Collier’s Weekly, December 17, 1921

 

 

XI

MR. ISADORE ABRAHAMS, the founder and proprietor of that deservedly popular dancing resort poetically named the Flower Garden, leaned back in his chair with a contented sigh and laid down the knife and fork with which he had been assailing a plateful of succulent goulash. He was dining, as was his admirable custom, in the bosom of his family at his residence at Far Rockaway. Across the table his wife Rebecca beamed at him over her comfortable plinth of chins, and round the table his children, David, Jacob, Morris, and Sadie, would have beamed at him if they had not been too busy at the moment ingurgitating goulash. A genial, honest, domestic man was Mr. Abrahams, a credit to the community.

“Mother,” he said.

“Pa?” said Mrs. Abrahams.

“Knew there was something I’d meant to tell you,” said Mr. Abrahams, absently chasing a piece of bread round his plate with a stout finger. “You remember that girl I told you about some time back—girl working at the Garden—girl called Nicholas who came into a bit of money and threw up her job—”

“I remember. You liked her. Jakie dear, don’t gobble.”

“Ain’t gobbling,” said Master Abrahams.

“Everybody liked her,” said Mr. Abrahams. “The nicest girl I ever hired, and I don’t hire none but nice girls, because the Garden’s a nice place, and I like to run it nice. I wouldn’t give you a nickel for any of your tough joints where you get nothing but lowlifes and scare away all the real folks. Everybody liked Sally Nicholas. Always pleasant and always smiling and never anything but the lady. It was a treat to have her around. Well, what do you think?”

“Dead?” inquired Mrs. Abrahams apprehensively. The story had sounded to her as though it were heading that way.

“No, not dead,” said Mr. Abrahams, conscious for the first time that the remainder of his narrative might be considered by a critic something of an anticlimax and lacking in drama. “But she was in to see me this afternoon and wants her job back.”

“Ah!” said Mrs. Abrahams rather tonelessly. An ardent supporter of the local motion-picture palace, she had hoped for a slightly more gingery dénouement, something with a bit more punch.

“Yes, but don’t it show you?” continued Mr. Abrahams, gallantly, trying to work up the interest. “There’s this girl, goes out of my place not more’n a year ago with a good bank roll in her pocket, and here she is, back again, all of it spent. Don’t it just show you what a tragedy life is, if you see what I mean, and how careful one ought to be about money? It’s what I call a human document. Goodness knows how she’s been and gone and spent it all. I’d never have thought she was the sort of girl to go gadding around. Always seemed to me to be kind of sensible.”

“What’s gadding, pop,” asked Master Jakie, the goulash having ceased to chain his interest.

“Well, she wanted her job back and I gave it to her, and glad to get her back again. There’s class to that girl. She’s the sort of girl I want in the place. Don’t seem quite to have so much get-up in her as she used to—seems kind of quieted down—but she’s got class, and I’m glad she’s back. I hope she’ll stay. But don’t it show you?”

“Ah!” said Mrs. Abrahams, with more enthusiasm than before. It had not worked out such a bad story after all. In its essentials it was not unlike the film she had seen the previous evening, Gloria Gooch, in “A Girl Against the World.”

“Pop!” said Master Abrahams.

“Yes, Jakie?”

“When I’m grown up I won’t never lose no money. I’ll put it in the bank and save it.”

The slight depression caused by the contemplation of Sally’s troubles left Mr. Abrahams as mist melts beneath a sunbeam. “That’s a good boy, Jakie,” he said.

He felt in his waistcoat pocket, found a dime, and bent forward and patted Master Abrahams on the head. . . .

 

THERE is in certain men—and Bruce Carmyle was one of them—a quality of resilience, a sturdy refusal to acknowledge defeat, which aids them as effectively in affairs of the heart as in encounters of a sterner and more practical kind. As a wooer Bruce Carmyle resembled that durable type of pugilist who can give of his best only after he has received at least one substantial wallop on some tender spot. Although Sally had refused his offer of marriage quite definitely at Monk’s Crofton, it had never occurred to him to consider the episode closed. All his life he had been accustomed to getting what he wanted, and he meant to get it now.

He was quite sure that he wanted Sally. There had been moments when he had been conscious of certain doubts, but in the smart of temporary defeat these had vanished. That streak of Bohemianism in her which from time to time since their first meeting had jarred upon his orderly mind was forgotten, and all that Mr. Carmyle could remember was the brightness of her eyes, the jaunty lift of her chin, and the gallant trimness of her. Her gay prettiness seemed to flick at him like a whip in the darkness of wakeful nights, lashing him to pursuit. And quietly and methodically, like a respectable wolf settling on the trail of a Red Riding Hood, he prepared to pursue. Delicacy and imagination might have kept him back, but in these qualities he had never been strong. One cannot have everything.

His preparations for departure, though he did his best to make them swiftly and secretly, did not escape the notice of the Family. In many English families there seems to exist a system of inter-communication and news distribution like that of those savage tribes in Africa who pass the latest item of interest from point to point over miles of intervening jungle by some telepathic method never properly explained. On his last night in London, as he stooped to place the final collar in the last suit case, there entered to Bruce Carmyle at his apartment in South Audley Street the Family’s chosen representative, the man to whom the Family pointed with pride—Uncle Donald in the flesh.

There were two hundred and forty pounds of the flesh Uncle Donald was in, and the chair in which he deposited it creaked beneath its burden. Once, at Monk’s Crofton, Sally had spoiled a whole morning for her brother Fillmore by indicating Uncle Donald as the exact image of what he would be when he grew up. A superstition, cherished from early school days, that he had a weak heart, had caused the Family’s managing director to abstain from every form of exercise for nearly fifty years; and as he combined with a distaste for exercise one of the three heartiest appetites in the southwestern postal division of London, Uncle Donald at sixty-two was not a man one would willingly have lounging in one’s armchairs. Bruce Carmyle’s customary respectfulness was tinged with something approaching dislike as he looked at him.

 

UNCLE DONALD’S walrus mustache heaved gently upon his labored breath, like seaweed on a ground swell. There had been stairs to climb. “What’s this? What’s this?” he contrived to ejaculate at last. “You packing?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Carmyle shortly. For the first time in his life he was conscious of that sensation of furtive guilt habitual with his cousin Ginger when in the presence of this large, mackerel-eyed man.

“You going away?”

“Yes.”

“Where you going?”

“America.”

“When you going?”

“To-morrow morning.”

“Why you going?”

This dialogue has been set down as though it had been as brisk and snappy as any cross talk between vaudeville comedians, but in reality Uncle Donald’s peculiar methods of conversation had stretched it out over a period of nearly three minutes; for after each reply and before each question he had puffed and sighed and inhaled his mustache with such painful deliberation that his companion’s nerves were finding it difficult to bear up under the strain.

“You’re going after that girl,” said Uncle Donald accusingly.

Bruce Carmyle flushed darkly. And it is interesting to record that at this moment there flitted through his mind the thought that Ginger’s behavior at Bleke’s Coffee House on a certain notable occasion had not been so utterly inexcusable as he had supposed.

There was no doubt that the Family’s Chosen One could be trying.

“Will you have a whisky and soda, Uncle Donald?” he said by way of changing the conversation.

“Yes,” said his relative in pursuance of a vow he had made in the early eighties never to refuse an offer of this kind. “Gimme!”

You would have thought that that would have put matters on a pleasanter footing. But no. Having lapped up the restorative, Uncle Donald returned to the attack, quite unsoftened. “Never thought you were a fool before,” he said severely.

Bruce Carmyle’s proud spirit chafed. This sort of interview, which had become a commonplace with his cousin Ginger, was new to him. Hitherto his actions had neither courted criticism nor been subjected to it. “I’m not a fool.”

“You are a fool. A dam’ fool,” continued Uncle Donald, specifying more exactly. “Don’t like the girl. Never did. Not a nice girl. Didn’t like her. Right from the first.”

“Need we discuss this?” said Bruce Carmyle, dropping, as he was too apt to do, into the grand manner.

The Head of the Family drank in a layer of mustache and blew it out again. “Need we discuss it?” he said with asperity. “We’re going to discuss it! Whatch think I climbed all these blasted stairs for with my weak heart? Gimme another!”

Mr. Carmyle gave him another.

“ ’S a bad business,” moaned Uncle Donald, having gone through the movements once more. “Shocking bad business. If your poor father were alive, whatch think he’d say to your tearing across the world after this girl? I’ll tell you what he’d say. He’d say . . . what kind of whisky’s this?”

“O’Rafferty Special.”

“New to me. Not bad. Quite good. Sound. Mellow. Wherej get it?”

“Bilby’s, in Oxford Street.”

“Must order some. Mellow. He’d say—well, God knows what he’d say. Whatch doing it for? Whatch doing it for? That’s what I can’t see. None of us can see. Puzzles your uncle George. Baffles your aunt Geraldine. Nobody can understand it. Girl’s simply after your money. Anyone can see that.”

“Pardon me, Uncle Donald,” said Mr. Carmyle stiffly, “but that is surely rather absurd. If that were the case, why should she have refused me at Monk’s Crofton?”

“Drawing you on,” said Uncle Donald promptly. “Luring you on. Well-known trick. Girl in 1881, when I was at Oxford, tried to lure me on. If I hadn’t had some sense and a weak heart . . . Whatch know of this girl? Whatch know of her? That’s the point. Who is she? Wherej meet her?”

“I met her at Roville, in France.”

“Traveling with her family?”

“Traveling alone,” said Bruce Carmyle reluctantly.

“Not even with that brother of hers? Bad!” said Uncle Donald. “Bad, bad!”

“American girls are accustomed to more independence than English girls.”

“That young man,” said Uncle Donald, pursuing a train of thought, “is going to be fat one of these days if he doesn’t look out. Traveling alone, was she? What did you do? Catch her eye on the pier?”

“Really, Uncle Donald!”

“Well, must have got to know her somehow.”

“I was introduced to her by Lancelot. She was a friend of his.”

“Lancelot!” exploded Uncle Donald, quivering all over like a smitten jelly at the loathed name. “Well, that shows you what sort of a girl she is. Any girl that would be a friend of— Unpack!”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Unpack! Mustn’t go on with this foolery. Out of the question. Find some girl make you a good wife. Your aunt Mary’s been meeting some people name of Bassington-Bassington, related Kent Bassington-Bassingtons. . . . Eldest daughter charming girl, just do for you.”

 

OUTSIDE the pages of the more old-fashioned type of fiction nobody ever really ground his teeth, but Bruce Carmyle came nearer to it at that moment than anyone had ever come before. He scowled blackly, and the last trace of suavity left him. “I shall do nothing of the kind,” he said briefly. “I sail to-morrow.”

Uncle Donald had had a previous experience of being defied by a nephew, but it had not accustomed him to the sensation. He was aware of an unpleasant feeling of impotence. Nothing is harder than to know what to do next when defied. “Eh?” he said.

Mr. Carmyle, having started to defy, had evidently decided to make a good job of it. “I am over twenty-one,” he said. “I am financially independent. I shall do as I please.”

“But consider!” pleaded Uncle Donald, painfully conscious of the weakness of his words. “Reflect!”

“I have reflected.”

“Your position in the county . . .”

“I’ve thought of that.”

“You could marry anyone you pleased.”

“I’m going to.”

“You are determined to go running off to God-knows-where after this Miss I-can’t-even-remember-her-dam’-name?”

“Yes.”

“Have you considered,” said Uncle Donald portentously, “that you owe a duty to the Family?”

Bruce Carmyle’s patience snapped, and he sank like a stone to absolutely Gingerian depths of plain-spokenness.

“Oh, damn the Family!” he cried.

There was a painful silence, broken only by the relieved sigh of the armchair as Uncle Donald heaved himself out of it. “After that,” said Uncle Donald, “I have nothing more to say.”

“Good!” said Mr. Carmyle rudely, lost to all shame.

“ ’Cept this. If you come back married to that girl, I’ll cut you in Piccadilly. By George, I will!”

He moved to the door. Bruce Carmyle looked down his nose without speaking. A tense moment.

“What,” asked Uncle Donald, his fingers on the handle, “did you say it was called?”

“What was what called?”

“That whisky.”

“O’Rafferty Special.”

“And wherej get it?”

“Bilby’s, in Oxford Street.”

“I’ll make a note of it,” said Uncle Donald. . . .

 

AND after all I’ve done for her,” said Mr. Reginald Cracknell, his voice tremulous with self-pity and his eyes moist with the combined effects of anguish and overindulgence in his celebrated private stock—“after all I’ve done for her, she throws me down.”

Mabel Hobson sat watching the revels with a distant hauteur

Sally did not reply. The orchestra of the Flower Garden was of a caliber that discouraged vocal competition; and she was having, moreover, too much difficulty in adjusting her feet to Mr. Cracknell’s erratic dance steps to employ her attention elsewhere. They maneuvered jerkily past the table where Miss Mabel Hobson, the Flower Garden’s newest “hostess,” sat watching the revels with a distant hauteur. Miss Hobson was looking her most regal in old gold and black, and a sorrowful gulp escaped the stricken Mr. Cracknell as he shambled beneath her eye.

“If I told you,” he moaned in Sally’s ear, “what . . . was that your ankle? Sorry! Don’t know what I’m doing tonight . . . if I told you what I had spent on that woman, you wouldn’t believe it. And then she throws me down. And all because I said I didn’t like her in her new hat. She hasn’t spoken to me for a week, and won’t answer when I call up on the phone. And I was right too. It was a rotten hat. Didn’t suit her a bit. But that,” said Mr. Cracknell morosely, “is a woman all over!”

Sally uttered a stifled exclamation as his wandering foot descended on hers before she could get it out of the way. Mr. Cracknell interpreted the ejaculation as a protest against the sweeping harshness of his last remark, and gallantly tried to make amends.

“I don’t mean you’re like that,” he said. “You’re different. I could see that directly I saw you. You have a sympathetic nature. That’s why I’m telling you all this. You’re a sensible, broad-minded girl, and can understand. I’ve done everything for that woman. I got her this job as hostess here—you wouldn’t believe what they pay her. I starred her in a show once. Did you see those pearls she was wearing? I gave her those. And she won’t speak to me. Just because I didn’t like her hat. I wish you could have seen that hat. You would have agreed with me, I know, because you’re a sensible, broad-minded girl, and understand hats. I don’t know what to do. I come here every night.”

Sally was aware of this. She had seen him often, but this was the first time that Lee Schoenstein, the gentlemanly master of ceremonies, had inflicted him on her.

“I come here every night and dance past her table, but she won’t look at me. What,” asked Mr. Cracknell, tears welling in his pale eyes, “would you do about it?”

“I don’t know,” said Sally frankly.

“Nor do I. I thought you wouldn’t, because you’re a sensible, broad-minded— I mean, nor do I. I’m having one last try to-night, if you can keep a secret. You won’t tell anyone, will you?” pleaded Mr. Cracknell urgently. “But I know you won’t, because you’re a sensible— I’m giving her a little present. Having it brought here to-night. Little present. That ought to soften her, don’t you think?”

“A big one would do it better.”

Mr. Cracknell kicked her on the shin in a dismayed sort of way.

“I never thought of that. Perhaps you’re right. But it’s too late now. Still, it might. Or wouldn’t it? Which do you think?”

“Yes,” said Sally.

“I thought as much,” said Mr. Cracknell.

The orchestra stopped with a thump and a bang. Leaving Mr. Cracknell clapping feebly in the middle of the floor, Sally slipped back to her table. Her late partner, after an uncertain glance about him as if he had mislaid something, but could not remember what, zigzagged off in search of his own seat. The noise of many conversations, drowned by the music, broke out with renewed vigor. The hot, close air was full of voices, and Sally, pressing her hands on her closed eyes, was reminded once more that she had a headache.

Nearly a month had passed since her return to Mr. Abraham’s employment. It had been a dull, leaden month, a monotonous succession of lifeless days during which life had become a bad dream. In some strange nightmare fashion she seemed nowadays to be cut off from her kind. It was weeks since she had seen a familiar face. None of the companions of her old boarding-house days had crossed her path. Fillmore, no doubt from uneasiness of conscience, had not sought her out, and Ginger was working out his destiny on the south shore of Long Island.

She lowered her hands and opened her eyes and looked at the room. It was crowded, as always. The Flower Garden was one of the many establishments of the same kind which had swum to popularity on the rising flood of New York’s dancing craze, and doubtless because, as its proprietor had claimed, it was a nice place and run nice, it had continued, unlike many of its rivals, to enjoy unvarying prosperity. In its advertisements it described itself as “a supper club for after-theatre dining and dancing,” adding that, “large, spacious, and sumptuously appointed,” it was “one of the town’s wonder places with its incomparable dance floor, enchanting music, cuisine, and service de luxe.” From which it may be gathered, even without his personal statements to that effect, that Isadore Abrahams thought well of the place.

 

THERE had been a time when Sally had liked it too. In her first period of employment there she had found it diverting, stimulating, and full of entertainment. But in those days she had never had headaches or, what was worse, this dreadful listless depression which weighed her down and made her nightly work a burden.

“Miss Nicholas.”

The orchestra, never silent for long at the Flower Garden, had started again, and Lee Schoenstein, the master of ceremonies, was presenting a new partner. She got up mechanically.

“This is the first time I been in this place,” said the man as they bumped over the crowded floor. He was big and clumsy, of course. To-night it seemed to Sally that the whole world was big and clumsy. “It’s a swell place. I come from up-State myself. We got nothing like this where I come from.” He cleared a space before him, using Sally as a battering-ram, and Sally, though she had not enjoyed her recent excursion with Mr. Cracknell, now began to look back to it almost with wistfulness. This man was undoubtedly the worst dancer in America.

“Give me li’l old New York,” said the man from up-State unpatriotically. “It’s good enough for me. I been to some swell shows since I got to town. You seen this year’s ‘Follies’?”

“No.”

“You go,” said the man earnestly. “You go! Take it from me, it’s a swell show. You seen ‘Myrtle Takes a Turkish Bath’?”

“I don’t go to many theatres.”

“You go! It’s a scream. I been to a show every night since I got here. Every night regular. Swell shows, all of ’em except this last one. I cert’nly picked a lemon to-night all right. I was taking a chance, y’see, because it was an opening. Thought it would be something to say, when I got home, that I’d been to a New York opening. Set me back two-seventy-five, including tax, and I wish I’d got it in my kick right now. ‘The Wild Rose,’ they called it,” he said satirically, as if exposing a low subterfuge on the part of the management. “ ‘The Wild Rose’! It sure made me wild all right. Two dollars seventy-five tossed away, just like that.”

Something stirred in Sally’s memory. Why did that title seem so familiar? Then, with a shock, she remembered. It was Gerald’s new play. For some time after her return to New York she had been haunted by the fear lest, coming out of her apartment, she might meet him coming out of his; and then she had seen a paragraph in her morning paper which had relieved her of this apprehension. Gerald was out on the road with a new play, and “The Wild Rose,” she was almost sure, was the name of it.

“Is that Gerald Foster’s play?” she asked quickly.

“I don’t know who wrote it,” said her partner, “but let me tell you he’s one lucky guy to get away alive. There’s fellows breaking stones on the Ossining road that’s done a lot less to deserve a sentence. Wild Rose! I’ll tell the world it made me good and wild,” said the man from up-State, an economical soul who disliked waste and was accustomed to spread out his humorous efforts so as to give them every chance. “Why, before the second act was over, the people were beating it for the exits, and if it hadn’t been for some one shouting ‘Women and children first!’ there’d have been a panic.”

Sally found herself back at her table without knowing clearly how she had got there.

“Miss Nicholas.”

She started to rise, and was aware suddenly that this was not the voice of duty calling once more through the gold teeth of Mr. Schoenstein. The man who had spoken her name had seated himself beside her, and was talking in precise, clipped accents, oddly familiar. The mist cleared from her eyes and she recognized Bruce Carmyle.

 

I CALLED at your place,” Mr. Carmyle was saying, “and the hall porter told me that you were here, so I ventured to follow you. I hope you do not mind. May I smoke?”

He lit a cigarette with something of an air. His fingers trembled as he raised the match, but he flattered himself that there was nothing else in his demeanor to indicate that he was violently excited. Bruce Carmyle’s ideal was the strong man who can rise superior to his emotions. He was alive to the fact that this was an embarrassing moment, but he was determined not to show that he appreciated it. He cast a sideways glance at Sally, and thought that never, not even in the garden at Monk’s Crofton on a certain momentous occasion, had he seen her looking prettier. Her face was flushed and her eyes aflame. The stout wraith of Uncle Donald, which had accompanied Mr. Carmyle on this expedition of his, faded into nothingness as he gazed.

There was a pause. Mr. Carmyle, having lighted his cigarette, puffed vigorously.

“When did you land?” asked Sally, feeling the need of saying something. Her mind was confused. She could not have said whether she was glad or sorry that he was there. Glad, she thought, on the whole. There was something in his dark, cool, stiff English aspect that gave her a curious feeling of relief. He was so unlike Mr. Cracknell and the man from up-State, and so calmly remote from the feverish atmosphere in which she lived her nights that it was restful to look at him.

“I landed to-night,” said Bruce Carmyle, turning and facing her squarely.

“To-night!”

“We docked at ten.”

He turned away again. He had made his effect, and was content to leave her to think it over.

Sally was silent. The significance of his words had not escaped her. She realized that his presence there was a challenge which she must answer. And yet it hardly stirred her. She had been fighting so long, and she felt utterly inert. She was like a swimmer who can battle no longer and prepares to yield to the numbness of exhaustion. The heat of the room pressed down on her like a smothering blanket. Her tired nerves cried out under the blare of music and the clatter of voices.

“Shall we dance this?” he asked.

The orchestra had started to play again, a sensuous, creamy melody which was making the most of its brief reign as Broadway’s leading song hit, over-familiar to her from a hundred repetitions.

“If you like.”

Efficiency was Brute Carmyle’s gospel. He was one of those men who do not attempt anything which they cannot accomplish to perfection. Dancing, he had decided early in his life, was a part of a gentleman’s education, and he had seen to it that he was educated thoroughly. Sally, who, as they swept out on to the floor, had braced herself automatically for a repetition of the usual bumping struggle which dancing at the Flower Garden had come to mean for her, found herself in the arms of a masterful expert, a man who danced better than she did, and suddenly there came to her a feeling that was almost gratitude, a miraculous slackening of her taut nerves, a delicious peace. Soothed and contented, she yielded herself with eyes half closed to the rhythm of the melody, finding it now robbed in some mysterious manner of all its stale cheapness, and in that moment her whole attitude toward Bruce Carmyle underwent a complete change.

She had never troubled to examine with any minuteness her feeling toward him, but one thing she had known clearly since their first meeting—that he was physically distasteful to her. For all his good looks, and in his rather sinister way he was a handsome man, she had shrunk from him. Now, spirited away by the magic of the dance, that repugnance had left her. It was as if some barrier had been broken down between them.

“Sally!”

She felt his arm tighten about her, the muscles quivering. She caught sight of his face. His dark eyes suddenly blazed into hers, and she stumbled with an odd feeling of helplessness, realizing, with a shock that brought her with a jerk out of the half dream into which she had been lulled, that this dance had not postponed the moment of decision, as she had looked to it to do. In a hot whisper, the words swept away on the flood of the music which had suddenly become raucous and blaring once more, he was repeating what he had said under the trees at Monk’s Crofton on that far-off morning in the English springtime. Dizzily she knew that she was resenting the unfairness of the attack at such a moment, but her mind seemed numbed.

 

THE music stopped abruptly. Insistent clapping started it again, but Sally moved away to her table, and he followed her like a shadow. Neither spoke. Bruce Carmyle had said his say, and Sally was sitting, staring before her, trying to think. She was tired, tired. Her eyes were burning. She tried to force herself to face the situation squarely. Was it worth struggling? Was anything in the world worth a struggle? She only knew that she was tired, desperately tired, tired to the very depths of her soul.

The music stopped. There was more clapping, but this time the orchestra did not respond. Gradually the floor emptied. The shuffling of feet ceased. The Flower Garden was as quiet as it was ever able to be. Even the voices of the babblers seemed strangely hushed. Sally closed her eyes, and as she did so from somewhere up near the roof there came the song of a bird.

Isadore Abrahams was a man of his word. He advertised a Flower Garden, and he had tried to give the public something as closely resembling a flower garden as it was possible for an overcrowded, overheated, overnoisy Broadway dancing resort to achieve. Paper roses festooned the walls; genuine tulips bloomed in tubs by every pillar, and from the roof hung cages with birds in them. One of these, stirred by the sudden cessation of the tumult below, had begun to sing.

Sally had often pitied these birds, and more than once had pleaded in vain with Mr. Abrahams for a remission of their sentence, but somehow at this moment it did not occur to her that this one was merely praying in its own language, as she had often prayed in her thoughts, to be taken out of this place. To her, sitting there wrestling with fate, the song seemed cheerful. It soothed her. It healed her to listen to it. And suddenly before her eyes there rose a vision of Monk’s Crofton, cool, green, and peaceful under the mild English sun, luring her as an oasis seen in the distance lures the desert traveler.

She thought of the old garden at Monk's Crofton

She became aware that the master of Monk’s Crofton had placed his hand on hers and was holding it in a tightening grip. She looked down and gave a little shiver. She had always disliked Bruce Carmyle’s hands. They were strong and bony, and black hairs grew on the back of them. One of her earliest feelings regarding him had been that she would hate to have those hands touching her. But she did not move. Again that vision of the old garden had flickered across her mind . . . a haven where she could rest. . . .

He was leaning toward her, whispering in her ear. The room was hotter than it had ever been, noisier than it had ever been, fuller than it had ever been. The bird on the roof was singing again, and now she understood what it said. “Take me out of this!” Did anything matter except that? What did it matter how one was taken, or where, or by whom, so that one was taken?

Monk’s Crofton was looking cool and green and peaceful.

“Very well,” said Sally.

 

(To be continued next week)

 

Editor’s note:
Printer’s error corrected above:
Magazine had “You seen this year ‘Follies’?”; amended to “this year’s” as in all other versions.