Part 3 out of 9
thinks you are a little boy, Graham, so he picks out a nice little
girl for you. Such a nice little girl."
The amused contempt in her voice made him angry - for Delight rather
than himself. He was extremely grown-up and dignified the rest of
the afternoon; he stood very tall and straight, and spoke in his
It became rather an obsession in him to prove his manhood, and added
to that was the effect of Marion's constant, insidious appeal to the
surging blood of his youth. And, day after day, he was shut in his
office with Anna Klein.
He thought he was madly in love with Marion. He knew that he was
not at all in love with Anna Klein. But she helped to relieve the
He was often aware, sitting at his desk, with Anna before him,
notebook in hand, that while he read his letters her eyes were on
him. More than once he met them, and there was something in them
that healed his wounded vanity. He was a man to her. He was
indeed almost a god, but that he did not know. In his present
frame of mind, he would have accepted even that, however.
Then, one day he kissed her. She was standing very close, and the
impulse was quick and irresistible. She made no effort to leave
his arms, and he kissed her again.
"Like me a little, do you?" he had asked, smiling into her eyes.
"Oh, I do, I do!" she had replied, hoarsely.
It was almost an exact reversal of his relationship with Marion.
There the huskiness was his, the triumphant smile was Marion's. And
the feeling of being adored without stint or reservation warmed him.
He released her then, but their relationship had taken on a new
phase. He would stand against the outer door, to prevent its sudden
opening. And she would walk toward him, frightened and helpless
until his arms closed about her. It was entirely a game to him.
There were days, when Marion was trying, or the work of his
department was nagging him, when he scarcely noticed her at all.
But again the mischief in him, the idler, the newly awakened hunting
male, took him to her with arms outheld and the look of triumph in
his eyes that she mistook for love.
On one such occasion Joey came near to surprising a situation, so
near that his sophisticated young mind guessed rather more than the
truth. He went out, whistling.
He waited until Graham had joined the office force in the mill
lunchroom, and invented an errand back to Graham's office. Anna
was there, powdering her nose with the aid of a mirror fastened
inside her purse.
Joey had adopted Clayton with a sort of fierce passion, hidden
behind a pose of patronage.
"He's all right," he would say to the boys gathered at noon in the
mill yard. "He's kinda short-tempered sometimes, but me, I
understand him. And there ain't many of these here money kings
that would sit up in a hospital the way he did with me."
The mill yard had had quite enough of that night in the hospital.
It would fall on him in one of those half-playful, half-vicious
attacks that are the humor of the street, and sometimes it was
rather a battered Joey who returned to Clayton's handsome office,
to assist him in running the mill.
But it was a very cool and slightly scornful Joey who confronted
Anna that noon hour. He lost no time in preliminaries.
"What do you think you're doing, anyhow?" he demanded.
"Powdering my nose, if you insist on knowing."
They spoke the same language. Anna knew what was coming, and was
on guard instantly.
"You cut it out, that's all."
"You cut out of this office. And that's all."
Joey sat down on Graham's desk and folded his arms.
"What are you going to get out of it, anyhow?" he said with a shift
from bullying to argument.
"Out of what?"
"You know, all right."
She whirled on him.
"Now see here, Joey," she said. "You run out and play. I'll not
have any little boys meddling in my affairs."
Joey slid off the desk and surveyed her with an impish smile. "Your
affairs!" he repeated. "What the hell do I care about your affairs?
I'm thinking of the boss. It's up to him if he wants to keep German
spies on the place. But it's up to some of us here to keep our eyes
open, so that they don't do any harm."
Sheer outrage made Anna's face pale. She had known for some time
that the other girls kept away from her, and she had accepted it
with the stolidity of her blood. She had no German sympathies; her
sympathies in the war lay nowhere.
But - she a spy!
"You get out of here," she said furiously, "or I'll go to Mr. Spencer
and complain about you. I'm no more a spy than you are. Not as
much! - the way you come sneaking around listening and watching!
Now you get out."
And Joey had gone, slowly to show that the going was of his own free
will, and whistling. He went out and closed the door. Then he
opened it and stuck his head in.
"You be good," he volunteered, "and when the little old U.S. gets
to mixing up with the swine over there, I'll bring you a nice fat
Hun as a present."
Two days before Christmas Delight came out. There was an afternoon
reception at the rectory, and the plain old house blossomed with the
debutante's bouquets and baskets of flowers.
For weeks before the house had been getting ready. The rector,
looking about for his accustomed chair, had been told it was at the
upholsterer's, or had found his beloved and ragged old books
relegated to dark corners of the bookcases. There were always
stepladders on the landings, and paper-hangers waiting until a man
got out of bed in the morning. And once he put his ecclesiastical
heel in a pail of varnish, and slid down an entire staircase, to
the great imperilment of his kindly old soul.
But he had consented without demur to the coming-out party, and he
had taken, during all the morning of the great day, a most mundane
interest in the boxes of flowers that came in every few minutes.
He stood inside a window, under pretense of having no place to sit
down, and called out regularly,
"Six more coming, mother! And a boy with three ringing across the
street. I think he's made a mistake. Yes, he has. He's coming
When all the stands and tables were overflowing, the bouquets were
hung to the curtains in the windows. And Delight, taking a last
survey, from the doorway, expressed her satisfaction.
"It's heavenly," she said. "Imagine all those flowers for me. It
looks" - she squinted up her eyes critically - "it looks precisely
like a highly successful funeral."
But a part of her satisfaction was pure pose, for the benefit of
that kindly pair who loved her so. Alone in her room, dressed to
go down-stairs, Delight drew a long breath and picked up her flowers
which Clayton Spencer had sent. It had been his kindly custom for
years to send to each little debutante, as she made her bow, a great
armful of white lilacs and trailing tiny white rosebuds.
"Fifty dollars, probably," Delight reflected. "And the Belgians
needing flannels. It's dreadful."
Her resentment against Graham was dying. After all, he was only a
child in Toots Hayden's hands. And she made one of those curious
"He-loves-me-he-loves-me-not" arrangements in her own mind. If
Graham came that afternoon, she would take it as a sign that
there was still some good in him, and she would try to save him
from himself. She had been rather nasty to him. If he did not
A great many came, mostly women, with a sprinkling of men. The
rector, who loved people, was in his element. He was proud of
Delight, proud of his home; he had never ceased being proud of his
wife. He knew who exactly had sent each basket of flowers, each
hanging bunch. "Your exquisite orchids," he would say; or, "that
perfectly charming basket. It is there, just beside Mrs. Haverford."
But when Natalie Spencer came in alone, splendid in Russian sables,
he happened to be looking at Delight, and he saw the light die out
of her eyes.
Natalie had tried to bring Graham with her. She had gone into his
room that morning while he was dressing and asked him. To tell the
truth, she was uneasy about Marion Hayden and his growing intimacy
"You will, won't you, Graham, dear?"
"Sorry, mother. I just can't. I'm taking a girl out."
"I suppose it's Marion."
Her tone caused him to turn and look at her.
"Yes, it's Marion. What's wrong with that?"
"It's so silly, Graham. She's older than you are. And she's not
really nice, Graham. I don't mean anything horrid, but she's
designing. She knows you are young and - well, she's just playing
with you. I know girls, Graham. I - "
She stopped, before his angry gaze.
"She is nice enough for you to ask here," he said hastily.
"She wants your money. That's all."
He had laughed then, an ugly laugh.
"There's a lot of it for her to want."
And Natalie had gone away to shed tears of fury and resentment in
her own room.
She was really frightened. Bills for flowers sent to Marion were
coming in, to lie unpaid on Graham's writing table. She had
over-drawn once again to pay them, and other bills, for theater
tickets, checks signed at restaurants, over-due club accounts.
So she went to the Haverfords alone, and managed very effectually
to snub Mrs. Hayden before the rector's very eyes.
Mrs. Hayden thereupon followed an impulse.
"If it were not for Natalie Spencer," she said, following that lady's
sables with malevolent eyes, "I should be very happy in something I
want to tell you. Can we find a corner somewhere?"
And Doctor Haverford had followed her uneasily, behind some palms.
She was a thin little woman with a maddening habit of drawing her
tight veil down even closer by a contortion of her lower jaw, so
that the rector found himself watching her chin rather than her eyes.
"I want you to know right away, as Marion's clergyman, and ours,"
she had said, and had given her jaw a particularly vicious wag and
twist. "Of course it is not announced - I don't believe even the
Spencers know it yet. I am only telling you now because I know how
dearly" - she did it again - "how dearly interested you are in all
your spiritual children. Marion is engaged to Graham Spencer."
The rector had not been a shining light for years without learning
how to control his expression. He had a second, too, while she
contorted her face again, to recover himself.
"Thank you," he said gravely. "I much appreciate your telling me."
Mrs. Hayden had lowered her voice still more. The revelation took
on the appearance of conspiracy.
"In the early spring, probably," she said, "we shall need your
services, and your blessing."
So that was the end of one dream. He had dreamed so many - in his
youth, of spiritualizing his worldly flock; in middle life, of a
bishopric; he had dreamed of sons, to carry on the name he had meant
to make famous. But the failures of those dreams had been at once
his own failure and his own disappointment. This was different.
He was profoundly depressed. He wandered out of the crowd and,
after colliding with a man from the caterer's in a dark rear hall,
found his way up the servant's staircase to the small back room
where he kept the lares and penates of his quiet life, his pipe, his
fishing rods, a shabby old smoking coat, and back files of magazines
which he intended some day to read, when he got round to it.
The little room was jammed with old furniture, stripped from the
lower floor to make room for the crowd. He had to get down on his
knees and crawl under a table to reach his pipe. But he achieved
it finally, still with an air of abstraction, and lighted it. Then,
as there was no place to sit down, he stood in the center of the
little room and thought.
He did not go down again. He heard the noise of the arriving and
departing motors subside, its replacement by the sound of clattering
china, being washed below in the pantry. He went down finally, to
be served with a meal largely supplemented by the left-overs of the
afternoon refreshments, ornate salads, fancy ices, and an
overwhelming table decoration that shut him off from his wife and
Delight, and left him in magnificent solitude behind a pyramid of
Bits of the afternoon's gossip reached him; the comments on Delight's
dress and her flowers; the reasons certain people had not come. But
nothing of the subject nearest his heart. At the end of the meal
Delight got up.
"I'm going to call up Mr. Spencer," she said. "He has about fifty
dollars' worth of thanks coming to him."
"I didn't see Graham," said Mrs. Haverford. "Was he here?"
Delight stood poised for flight.
"He couldn't come because he had enough to do being two places at
once. His mother said he was working, and Mrs. Hayden said he had
taken Marion to the Country Club. I don't know why they take the
trouble to lie to me."
Christmas day of the year of our Lord, 1916, dawned on a world
which seemed to have forgotten the Man of Peace. In Asia Minor the
Allies celebrated it by the capture of a strong Turkish position at
Maghdadah. The Germans spent it concentrating at Dead Man's Hill;
the British were ejected from enemy positions near Arras. There
was no Christmas truce. The death-grip had come.
Germany, conscious of her superiority in men, and her hypocritical
peace offers unanimously rejected, was preparing to free herself
from the last restraint of civilization and to begin unrestricted
On Christmas morning Clayton received a letter from Chris. Evidently
it had come by hand, for it was mailed in America.
"Dear Clay: I am not at all sure that you will care to hear from me.
In fact, I have tried two or three times to write to you, and have
given it up. But I am lonelier than Billy-be-damned, and if it were
not for Audrey's letters I wouldn't care which shell got me and my
"I don't know whether you know why I got out, or not. Perhaps you
don't. I'd been a fool and a scoundrel, and I've had time, between
fusses, to know just how rotten I've been. But I'm not going to
whine to you. What I am trying to get over is that I'm through with
the old stuff for good.
"God only knows why I am writing to you, anyhow - unless it is
because I've always thought you were pretty near right. And I'd
like to feel that now and then you are seeing Audrey, and bucking
her up a bit. I think she's rather down.
"Do you know, Clay, I think this is a darned critical time. The
press, hasn't got it yet, but both the British and the French are
hard up against it. They'll fight until there is no one left to
fight, but these damned Germans seem to have no breaking-point.
They haven't any temperament, I daresay, or maybe it is soul they
lack. But they'll fight to the last man also, and the plain truth
is that there are too many of them.
"It looks mighty bad, unless we come in. And I don't mind saying
that there are a good many eyes over here straining across the old
Atlantic. Are we doing anything, I wonder? Getting ready? The
officers here say we can't expand an army to get enough men without
a draft law. Can you see the administration endangering the next
election with a draft law? Not on your life.
"I'm on the wagon, Clay. Honestly, it's funny. I don't mind
telling you I'm darned miserable sometimes. But then I get busy,
and I'm so blooming glad in a rush to get water that doesn't smell
to heaven that I don't want anything else.
"I suppose they'll give us a good hate on Christmas. Well, think
of me sometimes when you sit down to dinner, and you might drink to
our coming in. If we have a principle to divide among us we shall
Clayton read the letter twice.
He and Natalie lunched alone, Natalie in radiant good humor. His
gift to her had been a high collar of small diamonds magnificently
set, and Natalie, whose throat commenced to worry her, had welcomed
it rapturously. Also, he had that morning notified Graham that his
salary had been raised to five thousand dollars.
Graham had shown relief rather than pleasure.
"I daresay I won't earn it, Father," he had said. "But I'll at
east try to keep out of debt on it."
"If you can't, better let me be your banker, Graham."
The boy had flushed. Then he had disappeared, as usual, and Clayton
and Natalie sat across from each other, in their high-armed lion
chairs, and made a pretense of Christmas gayety. True to Natalie's
sense of the fitness of things, a small Nuremberg Christmas tree,
hung with tiny toys and lighted with small candles, stood in the
center of the table.
"We are dining out," she explained. "So I thought we'd use it now."
"It's very pretty," Clayton acknowledged. And he wondered if Natalie
felt at all as he did, the vast room and the two men serving, with
Graham no one knew where, and that travesty of Christmas joy between
them. His mind wandered to long ago Christmases.
"It's not so very long since we had a real tree," he observed. "Do
you remember the one that fell and smashed all the things on it?
And how Graham heard it and came down?"
"Horribly messy things," said Natalie, and watched the second man
critically. He was new, and she decided he was awkward.
She chattered through the meal, however, with that light gayety of
hers which was not gayety at all, and always of the country house.
"The dining-room floor is to be oak, with a marble border," she said.
"You remember the ones we saw in Italy? And the ceiling is blue and
gold. You'll love the ceiling, Clay."
There was claret with the luncheon, and Clayton, raising his glass,
thought of Chris and the water that smelled to heaven.
Natalie's mind was on loggias by that time.
"An upstairs loggia, too," she said. "Bordered with red geraniums.
I loathe geraniums, but the color is good. Rodney wants Japanese
screens and things, but I'm not sure. What do you think?"
"I think you're a better judge than I am," he replied, smiling. He
had had to come back a long way, but he made the effort.
"It's hardly worth while struggling to have things attractive for
you," she observed petulantly. "You never notice, anyhow. Clay,
do you know that you sit hours and hours, and never talk to me?"
"No! Do I? I'm sorry."
"You're a perfectly dreary person to have around."
"I'll talk to you, my dear. But I'm not much good at houses. Give
me something I understand."
"The mill, I suppose! Or the war!"
"Do I really talk of the war?"
"When you talk at all. What in the world do you think about, Clay,
when you sit with your eyes on nothing? It's a vicious habit."
"Oh, ships and sails and sealing wax and cabbages and kings," he
That afternoon Natalie slept, and the house took on the tomb-like
quiet of an establishment where the first word in service is silence.
Clay wandered about, feeling an inexpressible loneliness of spirit.
On those days which work did not fill he was always discontented.
He thought of the club, but the vision of those disconsolate groups
of homeless bachelors who gathered there on all festivals that
centered about a family focus was unattractive.
All at once, he realized that, since he had wakened that morning,
he had been wanting to see Audrey. He wanted to talk to her, real
talk, not gossip. Not country houses. Not personalities. Not
recrimination. Such talk as Audrey herself had always led at
dinner parties: of men and affairs, of big issues, of the war.
He felt suddenly that he must talk about the war to some one.
Natalie was still sleeping when he went down-stairs. It had been
raining, but a cold wind was covering the pavement with a glaze
of ice. Here and there men in top hats, like himself, were making
their way to Christmas calls. Children clinging to the arms of
governesses, their feet in high arctics, slid laughing on the ice.
A belated florist's wagon was still delivering Christmas plants
tied with bright red bows. The street held more of festivity to
Clayton than had his house. Even the shop windows, as he walked
toward Audrey's unfashionable new neighborhood, cried out their
message of peace. Peace - when there was no peace.
Audrey was alone, but her little room was crowded with gifts and
"I was hoping you would come, Clay," she said. "I've had some
visitors, but they're gone. I'll tell them down-stairs that I'm
not at home, and we can really talk."
"That's what I came for."
And when she had telephoned; "I've had a letter from Chris, Audrey."
She read it slowly, and he was surprised, when she finally looked
up, to find tears in her eyes.
"Poor old Chris!" she said. "I've never told you the story, have I,
Clay? Of course I know perfectly well I haven't. There was another
woman. I think I could have understood it, perhaps, if she had been
a different sort of a woman. But - I suppose it hurt my pride. I
didn't love him. She was such a vulgar little thing. Not even
pretty. Just - woman."
"He was fastidious, too. I don't understand it. And he swears he
never cared for her. I don't believe he did, either. I suppose
there's no explanation for these things. They just happen. It's
the life we live, I dare say. When I look back - She's the girl
I sent into the mill."
He was distinctly shocked.
"But, Audrey," he protested, "you are not seeing her, are you?"
"Now and then. She has fastened herself on me, in a way. Don't
scowl like that. She says she is straight now and that she only
wants a chance to work. She's off the stage for good. She - danced.
That money I got from you was for her. She was waiting, up-stairs.
Chris was behind with her rent, and she was going to lose her
"That you should have to do such a thing!" he protested. "It's
- well, it's infamous."
But she only smiled.
"Well, I've never been particularly shielded. It hasn't hurt me.
I don't even hate her. But I'm puzzled sometimes. Where there's
love it might be understandable. Most of us would hate to have to
stand the test of real love, I daresay. There's a time in every
one's life, I suppose, when love seems to be the only thing that
That was what the poet in that idiotic book had said: "There is no
"Even you, Clay," she reflected, smilingly. "You big, grave men go
all to pieces, sometimes."
"I never have," he retorted.
She returned Chris's letter to him.
"There," she said. "I've had my little whimper, and I feel better.
Now talk to me."
The little clock was striking six when at last he rose to go. The
room was dark, with only the glow of the wood fire on Audrey's face.
He found her very lovely, rather chastened and subdued, but much
more appealing than in her old days of sparkle and high spirits.
"You are looking very sweet, Audrey."
"Am I? How nice of you!"
She got up and stood on the hearth-rug beside him, looking up at
him. Then, "Don't be startled, Clay," she announced, smilingly.
"I am going to kiss you - for Christmas."
And kiss him she did, putting both hands on his shoulders, and
rising on her toes to do it. It was a very small kiss, and Clayton
took it calmly, and as she intended him to take it. But it was, at
that, rather a flushed Audrey who bade him good-night and God bless
Clayton took away with him from that visit a great peace and a great
relief. He had talked out to her for more than an hour of the many
things that puzzled and bewildered him. He had talked war, and the
mill, and even Graham and his problems. And by talking of them some
of them had clarified. A little of his unrest had gone. He felt
encouraged, he had a new strength to go on. It was wonderful, he
reflected, what the friendship of a woman could mean to a man. He
was quite convinced that it was only friendship.
He turned toward home reluctantly. Behind him was the glow of
Audrey's fire, and the glow that had been in her eyes when he
entered. If a man had such a woman behind him...
He went into his great, silent house, and the door closed behind
him like a prison gate.
For a long time after he had gone, Audrey, doors closed to visitors,
sat alone by her fire, with one of his roses held close to her cheek.
In her small upper room, in a white frame cottage on the hill
overlooking the Spencer furnaces, Anna Klein, locked away from
prying eyes, sat that same Christmas evening and closely inspected
a tiny gold wrist-watch. And now and then, like Audrey, she pressed
it to her face.
Not the gift, but the giver.
Having turned Dunbar and his protective league over to Hutchinson,
the general manager, Clayton had put him out of his mind. But
during the week after Christmas he reached the office early one
morning to find that keen and rather shabby gentleman already there,
Not precisely waiting, for he was standing by one of the windows,
well back from it, and inspecting the mill yard with sharp, darting
"Hello, Dunbar," said Clayton, and proceeded to shed his fur-lined
coat. Dunbar turned and surveyed him with the grudging admiration
of the undersized man for the tall one.
"Cold morning," he said, coming forward. "Not that I suppose you
know it." He glanced at the coat.
"I thought Hutchinson said that you'd gone away."
"Been to Washington. I brought something back that will interest
From inside his coat he produced a small leather case, and took from
it a number of photographs.
"I rather gathered, Mr. Spencer," he said dryly, "when I was here
last that you thought me an alarmist. I don't know that I blame
you. We always think the other fellow may get it, but that we are
safe. You might glance at those photographs."
He spread them out on the desk. Beyond the windows the mill roared
on; men shouted, the locomotive whistled, a long file of laborers
with wheelbarrows went by. And from a new building going up came
the hammering of the riveting-machines, so like the rapid explosions
of machine guns.
"Interesting, aren't they?" queried Dunbar. "This is a clock-bomb
with a strap for carrying it under a coat. That's a lump of coal
- only it isn't. It's got enough explosive inside to blow up a
battleship. It's meant for that, primarily. That's fire-confetti
- damnable stuff - understand it's what burned up most of Belgium.
And that's a fountain-pen. What do you think of that? Use one
yourself, don't you? Don't leave it lying around. That's all"
"What on earth can they do with a fountain-pen?"
"One of their best little tricks," said Mr. Dunbar, with a note of
grudging admiration in his voice. "Here's a cut of the mechanism.
You sit down, dip your pen, and commence to write. There's the
striking pin, or whatever they call it. It hits here, and - good
"Do you mean to say they're using things like that here?"
"I mean to say they're planning to, if they haven't already. That
coal now, you'd see that go into your furnaces, or under your boilers,
or wherever you use it, and wouldn't worry, would you?"
"Are these actual photographs?"
"Made from articles taken from a German officer's trunk, in a neutral
country. He was on his way somewhere, I imagine."
Clayton sat silent. Then he took out his fountain-pen and surveyed
it with a smile.
"Rather off fountain-pens for a time, I take it!" observed Dunbar.
"Well, I've something else for you. You've got one of the best
little I.W.W. workers in the country right here in your mill. Some
of them aren't so bad - hot air and nothing else. But this fellow's
a fanatic. Which is the same as saying he's crazy."
"Who is he?"
"Name's Rudolph Klein. He's a sort of relation to the chap that
got out. Old man's been sore on him, but I understand he's hanging
around the Klein place again."
"I don't remember him. Of course, I can't keep track of the men.
We'll get rid of him."
Mr. Dunbar eyed him.
"That's the best thing you can think of?"
"I don't want him round, do I?"
"Nine of you men out of ten say that. You'd turn him loose and so
warn him. Not only that, but he'll be off on his devil's work
somewhere. Perhaps here. Perhaps elsewhere. And we want him where
we can find him. See here, Mr. Spencer, d'you ever hear of
Clayton never had, but the term explained itself.
"Set a spy to watch a spy," said Dunbar. "Let him think he's going
on fine. Find his confederates. Let them get ready to spring
something. And then - get them. Remember," he added with sarcasm,
"we're still neutral. You can't lock a man up because he goes
around yelling 'Down with capital!' The whole country is ready to
yell it with him. And, even if you find him with a bomb under his
coat, labeled 'made in Germany,' it's hard to link Germans up with
the thing. He can say that he always buys his bombs in Germany.
That they make the best bombs in the world. That he likes the way
they pack 'em, and their polite trade methods."
Clayton listened, thinking hard.
"We have a daughter of Klein's here. She is my son's secretary."
Dunbar glanced at him quickly, but his eyes were on the window.
"I know that."
"Think I should get rid of her?"
Dunbar hesitated. He liked Clayton Spencer, and it was his business
just then to know something about the Kleins. It would be a good
thing for Clayton Spencer's boy if they got rid of the girl.
On the other hand, to keep her there and watch her was certainly a
bigger thing. If she stayed there might be trouble, but it would
concern the boy only. If she left, and if she was one link in the
chain to snare Rudolph, there might be a disaster costing many
lives. He made his decision quickly.
"Keep her, by all means," he said. "And don't tell Mr. Graham
anything. He's young, and he'd be likely to show something. I
suppose she gets considerable data where she is?"
"Only of the one department. But that's a fair indication of the
"I'm inclined to think there's nothing to that end of it," he said.
"The old chap is sulky, but he's not dangerous. It's Rudolph I'm
At the luncheon hour that day Clayton, having finished his mail,
went to Graham's office. He seldom did that, but he was uneasy.
He wanted to see the girl. He wanted to look her over with this
new idea in his mind. She had been a quiet little thing, he
remembered; thorough, but not brilliant. He had sent her to Graham
from his own office. He disliked even the idea of suspecting her;
his natural chivalry revolted from suspecting any woman.
Joey, who customarily ate his luncheon on Clayton's desk in his
absence, followed by one of Clayton's cigarets, watched him across
the yard, and whistled as he saw him enter Graham's small building.
"Well, what do you think of that?" he reflected. "I hope he coughs
before he goes in."
But Clayton did not happen to cough. Graham's office was empty,
but there was a sound of voices from Anna Klein's small room beyond.
He crossed to the door and opened it, to stand astonished, his hand
on the door-knob.
Anna Klein was seated at her desk, with her luncheon spread before
her on a newspaper, and seated on the desk, a sandwich in one hand,
the other resting on Anna's shoulder, was Graham. He was laughing
when Clayton opened the door, but the smile froze on his face. He
slid off her desk.
"Want me, father?"
"Yes," said Clayton, curtly. And went out, leaving the door open.
A sort of stricken silence followed his exit, then Graham put down
the sandwich and went out, closing the door behind him. He stood
just inside it in the outer room, rather pale, but looking his father
in the eyes.
"Sorry, father," he said. "I didn't hear you. I - "
"What has that to do with it?"
The boy was silent. To Clayton he looked furtive, guilty. His
very expression condemned him far more than the incident itself.
And Clayton, along with his anger, was puzzled as to his best course.
Dunbar had said to leave the girl where she was. But - was it
feasible under these circumstances? He was rather irritated than
angry. He considered a flirtation with one's stenographer rotten
bad taste, at any time. The business world, to his mind, was
divided into two kinds of men, those who did that sort of thing,
and those who did not. It was a code, rather than a creed, that
the boy had violated.
Besides, he had bad a surprise. The girl who sat laughing into
Graham's face was not the Anna Klein he remembered, a shy, drab
little thing, badly dressed, rather sallow and unsmiling. Here
was a young woman undeniably attractive; slightly rouged, trim in
her white blouse, and with an air of piquancy that was added, had
he known it, by the large imitation pearl earrings she wore.
"Get your hat and go to lunch, Graham," he said. "And you might
try to remember that a slightly different standard of conduct is
expected from my son, here, than may be the standard of some of
the other men."
"It doesn't mean anything, that sort of fooling."
"You and I may know that. The girl may not."
Then he went out, and Graham returned unhappily to the inner room.
Anna was not crying; she was too frightened to cry. She had sat
without moving, her hand still clutching her untouched sandwich.
Graham looked at her and tried to smile.
"I'm gone, I suppose?"
"Don't you worry about that," he said, with boyish bravado. "Don't
you worry about that, little girl."
"Father will kill me," she whispered. "He's queer these days, and
if I go home and have to tell him - " She shuddered.
"I'll see you get something else, if the worst comes, you know."
She glanced up at him with that look of dog-like fidelity that
always touched him.
"I'll find you something good," he promised.
"Something good," she repeated, with sudden bitterness. "And you'll
get another girl here, and flirt with her, and make her crazy about
you, and - "
"Honestly, do you like me like that?"
"I'm just mad about you," she said miserably.
Frightened though he was, her wretchedness appealed to him. The
thought that she cared for him, too, was a salve to his outraged
pride. A moment ago, in the other room, he had felt like a bad
small boy. As with Marion, Anna made him feel every inch a man.
But she gave him what Marion did not, the feeling of her complete
surrender. Marion would take; this girl would give.
He bent down and put his arms around her.
"Poor little girl!" he said. "Poor little girl!"
The gay and fashionable crowd of which Audrey had been the center
played madly that winter. The short six weeks of the season were
already close to an end. By mid-January the south and California
would have claimed most of the women and some of the men. There
were a few, of course, who saw the inevitable catastrophe: the
Mackenzies had laid up their house-boat on the west coast of Florida.
Denis Nolan had let his little place at Pinehurst. The advance wave
of the war tide, the increased cost of living, had sobered and made
thoughtful the middle class, but above in the great businesses, and
below among the laboring people, money was plentiful and
extravagance ran riot.
And Audrey Valentine's world missed her. It refused to accept her
poverty as an excuse, and clamored for her. It wanted her to sit
again at a piano, somewhere, anywhere, with a lighted cigaret on
the music-rack, and sing her husky, naive little songs. It wanted
her cool audacity. It wanted her for week-end parties and bridge,
and to canter on frosty mornings on its best horses and make slaves
of the park policemen, so that she might jump forbidden fences. It
wanted to see her oust its grinning chauffeurs, and drive its best
cars at their best speed.
Audrey Valentine leading a cloistered life! Impossible! Selfish!
And Audrey was not cut out for solitude. She did not mind poverty.
She found it rather a relief to acknowledge what had always been
the fact. But she did mind loneliness. And her idea of making
herself over into something useful was not working out particularly
well. She spent two hours a day, at a down-town school, struggling
with shorthand, and her writing-table was always littered with
papers covered with queer hooks and curves, or with typed sheets
"Messrs Smith and Co.,: Dear Sirs."
Clayton Spencer met her late in December, walking feverishly along
with a book under her arm, and a half-desperate look in her eyes.
He felt a little thrill when he saw her, which should have warned
him but did not.
She did not even greet him. She stopped and held out her book to
"Take it!" she said. "I've thrown it away twice, and two wretched
men have run after me and brought it back."
He took it and glanced at it.
"Spelling! Can't you spell?"
"Certainly I can spell," she said with dignity. "I'm a very good
speller. Clay, there isn't an "i" in business, is there?"
"It is generally considered necessary to have two pretty good eyes
in business." But he saw then that she was really rather despairing.
"There is, one 'i,'" he said. "It seems foolish, doesn't it?
Audrey dear, what are you trying to do? For heaven's sake, if it's
"It isn't that. I have enough. Honestly, Clay, I just had some
sort of an idea that I'd been playing long enough. But I'm only
good for play. That man this morning said as much, when we fussed
about my spelling. He said I'd better write a new dictionary."
Clayton threw back his head and laughed, and after a moment she
laughed, too. But as he went on his face was grave. Somebody ought
to be looking after her. It was not for some time that he realized
he carried the absurd little spelling-book. He took it back to the
office with him, and put it in the back of a drawer of his desk.
Joey, coming in some time later, found him, with the drawer open,
and something in his hands which he hastily put away. Later on,
Joey investigated that drawer, and found the little book. He
inspected it with a mixture of surprise and scorn.
"Spelling!" he muttered. "And a hundred dollar a month girl to
spell for him!"
It was Rodney Page who forced Audrey out of her seclusion.
Rodney had had a prosperous year, and for some time his conscience
had been bothering him. For a good many years he had blithely
accepted the invitations of his friends - dinners, balls, week-end
and yachting parties, paying his way with an occasional box of
flowers. He decided, that last winter of peace, to turn host and,
true to instinct, to do the unusual.
It was Natalie who gave him the suggestion.
"Why don't you turn your carriage-house into a studio, and give a
studio warming, Roddie? It would be fun fixing it up. And you
might make it fancy dress."
Before long, of course, he had accepted the idea as of his own
originating, and was hard at work.
Rodney's house had been his father's. He still lived there,
although the business district had encroached closely. And for
some time he had used the large stable and carriage-house at the
rear as a place in which to store the odd bits of furniture, old
mirrors and odds and ends that he had picked up here and there.
Now and then, as to Natalie, he sold some of them, but he was a
collector, not a merchant. In his way, he was an artist.
In the upper floor he had built a skylight, and there, in odd hours,
he worked out, in water-color, sketches of interiors, sometimes
for houses he was building, sometimes purely for the pleasure of
The war had brought him enormous increase in his collection.
Owners of French chateaus, driven to poverty, were sending to
America treasures of all sorts of furniture, tapestries, carpets,
old fountains, porcelains, even carved woodwork and ancient mantels,
and Rodney, from the mixed motives of business and pride, decided
to exhibit them.
The old brick floor of the stable he replaced with handmade tiles.
The box-stalls were small display-rooms, hung with tapestries and
lighted with candles in old French sconces. The great carriage-room
became a refectory, with Jacobean and old monastery chairs, and the
vast loft overhead, reached by a narrow staircase that clung to the
wall, was railed on its exposed side, waxed as to floor, hung with
lanterns, and became a ballroom.
Natalie worked with him, spending much time and a prodigious amount
of energy. There was springing up between them one of those curious
and dangerous intimacies, of idleness on the woman's part, of
admiration on the man's, which sometimes develop into a wholly
spurious passion. Probably Rodney realized it; certainly Natalie
did not. She liked his admiration; she dressed, each day, for
Rodney's unfailing comment on her clothes.
"Clay never notices what I wear," she said, once, plaintively.
So it was Rodney who brought Audrey Valentine out of her seclusion,
and he did it by making her angry. He dropped in to see her between
Christmas and New-years, and made a plea.
"A stable-warming!" she said. "How interesting! And fancy dress!
Are you going to have them come as grooms, or jockeys? If I were
going I'd go as a circus-rider. I used to be able to stand up on a
running horse. Of course you're having horses. What's a stable
without a horse?"
He saw she was laughing at him and was rather resentful.
"I told you I have made it into a studio."
But when he implored her to go, she was obdurate.
"Do go away and let me alone, Rodney," she said at last. "I loathe
"It won't be a party without you."
"Then don't have it. I've told you, over and over, I'm not going
out. It isn't decent this year, in my opinion. And, anyhow, I
haven't any money, any clothes, any anything. A bad evening at
bridge, and I shouldn't be able to pay my rent."
"That's nonsense. Why do you let people say you are moping about
Chris? You're not."
"Of course not."
She sat up.
"What else are they saying?"
"Well, there's some talk, naturally. You can't be as popular as
you have been, and then just drop out, without some gossip. It's
"What sort of talk?"
He was very uncomfortable.
"Well, of course, you have been pretty strong on the war stuff?"
"Oh, they think I sent him!"
"If only you wouldn't hide, Audrey. That's what has made the talk.
It's not Chris's going."
"I'm not hiding. That's idiotic. I was bored to death, if you want
the truth. Look here, Rodney. You're not being honest. What do
they say about Chris and myself?"
He was cornered.
"Is it - about another woman?"
"Well, of course now and then - there are always such stories. And
of course Chris - "
"Yes, they knew Chris." Her voice was scornful. "So they think I'm
moping and hiding because - How interesting!"
She sat back, with her old insolent smile.
"Poor Chris!" she said. "The only man in the lot except Clay
Spencer who is doing his bit for the war, and they - when is your
"I'll come," she said. And smiling again, dangerously, "I'll come,
with bells on."
There had been once, in Herman Klein the making of a good American.
He had come to America, not at the call of freedom, but of peace
and plenty. Nevertheless, he had possibilities.
Taken in time he might have become a good American. But nothing
was done to stimulate in him a sentiment for his adopted land. He
would, indeed, have been, for all his citizenship papers, a man
without a country but for one thing.
The Fatherland had never let go. When he went to the Turnverein,
it was to hear the old tongue, to sing the old songs. Visiting
Germans from overseas were constantly lecturing, holding before him
the vision of great Germany. He saw moving-pictures of Germany; he
went to meetings which commenced with "Die Wacht am Rhine." One
Christmas he received a handsome copy of a photograph of the Kaiser
through the mail. He never knew who sent it, but he had it framed
in a gilt frame, and it hung over the fireplace in the sitting-room.
He had been adopted by America, but he had not adopted America,
save his own tiny bit of it. He took what the new country gave him
with no faintest sense that he owed anything in return beyond his
small yearly taxes. He was neither friendly nor inimical.
His creed through the years had been simple: to owe no man money,
even for a day; to spend less than he earned; to own his own home;
to rise early, work hard, and to live at peace with his neighbors.
He had learned English and had sent Anna to the public school. He
spoke English with her, always. And on Sunday he put on his best
clothes, and sat in the German Lutheran church, dozing occasionally,
but always rigidly erect.
With his first savings he had bought a home, a tiny two-roomed frame
cottage on a bill above the Spencer mill, with a bit of waste land
that he turned into a thrifty garden. Anna was born there, and her
mother had died there ten years later. But long enough before that
he had added four rooms, and bought an adjoining lot. At that time
the hill had been green; the way to the little white house had been
along and up a winding path, where in the spring the early wild
flowers came out on sunny banks, and the first buds of the
neighborhood were on Klein's own lilac-bushes.
He had had a magnificent sense of independence those days, and of
He voted religiously, and now and then in the evenings he had been
the moderate member of a mild socialist group. Theoretically, he
believed that no man should amass a fortune by the labor of others.
Actually he felt himself well paid, a respected member of society,
and a property owner.
In the early morning, winter and summer, he emerged into the small
side porch of his cottage and there threw over himself a pail of
cold water from the well outside. Then he rubbed down, dressed in
the open air behind the old awning hung there, took a dozen deep
breaths and a cup of coffee, and was off for work. The addition of
a bathroom, with running hot water, had made no change in his daily
He was very strict with Anna, and with the women who, one after
another, kept house for him.
"I'll have no men lounging around," was his first instruction on
engaging them. And to Anna his solicitude took the form almost of
espionage. The only young man he tolerated about the place was a
distant relative. Rudolph Klein.
On Sunday evenings Rudolph came in to supper. But even Rudolph
found it hard to get a word with the girl alone.
"What's eating him, anyhow," he demanded of Anna one Sunday evening,
when by the accident of a neighbor calling old Herman to the gate,
he had the chance of a word.
"He knows a lot about you fellows," Anna had said. "And the more
he knows the less he trusts you. I don't wonder."
"He hasn't anything on me."
But Anna had come to the limit of her patience with her father at
"What's the matter with you?" she demanded angrily one night, when
Herman had sat with his pipe in his mouth, and had refused her
permission to go to the moving-pictures with another girl. "Do you
think I'm going on forever like this, without a chance to play?
I'm sick of it. That's all."
"You vill not run around with the girls on this hill." He had
conquered all but the English "w." He still pronounced it like a "v."
"What's the matter with the girls on this hill?" And when he smoked
on in imperturbable silence, she had flamed into a fury.
"This is free America," she reminded him. "It's not Germany. And
I've stood about all I can. I work all day, and I need a little
fun. I'm going."
And she had gone, rather shaky as to the knees, but with her head
held high, leaving him on the little veranda with his dead pipe in
his mouth and his German-American newspaper held before his face.
She had returned, still terrified, to find the house dark and the
doors locked, and rather than confess to any one, she had spent the
night in a chair out of doors.
At dawn she had heard him at the side of the house, drawing water
for his bath. He had gone through his morning program as usual,
by the sounds, and had started off for work without an inquiry about
her. Only when she heard the gate click had she hammered at the
front door and been admitted by the untidy servant.
"Fine way to treat me!" she had stormed, and for a part of that day
she was convinced that she would never go back home again. But fear
of her father was the strongest emotion she knew, and she went back
that night, as usual. It not being Herman's way to bother with
greetings, she had passed him on the porch without a word, and that
night, winding a clock before closing the house, he spoke to her
for the first time.
"There is a performance at the Turnverein Hall to-morrow night.
Rudolph vill take you."
"I don't like Rudolph."
"Rudolph viii take you," he had repeated, stolidly. And she had
He had no conception of any failure in himself as a parent. He had
the German idea of women. They had a distinct place in the world,
but that place was not a high one. Their function was to bring
children into the world. They were breeding animals, and as such
to be carefully watched and not particularly trusted. They had no
place in the affairs of men, outside the home.
Not that he put it that way. In his way he probably loved the girl.
But never once did he think of her as an intelligent and reasoning
creature. He took her salary, gave her a small allowance for
car-fare, and banked the rest of it in his own name. It would all
be hers some day, so what difference did it make?
But the direst want would not have made him touch a penny of it.
He disliked animals. But in a curious shame-faced fashion he liked
flowers. Such portions of his garden as were useless for vegetables
he had planted out in flowers. But he never cut them and brought
them into the house, and he watched jealously that no one else
should do so. He kept poisoned meat around for such dogs in the
neighborhood as wandered in, and Anna had found him once callously
watching the death agonies of one of them.
Such, at the time the Spencer mill began work on its new shell
contract, was Herman Klein, sturdily honest, just according to his
ideas of justice, callous rather than cruel, but the citizen of a
world bounded by his memories of Germany, his life at the mill, and
But, for all that, he was not a man the German organization in
America put much faith in. Rudolph, feeling his way, had had one
or two conversations with him early in the war that had made him
"Let them stop all this fighting," Herman had said. "What matter
now who commenced it? Let them all stop. It is the only way."
"Sure, let them stop!" said Rudolph, easily. "Let them stop trying
to destroy Germany."
"That is nonsense," Herman affirmed, sturdily. "Do you think I
know nothing? I, who was in the Prussian Guard for five years.
Think you I know nothing of the plan?"
The report of the German atrocities, however, found him frankly
incredulous, and one noon hour, in the mill, having read the Belgian
King's statement that the German army in Belgium had protected its
advance with women and children, Rudolph found him tearing the
papers to shreds furiously.
"Such lies!" he cried. "It is not possible that they should be
The sinking of the Lusitania, however, left him thoughtful and
depressed. In vain Rudolph argued with him.
"They were warned," he said. "If they chose to take the chance, is
it Germany's fault? If you tell me not to put my hand on a certain
piece in a machine and I do it anyhow, is it your fault if I lose a
Old Herman eyed him shrewdly.
"And if Anna had been on the ship, you think the same, eh?"
Rudolph had colored.
For some time now Rudolph had been in love with Anna. He had not
had much encouragement. She went out with him, since he was her
only means of escape, but she treated him rather cavalierly,
criticized his clothes and speech, laughed openly at his occasional
lapses into sentiment, and was, once in a long time, so kind that
she set his heart leaping.
Until the return of Graham Spencer, all had gone fairly well. But
with his installment in the mill, Rudolph's relations with Anna had
changed. She had grown prettier - Rudolph was not observant enough
to mark what made the change, but he knew that he was madder about
her than ever. And she had assumed toward him an attitude of almost
scornful indifference. The effect on his undisciplined young mind
was bad. He had no suspicion of Graham. He only knew his own
desperate unhappiness. In the meetings held twice weekly in a hall
on Third Street he was reckless, advocating violence constantly.
The conservative element watched him uneasily; the others kept an
eye on him, for future use.
The closing week of the old year found the situation strained in
the Klein house. Herman had had plenty of opportunities for
situations, but all of them had to do directly or indirectly with
the making of munitions for the Allies. Old firms in other lines
were not taking on new men. It was the munition works that were
increasing their personnel. And by that time the determination not
to assist Germany's enemies had become a fixed one.
The day after Christmas, in pursuit of this idea, he commanded Anna
to leave the mill. But she had defied him, for the second time in
her, life, her face pale to the lips.
"Not on your life," she had said. "You may want to starve. I
"There is plenty of other work."
"Don't you kid yourself. And, anyhow, I'm not looking for it. I
don't mind working so you can sit here and nurse a grouch, but I
certainly don't intend to start hunting another job."
She had eyed him morosely. "If you ask me," she continued, "you're
out of your mind. What's Germany to you? You forgot it as fast as
you could, until this war came along. You and Rudolph! You're long
distance patriots, you are."
"I will not help my country's enemies," he had said doggedly.
"Your country s enemies. My word! Isn't this your country? What's
the old Kaiser to you?"
He had ordered her out of the house, then, but she had laughed at
him. She could always better him in an argument.
"Suppose I do go?" she had inquired. "What are you going to live
on? I'm not crazy in the head, if you are."
She rather thought he would strike her. He had done it before, with
the idea of enforcing discipline. If he did, she would leave him.
Let him shift for himself. He had taken her money for years, and
he could live on that. But he had only glared at her.
"We would have done better to remain in Germany," he said. "America
has no respect for parents. It has no discipline. It is a country
She felt a weakening in him, and followed up her advantage.
"And another thing, while we're at it," she flung at him. "Don't
you go on trying to shove Rudolph down my throat. I'm off Rudolph
She flung out her arm, and old Herman saw the gleam of something
gold on her wrist. He caught her hand in his iron grip and shoved
up her sleeve. There was a tiny gold wrist-watch there, on a
flexible chain. His amazement and rage gave her a moment to think,
although she was terrified.
"Where did you get that?"
"The mill gave them to the stenographers for Christmas."
"Why did you not tell me?"
"We're not talking much these days, are we?"
He let her go then, and that night, in the little room behind Gustav
Shroeder's saloon, he put the question to Rudolph. Because he was
excited and frightened he made slow work of his inquiry, and Rudolph
had a moment to think.
"Sure," he replied. "All the girls in the executive offices got them."
But when the meeting was over, Rudolph did not go back to his
boarding-house. He walked the streets and thought.
He had saved Anna from her father. But he was of no mind to save
her from himself. She would have to account to him for that watch.
Anna herself lay awake until late. She saw already the difficulties
before her. Herman was suspicious. He might inquire. There were
other girls from the mill offices on the hill. And he might speak
The next evening she found Rudolph waiting for her outside the mill
gate. Together they started up what had been, when Herman bought
the cottage, a green hill with a winding path. But the smoke and
ore from the mill had long ago turned it to bareness, had killed
the trees and shrubbery, and filled the little hollows where once
the first arbutus had hidden with cinders and ore dust. The path
had become a crooked street, lined with wooden houses, and paved
with worn and broken bricks.
Where once Herman Klein had carried his pail and whistled bits of
Shubert as he climbed along, a long line of blackened men made their
evening way. Untidy children sat on the curb, dogs lay in the
center of the road, and women in all stages of dishabille hung over
the high railings of their porches and watched for their men.
Under protest of giving her a lift up the hill, Rudolph slipped his
hand through Anna's left arm.
Immediately she knew that the movement was a pretext. She could
not free herself.
"Be good, now," he cautioned her. "I've got you. I want to see
"You let me alone."
"I'm going to see that watch."
With his free hand he felt under her sleeve and drew down the
"So the mill gave it to you, eh? That's a lie, and you know it."
"I'll tell you, Rudolph," she temporized. "Only don't tell father.
All the girls have watches, and I wanted one. So I bought it."
"That's a lie, too."
"On the installment plan," she insisted. "A dollar a week, that's
straight. I've paid five on it already."
He was almost convinced, not quite. He unfastened it awkwardly and
took it off her wrist. It was a plain little octagonal watch, and
on the back was a monogram. The monogram made him suspicious again.
"It's only gold filled, Rudolph."
"Pretty classy monogram for a cheap watch." He held it close; on
the dial was the jeweler's name, a famous one. He said nothing
more, put it back on Anna's arm and released her. At the next
corner he left her, with a civil enough good-bye, but with rage in
The New-year, destined to be so crucial, came in cheerfully enough.
There was, to be sure, a trifle less ostentation in the public
celebrations, but the usual amount of champagne brought in the most
vital year in the history of the nation. The customary number of
men, warmed by that champagne, made reckless love to the women who
happened to be near them and forgot it by morning. And the women
themselves presented pictures of splendor of a peculiar gorgeousness.
The fact that almost coincident with the war there had come into
prominence an entirely new school of color formed one of the
curious contrasts of the period. Into a drab world there flamed
strange and bizarre theatrical effects, in scenery and costume.
Some of it was beautiful, most of it merely fantastic. But it was
immediately reflected in the clothing of fashionable women. Europe,
which had originated it, could use it but little; but great opulent
America adopted it and made it her own.
So, while the rest of the world was gray, America flamed, and Natalie
Spencer, spending her days between dressmakers and decorators, flamed
with the rest.
On New-year's Eve Clayton Spencer always preceded the annual ball
of the City Club, of which he was president, by a dinner to the
board of governors and their wives. It was his dinner. He, and
not Natalie, arranged the seating, ordered the flowers, and planned
the menu. He took considerable pride in it; he liked to think that
it was both beautiful and dignified. His father had been president
before him, and he liked to think that he was carrying on his
father's custom with the punctilious dignity that had so
He was dressed early. Natalie had been closeted with Madeleine,
her maid, and a hair-dresser, for hours. As he went down-stairs
he could hear her voice raised in querulous protest about something.
When he went into the library Buckham was there stooping over the
fire, his austere old face serious and intent.
"Well, another year almost gone, Buckham!" he said.
"Yes, Mr. Spencer."
"It would be interesting to know what the New-year holds."
"I hope it will bring you peace and happiness, sir."
And after Buckham had gone he thought that rather a curious
New-year's wish. Peace and happiness! Well, God knows he wanted
both. A vague comprehension of the understanding the upper servants
of a household acquire as to the inner life of the family stirred in
him; how much they knew and concealed under their impassive service.
When Natalie came down the staircase a few minutes later she was
swathed in her chinchilla evening wrap, and she watched his face,
after her custom when she expected to annoy him, with the furtive
look that he had grown to associate with some unpleasantness.
"I hate dressing for a ball at this hour," she said, rather
breathlessly. "I don't feel half-dressed by midnight."
Madeleine, in street costume, was behind her with a great box.
"She has something for my hair," she explained. Her tone was
nervous, but he was entirely unsuspicious.
"You don't mind if I don't go on to Page's, do you? I'm rather
tired, and I ought to stay at the club as late as I can."
"Of course not. I shall probably pick up some people, anyhow.
Everybody is going on."
In the car she chattered feverishly and he listened, lapsing into
one of the silences which her talkative spells always enforced.
"What flowers are you having?" she asked, finally.
"White lilacs and pussy-willow. Did your orchids come?"
"Thanks, yes. But I'm not wearing them. My gown is flame color.
They simply shrieked."
"A sort of orange," she explained. And, in a slightly defiant tone:
"Rodney's is a costume dance, you know."
"Do you mean you are in fancy dress?"
"I am, indeed."
He was rather startled. The annual dinner of the board of governors
of the City Club and their wives was a most dignified function
always. He was the youngest by far of the men; the women were all
frankly dowagers. They represented the conservative element of the
city's social life, that element which frowned on smartness and did
not even recognize the bizarre. It was old-fashioned, secure in its
position, influential, and slightly tedious.
"There will be plenty in fancy dress."
"Not at the dinner."
"Stodgy old frumps!" was Natalie's comment. "I believe you would
rather break one of the ten commandments than one of the
conventions," she added.
It was when he saw her coming down the staircase in the still empty
clubhouse that he realized the reason for her defiant attitude when
she acknowledged to fancy dress. For she wore a peacock costume of
the most daring sort. Over an orange foundation, eccentric in
itself and very short, was a vivid tunic covered with peacock
feathers on gold tissue, with a sweeping tail behind, and on her
head was the towering chest of a peacock on a gold bandeau. She
waved a great peacock fan, also, and half-way down the stairs she
paused and looked down at him, with half-frightened eyes.
"Do you like it?"
"It is very wonderful," he said, gravely.
He could not hurt her. Her pleasure in it was too naive. It dawned
on him then that Natalie was really a child, a spoiled and wilful
child. And always afterward he tried to remember that, and to judge
She came down, the upturned wired points of the tunic trembling as
she stepped. When she came closer he saw that she was made up for
the costume ball also, her face frankly rouged, fine lines under
her eyes, her lashes blackened. She looked very lovely and quite
unfamiliar. But he had determined not to spoil her evening, and he
continued gravely smiling.
"You'd better like it, Clay," she said, and took a calculating
advantage of what she considered a softened mood. "It cost a
She went on past him, toward the room where the florist was still
putting the finishing touches to the flowers on the table. When the
first guests arrived, she came back and took her place near him, and
he was uncomfortably aware of the little start of surprise with
which she burst upon each new arrival, In the old and rather staid
surroundings of the club she looked out of place - oriental,
And Clayton Spencer suffered. To draw him as he stood in the club
that last year of our peace, 1916, is to draw him not only with his
virtues but with his faults; his over emphasis on small things; his
jealousy for his dignity; his hatred of the conspicuous and the
When, after the informal manner of clubs, the party went in to
dinner, he was having one of the bad hours of his life to that time.
And when, as was inevitable, the talk of the rather serious table
turned to the war, it seemed to him that Natalie, gorgeous and
painted, represented the very worst of the country he loved,
indifference, extravagance, and ostentatious display.
But Natalie was not America. Thank God, Natalie was not America.
Already with the men she was having a triumph. The women, soberly
clad, glanced at each other with raised eye-brows and cynical smiles.
Above the band, already playing in the ballroom, Clayton could hear
old Terry Mackenzie paying Natalie extravagant, flagrant compliments.
"You should be sitting in the sun, or on a balcony," he was saying,
his eyes twinkling. "And pretty gentlemen with long curls and their
hats tucked under their arms should be feeding you nightingale
tongues, or whatever it is you eat."
"Bugs," said Natalie.
"But - tell me," Terry bent toward her, and Mrs. Terry kept
fascinated eyes on him. "Tell me, lovely creature - aren't peacocks
"Are they? What bad luck can happen to me because I dress like this?"
"Frightfully bad luck," said Terry, jovially. "Some one will
undoubtedly carry you away, in the course of the evening, and go
madly through the world hunting a marble balustrade to set you on.
I'll do it myself if you'll give me any encouragement."
Perhaps, had Clayton Spencer been entirely honest with himself that
night, he would have acknowledged that he had had a vague hope of
seeing Audrey at the club. Cars came up, discharged their muffled
occupants under the awning and drove away again. Delight and Mrs.
Haverford arrived and he danced with Delight, to her great anxiety
lest she might not dance well. Graham came very late, in the wake
of Marion Hayden.
But Audrey did not appear.
He waited until the New-year came in. The cotillion was on then,
and the favors for the midnight figure were gilt cornucopias filled
with loose flowers. The lights went out for a moment on the hour,
the twelve strokes were rung on a triangle in the orchestra, and
there was a moment's quiet. Then the light blazed again, flowers
and confetti were thrown, and club servants in livery carried round
trays of champagne.
Clayton, standing glass in hand, surveyed the scene with a mixture
of satisfaction and impatience. He found Terry Mackenzie at his
"Great party, Clay," he said. "Well, here's to 1917, and may it
"May it bring peace," said Clayton, and raised his glass.
Some time later going home in the car with Mrs. Mackenzie, quiet
and slightly grim beside him, Terry spoke out of a thoughtful
"There's something wrong with Clay," he said. "If ever a fellow
had a right to be happy - he has a queer look. Have you noticed it?"
"Anybody married to Natalie Spencer would develop what you call a
queer look," she replied, tartly.
"Don't you think he is in love with her?"
"If you ask me, I think he has reached the point where he can't bear
the sight of her. But he doesn't know it."
"So is a lamp-shade," replied Mrs. Terry, acidly. "Or a kitten, or
a fancy ice-cream. But you wouldn't care to be married to them,
It was almost dawn when Natalie came in. Clayton had not been
asleep. He had got to thinking rather feverishly of the New-year.
Without in any way making a resolution, he had determined to make
it a better year than the last; to be more gentle with Natalie,
more understanding with Graham; to use his new prosperity wisely;
to forget his own lack of happiness in making others happy. He
was very vague about that. The search of the ages the rector had
called happiness, and one found it by giving it.
To his surprise, Natalie came into his bedroom, looking like some
queer oriental bird, vivid and strangely unlike herself.
"I saw your light. Heavens, what a party!"
"I'm glad you enjoyed it. I hope you didn't mind my not going on."
"I wish you had. Clay, you'll never guess what happened."
"Probably not. What?"
"Well, Audrey just made it, that's all. Funny! I wish you'd seen
some of their faces. Of course she was disgraceful, but she took
it off right away. But it was like her - no one else would have
His mouth felt dry. Audrey - disgraceful!
"It was in the stable, you know, I told you. And just at midnight
the doors opened and a big white horse leaped in with Audrey on his
back. No saddle - nothing. She was dressed like a bare-back rider
in the circus, short tulle skirts and tights. They nearly mobbed
her with joy." She yawned. "Well, I'm off to bed."
He roused himself.
"A happy New-year, my dear."
"Thanks," she said, and wandered out, her absurd feathered tail
trailing behind her.
He lay back and closed his eyes. So Audrey had done that, Audrey,
who had been in his mind all those sleepless hours; for he knew now
that back of all his resolutions to do better had been the thought
He felt disappointed and bitter. The sad disillusion of the middle
years, still heroically clinging to faiths that one after another
destroyed themselves, was his.
Audrey was frightened. She did not care a penny's worth what her
little world thought. Indeed, she knew that she had given it a new
thrill and so had won its enthusiastic approval. She was afraid of
what Clayton would think.
She was absurdly quiet and virtuous all the next day, gathered out
her stockings and mended them; began a personal expenditure account
for the New-year, heading it carefully with "darning silk, 50 cents";
wrote a long letter to Chris, and - listened for the telephone. If
only he would call her, so she could explain. Still, what could she
explain? She had done it. It was water over the dam - and it is
no fault of Audrey's that she would probably have spelled it "damn."
By noon she was fairly abject. She did not analyze her own anxiety,
or why the recollection of her escapade, which would a short time
before have filled her with a sort of unholy joy, now turned her
sick and trembling.
Then, in the middle of the afternoon, Clay called her up. She gasped
a little when she heard his voice.
"I wanted to tell you, Audrey," he said, "that we can probably use
the girl you spoke about, rather soon."
"Very well. Thank you. Is - wasn't there something else, too?"
"You are angry, aren't you?"
"Surprised. Not angry. I haven't any possible right to be angry."
"Will you come up and let me tell you about it, Clay?"
"I don't see how that will help any."
"It will help me."
He laughed at that; her new humility was so unlike her.
"Why, of course I'll come, Audrey," he said, and as he rang off he
was happier than he had been all day.
He was coming. Audrey moved around the little room, adjusting
chairs, rearranging the flowers that had poured in on New-year's
day, brushing the hearth. And as she worked she whistled. He
would be getting into the car now. He would be so far on his way.
He would be almost there. She ran into her bedroom and powdered
her nose, with her lips puckered, still whistling, and her heart
But he scolded her thoroughly at first.
"Why on earth did you do it," he finished. "I still can't
understand. I see you one day, gravity itself, a serious young
woman - as you are to-day. And then I hear - it isn't like you,
"Oh yes, it is. It's exactly like me. Like one me. There are
others, of course."
She told him then, making pitiful confession of her own pride and
her anxiety to spare Chris's name.
"I couldn't bear to have them suspect he had gone to the war because
of a girl. Whatever he ran away from, Clay, he's doing all right
He listened gravely, with, toward the end, a jealousy he would not
have acknowledged even to himself. Was it possible that she still
loved Chris? Might she not, after the fashion of women, be building
a new and idealized Chris, now that he had gone to war, out of his
very common clay?
"He has done splendidly," he agreed.
Again the warmth and coziness of the little room enveloped him.
Audrey's low huskily sweet voice, her quick smile, her new and
unaccustomed humility, and the odd sense of her understanding,
comforted him. She made her indefinite appeal to the best that
was in him.
Nothing so ennobles a man as to have some woman believe in his
"Clay," she said suddenly, "you are worrying about something."
"Nothing that won't straighten out, in time."
"Would it help to talk about it?"
He realized that he had really come to her to talk about it. It
had been in the back of his head all the time.
"I'm rather anxious about Graham."
"I'm afraid she's got him, Clay. There isn't a trick in the game
she doesn't know. He had about as much chance as I have of being
twenty again. She wants to make a wealthy marriage, and she's
picked on Graham. That's all."
"It isn't only Marion. I'm afraid there's another girl, a girl at
the mill - his stenographer. I have no proof of anything. In fact,
I don't think there is anything yet. She's in love with him,
probably, or she thinks she is. I happened on them together, and
she looked - Of course, if what you say about Marion is true, he
can not care for her, even, well, in any way."
"Oh, nonsense, Clay. A man - especially a boy - can love a
half-dozen girls. He can be crazy about any girl he is with. It
may not be love, but it plays the same tricks with him that the
real thing does."
"I can't believe that."
"No. You wouldn't."
She leaned back and watched him. How much of a boy he was himself,
anyhow! And yet how little he understood the complicated problems
of a boy like Graham, irresponsible but responsive, rich without
labor, with time for the sort of dalliance Clay himself at the same
age had had neither leisure nor inclination to indulge.
He was wandering about the room, his hands in his pockets, his head
bent. When he stopped:
"What am I to do with the girl, Audrey?"
"Get rid of her. That's easy."
"Not so easy as it sounds."
He told her of Dunbar and the photographs, of Rudolph Klein, and
the problem as he saw it.
"So there I am," he finished. "If I let her go, I lose one of the
links in Dunbar's chain. If I keep her?"
"Can't Natalie talk to him? Sometimes a woman can get to the bottom
of these things when a man can't. He might tell her all about it."
"Possibly. But I think it unlikely Natalie would tell me."
She leaned over and patted his hand impulsively.
"What devils we women are!" she said. "Now and then one of us gets
what she deserves. That's me. And now and then one of us get's
something she doesn't deserve. And that's Natalie. She's
over-indulgent to Graham."
"He is all she has."
"She has you."
Something in her voice made him turn and look at her.
"That ought to be something, you know," she added. And laughed a
"Does Natalie pay his debts?"
"I rather think so."
But that was a subject he could not go on with.
"The fault is mine. I know my business better than I know how to
handle my life, or my family. I don't know why I trouble you with
it all, anyhow. You have enough." He hesitated. "That's not
exactly true, either. I do know. I'm relying on your woman's wit
to help me. I'm wrong somehow."
"I have a curious feeling that I am losing him. I can't ask for
his confidence. I can't, apparently, even deserve it. I see him,
day after day, with all the good stuff there is in him, working as
little as he can, drinking more than he should, out half the night,
running into debt - good heavens, Audrey, what can I do?"
"Of course, you know one thing that would save him, Clay?"
"Our getting into the war."
"I ought not to have to lose my boy in order to find him. But - we
are going to be in it."
He had risen and was standing, an elbow on the mantel-piece, looking
down at her.
"I suppose every man wonders, once in a while, how he'd conduct
himself in a crisis. When the Lusitania went down I dare say a
good many fellows wondered if they'd have been able to keep their
coward bodies out of the boats. I know I did. And I wonder about
myself now. What can I do if we go into the war? I couldn't do a
forced march of more than five miles. I can't drill, or whatever
they call it. I can shoot clay pigeons, but I don't believe I
could hit a German coming at me with a bayonet at twenty feet. I'd
be pretty much of a total loss. Yet I'll want to do something."
And when she sat, very silent, looking into the fire: "You see,
you think it absurd yourself."
"Hardly absurd," she roused herself to look up at him. "If it is,
it's the sort of splendid absurdity I am proud of. I was wondering
what Natalie would say."
"I don't believe it lies between a man and his wife. It's between
him and his God."
He was rather ashamed of that, however, and soon after he went away.
Natalie Spencer was finding life full of interest that winter. Now
and then she read the headings in the newspapers, not because she
was really interested, but that she might say, at the dinner-party
which was to her the proper end of a perfect day:
"What do you think of Turkey declaring her independence?"
"I see we have taken the Etoile Wood."
Clayton had overheard her more than once, and had marveled at the
dexterity with which, these leaders thrown out, she was able to
avoid committing herself further.
The new house engrossed her. She was seeing a great deal of Rodney,
too, and now and then she had fancied that there was a different
tone in Rodney's voice when he addressed her. She never analyzed
that tone, or what it suggested, but it gave her a new interest in
life. She was always marceled, massaged, freshly manicured. And
she had found a new facial treatment. Clayton, in his room at night,
could hear the sharp slapping of flesh on flesh, as Madeleine gently
pounded certain expensive creams into the skin of her face and neck.
She refused all forms of war activity, although now and then she
put some appeal before Clayton and asked him if he cared to send a
check. He never suggested that she answer any of these demands
personally, after an experience early in the winter.
"Why don't you send it yourself?" he had asked. "Wouldn't you like
it to go in your name?"
"It doesn't matter. I don't know any of the committee."
He had tried to explain what he meant.
"You might like to feel that you are doing something."
"I thought my allowance was only to dress on. If I'm to attend to
charities, too, you'll have to increase it."
"But," he argued patiently, "if you only sent them twenty-five
dollars, did without some little thing to do it, you'd feel rather
more as though you were giving, wouldn't you?"
"Twenty-five dollars! And be laughed at!"
He had given in then.
"If I put an extra thousand dollars to your account to-morrow, will
you check it out to this fund?"
"It's too much."
"Yes, of course," she had agreed, indifferently. And he had notified
her that the money was in the bank. But two months later the list of
contributors was published, and neither his name nor Natalie's was
Toward personal service she had no inclination whatever. She would
promise anything, but the hour of fulfilling always found her with
something else to do. Yet she had kindly impulses, at times, when
something occurred to take her mind from herself. She gave liberally
to street mendicants. She sent her car to be used by those of her
friends who had none. She was lavish with flowers to the sick
- although Clayton paid her florist bills.
She was lavish with money - but never with herself.
In the weeks after the opening of the new year Clayton found himself
watching her. He wondered sometimes just what went on in her mind
during the hours when she sat, her hands folded, gazing into space.
He could not tell. He surmised her planning, always planning; the
new house, a gown, a hat, a party.
But late in January he began to think that she was planning something
else. Old Terry Mackenzie had been there one night, and he had
asserted not only that war was coming, but that we would be driven
to conscription to raise an army.
"They've all had to come to it," he insisted. "And we will, as sure
as God made little fishes. You can't raise a million volunteers for
a war that's three thousand miles away."