Part 4 out of 6
into his mood. "Come out," he said, then, "I want to speak to you."
But Joan let her fingers wander into a waltz and raised her
eyebrows. "Do I look so much like Alice that you can order me
about?" she asked.
He turned on his heel with the look of a dog at which a stone had
been flung by a friend, and disappeared.
Two minutes later there was a light touch on his arm, and Joan stood
at his side on the veranda. "Well, Gilbert," she said, "it's good to
see you again."
"So good that I might be a man touting for an encyclopedia," he
She sat upon the rough stone wall and crossed her little feet. Her
new frock was white and soft and very perfectly simple. It demanded
the young body of a nymph,--and was satisfied. The magic of the moon
was on her. She might have been Spring resting after a dancing day.
"If you were," she said, taking a delight in unspoiling this
immaculate man, "I'm afraid you'd never get an order from me. Of all
things the encyclopedia must be accompanied by a winning smile and
irresistible manners. I suppose you've done lots of amusing things
since I saw you last."
He went nearer so that her knees almost touched him. "No," he said.
"Only one, and that was far from amusing. It has marked me like a
blow. I've been waiting for you. Where have you been, and why
haven't you taken the trouble to write me a single letter?"
"I've been ill," she said. "Yes, I have. Quite ill. I deliberately
set out to hurt myself and succeeded. It was an experiment that I
sha'n't repeat. I don't regret it. It taught me something that I
shall never forget. Never too young to learn, eh? Isn't it lovely
here? Just smell the sea, and look at those lights bobbing up and
down out there. I never feel any interest in ships in the daytime,
but at night, when they lie at anchor, and I can see nothing but
their lonely eyes, I would give anything to be able to fly round
them like a gull and peep into their cabins. Do they affect you like
Palgrave wasn't listening to her. It was enough to look at her and
refresh his memory. She had been more than ever in his blood all
these weeks. She was like water in a desert or sunlight to a man who
comes up from a mine. He had found her again and he thanked whatever
god he recognized for that, but he was forced to realize from her
imperturbable coolness and unaffected ease that she was farther away
from him than ever. To one of his temperament and schooling this was
hard to bear with any sort of self-control. The fact that he wanted
her of all the creatures on earth, that she, alone among women, had
touched the fuse of his desire, and that, knowing this, she could
sit there a few inches from his lips and put a hundred miles between
them, maddened him, from whom nothing hitherto had been impossible.
"Have I got to begin all over again?" he asked, with a sort of
"Begin what, Gilbert?" There was great satisfaction in playing with
one who thought that he had only to touch a bell to bring the moon
and the sun and the stars to his bidding.
"Good God," he cried out. "You're like wet sand on which a man
expects to find yesterday's footmarks. Hasn't anything of me and the
things I've said to you remained in your memory?"
"Of course," she said. "I shall never forget the night you took me
to the Brevoort, for instance, and supplied the key to all the
people with unkempt hair and comic ties."
Some one on the beach below shot out a low whistle.
A little thrill ran through Joan. In ten minutes, perhaps less, she
would be dancing once more to the lunatic medley of a Jazz band,
dancing with a boy who gave her all that she needed of him and asked
absolutely nothing of her; dancing among people who were less than
the dust in the scheme of things, so far as she was concerned,
except to give movement and animation to the room and to be steered
through. That was the right attitude towards life and its millions,
she told herself. As salt was to an egg so was the element of false
romance to this Golf Club dance. In a minute she would get rid of
Palgrave, yes, even the fastidious Gilbert Palgrave, who had never
been able quite to disguise the fact that his love for her was
something of a condescension; she would fly in the face of the
unwritten law of the pompous house on the dunes and mingle with what
Hosack had called the crowd from the hotel. It was all laughable and
petty, but it was what she wanted to do. It was all in the spirit of
"Who Cares?" that she had caught at again. Why worry as to what Mrs.
Hosack might say or Palgrave might feel? Wasn't she as free as the
air to follow her whims without a soul to make a claim upon her or
to hold out a hand to stop?
Through these racing thoughts she heard Palgrave talking and
crickets rasping and frogs croaking and a sudden burst of laughter
and talk in the drawing-room,--and the whistle come again.
"Yes," she said, because yes was as good as any other word. "Well,
Gilbert, dear, if you're not an early bird you will see me again
later,"--and jumped down from the wall.
"Where are you going?"
"Does that matter?"
"Yes, it does. I want you here. I've been waiting all these weeks."
She laughed. "It's a free country," she said, "and you have the
right to indulge in any hobby that amuses you. Au revoir, old
thing." And she spread out her arms like wings and flew to the steps
and down to the beach and away with some one who had sent out a
"That boy," said Palgrave. "I'm to be turned down for a cursed boy!
By God, we'll know about that."
And he followed, seeing red.
He saw them get into a low-lying two-seater built on racing lines,
heard a laugh flutter into the air, watched the tail light sweep
round the drive and become smaller and smaller along the road.
So that was it, was it? He had been relegated to the hangers-on,
reduced to the ranks, put into the position of any one of the number
of extraneous men who hung round this girl-child for a smile and a
word! That was the way he was to be treated, he, Gilbert Palgrave,
the connoisseur, the decorative and hitherto indifferent man who had
refused to be subjected to any form of discipline, who had never,
until Joan had come into his life, allowed any one to put him a
single inch out of his way, who had been triumphantly one-eyed and
selfish,--that was the way he was to be treated by the very girl who
had fulfilled his once wistful hope of making him stand, eager and
startled and love-sick among the chaos of individualism and
indolence, who had shaken him into the Great Emotion! Yes, by God,
he'd know about that.
Bare-headed and surging with untranslatable anger he started
walking. He was in no mood to go into the drawing-room and cut into
a game of bridge and show his teeth and talk the pleasant inanities
of polite society. All the stucco of civilization fell about him in
slabs as he made his way with long strides out of the Hosacks'
place, across the sandy road and on to the springy turf of the golf
links. It didn't matter where he went so long as he got elbow room
for his indignation, breathing space for his rage and a wide
loneliness for his blasphemy. . . .
He had stood humble and patient before this virginal girl. He had
confessed himself to her with the tremendous honesty of a man made
simple by an overwhelming love. She was married. So was he. But what
did that matter to either of them whose only laws were self-made?
The man to whom she was not even tied meant as little to her as the
girl he had foolishly married meant or would ever mean to him. He
had placed himself at her beck and call. In order to give her
amusement he had taken her to places in which he wouldn't have been
seen dead, had danced his good hours of sleep away for the pleasure
of seeing her pleased, had revolutionized his methods with women and
paid her tribute by the most scrupulous behavior and, finally,
instead of setting out to turn her head with pearls and diamonds and
carry her by storm while she was under the hypnotic influence of
priceless glittering things for bodily adornment, which render so
many women easy to take, he had recognized her as intelligent and
paid her the compliment of treating her as such, had stated his case
and waited for the time when the blaze of love would set her alight
and bring her to his arms.
There was something more than mere egotism in all this,--the natural
egotism of a man of great wealth and good looks, who had walked
through life on a metaphorical red carpet pelted with flowers by
adoring women to whom even virtue was well lost in return for his
attention. Joan, like the spirit of spring, had come upon Palgrave
at that time of his life when youth had left him and he had stood at
the great crossroads, one leading down through a morass of self-
indulgence to a hideous senility, the other leading up over the
stones of sacrifice and service to a dignified usefulness. Her fresh
young beauty and enthusiasm, her golden virginity and unself-
consciousness, her unaffected joy in being alive, her superb health
and vitality had shattered his conceit and self-obsession, broken
down his aloofness and lack of scruple and filled the empty frame
that he had hung in his best thoughts with her face and form.
There was something of the great lover about Palgrave in his new and
changed condition. He had laid everything unconditionally at the
feet of this young thing. He had shown a certain touch of bigness,
of nobility, he of all men, when, after his outburst in the little
drawing-room that night, he had stood back to wait until Joan had
grown up. He had waited for six weeks, going through tortures of
Joan-sickness that were agonizing. He had asked her to do what she
could for him in the way of a little kindness, but had not received
one single line. He was prepared to continue to wait because he knew
his love to be so great that it must eventually catch hold of her
like the licking flame of a prairie fire. It staggered him to arrive
at the Hosacks' place and find her fooling with a smooth-faced lad.
It outraged him to be left cold, as though he were a mere member of
the house party and watch her to whom he had thrown open his soul go
joy-riding with a cursed boy. It was, in a sort of way, heresy. It
proved an almost unbelievable inability to realize the great thing
that this was. Such love as his was not an everyday affair, to be
treated lightly and carelessly. It was, on the contrary, rare and
wonderful and as such to be, at any rate, respected. That's how it
seemed to him, and by God he would see about it.
He drew up short, at last, on his strange walk across the undulating
course. The light from the Country Club streamed across his feet,
and the jangle of the Jazz band broke into his thoughts. From where
he stood, surprised to find himself in civilization, he could see
the crowd of dancers through the open windows of what resembled a
huge bungalow, at one side of which a hundred motor cars were
parked. He went nearer, drawn forward against his will. He was in no
mood to watch a summer dance of the younger set. He made his way to
the wide veranda and stood behind the rocking chairs of parents and
friends. But not for more than fifty seconds. There was Joan, with
her lovely laughing face alight with the joy of movement, held in
the arms of the cursed boy. Between two chairs he went, into and
across the room in which he was a trespasser, tapped young Oldershaw
sharply on the arm, cut into the dance, and before the boy could
recover from his surprise, was out of reach with Joan against his
"Oh, well done, Gilbert," said Joan, a little breathlessly. "When
Marty did that to you at the Crystal Room . . ."
She stopped, and a shadow fell on her face and a little tremble ran
across her lips.
Smoking a cigarette on the veranda young Oldershaw waited for the
dance to end. It was encored several times but being a sportsman and
having achieved a monopoly of Joan during all the previous dances,
he let this man enjoy his turn. He was a great friend of hers, she
had said on the way to the club, and was, without doubt, a very
perfect person with his wide-set eyes and well-groomed head, his
smooth moustache and the cleft on his chin. He didn't like him. He
had decided that at a first glance. He was too supercilious and
self-assured and had a way of looking clean through men's heads. He
conveyed the impression of having bought the earth,--and Joan. A
pity he was too old for a year or two of Yale. That would make him a
bit more of a man.
When presently the Jazzers paused in order to recuperate,--every one
of them deserving first aid for the wounded,--and Joan came out for
a little air with Palgrave, Harry strolled up. This was his evening,
and in a perfectly nice way he conveyed that impression by his
manner. He was, moreover, quite determined to give nothing more
away. He conveyed that, also.
"Shall we sit on the other side?" he asked. "The breeze off the sea
keeps the mosquitoes away a bit."
Refusing to acknowledge his existence Palgrave guided Joan towards a
vacant chair. He went on with what he had been saying and swung the
Joan was smiling again.
Oldershaw squared his jaw. "I advise against this side, Joan," he
said. "Let me take you round."
He earned a quick amused look and a half shrug of white shoulders
from Joan. Palgrave continued to talk in a low confidential voice.
He regarded Oldershaw's remarks as no more of an interruption than
the chorus of the frogs. Oldershaw's blood began to boil, and he had
a queer prickly sensation at the back of his neck. Whoo, but there'd
have to be a pretty good shine in a minute, he said to himself. This
man Palgrave must be taught.
He marched up to Joan and held out his arm. "We may as well get
back," he said. "The band's going to begin again."
But Joan sat down, looking from one man to the other. All the woman
in her revelled in this rivalry,--all that made her long-dead
sisters crowd to the arenas, wave to armored knights in deadly
combat, lean forward in grand stands to watch the Titanic struggles
of Army and Navy, Yale and Harvard on the football field. Her eyes
danced, her lips were parted a little, her young bosom rose and
"And so you see," said Palgrave, putting his hand on the back of her
chair, "I can stay as long as the Hosacks will have me, and one day
I'll drive you over to my bachelor cottage on the dune. It will
"The only thing that has any interest at the moment is dancing,"
said Oldershaw loudly. "By the way, you don't happen to be a member
of the club, do you, Mr. Palgrave?"
With consummate impudence Palgrave caught his eye and made a sort of
policeman gesture. "Run away, my lad," he said, "run away and amuse
yourself." He almost asked for death.
With a thick mutter that sounded like "My God," Oldershaw balanced
himself to hit, his face the color of a beet-root,--and instantly
Joan was on her feet between them with a hand on the boy's chest.
"No murder here," she said, "please!"
"Murder!" echoed Palgrave, scoffing.
"Yes, murder. Can't you see that this boy could take you and break
you like a dry twig? Let's go back, all three of us. We don't want
to become the center of a sight-seeing crowd." And she took an arm
of each shaking man and went across the drive to where the car was
And so the danger moment was evaded,--young Oldershaw warm with
pride, Palgrave sullen and angry. They made a trio which had its
prototypes all the way back to the beginning of the world.
It did Palgrave no good to crouch ignominiously on the step of the
car which Oldershaw drove back hell for leather.
The bridge tables were still occupied. The white lane was still
across the sea. Frogs and crickets still continued their noisy
rivalry, but it was a different climate out there on the dunes from
that of the village with its cloying warmth.
Palgrave went into the house at once with a brief "Thank you." Joan
waited while Harry put the car into a garage. Bed made no appeal.
Bridge bored,--it required concentration. She would play the game of
sex with Gilbert if he were to be found. So the boy had to be
"Harry," she said, when he joined her, chuckling at having come top
dog out of the recent blaze, "you'd better go straight to bed now.
We're going to be up early in the morning, you know."
"Just what I was thinking," he answered. "By Jove, you've given me a
corking good evening. The best of my young life. You . . . you
certainly are,--well, I don't know how to do you justice. I'd have
to be a poet." He fumbled for her hand and kissed it a little
They went in. "You're a nice boy, Harry," she said. There was
something in his charming simplicity and muscular strength that
reminded her of,--but she refused to let the name enter her mind.
"I could have broken that chap like a dry twig, too, easy. Who does
he think he is?" He would have pawned his life at that moment for
the taste of her lips.
She stood at the bottom of the stairs and held out her hand. "Good
night, old boy," she said.
And he took it and hurt it. "Good night, Joany," he answered.
That pet name hurt her more than his eager grasp. It was Marty's own
She threw up her head and stamped her foot, and slammed the door of
her thoughts. "Who cares?" she said to herself, challenging life and
fate. "Come on. Make things move."
She saw Palgrave standing alone in the library looking at the sea.
"You might be Canute," she said lightly.
His face was curiously white. "I'm off in the morning," he said. "We
may as well say good-by now."
"Good-by, then," she answered.
"I can't stay in this cursed place and let you play the fool with
"Why should you?"
"There'll be Hosack and the others as well as your new pet."
He caught her suddenly by the arms. "Damn you," he said. "I wish to
God I'd never seen you."
She laughed. "Cave man stuff, eh?"
He let her go. She had the most perfect way of reducing him to
"I love you," he said. "I love you. Aren't you going to try, even to
try, to love me back?"
"Never." She went up to him and stood straight and slim and
bewitching, eye to eye. "If you want me to love you, make me. Work
for it, move Heaven and earth. You can't leave it to me. I don't
want to love you. I'm perfectly happy as I am. If you want me, win
me, carry me off my feet and then you shall see what it is to be
loved. It's entirely up to you, understand that. I shall fight
against it tooth and nail, but I give you leave to do your best. Do
you accept the challenge?"
"Yes," he said, and his face cleared, and his eyes blazed.
At the moment when the Nice Boy, as brown as the proverbial berry,
was playing a round of golf with Joan within sound of the sea,
Howard Oldershaw, his cousin, drove up to the little house in East
Sixty-fifth Street to see Martin.
He, too, had caught the sun, and his round fat face was rounder and
fatter than ever. He, too, had the epitome of health, good nature,
and misdirected energy. He performed a brief but very perfect double
shuffle on the top step while waiting for the door to open, and then
barged past the constitutionally unsurprised man servant, sang out a
loud woo-hoo and blew into the library like an equinoctial gale.
Pipe in mouth, and wearing a thin silk dressing gown, Martin was
standing under the portrait of his father. He slipped something
quickly into his pocket and turned about. It was a photograph of
"Well, you Jack-o'-Lantern," he said. "It's better late than never,
Howard sent his straw hat spinning across the room. It landed
expertly in a chair. "My dear chap, your note's been lying in my
apartment for a week, snowed under my bills. I drove back this
morning, washed the bricks out of my eyes and came right around.
What are you grumbling about?"
"I'm not grumbling. When you didn't show up in answer to my note I
telephoned, and they told me you were away. Where've you been?"
"Putting in a week at the Field Club at Greenwich," replied Howard,
filling a large cigarette case from the nearest box, as was his most
friendly habit. "Two sweaters, tennis morning, noon and night, no
sugar, no beer, no butter, no bread, gallons of hot water--and look
at me! Martin, it's a tragedy. If I go on like this, it's me for
Barnum's Circus as the world's prize pig. What's the trouble?"
There was not the usual number of laughter lines round Martin's
eyes, but one or two came back at the sight and sound of his
exuberant friend. "No trouble," he said, lying bravely. "I got here
the day you left and tried to find you. That's all. I wanted you to
come down to Shinnecock and play golf. Everybody else seems to be at
Plattsburg, and I was at a loose end."
"Golf's no good to me. It wouldn't reduce me any more than playing
the piano with somebody dying in the next room. Been here all the
"Yes," said Martin.
"What? In this fug hole, with the sun shining? Out with it, Martin.
Get it off your chest, old son."
Just for an instant Martin was hugely tempted to make a clean breast
of everything to this good-hearted, tempestuous person, under whose
tight skin there was an uncommon amount of shrewdness. But it meant
dragging Joan into open discussion, and that was all against his
creed. He had inherited from his father and his father's father an
absolute incapability of saying anything to anybody about his wife.
And so he slammed the door of his soul and presented an enigmatical
"There's nothing on my chest," he said. "Business downtown has kept
me here,--legal stuff and that sort of thing. But I'm free now. Got
Howard accepted this. If a pal was determined not to confide and get
invaluable advice, what was the use of going for him with a can
opener? But one good look at the face whose every expression he knew
so well convinced him that something was very much the matter. "Why,
good Lord," he said to himself, "the old thing looks as if he'd been
working night and day for an examination and had been plucked. I
wonder which of the two girls is at the back of all this,--the wife
or the other?" Rumors had reached his way about both.
"What do you want to do?" he asked.
"I don't care," said Martin. "Any damn thing so long as it's
something with somebody. What's it matter?"
He didn't quite manage to hide the little quiver in his voice, and
it came to Howard Oldershaw for the first time how young they both
were to be floundering on the main road, himself with several
entanglements and money worries, his friend married and with another
complication. They were both making a pretty fine hash of things, it
seemed, and just for a moment, with something of boyishness that
still remained behind his sophistication, he wished that they were
both back at Yale, unhampered and unencumbered, their days filled
with nothing but honest sport and good lectures and the whole joy of
"It's like this with me, Martin," he said, with a rather rueful
grin. "I'm out of favor at home just now and broke to the wide.
There are one or two reasons why I should lie low for a while, too.
How about going out to your place in the country? I'll hit the wily
ball with you and exercise your horses, lead the simple life and,
please God, lose some flesh, and guarantee to keep you merry and
bright in my well-known, resilient way. What do you say, old son?"
Martin heartily appreciated Howard's sound method of swinging
everything round to himself and trying to make out that it was all
on his side to go out to the house in which Joan ought to be. He was
not a horseman or a golfer, and the simple life had few attractions
for him. Well, that was friendship.
"Thanks, old man," he said. "That's you to the life, but I vote we
get a change from golf and riding. Come down to Devon with me, and
let's do some sailing. You remember Gilmore? I had a letter from him
this morning, asking if I'd like to take his cottage and yawl. Does
that sound good?"
"Great," cried Howard. "Sailing--that's the game, and by gum,
swimming's the best of all ways of dropping adipose deposit. Wire
Gilmore and fix it. I'll drive you out to-morrow. By the way, I
found a letter from my cousin Harry among the others. He's in that
part of the world. He's frightfully gone on your wife, it appears."
Martin looked up quickly. "Where is she?" he asked.
"Why, they're both staying at the Hosacks' place at Easthampton.
Didn't you know that?" He was incredulous.
"No," said Martin.
Howard metaphorically clapped his hand over his mouth. Questions
were on the tip of his tongue. If Martin were not in the mood to
take him into his confidence, however, there must be a good reason
for it, but,--not to know where his wife was! What on earth was at
the bottom of all this? "All right," he said. "I've one or two
things I must do, and I'll be round in the morning, or is that too
"The sooner the better," said Martin. "I'll send the cook and Judson
down by the early train. They'll have things in shape by the time we
show up. I'm fed up with New York and can smell the water already.
Will you dine with me to-night and see a show?"
"I can't," said Howard, and laughed.
"I see. To-morrow, then."
"Right. Great work. So long, old son. Get busy and do what you have
to do to-day, then we can leave this frying pan to-morrow with
nothing on our minds."
"I haven't anything to do," said Martin.
Howard picked up his hat and caught it with his head in the manner
of a vaudeville artist. But he didn't go. He stood waiting, keyed to
a great sympathy. There was something in Martin's voice and at the
back of his eyes which made him see him plainly and suddenly as a
man standing all alone and wounded. But he waited in vain. There was
a curious silence,--a rather painful and embarrassing silence,
during which these two lads, who had been pretending to be men,
dodged each other's eyes.
And then Howard, with an uncharacteristic awkwardness, and looking
very young, made a quick step forward, and with a sort of gentle
roughness grasped Martin by the arm. "But you've got something to
say," he said. "Good God, man, have we been pals for nothing? I hide
nothing from you. I can help."
But Martin shook his head. He tried to speak and failed. There was
something hard in his throat. But he put his hand very warmly on his
friend's shoulder for a moment and turned away abruptly. "Joan,
Joan," he cried in his heart, "what are you doing, what are we both
doing? Why are we killing the days that can never come back?"
He heard Howard go out. He heard the front door close and the honk
of the horn. And for a long time he stood beneath the portrait of
the man who had gone so far away and who alone could have helped
The telephone bell rang.
Martin was spoken to by the girl that lived in the rabbit warren in
West Forty-sixth Street in the rooms below those of Tootles. "Can
you come round at once?" she asked. "It's about Tootles--urgent."
And Martin answered, "Yes, now, at once."
After all, then, there might be something to do.
Master of all the sky, the sun fell warmly on the city, making
delicious shadows, gliding giant buildings, streaming across the
park, chasing the endless traffic along the Avenue, and catching at
points of color. It was one of those splendid mornings of full-blown
Tune, when even New York,--that paradox of cities,--had beauty. It
was too early in the year for the trees to have grown blowsy and the
grass worn and burnt. The humidity of midsummer was held back by the
energy of a merry breeze which teased the flags and sent them
spinning against the oriental blue of the spotless sky.
Martin walked to West Forty-sixth Street. There was an air of half-
time about the Avenue. The ever-increasingly pompous and elaborate
shops, whose window contents never seem to vary, wore a listless,
uninterested expression like that of a bookmaker during the luncheon
hour at the races. Their glittering smile, their enticement and
solicitation, their tempting eye-play were relaxed. The cocottes of
Monte Carlo at the end of the season could not have assumed a
greater indifference. But there were the same old diamonds and
pearls, the same old canvases, the same old photographs, the same
old antiques, the same old frocks and shoes and men's shirtings, the
same old Persian rugs and Japanese ware, the same cold, hard plates
and china, the very same old hats and dinks and dressing-gowns and
cut flowers and clubs, and all the same doormen in the uniforms that
are a cross between those of admirals and generals, the men whose
only exercise during the whole of the year is obtained by cutting
ice and sweeping snow from just their particular patch of pavement.
In all the twists and changes, revolutions and cross currents,
upheavals and in-fallings that affect this world, there is one great
street which, except for a new building here and there, resolutely
maintains its persistent sameness. Its face is like that of a large,
heavily made-up and not unbeautiful woman, veil-less and with some
dignity but only two expressions, enticement and indifference. A man
may be lost at the North Pole, left to die on the west coast of
Africa, married in London, or forcibly detained in Siberia, but, let
him return to life and New York, and he will find that whatever
elsewhere Anno Domini may have defaced and civilization made
different, next to nothing has happened to Fifth Avenue.
Martin had told Howard of the way he had found Joan on the hill, how
she had climbed out of window that night and come to him to be
rescued and how he had brought her to town to find Alice Palgrave
away and married her. All that, but not one word of his having been
shown the door on the night of the wedding, of her preference for
Palgrave, her plunge into night life, or his own odd hut human
adventure with Susie Capper as a result of the accident. But for the
fact that it wasn't his way to speak about his wife whatever she did
or left undone, Martin would have been thankful to have made a clean
breast of everything. Confession is good for the soul, and Martin's
young soul needed to be relieved of many bewilderments and pains and
questionings. He wished that he could have continued the story to
Howard of the kid's way Joan had treated him,--a way which had left
him stultified,--of how, touched by the tragedy that had reduced the
poor little waif of the chorus to utter grief and despair, he had
taken her out to the country to get healing in God's roofless
cathedral, and of how, treating her, because of his love and
admiration of Joan, with all the respect and tenderness that he
would have shown a sister, it had given him the keenest pleasure and
delight to help her back to optimism and sanity. He would like to
have told Howard all the simple and charming details of that good
week, giving him a sympathetic picture of the elfish Tootles
enjoying her brief holiday out in the open, and of her recovery
under the inspiration of trees and flowers and brotherliness, to all
of which she was so pathetically unaccustomed. He wouldn't have told
of the many efforts made by Tootles to pay him back in the only way
that seemed to her to be possible, even if he had known of them,--he
had not been on the lookout for anything of that sort. Nor would he,
of course, have gone into the fact that Tootles loved him quite as
much as he loved Joan,--he knew nothing of that. But he would have
said much of the joy that turned cold at the sight of Joan's face
when she saw Tootles lying on the sofa in his den, of her rush to
get away, of the short, sharp scene which followed her unexpected
visit, and of his having driven Tootles back to town the following
morning at her urgent request,--a curious, quiet Tootles with the
marks of a sleepless night on her face. Also he would have said
something of his wild despair at having been just ten minutes too
late to find Joan at the house in East Sixty-fifth Street, of his
futile attempts to discover where she had gone, and of the ghastly,
mystifying days back in the country, waiting and wondering and
writing letters that he never posted,--utterly unaware of the
emotion which had prompted Joan to walk into his den that night, but
quite certain of the impression that she had taken away with her.
It was with a sense of extraordinary isolation that Martin walked
down Fifth Avenue. Two good things had, however, come out of his
talk with Howard Oldershaw. One was the certainty of this man's
friendship. The other the knowledge of the place at which Joan was
staying. This last fact made him all the more anxious to get down to
the cottage. Devon was only a short drive from Easthampton, and that
meant the possibility of seeing and speaking to Joan. Good God, if
only she could understand a little of what she meant to him, and how
he craved and pined for her.
The dressmaker on the street floor of the rabbit warren had gone out
of business. Failed probably, poor thing. Tootles had once said that
the only people she ever saw in the shop were pressing creditors. A
colored woman of bulbous proportions and stertorous breathing was
giving a catlick to the dirty stairway. A smell of garlic and onions
met Martin on his way to the rooms of Tootles' friend, and on the
first landing he drew back to let two men pass down who looked like
movie actors. They wore violet ties and tight-fitting jackets with
trench belts and short trousers that should have been worn by their
younger brothers. The actor on the next floor, unshaven and
obviously just out of bed, was cooking breakfast in his cubby-hole.
He wore the upper part of his pajamas and a pair of incredibly dirty
flannel trousers. The marks of last night's grease paint were on his
temples and eyebrows. He hummed a little song to the accompaniment
of sizzling bacon.
When Martin knocked on the door of the apartment of the girl to whom
he had never spoken except over the telephone and whose name he
remembered to be Irene Stanton, a high-pitched, nasal voice cried
"Come right in." He went right in and was charged at by a half-bred
Chow whose bark was like a gunman's laugh, and a tiny pink beast
which worked itself into a state of hysterical rage. But when a
high-heeled shoe was flung at them from the bedroom, followed by a
volley of fruit-carrier words of the latest brand, they retired,
awed and horror-stricken, to cover.
Martin found himself in a small, square living room with two windows
looking over the intimate backs of other similar houses. Under the
best of conditions it was not a room of very comfortable
possibilities. In the hands of its present occupant, it was, to
Martin's eyes, the most depressing and chaotic place he had ever
seen. The cheap furniture and the cheaper wall paper went well with
a long-unwhite-washed ceiling and smudged white paint. A line of
empty beer bottles which stood on a mantelpiece littered with
unframed photographs and dog-eared Christmas cards struck a note so
blase that it might almost have been committed for a reason. On the
square mission table in the center there was a lamp with a belaced
pink shade at a cock-eyed angle which resembled the bonnet of a
streetwalker in the early hours of the morning. An electric iron
stood coldly beneath it with its wire attached to a fixture in the
wall. Various garments littered the chairs and sofa, and jagged
pieces of newspaper which had been worried by the dogs covered the
But the young woman who shortly made her appearance was very
different from the room. Her frock was neat and clean, her face most
carefully made up, her shoes smart. She had a wide and winning grin,
teeth that should have advertised a toothpaste, and a pair of
dimples which ought to have been a valuable asset to any chorus.
"Why, but you HAVE done a hustle," she said. "I haven't even had
time to tidy up a bit." She cleared a chair and shook a finger at
the dogs, who, sneaking out from under the sofa, were eyeing her
with apprehensive affection. The Chow's mother had evidently lost
her heart to a bulldog. "Excuse the look of this back attic," she
added. "I've got to move, and I'm in the middle of packing."
"Of course," said Martin, eager to know why he had been sent for.
"It's about Tootles, you said."
"Very much so." She sat on the edge of the table, crossed her arms,
and deliberately looked Martin over with expert eyes. Knowing as
much about men as a mechanic of a main-road motor-repairing shop
knows about engines, her examination was acute and thorough.
Martin waited quietly, amused at her coolness, but impatient to come
to cues. She was a good sort, he knew. Tootles had told him so, and
he was certain that she had asked to see him out of friendship for
the girl upstairs.
Her first question was almost as disconcerting and abrupt as a
Zeppelin bomb. "What did you do to Tootles?"
Martin held her examining gaze. "Nothing, except give her a bit of a
holiday," he said.
"I saw you go off with her that morning." She smiled and her eyes
became a little more friendly. "She wrote me a letter from your
place and said she'd found out what song writers meant by the word
"Did she?" said Martin. "I'm glad."
It came to her in a flash that her little pal had fallen in love
with this boy and instantly she understood the mystery of Tootles'
change of method and point of view--her moping, her relaxed grip on
life. She meant almost nothing to the boy and knew it.
"But don't you think you might have been to see her since you
brought her back?" she asked.
"I've been very worried," said Martin simply.
"Is that so?" and then, after another pause, this girl said a second
astonishing thing. "I wish I didn't see in you a man who tells the
truth. I wish you were just one of the ordinary sort that comes our
way. I should know how to deal with you better."
"Tell me what you mean," said Martin.
"Shall I? All right, I will." She stood up with her hands on her
hips. "If you'd played the usual game with little Tootles and
dropped her cold, I wouldn't let you get out of this room without
coming up to scratch. I'd make you cough up a good-sized check.
There's such a thing as playing the game even by us strap-hangers,
you know. As it is, I can see that you were on the square, that
you're a bit of a poet or something and did Tootles a good turn for
nothing, and honestly, I don't know the next move. You don't owe her
anything, you see."
"Is money the trouble?" asked Martin.
Irene Stanton shot out an odd, short laugh. "Let me tell you
something," she said. "You know what happened at the dress rehearsal
of 'The Ukelele Girl'? Well, the word's gone around about her
chucking the show at the last minute, and it's thumbs down for
Tootles. She hadn't a nickel when she came back from your place, and
since then she's pawned herself right down to the bone to pay her
rent and get a few eats. She wouldn't take nothing from me because
I'm out too, and this is a bad time to get into anything new. Only
two things can stop her from being put out at the end of the week.
One's going across the passage to the drunken fellow that writes
music, and the other's telling the tale to you. She won't do either.
I've never seen her the way she is now. She sits around, staring at
the wall, and when I try to put some of her usual pep into her she
won't listen. She's all changed since that taste of the country, and
I figure she won't get on her feet again without a big yank up. She
keeps on saying to herself, like a sort of song, 'Oh, Gawd, for a
sight of the trees,' and I've known girls end it quick when they get
Martin got up. "Where do you keep your pen and ink?" he asked. Poor
old Tootles. There certainly was something to do.
Irene bent forward eagerly. "Are you going to see her through this
"Of course I am."
"Ah, that's the talk. But wait a second. We got to be tricky about
this." She was excited and tremendously in earnest. "If she gets to
know I've been holding out the hat to you, we're wasting time. Give
me the money, see? I'll make up a peach of a story about how it came
to me,--the will of a rich uncle in Wisconsin or something, you
know,--and ask her to come and help me blow it in somewhere on the
coast, see? She gave me three weeks' holiday once. It's my turn now,
me being in luck. . . . But perhaps you don't trust me?"
"You trust me," said Martin, and gave her one of his honest smiles.
He caught sight of a bottle of ink on the window sill. There was a
pen of sorts there also. He brought them to the table and made out a
check in the name of his fellow conspirator. He was just as anxious
as she was to put "a bit of pep" into the little waif who had sat
beneath the portrait of his father. There was no blotting paper, so
he waved it in the air before handing it over.
A rush of tears came to Irene's eyes when she saw what he had
written. She held out her hand, utterly giving up an attempt to find
"Thank you for calling up," said Martin, doing his best to be
perfectly natural and ordinary. "I wish you'd done so sooner. Poor
old Tootles. Write to the Devon Yacht Club, Long Island, and let me
know how you get on. We've all three been up against some rotten bad
luck, haven't we? Good-by, then. I'll go up to Tootles now."
"No, no," she said, "don't. That'd bring my old uncle to life right
away. She'd guess you was in on this, all right. Slip off and let me
have a chance with my movie stuff." With a mixture of emotion and
hilarity she suddenly waved the check above her head. "Can you
imagine the fit the receiving teller at my little old bank'll throw
when I slip this across as if it meant nothing to me?"
And then she caught up one of Martin's hands and did the most
disconcerting thing of all. She pressed it to her lips and kissed
Martin got as red as a beet. "Well, then, good-by," he said, making
for the door. "Good luck."
"Good-by and good luck to you. My word, but you've made optimism
sprout all over my garden, and I thought the very roots of it were
For a few minutes after Martin was gone, she danced about her
appalling room, and laughed and cried and said the most
extraordinary things to her dogs. The little pink beast became
hysterical again, and the Chow leaped into a bundle of under-
clothing and worried the life out of it. Finally, having hidden the
check in a safe place, the girl ran upstairs to break the good news
of her uncle's death to Tootles. Why, they could do the thing like
ladies, the pair of them. It was immense, marvellous, almost beyond
belief! That old man of Wisconsin deserved a place in Heaven. . . .
It was an inspiration. "Gee, but that's the idea!" she said to
herself. "Devon--and the sight of that boy. That'll put the pep
back, unless I'm the original nut. And if he doesn't care about her
now, he may presently. Others have."
And when she went in, there was Tootles staring at the wall, and
through it and away beyond at the place Martin had called the
Cathedral, and at Martin, with his face dead-white because Joan had
turned and gone.
It was a different Tootles who, ten days later, sat on a bank of dry
ferns that overlooked a superb stretch of water and watched the sun
go down. The little half-plucked bird of the Forty-sixth Street
garret with the pale thin face and the large tired eyes had almost
become the fairy of Joan's hill once more, the sun-tanned little
brother of Peter Pan again. A whole week of the air of Devon and the
smell of its pines, of the good wholesome food provided by the
family with whom she and Irene were lodging, of long rambles through
the woods, of bathing and sleeping, and the joy of finding herself
among trees had performed that "yank" of which her fellow chorus
lady had spoken.
Tootles was on her feet again. Her old zest to live had been given
back to her by the wonder and the beauty of sky and water and trees.
A child of nature, hitherto forced to struggle for her bread in
cities, she was revived and renewed and refreshed by the sweet
breath and the warm welcome of that simple corner of God's earth to
which Irene had so cunningly brought her. Her starved, city-ridden
spirit had blossomed and become healthy out there in the country
like a root of Creeping Jenny taken from a pot on the window-sill of
a slum house and put back into good brown earth.
The rough and ready family with whom they were lodging kept a duck
farm, and it was to this white army of restless, greedy things that
Tootles owed her first laugh. Tired and smut-bespattered after a
tedious railway journey she had eagerly and with childish joy gone
at once to see them fed, the old and knowing, the young and
optimistic, and all the yellow babies with uncertain feet and tiny
noises. After that, a setting sun which set fire to the sky and
water and trees, melting and mingling them together, and Tootles
turned the corner. The motherless waif slept that night on Nature's
maternal breast and was comforted.
The warm-hearted Irene was proud of herself. Devon--Heaven--it was
indeed an inspiration. The only fly in her amber came from the fact
that Martin was away. But when she discovered that he and his friend
had merely gone for a short trip on the yawl she waited with great
content for their return, setting the seeds in Tootles' mind, with
infinite diplomacy and feminine cunning, of a determination to use
all her wiles to win even a little bit of love from Martin as soon
as she saw him again.
Playing the part of one who had unexpectedly benefited from the will
of an almost-forgotten relative she never, of course, said a word of
why she had chosen Devon for this gorgeous holiday. Temporarily
wealthy it was not necessary to look cannily at every nickel. Before
leaving New York she had bought herself and Tootles some very
necessary clothes and saw to it that they lived on as much of the
fat of the land as could be obtained in the honest and humble house
in which she had found a large two-bedded room. Her cigarettes were
Egyptian now and on the train she had bought half a dozen new novels
at which she looked with pride. Hitherto she had been obliged to
read only those much-handled blase-looking books which went the
round of the chorus. Conceive what that meant! Also she had brought
with her a bottle of the scent that was only, so far as she knew,
within reach of leading ladies. Like the cigarettes and the books,
this was really for Tootles to use, but she borrowed a little from
time to time.
As for Irene Stanton, then, she was having, and said so, the time of
her young life. She richly deserved it, and if her kindness and
thoughtfulness, patience and sympathy had not been entered in the
big volume of the Recording Angel that everlasting young woman must
have neglected her pleasant job for several weeks.
And, as for Tootles, it is true that her bobbed hair still owed its
golden brilliance to a bottle, but the white stuff on her face had
been replaced by sunburn, and her lips were red all by themselves.
She was watching the last of the great red globe when her friend
joined her. There had been a race of sloops that afternoon, and
there was unusual animation on the quay and at the little club
house. A small power boat, on which were the starter and judges and
others, had just put in with a good deal of splutter and fuss. On
the stoop of the club a small band was playing, and a bevy of young
people were dancing. Following in the wake of the last sloop a yawl
with a dingey in tow was coming towards the quay.
Seeing that Tootles was in one of her ecstatic moods and was deaf to
remarks, Irene saved her words to cool her porridge and watched the
incoming yawl. She did so at first without much interest. It was
merely a sailboat to her city eyes, and her good lines and good
management meant nothing. But as she came nearer something familiar
in the cut of the man at her helm caught her attention. Surely those
broad shoulders and that deep chest and small head could belong only
to Martin Gray? They did, they did. It was that boy at last, that
boy about whom Tootles had gone dippy, that boy whose generosity had
made their holiday possible, that boy the first sight of whom would
put the last touch to Tootles' recovery--that boy who, if her friend
set her mind and feminine charm to work, might, it seemed to the
practical Irene, make her future safe. Strap-hangers had very few
With a tremendous effort she sat wordless and waited, knowing that
Martin must come that way to his cottage. With all her sense of the
dramatic stirred she watched the business of coming to anchor with
some impatience and when finally the dingey was hauled in and the
two men got aboard, loosed off and rowed to shore, excitement sent
the blood tingling through her veins. She heard them laugh and look
up towards the club, now almost deserted; cars were being driven
inland in quick succession. She watched them, hatless and sun-
tanned, come nearer and nearer. She got up as if to go, hesitated,
caught Martin's eye, gave an exclamation of well-acted amazement and
waved her hand. "Well," she cried out, "for Heaven's sake! I never
thought you meant this little old Devon!"
Howard had long ago caught sight of the two girls and wondered if
they were pretty, hoping they would remain until he could decide the
point for himself. They were, both of them, and Martin knew them.
Good enough. He stood by while Martin greeted the one who spoke and
then saw the other wake suddenly at the sound of his friend's voice,
stumble to her feet and go forward with a little cry.
"Why, Tootles," said Martin warmly. "I never thought of seeing you
here. How well you look."
It was like dreaming true. Tootles could only smile and cling to his
"By Jove, the other girl," thought Howard, with what, after all, was
only an easy touch of intuition. The girl's face told her story.
"What will this mean?" Then there were introductions, questions and
answers, laughter, jokes, a quick exchange of glances between Martin
and Irene, in which he received and acknowledged her warning, and a
"Come up to the cottage and have dinner with us," said Martin,
breaking it rather nervously. "Can you?"
Tootles nodded. Devon--Heaven. How perfectly the words rhymed.
"You couldn't keep us away with a stick," said Irene. This was the
way things should go. Also, the jovial, fat person with the roving
eyes might brighten things considerably for her.
"Great work!" Said Howard.
And then, taking Tootle's arm and breaking into enthusiastic details
of the sailing trip, Martin led the way up to the cottage among the
firs. It was good to have been able to put little Tootles into
Howard followed with Irene. "Gee whiz!" he said to himself, "some
A few miles away as the crow flies Gilbert Palgrave In his bedroom
in St. James's Palace cursed himself and life because Joan was still
as difficult to win as sunshine was to bottle.
And up in the sky that hung above them all the angels were lighting
Martin was not given to suspicion. He accepted people at their face
value and believed in human nature. It never occurred to him, then,
that the apparently ingenuous and disarming Irene, with her straight
glance and wide smile, had brought Tootles to Devon except by
accident or for anything but health and peace. He was awfully glad
to see them. They added to the excellent effect upon his spirits
which had been worked by the constant companionship of the
irrepressible Howard, before whose habitual breeziness depression
could stand little chance.
Also he had youth and health and plenty to do in gorgeous weather,
and so his case, which he had been examining rather morbidly,
assumed a less painful aspect. His love and need of Joan remained
just as strong, but the sense of martyrdom brought about by
loneliness and self-analysis left him. Once more he assured himself
that Joan was a kid and must have her head until she became a woman
and faced facts. Over and over again he repeated to himself the
creed that she had flung into the teeth of fate, and in this he
found more excuse than she deserved for the way in which she had
used him to suit her purpose and put him into the position of a big
elder brother whose duty it was to support her, in loco parentis,
and not interfere with her pastimes. However much she fooled and
flirted, he had an unshakable faith in her cleanness and sweetness,
and if he continued to let her alone, to get fed up with what she
called the Merry-go-round, she would one day come home and begin all
over again. She was a kid, just a kid as she had said, and why,
after all, should she be bullied and bully-ragged before she had had
time to work it off? That's how he argued.
Meanwhile, he was, thankfully enough, no longer alone. Here were
Howard and the two girls and the yawl and the sun, and he would keep
merry and bright until Joan came back. He was too proud and
sensitive to go to Joan and have it all out with her and thus dispel
what had developed into a double misunderstanding, and too loyal to
go to Joan's mother and tell his story and beg for help. Like Joan
and Howard, and who knows how many other young things in the world,
he was paying the inevitable penalty for believing that he could
face the problems of life unassisted, unadvised and was making a
dreadful hash of it in consequence. He little knew that his kindness
to Tootles had made Joan believe that he had exchanged his armor for
broadcloth and put her in a "who cares?" mood far more dangerous
than the one which had sent her into the night life of New York, or
that, owing to Tootles, she was, at that very moment, for the fun of
the thing, driving Gilbert Palgrave to a state of anger and
desperation which might lead to tragedy. Poor young things,
misguided and falsely proud and at a loose end! What a waste of
youth and spring which a few wise words of counsel would retrieve
and render blessed.
And as for Tootles, with her once white face and red lips and hair
that came out of a bottle, Martin was to her what Joan was to
Palgrave and for the same reason. Irene's hints and innuendos had
taken root. Caring nothing for the practical side of her friend's
point of view,--the assured future business,--all her energies were
bent to attract Martin, all that was feminine in her was making a
huge effort to win, by hook or crook, somehow soon, an answer,
however temporary, to her love. Never mind what happened after these
summer weeks were over. What matter if she went mad so that she had
her day? She had never come across any man like this young Martin,
with his clean eyes and sensitive soul and honest hands, his, to
her, inconceivable capacity of "being brother," his puzzling
aloofness from the lure of sex. She didn't understand what it meant
to a boy of Martin's type to cherish ideals and struggle to live up
to a standard that had been set for him by his father. In her daily
fight for mere self-preservation, in which joy came by accident, any
such thing as principle seemed crazy. Her street--Arab
interpretation of the law of life was to snatch at everything that
she could reach because there was so much that was beyond her grasp.
Her love for Martin was the one passion of her sordid little life,
and she would be thankful and contented to carry memories back to
her garret which no future rough-and-tumble could ever take away or
For several days after the first of many dinners with the boys,
Tootles played her cards with the utmost care. The foursome became
inseparable, bathing, sailing and motoring from morning to night. If
there was any truth in the power of propinquity, it must have been
discovered then. Howard attached himself to Irene whom he found
something more than merry and amusing,--a girl of indomitable
courage and optimism, in fact. He liked her immensely. And so
Tootles paired off with Martin and had innumerable opportunities of
putting forward the challenge of sex. She took them all, but with
the most carefully considered subtlety. She descended to nothing
obvious, as was to be expected from one of her type, which was not
famous for such a thing as self-restraint. She paid great attention
to her appearance and kept a close watch on her tongue. She played
what she imagined was the part of a little lady, toned down her
usual exuberance, her too loud laugh and her characteristic habit of
giving quick and smart back answers. But in all her long talks with
Martin she hinted ever so lightly that she and he had not been
thrown together from opposite poles without a reason. She tried to
touch his mind with the thought that it was to become what she said
it might the night of the accident,--a romance, a perfectly private
little affair of their own, stolen from their particular routine,
which could be ended at a moment's notice. She tried to wrap the
episode up in a page of poetry which might have been torn from a
little book by Francois Villon and give it a wistfulness and charm
that she thought would appeal to him. But it was not until one more
than usually exquisite night, when the spirit of July lingered in
the air and the warmth of the sun still lay among the stars, that
she made her first step towards her goal. Howard and Irene had
wandered down to the water, and she was left with Martin sitting
elfishly among the ferns on the bank below the cottage and above the
silver lapping water. Martin, very much alive to the magic spell of
the night, with the young sap stirring in his veins, lay at her
feet, and she put her hand caressingly on his head and began to talk
in a half whisper.
"Boy, oh, boy," she said, "what shall I do without you when this
dream comes to an end?"
"Dream again," said Martin.
"Down there in the city, so far away from trees?"
"Why not? We can take our dreams with us wherever we go. But it
isn't coming to an end yet."
"How long will it last?"
"Until the sun gets cold," said Martin, catching her mood, "and
there's a chill in the air."
She slipped down a little so that he should see the light in her
eyes. There was hardly an inch between their lips, and the only
sound was the beating of her heart. Youth and July and the scent of
"I thought I was dead when you helped me out of that wreck," she
went on in a quivering voice, and her long-fingered hand on his
face. "I think I must be really dead to-night. Surely this is too
sweet to be life."
"Dear little Tootles," said Martin softly. She was so close that he
could feel the rise and fall of her breasts. "Don't let's talk of
death. We're too young."
The sap was stirring in his veins. She was like a fairy, this girl,
who ought never to have wandered into a city.
"Martin," she said, "when the sun gets cold and there's a chill in
the air will you ever come back to this hour in a dream?"
"Often, Tootles, my dear."
"And will you see the light in my eyes and feel my hands on your
face and my lips on your lips?"
She bent forward and put them there and drew back with a shaking sob
and scrambled up and fled.
She had seen the others coming, but that was not why she had torn
herself away. One flash of sex was enough that night. The next time
he must do the kissing.
Eve and July and the scent of honeysuckle!
Breakfast was on the table. To Irene, who came down in her dressing
gown with her hair just bundled up and her face coated with powder,
eight o'clock was an unearthly hour at which to begin the day. In
New York she slept until eleven, read the paper until twelve, cooked
and disposed of a combined breakfast-lunch at one, and if it was a
matinee day, rushed round to the theater, and if it wasn't, killed
time until her work called her in the evening. A boob's life, as she
called it, was a trying business, but the tyranny of the bustling
woman with whom she lodged was such that if breakfast was not eaten
at eight o'clock it was not there to eat. Like an English
undergraduate who scrambles out of bed to attend Chapel simply to
avoid a fine, this product of Broadway theaterdom conformed to the
rule of Mrs. Burrell's energetic house because the good air of Devon
gave her a voracious appetite. Then, too, even if she missed
breakfast, she had to pay for it, "so there you are, old dear."
Tootles, up with the lark as usual, was down among the ducks, giving
Farmer Burrell a useful hand. She delighted in doing so. From a
country grandfather she had inherited a love of animals and of the
early freshness of the morning that found eager expression, now that
she had the chance of giving it full rein. Then, too, all that was
maternal in her nature warmed at the sight and sound of all those
new, soft, yellow things that waddled closely behind the wagging
tails of their mothers, and it gave her a sort of sweet comfort to
go down on her knees and hold one of these frightened babies against
Crying out, "Oo-oo, Tootles," from halfway down the cinder path,
Irene, stimulated by the aroma of hot coffee and toast, and eggs and
bacon, returned to the living room and fell to humming, "You're here
and I'm here."
Tootles joined her immediately, a very different looking little
person from the tired-eyed, yawning girl of the city rabbit warren.
Health was in her eyes and a little smile at the corners of her
mouth. Quick work was made of the meal to the intermittent duck talk
of Mrs. Burrell who came in and out of the kitchen through a
creaking door,--a normal, noisy soul, to whom life was a succession
of laborious days spent between the cooking stove and the washtub
with a regular Saturday night, in her best clothes, at the motion-
picture theater at Sag Harbor to gape at the abnormality of Theda
Bara and scream with uncontrolled mirth at the ingenious antics of
Charlie Chaplin. An ancient Ford made possible this weekly dip into
these intense excitements.
And then the two girls left the living room with its inevitable
rocking chairs and framed texts and old heating stove with a funnel
through the wall and went out into the sun.
"Well, dearie," said Irene, sitting on the edge of the stoop, within
sound of the squeaking of a many-armed clothes drier, teased by a
nice sailing wind. "Us for the yawl to-day."
"You for the yawl," said Tootles. "I'm staying here to help old man
Burrell. It's his busy day."
Irene looked up quickly. "What's the idea?"
"Just that,--and something else. I don't want to see Martin till
this evening. I moved things last night, and I want him to miss me a
"Ah," said Irene. "I guessed it meant something when you made that
quick exit when we moved up. Have you got him, dearie?"
Tootles shot out a queer little sigh and nodded.
"That's fine. He's not like the others, is he? But you've played him
great. Oh, I've seen it all, never you fear. Subtle, old dear, very
subtle. Shouldn't have had the patience myself. Go in and win. He's
worth it." Tootles put her hands over her face and a great sob shook
In an instant, Irene had her in her arms. "Dear old Tootles," she
said, "it means an awful lot to you, don't it? Don't give way,
girlie. You've done mighty well so far. Now follow it up, hot and
fast. That boy's got a big heart and he's generous and kind, and he
won't forget. I brought you here for this, such a chance as it was,
and if I can see you properly fixed up and happy, my old uncle's
little bit of velvet will have come in mighty useful, eh? Got a plan
Tootles nodded again. "If I don't win to-night," she said, "it's all
over. I shall have to own that he cares for me less than the dust. I
shall have to throw up my hands and creep away and hide. Oh, my God,
am I such a rotten little freak as all that, Irene? Tell me, go on,
"Freak? You! For Heaven's sake. Don't the two front rows give nobody
but you the supper signal whenever the chorus is on?"
"But they're not like Martin. He's,--well, I dunno just what he is.
For one thing there's that butterfly he's married to. He's never
said as much as half a word about her to me, but the look that came
into his eyes when he saw her the night I told you about,--I'd be
run over by a train for it any time. He's a man alright and wants
love as bad as I do. I know that, but sometimes, when I watch his
face, when neither of us is talking, there's a queer smile on it,
like a man who's looking up at somebody, and he sets his jaw and
squares his shoulders just as if he had heard a voice telling him to
play straight. Many times I've seen it, Irene, and after that I have
to begin all over again. I respect him for it, and it makes me love
him more and more. I've never had the luck to meet a man like him.
The world would be a bit less rotten for the likes of you and me if
there were more of him about, I tell you. But it hurts me like the
devil because it makes me feel no better than a shoe with the
buttons off and the heel all worn down, and I ask myself what's the
blooming use. But last night I kissed him, and I saw his eyes glint
for the first time and to-night,--to-night, Irene, I'm going to play
my last card. Yes, that's what I'm going to do, play the last card
in the pack."
"How?" asked Irene eagerly, sympathy and curiosity bubbling to the
Tootles shook her head. "It isn't lucky to go talking about it." she
said, with a most wistful smile. "You'll know whether it's the
heights or the depths for me when you see me in the morning."
"In the morning? Shan't you be . . ."
"Don't ask. Just wish me luck and go and have a good day with the
boys. I shall be waiting for you at the cottage. And now I'm off
down to the ducks. Say I've got a headache and don't let 'em come
round and try to fetch me. So long, Irene; you've been some pal to
me through this and I shall never forget."
Whereupon Tootles went off to lend the unloquacious Burrell a
helping hand, and Irene ran up to the bedroom to dress.
From the pompous veranda of the Hosack place Gilbert Palgrave, sick
with jealousy, watched Joan swimming out to the barrels with that
cursed boy in tow. And he, too, had made up his mind to play his
last card that night.
Man and woman and love,--the old, inevitable story.
The personnel of the Hosacks' house party had changed.
Mrs. Noel d'Oyly had led her little husband away to Newport to stay
with Mrs. Henry Vanderdyke, where were Beatrix and Pelham Franklin,
with a bouncing baby boy, the apple of Mr. Vanderdyke's eye. Enid
Ouchterlony had left for Gloucester, Massachusetts, where her aunt,
Mrs. Horace Pallant, entertained in an almost royal fashion and was
eager to set her match-making arts to work on behalf of her only
unmarried niece. Enid had gone to the very edge of well-bred lengths
to land Courtney Millet, but Scots ancestry and an incurable habit
of talking sensibly and rather well had handicapped her efforts. She
had confided to Primrose with a sudden burst of uncharacteristic
incaution that she seemed doomed to become an old man's darling. Her
last words to the sympathetic Primrose were, "Oh, Prim, Prim, pray
that you may never become intellectual. It will kill all your
chances." Miss Hosack was, however, perfectly safe.
Milwood, fired by a speech at the Harvard Club by Major General
Leonard Wood, had scratched all his pleasant engagements for the
summer, and was at Plattsburg learning for the first time, at the
camp which will some day occupy an inspiring chapter in the history
of the United States, the full meaning of the words "duty" and
"discipline." Their places had been taken by Major and Mrs. Barnet
Thatcher and dog, Regina Waterhouse and Vincent Barclay, a young
English officer invalided out of the Royal Flying Corps after
bringing down eight German machines. A cork leg provided him with
constant amusement. He had a good deal of property in Canada and was
making his way to Toronto by easy stages. A cheery fellow, cut off
from all his cherished sports but free from even the suggestion of
grousing. Of his own individual stunts, as he called them, he gave
no details and made no mention of the fact that he carried the
D.S.O. and the Croix de Guerre in his bag. He had met the Hosacks at
the American Embassy in London in 1913. He was rather sweet on
The fact that Joan was still there was easily accounted for. She
liked the place, and her other invitations were not interesting.
Hosack didn't want her to go either, but of course that had nothing
to do with it, and so far as Mrs. Hosack was concerned, let the
bedroom be occupied by some one of her set and she was happy enough.
Indeed, it saved her the brain fag of inviting some one else,
"always difficult with so many large houses to fill and so few
people to go round, my dear."
Harry Oldershaw was such a nice boy that he did just as he liked. If
it suited him he could keep his room until the end of the season.
The case of Gilbert Palgrave was entirely different. A privileged,
spoiled person, who made no effort to be generally agreeable and
play up, he was rather by way of falling into the same somewhat
difficult category as a minor member of the British Royalty. His
presence was an honor although his absence would have been a relief.
He chose to prolong his visit indefinitely and there was an end of
Every day at Easthampton had, however, been a nightmare to Palgrave.
Refusing to take him seriously, Joan had played with him as a cat
plays with a mouse. Kind to him one minute she had snubbed him the
next. The very instant that he had congratulated himself on making
headway his hopes had been scattered to the four winds by some
scathing remarks and her disappearance for hours with Harry
Oldershaw. She had taken a mischievous delight in leading him on
with winning smiles and charming and appealing ways only to burst
out laughing at his blazing protestations of love and leave him
inarticulate with anger and wounded vanity. "If you want me to love
you, make me," she had said. "I shall fight against it tooth and
nail, but I give you leave to do your best." He had done his best.
With a totally uncharacteristic humbleness, forgetting the whole
record of his former easy conquests, and with this young slim thing
so painfully in his blood that there were times when he had the
greatest difficulty to retain his self-control, he had concentrated
upon the challenge that she had flung at him and set himself to
teach her how to love with all the thirsty eagerness of a man
searching for water. People who had watched him in his too wealthy
adolescence and afterwards buying his way through life and achieving
triumphs on the strength of his, handsome face and unique position
would have stared in incredulous amazement at the sight of this
love-sick man in his intense pursuit of a girl who was able to twist
him around her little finger and make him follow her about as if he
were a green and callow youth. Palgrave, the lady-killer; Palgrave,
the egoist; Palgrave, the superlative person, who, with nonchalant
impertinence, had picked and chosen. Was it possible?
Everything is possible when a man is whirled off his feet by the
Great Emotion. History reeks with the stories of men whose natures
were changed, whose careers were blasted, whose honor and loyalty
and common sense were sacrificed, whose pride and sense of the
fitness of things were utterly and absolutely forgotten under the
stress of the sex storm that hits us all and renders us fools or
heroes, breaking or making as luck will have it and, in either case,
bringing us to the common level of primevality for the love of a
woman. Nature, however refined and cultivated the man, or rarified
his atmosphere, sees to this. Herself feminine, she has no
consideration for persons. To her a man is merely a man, a creature
with the same heart and the same senses, working to the same end
from the same beginning. Let him struggle and cry "Excelsior!" and
fix his eyes upon the heights, let him devote himself to prayer or
go grimly on his way with averted eyes, let him become cynic or
misogynist, what's it matter? Sooner or later she lays hands upon
him and claims him as her child. Man, woman and love. It is the
oldest and the newest story in the world, and in spite of the sneers
of thin-blooded intellectuals who think that it is clever to speak
of love as the particular pastime of the Bolsheviki and the literary
parasites who regard themselves as critics and dismiss love as "mere
sex stuff," it is the everlasting Story of Everyman.
Young and new and careless, obsessed only with the one idea of
having a good time,--never mind who paid for it,--Joan knew nothing
of the danger of trifling with the feelings of a high-strung man who
had never been denied, a man over-civilized to the point of moral
decay. If she had paused in her determined pursuit of amusement and
distraction to analyze her true state of mind she might have
discovered an angry desire to pay Fate out for the way in which he
had made things go with Martin by falling really and truly in love
with Gilbert. As it was, she recognized his attraction and in the
few serious moments that forced themselves upon her when she was
alone she realized that he could give her everything that would make
life easy and pleasant. She liked his calm sophistication, she was
impressed, being young, by his utter disregard of laws and
conventions, and she was flattered at the unmistakable proofs of his
passionate devotion. But she would have been surprised to find
beneath her careless way of treating herself and everybody round her
an unsuspected root of loyalty towards Alice and Martin that put up
a hedge between herself and Gilbert. There was also something in the
fine basic qualities of her undeveloped character that unconsciously
made her resent this spoiled man's assumption of the fact that,
married or not, she must sooner or later fall in with his wishes.
She was in no mood for self-analysis, however, because that meant
the renewal of the pain and deep disappointment as to Martin which
was her one object to hide and to forget. So she kept Gilbert in
tow, and supplied her days with the excitement for which she craved
by leading him on and laughing him off. It is true that once or
twice she had caught in his eyes a look of madness that caused her
immediately to call the nice boy to her support and make a mental
note of the fact that it would be wise never to trust herself quite
alone with him, but with a shrug of the shoulders she continued
alternately to tease and charm, according to her mood.
She did both these things once again when she came up from the sea
to finish the remainder of the morning in the sun. Seeing Gilbert
pacing the veranda like a bear with a sore ear, she told Harry
Oldershaw to leave her to her sun bath and signalled to Gilbert to
come down to the edge of the beach. The others were still in the
sea. He joined her with a sort of reluctance, with a look of gall
and ire in his eyes that was becoming characteristic. There was all
about him the air of a man who had been sleeping badly. His face was
white and drawn, and his fingers were never still. He twisted a
signet ring round and round at one moment and worried at a button on
his coat the next. His nerves seemed to be outside his skin. He
stood in front of Joan antagonistically and ran his eyes over her
slim young form in its wet bathing suit with grudging admiration. He
was too desperately in love to be able to apply to himself any of
the small sense of humor that was his in normal times and hide his
feelings behind it. He was very far from being the Gilbert Palgrave
of the early spring,--the cool, satirical, complete man of the
"Well?" he asked.
Joan pretended to be surprised. "Well what, Gilbert dear? I wanted
to have a nice little talk before lunch, that's all, and so I
ventured to disturb you."
"Ventured to disturb me! You're brighter than usual this morning."
"Ah I? Is that possible? How sweet of you to say so. Do sit down and
look a little less like an avenging angel. The sand's quite warm and
He kicked a little shower of it into the air. "I don't want to sit
down," he said. "You bore me. I'm fed up with this place and sick to
tears of you."
"Sick to tears of me? Why, what in the world have I done?"
"Every conceivable and ingenious thing that I might have expected of
you. Loyalty was entirely left out of your character, it appears.
Young Oldershaw and the doddering Hosack measure up to your
standard. I can't compete."
Joan allowed almost a minute to go by in silence. She felt at the
very tip-top of health, having ridden for some hours and gone hot
into the sea. To be mischievous was natural enough. This man took
himself so seriously, too. She would have been made of different
stuff or have acquired a greater knowledge of Palgrave's curious
temperament to have been able to resist the temptation to tantalize.
"Aren't you, by any chance, a little on the rude side this morning,
"If you call the truth rude," he said, "yes."
"I do. Very. The rudest thing I know."
He looked down at her. She was leaning against the narrow wooden
back of a beach chair. Her hands were clasped round her white knees.
She wore little thin black shoes and no stockings. A tight rubber
bathing cap which came low down on her forehead gave her a most
attractively boyish look. She might have been a young French Pierrot
in a picture by Sem or Van Beers. He almost hated her at that
moment, sitting there in all the triumph of youth, untouched by his
ardor, unaffected by his passion.
"You needn't worry," he said. "You won't get any more of it from me.
So that you may continue to amuse yourself undisturbed I withdraw
from the baby hunt. I'm off this afternoon."
He had cried "Wolf!" so many times that Joan didn't believe him.
"I daresay a change of air will do you good," she said. "Where are
He shrugged his shoulders. "What's it matter? Probably to that
cottage of mine to play hermit and scourge myself for having allowed
you to mortify me and hold me up to the ridicule of your fulsome
court of admirers."
"Yes, that cottage of yours. You've forgotten your promise to drive
me over to see it, haven't you?"
Palgrave wheeled round. This was too much of a good thing. "Be
careful, or my rudeness will become more truthful than even you will
be able to swallow. Twice last week you arranged for me to take you
over and both times you turned me down and went off with young
"What IS happening to my memory?" asked Joan.
"It must be the sea air."
He turned on his heel and walked away.
In an instant she was up and after him, with her hand on his arm.
"I'm awfully sorry, Gilbert," she said. "Do forgive me."
"I'd forgive you if you were sorry, but you're not."
"Yes, I am."
He drew his arm away. "No. You're not really anything; in fact
you're not real. You're only a sort of mermaid, half fish, half
girl. Nothing comes of knowing you. It's a waste of time. You're not
for men. You're for lanky youths with whom you can talk nonsense,
and laugh at silly jokes. You belong to the type known in England as
the flapper--that weird, paradoxical thing with the appearance of
flagrant innocence and the mind of an errand boy. Your unholy form
of enjoyment is to put men into false positions and play baby when
they lay hands on you. Your hourly delight is to stir passion and
then run into a nursery and slam the door. You dangle your sex in
the eyes of men and as soon as you've got them crazy, claim chastity
and make them ashamed. One of these days you'll drive a man into the
sort of mad passion that will make him give you a sound thrashing or
seduce you. I don't want to be that man. Oldershaw is too young for
you to hurt and Hosack too old, and apparently Martin Gray has
chucked you and found some human real person. As for me, I've had
enough. Good morning."
And once more, having delivered himself coldly and clearly of this
brutally frank indictment he went up the steps to the veranda and
into the house.
There was not even the tail of a smile on Joan's face as she watched
Lunch was not quite the usual pleasant, happy-go-lucky affair that
day. The gallant little Major, recently married to the fluffy-minded
Mrs. Edgar Lee Reeves and her peevish little dog, sat on the right
of the overwhelmingly complacent Cornucopia. With the hope of
rendering himself more youthful for this belated adventure with the
babbling widow he had been treated by a hair specialist. The result
was, as usual, farcically pathetic. His nice white hair which had
given him a charming benignity and cleanness had been turned into a
dead and musty black which made him look unearthly and unreal. His
smart and carefully cherished moustache which once had laid upon his
upper lip like cotton wool had been treated with the same ink-
colored mixture. His clothes, once so perfectly suitable, were now
those built for a man of Harry Oldershaw's youthful lines and gave
him the appearance of one who had forced himself into a suit made
for his son. It was of a very blue flannel with white lines,--always
a trying combination. His tie and socks were en suite and his gouty
feet were martyrized to this scheme of camouflage by being pressed
into a pair of tight brown and white shoes. Having been deprived of
his swim for fear that his youthfulness might come off in the water
and with the rather cruel badinage of his old friend Hosack still
rankling in his soul, the poor little old gentleman was not in the
best of tempers. Also he had spent most of the morning exercising
Pinkie-Winkie while his wife had been writing letters, and his
nerves were distinctly jaded. The pampered animal which had taken
almost as solemn a part of his marriage vows as the bride herself
had insisted upon making a series of strategic attacks against Mrs.
Hosack's large, yellow-eyed, resentful Persian Tom, and his
endeavors to read the morning paper and rescue Pinkie from certain
wreckage had made life a bitter and a restless business. He was
unable to prevent himself from casting his mind back to those good
bachelor days of the previous summer when he had taken his swim with
the young people, enjoyed his sunbath at the feet of slim and
beautiful girls, and looked forward to a stiff cocktail in his
bathhouse like a natural and irresponsible old buck.
Gilbert Palgrave faced him, an almost silent man who, to
Cornucopia's great and continually voiced distress, allowed her
handsomely paid cook's efforts to go by contemptuously untouched. It
rendered her own enthusiastic appetite all the more conspicuous.
For two reasons Hosack was far from happy. One was because Mrs.
Barnet Thatcher was seated on his right pelting him with brightness
and the other because Joan, on his left, looked clean through his
head whenever he tried to engage her in sentimental sotto voce.
Gaiety was left to Prim and the wounded Englishman and to young
Oldershaw and the towering Regina who continually threw back her
head to emit howls of laughter at Barclay's drolleries while she
displayed the large red cavern of her mouth and all her wonderful
teeth. After every one of these exhausting paroxysms she said, with
her characteristic exuberance of sociability, "Isn't he the best
"Don't you think he's the most fascinating creature?" to any one
whose eye she caught,--a nice, big, beautiful, insincere girl who
had been taught at her fashionable school that in order to succeed
in Society and help things along she must rave about everything in
extravagant language and make as much noise as her lungs would
Joan's unusual lack of spirits was noticed by every one and
especially, with grim satisfaction, by Gilbert Palgrave. With a
return of optimism he told himself that his rudeness expressed so
pungently had had its effect. He congratulated himself upon having,
at last, been able to show Joan the sort of foolish figure that she
cut in his sight and even went so far as to persuade himself that,
after all, she must do something more than like him to be so silent
His deductions were, however, as hopelessly wrong as usual. His
drastic criticism had been like water on a duck's back. It inspired
amusement and nothing else. It was his remark that Martin Gray had
chucked her and found some human real person that had stuck, and
this, with the efficiency of a surgeon's knife, had cut her sham
complacence and opened up the old wound from which she had tried so
hard to persuade herself that she had recovered. Martin-Martin-what
was he doing? Where was he, and where was that girl with the white
face and the red lips and the hair that came out of a bottle?
The old overwhelming desire to see Martin again had been
unconsciously set blazing by this tactless and provoked man. It was
so passionate and irresistible that she could hardly remain at the
table until the replete Cornucopia rose, rattling with beads. And
when, after what seemed to be an interminable time, this happened
and the party adjourned to the shaded veranda to smoke and catch the
faint breeze from the sea, she instantly beckoned to Harry and made
for the drawing-room.
In this furniture be-clogged room all the windows were open, but the
blazing sun of the morning had left it hot and stuffy. A hideous
squatting Chinese goddess, whose tongue, by a mechanical appliance,
lolled from side to side, appeared to be panting for breath, and the
cut flowers in numerous pompous vases hung their limp heads. It was
a gorgeously hot day.
Young Oldershaw bounded in, the picture of unrealized health. His
tan was almost black, and his teeth and the whites of, his eyes
positively gleamed. He might have been a Cuban.
"Didn't I hear you tell Prim last night that you'd had a letter from
"Old Howard? Yes." He was sorry that she had.
"Is Martin with him?" It was an inspiration, an uncanny piece of
Young Oldershaw was honest. "He's staying with Gray," he said
"Devon? Isn't that the place we drove to the other day--with a
little club and a sort of pier and sailboats gliding about?"
"Yes. They've got one."
Ah, that was why she had had a queer feeling of Martinism while she
had sat there having tea, watching the white sails against the sky.
On one of those boats bending gracefully to the wind Martin must
"Where are they living?"
"In a cottage that belongs to a pal of Gray's, so far as I could
In a cottage, together! Then the girl whom she had called "Fairy,"--
the girl who was human and real, according to Gilbert, couldn't be,
surely couldn't be, with them.
"Will you drive me over?" she asked.
"Why, of course, Joan, if I--must," he said. It somehow seemed to
him to be wrong and incredible that she had a husband,--this girl,
so free and young and at the very beginning of things, like himself,
and whom he had grown into the habit of regarding as his special-
hardly property, but certainly companion and playmate.
"If you're not keen about it, Harry, I'll ask Mr. Hosack or a
chauffeur. Pray don't let me take you an inch out of your way."
In an instant he was off his stilts and on his marrow bones. "Please
don't look like that and say those things. You've only got to tell
me what you want and I'll get it. You know that."
"Thank you, Harry, the sooner the better, then," she said, with a
smile that lit up her face like a sunbeam. She must see Martin, she
must, she must! The old longing had come back. It was like a pain.
And being with Howard Oldershaw in that cottage he was alone, and
being alone he had got back into his armor. SHE had a clean slate.
"Hurry, hurry," she said.
And when Harry hurried, as he did then, though with a curious
misgiving, there were immediate results. Before Joan had chosen a
hat, and for once it was difficult to make a choice, she heard his
whistle and from the window of her bedroom saw him seated, hatless
and sunburnt to the roots of his fair hair, in his low-lying two-
It was, at his pace, a short run eastward over sandy roads, lined
with stunted oaks and thick undergrowth of poison ivy, scrub and
ferns; characteristic Long Island country with here a group of small
untidy shacks and there a farm and outhouses with stone walls and
scrap heaps, clothes drying on a line, chickens on the ceaseless
hunt and a line of geese prowling aimlessly, easily set acackle,--a
primitive end-of-everywhere sort of country just there, with
sometimes a mile of half burned trees, whether done for a purpose or
by accident it would be difficult to say. At any rate, no one seemed
to care. It all had the look of No Man's Land,--unreclaimed and
For a little while nothing was said. Out of a clear sky the sun beat
down upon the car and the brown sand of the narrow road. Many times
the boy shot sidelong glances at the silent girl beside him, burning
to ask questions about this husband who was never mentioned and who
appeared to him to be something of a myth and a mystery. He didn't
love Joan, because it had been mutually agreed that he shouldn't.
But he held her in the sort of devoted affection which, when it
exists between a boy and a girl, is very good and rare and even
beautiful and puts them close to the angels.
Presently, catching one of these deeply concerned glances, she put
her little shoulder against his shoulder in a sisterly way. "Go on,
then, Harry," she said. "Ask me about it. I know you want to know."
And he did. Somehow he felt that he ought to know, that he had the
right. After all he had stopped himself from loving her at her
urgent request, and their friendship was the best thing that he had
ever known. And he began with, "When did you do it?"
"Away back in history," she said, "or so it seems. It's really only
a few months."
"A few months! But you can hardly have been with him any time."
"I have never really been with him," she said. She wanted him to
know everything. Now that the wound was open again and Martin in
possession of her once more, she felt that she must talk about it
all to some one, and who could be better than Harry, who was so like
The boy couldn't believe that she meant what she implied but would
have bitten off his tongue rather than put a direct question. "Is he
such a rotter?" he asked instead.
"He's not a rotter. He's just Martin--generous, sensitive, dead
straight and as reliable as a liner. You and he were made in twin
He flushed with pleasure--but it was like meeting a new Joan, a
serious, laughterless Joan, with an odd little quiver in her voice
and tears behind her eyes. He felt a new sense of responsibility by
being confided in. Older, too. It was queer--this sudden switch from
thoughtless gaiety to something which was like illness in a house
and which made Joan almost unrecognizable.
He began again. "But then--" and stopped.
"I'm the rotter," she said. "It's because of me that he's in Devon
and I'm at Easthampton, that he's sailing with your cousin, and I'm
playing the fool with Gilbert. I was a kid, Harry, and thought I
might go on being a kid for a bit, and everything has gone wrong and
all the blame is mine."
"You're only a kid now," said Harry, trying to find excuses for her.
He resented her taking all the blame.
She shook her head. "No, I'm not. I'm only pretending to be. I came
to Easthampton to pretend to be. All the time you've known me I've
been pretending,--pretending to pretend. I ceased to be a kid before
the spring was over,--when I came face to face with something I had
driven Martin to do and it broke me. I've been bluffing since then,-
-bluffing myself that I didn't care and that it wasn't my fault. I
might have kept it up a bit longer,--even to the end of the summer,
but Gilbert said something this morning that took the lynch pin out
of the sham and brought it all about my ears."
And there was another short silence,--if it could be called silence
with the whirring of the engine and the boy driving with the
"You care for him, then?" he asked finally, looking at her.
She nodded and the tears came.
It was a great shock to him, somehow; he couldn't quite say why.
This girl had, as she had said, played the fool with Gilbert,--led
the man on and teased him into desperation. He loathed the
supercilious fellow and didn't give a hang how much he suffered.
Anyway, he was married and ought to have known better. But what hit
was the fact that all the while she had loved this Martin of hers,--
she, by whom he dated things, who had given him a new point of view
about girls and who was his own very best pal. That was not up to
her form and somehow hurt.
And she saw that it did and was deeply sorry and ashamed. Was she to
have a bad effect on every man she met? "I won't make excuses,
Harry," she said. "They're so hopeless. But I want you to know that
I sprang into marriage before I'd given a thought to what it all
meant, and I took it as a lark, a chapter in my adventure, something
that I could easily stop and look at after I'd seen and done
everything and was a little breathless. I thought that Martin had
gone into it in the same spirit and that for the joke of the thing
we were just going to play at keeping house, as we might have played
at being Indians away in the woods. It was the easiest way out of a
hole I was in and made it possible for me not to creep back to my
grandmother and take a whipping like a dog. Do you understand?"
The boy nodded. He had seen her do things and heard her say things
on the spur of the moment that were almost as unbelievable.
His sympathy and quick perception were like water to her. And it was
indescribably good to be believed without incredulous side-looks and
suspicions, half-smiles such as Hosack would have given,--and some
of the others who had lost their fineness in the world.
"And when Martin,--who was to me then just what you are, Harry
dear,--came up to my room in his own particular natural way, I
thought it was hard luck to be taken so literally and not be left
alone to find my wings for a little. I had just escaped from a long
term of subjection, and I wanted to have the joy of being free--
quite absolutely free. Still not thinking, I sent him away and like
a brick he went, and I didn't suppose it really mattered to him, any
more than it did to me, and honestly if it had mattered it wouldn't
have made any difference because I had promised myself to hit it up
and work off the marks of my shackles and I was full of the 'Who
Cares?' feeling. And then Gilbert Palgrave came along and helped to
turn my head. Oh, what a perfect little fool I was, what a
precocious, shallow, selfish little fool. And while I was having
what I imagined was a good time and seeing life, Martin was
wandering about alone, suffering from two things that aren't good
for boys,--injustice and ingratitude. And then of course I woke up
and saw things straight and knew his value, and when I went to get
him and begin all over again he wasn't mine. I'd lost him."
The boy's eyebrows contracted sharply. "What a beastly shame," he
said, "I mean for both of you." He included Martin because he liked
him now, reading between the lines. He must be an awfully decent
chap who had had a pretty bad time.
"Yes," said Joan, "it is, for both of us." And she was grateful to
him for such complete understanding,--grateful for Martin, too. They
might have been brothers, these boys. "But for you, Easthampton
would have been impossible," she added. "I don't mean the house or
the place or the sea, which is glorious. I mean from what I have
forced myself to do. I came down labelled 'Who Cares?' caring all
the time, and just to share my hurt with some one I've made Gilbert
care too. He's in an ugly mood. I feel that he'll make me pay some
day--in full. But I'm not afraid to be alone now and drop my bluff
because I believe Martin is waiting for me and is back in armor
again with your cousin. And I believe the old look will come into
his eyes when he sees me, and he'll hear me ask him to forgive and
we'll go back and play at keeping house in earnest. Harry, I believe
that. Little as I deserve it I'm going to have another chance given
to me,--every mile we go I feel that! After all, I'm awfully young
and I've kept my slate clean and I ought to be given another chance,
Harry nodded and presently brought the car to a stop under the
shadow of the little clubhouse. Half a dozen other cars were parked
there, and a colored chauffeur was sitting on the steps of the back
entrance, fast asleep with his chin on his chest. The small but
vigorous orchestra was playing a fox-trot on the far veranda, and
the sound of shuffling feet resembled that of a man cleaning
something with sandpaper. There was an army of flies on the screen
door of the kitchen and on several galvanized iron bins stuffed with
ginger-ale bottles and orange peel.
"We'll leave the car here," said Harry, "and go and have a look for
the cottage. It'll be easy to find. There aren't many of 'em, if I
Joan took his arm. She had begun to tremble. "Let's go this way
first," she said, going the right way by instinct.
"If they're in," said Harry, "and I should guess they are.--there's
no wind,--I'll draw old Howard off for an hour or so."
"Yes, please do, Harry."
And they went up the sandy incline, over the thick undergrowth, and
the sun blazed down on the shining water, and half a dozen canvas-
covered catboats near the little pier. Several people were sitting
on it in bathing clothes, and some one was teaching a little girl to
swim. The echo of her gurgling laughter and little cries came to
them clearly. The sound of music and shuffling feet grew fainter and
fainter. Gardiner's Island lay up against the horizon like a long
inflated sand bag. There were crickets everywhere. Three or four
large butterflies gamboled in the shimmering air.
Away out, heading homewards, Martin's yawl, with Irene lying full
stretch on the roof of the cabin, and Howard whistling for a wind,
crept through the water, inch by inch.
With the tiller under one arm and a pipe in his mouth, long empty,
sat Martin, thinking about Joan. Hearing voices, Tootles looked up
from a book that she was trying to read. She had been lying in the
hammock on the stoop of Martin's cottage for an hour, waiting for
Martin. It had taken her a long time to do her hair and immense
pains to satisfy herself that she looked nice,--for Martin. Her plan
was cut and dried in her mind, and she had been killing time with
all the impatience and throbbing of nerves of one who had brought
herself up to a crisis which meant either success and joy, or
failure and a drab world. She couldn't bear to go through another
day without bringing about a decision. She felt that she had to jog
Fate's elbow, whatever was to be the insult. She had discovered from
a casual remark of Howard's that Martin, those hot nights, had taken
to sleeping on the boat. Her plan, deliberately conceived as a
follow-up to what had happened out under the stars the night before,
was to swim out to it and wait for him in the cabin. She knew, no
one so well, that it was in the nature of a forlorn hope, but she
was desperate. She loved him intransitively, to the utter extinction
of the little light of modesty which her hand-to-mouth existence had
left burning. She wanted love or death, and she was going to put up
this last fight for love with all the unscrupulousness of a lovesick
She saw two people coming towards the cottage, a tall, fair, sun-