
It was this fantasy, perhaps, that flung her headlong into
the arms of the woman's club; for it is a disturbing experience
to find that one has the sort of psyche that is able to become
drunken without drink. It is thrilling, but it is not re-
assuring. Mrs. Willard was unaccustomed to thrills and felt
the need of reassurance.
She joined a woman's club, paid her dues, and went duti-
fully to every meeting for several months. She found the
experience, on the whole, saddening; the women she met
there were so deplorably one could only call it female. Mrs.
Willard was apologetic about this epithet. She herself, she
would have been the first to admit, was female "and proud
of it," she thought, remembering Charles but with the
women in the club It was somehow different; there was an
accentuation of femininity, a prettiness hardened in the
mold. Their voices and their gestures were caressingly
gracious, but the eyes with which they appraised one another
were as cold as a cat's. Mrs. Willard could find no response
among them to her need, and on the day of the young Irish
poet's address she came near giving it up and resigning.
She sat through this address with growing distaste, not
for the young Irish poet, whose complacency had aroused in
her at first glance a distaste so violent and all-inclusive that
its further growth was out of the question, but for the
tittering delight of the women in the audience. The young
man regaled them with an account of a story he had written
at the age of thirteen. It concerned a prostitute with thick
legs. She was a very good prostitute; her heart, the speaker
said, was of gold; but she suffered great humiliation because
of her thick ankles. Finally her lamentations on the subject
became a source of irritation to a never-too-patient Prov-
idence, and she fell in the street one day and had both legs
amputated by a passing vehicle.
The ladies, pleased and stimulated that a personable young
man should speak to them of prostitutes, all but annihilated
the Irish poet with their adulation during the "social hour"
that followed. Mrs. Willard, feeling weary, mentally shook
the clubroom's dust off her feet and put on her things to go.
Just as she reached the door she saw a stranger, a dark-
haired, intelligent-eyed woman seated alone in the back of
the room, searching her handbag with a sort of repressed
"She wants a cigarette," Mrs. Willard thought regret-
fully, for she herself did not smoke and had no cigarettes.
She liked the look of this woman; she would have liked, in
her friendly and always hopeful way, to go up and fraternize
with her; but, lacking cigarettes, she did not know how.
She made her dejected way home, resolving dismally
enough, for even this would increase the pointlessness of
her existence never to set foot in the clubroom again.
The kismet of Mrs. Willard, however, was not to be so
easily foiled. Two weeks later, on the day set for the bi-
monthly evening meeting of the club, she was sitting at the
bedside of her eight-year-old Laura, patiently awaiting an
opportunity to introduce the subject of a tablet of medicated
candy she wished the child to take. Both Richard and Laura
were in transports of glee because of a witless rhyme that had
occurred to one of them their minds, Mrs. Willard feared,
had perhaps been subtly influenced by the inconsequences of
her own and they were both shouting repeatedly, at the
tops of their voices, "Gatto the Catto, large and fatto!" and
then collapsing against each other with shrieks of laughter.
Mrs. Willard, from time to time vainly proffering the med-
icated lozenge to the oblivious Laura, laughed with them.
It was the sort of thing she did laugh at, and the children's
frenzy of enjoyment was contagious. "Gatto the Catto, large
and fatto!" she chanted hilariously in unison with them, and
offered the lozenge again or stretched forth her hand to do
so, not realizing for a moment that in the excitement she
had inadvertently swallowed It herself.
This sent the children into even wilder gales of laughter.
"Here, 111 read you the bedtime story/' Mrs. Willard offered
hastily, in some embarrassment, reaching for the evening
paper. "Quiet down, now. Once upon a time "
"Mother took Laura's medicine! Mother took Laura's med-
icine!" yelled Richard, pointing and gasping, his eyes
squeezed shut in sheer ecstasy. "Mother took "
"Gatto the Catto, large and fattol" roared Laura.
"Sh!" said Mrs. Wilkrd. "Listen. Once upon a time "
But this time it was she who, catching sight of an unex-
pected headline, interrupted the bedtime story. She put the
paper down and rose hurriedly, glancing toward the bed-
room clock. "I can't read to you tonight. I forgot it's club
night. I have to go to the club."
'The children did not mind; they had by no means
exhausted their original theme. "Gatto the Catto, large and
fatto!" they vociferated together as she left them*
Mrs. Willard went in search of Charles, who was reading
in the living room. ".Will you look after the children?" she
asked. 'It's club night, and I've just noticed in the paper that
they're having Virginia Teagarden. I'd like to hear her."
Charles lowered his book. "I suppose I must, then. Try
to get them quieted down first, please. I cannot understand
what attraction there is in these gatherings of women,
especially in the evening. If you had consulted me "
"Please, Charles I have to hurry/' Mrs. Willard sped into
her own room and dressed with epic haste. "Children, quiet
down!" she called. Cutting off with the closing of the front
door a trailer of admonition from Charles about galoshes
and a noticeably diminished final repetition of "Gatto the
Catto, large and fatto!" from Richard and Laura, she hurried
to the car line and was quickly on her way, reaching the club-
house corner just before time for the program to begin.
She stopped for a moment at the drugstore opposite. Even
in her haste she had not forgotten the possibility that the
dark-haired woman might be there, still looking for cigarettes.
She bought a pack of a popular brand, thrust it quickly into
her purse with a guilty thought of Charles, and came at last,
panting, into the club auditorium just as the speaker took the
platform. She sank breathlessly into the nearest seat, her eyes
widening; for Virginia Teagarden, the speaker, whose son-
nets had for several years past induced in her that electrifica-
tion of the flesh and spirit which is the immemorial preroga-
tive of those who love poetry, was none other than the dark-
haired stranger of persistent memory, whose knitted brows
as she rummaged In her purse had haunted Mrs. Willard ever
since her last visit to the club.
To HER audience Mrs. Teagarden was flatly and ruthlessly
rude. But Mrs. Willard, who had never quite been able to
consider herself a part of this particular audience, was
enchanted. The sonnets, tender and poignant as a Schubert
love song, had not prepared her for the acid wit, the devastat-
ing sarcasms that assailed her from the platform. Beneath
them her thirsty mind relaxed and stretched and relaxed
again like a strong swimmer. It was like reading an excitingly
excellent book, with something more something very much
more, thought Mrs. Willard, groping added. In a state
between laughter and worship she listened, spellbound.
The uneasy audience did not share her pleasure. The
ladies were less well disposed toward irony from Mrs. Tea-
garden, their compatriot and a member of their own sex,
than they had often shown themselves under different circum-
stances. Even Mrs. Willard was momentarily conscious of
faint surprise that Mrs. Teagarden, feeling as she evidently
did toward her audience, thought it worth while to appear at
all. "Perhaps she needs the money," Mrs. Willard thought
briefly but sympathetically, "and it makes her furious to
have to get it this way/'
This, as it turned out, was a remarkably accurate diag-
nosis. The "social hour" that followed the lecture was shorter
than usual, and at the end of it Mrs. Willard, who had
lacked courage to approach the speaker and was about to take
a reluctant departure, found herself for a moment actually
alone with Mrs. Teagarden in the vestibule to which the
latter, if one were to judge by her hunted expression, had
fled in desperation.
She gave Mrs. Willard a quick glance and suddenly smiled.
"Hello/* she said huskily. "This is the way out of here, isn't
it? Come on, let's go get a drink."
She hurried her companion down the street and through
the door o the nearest taproom. Flinging herself gratefully
into the leather-upholstered comfort of the booth, she cast
back her fur neckpiece and drew a long shuddering breath.
"God!" she exclaimed, shutting her eyes. "God's teeth!"
she particularized, opening them again. She looked intently
at Mrs. Willard. "Got a cigarette?"
Mrs. Willard, beaming, produced and opened the pack she
had bought just before the lecture.
"Thanks." Mrs. Teagarden continued to scrutinize her
closely. "I know you were there the day they had that sick-
making exhibit from Dublin, weren't you? The one that
talked about prostitutes."
"Yes," said Mrs. Willard. "I saw you, too," she added.
"I know you did, bless your little heart. You were being
sorry for me. I wondered why at the time. Now I know. You'd
heard tonight was coming."
Mrs. .Willard laughed. "No, that's not the reason. I didn't
know who you were then. If I looked sorry for you, it was
only because you couldn't find your cigarettes."
"Oh?" The dark eyebrows lifted. "Smoke?" She returned
the pack of cigarettes.
Mrs. Willard blushed crimson. "I I don't smoke/' she
Mrs. Teagarden met her guilty eyes and smiled. "I'll be
damned," she said. She patted Mrs. Willard's hand. "Nize
baby. . . . Well? Was I lousy to them? Did I hurt their g.d
feelings, do you suppose?"
"I thought you were marvelous/' replied Mrs. Willard.
"A girl has to eat." Mrs. Teagarden reached for one of
the highballs that had been brought them and pushed the
other toward Mrs. Willard. "I was broke temporarily and
somebody told me this could be done, curse him. Look at
that." She dived into her handbag and threw twenty or thirty
folded sheets of manuscript paper, some of them tied with
ribbon, on the table. "Maidens."
"Maidens?" repeated Mrs. Willard, puzzled.
"Maidens. Moon, mist, star, snow, frost, flame, ice, dream,
and dawn. Will you tell me " Mrs. Teagarden's voice sank
to a note of mellow wistMness "why it is that the more
one of these well-feathered female songsters runs to club-
woman's bosom and cast-iron scallops in her hair the more
certain it is that she regards herself, privately, as a mist
maiden? These," continued Mrs. Teagarden with passion,
indicating the scattered manuscripts, "are poems. They were
pressed upon me by your little pals back there, for criticism.
Before I spoke, of course. If I could have held 'em off until
afterward, four gets you five they'd have left me alone."
She riffled the manuscripts in an irritated manner. "I could
recite 'em to you without so much as opening them. Thirty
or so, aren't there? Twenty-two will be Maidens. Six of the
others will be God-and-gaspers, dealing principally with
garbage men; and the remaining two will be Strong Stuff."
She sighed heavily and put the manuscripts back into her
purse. "Well "
"Why garbage men?" inquired Mrs. Willard, interested.
"I dunno." Mrs. Teagarden shook her head. "One of these
overstuffed drawing-room Muses sees a garbage man, she
automatically reaches for her fountain pen and starts giving
off something like 'God! Can he not see or feel or think?' "
She lit another cigarette. "I don't know what makes 'em so
sure he can't. You'd think the mere possession of a refuse
cart was enough to decerebrate the proprietor. I don't sup-
pose it ever occurs to them to ask the man who owns one."
She tapped Mrs. Willard's glass, which was still almost full.
"Drink your milk, baby."
Mrs. Willard drank obediently. "What is Strong Stuff?**
"The works. What our Irish friend was giving them and
that, by the way, was as outstanding an exhibition of
psychological adroitness and good hard common sense as
these old eyes have ever looked upon. I'm told he's wowing
the women's clubs from coast to coast and will be sitting
pretty the rest of his life even if he never writes another
line, which God grant. . . . But Strong Stuff, as your little
playmates put it out, is generally poetry beginning with the
statement that the author thereof is a wanton, baring her
breast to every comer. Doubtful, I call it."
Mrs. Willard expressed agreement with this distrust. "A
person who was really a wanton, baring her breast to every
comer," she pointed out, "wouldn't have time to write poetry
Mrs. Teagarden nodded and extinguished her cigarette.
"Something in that. Ah, sincerity, sincerity! Well "
They relapsed into a comfortable silence. Mrs. Willard,
warmed and stimulated no less by Mrs. Teagarden's com-
panionship than by the unaccustomed highball, was very
happy and completely at ease. There was growing between
them, so unmistakably as to be almost tangible, the perfec-
tion of communion that marks the friendship of two con-
genial women neither of whom is dowered with that excess
of female-mindedness which had formed a barrier between
Mrs. Willard and her fellow club members.
Minutes passed. At length Mrs. Teagarden sighed and rose.
"I've got to catch a train," she said regretfully. "I live
north. Well, it's nice knowing you, baby." She fastened the
furpiece. "Can I call you sometime? Or write? Will you give
me your name and address?"
"I'd love to, Mrs. Teagarden." Mrs. Willard searched her
purse for a pencil.
"Mind you write me back, then. And drop this Mrs. Tea-
garden stuff. My name's Virginia."
The two women clasped hands. "Be seeing you/* said
Virginia briskly, and was gone.
There followed a lively and exhilarating correspondence,
expansive on Virginia's part and quick with delighted re-
sponse on Mrs. Willard's, and the upshot of it all was that, as
the summer heat came on, Virginia wrote urging her to come
for a month's visit on the north shore. "I need you here to
talk to/' she pointed out.
"But the children?" Mrs. Willard protested, by letter.
"How do you mean, but the children?" Virginia replied,
also by letter. "Bring them, of course. The beach is big
enough for two more; there are plenty of lifeguards, and the
sunburn lotion is on the bottom shelf of the medicine cup-
board. Less of this 'but the children' stuff. And make it
Mrs. Willard, trembling, as the durable old phrase has
it, between hope and fear, girded herself to approach Charles
with regard to the projected visit. This was a matter of no
little awkwardness, as she had not anticipated the invitation
and had not thought it necessary to mention her acquaintance
with Virginia. Charles would not, it went without saying,
approve of either Virginia or the visit, but the very pulses
of Mrs. Willard were straining toward the change. Go she
must, and go she would "whether Charles likes it or not/'
she concluded with a flash of spirit.
And go she did, though not without travail. Charles up-
braided her at great length for her want of candor in not
having told him of her friendship with Virginia; for her un-
wifely lack of consideration in proposing to leave him for
a month unattended; and finally for he liked to get all these
things done with as efficiently as possible for not having
sent his gray suit to the cleaner. Upon the introduction of this
note of irrelevance Mrs. Willard felt outraged tears sting
"I don't have much fun/* she said in a small dreary voice.
Charles flashed his spectacles censoriously. "I hope, my
dear," he replied patiently, "that you will someday get over
this childishness of yours. You are a grown woman and the
mother of growing children, and you talk of 'having fun' as
though you were no older than Laura. I sometimes fear
that your mind is hopelessly and permanently immature/*
He flashed the glasses again. "However, If you are so set on it,
I suppose you must go. I accept your word, of course, that
there is nothing about this woman or her household that
would be injurious to the children. Since you have thought
fit to exclude me from your confidence, there is nothing else
I can do. As for myself, I shall get on well enough, no doubt.
I would not have you mar your holiday by worrying about
He paused, to allow this extraordinary benevolence to
make its due impression; then, pleased with himself, he
patted her shoulder. "I hope you appreciate what an in-
dulgent husband you have," he told her playfully.
FROM the moment Mrs. Willard entered Virginia's house
until she left it, her happiness was complete. The children,
grown large and independent, played all day on the well-
guarded beach, Mrs. Willard and Virginia, surrounded by
peace and beige Persian kittens, slept, ate, argued, played
chess, and pondered in an atmosphere of unmarred and
easeful harmony. There was nothing to interrupt their enjoy-
ment; Virginia's little maid, a very young girl called Eunice,
attended to their casual housekeeping and served them their
The blue lake and the white beach lay wide and beautiful
just outside the east windows. Mrs. Willard, who had not
been outside the sooty interior of Chicago for years, woke
every morning to this sight and to the additional ecstasy
induced in her susceptible nature by the devotion of Jeeves,
Virginia's red cocker, who from the foot of her bed gazed
lovingly at her over his frilled tawny paws and his frilled
white shirt front. Jeeves slept on Mrs. Willard's bed,
frequently sliding off in the night and finding himself, owing
to the shortness of his legs, unable to get back on. When
this happened he said nothing, but sighed, moved over into
the broad band of moonlight from the window, and sat up
with his forepaws crossed, praying.
How long he must sometimes have waited in this beseech-
ing attitude before Mrs. Willard missed him she had no idea.
But when she woke and found him so she always hastened to
set matters right. He rewarded her with what Virginia called
an almost doglike devotion; his attachment to her was second
only to his allegiance to Virginia herself and his heavy sense
of responsibility for the bored or demoniac Persian kittens,
toward whom his manner suggested that of a dismayed but
still hopeful father with a hypertrophied conscience.
More than once Mrs. Willard shed tears over Jeeves and
his incorrigible hopefulness. It was only after years had passed
that she realized the self-pitying nature of these tears and
knew that what Jeeves had reminded her of a question that
had occupied her for hours at a time was herself.
These were days of pure gold and too soon spent. They
were not all placid, for at Intervals, among her other diver-
sions, Mrs. Willard took stimulating cognizance of a side of
life that had hitherto escaped her. No Mr. Teagarden was
in evidence, and Virginia's social life was, Mrs. Willard early
perceived, highly irregular. During the late afternoon and
evening the house was likely to be full of guests, pre-
dominantly men, and one among these, of indeterminate
surname and invariably addressed merely as Tony, was
obviously Virginia's favorite. Mrs. Willard had not been on
the premises a week before she felt entirely safe in conclud-
ing, if Tony abstracted Ms brilliant smile and his legato
conversation from the shouting, smoking, shuffling, ice-clink-
ing throng for more than a few minutes, that he was making
love very privately and too successfully to Virginia.
It was not long before something far more substantial
than intuition supported her conclusion. She rose early one
morning in the second week of her visit, intending to slip
down to the living room for a book she had left there the day
before and go back to bed for an hour of comfortable read-
ing. As she returned, book in hand, Virginia's bedroom door
opened far enough to permit Virginia's tousled dark head to
emerge, and she beckoned frantically to Mrs. Willard.
"Look, Edith," she said, her voice throaty with mingled
hilarity and horror, "keep an eye out, will you, and don't
let Eunice in here with my breakfast tray. I don't care what
you have to do to stop her. Just stop her."
"Why?" inquired Mrs. Willard forthrightly.
Virginia choked, then sneezed. "Because Tony's in here.
He's been in here all night. He went to sleep, the damned
fool, and so did I. Oh, my God! There she comes nowl"
The door flew silently shut.
Mrs. Willard, feeling wild, watched the maid swing the
dining-room door to behind her and approach the stairs,
carrying a large tray. She put down her book and took an
undecided step forward.
The girl smiled at her. "Good morning, Mrs. Willard.
This is Mrs. Teagarden's tray, but I can bring yours up right
away if you like. Mrs. Teagarden thought you'd sleep late."
Mrs. Willard gulped. "I'll take it in, Eunice. Mrs. Tea-
garden isn't feeling very well." She forced firmness into her
voice. "She asked me to bring it."
Eunice, who adored Virginia, looked hurt. She yielded
up the tray much in the manner of an Old Testament mother
laying her only child between the jaws of Moloch. "Did you
want your own breakfast right away, then, ma'am?" she
"Oh. No. No, thank you, Eunice; I I'm not hungry. Just
this one." She gripped the tray with panic-stricken fingers, as
though afraid it would leap from her hands. "Just Mrs. Tea-
garden's tray, thank you."
Eunice turned away, astonishment written wide on her
face. Mrs. Willard looked despairingly after her; all that long
staircase! She could not possibly stand here, holding the tray,
until the girl was out of sight. She could not set it down out-
side Virginia's door until Eunice had got all the way into the
kitchen. Even now, halfway down the stairs, Eunice was
trying to manage an unobtrusive backward glance. There
was nothing for it but Mrs. Willard set her teeth; knocked
distinctly; opened Virginia's door, and went in.
Tony and Virginia, sitting in the middle of the wide
tumbled bed, rocked against each other and gasped, tears
of repressed laughter streaming down their cheeks. "Oh!
Oh!" moaned Virginia in a distracted whisper. "Edith, your
face! Tony Tony just look at her!"
"Here's your breakfast," said Mrs. Willard indignantly.
"Set it down, angel, set it down. And do sit down yourself,
won't you?" Virginia's voice died away again in the last
extremity of amusement. "Oh, poor darling, Edith, pet, I'm
sorry. Tony, did you ever see anything so funny? Oh, Edith.
Oh, my God, Tony. Here's one to tell your grandchildren,
you twentieth-century Casanova. Edith, I'm sorry, I truly
am. Oh, Lord!"
Tony reached for a silver-striped cigarette case on the bed-
side table. "It is a story rather for Mrs. Willard's grand-
children," he observed with his charming smile. "Me, I shall
have so many/' he added wistfully, "I cannot hope to meet
Mrs. Willard's discomfiture over this episode was brief. She
had scarcely left Virginia's room before she discovered that
her attitude toward Virginia's behavior was one of complete
and unruffled calm. This evidence of moral obliquity she
ascribed (not without a modicum of malicious glee) to
Charles, that paragon of all the conventional virtues. Virtue
without grace is dreary to live with even in times of com-
parative peace. Grace without virtue, on the other hand, may
Virginia made it enchanting; she was an artist in love. One
could not doubt that in her most casual giving Virginia gave
much. Warmth, joyousness, and a promise of tender comfort
went with her, and she carried a sort of fragrance of love.
Mrs. Willard realized, of course, that she was possibly being
systematically gulled into thinking of Virginia not in terms
of reality but in a series of dramatic vignettes adroitly sup-
plied to her imagination by Virginia herself. She had seen
Virginia paint these pictures for others. There was the new
man, for instance, Peter Allbritton, whom Tony had
brought for cocktails a tall, gangling, innocent-eyed, easy-
going man in tweeds, who, meeting Mrs. Willard first for
Virginia had not yet come downstairs seated himself on a
hassock near her and engaged her in that meaninglessly
intimate conversation which appeared to be the universal
language of persons not under the immediate influence of
Charles. Mrs. Willard was responding idly, with mild enjoy-
ment, when Virginia swept into the room.
Virginia did not wait for either Tony or Mrs. Willard to
introduce Mr. Allbritton. She took in the situation at a
glance and moved swiftly to his side, laying a hand at once
upon his arm. "But you're ruthless/' she half whispered, her
intent eyes cleaving his. "My God, what a beating you must
have taken from life! What have they done to this boy, Tony?
Give me a drink." She took her cocktail from the cynically
smiling Tony and returned her gaze to Mr. Allbritton, look-
ing him quite candidly up and down. Mrs. Willard, noting
how Mr. Allbritton's ingenuous features took on at once the
hard-bitten world-weariness of the seasoned sufferer, laughed
inwardly; she had no real interest in Mr. Allbritton, and she
liked to watch Virginia work. Mrs. Willard, whatever her
shortcomings, had an ungrudging spirit.
Moreover, she loved Virginia deeply. She had an un-
conquerable passion for peace and gaiety and loving-kind-
ness, and Virginia gave her all three in abundance, together
with companionship as opulently satisfying as fruit cake and
She never forgot the nights, exquisite with the soft lake
breeze and haunted by the whisper of the low fire on the
hearth, through which she sat curled in the great chair by the
lake window, watching Virginia across the room smoking
for long intervals of silence, an unfinished highball at her
elbow, her dark hair stirring and stirring as though it had
separate life, while from time to time she flung out bits of
her never-ending, acidly amused commentary on life in
general. Mrs. Willard had been until recently too constantly
engaged in hand-to-hand struggles with life to approach it in
the role of a spectator; but now she became possessed of an
earnest desire to determine, in a manner satisfactory to her-
self at least, what it was all about. She confessed as much
to Virginia, using the trite phrase without shame.
"It's all about love, darling/* Virginia assured her. "Every-
thing's all about love/'
"The other day you said it was all about liquor/' objected
"Liquor, too, is all about love/' Virginia nodded drowsily.
"Liquor, and kittens, and religion, and fire opals, and gals
like you, and gals like me "
"Not like me," interposed Mrs. Willard. "I don't think
I'd like love."
Virginia hooted. "You wouldn't, wouldn't you?" She
crushed out her cigarette. "My pet, you are love. You don't
know much about you, do you? One of these days I'll bring
you a mirror when you're looking at Richard or Laura. Or
Jeeves, for that matter. Or me."
Mrs. Willard was impatient. "You know very well I don't
mean that kind of love."
"Now there," Virginia gestured with a fresh cigarette,
"there's where you're off, darling. There's where you make
your blooming error. Love's love. You can't split it up like
that. Either old Pop Freud is right and what you feel for
Jeeves is just another variety of what I feel for Tony " Mrs.
Willard, startled, uttered a faint squeak of dismay "or what
I feel for Tony is just another variety of what you feel for
Jeeves. I prefer the latter theory; it smells better. But the one
thing you should never forget is that it's all of a piece. Figure
out the details to suit yourself, but always with that in mind."
She leaned back, putting one hand behind her head. "Didn't
you, by the way?"
"Didn't I what?"
"Like love. When you were married, I mean."
Mrs. Willard flushed. She had been accustomed to main-
tain a decent reticence with regard to Charles, but now she
realized that she had already betrayed him. "No/* she ad-
Virginia knitted her brows. "Why don't you leave him?"
she inquired mildly at last.
Mrs. Willard lifted questioning eyes. "Why, he behaves
pretty well nowadays for Charles. I did start to leave him
once." She recounted the saga of the bedspring. "But now
that I can be at home I keep the children out of his way so
that he doesn't abuse them, and that was the only reason I
was ever going to leave him."
Virginia smoked in silence, regarding her intently. "But
look, Edith," she said after a moment, "what about the sex
Mrs. Willard hesitated. "Well, but he I mean that is
his demands are not are not exorbitant," she said with
effort, "and I don't think that's reason enough to leave him;
any number of men seem to think that's the main thing they
get married for. And," she concluded reasonably, "anybody
ought to be able to put up with it once in a while."
Virginia stared at her in amazement, seeming to doubt her
seriousness; then she flung back her head and laughed richly
and long. Mrs. Willard, after several minutes, was stirred
"I don't doubt I'm very funny," she said a little stiffly, "but
if you don't mind telling me why "
Virginia tossed her cigarette into the fire and crossed the
room, still shaking with laughter, to collapse on the broad
arm of Mrs. Willard's chair. "Darling," she said. She kissed
Mrs. Willard on the nose. "Baby." And she broke once more
into an uncontrollable spasm of merriment.
Mrs. Willard, annoyed, went to bed. She remained puzzled
and a little indignant, for several hours of wakefulness ancl
cogitation in her bedroom, with her bare toes wriggling dis-
contentedly against the sleepy and sad-eyed but never protest-
ing Jeeves, failed to reveal to her the cause of Virginia's im-
moderate mirth. Mrs. Willard was of course not unaware
that she was, as the saying goes, unhappy with her husband;
but she was not at all unhappy without him, and he was out
of the house for at least eight hours of the twenty-four, to
say nothing of sleeping for another eight. Nobody, reasoned
Mrs. Willard, can expect to be happy more than two thirds
of the time, for goodness* sake; and with a final exasperated
poke of her toes into Jeeves' white collar frill she thumped
her pillow resentfully and went to sleep.
Nevertheless she was disturbed. Love, whether one likes it
or not, casts a glow. Mrs. Willard on her return to Charles
was conscious of a lack never before noticed, and after several
days of cogitation she arrived at the conclusion that it was
love that was lacking; a thing she had known all along, to be
sure, but how different now that she had looked into love's
She thought wistfully of Virginia. How exquisite she was,
how provocative; did it come, all that, from just having been
loved, from just having been close to other people? Little
glinting pictures, bright and definite as the squares of
prismatic light in a soap bubble, drifted across her mind.
Virginia typing, rapidly and viciously, the popular stories that
made her living; Virginia typing slowly, with a strange re-
moteness in her white-skinned, dark-browed face, the
occasional starlike sonnet that made her reputation. Virginia
lying on the sand in the fringed shadow of willows, regarding
her with lazy amusement through the smoke of her cigarette.
Virginia bathing a Persian kitten, her fine brows drawn
together and her strong tiny wrists arched with determination,
and the kitten swathed at last in a towel with only its wet
weasel-like head showing and insult blazing from its amber
eyes. About whatever Virginia did, in whatever place her
light step fell, there was that glow.
Mrs. Willard winced, remembering again the blood-red
moon. The picture came through clearly, though she resisted
it with all her will.
They lay on the sand, Edith and Virginia, in the growing
darkness, listening to the lapping of the water and the clear
high voices of the children calling to each other in the dis-
tance. Suddenly above the horizon there floated and stood
a blood-red bubble, a moon of flame. It came toward them,
rising, rising; it throbbed like a thin bellying scarlet sail.
She spoke suddenly, Edith, like one in a dream: "Virginia,
Virginia, if ever any loveliness comes into my life, I won't
turn my back on it. No matter what it is. No matter what it
"Of course not/* Virginia said gently, and waited. But
Mrs. Willard did not speak again.
What on earth had she meant? Mrs. Willard, remember-
ing, gave the coffeepot on the breakfast table an impatient
push. Virginia must have thought she was crazy. She must
have been crazy. It was the cocktails. They had carried cock-
tails down to the beach.
She set about clearing the table, her mouth trembling. She
was burning from head to foot with inexplicable humilia-
tion. A baby, Virginia had called her, and had laughed. But
it was not funny to be approaching middle age, a baby. It
would not be funny to be an old baby, a chuckling old baby
with round empty eyes.
Red moons, indeed! Not again would loveliness come into
Or might it? She moved restlessly. If only Charles were
not so stiff; or if only at the least kindness, the least hint of
affection, he were not so instantly, overwhelmingly amorous!
SVith Charles there was no chance for the gentler sort of
affectionate interchange; there was in him none of the moving
brotherliness one sometimes marked in other men; either
he was precise and pedantic or he was amorous, and from
the spectacle of Charles amorous Mrs. Wlllard had always
turned away her eyes.
She wished she had not remembered the red moon. It was
too much, this clawing pain on top of the loneliness.
She determined to make one more effort. She would laugh
at Charles and love him into laughing back at her.
Her susceptible imagination at once took fire, assuming
without question that this project was both feasible and
obvious; why had she not made up her mind to it long
She went about her work with a light heart. All day she
remained happy, and by night her hopes were riding high.
Her thoughts became as incoherent as the raptures of an
excited little girl. "It's all my fault. He never really laughs.
I ought to have taught him long ago. He's never had a real
friend, either, and I have Virginia, dear Virginia, and the
children and everything, and I can laugh well find things
111 tell him "
She would have denied it, but she looked the child her
friend had called her. Confidence mounted with the hours,
and by evening all the planned speeches she had at first
arranged were gone from her mind. There was no need to
plan speeches. There was no need to manage things. Things
would manage themselves if she but gave them a chance.
Charles was late in coming upstairs that night, but Mrs.
Willard, happily waiting for him, lay unmindful of anything
but her burgeoning plans. When he finally came into the
room she stretched out a hand to him.
He smiled perfunctorily. "In a moment." He arranged
some scattered toilet articles on her dressing table, then came
and sat on the edge of the bed. "I must warn- you again, my
dear, to see that the children attend faithfully to the few little
household tasks I have assigned them. Laura in particular
will not thank you for allowing her to grow up ignorant of
the duties that are a part of every woman's responsibility. I
don't wish to be unpleasant, but you will drive me to it if you
won't co-operate with me."
Mrs. Willard brushed this aside. "Charles," she said softly.
He caught the new tone in her voice. "Eh?"
"Charles." She laid her hand in his. "Charles, do you love
The red crept slowly up into his face, to the temples. It
did not disturb her. Of course he was surprised. She had
never spoken to him In that tone before. Even to her own
ears it was unmistakable.
"Do you love me, Charles?" she persisted.
He made a strangling sound, clearing his throat. "Of
course I love you, my dear. But isn't this a a new develop-
ment, your taking the initiative, as it were?" He pinched her
cheek. "I don't know my modest, retiring little wife! I suspect
it's Mrs. Teagar den's influence." Suddenly his expression
changed; he poked her slyly In the ribs, his eyes glistening.
"So you want to know whether I love you. I'll show you. I'll
show you." He pressed her backward against the pillow, kiss-
Ing her violently.
"No Charles, no please wait, Charles "
"I'll show you. I'll show you. I'll show you."
A little later he said, "Damn all women. What the hell's
the matter now?"
Mrs. Willard was crying helplessly.
And serve her right, she thought the next day. Anyone
not a congenital and consummate idiot would have known
exactly what, in the role of woman wailing for her demon
lover, she might have expected of Charles. But her throat still
ached, and tears kept rising and forcing themselves from her
eyes; she had been so sure!
DREARINESS,, unrelieved and unassuaged, settled now upon
Mrs. Willard for a time. Poor she had been, and poor, it
seemed, she would remain; poorer now than before, since
Virginia had made her want manifest even to herself. The
news, announced suddenly one evening by Charles with an
air of overweening satisfaction, that his Aunt Gertrude had
signified her intention of coming to live with her nephew
and his family aroused no interest in Mrs. Willard beyond
a slight stirring of inner protest, which she had not the energy
"All right," she said tonelessly.
"All right?" echoed Charles with some asperity. "Of course
it is all right. It is more than all right. It is excellent. Aunt
Gertrude is a woman of property. She can do much for the
children if you, my dear, will but handle yourself rightly
toward her. It is a rare bit of good fortune for us."
Aunt Gertrude, who was a widow named Schnabel, was
not personally known to Mrs. Willard. "She has grown
children of her own, hasn't she?"
"She has two daughters and a son. But they were, I believe,
undutiful. She is not on good terms with them."
This, Mrs. Willard told herself, was to be expected. She
felt an inward qualm of distaste for Aunt Gertrude, Aunt
Gertrude's property, and Aunt Gertrude's family relations.
"Undutiful" how like Charles that was. How like Charles,
indeed, was probably Aunt Gertrude, who was his own
mother's sister and who, knowing Charles, still wished to
live in the house with him.
However, even the thought of this new incubus could not
stir Mrs. Willard from the apathy of despair that possessed
her. She said no more, but prepared the guest room for its
new and permanent occupant. The children followed her
about with questions.
"What's Aunt Gertrude's other name, Mother?"
"What? Oh. Schnabel. Mrs. SchnabeL"
Both Richard and Laura burst into peals of laughter.
Laura, who, ever since she had been struck by the lightning
inspiration that had produced "Gatto the Catto, large and
fatto," had been specializing in senseless rhymes, at once
began to sing: "Rikki tikki, Mis-suz Schnabel, eats her oat-
meal gobble gobble/*
"Sh!" said Mrs. Willard aloud. "But she probably does,"
her inner self protested. She thought of Charles, whose habit
of dropping the seeds of small fruits, such as grapes and
plums, directly from his mouth into his plate had revolted
her for years. To her protests, at first shocked and later
desperate, he had merely replied, "Nonsense," and continued
to drop them.
Aunt Gertrude arrived about a week later. She was a firmly
corseted fat woman with a paradoxically hatchetlike face
surmounting a medley of graduated chins. She greeted
Charles with warmth, Mrs. Willard with resignation, and the
children with open dislike. Her eyes, bright, black, and
penetrating, darted like roaches toward the corners of the
baseboard in whatever room she entered. Mrs. Willard, a
casual housekeeper, told herself with dismal conviction that
within three days Aunt Gertrude would be down on her
knees digging at these comers with a hairpin and displaying
the results to Charles.
This was a too-conservative estimate. Within twenty-four
hours Mrs. Schnabel had virtually taken over the house-
keeping. She lived from morning to night with a dusting
cloth in her hand, and Mrs. Willard and the children were
literally hounded from room to room as she urged them out
of the way of her passionate cleansings.
She had brought with her a huge enlarged photograph of
her sister, Charles' mother, in a gilt frame eight inches wide;
this photograph she and Charles, without consulting Mrs.
Willard, at once hung over the piano in the living room.
Every time she looked at it Mrs. Willard shuddered uncon-
trollably, and it was in connection with this picture that she
made her only protest a private protest, by night, to Charles.
"Charles, surely not in the living room?" she pleaded. "She
could hang it in her own room there's plenty of wall space.
Or or" Mrs. Willard paused to brace herself "here in
our room if you'd like it here. It it looks so out of place
Mr. Willard silenced her with a look. "Put my mother's
picture in an inferior room of the house?"
"Inferior?" repeated Mrs. Willard, perplexed. "Why is a
Her husband was angered by her stupidity. "Let us have
no more of this foolishness not to call it insolence, my dear,
which it actually is, although I am willing to assume you do
not mean it so. I, of course, realize that you, having lost both
your parents at an early age, have small conception of the
respect that is due a father or a mother. I have often noticed
in your relations with the children that you never say or do
anything to inculcate this respect, either toward yourself
or which is more important, since I am the head of the
family toward me. Richard and Laura, for instance, seldom
come to meet me when I return in the evening. Aunt Ger-
trude spoke of this the other day, and you may well imagine
my humiliation at being forced to tell her that you had not
taught them to do so. When I was a growing boy, my mother
prepared my brothers and sisters and me every day for my
father's return and sent us to the door to greet him."
Mrs. Willard stirred restlessly. "I used to go to meet my
grandfather, too," she said. "But nobody sent me."
Charles set this aside as irrelevant. "As for the picture,"
he continued, "it will remain in its proper place in the living
room. Entirely aside from my own feeling in the matter, its
removal would offend Aunt Gertrude. And my own feeling is
strong. It is my mother's picture. My mother was a woman to
be proud of. Her picture represents her, and I am proud of
Mrs. Willard was too thoroughly stunned by this final pro-
nouncement -to carry the argument further. Proud? Proud
of that picture? Fond, perhaps, the perverse attitudes of the
(masculine) filial mind being what they are; but proud? No,
surely not proud; for the woman in the picture was Aunt
Gertrude's twin for meagerness of spirit, petty pride, and
chins; and not by the utmost effort of the mind could Mrs.
Willard imagine even Charles being proud of the lineaments
that so mercilessly reported what must have lain behind the
solidly stayed bosom and beneath the flattened loops of hair.
Needless to say, however, the picture remained in place
above the piano, and Mrs. Willard who had a modest talent
for this instrument and had found it a considerable comfort
when comfort of any kind was scarce, lost even that consola-
tion; for, confronted with the photograph and paralyzed by
the assault upon her senses of the gilded atrocity of the frame,
she was quite unable to produce anything that would pass
for music. To be sure, she had been playing less and less of
late anyway, for every time she felt like approaching the
piano she saw that Aunt Gertrude had just cleaned it again,
keys and all. Her sitting down before it would therefore be
followed by glances of stabbing disapproval, and her arising
from the bench would be the signal for an instant fresh attack
with the dustcloth.
But whatever the inconvenience of Aunt Gertrude's
domestic activities to Mrs. Willard and the children, Charles
was delighted with them. "The house/' he pointed out daily
to Mrs. Willard, "now looks like a fit place for a gentleman
to live in. This is the sort of housekeeping to which I am
accustomed or was accustomed, before I was so imprudent
as to marry a girl who had never been properly trained in
domestic matters." He chucked Mrs. Willard indulgently
under the chin. "As Richard grows older, I must not fail
to point out to him that domesticity in a woman, with all
that it implies, is a sine qua non for a genuinely happy mar-
ried life. I do not mean, dear, that I have been unhappy with
you; I have not. But a little thought and consideration on
your part could have made me happier. See what Aunt Ger-
trude has accomplished already."
Yes, only see, thought Mrs. Willard, staring resentfully
at the picture over the piano and remembering how she
had just quieted the natural exuberance of Richard and
Laura to allow Aunt Gertrude to get her afternoon nap.
Yes, indeed. See what a lovely gilt picture frame. See what
charmingly subdued children. See what a blooming, happy
wife and mother. See Aunt Gertrude herself, with a four-
teen-inch chain of safety pins dangling from the gray bom-
bazine that covered her steep bosom Aunt Gertrude ac-
cumulated safety pins, neither Mrs. Willard nor anyone else
knew where or for what purpose, and wore them thus con-
stantly. See how clean the piano was, and how tightly closed
Aunt Gertrude promptly closed it again every time any-
one left it open.
Mrs. Willard found herself in violent disagreement with
Charles' statement that the Willard household had become
"a fit place for a gentleman to live in." A gentleman, it
seemed to her, was the last thing one would expect to find
here, where a tidied respectability perilously near the vulgar
had stripped the rooms and their furnishings of any sug-
gestlon of grace and the gentle life. The very chairs looked
different to Mrs. Willard; they had a new harshness of out-
line, a new blatancy of polished surface, a new and unyield-
ing plumpness of cushion, a new and uncompromising
squareness of arrangement. No book was ever left open on a
chair; no music ever rested beyond the moment of its use
against the glittering music rack of the piano; no toy was
ever permitted astray either in the house or on the lawn.
When Mrs. Willard in a last desperate projection of hope
brought in flowers, Aunt Gertrude moved the vases into the
exact center of shelf or table and then, with outcries of in-
dignation, lifted them again to place beneath them knitted
doilies of her own manufacture.
More and more, as the days and the months went by, Mrs.
Willard felt herself becoming detached from the place she
still called, by courtesy, her home. Except for her children's
need of her she had, she felt, no more meaning or purpose
than a vagrant shadow. She had no close friend except Vir-
ginia, and Virginia, always erratic, had temporarily dis-
appeared without explanation from her home on the north
shore. The thought of the woman's club or of any similar
organization was without savor to Mrs. Willard. As for the
children, she shrank instinctively from settling the burden
of her own need upon their shoulders; and this final con-
clusion, leaving her nowhere to turn, increased within her
the sense of emptiness and silence, of endless waiting and
watching for something that would never come.
TIME for Mrs. Willard all her life had alternately leaped
and limped, but never had It limped with such monotonous
consistency as during the two or three years immediately
following the installation of Aunt Gertrude. By that do-
mestic zealot she was effectually forestalled In any chance
impulse to bestir herself about the house; such Impulses in
Mrs. Willard, it must be confessed, were rare, but if she
had worked herself to physical exhaustion even once in two
or three months it might have roused her at least for a time
from the dangerous passivity that now overtook her.
She became an almost pathologic reader, reaching auto-
matically for a book any book whenever she sat down,
took a bath, went to bed, ate breakfast, or even combed her
hair. The gesture of reaching for a book became as character-
istic of her as the snapping on of another safety pin to the
eternal chain was characteristic of Aunt Gertrude. She grew
vague in her conversational responses, except to the children;
and, although she maintained with them a relation approxi-
mately normal, it was with great and conscious effort that
she did so. As the most painful cripple is that unfortunate
whose infirmity causes him to hitch along with gestures
apparently signifying an exaggerated and clownish gaiety,
so that portion of herself which forced her to be blithe with
the children seemed to Mrs. Willard now freakish, a pitiable
monstrosity escaped from its proper bounds. She was always
relieved when Richard and Laura were at school or asleep.
The relation between the two women in the house was
a peculiar one. Aunt Gertrude, who had quarreled and
contended with her own kin all her life, now over this
trifle, now over that, was at a loss to understand Mrs. Wil-
lard's lack of resistance and distrusted her accordingly, as
probably sly and secretive. Communication between them
was meager, and what there was remained bleak. Mrs.
Schnabel, unable to rouse her quasi-antagonist to anything
like active opposition, finally contented herself with dis-
approving daily reports to Charles of Mrs. Willard's lack of
domestic skills, laxness in disciplining the children, absent-
mindedness, willful stupidity, lack of appreciation of serv-
ices done her, and general incompetence.
Mrs. Willard did not care.
Virginia, from whom nothing had been heard for months,
wrote at last to say that she was sending Edith two of her
"I'm off almost at once to Switzerland," the letter ex-
plained, "and I've got to place them somewhere, all of them.
I'm sending you Bits and Hallelujah. Hally's a fool, but he's
beautiful and has a lahvly disposition. I know you'll cozen
them up, darling. They're brother and sister, but not of the
same litter. I wish I could see you before I sail, but no can
do. G'by now. Write. Virginia."
The cats arrived next morning. Both were mere kittens,
Hallelujah a magnificent male nearly grown, with round
amber eyes and, in spite of his youth, a sort of ecclesiastical
dignity. Bits was a small ruffled demon with a gingery light
in her eyes and the clever facial expression of a terrier pup.
Mrs. Willard, for the first time in months, was highly
diverted. She was alone when they arrived, but by the time
she had uncrated and fed them Richard and Laura had come
quietly in from school together. Aunt Gertrude had long
ago discouraged their shouting "Mother!" at the door, as
they had been wont to do before her arrival, and they were
in the room before Mrs. Willard knew they had come. They
stared in pleased surprise at the newcomers.
"Mrs. Teagarden's here!'* guessed Richard triumphantly.
"Isn't she, Mother?"
Mrs. Willard shook her head. "She just sent us the kittens.
She's gone to Switzerland/'
Richard stooped from his new and lanky height to scratch
Hallelujah behind the ear. "They're cute/' he said.
"Damrling," crowed Laura. "Oh! Look at her!" For Bits,
alarmed at being approached by so many strangers, had fled
up the curtain at the front window and now clung precari-
ously to the sheer net, switching her tail wildly.
"Wait," said Mrs. Willard. "Ill show you something."
She went into a near-by cupboard and brought out a dry-
cleaner's envelope, which she unfolded and spread on the
floor, placing Hallelujah upon it and motioning the children
away. The crackling o the paper under his feet excited
Hallelujah; he began a sort of rhythmic dance, his ears
cocked interestedly for the engaging sound. Bits, sliding
and clutching her way down the curtain, at once joined
him. At the first sound of their combined footsteps on the
paper both cats went entirely mad; they danced, they rolled,
they leaped upon imaginary prey, upon each other; their
beautiful eyes gleamed with excitement, their enormous
tails waved regally. Mrs. Willard and the children, within
a few moments exhausted with laughter, sat on the floor
and wept with glee.
To this scene entered Charles and Aunt Gertrude, to-
gether. "What, may I inquire, is the meaning of this?" de-
manded Mr. Willard, his spectacles flashing. "Richard, take
those cats outside!"
Mrs. Willard protested quickly. "No, no, Charles! Rich-
ard, wait. They're valuable cats, Charles. They're not used
to being out-of-doors. They'd be killed in the street. I'm
going to keep them in the house I "
Charles motioned the children to leave the room. "Now
what damned foolishness is this?" he demanded. "Where
did those cats come from, and what were you thinking of
to let them in here, to leave hairs all over the furniture
my furniture, you force me to remind you! Wherever they
came from, send Richard back with them at once. You
haven't bought them, have you?"
"Virginia sent them to me. I'm going to keep them."
"Ah!" Mr. Willard smiled. "So you're going to keep them.
So you're going to keep them. With or without my consent,
Mrs. Willard drew in her breath. "Yes," she said.
"Hmph!" remarked Aunt Gertrude, with an expectant
glance at Charles.
"I haven't got anything," Mrs. Willard broke forth sur-
prisingly. "I haven't got anything at all of my own. Not a
single thing. This house is yours. Yours and Aunt Ger-
trude's. And the children Charles, I can't live on the chil-
dren, it's not good for them I can't I haven't "
"You are hysterical," Charles replied coldly. "Control
yourself. I have spoken to you more than once about this
ridiculous tendency of yours to become emotional over
nothing. I had hoped, of late, that you had conquered it.
although I must say your behavior in other respects has
been anything but encouraging. You certainly have enough
sense to know, my dear, that tactics of this kind will not
raise you in my opinion. I detest an assertive woman. As
for these cats, if you will not dispose of them I shall be
obliged to. And I will." He snorted expressively. "Cats!"
Mrs. Willard tried to speak, but no words came.
"I will allow you three days," said Charles, "to get them
out of the house. I am a humane man. You will have ample
time to find homes for them if you wish them taken care of.
At the end of that time I shall act. I advise you to move
as quickly as possible, or you will have trouble with the
children. And I promise you I promise you/* Charles con-
cluded, smiling, "that this house will not be a pleasant place
for you or the cats or the children if there is any such
trouble, or if the cats have not been removed at the end of
three days. That is all I have to say."
He settled himself in his chair and opened the evening
paper. Aunt Gertrude took off her hat and went for a whisk
broom. Bits and Hallelujah had gone to sleep in a single
silken yellow heap at the end of the davenport. "And I
should be obliged/' added Charles after a moment, "if you
would hurry dinner. I am nearly famished."
For a moment Mrs. Willard stood tense in the middle of
the room, simmering with inner conflict; then, suddenly,
apathy enshrouded her again. "Oh, well/' she said.
In the months that followed the summary ousting of Dits
and Hallelujah, for whom she readily found adequate shelter
and presumably kind treatment in the home of a former
woman's club acquaintance, Mrs. Willard continued, to all
outward appearances, subdued and lethargic, uninterested
in anything but the children. But she was not the same.
The episode had perturbed her. Mrs. Willard was once
more seething with unrest.
"I'm seasick with it," she told herself. And indeed the
nauseous feeling of uncertainty and despair was not unlike
seasickness either in the physical qualms it caused her or in
the sense of utter hopelessness that accompanied it. She
cast about her, desperately, for some means of relief. " *I
cannot steal, to beg I am ashamed/ " she quoted irrelevantly.
"I can't draw, sing, act, dance, or paint on velvet; Aunt
Gertrude won't let me keep house. Could I write, I wonder?"
She might, she reflected, glancing at the outmoded juvenile
book she had been reading, do an autobiography. The Auto-
biography of an Automaton, in seventeen volumes. Mrs. Wil-
lard Winning Her Way. Mrs. Willard on Land and Sea.
Mrs. Willard in Search of a Status. She imagined the closing
scene of the final volume, with her heroine declaiming ap-
propriately: "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my be-
loved husband. . . ."
She was driven for comfort to the children, who were
now thirteen and fourteen years old. These had seemed of
late to need her less and less, and she had taken pleasure in
their sturdiness and self-reliance; but now her whole being
rose up in protest against their insolent and preposterous
growth. She thought of Richard's little feet tucked softly
about with a blue baby blanket look at them now, great,
right-angled things sticking out at the foot of his bed like
some uncouth signaling apparatus. She thought of Laura's
downy head lying small and round in the crook of her arm,
and of the expert care with which that same head was now
being burnished, tended, and groomed by a critical and
efficient Laura who required the crook of nobody's arm for
"But I've got to have something," Mrs. Willard remon-
strated with fate.
She went in search of Laura, who was sewing buttons on
a sweater, and absently sat down on a neat pile of Laura's
freshly ironed blouses, rising with guilty haste as her
daughter cried out upon her.
"Mother! Oh, you are such a problem child! Here, 111
fix them." Laura swept the blouses into a drawer and patted
Mrs. Willard fondly on the cheek. "There. Now you can
Laura was kind.
Mrs. Willard went to look for Richard. She found him
in his own room, in a tangle of radio wires and batteries.
Though he greeted her with his usual engaging "Hello,
Mother," he looked absorbed, and for some inexplicable
reason she was attacked by shyness. Nothing she could think
of was what she wanted to say; yet Richard was obviously
and patiently waiting for her to say something.
"Do you do you " she began.
"I've been meaning to remind you, Richard, now you've
grown so big I don't see so much of I mean " What
was the matter with her? She had not the faintest Idea, in
the face of Richard's intent gaze, what it was she wanted
to say. Wildly she completed the sentence with the first
thing she could think of. "Do you say your prayers every
Richard looked astonished, as well he might. "Oh, no,
Mother/' he replied Indulgently. "I'm an atheist." He picked
up a coil of wire and waited, smiling at her. "Did you want
to talk to me about anything else, Mother?'*
MRS. WILLARD felt dismissed by life. For a time she brooded;
then she decided that no life need be empty If its owner
chose to fill it, and she made up her mind to seek commer-
cial employment. Charles, who had become impatient with
her vague unrests and was entirely comfortable under the
ministrations of Aunt Gertrude, did not withhold his con-
sent; and the event was that Mrs. Willard became an indexer
of scientific publications and, having repeatedly demanded
of life that she must have something, discovered to her no
small consternation that what she had got was Miss Mothers-
The supervisor of indexes, gelid, grim, and watchful, sat
at a heaped desk near the front entrance of the indexers'
room. An oscillating electric fan was attached to the wall
above this desk and slightly to the left; there was a defect
in the machinery, so that the fan, although it oscillated per-
fectly from left to right, faltered every time it turned to face
Miss Mothershead and sank abruptly back to the end of the
circuit with a little metallic suspiration like a gasp of hor-
ror. More and more, as the weeks passed, Mrs. Willard
reminded herself of this eternally persevering, eternally dis-
couraged mechanism; again and again she made her way
toward Miss Mothershead, whirring amiably, only to drop
backward in helpless dismay as she met the basilisk glance
of the pale-eyed, thin-lipped figure behind the piled sheets of
This unapproachable quality in Miss Mothershead was
pervasive. It cast a gloom, a sort of despairing dampness, over
the office. Talking during hours was strictly forbidden, and
the indexers worked all day in deadly quiet broken only
at the luncheon hour, during which they went away in
pairs and little groups and, from long habit, peeped cau-
tiously at each other over their menu cards before they
ventured out upon the rocking seas of actual communica-
tion. Even their comments on the weather had a tentative
The youngest of them, a black-curled Celtic beauty of
twenty-two, was the first to speak to Mrs. Willard of the
oppressive atmosphere in the office.
"It's an awful place to work," this child confided, toying
with her coffee spoon, her dropped lashes black against her
exquisite white skin. "It's clean and comfortable, but "
She paused and laughed a little, helplessly. "They don't
give you any love!"
She gazed unhappily with her enormous shadowed blue-
black eyes at Mrs. Willard, and Mrs. Willard gazed unhap-
pily back. The little creature; the pretty creature. Surely
she was made for love if ever one was; made to flash in and
out of love like a gorgeous black-and-sapphire butterfly over
a swaying cascade of sunlit blossoms. Yet she sat all day bent
over a copy stand, writing neatly, marking accurately, alpha-
betizing endlessly, checking, checking, checking. What a
world, felt Mrs- Willard.
Yet she was not so uncomfortable in the office as were
many of the others. It was not for her, who had withstood
Charles for fifteen years, to quail when Miss Mothershead,
like some slit-lidded saurian of the wild, oozed up over the
edges of her littered desk and across to some other desk,
bearing disaster and swollen with punctual venom; or, if
she quailed, to succumb. The others were constantly suc-
cumbing. They succumbed weeping and were led away
by sympathetic friends; they succumbed stamping and sob-
bing with fury and departed with a great sound of dust be-
ing shaken off the feet; they succumbed a few times swear-
ing, and the familiar expletives of the street, exploding like
star shells in the dead atmosphere, took on an astounding
and appropriate beauty. Sometimes, miraculously, they got
married and departed smiling with uplifted hearts, and a
vast wonder was in the office and a bating of breath before
this celestial form of rescue.
Mrs. Willard, mildly dogged, continued to learn indexing.
For the few weeks during which she was allowed to keep
her salary check and disburse the money as she saw fit for
the benefit of herself and her family, she even found her work
exhilarating. Charles, however, was discontented with this
arrangement, for he felt that neither she nor any other
woman was to be trusted with the handling of money. Again,
as so often before, Mrs. Willard's passion for peace was her
undoing, and it was not long before Charles had the purse
strings securely in his own hands and had pensioned her
off with five dollars a week for carfare and lunches, sup-
plemented with permission to apply to him concerning her
Her freedom in managing her money had, to be sure,
been largely illusory, as most of it had been absorbed by the
requirements of Richard, Laura, and the household. Never-
theless, uneasy recollections of things she had been taught
in her infancy concerning taxation without representation
persisted in obtruding themselves, and she regarded the
innocuous yellow canister of tea on the pantry shelf with
On the whole, however, she felt better. Not the least ele-
ment of interest in her new life was the fascination of won-
dering how, in the time she necessarily spent outside the
indexers' office, Miss Mothershead employed herself. The
only conjecture that seemed at all consonant with her per-
sonality was that she put in the time stirring macerated
newts in a caldron, and this, Mrs. Willard felt, was unlikely.
When she learned from the lips of Miss Mothershead her-
self, who had her fleeting moments of pseudo-expansiveness,
the nature of one of the unhappy woman's actual forms of
self-expression, she was almost too dazed to make any re-
"Three of my friends and I," said Miss Mothershead, her
narrow pale eyes blinking, "meet regularly once a week and
go without our dinner. We put the money on the table and
spend the time talking about Near East relief and reading
pamphlets and circulars about it. Then we take all the money
and send it to the relief organization."
Mrs. Willard demurred. "But why not just donate the
same amount? Why go without your dinner?"
Miss Mothershead dealt her a look of disapprobation
mingled with patience. "For the effect of the sacrifice upon
our characters, of course," she said/
Mrs. Willard batted her eyes. This was a type of spiritual
bootstrap-lifting she had never before encountered. Nowa-
days, since she was away from home all day, she was more
Inclined to conversation with Charles and Aunt Gertrude
than she had been for some time, and she recounted this
incident in a sprightly manner at dinner that evening, for
their delectation. It was not well received.
Charles shook his head gravely. "It is not in good taste,
my dear, to say the least, to make fun of a charitable im-
pulse. The poor woman is unmarried and has few emotional
outlets. She is doubtless a very worthy person."
Mrs. Willard opened her lips to explain what seemed
to her the inconsistency in ethical practice of a department
head who deprived herself of her dinner once a week for
the benefit of her character and at the same time, between
sacrifices, made a regular habit of searching the desks of
her subordinates for any evidence that she could use against
them; for such, she had recently been informed by persons
claiming to be eyewitnesses, was Miss Mothershead's peculiar
custom; but Aunt Gertrude interrupted her.
"Mothershead?" she inquired. "Did I understand you to
"Yes. Yes, honestly," replied Mrs. Willard, turning eagerly
to face her. Was it possible that Aunt Gertrude was about to
show a spark of humor?
"Not Althea Mothershead?"
Mrs. Willard, disappointed, hesitated; at first thought it
seemed to her that Miss Mothershead had no more need of
any additional designation than Bluebeard had. She sum-
moned the name to memory, painstakingly. "I believe it is
Althea," she said. "Why?"
Mrs. Schnabel gave her a forbidding look. "I knew her
mother. Her mother was one of my best friends. Althea is a
very fine girl. I did not know she was in Chicago."
"There, you see, my dear/* said Charles rebukingly. "It is
never well to speak slightingly of anyone without thinking.
Aunt Gertrude may well feel that you owe her an apology.
I cannot "
"I shall call on Althea at once/' Aunt Gertrude continued.
"I suppose, Charles, that as my friend she would be welcome
here if I invited her from time to time?**
"Certainly, Aunt Gertrude. This is your home/* replied
Charles, with a meaningful side glance at Mrs. Willard, who,
appalled as she was at this unexpected turn of affairs, took
warning and refrained from speech.
Mrs. Schnabel let no grass grow under her feet. It was
less than a week later that Miss Mothershead came to dinner
for the first time.
She did not ride home on the elevated with Mrs. Willard,
who was her subordinate in the office, but waited a careful
half-hour and came alone. Mrs. Willard with widening eyes
marked the effusive cordiality with which she was received
by Mrs. Schnabel, from whom effusiveness in any direction
and for any reason seemed as incongruous as enthusiasm
from an armadillo; but her wits were quite equal to the
realization that Miss Mothershead had provided Aunt Ger-
trude at long last with a weapon by means of which she
might really hope to harass her niece-in-law. Charles, with
pompous courtesy, accorded the visitor all that he considered
her due as one introduced by Aunt Gertrude, a woman of
property; and Miss Mothershead, taking her cue from him
and Mrs. Schnabel, all but ignored the presence of Mrs.
Willard. Mrs. Willard herself, feeling suffocated, as soon as
dinner was over made an excuse of speaking to the children
and followed them upstairs. When she returned, Mrs.
Schnabel and Miss Mothershead, who were intimately in
conversation significant conversation, as was evident from
their instant springing apart deigned to smile propiti*
atingly at her and to include her, after a fashion, in what fur-
ther talk preceded the guest's departure.
THE effect of this renewed acquaintance was immediately
apparent in Mrs. Willard's office day. Miss Mothershead had
always treated her with aloofness and suspicion; she now
began with deliberate malice to persecute her. No error in
Mrs. Willard's work, however trifling, was ever passed over
without scathing rebuke necessarily public rebuke, for the
room was not large, there were several indexers, and Miss
Mothershead took great pains with her articulation. Her
enjoyment of these encounters would have been evident to
a blind person. The gusty sigh of exaggerated patience, the
pushing back of her chair, the sliding chip-chip of her heels
as she crossed the room all were but too eloquent; and to
Mrs. Willard, who was not blind and who was at least
normally sensitive to public humiliation, the thinly veiled
relish expressed in the cold, colorless eyes and the twitching
curled lip of her castigator was intolerable. She fixed her
gaze instead upon the repulsively veined hands that held
the index proofs, and endured it as best she might.
She was able to steel herself to nonresistance only by think-
ing with desperate determination of Richard and Laura,
who would suffer if she were discharged. Charles was not
earning enough to maintain them all in anything like com-
fort; Aunt Gertrude, who by her unnecessary but unceasing
household activities indeed more than earned her board,
contributed nothing beyond these activities; Mrs. Willard
herself was trained for no other work, and the system and
style of indexing she had learned so painfully was indigenous
to the publishing house in which she employed It and would
be useless elsewhere.
The extreme unpleasantness of what followed her one
outburst of open rebellion was, moreover as Miss Mothers-
head would undoubtedly have put it a lesson to her, for the
flare-up ended in utter ignominy. Her outburst, if a pro-
cedure so restrained may be called an outburst, took place
in the middle of one of Miss Mothershead's longer and more
scarifying exhortations concerning a reference Mrs. Wil-
lard had omitted to check sufficiently. Mrs. Willard rose
from her chair and pushed her papers aside.
"You will please accept my resignation, Miss Mothers-
head/' she said clearly and with dignity, and walked from
Her satisfaction in what she had done was as brief as it
was fierce. Before she had so much as reached the street she
had remembered Charles. What diatribes, what reproaches,
what accusations of instability, of having removed a hand
once set to the plow, what martyred acceptance of her lack
of all the qualities of a true helpmate would be her portion
both now and forever if she persisted in this mad course
she knew only too well. Already she could hear him: "Very
well, my dear, if it is your desire to pursue an idle and use-
less existence, by all means let it be so. You are not needed
at home; Aunt Gertrude manages things better, far better,
than you have ever seen fit to do. Your taking this position
in the first place was not, if you remember, through any
action or desire of mine. It was your own idea. If you have
so little constancy of purpose as to give up your work at the
first little unpleasantness! . . . Furthermore, remember that
Miss Mothershead is Aunt Gertrude's intimate friend. I
doubt whether you will find the atmosphere any too pleasant
at home now, either for yourself or for the children."
There It was. The children. He could always threaten
her with the children. And she would always yield. Oh, yes,
she would yield. The all but insuperable inertia induced by
years of submission was once again too much for her. Sick-
ened throughout her physical being, torn inwardly with a
clawing and retching self-contempt, Mrs. Willard retraced
her steps, entered the elevator, got off at her accustomed
floor, and sat down at her desk again.
Miss Mothershead turned, greatly enjoying both the
spectacle o Mrs. Willard's flaming countenance and the sen-
sation in the room. " L Why, Mrs. Willard!" she exclaimed
with a mincing exaggeration of a tone of pleased surprise.
"I was under the impression that you had left us/'
"1 have changed my mind/' responded Mrs. Willard
Miss Mothershead made as if to act further, but apparently
took second thought and turned back to her work. There
would be time enough later, Mrs. Willard reflected, for Miss
Mothershead's revenge. There would be all the time there
was. And the revenge would lose nothing in the interval.
Not even to the office would it be confined; Mrs. Willard
knew with instant certainty that Aunt Gertrude would hear
of it in time, and, consequently, Charles. She had, she con-
cluded, got herself into a pretty fix indeed.
In this she was not mistaken. The senseless recriminations,
direct on the part of Charles and Aunt Gertrude, subtly
disguised and calculatingly staged by Miss Mothershead,
continued for months. But the breaking point was near.
The gathering tension within Mrs. Willard would not
much longer brook confinement. A smoldering resentment
toward practically everything and everybody in her life was
taking shape in her mind, and the element of self-pity,
hitherto abortive in her, was rising to the level of her con-
sciousness. Resentment amounting to fury began to possess
her when, like Milton, she considered how her light was
spent ere half her days in this dark world and wide. For
surely light, that blessed tool of life, had not been meant for
spending on indexes,
Nor had its glory been meant to pass unnoticed while she
wore herself out acting as a buffer between Charles and
Richard, whose conflicts, as the boy grew older, arose with
heightened frequency and rancor; nor, for that matter,
while she endeavored privately to convey to Charles a sense
of those changes incident to social evolution which made
his disciplinary restrictions so galling to the spirit of his
son. It was a fruitless endeavor at best; social evolution, as
he had frequently informed her in set terms, was no concern
Better uses for light might be found, too, than the daily
presentation of Miss Mothershead and her accusing "You
haven't bothered yourself too much about accuracy here,
have you, Mrs. Willard? Here's a reference "
And so, as day followed day and week followed week and
month followed month and year followed year, these resent-
ments, feeding upon themselves, grew to portentous size
and energy, and on a quiet April Saturday at the end of
the third year Mrs. Willard said, breathing hard, "I'd like
my library card, Charles," and Mr. Willard said, "Do you
want me to swear at you?" . . .
On that day, as Mrs. Willard began to ascend the stair-
way at the elevated railway station, her hand shook on the
railing. Three years of it, spring rain, summer blaze, autumn
wind, winter ice. Three years of Miss Mothershead. Three
more years of Charles. Five dollars a week and her library
card sticking in Charles' mirror. . . . She paused and gasped,
trying to keep from crying; she snatched open her purse to
get at her handkerchief, and as she did so she stopped short
on the stairway.
The purse had nearly seventy dollars In It.
For a moment, forgetting where It had come from, she
actually swayed. Then she remembered. Every week she
cashed her own salary check and Charles', for Charles was
sensitive about the amount of his and spared himself this
embarrassment. She was always required to turn over all
except her five dollars at once. However, on the preceding
evening Charles had been out late, returning after she had
gone to bed, and the argument about the library card this
morning had driven the transaction from both their minds.
Mrs. Willard stood still where she was and let the hurry-
ing men and women push past her, ignoring their curious
or indignant glances. Seventy dollars. She must go back,
before Charles had left the house, and give it to him.
Seventy dollars. Mrs. Willard recalled the banishing of
Dits and Hallelujah, and her spiritless acquiescence; the
defiant moment when she had faced Miss Mothershead, and
the shameful defeat that had followed it. And now once
again she must yield; she must return meekly to Charles,
while yet her library card was fixed In the edge of his mir-
ror, and meekly turn over this money.
"I won't," said Mrs. Willard aloud.
She looked challengingly about her as though she expected
Charles to appear. But for once he did not. She began her
renewed ascent of the stairs, but slowly. There was a motor-
bus station across the street, with a vast orange-and-black
sign. Slowly but brilliantly resolution dawned in Mrs. Wil-
lard's eyes. With an inarticulate sound she fled back down
the stairs and across the street, bursting into the bus station
like one pursued.
The attendant at the window looked up, not much sur-
prised. "Where'd you wish to go, madam?" he inquired.
Mrs. Willard paused but a moment. Her mind, now
triumphantly the mind of an indexer, began at the begin-
ning. Aalborg, Abyssinia, Admiralty Island, Aix-la-Chapelle,
Alaska, Albuquerque, Allahabad, Amsterdam, Anacostia,
Appomattox, Archangel . . .
Suddenly from some forgotten corner of her memory a
spray of flowering dogwood appeared before her eyes. Yes,
it was April. She drew a long breath of ecstasy at the lovely
vision and turned to the man in the window with stars in
"I'm going to Arkansas/' said Mrs. Willard. . . .
So imperfect is the finite mind for apprehension of the
purposes of destiny that Mrs. Willard, awakening some hours
later to find herself in an unmistakable hospital bed, with
a heavy cast on her left forearm and sundry generous patches
of plaster scattered here and there over her person, actually
thought, and briefly wept to think, that she had been once
more thwarted by a pitiless fate. There was no escape for
her, she told herself, moaning; there would be no escape
With her mind still sliding weakly back and forth from
what remained of the anesthetic, she tried to recall what had
happened to her. At first she remembered only a concerted
shouting of alarmed voices and the bus driver's frantic yell:
"She's goin' crazyl I can't control her!" and then, senselessly,
"Jump, why don't you? Why don't you jump?" There had
been a splintering of glass, a numbing shock, a stab of light-
ning pain in her arm from wrist to shoulder, the roughness
of grass and stubble against her face; she remembered looking
at her wrist, trying to move it, hearing the lightly muffled
multiple grating of the shattered bones under the flesh; with
the last darkening of the light she had seen the wrist humped
up queerly, curving like a fork. Then nothing.
And now the hospital. A smiling nurse paused beside the
bed. "Well, well!" she exclaimed with professional good
cheer, smiling at Mrs. Willard. "Awake at last, aren't we?
and feeling better. That was a nasty bump you had." She
pulled away the covers and examined Mrs. Willard briefly.
"Goodness, you're certainly going to look like the map of
the world for a while. Those bruises! You certainly had a
lucky escape/' She replaced the covers and held her ther-
mometer up to the light in preparation for taking the
Mrs. Willard, making an effort, whispered: "Where am
I? I mean, where is this hospital?"
"What hospital Is this, do you mean?" asked the nurse.
"This is St. Stephen's. No, no, dear, you mustn't try to sit
"Not not Chicago?" whispered Mrs. Willard.
"Why, yes, honey. Here, let's fix that pillow. You mustn't
try to move so suddenly. Did you think you were clear out
of town? No, indeed. The crash was Inside the city limits
and everyone that was hurt was rushed right here. You're
right at home." She smiled brightly.
Mrs. Willard began to laugh uncontrollably and was Im-
mediately sick. "Charles " she gasped weakly as the
"Your husband? He and your aunt have already been here,
but you were still asleep. They'll be back later. Don't you
worry." The nurse patted Mrs. Willard reassuringly on the
"You have caused me," pronounced Charles, his spectacles
glittering with controlled fury, "to depart from the prin-
ciples of a lifetime."
Mrs. Willard said nothing. Aunt Gertrude, seated a little
farther from the bed, nodded resignedly.
"I have represented to Miss Mothershead that you were
called away suddenly by news o serious Illness In your fam-
ily and were injured before you had got out of town. I have
told the same story to the children. Kindly see to It that you
do not undeceive them."
Mrs. Willard did not speak.
"Not only have you forced me me! Into the dishonor
of misrepresenting the facts to your employers and to my own
children/* continued Charles, "not only have you flouted
my authority as head of the family by proposing to go on a
trip without consulting me; not only have you insulted me
as your husband, forgotten your duty to your home and
your children, humiliated me before Aunt Gertrude, and
made yourself ridiculous by flying off the handle like a
half-baked schoolgirl, but you have actually been guilty of a
criminal act. You took money that did not belong to you,
money from our common fund, which should have been
sacred to you. Do you know what that is called, my dear?"
He smiled, showing his teeth. "That is called theft. Theft."
Aunt Gertrude nodded again. Mrs. Willard, whose hands
had begun to twitch on the counterpane, still did not speak.
"Most of the money, fortunately all except what you
spent for the ticket I have recovered from your purse. But
the principle remains the same. And, moreover - "
The nurse entered. "Sorry; time's up," she said pleasantly.
"This little lady's had a hard bump, and she needs to rest
now until tomorrow." She advanced toward the bed.
Charles flashed his glasses upon her. "I have not finished
speaking with my wife," he informed her stiffly. "Kindly
leave us alone."
The nurse stood her ground. "I'm sorry, Mr.
"Dr. Willard, if you please," corrected Charles with icy
"You're a doctor?" The nurse's eyes widened. "But then,
"Damned stupidity!" Charles muttered quite audibly.
Then, directly to the nurse, "Be good enough to step out-
side for a few moments. My aunt and I will leave In due
"I can't do that, sir. I'm sorry. My orders "
A stout, elderly physician with white hair and a truculent
expression suddenly appeared in the doorway. "What is it,
"It's Dr. Griffith's orders, Dr. Kellway, that this patient
mustn't have visitors yet for more than ten minutes at a
time. The time's up, and "
"Certainly," agreed Dr. Kellway brusquely. He glanced
at Mrs. Willard's jerking fingers and, crossing to the bed,
laid a big hand on her forehead for a moment. "This patient
must rest. At once," he added, as the visitors made no move
"Very well." Charles rose at length and deliberately
reached for his hat. "I suppose, Aunt Gertrude, we must
yield to the pontifical supremacy of the all-knowing medical
profession." He bowed to the doctor with exaggerated
courtesy and turned back for a moment to Mrs. Willard.
"I hope you will be feeling somewhat stronger tomorrow,
my dear, for I have much to discuss with you." He turned
"Charles the children " choked Mrs. Willard.
"Well?" He halted at the door. "The children?"
"I want I want to see them," whispered Mrs. Willard.
Charles hesitated, obviously forming new objurgations in
his mind, and Dr. Kellway Interposed. "Certainly, Mrs. Wil-
lard," he replied with hearty promptness. "The children may
come down to see you tomorrow." He turned to Charles.
"It is quite necessary absolutely necessary, you under-
stand that Mrs, Willard's mind be put at rest and kept at
rest until she has had time to recover from the shock of her
injury. Good-by." He closed the door.
Tears were crowding from under Mrs. Willard's closed
eyelids. "He won't let them come," she whispered weakly.
"What, Mrs. Willard?" Dr. Kellway and the nurse re-
turned to the bedside, "Oh, yes, he will," Dr. Kellway prom-
ised, after a quick explanation from Miss Havens. "Hell
let them come, all right. Don't you worry, Mrs. Willard.
They'll be down to see you tomorrow."
And they were though by what maneuvering on the
part of Dr. Kellway Mrs. Willard never learned. The sight
of their white scared faces, the quick tears in Laura's eyes
as she bent to kiss her mother, touched Mrs. Willard beyond
her control; she broke again into silent, helpless weeping.
"I'm all right, my darlings!" she assured them over and
over, weakly, trying to smile comfortingly at them.
Richard and Laura sat looking at her, not knowing what
to say. "I joined the chess club at school/' Richard offered
"Did you, dearest?" whispered Mrs. Willard. "That's nice."
"Can't you talk out loud at all, Mother?" asked Laura,
her eyes filling again.
"I'm just too lazy to try, I suppose." Mrs. Willard tried
to summon an accent of cheer. But at this point Richard,
who had been turning and turning his algebra textbook in
his hands, suddenly burst into an adolescent boy's painful,
croaking sobs. "Mother!" he begged her. "Mother, you aren't
going to die, are you? Mother!"
"Of course not, darling. No. No. Please don't, Richard.
Please don't, dear. I'm all right. I'll be all right in no time.
I'm just tired. Laura, lend him your handkerchief, dear.
Quick. Here comes Miss Havens."
Richard dashed his hand against his eyes and moved
quickly to the window.
"Time's up/* chirped Miss Havens blithely. "My, my, you
certainly have a nice boy and girl there, Mrs. Willard,
haven't you? Doesn't seem like you're old enough to have
such big children. Well," she smiled at Richard and Laura,
"your mamma's lots better today, isn't she? She'll be home
again, good as new, in no time now. Nothing to worry about!
Better let her rest now, hadn't we? Good-by. Come again
The children kissed Mrs. Willard. "Good-by, Mother/*
"Good-by, darlings," she whispered. "Be good. Don't
worry about me. I'm all right. You heard Miss Havens say
there's nothing to worry about."
But Miss Havens, together with several of the staff physi-
cians, was constrained a little later to change her mind; for
Mrs. Willard in the middle of that night went into a high
fever and an uncontrollable delirium, and for more than
three weeks knew nothing at all of Charles, of the children,
of Aunt Gertrude, of Miss Mothershead, or of the contrition
she might reasonably have been expected to feel concerning
her own recent deplorable activities.
THIS unexpected seizure aroused interest among the mem-
bers of the hospital staff. Mrs. Willard, who was unaccus-
tomed to being the center of so much attention, endured
the successive and varied probings and examinations that
marked her early convalescence in a mental state com-
pounded equally of bewilderment and boredom. She was
not In the least interested, herself, in her condition or in what
had caused It. The doctors, however, were eager; and, al-
though they were both considerate and kind, they were
looked upon with distrust by Mrs. Willard, who had begun
to dislike men merely as men, because they reminded her
Charles himself had appeared at the hospital only once
since her return to consciousness and reason, and then for
a hurried visit. He seemed brisker than usual and slightly
less censorious, pointing out to her only once that her weak-
ened state and its cost to him were nobody's fault but her
own. Mrs. Willard attributed the briskness, from her knowl-
edge of Charles, to the added sense of importance he ob-
tained from being in sole charge of the household. To his
single reproach she simply closed her mind, an act made
possible only by the debilitation resulting from her illness.
In health her mind was obstinate, remaining uncompromis-
ingly open no matter with what panting desperation she
set her shoulder against it, but now it closed with magical
readiness at the bare touch of a finger. That was restful.
That was very restful. Mrs. Willard sank her head pleas-
antly deeper into the pillow, enjoying the ease of not think-
ing, floating idly and delightfully in a sort of semiconscious
trance of detachment.
Occasionally some sound in the corridor outside would
penetrate her reverie the subdued clatter of dishes and
trays, a curt order, an exaggerated sigh of annoyance; and
once a furious oath. The voice was a man's, lowered even
in rage. Its exasperation was like the sound of a snapped
cord: "No, no, no, no, Christ damn it! Not that one. The
other one!" There followed a frightened murmur and scurry-
ing footsteps, and then silence.
Mrs. Willard's mind, roused temporarily from its exhaus-
tion, noted briefly the difference that may exist between
two swearing men for the speaker had not sounded in the
least like Charles and slid by easy degrees back into semi-
She had spent much time lately In this supine mental pos-
ture, though she was usually Interrupted midway of her
musings by the arrival of yet another doctor to perform yet
another kind of examination. Mrs. Willard had arrived at
the point where, if It had not been so much trouble, she
might have reached for one of the firm little rubber ham-
mers that protruded so temptingly from the pockets of their
white hospital jackets, and . . .
The hearty voice of Dr. Griffith, the surgeon who had
treated her wrist, broke In upon her. "Well, Mrs. Willard!"
he boomed. "Don't tell me you're asleep again. I know bet-
ter; I'm on to you. Wake up and let me introduce Dr. Mac-
lane, of the neurosurgical staff. He's just got back from
Hungary, and I want him to look into this little affair you've
been having with the sandman. Hey?"
Mrs. Willard opened her eyes resignedly* "How do you
do, Dr. Maclane," she said civilly, and shut them again.
"How are you, Mrs. Willard?" responded Dr. Maclane, sit-
ting down beside the bed.
"Ill leave it to you, Alec/* Dr. Griffith said cheerfully.
"Don't be alarmed, Mrs. Willard, if he asks you a lot of
personal questions. These neurologists nowadays won't stick
to their ganglia, you know; got to dabble in psychiatry too.
But they mean well, they mean well." He bustled out and
closed the door behind him.
There was silence in the room for so long that Mrs. Wil-
lard was all but constrained to open her eyes. Just before
she did so, however, Dr. Madane spoke.
"You are married, Mrs. Willard? Or widowed?"
"I am a good deal more married," Mrs. Willard replied
distinctly, her eyes still closed, "and a good deal less widowed,
than anybody you are likely ever to have seen before/*
"I see. And you are how old?"
Mrs. Willard set her teeth and repeated once again the
endless data concerning her history, medical and personal,
her life, her children, and her present state of health from the
subjective standpoint. Dr. Maclane took rapid notes. "You
are young," he remarked at length, "to have children nearly
sixteen and seventeen years old. Your husband is consider-
ably older." He paused, then suddenly shot a question at
her: "Do you love your husband?"
Mrs. Willard allowed her eyes to open far enough to give
him an expressive look, which appeared to satisfy him. "Are
you in love with anyone else?" he continued.
"Put my neck in that noose a second time? No, thank you/'
answered Mrs. Willard, closing her eyes again.
"Neither love nor biology has anything to do with nooses,
"Neither love nor biology will have anything to do with
me either, Dr. Maclane, if I can help it." Mrs. Willard opened
her eyes again, this time completely, and met his gaze
squarely. At full sight of him she started slightly; she knew,
as though she had seen it, that this was the man who had
cried, "No, no, no, no, Christ damn it! Not that one. The
other one!" She turned her head away. "Need we discuss
thi^, matter further?"
"I think so, Mrs. Willard." His own gaze, as their eyes met
and locked, was calm now, professionally interested and im-
personal. He was attractive, she reluctantly admitted to her-
self, in spite of the restlessness and potential irritability that
lay beneath the carefully controlled surface of his manner.
There was a suggestion of strength, of unlimited nervous
energy perpetually at variance with profound nervous strain,
about his dark, clearly marked countenance and the tautness
of his wide shoulders. He would be tall if he stood up. Taller
than Charks by several inches,
"How long have you felt this way, Mrs. Willard/' he pur-
sued, "about love 4 and biology?"
Mrs. Willard made no answer.
"Well, let's go back a little." Dr. Maclane tried another
tack. "How did you come to marry a man you didn't love,
and a man so much older than yourself? Or did you think
you were in love with him? Or were you, perhaps, actually
in love with him at the time?"
"If I could answer any of those questions, Dr. Maclane/*
replied Mrs. Willard wearily, "I should probably not stand
in need of your services today. If I do," she added with un-
concealed resentment. He had aroused her; the irritation
of his questions had pulled her once for all out of her com-
fortable lethargy. "If you'd only if all of you would only
leave me alone!" she cried. "I don't know why I married
him, I tell you. I just married him. Maybe I wanted to be a
member of the Faculty Dames, I was eighteen. What did I
know about what I wanted?"
"Eighteen. You left college to be married?"
"I was through college."
"Oh?" Dr. Maclane gave her a keen look and changed his
line of questioning. "Earlier, then: as a girl of high-school
age, had you a great many ah 'boy friends'?"
"None," replied Mrs. Willard.
"I was not popular with boys of my own age," Mrs. Wil-
lard explained in the tone of one reciting a set and mem-
"Why not? Too Intellectual?"
She made an impatient gesture. "How should I know?"
Dr. Maclane leaned back in his chair. "Do you recall any
incident any unpleasantness, perhaps in connection with
a boy during that period?"
"Yes/* answered Mrs. Willard unexpectedly. "The first
boy I ever went out with told everybody in school I had
asked him to take me."
"What made him do that, do you suppose?"
"What?" asked Mrs. Willard. "Oh. I did ask him."
"You did?" Dr. Maclane repeated, a faint amusement in
his dark eyes as he surveyed Mrs. Willard's candid coun-
tenance. "What a wonder child he must have been," he
commented, "to drive you to such lengths!"
"A wonder child? Pedestrian?" Mrs. Willard laughed
shortly. "Heavens, no."
"His name was Walker. Walker Wainwright. So he was
called Pedestrian," Mrs. Willard explained without interest.
"He looked a good deal like a mule," she added meditatively.
"My word. Then what did you want with him?"
"I didn't want him. I wanted to go to the party. It was a
class party. The others were all dated up. He was the only
one left." Mrs. Willard's gentle features took on a sort of
reminiscent stubbornness. "He tried to get out of it," she
recalled complacently, "but he couldn't. So he took me."
"Perhaps," suggested Dr. Maclane, "your marriage was
based upon much the same sort of motivation. Perhaps you
'wanted to go to the party* that is, to enter into the adult
world of married life and merely jumped to the somewhat
premature conclusion that the man you married was 'the
only one left/ What do you think of that possibility?"
Mrs. Willard shrugged her shoulders. "I shouldn't wonder.
It doesn't matter."
The doctor regarded her appraisingly. "You certainly
know, Mrs. Willard," he commented at last, "that you are
a very attractive woman now. You cannot, I think, have
been unlovely as a girl."
"Unlovely?" Mrs. Willard looked startled, meeting his
direct gaze. "Why why, no. On the contrary, I was quite
pretty, I believe." Her tone suggested that she had never
considered the matter before.
Madane laughed dryly. "You're rather surprising, as a
"Why 'as a woman?"
He shrugged. "Your delightful sex is not, as a rule, so
casual about that particular matter."
"Neither is yours. So why *as a woman?"
"Very well; as a person, then." He looked at her specu-
latively. "I should like to have seen you all the way up, I
think as a baby; as a little girl going to school; as a relent-
less high-school maenad bent on snaffling that poor Pedes-
trian; and well, just before your marriage perhaps."
He smiled suddenly and charmingly, and Mrs. Willard,
who had begun a flippant reply, "Well, I have photo-
graphs," found before she finished the sentence that some-
thing had happened to her. Her mind, racing ahead of her
stammering speech, was without words talking to Dr. Mac-
lane, pleading with him to listen: I could show you, Dr.
Maclane, if I had the photographs here. I could show you a
baby in a white drawnwork dress, a nice baby, so soft, so
blue-eyed and trusting; you would have liked that baby,
Dr. Maclane. I could show you a little girl five years old,
ready for her first day of school, all solemn eyes and brown
curls and blue-checked gingham, holding her big Teddy
bear beside her on the piano stool, and the starched em-
broidery of her panties just barely showing under the ging-
ham pleats. You would have liked the little girl too, you
would have laughed tenderly at her; I should like to hear
you laugh tenderly, Dr. Maclane. I could show you a girl
of sixteen and you would laugh again, but only to yourself
this time, for she was beautiful then, but with the absurd and
exquisite sadness of youth that has nothing to be sad
about. . . . And I could tell you what she was like at eighteen,
Dr. Maclane, though I haven't any photograph, you'd have
to take my word for that; now she is tall and slim and In
bloom, now she wears a brown coat and a soft brown hat and
walks in the woods with her dog and gathers bittersweet and
trailing red vines and berries: and now you would not laugh
at all, Dr. Maclane, but your breath would come a little
quicker and a little deeper, because you would know, Dr.
Maclane, you are not stupid like other men, you would
know what it was that waited there for you, and you would
come and take it, and there would be a hard little shudder
of delight at the girFs heart for what you would find there
oh, not unlovely, not unlovely, Dr. Maclane.
Mrs. Willard caught her breath. "I could show you, if
I had the photographs/' she repeated lamely.
Dr. Maclane looked at her with curious intentness; it
was almost as though he had shared her passionate thoughts.
"There's no need," he said, rising. "I have a pretty good
idea, I think. Ill not trouble you with any more questions
today. Probably all you need is a good rest. Well start plan-
ning tomorrow how you can get it."
Mrs. Willard smiled at him. She had the feeling, In-
explicable but definite, that this moment marked the end
of a breathless and delightful adventure she had had in
common with Dr. Maclane. Did he feel this too? Probably
not. Probably the quality in his personality that had pro-
duced this odd result was only a part of his professional
equipment, which he turned on and off at will. Mrs. Wil-
lard did not care. She felt, for the first time in her life, like
a woman of experience. She wanted, above everything else
on earth, merely to be alone; alone for hours, that she might
brood in peace over her newly acquired and vaguely out-
lined but ineffably delicious past.
THE heart that has never known plenty will feast on a crumb.
When Mrs. Willard recalled the sudden and inexplicable
sympathy that had sprung up between her and Dr. Maclane,
that memory, complete in itself, was the whole of her impres-
sion. Yet she was conscious of a new feeling, Intensified by
the cleansed and expectant freshness that often follows a
severe Illness a faint, sweet troubling of sense like the long
humming of a violin string lightly plucked. Her mind, en-
tirely virginal after eighteen years of marriage with Charles,
had as yet no part In the slow awakening of her heart and
body and could not tell her that in both, as surely as In the
quivering heart and body of the young girl who finds and
accepts love almost as soon as she Is able to speak the word,
there plunged the frail and exquisite pulses of pristine
desire. The happiness that arose in her again and again,
as she lay there dreaming, she attributed to a totally differ-
ent cause; she was happy, she thought, because of the
blissful prospect of the "good rest" that had been promised
To her considerable astonishment, Charles had made no
real outcry at the proposal of her physicians that she spend
at least two months at a quiet lakeside resort in northern
Indiana. He did, It Is true, point out to her that except for
Aunt Gertrude's generosity this project would be out of the
question. Aunt Gertrude had, it seemed, voluntarily offered
to pay all the expenses Involved.
"But what about the bus company?" murmured Mrs.
Willard, who, to her considerable astonishment, had a few
days before been presented with what seemed to her a stag-
going sum of money almost an independent fortune, she
thought proudly In compensation for her accident,
Charles stiffened. "I have thought best to deposit the bus
company's check toward the children's college education.
In your name, of course. We will not touch that, I think,
since Aunt Gertrude is so generous. Aunt Gertrude has even
offered to send the children out to you every other Saturday
or Sunday. It is more than you deserve, my dear, all things
He chucked her under the chin. Charles was in excellent
humor; he keenly appreciated himself in the role of bene-
factor, even of benefactor once removed. "Much more than
you deserve/* he repeated, shaking his finger at her.
Aunt Gertrude, who nearly always accompanied Charles
on his visits to the hospital, came near nodding agreement
with this but controlled the impulse in time. "I hope/' she
said instead, unclosing her lips as deliberately as though a
thin layer of some good mucilage had been spread between
them, "that the rest will do you good, both physically and
both physically and in every other way. You need have no
anxiety about your household duties, nor about Charles."
Mrs. Willard murmured appropriately. The swelling
smugness of Aunt Gertrude's manner must, she thought, be
a strain upon her very corset stays; Mrs. Willard could
imagine the chain of safety pins, which Aunt Gertrude for-
tunately did not wear on public excursions, clicking in agita-
tion before its impact. But it was entirely beyond her en-
feebled powers to resent either this patronage or the oppres-
sive benevolence of her husband. The bare thought o two
months spent away from both of them and from Miss
Mothershead! made her all but hysterical with relief.
"What about Miss Mothershead?" she asked faintly.
Charles flashed his pince-nez at her. "Your comments on
Miss Mothershead have done her great injustice. I called
upon her yesterday to discuss the situation and found her
most understanding and co-operative. She will arrange your
leave o absence without pay, of course."
"Althea Mothershead is a very fine girl," interpolated
Aunt Gertrude, fixing Mrs. Willard with a gaze in which
implied comparisons bulged like potatoes in a bag.
"I have also/' continued Charles, 'Visited the resort sug-
gested by Dr. Griffith. It is run by a Mrs. Metz, who seems a
thoroughly decent woman. It is a pleasant place, clean and
quiet, and the beds and food are good. The surrounding
landscape is attractive also." He cleared his throat. "All that
now remains Is to make definite reservations, which I shall
do as soon as I receive notice of your discharge from the
He rose, and Aunt Gertrude rose with him. "Good-by, my
dear." He bent and pecked formally at Mrs. Willard's fore-
Mrs. Willard, left alone, brooded for a time upon the
power of money. Charles had, she was sure, adopted his un-
expectedly complaisant attitude toward her unorthodox vaca-
tion only In response to Aunt Gertrude's manifest wishes,
though why Aunt Gertrude should wish her to have a vaca-
tion, unorthodox or otherwise, was a mystery she could not
explain. Mrs. Willard knew Aunt Gertrude much too well
to assume for a moment that this generosity was disinterested.
"She's probably as glad to have me out of her way as I
am to get rid of her. But Charles "
At thought of her husband she found it necessary once
more to control the rising of strong distaste. Aunt Gertrude's
lightest word, It seemed, was law to Charles. Ever since the
older woman had entered the house she had been its actual
head, Its determining factor in all matters of question; and
the only possible explanation of this, it seemed to Mrs. Wil-
lard, wag Charles' exaggerated sense of the Importance her
"property" gave her. Mrs. Willard, who had never been able
to work up much interest In money except when the chil-
dren were threatened by its lack, found this adulation dif-
ficult both to comprehend and to condone. Irresistibly, an
old nursery rhyme floated to the surface of her mind:
There was a crooked man
And he went a crooked mile;
He found a crooked sixpence
Upon a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat,
Which caught a crooked mouse;
And they all lived together
In a little crooked house.
A little crooked house. . . . This description of her own
home, since Mrs. Schnabel had come to live therein, struck
Mrs. Willard as extraordinarily apposite. It was odd that it
should be so, for surely a straighter little house, so far as
doilies and rugs and straitly distributed rows of kitchen
utensils were concerned, had never been seen. Yet the
crookedness was there. Mrs. Willard saw it in the obeisance
of Charles to his aunt's "property"; in the irritation and sus-
picion that characterized the habitual attitude of both aunt
and nephew toward Richard and Laura and their occasional
youthful lapses into irresponsibility, always identified by
both Charles and Aunt Gertrude with insolence, disobedi-
ence, and lack of proper respect; and in the general atmos-
phere of self-satisfaction and insistent respectability that filled
the place like a musty odor. A little crooked house, and Aunt
Gertrude the crooked cat, watching and watching. . . .
These thoughts became quickly intolerable. Mrs. Willard
turned from them to her inner vision, compounded just now
of her memory of Dr. Maclane and the prospect of the all-
glorious two months that lay ahead of her. About five days
must pass, she had been told, before she could be discharged
from the hospital. Five days, and then four days, and then
She saw Dr. Maclane but twice before her departure; the
first time for a complete neurologic examination, which was
happily reported as having given negative results, and the
second time when he paused in her doorway for a moment
the day before she left, and saw her sitting by the window
with the cast on her arm supported by the arm of her chair.
He called, unsmilingly, "Well, Mrs. Willard! Feeling better?"
Mrs. Willard smiled radiantly at him. "I feel wonderful."
"You look it. Well have a nice summer." He hesitated, as
though about to enter; then he nodded abruptly and
A nice summer. What a phrase, Mrs. Willard thought,
smiling. It was heaven, after all, he was describing. Surely
some loftier language would be more fitting.
Mrs. Willard at this point wandered off into a tossing for-
est of loftier language and spent a diverting hour imagining
how selected portions of it would sound, coining from Dr.
Maclane. Of home and Charles she thought no more that
IN SPITE of much credible evidence to the contrary, no five-
day period is actually endless. The day of release at length
arrived. On the short train trip to her haven of rest Mrs.
Willard was duly accompanied by her husband, whose man-
ner continued to suggest a high magnanimity bent upon
doing its full duty even to the undeserving. From time to
time, as the train reached open country and shot past woods,
flashes of bright water, silvery half-hidden trails, and finally
great rolling dunes of tufted sand, Charles kindly pointed
out and described these various beauties of nature to Mrs.
Willard, who was already drunken with them; and at the
little wayside station where they alighted he magnificently
called the local taxicab, a ramshackle but carefree Ford of
Indeterminate age and habits, to carry them a distance that
was less than one Chicago block. Mrs. Willard, who had
brought as little luggage as possible not more than Charles
could easily have carried would have enjoyed the trifling
walk, but surprise prevented her saying so until it was too
The Inn, a pleasant, wlde-porched white frame affair
suggesting a more than ordinarily comfortable farmhouse,
stood a little way back from the road, surrounded by trees
and small white-painted cottages with green shutters. Mrs.
Willard looked hopefully at the cottages, but upon inquiry
found that Charles had engaged her room in the main
"You will be more comfortable there," he said, "with the
bath and the other conveniences under the same roof. Those
in the cottages must use a separate bathhouse.' *
Mrs. Willard acknowledged the validity of this argument
in view of her recent Illness. She was in no mood to quibble
over details. She smiled at Mrs. Metz, a lean, hard-worked,
bright-eyed woman with a flowered apron covering her neat,
dark house dress, and, on being left alone with Charles in
the room allotted to her, sighed deeply with pure satisfac-
tion. It was not a large room, but it was large enough. It
contained nothing but bare essentials a bed, a wooden rock-
ing chair with a cushion, two straight chairs, a dresser, and
a small clothespress. The light dangled from a cord in the
middle of the ceiling. The floor was covered with a gay
linoleum rug, and the bedspread was white and immaculately
dean. A scraped and polished cleanliness, indeed, was ap-
parent everywhere; there seemed not a fleck of dust on any-
Charles, in the character of bustling host, became ex-
pansive. "Well, dear, how do you like It? Can you be com-
fortable here for two months?"
"It's heavenly," said Mrs. Willard. "Heavenly." She lay
down on the bed and closed her eyes; then, opening them,
she looked out at the window and suddenly sat up, astonished
at the vast stretch of sky and slowly swaying trees that could
be seen therefrom. "Ill be able to see the stars at night!"
she pointed out ecstatically to Charles.
"Naturally. Why not?** her spouse returned, a little im-
patient with this emphasis upon the obvious, "I hope, my
dear, by the way, that you will try to conduct yourself dur-
ing your stay here with some degree of propriety. You have
a tendency to be overemotional. Don't allow yourself to be-
come entangled with all sorts of chance acquaintances. Your
behavior, remember, reflects upon me."
A dimple, ordinarily invisible, appeared at one corner
of Mrs. Willard's expressive mouth. "What on earth do you
think I'm going to do, Charles?"
"God alone knows," said Charles in a moment of unprec-
Mrs. Willard laughed delightedly. "Why, Charles!"
But Charles was already ashamed of his lapse into the
commonplace. "The children will be out to see you at the
end of next week," he announced stiffly, and took his leave.
Mrs. Willard did not let this minor disappointment weigh
upon her spirits. The delicious bareness of her little room,
the stripping away of all clutter from her immediate sur-
roundings, as from her life itself, was nectar to her spirit;
and the privacy, the privacy! Mrs. Willard looked at the
wide white empty expanse of bed at her side and rolled joy-
fully into It, her still immobilized arm held carefully in the
air; then she lay still, lowering the arm, and listened to the
blessed silence closing in. Dinner was several hours away,
and she was tireder than she realized. In ten minutes she
When the first bell rang for dinner some time later and
Mrs. Willard, awakened, found herself still incredibly un-
burdened, carefree, and alone, a lightheaded gaiety that was
almost intoxication possessed her. She felt like a little girl
with a trip to the circus in the offing; this was the first eve-
ning, only the first few hours, of a flashing cycle of joy. No
more than the little girl on her way to the circus did Mrs.
Willard doubt that the two months by the lake would be
all joy, for no experience in her past, however harrowing,
had been able to make any permanent dent in her infrang-
ible inner hopefulness. Again and again, with a rainbow
round her shoulder and speeding toward the stars, she had
been halted in mid-flight and brought to earth by a most
painful arrow from some unexpected sniper and scurf of
hell; but she had learned nothing. Mrs. Willard was ready
to hope again.
She changed to a fresh dress and rearranged her hair
not without difficulty, for the heavy cast made these opera-
tions awkward indeed. A babble of consciously well-bred
voices from, below drifted in as she opened her door; that
would be, she conjectured, the older guests of the inn, who
like herself had been dozing in their rooms and cottages
and had made for the dining room at the first sound of the
She met only one person on the stairs, a fat man, red and
truculent of face, who stood aside with a sort of grudging
wheeze to allow her to precede him.
"Thank you/* said Mrs. Willard sunnily.
"Urf," replied the fat man with no change of expression.
The large dining room held a sprinkling of elderly per-
sons, already seated In little groups at the long tables. Two
earnest and motherly ladies were discussing some new book,
the one speaking in a deliberate and judicial manner, the
other listening in a brightness of attention so liquidly pro-
fuse that in a moment, so it seemed to Mrs. Willard, it would
be streaming off her face like tears and require to be mopped
up from the floor. "But tell me, dear Mrs. Turner/' besought
this votary, sinking her voice to a deprecatory alto, "Is it
a clean book?"
Mrs. Willard's giddy mind turned a handspring. "Oh,
just spanking clean/' it crowed. "You could eat off its half
But no. Mrs. Turner was shaking her head.
"No, I'm afraid not I'm afraid not, my dear. It is really
very sad, isn't it, to think of our young people "
Mrs. Metz, looking anxiously over the dining room, caught
sight of Mrs. Willard and beckoned. "Right over here, Mrs.
Willard, if you please/*
Mrs. Willard slipped into the seat indicated. A white-
haired man with a carefully paternal manner smiled at her
as she sat down. "That's very painful for you, my dear
Mrs. Willard, is it? having that cast to manage. Was it a
serious injury? I hope not. I certainly hope not/*
"Mrs. Willard will think you very flirtatious, Mr. Parker,
calling her 'my dear' on sight/* said Mr. Parker's nearest
neighbor, a large-toothed heavy woman with a drooping coil
of yellow-gray hair braided behind her ears. "You'll need
to be on your guard with Mr. Parker, Mrs. Willard; he's
a gay caballero, I promise you! I've been a great traveler in
my time, and I never "
"Now, I won't have you give Mrs. Willard such an im-
pression of our dear Mr. Parker, Mrs. Hanover," interposed
the pontifical Mrs. Turner. "Mr. Parker has been known
to some of us for a great many years, as the good companion
of a great many happy summers. Indeed, I have often
thought " Mrs. Turner smiled brightly around the group,
although a discerning observer might have marked in both
her tone and her facial expression a fleeting regret that the
room was not yet full "I have so often thought that Mr*
Parker may well be regarded by us all as the Dean of the
A murmur of genteel appreciation, as at a wealthy chris-
tening, attended the launching of this memorable epithet,
but it was quickly drowned by the louder sound of multiple
arrivals. Younger men and women, most of them in hikers'
costumes of varying degrees of informality, were streaming
in from the duneside trails. Animal cries of satisfaction at
sight of the steaming food prevailed immediately over even
Mrs. Turner's orotund accents, and Mrs. Willard, who was
also very hungry, was able to address herself to her dinner,
It was a good dinner, in excellent country style; fried
chicken, cream gravy, mashed potatoes, fresh asparagus,
applesauce (this, Mrs. Willard was to learn, was the specialty
of the house and appeared at every meal), cherry pie with
ice cream, and superb coffee. Directly across from Mrs. Wil-
lard a pretty and pregnant Latin brunette, attended by her
husband and two other genially shouting male companions
and answering apparently to the sole name of Baby, was
devouring huge quantities of potatoes and gravy and drink-
ing milk with an abandon little short of historic. "I'm going
to have a nice fat child this time or know why," she ex-
plained to Mrs. Willard. "They kept me on a diet the first
time, and my son he's nearly two still looks like an em-
The men chortled hilariously, and another young woman
who had expectations, though none so advanced as Baby's,
drew herself together a little and made some comment,
obviously disapproving of this frankness, to her husband.
The husband, a solemn, frail, spectacled young man, nodded
his entire agreement. Together against the world, they
brought to bear upon the oblivious Baby the joint pressure
o their wedded disapprobation.
Mrs. Willard, smiling to herself at this optimism, had
her attention further caught by a pair of extremely pretty
young men a little way down the table, who had seized upon
the topic with relish and were now twittering excitedly to-
gether about obstetrics. "The agony that girl went through!
But the baby was utterly darling," one of them cooed.
Mrs. Willard loved them all. Her content was so vast
and all-inclusive that it could not balk at content with any
of her fellow creatures; even Mrs. Turner's yearning acolyte,
whose name, it appeared, was Mrs. Presley Preston, had
charms for Mrs. Willard. She knew too well that as the days
went by there would appear a monotony of manner, in other
circumstances depressing, in most of her table companions.
She knew that the fat man she had met on the stairs would
reveal a vocabulary practically limited to the strange and
forbidding syllable Urf, with possible meager variations
ranging from Glurf through Wurf ; that Mrs. Turner would
continue to orate and Mrs, Presley Preston to admire; that
Mr. Parker would many times acknowledge his deanship
with a courtly bow; that Mrs. Hanover would repeatedly
proclaim how great a traveler she had been in her time; that
Baby and her masculine court would progress endlessly to
ever more candid observations, scandalizing with punctual
regularity the academic little couple at the end of the table;
and that the two delicate young men would twitter without
pause, whether of obstetrics or of some other topic. None of
it mattered. Peace, perfect peace had settled in upon Mrs.
Willard's soul, and the ready friendliness and receptivity
against which Charles had warned her so feelingly were
already in full possession. She was as much a member of the
goodly company at the Inn as though she had been born there.
She rose at length from the table and moved, with several
others, toward the front door, looking out Into the quiet
"Chilly for almost June, isn't it?" said Mrs. Hanover, be-
hind her. *Tve been a great traveler in my time, and "
Prudence constrained Mrs. Willard to seek her own room
almost immediately after dinner. Tomorrow, she promised
herself, she would venture at least a little way down one of
the trails, breathe the sweet woodland air, and satisfy the
hunger of her eyes and her heart for beauty. Fundamental
beauty, primitive and simple, was what these craved above
all: the sight of swift birds flying, the downthrust of roots
into the strong black sod. To feel the earth, and not a con-
crete pavement, under her feet; to walk until she was ex-
hausted and know the blessed rest that follows such exhaus-
tion; to find herself alone in the woods, with no other
human creature within sight or sound, and watch the earth
astir with that multitudinous and immemorial life that
takes no account of the human turmoil squirming like a
nest of earthworms on its outer edges. Mrs. Willard ac-
knowledged herself a part of this turmoil; she knew that
she could be, and often was, a lusty participant in it; but
she knew also, she thought with momentary grimness, when
she was in the presence of her superiors.
Turning off her light and watching, from her comfortable
bed, the last lights of day disappear and the stars come out
above the trees, she thought again, and happily, of Dr. Mac-
lane. Strange, she mused, how the mere memory of a few
sentences exchanged, a few seconds spent in sudden silent
communion, was like the turning on of a dazzling light
within her, seeming to reveal all mysteries and yet actually
revealing nothing. Moments of high and close communion
she had known before, with Virginia and occasionally with
both her children, although never with Charles; yet that
had been someway different.
"Someway/' however, was as near as she came that night
to defining the difference. Her depleted physical resources
were unequal to the task of pursuing it further, and sleep,
gentle and profound, had overtaken her before the last of
the stars came out.
"YOU'RE Mrs. Willard, aren't you?" The prim young wife
at the end of the table, w T ho, like Mrs, Willard, had come
down early to breakfast, laid aside a bundle of pale pink
knitting as Mrs. Metz's helper, a pretty, fresh-cheeked girl
of fifteen, offered her the cream. "No, thank you, Kathryn,
no cream. I'm trying to keep on my diet," she explained to
Mrs. Willard, "for for the baby, you know. And then my
doctor says it will be so much easier that way/' Uncon-
sciously her eyes sought the place down the table that had
been the scene last night of Baby's epic onslaughts upon
the gravy. "We're here for the summer; it's my husband's
vacation oh, I haven't told you our name, have I? Heming-
way. Mr. and Mrs. Hemingway," she added conscientiously.
Mrs. Willard acknowledged the introduction.
"We're trying to get the most out of the summer," Mrs.
Hemingway continued, "before iny husband has to go back
to his teaching. We thought this would be such a good place
for nature study. And we really have learned a great deal
already." She reached into her knitting bag and drew out
a small black leather notebook. "We've learned fifty-nine
different wild flowers no, fifty-eight. With their scientific
names and all."
Mrs. Willard, whose speaking countenance was an an-
notated commentary of sheer horror at this blasphemy, ver-
bally expressed admiring approval. She must, she told her-
self sternly, be broad-minded. It was entirely possible that
Mrs. Hemingway and her husband liked to botanize; that
they were really and truly more interested in cataloguing the
wild flowers than in looking at them. Probably, she thought,
Mr. Hemingway also chased butterflies with a net. She visu-
alized his solemn satisfaction as he displayed his struggling
catch for his lady's admiration. "One of the minor group-
ings of Lepidopiera," he would say modestly, his spectacled
eyes shining, "but interesting, my dear, I think?"
"So much better, I always feel, than simply wasting one's
time/' pursued Mrs. Hemingway with a really vicious glance
at Baby's empty chair. "Oh, here comes my husband now.
Hello, dear. Mrs. Willard, Mr. Hemingway/'
Mr. Hemingway bowed self-consciously and sat dow#,
placing his leather specimen case and his butterfly net on the
floor beside him. "Are you, Mrs. Willard, like my dear wife
and myself, interested in nature study?"
"I " began Mrs. SVillard. But at this point Baby and
her train, as ebullient as ever, burst into the dining room.
Baby was yawning expansively. "Hello," she gave out in-
discriminately, patting her open mouth. "What an hour!
What an hour! This early rising is going to mark my off-
spring, I tell you. Mark him indelibly. He'll probably have
wattles and a comb. I have the rottenest luck with my
young." She smiled brilliantly at Mrs. Willard. "You're
looking very well for yourself this morning, aren't you?"
Mr. and Mrs. Hemingway drew together visibly, as though
for mutual protection. "Disgusting!" breathed Mrs. Heming-
way, seizing her pink knitting and thrusting it out of sight
in its bag. Not even by that sacred symbol, it appeared, was
she willing to be linked in any fashion with the inexcusable
Baby. She appealed to her husband. "You've nearly finished
your breakfast, dear, haven't you? I think 111 just run up-
stairs and get my 111 meet you outside, dear/*
Mr. Hemingway nodded and patted her hand. "Clara Is
very sensitive/' he explained to Mrs. Willard a few moments
later. "She has great delicacy of feeling a rare quality now-
adays." He stared invidiously at Baby, who, in spite of her
continued lamentations about the early hour, was attacking
bacon and eggs with characteristic zeal.
The others were now trooping in. Mrs. Hanover, haunted
even at breakfast by a traveler's reminiscent longings, sur-
veyed the hearty country viands and shook her head, smiling
and sighing. "The Continental breakfast chocolate and a
roll, you know so much more refined/' Mrs. Turner, look-
ing a little bleak, and bereft for the time being of her plat-
form manner, refused to be drawn into conversation even by
the eager questionings of Mrs. Presley Preston, who fluttered
about her like a worried moth about a dying flame. Mr.
Parker, after the first elaborate courtesies of greeting, ate
his toast meditatively, with a benevolent, remote, and appro-
priately deanish smile of abstraction. The two dainty young
men, who were doubtless, thought Mrs. Willard, daintily
breakfasting in their dainty beds, did not appear at all.
Mrs. Willard enjoyed her own breakfast. Her appetite had
been thriving even before she had left the hospital, and
under the highly vitaminized ministrations of Mrs. Metz she
foresaw a quick return of her full strength. Even today she
was well enough, she felt sure, to try a walk in the woods.
She declined several invitations to include herself in parties
already made up, on the plea that her unreliability so soon
after her illness would spoil the enjoyment of the others,
and lingered in the front room until a quarter of nine, glanc-
ing over the morning papers; then she sauntered across the
deep veranda, upon which two tables of elderly ladies, to
her round-eyed astonishment, were already embarking upon
bridge, and wandered away alone.
The woods, the dunes and the lake, as In their turn she
sought them In the next few days, seemed to Mrs. Willard's
grateful eyes and reviving spirit the very pleasances of para-
dise. The beauty that pressed upon her at every turn of the
trail, the endless leisure to stand and stare, the solitary hours
of peace and introspection, wrought mightily upon her;
Charles, Aunt Gertrude, the grocery bill, Miss Mothershead,
her detested work at the office, her Insignificant role at
home all these quickly began to seem remote and fantastic,
the ghoulish patterns of an impossible nightmare. When Rich-
ard and Laura came out to see her for the first time she was
a changed woman.
"Mother!'' gasped Laura. "How did you why, you look
wonderful! How on earth Mother, here's Joanne. I brought
Joanne along. We thought it'd be more fun/' She looked
anxiously at Mrs. Willard. Richard, who after greeting his
mother had fallen suddenly silent, moved away and gazed
at the cloudy woods in the far distance.
Mrs. Willard turned to greet Joanne Warburton, Laura's
best friend, a pretty, blonde, wistful-looking girl, and sud-
denly kissed her too. "Why, of course, darling! Come along,
the three of you. Luncheon's ready. Are you staying over-
Richard scowled and Laura shook her head. "I guess not.
Aunt Gertrude didn't tell us we could."
"Oh," said Mrs. Willard. "Well," she added after a mo-
ment, "anyway we've got all afternoon and most of the eve-
ning. It doesn't take long to get home."
"She said be there by eleven," Laura replied.
"Well, that gives us quite a while. Lunch first, and then
111 show you my room, and then the three of you can trot
off to the woods for an hour or two, if you like, while I
rest 1 still have to rest In the afternoon, you know. And 1
think there's chicken for dinner."
Laura lingered a little behind the other two as they went
In to luncheon. "Mother/' she murmured, "It was all right
to bring Joanne, wasn't it? She paid her own way. I thought
It'd be fun to have her out here, where well, you know how
It Is at home, Mother, and now that you're not even
"Of course It's all right" Mrs* Willard's cheeks were
slightly flushed, "Bring anyone you like as often as you like,
and Richard may too. It'll be fun." The cheeseparing atmos-
phere at home, she thought indignantly, was having Its
effect; Laura's timid "She paid her own way" was sufficient
evidence of that. Mrs. Willard made a mental note o several
agenda connected with the children and laid it aside for her
return to Chicago.
The afternoon's program she had outlined to the three
young folk was changed in only one detail; Richard, it
seemed, had no taste for exploring the woods at present. "Do
you sleep when you rest In the afternoon, Mother?" he asked.
"Not usually. Why?"
The boy moved restlessly. "Do you care if I stay here Instead
o going with the girls, then?"
"Why, no, of course not, dear 111 be glad to have you."
Mrs. Willard looked anxiously at the impassive young face.
"Is anything the matter, Richard?"
"The matter? No. Nothing's the matter. Not with me/' the
boy responded moodily. "I just don't feel like hiking."
"Well, then, come up and talk to me, while I keep my daily
tryst with doctors' orders." Mrs, Willard tried to speak lightly,
but she was pretematnrally responsive to the children's
mo( xls perhaps especially so to those o Richard, who was
far less likely than Laura to share them voluntarily with her.
Richard followed her upstairs and sat down, but he seemed
no more disposed to talk than to hike. "It's quiet here," he re-
marked after a long interval of silence. "Isn't it?" He added
the question almost belligerently, in the manner of one accus-
tomed to having his every statement challenged.
"So quiet/' agreed Mrs. Willard facetiously, "that you tan
hear the waiters speaking French in Mrs. Hanover's memory."
Richard did not smile, although she knew he understood
her. She had marked him taking note of Mrs. Hanover at
luncheon. He Inherited his mother's penchant for lopsided
observation, and they found each other, ordinarily, excellent
company. But today he seemed to want nothing but to sit
and stare out of the window. He answered her questions
about the household and about the job he had taken in a
radio laboratory for the summer, but he volunteered nothing
further. Mrs. Willard at last gave it up and relapsed into
silence herself a silence that lasted almost without a break
until the return of Laura and Joanne, who burst in, breath-
less and full of talk about what they had seen and done, at
half-past five o'clock.
Seeing her young visitors off at the station, Mrs. Willard
knew a temporary return of depression, of rebellion against
her lot. "They could just as well have stayed all night," she
thought. "Richard would probably have got over whatever
it was that ailed him in time to enjoy the woods tomorrow.
Charles might have left me a little money." She controlled a
slight tendency of her lips to quiver childishly. "It wouldn't
have hurt him."
But it was nonsense worse than nonsense, she told herself
as she walked back to the inn, to let this heavenly summer be
spoiled by petty grievances and trivial worries. She would
write to Charles and state her wishes plainly; and, as for the
children, she would steadfastly impress upon them the in-
evitability of unpleasantness in some form in nearly every
day of nearly every human life. The important thing, she
would tell them, Is not to be beaten not ever to be beaten;
and If your heart must bleed, to put a basin under It and
carry on. What on earth else could anybody do?
Buoyed thus with the bravest concepts and full of hopeful
plans, Mrs. Willard rapidly recovered herself to the joy o
her summer. Even Her troubled past began to reveal aspects
of jocosity when considered as a thing done with and dis-
carded. She saw it now as bristling with anecdotal wealth, and
among her new companions made cheerful use of it from time
to time, masking it discreetly where necessary by the time-
tested device of substituting "a friend" for herself as the star
of the piece.
With some such disguised account of the memorable bed-
spring incident she was regaling Baby at dinner one evening
a day or so after the children's visit when she noticed an un-
expected addition to the next table but one. Concluding her
story with gusto and inwardly congratulating herself that she
had made rather a good thing of it an impression abun-
dantly confirmed by Baby's incontinent shrieks of delight
she was arrested in her answering laughter by a well-remem-
bered gaze and found herself looking directly into the
attentive countenance and the amused but analytic eyes of
Dr. Alexander Maclane.
HE HAD, he told her after dinner, a shack of his own a few
miles down the road, but he had never before visited the inn.
"It looked like rain this evening, though," he said, "and I'd
heard of Mrs. Metz's famous fried chicken and short ribs and
asparagus and what not, so, not relishing the idea of waiting
until the rain stopped to cook myself some dinner, I drove
over. Anyhow, I was looking for you. Dr. Griffith asked me to
have a look at your arm and see if the cast couldn't come off."
He scrutinized her flushed cheeks and glowing eyes. "You've
made good use of your time; you're looking extraordinarily
well already. I hardly recognized you at dinner, when you
were telling that very interesting story about your ah
Mrs. Willard blushed. "Why do you have to wait until it
stops raining to cook your dinner?" she asked to cover her
He took a cigarette case from his pocket, offered it to her,
and, as she declined, lighted a cigarette for himself. "My
shack's a shack," he explained, "not a cottage or a cabin de
luxe. Boards standing upright; cracks half an inch wide. No
chimney but the kitchen stovepipe. When it rains, it puts the
"Dear me/' said Mrs. Willard. "Why don't you build
yourself a chimney?"
Dr. Maclane looked at her coolly. "Because/* he replied
succinctly, "I don't want a chimney."
Mrs. Willard was enchanted. "Oh," she sighed, "if I could
only answer Charles like that!"
"That's your husband? Why can't you?"
"He's the head of the family," Mrs. Willard said morosely.
"He's the father of my children. At least that's what he's
always telling me."
"Well, you've probably given him cause to think so,"
Maclane pointed out reasonably. He hesitated, as though
deliberating; then he added, "Care for a stroll down the
nearest trail? It's still light enough to pick your way."
Mrs. Willard assented, and they moved off together down
the brief stretch of paved road, leaving a mild sensation
behind them among the loiterers on the veranda. The sun
had set, but a sort of diffused afterglow possessed the open
spaces, and the woods ahead held a clear silvery half-light that
was not yet dusk. The threatened rain had been only a
sprinkle; here and there, on sloping leaves, bright drops of
water rolled and fell musically to the ground. Katydids were
beginning their tireless orchestrations in the trees. At the
point where the trail left the road Maclane lifted a swaying
branch to let her pass before him, and a faint shower of rain-
drops tinkled down. A startled hoptoad sprang from the path
and disappeared in the slanted tall grass. Two minutes after
leaving the road they had passed out of sight of the inn and
were enclosed by the darkening woods. A small winding
brook, nearly noiseless, idled conipanionably along side by
side with the winding trail.
"Beautiful here/' Maclane said at last, casually. "Chicago
any city's a hell-hole in summer, of course." He scowled.
"Don't tire yourself. Let me know when we've gone far
A little farther on there was a rustic wooden bench,
perched like a fantastic throne on a small hillock to one side
of the trail. Mrs. Willard with a cry of delight immediately
climbed up to it and sat down, pleased afresh when she found
it a little high for her* "I can swing my feet/' she pointed out,
"Do so, by all means/' Maclane sat down beside her and
reached for his cigarettes. He was a great deal taller than she;
even sitting beside Mm, she found it necessary to look up to
him. "June is no time for inhibitions/'
The bitterness in his voice, reflected in the tense lines
about his mouth as the match flared, startled Mrs. Willard,
but the word "inhibitions" reminded her irresistibly of Mr.
and Mrs. Hemingway, and she described them at some length
and to good effect, winning Maclane to sufficient, if somewhat
grudging, appreciation. She could feel the suspended, ten-
tative quality of his gaze upon her even in the gathering dusk.
He liked her, she felt, but would have preferred not to like
her; there was something about her that puzzled and inter-
ested him against his will. She did not know what it was, nor
much care. It was enough to have a companion with whom
she need not consider every word before she uttered it, who
would not pounce upon her lightest remark and make of it a
point of departure for a homily. Mrs. Willard was very
happy. Her sense of communion with Maclane, valid and
vital even when a silence of some duration fell between them,
was as strong as ever.
And long silences were frequent, giving her time to reflect
upon the oddity of this communion. Certainly it was an odd
source of satisfaction to sit silent with a man who merely sat
and smoked, showing no particular pleasure in her society or
in anything else. Certainly it was no less odd to feel assured
of his friendliness in spite of his moody gaze, his unsmiling
rejoinders, or his occasional shqw of actual bitterness. The
mere difference between him *and Charles could not, surely,
account for it all.
For he was different. Just as, hearing him swear in the
corridor outside her hospital room, she had made a note of
the difference that may exist between two infuriated men,
one of them swearing like an angry cat and the other bursting
out of hidden fiery depths like an irascible volcano, so she
marked now that his silence differed altogether from Charles'
punishing withdrawals. It was as though he fell silent when-
ever he wished, knowing that she would accept his silence
without impatience, even without comment spoken or im-
plied; yet how could he know this, who had known herself
for so short a time and at such wide intervals? Mrs. Willard
recalled how her husband, wishing to be silent when he was
not angry, usually either prefaced or concluded his silence
with a formal explanation and apology.
"You're not a bit like Charles," she told Maclane artlessly.
"No?" he replied dryly. "No; probably not. How long Is It,
did you say, you've been married?"
The question seemed to Mrs. Willard irrelevant. "Eighteen
years," she answered in a tone of slight surprise.
He nodded. "I thought so/' He did not explain further.
"It's getting very dark. We'd better start back. The footing
will soon be pretty doubtful. 7 '
Mrs. Willard gave her reluctant consent and with his
assistance made her way back to the inn. The footing, as he
had predicted, was already doubtful; broken sticks lying
across the trail and tangled bushes and vines, none of which
she had noticed on the way out, seemed to crop up every-
where in the darkness. Repeatedly they stumbled away from
each other and together again, and once Mrs. Willard lurched
sidewise and would have fallen, perhaps into the brook it-
self, if he had not caught her and righted her firmly on both
"I'll drive over in the morning to look at the arm," he told
her as they gained the main highway. "A splint and a sling
will probably do you now. I have all the stuff at the shack
111 bring it along. Or if you'd like to see the place, I'll take
you over there to fix it. About nine-thirty? Right."
A few women and two men were lingering on the veranda
as Mrs. Willard approached the inn. "My," said one of the
women, "you certainly have a distinguished-looking husband,
Mrs. Willard. Did he drive over from Chicago?"
"That was no husband," answered Mrs. Willard blithely.
"That was my doctor." She indicated her cast. "He's going to
take this off tomorrow morning, perhaps." She nodded amia-
bly and went into the house and upstairs.
Her own words, when a few moments later she stood in her
room preparing for early bed, returned to her suddenly like a
crash of unheralded thunder. "That was no husband '*
Was Dr. Maclane indeed, she asked herself for the first
time, no husband? Had he a wife? Had he even, perhaps, a
large and flourishing family?
Mrs. Willard caught her breath. Her heart, for some in-
explicable reason, was jumping about in erratic semicircles,
to judge by the way it felt, and her indefatigable imagination,
always several lengths ahead of schedule, was officiously at
work already, setting up a hypothetical Mrs. Maclane for her
Inspection. This woman was beautiful surely unnecessarily
beautiful, felt Mrs. Willard, w r arm with resentment and
chic beyond all reasonable limits; she had long sweeping
black lashes, which Mrs. Willard had desired from earliest
childhood; and to Dr. Maclane's crackling "No, no, no, no,
Christ damn it!" she answered haughtily and crisply, in ex-
asperated accents: "Really, Alec!". . .
Realizing all at once that In her idiot reverie she had
actually spoken these words aloud, Mrs. Willard looked
frightened and closed the door. When she turned around
again, her startled reflection in the mirror restored her to
"Why on earth shouldn't he be married? " she asked herself
Impatiently. "You're married yourself. You've been married
eighteen years. Haven't you any sense at all?"
She would, she determined, to counteract this narrow-
minded tendency to impose celibacy on all the world except
herself, write the projected letter to Charles and ask him for
some money. She was tired, but not too tired for so trivial an
Her thought of writing, however, was belated; for she
found, on looking through her limited effects, that nothing
in the form of writing materials neither pen, pencil, ink,
nor paper emerged. She had made herself ready for bed; she
could not seek these articles downstairs; and so, with some
slight petulance, she went frustrated to sleep, all her In-
dignant protests still within her.
THE following morning was spectacular with sunshine. Dr.
Maclane, driving up before the inn punctually at half-past
nine, found Mrs. Willard reading on the veranda, the un-
comfortable cast propped uncomfortably in the air. "Well,
you'll be glad to get rid of that/* he said. "Shall we go?"
Mrs. Willard assented joyously and settled herself in the
car with a wriggle of delight, provoking Dr. Maclane's
infrequent smile. "You do enjoy things, don't you?"
Mrs. Willard wriggled again, this time in embarrassment.
"Is it very far to your shack?" she asked irrelevantly.
"Four miles, perhaps. Not farther." The long car slid easily
into motion, and Mrs. Willard, adjusting her cast, settled
back with a sigh of satisfaction. "It will be nice to get it
off," she admitted. "I've been sleeping with it propped against
a pillow, but even that way it's easy to hurt the arm by
"Give you much pain now?"
"None at all, unless I bump it or twist it."
"You had a bad break there." He turned the car into a
shady winding back road. "It may look a bit odd after several
weeks in plaster, but don't be alarmed. It'll right itself.
There won't be much of a scar, I hope, but there may be a
little one. Dr. Griffith tells me he had to compound the
"Open it," explained Dr. Maclane. "He made a small
incision at the wrist in order to clean out the bone fragments.
It was badly comminuted, you know. Quite a bit of shat-
"I heard the bones grating together before I lost con-
sciousness," Mrs. Wlllard recalled.
Maclane nodded. "Unpleasant sensation that."
Mrs. Wlllard, whose Impressionable Imagination had just
served her with a too-accurate reproduction o the sensation
in question, agreed hastily and put it out of her mind by
referring to something that had stuck In her memory ever
since her accident. "JVhen I was just coming out of the
anesthesia/' she said, "while I was just barely conscious, I
heard Dr. Griffith say to the rest of the operating staff, 'Now
be careful what you say/ He went out of the room then. I
wondered what he meant/'
Dr. Maclane hesitated, knitting his brows in silence for a
moment. "No harm. In telling you now, I suppose. It seems
that at first there was some question of amputation/*
"Amputation!" Mrs. Willard turned abruptly white.
"Don't be disturbed. There's no danger now. But it was a
bad break." He glanced down at her hands, which she had
tightly locked together in her agitation. "I can see how the
idea would be a shock to you aside from the crippling, I
mean. You have very pretty hands."
Mrs. Willard glanced at her hands, seeming not to see
them. "Oh, I wasn't thinking of that/' she managed to say
at last, "or of the crippling either. I was thinking of Charles/'
"Yes. He'd be so angry " She caught herself up, her
white face suddenly swept with crimson, and looked away
from Maclane, who for an instant had turned a glance of utter
astonishment upon her. When she looked back, his features
had settled into impassivity, though his jaw muscles were
taut. "I I'm a great trial to Charles," she explained, trying
to laugh. "He thinks he thinks I don't take precautions
enough. It's really anxiety, I suppose. You know some people
do react like that when an accident happens. I've seen them,
even with children "
He agreed noncommittally and applied his brake. "Here
we are. 9 * He flung open the door on his side of the car and
strode around to open the other door for Mrs. Willard. "This
is the estate. Injured Manor, my an acquaintance of mine
used to call it."
The shack, an irresponsible-looking slantwise structure of
wide unpainted boards, stood in a thicket of wild plum, its
one front window festooned with a luxuriant morning-glory
vine. The door swung half open on a worn leather hinge. A
thin curl of smoke arose from the rusty stovepipe chimney.
Maclane held the door wide and ushered her into the large,
disorderly single room. "Sit down, won't you?"
He removed a dark-red flannel dressing gown, several
books, and a brief case from a large, shabby leather chair, and
Mrs. Willard, still somewhat shaken at thought of her narrow
escape from mutilation and of the insouciance with which she
had been disporting herself in her ignorance, sank gratefully
into it. "You'll look at it right away?"
"Right off." He unearthed a black leather bag and took
from it a long bright pair of shears. "Hold it up, this way.
No, more to the right. There."
He cut rapidly and carefully down the cast from end to
end; then, laying the shears aside, broke open the plaster with
his hands. Mrs. Willard stared in horrified fascination. Her
wrist had shrunk to half the size of the other, and the hand
attached to it looked as rigid and immobile as a dead bird's
Dr. Maclane, however, seemed delighted. "Perfect!" he
exclaimed in a tone of professional admiration whose sin-
cerity, even to the lay understanding of Mrs. Willard, was
unmistakable. "Griffith's a wizard. Don't worry about the
atrophy; that'll correct itself. The stiffness will go, too.
Here." He reached for a bottle of oil, anointing his fingers
before beginning to massage the wrist. "Look at that tiny
scar," he exulted. "You can hardly see it, even now. Doesn't
the massage make it feel better?" He worked quickly and
eagerly, his strong fingers stroking and pressing the abused
flesh with easy skill. For the moment his look of strain, of
controlled fury under torture, had completely disappeared,
and his eyes were as clear as the eyes of Richard among his
"Much better/' Mrs. Willard admitted, relaxing In her
chair and giving herself wholly over to the floods of relief
that swept through her at the final assurance that her danger
had been successfully averted. She thought of Dr. Griffith at
this moment almost with worship. Suppose he had given up!
She imagined going back to Charles and Aunt Gertrude with
her well-established reputation for general incompetence in-
creased and cemented as the loss of a hand would have
increased and cemented it, and her heart failed her utterly.
She had a rapid and ridiculous series of fantasies in which she
successively besought Mrs. Hanover for information as to
how she had become so Great a Traveler, inquired of Mr.
Hemingway what he knew of butterfly-chasing as a career,
and made frantic application to Mr. Parker (or to Mrs. Metz?)
for a permanent position as assistant dean of the inn. She
Dr. Maclane gave her a sharp glance and laid her injured
arm gently down on the arm of her chair while he reached
for a small flask on the table behind him. "Here," he ordered,
pouring two fingers of brandy into a little glass. "Drink it.**
Mrs. Willard obeyed. "I'm all right," she said weakly.
Dr. Maclane, after massaging the wrist a few minutes
longer, began to prepare the splint. "Hold your wrist here
no, this way. That's right."
Mrs. Willard, in whom the brandy had induced a state of
dreamy satisfaction, alternately watched his hands at their
expert work and glanced interestedly about her. The room
was of a casual and masculine bareness; it held a couch, two
leather chairs, a clothespress, a couple of small and bulging
bookcases, and a small oak table. Through a low doorway,
into which, Mrs. Willard felt sure, the doctor could not pass
without stooping, a lean-to kitchen was visible, with a small
iron cooking stove and a bare pine table.
In one corner of the main room the wall was covered with
pencil drawings fastened by thumbtacks to the heavy felt
paper. Mrs. Willard, noticing these, stared in dismay. All
were caricatures of human faces, men and women, and all,
without exception, were savage, leering, vacuous, or mean
with incredible cunning. "My goodness/' she murmured.
"What?" asked Maclane, not looking up.
"Those drawings. Are any of them people you know?"
"All of them. Why?"
"My goodness/* said Mis* Willard again. "But where were
His abrupt laugh startled her. "Here. Wherever you like.
Anywhere. It's all the same."
"No," protested Mrs. Willard, shocked. She rose, adjusting
the unfamiliar sling, and went to look at them.
"Oh, yes." He came and stood behind her. "Be honest now.
Haven't you seen a lot of them before? Don't you see one
that looks a little like well, like your husband, for instance?"
Mrs. Willard's eyes dilated as they met his. "Why why,
they all look a little like him," she whispered.
"Of course they do. Here's one I did yesterday." He picked
up a drawing from the table. It was Mrs. Hanover, her
Continental graciousness large upon her.
Mrs. Willard laughed reluctantly. In spite of its cruelty the
caricature was irresistibly funny. "Poor old soul. You're hard
on her. She's stupid, of course, but surely harmless?"
"Stupidity is never harmless.'* Maclane rummaged in the
table drawer for thumbtacks and pinned the picture on the
wall. "Stupidity is the unpardonable sin. And the other un-
pardonable sin, I may add, is making excuses for it, as
something tells me you're on the verge of doing/' He turned
abruptly and carried her discarded cast into the kitchen.
Mrs. Willard, turning from the merciless drawings, had
her attention caught by a large framed photograph standing
on top of one of the bookcases. It was a child, a boy about
seven years old. "Is this one of your patients, Doctor?" she
asked as Maclane came back into the room.
His eyes did not follow her gesture. "My son," he replied
curtly. He replaced the shears in his bag and snapped it shut.
"Oh." A blankness settled upon Mrs. Willard. "He's a
splendid child," she said at last, with effort. "Is he is it a
"Three years old." Maclane's dark brows contracted
slightly, and this time he turned and looked full at the
photograph, the curious strained intentness of his gaze sug-
gesting that he had forced himself to do so. "He's dead," he
added a few moments later. "He was killed in a motor acci-
dent nearly two years ago. . . . How are you now? Feel
steadier?" He reached for the flask. "Like a little more
"Oh, no no, thank you." Mrs. Willard made a hurried
gesture of refusal. "Shall we perhaps we'd better be going
back?" The torment in Maclane's eyes was intolerable to her;
suddenly she extended her hand. "Doctor, I'm so sorry I
He looked at her, as though doubtfully hesitating; then
he gripped the offered hand, holding it hard for a moment.
"Good of you to care."
Alone in her room at Mrs. Metz's that afternoon, Mrs.
Willard, much more comfortable so far as her wrist was
concerned but writhing in one of her frequent attacks of
self -loathing, congratulated herself wryly that at least she had
got home before her nagging uncertainty about Dr. Maclane's
hypothetical wife had assailed her; that at least she had been
enabled to feel and to express, while he was with her, only
her honest sympathy for his grief in the loss of his little son.
This sympathy was indeed as true and as hot within her as
ever, but accompanying it, for no reason that she was able
at this point to justify, there was a conflagration of what, she
thought contemptuously, could only be described as common
curiosity. The human race, thought Mrs. JVillard for angry
as she was with herself she knew better than to suppose herself
unique in this respect or in any other was certainly not
worth the trouble it took to keep it going.
As for herself, she concluded disgustedly, Charles had
probably been right all along.
MACLANE'S car flashed past the inn early next morning,
carrying him back to Chicago. "I'll be able to give Dr. Griffith
a splendid report/ 5 he had said. "The wrist couldn't be in
better shape. In another week or ten days you won't have to
wear even a light splint."
Mrs. Willard had longed to ask him whether he would be
back, but, although twenty-four hours earlier she would have
asked the question with complete lack of embarrassment, she
found herself unable to put it to him now, and he vouch-
safed no further information of his own accord. A night of
fitful sleep had left her fidgety and ill at ease, and a letter
from Charles that arrived by the morning post, anticipating
and refusing in one breath, as it weie, her request for money,
did nothing to improve her state of mind.
"You may possibly have wondered/* wrote Charles, "that
I did not leave any money with you. I cannot feel, my dear,
that under the circumstances we are justified in spending any
more than is strictly necessary, and, as all your actual needs
are covered by your board, there is probably no opportunity
for you to use money without, to state the case plainly,
wasting it. This, I am afraid, you are all too prone to do
under any circumstances, and especially, I fear, when you
have little else to occupy your mind."
Mrs. Willard flapped the page over.
"The children," the letter continued, "are well, though
less helpful to Aunt Gertrude than they might be if you had
ever thought it worth while to attend to my repeated requests
that you train them thoroughly, especially Laura, in house-
hold matters. They have a haphazard way of going at their
tasks that is all too reminiscent of your own lackadaisical
methods." Mrs. Willard turned another page. "Aunt Ger-
trude and I are also well. We were delightfully entertained
at dinner day before yesterday by the head of your depart-
ment at the office, Miss Mothershead, who inquired very
kindly after your health. A letter has come for you with a
foreign stamp, presumably from your friend Mrs. Tea-
garden. I do not like anything you have told me of her, but
I am forwarding the letter to you for what it is worth. Your
friendship with her is a typical example of the sort of en-
tanglement you characteristically get yourself into. I hope
you are bearing in mind my recent warning on that subject.
Richard and Laura send their respectful remembrances and
Aunt Gertrude her greetings. I am, as always, your affection-
ate husband, Charles E. Willard."
Mrs. Willard was so diverted at the idea of anyone going
to dine with Miss Mothershead possibly on lightly toasted
pamphlets dealing with Xear East relief, followed by lizards
In aspic and a goatYblood highball? 'that even the dis-
credited letter with the foreign stamp waited for several
minutes under her hand while she enjoyed the imagined
spectacle. Virginia's highly spiced communication completely
restored her good humor, and she smiled warmly at anxious
little Mrs. Hemingway, who immediately pulled up a chair
beside her, put on eyeglasses, and set to work on the pink
"It's growing, isn't it?" said Mrs. Willard encouragingly.
"I beg your pardon?" Mrs. Hemingway looked startled.
"Oh. You mean my knitting." She spread it on her lap, look-
ing relieved. "Yes, I'll soon have this sacque finished. Then
I'm going to knit a blue one, to be safe/*
"Whether it turns out to be a boy or a girl, you know/*
"Oh," said Mrs. Willard, much impressed by this prov-
idence. "Then you'll be ready even if it's both," she suggested.
Mrs. Hemingway, startled again, dropped her knitting.
"You don't think "
"No, of course not," Mrs. Willard reassured her. "That is,
I mean the chances are against it." An uncontrollable spirit
of mischief took possession of her. "If it were Baby,
Mrs. Hemingway flushed scarlet. "A litter wouldn't sur-
prise me!" she blurted in a venomous undertone. "She's the
type that I don't know how you feel about these things,
Mrs. Willard, but I "
"Sh!" warned Mrs. Willard.
Baby, her face tinged dismally with green, limped around
the corner of the house, alone for once. "Gimme down,"
she gasped, sinking to the veranda steps and leaning her head
against a post. "Oh oh! That came near being the end of
both of us." She wiped her eyes and moaned.
"Both of you? inquired Mrs. Willard.
"Me and Mortimer, here." Baby patted, very gingerly, her
well-rounded abdomen, and Mrs. Hemingway flinched. "I
thought I was all through heaving. But not so, my pretties,
not so. I've just parted with everything but my immortal soul,
as somebody or other aptly put it, and my left little toenail. I
suppose/' she added judicially, "I shouldn't have eaten that
crabmeat sandwich on top of my breakfast/'
"Of course you shouldn't/' said Mrs. Willard severely.
"Oh, well. A girl in my delicate condition must have her
sustenance. How're you?" Baby suddenly demanded of the
tight-lipped Mrs. Hemingway. "Made your morning sacrifice
to the great god Fertility yet? 7 '
Mrs. Willard, looking apprehensively at Mrs. Hemingway's
forbidding expression, leapt into the breach. "Mrs. Heming-
way's a good girl who sticks to her diet. She doesn't have to
Mrs. Hemingway cleared her throat. "I think, Mrs. Wil-
lard, if you'll excuse me, 111 just run upstairs and put my
knitting away. Mr. Hemingway wants me to go out with
him very soon." She crammed the knitting into its bag and
left with nervous haste, quickening her step on the way.
Baby scratched her backbone lazily against the corner of
the post. Her normal color had returned, and she yawned.
"'Mr. Hemingway wants me!'" she mocked, in a mincing
exaggeration of Mrs. Hemingway's tone. "That poor gal's
definitely afraid of me. Why?"
"You're a terrifying person/' Mrs. Willard pointed out.
"I'm afraid of you myself." She smiled at Baby. "You know
what's the matter with her, of course."
Baby shook her head. "No, I'm damned if I do."
"She's jealous, naturally. You're younger and prettier than
she is, and she worships her husband. She's "
Baby whooped unrestrainedly. "You mean she's afraid I'll
make a pass at that little barn owl?"
"Sh!" exclaimed Mrs. Willard. "They're coming down-
The Hemingways emerged, red of face and with com-
pressed mouths. They bowed stiffly. It was evident that only
by keeping a strong grip on themselves could they restrain
the impulse to run. Mr. Hemingway deliberately paused,
halfway down the walk, and drew from his pocket an un-
opened packet of cigarettes. "Would you care to smoke,
dear?" he inquired, jerking it wide open and offering it to
"I believe I will have one/* his Clara responded in tones
of elaborate indifference. She took a cigarette and put it
awkwardly into her mouth, "light it for me, please, dear."
Mr. Hemingway, after three attempts, struck a match and
was about to apply it; then, pausing in time, he whispered:
"No, no, Clara! They're cork-tipped. Cork-tipped! You've
got the wrong end in your mouth."
Mrs. Willard and Baby, turning their eyes with one
accord from the painful spectacle, began to talk rapidly.
Mrs. Hemingway, with a sobbing indrawn breath, righted the
cigarette and allowed her husband to light it. The couple
moved away with a sort of agonized leisureliness. Mrs.
Hemingway's hand, lightly holding the glowing cigarette,
unconsciously held it as far away from her body as possible.
"God/* commented Baby when they were out of hearing,
"Can you tie that?'*
Mrs. Willard drew a long breath. "Poor things. It's too
bad." She sighed and stretched herself in her chair. She had
been spared much, she thought, even in spite of Charles and
Aunt Gertrude. She had never known this torture, this
anguish of self-consciousness that wrought chaos in the tidy
mind, that shamed its victims pitilessly before spectators.
Feeling the warm sunshine on her bare arms, so warm indeed
that it seemed almost to penetrate the splint and caress the
pining flesh within, she remembered Maclane's voice and
the hard grip of his hand on hers. She sighed deeply with
satisfaction. "It's too bad/' she said again.
HER physical condition improved so rapidly that in no time
at all, as it seemed, she was feeling not only much better than
she had felt when she arrived at the inn but much better
than she had felt in years. She tramped gaily in and out the
twisting trails, up and down the dunes and along the many-
changing lake day after sun-filled day, sometimes with a
companion but more often alone, rejoicing no less in the new
conscious strength and endurance of her legs than in the ever-
renewed refreshment of her spirit. She grew as honey-tanned
and velvety as Baby herself, and her mirror, which for years
she had treated with an indifference bordering on contempt,
was visited every afternoon by one who looked to her own
incredulous eyes almost a total stranger. Charles was the
type of husband who, having once signified his admiration by
appeal to bell, book, and candle, would have thought it an
affront to his taste to admit that any change had occurred
or might occur in the object of it. He had often, probably
on principle, assured Mrs. Willard that she was "a lovely
woman." Indeed, he instructed the children not infrequently
to the same effect. "Your mother is a beautiful woman/' he
would inform them with didactic emphasis. Mrs. Willard
had more than once thanked heaven that she could not read
the children's minds.
Now, however, she looked forward eagerly to the regular
visits of Richard and Laura for this reason as much as any
other, drinking deep of their never-failing admiration and
surprise. "You've got the most gorgeous tan I ever saw,
Mother/* Laura marveled.
Mrs. Willard flushed with pleasure. It was true; she took
the sun prettily, turning the color of ripening apricots
rather than leather brown or dusty yellow. She laughed and
caught a hand of each of the children. "Come along! Come
along!" she would cry to cover her confusion; and off they
would go together Into the woods, she and her tall son and
her lissome daughter. Where had they come from? she some-
times wondered In a moment of amazement, feeling herself
no older, no more touched of experience than they.
And of a truth the children were difficult to account for,
considering Charles. From him indeed, as well as from her,
they might have Inherited their fine straight bodies, their
glowing physical health, for Charles had always, again on
principle, taken excellent care of himself; but there was in
him no counterpart of the frolicsome spirit of Laura, nor o
Richard's rough-edged tenderness. No more was there any
such counterpart In herself; Laura and Richard were new
and separate beings, complete In themselves and no part of
any other. So wonderful they sometimes appeared to her, so
winged with the future, that she knew moments when It
seemed her heart would burst If she could not break forth in
paeans of triumph over them.
But she always sternly repressed this impulse. The future,
she told herself out of her bitter experience, Is simply the
future, no more different from the past than one row of
stones piled on top of another. Richard and Laura would
live and suffer and grow older, and the golden light that
flickered about their youth would vanish like the will-o'-the-
wisp it was, while they marked Its errant gleaming over
children of their own; and so on and on, ad infinitum. . . *
The children were with her on the day Dr. Maclane arrived
to take the splint off her arm. He looked from them to her in
"These are not your son and daughter? But they can't be."
He looked down at her and suddenly smiled. "How old are
you, anyway eight your last birthday?"
Richard and Laura laughed, and Laura patted her mother's
arm. "Eight her next birthday, Doctor/' she corrected.
Maclane laughed, looking at the children with a physician's
approval of their strength and buoyancy. Richard grinned,
moving protectingly nearer to his mother as he had done all
his life when he fancied her threatened, even by anything so
trivial as a momentary embarrassment. But he liked Maclane,
Mrs. Willard could see. His eyes showed it.
"How would you all like to take a run down to my shack?"
Maclane suggested. "Well get the splint off once for all, I
hope, and we can go for a drive along the lake afterward, i
Richard and Laura made their pleasure vocal. Mrs. Wil-
lard said little. A rush of unbidden joy had assailed her at
sight of the doctor's car, and this inexplicable happiness had
momentarily confounded her, giving her an appearance of
infantile bashfulness that nearly justified his raillery. Mrs.
Willard did not actually dig her toe into the sand, but she
escaped doing so only by climbing into the car as quickly as
Arrived at the shack, Dr. Maclane at once removed the
splint from Mrs. Willard's arm. Both 'Richard and Laura
exclaimed aloud in astonishment at sight of the shrunken
"Will it really get all right again?" Richard inquired
"Oh, yes. In no time," Maclane assured him. He moved
back to allow Richard to look at the arm. Richard bent
above it, touching It lightly with a finger. Maclane watched
"Would you like to see how It was when she hurt It?" he
offered. "Hand me that book In the middle of the third row.
Richard produced the volume In question, and Maclane
turned swiftly to an Illustrated page. "There It Is. Colles"
fracture, it's called. See how the wrist Is humped up" he
drew an Imaginary corresponding line in the air "In the
shape of a silver fork. The silver-fork deformity that's what
we call It."
Richard followed his continued explanation with deep
Interest. Mrs. Willard, watching them, suddenly felt for him
an aching sense of loss; Richard had been cheated, Richard
had been cheated! This was the sort of relation he should
have shared with Charles. Thus he should have stood, his eyes
on his father's face, Interested, respectful, and confident.
Thus his father should have spoken to him, sincerely, as one
human being to another, taking time, taking thought to
Interest him. Richard was nearly seventeen years old. Not
once in all that time had she witnessed any intercourse
between father and son that was not weighted and spoiled by
heavily accented authority on the one side and, at best, word-
less submission on the other. Yet Richard as a baby had been
responsive, pathetically responsive, to his father as to every-
one else; a winning, funny baby, affectionate as a puppy
until repeated rebuffs had driven him, where Charles was
concerned, so far back within himself that he had never got
She recalled the incident of the little rubber toy auto-
mobile that Richard had once given Charles for Christmas.
The little boy, selecting his own Christmas gifts to his family
for the first time, had seized upon the absurd small car as
the epitome of all delight, sure that no more enticing present
could be offered his father. Mrs. Willard accordingly had
secretly prepared Charles for the gift, explaining at great
length and in exhausting detail how important it was that he
make a show of being genuinely pleased. Charles, although
obviously he understood nothing of her actual meaning, had
managed to take the gift, without remonstrance, from the
hands of the beaming Richard and to thank him for it.
Richard's countenance had been illuminated with an almost
angelic joy, and Mrs. Willard had retired from the scene
with a sigh of relief only to return half an hour later and
find the child seated formally beside his father on the daven-
port, listening soberly to a patronizing lecture on the prin-
ciples of gift selection.
Remembering this episode, she swallowed with difficulty
a gathering lump in her throat. How different if Richard had
had a father like Alexander Maclane, a man upon whose
words he hung with such absorption and in whose quiet
tones there was no suggestion of either admonition or
Maclane offered Richard the book. "Care to look at any-
Richard took it eagerly, thanking him, and established
himself near the window while Maclane massaged the injured
wrist. Laura watched this operation minutely. "Why do you
do that?" she asked.
"To help the skin and the muscles get back to normal,"
he replied in the same matter-of-fact tone he had used to
Even Laura, Mrs. Willard reflected, had never had her due
from Charles. He had been less stern with her than with
Richard, but he had consistently belittled her through her
sex, approaching her even in his amiable moods with a pig-
tail-pulling jocosity that took no account of her advancing
"There!" said Maclane at last, with satisfaction. "It'll be
stiff for a while, of course. Massage It yourself when you
think of It, and exercise the hand and fingers from time to
time. The worst Is over/ 9
IN HER bed that night, after the exhilarating drive and the
departure of the children, Mrs. Willard fought off tears for
the first time since her coming to the Inn. She did not know
why she wanted to cry; no doubt, she thought, It was the
memory of her children's early wrongs, which was always
intolerable to her. Yet there seemed to be something more,
something upon which she could lay no fixing finger. So far
as Richard and Laura were concerned, the worst, as Dr,
Maclane had said of her wrist, was over, and both seemed
pointed toward futures as bright as are attained by any. Why,
then, weep for the distant past in the light of the hopeful
Mrs. Willard did not know, in spite of the thought on
which she fell asleep: namely, that not once during all that
bright journey had she been left alone, even for a moment,
with Alec Maclane. And there was nothing more to be done
about her wrist. He might not come again.
This she thought dolefully, and, being Inexperienced in
medical procedure, deemed it nothing remarkable that he
should have come at all and that she had not been requested
to return to the hospital for treatment instead. Remembering
how Richard had hung on the doctor's words and his admir-
ing comments after the doctor had gone, Mrs. Willard ad-
mitted to herself that Maclane had become Important to
her and that she would miss him. She would regret his loss
as much on the children's account, she told herself, as on her
own. To Richard and Laura he would have been like a kind
and interested uncle, the elder brother of her own that she
had all her life desired.
Filled with these pensive musings, she joined the group
downstairs at late breakfast the next day, which was Sunday,
and submitted with what grace she could summon to the
chorus of exclamations that arose as the breakfasters caught
sight of her wrist. The two blossomlike young men looked
at each other aghast, blanching, and Mrs. Willard, controlling
an impulse to say reassuringly, "There, there it'll be over in
a minute," retired the arm as soon as possible to her lap and
changed the subject.
"Yesterday was a glorious day, wasn't it?" she remarked to
Mrs. Hanover. "The woods get lovelier by the minute, it
seems to me."
Mrs. Hanover inclined her head graciously. "Yes, it's very
pleasant here. Very pleasant. Of course in Normandy "
Mrs. Willard lent only half an ear to the extensive rem-
iniscences of Normandy that followed, for something was
going on down the table that interested her much more.
The vivacious Baby, looking extremely fetching in spite of
her "delicate condition," with her black head tied up in a
scarlet kerchief, had deliberately moved to a vacant chair
near the Hemingways and was turning upon the unfortunate
academician the languishing wide gaze of a fourteen-year-old
schoolgirl smitten with hero worship.
"But you really know about butterflies, Mr. Hemingway/'
she was saying at the moment Mrs. Willard noticed what she
was up to. "I mean you rank as an expert, don't you? Please
tell me all about them. I'm so interested." She sank her
delicious creamy chin into her cupped hand and waited, her
eyes big and dark with admiration.
Mr. Hemingway's mouth, as he tried to summon a polite
smile, caught halfway several times. His mild blue eyes
behind his glasses were as panic-stricken as a hunted fawn's.
His face was a dull uneven red. He cleared his throat. "Why,
no, I'm scarcely " he began.
Baby shook her head at him in tender reproof. "Mr.
Hemingway!" she besought him, winningly. "Need you pre-
tend with me7*
Mrs. Willard, almost overcome with inner laughter and
yet sharply provoked with Baby for Clara Hemingway's
face was paper white, the pale-yellow freckles standing out
like bas-relief hastened to murmur an appropriate response
to Mrs. Hanover, who had left Normandy for the forests
and fiords of Norway and was approaching, with the leisure-
liness required by so reverend a topic, a discourse on the
Midnight Sun. Both Mr. Parker and Mrs. Turner were
endeavoring from time to time, with small success, to stem
this flood of description, Mrs. Turner loyally supported by
the unfailing devotion of Mrs. Presley Preston. Mrs. Metz
and Kathryn, her little maid, could be seen exchanging sig-
nificant grimaces in the kitchen.
Mrs. Willard left them to it and sought the veranda and the
Sunday papers. Baby came sauntering out after her, well
pleased with herself. "Hello there," she called blithely.
Mrs. Willard laid down her paper. "I don't know whether
I'm speaking to you or not," she said disapprovingly.
Baby grinned. "At one point," she bragged, "if Mrs. Metz
had left a screen off a window, he'd have been out of there
like a bat out of hell. Did you see his face?"
"Did you see his wife's?" Mrs. Willard countered sternly.
"Oh, well." Baby shrugged her shoulders. "Do her good.
Stir up her hormones."
Mrs. Willard laughed in spite of herself; Baby was so
absurdly pretty, so exactly like a mischievous but charming
child who knows very well that nobody is going to hold out
against her for more than a few minutes. But this laughter
was not countenanced by her conscience. The human sense
of fairness, she reflected ruefully, even when it is fairly well
developed, is not to be depended upon. The naughty Baby,
merely because she was a pretty Baby, would always be for-
given, and the jealous suffering of a Clara Hemingway, spread
for all the world to see on a thin freckled face with strained
eyes blinking through glasses, would always be matter for
laughter. Mrs. Willard detested cruelty at least, she had
always flattered herself that she did and Baby's cat-and-
mouse tactics, she knew very well, should have revolted her.
Baby had sat down in her favorite place on the steps and
was leaning against a post, her dark eyes innocent and
dreamy, a cigarette smoking lazily in her slim fingers. The
sleek and comfortable ease of pregnancy was visibly upon
her; her slow, luxurious movements, unconsciously graceful
as a kitten's, only enhanced her appealing beauty. Mrs.
Willard, who was too much perturbed for silence, steeled
herself for further reproof.
"It can become serious, you know, that sort of thing," she
Baby nodded. 'Til stop short of that."
"How do you know?" Mrs. Willard wanted to say. She
took another tack instead. "If you don't watch out," she
said lightly, "you may find your own husband getting
"Who, Nick?" Baby smiled with superb confidence. "Ha!"
Mrs. Willard admitted to herself that the personable Nick,
who obviously knew Baby well enough to take even adequate
competition in his stride, was not likely to waste much worry
on little Mr. Hemingway. She said nothing more; there was
nothing more, indeed, that she could say within the limits
of propriety. But she remained uneasy, and her uneasiness
was not appreciably lessened by hearing at this moment, from
an upstairs window, a strangled half cry, followed by the
smothered reproach, "You didn't have to look as if you
Mrs. Willard bent an accusing gaze on the relaxed figure
leaning against the pillar. Baby's eyes were half closed; if
she had heard anything at all, she gave no sign.
THE rustic wooden throne beside the brook trail, still en-
chanting to Mrs. Willard because it was high enough to en-
able her to swing her feet, was apparently to be left her for her
particular delight; although she visited it nearly every day,
she never found it occupied. She liked to climb up the hillock
and sit there alone, half hypnotized by the idle rippling of
the brown brook water over its amber sand and the dappling
of sun and shadow as the slanted light fell sifting through
the leaves. She often carried a book with her, but she was
seldom able to read. Her thoughts, though soothing and pleas-
ant, were inconsequent; she did not often dwell on Charles
and the situation at home, Miss Mothershead and the situa-
tion at the office, or her marital condition and the situation
that would await her on her return to the city. She did not
dwell to any great extent even on the children.
Instead, she thought of Baby's beautiful eyes and the
complacent satisfaction in the eyes of Baby's husband; of
poor Mrs. Hemingway and her obvious torment; of herself,
grown miraculously lithe and bright-haired and quick of
laughter and unafraid of mirrors; of pretty Kathryn with
her apple cheeks and clean white apron; of the delicate young
men with their raptures and languors; and most of all of
Dr. Maclane the pain in his eyes at mention of his little son,
the hard set of his jaw muscles when she had betrayed her
dread of Charles' anger, his strong nervous fingers on her
wrist, his inscrutable eyes across the table, the endless hunger
he had put upon her to know more of him than she could
glean from outside his life. No thought of them all was
clearly formulated; they were rather a series of impressions,
chiefly bright and happily tinted, dappled and shifting like
the shadows of the leaves themselves. Poetry seemed their
natural accompaniment, and when she read at all it was
likely to be some breeze-blown rhyme that carried their
echo within it:
It is sad to remember and sorrowful to pray;
Let us laugh and be merry, who have seen today
The last of the cherry and the first of the May;
And neither one will stay.
None the less, however, these thoughts marked a turning
point. Uncertainly and inexpertly, it is true, but unmistak-
ably, Mrs. Willard for the first time in her life was thinking
of herself as a woman.
Others, it appeared, were beginning to think of her in a
similar fashion. Mr. Parker's courtliness became daily more
elaborately frilled and brocaded, his white hair ever more
precisely parted; and a gangling youth of seventeen, un-
known to Mrs. Willard, who accompanied Richard and
Laura on their next visit to the inn, opened his sleepy eyes
with frank and flattering astonishment as Richard intro-
"Looney Armstrong, Mother. He " Richard hesitated;
the exigencies of social small talk had always perplexed him.
"He came along."
Mrs. Willard offered Looney her hand. "Welcome,
Looney," she said, smiling. He looked, she thought, like a
half-grown Wyandotte chicken of a more than usually trust-
ul disposition. "I don't believe you've ever been at our house
with Richard, have you?"
But it seemed that Looney was Laura's guest, not Richard's.
"Just one of the mob/' Laura explained airily, her smooth
little brown hand light on Looney 's arm. "We're going to
write a book together: Rhapsody in an Airplane Hangar -"
" a Dissertation on Cinematic Criminology; or Half-
way Through Life with a Silver Doctor" Looney contributed.
He grinned disarmingly at Mrs. Willard, whose susceptible
heart promptly melted within her.
"Dopes," said Richard indulgently, of Looney and Laura.
"Do you are you feeling all right, Mother?"
"Never better. How are things at home?"
Richard shrugged his shoulders. "About as usual." He
shifted his position restlessly. "Has Dr. Maclane been here
any more, Mother?"
Mrs. Willard shook her head. "Not since the day he took
the splint off."
"Mother," Laura announced suddenly, "Richard says he's
going to be a neurologist. You know, like Dr. Maclane."
"A neurosurgeon," Richard corrected her. "Do you think
I could, Mother?"
"I don't see why not, if " Mrs. Willard began, but
"Isn't it about lunchtime? I'm starving. Aunt Gertrude
got us up so early we've forgotten about breakfast. She had
a lot of things for us to do."
Richard grunted. "Yeah. She made me practically peel the
back porch." He affected to massage an aching shoulder
"There's the luncheon bell." Mrs. Willard linked her arms
in theirs. "You've got here today in time for a long hike.
Come along, Looney."
They trooped into the dining room, where Kathryn
beckoned them to places reserved for them. A number of new
guests had arrived, and the old residents were making them
welcome, introducing themselves with proprietary unction.
"Why, there's Dr. Maclane now," Laura suddenly exclaimed.
"Isn't it, Mother?"
Mrs. Willard's heart lurched slightly to one side. "Where?"
"Third table over that way. By the window."
It was Maclane; he was seated between Baby and the
Hemingways. Was this Providence? Mrs. Willard wondered.
It would certainly, she thought grimly, be very like Prov-
idence as she knew it from long and disheartening experience.
It was not that she begrudged Mrs. Hemingway any pro-
tection the supreme powers might see fit to bestow, but why,
exactly, this form of protection? Mr. Parker would have
done just as well.
Mrs. Hemingway's eyes were red and her lips tightly com-
pressed. She spoke as little as possible and only to her hus-
band. Mr. Hemingway had emphasized, in self-defense, his
manner of scholarly dignity and aloofness, and he carefully
avoided even glancing in Baby's direction.
Maclane, catching Mrs. Willard's brooding eye, raised his
hand briefly in greeting, but, being wedged in between the
table and the wall, made no attempt to join her party. He
seemed, in fact, almost wholly absorbed in watching Looney,
who was talking excitedly and without pause to Laura at his
side and eating in vast absent-minded gulps.
Richard had nearly forgotten his luncheon in stealing
worshipful glances toward the other table. The doctor, inter-
cepting one of these, smiled and greeted the boy with a
friendly gesture, and Richard, reddening with pleasure, shyly
Mrs. Willard was at once troubled and tumultuously
happy. What was the matter with her? She had never before
found herself so difficult to understand; in fact, she had often
thought ruefully that it would be far more comfortable if
her understanding of herself were considerably less thorough-
going. This theory was not standing up well under trial. But
at least Maclane was back again.
After luncheon he made his way through the babbling and
shouting groups to her side. "How are you? Let's see the arm.
Splendid. How are you, Richard? Laura?" He acknowledged
Laura's introduction of Looney, shaking hands. "I was
wondering/' he said, turning to Mrs. Willard, "if you'd care
for a drive? The younger generation, I take it, has its own
plans for the afternoon?"
Mrs. Willard's conscience smote her for her son, who, she
knew, would have preferred five minutes in Maclane's com-
pany to a walk over fields of pearl and asphodel. But for the
first time in his life she set him aside. "Yes, they're planning
a hike," she replied. "I think a drive would be delightful."
Richard, disappointed but loyal, bade her good-by and
left her, to join Laura and Looney. Maclane, sauntering
beside her out to his car, commented on the strained situation
at his table during luncheon. "That young woman the one
with the glasses was certainly going through hell, or thought
she was. I got the impression that she was being systematically
baited by that lovely little brat on the other side of me. The
one who's rubbing elbows with the stork."
Mrs. Willard was much impressed by this perception.
"Tormented," she agreed. There was some resentment in
her tone; she had not much cared for his designation of
Baby as a lovely little brat. "I think Baby's a menace," she
added, trying to speak lightly.
"You can say that again," Maclane corroborated her with
vehemence. "That's the type of woman "
He did not finish the sentence, in spite of Mrs. Willard's
burning curiosity to hear the rest of it, for they had reached
the car. "Any special place you'd like to go?"
"Anywhere at all." Mrs. Willard's heart was singing now.
The phrase "That's the type of woman," she knew from her
experience with Charles (who used, it almost exclusively to
object to her enthusiastic descriptions of Virginia Teagarden),
was more likely to introduce an unfavorable criticism than a
compliment; and, although Mrs. Willard herself liked Baby
and could not have given any cogent reason why Dr. Maclane
should not like her also, she was glad to be able to hope that
he did not. Why on earth! she thought dazedly.
Maclane glanced down at her as the car slid around the
bend. "I've missed you," he said. "Haunting me, that's
what you've been doing."
"But in no hostile spirit," Mrs. Willard assured him
"About time I got you away from the adolescent influ-
ence. That's an absurd boy Laura's attached to herself, by
"I think he's cunning," Mrs. Willard stoutly defended
"Oh, he is. Rather like a forgetful crane, to look at."
"A chicken," amended Mrs. .Willard.
"Well, perhaps a chicken. Anyhow, to go back to this
pervasive personality of yours." His tone was equivocal; Mrs.
Willard could not tell whether it was mocking or sincere.
"All week I've kept wondering, night and day, how Mrs. "
He broke the sentence off with a characteristic gesture of
Impatience. "I can't go on calling you Mrs. Willard. It's too
utterly damned silly."
"Yes, isn't it?" agreed Mrs. Willard thoughtfully. "My
"Edith. I like it."
Mrs. Willard wriggled contentedly. "I like your name too."
"Alexander? Good God. Why?"
"Dr. Griffith called you Alec. That's nice."
"Oh. Well, I'm open to being called Alec this season or
any other." He swung the car to a standstill before a striking
vista of blue lake and dark-tipped white dunes. "Is it a
"It's a bargain, Alec."
A musing silence fell between them. Maclane lighted a
cigarette. "Edith's a good, candid little name. I like it very
much." He tossed the match away. "My wife's name was
Julie," he suddenly added.
Was? A lightning arrow of unpardonable joy shot into Mrs.
Willard's breast and lodged there, quivering. "She's is
He nodded. "She and the boy were killed in the same
Mrs. Willard cast about in her mind for sympathetic words,
but Maclane did not appear to expect them. "Little red-
headed hellion," he continued; his hand, holding the
cigarette, trembled slightly. "The boy was like her. He had
her hair. We called him Sandy." He stared fixedly at the lake.
"She killed him," he said, his voice muffled.
Mrs. Willard uttered a stifled cry. "But surely "
"Oh, it was an accident technically. Actually, no. She was
in one of her 'tempers'; like most people who go in for
tantrums, she was very proud of them." He set his teeth. "She
was so furious she couldn't see two inches in front of her;
so she put the boy in the car and went for a drive. Women
like that God damn women like that!" He flung away his
cigarette and drew a deep breath. "That girl at the table,
Baby you called her, reminded me of her, though of course
there's no resemblance in looks. Well, it's all in the day's
work, I suppose."
"I'm so sorry," Mrs. Willard offered in a small stricken
He put his hand over hers for a moment. "You're a nice
little person/' he said with effort. "Shall we drive on and
find ourselves another view?"
The moment of painful revelation was safely over. Mrs.
Willard, however, breathed no more easily, for a strange
thing had happened to her. She had seen a man's face, con-
torted with pain, settle into lines of calm and reassurance at
words of hers, and there surged at ,once into her consciousness
a shout of exultation and the cry of an overpowering need.
Her body quaked with the desire to comfort and shield him,
to ward off from him the memory of past hurts and the
possibility of future ones. If she could turn to him, if she
could turn to him and offer him what joy, what peace, or
what oblivion there might be for him in her love!
At the word the heart of Mrs. Willard paused in its stead-
fast beat. She caught one of her hands in the other and held
it fast, thus defending herself against betrayal of her plight;
for she was drowning, sinking without sound into a midnight
tide and rising once and twice but surely never again! to
the surface of a bright and terrible ocean amid whose thunder
and spray her little, gasping cries made no more sound than
the breaking of a bubble against a bubble.
THIS, then, was that mystery upon which she had looked from
afar. Mrs. Willard understood now why Virginia had called
her a baby and had laughed.
All night she lay wakeful and marveling, yet morning
found her entirely unfatigued. She rose at dawn, unable
longer to remain in her bed, seeing the pearly sky framed
by her open window turn lilac, turn saffron, turn pale green,
turn yellow, turn rose. She dressed quietly and slipped out of
the house. The sun was fully up by the time she reached the
familiar hillock on the trail beside the brook.
For the first time she did not at once mount to the rustic
throne. Instead she stood gazing, her head flung back, an un-
opened book in her hand. It had rained in the night, and the
brilliance of the morning was dazzling. Every leaf in the
forest was a separate tongue of green fire, and the steep sky
burned above it, an arch of flawless blue. The wind ruffled
the trees on a hill in the near distance, and the bright leaves,
flashing as they turned, flickered and crackled like a fire in a
gale. In the exact center of all this splendor, in the exact center
of life and the universe, stood Mrs. Willard and did not know
where her transformed self ended and the other glories began.
Elsewhere, palely seen outside the flaming circle, were
Richard and Laura, children she had known, and Charles, a
fussy little man with glasses.
She returned to the inn long after breakfast was over*
She accepted a cup of coffee from Mrs. Metz in the kitchen,
but she could eat nothing.
"Not feeling bad again, are you, Mrs. Willard?" her hostess
inquired solicitously, puzzled by this lack of appetite in one
who had hitherto ranked as trencherwoman with the most
"Oh, no!" Mrs. Willard smiled radiantly at her. "I'm just
not hungry. Did you ever see such a morning, Mrs. Metz?"
Mrs. Metz peered unenthusiastically from the window.
" 'Tis a right pretty day," she conceded. "That's the rain.
Rain always sort of brightens things up when the sun comes
out again. Can't you even eat a little piece of bacon and some
"No, really," Mrs. Willard repeated. "I'm not hungry.
Thank you just the same, Mrs. Metz." She drank the last of
"Hi there." Baby, gotten up with bland disregard of the
conventions in large blue overalls and a red plaid shirt, hailed
her from the dining-room door. "What are you up to, eating
in the kitchen? Where were you at eight o'clock this morn-
"Don't you wish you knew?" Mrs. Willard countered light-
headedly. She tightened her fingers on the handle of her cup;
in another half minute, she felt, she would yield to her insane
impulse to shout wildly, "Baby, Baby, what do you think?
I'm in love!" And indeed, though she succeeded in con-
trolling this specific impulse, her quick color betrayed her,
and at Baby's instantly knowing expression she laughed
irrepressibly. Mrs. Metz had gone upstairs to help Kathryn
with the morning work, and Baby, with a cautious look
about, seated herself astride a kitchen chair and bent upon
the glowing countenance before her the look of one from
whom it is useless to attempt to conceal.
"I'll be damned," she said mildly. "Well, well. Bless its
little heart. Tell Mamma all about it."
Mrs. Willard laughed again. "No."
"No? Is that nice?" Baby meditatively ate a scrap of bacon
from a platter on the sink. "Well, if you won't, you won't.
Just so you lay off my butterfly-chaser."
"Baby " Mrs. Willard began. The thought of Clara
Hemingway's unhappiness, of anyone's unhappiness, on this
supernal morning was not to be borne. *'You will be careful,
"Says the pot to the kettle," Baby mocked. "Well, I'm off.
Going riding with Nick."
Mrs. Willard was not too bedazzled by love to be startled
at this. "Riding! On a horse?"
"Certainly, on a horse. The unborn child doesn't live that
can bully me/' Baby stood up and adjusted her overalls. "As
long as Mortimer here isn't making any more of a con-
trlbutlon to family life than he is at present, hell go where
Mother goes and like it. Care to come along?"
Mrs. Willard shook her head. "I have to write letters/*
"Says you." Baby flipped a lettuce leaf at her and departed.
Mrs. Willard was glad to get rid of her. The encounter
had shown her that she had need of taking thought, lest her
inner illumination betray her secret to the world. She went
to her room and confronted herself in the mirror. At sight
of the parted lips and shining eyes that met her there she
actually started back; why, how could she hope to conceal it?
She had a swift backward vision; she saw a weary, discouraged
young woman standing beside her husband's bed, saying
with apathetic bleakness, "There's only enough food left for
two more days, Charles "
She had felt then like a woman whose life was done. And
look at her now.
She sat down on the side of her bed and tried to collect
her thoughts. But she had no thoughts, actually, except of
Alec. There was more meaning for her in one remembered
movement of his hand, in one change of expression on his
face, than in anything on earth besides. She was lost in
She was lost, too, in the immediate present. The past and
the future alike were empty and voiceless. Once in a while
it seemed to her that she heard, dim in the distance, the
clamor and call of matters she had once known to be impor-
tant. Now, hearing them, she remembered Alec and forgot
She did not even ask herself whether he returned or might
return her love. She did not think of what her love implied
either for Charles or for the children. As yet she had small
need of anything beyond this all-compelling ecstasy of realiza-
tion; indeed, she could not at this point have borne much
more. To have found love; to have found Alec; that was all,
and it was more than everything. The straining uprush of out-
going love, surging through her afresh at every thought of
him, filled consciousness to overflowing; memory and fore-
sight were all but lost within it. Memory, it is true, flung out
here and there some flaming signal the blood-red moon
above the lake, her moved voice crying out, "Virginia,
Virginia, if ever anything lovely comes into my life, I won't
turn my back on it. No matter what it is. No matter what it
"No matter what it is. No matter what it leads to/' Mrs.
Willard now repeated, the mystical quality of the words as
she spoke them aloud seeming to flood the room with ra-
diance. "No matter what it leads to. . . ."
The luncheon bell broke through her reverie, almost, it
seemed to her, before she had spent five minutes in her
room. She made her starry-eyed way downstairs and sat
through the meal in a half trance, somehow hearing what
was said to her, somehow responding. She was dimly con-
scious of something amiss, and on the arrival of dessert she
awoke abruptly to a disturbing realization.
Neither Baby nor the Hemingways had come to luncheon.
Mrs. Willard was alarmed. She knew instantly and with
certainty that this was no coincidence. Baby had gone for a
ride and the Hemingways had gone for a walk; but somehow,
somewhere, they had met, and Baby Mrs. Willard knew it
as though she had seen it Baby had done harm.
The arrival at this moment of Baby's husband, alone and
apparently occupied with some diverting thought, but con-
firmed this disastrous impression. The imperturbable Nick
was smiling. "Little devill" his expression said as plainly
Mrs. Willard pushed back her chair and went out to the
veranda. Baby was nowhere in sight. Neither were the
Hemingways. But Alec Maclane's car, with Alec at the wheel,
was just coming to a halt at the front gate.
He caught sight of her at once and waved his hand before
opening the door and disembarking. "I carried off your sun
glasses yesterday/' he said, pulling them out of a pocket.
"Thought I'd bring them out. Thought you might want
Mrs. Willard took the glasses. "You came all the way out
here for that!"
Maclane laughed; a slight flush appeared about his
temples. "Well, no. I may as well own up. I wanted to see you
again. Talking with you yesterday seemed to I don't know.
Last night was the first time I've ever been able to get away
from from thinking about the boy, you know. So I said
to myself, 'Edith did that. Let's go out and tell her thank
you/ " He smiled a little wryly. " 'Tell her thank you' was
Sandy's phrase. Day before yesterday I couldn't have used it/'
Mrs. Willard did not speak; she could not.
"I can't stay/' Maclane continued. "I've got a consultation
at four-thirty. Let's sit here on the lawn for half an hour,
shall we?" He pulled two chairs into the shade of an over-
hanging elm. "Here comes your flirtatious little friend, look-
ing as though she's made a killing/'
Baby was approaching around the corner of the house.
Mrs. Willard's alarm returned in full force; for a moment she
forgot even Alec. Baby, catching sight of her, made toward
the elm with gestures of revelation as of something too good
to keep. "Wait till I tell you!" she exclaimed as soon as she
was within hearing. "But off the record, remember, strictly.
Even Nick might think this was trying him a bit too high.
The Boy Naturalist kissed me. Kissed me!" She went off into
a gale of laughter. "Not badly, either. I was definitely sur-
prised." She untied the red ribbon on her black curls and
tied it again. "We ran across them on one of the side trails,
and I sent Nick home with the horses and joined them for
a lesson in botany. So much better, I always think, than
simply wasting one's time," she impishly quoted Mrs. Hem-
ingway. "Anyhow, Little Burbank had a new specimen of
Jimson weed or something equally thrilling, and I asked
him to tell me all its shy secrets "
Mrs. Willard interrupted her. "Did his wife '*
"She turned around just in time to See All. She had his
butterfly net in her hand, and just then a big butterfly
whammed right into it. You never heard such a screech in
your life. You'd have thought it was a Bengal tiger, the way
she threw the net down and high-tailed it into the woods.
He went right after her like a little man, I'll say that for
him. He turned around and gave me one look and said,
'You!' like an ancient Hebrew prophet admonishing a what-
have-you, and ran like hell after her. That's all there is. There
isn't any more."
"Where is she now?" demanded Mrs. Willard.
"Both of 'em are upstairs. They came in the back way;
we all did. I wonder if Mrs. Metz has anything left from
luncheon. I could eat a porcupine. What's that?"
A commotion had arisen on the veranda; voices uplifted
confusedly in a terrified babble, and one hoarse voice above
the rest: "Come somebody come for God's sake help
me my wife my wife!"
Maclane leapt to his feet and ran toward the house. Mrs.
Willard followed him. "Let him through; he's a doctor," she
cried as they reached the excited guests. "Where is she, Mr.
Hemingway's gray lips jerked. "Bathroom," he answered
Maclane started up the stairs, and the crowd surged after
him. "Keep back, all of you, please!" he ordered. "Mrs. Wil-
lard, will you come? I may need help. Mrs. Metz, you too,
please. No more/' He took the stairs three at a time, the two
women following him. "Where's the bathroom, Mrs. Metz?
Oh. I see. Well!" He drew a long breath. "Not so bad but it
might be worse."
The piteous Clara sat slumped on a dressing stool beside
the tub, her wrists, both covered with blood and still bleed-
Ing, extended over it. She was shuddering and weeping; her
face was pulpy with tears, and her eyes were swollen shut.
She gave no sign of knowing that anyone had come. A
stained safety-razor blade and a few scattered flecks of blood
were on the linoleum beside her, and the front of her dress
Maclane sponged the bleeding wrists gently, revealing a
crisscross pattern of threadlike gashes on each. "Have you
any bandages, Mrs. Metz? There are some out in my car,
though, anyway. Please ask Kathryn to bring my bag." He
raised his voice, for the benefit of the listening crowd at the
foot of the stairs: "Now, Mrs. Hemingway, there's nothing
to be alarmed about. You'll be quite all right. But you've
no business to be crawling through barbed-wire fences just
now, you know. You take it easy from now on. This outdoor
business can be overdone/*
Mrs. Metz, who had herself gone for the doctor's bag, now
returned with it. He took it from her and busied himself
briefly with its contents. "I was just telling Mrs. Heming-
way, Mrs. Metz, that she must stay away from gullies and
barbed wire for the rest of the summer," he said with a
significant glance. "You keep an eye on her for me, will
Mrs. Metz took her cue promptly. "I certainly will, Doc-
tor. Is it all right if I tell the folks what happened?'*
"Certainly. Tell them Mrs. Hemingway had a slight acci-
dent in getting through a barbed-wire fence. She's torn her
forearms a bit, but the injury's not serious. And ask Mr.
Hemingway to come up. Where is he, by the way? Not "
"He's out in the kitchen, Doctor," Mrs. Metz assured him.
"'There's nobody else there but Kathryn. I told her to give
him a glass of peach brandy; it's all I've got on hand."
"Well, send him up the sooner the better," said Mac-
lane. He finished bandaging the second wrist, deliberately
carrying the bandage all the way to the elbow, and, pick-
ing up the razor blade, looked about him for a place to
"I'll take it," said Mrs. Willard. It was the first time she
He gave it to her without question. "Now, Mrs. Heming-
way, you'd better lie down for a while. Here's your husband
to take care of you. Stay in bed the rest of the day and have
Kathryn bring you your dinner* And remember" he raised
his voice again "no more barbed wire."
Mrs. Willard, having discreetly disposed of the razor blade
and left Mrs. Metz putting the bathroom to rights, made
haste to join Maclane on the veranda. He was still answer-
ing questions, courteously but with obvious impatience,
and he hailed her approach with relief. "Walk out to the
car with me, won't you?" he said. "There's something I'd
like you to do for Mrs. Hemingway, if you will."
He drew her away from the adhesive crowd of still excited
guests. "Well," he said ruefully, "there went our half-hour
and more. I'll have to leave at once."
Mrs. Willard drew a long breath. "I'm so glad you were
here. We couldn't have got a doctor in time."
"In time?" Maclane laughed harshly. "My dearest girl,
there wasn't the slightest danger."
"There wasn't?" Mrs. Willard, taken aback scarcely less
by this unexpected announcement than by his apparently
unconscious designation of her as "my dearest girl," stopped
short in her tracks. "But she'd slashed her wrists!"
"To about the depth," he stated succinctly, "of a good
medium hair's breadth."
"Then she wasn't she didn't really try to "
"To kill herself? Oh, yes, I think she did. She's not the
type to put on an act. She just didn't have the nerve to cut
deep enough, when it came to the point. I hope my story
got across. Mrs. Metz is in for some disagreeable and abso-
lutely unjust publicity if it didn't. Not to speak of the poor
girl herself. It Would be pretty embarrassing for her."
Mrs. Willard agreed. "You your presence of mind "
He shrugged this aside. "Could you do anything, do you
suppose, to curtail the activities of what's-her-damned-
name Baby in that direction?"
"I did try." Mrs. Willard looked troubled. "She wouldn't
listen. I I don't think she means any harm."
"That's the hell of it," said Maclane grimly. "Neither did
Julie." His face revealed intense strain; the incident, doubt-
less because of his swift association of it with episodes of his
own past, and particularly with the ultimate tragic episode
of his son's death, had penetrated well below his thin de-
fenses. His jaw muscles twitched, but he made an effort to
bring the conversation back to lightness. "That's a damned
shame about our half-hour. I'd looked forward to it. You're
a memorable sort of person; one comes back for more. Why,
what's the matter? Edith! What's the matter?"
Mrs. Willard had begun to tremble violently. The re-
action from shock and surprise, together with the sudden
and unaccustomed tenderness in Maclane's voice, shook her
from head to foot; tears brimmed up in her eyes. "I think
I'm going to have hysterics, Alec," she whispered.
He put his hand over hers in the familiar clasp she loved.
"No, you aren't. Not now. Not before all those assembled
harpies on the porch. Chin up, now. Doctor's orders."
He cupped his fingers under her chin and lifted her face
so that her eyes met his. ''Bit of a darling, aren't you?" he
said. "Worrying about other people's troubles. Apologizing
for that brat Baby. Threatening me with hysterics because
Mrs. Hemingway scratches herself. If that's the way you take
care of people, I hope there's a vacant room for me in your
"You are my heart/' said Mrs. Willard.
WHEN he had gone she stood motionless for a time, recalling
with mounting ecstasy how his face at her words had changed
like water under a darkening wind; hearing again and again
the strangled, unidentifiable word that seemed literally torn
from him; seeing his knuckles turn white on the wheel as,
with a despairing glance toward the veranda, he prepared to
drive away. "Ill see you Sunday/' he promised her. The en-
gine's roar arose, died down, and was gone.
Turning at last toward the house and noting in spite of
her inner tumult the curious glances of the guests on the
porch, she was conscious of brief thanksgiving that at least
their attention was divided between her and Mrs, Heming-
way. She passed through the crowd, evading their hinted
questions as best she might, and made her way sedately up
the stairs, though all her impulse was to run and run, far
into the woods, miles away from everybody and everything
but solitude and silence and the fragrant breath of the
She locked her door behind her. "I can't bear it," she
whispered. "I can't bear it. It's too much. I must do some-
thing, I must do something!" She ran her shaking hand
along her little shelf of books and selected one at random.
But it was useless to try to read. Useless to try to sit still.
She was daft with, happiness.
To be out in the woods to be alone on the brookside
trail! She crossed to the mirror; no, she could not show that
illuminated face downstairs again so soon. She lay down on
the smooth bed and, clasping her hands behind her head,
gave herself wholly over to the upsurging memories and
the flooding ecstasies of sensation that accompanied them.
There came a tap at the door. Hurriedly she sat up- and
pushed the waves of her hair into something like order.
"Come in," she called, and then remembered that she had
locked the door. "Just a minute/' she added.
The visitor was Baby. It was at once apparent that the
Hemingway episode had not left Baby unmoved; there was
a look of tension about her mouth, and the face beneath
the expert make-up was haggard.
"Baby? Come in," said Mrs. Willard.
Baby entered and sat down, saying nothing for several
minutes. Then she made a little gesture with her head to-
ward the Hemingways' room down the hall.
"She all right?" The liquid dark eyes held desperate ap-
peal. "She going to get over it?"
"I believe so," Mrs. Willard answered as coolly as she
Baby shivered and relaxed a little. "I suppose it was a
kind of a lousy trick," she admitted, lowering her lashes
and running a nervous finger up and down along a seam
of her overalls. "She asked for it, though practically gather-
ing her skirts around her every time she looked at me. But
of course," Baby conceded with artless vanity, "she didn't
have much of a show against me if I wanted to do anything
about it; it was kind of like tormenting a field mouse or
something." She twitched uncomfortably. "I wish I hadn't
done it/' She looked with pathetic expectancy at Mrs. Wil-
lard. "I suppose there's nothing I can do about it now?"
"I'm afraid not/* Mrs. Willard agreed. "You'd only em-
barrass her more than ever/'
Baby nodded moodily. "That's what I thought/' She was
silent for a moment, evidently turning over in her mind
something she wanted to say. "You you're mad at me,
aren't you?" she asked timidly, like a child.
This was too much for Mrs. Willard. She laughed in spite
Baby tried to laugh too, but cried instead; two enormous
tears appeared on her cheeks, and Mrs. Willard suddenly
hugged her. "No, Baby, no. I'm not mad at you. I'm not mad
Baby put a hard little hand over the arm that lay across
her shoulder and squeezed it. "Well/* she said at last, "I'd
better be getting out of here before I do any more damage.
My mother says Hugh that's my boy has a rash. Nothing
serious, she thinks, but I thought I'd go home and look him
over. Nick's ready to go, and I owe it to the Hemingway gal
not to spoil her whole summer, if I haven't already."
"You're leaving at once?"
"Well, that's what I wanted to ask you." Baby pleated the
knee of her overalls. "Would it be any good I mean, would
it help on the barbed-wire story if I stuck around a day or
two? I mean, if I leave today Mrs. Hanover will tell every-
body I remind her of a good-looking chippy she once saw
in Naples or Nome or somewhere, and she'd like to know
just how much I had to do with poor Mrs. Hemingway's
'accident/ You know what I mean."
"Yes," said Mrs. Willard.
"Well, what do you think? Shall I stick it out a day or
"It might help," Mrs. Willard decided, "if you're sure
your little boy doesn't need you."
"Oh, no. Hugh's all right. Mamma'd be sending telegrams
every five minutes if he had anything serious. I'm just sort
of lonesome for the little dope. But 111 wait until day after
tomorrow, if you think "
Mrs. Willard nodded slowly. "Mrs. Hemingway will prob-
ably stay in her room most of the time till then. I do think
it would help, Baby."
"All right. Ill stay/' Baby looked relieved. "That was a
smart story your doctor friend cooked up on the spur of
"Yes, I thought so." Mrs. Willard turned away and ad-
justed the window shade.
"Looks like a good guy," Baby proceeded warily. "Even if
he does hate my gizzard," she added.
"He does so. Baby knows." Baby was recovering rapidly;
a little of her natural impudence had returned, and there
was color in her cheek. "I've never met your husband, have
I? He hasn't been out, has he?"
"He's busy," Mrs. Willard returned curtly.
Baby, nobody's fool, slapped her own cheek and rose.
"O.K.," she said, moving toward the door. But, once out-
side, she put her head back in. "Too busy, if you ask me,"
"I didn't ask you," Mrs. Willard pointed out.
"That's right, you didn't." Baby still lingered with her
hand on the doorknob. "Well, anyhow, while I've got my
hair down, I'd like I mean well, good luck and all that
sort of thing. I think you're swell. I think your kids are
swell. I think your doctor's swell." She half closed the door
but made one more appearance. "Ever since the day you
came, and especially since I've seen the kids, I've been ask-
ing myself, 'What's wrong with this picture?' I mean it must
be your husband, because it isn't anything else. Well, good
luck. Ill see you again before I go, of course/*
Mrs. Willard locked the door behind her and returned
to the bed. Instantly, as the sound of Baby's voice died away,
she was back beside Alec at the gate, hearing his voice, see-
ing that change in his face Mrs. Willard closed her eyes
and her hands at thought of the change, and of his promise
to return on Sunday. It was not the children's week end, she
realized with bliss. Richard and Laura would not come out
for another whole week.
Baby's references to Charles had sounded no disturbing
note in her happiness. Mrs. Willard thought of her husband
at this point with Gargantuan amusement, a sort of gleeful
and all-embracing triumph. Here was something he could
not take from her. Here was something that neither he nor
Aunt Gertrude could touch. Her personal feeling toward
Charles, at the same time, was paradoxically softened. With
immense good humor and good will she wished him well,
heartily wished him well, in all his goings and his comings,
his downsittings and his uprisings. She had not felt so
cordial toward him in years.
She had not in all her life, indeed, felt so cordial toward
all the world. She was able to achieve not love, to be sure
but pity, at least, even, for Aunt Gertrude; even for Miss
Mothershead, who from any such happiness as this must
surely be forever shut out. Mrs. Willard remembered grate-
fully all that her mirror had shown her of smooth bright
hair, glowing eyes, round slender arms, sensitive lips and
hands. Newly dear to herself because she was Alec's, she
thought with compassion of all women he did not desire.
Neither he nor any other man, she was sure, could desire
Miss Mothershead, who, in spite of Aunt Gertrude's re-
peated asseverations that Althea was "a fine-looking girl as
well as a brilliant one/* had continued to remind Mrs. Wil-
lard of one of the fetal monsters in her scientific dictionary,
disastrously grown to adult size and requiring for com-
pletion of her destiny only a display jar, a fixing solution
of formaldehyde, and a red label reading Poison.
Now, however, and for the first time, this destiny seemed
to Mrs. Willard wretched rather than hateful. "Poor thing,"
she thought, stretching herself and turning on her pillow for
the sheer luxury of realizing afresh the singing life in her
veins. "Poor, miserable, half-dead creature. . . ."
CLARA HEMINGWAY did not appear in the dining room, or
indeed outside her own room, for more than two days. Mrs.
Willard meditated on the possibility of visiting her there
but decided against it. Clara, she reflected, would need time
and painfully gathered strength to reconcile herself to the
relentless malice of fate. No stranger herself to defeat and
humiliation, Mrs. Willard knew only too well the guise in
which fate now appeared to her shamed and cowering neigh-
bor: a huge, shapeless laughter that had tempted her to
self-destruction and roared again with malevolent glee to
mark how cravenly, how grotesquely she had bungled it.
The whole affair had for Mrs. Willard a shuddering
familiarity, as if trailing wisps of that cosmic derision clung
to her as she passed by. In her new enchantment she could
not bear the suggestion, implicit in both the Hemingway
incident and her own past experience, that she was but re-
cessed from pain.
She had not expected Alec until Sunday afternoon, or
the Sunday luncheon hour at the earliest. But he came to
her in midmorning, surprising her on the hillock beside the
stream, the book she had brought with her for form's sake
lying idle under her hand. She heard the brushing aside of
a branch and turned quickly.
"Alec!" She sprang to her feet, the book dropping to the
ground. "You you startled me," she stammered.
He took her in his arms, kissing her hungrily, and she
clung to him in a trancelike silence. There were tears on
her cheeks, but she smiled. She could not speak. His eyes,
strangely darkened as he set her away from him, rested on
her face for a long moment.
"My God," he breathed, his hands gripping her shoulders.
"Edith. Kiss me again."
In his arms she found her voice at last, but only to cry
his name. "Alec! Alec!" she whispered over and over
He murmured against her hair. "Let's sit down, shall
They made their way, his arm about her, to the top of the
hillock. Neither spoke for some moments. Mrs. JVlllard
was far too happy to speak of her own accord. What had
lain hidden all the fretted years was clear and palpable now
as a jewel in the hand. This wa:s love, and this was she, and
at last they had come together.
"Well " the man said at last, "here we are. What are
we going to do about it?"
Mrs. Willard looked up at him, surprised. "I think we're
doing beautifully," she said.
Maclane laughed. "So do I. But I mean ultimately/'
"About the rest of the people in our lives, you know. Par-
ticularly yours. Your husband, for instance."
Mrs. Willard made a little gesture of distaste. "Let's not
talk about Charles. Need we?"
"Well " Maclane hesitated. "Not just now, if you'd
rather not. But some time well have to. So why not get it
Mrs. Willard was silent.
"I'm afraid you'll have to divorce Charles, you know."
"Divorce him! Divorce Charles!" Mrs. Willard had a
swift vision of Charles at the bare suggestion drawing him-
self to his full height and ordering her out into a snowstorm.
"Why, he wouldn't let me!"
"Don't be goofy, dearest. As nearly as I can make out,
you've got grounds for at least a dozen divorces."
"But Charles " Mrs. Willard paused to accustom
herself to this cataclysmic idea. "But Charles " she
tried again. "But I'm married to him!" she insisted, still
unable to cope with the new concept.
"And have been, I should say, for about eighteen years
too long." Maclane's defenses were going up; he looked at
her almost with doubt. "Of course, if you just want to have
your cake and eat it too I'm sorry, Edith, I don't mean
that. But you can't marry me, you know, until you stop
being married to him."
"Marry you?" Mrs. Willard had not yet had time to dis-
sociate her concept of marriage from its eighteen-year-old
connotations. "Surely we don't have to get married," she ob-
Maclane, for the first time since she had known him, gave
a sudden shout of laughter. "That from you! Suggesting that
we live in sin!"
"I wasn't suggesting anything of the kind," Mrs. Willard
retorted with dignity. "I was only "
He kissed her, still laughing. "I know you weren't, idiot.
What you really want to know is why we can't just go on the
way we are. Isn't it?"
Mrs. Willard, a little piqued by his amusement, did not
speak, since this was beyond all possible denial exactly what
she had meant.
"Come now, grow up. I want you for a wife, not a pet."
He laughed again. "You don't happen to have a miniature
of Charles about you, do you?"
"I think he might be worth looking at," Maclane ex-
plained. "Or even worth stuffing, maybe." He tightened his
arm about her shoulders. "You don't realize," he said, "be-
cause Charles has never taught you to realize, what it is
to be really married. If it weren't that you've been cheated
all this hell of a long time, I could almost thank him for it;
he's left it for me to show you." He drew her hand along his
cheek. "But anyhow, we can't just go on like this; we're not
seventeen years old, Edith. You'll see why yourself, in a
little while; you'll come to feel very differently. And you've
wasted enough of your life. I'd take you on any terms, of
course, if you'd have me. But I want to marry you. I believe
in you; I trust you. God knows why, but I do. You can't let
me down now."
Mrs. Willard did not speak.
"It's been too sudden for you, that's all. It's bowled me
over too. I never thought I never expected ah, Edithl"
"Alec," she whispered, hiding her face on his coat.
He pressed her close, with a reassuring and brotherly
tenderness. "You think it over, Edith. You'll come to me.
Ill not bother you with it again until you've had time to get
used to it. See, you've dropped your book what is it?" He
stooped and picked it up. "Poetry. Well, it's a moment for
poetry, I agree." He smiled at her.
A rich silence surged round them. Now and then one or
the other spoke or murmured inconsequently; there was no
need of speech to complete the hour and their communion.
The dazzling sun climbed to middle height, and the distant
clang of Mrs. Metz's luncheon bell sounded briefly and was
"I suppose we'd better show up?" Maclane suggested.
"Oh, yes." Mrs. Willard pushed back her hair and tried
to pin it, her hand shaking. "Here, let me," Maclane said.
"This way? Wait a minute." He dipped a corner o his
handkerchief into the brook and sponged away the sudden
tears that showed along her lashes. "Edith, you are happy?
I've not offended you, or spoiled anything for you?"
She smiled and caught up his hand to her cheek.
"Then that's all that matters. The rest will keep. Ah,
Edith, you're so sweet. You're so damned sweet!"
They set off toward the inn. "How is that poor girl that
hurt herself last week?" the man inquired.
"Mrs. Hemingway? She seems better." They moved slowly
up the trail. "Baby's gone. She went home three days ago."
"Well, that's good, anyway. That one was a limb of Satan
if ever I saw one. What does her husband think of her
"He doesn't seem to be much worried."
"He probably beats her regularly, and she knows just how
far she- can go," Alec suggested. For the first time there was
actual gaiety in his voice; he was lightheaded with happi-
ness, as Mrs. Willard had been before.
"Sh!" she suddenly warned him. "The Hemingways are
Mr. and Mrs. Hemingway had emerged from a side trail
a short distance back. They were plodding silently along,
neither speaking to the other, apparently. Their faces
drooped, their gait was dispirited and gloomy. Clara made
much of her bandages, carrying her arms affectedly.
"Hello," Mrs. Willard called.
The Hemingways responded. Mr. Hemingway, seeing the
doctor, cleared his throat and spoke, with effort. "I haven't
had a chance to thank you, Doctor, for what you did for
Mrs. Hemingway. Not only the treatment, you know, but
ah your consideration. Your very great consideration."
"Quite all right," Maclane dismissed it. "How are you,
"I'm very well, thank you," Clara said primly. "Dear, we
must hurry. I have to attend to " She urged her husband
on; moving ahead of Maclane and Mrs. Willard with an in-
distinctly muttered apology, they all but ran toward the inn.
MRS. WILLARD took Alec's promise at its face value. She was
in no mood for decisions, or indeed for anything but joy.
There was a new eagerness in Maclane's eyes every time she
welcomed him, as though even yet he were surprised to find
that he loved her, and this moved her more strongly than
had anything in her experience. She knew instinctively that
it was his own love, not hers, that perpetually astonished him,
that occasionally even now stabbed him with bitter and dis-
maying uncertainty. Sometimes his distrust not of her, ap-
parently, but of life itself as a thing to build anything as
ephemeral as hopes upon forced itself from him, as when
he had half accused her, that day by the brook, of wanting
to have her cake and eat it too.
To his occasional outbursts, however, she opposed nothing
but silence and trusting affection, and gradually the guards
he had set about himself were lowered. His tenderness toward
Mrs. Willard herself seemed to her a continual miracle.
"You're so good to me," she would say gratefully as, driving
over the smooth highways in the summer dusk, while the
great dunes divided and fled before the wheel, or standing
by day in the sun-spattered woods, well out of sight of road
or inn, she realized anew the gentleness and justice of his
attitude toward her. Charles, she thought repeatedly, could
never have treated any woman as Alec treated her. Basically,
whatever his protestations concerning the sacredness of
womanhood and he had always been vocal on this point,
as on all others stamped with conventional approval
Charles did not regard any woman as his equaL Friendship
between man and woman was incomprehensible to him.
Alec, however, was invariably disturbed by her outspoken
gratitude. "Good to you!" he protested, so vehemently that
she started. "But it's you who are good to me! You wouldn't
know it, of course, but you've let me out of hell. I hated
Julie. I hated even her memory. I used to wish I could go
out and dig her up, so that I could kill her over again and
watch her die."
The savage words, spoken in his low controlled tones, took
on an added horror. Mrs. Willard winced.
"Idea hurt you?" he demanded roughly. "Or do you just
think it's pretty to pretend it does?"
Mrs. Willard brushed her cheek against his shoulder. "I
used to hate Charles too," she confessed. "But it doesn't seem
to make much sense."
He relaxed. "It doesn't. But there are some things with
which sense has damned little to do."
They were silent for a time. Suddenly he laughed con-
temptuously. "That was Alec Maclane, the single suffering
martyr, sounding off about his operation. While you, hand-
cuffed to that handcuffed to Charles, you've probably been
through twenty times what I have."
Mrs. Willard said nothing.
l I find I don't hate her any more. You've done that
for me. I'll not live long enough to do as much for you.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not being sentimental about it, or
remorseful. Just expedient. Hatred's hard on the hater/' He
lifted her face to his; his mouth twitched. "If Sandy were
here he'd say, 'Tell her thank you.' He loved his mother, of
Mrs. Willard was silent for a time with the weight of her
longing to comfort him. "But you are good to me, Alec," she
insisted gently at last, "and to the children too. You don't
realize it because well, I suppose it's only what most people
would take for granted. Having been 'handcuffed to Charles/
as you so accurately put it," she smiled up at him, "I've
learned to count my blessings in that direction. Richard and
Laura have too, I imagine. Richard adores you/*
"Richard's a grand kid."
"He'd have been just as fond of Charles," Mrs. Willard
said with a long sigh, "if he'd ever been allowed to. Even now
I don't know if Charles would give him half a chance "
Maclane agreed. "They're endlessly forgiving, youngsters,
up to a point and it takes a long time and a lot of mis-
handling to bring them to that point. Even in adolescence
late adolescence when it would seem reasonable to assume
that they've had time for some hardening, they're pretty
unpredictable." He hesitated a moment, then cupped her
hand in his own, looking down at it. "Richard might turn
against me if he knew about you and me, you know. Even,
possibly, against you."
Mrs. Willard was silent.
"Of course," Alec went on, "I don't think he would. Not
against you, at any rate. But there's the possibility. If either
of them objected at all, it would probably be Richard, not
Laura although I gather he's had a great deal more to bear
from his father than she has,"
"Oh, it would be Richard!" Mrs. Willard instantly ad-
mitted. "But I don't I don't really believe either of them
would." She looked up, perplexed. "Anyway, I can't help
loving you, Alec. And what they don't know won't hurt
"No. Oh, Edith, you're so sweet. You're so damned sweet/'
he said again. He clasped her to him, releasing her at once as
a clambering couple appeared through the woods on a distant
hill. "The only thing I object to about this place," he com-
plained, "is the population."
Mrs. Willard laughed. "Why, Dr. Maclane! When every-
body's so interested in you!"
"You've noticed it too, then?"
"Noticed it! Mrs. Turner's table conversation for days has
been bulging with hints about what's going to happen to
family life in this country if somebody doesn't come out with
gumption enough to expose these philandering married
women for just what they are. I asked her what they were,"
Mrs. Willard confessed.
Maclane was amused. "You didn'tl"
"Oh, yes, I did. And she was so infuriated she almost told
me. I wish she had," said Mrs. Willard pensively. "Alec," she
added suddenly, "there's something odd about Charles' letters
lately. He's been putting me in the past tense."
"Putting you in the past tense?"
"When he writes, I mean. He's always scolded me in his
letters, as I've told you. He's always pointed out what I do
and don't do and what's wrong with both. But here lately"
Mrs. Willard took a letter from the pocket of her jerkin
"he's started saying 'You have always' and 'You have never/
If it were anyone but Charles I'd think he was trying to
justify himself in something."
"Charles never thinks he needs justification?"
"I can't imagine him thinking so. Listen." She unfolded
the letter and read: " 'You have invariably opposed your
will against mine in matters involving the children, ap-
parently with no regard to my being the head of the family
and as such entitled to your respect. And you have never
been a housekeeper. I feel that I have shown you great
patience here, for until I was married I never knew what it
was to see a disorderly house when I returned home. I have
made due allowances for your being employed in an office,
but, as Aunt Gertrude has pointed out, there are many
women who accomplish both/ And here: In spite of the
fact that I have never been unfaithful to you, I cannot feel
that you have ever actually appreciated your good fortune
or my consideration in this respect ' "
Maclane stopped her. "You're making this up."
"See for yourself."
He shook his head. "No, thanks. Is that his regular style?"
"Except for the change of tense, as I've told you." Mrs.
[Willard laughed suddenly. "Once he wrote me when I was
out at Virginia's I've told you about her and I was angry
and tore the letter in two and sent it back. He wrote again
by return mail and said there was no occasion for me to
violate the ordinary epistolary courtesies."
"Not in those words?"
"In those words. He knows even longer ones," Mrs. Wil-
lard attested with some complacency. "He's a Ph.D."
Maclane grinned. "Magna cum laude, I suppose."
"Maxima cum laude" corrected Mrs. Willard firmly.
"Hallelujah," Maclane returned, kissing her.
THE "change of tense" in Charles' letters puzzled Mrs. Wil-
lard. After eighteen years in her husband's society, she would
have undertaken against any odds to predict his exact re-
sponse in word and deed to anything she or any other
member of the family might say or do. Charles' patterns of
thought were rigid in the extreme. A new response, differ it
never so minutely from the routine one, could mean only a
new stimulus, and Mrs. Willard was not aware of having
provided such a stimulus.
Had her absence, perhaps, provided it? Was Charles so well
content with Aunt Gertrude and her safety pins, Aunt Ger-
trude and her antimacassars, Aunt Gertrude and her well-
scrubbed floors, her well-polished windows, and her sym-
bolically well-stayed bosom, that his will to continue in this
sanitary paradise had got the upper hand of his sense of
responsibility for his inconvenient and embarrassing wife?
For Mrs. Willard knew well enough that she had been an
embarrassment to him and a disappointment; her ways
were not his ways nor his thoughts her thoughts. "I am the
head of this family!" he had shouted at her. Yet he had never
been its actual head, and it was herself who had kept him
from it. Whatever compulsion he had put upon her to gain
his will externally, whatever had been her external sub-
mission to that will, he had had no effect upon the spun-
steel core of her separate personality. The same was true of
the children. For all his frantic pounding at the portals, he
stood outside their lives and shouted into silence.
"But I did try/ 1 Mrs. Willard told herself, uneasily. "I
Her thoughts halted. "I didn't/' she flatly contradicted
herself. "I never did, actually/' For a moment she was dizzy
with her realization that Charles had after all been little more
insistent upon his way o life than had she upon hers; that
the mere preposterousness of his standards, the mere rigidity
of his ideas, the mere fury of his objurgations, had obscured
entirely from her view the now perfectly obvious fact that his
life with her had been to him a perennial frustration no less
certainly than had hers with him. "Why, poor Charles," she
thought, startled and impressed. "But I should think he'd be
glad to get rid of me!"
She considered this possibility, then shook her head. It was
too much to hope for. If it were conceivable that anything
could jolt Charles out of his death grip on the conventions it
might be so, but this was not conceivable. Certainly her
prospective request that he be so kind as to step out of her
life and make room for another man was not calculated to
Mrs. Willard sighed. 'Well, there's nothing I can do
about it now." She had a sense of loss, the inner vacancy that
remains when mental underpinnings that have supported
one for years are suddenly swept away. Mildly apologetic
toward Charles and more than mildly perturbed at thought of
the reckoning that was to come, she turned from both these
emotions to the one that eclipsed all others. The revelation
about Charles had changed her somewhat, but changes of
greater moment were making themselves felt. As the bright
days slid by too fast, too fasti she shrank more and more
from the prospect of ever returning, out of this newly lib-
erated life of her own, into the straitly posed, the barred and
barricaded life she had known in Chicago. Moreover, that
alteration predicted by Maclane in the quality of her love
for him was gradually but with heart-stopping inevitability
and power coming into Its own. She had begun to long for
Alec as he longed for her.
His companionship on the trails and byways, his quick
and brotherly tenderness, his rare laughter all the things
that had been meat and drink to her when she was starved
for them no longer sufficed her now that she had but to
reach out her hand and take them. She trembled, now, when
he approached her. Her hands in his were cold, and colder
than frost itself against her flaming cheeks when he had gone.
It was a remark of Clara Hemingway's that revealed to her
how far she had come, how briskly crackled the burning
bridges she had left behind. Clara had forgiven her husband
for kissing Baby. "One has to make allowances for men/'
she told Mrs. Willard with a quietly sensible air, her pale
eyes behind their glasses seeking confirmation. "They're
different from us, you know. It's their nature to be well,
Mrs. Willard, signifying, to save discussion, the perfunctory
agreement Clara expected, realized with a shock of surprise
that less than two weeks earlier she could have agreed in all
Through this realization, once for all, the feverish longing
within her stood explained and revealed. Yet, remembering
Charles for she did remember him frequently in spite of
herself, and always nowadays with the sensations of one who
has just been struck with a knotted club in the pit of the
stomach she knew moments when she had small hope of
its ultimate fulfillment. Eighteen years of marriage is not
lightly tossed aside.
She was dimly aware, through her preoccupation, that to
some extent her deliberations were shared by everyone in
residence at the inn. Alec's visits, though not more frequent
than might have been expected of a physician still in pro-
fessional attendance, were obviously unnecessary to a patient
In such glowing health as Mrs. Willard now displayed. Even
her atrophied wrist was nearly normal again. And a resort
to which people come for relaxation in the summertime, she
knew, is not a place where dalliance can blush unseen. Daily
at table she was offered, by first one and then another of her
fellow guests, what succulent bait their ingenuity could
devise; and daily she brushed it aside or ignored it with
intelligent and imperturbable calm. She was very grateful
to be able to do so. Mrs. Willard had always liked her mind,
even in its more phantasmagoric phases, and she had never
felt greater affection for it than now, when she marked how
it stood by her in a time of emergency.
"People's sense of responsibility for what is none of their
business," she observed to Alec after a luncheon at which
there had been little conversation anywhere at the table
that did not at least skirt the edges of her presumable relation
to her devoted physician, "is colossal."
"Be reasonable, darling," returned Maclane. "You can't
expect Mrs. Turner to understand how you feel. There is
such a thing as convention, you know."
"Are you telling me?" Mrs. Willard laughed irrepressibly.
"I had a popular magazine in the house not long ago, with
a cover picture of a man kissing a girl. Charles made me get
rid of it. He said if Laura saw that sort of thing about the
house she'd eventually get the idea that such behavior is
"Edith," Maclane reproved her. "Resist this tendency. I
don't like to call you a liar, but "
"He did so," affirmed Mrs. Willard. "I wish I may die and
rest forever in the bosom of Miss Mothershead if he didn't."
"Ye gods." Maclane rose and stretched himself. "And
there's not a straw in your hair. You really are wonderful,
my lamb." He smiled down at her. They had stopped to rest
in his shack after a long ramble in the woods, and it had
begun to rain. Mrs. Willard, half buried in a deep chair
draped with discarded newspapers and an old tweed coat,
thought dreamily of other rainy afternoons with Alec, dim
in the peaceful mists of the future; of Richard working side
by side with the man whose work he loved; of Laura growing
into life with knowledge of gentleness and security toward
love. She was very happy.
Maclane's attention had been caught by a small headline
in one of the three-day-old newspapers. "Look at that." He
pointed it out to her. "That means war."
Mrs. Willard felt her muscles grow tense. " Would you go,
"Probably." He looked at her. "We haven't much time,
"No," Mrs. Willard said, getting out of her chair. "No,"
she said again thickly, as she moved over to the window.
The rain had stopped, and a violet-edged shaft of dazzling
sunshine clove the woods across the road like a huge sword
thrusting through. "Richard too/' she added in a muffled
He came to stand beside her, taking her in his arms. For a
long moment they stood so, watching the dance of light on
the dripping leaves. "Edith," the man said at last, huskily.
"Need you keep me waiting any longer?"
The shaft of light quivered and disappeared. "No, Alec,"
said Mrs. Willard steadily.
THERE could be no question now of going back to Charles.
Mrs. Willard recoiled from the idea with repulsion, an actual
and violent horror comparable only, in all her experience, to
her feeling toward Miss Mothershead. Her life, she now
felt, was cleansed of them both, and never again could she
suffer either of them to impinge upon it. Not for any con-
sideration of pity, convention, or fear would she betray Alec
now; not for Richard, not for Laura. Her path ahead was
far from clear, especially where the children were concerned,
but at the end of that path, whithersoever it might lead her,
would always stand Alec Maclane.
He had taken to bringing her small gifts, always surprising,
always to her adorable. One Saturday morning he turned up
with a pale-beige fluff under his coat, which on emergence
proved to be a sherry-eyed cocker pup.
''Alec! Oh, the angel!" she cried, snuggling the puppy up
under her chin. "Well wudda wudda," she consoled him as
he whined and tried to lick her face.
Maclane stood regarding them. "Put him down a minute.
I want you to see him walk/'
The puppy broke into an absurd rocking-horse run, their
laughter following him. "But I can't keep him here, Alec.
Mrs. Metz wouldn't have him/*
"No, I suppose not. I never thought of that. Ill keep him,
then, until you're ready to come home to us." His eyes met
hers, and bliss flooded through her. "I'll bring him out when-
ever I come, so you can keep up the acquaintance. Richard
and Laura will like him, what?"
"They'll love him." Mrs. Willard picked up the puppy
and cuddled him. "They're coming out today, you know/'
"Oh, yes," Maclane remembered. "Well, youll have com-
pany, then, even if I can't stay. I have to go back consul-
tation. I'll be out again tomorrow. When are they due to
Mrs. Willard glanced down the road toward the station.
"Why, there they come now. That's Richard's orange
"My God," remarked Maclane mildly. "They've multi-
Mrs. Willard laughed. "It's only Looney and Joanne."
Laura, catching sight of her mother and Maclane, waved
a hand, and all four youngsters began to run toward them.
Laura was first to notice the pup, which she seized from her
mother's hands with squeals of ecstasy. "Oh, the darling
little wip! What's his name? Is he yours, Dr. Maclane?"
Maclane nodded. "I haven't named him yet."
"Call him Wippy," advised Laura. "Yes, he was a silly
little wip!" she told the puppy*
"Call him J/Vippy by all means, if you like," Maclane
assented. "Well, Richard, how's the neurology? Seen any
good plexuses lately?" He laid a hand affectionately on the
boy's shoulder. "I must go," he said to Mrs. Willard. "See
you tomorrow," his glance promised.
"But you aren't taking Wippy, are you?" cried Laura. "Oh,
let him stay!"
"Your mother says Mrs. Metz wouldn't have him." Maclane
took the pup gently from her reluctant hands and put him
into the car. "Ill bring him back someday soon. Good-by,
all of you."
Mrs. Willard, turning with a smile as the car disappeared
around the bend, joined her young guests. "Well! How are
things at home?"
"All right, I suppose," Laura returned indifferently. "Aunt
Gertrude's got a new dress. Without any safety pins ain't
that a hep! . . . There's the luncheon bell, goody goody. I'm
hungry. Looney, pet, pick up your feet or are those things
feet?" She bent a critical gaze on Looney's irreproachable
nether extremities. "Disgusting. He wears clean saddle shoes.
There is no hope for him." She and Looney lifted up their
voices in doleful unison: a Ah, such is life in a cold, cold
world, where all is hard and bitterness reigns!" Punctually
concluding this impressive chant, they swung about on their
heels, faced each other, saluted, and made off at breakneck
speed toward the house.
"Dopes/* commented Richard.
Mrs. Willard tucked her hand in Joanne's arm. "How are
you, dear? Not feeling very well?" For Joanne, customarily
as thoroughgoing a zany as Laura herself, had scarcely spoken
"I'm all right, Mrs. Willard, thank you," Joanne replied
dully. "Just tired, I guess."
"And hungry, probably. I am, anyway. We'd better hurry,
or Looney and Laura will have gone through the dining room
like a plague of locusts."
Looney and Laura were indeed doing well for themselves
at the table already, but the entrance of Mrs. Willard with
Richard and Joanne was received with bright-eyed interest
nevertheless. Most of the rest of those present had lingered
long enough on the veranda, even in the face of the summons
to luncheon, to watch Dr. Maclane drive away. Mrs. Wil-
lard prepared herself for another bout with innuendo, which,
she thought, for an opponent so many times defeated, dis-
played a surprising elasticity. Now here, now there along
the table it bounded up ever and again, hopeful and undis-
mayed; Mrs. Willard would lay it low, and it would bounce
back from another quarter.
By the time it leapt at her from Mrs. Hanover's chair, how-
ever, Mrs. Willard had grown weary. "I can't agree with
you," she replied flatly to that lady's none-too-subterranean
remark about modern American moral standards. "I've been
a great traveler in my time, and "
This produced a lull, less of conviction than of awe, per-
haps, but still a lull; and Mrs. Willard ate her luncheon.
Richard and Laura came to her room to say good-by before
they went back to Chicago, Joanne and Looney tactfully
remaining downstairs. ".Well, darlings/' she said, "I always
hate to see you go. Laura, what's the matter with Joanne?
She looks miserable."
"Oh, she is/' Laura looked distressed. "Her mother's
getting a divorce."
"Oh/' said Mrs. Willard.
"Joanne feels terrible/' Laura went on. "That makes
another one. It seems as i everybody's mother I know of is
getting a divorce or already has one."
"Bunch of quitters," growled Richard. "Can't take it."
"I don't think Mrs. Warburton's a quitter," Laura objected
in quick defense. "Mother, do you know what he did Mr.
Warburton, I mean? They had a new little pup, no bigger
than Wippy? and he put it out in. the tool shed to sleep, and
it was lonesome and cried. And he went out and stuffed tissue
paper in its mouth and pasted its. jaws together with adhesive
"Laura, no!" Mrs. Willard exclaimed, revolted.
"Yes he did, Mother. And Mrs. Warburton said it was the
last straw. Joanne said her mother said she didn't believe
anybody on earth would blame her if she* did divorce him."
"Divorce him! I'd have shot him," said Mrs. Willard
violently, if untruthfully. "But then why does Joanne take
it so hard? I should think, if he's that kind of man, she'd
be more glad than, sorry."
"Oh, well." Laura seemed unable to explain Joanne's un-
happiness, although she obviously understood it. "She just
feels bad. Anybody would if their home was broken up."
"I suppose so. But you can't really blame Mrs. Warburton,
Laura. Probably, if he did a thing like that, he's been cruel
many times before. One can never "
Laura moved restlessly. "Well, she feels terrible. Joanne, I
mean." She twisted a corner of Mrs. Willard's bedspread.
"Richard and I and Looney are about the only ones left in
our whole crowd at school whose parents aren't divorced.
Looney's parents are awfully nice/* she added.
"Well, it's a difficult question/' Mrs. Willard said, shiver-
ing slightly. "But you can see, can't you, Richard, that it isn't
fair just to cry 'Quitter' and let it go at that? There are so
many things to be considered "
"Everybody's got things to put up with/' Richard main-
tained dogmatically. "They don't have to drag 'em out in
public and have everybody talking about them."
"No, of course not. But " Mrs. Willard made an
attempt to lighten the conversation to a suitable note of
parting. "As Mr. Parker was saying at breakfast this morn-
ing, 'Married partners can be pretty trying.' He'd been
reading a newspaper account, he said, of a poor old lady in
Canada who sued for divorce after more than sixty years
with the same husband. She told the court she 'had to have
a little peace some time/ "
Both Richard and Laura laughed, but without much con-
viction. Mrs. Willard, after they had left her, fell prey to
the heaviest misgivings that had yet assailed her. How right
Alec had been when he called them unpredictable, these
callow hoverers on the outer edges of maturity! How shy
they were beneath theitf t protective coloring of careful
sophistication; how fleetly timid, alarmed and affrighted as
young deer in the forest, at any threatened contact with
"talk" or unpleasant publicity! How helplessly dependent
on the adults who controlled their destinies! Joanne JVar-
burton, whose father could maltreat a defenseless puppy,
must have known many times in the sixteen years of her life
the sickening impact of personal cruelty of one kind or an-
other, both upon herself and upon her mother; and yet
Joanne's eyes this afternoon had been red from weeping
and stricken with woe. Were Richard and Laura, in spite of
everything, actually much different from the little boy and
girl who had shaken their heads and cried "Poor Daddy" on
that long-ago morning when she had tried to take them
Mrs. Willard did not know, and she was greatly troubled.
On Alec's return next day she told him what they had said
and why. He had walked with her down to the throne on the
hillock, and she faltered, twisting a heavy ring on his finger,
as she recounted the incident and the anxiety it had caused
her. "When you're here with me, Alec, I'm so sure, I'm so
happy with you, I'm so certain I could never get along with-
out you, I want you so much why, I'd give anything, my life
even, rather than not to have had even this much of you; do
you think I could ever have gone to Charles this way if I
needed comfort? I I know L'm not making sense," she stam-
mered, "but I love you so, Alec. And sometimes, when you're
not here, I'm so frightened and uncertain "
"I know. Take it easy, Edith." He held her close to him. "I
know. It's a tough proposition. As for the youngsters" he
drew in his breath sharply "it'll take time. Maybe more
time, maybe less. But I think they'll come round. Richard
likes me now, doesn't he?"
Mrs. Willard made a muffled sound of assent.
"And Laura hasn't, at least, any obvious objection to *me.
Strictly as a person, I mean, of course. What their attachment
to their father amounts to it's impossible for either you or*me
to judge. We'll just have to be patient."
Mrs. Willard put her face down on his shoulder. "I love
you, Alec," she whispered.
"I know you do, my heart," Alec said simply.
Suddenly she bent her head and kissed his hand below the
ring. He drew it away in quick protest. "No, no, Edith! I
can't bear to have you seem humble. Not to me."
'It's not to you. It's to love. It's so much bigger than I ever
than I ever "
For a long time they were silent. "Poor Charles," Mrs. Wil-
lard murmured at length. "He's never dreamed of what it
means really to love anyone, he's so frozen up within himself.
I used to think I'd tried to help him, but I didn't really; I
just tried to get him to give me what I wanted; you know,
peace and and affection. And I could never go to him and
tell him I was unhappy, or restless, or had been foolish, or
anything like that; he would always turn bitter and blame
me, always, always."
He made no answer except to draw her closer,
"And then, later when I found that was no use I sup-
pose I more or less froze over, myself, and let it go at that.
Virginia always laughed at me because I didn't know any-
thing about love and was so firm about not wanting to."
Maclane smiled. "I remember your being firm about it
once to me/*
"In the hospital? Yes, I remember." Mrs. Willard laughed
faintly. "That was my lowest point. I thought the stars in
their courses were not only fighting against me but hitting
below the belt. Calling in a cross-country bus to to "
"To do their dirty work for them?" supplied Maclane.
"Exactly." She leaned back against his arm. "I was an awful
fool," she added -meditatively.
He tightened his arm about her. "Maybe it's now you're a
"Oh, well." Mrs. Willard smiled contentedly. "It's a fool's
IF MRS. WILLARD had had any slightest doubt of the
stanchness of Alec's devotion to her, this conversation, in
which her children figured so largely, would have removed
it. "Well just have to be patient/' he had said, patiently he
the impatient, the tense, the intransigent.
In these few weeks he had come to know her as Charles in
eighteen years of marriage had never done. He realized what
Richard and Laura meant to her. He knew that she could not
deal them any conscious blow. He had left her free to enjoy
the first flush of love and to learn of its rich maturing; and no
less free he left her now, to ponder within herself the respon-
sibilities for which she was answerable, in the last analysis,
only to that inward arbiter she was wont to think of, after the
sanguine manner of mankind, as her soul.
For he had simply taken their eventual marriage for
granted, leaving it to her to say when she would come. There
was no need for her to assure him that her life with Charles
was over. His trust in her, now that his self-raised barriers
were down, was complete. He would not influence her by so
much as a pin's weight except as his love made its intrinsic
And indeed the exquisite hours she spent with him were
claim enough. It seemed to Mrs. Willard, after her eighteen
years of frustration, that such happiness, such absolute bliss as
she and Alec had found together must soon and certainly
perish, even of its own intensity. It could not possibly endure;
nay, it could not possibly even exist. Not actually.
"It's a mirage," she told Maclane.
"It is, is it?" Alec yawned contentedly. "What makes you
"I hope I know as much as Toopy did/' Mrs. Willard re-
plied. "I hope I can "
Maclane grinned. "Now who in the hell is Toopy?"
"When I was a little girl," explained Mrs. Willard pa-
tiently, "we had a collie pup named Toopy and a big yellow
cat called Tom. Toopy adored Tom and was always wanting
to lick him all over, and it made Tom furious. He used to bat
poor little Toopy halfway across the room. But Toopy would
always come back and try it again; only after the first two or
three times he'd come with his ears already flattened/' Mrs.
Willard laughed. "He used to look so funny, wagging his tail
like mad, with his ears laid back. Just like me approaching
life, I mean after Charles/'
"Blast his sniveling soul," interposed Alec cheerfully.
Mrs. Willard laughed at the incongruity of words and tone,
but shook her head. "That's not really necessary now, Alec,
do you think? Wouldn't it be kinder to hope that some good
woman no, no, don't throw it! I'm allergic to feathers. Reach
down there and see if you can find my slippers, won't you?"
Maclane groped for the vast pair of felt slippers Mrs. Wil-
lard sometimes wore about the shack, to rest after a long hike.
"You kick them off," he complained, "and they always land
half across the room in exactly the same position, one of them
pointed one way and the other backward. How in hell do you
Mrs. Willard looked complacent. "I can't imagine."
Maclane shouted with laughter. Mrs. Willard gazed at him
proudly. How far he had come since that day in the hospital,
since that ride along the lake shore when he had spoken so
bitterly of his wife; and how short the time had been, after
all! Had she really done all that for him? "I like myself better
than I used to," she remarked musingly.
Maclane laughed again. "Were you much troubled with
"More than you'd think." Mrs. Willard reflected. "It used
to wear me down to know I was being such a coward about
Charles' temper. And then too/' she added as an afterthought,
with the inconsequence that invariably delighted him, "I
once stole the flags of all nations."
Alec blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
"From my grandmother. She had them in the attic, left
over from some children's pageant she'd had charge of. I stole
them and took them home and hid them under the porch. It
rained and spoiled them. But I didn't like them any more,
anyway. I was a very conscientious child."
"I'll bet you were." He bent above her. "Ah, Edith, I adore
Although Mrs. Willard, having been long accustomed to
stress and terror and tension which, after all, are much the
same at all times was perhaps less perturbed by the threat of
war than many another might have been, this threat did
heighten to an almost unbearable degree the sense of Alec's
dearness to her and of her need of him. She accepted it
stoically nevertheless, as usual making her adjustment almost
without knowledge that she did so. At the thought of
Richard, to be sure, her heart failed her at first; but later
thought brought comfort in its train. If Richard would be cut
off from the brightened life she had hoped her marriage to
Alec would bring him, at least it was certain that he would
also be removed from the grating and grinding influence of
Charles upon his still immature personality.
Alec agreed with her. "Hell be off, no doubt, at the first
possible chance. But it'll be very good for him, Edith. And,
as for the danger, I wouldn't give two cents for his chances of
either happiness or success if he were left even partially
under that influence much longer. It's a damned sight
better to be peacefully dead than to live with a broken
"Charles couldn't have broken Richard's spirit."
' 'Maybe he couldn't. But, failing that, there are several
other things he might have done. How would you have liked
it if the boy had got to be like his father? If he had grown into
the same bullying habits, making life hell for everybody
"Richard!" cried Mrs. Willard incredulously.
"Could be/' Maclane maintained. "Seen it happen." He
put his arm about her. "You had no business leaving him in
that situation, darling, and that's God's truth. Be thankful
nothing worse has come of it. Stout fellow, Richard. He'll
make a good soldier/'
Mrs. L Willard smiled. "He will, won't he?"
The afternoon sun was sinking. "Time to get back to the
inn/' Maclane observed with a glance at his wrist, "before
Mrs. Turner gets the morals squad out/' He lighted a cigarette
and rose, preparing to go.
Mrs. Willard set about her own preparations. "Are you
staying to dinner, Alec?"
He shook his head. "Can't. Engagement with Kellway/' He
looked about him. "Have you got everything you want?"
Mrs. Willard's glance followed his. "I think so/' She came
to him, and his arms closed about her in a long embrace.
IN THE last golden week of her stay at the inn Mrs. Willard
saw Alec but once. "I have to go to Philadelphia," he told her.
"I'm scheduled to speak at the state neurologic convention,
and there are several conferences. I'll be gone about two
weeks. I suppose you'll be back in Chicago before that much
time has passed?'*
"I suppose so."
Maclane scowled at a patch of moss on a giant root. "Well
keep your chin up. I'll be waiting to hear from you."
Mrs. Willard was silent.
The man too did not speak for some time. After a day in
the shack they had come far into the woods, not down the
brookside trail but to a place they had not found before; high
on a wooded dune, with a carpet o pine needles, brown from
a year of changeful weather, stretched smoother than satin
under their feet. Now and then a squirrel, encouraged by
their silence, approached them, its shadowy tail alert as it sat
and watched. The red flash of a cardinal in the dark boughs
overhead imprinted itself once and forever in Mrs. Willard's
"Alec " She laid her cheek against his arm and laughed
a little, helplessly. "I know I must seem perfectly witless, but
I can hardly bear the thought of not seeing you for two
".Well, if misery loves company I'm lost without you.
Lost." He put his hand over hers and gripped it, hard. "Edith,
what am I going to do if " his voice suddenly thickened
"if you don't come to me at last?"
She looked up to meet his eyes, and at what she saw there
her mouth trembled. "I'll come to you, Alec," she promised,
putting both her hands under his.
He did not kiss her; instead, he held her gaze with his for a
long time, his hand still gripping both her own. Then, with
a deep contented sigh, he relaxed and put his arm about her.
"Not too long, Edith?"
"Oh, not long, Alec." She sighed. "The sooner it's
He agreed, silently.
'Til 111 tell Charles when I go home/' Mrs. Willard con-
tinued. "As soon as I can. Alec, I'm such a coward! Most of
the time it seems as though I could not do it, and then I
think o just two weeks without you, and 1 know I've got to.
I've got to. Oh, it will be hard!"
"Harder to tell Charles than to tell the children?"
"Oh, yes. Charles is so' tight and tense, so locked up within
himself, that it takes forever to get him detached enough to
listen seriously to anything anybody else has to say. Ill spend
hours working myself up to the point, and then use up every
bit of the strength I've gathered just getting his attention!
After that " Mrs. Willard made a gesture of exhaustion.
"It'll be horrible, Alec. It's bound to be." She paused. "As
for the children " She halted again.
"They both adore you."
She looked up, pleased. "Do you think so?" she asked
humbly. "I've tried to be nice to them; they've been such fun
to me always/' She smiled reminiscently, "I keep remem-
bering them when they were little, all sorts of silly, funny
little things they did. They were so but you mustn't let me
talk like a dotard, Alec. You really mustn't."
"I like to hear you." Maclane smiled. "You know, in many
ways you seem to me the most remarkable mother I've ever
"I do?" Mrs. Willard exclaimed in complete astonishment.
"Charles thinks I'm a terrible mother," she objected.
"He does, does he? Why?"
"I don't know exactly. I think he thinks I ought to Impress
upon the children' he's always wanting things impressed
upon them that I am their mother and that motherhood is
well, you know, sacred and all that. You know what I mean.
I think he'd even like me to weep over them."
"Weep over them my God. But yes, I suppose he would.
Well, for such an 'unnat'ral payrent/ you haven't done badly.
You've left Richard and Laura free to be themselves, and
you've kept their respect and their love. I think they'll stand
"Oh, Alec, I hope so, I hope so! If they didn't " Panic
flew suddenly into Mrs. Willard's eyes. "Alec, suppose he took
them away from me?"
"At their age? Don't be fantastic. They'll be given a choice.
I don't suppose there's any danger of their choosing Charles?"
Mrs. Willard laughed involuntarily, then fell abruptly
silent. "Richard just might, if he felt outraged enough," she
admitted. "But I don't believe either of them will."
"Neither do I. I've been thinking over what you told me
they said." Maclane plunged his hands into his pockets and
paced back and forth as he talked. "I've about come to the
conclusion that their attitude toward divorce is purely deriva-
tive. I mean to say, they've simply adopted what they assume
to be your attitude subconsciously, no doubt. Your own un-
willingness to face up to the situation and do what was
obviously called for has built up a wall of inhibitions around
all three of you. If they could once be thoroughly convinced
that you actually wanted the break "
Mrs. Willard looked anxious. "Do you mean I ought to tell
them I do?"
"Hell, no. That wouldn't do any good; they wouldn't be-
lieve it. What I'm counting on is that when you go to Charles
with your declaration of independence something will happen
to ram a hole in the wall. I wouldn't shield them too carefully
from what takes place if I were you." He glanced at his wrist.
"Time to go, I'm afraid." He drew her into his arms and
buried his face in her neck.
"Alec," she cried strangely, "listen. Listen to this moment.
It'll never come again." Her voice caught in a half sob.
He lifted his head quickly. "What do you mean?"
"I don't know. I don't know. Nothing. Only it's all so so
flying" she tried to find words "and so sweet, Alec." Her
voice was a whisper. "So unbearably sweet/' she breathed.
"Kiss me good-by, Alec."
She walked back to the inn alone. With him, although the
sun flamed overhead and the woods were lush with growth
and fragrance, it seemed to her the summer had gone. Storms
now for her, and freezing, and the wild winds of anger and
fear; and then, if she were lucky, peace at last.
WITH some obscure idea that it was her duty to get Aunt
Gertrude's money's worth out of the experience, Mrs. Wil-
lard tried conscientiously to bask in the sunshine and enjoy
the woods as she had done at first. But these pleasures, simple
and free as the rain-washed breeze of morning, were no longer
available to her. As the coming of Alec had transformed the
world, so his going bereft it of all luster; nothing remained,
nothing at all, of the supernal meaning and beauty she had
found in it while he was with her. She felt the heat now, and
the long empty silences that had once enchanted her were
heavy with the weight of his absence.
Moreover, Charles, who for weeks had been a pale and
pithless figure lurking on the shadowy outskirts of her con-
sciousness, now emerged alive and inexorable. The dreadful
patience bred in her by years of submission tempted her as
never before, telling her variously, at various times, that she
had no right to take her hand from the plow, even though at
Charles' behest she plowed on solid stone; that she was traitor
to her children, and all her fine protestations of devotion to
them revealed as tinsel lies; that it was ridiculous of her,
having these tall children, to suppose herself in love; that love
itself was more than probably ridiculous and that she, gulled
by its specious claims, was about to furnish forth a shameful
spectacle to a derisive and merciless world. Mrs. Willard told
herself that she knew better than to believe any of this, but
now that Alec had gone she found it hard indeed to see
beyond the forthcoming interview with Charles. She looked
forward to this encounter with much the same shuddering
horror that might possess one about to undergo an amputa-
tion without anesthetics.
At this point, any interruption of her troubled cogitations
would have been welcome. A sudden and totally unexpected
telephone call from Virginia Teagarden, therefore, was some-
what more than welcome; Mrs. Willard cried out with joy.
"Virginia! Where on earth did you come from?"
"Switzerland, most recently," Virginia's husky voice re-
plied. "Things are hotting up all over Europe a bit too much
for comfort. I was fed to the teeth with it, anyway. Old
"Old women. You know. Sequins up to their ears to hide
the gathers in their necks. Like a lot of turkey gobblers that
have died and gone to heaven."
Mrs. Willard laughed. "You're in Chicago now?"
"I am indeed. Incidentally, my little cabbage, what gives
with you? Correct me if I'm wrong, but there's been a certain
something about your recent letters "
"Come on out and see, why don't you?" Mrs. Willard sug-
gested. "Mrs. Metz is full up, I believe. But you can share my
"Um." Virginia considered. "There is much in what you
say. How do I get there?"
"South Shore. And hurry up."
"Expect me," replied Virginia, "in one hour, with my hair
in a braid." The receiver clicked.
Mrs. Willard sought Mrs. Metz. "I've a friend coming out,
Mrs. Metz/' she said. "I know you haven't a room, but she can
share mine. That'll be all right, won't it?"
"Yes, that's all right, Mrs. Willard. I can always put on
another plate for meals."
Mrs. Willard, half distracted with pleasure and surprise,
composed herself to a\\fait Virginia's arrival. The relief, the
heavenly relief of having Virginia to talk to! At any other
time she would have been agog to listen to Virginia's colorful
tales of her own doubtless electrifying adventures, but now,
with the weight of her tremendous secret heavy upon her, she
longed only to unburden herself. Virginia was the one person
on earth to whom she could bring herself to speak of Alec.
The time of waiting seemed interminable. She tidied her
room; she took a leisurely bath; she arranged her hair with
unaccustomed deliberation, though with shaking fingers; and
still Virginia had not come. She went down to the veranda
and tried, without success, to read. She was just casting the
book aside in despair when the station taxicab drove up and
disgorged a plump businesslike man, his plump businesslike
wife, three plump businesslike children, and Virginia.
Mrs. Teagarden looked appropriately cosmopolitan and
Continental; her small handbag was squirming with foreign
labels. Mrs. Willard laughed aloud in sheer delight. "Vir-
"Hello, darling. My God, you're radiant. This is too much,
really. Or isn't it me you're blooming about? No? I was afraid
of that. Welll"
They stood and smiled at each other. Mrs. Metz, in the
doorway, was regretfully turning the plump family away.
"Come on upstairs. It's not dinnertime yet." Mrs. Willard
was almost too blissful to contain herself. The sight and sound
of Virginia had brought back all her happiness in Alec and all
her confidence in love.
"Now." Virginia tossed gloves and bag into a chair as Mrs.
Willard threw open the bedroom door. "Tell me all.'* She
cast herself down on the bed, stretching and turning with
relief. "Omitting nothing." She fixed Mrs. Willard with a
Mrs. Willard omitted little. She spoke haltingly at first.
Pleasure at Virginia's return, gratitude for the honest affec-
tion that lay behind Virginia's raillery, and the sense of in-
adequacy that assails the lover commanded to give an account
of love, all conspired against fluency, even against articula-
tion. But Virginia listened in silence, and soon Mrs. Willard
spoke more easily. "That's all," she said at last.
Virginia punched the pillow high under her dark head and
lit a cigarette. "What do Richard and Laura think?"
"They don't know anything about it yet." Mrs. Willard
hesitated. "Virginia sometimes it seems sometimes it al-
most seems" Mrs. Willard had difficulty in bringing out
this confession "sometimes I almost feel as though it doesn't
make any difference what they think!"
Virginia smiled. "I'll bet that nearly kills you. Well, relax,
baby. You're quite right. It actually doesn't or needn't.
They can take it. They're nearly grown up. They've got their
lives before them. But if you don't move damned fast you're
not going to get any of yours. I hope your Alec is as nice as
you think he is."
"He's nicer," said Mrs. Willard indignantly.
"Says you. But look what you picked last time."
Mrs. J/Villard laughed irresponsibly. Her heart was very
light now. "I'm terribly happy," she confessed. "You remem-
ber what you remember I said that time down by the lake,
that if if anything "
Virginia nodded, tapping ash from her cigarette. "I'm glad,
"I keep thinking of one of your sonnets." Mrs. Willard
rose and went over to the window, keeping her face averted.
"I mean nothing seems to count any more except this, and I
keep hearing remember? We who were royal when the
moment called Remark no poverty in light or flower; The
testimony of our briefest hour Was ermine thrown on steps of
emerald." Her voice failed on the last word.
Virginia got up and kissed her tenderly. "Attagirl," she said.
RELIEVED of her confidences, Mrs. Willard was gay. She and
Virginia had a thoroughly satisfying evening, Virginia by her
foreign clothes and full-bodied freedom of expression making
a profound and enjoyable impression on Mrs. Metz's decorous
dinner table. They escaped upstairs again as soon as possible,
leaving Mrs. Hanover almost in the midst of remarking to
Mrs. Teagarden that she too had been a great traveler in her
"What'll we do now?" Virginia demanded.
"Let's just lie and talk/' proposed Mrs. Willard. "This is
my last night here. I've got to go back to Chicago tomorrow
evening." She sighed.
"Well, we ought to celebrate your emancipation, baby. I
know; well celebrate tomorrow." Virginia kicked off her
shoes. "We'll go on a hell of a long hike and stop somewhere
and drink to your better choosing. If you can lend me some
walking shoes and a jacket, that is. I've nothing with me, and
this damned climate's tricky."
"I've got extra shoes, but no jacket. You can take my old
brown tweed coat."
"Fair enough," said Virginia.
The next day dawned fine but chilly; it was as though Vir-
ginia's comment on the climate had brought on the breeze
from the lake. The clean and windy air was like a cool shower
"Nice/ 7 said Mrs. Willard as they set forth. She laughed
suddenly. "Virginia, do you know what you look like?"
"Approximately," Virginia replied. "Why?"
"In that old coat, I mean. And those shoes. This is the first
time I ever saw you without high heels. That is, when you
had on any shoes at all," amended Mrs. Willard, remem-
Virginia felt in the pocket of the shabby coat for her ciga-
rettes. "Well? How do 1 look?"
"You look " Mrs. Willard searched for an epithet
"Well, disreputable, more or less. Almost rowdy."
"As though I'd just been bouncing in a haymow, you mean?
I can well believe it," Virginia returned quite amiably. "It's
not the coat, darling; it's retribution. It comes and goes. I've
looked like that before now in Lanvin's loofiest."
Mrs. Willard laughed. Virginia's companionship had re-
lieved her entirely, for the time being, of the weight of worry
she had been carrying, and beneath her enjoyment of the day
and the walk there was a singing undercurrent of happiness.
They walked briskly, the keen lake breeze urging them on.
Mrs. Willard, with a summer of training behind her, was as
tireless as a ten-year-old boy. Virginia, on the other hand,
after a couple of hours showed signs of flagging.
"Nature's all right in its place," she grumbled, "but there's
too much of it here. How much farther to a drink?"
"There's a place about a mile farther on."
"Oh, Lord!" Virginia stopped in her tracks. "And inciden-
tally, my pigeonette, how do we get back to Mrs. Metz's?"
"Walk, of course," said Mrs. Willard. "How do you sup-
"Walk, eh?" returned Virginia skeptically, and spoke no
They arrived finally, Virginia actually limping with weari-
ness, at the door of the lonely roadside tavern Mrs. JWillard
had noticed on previous rambles. Virginia staggered to a
table and collapsed on the rough wooden bench beside it,
propping her elbows on the red-checkered cloth to support
her drooping head. "Scotch you have Scotch? Scotch and
soda," she said to the piratical Corsican proprietor, who ap-
proached them wiping his swart hands on a grimy towel.
Mrs. Willard duplicated the order. "Don't you want any-
thing to eat, Virginia?" she suggested.
Virginia cast an eye over the smeared blackboard on the
wall. "Nothing there that hasn't got meat in it. I'm not going
to order meat in a place like this. He'd probably carve it off
"What corpse?" Mrs. Willard looked interestedly about
"Well, he's sure to have one in the ice chest. I mean, look
The proprietor was returning with the highballs. Mrs. Wil-
lard scrutinized him. "He does look as though he might be a
bit careless with edged tools," she conceded when he had gone,
having noted a long deep scar across one side of his face.
"I believe you. What a dive!" Virginia peered through the
murky window nearest her. "Whoops! There's our ride,
Edith. What did I tell you?"
A heavy beer truck had just pulled up outside, and two
vociferous mustached Italians jumped down and racketed
into the tavern, clamoring for whisky. Virginia sat up, alert
and attentive at once. She spoke to Mrs. Willard in a tone
totally different from her customary one, and the heads of
the truckers, who were now propped against the bar, swiveled
round as though they had been set on ball bearings. Their
eyes lighted up; their ready smiles flashed.
Mrs. Willard, horrified, was about to enter a quick protest.
But Virginia, still in the new voice, was calling to the pro-
prietor to bring two more highballs. "That'll give 'em time to
have their drinks," she explained aside to Mrs. JVillard.
"Virginia! You can't we mustn't "
Virginia paid no attention to her; she was otherwise occu-
pied. By the time the truckmen had finished their drinks
not the first they had had that afternoon, Mrs. Willard un-
easily concluded there had been established between them
and Virginia a definite camaraderie of glance and tone; Vir-
ginia's casual "You boys going our way?" and her accom-
panying twitch of a thumb met with instant and cordial
"Sure! Sure!" said the larger of the two, smiling extensively.
"We go your-a way. Wheech-a way you go?"
Mrs. Willard, in whose memory the bus accident lingered
with too much vividness for comfort, was petrified with terror.
She squeaked a final protest: "Virginia!"
But Virginia was already on her way out to the truck. Help-
lessly Mrs. Willard followed her.
At least, she reflected ruefully, she was spared any worry
about the truckmen's personal attentions, for these were con*
fined exclusively to Virginia. Wedged tightly in between the
smaller truckman and the truck door, Mrs. Willard gritted
her teeth and endured the careening of the truck as best she
might, while Virginia and the two men shouted jovially at
each other over the motor's roar, and occasional pedestrian
passers-by, catching a chance word or two, turned noticeably
paler. Mrs. Willard, cowering in her narrow allotment of
space, imagined a succession of catastrophic endings to this
mad expedition. All of them were improbable, she knew; but
none of them was impossible, especially with Virginia in the
Despondently she recalled a tale told her by Tony, to the
effect that Virginia had once shot out a large arc light from a
hotel window at two in the morning, because its radiance dis-
turbed her and it was too warm to draw the shades.
"Shot it out?" Mrs. Willard had repeated incredulously.
"But yes. Ping! With an air rifle what you call a beebee
"But where did she get an air rifle in a hotel?"
Tony had shrugged his flexible shoulders. "That I cannot
say. Virginia, she is always resourceful."
Mrs. Willard, remembering, sighed. Virginia's resource-
fulness was no matter of admiration to her at the moment.
Even if they escaped with life and limb intact, which seemed
increasingly doubtful as the repartee waxed heartier, they
would pull up at Mrs. Metz's in full sight of the assembled
guests on the veranda, for the afternoon light was lengthen-
ing; it was nearing time for dinner. Mrs. Willard felt a
hysteria blended of hilarity and embarrassment arising within
her as she envisioned Mrs. Turner and Mrs. Hanover and
Clara Hemingway catching sight of the beer truck; of the
stalwart sons of Italy with their bannerlike black mustaches;
of Virginia, whose incredibly raffish appearance seemed to
grow more raffish by the moment. And Mr. Parker, the Dean
of the Inn!
The truck veered sharply to one side and back to the
middle of the road. Mrs. Willard shut her eyes and prayed.
When she opened them the inn was actually in sight.
She tried to get Virginia's attention long enough to suggest
that they ask to be dropped at a distance from the house. But
Virginia and the larger truckman were now exchanging badi-
nage concerning the latter's sweetheart, whom he called
Fiametta and who would, he was loudly assuring Virginia,
tear both her and him apart "like-a theesl" he generously
illustrated, taking his hands from the wheel if she could see
"Husky bitch, is she?" screamed Virginia at the top of her
The delighted Italian laughed loudly and shook his head.
*'Not-a hosky beetch," he replied, putting on his brake. The
truck stopped with an attention-compelling squeal exactly
at Mrs. Metz's front gate. "Not-a spacial hosky. Jos' sassy
beetch." He clapped Virginia heartily on the shoulder.
"Like-a you/' He roared with laughter.
Mrs. Willard, feeling faint with relief, climbed down from
the truck and waited while mutually satisfied leave-takings
took place. The men having at length driven away, she stag-
gered in Virginia's wake toward the house, noting grimly
that the entire strength of the company seemed to be gathered
on the veranda. Not one of them but would have heard the
concluding remarks of both Virginia and the truckmen. Oh,
well; it would soon be over, thought Mrs. Willard. Thank
heaven, she was going back to Chicago tonight. So much
In another moment she was neither so sure nor so thankful.
Truly on that wild ride she had imagined some still wilder
outcomes; but none had she imagined so wild, or one half so
cataclysmic, as that which now confronted her.
AUNT GERTRUDE, with that instinctive, punctual, and
demoniac co-operation with the forces of evil destiny so char-
acteristic of her kind, had that morning suggested to Charles
that perhaps, in view of Mrs. Dillard's well-known incapacity
for attending properly to details, It might be advisable for
him to go out to Mrs. Metz's and accompany her home, seeing
to it that her bill was paid and that none o her personal be-
longings remained in the inn's possession; and Mr. Willard,
agreeing that it might, had reciprocally suggested that Aunt
Gertrude and the children go with him- "The trip to the inn
will be a pleasant outing/' he pointed out, and sighed.
He and Aunt Gertrude had had a number of pleasant out-
ings of one kind or another in Mrs. Willard's absence, all
much more to his taste than anything he was accustomed to
do when his wife was at home. They had repeatedly visited
the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium; they had been
entertained congenially at dinner by Miss Mothershead, and
later had accompanied her to an Evening with Longfellow
at her church parish house, followed by an educational
motion picture explaining the current techniques of opera-
tion for appendicitis. Neither Mr. Willard, Aunt Gertrude,
nor their hostess had seen this combination of diversions as
anything but a happy and edifying one; but Mr. Willard at
least knew from long and discouraging experience that Mrs.
Willard would not have agreed with him. She never agreed
with him about anything. And in this her children resembled
He knew his duty, nevertheless, and he would do it to the
bitter end. He issued orders to Richard and Laura to prepare
themselves to accompany him and, with them and Aunt Ger-
trude, took a late-afternoon train to the dunes. Arriving at
the inn, he was informed that his wife had left immediately
after luncheon to go hiking with a friend, and this friend, by
a series of well-calculated questions to Mrs. Metz as he settled
his wife's account, he was able only too readily to identify as
Virginia Teagarden. "Your mother informed me," he said
stiffly to the children, "that Mrs. Teagarden was in Europe/*
Richard shrugged his shoulders.
"Do you know anything about this, Laura?"
Laura shook her head. "I suppose she came back/' she an-
swered, trying to speak lightly for the benefit of the half-dozen
guests already resting on the veranda. "She's sort of sudden."
Laura laughed nervously, and her father dealt her a warning
look. Richard moved uneasily.
Charles turned to Mrs. Schnabel. "You will remember,
Aunt Gertrude, this is the woman my wife visited some years
ago. I have never met her, and what I have heard of her I do
not like. I should be glad to know just how long this has
"Mrs. Teagarden's swell," Richard suddenly declared de-
His father turned on him. "What's that you say?"
"Mrs. Teagarden/' Richard maintained. "She's Mother's
friend. Mother likes her. She's swell."
"Indeed? Do you really think so, Richard?" Charles' tone
was heavily weighted with mock courtesy, but he smiled, to
accent this otherwise perhaps too-subtle irony. Then his face
hardened. "Kindly keep your opinion to yourself until it is
asked for!" His tone was like the crack of a whip.
Richard clenched his fists, the knuckles whitening. He
plunged both hands into his pockets and started down the
The boy turned, dealing his father a glance of such fury
that Laura, who had been scarlet with mortification, paled in
dismay. She made an involuntary movement toward her
"Sit down!" commanded Mr. J/VIllard.
Richard flung himself into a chair. Mr. Willard's spectacles
gleamed as he turned again to Mrs. Schnabel. "As I was say-
ing, Aunt Gertrude "
At this unfortunate moment a multiple noise, clamorous
and indescribably lusty, made itself audible in the near dis-
tance; and a few minutes later those assembled on the veranda
were treated to the stimulating spectacle of Mrs. Willard and
Mrs. Teagarden being handed out of a beer truck by two
more than slightly tipsy Italian workmen, one of whom was
shouting, as he clapped Mrs. Teagarden on the shoulder,
"Not-a hosky beetch. Not-a spacial hosky. Jos' sassy beetch"
slap! "like-a you!"
A look almost of swooning crossed Charles Willard's face,
to be succeeded by an expression of apoplectic rage. He made
one indistinct sound, then was suddenly and sulphurously
silent. There was a white line around his thin mouth.
The electrified guests caught their breath as one person.
Aunt Gertrude laid her hand on her nephew's arm. Richard
laughed, and Laura, starting at the sound, turned an appalled
gaze from her mother's crimson countenance to her father's
livid one. "Mother "
Mrs. Willard, gathering up what forces remained to her,
attempted nonchalance; she brushed a nonexistent dead leaf
from the sleeve of her coat and tried to laugh. "Well, this is
a surprise," she managed to say. "Mrs. Schnabel, Mrs. Tea-
garden. This is my husband, Virginia. Hello, darlings/' to
Richard and Laura. "I'm " She gulped. "I'm so glad you
Richard had risen to give her his chair, and, heedless of
Virginia still standing, she sank into it; her knees, indeed, had
given way like boiled macaroni at sight of it.
"How do you do," Virginia said to Charles and Aunt Ger-
trude. "Richard, Laura, how're you doing?" She sat down
beside Laura on the veranda floor. "I hope, Dr. Willard, I've
not inconvenienced you by keeping Edith out so late. I didn't
know she expected you, and we walked farther than we in-
Charles neither looked at her nor spoke to her. He cleared
his throat. "I think perhaps we had better be going, Aunt
Gertrude/' he said icily.
Mrs. Schnabel rose promptly. "I think perhaps we had!"
Mrs. Willard shivered. "I can be ready in fifteen minutes,
Her husband did not look in her direction. "Have you any-
thing here, Aunt Gertrude?" he inquired, glancing deliber-
ately about him.
"No. Nothing." Mrs. Schnabel took his arm. "Richard.
Laura/' She motioned the children to follow them.
Richard stood up, scowling blackly, his hands still in his
pockets. "I'm staying with my mother/' he stated distinctly.
"I'll come when she does."
Laura said nothing, but she did not move. Her face was
white, and a still whiter area encircled her lips. She was
making a desperate effort to keep back the tears.
There was a silence that ticked like a bomb. Presently both
Mrs. Schnabel and Mr. Willard made as if to speak, but
closed their lips again, and simultaneously, as though by
mutual mechanism; turned, ceremoniously arm in arm; swept
the assembled guests, Mrs. Willard, Richard, Laura, and Vir-
ginia with a final glance over their shoulders; and walked
haughtily away. Mrs. Willard, her fascinated gaze fixed on
her husband's rigid retreating back, had an insane impression
that, instead o her having planned to divorce him in order to
marry Alec, he had already and definitely set her aside in
order to consummate, by his final rejection of those disturbing
elements his wife and his children, the spiritual marriage he
had always desired with Aunt Gertrude.
The silence, now empty, spread and widened. "I'll be
damned," said Virginia at last, getting to her feet. She turned
abruptly to the gaping Mrs. Hanover. "I've been a great trav-
eler in my time, but I've never seen anything like that. Have
you?" Her gaze returned to the receding couple, already in
the middle distance. "Come on, Laura, I've got something
for you upstairs. Come help me unpack it. You too, Richard.
Edith, you've dropped your glove."
At no time in her later life could Mrs. Willard remember
getting out of her chair, passing among the stupefied guests,
and following Virginia and the children upstairs. Yet she
must have done so, for a few moments later she lay shud-
dering on her face in the bedroom, while Virginia brought
cold wet cloths to lay on her throat and endeavored vicariously
to relieve her feelings by picturesquely profane objurgations
on Mr. Willard's rudeness. "Christ in the foothills," she
fumed, "who does he think he is? ... You're coming home
with me tonight, Edith, all three of you. Then you can go
back there tomorrow or whenever the hell you want to,
leaving the kids with me, and get whatever you want to keep,
and tell him that's all there is, there isn't any more, and come
back. We'll take the first train after dinner."
Mrs. Willard lifted a ravaged face from the pillow. "I can't
go down to dinner, Virginia. I can't."
"Oh, yes, you can. And will. Isn't that right, Richard?"
"Sure, Mother." Richard's voice was husky. "Don't let 'em
get you d down." He tried to speak jauntily, but his voice,
stuttering on the final word, betrayed him to be as close to
. tears as Laura was. Laura had moved over to the window and
stood clutching the ruffle of the curtain as though it were a
rope and she about to drown. Suddenly she turned, her eyes
burning. "We don't have to go back, do we, Mother? Ever?"
Mrs. Willard stared at her. "You want you want "
"What do you think?" Laura's voice was muffled; she
gripped the curtain tighter and turned back to the window.
"All those people downstairs " Her voice broke in a sob.
"I've had enoughl" she cried.
Richard took a turn about the room. "Don't worry. So has
Mother." He sat down on the bed and put his hand awkwardly
on Mrs, Willard's shoulder. 'Til take care of you, Mother/'
he promised her.
"Certainly you will," said Virginia briskly. "Come on now,
let's pack up your mother's things before the dinner bell goes.
Empty out that top drawer, Laura. Richard, see if there's
anything stuck away back in the closet, rubbers or anything.
Edith, if you want to wash your face, you'd better grab the
bathroom before that Turner woman does. I know her kind.
Does this objet d'art belong to you? No? You relieve me.
There. Have we got everything?"
Laura and Richard, somewhat relaxed, were now working
busily, and Mrs. Willard, though still more or less dazed,
showed signs of returning to herself. "Virginia," she said as
she came back from the bathroom, patting her face with a
towel, "lend me a dollar or two to leave for Kathryn, will
you? I'm stony, but I've got some money in the bank" thank
God, she thought, for the bus company's contribution "and
I'll be going back to work soon." But not for Miss Mothers-
head; never, never again for Miss Mothershead. And not for
long. "Richard, you haven't a penny postcard about you, by
any chance?" She must send Virginia's address and telephone
number to Alec.
A traitorous thought struck her. Suddenly, and for the last
time, she had no need of Alec. Her liberated spirit, singing
upward like a tufted arrow, laid passionate claim to its in-
tegrity, its solitary freedom, and for a breathless moment
knew them to be both sweeter and headier than love. There
was no real hope, however, for this bright anarchy; the soul's
arrow, failing of its mark, dropped with a small harmless
clatter to the ground, and Mrs. Willard returned with joy to
her earthbound loves. The thought of Alec spread through
her consciousness like a swelling sunny tide. And the chil-
Why, the door was open. The walls were down.
She had a sudden and symbolic vision of Laura and Looney
and Wippy the pup racing over a green lawn, giving off sparks
of youth as they ran.
"Postcard?" Richard shook his head. "I can go out and get
you one, though."
"Never mind. We'll get one at the station." Mrs. .Willard
snapped her hatbox shut and smiled at them. The dinner bell
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dorothy Langley is an American who spent her early years
in the Middle West. She says that her favorite authors are
Charles Dickens and Martha Finley, and adds that half an
hour with the incredible Elsie Dinsmore never fails to cheer
her up immensely. Although this is her first published novel,
she has been writing short stories and poems for some years.
She considers reading and writing more fun than anything
else in the world, and this book was hardly printed before
she was hard at work on another one.
THIS is THE STORY o Mrs. Willard, who mar-
ried in haste and worse than that, married
Charles Willard. Charles, to understate the sit-
uation, was not a pleasant man. He was pomp-
ous, he was selfish, he was immoderately over-
bearing. But, since young Mrs. Willard was
much better at persisting than repenting, she
spent the years that followed optimistically try-
ing to make her marriage work.
Mrs. Willard had not only a nice face, but a
nice mind. Her mind was originally con-
structed for registering things like toadstools in
moss and the improbable ears of cocker spaniel
pups. It was a durable mind in spite of its
deceptive delicacy but it had not survived
without signs of wear. After some years with
Charles, it incurred library fines, lost track of
telephone bills, and neglected to remind her
to order starch. Mrs. Willard, however, was
philosophic about it as a rule, for she under-
stood that even excellent machinery may be
expected to show wear after being driven for
years by such a driver as Charles.
This, then, is the story of Mrs. Willard and
what happened when she found herself abrupt-
ly and irrevocably in love with someone else.
Probably the most appealing thing about
Mrs. Willard's story is Mrs. Willard herself, a
person of impish humor and an incurably
gentle sense of adventure. Charles, of course,
claims that she is irresponsible, lightminded,
and lacking in respect. It doesn't take more
than a page or two to discover that Charles is
wrong. Even though the reader may not be in
the habit of succumbing to paper heroines, we
believe that he will almost certainly fall in love
with Mrs. Willard as she faces her problems.
Although Charles Willard appears to disad-
vantage, let us hasten to inform the masculine
reader that WAIT FOR MRS. WILLARD is not a gen-
eral indictment of his sex. If the weaker sex
seems immeasurably stronger after you have
read this book, please remember it was writ-
ten by A Woman.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
DOROTHY LANGLEY is an American who spent
her early years in the Middle West. She says
that her favorite authors are Charles Dickens
and Martha Finley, and adds that half an hour
with the incredible Elsie Dinsmore never fails
to cheer her up immensely. Although this is
her first published novel, she has been writing
short stories and poems for some years, She con-
siders reading and writing more fun than any-
thing else in the world, and this book was
hardly in galley proofs before she was hard at
work on another one.