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Title: An American Tragedy (1925)
Author: Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945)
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Language:   English
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Title:      An American Tragedy (1925)
Author:     Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945)





BOOK ONE



Chapter 1


Dusk--of a summer night.

And the tall walls of the commercial heart of an American city of
perhaps 400,000 inhabitants--such walls as in time may linger as a
mere fable.

And up the broad street, now comparatively hushed, a little band
of six,--a man of about fifty, short, stout, with bushy hair
protruding from under a round black felt hat, a most unimportant-
looking person, who carried a small portable organ such as is
customarily used by street preachers and singers.  And with him a
woman perhaps five years his junior, taller, not so broad, but
solid of frame and vigorous, very plain in face and dress, and yet
not homely, leading with one hand a small boy of seven and in the
other carrying a Bible and several hymn books.  With these three,
but walking independently behind, was a girl of fifteen, a boy of
twelve and another girl of nine, all following obediently, but not
too enthusiastically, in the wake of the others.

It was hot, yet with a sweet languor about it all.

Crossing at right angles the great thoroughfare on which they
walked, was a second canyon-like way, threaded by throngs and
vehicles and various lines of cars which clanged their bells and
made such progress as they might amid swiftly moving streams of
traffic.  Yet the little group seemed unconscious of anything save
a set purpose to make its way between the contending lines of
traffic and pedestrians which flowed by them.

Having reached an intersection this side of the second principal
thoroughfare--really just an alley between two tall structures--now
quite bare of life of any kind, the man put down the organ, which
the woman immediately opened, setting up a music rack upon which
she placed a wide flat hymn book.  Then handing the Bible to the
man, she fell back in line with him, while the twelve-year-old boy
put down a small camp-stool in front of the organ.  The man--the
father, as he chanced to be--looked about him with seeming wide-
eyed assurance, and announced, without appearing to care whether he
had any auditors or not:

"We will first sing a hymn of praise, so that any who may wish to
acknowledge the Lord may join us.  Will you oblige, Hester?"

At this the eldest girl, who until now had attempted to appear as
unconscious and unaffected as possible, bestowed her rather slim
and as yet undeveloped figure upon the camp chair and turned the
leaves of the hymn book, pumping the organ while her mother
observed:

"I should think it might be nice to sing twenty-seven tonight--'How
Sweet the Balm of Jesus' Love.'"

By this time various homeward-bound individuals of diverse grades
and walks of life, noticing the small group disposing itself in
this fashion, hesitated for a moment to eye them askance or paused
to ascertain the character of their work.  This hesitancy,
construed by the man apparently to constitute attention, however
mobile, was seized upon by him and he began addressing them as
though they were specifically here to hear him.

"Let us all sing twenty-seven, then--'How Sweet the Balm of Jesus'
Love.'"

At this the young girl began to interpret the melody upon the
organ, emitting a thin though correct strain, at the same time
joining her rather high soprano with that of her mother, together
with the rather dubious baritone of the father.  The other children
piped weakly along, the boy and girl having taken hymn books from
the small pile stacked upon the organ.  As they sang, this
nondescript and indifferent street audience gazed, held by the
peculiarity of such an unimportant-looking family publicly raising
its collective voice against the vast skepticism and apathy of
life.  Some were interested or moved sympathetically by the rather
tame and inadequate figure of the girl at the organ, others by the
impractical and materially inefficient texture of the father, whose
weak blue eyes and rather flabby but poorly-clothed figure bespoke
more of failure than anything else.  Of the group the mother alone
stood out as having that force and determination which, however
blind or erroneous, makes for self-preservation, if not success in
life.  She, more than any of the others, stood up with an ignorant,
yet somehow respectable air of conviction.  If you had watched her,
her hymn book dropped to her side, her glance directed straight
before her into space, you would have said:  "Well, here is one
who, whatever her defects, probably does what she believes as
nearly as possible."  A kind of hard, fighting faith in the wisdom
and mercy of that definite overruling and watchful power which she
proclaimed, was written in her every feature and gesture.


     "The love of Jesus saves me whole,
      The love of God my steps control,"


she sang resonantly, if slightly nasally, between the towering
walls of the adjacent buildings.

The boy moved restlessly from one foot to the other, keeping his
eyes down, and for the most part only half singing.  A tall and as
yet slight figure, surmounted by an interesting head and face--
white skin, dark hair--he seemed more keenly observant and
decidedly more sensitive than most of the others--appeared indeed
to resent and even to suffer from the position in which he found
himself.  Plainly pagan rather than religious, life interested him,
although as yet he was not fully aware of this.  All that could be
truly said of him now was that there was no definite appeal in all
this for him.  He was too young, his mind much too responsive to
phases of beauty and pleasure which had little, if anything, to do
with the remote and cloudy romance which swayed the minds of his
mother and father.

Indeed the home life of which this boy found himself a part and the
various contacts, material and psychic, which thus far had been
his, did not tend to convince him of the reality and force of all
that his mother and father seemed so certainly to believe and say.
Rather, they seemed more or less troubled in their lives, at least
materially.  His father was always reading the Bible and speaking
in meeting at different places, especially in the "mission," which
he and his mother conducted not so far from this corner.  At the
same time, as he understood it, they collected money from various
interested or charitably inclined business men here and there who
appeared to believe in such philanthropic work.  Yet the family was
always "hard up," never very well clothed, and deprived of many
comforts and pleasures which seemed common enough to others.  And
his father and mother were constantly proclaiming the love and
mercy and care of God for him and for all.  Plainly there was
something wrong somewhere.  He could not get it all straight, but
still he could not help respecting his mother, a woman whose force
and earnestness, as well as her sweetness, appealed to him.
Despite much mission work and family cares, she managed to be
fairly cheerful, or at least sustaining, often declaring most
emphatically "God will provide" or "God will show the way,"
especially in times of too great stress about food or clothes.  Yet
apparently, in spite of this, as he and all the other children
could see, God did not show any very clear way, even though there
was always an extreme necessity for His favorable intervention in
their affairs.

To-night, walking up the great street with his sisters and brother,
he wished that they need not do this any more, or at least that he
need not be a part of it.  Other boys did not do such things, and
besides, somehow it seemed shabby and even degrading.  On more than
one occasion, before he had been taken on the street in this
fashion, other boys had called to him and made fun of his father,
because he was always publicly emphasizing his religious beliefs or
convictions.  Thus in one neighborhood in which they had lived,
when he was but a child of seven, his father, having always
preluded every conversation with "Praise the Lord," he heard boys
call "Here comes old Praise-the-Lord Griffiths."  Or they would
call out after him "Hey, you're the fellow whose sister plays the
organ.  Is there anything else she can play?"

"What does he always want to go around saying, 'Praise the Lord'
for?  Other people don't do it."

It was that old mass yearning for a likeness in all things that
troubled them, and him.  Neither his father nor his mother was like
other people, because they were always making so much of religion,
and now at last they were making a business of it.

On this night in this great street with its cars and crowds and
tall buildings, he felt ashamed, dragged out of normal life, to be
made a show and jest of.  The handsome automobiles that sped by,
the loitering pedestrians moving off to what interests and comforts
he could only surmise; the gay pairs of young people, laughing and
jesting and the "kids" staring, all troubled him with a sense of
something different, better, more beautiful than his, or rather
their life.

And now units of this vagrom and unstable street throng, which was
forever shifting and changing about them, seemed to sense the
psychologic error of all this in so far as these children were
concerned, for they would nudge one another, the more sophisticated
and indifferent lifting an eyebrow and smiling contemptuously, the
more sympathetic or experienced commenting on the useless presence
of these children.

"I see these people around here nearly every night now--two or
three times a week, anyhow," this from a young clerk who had just
met his girl and was escorting her toward a restaurant.  "They're
just working some religious dodge or other, I guess."

"That oldest boy don't wanta be here.  He feels outa place, I can
see that.  It ain't right to make a kid like that come out unless
he wants to.  He can't understand all this stuff, anyhow."  This
from an idler and loafer of about forty, one of those odd hangers-
on about the commercial heart of a city, addressing a pausing and
seemingly amiable stranger.

"Yeh, I guess that's so," the other assented, taking in the
peculiar cast of the boy's head and face.  In view of the uneasy
and self-conscious expression upon the face whenever it was lifted,
one might have intelligently suggested that it was a little unkind
as well as idle to thus publicly force upon a temperament as yet
unfitted to absorb their import, religious and psychic services
best suited to reflective temperaments of maturer years.

Yet so it was.

As for the remainder of the family, both the youngest girl and boy
were too small to really understand much of what it was all about
or to care.  The eldest girl at the organ appeared not so much to
mind, as to enjoy the attention and comment her presence and
singing evoked, for more than once, not only strangers, but her
mother and father, had assured her that she had an appealing and
compelling voice, which was only partially true.  It was not a good
voice.  They did not really understand music.  Physically, she was
of a pale, emasculate and unimportant structure, with no real
mental force or depth, and was easily made to feel that this was an
excellent field in which to distinguish herself and attract a
little attention.  As for the parents, they were determined upon
spiritualizing the world as much as possible, and, once the hymn
was concluded, the father launched into one of those hackneyed
descriptions of the delights of a release, via self-realization of
the mercy of God and the love of Christ and the will of God toward
sinners, from the burdensome cares of an evil conscience.

"All men are sinners in the light of the Lord," he declared.
"Unless they repent, unless they accept Christ, His love and
forgiveness of them, they can never know the happiness of being
spiritually whole and clean.  Oh, my friends!  If you could but
know the peace and content that comes with the knowledge, the
inward understanding, that Christ lived and died for you and that
He walks with you every day and hour, by light and by dark, at dawn
and at dusk, to keep and strengthen you for the tasks and cares of
the world that are ever before you.  Oh, the snares and pitfalls
that beset us all!  And then the soothing realization that Christ
is ever with us, to counsel, to aid, to hearten, to bind up our
wounds and make us whole!  Oh, the peace, the satisfaction, the
comfort, the glory of that!"

"Amen!" asseverated his wife, and the daughter, Hester, or Esta, as
she was called by the family, moved by the need of as much public
support as possible for all of them--echoed it after her.

Clyde, the eldest boy, and the two younger children merely gazed at
the ground, or occasionally at their father, with a feeling that
possibly it was all true and important, yet somehow not as
significant or inviting as some of the other things which life
held.  They heard so much of this, and to their young and eager
minds life was made for something more than street and mission hall
protestations of this sort.

Finally, after a second hymn and an address by Mrs. Griffiths,
during which she took occasion to refer to the mission work jointly
conducted by them in a near-by street, and their services to the
cause of Christ in general, a third hymn was indulged in, and then
some tracts describing the mission rescue work being distributed,
such voluntary gifts as were forthcoming were taken up by Asa--the
father.  The small organ was closed, the camp chair folded up and
given to Clyde, the Bible and hymn books picked up by Mrs.
Griffiths, and with the organ supported by a leather strap passed
over the shoulder of Griffiths, senior, the missionward march was
taken up.

During all this time Clyde was saying to himself that he did not
wish to do this any more, that he and his parents looked foolish
and less than normal--"cheap" was the word he would have used if
he could have brought himself to express his full measure of
resentment at being compelled to participate in this way--and that
he would not do it any more if he could help.  What good did it do
them to have him along?  His life should not be like this.  Other
boys did not have to do as he did.  He meditated now more
determinedly than ever a rebellion by which he would rid himself of
the need of going out in this way.  Let his elder sister go if she
chose; she liked it.  His younger sister and brother might be too
young to care.  But he--

"They seemed a little more attentive than usual to-night, I
thought," commented Griffiths to his wife as they walked along, the
seductive quality of the summer evening air softening him into a
more generous interpretation of the customary indifferent spirit of
the passer-by.

"Yes; twenty-seven took tracts to-night as against eighteen on
Thursday."

"The love of Christ must eventually prevail," comforted the father,
as much to hearten himself as his wife.  "The pleasures and cares
of the world hold a very great many, but when sorrow overtakes
them, then some of these seeds will take root."

"I am sure of it.  That is the thought which always keeps me up.
Sorrow and the weight of sin eventually bring some of them to see
the error of their way."

They now entered into the narrow side street from which they had
emerged and walking as many as a dozen doors from the corner,
entered the door of a yellow single-story wooden building, the
large window and the two glass panes in the central door of which
had been painted a gray-white.  Across both windows and the smaller
panels in the double door had been painted:  "The Door of Hope.
Bethel Independent Mission.  Meetings Every Wednesday and Saturday
night, 8 to 10.  Sundays at 11, 3 and 8.  Everybody Welcome."
Under this legend on each window were printed the words:  "God is
Love," and below this again, in smaller type:  "How Long Since You
Wrote to Mother?"

The small company entered the yellow unprepossessing door and
disappeared.



Chapter 2


That such a family, thus cursorily presented, might have a
different and somewhat peculiar history could well be anticipated,
and it would be true.  Indeed, this one presented one of those
anomalies of psychic and social reflex and motivation such as would
tax the skill of not only the psychologist but the chemist and
physicist as well, to unravel.  To begin with, Asa Griffiths, the
father, was one of those poorly integrated and correlated
organisms, the product of an environment and a religious theory,
but with no guiding or mental insight of his own, yet sensitive and
therefore highly emotional and without any practical sense
whatsoever.  Indeed it would be hard to make clear just how life
appealed to him, or what the true hue of his emotional responses
was.  On the other hand, as has been indicated, his wife was of a
firmer texture but with scarcely any truer or more practical
insight into anything.

The history of this man and his wife is of no particular interest
here save as it affected their boy of twelve, Clyde Griffiths.
This youth, aside from a certain emotionalism and exotic sense of
romance which characterized him, and which he took more from his
father than from his mother, brought a more vivid and intelligent
imagination to things, and was constantly thinking of how he might
better himself, if he had a chance; places to which he might go,
things he might see, and how differently he might live, if only
this, that and the other things were true.  The principal thing
that troubled Clyde up to his fifteenth year, and for long after in
retrospect, was that the calling or profession of his parents was
the shabby thing that it appeared to be in the eyes of others.  For
so often throughout his youth in different cities in which his
parents had conducted a mission or spoken on the streets--Grand
Rapids, Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, lastly Kansas City--it had
been obvious that people, at least the boys and girls he
encountered, looked down upon him and his brothers and sisters for
being the children of such parents.  On several occasions, and much
against the mood of his parents, who never countenanced such
exhibitions of temper, he had stopped to fight with one or another
of these boys.  But always, beaten or victorious, he had been
conscious of the fact that the work his parents did was not
satisfactory to others,--shabby, trivial.  And always he was
thinking of what he would do, once he reached the place where he
could get away.

For Clyde's parents had proved impractical in the matter of the
future of their children.  They did not understand the importance
or the essential necessity for some form of practical or
professional training for each and every one of their young ones.
Instead, being wrapped up in the notion of evangelizing the world,
they had neglected to keep their children in school in any one
place.  They had moved here and there, sometimes in the very midst
of an advantageous school season, because of a larger and better
religious field in which to work.  And there were times, when, the
work proving highly unprofitable and Asa being unable to make much
money at the two things he most understood--gardening and
canvassing for one invention or another--they were quite without
sufficient food or decent clothes, and the children could not go to
school.  In the face of such situations as these, whatever the
children might think, Asa and his wife remained as optimistic as
ever, or they insisted to themselves that they were, and had
unwavering faith in the Lord and His intention to provide.

The combination home and mission which this family occupied was
dreary enough in most of its phases to discourage the average youth
or girl of any spirit.  It consisted in its entirety of one long
store floor in an old and decidedly colorless and inartistic wooden
building which was situated in that part of Kansas City which lies
north of Independence Boulevard and west of Troost Avenue, the
exact street or place being called Bickel, a very short thoroughfare
opening off Missouri Avenue, a somewhat more lengthy but no less
nondescript highway.  And the entire neighborhood in which it stood
was very faintly and yet not agreeably redolent of a commercial life
which had long since moved farther south, if not west.  It was some
five blocks from the spot on which twice a week the open air
meetings of these religious enthusiasts and proselytizers were held.

And it was the ground floor of this building, looking out into
Bickel Street at the front and some dreary back yards of equally
dreary frame houses, which was divided at the front into a hall
forty by twenty-five feet in size, in which had been placed some
sixty collapsible wood chairs, a lectern, a map of Palestine or the
Holy Land, and for wall decorations some twenty-five printed but
unframed mottoes which read in part:


"WINE IS A MOCKER, STRONG DRINK IS RAGING AND WHOSOEVER IS DECEIVED
THEREBY IS NOT WISE."

"TAKE HOLD OF SHIELD AND BUCKLER, AND STAND UP FOR MINE HELP."
PSALMS 35:2.

"AND YE, MY FLOCK, THE FLOCK OF MY PASTURE, are men, AND I AM YOUR
GOD, SAITH THE LORD GOD."  EZEKIEL 34:31.

"O GOD, THOU KNOWEST MY FOOLISHNESS, AND MY SINS ARE NOT HID FROM
THEE."  PSALMS 69:5.

"IF YE HAVE FAITH AS A GRAIN OF MUSTARD SEED, YE SHALL SAY UNTO
THIS MOUNTAIN, REMOVE HENCE TO YONDER PLACE; AND IT SHALL MOVE; AND
NOTHING SHALL BE IMPOSSIBLE TO YOU."  MATTHEW 17:20.

"FOR THE DAY OF THE LORD IS NEAR."  OBADIAH 15.

"FOR THERE SHALL BE NO REWARD TO THE EVIL MAN."  PROVERBS 24:20.

"LOOK, THEN, NOT UPON THE WINE WHEN IT IS RED:  IT BITETH LIKE A
SERPENT, AND STINGETH LIKE AN ADDER."  PROVERBS 23:31,32.


These mighty adjurations were as silver and gold plates set in a
wall of dross.

The rear forty feet of this very commonplace floor was intricately
and yet neatly divided into three small bedrooms, a living room
which overlooked the backyard and wooden fences of yards no better
than those at the back; also, a combination kitchen and dining room
exactly ten feet square, and a store room for mission tracts,
hymnals, boxes, trunks and whatever else of non-immediate use, but
of assumed value, which the family owned.  This particular small
room lay immediately to the rear of the mission hall itself, and
into it before or after speaking or at such times as a conference
seemed important, both Mr. and Mrs. Griffiths were wont to retire--
also at times to meditate or pray.

How often had Clyde and his sisters and younger brother seen his
mother or father, or both, in conference with some derelict or
semi-repentant soul who had come for advice or aid, most usually
for aid.  And here at times, when his mother's and father's
financial difficulties were greatest, they were to be found
thinking, or as Asa Griffiths was wont helplessly to say at times,
"praying their way out," a rather ineffectual way, as Clyde began
to think later.

And the whole neighborhood was so dreary and run-down that he hated
the thought of living in it, let alone being part of a work that
required constant appeals for aid, as well as constant prayer and
thanksgiving to sustain it.

Mrs. Elvira Griffiths before she had married Asa had been nothing
but an ignorant farm girl, brought up without much thought of
religion of any kind.  But having fallen in love with him, she had
become inoculated with the virus of Evangelism and proselytizing
which dominated him, and had followed him gladly and enthusiastically
in all of his ventures and through all of his vagaries.  Being
rather flattered by the knowledge that she could speak and sing, her
ability to sway and persuade and control people with the "word of
God," as she saw it, she had become more or less pleased with
herself on this account and so persuaded to continue.

Occasionally a small band of people followed the preachers to their
mission, or learning of its existence through their street work,
appeared there later--those odd and mentally disturbed or distrait
souls who are to be found in every place.  And it had been Clyde's
compulsory duty throughout the years when he could not act for
himself to be in attendance at these various meetings.  And always
he had been more irritated than favorably influenced by the types
of men and women who came here--mostly men--down-and-out laborers,
loafers, drunkards, wastrels, the botched and helpless who seemed
to drift in, because they had no other place to go.  And they were
always testifying as to how God or Christ or Divine Grace had
rescued them from this or that predicament--never how they had
rescued any one else.  And always his father and mother were saying
"Amen" and "Glory to God," and singing hymns and afterward taking
up a collection for the legitimate expenses of the hall--
collections which, as he surmised, were little enough--barely
enough to keep the various missions they had conducted in
existence.

The one thing that really interested him in connection with his
parents was the existence somewhere in the east--in a small city
called Lycurgus, near Utica he understood--of an uncle, a brother
of his father's, who was plainly different from all this.  That
uncle--Samuel Griffiths by name--was rich.  In one way and another,
from casual remarks dropped by his parents, Clyde had heard
references to certain things this particular uncle might do for a
person, if he but would; references to the fact that he was a
shrewd, hard business man; that he had a great house and a large
factory in Lycurgus for the manufacture of collars and shirts,
which employed not less than three hundred people; that he had a
son who must be about Clyde's age, and several daughters, two at
least, all of whom must be, as Clyde imagined, living in luxury in
Lycurgus.  News of all this had apparently been brought west in
some way by people who knew Asa and his father and brother.  As
Clyde pictured this uncle, he must be a kind of Croesus, living in
ease and luxury there in the east, while here in the west--Kansas
City--he and his parents and his brother and sisters were living in
the same wretched and hum-drum, hand-to-mouth state that had always
characterized their lives.

But for this--apart from anything he might do for himself, as he
early began to see--there was no remedy.  For at fifteen, and even
a little earlier, Clyde began to understand that his education, as
well as his sisters' and brother's, had been sadly neglected.  And
it would be rather hard for him to overcome this handicap, seeing
that other boys and girls with more money and better homes were
being trained for special kinds of work.  How was one to get a
start under such circumstances?  Already when, at the age of
thirteen, fourteen and fifteen, he began looking in the papers,
which, being too worldly, had never been admitted to his home, he
found that mostly skilled help was wanted, or boys to learn trades
in which at the moment he was not very much interested.  For true
to the standard of the American youth, or the general American
attitude toward life, he felt himself above the type of labor which
was purely manual.  What!  Run a machine, lay bricks, learn to be a
carpenter, or a plasterer, or plumber, when boys no better than
himself were clerks and druggists' assistants and bookkeepers and
assistants in banks and real estate offices and such!  Wasn't it
menial, as miserable as the life he had thus far been leading, to
wear old clothes and get up so early in the morning and do all the
commonplace things such people had to do?

For Clyde was as vain and proud as he was poor.  He was one of
those interesting individuals who looked upon himself as a thing
apart--never quite wholly and indissolubly merged with the family
of which he was a member, and never with any profound obligations
to those who had been responsible for his coming into the world.
On the contrary, he was inclined to study his parents, not too
sharply or bitterly, but with a very fair grasp of their qualities
and capabilities.  And yet, with so much judgment in that
direction, he was never quite able--at least not until he had
reached his sixteenth year--to formulate any policy in regard to
himself, and then only in a rather fumbling and tentative way.

Incidentally by that time the sex lure or appeal had begun to
manifest itself and he was already intensely interested and
troubled by the beauty of the opposite sex, its attractions for him
and his attraction for it.  And, naturally and coincidentally, the
matter of his clothes and his physical appearance had begun to
trouble him not a little--how he looked and how other boys looked.
It was painful to him now to think that his clothes were not right;
that he was not as handsome as he might be, not as interesting.
What a wretched thing it was to be born poor and not to have any
one to do anything for you and not to be able to do so very much
for yourself!

Casual examination of himself in mirrors whenever he found them
tended rather to assure him that he was not so bad-looking--a
straight, well-cut nose, high white forehead, wavy, glossy, black
hair, eyes that were black and rather melancholy at times.  And yet
the fact that his family was the unhappy thing that it was, that he
had never had any real friends, and could not have any, as he saw
it, because of the work and connection of his parents, was now
tending more and more to induce a kind of mental depression or
melancholia which promised not so well for his future.  It served
to make him rebellious and hence lethargic at times.  Because of
his parents, and in spite of his looks, which were really agreeable
and more appealing than most, he was inclined to misinterpret the
interested looks which were cast at him occasionally by young girls
in very different walks of life from him--the contemptuous and yet
rather inviting way in which they looked to see if he were
interested or disinterested, brave or cowardly.

And yet, before he had ever earned any money at all, he had always
told himself that if only he had a better collar, a nicer shirt,
finer shoes, a good suit, a swell overcoat like some boys had!  Oh,
the fine clothes, the handsome homes, the watches, rings, pins that
some boys sported; the dandies many youths of his years already
were!  Some parents of boys of his years actually gave them cars of
their own to ride in.  They were to be seen upon the principal
streets of Kansas City flitting to and fro like flies.  And pretty
girls with them.  And he had nothing.  And he never had had.

And yet the world was so full of so many things to do--so many
people were so happy and so successful.  What was he to do?  Which
way to turn?  What one thing to take up and master--something that
would get him somewhere.  He could not say.  He did not know
exactly.  And these peculiar parents were in no way sufficiently
equipped to advise him.



Chapter 3


One of the things that served to darken Clyde's mood just about the
time when he was seeking some practical solution for himself, to
say nothing of its profoundly disheartening effect on the Griffiths
family as a whole, was the fact that his sister Esta, in whom he
took no little interest (although they really had very little in
common), ran away from home with an actor who happened to be
playing in Kansas City and who took a passing fancy for her.

The truth in regard to Esta was that in spite of her guarded up-
bringing, and the seeming religious and moral fervor which at times
appeared to characterize her, she was just a sensuous, weak girl
who did not by any means know yet what she thought.  Despite the
atmosphere in which she moved, essentially she was not of it.  Like
the large majority of those who profess and daily repeat the dogmas
and creeds of the world, she had come into her practices and
imagined attitude so insensibly from her earliest childhood on,
that up to this time, and even later, she did not know the meaning
of it all.  For the necessity of thought had been obviated by
advice and law, or "revealed" truth, and so long as other theories
or situations and impulses of an external or even internal,
character did not arise to clash with these, she was safe enough.
Once they did, however, it was a foregone conclusion that her
religious notions, not being grounded on any conviction or
temperamental bias of her own, were not likely to withstand the
shock.  So that all the while, and not unlike her brother Clyde,
her thoughts as well as her emotions were wandering here and there--
to love, to comfort--to things which in the main had little, if
anything, to do with any self-abnegating and self-immolating
religious theory.  Within her was a chemism of dreams which somehow
counteracted all they had to say.

Yet she had neither Clyde's force, nor, on the other hand, his
resistance.  She was in the main a drifter, with a vague yearning
toward pretty dresses, hats, shoes, ribbons and the like, and
super-imposed above this, the religious theory or notion that she
should not be.  There were the long bright streets of a morning and
afternoon after school or of an evening.  The charm of certain
girls swinging along together, arms locked, secrets a-whispering,
or that of boys, clownish, yet revealing through their bounding
ridiculous animality the force and meaning of that chemistry and
urge toward mating which lies back of all youthful thought and
action.  And in herself, as from time to time she observed lovers
or flirtation-seekers who lingered at street corners or about
doorways, and who looked at her in a longing and seeking way, there
was a stirring, a nerve plasm palpitation that spoke loudly for all
the seemingly material things of life, not for the thin
pleasantries of heaven.

And the glances drilled her like an invisible ray, for she was
pleasing to look at and was growing more attractive hourly.  And
the moods in others awakened responsive moods in her, those
rearranging chemisms upon which all the morality or immorality of
the world is based.

And then one day, as she was coming home from school, a youth of
that plausible variety known as "masher" engaged her in
conversation, largely because of a look and a mood which seemed to
invite it.  And there was little to stay her, for she was
essentially yielding, if not amorous.  Yet so great had been her
home drilling as to the need of modesty, circumspection, purity and
the like, that on this occasion at least there was no danger of any
immediate lapse.  Only this attack once made, others followed, were
accepted, or not so quickly fled from, and by degrees, these served
to break down that wall of reserve which her home training had
served to erect.  She became secretive and hid her ways from her
parents.

Youths occasionally walked and talked with her in spite of herself.
They demolished that excessive shyness which had been hers, and
which had served to put others aside for a time at least.  She
wished for other contacts--dreamed of some bright, gay, wonderful
love of some kind, with some one.

Finally, after a slow but vigorous internal growth of mood and
desire, there came this actor, one of those vain, handsome, animal
personalities, all clothes and airs, but no morals (no taste, no
courtesy or real tenderness even), but of compelling magnetism, who
was able within the space of one brief week and a few meetings to
completely befuddle and enmesh her so that she was really his to do
with as he wished.  And the truth was that he scarcely cared for
her at all.  To him, dull as he was, she was just another girl--
fairly pretty, obviously sensuous and inexperienced, a silly who
could be taken by a few soft words--a show of seemingly sincere
affection, talk of the opportunity of a broader, freer life on the
road, in other great cities, as his wife.

And yet his words were those of a lover who would be true forever.
All she had to do, as he explained to her, was to come away with
him and be his bride, at once--now.  Delay was so vain when two
such as they had met.  There was difficulty about marriage here,
which he could not explain--it related to friends--but in St. Louis
he had a preacher friend who would wed them.  She was to have new
and better clothes than she had ever known, delicious adventures,
love.  She would travel with him and see the great world.  She
would never need to trouble more about anything save him; and while
it was truth to her--the verbal surety of a genuine passion--to him
it was the most ancient and serviceable type of blarney, often used
before and often successful.

In a single week then, at odd hours, morning, afternoon and night,
this chemic witchery was accomplished.

Coming home rather late one Saturday night in April from a walk
which he had taken about the business heart, in order to escape the
regular Saturday night mission services, Clyde found his mother and
father worried about the whereabouts of Esta.  She had played and
sung as usual at this meeting.  And all had seemed all right with
her.  After the meeting she had gone to her room, saying that she
was not feeling very well and was going to bed early.  But by
eleven o'clock, when Clyde returned, her mother had chanced to look
into her room and discovered that she was not there nor anywhere
about the place.  A certain bareness in connection with the room--
some trinkets and dresses removed, an old and familiar suitcase
gone--had first attracted her mother's attention.  Then the house
search proving that she was not there, Asa had gone outside to look
up and down the street.  She sometimes walked out alone, or sat or
stood in front of the mission during its idle or closed hours.

This search revealing nothing, Clyde and he had walked to a corner,
then along Missouri Avenue.  No Esta.  At twelve they returned and
after that, naturally, the curiosity in regard to her grew
momentarily sharper.

At first they assumed that she might have taken an unexplained walk
somewhere, but as twelve-thirty, and finally one, and one-thirty,
passed, and no Esta, they were about to notify the police, when
Clyde, going into her room, saw a note pinned to the pillow of her
small wooden bed--a missive that had escaped the eye of his mother.
At once he went to it, curious and comprehending, for he had often
wondered in what way, assuming that he ever wished to depart
surreptitiously, he would notify his parents, for he knew they
would never countenance his departure unless they were permitted to
supervise it in every detail.  And now here was Esta missing, and
here was undoubtedly some such communication as he might have left.
He picked it up, eager to read it, but at that moment his mother
came into the room and, seeing it in his hand, exclaimed:  "What's
that?  A note?  Is it from her?"  He surrendered it and she
unfolded it, reading it quickly.  He noted that her strong broad
face, always tanned a reddish brown, blanched as she turned away
toward the outer room.  Her biggish mouth was now set in a firm,
straight line.  Her large, strong hand shook the least bit as it
held the small note aloft.

"Asa!" she called, and then tramping into the next room where he
was, his frizzled grayish hair curling distractedly above his round
head, she said:  "Read this."

Clyde, who had followed, saw him take it a little nervously in his
pudgy hands, his lips, always weak and beginning to crinkle at the
center with age, now working curiously.  Any one who had known his
life's history would have said it was the expression, slightly
emphasized, with which he had received most of the untoward blows
of his life in the past.

"Tst! Tst! Tst!" was the only sound he made at first, a sucking
sound of the tongue and palate--most weak and inadequate, it seemed
to Clyde.  Next there was another "Tst! Tst! Tst!", his head
beginning to shake from side to side.  Then, "Now, what do you
suppose could have caused her to do that?"  Then he turned and
gazed at his wife, who gazed blankly in return.  Then, walking to
and fro, his hands behind him, his short legs taking unconscious
and queerly long steps, his head moving again, he gave vent to
another ineffectual "Tst! Tst! Tst!"

Always the more impressive, Mrs. Griffiths now showed herself
markedly different and more vital in this trying situation, a kind
of irritation or dissatisfaction with life itself, along with an
obvious physical distress, seeming to pass through her like a
visible shadow.  Once her husband had gotten up, she reached out
and took the note, then merely glared at it again, her face set in
hard yet stricken and disturbing lines.  Her manner was that of one
who is intensely disquieted and dissatisfied, one who fingers
savagely at a material knot and yet cannot undo it, one who seeks
restraint and freedom from complaint and yet who would complain
bitterly, angrily.  For behind her were all those years of
religious work and faith, which somehow, in her poorly integrated
conscience, seemed dimly to indicate that she should justly have
been spared this.  Where was her God, her Christ, at this hour when
this obvious evil was being done?  Why had He not acted for her?
How was He to explain this?  His Biblical promises!  His perpetual
guidance!  His declared mercies!

In the face of so great a calamity, it was very hard for her, as
Clyde could see, to get this straightened out, instantly at least.
Although, as Clyde had come to know, it could be done eventually,
of course.  For in some blind, dualistic way both she and Asa
insisted, as do all religionists, in disassociating God from harm
and error and misery, while granting Him nevertheless supreme
control.  They would seek for something else--some malign,
treacherous, deceiving power which, in the face of God's
omniscience and omnipotence, still beguiles and betrays--and find
it eventually in the error and perverseness of the human heart,
which God has made, yet which He does not control, because He does
not want to control it.

At the moment, however, only hurt and rage were with her, and yet
her lips did not twitch as did Asa's, nor did her eyes show that
profound distress which filled his.  Instead she retreated a step
and reexamined the letter, almost angrily, then said to Asa:
"She's run away with some one and she doesn't say--"  Then she
stopped suddenly, remembering the presence of the children--Clyde,
Julia, and Frank, all present and all gazing curiously, intently,
unbelievingly.  "Come in here," she called to her husband, "I want
to talk to you a minute.  You children had better go on to bed.
We'll be out in a minute."

With Asa then she retired quite precipitately to a small room back
of the mission hall.  They heard her click the electric bulb.  Then
their voices were heard in low converse, while Clyde and Julia and
Frank looked at each other, although Frank, being so young--only
ten--could scarcely be said to have comprehended fully.  Even Julia
hardly gathered the full import of it.  But Clyde, because of his
larger contact with life and his mother's statement ("She's run
away with some one"), understood well enough.  Esta had tired of
all this, as had he.  Perhaps there was some one, like one of those
dandies whom he saw on the streets with the prettiest girls, with
whom she had gone.  But where?  And what was he like?  That note
told something, and yet his mother had not let him see it.  She had
taken it away too quickly.  If only he had looked first, silently
and to himself!

"Do you suppose she's run away for good?" he asked Julia dubiously,
the while his parents were out of the room, Julia herself looking
so blank and strange.

"How should I know?" she replied a little irritably, troubled by
her parents' distress and this secretiveness, as well as Esta's
action.  "She never said anything to me.  I should think she'd be
ashamed of herself if she has."

Julia, being colder emotionally than either Esta or Clyde, was more
considerate of her parents in a conventional way, and hence
sorrier.  True, she did not quite gather what it meant, but she
suspected something, for she had talked occasionally with girls,
but in a very guarded and conservative way.  Now, however, it was
more the way in which Esta had chosen to leave, deserting her
parents and her brothers and herself, that caused her to be angry
with her, for why should she go and do anything which would
distress her parents in this dreadful fashion.  It was dreadful.
The air was thick with misery.

And as his parents talked in their little room, Clyde brooded too,
for he was intensely curious about life now.  What was it Esta had
really done?  Was it, as he feared and thought, one of those
dreadful runaway or sexually disagreeable affairs which the boys on
the streets and at school were always slyly talking about?  How
shameful, if that were true!  She might never come back.  She had
gone with some man.  There was something wrong about that, no
doubt, for a girl, anyhow, for all he had ever heard was that all
decent contacts between boys and girls, men and women, led to but
one thing--marriage.  And now Esta, in addition to their other
troubles, had gone and done this.  Certainly this home life of
theirs was pretty dark now, and it would be darker instead of
brighter because of this.

Presently the parents came out, and then Mrs. Griffiths' face, if
still set and constrained, was somehow a little different, less
savage perhaps, more hopelessly resigned.

"Esta's seen fit to leave us, for a little while, anyhow," was all
she said at first, seeing the children waiting curiously.  "Now,
you're not to worry about her at all, or think any more about it.
She'll come back after a while, I'm sure.  She has chosen to go her
own way, for a time, for some reason.  The Lord's will be done."
("Blessed be the name of the Lord!" interpolated Asa.)  "I thought
she was happy here with us, but apparently she wasn't.  She must
see something of the world for herself, I suppose."  (Here Asa put
in another Tst! Tst! Tst!)  "But we mustn't harbor hard thoughts.
That won't do any good now--only thoughts of love and kindness."
Yet she said this with a kind of sternness that somehow belied it--
a click of the voice, as it were.  "We can only hope that she will
soon see how foolish she has been, and unthinking, and come back.
She can't prosper on the course she's going now.  It isn't the
Lord's way or will.  She's too young and she's made a mistake.  But
we can forgive her.  We must.  Our hearts must be kept open, soft
and tender."  She talked as though she were addressing a meeting,
but with a hard, sad, frozen face and voice.  "Now, all of you go
to bed.  We can only pray now, and hope, morning, noon and night,
that no evil will befall her.  I wish she hadn't done that," she
added, quite out of keeping with the rest of her statement and
really not thinking of the children as present at all--just of
Esta.

But Asa!

Such a father, as Clyde often thought, afterwards.

Apart from his own misery, he seemed only to note and be impressed
by the more significant misery of his wife.  During all this, he
had stood foolishly to one side--short, gray, frizzled, inadequate.

"Well, blessed be the name of the Lord," he interpolated from time
to time.  "We must keep our hearts open.  Yes, we mustn't judge.
We must only hope for the best.  Yes, yes!  Praise the Lord--we
must praise the Lord!  Amen!  Oh, yes!  Tst! Tst! Tst!"

"If any one asks where she is," continued Mrs. Griffiths after a
time, quite ignoring her spouse and addressing the children, who
had drawn near her, "we will say that she has gone on a visit to
some of my relatives back in Tonawanda.  That won't be the truth,
exactly, but then we don't know where she is or what the truth is--
and she may come back.  So we must not say or do anything that will
injure her until we know."

"Yes, praise the Lord!" called Asa, feebly.

"So if any one should inquire at any time, until we know, we will
say that."

"Sure," put in Clyde, helpfully, and Julia added, "All right."

Mrs. Griffiths paused and looked firmly and yet apologetically at
her children.  Asa, for his part, emitted another "Tst! Tst! Tst!"
and then the children were waved to bed.

At that, Clyde, who really wanted to know what Esta's letter had
said, but was convinced from long experience that his mother would
not let him know unless she chose, returned to his room again, for
he was tired.  Why didn't they search more if there was hope of
finding her?  Where was she now--at this minute?  On some train
somewhere?  Evidently she didn't want to be found.  She was
probably dissatisfied, just as he was.  Here he was, thinking so
recently of going away somewhere himself, wondering how the family
would take it, and now she had gone before him.  How would that
affect his point of view and action in the future?  Truly, in spite
of his father's and mother's misery, he could not see that her
going was such a calamity, not from the GOING point of view, at any
rate.  It was only another something which hinted that things were
not right here.  Mission work was nothing.  All this religious
emotion and talk was not so much either.  It hadn't saved Esta.
Evidently, like himself, she didn't believe so much in it, either.



Chapter 4


The effect of this particular conclusion was to cause Clyde to
think harder than ever about himself.  And the principal result of
his thinking was that he must do something for himself and soon.
Up to this time the best he had been able to do was to work at such
odd jobs as befall all boys between their twelfth and fifteenth
years: assisting a man who had a paper route during the summer
months of one year, working in the basement of a five-and-ten-cent
store all one summer long, and on Saturdays, for a period during
the winter, opening boxes and unpacking goods, for which he
received the munificent sum of five dollars a week, a sum which at
the time seemed almost a fortune.  He felt himself rich and, in the
face of the opposition of his parents, who were opposed to the
theater and motion pictures also, as being not only worldly, but
sinful, he could occasionally go to one or another of those--in the
gallery--a form of diversion which he had to conceal from his
parents.  Yet that did not deter him.  He felt that he had a right
to go with his own money; also to take his younger brother Frank,
who was glad enough to go with him and say nothing.

Later in the same year, wishing to get out of school because he
already felt himself very much belated in the race, he secured a
place as an assistant to a soda water clerk in one of the cheaper
drug stores of the city, which adjoined a theater and enjoyed not a
little patronage of this sort.  A sign--"Boy Wanted"--since it was
directly on his way to school, first interested him.  Later, in
conversation with the young man whose assistant he was to be, and
from whom he was to learn the trade, assuming that he was
sufficiently willing and facile, he gathered that if he mastered
this art, he might make as much as fifteen and even eighteen
dollars a week.  It was rumored that Stroud's at the corner of 14th
and Baltimore streets paid that much to two of their clerks.  The
particular store to which he was applying paid only twelve, the
standard salary of most places.

But to acquire this art, as he was now informed, required time and
the friendly help of an expert.  If he wished to come here and work
for five to begin with--well, six, then, since his face fell--he
might soon expect to know a great deal about the art of mixing
sweet drinks and decorating a large variety of ice creams with
liquid sweets, thus turning them into sundaes.  For the time being
apprenticeship meant washing and polishing all the machinery and
implements of this particular counter, to say nothing of opening
and sweeping out the store at so early an hour as seven-thirty,
dusting, and delivering such orders as the owner of this drug store
chose to send out by him.  At such idle moments as his immediate
superior--a Mr. Sieberling--twenty, dashing, self-confident,
talkative, was too busy to fill all the orders, he might be called
upon to mix such minor drinks--lemonades, Coca-Colas and the like--
as the trade demanded.

Yet this interesting position, after due consultation with his
mother, he decided to take.  For one thing, it would provide him,
as he suspected, with all the ice-cream sodas he desired, free--an
advantage not to be disregarded.  In the next place, as he saw it
at the time, it was an open door to a trade--something which he
lacked.  Further, and not at all disadvantageously as he saw it,
this store required his presence at night as late as twelve
o'clock, with certain hours off during the day to compensate for
this.  And this took him out of his home at night--out of the ten-
o'clock-boy class at last.  They could not ask him to attend any
meetings save on Sunday, and not even then, since he was supposed
to work Sunday afternoons and evenings.

Next, the clerk who manipulated this particular soda fountain,
quite regularly received passes from the manager of the theater
next door, and into the lobby of which one door to the drug store
gave--a most fascinating connection to Clyde.  It seemed so
interesting to be working for a drug store thus intimately
connected with a theater.

And best of all, as Clyde now found to his pleasure, and yet
despair at times, the place was visited, just before and after the
show on matinee days, by bevies of girls, single and en suite, who
sat at the counter and giggled and chattered and gave their hair
and their complexions last perfecting touches before the mirror.
And Clyde, callow and inexperienced in the ways of the world, and
those of the opposite sex, was never weary of observing the beauty,
the daring, the self-sufficiency and the sweetness of these, as he
saw them.  For the first time in his life, while he busied himself
with washing glasses, filling the ice-cream and syrup containers,
arranging the lemons and oranges in the trays, he had an almost
uninterrupted opportunity of studying these girls at close range.
The wonder of them!  For the most part, they were so well-dressed
and smart-looking--the rings, pins, furs, delightful hats, pretty
shoes they wore.  And so often he overheard them discussing such
interesting things--parties, dances, dinners, the shows they had
seen, the places in or near Kansas City to which they were soon
going, the difference between the styles of this year and last, the
fascination of certain actors and actresses--principally actors--
who were now playing or soon coming to the city.  And to this day,
in his own home he had heard nothing of all this.

And very often one or another of these young beauties was
accompanied by some male in evening suit, dress shirt, high hat,
bow tie, white kid gloves and patent leather shoes, a costume which
at that time Clyde felt to be the last word in all true distinction,
beauty, gallantry and bliss.  To be able to wear such a suit with
such ease and air!  To be able to talk to a girl after the manner
and with the sang-froid of some of these gallants! what a true
measure of achievement!  No good-looking girl, as it then appeared
to him, would have anything to do with him if he did not possess
this standard of equipment.  It was plainly necessary--the thing.
And once he did attain it--was able to wear such clothes as these--
well, then was he not well set upon the path that leads to all the
blisses?  All the joys of life would then most certainly be spread
before him.  The friendly smiles!  The secret handclasps, maybe--an
arm about the waist of some one or another--a kiss--a promise of
marriage--and then, and then!

And all this as a revealing flash after all the years of walking
through the streets with his father and mother to public prayer
meeting, the sitting in chapel and listening to queer and
nondescript individuals--depressing and disconcerting people--
telling how Christ had saved them and what God had done for them.
You bet he would get out of that now.  He would work and save his
money and be somebody.  Decidedly this simple and yet idyllic
compound of the commonplace had all the luster and wonder of a
spiritual transfiguration, the true mirage of the lost and
thirsting and seeking victim of the desert.

However, the trouble with this particular position, as time
speedily proved, was that much as it might teach him of mixing
drinks and how to eventually earn twelve dollars a week, it was no
immediate solvent for the yearnings and ambitions that were already
gnawing at his vitals.  For Albert Sieberling, his immediate
superior, was determined to keep as much of his knowledge, as well
as the most pleasant parts of the tasks, to himself.  And further
he was quite at one with the druggist for whom they worked in
thinking that Clyde, in addition to assisting him about the
fountain, should run such errands as the druggist desired, which
kept Clyde industriously employed for nearly all the hours he was
on duty.

Consequently there was no immediate result to all this.  Clyde
could see no way to dressing better than he did.  Worse, he was
haunted by the fact that he had very little money and very few
contacts and connections--so few that, outside his own home, he was
lonely and not so very much less than lonely there.  The flight of
Esta had thrown a chill over the religious work there, and because,
as yet, she had not returned--the family, as he now heard, was
thinking of breaking up here and moving, for want of a better idea,
to Denver, Colorado.  But Clyde, by now, was convinced that he did
not wish to accompany them.  What was the good of it, he asked
himself?  There would be just another mission there, the same as
this one.

He had always lived at home--in the rooms at the rear of the
mission in Bickel Street, but he hated it.  And since his eleventh
year, during all of which time his family had been residing in
Kansas City, he had been ashamed to bring boy friends to or near
it.  For that reason he had always avoided boy friends, and had
walked and played very much alone--or with his brother and sisters.

But now that he was sixteen and old enough to make his own way, he
ought to be getting out of this.  And yet he was earning almost
nothing--not enough to live on, if he were alone--and he had not as
yet developed sufficient skill or courage to get anything better.

Nevertheless when his parents began to talk of moving to Denver,
and suggested that he might secure work out there, never assuming
for a moment that he would not want to go he began to throw out
hints to the effect that it might he better if he did not.  He
liked Kansas City.  What was the use of changing?  He had a job now
and he might get something better.  But his parents, bethinking
themselves of Esta and the fate that had overtaken her, were not a
little dubious as to the outcome of such early adventuring on his
part alone.  Once they were away, where would he live?  With whom?
What sort of influence would enter his life, who would be at hand
to aid and council and guide him in the straight and narrow path,
as they had done?  It was something to think about.

But spurred by this imminence of Denver, which now daily seemed to
be drawing nearer, and the fact that not long after this Mr.
Sieberling, owing to his too obvious gallantries in connection with
the fair sex, lost his place in the drug store, and Clyde came by a
new and bony and chill superior who did not seem to want him as an
assistant, he decided to quit--not at once, but rather to see, on
such errands as took him out of the store, if he could not find
something else.  Incidentally in so doing, looking here and there,
he one day thought he would speak to the manager of the fountain
which was connected with the leading drug store in the principal
hotel of the city--the latter a great twelve-story affair, which
represented, as he saw it, the quintessence of luxury and ease.
Its windows were always so heavily curtained; the main entrance
(he had never ventured to look beyond that) was a splendiferous
combination of a glass and iron awning, coupled with a marble
corridor lined with palms.  Often he had passed here, wondering
with boyish curiosity what the nature of the life of such a place
might be.  Before its doors, so many taxis and automobiles were
always in waiting.

To-day, being driven by the necessity of doing something for
himself, he entered the drug store which occupied the principal
corner, facing 14th Street at Baltimore, and finding a girl cashier
in a small glass cage near the door, asked of her who was in charge
of the soda fountain.  Interested by his tentative and uncertain
manner, as well as his deep and rather appealing eyes, and
instinctively judging that he was looking for something to do, she
observed:  "Why, Mr. Secor, there, the manager of the store."  She
nodded in the direction of a short, meticulously dressed man of
about thirty-five, who was arranging an especial display of toilet
novelties on the top of a glass case.  Clyde approached him, and
being still very dubious as to how one went about getting anything
in life, and finding him engrossed in what he was doing, stood
first on one foot and then on the other, until at last, sensing
some one was hovering about for something, the man turned:  "Well?"
he queried.

"You don't happen to need a soda fountain helper, do you?"  Clyde
cast at him a glance that said as plain as anything could, "If you
have any such place, I wish you would please give it to me.  I need
it."

"No, no, no," replied this individual, who was blond and vigorous
and by nature a little irritable and contentious.  He was about to
turn away, but seeing a flicker of disappointment and depression
pass over Clyde's face, he turned and added, "Ever work in a place
like this before?"

"No place as fine as this.  No, sir," replied Clyde, rather
fancifully moved by all that was about him.  "I'm working now down
at Mr. Klinkle's store at 7th and Brooklyn, but it isn't anything
like this one and I'd like to get something better if I could."

"Uh," went on his interviewer, rather pleased by the innocent
tribute to the superiority of his store.  "Well, that's reasonable
enough.  But there isn't anything here right now that I could offer
you.  We don't make many changes.  But if you'd like to be a bell-
boy, I can tell you where you might get a place.  They're looking
for an extra boy in the hotel inside there right now.  The captain
of the boys was telling me he was in need of one.  I should think
that would be as good as helping about a soda fountain, any day."

Then seeing Clyde's face suddenly brighten, he added:  "But you
mustn't say that I sent you, because I don't know you.  Just ask
for Mr. Squires inside there, under the stairs, and he can tell you
all about it."

At the mere mention of work in connection with so imposing an
institution as the Green-Davidson, and the possibility of his
getting it, Clyde first stared, felt himself tremble the least bit
with excitement, then thanking his advisor for his kindness, went
direct to a green-marbled doorway which opened from the rear of
this drug-store into the lobby of the hotel.  Once through it, he
beheld a lobby, the like of which, for all his years but because of
the timorous poverty that had restrained him from exploring such a
world, was more arresting, quite, than anything he had seen before.
It was all so lavish.  Under his feet was a checkered black-and-
white marble floor.  Above him a coppered and stained and gilded
ceiling.  And supporting this, a veritable forest of black marble
columns as highly polished as the floor--glassy smooth.  And
between the columns which ranged away toward three separate
entrances, one right, one left and one directly forward toward
Dalrymple Avenue--were lamps, statuary, rugs, palms, chairs,
divans, tete-a-tetes--a prodigal display.  In short it was compact,
of all that gauche luxury of appointment which, as some one once
sarcastically remarked, was intended to supply "exclusiveness to
the masses."  Indeed, for an essential hotel in a great and
successful American commercial city, it was almost too luxurious.
Its rooms and hall and lobbies and restaurants were entirely too
richly furnished, without the saving grace of either simplicity or
necessity.

As Clyde stood, gazing about the lobby, he saw a large company of
people--some women and children, but principally men as he could
see--either walking or standing about and talking or idling in the
chairs, side by side or alone.  And in heavily draped and richly
furnished alcoves where were writing-tables, newspaper files, a
telegraph office, a haberdasher's shop, and a florist's stand, were
other groups.  There was a convention of dentists in the city, not
a few of whom, with their wives and children, were gathered here;
but to Clyde, who was not aware of this nor of the methods and
meanings of conventions, this was the ordinary, everyday appearance
of this hotel.

He gazed about in awe and amazement, then remembering the name of
Squires, he began to look for him in his office "under the stairs."
To his right was a grand double-winged black-and-white staircase
which swung in two separate flights and with wide, generous curves
from the main floor to the one above.  And between these great
flights was evidently the office of the hotel, for there were many
clerks there.  But behind the nearest flight, and close to the wall
through which he had come, was a tall desk, at which stood a young
man of about his own age in a maroon uniform bright with many brass
buttons.  And on his head was a small, round, pill-box cap, which
was cocked jauntily over one ear.  He was busy making entries with
a lead pencil in a book which lay open before him.  Various other
boys about his own age, and uniformed as he was, were seated upon a
long bench near him, or were to be seen darting here and there,
sometimes, returning to this one with a slip of paper or a key or
note of some kind, and then seating themselves upon the bench to
await another call apparently, which seemed to come swiftly enough.
A telephone upon the small desk at which stood the uniformed youth
was almost constantly buzzing, and after ascertaining what was
wanted, this youth struck a small bell before him, or called
"front," to which the first boy on the bench, responded.  Once
called, they went hurrying up one or the other stairs or toward one
of the several entrances or elevators, and almost invariably were
to be seen escorting individuals whose bags and suitcases and
overcoats and golf sticks they carried.  There were others who
disappeared and returned, carrying drinks on trays or some package
or other, which they were taking to one of the rooms above.
Plainly this was the work that he should be called upon to do,
assuming that he would be so fortunate as to connect himself with
such an institution as this.

And it was all so brisk and enlivening that he wished that he might
be so fortunate as to secure a position here.  But would he be?
And where was Mr. Squires?  He approached the youth at the small
desk:  "Do you know where I will find Mr. Squires?" he asked.

"Here he comes now," replied the youth, looking up and examining
Clyde with keen, gray eyes.

Clyde gazed in the direction indicated, and saw approaching a brisk
and dapper and decidedly sophisticated-looking person of perhaps
twenty-nine or thirty years of age.  He was so very slender, keen,
hatchet-faced and well-dressed that Clyde was not only impressed
but overawed at once--a very shrewd and cunning-looking person.
His nose was so long and thin, his eyes so sharp, his lips thin,
and chin pointed.

"Did you see that tall, gray-haired man with the Scotch plaid shawl
who went through here just now?" he paused to say to his assistant
at the desk.  The assistant nodded.  "Well, they tell me that's the
Earl of Landreil.  He just came in this morning with fourteen
trunks and four servants.  Can you beat it!  He's somebody in
Scotland.  That isn't the name he travels under, though, I hear.
He's registered as Mr. Blunt.  Can you beat that English stuff?
They can certainly lay on the class, eh?"

"You said it!" replied his assistant deferentially.

He turned for the first time, glimpsing Clyde, but paying no
attention to him.  His assistant came to Clyde's aid.

"That young fella there is waiting to see you," he explained.

"You want to see me?" queried the captain of the bellhops, turning
to Clyde, and observing his none-too-good clothes, at the same time
making a comprehensive study of him.

"The gentleman in the drug store," began Clyde, who did not quite
like the looks of the man before him, but was determined to present
himself as agreeably as possible, "was saying--that is, he said
that I might ask you if there was any chance here for me as a bell-
boy.  I'm working now at Klinkle's drug store at 7th and Brooklyn,
as a helper, but I'd like to get out of that and he said you might--
that is--he thought you had a place open now."  Clyde was so
flustered and disturbed by the cool, examining eyes of the man
before him that he could scarcely get his breath properly, and
swallowed hard.

For the first time in his life, it occurred to him that if he
wanted to get on he ought to insinuate himself into the good graces
of people--do or say something that would make them like him.  So
now he contrived an eager, ingratiating smile, which he bestowed on
Mr. Squires, and added:  "If you'd like to give me a chance, I'd
try very hard and I'd be very willing."

The man before him merely looked at him coldly, but being the soul
of craft and self-acquisitiveness in a petty way, and rather liking
anybody who had the skill and the will to be diplomatic, he now put
aside an impulse to shake his head negatively, and observed:  "But
you haven't had any training in this work."

"No, sir, but couldn't I pick it up pretty quick if I tried hard?"

"Well, let me see," observed the head of the bell-hops, scratching
his head dubiously.  "I haven't any time to talk to you now.  Come
around Monday afternoon.  I'll see you then."  He turned on his
heel and walked away.

Clyde, left alone in this fashion, and not knowing just what it
meant, stared, wondering.  Was it really true that he had been
invited to come back on Monday?  Could it be possible that--  He
turned and hurried out, thrilling from head to toe.  The idea!  He
had asked this man for a place in the very finest hotel in Kansas
City and he had asked him to come back and see him on Monday.  Gee!
what would that mean?  Could it be possible that he would be
admitted to such a grand world as this--and that so speedily?
Could it really be?



Chapter 5


The imaginative flights of Clyde in connection with all this--his
dreams of what it might mean for him to be connected with so
glorious an institution--can only be suggested.  For his ideas of
luxury were in the main so extreme and mistaken and gauche--mere
wanderings of a repressed and unsatisfied fancy, which as yet had
had nothing but imaginings to feed it.

He went back to his old duties at the drug-store--to his home after
hours in order to eat and sleep--but now for the balance of this
Friday and Saturday and Sunday and Monday until late in the day, he
walked on air, really.  His mind was not on what he was doing, and
several times his superior at the drugstore had to remind him to
"wake-up."  And after hours, instead of going directly home, he
walked north to the corner of 14th and Baltimore, where stood this
great hotel, and looked at it.  There, at midnight even, before
each of the three principal entrances--one facing each of three
streets--was a doorman in a long maroon coat with many buttons and
a high-rimmed and long-visored maroon cap.  And inside, behind
looped and fluted French silk curtains, were the still blazing
lights, the a la carte dining-room and the American grill in the
basement near one corner still open.  And about them were many
taxis and cars.  And there was music always--from somewhere.

After surveying it all this Friday night and again on Saturday and
Sunday morning, he returned on Monday afternoon at the suggestion
of Mr. Squires and was greeted by that individual rather crustily,
for by then he had all but forgotten him.  But seeing that at the
moment he was actually in need of help, and being satisfied that
Clyde might be of service, he led him into his small office under
the stair, where, with a very superior manner and much actual
indifference, he proceeded to question him as to his parentage,
where he lived, at what he had worked before and where, what his
father did for a living--a poser that for Clyde, for he was proud
and so ashamed to admit that his parents conducted a mission and
preached on the streets.  Instead he replied (which was true at
times) that his father canvassed for a washing machine and wringer
company--and on Sundays preached--a religious revelation, which was
not at all displeasing to this master of boys who were inclined to
be anything but home-loving and conservative.  Could he bring a
reference from where he now was?  He could.

Mr. Squires proceeded to explain that this hotel was very strict.
Too many boys, on account of the scenes and the show here, the
contact made with undue luxury to which they were not accustomed--
though these were not the words used by Mr. Squires--were inclined
to lose their heads and go wrong.  He was constantly being forced
to discharge boys who, because they made a little extra money,
didn't know how to conduct themselves.  He must have boys who were
willing, civil, prompt, courteous to everybody.  They must be clean
and neat about their persons and clothes and show up promptly--on
the dot--and in good condition for the work every day.  And any boy
who got to thinking that because he made a little money he could
flirt with anybody or talk back, or go off on parties at night, and
then not show up on time or too tired to be quick and bright,
needn't think that he would be here long.  He would be fired, and
that promptly.  He would not tolerate any nonsense.  That must be
understood now, once and for all.

Clyde nodded assent often and interpolated a few eager "yes, sirs"
and "no, sirs," and assured him at the last that it was the
furtherest thing from his thoughts and temperament to dream of any
such high crimes and misdemeanors as he had outlined.  Mr. Squires
then proceeded to explain that this hotel only paid fifteen dollars
a month and board--at the servant's table in the basement--to any
bell-boy at any time.  But, and this information came as a most
amazing revelation to Clyde, every guest for whom any of these boys
did anything--carried a bag or delivered a pitcher of water or did
anything--gave him a tip, and often quite a liberal one--a dime,
fifteen cents, a quarter, sometimes more.  And these tips, as Mr.
Squires explained, taken all together, averaged from four to six
dollars a day--not less and sometimes more--most amazing pay, as
Clyde now realized.  His heart gave an enormous bound and was near
to suffocating him at the mere mention of so large a sum.  From
four to six dollars!  Why, that was twenty-eight to forty-two
dollars a week!  He could scarcely believe it.  And that in
addition to the fifteen dollars a month and board.  And there was
no charge, as Mr. Squires now explained, for the handsome uniforms
the boys wore.  But it might not be worn or taken out of the place.
His hours, as Mr. Squires now proceeded to explain, would be as
follows:  On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, he was to
work from six in the morning until noon, and then, with six hours
off, from six in the evening until midnight.  On Tuesdays,
Thursdays and Saturdays, he need only work from noon until six,
thus giving him each alternate afternoon or evening to himself.
But all his meals were to be taken outside his working hours and he
was to report promptly in uniform for line-up and inspection by his
superior exactly ten minutes before the regular hours of his work
began at each watch.

As for some other things which were in his mind at the time, Mr.
Squires said nothing.  There were others, as he knew, who would
speak for him.  Instead he went on to add, and then quite
climactically for Clyde at that time, who had been sitting as one
in a daze:  "I suppose you are ready to go to work now, aren't
you?"

"Yes, sir, yes, sir," he replied.

"Very good!"  Then he got up and opened the door which had shut
them in.  "Oscar," he called to a boy seated at the head of the
bell-boy bench, to which a tallish, rather oversized youth in a
tight, neat-looking uniform responded with alacrity.  "Take this
young man here--Clyde Griffiths is your name, isn't it?--up to the
wardrobe on the twelfth and see if Jacobs can find a suit to fit.
But if he can't tell him to alter it by to-morrow.  I think the one
Silsbee wore ought to be about right for him."

Then he turned to his assistant at the desk who was at the moment
looking on.  "I'm giving him a trial, anyhow," he commented.  "Have
one of the boys coach him a little to-night or whenever he starts
in.  Go ahead, Oscar," he called to the boy in charge of Clyde.
"He's green at this stuff, but I think he'll do," he added to his
assistant, as Clyde and Oscar disappeared in the direction of one
of the elevators.  Then he walked off to have Clyde's name entered
upon the payroll.

In the meantime, Clyde, in tow of this new mentor, was listening to
a line of information such as never previously had come to his ears
anywhere.

"You needn't be frightened, if you ain't never worked at anything
like dis before," began this youth, whose last name was Hegglund as
Clyde later learned, and who hailed from Jersey City, New Jersey,
exotic lingo, gestures and all.  He was tall, vigorous, sandy-
haired, freckled, genial and voluble.  They had entered upon an
elevator labeled "employees."  "It ain't so hard.  I got my first
job in Buffalo t'ree years ago and I never knowed a t'ing about it
up to dat time.  All you gotta do is to watch de udders an' see how
dey do, see.  Yu get dat, do you?"

Clyde, whose education was not a little superior to that of his
guide, commented quite sharply in his own mind on the use of such
words as "knowed," and "gotta"--also upon "t'ing," "dat," "udders,"
and so on, but so grateful was he for any courtesy at this time
that he was inclined to forgive his obviously kindly mentor
anything for his geniality.

"Watch whoever's doin' anyt'ing, at first, see, till you git to
know, see.  Dat's de way.  When de bell rings, if you're at de head
of de bench, it's your turn, see, an' you jump up and go quick.
Dey like you to be quick around here, see.  An' whenever you see
any one come in de door or out of an elevator wit a bag, an' you're
at de head of de bench, you jump, wedder de captain rings de bell
or calls 'front' or not.  Sometimes he's busy or ain't lookin' an'
he wants you to do dat, see.  Look sharp, cause if you don't get no
bags, you don't get no tips, see.  Everybody dat has a bag or
anyt'ing has to have it carried for 'em, unless dey won't let you
have it, see.

"But be sure and wait somewhere near de desk for whoever comes in
until dey sign up for a room," he rattled on as they ascended in
the elevator.  "Most every one takes a room.  Den de clerk'll give
you de key an' after dat all you gotta do is to carry up de bags to
de room.  Den all you gotta do is to turn on de lights in de
batroom and closet, if dere is one, so dey'll know where dey are,
see.  An' den raise de curtains in de day time or lower 'em at
night, an' see if dere's towels in de room, so you can tell de maid
if dere ain't, and den if dey don't give you no tip, you gotta go,
only most times, unless you draw a stiff, all you gotta do is hang
back a little--make a stall, see--fumble wit de door-key or try de
transom, see.  Den, if dey're any good, dey'll hand you a tip.  If
dey don't, you're out, dat's all, see.  You can't even look as
dough you was sore, dough--nottin' like dat, see.  Den you come
down an' unless dey wants ice-water or somepin, you're troo, see.
It's back to de bench, quick.  Dere ain't much to it.  Only you
gotta be quick all de time, see, and not let any one get by you
comin' or goin'--dat's de main t'ing.

"An' after dey give you your uniform, an' you go to work, don't
forgit to give de captain a dollar after every watch before you
leave, see--two dollars on de day you has two watches, and a dollar
on de day you has one, see?  Dat's de way it is here.  We work
togedder like dat, an' you gotta do dat if you wanta hold your job.
But dat's all.  After dat all de rest is yours."

Clyde saw.

A part of his twenty-four or thirty-two dollars as he figured it
was going glimmering, apparently--eleven or twelve all told--but
what of it!  Would there not be twelve or fifteen or even more
left?  And there were his meals and his uniform.  Kind Heaven!
What a realization of paradise!  What a consummation of luxury!

Mr. Hegglund of Jersey City escorted him to the twelfth floor and
into a room where they found on guard a wizened and grizzled little
old man of doubtful age and temperament, who forthwith ouffitted
Clyde with a suit that was so near a fit that, without further
orders, it was not deemed necessary to alter it.  And trying on
various caps, there was one that fitted him--a thing that sat most
rakishly over one ear--only, as Hegglund informed him, "You'll have
to get dat hair of yours cut.  Better get it clipped behind.  It's
too long."  And with that Clyde himself had been in mental
agreement before he spoke.  His hair certainly did not look right
in the new cap.  He hated it now.  And going downstairs, and
reporting to Mr. Whipple, Mr. Squires' assistant, the latter had
said:  "Very well.  It fits all right, does it?  Well, then, you go
on here at six.  Report at five-thirty and be here in your uniform
at five-forty-five for inspection."

Whereupon Clyde, being advised by Hegglund to go then and there to
get his uniform and take it to the dressing-room in the basement,
and get his locker from the locker-man, he did so, and then hurried
most nervously out--first to get a hair-cut and afterwards to
report to his family on his great luck.

He was to be a bell-boy in the great Hotel Green-Davidson.  He was
to wear a uniform and a handsome one.  He was to make--but he did
not tell his mother at first what he was to make, truly--but more
than eleven or twelve at first, anyhow, he guessed--he could not be
sure.  For now, all at once, he saw economic independence ahead for
himself, if not for his family, and he did not care to complicate
it with any claims which a confession as to his real salary would
most certainly inspire.  But he did say that he was to have his
meals free--because that meant eating away from home, which was
what he wished.  And in addition he was to live and move always in
the glorious atmosphere of this hotel--not to have to go home ever
before twelve, if he did not wish--to have good clothes--
interesting company, maybe--a good time, gee!

And as he hurried on about his various errands now, it occurred to
him as a final and shrewd and delicious thought that he need not go
home on such nights as he wished to go to a theater or anything
like that.  He could just stay down-town and say he had to work.
And that with free meals and good clothes--think of that!

The mere thought of all this was so astonishing and entrancing that
he could not bring himself to think of it too much.  He must wait
and see.  He must wait and see just how much he would make here in
this perfectly marvelous-marvelous realm.



Chapter 6


And as conditions stood, the extraordinary economic and social
inexperience of the Griffiths--Asa and Elvira--dovetailed all too
neatly with his dreams.  For neither Asa nor Elvira had the least
knowledge of the actual character of the work upon which he was
about to enter, scarcely any more than he did, or what it might
mean to him morally, imaginatively, financially, or in any other
way.  For neither of them had ever stopped in a hotel above the
fourth class in all their days.  Neither one had ever eaten in a
restaurant of a class that catered to other than individuals of
their own low financial level.  That there could be any other forms
of work or contact than those involved in carrying the bags of
guests to and from the door of a hotel to its office, and back
again, for a boy of Clyde's years and temperament, never occurred
to them.  And it was naively assumed by both that the pay for such
work must of necessity be very small anywhere, say five or six
dollars a week, and so actually below Clyde's deserts and his
years.

And in view of this, Mrs. Griffiths, who was more practical than
her husband at all times, and who was intensely interested in
Clyde's economic welfare, as well as that of her other children,
was actually wondering why Clyde should of a sudden become so
enthusiastic about changing to this new situation, which, according
to his own story, involved longer hours and not so very much more
pay, if any.  To be sure, he had already suggested that it might
lead to some superior position in the hotel, some clerkship or
other, but he did not know when that would be, and the other had
promised rather definite fulfillment somewhat earlier--as to money,
anyhow.

But seeing him rush in on Monday afternoon and announce that he had
secured the place and that forthwith he must change his tie and
collar and get his hair cut and go back and report, she felt better
about it.  For never before had she seen him so enthusiastic about
anything, and it was something to have him more content with
himself--not so moody, as he was at times.

Yet, the hours which he began to maintain now--from six in the
morning until midnight--with only an occasional early return on
such evenings as he chose to come home when he was not working--and
when he troubled to explain that he had been let off a little
early--together with a certain eager and restless manner--a desire
to be out and away from his home at nearly all such moments as he
was not in bed or dressing or undressing, puzzled his mother and
Asa, also.  The hotel!  The hotel!  He must always hurry off to the
hotel, and all that he had to report was that he liked it ever so
much, and that he was doing all right, he thought.  It was nicer
work than working around a soda fountain, and he might be making
more money pretty soon--he couldn't tell--but as for more than that
he either wouldn't or couldn't say.

And all the time the Griffiths--father and mother--were feeling
that because of the affair in connection with Esta, they should
really be moving away from Kansas City--should go to Denver.  And
now more than ever, Clyde was insisting that he did not want to
leave Kansas City.  They might go, but he had a pretty good job now
and wanted to stick to it.  And if they left, he could get a room
somewhere--and would be all right--a thought which did not appeal
to them at all.

But in the meantime what an enormous change in Clyde's life.
Beginning with that first evening, when at 5:45, he appeared before
Mr. Whipple, his immediate superior, and was approved--not only
because of the fit of his new uniform, but for his general
appearance--the world for him had changed entirely.  Lined up with
seven others in the servants' hall, immediately behind the general
offices in the lobby, and inspected by Mr. Whipple, the squad of
eight marched at the stroke of six through a door that gave into
the lobby on the other side of the staircase from where stood Mr.
Whipple's desk, then about and in front of the general registration
office to the long bench on the other side.  A Mr. Barnes, who
alternated with Mr. Whipple, then took charge of the assistant
captain's desk, and the boys seated themselves--Clyde at the foot--
only to be called swiftly and in turn to perform this, that and the
other service--while the relieved squad of Mr. Whipple was led away
into the rear servants' hall as before, where they disbanded.

"Cling!"

The bell on the room clerk's desk had sounded and the first boy was
going.

"Cling!"  It sounded again and a second boy leaped to his feet.

"Front!"--"Center door!" called Mr. Barnes, and a third boy was
skidding down the long marble floor toward that entrance to seize
the bags of an incoming guest, whose white whiskers and youthful,
bright tweed suit were visible to Clyde's uninitiated eyes a
hundred feet away.  A mysterious and yet sacred vision--a tip!

"Front!"  It was Mr. Barnes calling again.  "See what 913 wants--
ice-water, I guess."  And a fourth boy was gone.

Clyde, steadily moving up along the bench and adjoining Hegglund,
who had been detailed to instruct him a little, was all eyes and
ears and nerves.  He was so tense that he could hardly breathe, and
fidgeted and jerked until finally Hegglund exclaimed:  "Now, don't
get excited.  Just hold your horses will yuh?  You'll be all right.
You're jist like I was when I begun--all noives.  But dat ain't de
way.  Easy's what you gotta be aroun' here.  An' you wants to look
as dough you wasn't seein' nobody nowhere--just lookin' to what ya
got before ya."

"Front!"  Mr. Barnes again.  Clyde was scarcely able to keep his
mind on what Hegglund was saying.  "115 wants some writing paper
and pens."  A fifth boy had gone.

"Where do you get writing paper and pens if they want 'em?"  He
pleaded of his imtructor, as one who was about to die might plead.

"Off'n de key desk, I toldja.  He's to de left over dere.  He'll
give 'em to ya.  An' you gits ice-water in de hall we lined up in
just a minute ago--at dat end over dere, see--you'll see a little
door.  You gotta give dat guy in dere a dime oncet in a while or
he'll get sore."

"Cling!"  The room clerk's bell.  A sixth boy had gone without a
word to supply some order in that direction.

"And now remember," continued Hegglund, seeing that he himself was
next, and cautioning him for the last time, "if dey wants drinks of
any kind, you get 'em in de grill over dere off'n de dining-room.
An' be sure and git de names of de drinks straight or dey'll git
sore.  An' if it's a room you're showing, pull de shades down to-
night and turn on de lights.  An' if it's anyt'ing from de dinin'-
room you gotta see de headwaiter--he gets de tip, see."

"Front!"  He was up and gone.

And Clyde was number one.  And number four was already seating
himself again by his side--but looking shrewdly around to see if
anybody was wanted anywhere.

"Front!"  It was Mr. Barnes.  Clyde was up and before him, grateful
that it was no one coming in with bags, but worried for fear it
might be something that he would not understand or could not do
quickly.

"See what 882 wants."  Clyde was off toward one of the two
elevators marked, "employees," the proper one to use, he thought,
because he had been taken to the twelfth floor that way, but
another boy stepping out from one of the fast passenger elevators
cautioned him as to his mistake.

"Goin' to a room?" he called.  "Use the guest elevators.  Them's
for the servants or anybody with bundles."

Clyde hastened to cover his mistake.  "Eight," he called.  There
being no one else on the elevator with them, the Negro elevator boy
in charge of the car saluted him at once.

"You'se new, ain't you?  I ain't seen you around her befo'."

"Yes, I just came on," replied Clyde.

"Well, you won't hate it here," commented this youth in the most
friendly way.  "No one hates this house, I'll say.  Eight did you
say?"  He stopped the car and Clyde stepped out.  He was too
nervous to think to ask the direction and now began looking at room
numbers, only to decide after a moment that he was in the wrong
corridor.  The soft brown carpet under his feet; the soft, cream-
tinted walls; the snow-white bowl lights in the ceiling--all seemed
to him parts of a perfection and a social superiority which was
almost unbelievable--so remote from all that he had ever known.

And finally, finding 882, he knocked timidly and was greeted after
a moment by a segment of a very stout and vigorous body in a blue
and white striped union suit and a related segment of a round and
florid head in which was set one eye and some wrinkles to one side
of it.

"Here's a dollar bill, son," said the eye seemingly--and now a hand
appeared holding a paper dollar.  It was fat and red.  "You go out
to a haberdasher's and get me a pair of garters--Boston Garters--
silk--and hurry back."

"Yes, sir," replied Clyde, and took the dollar.  The door closed
and he found himself hustling along the hall toward the elevator,
wondering what a haberdasher's was.  As old as he was--seventeen--
the name was new to him.  He had never even heard it before, or
noticed it at least.  If the man had said a "gents' furnishing
store," he would have understood at once, but now here he was told
to go to a haberdasher's and he did not know what it was.  A cold
sweat burst out upon his forehead.  His knees trembled.  The devil!
What would he do now?  Could he ask any one, even Hegglund, and not
seem--

He pushed the elevator button.  The car began to descend.  A
haberdasher.  A haberdasher.  Suddenly a sane thought reached him.
Supposing he didn't know what a haberdasher was?  After all the man
wanted a pair of silk Boston garters.  Where did one get silk
Boston garters--at a store, of course, a place where they sold
things for men.  Certainly.  A gents' furnishing store.  He would
run out to a store.  And on the way down, noting another friendly
Negro in charge, he asked:  "Do you know if there's a gents'
furnishing store anywhere around here?"

"One in the building, captain, right outside the south lobby,"
replied the Negro, and Clyde hurried there, greatly relieved.  Yet
he felt odd and strange in his close-fitting uniform and his
peculiar hat.  All the time he was troubled by the notion that his
small, round, tight-fitting hat might fall off.  And he kept
pressing it furtively and yet firmly down.  And bustling into the
haberdasher's, which was blazing with lights outside, he exclaimed,
"I want to get a pair of Boston silk garters."

"All right, son, here you are," replied a sleek, short man with
bright, bald head, pink face and gold-rimmed glasses.  "For some
one in the hotel, I presume?  Well, we'll make that seventy-five
cents, and here's a dime for you," he remarked as he wrapped up the
package and dropped the dollar in the cash register.  "I always
like to do the right thing by you boys in there because I know you
come to me whenever you can."

Clyde took the dime and the package, not knowing quite what to
think.  The garters must be seventy-five cents--he said so.  Hence
only twenty-five cents need to be returned to the man.  Then the
dime was his.  And now, maybe--would the man really give him
another tip?

He hurried back into the hotel and up to the elevators.  The
strains of a string orchestra somewhere were filling the lobby with
delightful sounds.  People were moving here and there--so well-
dressed, so much at ease, so very different from most of the people
in the streets or anywhere, as he saw it.

An elevator door flew open.  Various guests entered.  Then Clyde
and another bell-boy who gave him an interested glance.  At the
sixth floor the boy departed.  At the eighth Clyde and an old lady
stepped forth.  He hurried to the door of his guest and tapped.
The man opened it, somewhat more fully dressed than before.  He had
on a pair of trousers and was shaving.

"Back, eh," he called.

"Yes, sir," replied Clyde, handing him the package and change.  "He
said it was seventy-five cents."

"He's a damned robber, but you can keep the change, just the same,"
he replied, handing him the quarter and closing the door.  Clyde
stood there, quite spellbound for the fraction of a second.
"Thirty-five cents"--he thought--"thirty-five cents."  And for one
little short errand.  Could that really be the way things went
here?  It couldn't be, really.  It wasn't possible--not always.

And then, his feet sinking in the soft nap of the carpet, his hand
in one pocket clutching the money, he felt as if he could squeal or
laugh out loud.  Why, thirty-five cents--and for a little service
like that.  This man had given him a quarter and the other a dime
and he hadn't done anything at all.

He hurried from the car at the bottom--the strains of the orchestra
once more fascinated him, the wonder of so well-dressed a throng
thrilling him--and made his way to the bench from which he had
first departed.

And following this he had been called to carry the three bags and
two umbrellas of an aged farmer-like couple, who had engaged a
parlor, bedroom and bath on the fifth floor.  En route they kept
looking at him, as he could see, but said nothing.  Yet once in
their room, and after he had promptly turned on the lights near the
door, lowered the blinds and placed the bags upon the bag racks,
the middle-aged and rather awkward husband--a decidedly solemn and
bewhiskered person--studied him and finally observed:  "Young
fella, you seem to be a nice, brisk sort of boy--rather better than
most we've seen so far, I must say."

"I certainly don't think that hotels are any place for boys,"
chirped up the wife of his bosom--a large and rotund person, who by
this time was busily employed inspecting an adjoining room.  "I
certainly wouldn't want any of my boys to work in 'em--the way
people act."

"But here, young man," went on the elder, laying off his overcoat
and fishing in his trousers pocket.  "You go down and get me three
or four evening papers if there are that many and a pitcher of ice-
water, and I'll give you fifteen cents when you get back."

"This hotel's better'n the one in Omaha, Pa," added the wife
sententiously.  "It's got nicer carpets and curtains."

And as green as Clyde was, he could not help smiling secretly.
Openly, however, he preserved a masklike solemnity, seemingly
effacing all facial evidence of thought, and took the change and
went out.  And in a few moments he was back with the ice-water and
all the evening papers and departed smilingly with his fifteen
cents.

But this, in itself, was but a beginning in so far as this
particular evening was concerned, for he was scarcely seated upon
the bench again, before he was called to room 529, only to be sent
to the bar for drinks--two ginger ales and two syphons of soda--and
this by a group of smartly-dressed young men and girls who were
laughing and chattering in the room, one of whom opened the door
just wide enough to instruct him as to what was wanted.  But
because of a mirror over the mantel, he could see the party and one
pretty girl in a white suit and cap, sitting on the edge of a chair
in which reclined a young man who had his arm about her.

Clyde stared, even while pretending not to.  And in his state of
mind, this sight was like looking through the gates of Paradise.
Here were young fellows and girls in this room, not so much older
than himself, laughing and talking and drinking even--not ice-cream
sodas and the like, but such drinks no doubt as his mother and
father were always speaking against as leading to destruction, and
apparently nothing was thought of it.

He bustled down to the bar, and having secured the drinks and a
charge slip, returned--and was paid--a dollar and a half for the
drinks and a quarter for himself.  And once more he had a glimpse
of the appealing scene.  Only now one of the couples was dancing to
a tune sung and whistled by the other two.

But what interested him as much as the visits to and glimpses of
individuals in the different rooms, was the moving panorama of the
main lobby--the character of the clerks behind the main desk--room
clerk, key clerk, mail clerk, cashier and assistant cashier.  And
the various stands about the place--flower stand, news stand, cigar
stand, telegraph office, taxicab office, and all manned by
individuals who seemed to him curiously filled with the atmosphere
of this place.  And then around and between all these walking or
sitting were such imposing men and women, young men and girls all
so fashionably dressed, all so ruddy and contented looking.  And
the cars or other vehicles in which some of them appeared about
dinner time and later.  It was possible for him to see them in the
flare of the lights outside.  The wraps, furs, and other belongings
in which they appeared, or which were often carried by these other
boys and himself across the great lobby and into the cars or the
dining-room or the several elevators.  And they were always of such
gorgeous textures, as Clyde saw them.  Such grandeur.  This, then,
most certainly was what it meant to be rich, to be a person of
consequence in the world--to have money.  It meant that you did
what you pleased.  That other people, like himself, waited upon
you.  That you possessed all of these luxuries.  That you went how,
where and when you pleased.



Chapter 7


And so, of all the influences which might have come to Clyde at
this time, either as an aid or an injury to his development,
perhaps the most dangerous for him, considering his temperament,
was this same Green-Davidson, than which no more materially
affected or gaudy a realm could have been found anywhere between
the two great American mountain ranges.  Its darkened and cushioned
tea-room, so somber and yet tinted so gayly with colored lights,
was an ideal rendezvous, not only for such inexperienced and eager
flappers of the period who were to be taken by a show of luxury,
but also for those more experienced and perhaps a little faded
beauties, who had a thought for their complexions and the
advantages of dim and uncertain lights.  Also, like most hotels of
its kind, it was frequented by a certain type of eager and
ambitious male of not certain age or station in life, who counted
upon his appearance here at least once, if not twice a day, at
certain brisk and interesting hours, to establish for himself the
reputation of man-about-town, or rounder, or man of wealth, or
taste, or attractiveness, or all.

And it was not long after Clyde had begun to work here that he was
informed by these peculiar boys with whom he was associated, one or
more of whom was constantly seated with him upon the "hop-bench,"
as they called it, as to the evidence and presence even here--it
was not long before various examples of the phenomena were pointed
out to him--of a certain type of social pervert, morally
disarranged and socially taboo, who sought to arrest and interest
boys of their type, in order to come into some form of illicit
relationship with them, which at first Clyde could not grasp.  The
mere thought of it made him ill.  And yet some of these boys, as he
was now informed--a certain youth in particular, who was not on the
same watch with him at this time--were supposed to be of the mind
that "fell for it," as one of the other youths phrased it.

And the talk and the palaver that went on in the lobby and the
grill, to say nothing of the restaurants and rooms, were sufficient
to convince any inexperienced and none-too-discerning mind that the
chief business of life for any one with a little money or social
position was to attend a theater, a ball-game in season, or to
dance, motor, entertain friends at dinner, or to travel to New
York, Europe, Chicago, California.  And there had been in the lives
of most of these boys such a lack of anything that approached
comfort or taste, let alone luxury, that not unlike Clyde, they
were inclined to not only exaggerate the import of all that they
saw, but to see in this sudden transition an opportunity to partake
of it all.  Who were these people with money, and what had they
done that they should enjoy so much luxury, where others as good
seemingly as themselves had nothing?  And wherein did these latter
differ so greatly from the successful?  Clyde could not see.  Yet
these thoughts flashed through the minds of every one of these
boys.

At the same time the admiration, to say nothing of the private
overtures of a certain type of woman or girl, who inhibited perhaps
by the social milieu in which she found herself, but having means,
could invade such a region as this, and by wiles and smiles and the
money she possessed, ingratiate herself into the favor of some of
the more attractive of these young men here, was much commented
upon.

Thus a youth named Ratterer--a hall-boy here--sitting beside him
the very next afternoon, seeing a trim, well-formed blonde woman of
about thirty enter with a small dog upon her arm, and much bedecked
with furs, first nudged him and, with a faint motion of the head
indicating her vicinity, whispered, "See her?  There's a swift one.
I'll tell you about her sometime when I have time.  Gee, the things
she don't do!"

"What about her?" asked Clyde, keenly curious, for to him she
seemed exceedingly beautiful, most fascinating.

"Oh, nothing, except she's been in with about eight different men
around here since I've been here.  She fell for Doyle"--another
hall-boy whom by this time Clyde had already observed as being the
quintessence of Chesterfieldian grace and airs and looks, a youth
to imitate--"for a while, but now she's got some one else."

"Really?" inquired Clyde, very much astonished and wondering if
such luck would ever come to him.

"Surest thing you know," went on Ratterer.  "She's a bird that way--
never gets enough.  Her husband, they tell me, has a big lumber
business somewhere over in Kansas, but they don't live together no
more.  She has one of the best suites on the sixth, but she ain't
in it half the time.  The maid told me."

This same Ratterer, who was short and stocky but good-looking and
smiling, was so smooth and bland and generally agreeable that Clyde
was instantly drawn to him and wished to know him better.  And
Ratterer reciprocated that feeling, for he had the notion that
Clyde was innocent and inexperienced and that he would like to do
some little thing for him if he could.

The conversation was interrupted by a service call, and never
resumed about this particular woman, but the effect on Clyde was
sharp.  The woman was pleasing to look upon and exceedingly well-
groomed, her skin clear, her eyes bright.  Could what Ratterer had
been telling him really be true?  She was so pretty.  He sat and
gazed, a vision of something which he did not care to acknowledge
even to himself tingling the roots of his hair.

And then the temperaments and the philosophy of these boys--
Kinsella, short and thick and smooth-faced and a little dull, as
Clyde saw it, but good-looking and virile, and reported to be a
wizard at gambling, who, throughout the first three days at such
times as other matters were not taking his attention, had been good
enough to continue Hegglund's instructions in part.  He was a more
suave, better spoken youth than Hegglund, though not so attractive
as Ratterer, Clyde thought, without the latter's sympathetic
outlook, as Clyde saw it.

And again, there was Doyle--Eddie--whom Clyde found intensely
interesting from the first, and of whom he was not a little
jealous, because he was so very good-looking, so trim of figure,
easy and graceful of gesture, and with so soft and pleasing a
voice.  He went about with an indescribable air which seemed to
ingratiate him instantly with all with whom he came in contact--the
clerks behind the counter no less than the strangers who entered
and asked this or that question of him.  His shoes and collar were
so clean and trim, and his hair cut and brushed and oiled after a
fashion which would have become a moving-picture actor.  From the
first Clyde was utterly fascinated by his taste in the matter of
dress--the neatest of brown suits, caps, with ties and socks to
match.  He should wear a brown-belted coat just like that.  He
should have a brown cap.  And a suit as well cut and attractive.

Similarly, a not unrelated and yet different effect was produced by
that same youth who had first introduced Clyde to the work here--
Hegglund--who was one of the older and more experienced bell-hops,
and of considerable influence with the others because of his genial
and devil-may-care attitude toward everything, outside the exact
line of his hotel duties.  Hegglund was neither as schooled nor as
attractive as some of the others, yet by reason of a most avid and
dynamic disposition--plus a liberality where money and pleasure
were concerned, and a courage, strength and daring which neither
Doyle nor Ratterer nor Kinsella could match--a strength and daring
almost entirely divested of reason at times--he interested and
charmed Clyde immensely.  As he himself related to Clyde, after a
time, he was the son of a Swedish journeyman baker who some years
before in Jersey City had deserted his mother and left her to make
her way as best she could.  In consequence neither Oscar nor his
sister Martha had had any too much education or decent social
experience of any kind.  On the contrary, at the age of fourteen he
had left Jersey City in a box car and had been making his way ever
since as best he could.  And like Clyde, also, he was insanely
eager for all the pleasures which he had imagined he saw swirling
around him, and was for prosecuting adventures in every direction,
lacking, however, the nervous fear of consequence which
characterized Clyde.  Also he had a friend, a youth by the name of
Sparser, somewhat older than himself, who was chauffeur to a
wealthy citizen of Kansas City, and who occasionally managed to
purloin a car and so accommodate Hegglund in the matter of brief
outings here and there; which courtesy, unconventional and
dishonest though it might be, still caused Hegglund to feel that he
was a wonderful fellow and of much more importance than some of
these others, and to lend him in their eyes a luster which had
little of the reality which it suggested to them.

Not being as attractive as Doyle, it was not so easy for him to win
the attention of girls, and those he did succeed in interesting
were not of the same charm or import by any means.  Yet he was
inordinately proud of such contacts as he could effect and not a
little given to boasting in regard to them, a thing which Clyde
took with more faith than would most, being of less experience.
For this reason Hegglund liked Clyde, almost from the very first,
sensing in him perhaps a pleased and willing auditor.

So, finding Clyde on the bench beside him from time to time, he had
proceeded to continue his instructions.  Kansas City was a fine
place to be if you knew how to live.  He had worked in other
cities--Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis--before he came
here, but he had not liked any of them any better, principally--
which was a fact which he did not trouble to point out at the time--
because he had not done as well in those places as he had here.
He had been a dishwasher, car-cleaner, plumber's helper and several
other things before finally, in Buffalo, he had been inducted into
the hotel business.  And then a youth, working there, but who was
now no longer here, had persuaded him to come on to Kansas City.
But here:

"Say--de tips in dis hotel is as big as you'll git anywhere, I know
dat.  An' what's more, dey's nice people workin' here.  You do your
bit by dem and dey'll do right by you.  I been here now over a year
an' I ain't got no complaint.  Dat guy Squires is all right if you
don't cause him no trouble.  He's hard, but he's got to look out
for hisself, too--dat's natural.  But he don't fire nobody unless
he's got a reason.  I know dat, too.  And as for de rest dere's no
trouble.  An' when your work's troo, your time's your own.  Dese
fellows here are good sports, all o' dem.  Dey're no four-flushers
an' no tightwads, eider.  Whenever dere's anyting on--a good time
or sumpin' like dat, dey're on--nearly all of 'em.  An' dey don't
mooch or grouch in case tings don't work out right, neider.  I know
dat, cause I been wit 'em now, lots o' times."

He gave Clyde the impression that these youths were all the best of
friends--close--all but Doyle, who was a little standoffish, but
not coldly so.  "He's got too many women chasin' him, dat's all."
Also that they went here and there together on occasion--to a dance
hall, a dinner, a certain gambling joint down near the river, a
certain pleasure resort--"Kate Sweeney's"--where were some peaches
of girls--and so on and so forth, a world of such information as
had never previously been poured into Clyde's ear, and that set him
meditating, dreaming, doubting, worrying and questioning as to the
wisdom, charm, delight to be found in all this--also the
permissibility of it in so far as he was concerned.  For had he not
been otherwise instructed in regard to all this all his life long?
There was a great thrill and yet a great question involved in all
to which he was now listening so attentively.

Again there was Thomas Ratterer, who was of a type which at first
glance, one would have said, could scarcely prove either inimical
or dangerous to any of the others.  He was not more than five feet
four, plump, with black hair and olive skin, and with an eye that
was as limpid as water and as genial as could be.  He, too, as
Clyde learned after a time, was of a nondescript family, and so had
profited by no social or financial advantages of any kind.  But he
had a way, and was liked by all of these youths--so much so that he
was consulted about nearly everything.  A native of Wichita,
recently moved to Kansas City, he and his sister were the principal
support of a widowed mother.  During their earlier and formative
years, both had seen their very good-natured and sympathetic
mother, of whom they were honestly fond, spurned and abused by a
faithless husband.  There had been times when they were quite
without food.  On more than one occasion they had been ejected for
non-payment of rent.  None too continuously Tommy and his sister
had been maintained in various public schools.  Finally, at the age
of fourteen he had decamped to Kansas City, where he had secured
different odd jobs, until he succeeded in connecting himself with
the Green-Davidson, and was later joined by his mother and sister
who had removed from Wichita to Kansas City to be with him.

But even more than by the luxury of the hotel or these youths, whom
swiftly and yet surely he was beginning to decipher, Clyde was
impressed by the downpour of small change that was tumbling in upon
him and making a small lump in his right-hand pants pocket--dimes,
nickels, quarters and half-dollars even, which increased and
increased even on the first day until by nine o'clock he already
had over four dollars in his pocket, and by twelve, at which hour
he went off duty, he had over six and a half--as much as previously
he had earned in a week.

And of all this, as he then knew, he need only hand Mr. Squires
one--no more, Hegglund had said--and the rest, five dollars and a
half, for one evening's interesting--yes, delightful and
fascinating--work, belonged to himself.  He could scarcely believe
it.  It seemed fantastic, Aladdinish, really.  Nevertheless, at
twelve, exactly, of that first day a gong had sounded somewhere--a
shuffle of feet had been heard and three boys had appeared--one to
take Barnes' place at the desk, the other two to answer calls.  And
at the command of Barnes, the eight who were present were ordered
to rise, right dress and march away.  And in the hall outside, and
just as he was leaving, Clyde approached Mr. Squires and handed him
a dollar in silver.  "That's right," Mr. Squires remarked.  No
more.  Then, Clyde, along with the others, descended to his locker,
changed his clothes and walked out into the darkened streets, a
sense of luck and a sense of responsibility as to future luck so
thrilling him as to make him rather tremulous--giddy, even.

To think that now, at last, he actually had such a place.  To think
that he could earn this much every day, maybe.  He began to walk
toward his home, his first thought being that he must sleep well
and so be fit for his duties in the morning.  But thinking that he
would not need to return to the hotel before 11:30 the next day, he
wandered into an all-night beanery to have a cup of coffee and some
pie.  And now all he was thinking was that he would only need to
work from noon until six, when he should be free until the
following morning at six.  And then he would make more money.
A lot of it to spend on himself.



Chapter 8


The thing that most interested Clyde at first was how, if at all,
he was to keep the major portion of all this money he was making
for himself.  For ever since he had been working and earning money,
it had been assumed that he would contribute a fair portion of all
that he received--at least three-fourths of the smaller salaries he
had received up to this time--toward the upkeep of the home.  But
now, if he announced that he was receiving at least twenty-five
dollars a week and more--and this entirely apart from the salary of
fifteen a month and board--his parents would assuredly expect him
to pay ten or twelve.

But so long had he been haunted by the desire to make himself as
attractive looking as any other well-dressed boy that, now that he
had the opportunity, he could not resist the temptation to equip
himself first and as speedily as possible.  Accordingly, he decided
to say to his mother that all of the tips he received aggregated no
more than a dollar a day.  And, in order to give himself greater
freedom of action in the matter of disposing of his spare time, he
announced that frequently, in addition to the long hours demanded
of him every other day, he was expected to take the place of other
boys who were sick or set to doing other things.  And also, he
explained that the management demanded of all boys that they look
well outside as well as inside the hotel.  He could not long be
seen coming to the hotel in the clothes that he now wore.  Mr.
Squires, he said, had hinted as much.  But, as if to soften the
blow, one of the boys at the hotel had told him of a place where he
could procure quite all the things that he needed on time.

And so unsophisticated was his mother in these matters that she
believed him.

But that was not all.  He was now daily in contact with a type of
youth who, because of his larger experience with the world and with
the luxuries and vices of such a life as this, had already been
inducted into certain forms of libertinism and vice even which up
to this time were entirely foreign to Clyde's knowledge and set him
agape with wonder and at first with even a timorous distaste.
Thus, as Hegglund had pointed out, a certain percentage of this
group, of which Clyde was now one, made common cause in connection
with quite regular adventures which usually followed their monthly
pay night.  These adventures, according to their moods and their
cash at the time, led them usually either to one of two rather
famous and not too respectable all-night restaurants.  In groups,
as he gathered by degrees from hearing them talk, they were pleased
to indulge in occasional late showy suppers with drinks, after
which they were wont to go to either some flashy dance hall of the
downtown section to pick up a girl, or that failing as a source of
group interest, to visit some notorious--or as they would have
deemed it reputed--brothel, very frequently camouflaged as a
boarding house, where for much less than the amount of cash in
their possession they could, as they often boasted, "have any girl
in the house."  And here, of course, because of their known youth,
ignorance, liberality, and uniform geniality and good looks, they
were made much of, as a rule, being made most welcome by the
various madames and girls of these places who sought, for
commercial reasons of course, to interest them to come again.

And so starved had been Clyde's life up to this time and so eager
was he for almost any form of pleasure, that from the first he
listened with all too eager ears to any account of anything that
spelled adventure or pleasure.  Not that he approved of these types
of adventures.  As a matter of fact at first it offended and
depressed him, seeing as he did that it ran counter to all he had
heard and been told to believe these many years.  Nevertheless so
sharp a change and relief from the dreary and repressed work in
which he had been brought up was it, that he could not help
thinking of all this with an itch for the variety and color it
seemed to suggest.  He listened sympathetically and eagerly, even
while at times he was mentally disapproving of what he heard.  And
seeing him so sympathetic and genial, first one and then another of
these youths made overtures to him to go here, there or the other
place--to a show, a restaurant, one of their homes, where a card
game might be indulged in by two or three of them, or even to one
of the shameless houses, contact with which Clyde at first
resolutely refused.  But by degrees, becoming familiar with
Hegglund and Ratterer, both of whom he liked very much, and being
invited by them to a joy-night supper--a "blow-out" as they termed
it, at Frissell's--he decided to go.

"There's going to be another one of our montly blow-outs to-morrow
night, Clyde, around at Frissell's," Ratterer had said to him.
"Don't you want to come along?  You haven't been yet."

By this time, Clyde, having acclimated himself to this caloric
atmosphere, was by no means as dubious as he was at first.  For by
now, in imitation of Doyle, whom he had studied most carefully and
to great advantage, he had outfitted himself with a new brown suit,
cap, overcoat, socks, stickpin and shoes as near like those of his
mentor as possible.  And the costume became him well--excellently
well--so much so that he was far more attractive than he had ever
been in his life, and now, not only his parents, but his younger
brother and sister, were not a little astonished and even amazed by
the change.

How could Clyde have come by all this grandeur so speedily?  How
much could all this that he wore now have cost?  Was he not
hypothecating more of his future earnings for this temporary
grandeur than was really wise?  He might need it in the future.
The other children needed things, too.  And was the moral and
spiritual atmosphere of a place that made him work such long hours
and kept him out so late every day, and for so little pay, just the
place to work?

To all of which, he had replied, rather artfully for him, that it
was all for the best, he was not working too hard.  His clothes
were not too fine, by any means--his mother should see some of the
other boys.  He was not spending too much money.  And, anyhow, he
had a long while in which to pay for all he had bought.

But now, as to this supper.  That was a different matter, even to
him.  How, he asked himself, in case the thing lasted until very
late as was expected, could he explain to his mother and father his
remaining out so very late.  Ratterer had said it might last until
three or four, anyhow, although he might go, of course, any time,
but how would that look, deserting the crowd?  And yet hang it all,
most of them did not live at home as he did, or if they did like
Ratterer, they had parents who didn't mind what they did.  Still, a
late supper like that--was it wise?  All these boys drank and
thought nothing of it--Hegglund, Ratterer, Kinsella, Shiel.  It
must be silly for him to think that there was so much danger in
drinking a little, as they did on these occasions.  On the other
hand it was true that he need not drink unless he wanted to.  He
could go, and if anything was said at home, he would say that he
had to work late.  What difference did it make if he stayed out
late once in a while?  Wasn't he a man now?  Wasn't he making more
money than any one else in the family?  And couldn't he begin to do
as he pleased?

He began to sense the delight of personal freedom--to sniff the air
of personal and delicious romance--and he was not to be held back
by any suggestion which his mother could now make.



Chapter 9


And so the interesting dinner, with Clyde attending, came to pass.
And it was partaken of at Frissell's, as Ratterer had said.  And by
now Clyde, having come to be on genial terms with all of these
youths, was in the gayest of moods about it all.  Think of his new
state in life, anyhow.  Only a few weeks ago he was all alone, not
a boy friend, scarcely a boy acquaintance in the world!  And here
he was, so soon after, going to this fine dinner with this
interesting group.

And true to the illusions of youth, the place appeared far more
interesting than it really was.  It was little more than an
excellent chop-house of the older American order.  Its walls were
hung thick with signed pictures of actors and actresses, together
with playbills of various periods.  And because of the general
excellence of the food, to say nothing of the geniality of its
present manager, it had become the hangout of passing actors,
politicians, local business men, and after them, the generality of
followers who are always drawn by that which presents something a
little different to that with which they are familiar.

And these boys, having heard at one time and another from cab and
taxi drivers that this was one of the best places in town, fixed
upon it for their monthly dinners.  Single plates of anything cost
from sixty cents to a dollar.  Coffee and tea were served in pots
only.  You could get anything you wanted to drink.  To the left of
the main room as you went in was a darker and low-ceilinged room
with a fireplace, to which only men resorted and sat and smoked,
and read papers after dinner, and it was for this room that these
youths reserved their greatest admiration.  Eating here, they
somehow felt older, wiser, more important--real men of the world.
And Ratterer and Hegglund, to whom by now Clyde had become very
much attached, as well as most of the others, were satisfied that
there was not another place in all Kansas City that was really as
good.

And so this day, having drawn their pay at noon, and being off at
six for the night, they gathered outside the hotel at the corner
nearest the drug store at which Clyde had originally applied for
work, and were off in a happy, noisy frame of mind--Hegglund,
Ratterer, Paul Shiel, Davis Higby, another youth, Arthur Kinsella
and Clyde.

"Didja hear de trick de guy from St. Louis pulled on the main
office yesterday?" Hegglund inquired of the crowd generally, as
they started walking.  "Wires last Saturday from St. Louis for a
parlor, bedroom and bat for himself and wife, an' orders flowers
put in de room.  Jimmy, the key clerk, was just tellin' me.  Den he
comes on here and registers himself an' his girl, see, as man and
wife, an', gee, a peach of a lookin' girl, too--I saw 'em.  Listen,
you fellows, cantcha?  Den, on Wednesday, after he's been here tree
days and dey're beginnin' to wonder about him a little--meals sent
to de room and all dat--he comes down and says dat his wife's gotta
go back to St. Louis, and dat he won't need no suite, just one
room, and dat they can transfer his trunk and her bags to de new
room until train time for her.  But de trunk ain't his at all, see,
but hers.  And she ain't goin', don't know nuttin about it.  But he
is.  Den he beats it, see, and leaves her and de trunk in de room.
And widout a bean, see?  Now, dey're holdin' her and her trunk, an'
she's cryin' and wirin' friends, and dere's hell to pay all around.
Can ya beat dat?  An' de flowers, too.  Roses.  An' six different
meals in de room and drinks for him, too."

"Sure, I know the one you mean," exclaimed Paul Shiel.  "I took up
some drinks myself.  I felt there was something phony about that
guy.  He was too smooth and loud-talking.  An' he only comes across
with a dime at that."

"I remember him, too," exclaimed Ratterer.  "He sent me down for
all the Chicago papers Monday an' only give me a dime.  He looked
like a bluff to me."

"Well, dey fell for him up in front, all right."  It was Hegglund
talking.  "An' now dey're tryin' to gouge it outa her.  Can you
beat it?"

"She didn't look to me to be more than eighteen or twenty, if she's
that old," put in Arthur Kinsella, who up to now had said nothing.

"Did you see either of 'em, Clyde?" inquired Ratterer, who was
inclined to favor and foster Clyde and include him in everything.

"No" replied Clyde.  "I must have missed those two.  I don't
remember seeing either of 'em."

"Well, you missed seein' a bird when you missed that one.  Tall,
long black cut-a-way coat, wide, black derby pulled low over his
eyes, pearl-gray spats, too.  I thought he was an English duke or
something at first, the way he walked, and with a cane, too.  All
they gotta do is pull that English stuff, an' talk loud an' order
everybody about an' they get by with it every time."

"That's right," commented Davis Higby.  "That's good stuff, that
English line.  I wouldn't mind pulling some of it myself sometime."

They had now turned two corners, crossed two different streets and,
in group formation, were making their way through the main door of
Frissell's, which gave in on the reflection of lights upon china
and silverware and faces, and the buzz and clatter of a dinner
crowd.  Clyde was enormously impressed.  Never before, apart from
the Green-Davidson, had he been in such a place.  And with such
wise, experienced youths.

They made their way to a group of tables which faced a leather
wall-seat.  The head-waiter, recognizing Ratterer and Hegglund and
Kinsella as old patrons, had two tables put together and butter and
bread and glasses brought.  About these they arranged themselves,
Clyde with Ratterer and Higby occupying the wall seat; Hegglund,
Kinsella and Shiel sitting opposite.

"Now, me for a good old Manhattan, to begin wit'," exclaimed
Hegglund avidly, looking about on the crowd in the room and feeling
that now indeed he was a person.  Of a reddish-tan hue, his eyes
keen and blue, his reddish-brown hair brushed straight up from his
forehead, he seemed not unlike a large and overzealous rooster.

And similarly, Arthur Kinsella, once he was in here, seemed to perk
up and take heart of his present glory.  In a sort of ostentatious
way, he drew back his coat sleeves, seized a bill of fare, and
scanning the drink-list on the back, exclaimed:  "Well, a dry
Martini is good enough for a start."

"Well, I'm going to begin with a Scotch and soda," observed Paul
Shiel, solemnly, examining at the same time the meat orders.

"None of your cocktails for me to-night," insisted Ratterer,
genially, but with a note of reserve in his voice.  "I said I wasn
t going to drink much to-night, and I'm not.  I think a glass of
Rhine wine and seltzer will be about my speed."

"For de love o' Mike, will you listen to dat, now," exclaimed
Hegglund, deprecatingly.  "He's goin' to begin on Rhine wine.  And
him dat likes Manhattans always.  What's gettin' into you all of a
sudden, Tommy?  I t'ought you said you wanted a good time to-
night."

"So I do," replied Ratterer, "but can't I have a good time without
lappin' up everything in the place?  I want to stay sober to-night.
No more call-downs for me in the morning, if I know what I'm about.
I came pretty near not showing up last time."

"That's true, too," exclaimed Arthur Kinsella.  "I don't want to
drink so much I don't know where I'm at, but I'm not going to begin
worrying about it now."

"How about you, Higby?" Hegglund now called to the round-eyed
youth.

"I'm having a Manhattan, too," he replied, and then, looking up at
the waiter who was beside him, added, "How's tricks, Dennis?"

"Oh, I can't complain," replied the waiter.  "They're breakin' all
right for me these days.  How's everything over to the hotel?"

"Fine, fine," replied Higby, cheerfully, studying the bill-of-fare.

"An' you, Griffiths?  What are you goin' to have?" called Hegglund,
for, as master-of-ceremonies, delegated by the others to look after
the orders and pay the bill and tip the waiter, he was now
fulfilling the role.

"Who, me?  Oh, me," exclaimed Clyde, not a little disturbed by this
inquiry, for up to now--this very hour, in fact--he had never
touched anything stronger than coffee or ice-cream soda.  He had
been not a little taken back by the brisk and sophisticated way in
which these youths ordered cocktails and whisky.  Surely he could
not go so far as that, and yet, so well had he known long before
this, from the conversation of these youths, that on such occasions
as this they did drink, that he did not see how he could very well
hold back.  What would they think of him if he didn't drink
something?  For ever since he had been among them, he had been
trying to appear as much of a man of the world as they were.  And
yet back of him, as he could plainly feel, lay all of the years in
which he had been drilled in the "horrors" of drink and evil
companionship.  And even though in his heart this long while he had
secretly rebelled against nearly all the texts and maxims to which
his parents were always alluding, deeply resenting really as
worthless and pointless the ragamuffin crew of wasters and failures
whom they were always seeking to save, still, now he was inclined
to think and hesitate.  Should he or should he not drink?

For the fraction of an instant only, while all these things in him
now spoke, he hesitated, then added:  "Why, I, oh--I think I'll
take Rhine wine and seltzer, too."  It was the easiest and safest
thing to say, as he saw it.  Already the rather temperate and even
innocuous character of Rhine wine and seltzer had been emphasized
by Hegglund and all the others.  And yet Ratterer was taking it--a
thing which made his choice less conspicuous and, as he felt, less
ridiculous.

"Will you listen to dis now?" exclaimed Hegglund, dramatically.
"He says he'll have Rhine wine and seltzer, too.  I see where dis
party breaks up at half-past eight, all right, unless some of de
rest of us do someting."

And Davis Higby, who was far more trenchant and roistering than his
pleasant exterior gave any indication of, turned to Ratterer and
said:  "Whatja want to start this Rhine wine and seltzer stuff for,
so soon, Tom?  Dontcha want us to have any fun at all to-night?"

"Well, I told you why," said Ratterer.  "Besides, the last time I
went down to that joint I had forty bucks when I went in and not a
cent when I came out.  I want to know what's goin' on this time."

"That joint," thought Clyde on hearing it.  Then, after this
supper, when they had all drunk and eaten enough, they were going
down to one of those places called a "joint"--a bad-house, really.
There was no doubt of it--he knew what the word meant.  There would
be women there--bad women--evil women.  And he would be expected--
could he--would he?

For the first time in his life now, he found himself confronted by
a choice as to his desire for the more accurate knowledge of the
one great fascinating mystery that had for so long confronted and
fascinated and baffled and yet frightened him a little.  For,
despite all his many thoughts in regard to all this and women in
general, he had never been in contact with any one of them in this
way.  And now--now--

All of a sudden he felt faint thrills of hot and cold racing up and
down his back and all over him.  His hands and face grew hot and
then became moist--then his cheeks and forehead flamed.  He could
feel them.  Strange, swift, enticing and yet disturbing thoughts
raced in and out of his consciousness.  His hair tingled and he saw
pictures--bacchanalian scenes--which swiftly, and yet in vain, he
sought to put out of his mind.  They would keep coming back.  And
he wanted them to come back.  Yet he did not.  And through it all
he was now a little afraid.  Pshaw!  Had he no courage at all?
These other fellows were not disturbed by the prospects of what was
before them.  They were very gay.  They were already beginning to
laugh and kid one another in regard to certain funny things that
had happened the last time they were all out together.  But what
would his mother think if she knew?  His mother!  He dared not
think of his mother or his father either at this time, and put them
both resolutely out of his mind.

"Oh, say, Kinsella," called Higby.  "Do you remember that little
red head in that Pacific Street joint that wanted you to run away
to Chicago with her?"

"Do I?" replied the amused Kinsella, taking up the Martini that was
just then served him.  "She even wanted me to quit the hotel game
and let her start me in a business of some kind.  'I wouldn't need
to work at all if I stuck by her,' she told me."

"Oh, no, you wouldn't need to work at all, except one way," called
Ratterer.

The waiter put down Clyde's glass of Rhine wine and seltzer beside
him and, interested and intense and troubled and fascinated by all
that he heard, he picked it up, tasted it and, finding it mild and
rather pleasing, drank it all down at once.  And yet so wrought up
were his thoughts that he scarcely realized then that he had drunk
it.

"Good for you," observed Kinsella, in a most cordial tone.  "You
must like that stuff."

"Oh, it's not so bad," said Clyde.

And Hegglund, seeing how swiftly it had gone, and feeling that
Clyde, new to this world and green, needed to be cheered and
strengthened, called to the waiter:  "Here Jerry!  One more of
these, and make it a big one," he whispered behind his hand.

And so the dinner proceeded.  And it was nearly eleven before they
had exhausted the various matters of interest to them--stories of
past affairs, past jobs, past feats of daring.  And by then Clyde
had had considerable time to meditate on all of these youths--and
he was inclined to think that he was not nearly as green as they
thought, or if so, at least shrewder than most of them--of a better
mentality, really.  For who were they and what were their
ambitions?  Hegglund, as he could see, was vain and noisy and
foolish--a person who could be taken in and conciliated by a little
flattery.  And Higby and Kinsella, interesting and attractive boys
both, were still vain of things he could not be proud of--Higby of
knowing a little something about automobiles--he had an uncle in
the business--Kinsella of gambling, rolling dice even.  And as for
Ratterer and Shiel, he could see and had noticed for some time,
that they were content with the bell-hop business--just continuing
in that and nothing more--a thing which he could not believe, even
now, would interest him forever.

At the same time, being confronted by this problem of how soon they
would be wanting to go to a place into which he had never ventured
before, and to be doing things which he had never let himself think
he would do in just this way, he was just a little disturbed.  Had
he not better excuse himself after they got outside, or perhaps,
after starting along with them in whatsoever direction they chose
to go, quietly slip away at some corner and return to his own home?
For had he not already heard that the most dreadful of diseases
were occasionally contracted in just such places--and that men died
miserable deaths later because of low vices begun in this fashion?
He could hear his mother lecturing concerning all this--yet with
scarcely any direct knowledge of any kind.  And yet, as an argument
per contra, here were all of these boys in nowise disturbed by what
was in their minds or moods to do.  On the contrary, they were very
gay over it all and amused--nothing more.

In fact, Ratterer, who was really very fond of Clyde by now, more
because of the way he looked and inquired and listened than because
of anything Clyde did or said, kept nudging him with his elbow now
and then, asking laughingly, "How about it, Clyde?  Going to be
initiated to-night?" and then smiling broadly.  Or finding Clyde
quite still and thinking at times, "They won't do more than bite
you, Clyde."

And Hegglund, taking his cue from Ratterer and occasionally
desisting from his own self-glorifying diatribes, would add:  "You
won't ever be de same, Clyde.  Dey never are.  But we'll all be wid
you in case of trouble."

And Clyde, nervous and irritated, would retort:  "Ah, cut it out,
you two.  Quit kidding.  What's the use of trying to make out that
you know so much more than I do?"

And Ratterer would signal Hegglund with his eyes to let up and
would occasionally whisper to Clyde:  "That's all right, old man,
don't get sore.  You know we were just fooling, that's all."  And
Clyde, very much drawn to Ratterer, would relent and wish he were
not so foolish as to show what he actually was thinking about.

At last, however, by eleven o'clock, they had had their fill of
conversation and food and drink and were ready to depart, Hegglund
leading the way.  And instead of the vulgar and secretive mission
producing a kind of solemnity and mental or moral self-examination
and self-flagellation, they laughed and talked as though there was
nothing but a delicious form of amusement before them.  Indeed,
much to Clyde's disgust and amazement, they now began to reminisce
concerning other ventures into this world--of one particular one
which seemed to amuse them all greatly, and which seemed to concern
some "joint," as they called it, which they had once visited--a
place called "Bettina's."  They had been led there originally by a
certain wild youth by the name of "Pinky" Jones of the staff of
another local hotel.  And this boy and one other by the name of
Birmingham, together with Hegglund, who had become wildly
intoxicated, had there indulged in wild pranks which all but led to
their arrest--pranks which to Clyde, as he listened to them, seemed
scarcely possible to boys of this caliber and cleanly appearance--
pranks so crude and disgusting as to sicken him a little.

"Oh, ho, and de pitcher of water de girl on de second floor doused
on me as I went out," called Hegglund, laughing heartily.

"And the big fat guy on the second floor that came to the door to
see.  Remember?" laughed Kinsella.  "He thought there was a fire or
a riot, I bet."

"And you and that little fat girl, Piggy.  'Member, Ratterer?"
squealed Shiel, laughing and choking as he tried to tell of it.

"And Ratterer's legs all bent under his load.  Yoo-hoo!" yelled
Hegglund.  "And de way de two of 'em finally slid down de steps."

"That was all your fault, Hegglund," called Higby from Kinsella's
side.  "If you hadn't tried that switching stuff we never woulda
got put out."

"I tell you I was drunk," protested Ratterer.  "It was the red-eye
they sold in there."

"And that long, thin guy from Texas with the big mustache, will you
ever forget him, an' the way he laughed?" added Kinsella.  "He
wouldn't help nobody 'gainst us.  'Member?"

"It's a wonder we weren't all thrown in the street or locked up.
Oh, gee, what a night!" reminisced Ratterer.

By now Clyde was faintly dizzy with the nature of these revelations.
"Switchin'."  That could mean but one thing.

And they expected him to share in revels such as these, maybe.  It
could not be.  He was not that sort of person.  What would his
mother and father think if they were to hear of such dreadful
things?  And yet--

Even as they talked, they had reached a certain house in a dark and
rather wide street, the curbs of which for a block or more on
either side were sprinkled with cabs and cars.  And at the corner,
only a little distance away, were some young men standing and
talking.  And over the way, more men.  And not a half a block
farther on, they passed two policemen, idling and conversing.  And
although there was no light visible in any window, nor over any
transom, still, curiously, there was a sense of vivid, radiant
life.  One could feel it in this dark street.  Taxis spun and
honked and two old-time closed carriages still in use rolled here
and there, their curtains drawn.  And doors slammed or opened and
closed.  And now and then a segment of bright inward light pierced
the outward gloom and then disappeared again.  Overhead on this
night were many stars.

Finally, without any comment from any one, Hegglund, accompanied by
Higby and Shiel, marched up the steps of this house and rang the
bell.  Almost instantly the door was opened by a black girl in a
red dress.  "Good evening.  Walk right in, won't you?" was the
affable greeting, and the six, having pushed past her and through
the curtains of heavy velvet, which separated this small area from
the main chambers, Clyde found himself in a bright and rather gaudy
general parlor or reception room, the walls of which were
ornamented with gilt-framed pictures of nude or semi-nude girls and
some very high pier mirrors.  And the floor was covered by a bright
red thick carpet, over which were strewn many gilt chairs.  At the
back, before some very bright red hangings, was a gilded upright
piano.  But of guests or inmates there seemed to be none, other
than the black girl.

"Jest be seated, won't you?  Make yourselves at home.  I'll call
the madam."  And, running upstairs to the left, she began calling:
"Oh, Marie!  Sadie!  Caroline!  They is some young gentlemen in the
parlor."

And at that moment, from a door in the rear, there emerged a tall,
slim and rather pale-faced woman of about thirty-eight or forty--
very erect, very executive, very intelligent and graceful-looking--
diaphanously and yet modestly garbed, who said, with a rather wan
and yet encouraging smile:  "Oh, hello, Oscar, it's you, is it?
And you too, Paul.  Hello!  Hello, Davis!  Just make yourselves at
home anywhere, all of you.  Fannie will be in in a minute.  She'll
bring you something to drink.  I've just hired a new pianist from
St. Joe--a Negro.  Wait'll you hear him.  He's awfully clever."

She returned to the rear and called, "Oh, Sam!"

As she did so, nine girls of varying ages and looks, but none
apparently over twenty-four or five--came trooping down the stairs
at one side in the rear, and garbed as Clyde had never seen any
women dressed anywhere.  And they were all laughing and talking as
they came--evidently very well pleased with themselves and in
nowise ashamed of their appearance, which in some instances was
quite extraordinary, as Clyde saw it, their costumes ranging from
the gayest and flimsiest of boudoir negligees to the somewhat more
sober, if no less revealing, dancing and ballroom gowns.  And they
were of such varied types and sizes and complexions--slim and stout
and medium--tall or short--and dark or light or betwixt.  And,
whatever their ages, all seemed young.  And they smiled so warmly
and enthusiastically.

"Oh, hello, sweetheart!  How are you?  Don't you want to dance with
me?" or "Wouldn't you like something to drink?"



Chapter 10


Prepared as Clyde was to dislike all this, so steeped had he been
in the moods and maxims antipathetic to anything of its kind, still
so innately sensual and romantic was his own disposition and so
starved where sex was concerned, that instead of being sickened, he
was quite fascinated.  The very fleshly sumptuousness of most of
these figures, dull and unromantic as might be the brains that
directed them, interested him for the time being.  After all, here
was beauty of a gross, fleshly character, revealed and purchasable.
And there were no difficulties of mood or inhibitions to overcome
in connection with any of these girls.  One of them, a quite pretty
brunette in a black and red costume with a band of red ribbon
across her forehead, seemed to be decidedly at home with Higby, for
already she was dancing with him in the back room to a jazz melody
most irrationally hammered out upon the piano.

And Ratterer, to Clyde's surprise, was already seated upon one of
the gilt chairs and upon his knees was lounging a tall young girl
with very light hair and blue eyes.  And she was smoking a
cigarette and tapping her gold slippers to the melody of the piano.
It was really quite an amazing and Aladdin-like scene to him.  And
here was Hegglund, before whom was standing a German or
Scandinavian type, plump and pretty, her arms akimbo and her feet
wide apart.  And she was asking--with an upward swell of the voice,
as Clyde could hear:  "You make love to me to-night?"  But
Hegglund, apparently not very much taken with these overtures,
calmly shook his head, after which she went on to Kinsella.

And even as he was looking and thinking, a quite attractive blonde
girl of not less than twenty-four, but who seemed younger to Clyde,
drew up a chair beside him and seating herself, said:  "Don't you
dance?"  He shook his head nervously.  "Want me to show you?"

"Oh, I wouldn't want to try here," he said.

"Oh, it's easy," she continued.  "Come on!"  But since he would
not, though he was rather pleased with her for being agreeable to
him, she added:  "Well, how about something to drink then?"

"Sure," he agreed, gallantly, and forthwith she signaled the young
Negress who had returned as waitress, and in a moment a small table
was put before them and a bottle of whisky with soda on the side--a
sight that so astonished and troubled Clyde that he could scarcely
speak.  He had forty dollars in his pocket, and the cost of drinks
here, as he had heard from the others, would not be less than two
dollars each, but even so, think of him buying drinks for such a
woman at such a price!  And his mother and sisters and brother at
home with scarcely the means to make ends meet.  And yet he bought
and paid for several, feeling all the while that he had let himself
in for a terrifying bit of extravagance, if not an orgy, but now
that he was here, he must go through with it.

And besides, as he now saw, this girl was really pretty.  She had
on a Delft blue evening gown of velvet, with slippers and stockings
to match.  In her ears were blue earrings and her neck and
shoulders and arms were plump and smooth.  The most disturbing
thing about her was that her bodice was cut very low--he dared
scarcely look at her there--and her cheeks and lips were painted--
most assuredly the marks of the scarlet woman.  Yet she did not
seem very aggressive, in fact quite human, and she kept looking
rather interestedly at his deep and dark and nervous eyes.

"You work over at the Green-Davidson, too, don't you?" she asked.

"Yes," replied Clyde trying to appear as if all this were not new
to him--as if he had often been in just such a place as this, amid
such scenes.  "How did you know?"

"Oh, I know Oscar Hegglund," she replied.  "He comes around here
once in a while.  Is he a friend of yours?"

"Yes.  That is, he works over at the hotel with me."

"But you haven't been here before."

"No," said Clyde, swiftly, and yet with a trace of inquiry in his
own mood.  Why should she say he hadn't been here before?

"I thought you hadn't.  I've seen most of these other boys before,
but I never saw you.  You haven't been working over at the hotel
very long, have you?"

"No," said Clyde, a little irritated by this, his eyebrows and the
skin of his forehead rising and falling as he talked--a form of
contraction and expansion that went on involuntarily whenever he
was nervous or thought deeply.  "What of it?"

"Oh, nothing.  I just knew you hadn't.  You don't look very much
like these other boys--you look different."  She smiled oddly and
rather ingratiatingly, a smile and a mood which Clyde failed to
interpret.

"How different?" he inquired, solemnly and contentiously, taking up
a glass and drinking from it.

"I'll bet you one thing," she went on, ignoring his inquiry
entirely.  "You don't care for girls like me very much, do you?"

"Oh, yes, I do, too," he said, evasively.

"Oh, no, you don't either.  I can tell.  But I like you just the
same.  I like your eyes.  You're not like those other fellows.
You're more refined, kinda.  I can tell.  You don't look like
them."

"Oh, I don't know," replied Clyde, very much pleased and flattered,
his forehead wrinkling and clearing as before.  This girl was
certainly not as bad as he thought, maybe.  She was more
intelligent--a little more refined than the others.  Her costume
was not so gross.  And she hadn't thrown herself upon him as had
these others upon Hegglund, Higby, Kinsella and Ratterer.  Nearly
all of the group by now were seated upon chairs or divans about the
room and upon their knees were girls.  And in front of every couple
was a little table with a bottle of whisky upon it.

"Look who's drinking whisky!" called Kinsella to such of the others
as would pay any attention to him, glancing in Clyde's direction.

"Well, you needn't be afraid of me," went on the girl, while Clyde
glanced at her arms and neck, at her too much revealed bosom, which
quite chilled and yet enticed him.  "I haven't been so very long in
this business.  And I wouldn't be here now if it hadn't been for
all the bad luck I've had.  I'd rather live at home with my family
if I could, only they wouldn't have me, now."  She looked rather
solemnly at the floor, thinking mainly of the little inexperienced
dunce Clyde was--so raw and green.  Also of the money she had seen
him take out of his pocket--plainly quite a sum.  Also how really
good-looking he was, not handsome or vigorous, but pleasing.  And
he was thinking at the instant of Esta, as to where she had gone or
was now.  What might have befallen her--who could say?  What might
have been done to her?  Had this girl, by any chance, ever had any
such unfortunate experience as she had had?  He felt a growing, if
somewhat grandiose, sympathy, and looked at her as much as to say:
"You poor thing."  Yet for the moment he would not trust himself to
say anything or make any further inquiries.

"You fellows who come into a place like this always think so hard
of everybody.  I know how you are.  But we're not as bad as you
think."

Clyde's brows knit and smoothed again.  Perhaps she was not as bad
as he thought.  She was a low woman, no doubt--evil but pretty.  In
fact, as he looked about the room from time to time, none of the
girls appealed to him more.  And she thought him better than these
other boys--more refined--she had detected that.  The compliment
stuck.  Presently she was filling his glass for him and urging him
to drink with her.  Another group of young men arrived about then--
and other girls coming out of the mysterious portals at the rear to
greet them--Hegglund and Ratterer and Kinsella and Higby, as he
saw, mysteriously disappeared up that back stairs that was heavily
curtained from the general room.  And as these others came in, this
girl invited him to come and sit upon a divan in the back room
where the lights were dimmer.

And now, seated here, she had drawn very close to him and touched
his hands and finally linking an arm in his and pressing close to
him, inquired if he didn't want to see how pretty some of the rooms
on the second floor were furnished.  And seeing that he was quite
alone now--not one of all the group with whom he had come around to
observe him--and that this girl seemed to lean to him warmly and
sympathetically, he allowed himself to be led up that curtained
back stair and into a small pink and blue furnished room, while he
kept saying to himself that this was an outrageous and dangerous
proceeding on his part, and that it might well end in misery for
him.  He might contract some dreadful disease.  She might charge
him more than he could afford.  He was afraid of her--himself--
everything, really--quite nervous and almost dumb with his several
fears and qualms.  And yet he went, and, the door locked behind
him, this interestingly well-rounded and graceful Venus turned the
moment they were within and held him to her, then calmly, and
before a tall mirror which revealed her fully to herself and him,
began to disrobe.



Chapter 11


The effect of this adventure on Clyde was such as might have been
expected in connection with one so new and strange to such a world
as this.  In spite of all that deep and urgent curiosity and desire
that had eventually led him to that place and caused him to yield,
still, because of the moral precepts with which he had so long been
familiar, and also because of the nervous esthetic inhibitions
which were characteristic of him, he could not but look back upon
all this as decidedly degrading and sinful.  His parents were
probably right when they preached that this was all low and
shameful.  And yet this whole adventure and the world in which it
was laid, once it was all over, was lit with a kind of gross, pagan
beauty or vulgar charm for him.  And until other and more
interesting things had partially effaced it, he could not help
thinking back upon it with considerable interest and pleasure,
even.

In addition he kept telling himself that now, having as much money
as he was making, he could go and do about as he pleased.  He need
not go there any more if he did not want to, but he could go to
other places that might not be as low, maybe--more refined.  He
wouldn't want to go with a crowd like that again.  He would rather
have just one girl somewhere if he could find her--a girl such as
those with whom he had seen Sieberling and Doyle associate.  And
so, despite all of his troublesome thoughts of the night before, he
was thus won quickly over to this new source of pleasure if not its
primary setting.  He must find a free pagan girl of his own
somewhere if he could, like Doyle, and spend his money on her.  And
he could scarcely wait until opportunity should provide him with
the means of gratifying himself in this way.

But more interesting and more to his purpose at the time was the
fact that both Hegglund and Ratterer, in spite of, or possibly
because of, a secret sense of superiority which they detected in
Clyde, were inclined to look upon him with no little interest and
to court him and to include him among all their thoughts of affairs
and pleasures.  Indeed, shortly after his first adventure, Ratterer
invited him to come to his home, where, as Clyde most quickly came
to see, was a life very different from his own.  At the Griffiths'
all was so solemn and reserved, the still moods of those who feel
the pressure of dogma and conviction.  In Ratterer's home, the
reverse of this was nearly true.  The mother and sister with whom
he lived, while not without some moral although no particular
religious convictions, were inclined to view life with a great deal
of generosity or, as a moralist would have seen it, laxity.  There
had never been any keen moral or characterful direction there at
all.  And so it was that Ratterer and his sister Louise, who was
two years younger than himself, now did about as they pleased, and
without thinking very much about it.  But his sister chanced to be
shrewd or individual enough not to wish to cast herself away on
just any one.

The interesting part of all this was that Clyde, in spite of a
certain strain of refinement which caused him to look askance at
most of this, was still fascinated by the crude picture of life and
liberty which it offered.  Among such as these, at least, he could
go, do, be as he had never gone or done or been before.  And
particularly was he pleased and enlightened--or rather dubiously
liberated--in connection with his nervousness and uncertainty in
regard to his charm or fascination for girls of his own years.  For
up to this very time, and in spite of his recent first visit to the
erotic temple to which Hegglund and the others had led him, he was
still convinced that he had no skill with or charm where girls were
concerned.  Their mere proximity or approach was sufficient to
cause him to recede mentally, to chill or palpitate nervously, and
to lose what little natural skill he had for conversation or poised
banter such as other youths possessed.  But now, in his visits to
the home of Ratterer, as he soon discovered, he was to have ample
opportunity to test whether this shyness and uncertainty could be
overcome.

For it was a center for the friends of Ratterer and his sister, who
were more or less of one mood in regard to life.  Dancing, card-
playing, love-making rather open and unashamed, went on there.
Indeed, up to this time, Clyde would not have imagined that a
parent like Mrs. Ratterer could have been as lackadaisical or
indifferent as she was, apparently, to conduct and morals
generally.  He would not have imagined that any mother would have
countenanced the easy camaraderie that existed between the sexes in
Mrs. Ratterer's home.

And very soon, because of several cordial invitations which were
extended to him by Ratterer, he found himself part and parcel of
this group--a group which from one point of view--the ideas held by
its members, the rather wretched English they spoke--he looked down
upon.  From another point of view--the freedom they possessed, the
zest with which they managed to contrive social activities and
exchanges--he was drawn to them.  Because, for the first time,
these permitted him, if he chose, to have a girl of his own, if
only he could summon the courage.  And this, owing to the well-
meant ministrations of Ratterer and his sister and their friends,
he soon sought to accomplish.  Indeed the thing began on the
occasion of his first visit to the Ratterers.

Louise Ratterer worked in a dry-goods store and often came home a
little late for dinner.  On this occasion she did not appear until
seven, and the eating of the family meal was postponed accordingly.
In the meantime, two girl friends of Louise arrived to consult her
in connection with something, and finding her delayed, and Ratterer
and Clyde there, they made themselves at home, rather impressed and
interested by Clyde and his new finery.  For he, at once girl-
hungry and girl-shy, held himself nervously aloof, a manifestation
which they mistook for a conviction of superiority on his part.
And in consequence, arrested by this, they determined to show how
really interesting they were--vamp him--no less.  And he found
their crude briskness and effrontery very appealing--so much so
that he was soon taken by the charms of one, a certain Hortense
Briggs, who, like Louise, was nothing more than a crude shop girl
in one of the large stores, but pretty and dark and self-
appreciative.  And yet from the first, he realized that she was not
a little coarse and vulgar--a very long way removed from the type
of girl he had been imagining in his dreams that he would like to
have.

"Oh, hasn't she come in yet?" announced Hortense, on first being
admitted by Ratterer and seeing Clyde near one of the front
windows, looking out.  "Isn't that too bad?  Well, we'll just have
to wait a little bit if you don't mind"--this last with a switch
and a swagger that plainly said, who would mind having us around?
And forthwith she began to primp and admire herself before a mirror
which surmounted an ocher-colored mantelpiece that graced a
fireless grate in the dining-room.  And her friend, Greta Miller,
added:  "Oh, dear, yes.  I hope you won't make us go before she
comes.  We didn't come to eat.  We thought your dinner would be all
over by now."

"Where do you get that stuff--'put you out'?" replied Ratterer
cynically.  "As though anybody could drive you two outa here if you
didn't want to go.  Sit down and play the victrola or do anything
you like.  Dinner'll soon be ready and Louise'll be here any
minute."  He returned to the dining-room to look at a paper which
he had been reading, after pausing to introduce Clyde.  And the
latter, because of the looks and the airs of these two, felt
suddenly as though he had been cast adrift upon a chartless sea in
an open boat.

"Oh, don't say eat to me!" exclaimed Greta Miller, who was
surveying Clyde calmly as though she were debating with herself
whether he was worth-while game or not, and deciding that he was:
"With all the ice-cream and cake and pie and sandwiches we'll have
to eat yet to-night.  We was just going to warn Louise not to fill
up too much.  Kittie Keane's givin' a birthday party, you know,
Tom, and she'll have a big cake an' everythin'.  You're comin'
down, ain't you, afterwards?" she concluded, with a thought of
Clyde and his possible companionship in mind.

"I wasn't thinkin' of it," calmly observed Ratterer.  "Me and Clyde
was thinkin' of goin' to a show after dinner."

"Oh, how foolish," put in Hortense Briggs, more to attract
attention to herself and take it away from Greta than anything
else.  She was still in front of the mirror, but turned now to cast
a fetching smile on all, particularly Clyde, for whom she fancied
her friend might be angling, "When you could come along and dance.
I call that silly."

"Sure, dancing is all you three ever think of--you and Louise,"
retorted Ratterer.  "It's a wonder you don't give yourselves a rest
once in a while.  I'm on my feet all day an' I like to sit down
once in a while."  He could be most matter-of-fact at times.

"Oh, don't say sit down to me," commented Greta Miller with a lofty
smile and a gliding, dancing motion of her left foot, "with all the
dates we got ahead of us this week.  Oh, gee!"  Her eyes and
eyebrows went up and she clasped her hands dramatically before her.
"It's just terrible, all the dancin' we gotta do yet, this winter,
don't we, Hortense?  Thursday night and Friday night and Saturday
and Sunday nights."  She counted on her fingers most archly.  "Oh,
gee!  It is terrible, really."  She gave Clyde an appealing,
sympathy-seeking smile.  "Guess where we were the other night, Tom.
Louise and Ralph Thorpe and Hortense and Bert Gettler, me and
Willie Bassick--out at Pegrain's on Webster Avenue.  Oh, an' you
oughta seen the crowd out there.  Sam Shaffer and Tillie Burns was
there.  And we danced until four in the morning.  I thought my
knees would break.  I ain't been so tired in I don't know when."

"Oh, gee!" broke in Hortense, seizing her turn and lifting her arms
dramatically.  "I thought I never would get to work the next
morning.  I could just barely see the customers moving around.
And, wasn't my mother fussy!  Gee!  She hasn't gotten over it yet.
She don't mind so much about Saturdays and Sundays, but all these
week nights and when I have to get up the next morning at seven--
gee--how she can pick!"

"An' I don't blame her, either," commented Mrs. Ratterer, who was
just then entering with a plate of potatoes and some bread.  "You
two'll get sick and Louise, too, if you don't get more rest.  I
keep tellin' her she won't be able to keep her place or stand it if
she don't get more sleep.  But she don't pay no more attention to
me than Tom does, and that's just none at all."

"Oh, well, you can't expect a fellow in my line to get in early
always, Ma," was all Ratterer said.  And Hortense Briggs added:
"Gee, I'd die if I had to stay in one night.  You gotta have a
little fun when you work all day."

What an easy household, thought Clyde.  How liberal and indifferent.
And the sexy, gay way in which these two girls posed about.  And
their parents thought nothing of it, evidently.  If only he could
have a girl as pretty as this Hortense Briggs, with her small,
sensuous mouth and her bright hard eyes.

"To bed twice a week early is all I need," announced Greta Miller
archly.  "My father thinks I'm crazy, but more'n that would do me
harm."  She laughed jestingly, and Clyde, in spite of the "we
was'es" and "I seen's," was most vividly impressed.  Here was youth
and geniality and freedom and love of life.

And just then the front door opened and in hurried Louise Ratterer,
a medium-sized, trim, vigorous little girl in a red-lined cape and
a soft blue felt hat pulled over her eyes.  Unlike her brother, she
was brisk and vigorous and more lithe and as pretty as either of
these others.

"Oh, look who's here!" she exclaimed.  "You two birds beat me home,
didnja?  Well, I got stuck to-night on account of some mix-up in my
sales-book.  And I had to go up to the cashier's office.  You bet
it wasn't my fault, though.  They got my writin' wrong," then
noting Clyde for the first time, she announced:  "I bet I know who
this is--Mr. Griffiths.  Tom's talked about you a lot.  I wondered
why he didn't bring you around here before."  And Clyde, very much
flattered, mumbled that he wished he had.

But the two visitors, after conferring with Louise in a small front
bedroom to which they all retired, reappeared presently and because
of strenuous invitations, which were really not needed, decided to
remain.  And Clyde, because of their presence, was now intensely
wrought up and alert--eager to make a pleasing impression and to be
received upon terms of friendship here.  And these three girls,
finding him attractive, were anxious to be agreeable to him, so
much so that for the first time in his life they put him at his
ease with the opposite sex and caused him to find his tongue.

"We was just going to warn you not to eat so much," laughed Greta
Miller, turning to Louise, "and now, see, we are all trying to eat
again."  She laughed heartily.  "And they'll have pies and cakes
and everythin' at Kittie's."

"Oh, gee, and we're supposed to dance, too, on top of all this.
Well, heaven help me, is all I have to say," put in Hortense.

The peculiar sweetness of her mouth, as he saw it, as well as the
way she crinkled it when she smiled, caused Clyde to be quite
beside himself with admiration and pleasure.  She looked quite
delightful--wonderful to him.  Indeed her effect on him made him
swallow quickly and half choke on the coffee he had just taken.  He
laughed and felt irrepressibly gay.

At that moment she turned on him and said:  "See, what I've done to
him now."

"Oh, that ain't all you've done to me," exclaimed Clyde, suddenly
being seized with an inspiration and a flow of thought and courage.
Of a sudden, because of her effect on him, he felt bold and
courageous, albeit a little foolish and added, "Say, I'm gettin'
kinda woozy with all the pretty faces I see around here."

"Oh, gee, you don't want to give yourself away that quick around
here, Clyde," cautioned Ratterer, genially.  "These high-binders'll
be after you to make you take 'em wherever they want to go.  You
better not begin that way."  And, sure enough, Louise Ratterer, not
to be abashed by what her brother had just said, observed:  "You
dance, don't you, Mr. Griffiths?"

"No, I don't," replied Clyde, suddenly brought back to reality by
this inquiry and regretting most violently the handicap this was
likely to prove in this group.  "But you bet I wish I did now," he
added gallantly and almost appealingly, looking first at Hortense
and then at Greta Miller and Louise.  But all pretended not to
notice his preference, although Hortense titillated with her
triumph.  She was not convinced that she was so greatly taken with
him, but it was something to triumph thus easily and handsomely
over these others.  And the others felt it.  "Ain't that too bad?"
she commented, a little indifferently and superiorly now that she
realized that she was his preference.  "You might come along with
us, you and Tom, if you did.  There's goin' to be mostly dancing at
Kittie's."

Clyde began to feel and look crushed at once.  To think that this
girl, to whom of all those here he was most drawn, could dismiss
him and his dreams and desires thus easily, and all because he
couldn't dance.  And his accursed home training was responsible for
all this.  He felt broken and cheated.  What a boob he must seem
not to be able to dance.  And Louise Ratterer looked a little
puzzled and indifferent, too.  But Greta Miller, whom he liked less
than Hortense, came to his rescue with:  "Oh, it ain't so hard to
learn.  I could show you in a few minutes after dinner if you
wanted to.  It's only a few steps you have to know.  And then you
could go, anyhow, if you wanted to."

Clyde was grateful and said so--determined to learn here or
elsewhere at the first opportunity.  Why hadn't he gone to a
dancing school before this, he asked himself.  But the thing that
pained him most was the seeming indifference of Hortense now that
he had made it clear that he liked her.  Perhaps it was that Bert
Gettler, previously mentioned, with whom she had gone to the dance,
who was making it impossible for him to interest her.  So he was
always to be a failure this way.  Oh, gee!

But the moment the dinner was over and while the others were still
talking, the first to put on a dance record and come over with
hands extended was Hortense, who was determined not to be outdone
by her rival in this way.  She was not particularly interested or
fascinated by Clyde, at least not to the extent of troubling about
him as Greta did.  But if her friend was going to attempt a
conquest in this manner, was it not just as well to forestall her?
And so, while Clyde misread her change of attitude to the extent of
thinking that she liked him better than he had thought, she took
him by the hands, thinking at the same time that he was too
bashful.  However, placing his right arm about her waist, his other
clasped in hers at her shoulder, she directed his attention to her
feet and his and began to illustrate the few primary movements of
the dance.  But so eager and grateful was he--almost intense and
ridiculous--she did not like him very much, thought him a little
unsophisticated and too young.  At the same time, there was a charm
about him which caused her to wish to assist him.  And soon he was
moving about with her quite easily--and afterwards with Greta and
then Louise, but wishing always it was Hortense.  And finally he
was pronounced sufficiently skillful to go, if he would.

And now the thought of being near her, being able to dance with her
again, drew him so greatly that, despite the fact that three
youths, among them that same Bert Gettler, appeared on the scene to
escort them, and although he and Ratterer had previously agreed to
go to a theater together, he could not help showing how much he
would prefer to follow those others--so much so that Ratterer
finally agreed to abandon the theater idea.  And soon they were
off, Clyde grieving that he could not walk with Hortense, who was
with Gettler, and hating his rival because of this; but still
attempting to be civil to Louise and Greta, who bestowed sufficient
attention on him to make him feel at ease.  Ratterer, having
noticed his extreme preference and being alone with him for a
moment, said:  "You better not get too stuck on that Hortense
Briggs.  I don't think she's on the level with anybody.  She's got
that fellow Gettler and others.  She'll only work you an' you might
not get anything, either."

But Clyde, in spite of this honest and well-meant caution, was not
to be dissuaded.  On sight, and because of the witchery of a smile,
the magic and vigor of motion and youth, he was completely
infatuated and would have given or done anything for an additional
smile or glance or hand pressure.  And that despite the fact that
he was dealing with a girl who no more knew her own mind than a
moth, and who was just reaching the stage where she was finding it
convenient and profitable to use boys of her own years or a little
older for whatever pleasures or clothes she desired.



The party proved nothing more than one of those ebullitions of the
youthful mating period.  The house of Kittie Keane was little more
than a cottage in a poor street under bare December trees.  But to
Clyde, because of the passion for a pretty face that was suddenly
lit in him, it had the color and the form and gayety of romance
itself.  And the young girls and boys that he met there--girls and
boys of the Ratterer, Hegglund, Hortense stripe--were still of the
very substance and texture of that energy, ease and forwardness
which he would have given his soul to possess.  And curiously
enough, in spite of a certain nervousness on his part, he was by
reason of his new companions made an integral part of the gayeties.

And on this occasion he was destined to view a type of girl and
youth in action such as previously it had not been his fortune or
misfortune, as you will, to see.  There was, for instance, a type
of sensual dancing which Louise and Hortense and Greta indulged in
with the greatest nonchalance and assurance.  At the same time,
many of these youths carried whisky in a hip flask, from which they
not only drank themselves, but gave others to drink--boys and girls
indiscriminately.

And the general hilarity for this reason being not a little added
to, they fell into more intimate relations--spooning with one and
another--Hortense and Louise and Greta included.  Also to
quarreling at times.  And it appeared to be nothing out of the
ordinary, as Clyde saw, for one youth or another to embrace a girl
behind a door, to hold her on his lap in a chair in some secluded
corner, to lie with her on a sofa, whispering intimate and
unquestionably welcome things to her.  And although at no time did
he espy Hortense doing this--still, as he saw, she did not hesitate
to sit on the laps of various boys or to whisper with rivals behind
doors.  And this for a time so discouraged and at the same time
incensed him that he felt he could not and would not have anything
more to do with her--she was too cheap, vulgar, inconsiderate.

At the same time, having partaken of the various drinks offered
him--so as not to seem less worldly wise than the others--until
brought to a state of courage and daring not ordinarily
characteristic of him, he ventured to half plead with and at the
same time half reproach her for her too lax conduct.

"You're a flirt, you are.  You don't care who you jolly, do you?"
This as they were dancing together after one o'clock to the music
of a youth named Wilkens, at the none too toneful piano.  She was
attempting to show him a new step in a genial and yet coquettish
way, and with an amused, sensuous look.

"What do you mean, flirt?  I don't get you."

"Oh, don't you?" replied Clyde, a little crossly and still
attempting to conceal his real mood by a deceptive smile.  "I've
heard about you.  You jolly 'em all."

"Oh, do I?" she replied quite irritably.  "Well, I haven't tried to
jolly you very much, have I?"

"Well, now, don't get mad," he half pleaded and half scolded,
fearing, perhaps, that he had ventured too far and might lose her
entirely now.  "I don't mean anything by it.  You don't deny that
you let a lot of these fellows make love to you.  They seem to like
you, anyway."

"Oh, well, of course they like me, I guess.  I can't help that, can
I?"

"Well, I'll tell you one thing," he blurted boastfully and
passionately.  "I could spend a lot more on you than they could.  I
got it."  He had been thinking only the moment before of fifty-five
dollars in bills that snuggled comfortably in his pocket.

"Oh, I don't know," she retorted, not a little intrigued by this
cash offer, as it were, and at the same time not a little set up in
her mood by the fact that she could thus inflame nearly all youths
in this way.  She was really a little silly, very lightheaded, who
was infatuated by her own charms and looked in every mirror,
admiring her eyes, her hair, her neck, her hands, her figure, and
practising a peculiarly fetching smile.

At the same time, she was not unaffected by the fact that Clyde was
not a little attractive to look upon, although so very green.  She
liked to tease such beginners.  He was a bit of a fool, as she saw
him.  But he was connected with the Green-Davidson, and he was
well-dressed, and no doubt he had all the money he said and would
spend it on her.  Some of those whom she liked best did not have
much money to spend.

"Lots of fellows with money would like to spend it on me."  She
tossed her head and flicked her eyes and repeated her coyest smile.

At once Clyde's countenance darkened.  The witchery of her look was
too much for him.  The skin of his forehead crinkled and then
smoothed out.  His eyes burned lustfully and bitterly, his old
resentment of life and deprivation showing.  No doubt all she said
was true.  There were others who had more and would spend more.  He
was boasting and being ridiculous and she was laughing at him.

After a moment, he added, weakly, "I guess that's right, too.  But
they couldn't want you more than I do."

The uncalculated honesty of it flattered her not a little.  He
wasn't so bad after all.  They were gracefully gliding about as the
music continued.

"Oh, well, I don't flirt everywhere like I do here.  These fellows
and girls all know each other.  We're always going around together.
You mustn't mind what you see here."

She was lying artfully, but it was soothing to him none the less.
"Gee, I'd give anything if you'd only be nice to me," he pleaded,
desperately and yet ecstatically.  "I never saw a girl I'd rather
have than you.  You're swell.  I'm crazy about you.  Why won't you
come out to dinner with me and let me take you to a show
afterwards?  Don't you want to do that, tomorrow night or Sunday?
Those are my two nights off.  I work other nights."

She hesitated at first, for even now she was not so sure that she
wished to continue this contact.  There was Gettler, to say nothing
of several others, all jealous and attentive.  Even though he spent
money on her, she might not wish to bother with him.  He was
already too eager and he might become troublesome.  At the same
time, the natural coquetry of her nature would not permit her to
relinquish him.  He might fall into the hands of Greta or Louise.
In consequence she finally arranged a meeting for the following
Tuesday.  But he could not come to the house, or take her home to-
night--on account of her escort, Mr. Gettler.  But on the following
Tuesday, at six-thirty, near the Green-Davidson.  And he assured
her that they would dine first at Frissell's, and then see "The
Corsair," a musical comedy at Libby's, only two blocks away.



Chapter 12


Now trivial as this contact may seem to some, it was of the utmost
significance to Clyde.  Up to this time he had never seen a girl
with so much charm who would deign to look at him, or so he
imagined.  And now he had found one, and she was pretty and
actually interested sufficiently to accompany him to dinner and to
a show.  It was true, perhaps, that she was a flirt, and not really
sincere with any one, and that maybe at first he could not expect
her to center her attentions on him, but who knew--who could tell?

And true to her promise on the following Tuesday she met him at the
corner of 14th Street and Wyandotte, near the Green-Davidson.  And
so excited and flattered and enraptured was he that he could
scarcely arrange his jumbled thoughts and emotions in any seemly
way.  But to show that he was worthy of her, he had made an almost
exotic toilet--hair pomaded, a butterfly tie, new silk muffler and
silk socks to emphasize his bright brown shoes, purchased
especially for the occasion.

But once he had reencountered Hortense, whether all this was of any
import to her he could not tell.  For, after all, it was her own
appearance, not his, that interested her.  And what was more--a
trick with her--she chose to keep him waiting until nearly seven
o'clock, a delay which brought about in him the deepest dejection
of spirit for the time being.  For supposing, after all, in the
interval, she had decided that she did not care for him and did not
wish to see him any more.  Well, then he would have to do without
her, of course.  But that would prove that he was not interesting
to a girl as pretty as she was, despite all the nice clothes he was
now able to wear and the money he could spend.  He was determined
that, girl or no girl, he would not have one who was not pretty.
Ratterer and Hegglund did not seem to mind whether the girl they
knew was attractive or not, but with him it was a passion.  The
thought of being content with one not so attractive almost
nauseated him.

And yet here he was now, on the street corner in the dark--the
flare of many signs and lights about, hundreds of pedestrians
hurrying hither and thither, the thought of pleasurable intentions
and engagements written upon the faces of many--and he, he alone,
might have to turn and go somewhere else--eat alone, go to a
theater alone, go home alone, and then to work again in the
morning.  He had just about concluded that he was a failure when
out of the crowd, a little distance away, emerged the face and
figure of Hortense.  She was smartly dressed in a black velvet
jacket with a reddish-brown collar and cuffs, and a bulgy, round
tam of the same material with a red leather buckle on the side.
And her cheeks and lips were rouged a little.  And her eyes
sparkled.  And as usual she gave herself all the airs of one very
well content with herself.

"Oh, hello, I'm late, ain't I?  I couldn't help it.  You see, I
forgot I had another appointment with a fella, a friend of mine--
gee, a peach of a boy, too, and it was only at six I remembered
that I had the two dates.  Well, I was in a mess then.  So I had to
do something about one of you.  I was just about to call you up and
make a date for another night, only I remembered you wouldn't be at
your place after six.  Tom never is.  And Charlie always is in his
place till six-thirty, anyhow, sometimes later, and he's a peach of
a fella that way--never grouchy or nothing.  And he was goin' to
take me to the theater and to dinner, too.  He has charge of the
cigar stand over here at the Orphia.  So I called him up.  Well, he
didn't like it so very much.  But I told him I'd make it another
night.  Now, aintcha glad?  Dontcha think I'm pretty nice to you,
disappointin' a good-lookin' fella like Charlie for you?"

She had caught a glimpse of the disturbed and jealous and yet
fearsome look in Clyde's eyes as she talked of another.  And the
thought of making him jealous was a delight to her.  She realized
that he was very much smitten with her.  So she tossed her head and
smiled, falling into step with him as he moved up the street.

"You bet it was nice of you to come," he forced himself to say,
even though the reference to Charlie as a "peach of a fella" seemed
to affect his throat and his heart at the same time.  What chance
had he to hold a girl who was so pretty and self-willed?  "Gee, you
look swell to-night," he went on, forcing himself to talk and
surprising himself a little with his ability to do so.  "I like the
way that hat looks on you, and your coat too."  He looked directly
at her, his eyes lit with admiration, an eager yearning filling
them.  He would have liked to have kissed her--her pretty mouth--
only he did not dare here, or anywhere as yet.

"I don't wonder you have to turn down engagements.  You're pretty
enough.  Don't you want some roses to wear?"  They were passing a
flower store at the moment and the sight of them put the thought of
the gift in his mind.  He had heard Hegglund say that women liked
fellows who did things for them.

"Oh, sure, I would like some roses," she replied, turning into the
place.  "Or maybe some of those violets.  They look pretty.  They
go better with this jacket, I think."

She was pleased to think that Clyde was sporty enough to think of
flowers.  Also that he was saying such nice things about her.  At
the same time she was convinced that he was a boy who had had
little, if anything, to do with girls.  And she preferred youths
and men who were more experienced, not so easily flattered by her--
not so easy to hold.  Yet she could not help thinking that Clyde
was a better type of boy or man than she was accustomed to--more
refined.  And for that reason, in spite of his gaucheness (in her
eyes) she was inclined to tolerate him--to see how he would do.

"Well, these are pretty nifty," she exclaimed, picking up a rather
large bouquet of violets and pinning them on.  "I think I'll wear
these."  And while Clyde paid for them, she posed before the
mirror, adjusting them to her taste.  At last, being satisfied as
to their effect, she turned and exclaimed, "Well, I'm ready," and
took him by the arm.

Clyde, being not a little overawed by her spirit and mannerisms,
was at a loss what else to say for the moment, but he need not have
worried--her chief interest in life was herself.

"Gee, I tell you I had a swift week of it last week.  Out every
night until three.  An' Sunday until nearly morning.  My, that was
some rough party I was to last night, all right.  Ever been down to
Burkett's at Gifford's Ferry?  Oh, a nifty place, all right, right
over the Big Blue at 39th.  Dancing in summer and you can skate
outside when it's frozen in winter or dance on the ice.  An' the
niftiest little orchestra."

Clyde watched the play of her mouth and the brightness of her eyes
and the swiftness of her gestures without thinking so much of what
she said--very little.

"Wallace Trone was along with us--gee, he's a scream of a kid--and
afterwards when we was sittin' down to eat ice cream, he went out
in the kitchen and blacked up an' put on a waiter's apron and coat
and then comes back and serves us.  That's one funny boy.  An' he
did all sorts of funny stuff with the dishes and spoons."  Clyde
sighed because he was by no means as gifted as the gifted Trone.

"An' then, Monday morning, when we all got back it was nearly four,
and I had to get up again at seven.  I was all in.  I coulda
chucked my job, and I woulda, only for the nice people down at the
store and Mr. Beck.  He's the head of my department, you know, and
say, how I do plague that poor man.  I sure am hard on that store.
One day I comes in late after lunch; one of the other girls punched
the clock for me with my key, see, and he was out in the hall and
he saw her, and he says to me afterwards, about two in the
afternoon, 'Say look here, Miss Briggs' (he always calls me Miss
Briggs, 'cause I won't let him call me nothing else.  He'd try to
get fresh if I did), 'that loanin' that key stuff don't go.  Cut
that stuff out now.  This ain't no Follies.'  I had to laugh.  He
does get so sore at times at all of us.  But I put him in his place
just the same.  He's kinda soft on me, you know--he wouldn't fire
me for worlds, not him.  So I says to him, 'See here, Mr. Beck, you
can't talk to me in any such style as that.  I'm not in the habit
of comin' late often.  An' wot's more, this ain't the only place I
can work in K.C.  If I can't be late once in a while without
hearin' about it, you can just send up for my time, that's all,
see.'  I wasn't goin' to let him get away with that stuff.  And
just as I thought, he weakened.  All he says was, 'Well, just the
same, I'm warnin' you.  Next time maybe Mr. Tierney'll see you an'
then you'll get a chance to try some other store, all right.'  He
knew he was bluffing and that I did, too.  I had to laugh.  An' I
saw him laughin' with Mr. Scott about two minutes later.  But, gee,
I certainly do pull some raw stuff around there at times."

By then she and Clyde, with scarcely a word on his part, and much
to his ease and relief, had reached Frissell's.  And for the first
time in his life he had the satisfaction of escorting a girl to a
table in such a place.  Now he really was beginning to have a few
experiences worthy of the name.  He was quite on edge with the
romance of it.  Because of her very high estimate of herself, her
very emphatic picture of herself as one who was intimate with so
many youths and girls who were having a good time, he felt that up
to this hour he had not lived at all.  Swiftly he thought of the
different things she had told him--Burkett's on the Big Blue,
skating and dancing on the ice--Charlie Trone--the young tobacco
clerk with whom she had had the engagement for to-night--Mr. Beck
at the store who was so struck on her that he couldn't bring
himself to fire her.  And as he saw her order whatever she liked,
without any thought of his purse, he contemplated quickly her face,
figure, the shape of her hands, so suggestive always of the
delicacy or roundness of the arm, the swell of her bust, already
very pronounced, the curve of her eyebrows, the rounded appeal of
her smooth cheeks and chin.  There was something also about the
tone of her voice, unctuous, smooth, which somehow appealed to and
disturbed him.  To him it was delicious.  Gee, if he could only
have such a girl all for himself!

And in here, as without, she clattered on about herself, not at all
impressed, apparently, by the fact that she was dining here, a
place that to him had seemed quite remarkable.  When she was not
looking at herself in a mirror, she was studying the bill of fare
and deciding what she liked--lamb with mint jelly--no omelette, no
beef--oh, yes, filet of mignon with mushrooms.  She finally
compromised on that with celery and cauliflower.  And she would
like a cocktail.  Oh, yes, Clyde had heard Hegglund say that no
meal was worth anything without a few drinks, so now he had mildly
suggested a cocktail.  And having secured that and a second, she
seemed warmer and gayer and more gossipy than ever.

But all the while, as Clyde noticed, her attitude in so far as he
was concerned was rather distant--impersonal.  If for so much as a
moment, he ventured to veer the conversation ever so slightly to
themselves, his deep personal interest in her, whether she was
really very deeply concerned about any other youth, she threw him
off by announcing that she liked all the boys, really.  They were
all so lovely--so nice to her.  They had to be.  When they weren't,
she didn't have anything more to do with them.  She "tied a can to
them," as she once expressed it.  Her quick eyes clicked and she
tossed her head defiantly.

And Clyde was captivated by all this.  Her gestures, her poses,
moues and attitudes were sensuous and suggestive.  She seemed to
like to tease, promise, lay herself open to certain charges and
conclusions and then to withhold and pretend that there was nothing
to all of this--that she was very unconscious of anything save the
most reserved thoughts in regard to herself.  In the main, Clyde
was thrilled and nourished by this mere proximity to her.  It was
torture, and yet a sweet kind of torture.  He was full of the most
tantalizing thoughts about how wonderful it would be if only he
were permitted to hold her close, kiss her mouth, bite her, even.
To cover her mouth with his!  To smother her with kisses!  To crush
and pet her pretty figure!  She would look at him at moments with
deliberate, swimming eyes, and he actually felt a little sick and
weak--almost nauseated.  His one dream was that by some process,
either of charm or money, he could make himself interesting to her.

And yet after going with her to the theater and taking her home
again, he could not see that he had made any noticeable progress.
For throughout the performance of "The Corsair" at Libby's,
Hortense, who, because of her uncertain interest in him was really
interested in the play, talked of nothing but similar shows she had
seen, as well as of actors and actresses and what she thought of
them, and what particular youth had taken her.  And Clyde, instead
of leading her in wit and defiance and matching her experiences
with his own, was compelled to content himself with approving of
her.

And all the time she was thinking that she had made another real
conquest.  And because she was no longer virtuous, and she was
convinced that he had some little money to spend, and could be made
to spend it on her, she conceived the notion of being sufficiently
agreeable--nothing more--to hold him, keep him attentive, if
possible, while at the same time she went her own way, enjoying
herself as much as possible with others and getting Clyde to buy
and do such things for her as might fill gaps--when she was not
sufficiently or amusingly enough engaged elsewhere.



Chapter 13


For a period of four months at least this was exactly the way it
worked out.  After meeting her in this fashion, he was devoting not
an inconsiderable portion of his free time to attempting to
interest her to the point where she would take as much interest in
him as she appeared to take in others.  At the same time he could
not tell whether she could be made to entertain a singular
affection for any one.  Nor could he believe that there was only an
innocent camaraderie involved in all this.  Yet she was so enticing
that he was deliriously moved by the thought that if his worst
suspicions were true, she might ultimately favor him.  So
captivated was he by this savor of sensuality and varietism that
was about her, the stigmata of desire manifest in her gestures,
moods, voice, the way she dressed, that he could not think of
relinquishing her.

Rather, he foolishly ran after her.  And seeing this, she put him
off, at times evaded him, compelled him to content himself with
little more than the crumbs of her company, while at the same time
favoring him with descriptions or pictures of other activities and
contacts which made him feel as though he could no longer endure to
merely trail her in this fashion.  It was then he would announce to
himself in anger that he was not going to see her any more.  She
was no good to him, really.  But on seeing her again, a cold
indifference in everything she said and did, his courage failed him
and he could not think of severing the tie.

She was not at all backward at the same time in speaking of things
that she needed or would like to have--little things, at first--a
new powder puff, a lip stick, a box of powder or a bottle of
perfume.  Later, and without having yielded anything more to Clyde
than a few elusive and evasive endearments--intimate and languorous
reclinings in his arms which promised much but always came to
nothing--she made so bold as to indicate to him at different times
and in different ways, purses, blouses, slippers, stockings, a hat,
which she would like to buy if only she had the money.  And he, in
order to hold her favor and properly ingratiate himself, proceeded
to buy them, though at times and because of some other developments
in connection with his family, it pressed him hard to do so.  And
yet, as he was beginning to see toward the end of the fourth month,
he was apparently little farther advanced in her favor than he had
been in the beginning.  In short, he was conducting a feverish and
almost painful pursuit without any definite promise of reward.



In the meantime, in so far as his home ties went, the irritations
and the depressions which were almost inextricably involved with
membership in the Griffiths family were not different from what
they had ever been.  For, following the disappearance of Esta,
there had settled a period of dejection which still endured.  Only,
in so far as Clyde was concerned, it was complicated with a mystery
which was tantalizing and something more--irritating; for when it
came to anything which related to sex in the Griffiths family, no
parents could possibly have been more squeamish.

And especially did this apply to the mystery which had now
surrounded Esta for some time.  She had gone.  She had not
returned.  And so far as Clyde and the others knew, no word of any
kind had been received from her.  However, Clyde had noted that
after the first few weeks of her absence, during which time both
his mother and father had been most intensely wrought up and
troubled, worrying greatly as to her whereabouts and why she did
not write, suddenly they had ceased their worries, and had become
very much more resigned--at least not so tortured by a situation
that previously had seemed to offer no hope whatsoever.  He could
not explain it.  It was quite noticeable, and yet nothing was said.
And then one day a little later, Clyde had occasion to note that
his mother was in communication with some one by mail--something
rare for her.  For so few were her social or business connections
that she rarely received or wrote a letter.

One day, however, very shortly after he had connected himself with
the Green-Davidson, he had come in rather earlier than usual in the
afternoon and found his mother bending over a letter which
evidently had just arrived and which appeared to interest her
greatly.  Also it seemed to be connected with something which
required concealment.  For, on seeing him, she stopped reading at
once, and, flustered and apparently nervous, arose and put the
letter away without commenting in any way upon what she had been
doing.  But Clyde for some reason, intuition perhaps, had the
thought that it might be from Esta.  He was not sure.  And he was
too far away to detect the character of the handwriting.  But
whatever it was, his mother said nothing afterwards concerning it.
She looked as though she did not want him to inquire, and so
reserved were their relations that he would not have thought of
inquiring.  He merely wondered, and then dismissed it partially,
but not entirely, from his mind.

A month or five weeks after this, and just about the time that he
was becoming comparatively well-schooled in his work at the Green-
Davidson, and was beginning to interest himself in Hortense Briggs,
his mother came to him one afternoon with a very peculiar
proposition for her.  Without explaining what it was for, or
indicating directly that now she felt that he might be in a better
position to help her, she called him into the mission hall when he
came in from work and, looking at him rather fixedly and nervously
for her, said:  "You wouldn't know, Clyde, would you, how I could
raise a hundred dollars right away?"

Clyde was so astonished that he could scarcely believe his ears,
for only a few weeks before the mere mention of any sum above four
or five dollars in connection with him would have been preposterous.
His mother knew that.  Yet here she was asking him and apparently
assuming that he might be able to assist her in this way.  And
rightly, for both his clothes and his general air had indicated a
period of better days for him.

At the same time his first thought was, of course, that she had
observed his clothes and goings-on and was convinced that he was
deceiving her about the amount he earned.  And in part this was
true, only so changed was Clyde's manner of late, that his mother
had been compelled to take a very different attitude toward him and
was beginning to be not a little dubious as to her further control
over him.  Recently, or since he had secured this latest place, for
some reason he had seemed to her to have grown wiser, more assured,
less dubious of himself, inclined to go his own way and keep his
own counsel.  And while this had troubled her not a little in one
sense, it rather pleased her in another.  For to see Clyde, who had
always seemed because of his sensitiveness and unrest so much of a
problem to her, developing in this very interesting way was
something; though at times, and in view of his very recent finery,
she had been wondering and troubled as to the nature of the company
he might be keeping.  But since his hours were so long and so
absorbing, and whatever money he made appeared to be going into
clothes, she felt that she had no real reason to complain.  Her one
other thought was that perhaps he was beginning to act a little
selfish--to think too much of his own comfort--and yet in the face
of his long deprivations she could not very well begrudge him any
temporary pleasure, either.

Clyde, not being sure of her real attitude, merely looked at her
and exclaimed:  "Why, where would I get a hundred dollars, Ma?"  He
had visions of his new-found source of wealth being dissipated by
such unheard of and inexplicable demands as this, and distress and
distrust at once showed on his countenance.

"I didn't expect that you could get it all for me," Mrs. Griffiths
suggested tactfully.  "I have a plan to raise the most of it, I
think.  But I did want you to help me try to think how I would
raise the rest.  I didn't want to go to your father with this if I
could help it, and you're getting old enough now to be of some
help."  She looked at Clyde approvingly and interestedly enough.
"Your father is such a poor hand at business," she went on, "and he
gets so worried at times."

She passed a large and weary hand over her face and Clyde was moved
by her predicament, whatever it was.  At the same time, apart from
whether he was willing to part with so much or not, or had it to
give, he was decidedly curious about what all this was for.  A
hundred dollars!  Gee whiz!

After a moment or two, his mother added:  "I'll tell you what I've
been thinking.  I must have a hundred dollars, but I can't tell you
for what now, you nor any one, and you mustn't ask me.  There's an
old gold watch of your father's in my desk and a solid gold ring
and pin of mine.  Those things ought to be worth twenty-five
dollars at least, if they were sold or pawned.  Then there is that
set of solid silver knives and forks and that silver platter and
pitcher in there"--Clyde knew the keepsakes well--"that platter
alone is worth twenty-five dollars.  I believe they ought to bring
at least twenty or twenty-five together.  I was thinking if I could
get you to go to some good pawnshop with them down near where you
work, and then if you would let me have five more a week for a
while" (Clyde's countenance fell)--"I could get a friend of mine--
Mr. Murch who comes here, you know--to advance me enough to make up
the hundred, and then I could pay him back out of what you pay me.
I have about ten dollars myself."

She looked at Clyde as much as to say:  "Now, surely, you won't
desert me in my hour of trouble," and Clyde relaxed, in spite of
the fact that he had been counting upon using quite all that he
earned for himself.  In fact, he agreed to take the trinkets to the
pawnshop, and to advance her five more for the time being until the
difference between whatever the trinkets brought and one hundred
dollars was made up.  And yet in spite of himself, he could not
help resenting this extra strain, for it had only been a very short
time that he had been earning so much.  And here was his mother
demanding more and more, as he saw it--ten dollars a week now.
Always something wrong, thought Clyde, always something needed, and
with no assurance that there would not be more such demands later.

He took the trinkets, carried them to the most presentable pawnshop
he could find, and being offered forty-five dollars for the lot,
took it.  This, with his mother's ten, would make fifty-five, and
with forty-five she could borrow from Mr. Murch, would make a
hundred.  Only now, as he saw, it would mean that for nine weeks he
would have to give her ten dollars instead of five.  And that, in
view of his present aspirations to dress, live and enjoy himself in
a way entirely different from what he previously considered
necessary, was by no means a pleasure to contemplate.  Nevertheless
he decided to do it.  After all he owed his mother something.  She
had made many sacrifices for him and the others in days past and he
could not afford to be too selfish.  It was not decent.

But the most enduring thought that now came to him was that if his
mother and father were going to look to him for financial aid, they
should be willing to show him more consideration than had
previously been shown him.  For one thing he ought to be allowed to
come and go with more freedom, in so far as his night hours were
concerned.  And at the same time he was clothing himself and eating
his meals at the hotel, and that was no small item, as he saw it.

However, there was another problem that had soon arisen and it was
this.  Not so long after the matter of the hundred dollars, he
encountered his mother in Montrose Street, one of the poorest
streets which ran north from Bickel, and which consisted entirely
of two unbroken lines of wooden houses and two-story flats and many
unfurnished apartments.  Even the Griffiths, poor as they were,
would have felt themselves demeaned by the thought of having to
dwell in such a street.  His mother was coming down the front steps
of one of the less tatterdemalion houses of this row, a lower front
window of which carried a very conspicuous card which read
"Furnished Rooms."  And then, without turning or seeing Clyde
across the street, she proceeded to another house a few doors away,
which also carried a furnished rooms card and, after surveying the
exterior interestedly, mounted the steps and rang the bell.

Clyde's first impression was that she was seeking the whereabouts
of some individual in whom she was interested and of whose address
she was not certain.  But crossing over to her at about the moment
the proprietress of the house put her head out of the door, he
heard his mother say:  "You have a room for rent?"  "Yes."  "Has it
a bath?"  "No, but there's a bath on the second floor."  "How much
is it a week?"  "Four dollars."  "Could I see it?"  "Yes, just step
in."

Mrs. Griffiths appeared to hesitate while Clyde stood below, not
twenty-five feet away, and looked up at her, waiting for her to
turn and recognize him.  But she stepped in without turning.  And
Clyde gazed after her curiously, for while it was by no means
inconceivable that his mother might be looking for a room for some
one, yet why should she be looking for it in this street when as a
rule she usually dealt with the Salvation Army or the Young Women's
Christian Association.  His first impulse was to wait and inquire
of her what she was doing here, but being interested in several
errands of his own, he went on.

That night, returning to his own home to dress and seeing his
mother in the kitchen, he said to her:  "I saw you this morning,
Ma, in Montrose Street."

"Yes," his mother replied, after a moment, but not before he had
noticed that she had started suddenly as though taken aback by this
information.  She was paring potatoes and looked at him curiously.
"Well, what of it?" she added, calmly, but flushing just the same--
a thing decidedly unusual in connection with her where he was
concerned.  Indeed, that start of surprise interested and arrested
Clyde.

"You were going into a house there--looking for a furnished room, I
guess."

"Yes, I was," replied Mrs. Griffiths, simply enough now.  "I need a
room for some one who is sick and hasn't much money, but it's not
so easy to find either."  She turned away as though she were not
disposed to discuss this any more, and Clyde, while sensing her
mood, apparently, could not resist adding:  "Gee, that's not much
of a street to have a room in."  His new work at the Green-Davidson
had already caused him to think differently of how one should live--
any one.  She did not answer him and he went to his room to change
his clothes.

A month or so after this, coming east on Missouri Avenue late one
evening, he again saw his mother in the near distance coming west.
In the light of one of the small stores which ranged in a row on
this street, he saw that she was carrying a rather heavy old-
fashioned bag, which had long been about the house but had never
been much used by any one.  On sight of him approaching (as he
afterwards decided) she had stopped suddenly and turned into a
hallway of a three-story brick apartment building, and when he came
up to it, he found the outside door was shut.  He opened it, and
saw a flight of steps dimly lit, up which she might have gone.
However, he did not trouble to investigate, for he was uncertain,
once he reached this place, whether she had gone to call on some
one or not, it had all happened so quickly.  But waiting at the
next corner, he finally saw her come out again.  And then to his
increasing curiosity, she appeared to look cautiously about before
proceeding as before.  It was this that caused him to think that
she must have been endeavoring to conceal herself from him.  But
why?

His first impulse was to turn and follow her, so interested was he
by her strange movements.  But he decided later that if she did not
want him to know what she was doing, perhaps it was best that he
should not.  At the same time he was made intensely curious by this
evasive gesture.  Why should his mother not wish him to see her
carrying a bag anywhere?  Evasion and concealment formed no part of
her real disposition (so different from his own).  Almost instantly
his mind proceeded to join this coincidence with the time he had
seen her descending the steps of the rooming house in Montrose
Street, together with the business of the letter he had found her
reading, and the money she had been compelled to raise--the hundred
dollars.  Where could she be going?  What was she hiding?

He speculated on all this, but he could not decide whether it had
any definite connection with him or any member of the family until
about a week later, when, passing along Eleventh near Baltimore, he
thought he saw Esta, or at least a girl so much like her that she
would be taken for her anywhere.  She had the same height, and she
was moving along as Esta used to walk.  Only, now he thought as he
saw her, she looked older.  Yet, so quickly had she come and gone
in the mass of people that he had not been able to make sure.  It
was only a glance, but on the strength of it, he had turned and
sought to catch up with her, but upon reaching the spot she was
gone.  So convinced was he, however, that he had seen her that he
went straight home, and, encountering his mother in the mission,
announced that he was positive he had seen Esta.  She must be back
in Kansas City again.  He could have sworn to it.  He had seen her
near Eleventh and Baltimore, or thought he had.  Had his mother
heard anything from her?

And then curiously enough he observed that his mother's manner was
not exactly what he thought it should have been under the
circumstances.  His own attitude had been one of commingled
astonishment, pleasure, curiosity and sympathy because of the
sudden disappearance and now sudden reappearance of Esta.  Could it
be that his mother had used that hundred dollars to bring her back?
The thought had come to him--why or from where, he could not say.
He wondered.  But if so, why had she not returned to her home, at
least to notify the family of her presence here?

He expected his mother would be as astonished and puzzled as he
was--quick and curious for details.  Instead, she appeared to him
to be obviously confused and taken aback by this information, as
though she was hearing about something that she already knew and
was puzzled as to just what her attitude should be.

"Oh, did you?  Where?  Just now, you say?  At Eleventh and
Baltimore?  Well, isn't that strange?  I must speak to Asa about
this.  It's strange that she wouldn't come here if she is back."
Her eyes, as he saw, instead of looking astonished, looked puzzled,
disturbed.  Her mouth, always the case when she was a little
embarrassed and disconcerted, worked oddly--not only the lips but
the jaw itself.

"Well, well," she added, after a pause.  "That is strange.  Perhaps
it was just some one who looked like her."

But Clyde, watching her out of the corner of his eye, could not
believe that she was as astonished as she pretended.  And,
thereafter, Asa coming in, and Clyde not having as yet departed for
the hotel, he heard them discussing the matter in some strangely
inattentive and unillumined way, as if it was not quite as
startling as it had seemed to him.  And for some time he was not
called in to explain what he had seen.

And then, as if purposely to solve this mystery for him, he
encountered his mother one day passing along Spruce Street, this
time carrying a small basket on her arm.  She had, as he had
noticed of late, taken to going out regularly mornings and
afternoons or evenings.  On this occasion, and long before she had
had an opportunity to see him, he had discerned her peculiarly
heavy figure draped in the old brown coat which she always wore,
and had turned into Myrkel Street and waited for her to pass, a
convenient news stand offering him shelter.  Once she had passed,
he dropped behind her, allowing her to precede him by half a block.
And at Dalrymple, she crossed to Beaudry, which was really a
continuation of Spruce, but not so ugly.  The houses were quite
old--quondam residences of an earlier day, but now turned into
boarding and rooming houses.  Into one of these he saw her enter
and disappear, but before doing so she looked inquiringly about
her.

After she had entered, Clyde approached the house and studied it
with great interest.  What was his mother doing in there?  Who was
it she was going to see?  He could scarcely have explained his
intense curiosity to himself, and yet, since having thought that he
had seen Esta on the street, he had an unconvinced feeling that it
might have something to do with her.  There were the letters, the
one hundred dollars, the furnished room in Montrose Street.

Diagonally across the way from the house in Beaudry Street there
was a large-trunked tree, leafless now in the winter wind, and near
it a telegraph pole, close enough to make a joint shadow with it.
And behind these he was able to stand unseen, and from this vantage
point to observe the several windows, side and front and ground and
second floor.  Through one of the front windows above, he saw his
mother moving about as though she were quite at home there.  And a
moment later, to his astonishment he saw Esta come to one of their
two windows and put a package down on the sill.  She appeared to
have on only a light dressing gown or a wrap drawn about her
shoulders.  He was not mistaken this time.  He actually started as
he realized that it was she, also that his mother was in there with
her.  And yet what had she done that she must come back and hide
away in this manner?  Had her husband, the man she had run away
with, deserted her?

He was so intensely curious that he decided to wait a while outside
here to see if his mother might not come out, and then he himself
would call on Esta.  He wanted so much to see her again--to know
what this mystery was all about.  He waited, thinking how he had
always liked Esta and how strange it was that she should be here,
hiding away in this mysterious way.

After an hour, his mother came out, her basket apparently empty,
for she held it lightly in her hand.  And just as before, she
looked cautiously about her, her face wearing that same stolid and
yet care-stamped expression which it always wore these days--a
cross between an uplifting faith and a troublesome doubt.

Clyde watched her as she proceeded to walk south on Beaudry Street
toward the Mission.  After she was well out of sight, he turned and
entered the house.  Inside, as he had surmised, he found a
collection of furnished rooms, name plates some of which bore the
names of the roomers pasted upon them.  Since he knew that the
southeast front room upstairs contained Esta, he proceeded there
and knocked.  And true enough, a light footstep responded within,
and presently, after some little delay which seemed to suggest some
quick preparation within, the door opened slightly and Esta peeped
out--quizzically at first, then with a little cry of astonishment
and some confusion.  For, as inquiry and caution disappeared, she
realized that she was looking at Clyde.  At once she opened the
door wide.

"Why, Clyde," she called.  "How did you come to find me?  I was
just thinking of you."

Clyde at once put his arms around her and kissed her.  At the
same time he realized, and with a slight sense of shock and
dissatisfaction, that she was considerably changed.  She was
thinner--paler--her eyes almost sunken, and not any better dressed
than when he had seen her last.  She appeared nervous and
depressed.  One of the first thoughts that came to him now was
where her husband was.  Why wasn't he here?  What had become of
him?  As he looked about and at her, he noticed that Esta's look
was one of confusion and uncertainty, not unmixed with a little
satisfaction at seeing him.  Her mouth was partly open because of a
desire to smile and to welcome him, but her eyes showed that she
was contending with a problem.

"I didn't expect you here," she added, quickly, the moment he
released her.  "You didn't see--"  Then she paused, catching
herself at the brink of some information which evidently she didn't
wish to impart.

"Yes, I did, too--I saw Ma," he replied.  "That's how I came to
know you were here.  I saw her coming out just now and I saw you up
here through the window."  (He did not care to confess that he had
been following and watching his mother for an hour.)  "But when did
you get back?" he went on.  "It's a wonder you wouldn't let the
rest of us know something about you.  Gee, you're a dandy, you are--
going away and staying months and never letting any one of us know
anything.  You might have written me a little something, anyhow.
We always got along pretty well, didn't we?"

His glance was quizzical, curious, imperative.  She, for her part,
felt recessive and thence evasive--uncertain, quite, what to think
or say or tell.

She uttered:  "I couldn't think who it might be.  No one comes
here.  But, my, how nice you look, Clyde.  You've got such nice
clothes, now.  And you're getting taller.  Mamma was telling me you
are working at the Green-Davidson."

She looked at him admiringly and he was properly impressed by her
notice of him.  At the same time he could not get his mind off her
condition.  He could not cease looking at her face, her eyes, her
thin-fat body.  And as he looked at her waist and her gaunt face,
he came to a very keen realization that all was not well with her.
She was going to have a child.  And hence the thought recurred to
him--where was her husband--or at any rate, the man she had eloped
with.  Her original note, according to her mother, had said that
she was going to get married.  Yet now he sensed quite clearly that
she was not married.  She was deserted, left in this miserable room
here alone.  He saw it, felt it, understood it.

And he thought at once that this was typical of all that seemed to
occur in his family.  Here he was just getting a start, trying to
be somebody and get along in the world and have a good time.  And
here was Esta, after her first venture in the direction of doing
something for herself, coming to such a finish as this.  It made
him a little sick and resentful.

"How long have you been back, Esta?" he repeated dubiously,
scarcely knowing just what to say now, for now that he was here and
she was as she was he began to scent expense, trouble, distress and
to wish almost that he had not been so curious.  Why need he have
been?  It could only mean that he must help.

"Oh, not so very long, Clyde.  About a month, now, I guess.  Not
more than that."

"I thought so.  I saw you up on Eleventh near Baltimore about a
month ago, didn't I?  Sure I did," he added a little less joyously--
a change that Esta noted.  At the same time she nodded her head
affirmatively.  "I knew I did.  I told Ma so at the time, but she
didn't seem to think so.  She wasn't as surprised as I thought she
would be, though.  I know why, now.  She acted as though she didn't
want me to tell her about it either.  But I knew I wasn't wrong."
He stared at Esta oddly, quite proud of his prescience in this
case.  He paused though, not knowing quite what else to say and
wondering whether what he had just said was of any sense or import.
It didn't seem to suggest any real aid for her.

And she, not quite knowing how to pass over the nature of her
condition, or to confess it, either, was puzzled what to say.
Something had to be done.  For Clyde could see for himself that her
predicament was dreadful.  She could scarcely bear the look of his
inquiring eyes.  And more to extricate herself than her mother, she
finally observed, "Poor Mamma.  You mustn't think it strange of
her, Clyde.  She doesn't know what to do, you see, really.  It's
all my fault, of course.  If I hadn't run away, I wouldn't have
caused her all this trouble.  She has so little to do with and
she's always had such a hard time."  She turned her back to him
suddenly, and her shoulders began to tremble and her sides to
heave.  She put her hands to her face and bent her head low--and
then he knew that she was silently crying.

"Oh, come now, sis," exclaimed Clyde, drawing near to her instantly
and feeling intensely sorry for her at the moment.  "What's the
matter?  What do you want to cry for?  Didn't that man that you
went away with marry you?"

She shook her head negatively and sobbed the more.  And in that
instant there came to Clyde the real psychological as well as
sociological and biological import of his sister's condition.  She
was in trouble, pregnant--and with no money and no husband.  That
was why his mother had been looking for a room.  That was why she
had tried to borrow a hundred dollars from him.  She was ashamed of
Esta and her condition.  She was ashamed of not only what people
outside the family would think, but of what he and Julia and Frank
might think--the effect of Esta's condition upon them perhaps--
because it was not right, unmoral, as people saw it.  And for that
reason she had been trying to conceal it, telling stories about it--
a most amazing and difficult thing for her, no doubt.  And yet,
because of poor luck, she hadn't succeeded very well.

And now he was again confused and puzzled, not only by his sister's
condition and what it meant to him and the other members of the
family here in Kansas City, but also by his mother's disturbed and
somewhat unmoral attitude in regard to deception in this instance.
She had evaded if not actually deceived him in regard to all this,
for she knew Esta was here all the time.  At the same time he was
not inclined to be too unsympathetic in that respect toward her--
far from it.  For such deception in such an instance had to be, no
doubt, even where people were as religious and truthful as his
mother, or so he thought.  You couldn't just let people know.  He
certainly wouldn't want to let people know about Esta, if he could
help it.  What would they think?  What would they say about her and
him?  Wasn't the general state of his family low enough, as it was?
And so, now he stood, staring and puzzled the while Esta cried.
And she realizing that he was puzzled and ashamed, because of her,
cried the more.

"Gee, that is tough," said Clyde, troubled, and yet fairly
sympathetic after a time.  "You wouldn't have run away with him
unless you cared for him though--would you?"  (He was thinking of
himself and Hortense Briggs.)  "I'm sorry for you, Ess.  Sure, I
am, but it won't do you any good to cry about it now, will it?
There's lots of other fellows in the world beside him.  You'll come
out of it all right."

"Oh, I know," sobbed Esta, "but I've been so foolish.  And I've had
such a hard time.  And now I've brought all this trouble on Mamma
and all of you."  She choked and hushed a moment.  "He went off and
left me in a hotel in Pittsburgh without any money," she added.
"And if it hadn't been for Mamma, I don't know what I would have
done.  She sent me a hundred dollars when I wrote her.  I worked
for a while in a restaurant--as long as I could.  I didn't want to
write home and say that he had left me.  I was ashamed to.  But I
didn't know what else to do there toward the last, when I began
feeling so bad."

She began to cry again; and Clyde, realizing all that his mother
had done and sought to do to assist her, felt almost as sorry now
for his mother as he did for Esta--more so, for Esta had her mother
to look after her and his mother had almost no one to help her.

"I can't work yet, because I won't be able to for a while," she
went on.  "And Mamma doesn't want me to come home now because she
doesn't want Julia or Frank or you to know.  And that's right, too,
I know.  Of course it is.  And she hasn't got anything and I
haven't.  And I get so lonely here, sometimes."  Her eyes filled
and she began to choke again.  "And I've been so foolish."

And Clyde felt for the moment as though he could cry too.  For life
was so strange, so hard at times.  See how it had treated him all
these years.  He had had nothing until recently and always wanted
to run away.  But Esta had done so, and see what had befallen her.
And somehow he recalled her between the tall walls of the big
buildings here in the business district, sitting at his father's
little street organ and singing and looking so innocent and good.
Gee, life was tough.  What a rough world it was anyhow.  How queer
things went!

He looked at her and the room, and finally, telling her that she
wouldn't be left alone, and that he would come again, only she
mustn't tell his mother he had been there, and that if she needed
anything she could call on him although he wasn't making so very
much, either--and then went out.  And then, walking toward the
hotel to go to work, he kept dwelling on the thought of how
miserable it all was--how sorry he was that he had followed his
mother, for then he might not have known.  But even so, it would
have come out.  His mother could not have concealed it from him
indefinitely.  She would have asked for more money eventually
maybe.  But what a dog that man was to go off and leave his sister
in a big strange city without a dime.  He puzzled, thinking now of
the girl who had been deserted in the Green-Davidson some months
before with a room and board bill unpaid.  And how comic it had
seemed to him and the other boys at the time--highly colored with a
sensual interest in it.

But this, well, this was his own sister.  A man had thought so
little of his sister as that.  And yet, try as he would, he could
no longer think that it was as terrible as when he heard her crying
in the room.  Here was this brisk, bright city about him running
with people and effort, and this gay hotel in which he worked.
That was not so bad.  Besides there was his own love affair,
Hortense, and pleasures.  There must be some way out for Esta.  She
would get well again and be all right.  But to think of his being
part of a family that was always so poor and so little thought of
that things like this could happen to it--one thing and another--
like street preaching, not being able to pay the rent at times, his
father selling rugs and clocks for a living on the streets--Esta
running away and coming to an end like this.  Gee!



Chapter 14


The result of all this on Clyde was to cause him to think more
specifically on the problem of the sexes than he ever had before,
and by no means in any orthodox way.  For while he condemned his
sister's lover for thus ruthlessly deserting her, still he was not
willing to hold her entirely blameless by any means.  She had gone
off with him.  As he now learned from her, he had been in the city
for a week the year before she ran away with him, and it was then
that he had introduced himself to her.  The following year when he
returned for two weeks, it was she who looked him up, or so Clyde
suspected, at any rate.  And in view of his own interest in and
mood regarding Hortense Briggs, it was not for him to say that
there was anything wrong with the sex relation in itself.

Rather, as he saw it now, the difficulty lay, not in the deed
itself, but in the consequences which followed upon not thinking or
not knowing.  For had Esta known more of the man in whom she was
interested, more of what such a relationship with him meant, she
would not be in her present pathetic plight.  Certainly such girls
as Hortense Briggs, Greta and Louise, would never have allowed
themselves to be put in any such position as Esta.  Or would they?
They were too shrewd.  And by contrast with them in his mind, at
least at this time, she suffered.  She ought, as he saw it, to have
been able to manage better.  And so, by degrees, his attitude
toward her hardened in some measure, though his feeling was not one
of indifference either.

But the one influence that was affecting and troubling and changing
him now was his infatuation for Hortense Briggs--than which no more
agitating influence could have come to a youth of his years and
temperament.  She seemed, after his few contacts with her, to be
really the perfect realization of all that he had previously wished
for in a girl.  She was so bright, vain, engaging, and so truly
pretty.  Her eyes, as they seemed to him, had a kind of dancing
fire in them.  She had a most entrancing way of pursing and parting
her lips and at the same time looking straightly and indifferently
before her, as though she were not thinking of him, which to him
was both flame and fever.  It caused him, actually, to feel weak
and dizzy, at times, cruelly seared in his veins with minute and
wriggling threads of fire, and this could only be described as
conscious lust, a torturesome and yet unescapable thing which yet
in her case he was unable to prosecute beyond embracing and
kissing, a form of reserve and respect in regard to her which she
really resented in the very youths in whom she sought to inspire
it.  The type of boy for whom she really cared and was always
seeking was one who could sweep away all such psuedo-ingenuousness
and superiorities in her and force her, even against herself, to
yield to him.

In fact she was constantly wavering between actual like and dislike
of him.  And in consequence, he was in constant doubt as to where
he stood, a state which was very much relished by her and yet which
was never permitted to become so fixed in his mind as to cause him
to give her up entirely.  After some party or dinner or theater to
which she had permitted him to take her, and throughout which he
had been particularly tactful--not too assertive--she could be as
yielding and enticing in her mood as the most ambitious lover would
have liked.  And this might last until the evening was nearly over,
when suddenly, and at her own door or the room or house of some
girl with whom she was spending the night, she would turn, and
without rhyme or reason, endeavor to dismiss him with a mere
handclasp or a thinly flavored embrace or kiss.  At such times, if
Clyde was foolish enough to endeavor to force her to yield the
favors he craved, she would turn on him with the fury of a spiteful
cat, would tear herself away, developing for the moment, seemingly,
an intense mood of opposition which she could scarcely have
explained to herself.  Its chief mental content appeared to be one
of opposition to being compelled by him to do anything.  And,
because of his infatuation and his weak overtures due to his
inordinate fear of losing her, he would be forced to depart,
usually in a dark and despondent mood.

But so keen was her attraction for him that he could not long
remain away, but must be going about to where most likely he would
encounter her.  Indeed, for the most part these days, and in spite
of the peculiar climax which had eventuated in connection with
Esta, he lived in a keen, sweet and sensual dream in regard to her.
If only she would really come to care for him.  At night, in his
bed at home, he would lie and think of her--her face--the
expressions of her mouth and eyes, the lines of her figure, the
motions of her body in walking or dancing--and she would flicker
before him as upon a screen.  In his dreams, he found her
deliciously near him, pressing against him--her delightful body all
his--and then in the moment of crisis, when seemingly she was about
to yield herself to him completely, he would awake to find her
vanished--an illusion only.

Yet there were several things in connection with her which seemed
to bode success for him.  In the first place, like himself, she was
part of a poor family--the daughter of a machinist and his wife,
who up to this very time had achieved little more than a bare
living.  From her childhood she had had nothing, only such gew-gaws
and fripperies as she could secure for herself by her wits.  And so
low had been her social state until very recently that she had not
been able to come in contact with anything better than butcher and
baker boys--the rather commonplace urchins and small job aspirants
of her vicinity.  Yet even here she had early realized that she
could and should capitalize her looks and charm--and had.  Not a
few of these had even gone so far as to steal in order to get money
to entertain her.

After reaching the age where she was old enough to go to work, and
thus coming in contact with the type of boy and man in whom she was
now interested, she was beginning to see that without yielding
herself too much, but in acting discreetly, she could win a more
interesting equipment than she had before.  Only, so truly sensual
and pleasure-loving was she that she was by no means always willing
to divorce her self-advantages from her pleasures.  On the
contrary, she was often troubled by a desire to like those whom she
sought to use, and per contra, not to obligate herself to those
whom she could not like.

In Clyde's case, liking him but a little, she still could not
resist the desire to use him.  She liked his willingness to buy her
any little thing in which she appeared interested--a bag, a scarf,
a purse, a pair of gloves--anything that she could reasonably ask
or take without obligating herself too much.  And yet from the
first, in her smart, tricky way, she realized that unless she could
bring herself to yield to him--at some time or other offer him the
definite reward which she knew he craved--she could not hold him
indefinitely.

One thought that stirred her more than anything else was that the
way Clyde appeared to be willing to spend his money on her she
might easily get some quite expensive things from him--a pretty and
rather expensive dress, perhaps, or a hat, or even a fur coat such
as was then being shown and worn in the city, to say nothing of
gold earrings, or a wrist watch, all of which she was constantly
and enviously eyeing in the different shop windows.

One day not so long after Clyde's discovery of his sister Esta,
Hortense, walking along Baltimore Street near its junction with
Fifteenth--the smartest portion of the shopping section of the
city--at the noon hour--with Doris Trine, another shop girl in her
department store, saw in the window of one of the smaller and less
exclusive fur stores of the city, a fur jacket of beaver that to
her, viewed from the eye-point of her own particular build,
coloring and temperament, was exactly what she needed to strengthen
mightily her very limited personal wardrobe.  It was not such an
expensive coat, worth possibly a hundred dollars--but fashioned in
such an individual way as to cause her to imagine that, once
invested with it, her own physical charm would register more than
it ever had.

Moved by this thought, she paused and exclaimed:  "Oh, isn't that
just the classiest, darlingest little coat you ever saw!  Oh, do
look at those sleeves, Doris."  She clutched her companion
violently by the arm.  "Lookit the collar.  And the lining!  And
those pockets!  Oh, dear!"  She fairly vibrated with the intensity
of her approval and delight.  "Oh, isn't that just too sweet for
words?  And the very kind of coat I've been thinking of since I
don't know when.  Oh, you pity sing!" she exclaimed, affectedly,
thinking all at once as much of her own pose before the window and
its effect on the passer-by as of the coat before her.  "Oh, if I
could only have 'oo."

She clapped her hands admiringly, while Isadore Rubenstein, the
elderly son of the proprietor, who was standing somewhat out of the
range of her gaze at the moment, noted the gesture and her
enthusiasm and decided forthwith that the coat must be worth at
least twenty-five or fifty dollars more to her, anyhow, in case she
inquired for it.  The firm had been offering it at one hundred.
"Oh, ha!" he grunted.  But being of a sensual and somewhat romantic
turn, he also speculated to himself rather definitely as to the
probable trading value, affectionally speaking, of such a coat.
What, say, would the poverty and vanity of such a pretty girl as
this cause her to yield for such a coat?

In the meantime, however, Hortense, having gloated as long as her
noontime hour would permit, had gone away, still dreaming and
satiating her flaming vanity by thinking of how devastating she
would look in such a coat.  But she had not stopped to ask the
price.  Hence, the next day, feeling that she must look at it once
more, she returned, only this time alone, and yet with no idea of
being able to purchase it herself.  On the contrary, she was only
vaguely revolving the problem of how, assuming that the coat was
sufficiently low in price, she could get it.  At the moment she
could think of no one.  But seeing the coat once more, and also
seeing Mr. Rubenstein, Jr., inside eyeing her in a most
propitiatory and genial manner, she finally ventured in.

"You like the coat, eh?" was Rubenstein's ingratiating comment as
she opened the door.  "Well, that shows you have good taste, I'll
say.  That's one of the nobbiest little coats we've ever had to
show in this store yet.  A real beauty, that.  And how it would
look on such a beautiful girl as you!"  He took it out of the
window and held it up.  "I seen you when you was looking at it
yesterday."  A gleam of greedy admiration was in his eye.

And noting this, and feeling that a remote and yet not wholly
unfriendly air would win her more consideration and courtesy than a
more intimate one, Hortense merely said, "Yes?"

"Yes, indeed.  And I said right away, there's a girl that knows a
really swell coat when she sees it."

The flattering unction soothed, in spite of herself.

"Look at that!  Look at that!" went on Mr. Rubinstein, turning the
coat about and holding it before her.  "Where in Kansas City will
you find anything to equal that today?  Look at this silk lining
here--genuine Mallinson silk--and these slant pockets.  And the
buttons.  You think those things don't make a different-looking
coat?  There ain't another one like it in Kansas City today--not
one.  And there won't be.  We designed it ourselves and we never
repeat our models.  We protect our customers.  But come back here."
(He led the way to a triple mirror at the back.)  "It takes the
right person to wear a coat like this--to get the best effect out
of it.  Let me try it on you."

And by the artificial light Hortense was now privileged to see how
really fetching she did look in it.  She cocked her head and
twisted and turned and buried one small ear in the fur, while Mr.
Rubenstein stood by, eyeing her with not a little admiration and
almost rubbing his hands.

"There now," he continued.  "Look at that.  What do you say to
that, eh?  Didn't I tell you it was the very thing for you?  A find
for you.  A pick-up.  You'll never get another coat like that in
this city.  If you do, I'll make you a present of this one."  He
came very near, extending his plump hands, palms up.

"Well, I must say it does look smart on me," commented Hortense,
her vainglorious soul yearning for it.  "I can wear anything like
this, though."  She twisted and turned the more, forgetting him
entirely and the effect her interest would have on his cost price.
Then she added:  "How much is it?"

"Well, it's really a two-hundred-dollar coat," began Mr. Rubenstein
artfully.  Then noting a shadow of relinquishment pass swiftly over
Hortense's face, he added quickly:  "That sounds like a lot of
money, but of course we don't ask so much for it down here.  One
hundred and fifty is our price.  But if that coat was at Jarek's,
that's what you'd pay for it and more.  We haven't got the location
here and we don't have to pay the high rents.  But it's worth every
cent of two hundred."

"Why, I think that's a terrible price to ask for it, just awful,"
exclaimed Hortense sadly, beginning to remove the coat.  She was
feeling as though life were depriving her of nearly all that was
worth while.  "Why, at Biggs and Beck's they have lots of three-
quarter mink and beaver coats for that much, and classy styles,
too."

"Maybe, maybe.  But not that coat," insisted Mr. Rubenstein
stubbornly.  "Just look at it again.  Look at the collar.  You mean
to say you can find a coat like that up there?  If you can, I'll
buy the coat for you and sell it to you again for a hundred
dollars.  Actually, this is a special coat.  It's copied from one
of the smartest coats that was in New York last summer before the
season opened.  It has class.  You won't find no coat like this
coat."

"Oh, well, just the same, a hundred and fifty dollars is more than
I can pay," commented Hortense dolefully, at the same time slipping
on her old broadcloth jacket with the fur collar and cuffs, and
edging toward the door.

"Wait!  You like the coat?" wisely observed Mr. Rubenstein, after
deciding that even a hundred dollars was too much for her purse,
unless it could be supplemented by some man's.  "It's really a two-
hundred-dollar coat.  I'm telling you that straight.  Our regular
price is one hundred and fifty.  But if you could bring me a
hundred and twenty-five dollars, since you want it so much, well,
I'll let you have it for that.  And that's like finding it.  A
stunning-looking girl like you oughtn't to have no trouble in
finding a dozen fellows who would be glad to buy that coat and give
it to you.  I know I would, if I thought you would be nice to me."

He beamed ingratiatingly up at her, and Hortense, sensing the
nature of the overture and resenting it--from him--drew back
slightly.  At the same time she was not wholly displeased by the
compliment involved.  But she was not coarse enough, as yet, to
feel that just any one should be allowed to give her anything.
Indeed not.  It must be some one she liked, or at least some one
that was enslaved by her.

And yet, even as Mr. Rubenstein spoke, and for some time
afterwards, her mind began running upon possible individuals--
favorites--who, by the necromancy of her charm for them, might be
induced to procure this coat for her.  Charlie Wilkens for
instance--he of the Orphia cigar store--who was most certainly
devoted to her after his fashion, but a fashion, however, which did
not suggest that he might do much for her without getting a good
deal in return.

And then there was Robert Kain, another youth--very tall, very
cheerful and very ambitious in regard to her, who was connected
with one of the local electric company's branch offices, but his
position was not sufficiently lucrative--a mere entry clerk.  Also
he was too saving--always talking about his future.

And again, there was Bert Gettler, the youth who had escorted her
to the dance the night Clyde first met her, but who was little more
than a giddy-headed dancing soul, one not to be relied upon in a
crisis like this.  He was only a shoe salesman, probably twenty
dollars a week, and most careful with his pennies.

But there was Clyde Griffiths, the person who seemed to have real
money and to be willing to spend it on her freely.  So ran her
thoughts swiftly at the time.  But could she now, she asked
herself, offhand, inveigle him into making such an expensive
present as this?  She had not favored him so very much--had for the
most part treated him indifferently.  Hence she was not sure, by
any means.  Nevertheless as she stood there, debating the cost and
the beauty of the coat, the thought of Clyde kept running through
her mind.  And all the while Mr. Rubenstein stood looking at her,
vaguely sensing, after his fashion, the nature of the problem that
was confronting her.

"Well, little girl," he finally observed, "I see you'd like to have
this coat, all right, and I'd like to have you have it, too.  And
now I'll tell you what I'll do, and better than that I can't do,
and wouldn't for nobody else--not a person in this city.  Bring me
a hundred and fifteen dollars any time within the next few days--
Monday or Wednesday or Friday, if the coat is still here, and you
can have it.  I'll do even better.  I'll save it for you.  How's
that?  Until next Wednesday or Friday.  More'n that no one would do
for you, now, would they?"

He smirked and shrugged his shoulders and acted as though he were
indeed doing her a great favor.  And Hortense, going away, felt
that if only--only she could take that coat at one hundred and
fifteen dollars, she would be capturing a marvelous bargain.  Also
that she would be the smartest-dressed girl in Kansas City beyond
the shadow of a doubt.  If only she could in some way get a hundred
and fifteen dollars before next Wednesday, or Friday.



Chapter 15


As Hortense well knew Clyde was pressing more and more hungrily
toward that ultimate condescension on her part, which, though she
would never have admitted it to him, was the privilege of two
others.  They were never together any more without his insisting
upon the real depth of her regard for him.  Why was it, if she
cared for him the least bit, that she refused to do this, that or
the other--would not let him kiss her as much as he wished, would
not let him hold her in his arms as much as he would like.  She was
always keeping dates with other fellows and breaking them or
refusing to make them with him.  What was her exact relationship
toward these others?  Did she really care more for them than she
did for him?  In fact, they were never together anywhere but what
this problem of union was uppermost--and but thinly veiled.

And she liked to think that he was suffering from repressed desire
for her all of the time that she tortured him, and that the power
to allay his suffering lay wholly in her--a sadistic trait which
had for its soil Clyde's own masochistic yearning for her.

However, in the face of her desire for the coat, his stature and
interest for her were beginning to increase.  In spite of the fact
that only the morning before she had informed Clyde, with quite a
flourish, that she could not possibly see him until the following
Monday--that all her intervening nights were taken--nevertheless,
the problem of the coat looming up before her, she now most eagerly
planned to contrive an immediate engagement with him without
appearing too eager.  For by then she had definitely decided to
endeavor to persuade him, if possible, to buy the coat for her.
Only of course, she would have to alter her conduct toward him
radically.  She would have to be much sweeter--more enticing.
Although she did not actually say to herself that now she might
even be willing to yield herself to him, still basically that was
what was in her mind.

For quite a little while she was unable to think how to proceed.
How was she to see him this day, or the next at the very latest?
How should she go about putting before him the need of this gift,
or loan, as she finally worded it to herself?  She might hint that
he could loan her enough to buy the coat and that later she would
pay him back by degrees (yet once in possession of the coat she
well knew that that necessity would never confront her).  Or, if he
did not have so much money on hand at one time, she could suggest
that she might arrange with Mr. Rubenstein for a series of time
payments which could be met by Clyde.  In this connection her mind
suddenly turned and began to consider how she could flatter and
cajole Mr. Rubenstein into letting her have the coat on easy terms.
She recalled that he had said he would be glad to buy the coat for
her if he thought she would be nice to him.

Her first scheme in connection with all this was to suggest to
Louise Ratterer to invite her brother, Clyde and a third youth by
the name of Scull, who was dancing attendance upon Louise, to come
to a certain dance hall that very evening to which she was already
planning to go with the more favored cigar clerk.  Only now she
intended to break that engagement and appear alone with Louise and
Greta and announce that her proposed partner was ill.  That would
give her an opportunity to leave early with Clyde and with him walk
past the Rubenstein store.

But having the temperament of a spider that spins a web for flies,
she foresaw that this might involve the possibility of Louise's
explaining to Clyde or Ratterer that it was Hortense who had
instigated the party.  It might even bring up some accidental
mention of the coat on the part of Clyde to Louise later, which, as
she felt, would never do.  She did not care to let her friends know
how she provided for herself.  In consequence, she decided that it
would not do for her to appeal to Louise nor to Greta in this
fashion.

And she was actually beginning to worry as to how to bring about
this encounter, when Clyde, who chanced to be in the vicinity on
his way home from work, walked into the store where she was
working.  He was seeking for a date on the following Sunday.  And
to his intense delight, Hortense greeted him most cordially with a
most engaging smile and a wave of the hand.  She was busy at the
moment with a customer.  She soon finished, however, and drawing
near, and keeping one eye on her floor-walker who resented callers,
exclaimed:  "I was just thinking about you.  You wasn't thinking
about me, was you?  Trade last."  Then she added, sotto voce,
"Don't act like you are talking to me.  I see our floorwalker over
there."

Arrested by the unusual sweetness in her voice, to say nothing of
the warm smile with which she greeted him, Clyde was enlivened and
heartened at once.  "Was I thinking of you?" he returned gayly.
"Do I ever think of any one else?  Say!  Ratterer says I've got you
on the brain."

"Oh, him," replied Hortense, pouting spitefully and scornfully, for
Ratterer, strangely enough, was one whom she did not interest very
much, and this she knew.  "He thinks he's so smart," she added.  "I
know a lotta girls don't like him."

"Oh, Tom's all right," pleaded Clyde, loyally.  "That's just his
way of talking.  He likes you."

"Oh, no, he don't, either," replied Hortense.  "But I don't want to
talk about him.  Whatcha doin' around six o'clock to-night?"

"Oh, gee!" exclaimed Clyde disappointedly.  "You don't mean to say
you got to-night free, have you?  Well, ain't that tough?  I
thought you were all dated up.  I got to work!"  He actually
sighed, so depressed was he by the thought that she might be
willing to spend the evening with him and he not able to avail
himself of the opportunity, while Hortense, noting his intense
disappointment, was pleased.

"Well, I gotta date, but I don't want to keep it," she went on with
a contemptuous gathering of the lips.  "I don't have to break it.
I would though if you was free."  Clyde's heart began to beat
rapidly with delight.

"Gee, I wish I didn't have to work now," he went on, looking at
her.  "You're sure you couldn't make it to-morrow night?  I'm off
then.  And I was just coming up here to ask you if you didn't want
to go for an automobile ride next Sunday afternoon, maybe.  A
friend of Hegglund's got a car--a Packard--and Sunday we're all
off.  And he wanted me to get a bunch to run out to Excelsior
Springs.  He's a nice fellow" (this because Hortense showed signs
of not being so very much interested).  "You don't know him very
well, but he is.  But say, I can talk to you about that later.  How
about to-morrow night?  I'm off then."

Hortense, who, because of the hovering floor-walker, was pretending
to show Clyde some handkerchiefs, was now thinking how unfortunate
that a whole twenty-four hours must intervene before she could
bring him to view the coat with her--and so have an opportunity to
begin her machinations.  At the same time she pretended that the
proposed meeting for the next night was a very difficult thing to
bring about--more difficult than he could possibly appreciate.  She
even pretended to be somewhat uncertain as to whether she wanted to
do it.

"Just pretend you're examining these handkerchiefs here," she
continued, fearing the floor-walker might interrupt.  "I gotta
nother date for then," she continued thoughtfully, "and I don't
know whether I can break it or not.  Let me see."  She feigned deep
thought.  "Well, I guess I can," she said finally.  "I'll try,
anyhow.  Just for this once.  You be here at Fifteenth and Main at
6.15--no, 6.30's the best you can do, ain't it?--and I'll see if I
can't get there.  I won't promise, but I'll see and I think I can
make it.  Is that all right?"  She gave him one of her sweetest
smiles and Clyde was quite beside himself with satisfaction.  To
think that she would break a date for him, at last.  Her eyes were
warm with favor and her mouth wreathed with a smile.

"Surest thing you know," he exclaimed, voicing the slang of the
hotel boys.  "You bet I'll be there.  Will you do me a favor?"

"What is it?" she asked cautiously.

"Wear that little black hat with the red ribbon under your chin,
will you?  You look so cute in that."

"Oh, you," she laughed.  It was so easy to kid Clyde.  "Yes, I'll
wear it," she added.  "But you gotta go now.  Here comes that old
fish.  I know he's going to kick.  But I don't care.  Six-thirty,
eh?  So long."  She turned to give her attention to a new customer,
an old lady who had been patiently waiting to inquire if she could
tell her where the muslins were sold.  And Clyde, tingling with
pleasure because of this unexpected delight vouchsafed him, made
his way most elatedly to the nearest exit.

He was not made unduly curious because of this sudden favor, and
the next evening, promptly at six-thirty, and in the glow of the
overhanging arc-lights showering their glistening radiance like
rain, she appeared.  As he noted, at once, she had worn the hat he
liked.  Also she was enticingly ebullient and friendly, more so
than at any time he had known her.  Before he had time to say that
she looked pretty, or how pleased he was because she wore that hat,
she began:

"Some favorite you're gettin' to be, I'LL SAY, when I'LL break an
engagement and then wear an old hat I don't like just to please
you.  How do I get that way is what I'd like to know."

He beamed as though he had won a great victory.  Could it be that
at last he might be becoming a favorite with her?

"If you only knew how cute you look in that hat, Hortense, you
wouldn't knock it," he urged admiringly.  "You don't know how sweet
you do look."

"Oh, ho.  In this old thing?" she scoffed.  "You certainly are
easily pleased, I'll say."

"An' your eyes are just like soft, black velvet," he persisted
eagerly.  "They're wonderful."  He was thinking of an alcove in the
Green-Davidson hung with black velvet.

"Gee, you certainly have got 'em to-night," she laughed, teasingly.
"I'll have to do something about you."  Then, before he could make
any reply to this, she went off into an entirely fictional account
of how, having had a previous engagement with a certain alleged
young society man--Tom Keary by name--who was dogging her steps
these days in order to get her to dine and dance, she had only this
evening decided to "ditch" him, preferring Clyde, of course, for
this occasion, anyhow.  And she had called Keary up and told him
that she could not see him to-night--called it all off, as it were.
But just the same, on coming out of the employee's entrance, who
should she see there waiting for her but this same Tom Keary,
dressed to perfection in a bright gray raglan and spats, and with
his closed sedan, too.  And he would have taken her to the Green-
Davidson, if she had wanted to go.  He was a real sport.  But she
didn't.  Not to-night, anyhow.  Yet, if she had not contrived to
avoid him, he would have delayed her.  But she espied him first and
ran the other way.

"And you should have just seen my little feet twinkle up Sargent
and around the corner into Bailey Place," was the way she
narcissistically painted her flight.  And so infatuated was Clyde
by this picture of herself and the wonderful Keary that he accepted
all of her petty fabrications as truth.

And then, as they were walking in the direction of Gaspie's, a
restaurant in Wyandotte near Tenth which quite lately he had
learned was much better than Frissell's, Hortense took occasion to
pause and look in a number of windows, saying as she did so that
she certainly did wish that she could find a little coat that was
becoming to her--that the one she had on was getting worn and that
she must have another soon--a predicament which caused Clyde to
wonder at the time whether she was suggesting to him that he get
her one.  Also whether it might not advance his cause with her if
he were to buy her a little jacket, since she needed it.

But Rubenstein's coming into view on this same side of the street,
its display window properly illuminated and the coat in full view,
Hortense paused as she had planned.

"Oh, do look at that darling little coat there," she began,
ecstatically, as though freshly arrested by the beauty of it, her
whole manner suggesting a first and unspoiled impression.  "Oh,
isn't that the dearest, sweetest, cutest little thing you ever did
see?" she went on, her histrionic powers growing with her desire
for it.  "Oh, just look at the collar, and those sleeves and those
pockets.  Aren't they the snappiest things you ever saw?  Couldn't
I just warm my little hands in those?"  She glanced at Clyde out of
the tail of her eye to see if he was being properly impressed.

And he, aroused by her intense interest, surveyed the coat with not
a little curiosity.  Unquestionably it was a pretty coat--very.
But, gee, what would a coat like that cost, anyhow?  Could it be
that she was trying to interest him in the merits of a coat like
that in order that he might get it for her?  Why, it must be a two-
hundred-dollar coat at least.  He had no idea as to the value of
such things, anyhow.  He certainly couldn't afford a coat like
that.  And especially at this time when his mother was taking a
good portion of his extra cash for Esta.  And yet something in her
manner seemed to bring it to him that that was exactly what she was
thinking.  It chilled and almost numbed him at first.

And yet, as he now told himself sadly, if Hortense wanted it, she
could most certainly find some one who would get it for her--that
young Tom Keary, for instance, whom she had just been describing.
And, worse luck, she was just that kind of a girl.  And if he could
not get it for her, some one else could and she would despise him
for not being able to do such things for her.

To his intense dismay and dissatisfaction she exclaimed:

"Oh, what wouldn't I give for a coat like that!"  She had not
intended at the moment to put the matter so bluntly, for she wanted
to convey the thought that was deepest in her mind to Clyde
tactfully.

And Clyde, inexperienced as he was, and not subtle by any means,
was nevertheless quite able to gather the meaning of that.  It
meant--it meant--for the moment he was not quite willing to
formulate to himself what it did mean.  And now--now--if only he
had the price of that coat.  He could feel that she was thinking of
some one certain way to get the coat.  And yet how was he to manage
it?  How?  If he could only arrange to get this coat for her--if he
only could promise her that he would get it for her by a certain
date, say, if it didn't cost too much, then what?  Did he have the
courage to suggest to her to-night, or to-morrow, say, after he had
learned the price of the coat, that if she would--why then--why
then, well, he would get her the coat or anything else she really
wanted.  Only he must be sure that she was not really fooling him
as she was always doing in smaller ways.  He wouldn't stand for
getting her the coat and then get nothing in return--never!

As he thought of it, he actually thrilled and trembled beside her.
And she, standing there and looking at the coat, was thinking that
unless he had sense enough now to get her this thing and to get
what she meant--how she intended to pay for it--well then, this was
the last.  He need not think she was going to fool around with any
one who couldn't or wouldn't do that much for her.  Never.

They resumed their walk toward Gaspie's.  And throughout the
dinner, she talked of little else--how attractive the coat was, how
wonderful it would look on her.

"Believe me," she said at one point, defiantly, feeling that Clyde
was perhaps uncertain at the moment about his ability to buy it for
her, "I'm going to find some way to get that coat.  I think, maybe,
that Rubenstein store would let me have it on time if I were to go
in there and see him about it, make a big enough payment down.
Another girl out of our store got a coat that way once," she lied
promptly, hoping thus to induce Clyde to assist her with it.  But
Clyde, disturbed by the fear of some extraordinary cost in
connection with it, hesitated to say just what he would do.  He
could not even guess the price of such a thing--it might cost two
or three hundred even--and he feared to obligate himself to do
something which later he might not be able to do.

"You don't know what they might want for that, do you?" he asked,
nervously, at the same time thinking if he made any cash gift to
her at this time without some guarantee on her part, what right
would he have to expect anything more in return than he had ever
received?  He knew how she cajoled him into getting things for her
and then would not even let him kiss her.  He flushed and churned a
little internally with resentment at the thought of how she seemed
to feel that she could play fast and loose with him.  And yet, as
he now recalled, she had just said she would do anything for any
one who would get that coat for her--or nearly that.

"No-o," she hesitated at first, for the moment troubled as to
whether to give the exact price or something higher.  For if she
asked for time, Mr. Rubenstein might want more.  And yet if she
said much more, Clyde might not want to help her.  "But I know it
wouldn't be more than a hundred and twenty-five.  I wouldn't pay
more than that for it."

Clyde heaved a sigh of relief.  After all, it wasn't two or three
hundred.  He began to think now that if she could arrange to make
any reasonable down payment--say, fifty or sixty dollars--he might
manage to bring it together within the next two or three weeks
anyhow.  But if the whole hundred and twenty-five were demanded at
once, Hortense would have to wait, and besides he would have to
know whether he was to be rewarded or not--definitely.

"That's a good idea, Hortense," he exclaimed without, however,
indicating in any way why it appealed to him so much.  "Why don't
you do that?  Why don't you find out first what they want for it,
and how much they want down?  Maybe I could help you with it."

"Oh, won't that be just too wonderful!"  Hortense clapped her
hands.  "Oh, will you?  Oh, won't that be just dandy?  Now I just
know I can get that coat.  I just know they'll let me have it, if I
talk to them right."

She was, as Clyde saw and feared, quite forgetting the fact that he
was the one who was making the coat possible, and now it would be
just as he thought.  The fact that he was paying for it would be
taken for granted.

But a moment later, observing his glum face, she added:  "Oh,
aren't you the sweetest, dearest thing, to help me in this way.
You just bet I won't forget this either.  You just wait and see.
You won't be sorry.  Now you just wait."  Her eyes fairly snapped
with gayety and even generosity toward him.

He might be easy and young, but he wasn't mean, and she would
reward him, too, she now decided.  Just as soon as she got the
coat, which must be in a week or two at the latest, she was going
to be very nice to him--do something for him.  And to emphasize her
own thoughts and convey to him what she really meant, she allowed
her eyes to grow soft and swimming and to dwell on him promisingly--
a bit of romantic acting which caused him to become weak and
nervous.  The gusto of her favor frightened him even a little, for
it suggested, as he fancied, a disturbing vitality which he might
not be able to match.  He felt a little weak before her now--a
little cowardly--in the face of what he assumed her real affection
might mean.

Nevertheless, he now announced that if the coat did not cost more
than one hundred and twenty-five dollars, that sum to be broken
into one payment of twenty-five dollars down and two additional
sums of fifty dollars each, he could manage it.  And she on her
part replied that she was going the very next day to see about it.
Mr. Rubenstein might be induced to let her have it at once on the
payment of twenty-five dollars down; if not that, then at the end
of the second week, when nearly all would be paid.

And then in real gratitude to Clyde she whispered to him, coming
out of the restaurant and purring like a cat, that she would never
forget this and that he would see--and that she would wear it for
him the very first time.  If he were not working they might go
somewhere to dinner.  Or, if not that, then she would have it
surely in time for the day of the proposed automobile ride which
he, or rather Hegglund, had suggested for the following Sunday, but
which might be postponed.

She suggested that they go to a certain dance hall, and there she
clung to him in the dances in a suggestive way and afterwards
hinted of a mood which made Clyde a little quivery and erratic.

He finally went home, dreaming of the day, satisfied that he would
have no trouble in bringing together the first payment, if it were
so much as fifty, even.  For now, under the spur of this promise,
he proposed to borrow as much as twenty-five from either Ratterer
or Hegglund, and to repay it after the coat was paid for.

But, ah, the beautiful Hortense.  The charm of her, the enormous,
compelling, weakening delight.  And to think that at last, and
soon, she was to be his.  It was, plainly, of such stuff as dreams
are made of--the unbelievable become real.



Chapter 16


True to her promise, the following day Hortense returned to Mr.
Rubenstein, and with all the cunning of her nature placed before
him, with many reservations, the nature of the dilemma which
confronted her.  Could she, by any chance, have the coat for one
hundred and fifteen dollars on an easy payment plan?  Mr.
Rubenstein's head forthwith began to wag a solemn negative.  This
was not an easy payment store.  If he wanted to do business that
way he could charge two hundred for the coat and easily get it.

"But I could pay as much as fifty dollars when I took the coat,"
argued Hortense.

"Very good.  But who is to guarantee that I get the other sixty-
five, and when?"

"Next week twenty-five, and the week after that twenty five and the
next week after that fifteen."

"Of course.  But supposin' the next day after you take the coat an
automobile runs you down and kills you.  Then what?  How do I get
my money?"

Now that was a poser.  And there was really no way that she could
prove that any one would pay for the coat.  And before that there
would have to be all the bother of making out a contract, and
getting some really responsible person--a banker, say--to endorse
it.  No, no, this was not an easy payment house.  This was a cash
house.  That was why the coat was offered to her at one hundred and
fifteen, but not a dollar less.  Not a dollar.

Mr. Rubenstein sighed and talked on.  And finally Hortense asked
him if she could give him seventy-five dollars cash in hand, the
other forty to be paid in one week's time.  Would he let her have
the coat then--to take home with her?

"But a week--a week--what is a week then?" argued Mr. Rubenstein.
"If you can bring me seventy-five next week or to-morrow, and forty
more in another week or ten days, why not wait a week and bring the
whole hundred and fifteen?  Then the coat is yours and no bother.
Leave the coat.  Come back to-morrow and pay me twenty-five or
thirty dollars on account and I take the coat out of the window and
lock it up for you.  No one can even see it then.  In another week
bring me the balance or in two weeks.  Then it is yours."  Mr.
Rubenstein explained the process as though it were a difficult
matter to grasp.

But the argument once made was sound enough.  It really left
Hortense little to argue about.  At the same time it reduced her
spirit not a little.  To think of not being able to take it now.
And yet, once out of the place, her vigor revived.  For, after all,
the time fixed would soon pass and if Clyde performed his part of
the agreement promptly, the coat would be hers.  The important
thing now was to make him give her twenty-five or thirty dollars
wherewith to bind this wonderful agreement.  Only now, because of
the fact that she felt that she needed a new hat to go with the
coat, she decided to say that it cost one hundred and twenty-five
instead of one hundred and fifteen.

And once this conclusion was put before Clyde, he saw it as a very
reasonable arrangement--all things considered--quite a respite from
the feeling of strain that had settled upon him after his last
conversation with Hortense.  For, after all, he had not seen how he
was to raise more than thirty-five dollars this first week anyhow.
The following week would be somewhat easier, for then, as he told
himself, he proposed to borrow twenty or twenty-five from Ratterer
if he could, which, joined with the twenty or twenty-five which his
tips would bring him, would be quite sufficient to meet the second
payment.  The week following he proposed to borrow at least ten or
fifteen from Hegglund--maybe more--and if that did not make up the
required amount to pawn his watch for fifteen dollars, the watch he
had bought for himself a few months before.  It ought to bring that
at least; it cost fifty.

But, he now thought, there was Esta in her wretched room awaiting
the most unhappy result of her one romance.  How was she to make
out, he asked himself, even in the face of the fact that he feared
to be included in the financial problem which Esta as well as the
family presented.  His father was not now, and never had been, of
any real financial service to his mother.  And yet, if the problem
were on this account to be shifted to him, how would he make out?
Why need his father always peddle clocks and rugs and preach on the
streets?  Why couldn't his mother and father give up the mission
idea, anyhow?

But, as he knew, the situation was not to be solved without his
aid.  And the proof of it came toward the end of the second week of
his arrangement with Hortense, when, with fifty dollars in his
pocket, which he was planning to turn over to her on the following
Sunday, his mother, looking into his bedroom where he was dressing,
said:  "I'd like to see you for a minute, Clyde, before you go
out."  He noted she was very grave as she said this.  As a matter
of fact, for several days past, he had been sensing that she was
undergoing a strain of some kind.  At the same time he had been
thinking all this while that with his own resources hypothecated as
they were, he could do nothing.  Or, if he did it meant the loss of
Hortense.  He dared not.

And yet what reasonable excuse could he give his mother for not
helping her a little, considering especially the clothes he wore,
and the manner in which he had been running here and there, always
giving the excuse of working, but probably not deceiving her as
much as he thought.  To be sure, only two months before, he had
obligated himself to pay her ten dollars a week more for five
weeks, and had.  But that only proved to her very likely that he
had so much extra to give, even though he had tried to make it
clear at the time that he was pinching himself to do it.  And yet,
however much he chose to waver in her favor, he could not, with his
desire for Hortense directly confronting him.

He went out into the living-room after a time, and as usual his
mother at once led the way to one of the benches in the mission--
a cheerless, cold room these days.

"I didn't think I'd have to speak to you about this, Clyde, but I
don't see any other way out of it.  I haven't anyone but you to
depend upon now that you're getting to be a man.  But you must
promise not to tell any of the others--Frank or Julia or your
father.  I don't want them to know.  But Esta's back here in Kansas
City and in trouble, and I don't know quite what to do about her.
I have so very little money to do with, and your father's not very
much of a help to me any more."

She passed a weary, reflective hand across her forehead and Clyde
knew what was coming.  His first thought was to pretend that he did
not know that Esta was in the city, since he had been pretending
this way for so long.  But now, suddenly, in the face of his
mother's confession, and the need of pretended surprise on his
part, if he were to keep up the fiction, he said, "Yes, I know."

"You know?" queried his mother, surprised.

"Yes, I know," Clyde repeated.  "I saw you going in that house in
Beaudry Street one morning as I was going along there," he
announced calmly enough now.  "And I saw Esta looking out of the
window afterwards, too.  So I went in after you left."

"How long ago was that?" she asked, more to gain time than anything
else.

"Oh, about five or six weeks ago, I think.  I been around to see
her a coupla times since then, only Esta didn't want me to say
anything about that either."

"Tst! Tst! Tst!" clicked Mrs. Griffiths, with her tongue.  "Then
you know what the trouble is."

"Yes," replied Clyde.

"Well, what is to be will be," she said resignedly.  "You haven't
mentioned it to Frank or Julia, have you?"

"No," replied Clyde, thoughtfully, thinking of what a failure his
mother had made of her attempt to be secretive.  She was no one to
deceive any one, or his father, either.  He thought himself far,
far shrewder.

"Well, you mustn't," cautioned his mother solemnly.  "It isn't best
for them to know, I think.  It's bad enough as it is this way," she
added with a kind of wry twist to her mouth, the while Clyde
thought of himself and Hortense.

"And to think," she added, after a moment, her eyes filling with a
sad, all-enveloping gray mist, "she should have brought all this on
herself and on us.  And when we have so little to do with, as it
is.  And after all the instruction she has had--the training.  'The
way of the transgressor--'"

She shook her head and put her two large hands together and gripped
them firmly, while Clyde stared, thinking of the situation and all
that it might mean to him.

She sat there, quite reduced and bewildered by her own peculiar
part in all this.  She had been as deceiving as any one, really.
And here was Clyde, now, fully informed as to her falsehoods and
strategy, and herself looking foolish and untrue.  But had she not
been trying to save him from all this--him and the others?  And he
was old enough to understand that now.  Yet she now proceeded to
explain why, and to say how dreadful she felt it all to be.  At the
same time, as she also explained, now she was compelled to come to
him for aid in connection with it.

"Esta's about to be very sick," she went on suddenly and stiffly,
not being able, or at least willing, apparently, to look at Clyde
as she said it, and yet determined to be as frank as possible.
"She'll need a doctor very shortly and some one to be with her all
the time when I'm not there.  I must get money somewhere--at least
fifty dollars.  You couldn't get me that much in some way, from
some of your young men friends, could you, just a loan for a few
weeks?  You could pay it back, you know, soon, if you would.  You
wouldn't need to pay me anything for your room until you had."

She looked at Clyde so tensely, so urgently, that he felt quite
shaken by the force of the cogency of the request.  And before he
could add anything to the nervous gloom which shadowed her face,
she added:  "That other money was for her, you know, to bring her
back here after her--her"--she hesitated over the appropriate word
but finally added--"husband left her there in Pittsburgh.  I
suppose she told you that."

"Yes, she did," replied Clyde, heavily and sadly.  For after all,
Esta's condition was plainly critical, which was something that he
had not stopped to meditate on before.

"Gee, Ma," he exclaimed, the thought of the fifty dollars in his
pocket and its intended destination troubling him considerably--the
very sum his mother was seeking.  "I don't know whether I can do
that or not.  I don't know any of the boys down there well enough
for that.  And they don't make any more than I do, either.  I might
borrow a little something, but it won't look very good."  He choked
and swallowed a little, for lying to his mother in this way was not
easy.  In fact, he had never had occasion to lie in connection with
anything so trying--and so despicably.  For here was fifty dollars
in his pocket at the moment, with Hortense on the one hand and his
mother and sister on the other, and the money would solve his
mother's problem as fully as it would Hortense's, and more
respectably.  How terrible it was not to help her.  How could he
refuse her, really?  Nervously he licked his lips and passed a hand
over his brow, for a nervous moisture had broken out upon his face.
He felt strained and mean and incompetent under the circumstances.

"And you haven't any money of your own right now that you could let
me have, have you?" his mother half pleaded.  For there were a
number of things in connection with Esta's condition which required
immediate cash and she had so little.

"No, I haven't, Ma," he said, looking at his mother shamefacedly,
for a moment, then away, and if it had not been that she herself
was so distrait, she might have seen the falsehood on his face.  As
it was, he suffered a pang of commingled self-commiseration and
self-contempt, based on the distress he felt for his mother.  He
could not bring himself to think of losing Hortense.  He must have
her.  And yet his mother looked so lone and so resourceless.  It
was shameful.  He was low, really mean.  Might he not, later, be
punished for a thing like this?

He tried to think of some other way--some way of getting a little
money over and above the fifty that might help.  If only he had a
little more time--a few weeks longer.  If only Hortense had not
brought up this coat idea just now.

"I'll tell you what I might do," he went on, quite foolishly and
dully the while his mother gave vent to a helpless "Tst! Tst! Tst!"
"Will five dollars do you any good?"

"Well, it will be something, anyhow," she replied.  "I can use it."

"Well, I can let you have that much," he said, thinking to replace
it out of his next week's tips and trust to better luck throughout
the week.  "And I'll see what I can do next week.  I might let you
have ten then.  I can't say for sure.  I had to borrow some of that
other money I gave you, and I haven't got through paying for that
yet, and if I come around trying to get more, they'll think--well,
you know how it is."

His mother sighed, thinking of the misery of having to fall back on
her one son thus far.  And just when he was trying to get a start,
too.  What would he think of all this in after years?  What would
he think of her--of Esta--the family?  For, for all his ambition
and courage and desire to be out and doing, Clyde always struck her
as one who was not any too powerful physically or rock-ribbed
morally or mentally.  So far as his nerves and emotions were
concerned, at times he seemed to take after his father more than he
did after her.  And for the most part it was so easy to excite him--
to cause him to show tenseness and strain--as though he were not
so very well fitted for either.  And it was she, because of Esta
and her husband and their joint and unfortunate lives, that was and
had been heaping the greater part of this strain on him.

"Well, if you can't, you can't," she said.  "I must try and think
of some other way."  But she saw no clear way at the moment.



Chapter 17


In connection with the automobile ride suggested and arranged for
the following Sunday by Hegglund through his chauffeur friend, a
change of plan was announced.  The car--an expensive Packard, no
less--could not be had for that day, but must be used by this
Thursday or Friday, or not at all.  For, as had been previously
explained to all, but not with the strictest adherence to the
truth, the car belonged to a certain Mr. Kimbark, an elderly and
very wealthy man who at the time was traveling in Asia.  Also, what
was not true was that this particular youth was not Mr. Kimbark's
chauffeur at all, but rather the rakish, ne'er-do-well son of
Sparser, the superintendent of one of Mr. Kimbark's stock farms.
This son being anxious to pose as something more than the son of a
superintendent of a farm, and as an occasional watchman, having
access to the cars, had decided to take the very finest of them and
ride in it.

It was Hegglund who proposed that he and his hotel friends be
included on some interesting trip.  But since the general
invitation had been given, word had come that within the next few
weeks Mr. Kimbark was likely to return.  And because of this,
Willard Sparser had decided at once that it might be best not to
use the car any more.  He might be taken unawares, perhaps, by Mr.
Kimbark's unexpected arrival.  Laying this difficulty before
Hegglund, who was eager for the trip, the latter had scouted the
idea.  Why not use it once more anyhow?  He had stirred up the
interest of all of his friends in this and now hated to disappoint
them.  The following Friday, between noon and six o'clock, was
fixed upon as the day.  And since Hortense had changed in her plans
she now decided to accompany Clyde, who had been invited, of
course.

But as Hegglund had explained to Ratterer and Higby since it was
being used without the owner's consent, they must meet rather far
out--the men in one of the quiet streets near Seventeenth and West
Prospect, from which point they could proceed to a meeting place
more convenient for the girls, namely, Twentieth and Washington.
From thence they would speed via the west Parkway and the Hannibal
Bridge north and east to Harlem, North Kansas City, Minaville and
so through Liberty and Moseby to Excelsior Springs.  Their chief
objective there was a little inn--the Wigwam--a mile or two this
side of Excelsior which was open the year around.  It was really a
combination of restaurant and dancing parlor and hotel.  A Victrola
and Wurlitzer player-piano furnished the necessary music.  Such
groups as this were not infrequent, and Hegglund as well as Higby,
who had been there on several occasions, described it as dandy.
The food was good and the road to it excellent.  There was a little
river just below it where in the summer time at least there was
rowing and fishing.  In winter some people skated when there was
ice.  To be sure, at this time--January--the road was heavily
packed with snow, but easy to get over, and the scenery fine.
There was a little lake, not so far from Excelsior, at this time of
year also frozen over, and according to Hegglund, who was always
unduly imaginative and high-spirited, they might go there and
skate.

"Will you listen to who's talkin' about skatin' on a trip like
this?" commented Ratterer, rather cynically, for to his way of
thinking this was no occasion for any such side athletics, but for
love-making exclusively.

"Aw, hell, can't a fellow have a funny idea even widout bein'
roasted for it?" retorted the author of the idea.

The only one, apart from Sparser, who suffered any qualms in
connection with all this was Clyde himself.  For to him, from the
first, the fact that the car to be used did not belong to Sparser,
but to his employer, was disturbing, almost irritatingly so.  He
did not like the idea of taking anything that belonged to any one
else, even for temporary use.  Something might happen.  They might
be found out.

"Don't you think it's dangerous for us to be going out in this
car?" he asked of Ratterer a few days before the trip and when he
fully understood the nature of the source of the car.

"Oh, I don't know," replied Ratterer, who being accustomed to such
ideas and devices as this was not much disturbed by them.  "I'm not
taking the car and you're not, are you?  If he wants to take it,
that's his lookout, ain't it?  If he wants me to go, I'll go.  Why
wouldn't I?  All I want is to be brought back here on time.  That's
the only thing that would ever worry me."

And Higby, coming up at the moment, had voiced exactly the same
sentiments.  Yet Clyde remained troubled.  It might not work out
right; he might lose his job through a thing like this.  But so
fascinated was he by the thought of riding in such a fine car with
Hortense and with all these other girls and boys that he could not
resist the temptation to go.

Immediately after noon on the Friday of this particular week the
several participants of the outing were gathered at the points
agreed upon.  Hegglund, Ratterer, Higby and Clyde at Eighteenth and
West Prospect near the railroad yards.  Maida Axelrod, Hegglund's
girl, Lucille Nickolas, a friend of Ratterer's, and Tina Kogel, a
friend of Higby's, also Laura Sipe, another girl who was brought by
Tina Kogel to be introduced to Sparser for the occasion, at
Twentieth and Washington.  Only since Hortense had sent word at the
last moment to Clyde that she had to go out to her house for
something, and that they were to run out to Forty-ninth and
Genesee, where she lived, they did so, but not without grumbling.

The day, a late January one, was inclined to be smoky with lowering
clouds, especially within the environs of Kansas City.  It even
threatened snow at times--a most interesting and picturesque
prospect to those within.  They liked it.

"Oh, gee, I hope it does," Tina Kogel exclaimed when some one
commented on the possibility, and Lucille Nickolas added:  "Oh, I
just love to see it snow at times."  Along the West Bluff Road,
Washington and Second Streets, they finally made their way across
the Hannibal Bridge to Harlem, and from thence along the winding
and hill-sentineled river road to Randolph Heights and Minaville.
And beyond that came Moseby and Liberty, to and through which the
road bed was better, with interesting glimpses of small homesteads
and the bleak snow-covered hills of January.

Clyde, who for all his years in Kansas City had never ventured much
beyond Kansas City, Kansas, on the west or the primitive and
natural woods of Swope Park on the east, nor farther along the
Kansas or Missouri Rivers than Argentine on the one side and
Randolph Heights on the other, was quite fascinated by the idea of
travel which appeared to be suggested by all this--distant travel.
It was all so different from his ordinary routine.  And on this
occasion Hortense was inclined to be very genial and friendly.  She
snuggled down beside him on the seat, and when he, noting that the
others had already drawn their girls to them in affectionate
embraces, put his arm about her and drew her to him, she made no
particular protest.  Instead she looked up and said:  "I'll have to
take my hat off, I guess."  The others laughed.  There was
something about her quick, crisp way which was amusing at times.
Besides she had done her hair in a new way which made her look
decidedly prettier, and she was anxious to have the others see it.

"Can we dance anywhere out here?" she called to the others, without
looking around.

"Surest thing you know," said Higby, who by now had persuaded Tina
Kogel to take her hat off and was holding her close.  "They got a
player-piano and a Victrola out there.  If I'd 'a' thought, I'd 'a'
brought my cornet.  I can play Dixie on that."

The car was speeding at breakneck pace over a snowy white road and
between white fields.  In fact, Sparser, considering himself a
master of car manipulation as well as the real owner of it for the
moment, was attempting to see how fast he could go on such a road.

Dark vignettes of wood went by to right and left.  Fields away,
sentinel hills rose and fell like waves.  A wide-armed scarecrow
fluttering in the wind, its tall decayed hat awry, stood near at
hand in one place.  And from near it a flock of crows rose and
winged direct toward a distant wood lightly penciled against a
foreground of snow.

In the front seat sat Sparser, guiding the car beside Laura Sipe
with the air of one to whom such a magnificent car was a
commonplace thing.  He was really more interested in Hortense, yet
felt it incumbent on him, for the time being, anyhow, to show some
attention to Laura Sipe.  And not to be outdone in gallantry by the
others, he now put one arm about Laura Sipe while he guided the car
with the other, a feat which troubled Clyde, who was still dubious
about the wisdom of taking the car at all.  They might all be
wrecked by such fast driving.  Hortense was only interested by the
fact that Sparser had obviously manifested his interest in her;
that he had to pay some attention to Laura Sipe whether he wanted
to or not.  And when she saw him pull her to him and asked her
grandly if she had done much automobiling about Kansas City, she
merely smiled to herself.

But Ratterer, noting the move, nudged Lucille Nickolas, and she in
turn nudged Higby, in order to attract his attention to the
affectional development ahead.

"Getting comfortable up front there, Willard?" called Ratterer,
genially, in order to make friends with him.

"I'll say I am," replied Sparser, gayly and without turning.  "How
about you, girlie?"

"Oh, I'm all right," Laura Sipe replied.

But Clyde was thinking that of all the girls present none was
really so pretty as Hortense--not nearly.  She had come garbed in a
red and black dress with a very dark red poke bonnet to match.  And
on her left cheek, just below her small rouged mouth, she had
pasted a minute square of black court plaster in imitation of some
picture beauty she had seen.  In fact, before the outing began, she
had been determined to outshine all the others present, and
distinctly she was now feeling that she was succeeding.  And Clyde,
for himself, was agreeing with her.

"You're the cutest thing here," whispered Clyde, hugging her
fondly.

"Gee, but you can pour on the molasses, kid, when you want to," she
called out loud, and the others laughed.  And Clyde flushed
slightly.

Beyond Minaville about six miles the car came to a bend in a hollow
where there was a country store and here Hegglund, Higby and
Ratterer got out to fetch candy, cigarettes and ice cream cones and
ginger ale.  And after that came Liberty, and then several miles
this side of Excelsior Springs, they sighted the Wigwam which was
nothing more than an old two-story farmhouse snuggled against a
rise of ground behind it.  There was, however, adjoining it on one
side a newer and larger one-story addition consisting of the
dining-room, the dance floor, and concealed by a partition at one
end, a bar.  An open fire flickered cheerfully here in a large
fireplace.  Down in a hollow across the road might be seen the
Benton River or creek, now frozen solid.

"There's your river," called Higby cheerfully as he helped Tina
Kogel out of the car, for he was already very much warmed by
several drinks he had taken en route.  They all paused for a moment
to admire the stream, winding away among the trees.  "I wanted dis
bunch to bring dere skates and go down dere," sighed Hegglund, "but
dey wouldn't.  Well, dat's all right."

By then Lucille Nickolas, seeing a flicker of flame reflected in
one of the small windows of the inn, called, "Oh, see, they gotta
fire."

The car was parked, and they all trooped into the inn, and at once
Higby briskly went over and started the large, noisy, clattery,
tinny Nickelodeon with a nickel.  And to rival him, and for a
prank, Hegglund ran to the Victrola which stood in one corner and
put on a record of "The Grizzly Bear," which he found lying there.

At the first sounds of this strain, which they all knew, Tina Kogel
called:  "Oh, let's all dance to that, will you?  Can't you stop
that other old thing?" she added.

"Sure, after it runs down," explained Ratterer, laughingly.  "The
only way to stop that thing is not to feed it any nickels."

But now a waiter coming in, Higby began to inquire what everybody
wanted.  And in the meantime, to show off her charms, Hortense had
taken the center of the floor and was attempting to imitate a
grizzly bear walking on its hind legs, which she could do amusingly
enough--quite gracefully.  And Sparser, seeing her alone in the
center of the floor was anxious to interest her now, followed her
and tried to imitate her motions from behind.  Finding him clever
at it, and anxious to dance, she finally abandoned the imitation
and giving him her arms went one-stepping about the room most
vividly.  At once, Clyde, who was by no means as good a dancer,
became jealous--painfully so.  In his eagerness for her, it seemed
unfair to him that he should be deserted by her so early--at the
very beginning of things.  But she, becoming interested in Sparser,
who seemed more worldly-wise, paid no attention at all to Clyde for
the time being, but went dancing with her new conquest, his
rhythmic skill seeming charmingly to match her own.  And then, not
to be out of it, the others at once chose partners, Hegglund
dancing with Maida, Ratterer with Lucille and Higby with Tina
Kogel.  This left Laura Sipe for Clyde, who did not like her very
much.  She was not as perfect as she might be--a plump, pudgy-faced
girl with inadequate sensual blue eyes--and Clyde, lacking any
exceptional skill, they danced nothing but the conventional one-
step while the others were dipping and lurching and spinning.

In a kind of sick fury, Clyde noticed that Sparser, who was still
with Hortense, was by now holding her close and looking straight
into her eyes.  And she was permitting him.  It gave him a feeling
of lead at the pit of his stomach.  Was it possible she was
beginning to like this young upstart who had this car?  And she had
promised to like him for the present.  It brought to him a sense of
her fickleness--the probability of her real indifference to him.
He wanted to do something--stop dancing and get her away from
Sparser, but there was no use until this particular record ran out.

And then, just at the end of this, the waiter returned with a tray
and put down cocktails, ginger ale and sandwiches upon three small
tables which had been joined together.  All but Sparser and
Hortense quit and came toward it--a fact which Clyde was quick to
note.  She was a heartless flirt!  She really did not care for him
after all.  And after making him think that she did, so recently--
and getting him to help her with that coat.  She could go to the
devil now.  He would show her.  And he waiting for her!  Wasn't
that the limit?  Yet, finally seeing that the others were gathering
about the tables, which had been placed near the fire, Hortense and
Sparser ceased dancing and approached.  Clyde was white and glum.
He stood to one side, seemingly indifferent.  And Laura Sipe, who
had already noted his rage and understood the reason now moved away
from him to join Tina Kogel, to whom she explained why he was so
angry.

And then noting his glumness, Hortense came over, executing a phase
of the "Grizzly" as she did so.

"Gee, wasn't that swell?" she began.  "Gee, how I do love to dance
to music like that!"

"Sure, it's swell for you," returned Clyde, burning with envy and
disappointment.

"Why, what's the trouble?" she asked, in a low and almost injured
tone, pretending not to guess, yet knowing quite well why he was
angry.  "You don't mean to say that you're mad because I danced
with him first, do you?  Oh, how silly!  Why didn't you come over
then and dance with me?  I couldn't refuse to dance with him when
he was right there, could I?"

"Oh, no, of course, you couldn't," replied Clyde sarcastically, and
in a low, tense tone, for he, no more than Hortense, wanted the
others to hear.  "But you didn't have to fall all over him and
dream in his eyes, either, did you?"  He was fairly blazing.  "You
needn't say you didn't, because I saw you."

At this she glanced at him oddly, realizing not only the sharpness
of his mood, but that this was the first time he had shown so much
daring in connection with her.  It must be that he was getting to
feel too sure of her.  She was showing him too much attention.  At
the same time she realized that this was not the time to show him
that she did not care for him as much as she would like to have him
believe, since she wanted the coat, already agreed upon.

"Oh, gee, well, ain't that the limit?" she replied angrily, yet
more because she was irritated by the fact that what he said was
true than anything else.  "If you aren't the grouch.  Well, I can't
help it, if you're going to be as jealous as that.  I didn't do
anything but dance with him just a little.  I didn't think you'd be
mad."  She moved as if to turn away, but realizing that there was
an understanding between them, and that he must be placated if
things were to go on, she drew him by his coat lapels out of the
range of the hearing of the others, who were already looking and
listening, and began.

"Now, see here, you.  Don't go acting like this.  I didn't mean
anything by what I did.  Honest, I didn't.  Anyhow, everybody
dances like that now.  And nobody means anything by it.  Aren't you
goin' to let me be nice to you like I said, or are you?"

And now she looked him coaxingly and winsomely and calculatingly
straight in the eye, as though he were the one person among all
these present whom she really did like.  And deliberately, and of a
purpose, she made a pursy, sensuous mouth--the kind she could make--
and practised a play of the lips that caused them to seem to want
to kiss him--a mouth that tempted him to distraction.

"All right," he said, looking at her weakly and yieldingly.  "I
suppose I am a fool, but I saw what you did, all right.  You know
I'm crazy about you, Hortense--just wild!  I can't help it.  I wish
I could sometimes.  I wish I wouldn't be such a fool."  And he
looked at her and was sad.  And she, realizing her power over him
and how easy it was to bring him around, replied:  "Oh, you--you
don't, either.  I'll kiss you after a while, when the others aren't
looking if you'll be good."  At the same time she was conscious of
the fact that Sparser's eyes were upon her.  Also that he was
intensely drawn to her and that she liked him more than any one she
had recently encountered.



Chapter 18


The climax of the afternoon was reached, however, when after several
more dances and drinks, the small river and its possibilities was
again brought to the attention of all by Hegglund, who, looking out
of one of the windows, suddenly exclaimed:  "What's de matter wit de
ice down dere?  Look at de swell ice.  I dare dis crowd to go down
dere and slide."

They were off pell-mell--Ratterer and Tina Kogel, running hand in
hand, Sparser and Lucille Nickolas, with whom he had just been
dancing, Higby and Laura Sipe, whom he was finding interesting
enough for a change, and Clyde and Hortense.  But once on the ice,
which was nothing more than a narrow, winding stream, blown clean
in places by the wind, and curving among thickets of leafless
trees, the company were more like young satyrs and nymphs of an
older day.  They ran here and there, slipping and sliding--Higby,
Lucille and Maida immediately falling down, but scrambling to their
feet with bursts of laughter.

And Hortense, aided by Clyde at first, minced here and there.  But
soon she began to run and slide, squealing in pretended fear.  And
now, not only Sparser but Higby, and this in spite of Clyde, began
to show Hortense attention.  They joined her in sliding, ran after
her and pretended to try to trip her up, but caught her as she
fell.  And Sparser, taking her by the hand, dragged her, seemingly
in spite of herself and the others, far upstream and about a curve
where they could not be seen.  Determined not to show further
watchfulness or jealousy Clyde remained behind.  But he could not
help feeling that Sparser might be taking this occasion to make a
date, even to kiss her.  She was not incapable of letting him, even
though she might pretend to him that she did not want him to.  It
was agonizing.

In spite of himself, he began to tingle with helpless pain--to
begin to wish that he could see them.  But Hegglund, having called
every one to join hands and crack the whip, he took the hand of
Lucille Nickolas, who was holding on to Hegglund's, and gave his
other free hand to Maida Axelrod, who in turn gave her free hand to
Ratterer.  And Higby and Laura Sipe were about to make up the tail
when Sparser and Hortense came gliding back--he holding her by the
hand.  And they now tacked on at the foot.  Then Hegglund and the
others began running and doubling back and forth until all beyond
Maida had fallen and let go.  And, as Clyde noted, Hortense and
Sparser, in falling, skidded and rolled against each other to the
edge of the shore where were snow and leaves and twigs.  And
Hortense's skirts, becoming awry in some way, moved up to above her
knees.  But instead of showing any embarrassment, as Clyde thought
and wished she might, she sat there for a few moments without shame
and even laughing heartily--and Sparser with her and still holding
her hand.  And Laura Sipe, having fallen in such a way as to trip
Higby, who had fallen across her, they also lay there laughing and
yet in a most suggestive position, as Clyde thought.  He noted,
too, that Laura Sipe's skirts had been worked above her knees.  And
Sparser, now sitting up, was pointing to her pretty legs and
laughing loudly, showing most of his teeth.  And all the others
were emitting peals and squeals of laughter.

"Hang it all!" thought Clyde.  "Why the deuce does he always have
to be hanging about her?  Why didn't he bring a girl of his own if
he wanted to have a good time?  What right have they got to go
where they can't be seen?  And she thinks I think she means nothing
by all this.  She never laughs that heartily with me, you bet.
What does she think I am that she can put that stuff over on me,
anyhow?"  He glowered darkly for the moment, but in spite of his
thoughts the line or whip was soon re-formed and this time with
Lucille Nickolas still holding his hand.  Sparser and Hortense at
the tail end again.  But Hegglund, unconscious of the mood of Clyde
and thinking only of the sport, called:  "Better let some one else
take de end dere, hadn'tcha?"  And feeling the fairness of this,
Ratterer and Maida Axelrod and Clyde and Lucille Nickolas now moved
down with Higby and Laura Sipe and Hortense and Sparser above them.
Only, as Clyde noted, Hortense still held Sparser by the hand, yet
she moved just above him and took his hand, he being to the right,
with Sparser next above to her left, holding her other hand firmly,
which infuriated Clyde.  Why couldn't he stick to Laura Sipe, the
girl brought out here for him?  And Hortense was encouraging him.

He was very sad, and he felt so angry and bitter that he could
scarcely play the game.  He wanted to stop and quarrel with
Sparser.  But so brisk and eager was Hegglund that they were off
before he could even think of doing so.

And then, try as he would, to keep his balance in the face of this,
he and Lucille and Ratterer and Maida Axelrod were thrown down and
spun around on the ice like curling irons.  And Hortense, letting
go of him at the right moment, seemed to prefer deliberately to
hang on to Sparser.  Entangled with these others, Clyde and they
spun across forty feet of smooth, green ice and piled against a
snow bank.  At the finish, as he found, Lucille Nickolas was lying
across his knees face down in such a spanking position that he was
compelled to laugh.  And Maida Axelrod was on her back, next to
Ratterer, her legs straight up in the air; on purpose he thought.
She was too coarse and bold for him.  And there followed, of
course, squeals and guffaws of delight--so loud that they could be
heard for half a mile.  Hegglund, intensely susceptible to humor at
all times, doubled to the knees, slapped his thighs and bawled.
And Sparser opened his big mouth and chortled and grimaced until he
was scarlet.  So infectious was the result that for the time being
Clyde forgot his jealousy.  He too looked and laughed.  But Clyde's
mood had not changed really.  He still felt that she wasn't playing
fair.

At the end of all this playing Lucille Nickolas and Tina Kogel
being tired, dropped out.  And Hortense, also.  Clyde at once left
the group to join her.  Ratterer then followed Lucille.  Then the
others separating, Hegglund pushed Maida Axelrod before him down
stream out of sight around a bend.  Higby, seemingly taking his cue
from this, pulled Tina Kogel up stream, and Ratterer and Lucille,
seeming to see something of interest, struck into a thicket,
laughing and talking as they went.  Even Sparser and Laura, left to
themselves, now wandered off, leaving Clyde and Hortense alone.

And then, as these two wandered toward a fallen log which here
paralleled the stream, she sat down.  But Clyde, smarting from his
fancied wounds, stood silent for the time being, while she, sensing
as much, took him by the belt of his coat and began to pull at him.

"Giddap, horsey," she played.  "Giddap.  My horsey has to skate me
now on the ice."

Clyde looked at her glumly, glowering mentally, and not to be
diverted so easily from the ills which he felt to be his.

"Whadd'ye wanta let that fellow Sparser always hang around you
for?" he demanded.  "I saw you going up the creek there with him a
while ago.  What did he say to you up there?"

"He didn't say anything."

"Oh, no, of course not," he replied cynically and bitterly.  "And
maybe he didn't kiss you, either."

"I should say not," she replied definitely and spitefully, "I'd
like to know what you think I am, anyhow.  I don't let people kiss
me the first time they see me, smarty, and I want you to know it.
I didn't let you, did I?"

"Oh, that's all right, too," answered Clyde; "but you didn't like
me as well as you do him, either."

"Oh, didn't I?  Well, maybe I didn't, but what right have you to
say I like him, anyhow.  I'd like to know if I can't have a little
fun without you watching me all the time.  You make me tired,
that's what you do."  She was quite angry now because of the
proprietary air he appeared to be assuming.

And now Clyde, repulsed and somewhat shaken by this sudden counter
on her part, decided on the instant that perhaps it might be best
for him to modify his tone.  After all, she had never said that she
had really cared for him, even in the face of the implied promise
she had made him.

"Oh, well," he observed glumly after a moment, and not without a
little of sadness in his tone, "I know one thing.  If I let on that
I cared for any one as much as you say you do for me at times, I
wouldn't want to flirt around with others like you are doing out
here."

"Oh, wouldn't you?"

"No, I wouldn't."

"Well, who's flirting anyhow, I'd like to know?"

"You are."

"I'm not either, and I wish you'd just go away and let me alone if
you can't do anything but quarrel with me.  Just because I danced
with him up there in the restaurant, is no reason for you to think
I'm flirting.  Oh, you make me tired, that's what you do,"

"Do I?"

"Yes, you do."

"Well, maybe I better go off and not bother you any more at all
then," he returned, a trace of his mother's courage welling up in
him.

"Well, maybe you had, if that's the way you're going to feel about
me all the time," she answered, and kicked viciously with her toes
at the ice.  But Clyde was beginning to feel that he could not
possibly go through with this--that after all he was too eager
about her--too much at her feet.  He began to weaken and gaze
nervously at her.  And she, thinking of her coat again, decided to
be civil.

"You didn't look in his eyes, did you?" he asked weakly, his
thoughts going back to her dancing with Sparser.

"When?"

"When you were dancing with him?"

"No, I didn't, not that I know of, anyhow.  But supposing I did.
What of it?  I didn't mean anything by it.  Gee, criminy, can't a
person look in anybody's eyes if they want to?"

"In the way you looked in his?  Not if you claim to like anybody
else, I say."  And the skin of Clyde's forehead lifted and sank,
and his eyelids narrowed.  Hortense merely clicked impatiently and
indignantly with her tongue.

"Tst! Tst! Tst!  If you ain't the limit!"

"And a while ago back there on the ice," went on Clyde determinedly
and yet pathetically.  "When you came back from up there, instead
of coming up to where I was you went to the foot of the line with
him.  I saw you.  And you held his hand, too, all the way back.
And then when you fell down, you had to sit there with him holding
your hand.  I'd like to know what you call that if it ain't
flirting.  What else is it?  I'll bet he thinks it is, all right."

"Well, I wasn't flirting with him just the same and I don't care
what you say.  But if you want to have it that way, have it that
way.  I can't stop you.  You're so darn jealous you don't want to
let anybody else do anything, that's all the matter with you.  How
else can you play on the ice if you don't hold hands, I'd like to
know?  Gee, criminy!  What about you and that Lucille Nickolas?  I
saw her laying across your lap and you laughing.  And I didn't
think anything of that.  What do you want me to do--come out here
and sit around like a bump on a log?--follow you around like a
tail?  Or you follow me?  What-a-yuh think I am anyhow?  A nut?"

She was being ragged by Clyde, as she thought, and she didn't like
it.  She was thinking of Sparser who was really more appealing to
her at the time than Clyde.  He was more materialistic, less
romantic, more direct.

He turned and, taking off his cap, rubbed his head gloomily while
Hortense, looking at him, thought first of him and then of Sparser.
Sparser was more manly, not so much of a crybaby.  He wouldn't
stand around and complain this way, you bet.  He'd probably leave
her for good, have nothing more to do with her.  Yet Clyde, after
his fashion, was interesting and useful.  Who else would do for her
what he had?  And at any rate, he was not trying to force her to go
off with him now as these others had gone and as she had feared he
might try to do--ahead of her plan and wish.  This quarrel was
obviating that.

"Now, see here," she said after a time, having decided that it was
best to assuage him and that it was not so hard to manage him after
all.  "Are we goin' t'fight all the time, Clyde?  What's the use,
anyhow?  Whatja want me to come out here for if you just want to
fight with me all the time?  I wouldn't have come if I'd 'a'
thought you were going to do that all day."

She turned and kicked at the ice with the minute toe of her shoes,
and Clyde, always taken by her charm again, put his arms about her,
and crushed her to him, at the same time fumbling at her breasts
and putting his lips to hers and endeavoring to hold and fondle
her.  But now, because of her suddenly developed liking for
Sparser, and partially because of her present mood towards Clyde,
she broke away, a dissatisfaction with herself and him troubling
her.  Why should she let him force her to do anything she did not
feel like doing, just now, anyhow, she now asked herself.  She
hadn't agreed to be as nice to him to-day as he might wish.  Not
yet.  At any rate just now she did not want to be handled in this
way by him, and she would not, regardless of what he might do.  And
Clyde, sensing by now what the true state of her mind in regard to
him must be, stepped back and yet continued to gaze gloomily and
hungrily at her.  And she in turn merely stared at him.

"I thought you said you liked me," he demanded almost savagely now,
realizing that his dreams of a happy outing this day were fading
into nothing.

"Well, I do when you're nice," she replied, slyly and evasively,
seeking some way to avoid complications in connection with her
original promises to him.

"Yes, you do," he grumbled.  "I see how you do.  Why, here we are
out here now and you won't even let me touch you.  I'd like to know
what you meant by all that you said, anyhow."

"Well, what did I say?" she countered, merely to gain time.

"As though you didn't know."

"Oh, well.  But that wasn't to be right away, either, was it?  I
thought we said"--she paused dubiously.

"I know what you said," he went on.  "But I notice now that you
don't like me an' that's all there is to it.  What difference would
it make if you really cared for me whether you were nice to me now
or next week or the week after?  Gee whiz, you'd think it was
something that depended on what I did for you, not whether you
cared for me."  In his pain he was quite intense and courageous.

"That's not so!" she snapped, angrily and bitterly, irritated by
the truth of what he said.  "And I wish you wouldn't say that to
me, either.  I don't care anything about the old coat now, if you
want to know it.  And you can just have your old money back, too,
I don't want it.  And you can just let me alone from now on, too,"
she added.  "I'll get all the coats I want without any help from
you."  At this, she turned and walked away.

But Clyde, now anxious to mollify her as usual, ran after her.
"Don't go, Hortense," he pleaded.  "Wait a minute.  I didn't mean
that either, honest I didn't.  I'm crazy about you.  Honest I am.
Can't you see that?  Oh, gee, don't go now.  I'm not giving you the
money to get something for it.  You can have it for nothing if you
want it that way.  There ain't anybody else in the world like you
to me, and there never has been.  You can have the money for all I
care, all of it.  I don't want it back.  But, gee, I did think you
liked me a little.  Don't you care for me at all, Hortense?"  He
looked cowed and frightened, and she, sensing her mastery over him,
relented a little.

"Of course I do," she announced.  "But just the same, that don't
mean that you can treat me any old way, either.  You don't seem to
understand that a girl can't do everything you want her to do just
when you want her to do it."

"Just what do you mean by that?" asked Clyde, not quite sensing
just what she did mean.  "I don't get you."

"Oh, yes, you do, too."  She could not believe that he did not
know.

"Oh, I guess I know what you're talkin' about.  I know what you're
going to say now," he went on disappointedly.  "That's that old
stuff they all pull.  I know."

He was reciting almost verbatim the words and intonations even of
the other boys at the hotel--Higby, Ratterer, Eddie Doyle--who,
having narrated the nature of such situations to him, and how girls
occasionally lied out of pressing dilemmas in this way, had made
perfectly clear to him what was meant.  And Hortense knew now that
he did know.

"Gee, but you're mean," she said in an assumed hurt way.  "A person
can never tell you anything or expect you to believe it.  Just the
same, it's true, whether you believe it or not."

"Oh, I know how you are," he replied, sadly yet a little loftily,
as though this were an old situation to him.  "You don't like me,
that's all.  I see that now, all right."

"Gee, but you're mean," she persisted, affecting an injured air.
"It's the God's truth.  Believe me or not, I swear it.  Honest it
is."

Clyde stood there.  In the face of this small trick there was
really nothing much to say as he saw it.  He could not force her to
do anything.  If she wanted to lie and pretend, he would have to
pretend to believe her.  And yet a great sadness settled down upon
him.  He was not to win her after all--that was plain.  He turned,
and she, being convinced that he felt that she was lying now, felt
it incumbent upon herself to do something about it--to win him
around to her again.

"Please, Clyde, please," she began now, most artfully, "I mean
that.  Really, I do.  Won't you believe me?  But I will next week,
sure.  Honest, I will.  Won't you believe that?  I meant everything
I said when I said it.  Honest, I did.  I do like you--a lot.
Won't you believe that, too--please?"

And Clyde, thrilled from head to toe by this latest phase of her
artistry, agreed that he would.  And once more he began to smile
and recover his gayety.  And by the time they reached the car, to
which they were all called a few minutes after by Hegglund, because
of the time, and he had held her hand and kissed her often, he was
quite convinced that the dream he had been dreaming was as certain
of fulfillment as anything could be.  Oh, the glory of it when it
should come true!



Chapter 19


For the major portion of the return trip to Kansas City, there was
nothing to mar the very agreeable illusion under which Clyde
rested.  He sat beside Hortense, who leaned her head against his
shoulder.  And although Sparser, who had waited for the others to
step in before taking the wheel, had squeezed her arm and received
an answering and promising look, Clyde had not seen that.

But the hour being late and the admonitions of Hegglund, Ratterer
and Higby being all for speed, and the mood of Sparser, because of
the looks bestowed upon him by Hortense, being the gayest and most
drunken, it was not long before the outlying lamps of the environs
began to show.

For the car was rushed along the road at break-neck speed.  At one
point, however, where one of the eastern trunk lines approached the
city, there was a long and unexpected and disturbing wait at a
grade crossing where two freight trains met and passed.  Farther
in, at North Kansas City, it began to snow, great soft slushy
flakes, feathering down and coating the road surface with a
slippery layer of mud which required more caution than had been
thus far displayed.  It was then half past five.  Ordinarily, an
additional eight minutes at high speed would have served to bring
the car within a block or two of the hotel.  But now, with another
delay near Hannibal Bridge owing to grade crossing, it was twenty
minutes to six before the bridge was crossed and Wyandotte Street
reached.  And already all four of these youths had lost all sense
of the delight of the trip and the pleasure the companionship of
these girls had given them.  For already they were worrying as to
the probability of their reaching the hotel in time.  The smug and
martinetish figure of Mr. Squires loomed before them all.

"Gee, if we don't do better than this," observed Ratterer to Higby,
who was nervously fumbling with his watch, "we're not goin' to make
it.  We'll hardly have time, as it is, to change."

Clyde, hearing him, exclaimed:  "Oh, crickets!  I wish we could
hurry a little.  Gee, I wish now we hadn't come to-day.  It'll be
tough if we don't get there on time."

And Hortense, noting his sudden tenseness and unrest, added:
"Don't you think you'll make it all right?"

"Not this way," he said.  But Hegglund, who had been studying the
flaked air outside, a world that seemed dotted with falling bits of
cotton, called:  "Eh, dere Willard.  We certainly gotta do better
dan dis.  It means de razoo for us if we don't get dere on time."

And Higby, for once stirred out of a gambler-like effrontery and
calm, added:  "We'll walk the plank all right unless we can put up
some good yarn.  Can't anybody think of anything?"  As for Clyde,
he merely sighed nervously.

And then, as though to torture them the more, an unexpected crush
of vehicles appeared at nearly every intersection.  And Sparser,
who was irritated by this particular predicament, was contemplating
with impatience the warning hand of a traffic policeman, which, at
the intersection of Ninth and Wyandotte, had been raised against
him.  "There goes his mit again," he exclaimed.  "What can I do
about that!  I might turn over to Washington, but I don't know
whether we'll save any time by going over there."

A full minute passed before he was signaled to go forward.  Then
swiftly he swung the car to the right and three blocks over into
Washington Street.

But here the conditions were no better.  Two heavy lines of traffic
moved in opposite directions.  And at each succeeding corner
several precious moments were lost as the cross-traffic went by.
Then the car would tear on to the next corner, weaving its way in
and out as best it could.

At Fifteenth and Washington, Clyde exclaimed to Ratterer:  "How
would it do if we got out at Seventeenth and walked over?"

"You won't save any time if I can turn over there," called Sparser.
"I can get over there quicker than you can."

He crowded the other cars for every inch of available space.  At
Sixteenth and Washington, seeing what he considered a fairly clear
block to the left, he turned the car and tore along that
thoroughfare to as far as Wyandotte once more.  Just as he neared
the corner and was about to turn at high speed, swinging in close
to the curb to do so, a little girl of about nine, who was running
toward the crossing, jumped directly in front of the moving
machine.  And because there was no opportunity given him to turn
and avoid her, she was struck and dragged a number of feet before
the machine could be halted.  At the same time, there arose
piercing screams from at least half a dozen women, and shouts from
as many men who had witnessed the accident.

Instantly they all rushed toward the child, who had been thrown
under and passed over by the wheels.  And Sparser, looking out and
seeing them gathering about the fallen figure, was seized with an
uninterpretable mental panic which conjured up the police, jail,
his father, the owner of the car, severe punishment in many forms.
And though by now all the others in the car were up and giving vent
to anguished exclamations such as "Oh, God!  He hit a little girl";
"Oh, gee, he's killed a kid!" "Oh, mercy!" "Oh, Lord!" "Oh,
heavens, what'll we do now?" he turned and exclaimed:  "Jesus, the
cops!  I gotta get outa this with this car."

And, without consulting the others, who were still half standing,
but almost speechless with fear, he shot the lever into first,
second and then high, and giving the engine all the gas it would
endure, sped with it to the next corner beyond.

But there, as at the other corners in this vicinity, a policeman
was stationed, and having already seen some commotion at the corner
west of him, had already started to leave his post in order to
ascertain what it was.  As he did so, cries of "Stop that car"--
"Stop that car"--reached his ears.  And a man, running toward the
sedan from the scene of the accident, pointed to it, and called:
"Stop that car, stop that car.  They've killed a child."

Then gathering what was meant, he turned toward the car, putting
his police whistle to his mouth as he did so.  But Sparser, having
by this time heard the cries and seen the policeman leaving, dashed
swiftly past him into Seventeenth Street, along which he sped at
almost forty miles an hour, grazing the hub of a truck in one
instance, scraping the fender of an automobile in another, and
missing by inches and quarter inches vehicles or pedestrians, while
those behind him in the car were for the most part sitting bolt
upright and tense, their eyes wide, their hands clenched, their
faces and lips set--or, as in the case of Hortense and Lucille
Nickolas and Tina Kogel, giving voice to repeated, "Oh, Gods!" "Oh,
what's going to happen now?"

But the police and those who had started to pursue were not to be
outdone so quickly.  Unable to make out the license plate number
and seeing from the first motions of the car that it had no
intention of stopping, the officer blew a loud and long blast on
his police whistle.  And the policeman at the next corner seeing
the car speed by and realizing what it meant, blew on his whistle,
then stopped, and springing on the running board of a passing
touring car ordered it to give chase.  And at this, seeing what was
amiss or awind, three other cars, driven by adventurous spirits,
joined in the chase, all honking loudly as they came.

But the Packard had far more speed in it than any of its pursuers,
and although for the first few blocks of the pursuit there were
cries of "Stop that car!" "Stop that car!" still, owing to the much
greater speed of the car, these soon died away, giving place to the
long wild shrieks of distant horns in full cry.

Sparser by now having won a fair lead and realizing that a straight
course was the least baffling to pursue, turned swiftly into McGee,
a comparatively quiet thoroughfare along which he tore for a few
blocks to the wide and winding Gillham Parkway, whose course was
southward.  But having followed that at terrific speed for a short
distance, he again--at Thirty-first--decided to turn--the houses in
the distance confusing him and the suburban country to the north
seeming to offer the best opportunity for evading his pursuers.
And so now he swung the car to the left into that thoroughfare, his
thought here being that amid these comparatively quiet streets it
was possible to wind in and out and so shake off pursuit--at least
long enough to drop his passengers somewhere and return the car to
the garage.

And this he would have been able to do had it not been for the fact
that in turning into one of the more outlying streets of this
region, where there were scarcely any houses and no pedestrians
visible, he decided to turn off his lights, the better to conceal
the whereabouts of the car.  Then, still speeding east, north, and
east and south by turns, he finally dashed into one street where,
after a few hundred feet, the pavement suddenly ended.  But because
another cross street was visible a hundred feet or so further on,
and he imagined that by turning into that he might find a paved
thoroughfare again, he sped on and then swung sharply to the left,
only to crash roughly into a pile of paving stones left by a
contractor who was preparing to pave the way.  In the absence of
lights he had failed to distinguish this.  And diagonally opposite
to these, lengthwise of a prospective sidewalk, had been laid a
pile of lumber for a house.

Striking the edge of the paving stones at high speed, he caromed,
and all but upsetting the car, made directly for the lumber pile
opposite, into which he crashed.  Only instead of striking it head
on, the car struck one end, causing it to give way and spread out,
but only sufficiently to permit the right wheels to mount high upon
it and so throw the car completely over onto its left side in the
grass and snow beyond the walk.  Then there, amid a crash of glass
and the impacts of their own bodies, the occupants were thrown down
in a heap, forward and to the left.

What happened afterwards is more or less of a mystery and a matter
of confusion, not only to Clyde, but to all the others.  For
Sparser and Laura Sipe, being in front, were dashed against the
wind-shield and the roof and knocked senseless, Sparser, having his
shoulder, hip and left knee wrenched in such a way as to make it
necessary to let him lie in the car as he was until an ambulance
arrived.  He could not possibly be lifted out through the door,
which was in the roof as the car now lay.  And in the second seat,
Clyde, being nearest the door to the left and next to him Hortense,
Lucille Nickolas and Ratterer, was pinioned under and yet not
crushed by their combined weights.  For Hortense in falling had
been thrown completely over him on her side against the roof, which
was now the left wall.  And Lucille, next above her, fell in such a
way as to lie across Clyde's shoulders only, while Ratterer, now
topmost of the four, had, in falling, been thrown over the seat in
front of him.  But grasping the steering wheel in front of him as
he fell, the same having been wrenched from Sparser's hands, he had
broken his fall in part by clinging to it.  But even so, his face
and hands were cut and bruised and his shoulder, arm and hip
slightly wrenched, yet not sufficiently to prevent his being of
assistance to the others.  For at once, realizing the plight of the
others as well as his own, and stirred by their screams, Ratterer
was moved to draw himself up and out through the top or side door
which he now succeeded in opening, scrambling over the others to
reach it.

Once out, he climbed upon the chassis beam of the toppled car, and,
reaching down, caught hold of the struggling and moaning Lucille,
who like the others was trying to climb up but could not.  And
exerting all his strength and exclaiming, "Be still, now, honey, I
gotcha.  You're all right, I'll getcha out," he lifted her to a
sitting position on the side of the door, then down in the snow,
where he placed her and where she sat crying and feeling her arms
and her head.  And after her he helped Hortense, her left cheek and
forehead and both hands badly bruised and bleeding, but not
seriously, although she did not know that at the time.  She was
whimpering and shivering and shaking--a nervous chill having
succeeded the dazed and almost unconscious state which had followed
the first crash.

At that moment, Clyde, lifting his bewildered head above the side
door of the car, his left cheek, shoulder and arm bruised, but not
otherwise injured, was thinking that he too must get out of this as
quickly as possible.  A child had been killed; a car stolen and
wrecked; his job was most certainly lost; the police were in
pursuit and might even find them there at any minute.  And below
him in the car was Sparser, prone where he fell, but already being
looked to by Ratterer.  And beside him Laura Sipe, also unconscious.
He felt called upon to do something--to assist Ratterer, who was
reaching down and trying to lay hold of Laura Sipe without injuring
her.  But so confused were his thoughts that he would have stood
there without helping any one had it not been for Ratterer, who
called most irritably, "Give us a hand here, Clyde, will you?  Let's
see if we can get her out.  She's fainted."  And Clyde, turning now
instead of trying to climb out, began to seek to lift her from
within, standing on the broken glass window of the side beneath his
feet and attempting to draw her body back and up off the body of
Sparser.  But this was not possible.  She was too limp--too heavy.
He could only draw her back--off the body of Sparser--and then let
her rest there, between the second and first seats on the car's
side.

But, meanwhile, at the back Hegglund, being nearest the top and
only slightly stunned, had managed to reach the door nearest him
and throw it back.  Thus, by reason of his athletic body, he was
able to draw himself up and out, saying as he did so:  "Oh, Jesus,
what a finish!  Oh, Christ, dis is de limit!  Oh, Jesus, we better
beat it outa dis before de cops git here."

At the same time, however, seeing the others below him and hearing
their cries, he could not contemplate anything so desperate as
desertion.  Instead, once out, he turned and making out Maida below
him, exclaimed:  "Here, for Christ's sake, gimme your hand.  We
gotta get outa dis and dam quick, I tell ya."  Then turning from
Maida, who for the moment was feeling her wounded and aching head,
he mounted the top chassis beam again and, reaching down, caught
hold of Tina Kogel, who, only stunned, was trying to push herself
to a sitting position while resting heavily on top of Higby.  But
he, relieved of the weight of the others, was already kneeling, and
feeling his head and face with his hands.

"Gimme your hand, Dave," called Hegglund.  "Hurry!  For Christ's
sake!  We ain't got no time to lose around here.  Are ya hurt?
Christ, we gotta git outa here, I tellya.  I see a guy comin'
acrost dere now an' I doughno wedder he's a cop or not."  He
started to lay hold of Higby's left hand, but as he did so Higby
repulsed him.

"Huh, uh," he exclaimed.  "Don't pull.  I'm all right.  I'll get
out by myself.  Help the others."  And standing up, his head above
the level of the door, he began to look about within the car for
something on which to place his foot.  The back cushion having
fallen out and forward, he got his foot on that and raised himself
up to the door level on which he sat and drew out his leg.  Then
looking about, and seeing Hegglund attempting to assist Ratterer
and Clyde with Sparser, he went to their aid.

Outside, some odd and confusing incidents had already occurred.
For Hortense, who had been lifted out before Clyde, and had
suddenly begun to feel her face, had as suddenly realized that her
left cheek and forehead were not only scraped but bleeding.  And
being seized by the notion that her beauty might have been
permanently marred by this accident, she was at once thrown into a
state of selfish panic which caused her to become completely
oblivious, not only to the misery and injury of the others, but to
the danger of discovery by the police, the injury to the child, the
wreck of this expensive car--in fact everything but herself and the
probability or possibility that her beauty had been destroyed.  She
began to whimper on the instant and wave her hands up and down.
"Oh, goodness, goodness, goodness!" she exclaimed desperately.
"Oh, how dreadful!  Oh, how terrible!  Oh, my face is all cut."
And feeling an urgent compulsion to do something about it, she
suddenly set off (and without a word to any one and while Clyde was
still inside helping Ratterer) south along 35th Street, toward the
city where were lights and more populated streets.  Her one thought
was to reach her own home as speedily as possible in order that she
might do something for herself.

Of Clyde, Sparser, Ratterer and the other girls--she really thought
nothing.  What were they now?  It was only intermittently and
between thoughts of her marred beauty that she could even bring
herself to think of the injured child--the horror of which as well
as the pursuit by the police, maybe, the fact that the car did not
belong to Sparser or that it was wrecked, and that they were all
liable to arrest in consequence, affecting her but slightly.  Her
one thought in regard to Clyde was that he was the one who had
invited her to this ill-fated journey--hence that he was to blame,
really.  Those beastly boys--to think they should have gotten her
into this and then didn't have brains enough to manage better.

The other girls, apart from Laura Sipe, were not seriously injured--
any of them.  They were more frightened than anything else, but
now that this had happened they were in a panic, lest they be
overtaken by the police, arrested, exposed and punished.  And
accordingly they stood about, exclaiming "Oh, gee, hurry, can't
you?  Oh, dear, we ought all of us to get away from here.  Oh, it's
all so terrible."  Until at last Hegglund exclaimed:  "For Christ's
sake, keep quiet, cantcha?  We're doing de best we can, cantcha
see?  You'll have de cops down on us in a minute as it is."

And then, as if in answer to his comment, a lone suburbanite who
lived some four blocks from the scene across the fields and who,
hearing the crash and the cries in the night, had ambled across to
see what the trouble was, now drew near and stood curiously looking
at the stricken group and the car.

"Had an accident, eh?" he exclaimed, genially enough.  "Any one
badly hurt?  Gee, that's too bad.  And that's a swell car, too.
Can I help any?"

Clyde, hearing him talk and looking out and not seeing Hortense
anywhere, and not being able to do more for Sparser than stretch
him in the bottom of the car, glanced agonizingly about.  For the
thought of the police and their certain pursuit was strong upon
him.  He must get out of this.  He must not be caught here.  Think
of what would happen to him if he were caught--how he would be
disgraced and punished probably--all his fine world stripped from
him before he could say a word really.  His mother would hear--Mr.
Squires--everybody.  Most certainly he would go to jail.  Oh, how
terrible that thought was--grinding really like a macerating wheel
to his flesh.  They could do nothing more for Sparser, and they
only laid themselves open to being caught by lingering.  So asking,
"Where'd Miss Briggs go?" he now began to climb out, then started
looking about the dark and snowy fields for her.  His thought was
that he would first assist her to wherever she might desire to go.

But just then in the distance was heard the horns and the hum of at
least two motorcycles speeding swiftly in the direction of this
very spot.  For already the wife of the suburbanite, on hearing the
crash and the cries in the distance, had telephoned the police that
an accident had occurred here.  And now the suburbanite was
explaining:  "That's them.  I told the wife to telephone for an
ambulance."  And hearing this, all these others now began to run,
for they all realized what that meant.  And in addition, looking
across the fields one could see the lights of these approaching
machines.  They reached Thirty-first and Cleveland together.  Then
one turned south toward this very spot, along Cleveland Avenue.
And the other continued east on Thirty-first, reconnoitering for
the accident.

"Beat it, for God's sake, all of youse," whispered Hegglund,
excitedly.  "Scatter!"  And forthwith, seizing Maida Axelrod by the
hand, he started to run east along Thirty-fifth Street, in which
the car then lay--along the outlying eastern suburbs.  But after a
moment, deciding that that would not do either, that it would be
too easy to pursue him along a street, he cut northeast, directly
across the open fields and away from the city.

And now, Clyde, as suddenly sensing what capture would mean--how
all his fine thoughts of pleasure would most certainly end in
disgrace and probably prison, began running also.  Only in his
case, instead of following Hegglund or any of the others, he turned
south along Cleveland Avenue toward the southern limits of the
city.  But like Hegglund, realizing that that meant an easy avenue
of pursuit for any one who chose to follow, he too took to the open
fields.  Only instead of running away from the city as before, he
now turned southwest and ran toward those streets which lay to the
south of Fortieth.  Only much open space being before him before he
should reach them, and a clump of bushes showing in the near
distance, and the light of the motorcycle already sweeping the road
behind him, he ran to that and for the moment dropped behind it.

Only Sparser and Laura Sipe were left within the car, she at that
moment beginning to recover consciousness.  And the visiting
stranger, much astounded, was left standing outside.

"Why, the very idea!" he suddenly said to himself.  "They must have
stolen that car.  It couldn't have belonged to them at all."

And just then the first motorcycle reaching the scene, Clyde from
his not too distant hiding place was able to overhear.  "Well, you
didn't get away with it after all, did you?  You thought you were
pretty slick, but you didn't make it.  You're the one we want, and
what's become of the rest of the gang, eh?  Where are they, eh?"

And hearing the suburbanite declare quite definitely that he had
nothing to do with it, that the real occupants of the car had but
then run away and might yet be caught if the police wished, Clyde,
who was still within earshot of what was being said, began crawling
upon his hands and knees at first in the snow south, south and
west, always toward some of those distant streets which, lamplit
and faintly glowing, he saw to the southwest of him, and among
which presently, if he were not captured, he hoped to hide--to lose
himself and so escape--if the fates were only kind--the misery and
the punishment and the unending dissatisfaction and disappointment
which now, most definitely, it all represented to him.





BOOK TWO




Chapter 1


The home of Samuel Griffiths in Lycurgus, New York, a city of some
twenty-five thousand inhabitants midway between Utica and Albany.
Near the dinner hour and by degrees the family assembling for its
customary meal.  On this occasion the preparations were of a more
elaborate nature than usual, owing to the fact that for the past
four days Mr. Samuel Griffiths, the husband and father, had been
absent attending a conference of shirt and collar manufacturers in
Chicago, price-cutting by upstart rivals in the west having
necessitated compromise and adjustment by those who manufactured in
the east.  He was but now returned and had telephoned earlier in
the afternoon that he had arrived, and was going to his office in
the factory where he would remain until dinner time.

Being long accustomed to the ways of a practical and convinced man
who believed in himself and considered his judgment and his
decision sound--almost final--for the most part, anyhow, Mrs.
Griffiths thought nothing of this.  He would appear and greet her
in due order.

Knowing that he preferred leg of lamb above many other things,
after due word with Mrs. Truesdale, her homely but useful
housekeeper, she ordered lamb.  And the appropriate vegetables and
dessert having been decided upon, she gave herself over to thoughts
of her eldest daughter Myra, who, having graduated from Smith
College several years before, was still unmarried.  And the reason
for this, as Mrs. Griffiths well understood, though she was never
quite willing to admit it openly, was that Myra was not very good
looking.  Her nose was too long, her eyes too close-set, her chin
not sufficiently rounded to give her a girlish and pleasing
appearance.  For the most part she seemed too thoughtful and
studious--as a rule not interested in the ordinary social life of
that city.  Neither did she possess that savoir faire, let alone
that peculiar appeal for men, that characterized some girls even
when they were not pretty.  As her mother saw it, she was really
too critical and too intellectual, having a mind that was rather
above the world in which she found herself.

Brought up amid comparative luxury, without having to worry about
any of the rough details of making a living, she had been
confronted, nevertheless, by the difficulties of making her own way
in the matter of social favor and love--two objectives which,
without beauty or charm, were about as difficult as the attaining
to extreme wealth by a beggar.  And the fact that for twelve years
now--ever since she had been fourteen--she had seen the lives of
other youths and maidens in this small world in which she moved
passing gayly enough, while hers was more or less confined to
reading, music, the business of keeping as neatly and attractively
arrayed as possible, and of going to visit friends in the hope of
possibly encountering somewhere, somehow, the one temperament who
would be interested in her, had saddened, if not exactly soured
her.  And that despite the fact that the material comfort of her
parents and herself was exceptional.

Just now she had gone through her mother's room to her own, looking
as though she were not very much interested in anything.  Her
mother had been trying to think of something to suggest that would
take her out of herself, when the younger daughter, Bella, fresh
from a passing visit to the home of the Finchleys, wealthy
neighbors where she had stopped on her way from the Snedeker
School, burst in upon her.

Contrasted with her sister, who was tall and dark and rather
sallow, Bella, though shorter, was far more gracefully and
vigorously formed.  She had thick brown--almost black--hair, a
brown and olive complexion tinted with red, and eyes brown and
genial, that blazed with an eager, seeking light.  In addition to
her sound and lithe physique, she possessed vitality and animation.
Her arms and legs were graceful and active.  Plainly she was given
to liking things as she found them--enjoying life as it was--and
hence, unlike her sister, she was unusually attractive to men and
boys--to men and women, old and young--a fact which her mother and
father well knew.  No danger of any lack of marriage offers for her
when the time came.  As her mother saw it, too many youths and men
were already buzzing around, and so posing the question of a proper
husband for her.  Already she had displayed a tendency to become
thick and fast friends, not only with the scions of the older and
more conservative families who constituted the ultra-respectable
element of the city, but also, and this was more to her mother's
distaste, with the sons and daughters of some of those later and
hence socially less important families of the region--the sons and
daughters of manufacturers of bacon, canning jars, vacuum cleaners,
wooden and wicker ware, and typewriters, who constituted a solid
enough financial element in the city, but who made up what might be
considered the "fast set" in the local life.

In Mrs. Griffiths' opinion, there was too much dancing, cabareting,
automobiling to one city and another, without due social
supervision.  Yet, as a contrast to her sister, Myra, what a
relief.  It was only from the point of view of proper surveillance,
or until she was safely and religiously married, that Mrs.
Griffiths troubled or even objected to most of her present contacts
and yearnings and gayeties.  She desired to protect her.

"Now, where have you been?" she demanded, as her daughter burst
into the room, throwing down her books and drawing near to the open
fire that burned there.

"Just think, Mamma," began Bella most unconcernedly and almost
irrelevantly.  "The Finchleys are going to give up their place out
at Greenwood Lake this coming summer and go up to Twelfth Lake near
Pine Point.  They're going to build a new bungalow up there.  And
Sondra says that this time it's going to be right down at the
water's edge--not away from it, as it is out here.  And they're
going to have a great big verandah with a hardwood floor.  And a
boathouse big enough for a thirty-foot electric launch that Mr.
Finchley is going to buy for Stuart.  Won't that be wonderful?  And
she says that if you will let me, that I can come up there for all
summer long, or for as long as I like.  And Gil, too, if he will.
It's just across the lake from the Emery Lodge, you know, and the
East Gate Hotel.  And the Phants' place, you know, the Phants of
Utica, is just below theirs near Sharon.  Isn't that just
wonderful?  Won't that be great?  I wish you and Dad would make up
your minds to build up there now sometime, Mamma.  It looks to me
now as though nearly everybody that's worth anything down here is
moving up there."

She talked so fast and swung about so, looking now at the open fire
burning in the grate, then out of the two high windows that
commanded the front lawn and a full view of Wykeagy Avenue, lit by
the electric lights in the winter dusk, that her mother had no
opportunity to insert any comment until this was over.  However,
she managed to observe:  "Yes?  Well, what about the Anthonys and
the Nicholsons and the Taylors?  I haven't heard of their leaving
Greenwood yet."

"Oh, I know, not the Anthonys or the Nicholsons or the Taylors.
Who expects them to move?  They're too old fashioned.  They're not
the kind that would move anywhere, are they?  No one thinks they
are.  Just the same Greenwood isn't like Twelfth Lake.  You know
that yourself.  And all the people that are anybody down on the
South Shore are going up there for sure.  The Cranstons next year,
Sondra says.  And after that, I bet the Harriets will go, too."

"The Cranstons and the Harriets and the Finchleys and Sondra,"
commented her mother, half amused and half irritated.  "The
Cranstons and you and Bertine and Sondra--that's all I hear these
days."  For the Cranstons, and the Finchleys, despite a certain
amount of local success in connection with this newer and faster
set, were, much more than any of the others, the subject of
considerable unfavorable comment.  They were the people who, having
moved the Cranston Wickwire Company from Albany, and the Finchley
Electric Sweeper from Buffalo, and built large factories on the
south bank of the Mohawk River, to say nothing of new and grandiose
houses in Wykeagy Avenue and summer cottages at Greenwood, some
twenty miles northwest, were setting a rather showy, and hence
disagreeable, pace to all of the wealthy residents of this region.
They were given to wearing the smartest clothes, to the latest
novelties in cars and entertainments, and constituted a problem to
those who with less means considered their position and their
equipment about as fixed and interesting and attractive as such
things might well be.  The Cranstons and the Finchleys were in the
main a thorn in the flesh of the remainder of the elite of
Lycurgus--too showy and too aggressive.

"How often have I told you that I don't want you to have so much to
do with Bertine or that Letta Harriet or her brother either?
They're too forward.  They run around and talk and show off too
much.  And your father feels the same as I do in regard to them.
As for Sondra Finchley, if she expects to go with Bertine and you,
too, then you're not going to go with her either much longer.
Besides I'm not sure that your father approves of your going
anywhere without some one to accompany you.  You're not old enough
yet.  And as for your going to Twelfth Lake to the Finchleys, well,
unless we all go together, there'll be no going there, either."
And now Mrs. Griffiths, who leaned more to the manner and tactics
of the older, if not less affluent families, stared complainingly
at her daughter.

Nevertheless Bella was no more abashed that she was irritated by
this.  On the contrary she knew her mother and knew that she was
fond of her; also that she was intrigued by her physical charm as
well as her assured local social success as much as was her father,
who considered her perfection itself and could be swayed by her
least, as well as her much practised, smile.

"Not old enough, not old enough," commented Bella reproachfully.
"Will you listen?  I'll be eighteen in July.  I'd like to know when
you and Papa are going to think I'm old enough to go anywhere
without you both.  Wherever you two go, I have to go, and wherever
I want to go, you two have to go, too."

"Bella," censured her mother.  Then after a moment's silence, in
which her daughter stood there impatiently, she added, "Of course,
what else would you have us do?  When you are twenty-one or two, if
you are not married by then, it will be time enough to think of
going off by yourself.  But at your age, you shouldn't be thinking
of any such thing."  Bella cocked her pretty head, for at the
moment the side door downstairs was thrown open, and Gilbert
Griffiths, the only son of this family and who very much in face
and build, if not in manner or lack of force, resembled Clyde, his
western cousin, entered and ascended.

He was at this time a vigorous, self-centered and vain youth of
twenty-three who, in contrast with his two sisters, seemed much
sterner and far more practical.  Also, probably much more
intelligent and aggressive in a business way--a field in which
neither of the two girls took the slightest interest.  He was brisk
in manner and impatient.  He considered that his social position
was perfectly secure, and was utterly scornful of anything but
commercial success.  Yet despite this he was really deeply
interested in the movements of the local society, of which he
considered himself and his family the most important part.  Always
conscious of the dignity and social standing of his family in this
community, he regulated his action and speech accordingly.
Ordinarily he struck the passing observer as rather sharp and
arrogant, neither as youthful or as playful as his years might have
warranted.  Still he was young, attractive and interesting.  He had
a sharp, if not brilliant, tongue in his head--a gift at times for
making crisp and cynical remarks.  On account of his family and
position he was considered also the most desirable of all the young
eligible bachelors in Lycurgus.  Nevertheless he was so much
interested in himself that he scarcely found room in his cosmos for
a keen and really intelligent understanding of anyone else.

Hearing him ascend from below and enter his room, which was at the
rear of the house next to hers, Bella at once left her mother's
room, and coming to the door, called:  "Oh, Gil, can I come in?"

"Sure."  He was whistling briskly and already, in view of some
entertainment somewhere, preparing to change to evening clothes.

"Where are you going?"

"Nowhere, for dinner.  To the Wynants afterwards."

"Oh, Constance to be sure."

"No, not Constance, to be sure.  Where do you get that stuff?"

"As though I didn't know."

"Lay off.  Is that what you came in here for?"

"No, that isn't what I came in here for.  What do you think?  The
Finchleys are going to build a place up at Twelfth Lake next
summer, right on the lake, next to the Phants, and Mr. Finchley's
going to buy Stuart a thirty-foot launch and build a boathouse with
a sun-parlor right over the water to hold it.  Won't that be swell,
huh?"

"Don't say 'swell.'  And don't say 'huh.'  Can't you learn to cut
out the slang?  You talk like a factory girl.  Is that all they
teach you over at that school?"

"Listen to who's talking about cutting out slang.  How about
yourself?  You set a fine example around here, I notice."

"Well, I'm five years older than you are.  Besides I'm a man.  You
don't notice Myra using any of that stuff."

"Oh, Myra.  But don't let's talk about that.  Only think of that
new house they're going to build and the fine time they're going to
have up there next summer.  Don't you wish we could move up there,
too?  We could if we wanted to--if Papa and Mamma would agree to
it."

"Oh, I don't know that it would be so wonderful," replied her
brother, who was really very much interested just the same.  "There
are other places besides Twelfth Lake."

"Who said there weren't?  But not for the people that we know
around here.  Where else do the best people from Albany and Utica
go but there now, I'd like to know.  It's going to become a regular
center, Sondra says, with all the finest houses along the west
shore.  Just the same, the Cranstons, the Lamberts, and the
Harriets are going to move up there pretty soon, too," Bella added
most definitely and defiantly.  "That won't leave so many out at
Greenwood Lake, nor the very best people, either, even if the
Anthonys and Nicholsons do stay here."

"Who says the Cranstons are going up there?" asked Gilbert, now
very much interested.

"Why, Sondra!"

"Who told her?"

"Bertine."

"Gee, they're getting gayer and gayer," commented her brother oddly
and a little enviously.  "Pretty soon Lycurgus'll be too small to
hold 'em."  He jerked at a bow tie he was attempting to center and
grimaced oddly as his tight neck-band pinched him slightly.

For although Gilbert had recently entered into the collar and shirt
industry with his father as general supervisor of manufacturing,
and with every prospect of managing and controlling the entire
business eventually, still he was jealous of young Grant Cranston,
a youth of his own age, very appealing and attractive physically,
who was really more daring with and more attractive to the girls of
the younger set.  Cranston seemed to be satisfied that it was
possible to combine a certain amount of social pleasure with
working for his father with which Gilbert did not agree.  In fact,
young Griffiths would have preferred, had it been possible, so to
charge young Cranston with looseness, only thus far the latter had
managed to keep himself well within the bounds of sobriety.  And
the Cranston Wickwire Company was plainly forging ahead as one of
the leading industries of Lycurgus.

"Well," he added, after a moment, "they're spreading out faster
than I would if I had their business.  They're not the richest
people in the world, either."  Just the same he was thinking that,
unlike himself and his parents, the Cranstons were really more
daring if not socially more avid of life.  He envied them.

"And what's more," added Bella interestedly, "the Finchleys are to
have a dance floor over the boathouse.  And Sondra says that Stuart
was hoping that you would come up there and spend a lot of time
this summer."

"Oh, did he?" replied Gilbert, a little enviously and sarcastically.
"You mean he said he was hoping you would come up and spend a lot of
time.  I'll be working this summer."

"He didn't say anything of the kind, smarty.  Besides it wouldn't
hurt us any if we did go up there.  There's nothing much out at
Greenwood any more that I can see.  A lot of old hen parties."

"Is that so?  Mother would like to hear that."

"And you'll tell her, of course"

"Oh, no, I won't either.  But I don't think we're going to follow
the Finchleys or the Cranstons up to Twelfth Lake just yet, either.
You can go up there if you want, if Dad'll let you."

Just then the lower door clicked again, and Bella, forgetting her
quarrel with her brother, ran down to greet her father.



Chapter 2


The head of the Lycurgus branch of the Griffiths, as contrasted
with the father of the Kansas City family, was most arresting.
Unlike his shorter and more confused brother of the Door of Hope,
whom he had not even seen for thirty years, he was a little above
the average in height, very well-knit, although comparatively
slender, shrewd of eye, and incisive both as to manner and speech.
Long used to contending for himself, and having come by effort as
well as results to know that he was above the average in acumen and
commercial ability, he was inclined at times to be a bit intolerant
of those who were not.  He was not ungenerous or unpleasant in
manner, but always striving to maintain a calm and judicial air.
And he told himself by way of excuse for his mannerisms that he was
merely accepting himself at the value that others placed upon him
and all those who, like himself, were successful.

Having arrived in Lycurgus about twenty-five years before with some
capital and a determination to invest in a new collar enterprise
which had been proposed to him, he had succeeded thereafter beyond
his wildest expectations.  And naturally he was vain about it.  His
family at this time--twenty-five years later--unquestionably
occupied one of the best, as well as the most tastefully
constructed residences in Lycurgus.  They were also esteemed as
among the few best families of this region--being, if not the
oldest, at least among the most conservative, respectable and
successful in Lycurgus.  His two younger children, if not the
eldest, were much to the front socially in the younger and gayer
set and so far nothing had happened to weaken or darken his
prestige.

On returning from Chicago on this particular day, after having
concluded several agreements there which spelled trade harmony and
prosperity for at least one year, he was inclined to feel very much
at ease and on good terms with the world.  Nothing had occurred to
mar his trip.  In his absence the Griffiths Collar and Shirt
Company had gone on as though he had been present.  Trade orders at
the moment were large.

Now as he entered his own door he threw down a heavy bag and
fashionably made coat and turned to see what he rather expected--
Bella hurrying toward him.  Indeed she was his pet, the most
pleasing and different and artistic thing, as he saw it, that all
his years had brought to him--youth, health, gayety, intelligence
and affection--all in the shape of a pretty daughter.

"Oh, Daddy," she called most sweetly and enticingly as she saw him
enter.  "Is that you?"

"Yes.  At least it feels a little like me at the present moment.
How's my baby girl?"  And he opened his arms and received the
bounding form of his last born.  "There's a good, strong, healthy
girl, I'll say," he announced as he withdrew his affectionate lips
from hers.  "And how's the bad girl been behaving herself since I
left?  No fibbing this time."

"Oh, just fine, Daddy.  You can ask any one.  I couldn't be
better."

"And your mother?"

"She's all right, Daddy.  She's up in her room.  I don't think she
heard you come in."

"And Myra?  Is she back from Albany yet?"

"Yes.  She's in her room.  I heard her playing just now.  I just
got in myself a little while ago."

"Ay, hai.  Gadding about again.  I know you."  He held up a genial
forefinger, warningly, while Bella swung onto one of his arms and
kept pace with him up the stairs to the floor above.

"Oh, no, I wasn't either, now," she cooed shrewdly and sweetly.
"Just see how you pick on me, Daddy.  I was only over with Sondra
for a little while.  And what do you think, Daddy?  They're going
to give up the place at Greenwood and build a big handsome bungalow
up on Twelfth Lake right away.  And Mr. Finchley's going to buy a
big electric launch for Stuart and they're going to live up there
next summer, maybe all the time, from May until October.  And so
are the Cranstons, maybe."

Mr. Griffiths, long used to his younger daughter's wiles, was
interested at the moment not so much by the thought that she wished
to convey--that Twelfth Lake was more desirable, socially than
Greenwood--as he was by the fact that the Finchleys were able to
make this sudden and rather heavy expenditure for social reasons
only.

Instead of answering Bella he went on upstairs and into his wife's
room.  He kissed Mrs. Griffiths, looked in upon Myra, who came to
the door to embrace him, and spoke of the successful nature of the
trip.  One could see by the way he embraced his wife that there was
an agreeable understanding between them--no disharmony--by the way
he greeted Myra that if he did not exactly sympathize with her
temperament and point of view, at least he included her within the
largess of his affection.

As they were talking Mrs. Truesdale announced that dinner was
ready, and Gilbert, having completed his toilet, now entered.

"I say, Dad," he called, "I have an interesting thing I want to see
you about in the morning.  Can I?"

"All right, I'll be there.  Come in about noon."

"Come on all, or the dinner will be getting cold," admonished Mrs.
Griffiths earnestly, and forthwith Gilbert turned and went down,
followed by Griffiths, who still had Bella on his arm.  And after
him came Mrs. Griffiths and Myra, who now emerged from her room and
joined them.

Once seated at the table, the family forthwith began discussing
topics of current local interest.  For Bella, who was the family's
chief source of gossip, gathering the most of it from the Snedeker
School, through which all the social news appeared to percolate
most swiftly, suddenly announced:  "What do you think, Mamma?
Rosetta Nicholson, that niece of Mrs. Disston Nicholson, who was
over here last summer from Albany--you know, she came over the
night of the Alumnae Garden Party on our lawn--you remember--the
young girl with the yellow hair and squinty blue eyes--her father
owns that big wholesale grocery over there--well, she's engaged to
that Herbert Tickham of Utica, who was visiting Mrs. Lambert last
summer.  You don't remember him, but I do.  He was tall and dark
and sorta awkward, and awfully pale, but very handsome--oh, a
regular movie hero."

"There you go, Mrs. Griffiths," interjected Gilbert shrewdly and
cynically to his mother.  "A delegation from the Misses Snedeker's
Select School sneaks off to the movies to brush up on heroes from
time to time."

Griffiths senior suddenly observed:  "I had a curious experience in
Chicago this time, something I think the rest of you will be
interested in."  He was thinking of an accidental encounter two
days before in Chicago between himself and the eldest son, as it
proved to be, of his younger brother Asa.  Also of a conclusion he
had come to in regard to him.

"Oh, what is it, Daddy?" pleaded Bella at once.  "Do tell me about
it."

"Spin the big news, Dad," added Gilbert, who, because of the favor
of his father, felt very free and close to him always.

"Well, while I was in Chicago at the Union League Club, I met a
young man who is related to us, a cousin of you three children, by
the way, the eldest son of my brother Asa, who is out in Denver
now, I understand.  I haven't seen or heard from him in thirty
years."  He paused and mused dubiously.

"Not the one who is a preacher somewhere, Daddy?" inquired Bella,
looking up.

"Yes, the preacher.  At least I understand he was for a while after
he left home.  But his son tells me he has given that up now.  He's
connected with something in Denver--a hotel, I think."

"But what's his son like?" interrogated Bella, who only knew such
well groomed and ostensibly conservative youths and men as her
present social status and supervision permitted, and in consequence
was intensely interested.  The son of a western hotel proprietor!

"A cousin?  How old is he?" asked Gilbert instantly, curious as to
his character and situation and ability.

"Well, he's a very interesting young man, I think," continued
Griffiths tentatively and somewhat dubiously, since up to this hour
he had not truly made up his mind about Clyde.  "He's quite good-
looking and well-mannered, too--about your own age, I should say,
Gil, and looks a lot like you--very much so--same eyes and mouth
and chin."  He looked at his son examiningly.  "He's a little bit
taller, if anything, and looks a little thinner, though I don't
believe he really is."

At the thought of a cousin who looked like him--possibly as
attractive in every way as himself--and bearing his own name,
Gilbert chilled and bristled slightly.  For here in Lycurgus, up to
this time, he was well and favourably known as the only son and
heir presumptive to the managerial control of his father's
business, and to at least a third of the estate, if not more.  And
now, if by any chance it should come to light that there was a
relative, a cousin of his own years and one who looked and acted
like him, even--he bridled at the thought.  Forthwith (a psychic
reaction which he did not understand and could not very well
control) he decided that he did not like him--could not like him.

"What's he doing now?" he asked in a curt and rather sour tone,
though he attempted to avoid the latter element in his voice.

"Well, he hasn't much of a job, I must say," smiled Samuel
Griffiths, meditatively.  "He's only a bell-hop in the Union League
Club in Chicago, at present, but a very pleasant and gentlemanly
sort of a boy, I will say.  I was quite taken with him.  In fact,
because he told me there wasn't much opportunity for advancement
where he was, and that he would like to get into something where
there was more chance to do something and be somebody, I told him
that if he wanted to come on here and try his luck with us, we
might do a little something for him--give him a chance to show what
he could do, at least."

He had not intended to set forth at once the fact that he became
interested in his nephew to this extent, but--rather to wait and
thrash it out at different times with both his wife and son, but
the occasion having seemed to offer itself, he had spoken.  And now
that he had, he felt rather glad of it, for because Clyde so much
resembled Gilbert he did want to do a little something for him.

But Gilbert bristled and chilled, the while Bella and Myra, if not
Mrs. Griffiths, who favored her only son in everything--even to
preferring him to be without a blood relation or other rival of any
kind, rather warmed to the idea.  A cousin who was a Griffiths and
good-looking and about Gilbert's age--and who, as their father
reported, was rather pleasant and well-mannered--that pleased Bella
and Myra while Mrs. Griffiths, noting Gilbert's face darken, was
not so moved.  He would not like him.  But out of respect for her
husband's authority and general ability in all things, she now
remained silent.  But not so, Bella.

"Oh, you're going to give him a place, are you, Dad?" she
commented.  "That's interesting.  I hope he's better-looking than
the rest of our cousins."

"Bella," chided Mrs. Griffiths, while Myra, recalling a gauche
uncle and cousin who had come on from Vermont several years before
to visit them a few days, smiled wisely.  At the same time Gilbert,
deeply irritated, was mentally fighting against the idea.  He could
not see it at all.  "Of course we're not turning away applicants
who want to come in and learn the business right along now, as it
is," he said sharply.

"Oh, I know," replied his father, "but not cousins and nephews
exactly.  Besides he looks very intelligent and ambitious to me.
It wouldn't do any great harm if we let at least one of our
relatives come here and show what he can do.  I can't see why we
shouldn't employ him as well as another."

"I don't believe Gil likes the idea of any other fellow in Lycurgus
having the same name and looking like him," suggested Bella, slyly,
and with a certain touch of malice due to the fact that her brother
was always criticizing her.

"Oh, what rot!" Gilbert snapped irritably.  "Why don't you make a
sensible remark once in a while?  What do I care whether he has the
same name or not--or looks like me, either?"  His expression at the
moment was particularly sour.

"Gilbert!" pleaded his mother, reprovingly.  "How can you talk so?
And to your sister, too?"

"Well, I don't want to do anything in connection with this young
man if it's going to cause any hard feelings here," went on
Griffiths senior.  "All I know is that his father was never very
practical and I doubt if Clyde has ever had a real chance."  (His
son winced at this friendly and familiar use of his cousin's first
name.)  "My only idea in bringing him on here was to give him a
start.  I haven't the faintest idea whether he would make good or
not.  He might and again he might not.  If he didn't--"  He threw
up one hand as much as to say, "If he doesn't, we will have to toss
him aside, of course."

"Well, I think that's very kind of you, father," observed Mrs.
Griffiths, pleasantly and diplomatically.  "I hope he proves
satisfactory."

"And there's another thing," added Griffiths wisely and sententiously.
"I don't expect this young man, so long as he is in my employ and
just because he's a nephew of mine, to be treated differently to any
other employee in the factory.  He's coming here to work--not play.
And while he is here, trying, I don't expect any of you to pay him
any social attention--not the slightest.  He's not the sort of boy
anyhow, that would want to put himself on us--at least he didn't
impress me that way, and he wouldn't be coming down here with any
notion that he was to be placed on an equal footing with any of us.
That would be silly.  Later on, if he proves that he is really worth
while, able to take care of himself, knows his place and keeps it,
and any of you wanted to show him any little attention, well, then
it will be time enough to see, but not before then."

By then, the maid, Amanda, assistant to Mrs. Truesdale, was taking
away the dinner plates and preparing to serve the dessert.  But as
Mr. Griffiths rarely ate dessert, and usually chose this period,
unless company was present, to look after certain stock and banking
matters which he kept in a small desk in the library, he now pushed
back his chair, arose, excusing himself to his family, and walked
into the library adjoining.  The others remained.

"I would like to see what he's like, wouldn't you?" Myra asked her
mother.

"Yes.  And I do hope he measures up to all of your father's
expectations.  He will not feel right if he doesn't."

"I can't get this," observed Gilbert, "bringing people on now when
we can hardly take care of those we have.  And besides, imagine
what the bunch around here will say if they find out that our
cousin was only a bell-hop before coming here!"

"Oh, well, they won't have to know that, will they?" said Myra.

"Oh, won't they?  Well, what's to prevent him from speaking about
it--unless we tell him not to--or some one coming along who has
seen him there."  His eyes snapped viciously.  "At any rate, I hope
he doesn't.  It certainly wouldn't do us any good around here."

And Bella added, "I hope he's not dull as Uncle Allen's two boys.
They're the most uninteresting boys I ever did see."

"Bella," cautioned her mother once more.



Chapter 3


The Clyde whom Samuel Griffiths described as having met at the
Union League Club in Chicago, was a somewhat modified version of
the one who had fled from Kansas City three years before.  He was
now twenty, a little taller and more firmly but scarcely any more
robustly built, and considerably more experienced, of course.  For
since leaving his home and work in Kansas City and coming in
contact with some rough usage in the world--humble tasks, wretched
rooms, no intimates to speak of, plus the compulsion to make his
own way as best he might--he had developed a kind of self-reliance
and smoothness of address such as one would scarcely have credited
him with three years before.  There was about him now, although he
was not nearly so smartly dressed as when he left Kansas City, a
kind of conscious gentility of manner which pleased, even though it
did not at first arrest attention.  Also, and this was considerably
different from the Clyde who had crept away from Kansas City in a
box car, he had much more of an air of caution and reserve.

For ever since he had fled from Kansas City, and by one humble
device and another forced to make his way, he had been coming to
the conclusion that on himself alone depended his future.  His
family, as he now definitely sensed, could do nothing for him.
They were too impractical and too poor--his mother, father, Esta,
all of them.

At the same time, in spite of all their difficulties, he could not
now help but feel drawn to them, his mother in particular, and the
old home life that had surrounded him as a boy--his brother and
sisters, Esta included, since she, too, as he now saw it, had been
brought no lower than he by circumstances over which she probably
had no more control.  And often, his thoughts and mood had gone
back with a definite and disconcerting pang because of the way in
which he had treated his mother as well as the way in which his
career in Kansas City had been suddenly interrupted--his loss of
Hortense Briggs--a severe blow; the troubles that had come to him
since; the trouble that must have come to his mother and Esta
because of him.

On reaching St. Louis two days later after his flight, and after
having been most painfully bundled out into the snow a hundred
miles from Kansas City in the gray of a winter morning, and at the
same time relieved of his watch and overcoat by two brakemen who
had found him hiding in the car, he had picked up a Kansas City
paper--The Star--only to realize that his worst fear in regard to
all that had occurred had come true.  For there, under a two-column
head, and with fully a column and a half of reading matter below,
was the full story of all that had happened: a little girl, the
eleven-year-old daughter of a well-to-do Kansas City family,
knocked down and almost instantly killed--she had died an hour
later; Sparser and Miss Sipe in a hospital and under arrest at the
same time, guarded by a policeman sitting in the hospital awaiting
their recovery; a splendid car very seriously damaged; Sparser's
father, in the absence of the owner of the car for whom he worked,
at once incensed and made terribly unhappy by the folly and seeming
criminality and recklessness of his son.

But what was worse, the unfortunate Sparser had already been
charged with larceny and homicide, and wishing, no doubt, to
minimize his own share in this grave catastrophe, had not only
revealed the names of all who were with him in the car--the youths
in particular and their hotel address--but had charged that they
along with him were equally guilty, since they had urged him to
make speed at the time and against his will--a claim which was true
enough, as Clyde knew.  And Mr. Squires, on being interviewed at
the hotel, had furnished the police and the newspapers with the
names of their parents and their home addresses.

This last was the sharpest blow of all.  For there followed
disturbing pictures of how their respective parents or relatives
had taken it on being informed of their sins.  Mrs. Ratterer, Tom's
mother, had cried and declared her boy was a good boy, and had not
meant to do any harm, she was sure.  And Mrs. Hegglund--Oscar's
devoted but aged mother--had said that there was not a more honest
or generous soul and that he must have been drinking.  And at his
own home--The Star had described his mother as standing, pale, very
startled and very distressed, clasping and unclasping her hands and
looking as though she were scarcely able to grasp what was meant,
unwilling to believe that her son had been one of the party and
assuring all that he would most certainly return soon and explain
all, and that there must be some mistake.

However, he had not returned.  Nor had he heard anything more after
that.  For, owing to his fear of the police, as well as of his
mother--her sorrowful, hopeless eyes, he had not written for
months, and then a letter to his mother only to say that he was
well and that she must not worry.  He gave neither name nor
address.  Later, after that he had wandered on, essaying one small
job and another, in St. Louis, Peoria, Chicago, Milwaukee--
dishwashing in a restaurant, soda-clerking in a small outlying
drug-store, attempting to learn to be a shoe clerk, a grocer's
clerk, and what not; and being discharged and laid off and quitting
because he did not like it.  He had sent her ten dollars once--
another time five, having, as he felt, that much to spare.  After
nearly a year and a half he had decided that the search must have
lessened, his own part in the crime being forgotten, possibly, or
by then not deemed sufficiently important to pursue--and when he
was once more making a moderate living as the driver of a delivery
wagon in Chicago, a job that paid him fifteen dollars a week, he
resolved that he would write his mother, because now he could say
that he had a decent place and had conducted himself respectably
for a long time, although not under his own name.

And so at that time, living in a hall bedroom on the West Side of
Chicago--Paulina Street--he had written his mother the following
letter:


DEAR MOTHER:

Are you still in Kansas City?  I wish you would write and tell me.
I would so like to hear from you again and to write you again, too,
if you really want me to.  Honestly I do, Ma.  I have been so
lonely here.  Only be careful and don't let any one know where I am
yet.  It won't do any good and might do a lot of harm just when I
am trying so hard to get a start again.  I didn't do anything wrong
that time, myself.  Really I didn't, although the papers said so--
just went along.  But I was afraid they would punish me for
something that I didn't do.  I just couldn't come back then.  I
wasn't to blame and then I was afraid of what you and father might
think.  But they invited me, Ma.  I didn't tell him to go any
faster or to take that car like he said.  He took it himself and
invited me and the others to go along.  Maybe we were all to blame
for running down that little girl, but we didn't mean to.  None of
us.  And I have been so terribly sorry ever since.  Think of all
the trouble I have caused you!  And just at the time when you most
needed me.  Gee!  Mother, I hope you can forgive me.  Can you?

I keep wondering how you are.  And Esta and Julia and Frank and
Father.  I wish I knew where you are and what you are doing.  You
know how I feel about you, don't you, Ma?  I've got a lot more
sense now, anyhow, I see things different than I used to.  I want
to do something in this world.  I want to be successful.  I have
only a fair place now, not as good as I had in K. C., but fair, and
not in the same line.  But I want something better, though I don't
want to go back in the hotel business either if I can help it.
It's not so very good for a young man like me--too high-flying, I
guess.  You see I know a lot more than I did back there.  They like
me all right where I am, but I got to get on in this world.
Besides I am not really making more than my expenses here now, just
my room and board and clothes but I am trying to save a little in
order to get into some line where I can work up and learn
something.  A person has to have a line of some kind these days.
I see that now.

Won't you write me and tell me how you all are and what you are
doing?  I'd like to know.  Give my love to Frank and Julia and
Father and Esta, if they are all still there.  I love you just the
same and I guess you care for me a little, anyhow, don't you?  I
won't sign my real name, because it may be dangerous yet (I haven't
been using it since I left K. C.)  But I'll give you my other one,
which I'm going to leave off pretty soon and take up my old one.
Wish I could do it now, but I'm afraid to yet.  You can address me,
if you will, as

HARRY TENET,

General Delivery, Chicago

I'll call for it in a few days.  I sign this way so as not to cause
you or me any more trouble, see?  But as soon as I feel more sure
that this other thing has blown over, I'll use my own name again
sure.

Lovingly,

YOUR SON.


He drew a line where his real name should be and underneath wrote
"you know" and mailed the letter.

Following that, because his mother had been anxious about him all
this time and wondering where he was, he soon received a letter,
postmarked Denver, which surprised him very much, for he had
expected to hear from her as still in Kansas City.


DEAR SON:

I was surprised and so glad to get my boy's letter and to know that
you were alive and safe.  I had hoped and prayed that you would
return to the straight and narrow path--the only path that will
ever lead you to success and happiness of any kind, and that God
would let me hear from you as safe and well and working somewhere
and doing well.  And now he has rewarded my prayers.  I knew he
would.  Blessed be His holy name.

Not that I blame you altogether for all that terrible trouble you
got into and bringing so much suffering and disgrace on yourself
and us--for well I know how the devil tempts and pursues all of us
mortals and particularly just such a child as you.  Oh, my son, if
you only knew how you must be on your guard to avoid these
pitfalls.  And you have such a long road ahead of you.  Will you be
ever watchful and try always to cling to the teachings of our
Saviour that your mother has always tried to impress upon the minds
and hearts of all you dear children?  Will you stop and listen to
the voice of our Lord that is ever with us, guiding our footsteps
safely up the rocky path that leads to a heaven more beautiful than
we can ever imagine here?  Promise me, my child, that you will hold
fast to all your early teachings and always bear in mind that
"right is might," and my boy, never, never, take a drink of any
kind no matter who offers it to you.  There is where the devil
reigns in all his glory and is ever ready to triumph over the weak
one.  Remember always what I have told you so often "Strong drink
is raging and wine is a mocker," and it is my earnest prayer that
these words will ring in your ears every time you are tempted--for
I am sure now that that was perhaps the real cause of that terrible
accident.

I suffered terribly over that, Clyde, and just at the time when I
had such a dreadful ordeal to face with Esta.  I almost lost her.
She had such an awful time.  The poor child paid dearly for her
sin.  We had to go in debt so deep and it took so long to work it
out--but finally we did and now things are not as bad as they were,
quite.

As you see, we are now in Denver.  We have a mission of our own
here now with housing quarters for all of us.  Besides we have a
few rooms to rent which Esta, and you know she is now Mrs. Nixon,
of course, takes care of.  She has a fine little boy who reminds
your father and me of you so much when you were a baby.  He does
little things that are you all over again so many times that we
almost feel that you are with us again--as you were.  It is
comforting, too, sometimes.

Frank and Julie have grown so and are quite a help to me.  Frank
has a paper route and earns a little money which helps.  Esta wants
to keep them in school just as long as we can.

Your father is not very well, but of course, he is getting older,
and he does the best he can.

I am awful glad, Clyde, that you are trying so hard to better
yourself in every way and last night your father was saying again
that your uncle, Samuel Griffiths, of Lycurgus, is so rich and
successful and I thought that maybe if you wrote him and asked him
to give you something there so that you could learn the business,
perhaps he would.  I don't see why he wouldn't.  After all you are
his nephew.  You know he has a great collar business there in
Lycurgus and he is very rich, so they say.  Why don't you write him
and see?  Somehow I feel that perhaps he would find a place for you
and then you would have something sure to work for.  Let me know if
you do and what he says.

I want to hear from you often, Clyde.  Please write and let us know
all about you and how you are getting along.  Won't you?  Of course
we love you as much as ever, and will do our best always to try to
guide you right.  We want you to succeed more than you know, but we
also want you to be a good boy, and live a clean, righteous life,
for, my son, what matter it if a man gaineth the whole world and
loseth his own soul?

Write your mother, Clyde, and bear in mind that her love is always
with you--guiding you--pleading with you to do right in the name of
the Lord.

Affectionately,

MOTHER.


And so it was that Clyde had begun to think of his uncle Samuel and
his great business long before he encountered him.  He had also
experienced an enormous relief in learning that his parents were no
longer in the same financial difficulties they were when he left,
and safely housed in a hotel, or at least a lodging house, probably
connected with this new mission.

Then two months after he had received his mother's first letter and
while he was deciding almost every day that he must do something,
and that forthwith, he chanced one day to deliver to the Union
League Club on Jackson Boulevard a package of ties and handkerchiefs
which some visitor to Chicago had purchased at the store, for which
he worked.  Upon entering, who should he come in contact with but
Ratterer in the uniform of a club employee.  He was in charge of
inquiry and packages at the door.  Although neither he nor Ratterer
quite grasped immediately the fact that they were confronting one
another again, after a moment Ratterer had exclaimed:  "Clyde!"  And
then seizing him by an arm, he added enthusiastically and yet
cautiously in a very low tone:  "Well, of all things!  The devil!
Whaddya know?  Put 'er there.  Where do you come from anyhow?"  And
Clyde, equally excited, exclaimed, "Well, by jing, if it ain't Tom.
Whaddya know?  You working here?"

Ratterer, who (like Clyde) had for the moment quite forgotten the
troublesome secret which lay between them, added:  "That's right.
Surest thing you know.  Been here for nearly a year, now."  Then
with a sudden pull at Clyde's arm, as much as to say, "Silence!" he
drew Clyde to one side, out of the hearing of the youth to whom he
had been talking as Clyde came in, and added:  "Ssh!  I'm working
here under my own name, but I'd rather not let 'em know I'm from
K. C., see.  I'm supposed to be from Cleveland."

And with that he once more pressed Clyde's arm genially and looked
him over.  And Clyde, equally moved, added:  "Sure.  That's all
right.  I'm glad you were able to connect.  My name's Tenet, Harry
Tenet.  Don't forget that."  And both were radiantly happy because
of old times' sake.

But Ratterer, noticing Clyde's delivery uniform, observed:
"Driving a delivery, eh?  Gee, that's funny.  You driving a
delivery.  Imagine.  That kills me.  What do you want to do that
for?"  Then seeing from Clyde's expression that his reference to
his present position might not be the most pleasing thing in the
world, since Clyde at once observed:  "Well, I've been up against
it, sorta," he added:  "But say, I want to see you.  Where are you
living?"  (Clyde told him.)  "That's all right.  I get off here at
six.  Why not drop around after you're through work.  Or, I'll tell
you--suppose we meet at--well, how about Henrici's on Randolph
Street?  Is that all right?  At seven, say.  I get off at six and I
can be over there by then if you can."

Clyde, who was happy to the point of ecstasy in meeting Ratterer
again, nodded a cheerful assent.

He boarded his wagon and continued his deliveries, yet for the rest
of the afternoon his mind was on this approaching meeting with
Ratterer.  And at five-thirty he hurried to his barn and then to
his boarding house on the west side, where he donned his street
clothes, then hastened to Henrici's.  He had not been standing on
the corner a minute before Ratterer appeared, very genial and
friendly and dressed, if anything, more neatly than ever.

"Gee, it's good to have a look at you, old socks!" he began.  "Do
you know you're the only one of that bunch that I've seen since I
left K. C.?  That's right.  My sister wrote me after we left home
that no one seemed to know what became of either Higby or Heggie,
or you, either.  They sent that fellow Sparser up for a year--did
you hear that?  Tough, eh?  But not so much for killing the little
girl, but for taking the car and running it without a license and
not stopping when signaled.  That's what they got him for.  But
say,"--he lowered his voice most significantly at this point--
"we'da got that if they'd got us.  Oh, gee, I was scared.  And
run?"  And once more he began to laugh, but rather hysterically at
that.  "What a wallop, eh?  An' us leavin' him and that girl in the
car.  Oh, say.  Tough, what?  Just what else could a fellow do,
though?  No need of all of us going up, eh?  What was her name?
Laura Sipe.  An' you cut out before I saw you, even.  And that
little Briggs girl of yours did, too.  Did you go home with her?"

Clyde shook his head negatively.

"I should say I didn't," he exclaimed.

"Well, where did you go then?" he asked.

Clyde told him.  And after he had set forth a full picture of his
own wayfarings, Ratterer returned with:  "Gee, you didn't know that
that little Briggs girl left with a guy from out there for New York
right after that, did you?  Some fellow who worked in a cigar
store, so Louise told me.  She saw her afterwards just before she
left with a new fur coat and all."  (Clyde winced sadly.)  "Gee,
but you were a sucker to fool around with her.  She didn't care for
you or nobody.  But you was pretty much gone on her, I guess, eh?"
And he grinned at Clyde amusedly, and chucked him under the arm, in
his old teasing way.

But in regard to himself, he proceeded to unfold a tale of only
modest adventure, which was very different from the one Clyde had
narrated, a tale which had less of nerves and worry and more of a
sturdy courage and faith in his own luck and possibilities.  And
finally he had "caught on" to this, because, as he phrased it, "you
can always get something in Chi."

And here he had been ever since--"very quiet, of course," but no
one had ever said a word to him.

And forthwith, he began to explain that just at present there
wasn't anything in the Union League, but that he would talk to Mr.
Haley who was superintendent of the club--and that if Clyde wanted
to, and Mr. Haley knew of anything, he would try and find out if
there was an opening anywhere, or likely to be, and if so, Clyde
could slip into it.

"But can that worry stuff," he said to Clyde toward the end of the
evening.  "It don't get you nothing."

And then only two days after this most encouraging conversation,
and while Clyde was still debating whether he would resign his job,
resume his true name and canvass the various hotels in search of
work, a note came to his room, brought by one of the bell-boys of
the Union League which read:  "See Mr. Lightall at the Great
Northern before noon to-morrow.  There's a vacancy over there.  It
ain't the very best, but it'll get you something better later."

And accordingly Clyde, after telephoning his department manager
that he was ill and would not be able to work that day, made his
way to this hotel in his very best clothes.  And on the strength of
what references he could give, was allowed to go to work; and much
to his relief under his own name.  Also, to his gratification, his
salary was fixed at twenty dollars a month, meals included.  But
the tips, as he now learned, aggregated not more than ten a week--
yet that, counting meals was far more than he was now getting as he
comforted himself; and so much easier work, even if it did take him
back into the old line, where he still feared to be seen and
arrested.

It was not so very long after this--not more than three months--
before a vacancy occurred in the Union League staff.  Ratterer,
having some time before established himself as day assistant to the
club staff captain, and being on good terms with him, was able to
say to the latter that he knew exactly the man for the place--Clyde
Griffiths--then employed at the Great Northern.  And accordingly,
Clyde was sent for, and being carefully coached beforehand by
Ratterer as to how to approach his new superior, and what to say,
he was given the place.

And here, very different from the Great Northern and superior from
a social and material point of view, as Clyde saw it, to even the
Green-Davidson, he was able once more to view at close range a type
of life that most affected, unfortunately, his bump of position and
distinction.  For to this club from day to day came or went such a
company of seemingly mentally and socially worldly elect as he had
never seen anywhere before, the self-integrated and self-centered
from not only all of the states of his native land but from all
countries and continents.  American politicians from the north,
south, east, west--the principal politicians and bosses, or alleged
statesmen of their particular regions--surgeons, scientists,
arrived physicians, generals, literary and social figures, not only
from America but from the world over.

Here also, a fact which impressed and even startled his sense of
curiosity and awe, even--there was no faintest trace of that sex
element which had characterized most of the phases of life to be
seen in the Green-Davidson, and more recently the Great Northern.
In fact, in so far as he could remember, had seemed to run through
and motivate nearly, if not quite all of the phases of life that he
had thus far contacted.  But here was no sex--no trace of it.  No
women were admitted to this club.  These various distinguished
individuals came and went, singly as a rule, and with the noiseless
vigor and reserve that characterizes the ultra successful.  They
often ate alone, conferred in pairs and groups, noiselessly--read
their papers or books, or went here and there in swiftly driven
automobiles--but for the most part seemed to be unaware of, or at
least unaffected by, that element of passion, which, to his
immature mind up to this time, had seemed to propel and disarrange
so many things in those lesser worlds with which up to now he had
been identified.

Probably one could not attain to or retain one's place in so
remarkable a world as this unless one were indifferent to sex, a
disgraceful passion, of course.  And hence in the presence or under
the eyes of such people one had to act and seem as though such
thoughts as from time to time swayed one were far from one's mind.

After he had worked here a little while, under the influence of
this organization and various personalities who came here, he had
taken on a most gentlemanly and reserved air.  When he was within
the precincts of the club itself, he felt himself different from
what he really was--more subdued, less romantic, more practical,
certain that if he tried now, imitated the soberer people of the
world, and those only, that some day he might succeed, if not
greatly, at least much better than he had thus far.  And who knows?
What if he worked very steadily and made only the right sort of
contacts and conducted himself with the greatest care here, one of
these very remarkable men whom he saw entering or departing from
here might take a fancy to him and offer him a connection with
something important somewhere, such as he had never had before, and
that might lift him into a world such as he had never known.

For to say the truth, Clyde had a soul that was not destined to
grow up.  He lacked decidedly that mental clarity and inner
directing application that in so many permits them to sort out from
the facts and avenues of life the particular thing or things that
make for their direct advancement.



Chapter 4


However, as he now fancied, it was because he lacked an education
that he had done so poorly.  Because of those various moves from
city to city in his early youth, he had never been permitted to
collect such a sum of practical training in any field as would
permit him, so he thought, to aspire to the great worlds of which
these men appeared to be a part.  Yet his soul now yearned for
this.  The people who lived in fine houses, who stopped at great
hotels, and had men like Mr. Squires, and the manager of the bell-
hops here, to wait on them and arrange for their comfort.  And he
was still a bell-hop.  And close to twenty-one.  At times it made
him very sad.  He wished and wished that he could get into some
work where he could rise and be somebody--not always remain a bell-
hop, as at times he feared he might.

About the time that he reached this conclusion in regard to himself
and was meditating on some way to improve and safeguard his future,
his uncle, Samuel Griffiths, arrived in Chicago.  And having
connections here which made a card to this club an obvious
civility, he came directly to it and for several days was about the
place conferring with individuals who came to see him, or hurrying
to and fro to meet people and visit concerns whom he deemed it
important to see.

And it was not an hour after he arrived before Ratterer, who had
charge of the pegboard at the door by day and who had but a moment
before finished posting the name of this uncle on the board,
signaled to Clyde, who came over.

"Didn't you say you had an uncle or something by the name of
Griffiths in the collar business somewhere in New York State?"

"Sure," replied Clyde.  "Samuel Griffiths.  He has a big collar
factory in Lycurgus.  That's his ad you see in all the papers and
that's his fire sign over there on Michigan Avenue."

"Would you know him if you saw him?"

"No," replied Clyde.  "I never saw him in all my life."

"I'll bet anything it's the same fellow," commented Ratterer,
consulting a small registry slip that had been handed him.  "Looka
here--Samuel Griffiths, Lycurgus, N. Y.  That's probably the same
guy, eh?"

"Surest thing you know," added Clyde, very much interested and even
excited, for this was the identical uncle about whom he had been
thinking so long.

"He just went through here a few minutes ago," went on Ratterer.
"Devoy took his bags up to K.  Swell-looking man, too.  You better
keep your eye open and take a look at him when he comes down again.
Maybe it's your uncle.  He's only medium tall and kinda thin.
Wears a small gray mustache and a pearl gray hat.  Good-lookin'.
I'll point him out to you.  If it is your uncle you better shine up
to him.  Maybe he'll do somepin' for you--give you a collar or
two," he added, laughing.

Clyde laughed too as though he very much appreciated this joke,
although in reality he was flustered.  His uncle Samuel!  And in
this club!  Well, then this was his opportunity to introduce
himself to his uncle.  He had intended writing him before ever he
secured this place, but now he was here in this club and might
speak to him if he chose.

But hold!  What would his uncle think of him, supposing he chose to
introduce himself?  For he was a bell-boy again and acting in that
capacity in this club.  What, for instance, might be his uncle's
attitude toward boys who worked as bell-boys, particularly at his--
Clyde's--years.  For he was over twenty now, and getting to be
pretty old for a bell-boy, that is, if one ever intended to be
anything else.  A man of his wealth and high position might look on
bell-hopping as menial, particularly bell-boys who chanced to be
related to him.  He might not wish to have anything to do with him--
might not even wish him to address him in any way.  It was in this
state that he remained for fully twenty-four hours after he knew
that his uncle had arrived at this club.

The following afternoon, however, after he had seen him at least
half a dozen times and had been able to formulate the most
agreeable impressions of him, since his uncle appeared to be so
very quick, alert, incisive--so very different from his father in
every way, and so rich and respected by every one here--he began to
wonder, to fear even at times, whether he was going to let this
remarkable opportunity slip.  For after all, his uncle did not look
to him to be at all unkindly--quite the reverse--very pleasant.
And when, at the suggestion of Ratterer, he had gone to his uncle's
room to secure a letter which was to be sent by special messenger,
his uncle had scarcely looked at him, but instead had handed him
the letter and half a dollar.  "See that a boy takes that right
away and keep the money for yourself," he had remarked.

Clyde's excitement was so great at the moment that he wondered that
his uncle did not guess that he was his nephew.  But plainly he did
not.  And he went away a little crest-fallen.

Later some half dozen letters for his uncle having been put in the
key-box, Ratterer called Clyde's attention to them.  "If you want
to run in on him again, here's your chance.  Take those up to him.
He's in his room, I think."  And Clyde, after some hesitation, had
finally taken the letters and gone to his uncle's suite once more.

His uncle was writing at the time and merely called:  "Come!"  Then
Clyde, entering and smiling rather enigmatically, observed:
"Here's some mail for you, Mr. Griffiths."

"Thank you very much, my son," replied his uncle and proceeded to
finger his vest pocket for change.  but Clyde, seizing this
opportunity, exclaimed:  "Oh, no, I don't want anything for that."
And then before his uncle could say anything more, although he
proceeded to hold out some silver to him, he added:  "I believe I'm
related to you, Mr. Griffiths.  You're Mr. Samuel Griffiths of the
Griffiths Collar Company of Lycurgus, aren't you?"

"Yes, I have a little something to do with it, I believe.  Who are
you?" returned his uncle, looking at him sharply.

"My name's Clyde Griffiths.  My father, Asa Griffiths, is your
brother, I believe."

At the mention of this particular brother, who, to the knowledge of
all the members of this family, was distinctly not a success
materially, the face of Samuel Griffiths clouded the least trifle.
For the mention of Asa brought rather unpleasingly before him the
stocky and decidedly not well-groomed figure of his younger
brother, whom he had not seen in so many years.  His most recent
distinct picture of him was as a young man of about Clyde's age
about his father's house near Bertwick, Vermont.  But how
different!  Clyde's father was then short, fat and poorly knit
mentally as well as physically--oleaginous and a bit mushy, as it
were.  His chin was not firm, his eyes a pale watery blue, and his
hair frizzled.  Whereas this son of his was neat, alert, good-
looking and seemingly well-mannered and intelligent, as most bell-
hops were inclined to be as he noted.  And he liked him.

However, Samuel Griffiths, who along with his elder brother Allen
had inherited the bulk of his father's moderate property, and this
because of Joseph Griffiths' prejudice against his youngest son,
had always felt that perhaps an injustice had been done Asa.  For
Asa, not having proved very practical or intelligent, his father
had first attempted to drive and then later ignore him, and finally
had turned him out at about Clyde's age, and had afterward left the
bulk of his property, some thirty thousand dollars, to these two
elder brothers, share and share alike--willing Asa but a petty
thousand.

It was this thought in connection with this younger brother that
now caused him to stare at Clyde rather curiously.  For Clyde, as
he could see, was in no way like the younger brother who had been
harried from his father's home so many years before.  Rather he was
more like his own son, Gilbert, whom, as he now saw he resembled.
Also in spite of all of Clyde's fears he was obviously impressed by
the fact that he should have any kind of place in this interesting
club.  For to Samuel Griffiths, who was more than less confined to
the limited activities and environment of Lycurgus, the character
and standing of this particular club was to be respected.  And
those young men who served the guests of such an institution as
this, were, in the main, possessed of efficient and unobtrusive
manners.  Therefore to see Clyde standing before him in his neat
gray and black uniform and with the air of one whose social manners
at least were excellent, caused him to think favorably of him.

"You don't tell me!" he exclaimed interestedly.  "So you're Asa's
son.  I do declare!  Well, now, this is a surprise.  You see I
haven't seen or heard from your father in at least--well, say,
twenty-five or six years, anyhow.  The last time I did hear from
him he was living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I think, or here.  He
isn't here now, I presume."

"Oh, no, sir," replied Clyde, who was glad to be able to say this.
"The family live in Denver.  I'm here all alone."

"Your father and mother are living, I presume."

"Yes, sir.  They're both alive."

"Still connected with religious work, is he--your father?"

"Well, yes, sir," answered Clyde, a little dubiously, for he was
still convinced that the form of religious work his father essayed
was of all forms the poorest and most inconsequential socially.
"Only the church he has now," he went on, "has a lodging house
connected with it.  About forty rooms, I believe.  He and my mother
run that and the mission too."

"Oh, I see."

He was so anxious to make a better impression on his uncle than the
situation seemed to warrant that he was quite willing to exaggerate
a little.

"Well, I'm glad they're doing so well," continued Samuel Griffiths,
rather impressed with the trim and vigorous appearance of Clyde.
"You like this kind of work, I suppose?"

"Well, not exactly.  No, Mr. Griffiths, I don't," replied Clyde
quickly, alive at once to the possibilities of this query.  "It
pays well enough.  But I don't like the way you have to make the
money you get here.  It isn't my idea of a salary at all.  But I
got in this because I didn't have a chance to study any particular
work or get in with some company where there was a real chance to
work up and make something of myself.  My mother wanted me to write
you once and ask whether there was any chance in your company for
me to begin and work up, but I was afraid maybe that you might not
like that exactly, and so I never did."

He paused, smiling, and yet with an inquiring look in his eye.

His uncle looked solemnly at him for a moment, pleased by his looks
and his general manner of approach in this instance, and then
replied:  "Well, that is very interesting.  You should have
written, if you wanted to--"  Then, as was his custom in all
matters, he cautiously paused.  Clyde noted that he was hesitating
to encourage him.

"I don't suppose there is anything in your company that you would
let me do?" he ventured boldly, after a moment.

Samuel Griffiths merely stared at him thoughtfully.  He liked and
he did not like this direct request.  However, Clyde appeared at
least a very adaptable person for the purpose.  He seemed bright
and ambitious--so much like his own son, and he might readily fit
into some department as head or assistant under his son, once he
had acquired a knowledge of the various manufacturing processes.
At any rate he might let him try it.  There could be no real harm
in that.  Besides, there was his younger brother, to whom, perhaps,
both he and his older brother Allen owed some form of obligation,
if not exactly restitution.

"Well," he said, after a moment, "that is something I would have to
think over a little.  I wouldn't be able to say, offhand, whether
there is or not.  We wouldn't be able to pay you as much as you
make here to begin with," he warned.

"Oh, that's all right," exclaimed Clyde, who was far more
fascinated by the thought of connecting himself with his uncle than
anything else.  "I wouldn't expect very much until I was able to
earn it, of course."

"Besides, it might be that you would find that you didn't like the
collar business once you got into it, or we might find we didn't
like you.  Not every one is suited to it by a long way."

"Well, all you'd have to do then would be to discharge me," assured
Clyde.  "I've always thought I would be, though, ever since I heard
of you and your big company."

This last remark pleased Samuel Griffiths.  Plainly he and his
achievements had stood in the nature of an ideal to this youth.

"Very well," he said.  "I won't be able to give any more time to
this now.  But I'll be here for a day or two more, anyhow, and I'll
think it over.  It may be that I will be able to do something for
you.  I can't say now."  And he turned quite abruptly to his
letters.

And Clyde, feeling that he had made as good an impression as could
be expected under the circumstances and that something might come
of it, thanked him profusely and beat a hasty retreat.

The next day, having thought it over and deciding that Clyde,
because of his briskness and intelligence, was likely to prove as
useful as another, Samuel Griffiths, after due deliberation as to
the situation at home, informed Clyde that in case any small
opening in the home factory occurred he would be glad to notify
him.  But he would not even go so far as to guarantee him that an
opening would immediately be forthcoming.  He must wait.

Accordingly Clyde was left to speculate as to how soon, if ever, a
place in his uncle's factory would be made for him.

In the meanwhile Samuel Griffiths had returned to Lycurgus.  And
after a later conference with his son, he decided that Clyde might
be inducted into the very bottom of the business at least--the
basement of the Griffiths plant, where the shrinking of all fabrics
used in connection with the manufacture of collars was brought
about, and where beginners in this industry who really desired to
acquire the technique of it were placed, for it was his idea that
Clyde by degrees was to be taught the business from top to bottom.
And since he must support himself in some form not absolutely
incompatible with the standing of the Griffiths family here in
Lycurgus, it was decided to pay him the munificent sum of fifteen
dollars to begin.

For while Samuel Griffiths, as well as his son Gilbert, realized
that this was small pay (not for an ordinary apprentice but for
Clyde, since he was a relative) yet so inclined were both toward
the practical rather than the charitable in connection with all
those who worked for them, that the nearer the beginner in this
factory was to the clear mark of necessity and compulsion, the
better.  Neither could tolerate the socialistic theory relative to
capitalistic exploitation.  As both saw it, there had to be higher
and higher social orders to which the lower social classes could
aspire.  One had to have castes.  One was foolishly interfering
with and disrupting necessary and unavoidable social standards when
one tried to unduly favor any one--even a relative.  It was
necessary when dealing with the classes and intelligences below
one, commercially or financially, to handle them according to the
standards to which they were accustomed.  And the best of these
standards were those which held these lower individuals to a clear
realization of how difficult it was to come by money--to an
understanding of how very necessary it was for all who were engaged
in what both considered the only really important constructive work
of the world--that of material manufacture--to understand how very
essential it was to be drilled, and that sharply and systematically,
in all the details and processes which comprise that constructive
work.  And so to become inured to a narrow and abstemious life in so
doing.  It was good for their characters.  It informed and
strengthened the minds and spirits of those who were destined to
rise.  And those who were not should be kept right where they were.

Accordingly, about a week after that, the nature of Clyde's work
having been finally decided upon, a letter was dispatched to him to
Chicago by Samuel Griffiths himself in which he set forth that if
he chose he might present himself any time now within the next few
weeks.  But he must give due notice in writing of at least ten days
in advance of his appearance in order that he might be properly
arranged for.  And upon his arrival he was to seek out Mr. Gilbert
Griffiths at the office of the mill, who would look after him.

And upon receipt of this Clyde was very much thrilled and at once
wrote to his mother that he had actually secured a place with his
uncle and was going to Lycurgus.  Also that he was going to try to
achieve a real success now.  Whereupon she wrote him a long letter,
urging him to be, oh, so careful of his conduct and associates.
Bad companionship was at the root of nearly all of the errors and
failures that befell an ambitious youth such as he.  If he would
only avoid evil-minded or foolish and headstrong boys and girls,
all would be well.  It was so easy for a young man of his looks and
character to be led astray by an evil woman.  He had seen what had
befallen him in Kansas City.  But now he was still young and he was
going to work for a man who was very rich and who could do so much
for him, if he would.  And he was to write her frequently as to the
outcome of his efforts here.

And so, after having notified his uncle as he had requested, Clyde
finally took his departure for Lycurgus.  But on his arrival there,
since his original notification from his uncle had called for no
special hour at which to call at the factory, he did not go at
once, but instead sought out the important hotel of Lycurgus, the
Lycurgus House.

Then finding himself with ample time on his hands, and very curious
about the character of this city in which he was to work, and his
uncle's position in it, he set forth to look it over, his thought
being that once he reported and began work he might not soon have
the time again.  He now ambled out into Central Avenue, the very
heart of Lycurgus, which in this section was crossed by several
business streets, which together with Central Avenue for a few
blocks on either side, appeared to constitute the business center--
all there was to the life and gayety of Lycurgus.



Chapter 5


But once in this and walking about, how different it all seemed to
the world to which so recently he had been accustomed.  For here,
as he had thus far seen, all was on a so much smaller scale.  The
depot, from which only a half hour before he had stepped down, was
so small and dull, untroubled, as he could plainly see, by much
traffic.  And the factory section which lay opposite the small
city--across the Mohawk--was little more than a red and gray
assemblage of buildings with here and there a smokestack projecting
upward, and connected with the city by two bridges--a half dozen
blocks apart--one of them directly at this depot, a wide traffic
bridge across which traveled a car-line following the curves of
Central Avenue, dotted here and there with stores and small homes.

But Central Avenue was quite alive with traffic, pedestrians and
automobiles.  Opposite diagonally from the hotel, which contained a
series of wide plate-glass windows, behind which were many chairs
interspersed with palms and pillars, was the dry-goods emporium of
Stark and Company, a considerable affair, four stories in height,
and of white brick, and at least a hundred feet long, the various
windows of which seemed bright and interesting, crowded with as
smart models as might be seen anywhere.  Also there were other
large concerns, a second hotel, various automobile showrooms, a
moving picture theater.

He found himself ambling on and on until suddenly he was out of the
business district again and in touch with a wide and tree-shaded
thoroughfare of residences, the houses of which, each and every
one, appeared to possess more room space, lawn space, general ease
and repose and dignity even than any with which he had ever been in
contact.  In short, as he sensed it from this brief inspection of
its very central portion, it seemed a very exceptional, if small
city street--rich, luxurious even.  So many imposing wrought-iron
fences, flower-bordered walks, grouped trees and bushes, expensive
and handsome automobiles either beneath porte-cocheres within or
speeding along the broad thoroughfare without.  And in some
neighboring shops--those nearest Central Avenue and the business
heart where this wide and handsome thoroughfare began, were to be
seen such expensive-looking and apparently smart displays of the
things that might well interest people of means and comfort--
motors, jewels, lingerie, leather goods and furniture.

But where now did his uncle and his family live?  In which house?
What street?  Was it larger and finer than any of these he had seen
in this street?

He must return at once, he decided, and report to his uncle.  He
must look up the factory address, probably in that region beyond
the river, and go over there and see him.  What would he say, how
act, what would his uncle set him to doing?  What would his cousin
Gilbert be like?  What would he be likely to think of him?  In his
last letter his uncle had mentioned his son Gilbert.  He retraced
his steps along Central Avenue to the depot and found himself
quickly before the walls of the very large concern he was seeking.
It was of red brick, six stories high--almost a thousand feet long.
It was nearly all windows--at least that portion which had been
most recently added and which was devoted to collars.  An older
section, as Clyde later learned, was connected with the newer
building by various bridges.  And the south walls of both these two
structures, being built at the water's edge, paralleled the Mohawk.
There were also, as he now found, various entrances along River
Street, a hundred feet or more apart--and each one, guarded by an
employee in uniform--entrances numbered one, two and three--which
were labeled "for employees only"--an entrance numbered four which
read "office"--and entrances five and six appeared to be devoted to
freight receipts and shipments.

Clyde made his way to the office portion and finding no one to
hinder him, passed through two sets of swinging doors and found
himself in the presence of a telephone girl seated at a telephone
desk behind a railing, in which was set a small gate--the only
entrance to the main office apparently.  And this she guarded.
She was short, fat, thirty-five and unattractive.

"Well?" she called as Clyde appeared.

"I want to see Mr. Gilbert Griffiths," Clyde began a little
nervously.

"What about?"

"Well, you see, I'm his cousin.  Clyde Griffiths is my name.  I
have a letter here from my uncle, Mr. Samuel Griffiths.  He'll see
me, I think."

As he laid the letter before her, he noticed that her quite severe
and decidedly indifferent expression changed and became not so much
friendly as awed.  For obviously she was very much impressed not
only by the information but his looks, and began to examine him
slyly and curiously.

"I'll see if he's in," she replied much more civilly, and plugging
at the same time a switch which led to Mr. Gilbert Griffiths'
private office.  Word coming back to her apparently that Mr.
Gilbert Griffiths was busy at the moment and could not be
disturbed, she called back:  "It's Mr. Gilbert's cousin, Mr. Clyde
Griffiths.  He has a letter from Mr. Samuel Griffiths."  Then she
said to Clyde:  "Won't you sit down?  I'm sure Mr. Gilbert
Griffiths will see you in a moment.  He's busy just now."

And Clyde, noting the unusual deference paid him--a form of
deference that never in his life before had been offered him--was
strangely moved by it.  To think that he should be a full cousin to
this wealthy and influential family!  This enormous factory!  So
long and wide and high--as he had seen--six stories.  And walking
along the opposite side of the river just now, he had seen through
several open windows whole rooms full of girls and women hard at
work.  And he had been thrilled in spite of himself.  For somehow
the high red walls of the building suggested energy and very
material success, a type of success that was almost without flaw,
as he saw it.

He looked at the gray plaster walls of this outer waiting chamber--
at some lettering on the inner door which read:  "The Griffiths
Collar & Shirt Company, Inc.  Samuel Griffiths, Pres.  Gilbert
Griffiths, Sec'y."--and wondered what it was all like inside--what
Gilbert Griffiths would be like--cold or genial, friendly or
unfriendly.

And then, as he sat there meditating, the woman suddenly turned to
him and observed:  "You can go in now.  Mr. Gilbert Griffiths'
office is at the extreme rear of this floor, over toward the river.
Any one of the clerks inside will show you."

She half rose as if to open the door for him, but Clyde, sensing
the intent, brushed by her.  "That's all right.  Thanks," he said
most warmly, and opening the glass-plated door he gazed upon a room
housing many over a hundred employees--chiefly young men and young
women.  And all were apparently intent on their duties before them.
Most of them had green shades over their eyes.  Quite all of them
had on short alpaca office coats or sleeve protectors over their
shirt sleeves.  Nearly all of the young women wore clean and
attractive gingham dresses or office slips.  And all about this
central space, which was partitionless and supported by round white
columns, were offices labeled with the names of the various minor
officials and executives of the company--Mr. Smillie, Mr. Latch,
Mr. Gotboy, Mr. Burkey.

Since the telephone girl had said that Mr. Gilbert Griffiths was at
the extreme rear, Clyde, without much hesitation, made his way
along the railed-off aisle to that quarter, where upon a half-open
door he read:  "Mr. Gilbert Griffiths, Sec'y."  He paused,
uncertain whether to walk in or not, and then proceeded to tap.  At
once a sharp, penetrating voice called:  "Come," and he entered and
faced a youth who looked, if anything, smaller and a little older
and certainly much colder and shrewder than himself--such a youth,
in short, as Clyde would have liked to imagine himself to be--
trained in an executive sense, apparently authoritative and
efficient.  He was dressed, as Clyde noted at once, in a bright
gray suit of a very pronounced pattern, for it was once more
approaching spring.  His hair, of a lighter shade than Clyde's, was
brushed and glazed most smoothly back from his temples and
forehead, and his eyes, which Clyde, from the moment he had opened
the door had felt drilling him, were of a clear, liquid, grayish-
green blue.  He had on a pair of large horn-rimmed glasses which he
wore at his desk only, and the eyes that peered through them went
over Clyde swiftly and notatively, from his shoes to the round
brown felt hat which he carried in his hand.

"You're my cousin, I believe," he commented, rather icily, as Clyde
came forward and stopped--a thin and certainly not very favorable
smile playing about his lips.

"Yes, I am," replied Clyde, reduced and confused by this calm and
rather freezing reception.  On the instant, as he now saw, he could
not possibly have the same regard and esteem for this cousin, as he
could and did have for his uncle, whose very great ability had
erected this important industry.  Rather, deep down in himself he
felt that this young man, an heir and nothing more to this great
industry, was taking to himself airs and superiorities which, but
for his father's skill before him, would not have been possible.

At the same time so groundless and insignificant were his claims to
any consideration here, and so grateful was he for anything that
might be done for him, that he felt heavily obligated already and
tried to smile his best and most ingratiating smile.  Yet Gilbert
Griffiths at once appeared to take this as a bit of presumption
which ought not to be tolerated in a mere cousin, and particularly
one who was seeking a favor of him and his father.

However, since his father had troubled to interest himself in him
and had given him no alternative, he continued his wry smile and
mental examination, the while he said:  "We thought you would be
showing up to-day or to-morrow.  Did you have a pleasant trip?"

"Oh, yes, very," replied Clyde, a little confused by this inquiry.

"So you think you'd like to learn something about the manufacture
of collars, do you?"  Tone and manner were infiltrated by the
utmost condescension.

"I would certainly like to learn something that would give me a
chance to work up, have some future in it," replied Clyde, genially
and with a desire to placate his young cousin as much as possible.

"Well, my father was telling me of his talk with you in Chicago.
From what he told me I gather that you haven't had much practical
experience of any kind.  You don't know how to keep books, do you?"

"No, I don't," replied Clyde a little regretfully.

"And you're not a stenographer or anything like that?"

"No, sir, I'm not."

Most sharply, as Clyde said this, he felt that he was dreadfully
lacking in every training.  And now Gilbert Griffiths looked at him
as though he were rather a hopeless proposition indeed from the
viewpoint of this concern.

"Well, the best thing to do with you, I think," he went on, as
though before this his father had not indicated to him exactly what
was to be done in this case, "is to start you in the shrinking
room.  That's where the manufacturing end of this business begins,
and you might as well be learning that from the ground up.
Afterwards, when we see how you do down there, we can tell a little
better what to do with you.  If you had any office training it
might be possible to use you up here."  (Clyde's face fell at this
and Gilbert noticed it.  It pleased him.)  "But it's just as well
to learn the practical side of the business, whatever you do," he
added rather coldly, not that he desired to comfort Clyde any but
merely to be saying it as a fact.  And seeing that Clyde said
nothing, he continued:  "The best thing, I presume, before you try
to do anything around here is for you to get settled somewhere.
You haven't taken a room anywhere yet, have you?"

"No, I just came in on the noon train," replied Clyde.  "I was a
little dirty and so I just went up to the hotel to brush up a
little.  I thought I'd look for a place afterwards."

"Well, that's right.  Only don't look for any place.  I'll have our
superintendent see that you're directed to a good boarding house.
He knows more about the town than you do."  His thought here was
that after all Clyde was a full cousin and that it wouldn't do to
have him live just anywhere.  At the same time, he was greatly
concerned lest Clyde get the notion that the family was very much
concerned as to where he did live, which most certainly it was NOT,
as he saw it.  His final feeling was that he could easily place and
control Clyde in such a way as to make him not very important to
any one in any way--his father, the family, all the people who
worked here.

He reached for a button on his desk and pressed it.  A trim girl,
very severe and reserved in a green gingham dress, appeared.

"Ask Mr. Whiggam to come here."

She disappeared and presently there entered a medium-sized and
nervous, yet moderately stout, man who looked as though he were
under a great strain.  He was about forty years of age--repressed
and noncommittal--and looked curiously and suspiciously about as
though wondering what new trouble impended.  His head, as Clyde at
once noticed, appeared chronically to incline forward, while at the
same time he lifted his eyes as though actually he would prefer not
to look up.

"Whiggam," began young Griffiths authoritatively, "this is Clyde
Griffiths, a cousin of ours.  You remember I spoke to you about
him."

"Yes, sir."

"Well, he's to be put in the shrinking department for the present.
You can show him what he's to do.  Afterwards you had better have
Mrs. Braley show him where he can get a room."  (All this had been
talked over and fixed upon the week before by Gilbert and Whiggam,
but now he gave it the ring of an original suggestion.)  "And you'd
better give his name in to the timekeeper as beginning to-morrow
morning, see?"

"Yes, sir," bowed Whiggam deferentially.  "Is that all?"

"Yes, that's all," concluded Gilbert smartly.  "You go with
Whiggam, Mr. Griffiths.  He'll tell you what to do."

Whiggam turned.  "If you'll just come with me, Mr. Griffiths," he
observed deferentially, as Clyde could see--and that for all of his
cousin's apparently condescending attitude--and marched out with
Clyde at his heels.  And young Gilbert as briskly turned to his own
desk, but at the same time shaking his head.  His feeling at the
moment was that mentally Clyde was not above a good bell-boy in a
city hotel probably.  Else why should he come on here in this way.
"I wonder what he thinks he's going to do here," he continued to
think, "where he thinks he's going to get?"

And Clyde, as he followed Mr. Whiggam, was thinking what a
wonderful place Mr. Gilbert Griffiths enjoyed.  No doubt he came
and went as he chose--arrived at the office late, departed early,
and somewhere in this very interesting city dwelt with his parents
and sisters in a very fine house--of course.  And yet here he was--
Gilbert's own cousin, and the nephew of his wealthy uncle, being
escorted to work in a very minor department of this great concern.

Nevertheless, once they were out of the sight and hearing of Mr.
Gilbert Griffiths, he was somewhat diverted from this mood by the
sights and sounds of the great manufactory itself.  For here on
this very same floor, but beyond the immense office room through
which he had passed, was another much larger room filled with rows
of bins, facing aisles not more than five feet wide, and
containing, as Clyde could see, enormous quantities of collars
boxed in small paper boxes, according to sizes.  These bins were
either being refilled by stock boys who brought more boxed collars
from the boxing room in large wooden trucks, or were being as
rapidly emptied by order clerks who, trundling small box trucks in
front of them, were filling orders from duplicate check lists which
they carried in their hands.

"Never worked in a collar factory before, Mr. Griffiths, I
presume?" commented Mr. Whiggam with somewhat more spirit, once he
was out of the presence of Gilbert Griffiths.  Clyde noticed at
once the Mr. Griffiths.

"Oh, no," he replied quickly.  "I never worked at anything like
this before."

"Expect to learn all about the manufacturing end of the game in the
course of time, though, I suppose."  He was walking briskly along
one of the long aisles as he spoke, but Clyde noticed that he shot
sly glances in every direction.

"I'd like to," he answered.

"Well, there's a little more to it than some people think, although
you often hear there isn't very much to learn."  He opened another
door, crossed a gloomy hall and entered still another room which,
filled with bins as was the other, was piled high in every bin with
bolts of white cloth.

"You might as well know a little about this as long as you re going
to begin in the shrinking room.  This is the stuff from which the
collars are cut, the collars and the lining.  They are called webs.
Each of these bolts is a web.  We take these down in the basement
and shrink them because they can't be used this way.  If they are,
the collars would shrink after they were cut.  But you'll see.  We
tub them and then dry them afterwards."

He marched solemnly on and Clyde sensed once more that this man was
not looking upon him as an ordinary employee by any means.  His MR.
Griffiths, his supposition to the effect that Clyde was to learn
all about the manufacturing end of the business, as well as his
condescension in explaining about these webs of cloth, had already
convinced Clyde that he was looked upon as one to whom some slight
homage at least must be paid.

He followed Mr. Whiggam, curious as to the significance of this,
and soon found himself in an enormous basement which had been
reached by descending a flight of steps at the end of a third hall.
Here, by the help of four long rows of incandescent lamps, he
discerned row after row of porcelain tubs or troughs, lengthwise of
the room, and end to end, which reached from one exterior wall to
the other.  And in these, under steaming hot water apparently, were
any quantity of those same webs he had just seen upstairs, soaking.
And near-by, north and south of these tubs, and paralleling them
for the length of this room, all of a hundred and fifty feet in
length, were enormous drying racks or moving skeleton platforms,
boxed, top and bottom and sides, with hot steam pipes, between
which on rolls, but festooned in such a fashion as to take
advantage of these pipes, above, below and on either side, were
more of these webs, but unwound and wet and draped as described,
yet moving along slowly on these rolls from the east end of the
room to the west.  This movement, as Clyde could see, was
accompanied by an enormous rattle and clatter of ratchet arms which
automatically shook and moved these lengths of cloth forward from
east to west.  And as they moved they dried, and were then
automatically re-wound at the west end of these racks into bolt
form once more upon a wooden spool and then lifted off by a youth
whose duty it was to "take" from these moving platforms.  One
youth, as Clyde saw, "took" from two of these tracks at the west
end, while at the east end another youth of about his own years
"fed."  That is, he took bolts of this now partially shrunk yet
still wet cloth and attaching one end of it to some moving hooks,
saw that it slowly and properly unwound and fed itself over the
drying racks for the entire length of these tracks.  As fast as it
had gone the way of all webs, another was attached.

Between each two rows of tubs in the center of the room were
enormous whirling separators or dryers, into which these webs of
cloth, as they came from the tubs in which they had been shrinking
for twenty-four hours, were piled and as much water as possible
centrifugally extracted before they were spread out on the drying
racks.

Primarily little more than this mere physical aspect of the room
was grasped by Clyde--its noise, its heat, its steam, the energy
with which a dozen men and boys were busying themselves with
various processes.  They were, without exception, clothed only in
armless undershirts, a pair of old trousers belted in at the waist,
and with canvas-topped and rubber-soled sneakers on their bare
feet.  The water and the general dampness and the heat of the room
seemed obviously to necessitate some such dressing as this.

"This is the shrinking room," observed Mr. Whiggam, as they
entered.  "It isn't as nice as some of the others, but it's where
the manufacturing process begins.  Kemerer!" he called.

A short, stocky, full-chested man, with a pate, full face and
white, strong-looking arms, dressed in a pair of dirty and wrinkled
trousers and an armless flannel shirt, now appeared.  Like Whiggam
in the presence of Gilbert, he appeared to be very much overawed in
the presence of Whiggam.

"This is Clyde Griffiths, the cousin of Gilbert Griffiths.  I spoke
to you about him last week, you remember?"

"Yes, sir."

"He's to begin down here.  He'll show up in the morning."

"Yes, sir."

"Better put his name down on your check list.  He'll begin at the
usual hour."

"Yes, sir."

Mr. Whiggam, as Clyde noticed, held his head higher and spoke more
directly and authoritatively than at any time so far.  He seemed to
be master, not underling, now.

"Seven-thirty is the time every one goes to work here in the
morning," went on Mr. Whiggam to Clyde informatively, "but they all
ring in a little earlier--about seven-twenty or so, so as to have
time to change their clothes and get to the machines.

"Now, if you want to," he added, "Mr. Kemerer can show you what
you'll have to do to-morrow before you leave today.  It might save
a little time.  Or, you can leave it until then if you want to.  It
don't make any difference to me.  Only, if you'll come back to the
telephone girl at the main entrance about five-thirty I'll have
Mrs. Braley there for you.  She's to show you about your room, I
believe.  I won't be there myself, but you just ask the telephone
girl for her.  She'll know."  He turned and added, "Well, I'll
leave you now."

He lowered his head and started to go away just as Clyde began.
"Well, I'm very much obliged to you, Mr. Whiggam."  Instead of
answering, he waved one fishy hand slightly upward and was gone--
down between the tubs toward the west door.  And at once Mr.
Kemerer--still nervous and overawed apparently--began.

"Oh, that's all right about what you have to do, Mr. Griffiths.
I'll just let you bring down webs on the floor above to begin with
to-morrow.  But if you've got any old clothes, you'd better put 'em
on.  A suit like that wouldn't last long here."  He eyed Clyde's
very neat, if inexpensive suit, in an odd way.  His manner quite
like that of Mr. Whiggam before him, was a mixture of uncertainty
and a very small authority here in Clyde's case--of extreme respect
and yet some private doubt, which only time might resolve.
Obviously it was no small thing to be a Griffiths here, even if one
were a cousin and possibly not as welcome to one's powerful
relatives as one might be.

At first sight, and considering what his general dreams in
connection with this industry were, Clyde was inclined to rebel.
For the type of youth and man he saw here were in his estimation
and at first glance rather below the type of individuals he hoped
to find here--individuals neither so intelligent nor alert as those
employed by the Union League and the Green-Davidson by a long
distance.  And still worse he felt them to be much more subdued and
sly and ignorant--mere clocks, really.  And their eyes, as he
entered with Mr. Whiggam, while they pretended not to be looking,
were very well aware, as Clyde could feel, of all that was going
on.  Indeed, he and Mr. Whiggam were the center of all their secret
looks.  At the same time, their spare and practical manner of
dressing struck dead at one blow any thought of refinement in
connection with the work in here.  How unfortunate that his lack of
training would not permit his being put to office work or something
like that upstairs.

He walked with Mr. Kemerer, who troubled to say that these were
the tubs in which the webs were shrunk over night--these the
centrifugal dryers--these the rack dryers.  Then he was told that
he could go.  And by then it was only three o'clock.

He made his way out of the nearest door and once outside he
congratulated himself on being connected with this great company,
while at the same time wondering whether he was going to prove
satisfactory to Mr. Kemerer and Mr. Whiggam.  Supposing he didn't.
Or supposing he couldn't stand all this?  It was pretty rough.
Well, if worst came to worst, as he now thought, he could go back
to Chicago, or on to New York, maybe, and get work.

But why hadn't Samuel Griffiths had the graciousness to receive and
welcome him?  Why had that young Gilbert Griffiths smiled so
cynically?  And what sort of a woman was this Mrs. Braley?  Had he
done wisely to come on here?  Would this family do anything for him
now that he was here?

It was thus that, strolling west along River Street on which were a
number of other kinds of factories, and then north through a few
other streets that held more factories--tinware, wickwire, a big
vacuum carpet cleaning plant, a rug manufacturing company, and the
like--that he came finally upon a miserable slum, the like of
which, small as it was, he had not seen outside of Chicago or
Kansas City.  He was so irritated and depressed by the poverty and
social angularity and crudeness of it--all spelling but one thing,
social misery, to him--that he at once retraced his steps and
recrossing the Mohawk by a bridge farther west soon found himself
in an area which was very different indeed--a region once more of
just such homes as he had been admiring before he left for the
factory.  And walking still farther south, he came upon that same
wide and tree-lined avenue--which he had seen before--the exterior
appearance of which alone identified it as the principal residence
thoroughfare of Lycurgus.  It was so very broad and well-paved and
lined by such an arresting company of houses.  At once he was very
much alive to the personnel of this street, for it came to him
immediately that it must be in this street very likely that his
uncle Samuel lived.  The houses were nearly all of French, Italian
or English design, and excellent period copies at that, although he
did not know it.

Impressed by their beauty and spaciousness, however, he walked
along, now looking at one and another, and wondering which, if any,
of these was occupied by his uncle, and deeply impressed by the
significance of so much wealth.  How superior and condescending his
cousin Gilbert must feel, walking out of some such place as this in
the morning.

Then pausing before one which, because of trees, walks, newly-
groomed if bloomless flower beds, a large garage at the rear, a
large fountain to the left of the house as he faced it, in the
center of which was a boy holding a swan in his arms, and to the
right of the house one lone cast iron stag pursued by some cast
iron dogs, he felt especially impelled to admire, and charmed by
the dignity of this place, which was a modified form of old
English, he now inquired of a stranger who was passing--a middle-
aged man of a rather shabby working type, "Whose house is that,
mister?" and the man replied:  "Why, that's Samuel Griffiths'
residence.  He's the man who owns the big collar factory over the
river."

At once Clyde straightened up, as though dashed with cold water.
His uncle's!  His residence!  Then that was one of his automobiles
standing before the garage at the rear there.  And there was
another visible through the open door of the garage.

Indeed in his immature and really psychically unilluminated mind it
suddenly evoked a mood which was as of roses, perfumes, lights and
music.  The beauty!  The ease!  What member of his own immediate
family had ever even dreamed that his uncle lived thus!  The
grandeur!  And his own parents so wretched--so poor, preaching on
the streets of Kansas City and no doubt Denver.  Conducting a
mission!  And although thus far no single member of this family
other than his chill cousin had troubled to meet him, and that at
the factory only, and although he had been so indifferently
assigned to the menial type of work that he had, still he was
elated and uplifted.  For, after all, was he not a Griffiths, a
full cousin as well as a full nephew to the two very important men
who lived here, and now working for them in some capacity at least?
And must not that spell a future of some sort, better than any he
had known as yet?  For consider who the Griffiths were here, as
opposed to "who" the Griffiths were in Kansas City, say--or Denver.
The enormous difference!  A thing to be as carefully concealed as
possible.  At the same time, he was immediately reduced again, for
supposing the Griffiths here--his uncle or his cousin or some
friend or agent of theirs--should now investigate his parents and
his past?  Heavens!  The matter of that slain child in Kansas City!
His parents' miserable makeshift life!  Esta!  At once his face
fell, his dreams being so thickly clouded over.  If they should
guess!  If they should sense!

Oh, the devil--who was he anyway?  And what did he really amount
to?  What could he hope for from such a great world as this really,
once they knew why he had troubled to come here?

A little disgusted and depressed he turned to retrace his steps,
for all at once he felt himself very much of a nobody.



Chapter 6


The room which Clyde secured this same day with the aid of Mrs.
Braley, was in Thorpe Street, a thoroughfare enormously removed in
quality if not in distance from that in which his uncle resided.
Indeed the difference was sufficient to decidedly qualify his
mounting notions of himself as one who, after all, was connected
with him.  The commonplace brown or gray or tan colored houses,
rather smoked or decayed, which fronted it--the leafless and winter
harried trees which in spite of smoke and dust seemed to give
promise of the newer life so near at hand--the leaves and flowers
of May.  Yet as he walked into it with Mrs. Braley, many drab and
commonplace figures of men and girls, and elderly spinsters
resembling Mrs. Braley in kind, were making their way home from the
several factories beyond the river.  And at the door Mrs. Braley
and himself were received by a none-too-polished woman in a clean
gingham apron over a dark brown dress, who led the way to a second
floor room, not too small or uncomfortably furnished--which she
assured him he could have for four dollars without board or seven
and one-half dollars with--a proposition which, seeing that he was
advised by Mrs. Braley that this was somewhat better than he would
get in most places for the same amount, he decided to take.  And
here, after thanking Mrs. Braley, he decided to remain--later
sitting down to dinner with a small group of mill-town store and
factory employees, such as partially he had been accustomed to in
Paulina Street in Chicago, before moving to the better atmosphere
of the Union League.  And after dinner he made his way out into the
principal thoroughfares of Lycurgus, only to observe such a crowd
of nondescript mill-workers as, judging these streets by day, he
would not have fancied swarmed here by night--girls and boys, men
and women of various nationalities, and types--Americans, Poles,
Hungarians, French, English--and for the most part--if not entirely
touched with a peculiar something--ignorance or thickness of mind
or body, or with a certain lack of taste and alertness or daring,
which seemed to mark them one and all as of the basement world
which he had seen only this afternoon.  Yet in some streets and
stores, particularly those nearer Wykeagy Avenue, a better type of
girl and young man who might have been and no doubt were of the
various office groups of the different companies over the river--
neat and active.

And Clyde, walking to and fro, from eight until ten, when as though
by pre-arrangement, the crowd in the more congested streets seemed
suddenly to fade away, leaving them quite vacant.  And throughout
this time contrasting it all with Chicago and Kansas City.  (What
would Ratterer think if he could see him now--his uncle's great
house and factory?)  And perhaps because of its smallness, liking
it--the Lycurgus Hotel, neat and bright and with a brisk local life
seeming to center about it.  And the post-office and a handsomely
spired church, together with an old and interesting graveyard,
cheek by jowl with an automobile salesroom.  And a new moving
picture theater just around the corner in a side street.  And
various boys and girls, men and women, walking here and there, some
of them flirting as Clyde could see.  And with a suggestion somehow
hovering over it all of hope and zest and youth--the hope and zest
and youth that is at the bottom of all the constructive energy of
the world everywhere.  And finally returning to his room in Thorpe
Street with the conclusion that he did like the place and would
like to stay here.  That beautiful Wykeagy Avenue!  His uncle's
great factory!  The many pretty and eager girls he had seen
hurrying to and fro!



In the meantime, in so far as Gilbert Griffiths was concerned, and
in the absence of his father, who was in New York at the time (a
fact which Clyde did not know and of which Gilbert did not trouble
to inform him) he had conveyed to his mother and sisters that he
had met Clyde, and if he were not the dullest, certainly he was not
the most interesting person in the world, either.  Encountering
Myra, as he first entered at five-thirty, the same day that Clyde
had appeared, he troubled to observe:  "Well, that Chicago cousin
of ours blew in to-day."

"Yes!" commented Myra.  "What's he like?"  The fact that her father
had described Clyde as gentlemanly and intelligent had interested
her, although knowing Lycurgus and the nature of the mill life here
and its opportunities for those who worked in factories such as her
father owned, she had wondered why Clyde had bothered to come.

"Well, I can't see that he's so much," replied Gilbert.  "He's
fairly intelligent and not bad-looking, but he admits that he's
never had any business training of any kind.  He's like all those
young fellows who work for hotels.  He thinks clothes are the whole
thing, I guess.  He had on a light brown suit and a brown tie and
hat to match and brown shoes.  His tie was too bright and he had on
one of those bright pink striped shirts like they used to wear
three or four years ago.  Besides his clothes aren't cut right.  I
didn't want to say anything because he's just come on, and we don't
know whether he'll hold out or not.  But if he does, and he's going
to pose around as a relative of ours, he'd better tone down, or I'd
advise the governor to have a few words with him.  Outside of that
I guess he'll do well enough in one of the departments after a
while, as foreman or something.  He might even be made into a
salesman later on, I suppose.  But what he sees in all that to make
it worth while to come here is more than I can guess.  As a matter
of fact, I don't think the governor made it clear to him just how
few the chances are here for any one who isn't really a wizard or
something."

He stood with his back to the large open fireplace.

"Oh, well, you know what Mother was saying the other day about his
father.  She thinks Daddy feels that he's never had a chance in
some way.  He'll probably do something for him whether he wants to
keep him in the mill or not.  She told me that she thought that Dad
felt that his father hadn't been treated just right by their
father."

Myra paused, and Gilbert, who had had this same hint from his
mother before now, chose to ignore the implication of it.

"Oh, well, it's not my funeral," he went on.  "If the governor
wants to keep him on here whether he's fitted for anything special
or not, that's his look-out.  Only he's the one that's always
talking about efficiency in every department and cutting and
keeping out dead timber."

Meeting his mother and Bella later, he volunteered the same news
and much the same ideas.  Mrs. Griffiths sighed; for after all, in
a place like Lycurgus and established as they were, any one related
to them and having their name ought to be most circumspect and have
careful manners and taste and judgment.  It was not wise for her
husband to bring on any one who was not all of that and more.

On the other hand, Bella was by no means satisfied with the
accuracy of her brother's picture of Clyde.  She did not know
Clyde, but she did know Gilbert, and as she knew he could decide
very swiftly that this or that person was lacking in almost every
way, when, as a matter of fact, they might not be at all as she saw
it.

"Oh, well," she finally observed, after hearing Gilbert comment on
more of Clyde's peculiarities at dinner, "if Daddy wants him, I
presume he'll keep him, or do something with him eventually."  At
which Gilbert winced internally for this was a direct slap at his
assumed authority in the mill under his father, which authority he
was eager to make more and more effective in every direction, as
his younger sister well knew.

In the meanwhile on the following morning, Clyde, returning to the
mill, found that the name, or appearance, or both perhaps--his
resemblance to Mr. Gilbert Griffiths--was of some peculiar
advantage to him which he could not quite sufficiently estimate at
present.  For on reaching number one entrance, the doorman on guard
there looked as though startled.

"Oh, you're Mr. Clyde Griffiths?" he queried.  "You're goin' to
work under Mr. Kemerer?  Yes, I know.  Well, that man there will
have your key," and he pointed to a stodgy, stuffy old man whom
later Clyde came to know as "Old Jeff," the time-clock guard, who,
at a stand farther along this same hall, furnished and reclaimed
all keys between seven-thirty and seven-forty.

When Clyde approached him and said:  "My name's Clyde Griffiths and
I'm to work downstairs with Mr. Kemerer," he too started and then
said:  "Sure, that's right.  Yes, sir.  Here you are, Mr.
Griffiths.  Mr. Kemerer spoke to me about you yesterday.  Number
seventy-one is to be yours.  I'm giving you Mr. Duveny's old key."
When Clyde had gone down the stairs into the shrinking department,
he turned to the doorman who had drawn near and exclaimed:  "Don't
it beat all how much that fellow looks like Mr. Gilbert Griffiths?
Why, he's almost his spittin' image.  What is he, do you suppose, a
brother or a cousin, or what?"

"Don't ask me," replied the doorman.  "I never saw him before.  But
he's certainly related to the family all right.  When I seen him
first, I thought it was Mr. Gilbert.  I was just about to tip my
hat to him when I saw it wasn't."

And in the shrinking room when he entered, as on the day before, he
found Kemerer as respectful and evasive as ever.  For, like Whiggam
before him, Kemerer had not as yet been able to decide what Clyde's
true position with this company was likely to be.  For, as Whiggam
had informed Kemerer the day before, Mr. Gilbert had said no least
thing which tended to make Mr. Whiggam believe that things were to
be made especially easy for him, nor yet hard, either.  On the
contrary, Mr. Gilbert had said:  "He's to be treated like all the
other employees as to time and work.  No different."  Yet in
introducing Clyde he had said:  "This is my cousin, and he's going
to try to learn this business," which would indicate that as time
went on Clyde was to be transferred from department to department
until he had surveyed the entire manufacturing end of the business.

Whiggam, for this reason, after Clyde had gone, whispered to
Kemerer as well as to several others, that Clyde might readily
prove to be some one who was a protege of the chief--and therefore
they determined to "watch their step," at least until they knew
what his standing here was to be.  And Clyde, noticing this, was
quite set up by it, for he could not help but feel that this in
itself, and apart from whatever his cousin Gilbert might either
think or wish to do, might easily presage some favor on the part of
his uncle that might lead to some good for him.  So when Kemerer
proceeded to explain to him that he was not to think that the work
was so very hard or that there was so very much to do for the
present, Clyde took it with a slight air of condescension.  And in
consequence Kemerer was all the more respectful.

"Just hang up your hat and coat over there in one of those
lockers," he proceeded mildly and ingratiatingly even.  "Then you
can take one of those crate trucks back there and go up to the next
floor and bring down some webs.  They'll show you where to get
them."

The days that followed were diverting and yet troublesome enough to
Clyde, who to begin with was puzzled and disturbed at times by the
peculiar social and workaday worlds and position in which he found
himself.  For one thing, those by whom now he found himself
immediately surrounded at the factory were not such individuals as
he would ordinarily select for companions--far below bell-boys or
drivers or clerks anywhere.  They were, one and all, as he could
now clearly see, meaty or stodgy mentally and physically.  They
wore such clothes as only the most common laborers would wear--such
clothes as are usually worn by those who count their personal
appearance among the least of their troubles--their work and their
heavy material existence being all.  In addition, not knowing just
what Clyde was, or what his coming might mean to their separate and
individual positions, they were inclined to be dubious and
suspicious.

After a week or two, however, coming to understand that Clyde was a
nephew of the president, a cousin of the secretary of the company,
and hence not likely to remain here long in any menial capacity,
they grew more friendly, but inclined in the face of the sense of
subserviency which this inspired in them, to become jealous and
suspicious of him in another way.  For, after all, Clyde was not
one of them, and under such circumstances could not be.  He might
smile and be civil enough--yet he would always be in touch with
those who were above them, would he not--or so they thought.  He
was, as they saw it, part of the rich and superior class and every
poor man knew what that meant.  The poor must stand together
everywhere.

For his part, however, and sitting about for the first few days in
this particular room eating his lunch, he wondered how these men
could interest themselves in what were to him such dull and
uninteresting items--the quality of the cloth that was coming down
in the webs--some minute flaws in the matter of weight or weave--
the last twenty webs hadn't looked so closely shrunk as the
preceding sixteen; or the Cranston Wickwire Company was not
carrying as many men as it had the month before--or the Anthony
Woodenware Company had posted a notice that the Saturday half-
holiday would not begin before June first this year as opposed to
the middle of May last year.  They all appeared to be lost in the
humdrum and routine of their work.

In consequence his mind went back to happier scenes.  He wished at
times he were back in Chicago or Kansas City.  He though of
Ratterer, Hegglund, Higby, Louise Ratterer, Larry Doyle, Mr.
Squires, Hortense--all of the young and thoughtless company of
which he had been a part, and wondered what they were doing.  What
had become of Hortense?  She had got that fur coat after all--
probably from that cigar clerk and then had gone away with him
after she had protested so much feeling for him--the little beast.
After she had gotten all that money out of him.  The mere thought
of her and all that she might have meant to him if things had not
turned as they had, made him a little sick at times.  To whom was
she being nice now?  How had she found things since leaving Kansas
City?  And what would she think if she saw him here now or knew of
his present high connections?  Gee!  That would cool her a little.
But she would not think much of his present position.  That was
true.  But she might respect him more if she could see his uncle
and his cousin and this factory and their big house.  It would be
like her then to try to be nice to him.  Well, he would show her,
if he ever ran into her again--snub her, of course, as no doubt he
very well could by then.



Chapter 7


In so far as his life at Mrs. Cuppy's went, he was not so very
happily placed there, either.  For that was but a commonplace
rooming and boarding house, which drew to it, at best, such
conservative mill and business types as looked on work and their
wages, and the notions of the middle class religious world of
Lycurgus as most essential to the order and well being of the
world.  From the point of view of entertainment or gayety, it was
in the main a very dull place.

At the same time, because of the presence of one Walter Dillard--a
brainless sprig who had recently come here from Fonda, it was not
wholly devoid of interest for Clyde.  The latter--a youth of about
Clyde's own age and equally ambitious socially--but without Clyde's
tact or discrimination anent the governing facts of life, was
connected with the men's furnishing department of Stark and
Company.  He was spry, avid, attractive enough physically, with
very light hair, a very light and feeble mustache, and the delicate
airs and ways of a small town Beau Brummell.  Never having had any
social standing or the use of any means whatsoever--his father
having been a small town dry goods merchant before him, who had
failed--he was, because of some atavistic spur or fillip in his own
blood, most anxious to attain some sort of social position.

But failing that so far, he was interested in and envious of those
who had it--much more so than Clyde, even.  The glory and activity
of the leading families of this particular city had enormous weight
with him--the Nicholsons, the Starks, the Harriets, Griffiths,
Finchleys, et cetera.  And learning a few days after Clyde's
arrival of his somewhat left-handed connection with this world, he
was most definitely interested.  What?  A Griffiths!  The nephew of
the rich Samuel Griffiths of Lycurgus!  And in this boarding house!
Beside him at this table!  At once his interest rose to where he
decided that he must cultivate this stranger as speedily as
possible.  Here was a real social opportunity knocking at his very
door--a connecting link to one of the very best families!  And
besides was he not young, attractive and probably ambitious like
himself--a fellow to play around with if one could?  He proceeded
at once to make overtures to Clyde.  It seemed almost too good to
be true.

In consequence he was quick to suggest a walk, the fact that there
was a certain movie just on at the Mohawk, which was excellent--
very snappy.  Didn't Clyde want to go?  And because of his
neatness, smartness--a touch of something that was far from humdrum
or the heavy practicality of the mill and the remainder of this
boarding house world, Clyde was inclined to fall in with him.

But, as he now thought, here were his great relatives and he must
watch his step here.  Who knew but that he might be making a great
mistake in holding such free and easy contacts as this.  The
Griffiths--as well as the entire world of which they were a part--
as he guessed from the general manner of all those who even
contacted him, must be very removed from the commonalty here.  More
by instinct than reason, he was inclined to stand off and look very
superior--more so since those, including this very youth on whom he
practised this seemed to respect him the more.  And although upon
eager--and even--after its fashion, supplicating request, he now
went with this youth--still he went cautiously.  And his aloof and
condescending manner Dillard at once translated as "class" and
"connection."  And to think he had met him in this dull, dubby
boarding house here.  And on his arrival--at the very inception of
his career here.

And so his manner was that of the sycophant--although he had a
better position and was earning more money than Clyde was at this
time, twenty-two dollars a week.

"I suppose you'll be spending a good deal of your time with your
relatives and friends here," he volunteered on the occasion of
their first walk together, and after he had extracted as much
information as Clyde cared to impart, which was almost nothing,
while he volunteered a few, most decidedly furbished bits from his
own history.  His father owned a dry goods store NOW.  He had come
over here to study other methods, et cetera.  He had an uncle here--
connected with Stark and Company.  He had met a few--not so many
as yet--nice people here, since he hadn't been here so very long
himself--four months all told.

But Clyde's relatives!

"Say your uncle must be worth over a million, isn't he?  They say
he is.  Those houses in Wykeagy Avenue are certainly the cats'.
You won't see anything finer in Albany or Utica or Rochester
either.  Are you Samuel Griffiths' own nephew?  You don't say!
Well, that'll certainly mean a lot to you here.  I wish I had a
connection like that.  You bet I'd make it count."

He beamed on Clyde eagerly and hopefully, and through him Clyde
sensed even more how really important this blood relation was.
Only think how much it meant to this strange youth.

"Oh, I don't know," replied Clyde dubiously, and yet very much
flattered by this assumption of intimacy.  "I came on to learn the
collar business, you know.  Not to play about very much.  My uncle
wants me to stick to that, pretty much."

"Sure, sure.  I know how that is," replied Dillard, "that's the way
my uncle feels about me, too.  He wants me to stick close to the
work here and not play about very much.  He's the buyer for Stark
and Company, you know.  But still a man can't work all the time,
either.  He's got to have a little fun."

"Yes, that's right," said Clyde--for the first time in his life a
little condescendingly.

They walked along in silence for a few moments.  Then:

"Do you dance?"

"Yes," answered Clyde.

"Well, so do I.  There are a lot of cheap dance halls around here,
but I never go to any of those.  You can't do it and keep in with
the nice people.  This is an awfully close town that way, they say.
The best people won't have anything to do with you unless you go
with the right crowd.  It's the same way up at Fonda.  You have to
'belong' or you can't go out anywhere at all.  And that's right, I
guess.  But still there are a lot of nice girls here that a fellow
can go with--girls of right nice families--not in society, of
course--but still, they're not talked about, see.  And they're not
so slow, either.  Pretty hot stuff, some of them.  And you don't
have to marry any of 'em, either."  Clyde began to think of him as
perhaps a little too lusty for his new life here, maybe.  At the
same time he liked him some.  "By the way," went on Dillard, "what
are you doing next Sunday afternoon?"

"Well, nothing in particular, that I know of just now," replied
Clyde, sensing a new problem here.  "I don't know just what I may
have to do by then, but I don't know of anything now."

"Well, how'd you like to come with me, if you're not too busy.
I've come to know quite a few girls since I've been here.  Nice
ones.  I can take you out and introduce you to my uncle's family,
if you like.  They're nice people.  And afterwards--I know two
girls we can go and see--peaches.  One of 'em did work in the
store, but she don't now--she's not doing anything now.  The other
is her pal.  They have a Victrola and they can dance.  I know it
isn't the thing to dance here on Sundays but no one need know
anything about that.  The girls' parents don't mind.  Afterwards we
might take 'em to a movie or something--if you want to--not any of
those things down near the mill district but one of the better
ones--see?"

There formulated itself in Clyde's mind the question as to what, in
regard to just such proposals as this, his course here was to be.
In Chicago, and recently--because of what happened in Kansas City--
he had sought to be as retiring and cautious as possible.  For--
after that and while connected with the club, he had been taken
with the fancy of trying to live up to the ideals with which the
seemingly stern face of that institution had inspired him--
conservatism--hard work--saving one's money--looking neat and
gentlemanly.  It was such an Eveless paradise, that.

In spite of his quiet surroundings here, however, the very air of
the city seemed to suggest some such relaxation as this youth was
now suggesting--a form of diversion that was probably innocent
enough but still connected with girls and their entertainment--
there were so many of them here, as he could see.  These streets,
after dinner, here, were so alive with good-looking girls, and
young men, too.  But what might his new found relatives think of
him in case he was seen stepping about in the manner and spirit
which this youth's suggestions seemed to imply?  Hadn't he just
said that this was an awfully close town and that everybody knew
nearly everything about everybody else?  He paused in doubt.  He
must decide now.  And then, being lonely and hungry for
companionship, he replied:

"Yes,--well--I think that's all right."  But he added a little
dubiously:  "Of course my relatives here--"

"Oh, sure, that's all right," replied Dillard smartly.  "You have
to be careful, of course.  Well, so do I."  If he could only go
around with a Griffiths, even if he was new around here and didn't
know many people--wouldn't it reflect a lot of credit on him?  It
most certainly would--did already, as he saw it.

And forthwith he offered to buy Clyde some cigarettes--a soda--
anything he liked.  But Clyde, still feeling very strange and
uncertain, excused himself, after a time, because this youth with
his complacent worship of society and position, annoyed him a
little, and made his way back to his room.  He had promised his
mother a letter and he thought he had better go back and write it,
and incidentally to think a little on the wisdom of this new
contact.



Chapter 8


Nevertheless, the next day being a Saturday and half holiday the
year round in this concern, Mr. Whiggam came through with the pay
envelopes.

"Here you are, Mr. Griffiths," he said, as though he were
especially impressed with Clyde's position.

Clyde, taking it, was rather pleased with this mistering, and going
back toward his locker, promptly tore it open and pocketed the
money.  After that, taking his hat and coat, he wandered off in the
direction of his room, where he had his lunch.  But, being very
lonely, and Dillard not being present because he had to work, he
decided upon a trolley ride to Gloversville, which was a city of
some twenty thousand inhabitants and reported to be as active, if
not as beautiful, as Lycurgus.  And that trip amused and interested
him because it took him into a city very different form Lycurgus in
its social texture.

But the next day--Sunday--he spent idly in Lycurgus, wandering
about by himself.  For, as it turned out, Dillard was compelled to
return to Fonda for some reason and could not fulfill the Sunday
understanding.  Encountering Clyde, however, on Monday evening, he
announced that on the following Wednesday evening, in the basement
of the Diggby Avenue Congregational Church, there was to be held a
social with refreshments.  And according to young Dillard, at least
this promised to prove worth while.

"We can just go out there," was the way he put it to Clyde, and
buzz the girls a little.  I want you to meet my uncle and aunt.
They're nice people all right.  And so are the girls.  They're no
slouches.  Then we can edge out afterwards, about ten, see, and go
around to either Zella or Rita's place.  Rita has more good records
over at her place, but Zella has the nicest place to dance.  By the
way, you didn't chance to bring along your dress suit with you, did
you?" he inquired.  For having already inspected Clyde's room,
which was above his own on the third floor, in Clyde's absence and
having discovered that he had only a dress suit case and no trunk,
and apparently no dress suit anywhere, he had decided that in spite
of Clyde's father conducting a hotel and Clyde having worked in the
Union League Club in Chicago, he must be very indifferent to social
equipment.  Or, if not, must be endeavoring to make his own way on
some character-building plan without help from any one.  This was
not to his liking, exactly.  A man should never neglect these
social essentials.  Nevertheless, Clyde was a Griffiths and that
was enough to cause him to overlook nearly anything, for the
present anyhow.

"No, I didn't," replied Clyde, who was not exactly sure as to the
value of this adventure--even yet--in spite of his own loneliness,--
"but I intend to get one."  He had already thought since coming
here of his lack in this respect, and was thinking of taking at
least thirty-five of his more recently hard-earned savings and
indulging in a suit of this kind.

Dillard buzzed on about the fact that while Zella Shuman's family
wasn't rich--they owned the house they lived in--still she went
with a lot of nice girls here, too.  So did Rita Dickerman.
Zella's father owned a little cottage upon Eckert Lake, near Fonda.
When next summer came--and with it the holidays and pleasant week-
ends, he and Clyde, supposing that Clyde liked Rita, might go up
there some time for a visit, for Rita and Zella were inseparable
almost.  And they were pretty, too.  "Zella's dark and Rita's
light," he added enthusiastically.

Clyde was interested by the fact that the girls were pretty and
that out of a clear sky and in the face of his present loneliness,
he was being made so much of by this Dillard.  But, was it wise for
him to become very much involved with him?  That was the question--
for, after all, he really knew nothing of him.  And he gathered
from Dillard's manner, his flighty enthusiasm for the occasion,
that he was far more interested in the girls as girls--a certain
freedom or concealed looseness that characterized them--than he was
in the social phase of the world which they represented.  And
wasn't that what brought about his downfall in Kansas City?  Here
in Lycurgus, of all places, he was least likely to forget it--
aspiring to something better as he now did.

None-the-less, at eight-thirty on the following Wednesday evening--
they were off, Clyde full of eager anticipation.  And by nine
o'clock they were in the midst of one of those semi-religious,
semi-social and semi-emotional church affairs, the object of which
was to raise money for the church--the general service of which was
to furnish an occasion for gossip among the elders, criticism and a
certain amount of enthusiastic, if disguised courtship and
flirtation among the younger members.  There were booths for the
sale of quite everything from pies, cakes and ice cream to laces,
dolls and knickknacks of every description, supplied by the members
and parted with for the benefit of the church.  The Reverend Peter
Isreals, the minister, and his wife were present.  Also Dillard's
uncle and aunt, a pair of brisk and yet uninteresting people whom
Clyde could sense were of no importance socially here.  They were
too genial and altogether social in the specific neighborhood
sense, although Grover Wilson, being a buyer for Stark and Company,
endeavored to assume a serious and important air at times.

He was an undersized and stocky man who did not seem to know how to
dress very well or could not afford it.  In contrast to his
nephew's almost immaculate garb, his own suit was far from perfect-
fitting.  It was unpressed and slightly soiled.  And his tie the
same.  He had a habit of rubbing his hands in a clerkly fashion, of
wrinkling his brows and scratching the back of his head at times,
as though something he was about to say had cost him great thought
and was of the utmost importance.  Whereas, nothing that he
uttered, as even Clyde could see, was of the slightest importance.

And so, too, with the stout and large Mrs. Wilson, who stood beside
him while he was attempting to rise to the importance of Clyde.
She merely beamed a fatty beam.  She was almost ponderous, and
pink, with a tendency to a double chin.  She smiled and smiled,
largely because she was naturally genial and on her good behavior
here, but incidentally because Clyde was who he was.  For as Clyde
himself could see, Walter Dillard had lost no time in impressing
his relatives with the fact that he was a Griffiths.  Also that he
had encountered and made a friend of him and that he was now
chaperoning him locally.

"Walter has been telling us that you have just come on here to work
for your uncle.  You're at Mrs. Cuppy's now, I understand.  I don't
know her but I've always heard she keeps such a nice, refined
place.  Mr. Parsley, who lives here with her, used to go to school
with me.  But I don't see much of him any more.  Did you meet him
yet?"

"No, I didn't," said Clyde in return.

"Well, you know, we expected you last Sunday to dinner, only Walter
had to go home.  But you must come soon.  Any time at all.  I would
love to have you."  She beamed and her small grayish brown eyes
twinkled.

Clyde could see that because of the fame of his uncle he was looked
upon as a social find, really.  And so it was with the remainder of
this company, old and young--the Rev. Peter Isreals and his wife;
Mr. Micah Bumpus, a local vendor of printing inks, and his wife and
son; Mr. and Mrs. Maximilian Pick, Mr. Pick being a wholesale and
retail dealer in hay, grain and feed; Mr. Witness, a florist, and
Mrs. Throop, a local real estate dealer.  All knew Samuel Griffiths
and his family by reputation and it seemed not a little interesting
and strange to all of them that Clyde, a real nephew of so rich a
man, should be here in their midst.  The only trouble with this was
that Clyde's manner was very soft and not as impressive as it
should be--not so aggressive and contemptuous.  And most of them
were of that type of mind that respects insolence even where it
pretends to condemn it.

In so far as the young girls were concerned, it was even more
noticeable.  For Dillard was making this important relationship of
Clyde's perfectly plain to every one.  "This is Clyde Griffiths,
the nephew of Samuel Griffiths, Mr. Gilbert Griffiths' cousin, you
know.  He's just come on here to study the collar business in his
uncle's factory."  And Clyde, who realized how shallow was this
pretense, was still not a little pleased and impressed by the
effect of it all.  This Dillard's effrontery.  The brassy way in
which, because of Clyde, he presumed to patronize these people.  On
this occasion, he kept guiding Clyde here and there, refusing for
the most part to leave him alone for an instant.  In fact he was
determined that all whom he knew and liked among the girls and
young men should know who and what Clyde was and that he was
presenting him.  Also that those whom he did not like should see as
little of him as possible--not be introduced at all.  "She don't
amount to anything.  Her father only keeps a small garage here.  I
wouldn't bother with her if I were you." Or, "He isn't much around
here.  Just a clerk in our store."  At the same time, in regard to
some others, he was all smiles and compliments, or at worst
apologetic for their social lacks.

And then he was introduced to Zella Shuman and Rita Dickerman, who,
for reasons of their own, not the least among which was a desire to
appear a little wise and more sophisticated than the others here,
came a little late.  And it was true, as Clyde was to find out
afterwards, that they were different, too--less simple and
restricted than quite all of the girls whom Dillard had thus far
introduced him to.  They were not as sound religiously and morally
as were these others.  And as even Clyde noted on meeting them,
they were as keen for as close an approach to pagan pleasure
without admitting it to themselves, as it was possible to be and
not be marked for what they were.  And in consequence, there was
something in their manner, the very spirit of the introduction,
which struck him as different from the tone of the rest of this
church group--not exactly morally or religiously unhealthy but
rather much freer, less repressed, less reserved than were these
others.

"Oh, so you're Mr. Clyde Griffiths," observed Zella Shuman.  "My,
you look a lot like your cousin, don't you?  I see him driving down
Central Avenue ever so often.  Walter has been telling us all about
you.  Do you like Lycurgus?"

The way she said "Walter," together with something intimate and
possessive in the tone of her voice, caused Clyde to feel at once
that she must feel rather closer to and freer with Dillard than he
himself had indicated.  A small scarlet bow of velvet ribbon at her
throat, two small garnet earrings in her ears, a very trim and
tight-fitting black dress, with a heavily flounced skirt, seemed to
indicate that she was not opposed to showing her figure, and prized
it, a mood which except for a demure and rather retiring poise
which she affected, would most certainly have excited comment in
such a place as this.

Rita Dickerman, on the other hand, was lush and blonde, with pink
cheeks, light chestnut hair, and bluish gray eyes.  Lacking the
aggressive smartness which characterized Zella Shuman, she still
radiated a certain something which to Clyde seemed to harmonize
with the liberal if secret mood of her friend.  Her manner, as
Clyde could see, while much less suggestive of masked bravado was
yielding and to him designedly so, as well as naturally provocative.
It had been arranged that she was to intrigue him. Very much
fascinated by Zella Shuman and in tow of her, they were inseparable.
And when Clyde was introduced to her, she beamed upon him in a
melting and sensuous way which troubled him not a little.  For here
in Lycurgus, as he was telling himself at the time, he must be very
careful with whom he became familiar.  And yet, unfortunately, as in
the case of Hortense Briggs, she evoked thoughts of intimacy,
however unproblematic or distant, which troubled him.  But he must
be careful.  It was just such a free attitude as this suggested by
Dillard as well as these girls' manners that had gotten him into
trouble before.

"Now we'll just have a little ice cream and cake," suggested
Dillard, after the few preliminary remarks were over, "and then we
can get out of here.  You two had better go around together and
hand out a few hellos.  Then we can meet at the ice cream booth.
After that, if you say so, we'll leave, eh?  What do you say?"

He looked at Zella Shuman as much as to say:  "You know what is the
best thing to do," and she smiled and replied:

"That's right.  We can't leave right away.  I see my cousin Mary
over there.  And Mother.  And Fred Bruckner.  Rita and I'll just go
around by ourselves for a while and then we'll meet you, see."  And
Rita Dickerman forthwith bestowed upon Clyde an intimate and
possessive smile.

After about twenty minutes of drifting and browsing, Dillard
received some signal from Zella, and he and Clyde paused near the
ice cream booth with its chairs in the center of the room.  In a
few moments they were casually joined by Zella and Rita, with whom
they had some ice cream and cake.  And then, being free of all
obligations and as some of the others were beginning to depart,
Dillard observed:  "Let's beat it.  We can go over to your place,
can't we?"

"Sure, sure," whispered Zella, and together they made their way to
the coat room.  Clyde was still so dubious as to the wisdom of all
this that he was inclined to be a little silent.  He did not know
whether he was fascinated by Rita or not.  But once out in the
street out of view of the church and the homing amusement seekers,
he and Rita found themselves together, Zella and Dillard having
walked on ahead.  And although Clyde had taken her arm, as he
thought fit, she maneuvered it free and laid a warm and caressing
hand on his elbow.  And she nudged quite close to him, shoulder to
shoulder, and half leaning on him, began pattering of the life of
Lycurgus.

There was something very furry and caressing about her voice now.
Clyde liked it.  There was something heavy and languorous about her
body, a kind of ray or electron that intrigued and lured him in
spite of himself.  He felt that he would like to caress her arm and
might if he wished--that he might even put his arm around her
waist, and so soon.  Yet here he was, a Griffiths, he was shrewd
enough to think--a Lycurgus Griffiths--and that was what now made a
difference--that made all those girls at this church social seem so
much more interested in him and so friendly.  Yet in spite of this
thought, he did squeeze her arm ever so slightly and without
reproach or comment from her.

And once in the Shuman home, which was a large old-fashioned square
frame house with a square cupola, very retired among some trees and
a lawn, they made themselves at home in a general living room which
was much more handsomely furnished than any home with which Clyde
had been identified heretofore.  Dillard at once began sorting the
records, with which he seemed most familiar, and to pull two rather
large rugs out of the way, revealing a smooth, hardwood floor.

"There's one thing about this house and these trees and these soft-
toned needles," he commented for Clyde's benefit, of course, since
he was still under the impression that Clyde might be and probably
was a very shrewd person who was watching his every move here.
"You can't hear a note of this Victrola out in the street, can you,
Zell?  Nor upstairs, either, really, not with the soft needles.
We've played it down here and danced to it several times, until
three and four in the morning and they didn't even know it
upstairs, did they, Zell?"

"That's right.  But then Father's a little hard of hearing.  And
Mother don't hear anything, either, when she gets in her room and
gets to reading.  But it is hard to hear at that."

"Why do people object so to dancing here?" asked Clyde.

"Oh, they don't--not the factory people--not at all," put in
Dillard, "but most of the church people do.  My uncle and aunt do.
And nearly everyone else we met at the church to-night, except Zell
and Rita."  He gave them a most approving and encouraging glance.
"And they're too broadminded to let a little thing like that bother
them.  Ain't that right, Zell?"

This young girl, who was very much fascinated by him, laughed and
nodded, "You bet, that's right.  I can't see any harm in it."

"Nor me, either," put in Rita, "nor my father and mother.  Only
they don't like to say anything about it or make me feel that they
want me to do too much of it."

Dillard by then had started a piece entitled "Brown Eyes" and
immediately Clyde and Rita and Dillard and Zella began to dance,
and Clyde found himself insensibly drifting into a kind of intimacy
with this girl which boded he could scarcely say what.  She danced
so warmly and enthusiastically--a kind of weaving and swaying
motion which suggested all sorts of repressed enthusiasms.  And her
lips were at once wreathed with a kind of lyric smile which
suggested a kind of hunger for this thing.  And she was very
pretty, more so dancing and smiling than at any other time.

"She is delicious," thought Clyde, "even if she is a little soft.
Any fellow would do almost as well as me, but she likes me because
she thinks I'm somebody."  And almost at the same moment she
observed:  "Isn't it just too gorgeous?  And you're such a good
dancer, Mr. Griffiths."

"Oh, no," he replied, smiling into her eyes, "you're the one that's
the dancer.  I can dance because you're dancing with me."

He could feel now that her arms were large and soft, her bosom full
for one so young.  Exhilarated by dancing, she was quite
intoxicating, her gestures almost provoking.

"Now we'll put on 'The Love Boat,'" called Dillard the moment
"Brown Eyes" was ended, "and you and Zella can dance together and
Rita and I will have a spin, eh, Rita?"

He was so fascinated by his own skill as a dancer, however, as well
as his natural joy in the art, that he could scarcely wait to begin
another, but must take Rita by the arms before putting on another
record, gliding here and there, doing steps and executing figures
which Clyde could not possibly achieve and which at once
established Dillard as the superior dancer.  Then, having done so,
he called to Clyde to put on "The Love Boat."

But as Clyde could see after dancing with Zella once, this was
planned to be a happy companionship of two mutually mated couples
who would not interfere with each other in any way, but rather
would aid each other in their various schemes to enjoy one
another's society.  For while Zella danced with Clyde, and danced
well and talked to him much, all the while he could feel that she
was interested in Dillard and Dillard only and would prefer to be
with him.  For, after a few dances, and while he and Rita lounged
on a settee and talked, Zella and Dillard left the room to go to
the kitchen for a drink.  Only, as Clyde observed, they stayed much
longer than any single drink would have required.

And similarly, during this interval, it seemed as though it was
intended even, by Rita, that he and she should draw closer to one
another.  For, finding the conversation on the settee lagging for a
moment, she got up and apropos of nothing--no music and no words--
motioned him to dance some more with her.  She had danced certain
steps with Dillard which she pretended to show Clyde.  But because
of their nature, these brought her and Clyde into closer contact
than before--very much so.  And standing so close together and
showing Clyde by elbow and arm how to do, her face and cheek came
very close to him--too much for his own strength of will and
purpose.  He pressed his cheek to hers and she turned smiling and
encouraging eyes upon him.  On the instant, his self-possession was
gone and he kissed her lips.  And then again--and again.  And
instead of withdrawing them, as he thought she might, she let him--
remained just as she was in order that he might kiss her more.

And suddenly now, as he felt this yielding of her warm body so
close to him, and the pressure of her lips in response to his own,
he realized that he had let himself in for a relationship which
might not be so very easy to modify or escape.  Also that it would
be a very difficult thing for him to resist, since he now liked her
and obviously she liked him.



Chapter 9


Apart from the momentary thrill and zest of this, the effect was to
throw Clyde, as before, speculatively back upon the problem of his
proper course here.  For here was this girl, and she was
approaching him in this direct and suggestive way.  And so soon
after telling himself and his mother that his course was to be so
different here--no such approaches or relationships as had brought
on his downfall in Kansas City.  And yet--and yet--

He was sorely tempted now, for in his contact with Rita he had the
feeling that she was expecting him to suggest a further step--and
soon.  But just how and where?  Not in connection with this large,
strange house.  There were other rooms apart from the kitchen to
which Dillard and Zella had ostensibly departed.  But even so, such
a relationship once established!  What then?  Would he not be
expected to continue it, or let himself in for possible complications
in case he did not?  He danced with and fondled her in a daring and
aggressive fashion, yet thinking as he did so, "But this is not
what I should be doing either, is it?  This is Lycurgus.  I am a
Griffiths, here.  I know how these people feel toward me--their
parents even.  Do I really care for her?  Is there not something
about her quick and easy availability which, if not exactly
dangerous in so far as my future here is concerned, is not quite
satisfactory--too quickly intimate?"  He was experiencing a
sensation not unrelated to his mood in connection with the lupanar
in Kansas City--attracted and yet repulsed.  He could do no more
than kiss and fondle her here in a somewhat restrained way until at
last Dillard and Zella returned, whereupon the same degree of
intimacy was no longer possible.

A clock somewhere striking two, it suddenly occurred to Rita that
she must be going--her parents would object to her staying out so
late.  And since Diliard gave no evidence of deserting Zella, it
followed, of course, that Clyde was to see her home, a pleasure
that now had been allayed by a vague suggestion of disappointment
or failure on the part of both.  He had not risen to her
expectations, he thought.  Obviously he lacked the courage yet to
follow up the proffer of her favors, was the way she explained it
to herself.

At her own door, not so far distant, and with a conversation which
was still tinctured with intimations of some future occasions which
might prove more favorable, her attitude was decidedly encouraging,
even here.  They parted, but with Clyde still saying to himself
that this new relationship was developing much too swiftly.  He was
not sure that he should undertake a relationship such as this here--
so soon, anyhow.  Where now were all his fine decisions made
before coming here?  What was he going to decide?  And yet because
of the sensual warmth and magnetism of Rita, he was irritated by
his resolution and his inability to proceed as he otherwise might.

Two things which eventually decided him in regard to this came
quite close together.  One related to the attitude of the Griffiths
themselves, which, apart from that of Gilbert, was not one of
opposition or complete indifference, so much as it was a failure on
the part of Samuel Griffiths in the first instance and the others
largely because of him to grasp the rather anomalous, if not
exactly lonely position in which Clyde would find himself here
unless the family chose to show him at least some little courtesy
or advise him cordially from time to time.  Yet Samuel Griffiths,
being always very much pressed for time, had scarcely given Clyde a
thought during the first month, at least.  He was here, properly
placed, as he heard, would be properly looked after in the future,--
what more, just now, at least?

And so for all of five weeks before any action of any kind was
taken, and with Gilbert Griffiths comforted thereby, Clyde was
allowed to drift along in his basement world wondering what was
being intended in connection with himself.  The attitude of others,
including Dillard and these girls, finally made his position here
seem strange.

However, about a month after Clyde had arrived, and principally
because Gilbert seemed so content to say nothing regarding him, the
elder Griffiths inquired one day:

"Well, what about your cousin?  How's he doing by now?"  And
Gilbert, only a little worried as to what this might bode, replied,
"Oh, he's all right.  I started him off in the shrinking room.  Is
that all right?"

"Yes, I think so.  That's as good a place as any for him to begin,
I believe.  But what do you think of him by now?"

"Oh," answered Gilbert very conservatively and decidedly
independently--a trait for which his father had always admired him--
"Not so much.  He's all right, I guess.  He may work out.  But he
does not strike me as a fellow who would ever make much of a stir
in this game.  He hasn't had much of an education of any kind, you
know.  Any one can see that.  Besides, he's not so very aggressive
or energetic-looking.  Too soft, I think.  Still I don't want to
knock him.  He may be all right.  You like him and I may be wrong.
But I can't help but think that his real idea in coming here is
that you'll do more for him than you would for someone else, just
because he is related to you."

"Oh, you think he does.  Well, if he does, he's wrong."  But at the
same time, he added, and that with a bantering smile:  "He may not
be as impractical as you think, though.  He hasn't been here long
enough for us to really tell, has he?  He didn't strike me that way
in Chicago.  Besides there are a lot of little corners into which
he might fit, aren't there, without any great waste, even if he
isn't the most talented fellow in the world?  If he's content to
take a small job in life, that's his business.  I can't prevent
that.  But at any rate, I don't want him sent away yet, anyhow, and
I don't want him put on piece work.  It wouldn't look right.  After
all, he is related to us.  Just let him drift along for a little
while and see what he does for himself."

"All right, governor," replied his son, who was hoping that his
father would absent-mindedly let him stay where he was--in the
lowest of all the positions the factory had to offer.

But, now, and to his dissatisfaction, Samuel Griffiths proceeded to
add, "We'll have to have him out to the house for dinner pretty
soon, won't we?  I have thought of that but I haven't been able to
attend to it before.  I should have spoken to Mother about it
before this.  He hasn't been out yet, has he?"

"No, sir, not that I know of," replied Gilbert dourly.  He did not
like this at all, but was too tactful to show his opposition just
here.  "We've been waiting for you to say something about it, I
suppose."

"Very well," went on Samuel, "you'd better find out where he's
stopping and have him out.  Next Sunday wouldn't be a bad time, if
we haven't anything else on."  Noting a flicker of doubt or
disapproval in his son's eyes, he added:  "After all, Gil, he's my
nephew and your cousin, and we can't afford to ignore him entirely.
That wouldn't be right, you know, either.  You'd better speak to
your mother to-night, or I will, and arrange it."  He closed the
drawer of a desk in which he had been looking for certain papers,
got up and took down his hat and coat and left the office.

In consequence of this discussion, an invitation was sent to Clyde
for the following Sunday at six-thirty to appear and participate in
a Griffiths family meal.  On Sunday at one-thirty was served the
important family dinner to which usually was invited one or another
of the various local or visiting friends of the family.  At six-
thirty nearly all of these guests had departed, and sometimes one
or two of the Griffiths themselves, the cold collation served being
partaken of by Mr. and Mrs. Griffiths and Myra--Bella and Gilbert
usually having appointments elsewhere.

On this occasion, however, as Mrs. Griffiths and Myra and Bella
decided in conference, they would all be present with the exception
of Gilbert, who, because of his opposition as well as another
appointment, explained that he would stop in for only a moment
before leaving.  Thus Clyde as Gilbert was pleased to note would be
received and entertained without the likelihood of contacts,
introductions and explanations to such of their more important
connections who might chance to stop in during the afternoon.  They
would also have an opportunity to study him for themselves and see
what they really did think without committing themselves in any
way.

But in the meantime in connection with Dillard, Rita and Zella
there had been a development which, because of the problem it had
posed, was to be affected by this very decision on the part of the
Griffiths.  For following the evening at the Shuman home, and
because, in spite of Clyde's hesitation at the time, all three
including Rita herself, were still convinced that he must or would
be smitten with her charms, there had been various hints, as well
as finally a direct invitation or proposition on the part of
Dillard to the effect that because of the camaraderie which had
been established between himself and Clyde and these two girls,
they make a week-end trip somewhere--preferably to Utica or Albany.
The girls would go, of course.  He could fix that through Zella
with Rita for Clyde if he had any doubts or fears as to whether it
could be negotiated or not.  "You know she likes you.  Zell was
telling me the other day that she said she thought you were the
candy.  Some ladies' man, eh?"  And he nudged Clyde genially and
intimately,--a proceeding in this newer and grander world in which
he now found himself,--and considering who he was here, was not as
appealing to Clyde as it otherwise might have been.  These fellows
who were so pushing where they thought a fellow amounted to
something more than they did!  He could tell.

At the same time, the proposition he was now offering--as thrilling
and intriguing as it might be from one point of view--was likely to
cause him endless trouble--was it not?  In the first place he had
no money--only fifteen dollars a week here so far--and if he was
going to be expected to indulge in such expensive outings as these,
why, of course, he could not manage.  Carfare, meals, a hotel bill,
maybe an automobile ride or two.  And after that he would be in
close contact with this Rita whom he scarcely knew.  And might she
not take it on herself to become intimate here in Lycurgus, maybe--
expect him to call on her regularly--and go places--and then--well,
gee--supposing the Griffiths--his cousin Gilbert, heard of or saw
this.  Hadn't Zella said that she saw him often on the street here
and there in Lycurgus?  And wouldn't they be likely to encounter
him somewhere--sometime--when they were all together?  And wouldn't
that fix him as being intimate with just another store clerk like
Dillard who didn't amount to so much after all?  It might even mean
the end of his career here!  Who could tell what it might lead to?

He coughed and made various excuses.  Just now he had a lot of work
to do.  Besides--a venture like that--he would have to see first.
His relatives, you know.  Besides next Sunday and the Sunday after,
some extra work in connection with the factory was going to hold
him in Lycurgus.  After that time he would see.  Actually, in his
wavering way--and various disturbing thoughts as to Rita's charm
returning to him at moments, he was wondering if it was not
desirable--his other decision to the contrary notwithstanding, to
skimp himself as much as possible over two or three weeks and so go
anyhow.  He had been saving something toward a new dress suit and
collapsible silk hat.  Might he not use some of that--even though
he knew the plan to be all wrong?

The fair, plump, sensuous Rita!

But then, not at that very moment--but in the interim following,
the invitation from the Griffiths.  Returning from his work one
evening very tired and still cogitating this gay adventure proposed
by Dillard, he found lying on the table in his room a note written
on very heavy and handsome paper which had been delivered by one of
the servants of the Griffiths in his absence.  It was all the more
arresting to him because on the flap of the envelope was embossed
in high relief the initials "E. G."  He at once tore it open and
eagerly read:


"MY DEAR NEPHEW:

"Since your arrival my husband has been away most of the time, and
although we have wished to have you with us before, we have thought
it best to await his leisure.  He is freer now and we will be very
glad if you can find it convenient to come to supper with us at six
o'clock next Sunday.  We dine very informally--just ourselves--so
in case you can or cannot come, you need not bother to write or
telephone.  And you need not dress for this occasion either.  But
come if you can.  We will be happy to see you.

"Sincerely, your aunt,

"ELIZABETH GRIFFITHS"


On reading this Clyde, who, during all this silence and the
prosecution of a task in the shrinking room which was so eminently
distasteful to him, was being more and more weighed upon by the
thought that possibly, after all, this quest of his was going to
prove a vain one and that he was going to be excluded from any real
contact with his great relatives, was most romantically and hence
impractically heartened.  For only see--here was this grandiose
letter with its "very happy to see you," which seemed to indicate
that perhaps, after all, they did not think so badly of him.  Mr.
Samuel Griffiths had been away all the time.  That was it.  Now he
would get to see his aunt and cousins and the inside of that great
house.  It must be very wonderful.  They might even take him up
after this--who could tell?  But how remarkable that he should be
taken up now, just when he had about decided that they would not.

And forthwith his interest in, as well as his weakness for, Rita,
if not Zella and Dillard began to evaporate.  What!  Mix with
people so far below him--a Griffiths--in the social scale here and
at the cost of endangering his connection with that important
family.  Never!  It was a great mistake.  Didn't this letter coming
just at this time prove it?  And fortunately--(how fortunately!)--
he had had the good sense not to let himself in for anything as
yet.  And so now, without much trouble, and because, most likely
from now on it would prove necessary for him so to do he could
gradually eliminate himself from this contact with Dillard--move
away from Mrs. Cuppy's--if necessary, or say that his uncle had
cautioned him--anything, but not go with this crowd any more, just
the same.  It wouldn't do.  It would endanger his prospects in
connection with this new development.  And instead of troubling
over Rita and Utica now, he began to formulate for himself once
more the essential nature of the private life of the Griffiths, the
fascinating places they must go, the interesting people with whom
they must be in contact.  And at once he began to think of the need
of a dress suit, or at least a tuxedo and trousers.  Accordingly
the next morning, he gained permission from Mr. Kemerer to leave at
eleven and not return before one, and in that time he managed to
find coat, trousers and a pair of patent leather shoes, as well as
a white silk muffler for the money he had already saved.  And so
arrayed he felt himself safe.  He must make a good impression.

And for the entire time between then and Sunday evening, instead of
thinking of Rita or Dillard or Zella any more, he was thinking of
this opportunity.  Plainly it was an event to be admitted to the
presence of such magnificence.

The only drawback to all this, as he well sensed now, was this same
Gilbert Griffiths, who surveyed him always whenever he met him
anywhere with such hard, cold eyes.  He might be there, and then he
would probably assume that superior attitude, to make him feel his
inferior position, if he could--and Clyde had the weakness at times
of admitting to himself that he could.  And no doubt, if he (Clyde)
sought to carry himself with too much of an air in the presence of
this family, Gilbert most likely would seek to take it out of him
in some way later in connection with the work in the factory.  He
might see to it, for instance, that his father heard only
unfavorable things about him.  And, of course, if he were retained
in this wretched shrinking room, and given no show of any kind, how
could he expect to get anywhere or be anybody?  It was just his
luck that on arriving here he should find this same Gilbert looking
almost like him and being so opposed to him for obviously no reason
at all.

However, despite all his doubts, he decided to make the best of
this opportunity, and accordingly on Sunday evening at six set out
for the Griffiths' residence, his nerves decidedly taut because of
the ordeal before him.  And when he reached the main gate, a large,
arched wrought iron affair which gave in on a wide, winding brick
walk which led to the front entrance, he lifted the heavy latch
which held the large iron gates in place, with almost a quaking
sense of adventure.  And as he approached along the walk, he felt
as though he might well be the object of observant and critical
eyes.  Perhaps Mr. Samuel or Mr. Gilbert Griffiths or one or the
other of the two sisters was looking at him now from one of those
heavily curtained windows.  On the lower floor several lights
glowed with a soft and inviting radiance.

This mood, however, was brief.  For soon the door was opened by a
servant who took his coat and invited him into the very large
living room, which was very impressive.  To Clyde, even after the
Green-Davidson and the Union League, it seemed a very beautiful
room.  It contained so many handsome pieces of furniture and such
rich rugs and hangings.  A fire burned in the large, high fireplace
before which was circled a number of divans and chairs.  There were
lamps, a tall clock, a great table.  No one was in the room at the
moment, but presently as Clyde fidgeted and looked about he heard a
rustling of silk to the rear, where a great staircase descended
from the rooms above.  And from there he saw Mrs. Griffiths
approaching him, a bland and angular and faded-looking woman.  But
her walk was brisk, her manner courteous, if non-committal, as was
her custom always, and after a few moments of conversation he found
himself peaceful and fairly comfortable in her presence.

"My nephew, I believe," she smiled.

"Yes," replied Clyde simply, and because of his nervousness, with
unusual dignity.  "I am Clyde Griffiths."

"I'm very glad to see you and to welcome you to our home," began
Mrs. Griffiths with a certain amount of aplomb which years of
contact with the local high world had given her at last.  "And my
children will be, too, of course.  Bella is not here just now or
Gilbert, either, but then they will be soon, I believe.  My husband
is resting, but I heard him stirring just now, and he'll be down in
a moment.  Won't you sit here?"  She motioned to a large divan
between them.  "We dine nearly always alone here together on Sunday
evening, so I thought it would be nice if you came just to be alone
with us.  How do you like Lycurgus now?"

She arranged herself on one of the large divans before the fire and
Clyde rather awkwardly seated himself at a respectful distance from
her.

"Oh, I like it very much," he observed, exerting himself to be
congenial and to smile.  "Of course I haven't seen so very much of
it yet, but what I have I like.  This street is one of the nicest I
have ever seen anywhere," he added enthusiastically.  "The houses
are so large and the grounds so beautiful."

"Yes, we here in Lycurgus pride ourselves on Wykeagy Avenue,"
smiled Mrs. Griffiths, who took no end of satisfaction in the grace
and rank of her own home in this street.  She and her husband had
been so long climbing up to it.  "Every one who sees it seems to
feel the same way about it.  It was laid out many years ago when
Lycurgus was just a village. It is only within the last fifteen
years that it has come to be as handsome as it is now.

"But you must tell me something about your mother and father.  I
never met either of them, you know, though, of course, I have heard
my husband speak of them often--that is, of his brother, anyhow,"
she corrected.  "I don't believe he ever met your mother.  How is
your father?"

"Oh, he's quite well," replied Clyde, simply.  "And Mother, too.
They're living in Denver now.  We did live for a while in Kansas
City, but for the last three years they've been out there.  I had a
letter from Mother only the other day.  She says everything is all
right."

"Then you keep up a correspondence with her, do you?  That's nice."
She smiled, for by now she had become interested by and, on the
whole, rather taken with Clyde's appearance.  He looked so neat and
generally presentable, so much like her own son that she was a
little startled at first and intrigued on that score.  If anything,
Clyde was taller, better built and hence better looking, only she
would never have been willing to admit that.  For to her Gilbert,
although he was intolerant and contemptuous even to her at times,
simulating an affection which was as much a custom as a reality,
was still a dynamic and aggressive person putting himself and his
conclusions before everyone else.  Whereas Clyde was more soft and
vague and fumbling.  Her son's force must be due to the innate
ability of her husband as well as the strain of some relatives in
her own line who had not been unlike Gilbert, while Clyde probably
drew his lesser force from the personal unimportance of his
parents.

But having settled this problem in her son's favor, Mrs. Griffiths
was about to ask after his sisters and brothers, when they were
interrupted by Samuel Griffiths who now approached.  Measuring
Clyde, who had risen, very sharply once more, and finding him very
satisfactory in appearance at least, he observed:  "Well, so here
you are, eh?  They've placed you, I believe, without my ever seeing
you."

"Yes, sir," replied Clyde, very deferentially and half bowing in
the presence of so great a man.

"Well, that's all right.  Sit down!  Sit down!  I'm very glad they
did.  I hear you're working down in the shrinking room at present.
Not exactly a pleasant place, but not such a bad place to begin,
either--at the bottom.  The best people start there sometimes."  He
smiled and added:  "I was out of the city when you came on or I
would have seen you."

"Yes, sir," replied Clyde, who had not ventured to seat himself
again until Mr. Griffiths had sunk into a very large stuffed chair
near the divan.  And the latter, now that he saw Clyde in an
ordinary tuxedo with a smart pleated shirt and black tie, as
opposed to the club uniform in which he had last seen him in
Chicago, was inclined to think him even more attractive than
before--not quite as negligible and unimportant as his son Gilbert
had made out.  Still, not being dead to the need of force and
energy in business and sensing that Clyde was undoubtedly lacking
in these qualities, he did now wish that Clyde had more vigor and
vim in him.  It would reflect more handsomely on the Griffiths end
of the family and please his son more, maybe.

"Like it where you are now?" he observed condescendingly.

"Well, yes, sir, that is, I wouldn't say that I like it exactly,"
replied Clyde quite honestly.  "But I don't mind it.  It's as good
as any other way to begin, I suppose."  The thought in his mind at
the moment was that he would like to impress on his uncle that he
was cut out for something better.  And the fact that his cousin
Gilbert was not present at the moment gave him the courage to say
it.

"Well, that's the proper spirit," commented Samuel Griffiths,
pleased.  "It isn't the most pleasant part of the process, I will
admit, but it's one of the most essential things to know, to begin
with.  And it takes a little time, of course, to get anywhere in
any business these days."

From this Clyde wondered how long he was to be left in that dim
world below stairs.

But while he was thinking this Myra came forward, curious about him
and what he would be like, and very pleased to see that he was not
as uninteresting as Gilbert had painted him.  There was something,
as she now saw, about Clyde's eyes--nervous and somewhat furtive
and appealing or seeking--that at once interested her, and reminded
her, perhaps, since she was not much of a success socially either,
of something in herself.

"Your cousin, Clyde Griffiths, Myra," observed Samuel rather
casually, as Clyde arose.  "My daughter Myra," he added, to Clyde.
"This is the young man I've been telling you about."

Clyde bowed and then took the cool and not very vital hand that
Myra extended to him, but feeling it just the same to be more
friendly and considerate than the welcome of the others.

"Well, I hope you'll like it, now that you're here," she began,
genially.  "We all like Lycurgus, only after Chicago I suppose it
will not mean so very much to you."  She smiled and Clyde, feeling
very formal and stiff in the presence of all these very superior
relatives, now returned a stiff "thank you," and was just about to
seat himself when the outer door opened and Gilbert Griffiths
strode in.  The whirring of a motor had preceded this--a motor that
had stopped outside the large east side entrance.  "Just a minute,
Dolge," he called to some one outside.  "I won't be long."  Then
turning to the family, he added:  "Excuse me, folks, I'll be back
in a minute."  He dashed up the rear stairs, only to return after a
time and confront Clyde, if not the others, with that same rather
icy and inconsiderate air that had so far troubled him at the
factory.  He was wearing a light, belted motoring coat of a very
pronounced stripe, and a dark leather cap and gauntlets which gave
him almost a military air.  After nodding to Clyde rather stiffly,
and adding, "How do you do," he laid a patronizing hand on his
father's shoulder and observed:  "Hi, Dad.  Hello, Mother.  Sorry I
can't be with you to-night.  But I just came over from Amsterdam
with Dolge and Eustis to get Constance and Jacqueline.  There's
some doings over at the Bridgemans'.  But I'll be back again before
morning.  Or at the office, anyhow.  Everything all right with you,
Mr. Griffiths?" he observed to his father.

"Yes, I have nothing to complain of," returned his father.  "But it
seems to me you're making a pretty long night of it, aren't you?"

"Oh, I don't mean that," returned his son, ignoring Clyde entirely.
"I just mean that if I can't get back by two, I'll stay over,
that's all, see."  He tapped his father genially on the shoulder
again.

"I hope you're not driving that car as fast as usual," complained
his mother.  "It's not safe at all."

"Fifteen miles an hour, Mother.  Fifteen miles an hour.  I know the
rules."  He smiled loftily.

Clyde did not fail to notice the tone of condescension and
authority that went with all this.  Plainly here, as at the
factory, he was a person who had to be reckoned with.  Apart from
his father, perhaps, there was no one here to whom he offered any
reverence.  What a superior attitude, thought Clyde!

How wonderful it must be to be a son who, without having had to
earn all this, could still be so much, take oneself so seriously,
exercise so much command and authority.  It might be, as it plainly
was, that this youth was very superior and indifferent in tone
toward him.  But think of being such a youth, having so much power
at one's command!



Chapter 10


At this point a maid announced that supper was served and instantly
Gilbert took his departure.  At the same time the family arose and
Mrs. Griffiths asked the maid:  "Has Bella telephoned yet?"

"No, ma'am," replied the servant, "not yet."

"Well, have Mrs. Truesdale call up the Finchleys and see if she's
there.  You tell her I said that she is to come home at once."

The maid departed for a moment while the group proceeded to the
dining room, which lay to the west of the stairs at the rear.
Again, as Clyde saw, this was another splendidly furnished room
done in a very light brown, with a long center table of carved
walnut, evidently used only for special occasions.  It was
surrounded by high-backed chairs and lighted by candelabras set at
even spaces upon it.  In a lower ceilinged and yet ample circular
alcove beyond this, looking out on the garden to the south, was a
smaller table set for six.  It was in this alcove that they were to
dine, a different thing from what Clyde had expected for some
reason.

Seated in a very placid fashion, he found himself answering
questions principally as to his own family, the nature of its life,
past and present; how old was his father now?  His mother?  What
had been the places of their residence before moving to Denver?
How many brothers and sisters had he?  How old was his sister,
Esta?  What did she do?  And the others?  Did his father like
managing a hotel?  What had been the nature of his father's work in
Kansas City?  How long had the family lived there?

Clyde was not a little troubled and embarrassed by this chain of
questions which flowed rather heavily and solemnly from Samuel
Griffiths or his wife.  And from Clyde's hesitating replies,
especially in regard to the nature of the family life in Kansas
City, both gathered that he was embarrassed and troubled by some of
the questions.  They laid it to the extreme poverty of their
relatives, of course.  For having asked, "I suppose you began your
hotel work in Kansas City, didn't you, after you left school?"
Clyde blushed deeply, bethinking himself of the incident of the
stolen car and of how little real schooling he had had.  Most
certainly he did not like the thought of having himself identified
with hotel life in Kansas City, and more especially the Green-
Davidson.

But fortunately at this moment, the door opened and Bella entered,
accompanied by two girls such as Clyde would have assumed at once
belonged to this world.  How different to Rita and Zella with whom
his thought so recently had been disturbedly concerned.  He did not
know Bella, of course, until she proceeded most familiarly to
address her family.  But the others--one was Sondra Finchley, so
frequently referred to by Bella and her mother--as smart and vain
and sweet a girl as Clyde had ever laid his eyes upon--so different
to any he had ever known and so superior.  She was dressed in a
close-fitting tailored suit which followed her form exactly and
which was enhanced by a small dark leather hat, pulled fetchingly
low over her eyes.  A leather belt of the same color encircled her
neck.  By a leather leash she led a French bull and over one arm
carried a most striking coat of black and gray checks--not too
pronounced and yet having the effect of a man's modish overcoat.
To Clyde's eyes she was the most adorable feminine thing he had
seen in all his days.  Indeed her effect on him was electric--
thrilling--arousing in him a curiously stinging sense of what it
was to want and not to have--to wish to win and yet to feel, almost
agonizingly that he was destined not even to win a glance from her.
It tortured and flustered him.  At one moment he had a keen desire
to close his eyes and shut her out--at another to look only at her
constantly--so truly was he captivated.

Yet, whether she saw him or not, she gave no sign at first,
exclaiming to her dog:  "Now, Bissell, if you're not going to
behave, I'm going to take you out and tie you out there.  Oh, I
don't believe I can stay a moment if he won't behave better than
this."  He had seen a family cat and was tugging to get near her.

Beside her was another girl whom Clyde did not fancy nearly so
much, and yet who, after her fashion, was as smart as Sondra and
perhaps as alluring to some.  She was blonde--tow-headed--with
clear almond-shaped, greenish-gray eyes, a small, graceful, catlike
figure, and a slinky feline manner.  At once, on entering, she
sidled across the room to the end of the table where Mrs. Griffiths
sat and leaning over her at once began to purr.

"Oh, how are you, Mrs. Griffiths?  I'm so glad to see you again.
It's been some time since I've been over here, hasn't it?  But then
Mother and I have been away.  She and Grant are over at Albany to-
day.  And I just picked up Bella and Sondra here at the Lamberts'.
You're just having a quiet little supper by yourselves, aren't you?
How are you, Myra?" she called, and reaching over Mrs. Griffiths'
shoulder touched Myra quite casually on the arm, as though it were
more a matter of form than anything else.

In the meantime Bella, who next to Sondra seemed to Clyde decidedly
the most charming of the three, was exclaiming:  "Oh, I'm late.
Sorry, Mamma and Daddy.  Won't that do this time?"  Then noting
Clyde, and as though for the first time, although he had risen as
they entered and was still standing, she paused in semi-mock
modesty as did the others.  And Clyde, oversensitive to just such
airs and material distinctions, was fairly tremulous with a sense
of his own inadequacy, as he waited to be introduced.  For to him,
youth and beauty in such a station as this represented the ultimate
triumph of the female.  His weakness for Hortense Briggs, to say
nothing of Rita, who was not so attractive as either of these,
illustrated the effect of trim femininity on him, regardless of
merit.

"Bella," observed Samuel Griffiths, heavily, noting Clyde still
standing, "your cousin, Clyde."

"Oh, yes," replied Bella, observing that Clyde looked exceedingly
like Gilbert.  "How are you?  Mother has been saying that you were
coming to call one of these days."  She extended a finger or two,
then turned toward her friends.  "My friends, Miss Finchley and
Miss Cranston, Mr. Griffiths."

The two girls bowed, each in the most stiff and formal manner, at
the same time studying Clyde most carefully and rather directly,
"Well, he does look like Gil a lot, doesn't he?" whispered Sondra
to Bertine, who had drawn near to her.  And Bertine replied:  "I
never saw anything like it.  He's really better-looking, isn't he--
a lot?"

Sondra nodded, pleased to note in the first instance that he was
somewhat better-looking than Bella's brother, whom she did not
like--next that he was obviously stricken with her, which was her
due, as she invariably decided in connection with youths thus
smitten with her.  But having thus decided, and seeing that his
glance was persistently and helplessly drawn to her, she concluded
that she need pay no more attention to him, for the present anyway.
He was too easy.

But now Mrs. Griffiths, who had not anticipated this visitation and
was a little irritated with Bella for introducing her friends at
this time since it at once raised the question of Clyde's social
position here, observed:  "Hadn't you two better lay off your coats
and sit down?  I'll just have Nadine lay extra plates at this end.
Bella, you can sit next to your father."

"Oh, no, not at all," and "No, indeed, we're just on our way home
ourselves.  I can't stay a minute," came from Sondra and Bertine.
But now that they were here and Clyde had proved to be as
attractive as he was, they were perversely interested to see what,
if any, social flair there was to him.  Gilbert Griffiths, as both
knew, was far from being popular in some quarters--their own in
particular, however much they might like Bella.  He was, for two
such self-centered beauties as these, too aggressive, self-willed
and contemptuous at times.  Whereas Clyde, if one were to judge by
his looks, at least was much more malleable.  And if it were to
prove now that he was of equal station, or that the Griffiths
thought so, decidedly he would be available locally, would he not?
At any rate, it would be interesting to know whether he was rich.
But this thought was almost instantly satisfied by Mrs. Griffiths,
who observed rather definitely and intentionally to Bertine:  "Mr.
Griffiths is a nephew of ours from the West who has come on to see
if he can make a place for himself in my husband's factory.  He's a
young man who has to make his own way in the world and my husband
has been kind enough to give him an opportunity."

Clyde flushed, since obviously this was a notice to him that his
social position here was decidedly below that of the Griffiths or
these girls.  At the same time, as he also noticed, the look of
Bertine Cranston, who was only interested in youths of means and
position, changed from one of curiosity to marked indifference.  On
the other hand, Sondra Finchley, by no means so practical as her
friend, though of a superior station in her set, since she was so
very attractive and her parents possessed of even more means--re-
surveyed Clyde with one thought written rather plainly on her face,
that it was too bad.  He really was so attractive.

At the same time Samuel Griffiths, having a peculiar fondness for
Sondra, if not Bertine, whom Mrs. Griffiths also disliked as being
too tricky and sly, was calling to her:  "Here, Sondra, tie up your
dog to one of the dining-room chairs and come and sit by me.  Throw
your coat over that chair.  Here's room for you."  He motioned to
her to come.

"But I can't, Uncle Samuel!" called Sondra, familiarly and showily
and yet somehow sweetly, seeking to ingratiate herself by this
affected relationship.  "We're late now.  Besides Bissell won't
behave.  Bertine and I are just on our way home, truly."

"Oh, yes, Papa," put in Bella, quickly, "Bertine's horse ran a nail
in his foot yesterday and is going lame to-day.  And neither Grant
nor his father is home.  She wants to know if you know anything
that's good for it."

"Which foot is it?" inquired Griffiths, interested, while Clyde
continued to survey Sondra as best he might.  She was so delicious,
he thought--her nose so tiny and tilted--her upper lip arched so
roguishly upward toward her nose.

"It's the left fore.  I was riding out on the East Kingston road
yesterday afternoon.  Jerry threw a shoe and must have picked up a
splinter, but John doesn't seem to be able to find it."

"Did you ride him much with the nail, do you think?"

"About eight miles--all the way back."

"Well, you had better have John put on some liniment and a bandage
and call a veterinary.  He'll come around all right, I'm sure."

The group showed no signs of leaving and Clyde, left quite to
himself for the moment, was thinking what an easy, delightful world
this must be--this local society.  For here they were without a
care, apparently, between any of them.  All their talk was of
houses being built, horses they were riding, friends they had met,
places they were going to, things they were going to do.  And there
was Gilbert, who had left only a little while before--motoring
somewhere with a group of young men.  And Bella, his cousin,
trifling around with these girls in the beautiful homes of this
street, while he was shunted away in a small third-floor room at
Mrs. Cuppy's with no place to go.  And with only fifteen dollars a
week to live on.  And in the morning he would be working in the
basement again, while these girls were rising to more pleasure.
And out in Denver were his parents with their small lodging house
and mission, which he dared not even describe accurately here.

Suddenly the two girls declaring they must go, they took themselves
off.  And he and the Griffiths were once more left to themselves--
he with the feeling that he was very much out of place and
neglected here, since Samuel Griffiths and his wife and Bella,
anyhow, if not Myra, seemed to be feeling that he was merely being
permitted to look into a world to which he did not belong; also,
that because of his poverty it would be impossible to fit him into--
however much he might dream of associating with three such
wonderful girls as these.  And at once he felt sad--very--his eyes
and his mood darkening so much that not only Samuel Griffiths, but
his wife as well as Myra noticed it.  If he could enter upon this
world, find some way.  But of the group it was only Myra, not any
of the others, who sensed that in all likelihood he was lonely and
depressed.  And in consequence as all were rising and returning to
the large living room (Samuel chiding Bella for her habit of
keeping her family waiting) it was Myra who drew near to Clyde to
say:  "I think after you've been here a little while you'll
probably like Lycurgus better than you do now, even.  There are
quite a number of interesting places to go and see around here--
lakes and the Adirondacks are just north of here, about seventy
miles.  And when the summer comes and we get settled at Greenwood,
I'm sure Father and Mother will like you to come up there once in a
while."

She was by no means sure that this was true, but under the
circumstances, whether it was or not, she felt like saying it to
Clyde.  And thereafter, since he felt more comfortable with her, he
talked with her as much as he could without neglecting either Bella
or the family, until about half-past nine, when, suddenly feeling
very much out of place and alone, he arose saying that he must go,
that he had to get up early in the morning.  And as he did so,
Samuel Griffiths walked with him to the front door and let him out.
But he, too, by now, as had Myra before him, feeling that Clyde was
rather attractive and yet, for reasons of poverty, likely to be
neglected from now on, not only by his family, but by himself as
well, observed most pleasantly, and, as he hoped, compensatively:
"It's rather nice out, isn't it?  Wykeagy Avenue hasn't begun to
show what it can do yet because the spring isn't quite here.  But
in a few weeks," and he looked up most inquiringly at the sky and
sniffed the late April air, "we must have you out.  All the trees
and flowers will be in bloom then and you can see how really nice
it is.  Good night."

He smiled and put a very cordial note into his voice, and once more
Clyde felt that, whatever Gilbert Griffiths' attitude might be,
most certainly his father was not wholly indifferent to him.



Chapter 11


The days lapsed and, although no further word came from the
Griffiths, Clyde was still inclined to exaggerate the importance of
this one contact and to dream from time to time of delightful
meetings with those girls and how wonderful if a love affair with
one of them might eventuate for him.  The beauty of that world in
which they moved.  The luxury and charm as opposed to this of which
he was a part.  Dillard!  Rita!  Tush!  They were really dead for
him.  He aspired to this other or nothing as he saw it now and
proceeded to prove as distant to Dillard as possible, an attitude
which by degrees tended to alienate that youth entirely for he saw
in Clyde a snob which potentially he was if he could have but won
to what he desired.  However, as he began to see afterwards, time
passed and he was left to work until, depressed by the routine,
meager pay and commonplace shrinking-room contacts, he began to
think not so much of returning to Rita or Dillard,--he could not
quite think of them now with any satisfaction, but of giving up
this venture here and returning to Chicago or going to New York,
where he was sure that he could connect himself with some hotel if
need be.  But then, as if to revive his courage and confirm his
earlier dreams, a thing happened which caused him to think that
certainly he was beginning to rise in the estimation of the
Griffiths--father and son--whether they troubled to entertain him
socially or not.  For it chanced that one Saturday in spring,
Samuel Griffiths decided to make a complete tour of inspection of
the factory with Joshua Whiggam at his elbow.  Reaching the
shrinking department about noon, he observed for the first time
with some dismay, Clyde in his undershirt and trousers working at
the feeding end of two of the shrinking racks, his nephew having by
this time acquired the necessary skill to "feed" as well as "take."
And recalling how very neat and generally presentable he had
appeared at his house but a few weeks before, he was decidedly
disturbed by the contrast.  For one thing he had felt about Clyde,
both in Chicago and here at his home, was that he had presented a
neat and pleasing appearance.  And he, almost as much as his son,
was jealous, not only of the name, but the general social
appearance of the Griffiths before the employees of this factory as
well as the community at large.  And the sight of Clyde here,
looking so much like Gilbert and in an armless shirt and trousers
working among these men, tended to impress upon him more sharply
than at any time before the fact that Clyde was his nephew, and
that he ought not to be compelled to continue at this very menial
form of work any longer.  To the other employees it might appear
that he was unduly indifferent to the meaning of such a
relationship.

Without, however, saying a word to Whiggam or anyone else at the
time, he waited until his son returned on Monday morning, from a
trip that he had taken out of town, when he called him into his
office and observed:  "I made a tour of the factory Saturday and
found young Clyde still down in the shrinking room."

"What of it, Dad?" replied his son, curiously interested as to why
his father should at this time wish to mention Clyde in this
special way.  "Other people before him have worked down there and
it hasn't hurt them."

"All true enough, but they weren't nephews of mine.  And they
didn't look as much like you as he does"--a comment which irritated
Gilbert greatly.  "It won't do, I tell you.  It doesn't look quite
right to me, and I'm afraid it won't look right to other people
here who see how much he looks like you and know that he is your
cousin and my nephew.  I didn't realize that at first, because I
haven't been down there, but I don't think it wise to keep him down
there any longer doing that kind of thing.  It won't do.  We'll
have to make a change, switch him around somewhere else where he
won't look like that."

His eyes darkened and his brow wrinkled.  The impression that Clyde
made in his old clothes and with beads of sweat standing out on his
forehead had not been pleasant.

"But I'll tell you how it is, Dad," Gilbert persisted, anxious and
determined because of his innate opposition to Clyde to keep him
there if possible.  "I'm not so sure that I can find just the right
place for him now anywhere else--at least not without moving
someone else who has been here a long time and worked hard to get
there.  He hasn't had any training in anything so far, but just
what he's doing."

"Don't know or don't care anything about that," replied Griffiths
senior, feeling that his son was a little jealous and in
consequence disposed to be unfair to Clyde.  "That's no place for
him and I won't have him there any longer.  He's been there long
enough.  And I can't afford to have the name of any of this family
come to mean anything but just what it does around here now--
reserve and ability and energy and good judgment.  It's not good
for the business.  And anything less than that is a liability.  You
get me, don't you?"

"Yes, I get you all right, governor."

"Well, then, do as I say.  Get hold of Whiggam and figure out some
other place for him around here, and not as piece worker or a hand
either.  It was a mistake to put him down there in the first place.
There must be some little place in one of the departments where he
can be fitted in as the head of something, first or second or third
assistant to some one, and where he can wear a decent suit of
clothes and look like somebody.  And, if necessary, let him go home
on full pay until you find something for him.  But I want him
changed.  By the way, how much is he being paid now?"

"About fifteen, I think," replied Gilbert blandly.

"Not enough, if he's to make the right sort of an appearance here.
Better make it twenty-five.  It's more than he's worth, I know, but
it can't be helped now.  He has to have enough to live on while
he's here, and from now on, I'd rather pay him that than have any
one think we were not treating him right."

"All right, all right, governor.  Please don't be cross about it,
will you?" pleaded Gilbert, noting his father's irritation.  "I'm
not entirely to blame.  You agreed to it in the first place when I
suggested it, didn't you?  But I guess you're right at that.  Just
leave it to me.  I'll find a decent place for him," and turning, he
proceeded in search of Whiggam, although at the same time thinking
how he was to effect all this without permitting Clyde to get the
notion that he was at all important here--to make him feel that
this was being done as a favor to him and not for any reasons of
merit in connection with himself.

And at once, Whiggam appearing, he, after a very diplomatic
approach on the part of Gilbert, racked his brains, scratched his
head, went away and returned after a time to say that the only
thing he could think of, since Clyde was obviously lacking in
technical training, was that of assistant to Mr. Liggett, who was
foreman in charge of five big stitching rooms on the fifth floor,
but who had under him one small and very special, though by no
means technical, department which required the separate supervision
of either an assistant forelady or man.

This was the stamping room--a separate chamber at the west end of
the stitching floor, where were received daily from the cutting
room above from seventy-five to one hundred thousand dozen
unstitched collars of different brands and sizes.  And here they
were stamped by a group of girls according to the slips or
directions attached to them with the size and brand of the collar.
The sole business of the assistant foreman in charge here, as
Gilbert well knew, after maintaining due decorum and order, was to
see that this stamping process went uninterruptedly forward.  Also
that after the seventy-five to one hundred thousand dozen collars
were duly stamped and transmitted to the stitchers, who were just
outside in the larger room, to see that they were duly credited in
a book of entry.  And that the number of dozens stamped by each
girl was duly recorded in order that her pay should correspond with
her services.

For this purpose a little desk and various entry books, according
to size and brand, were kept here.  Also the cutters' slips, as
taken from the bundles by the stampers were eventually delivered to
this assistant in lots of a dozen or more and filed on spindles.
It was really nothing more than a small clerkship, at times in the
past held by young men or girls or old men or middle-aged women,
according to the exigencies of the life of the place.

The thing that Whiggam feared in connection with Clyde and which he
was quick to point out to Gilbert on this occasion was that because
of his inexperience and youth Clyde might not, at first, prove as
urgent and insistent a master of this department as the work there
required.  There were nothing but young girls there--some of them
quite attractive.  Also was it wise to place a young man of Clyde's
years and looks among so many girls?  For, being susceptible, as he
might well be at that age, he might prove too easy--not stern
enough.  The girls might take advantage of him.  If so, it wouldn't
be possible to keep him there very long.  Still there was this
temporary vacancy, and it was the only one in the whole factory at
the moment.  Why not, for the time being, send him upstairs for a
tryout?  It might not be long before either Mr. Liggett or himself
would know of something else or whether or not he was suited for
the work up there.  In that case it would be easy to make a re-
transfer.

Accordingly, about three in the afternoon of this same Monday,
Clyde was sent for and after being made to wait for some fifteen
minutes, as was Gilbert's method, he was admitted to the austere
presence.

"Well, how are you getting along down where you are now?" asked
Gilbert coldly and inquisitorially.  And Clyde, who invariably
experienced a depression whenever he came anywhere near his cousin,
replied, with a poorly forced smile, "Oh, just about the same, Mr.
Griffiths.  I can't complain.  I like it well enough.  I'm learning
a little something, I guess."

"You guess?"

"Well, I know I've learned a few things, of course," added Clyde,
flushing slightly and feeling down deep within himself a keen
resentment at the same time that he achieved a half-ingratiating
and half-apologetic smile.

"Well, that's a little better.  A man could hardly be down there as
long as you've been and not know whether he had learned anything or
not."  Then deciding that he was being too severe, perhaps, he
modified his tone slightly, and added:  "But that's not why I sent
for you.  There's another matter I want to talk to you about.  Tell
me, did you ever have charge of any people or any other person than
yourself, at any time in your life?"

"I don't believe I quite understand," replied Clyde, who, because
he was a little nervous and flustered, had not quite registered the
question accurately.

"I mean have you ever had any people work under you--been given a
few people to direct in some department somewhere?  Been a foreman
or an assistant foreman in charge of anything?"

"No, sir, I never have," answered Clyde, but so nervous that he
almost stuttered.  For Gilbert's tone was very severe and cold--
highly contemptuous.  At the same time, now that the nature of the
question was plain, its implication came to him.  In spite of his
cousin's severity, his ill manner toward him, still he could see
his employers were thinking of making a foreman of him--putting him
in charge of somebody--people.  They must be!  At once his ears and
fingers began to titillate--the roots of his hair to tingle:  "But
I've seen how it's done in clubs and hotels," he added at once.
"And I think I might manage if I were given a trial."  His cheeks
were now highly colored--his eyes crystal clear.

"Not the same thing.  Not the same thing," insisted Gilbert
sharply.  "Seeing and doing are two entirely different things.  A
person without any experience can think a lot, but when it comes to
doing, he's not there.  Anyhow, this is one business that requires
people who do know."

He stared at Clyde critically and quizzically while Clyde, feeling
that he must be wrong in his notion that something was going to be
done for him, began to quiet himself.  His cheeks resumed their
normal pallor and the light died from his eyes.

"Yes, sir, I guess that's true, too," he commented.

"But you don't need to guess in this case," insisted Gilbert.  "You
know.  That's the trouble with people who don't know.  They're
always guessing."

The truth was that Gilbert was so irritated to think that he must
now make a place for his cousin, and that despite his having done
nothing at all to deserve it, that he could scarcely conceal the
spleen that now colored his mood.

"You're right, I know," said Clyde placatingly, for he was still
hoping for this hinted-at promotion.

"Well, the fact is," went on Gilbert, "I might have placed you in
the accounting end of the business when you first came if you had
been technically equipped for it."  (The phrase "technically
equipped" overawed and terrorized Clyde, for he scarcely understood
what that meant.)  "As it was," went on Gilbert, nonchalantly, "we
had to do the best we could for you.  We knew it was not very
pleasant down there, but we couldn't do anything more for you at
the time."  He drummed on his desk with his fingers.  "But the
reason I called you up here to-day is this.  I want to discuss with
you a temporary vacancy that has occurred in one of our departments
upstairs and which we are wondering--my father and I--whether you
might be able to fill."  Clyde's spirits rose amazingly.  "Both my
father and I," he went on, "have been thinking for some little time
that we would like to do a little something for you, but as I say,
your lack of practical training of any kind makes it very difficult
for both of us.  You haven't had either a commercial or a trade
education of any kind, and that makes it doubly hard."  He paused
long enough to allow that to sink in--give Clyde the feeling that
he was an interloper indeed.  "Still," he added after a moment, "so
long as we have seen fit to bring you on here, we have decided to
give you a tryout at something better than you are doing.  It won't
do to let you stay down there indefinitely.  Now, let me tell you a
little something about what I have in mind," and he proceeded to
explain the nature of the work on the fifth floor.

And when after a time Whiggam was sent for and appeared and had
acknowledged Clyde's salutation, he observed:  "Whiggam, I've just
been telling my cousin here about our conversation this morning and
what I told you about our plan to try him out as the head of that
department.  So if you'll just take him up to Mr. Liggett and have
him or some one explain the nature of the work up there, I'll be
obliged to you."  He turned to his desk.  "After that you can send
him back to me," he added.  "I want to talk to him again."

Then he arose and dismissed them both with an air, and Whiggam,
still somewhat dubious as to the experiment, but now very anxious
to be pleasant to Clyde since he could not tell what he might
become, led the way to Mr. Liggett's floor.  And there, amid a
thunderous hum of machines, Clyde was led to the extreme west of
the building and into a much smaller department which was merely
railed off from the greater chamber by a low fence.  Here were
about twenty-five girls and their assistants with baskets, who
apparently were doing their best to cope with a constant stream of
unstitched collar bundles which fell through several chutes from
the floor above.

And now at once, after being introduced to Mr. Liggett, he was
escorted to a small railed-off desk at which sat a short, plump
girl of about his own years, not so very attractive, who arose as
they approached.  "This is Miss Todd," began Whiggain.  "She's been
in charge for about ten days now in the absence of Mrs. Angier.
And what I want you to do now, Miss Todd, is to explain to Mr.
Griffiths here just as quickly and clearly as you can what it is
you do here.  And then later in the day when he comes up here, I
want you to help him to keep track of things until he sees just
what is wanted and can do it himself.  You'll do that, won't you?"

"Why, certainly, Mr. Whiggam.  I'll be only too glad to," complied
Miss Todd, and at once she began to take down the books of records
and to show Clyde how the entry and discharge records were kept--
also later how the stamping was done--how the basket girls took the
descending bundles from the chutes and distributed them evenly
according to the needs of the stamper and how later, as fast as
they were stamped, other basket girls carried them to the stitchers
outside.  And Clyde, very much interested, felt that he could do
it, only among so many women on a floor like this he felt very
strange.  There were so very, very many women--hundreds of them--
stretching far and away between white walls and white columns to
the eastern end of the building.  And tall windows that reached
from floor to ceiling let in a veritable flood of light.  These
girls were not all pretty.  He saw them out of the tail of his eye
as first Miss Todd and later Whiggam, and even Liggett, volunteered
to impress points on him.

"The important thing," explained Whiggam after a time, "is to see
that there is no mistake as to the number of thousands of dozens of
collars that come down here and are stamped, and also that there's
no delay in stamping them and getting them out to the stitchers.
Also that the records of these girls' work is kept accurately so
that there won't be any mistakes as to their time."

At last Clyde saw what was required of him and the conditions under
which he was about to work and said so.  He was very nervous but
quickly decided that if this girl could do the work, he could.  And
because Liggett and Whiggam, interested by his relationship to
Gilbert, appeared very friendly and persisted in delaying here,
saying that there was nothing he could not manage they were sure,
he returned after a time with Whiggam to Gilbert who, on seeing him
enter, at once observed:  "Well, what's the answer?  Yes or no.  Do
you think you can do it or do you think you can't?"

"Well, I know that I can do it," replied Clyde with a great deal of
courage for him, yet with the private feeling that he might not
make good unless fortune favored him some even now.  There were so
many things to be taken into consideration--the favor of those
above as well as about him--and would they always favor him?

"Very good, then.  Just be seated for a moment," went on Gilbert.
"I want to talk to you some more in connection with that work up
there.  It looks easy to you, does it?"

"No, I can't say that it looks exactly easy," replied Clyde,
strained and a little pale, for because of his inexperience he felt
the thing to be a great opportunity--one that would require all his
skill and courage to maintain.  "Just the same I think I can do it.
In fact I know I can and I'd like to try."

"Well, now, that sounds a little better," replied Gilbert crisply
and more graciously.  "And now I want to tell you something more
about it.  I don't suppose you ever thought there was a floor with
that many women on it, did you?"

"No, sir, I didn't," replied Clyde.  "I knew they were somewhere in
the building, but I didn't know just where."

"Exactly," went on Gilbert.  "This plant is practically operated by
women from cellar to roof.  In the manufacturing department, I
venture to say there are ten women to every man.  On that account
every one in whom we entrust any responsibility around here must be
known to us as to their moral and religious character.  If you
weren't related to us, and if we didn't feel that because of that
we knew a little something about you, we wouldn't think of putting
you up there or anywhere in this factory over anybody until we did
know.  But don't think because you're related to us that we won't
hold you strictly to account for everything that goes on up there
and for your conduct.  We will, and all the more so because you are
related to us.  You understand that, do you?  And why--the meaning
of the Griffiths name here?"

"Yes, sir," replied Clyde.

"Very well, then," went on Gilbert.  "Before we place any one here
in any position of authority, we have to be absolutely sure that
they're going to behave themselves as gentlemen always--that the
women who are working here are going to receive civil treatment
always.  If a young man, or an old one for that matter, comes in
here at any time and imagines that because there are women here
he's going to be allowed to play about and neglect his work and
flirt or cut up, that fellow is doomed to a short stay here.  The
men and women who work for us have got to feel that they are
employees first, last and all the time--and they have to carry that
attitude out into the street with them.  And unless they do it, and
we hear anything about it, that man or woman is done for so far as
we are concerned.  We don't want 'em and we won't have 'em.  And
once we're through with 'em, we're through with 'em."

He paused and stared at Clyde as much as to say:  "Now I hope I
have made myself clear.  Also that we will never have any trouble
in so far as you are concerned."

And Clyde replied:  "Yes, I understand.  I think that's right.  In
fact I know that's the way it has to be."

"And ought to be," added Gilbert.

"And ought to be," echoed Clyde.

At the same time he was wondering whether it was really true as
Gilbert said.  Had he not heard the mill girls already spoken about
in a slighting way?  Yet consciously at the moment he did not
connect himself in thought with any of these girls upstairs.  His
present mood was that, because of his abnormal interest in girls,
it would be better if he had nothing to do with them at all, never
spoke to any of them, kept a very distant and cold attitude, such
as Gilbert was holding toward him.  It must be so, at least if he
wished to keep his place here.  And he was now determined to keep
it and to conduct himself always as his cousin wished.

"Well, now, then," went on Gilbert as if to supplement Clyde's
thoughts in this respect, "what I want to know of you is, if I
trouble to put you in that department, even temporarily, can I
trust you to keep a level head on your shoulders and go about your
work conscientiously and not have your head turned or disturbed by
the fact that you're working among a lot of women and girls?"

"Yes, sir, I know you can," replied Clyde very much impressed by
his cousin's succinct demand, although, after Rita, a little
dubious.

"If I can't, now is the time to say so," persisted Gilbert.  "By
blood you're a member of this family.  And to our help here, and
especially in a position of this kind, you represent us.  We can't
have anything come up in connection with you at any time around
here that won't be just right.  So I want you to be on your guard
and watch your step from now on.  Not the least thing must occur in
connection with you that any one can comment on unfavorably.  You
understand, do you?"

"Yes, sir," replied Clyde most solemnly.  "I understand that.  I'll
conduct myself properly or I'll get out."  And he was thinking
seriously at the moment that he could and would.  The large number
of girls and women upstairs seemed very remote and of no
consequence just then.

"Very good.  Now, I'll tell you what else I want you to do.  I want
you to knock off for the day and go home and sleep on this and
think it over well.  Then come back in the morning and go to work
up there, if you still feel the same.  Your salary from now on will
be twenty-five dollars, and I want you to dress neat and clean so
that you will be an example to the other men who have charge of
departments."

He arose coldly and distantly, but Clyde, very much encouraged and
enthused by the sudden jump in salary, as well as the admonition in
regard to dressing well, felt so grateful toward his cousin that he
longed to be friendly with him.  To be sure, he was hard and cold
and vain, but still he must think something of him, and his uncle
too, or they would not choose to do all this for him and so
speedily.  And if ever he were able to make friends with him, win
his way into his good graces, think how prosperously he would be
placed here, what commercial and social honors might not come to
him?

So elated was he at the moment that he bustled out of the great
plant with a jaunty stride, resolved among other things that from
now on, come what might, and as a test of himself in regard to life
and work, he was going to be all that his uncle and cousin
obviously expected of him--cool, cold even, and if necessary
severe, where these women or girls of this department were
concerned.  No more relations with Dillard or Rita or anybody like
that for the present anyhow.



Chapter 12


The import of twenty-five dollars a week!  Of being the head of a
department employing twenty-five girls!  Of wearing a good suit of
clothes again!  Sitting at an official desk in a corner commanding
a charming river view and feeling that at last, after almost two
months in that menial department below stairs, he was a figure of
some consequence in this enormous institution!  And because of his
relationship and new dignity, Whiggam, as well as Liggett, hovering
about with advice and genial and helpful comments from time to
time.  And some of the managers of the other departments including
several from the front office--an auditor and an advertising man
occasionally pausing in passing to say hello.  And the details of
the work sufficiently mastered to permit him to look about him from
time to time, taking an interest in the factory as a whole, its
processes and supplies, such as where the great volume of linen and
cotton came from, how it was cut in an enormous cutting room above
this one, holding hundreds of experienced cutters receiving very
high wages; how there was an employment bureau for recruiting help,
a company doctor, a company hospital, a special dining room in the
main building, where the officials of the company were allowed to
dine--but no others--and that he, being an accredited department
head could now lunch with those others in that special restaurant
if he chose and could afford to.  Also he soon learned that several
miles out from Lycurgus, on the Mohawk, near a hamlet called Van
Troup, was an inter-factory country club, to which most of the
department heads of the various factories about belonged, but,
alas, as he also learned, Griffiths and Company did not really
favor their officials mixing with those of any other company, and
for that reason few of them did.  Yet he, being a member of the
family, as Liggett once said to him, could probably do as he chose
as to that.  But he decided, because of the strong warnings of
Gilbert, as well as his high blood relations with his family, that
he had better remain as aloof as possible.  And so smiling and
being as genial as possible to all, nevertheless for the most part,
and in order to avoid Dillard and others of his ilk, and although
he was much more lonely than otherwise he would have been,
returning to his room or the public squares of this and near-by
cities on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and even, since he
thought this might please his uncle and cousin and so raise him in
their esteem, beginning to attend one of the principal Presbyterian
churches--the Second or High Street Church, to which on occasion,
as he had already learned, the Griffiths themselves were accustomed
to resort.  Yet without ever coming in contact with them in person,
since from June to September they spent their week-ends at
Greenwood Lake, to which most of the society life of this region as
yet resorted.

In fact the summer life of Lycurgus, in so far as its society was
concerned, was very dull.  Nothing in particular ever eventuated
then in the city, although previous to this, in May, there had been
various affairs in connection with the Griffiths and their friends
which Clyde had either read about or saw at a distance--a
graduation reception and dance at the Snedeker School, a lawn fete
upon the Griffiths' grounds, with a striped marquee tent on one
part of the lawn and Chinese lanterns hung in among the trees.
Clyde had observed this quite by accident one evening as he was
walking alone about the city.  It raised many a curious and eager
thought in regard to this family, its high station and his relation
to it.  But having placed him comfortably in a small official
position which was not arduous, the Griffiths now proceeded to
dismiss him from their minds.  He was doing well enough, and they
would see something more of him later, perhaps.

And then a little later he read in the Lycurgus Star that there was
to be staged on June twentieth the annual inter-city automobile
floral parade and contest (Fonda, Gloversville, Amsterdam and
Schenectady), which this year was to be held in Lycurgus and which
was the last local social affair of any consequence, as The Star
phrased it, before the annual hegira to the lakes and mountains of
those who were able to depart for such places.  And the names of
Bella, Bertine and Sondra, to say nothing of Gilbert, were
mentioned as contestants or defendants of the fair name of
Lycurgus.  And since this occurred on a Saturday afternoon, Clyde,
dressed in his best, yet decidedly wishing to obscure himself as an
ordinary spectator, was able to see once more the girl who had so
infatuated him on sight, obviously breasting a white rose-surfaced
stream and guiding her craft with a paddle covered with yellow
daffodils--a floral representation of some Indian legend in
connection with the Mohawk River.  With her dark hair filleted
Indian fashion with a yellow feather and brown-eyed susans, she was
arresting enough not only to capture a prize, but to recapture
Clyde's fancy.  How marvelous to be of that world.

In the same parade he had seen Gilbert Griffiths accompanied by a
very attractive girl chauffeuring one of four floats representing
the four seasons.  And while the one he drove was winter, with this
local society girl posed in ermine with white roses for snow all
about, directly behind came another float, which presented Bella
Griffiths as spring, swathed in filmy draperies and crouching
beside a waterfall of dark violets.  The effect was quite striking
and threw Clyde into a mood in regard to love, youth and romance
which was delicious and yet very painful to him.  Perhaps he should
have retained Rita, after all.

In the meantime he was living on as before, only more spaciously in
so far as his own thoughts were concerned.  For his first thought
after receiving this larger allowance was that he had better leave
Mrs. Cuppy's and secure a better room in some private home which,
if less advantageously situated for him, would be in a better
street.  It took him out of all contact with Dillard.  And now,
since his uncle had promoted him, some representative of his or
Gilbert's might wish to stop by to see him about something.  And
what would one such think if he found him living in a small room
such as he now occupied?

Ten days after his salary was raised, therefore, and because of the
import of his name, he found it possible to obtain a room in one of
the better houses and streets--Jefferson Avenue, which paralleled
Wykeagy Avenue, only a few blocks farther out.  It was the home of
a widow whose husband had been a mill manager and who let out two
rooms without board in order to be able to maintain this home,
which was above the average for one of such position in Lycurgus.
And Mrs. Peyton, having long been a resident of the city and
knowing much about the Griffiths, recognized not only the name but
the resemblance of Clyde to Gilbert.  And being intensely
interested by this, as well as his general appearance, she at once
offered him an exceptional room for so little as five dollars a
week, which he took at once.

In connection with his work at the factory, however, and in spite
of the fact that he had made such drastic resolutions in regard to
the help who were beneath him, still it was not always possible for
him to keep his mind on the mere mechanical routine of the work or
off of this company of girls as girls, since at least a few of them
were attractive.  For it was summer--late June.  And over all the
factory, especially around two, three and four in the afternoon,
when the endless repetition of the work seemed to pall on all, a
practical indifference not remote from languor and in some
instances sensuality, seemed to creep over the place.  There were
so many women and girls of so many different types and moods.  And
here they were so remote from men or idle pleasure in any form, all
alone with just him, really.  Again the air within the place was
nearly always heavy and physically relaxing, and through the many
open windows that reached from floor to ceiling could be seen the
Mohawk swirling and rippling, its banks carpeted with green grass
and in places shaded by trees.  Always it seemed to hint of
pleasures which might be found by idling along its shores.  And
since these workers were employed so mechanically as to leave their
minds free to roam from one thought of pleasure to another, they
were for the most part thinking of themselves always and what they
would do, assuming that they were not here chained to this routine.

And because their moods were so brisk and passionate, they were
often prone to fix on the nearest object.  And since Clyde was
almost always the only male present--and in these days in his best
clothes--they were inclined to fix on him.  They were, indeed, full
of all sorts of fantastic notions in regard to his private
relations with the Griffiths and their like, where he lived and
how, whom in the way of a girl he might be interested in.  And he,
in turn, when not too constrained by the memory of what Gilbert
Griffiths had said to him, was inclined to think of them--certain
girls in particular--with thoughts that bordered on the sensual.
For, in spite of the wishes of the Griffiths Company, and the
discarded Rita or perhaps because of her, he found himself becoming
interested in three different girls here.  They were of a pagan and
pleasure-loving turn--this trio--and they thought Clyde very
handsome.  Ruza Nikoforitch--a Russian-American girl--big and
blonde and animal, with swimming brown eyes, a snub fat nose and
chin, was very much drawn to him.  Only, such was the manner with
which he carried himself always, that she scarcely dared to let
herself think so.  For to her, with his hair so smoothly parted,
torsoed in a bright-striped shirt, the sleeves of which in this
weather were rolled to the elbows, he seemed almost too perfect to
be real.  She admired his clean, brown polished shoes, his brightly
buckled black leather belt, and the loose four-in-hand tie he wore.

Again there was Martha Bordaloue, a stocky, brisk Canadian-French
girl of trim, if rotund, figure and ankles, hair of a reddish gold
and eyes of greenish blue with puffy pink cheeks and hands that
were plump and yet small.  Ignorant and pagan, she saw in Clyde
some one whom, even for so much as an hour, assuming that he would,
she would welcome--and that most eagerly.  At the same time, being
feline and savage, she hated all or any who even so much as
presumed to attempt to interest him, and despised Ruza for that
reason.  For as she could see Ruza tried to nudge or lean against
Clyde whenever he came sufficiently near.  At the same time she
herself sought by every single device known to her--her shirtwaist
left open to below the borders of her white breast, her outer skirt
lifted trimly above her calves when working, her plump round arms
displayed to the shoulders to show him that physically at least she
was worth his time.  And the sly sighs and languorous looks when he
was near, which caused Ruza to exclaim one day:  "That French cat!
He should look at her!"  And because of Clyde she had an intense
desire to strike her.

And yet again there was the stocky and yet gay Flora Brandt, a
decidedly low class American type of coarse and yet enticing
features, black hair, large, swimming and heavily-lashed black
eyes, a snub nose and full and sensuous and yet pretty lips, and a
vigorous and not ungraceful body, who, from day to day, once he had
been there a little while, had continued to look at him as if to
say--"What!  You don't think I'm attractive?" and with a look which
said:  "How can you continue to ignore me?  There are lots of
fellows who would be delighted to have your chance, I can tell
you."

And, in connection with these three, the thought came to him after
a time that since they were so different, more common as he
thought, less well-guarded and less sharply interested in the
conventional aspects of their contacts, it might be possible and
that without detection on the part of any one for him to play with
one or another of them--or all three in turn if his interest should
eventually carry him so far--without being found out, particularly
if beforehand he chose to impress on them the fact that he was
condescending when he noticed them at all.  Most certainly, if he
could judge by their actions, they would willingly reward him by
letting him have his way with them somewhere, and think nothing of
it afterward if he chose to ignore them, as he must to keep his
position here.  Nevertheless, having given his word as he had to
Gilbert Griffiths, he was still in no mood to break it.  These were
merely thoughts which from time to time were aroused in him by a
situation which for him was difficult in the extreme.  His was a
disposition easily and often intensely inflamed by the chemistry of
sex and the formula of beauty.  He could not easily withstand the
appeal, let alone the call, of sex.  And by the actions and
approaches of each in turn he was surely tempted at times,
especially in these warm and languorous summer days, with no place
to go and no single intimate to commune with.  From time to time he
could not resist drawing near to these very girls who were most
bent on tempting him, although in the face of their looks and
nudges, not very successfully concealed at times, he maintained an
aloofness and an assumed indifference which was quite remarkable
for him.

But just about this time there was a rush of orders, which
necessitated, as both Whiggam and Liggett advised, Clyde taking on
a few extra "try-out" girls who were willing to work for the very
little they could earn at the current piece work rate until they
had mastered the technique, when of course they would be able to
earn more.  There were many such who applied at the employment
branch of the main office on the ground floor.  In slack times all
applications were rejected or the sign hung up "No Help Wanted."

And since Clyde was relatively new to this work, and thus far had
neither hired nor discharged any one, it was agreed between Whiggam
and Liggett that all the help thus sent up should first be examined
by Liggett, who was looking for extra stitchers also.  And in case
any were found who promised to be satisfactory as stampers, they
were to be turned over to Clyde with the suggestion that he try
them.  Only before bringing any one back to Clyde, Liggett was very
careful to explain that in connection with this temporary hiring
and discharging there was a system.  One must not ever give a new
employee, however well they did, the feeling that they were doing
anything but moderately well until their capacity had been
thoroughly tested.  It interfered with their proper development as
piece workers, the greatest results that could be obtained by any
one person.  Also one might freely take on as many girls as were
needed to meet any such situation, and then, once the rush was
over, as freely drop them--unless, occasionally, a very speedy
worker was found among the novices.  In that case it was always
advisable to try to retain such a person, either by displacing a
less satisfactory person or transferring some one from some other
department, to make room for new blood and new energy.

The next day, after this notice of a rush, back came four girls at
different times and escorted always by Liggett, who in each
instance explained to Clyde:  "Here's a girl who might do for you.
Miss Tyndal is her name.  You might give her a try-out." Or, "You
might see if this girl will be of any use to you."  And Clyde,
after he had questioned them as to where they had worked, what the
nature of the general working experiences were, and whether they
lived at home here in Lycurgus or alone (the bachelor girl was not
much wanted by the factory) would explain the nature of the work
and pay, and then call Miss Todd, who in her turn would first take
them to the rest room where were lockers for their coats, and then
to one of the tables where they would be shown what the process
was.  And later it was Miss Todd's and Clyde's business to discover
how well they were getting on and whether it was worth while to
retain them or not.

Up to this time, apart from the girls to whom he was so definitely
drawn, Clyde was not so very favorably impressed with the type of
girl who was working here.  For the most part, as he saw them, they
were of a heavy and rather unintelligent company, and he had been
thinking that smarter-looking girls might possibly be secured.  Why
not?  Were there none in Lycurgus in the factory world?  So many of
these had fat hands, broad faces, heavy legs and ankles.  Some of
them even spoke with an accent, being Poles or the children of
Poles, living in that slum north of the mill.  And they were all
concerned with catching a "feller," going to some dancing place
with him afterwards, and little more.  Also, Clyde had noticed that
the American types who were here were of a decidedly different
texture, thinner, more nervous and for the most part more angular,
and with a general reserve due to prejudices, racial, moral and
religious, which would not permit them to mingle with these others
or with any men, apparently.

But among the extras or try-outs that were brought to him during
this and several succeeding days, finally came one who interested
Clyde more than any girl whom he had seen here so far.  She was, as
he decided on sight, more intelligent and pleasing--more spiritual--
though apparently not less vigorous, if more gracefully proportioned.
As a matter of fact, as he saw her at first, she appeared to him to
possess a charm which no one else in this room had, a certain
wistfulness and wonder combined with a kind of self-reliant courage
and determination which marked her at once as one possessed of will
and conviction to a degree.  Nevertheless, as she said, she was
inexperienced in this kind of work, and highly uncertain as to
whether she would prove of service here or anywhere.

Her name was Roberta Alden, and, as she at once explained, previous
to this she had been working in a small hosiery factory in a town
called Trippetts Mills fifty miles north of Lycurgus.  She had on a
small brown hat that did not look any too new, and was pulled low
over a face that was small and regular and pretty and that was
haloed by bright, light brown hair.  Her eyes were of a translucent
gray blue.  Her little suit was commonplace, and her shoes were not
so very new-looking and quite solidly-soled.  She looked practical
and serious and yet so bright and clean and willing and possessed
of so much hope and vigor that along with Liggett, who had first
talked with her, he was at once taken with her.  Distinctly she was
above the average of the girls in this room.  And he could not help
wondering about her as he talked to her, for she seemed so tense, a
little troubled as to the outcome of this interview, as though this
was a very great adventure for her.

She explained that up to this time she had been living with her
parents near a town called Biltz, but was now living with friends
here.  She talked so honestly and simply that Clyde was very much
moved by her, and for this reason wished to help her.  At the same
time he wondered if she were not really above the type of work she
was seeking.  Her eyes were so round and blue and intelligent--her
lips and nose and ears and hands so small and pleasing.

"You're going to live in Lycurgus, then, if you can get work here?"
he said, more to be talking to her than anything else.

"Yes," she said, looking at him most directly and frankly.

"And the name again?"  He took down a record pad.

"Roberta Alden."

"And your address here?"

"228 Taylor Street."

"I don't even know where that is myself," he informed her because
he liked talking to her.  "I haven't been here so very long, you
see."  He wondered just why afterwards he had chosen to tell her as
much about himself so swiftly.  Then he added:  "I don't know
whether Mr. Liggett has told you all about the work here.  But it's
piece work, you know, stamping collars.  I'll show you if you'll
just step over here," and he led the way to a near-by table where
the stampers were.  After letting her observe how it was done, and
without calling Miss Todd, he picked up one of the collars and
proceeded to explain all that had been previously explained to him.

At the same time, because of the intentness with which she observed
him and his gestures, the seriousness with which she appeared to
take all that he said, he felt a little nervous and embarrassed.
There was something quite searching and penetrating about her
glance.  After he had explained once more what the bundle rate was,
and how much some made and how little others, and she had agreed
that she would like to try, he called Miss Todd, who took her to
the locker room to hang up her hat and coat.  Then presently he saw
her returning, a fluff of light hair about her forehead, her cheeks
slightly flushed, her eyes very intent and serious.  And as advised
by Miss Todd, he saw her turn back her sleeves, revealing a pretty
pair of forearms.  Then she fell to, and by her gestures Clyde
guessed that she would prove both speedy and accurate.  For she
seemed most anxious to obtain and keep this place.

After she had worked a little while, he went to her side and
watched her as she picked up and stamped the collars piled beside
her and threw them to one side.  Also the speed and accuracy with
which she did it.  Then, because for a second she turned and looked
at him, giving him an innocent and yet cheerful and courageous
smile, he smiled back, most pleased.

"Well, I guess you'll make out all right," he ventured to say,
since he could not help feeling that she would.  And instantly, for
a second only, she turned and smiled again.  And Clyde, in spite of
himself, was quite thrilled.  He liked her on the instant, but
because of his own station here, of course, as he now decided, as
well as his promise to Gilbert, he must be careful about being
congenial with any of the help in this room--even as charming a
girl as this.  It would not do.  He had been guarding himself in
connection with the others and must with her too, a thing which
seemed a little strange to him then, for he was very much drawn to
her.  She was so pretty and cute.  Yet she was a working girl, as
he remembered now, too--a factory girl, as Gilbert would say, and
he was her superior.  But she WAS so pretty and cute.

Instantly he went on to others who had been put on this same day,
and finally coming to Miss Todd asked her to report pretty soon on
how Miss Alden was getting along--that he wanted to know.

But at the same time that he had addressed Roberta, and she had
smiled back at him, Ruza Nikoforitch, who was working two tables
away, nudged the girl working next her, and without any one noting
it, first winked, then indicated with a slight movement of the head
both Clyde and Roberta.  Her friend was to watch them.  And after
Clyde had gone away and Roberta was working as before, she leaned
over and whispered:  "He says she'll do already."  Then she lifted
her eyebrows and compressed her lips.  And her friend replied, so
softly that no one could hear her:  "Pretty quick, eh?  And he
didn't seem to see any one else at all before."

Then the twain smiled most wisely, a choice bit between them.  Ruza
Nikoforitch was jealous.



Chapter 13


The reasons why a girl of Roberta's type should be seeking
employment with Griffiths and Company at this time and in this
capacity are of some point.  For, somewhat after the fashion of
Clyde in relation to his family and his life, she too considered
her life a great disappointment.  She was the daughter of Titus
Alden, a farmer--of near Biltz, a small town in Mimico County, some
fifty miles north.  And from her youth up she had seen little but
poverty.  Her father--the youngest of three sons of Ephraim Alden,
a farmer in this region before him--was so unsuccessful that at
forty-eight he was still living in a house which, though old and
much in need of repair at the time his father willed it to him, was
now bordering upon a state of dilapidation.  The house itself,
while primarily a charming example of that excellent taste which
produced those delightful gabled homes which embellish the average
New England town and street, had been by now so reduced for want of
paint, shingles, and certain flags which had once made a winding
walk from a road gate to the front door, that it presented a
decidedly melancholy aspect to the world, as though it might be
coughing and saying:  "Well, things are none too satisfactory with
me."

The interior of the house corresponded with the exterior.  The
floor boards and stair boards were loose and creaked most eerily at
times.  Some of the windows had shades--some did not.  Furniture of
both an earlier and a later date, but all in a somewhat decayed
condition, intermingled and furnished it in some nondescript manner
which need hardly be described.

As for the parents of Roberta, they were excellent examples of that
native type of Americanism which resists facts and reveres
illusion.  Titus Alden was one of that vast company of individuals
who are born, pass through and die out of the world without ever
quite getting any one thing straight.  They appear, blunder, and
end in a fog.  Like his two brothers, both older and almost as
nebulous, Titus was a farmer solely because his father had been a
farmer.  And he was here on this farm because it had been willed to
him and because it was easier to stay here and try to work this
than it was to go elsewhere.  He was a Republican because his
father before him was a Republican and because this county was
Republican.  It never occurred to him to be otherwise.  And, as in
the case of his politics and his religion, he had borrowed all his
notions of what was right and wrong from those about him.  A
single, serious, intelligent or rightly informing book had never
been read by any member of this family--not one.  But they were
nevertheless excellent, as conventions, morals and religions go--
honest, upright, God-fearing and respectable.

In so far as the daughter of these parents was concerned, and in
the face of natural gifts which fitted her for something better
than this world from which she derived, she was still, in part, at
least, a reflection of the religious and moral notions there and
then prevailing,--the views of the local ministers and the laity in
general.  At the same time, because of a warm, imaginative,
sensuous temperament, she was filled--once she reached fifteen and
sixteen--with the world-old dream of all of Eve's daughters from
the homeliest to the fairest--that her beauty or charm might some
day and ere long smite bewitchingly and so irresistibly the soul of
a given man or men.

So it was that although throughout her infancy and girlhood she was
compelled to hear of and share a depriving and toilsome poverty,
still, because of her innate imagination, she was always thinking
of something better.  Maybe, some day, who knew, a larger city like
Albany or Utica!  A newer and greater life.

And then what dreams!  And in the orchard of a spring day later,
between her fourteenth and eighteenth years when the early May sun
was making pink lamps of every aged tree and the ground was pinkly
carpeted with the falling and odorous petals, she would stand and
breathe and sometimes laugh, or even sigh, her arms upreached or
thrown wide to life.  To be alive!  To have youth and the world
before one.  To think of the eyes and the smile of some youth of
the region who by the merest chance had passed her and looked, and
who might never look again, but who, nevertheless, in so doing, had
stirred her young soul to dreams.

None the less she was shy, and hence recessive--afraid of men,
especially the more ordinary types common to this region.  And
these in turn, repulsed by her shyness and refinement, tended to
recede from her, for all of her physical charm, which was too
delicate for this region.  Nevertheless, at the age of sixteen,
having repaired to Biltz, in order to work in Appleman's Dry Goods
Store for five dollars a week, she saw many young men who attracted
her.  But here because of her mood in regard to her family's
position, as well as the fact that to her inexperienced eyes they
appeared so much better placed than herself, she was convinced that
they would not be interested in her.  And here again it was her own
mood that succeeded in alienating them almost completely.
Nevertheless she remained working for Mr. Appleman until she was
between eighteen and nineteen, all the while sensing that she was
really doing nothing for herself because she was too closely
identified with her home and her family, who appeared to need her.

And then about this time, an almost revolutionary thing for this
part of the world occurred.  For because of the cheapness of labor
in such an extremely rural section, a small hosiery plant was built
at Trippetts Mills.  And though Roberta, because of the views and
standards that prevailed hereabout, had somehow conceived of this
type of work as beneath her, still she was fascinated by the
reports of the high wages to be paid.  Accordingly she repaired to
Trippetts Mills, where, boarding at the house of a neighbor who had
previously lived in Biltz, and returning home every Saturday
afternoon, she planned to bring together the means for some further
form of practical education--a course at a business college at
Homer or Lycurgus or somewhere which might fit her for something
better--bookkeeping or stenography.

And in connection with this dream and this attempted saving two
years went by.  And in the meanwhile, although she earned more
money (eventually twelve dollars a week), still, because various
members of her family required so many little things and she
desired to alleviate to a degree the privations of these others
from which she suffered, nearly all that she earned went to them.

And again here, as at Biltz, most of the youths of the town who
were better suited to her intellectually and temperamentally--still
looked upon the mere factory type as beneath them in many ways.
And although Roberta was far from being that type, still having
associated herself with them she was inclined to absorb some of
their psychology in regard to themselves.  Indeed by then she was
fairly well satisfied that no one of these here in whom she was
interested would be interested in her--at least not with any
legitimate intentions.

And then two things occurred which caused her to think, not only
seriously of marriage, but of her own future, whether she married
or not.  For her sister, Agnes, now twenty, and three years her
junior, having recently reencountered a young schoolmaster who some
time before had conducted the district school near the Alden farm,
and finding him more to her taste now than when she had been in
school, had decided to marry him.  And this meant, as Roberta saw
it, that she was about to take on the appearance of a spinster
unless she married soon.  Yet she did not quite see what was to be
done until the hosiery factory at Trippetts Mills suddenly closed,
never to reopen.  And then, in order to assist her mother, as well
as help with her sister's wedding, she returned to Biltz.

But then there came a third thing which decidedly affected her
dreams and plans.  Grace Marr, a girl whom she had met at Trippetts
Mills, had gone to Lycurgus and after a few weeks there had managed
to connect herself with the Finchley Vacuum Cleaner Company at a
salary of fifteen dollars a week and at once wrote to Roberta
telling her of the opportunities that were then present in
Lycurgus.  For in passing the Griffiths Company, which she did
daily, she had seen a large sign posted over the east employment
door reading "Girls Wanted."  And inquiry revealed the fact that
girls at this company were always started at nine or ten dollars,
quickly taught some one of the various phases of piece work and
then, once they were proficient, were frequently able to earn as
much as from fourteen to sixteen dollars, according to their skill.
And since board and room were only consuming seven of what she
earned, she was delighted to communicate to Roberta, whom she liked
very much, that she might come and room with her if she wished.

Roberta, having reached the place where she felt that she could no
longer endure farm life but must act for herself once more, finally
arranged with her mother to leave in order that she might help her
more directly with her wages.

But once in Lycurgus and employed by Clyde, her life, after the
first flush of self-interest which a change so great implied for
her, was not so much more enlarged socially or materially either,
for that matter, over what it had been in Biltz and Trippetts
Mills.  For, despite the genial intimacy of Grace Marr--a girl not
nearly as attractive as Roberta, and who, because of Roberta's
charm and for the most part affected gayety, counted on her to
provide a cheer and companionship which otherwise she would have
lacked--still the world into which she was inducted here was
scarcely any more liberal or diversified than that from which she
sprang.

For, to begin with, the Newtons, sister and brother-in-law of Grace
Marr, with whom she lived, and who, despite the fact that they were
not unkindly, proved to be, almost more so than were the types with
whom, either in Biltz or Trippets Mills, she had been in constant
contact, the most ordinary small town mill workers--religious and
narrow to a degree.  George Newton, as every one could see and
feel, was a pleasant if not very emotional or romantic person who
took his various small plans in regard to himself and his future as
of the utmost importance.  Primarily he was saving what little cash
he could out of the wages he earned as threadman in the Cranston
Wickwire factory to enable him to embark upon some business for
which he thought himself fitted.  And to this end, and to further
enhance his meager savings, he had joined with his wife in the
scheme of taking over an old house in Taylor Street which permitted
the renting of enough rooms to carry the rent and in addition to
supply the food for the family and five boarders, counting their
labor and worries in the process as nothing.  And on the other
hand, Grace Marr, as well as Newton's wife, Mary, were of that type
that here as elsewhere find the bulk of their social satisfaction
in such small matters as relate to the organization of a small
home, the establishing of its import and integrity in a petty and
highly conventional neighborhood and the contemplation of life and
conduct through the lens furnished by a purely sectarian creed.

And so, once part and parcel of this particular household, Roberta
found after a time, that it, if not Lycurgus, was narrow and
restricted--not wholly unlike the various narrow and restricted
homes at Biltz.  And these lines, according to the Newtons and
their like, to be strictly observed.  No good could come of
breaking them.  If you were a factory employee you should
accommodate yourself to the world and customs of the better sort of
Christian factory employees.  Every day therefore--and that not so
very long after she had arrived--she found herself up and making
the best of a not very satisfactory breakfast in the Newton dining
room, which was usually shared by Grace and two other girls of
nearly their own age--Opal Feliss and Olive Pope--who were
connected with the Cranston Wickwire Company.  Also by a young
electrician by the name of Fred Shurlock, who worked for the City
Lighting Plant.  And immediately after breakfast joining a long
procession that day after day at this hour made for the mills
across the river.  For just outside her own door she invariably met
with a company of factory girls and women, boys and men, of the
same relative ages, to say nothing of many old and weary-looking
women who looked more like wraiths than human beings, who had
issued from the various streets and houses of this vicinity.  And
as the crowd, because of the general inpour into it from various
streets, thickened at Central Avenue, there was much ogling of the
prettier girls by a certain type of factory man, who, not knowing
any of them, still sought, as Roberta saw it, unlicensed contacts
and even worse.  Yet there was much giggling and simpering on the
part of girls of a certain type who were by no means as severe as
most of those she had known elsewhere.  Shocking!

And at night the same throng, re-forming at the mills, crossing the
bridge at the depot and returning as it had come.  And Roberta,
because of her social and moral training and mood, and in spite of
her decided looks and charm and strong desires, feeling alone and
neglected.  Oh, how sad to see the world so gay and she so lonely.
And it was always after six when she reached home.  And after
dinner there was really nothing much of anything to do unless she
and Grace attended one or another of the moving picture theaters or
she could bring herself to consent to join the Newtons and Grace at
a meeting of the Methodist Church.

None the less once part and parcel of this household and working
for Clyde she was delighted with the change.  This big city.  This
fine Central Avenue with its stores and moving picture theaters.
These great mills.  And again this Mr. Griffiths, so young,
attractive, smiling and interested in her.



Chapter 14


In the same way Clyde, on encountering her, was greatly stirred.
Since the abortive contact with Dillard, Rita and Zella, and
afterwards the seemingly meaningless invitation to the Griffiths
with its introduction to and yet only passing glimpse of such
personages as Bella, Sondra Finchley and Bertine Cranston, he was
lonely indeed.  That high world!  But plainly he was not to be
allowed to share in it.  And yet because of his vain hope in
connection with it, he had chosen to cut himself off in this way.
And to what end?  Was he not if anything more lonely than ever?
Mrs. Peyton!  Going to and from his work but merely nodding to
people or talking casually--or however sociably with one or another
of the storekeepers along Central Avenue who chose to hail him--or
even some of the factory girls here in whom he was not interested
or with whom he did not dare to develop a friendship.  What was
that?  Just nothing really.  And yet as an offset to all this, of
course, was he not a Griffiths and so entitled to their respect and
reverence even on this account?  What a situation really!  What to
do!

And at the same time, this Roberta Alden, once she was placed here
in this fashion and becoming more familiar with local conditions,
as well as the standing of Clyde, his charm, his evasive and yet
sensible interest in her, was becoming troubled as to her state
too.  For once part and parcel of this local home she had joined
she was becoming conscious of various local taboos and restrictions
which made it seem likely that never at any time here would it be
possible to express an interest in Clyde or any one above her
officially.  For there was a local taboo in regard to factory girls
aspiring toward or allowing themselves to become interested in
their official superiors.  Religious, moral and reserved girls
didn't do it.  And again, as she soon discovered, the line of
demarcation and stratification between the rich and the poor in
Lycurgus was as sharp as though cut by a knife or divided by a high
wall.  And another taboo in regard to all the foreign family girls
and men,--ignorant, low, immoral, un-American!  One should--above
all--have nothing to do with them.

But among these people as she could see--the religious and moral,
lower middle-class group to which she and all of her intimates
belonged--dancing or local adventurous gayety, such as walking the
streets or going to a moving picture theater--was also taboo.  And
yet she, herself, at this time, was becoming interested in dancing.
Worse than this, the various young men and girls of the particular
church which she and Grace Marr attended at first, were not
inclined to see Roberta or Grace as equals, since they, for the
most part, were members of older and more successful families of
the town.  And so it was that after a very few weeks of attendance
of church affairs and services, they were about where they had been
when they started--conventional and acceptable, but without the
amount of entertainment and diversion which was normally reaching
those who were of their same church but better placed.

And so it was that Roberta, after encountering Clyde and sensing
the superior world in which she imagined he moved, and being so
taken with the charm of his personality, was seized with the very
virus of ambition and unrest that afflicted him.  And every day
that she went to the factory now she could not help but feel that
his eyes were upon her in a quiet, seeking and yet doubtful way.
Yet she also felt that he was too uncertain as to what she would
think of any overture that he might make in her direction to risk a
repulse or any offensive interpretation on her part.  And yet at
times, after the first two weeks of her stay here, she wishing that
he would speak to her--that he would make some beginning--at other
times that he must not dare--that it would be dreadful and
impossible.  The other girls there would see at once.  And since
they all plainly felt that he was too good or too remote for them,
they would at once note that he was making an exception in her case
and would put their own interpretation on it.  And she knew the
type of a girl who worked in the Griffiths stamping room would put
but one interpretation on it,--that of looseness.

At the same time in so far as Clyde and his leaning toward her was
concerned there was that rule laid down by Gilbert.  And although,
because of it, he had hitherto appeared not to notice or to give
any more attention to one girl than another, still, once Roberta
arrived, he was almost unconsciously inclined to drift by her table
and pause in her vicinity to see how she was progressing.  And, as
he saw from the first, she was a quick and intelligent worker, soon
mastering without much advice of any kind all the tricks of the
work, and thereafter earning about as much as any of the others--
fifteen dollars a week.  And her manner was always that of one who
enjoyed it and was happy to have the privilege of working here.
And pleased to have him pay any little attention to her.

At the same time he noted to his surprise and especially since to
him she seemed so refined and different, a certain exuberance and
gayety that was not only emotional, but in a delicate poetic way,
sensual.  Also that despite her difference and reserve she was able
to make friends with and seemed to be able to understand the
viewpoint of most of the foreign girls who were essentially so
different from her.  For, listening to her discuss the work here,
first with Lena Schlict, Hoda Petkanas, Angelina Pitti and some
others who soon chose to speak to her, he reached the conclusion
that she was not nearly so conventional or standoffish as most of
the other American girls.  And yet she did not appear to lose their
respect either.

Thus, one noontime, coming back from the office lunch downstairs a
little earlier than usual, he found her and several of the foreign-
family girls, as well as four of the American girls, surrounding
Polish Mary, one of the gayest and roughest of the foreign-family
girls, who was explaining in rather a high key how a certain
"feller" whom she had met the night before had given her a beaded
bag, and for what purpose.

"I should go with heem to be his sweetheart," she announced with a
flourish, the while she waved the bag before the interested group.
"And I say, I tack heem an' think on heem.  Pretty nice bag, eh?"
she added, holding it aloft and turning it about.  "Tell me," she
added with provoking and yet probably only mock serious eyes and
waving the bag toward Roberta, "what shall I do with heem?  Keep
heem an' go with heem to be his sweetheart or give heem back?  I
like heem pretty much, that bag, you bet."

And although, according to the laws of her upbringing, as Clyde
suspected, Roberta should have been shocked by all this, she was
not, as he noticed--far from it.  If one might have judged from her
face, she was very much amused.

Instantly she replied with a gay smile:  "Well, it all depends on
how handsome he is, Mary.  If he's very attractive, I think I'd
string him along for a while, anyhow, and keep the bag as long as I
could."

"Oh, but he no wait," declared Mary archly, and with plainly a keen
sense of the riskiness of the situation, the while she winked at
Clyde who had drawn near.  "I got to give heem bag or be sweetheart
to-night, and so swell bag I never can buy myself."  She eyed the
bag archly and roguishly, her own nose crinkling with the humor of
the situation.  "What I do then?"

"Gee, this is pretty strong stuff for a little country girl like
Miss Alden.  She won't like this, maybe," thought Clyde to himself.

However, Roberta, as he now saw, appeared to be equal to the
situation, for she pretended to be troubled.  "Gee, you are in a
fix," she commented.  "I don't know what you'll do now."  She
opened her eyes wide and pretended to be greatly concerned.
However, as Clyde could see, she was merely acting, but carrying it
off very well.

And frizzled-haired Dutch Lena now leaned over to say:  "I take it
and him too, you bet, if you don't want him.  Where is he?  I got
no feller now."  She reached over as if to take the bag from Mary,
who as quickly withdrew it.  And there were squeals of delight from
nearly all the girls in the room, who were amused by this eccentric
horseplay.  Even Roberta laughed loudly, a fact which Clyde noted
with pleasure, for he liked all this rough humor, considering it
mere innocent play.

"Well, maybe you're right, Lena," he heard her add just as the
whistle blew and the hundreds of sewing machines in the next room
began to hum.  "A good man isn't to be found every day."  Her blue
eyes were twinkling and her lips, which were most temptingly
modeled, were parted in a broad smile.  There was much banter and
more bluff in what she said than anything else, as Clyde could see,
but he felt that she was not nearly as narrow as he had feared.
She was human and gay and tolerant and good-natured.  There was
decidedly a very liberal measure of play in her.  And in spite of
the fact that her clothes were poor, the same little round brown
hat and blue cloth dress that she had worn on first coming to work
here, she was prettier than anyone else.  And she never needed to
paint her lips and cheeks like the foreign girls, whose faces at
times looked like pink-frosted cakes.  And how pretty were her arms
and neck--plump and gracefully designed!  And there was a certain
grace and abandon about her as she threw herself into her work as
though she really enjoyed it.  As she worked fast during the
hottest portions of the day, there would gather on her upper lip
and chin and forehead little beads of perspiration which she was
always pausing in her work to touch with her handkerchief, while to
him, like jewels, they seemed only to enhance her charm.

Wonderful days, these, now for Clyde.  For once more and here,
where he could be near her the long day through, he had a girl whom
he could study and admire and by degrees proceed to crave with all
of the desire of which he seemed to be capable--and with which he
had craved Hortense Briggs--only with more satisfaction, since as
he saw it she was simpler, more kindly and respectable.  And though
for quite a while at first Roberta appeared or pretended to be
quite indifferent to or unconscious of him, still from the very
first this was not true.  She was only troubled as to the
appropriate attitude for her.  The beauty of his face and hands--
the blackness and softness of his hair, the darkness and melancholy
and lure of his eyes.  He was attractive--oh, very.  Beautiful,
really, to her.

And then one day shortly thereafter, Gilbert Griffiths walking
through here and stopping to talk to Clyde, she was led to imagine
by this that Clyde was really much more of a figure socially and
financially than she had previously thought.  For just as Gilbert
was approaching, Lena Schlict, who was working beside her, leaned
over to say:  "Here comes Mr. Gilbert Griffiths.  His father owns
this whole factory and when he dies, he'll get it, they say.  And
he's his cousin," she added, nodding toward Clyde.  "They look a
lot alike, don't they?"

"Yes, they do," replied Roberta, slyly studying not only Clyde but
Gilbert, "only I think Mr. Clyde Griffiths is a little nicer
looking, don't you?"

Hoda Petkanas, sitting on the other side of Roberta and overhearing
this last remark, laughed.  "That's what every one here thinks.
He's not stuck up like that Mr. Gilbert Griffiths, either."

"Is he rich, too?" inquired Roberta, thinking of Clyde.

"I don't know.  They say not," she pursed her lips dubiously,
herself rather interested in Clyde along with the others.  "He
worked down in the shrinking room before he came up here.  He was
just working by the day, I guess.  But he only came on here a
little while ago to learn the business.  Maybe he won't work in
here much longer."

Roberta was suddenly troubled by this last remark.  She had not
been thinking, or so she had been trying to tell herself, of Clyde
in any romantic way, and yet the thought that he might suddenly go
at any moment, never to be seen by her any more, disturbed her now.
He was so youthful, so brisk, so attractive.  And so interested in
her, too.  Yes, that was plain.  It was wrong to think that he
would be interested in her--or to try to attract him by any least
gesture of hers, since he was so important a person here--far above
her.

For, true to her complex, the moment she heard that Clyde was so
highly connected and might even have money, she was not so sure
that he could have any legitimate interest in her.  For was she not
a poor working girl?  And was he not a very rich man's nephew?  He
would not marry her, of course.  And what other legitimate thing
would he want with her?  She must be on her guard in regard to him.



Chapter 15


The thoughts of Clyde at this time in regard to Roberta and his
general situation in Lycurgus were for the most part confused and
disturbing.  For had not Gilbert warned him against associating
with the help here?  On the other hand, in so far as his actual
daily life was concerned, his condition was socially the same as
before.  Apart from the fact that his move to Mrs. Peyton's had
taken him into a better street and neighborhood, he was really not
so well off as he had been at Mrs. Cuppy's.  For there at least he
had been in touch with those young people who would have been
diverting enough had he felt that it would have been wise to
indulge them.  But now, aside from a bachelor brother who was as
old as Mrs. Peyton herself, and a son thirty--slim and reserved,
who was connected with one of the Lycurgus banks--he saw no one who
could or would trouble to entertain him.  Like the others with whom
he came in contact, they thought him possessed of relationships
which would make it unnecessary and even a bit presumptuous for
them to suggest ways and means of entertaining him.

On the other hand, while Roberta was not of that high world to
which he now aspired, still there was that about her which enticed
him beyond measure.  Day after day and because so much alone, and
furthermore because of so strong a chemic or temperamental pull
that was so definitely asserting itself, he could no longer keep
his eyes off her--or she hers from him.  There were evasive and yet
strained and feverish eye-flashes between them.  And after one such
in his case--a quick and furtive glance on her part at times--by no
means intended to be seen by him, he found himself weak and then
feverish.  Her pretty mouth, her lovely big eyes, her radiant and
yet so often shy and evasive smile.  And, oh, she had such pretty
arms--such a trim, lithe, sentient, quick figure and movements.  If
he only dared be friendly with her--venture to talk with and then
see her somewhere afterwards--if she only would and if he only
dared.

Confusion.  Aspiration.  Hours of burning and yearning.  For indeed
he was not only puzzled but irritated by the anomalous and
paradoxical contrasts which his life here presented--loneliness and
wistfulness as against the fact that it was being generally assumed
by such as knew him that he was rather pleasantly and interestingly
employed socially.

Therefore in order to enjoy himself in some way befitting his
present rank, and to keep out of the sight of those who were
imagining that he was being so much more handsomely entertained
than he was, he had been more recently, on Saturday afternoons and
Sundays, making idle sightseeing trips to Gloversville, Fonda,
Amsterdam and other places, as well as Gray and Crum Lakes, where
there were boats, beaches and bathhouses, with bathing suits for
rent.  And there, because he was always thinking that if by chance
he should be taken up by the Griffiths, he would need as many
social accomplishments as possible, and by reason of encountering a
man who took a fancy to him and who could both swim and dive, he
learned to do both exceedingly well.  But canoeing fascinated him
really.  He was pleased by the picturesque and summery appearance
he made in an outing shirt and canvas shoes paddling about Crum
Lake in one of the bright red or green or blue canoes that were
leased by the hour.  And at such times these summer scenes appeared
to possess an airy, fairy quality, especially with a summer cloud
or two hanging high above in the blue.  And so his mind indulged
itself in day dreams as to how it would feel to be a member of one
of the wealthy groups that frequented the more noted resorts of the
north--Racquette Lake--Schroon Lake--Lake George and Champlain--
dance, golf, tennis, canoe with those who could afford to go to
such places--the rich of Lycurgus.

But it was about this time that Roberta with her friend Grace found
Crum Lake and had decided on it, with the approval of Mr. and Mrs.
Newton, as one of the best and most reserved of all the smaller
watering places about here.  And so it was that they, too, were
already given to riding out to the pavilion on a Saturday or Sunday
afternoon, and once there following the west shore along which ran
a well-worn footpath which led to clumps of trees, underneath which
they sat and looked at the water, for neither could row a boat or
swim.  Also there were wild flowers and berry bushes to be
plundered.  And from certain marshy spots, to be reached by
venturing out for a score of feet or more, it was possible to reach
and take white lilies with their delicate yellow hearts.  They were
decidedly tempting and on two occasions already the marauders had
brought Mrs. Newton large armfuls of blooms from the fields and
shore line here.

On the third Sunday afternoon in July, Clyde, as lonely and
rebellious as ever, was paddling about in a dark blue canoe along
the south bank of the lake about a mile and a half from the
boathouse.  His coat and hat were off, and in a seeking and half
resentful mood he was imagining vain things in regard to the type
of life he would really like to lead.  At different points on the
lake in canoes, or their more clumsy companions, the row-boats,
were boys and girls, men and women.  And over the water occasionally
would come their laughter or bits of their conversation.  And in the
distance would be other canoes and other dreamers, happily in love,
as Clyde invariably decided, that being to him the sharpest contrast
to his own lorn state.

At any rate, the sight of any other youth thus romantically engaged
with his girl was sufficient to set dissonantly jangling the
repressed and protesting libido of his nature.  And this would
cause his mind to paint another picture in which, had fortune
favored him in the first place by birth, he would now be in some
canoe on Schroon or Racquette or Champlain Lake with Sondra
Finchley or some such girl, paddling and looking at the shores of a
scene more distingue than this.  Or might he not be riding or
playing tennis, or in the evening dancing or racing from place to
place in some high-powered car, Sondra by his side?  He felt so out
of it, so lonely and restless and tortured by all that he saw here,
for everywhere that he looked he seemed to see love, romance,
contentment.  What to do?  Where to go?  He could not go on alone
like this forever.  He was too miserable.

In memory as well as mood his mind went back to the few gay happy
days he had enjoyed in Kansas City before that dreadful accident--
Ratterer, Hegglund, Higby, Tina Kogel, Hortense, Ratterer's sister
Louise--in short, the gay company of which he was just beginning to
be a part when that terrible accident had occurred.  And next to
Dillard, Rita, Zella,--a companionship that would have been better
than this, certainly.  Were the Griffiths never going to do any
more for him than this?  Had he only come here to be sneered at by
his cousin, pushed aside, or rather completely ignored by all the
bright company of which the children of his rich uncle were a part?
And so plainly, from so many interesting incidents, even now in
this dead summertime, he could see how privileged and relaxed and
apparently decidedly happy were those of that circle.  Notices in
the local papers almost every day as to their coming and going here
and there, the large and expensive cars of Samuel as well as
Gilbert Griffiths parked outside the main office entrance on such
days as they were in Lycurgus--an occasional group of young society
figures to be seen before the grill of the Lycurgus Hotel, or
before one of the fine homes in Wykeagy Avenue, some one having
returned to the city for an hour or a night.

And in the factory itself, whenever either was there--Gilbert or
Samuel--in the smartest of summer clothes and attended by either
Messrs. Smillie, Latch, Gotboy or Burkey, all high officials of the
company, making a most austere and even regal round of the immense
plant and consulting with or listening to the reports of the
various minor department heads.  And yet here was he--a full cousin
to this same Gilbert, a nephew to this distinguished Samuel--being
left to drift and pine by himself, and for no other reason than, as
he could now clearly see, he was not good enough.  His father was
not as able as this, his great uncle--his mother (might Heaven keep
her) not as distinguished or as experienced as his cold, superior,
indifferent aunt.  Might it not be best to leave?  Had he not made
a foolish move, after all, in coming on here?  What, if anything,
did these high relatives ever intend to do for him?

In loneliness and resentment and disappointment, his mind now
wandered from the Griffiths and their world, and particularly that
beautiful Sondra Finchley, whom he recalled with a keen and biting
thrill, to Roberta and the world which she as well as he was
occupying here.  For although a poor factory girl, she was still so
much more attractive than any of these other girls with whom he was
every day in contact.

How unfair and ridiculous for the Griffiths to insist that a man in
his position should not associate with a girl such as Roberta, for
instance, and just because she worked in the mill.  He might not
even make friends with her and bring her to some such lake as this
or visit her in her little home on account of that.  And yet he
could not go with others more worthy of him, perhaps, for lack of
means or contacts.  And besides she was so attractive--very--and
especially enticing to him.  He could see her now as she worked
with her swift, graceful movements at her machine.  Her shapely
arms and hands, her smooth skin and her bright eyes as she smiled
up at him.  And his thoughts were played over by exactly the same
emotions that swept him so regularly at the factory.  For poor or
not--a working girl by misfortune only--he could see how he could
be very happy with her if only he did not need to marry her.  For
now his ambitions toward marriage had been firmly magnetized by the
world to which the Griffiths belonged.  And yet his desires were
most colorfully inflamed by her.  if only he might venture to talk
to her more--to walk home with her some day from the mill--to bring
her out here to this lake on a Saturday or Sunday, and row about--
just to idle and dream with her.

He rounded a point studded with a clump of trees and bushes and
covering a shallow where were scores of water lilies afloat, their
large leaves resting flat upon the still water of the lake.  And on
the bank to the left was a girl standing and looking at them.  She
had her hat off and one hand to her eyes for she was facing the sun
and was looking down in the water.  Her lips were parted in
careless inquiry.  She was very pretty, he thought, as he paused in
his paddling to look at her.  The sleeves of a pale blue waist came
only to her elbows.  And a darker blue skirt of flannel reconveyed
to him the trimness of her figure.  It wasn't Roberta!  It couldn't
be!  Yes, it was!

Almost before he had decided, he was quite beside her, some twenty
feet from the shore, and was looking up at her, his face lit by the
radiance of one who had suddenly, and beyond his belief, realized a
dream.  And as though he were a pleasant apparition suddenly evoked
out of nothing and nowhere, a poetic effort taking form out of
smoke or vibrant energy, she in turn stood staring down at him, her
lips unable to resist the wavy line of beauty that a happy mood
always brought to them.

"My, Miss Alden!  It is you, isn't it?" he called.  "I was
wondering whether it was.  I couldn't be sure from out there."

"Why, yes it is," she laughed, puzzled, and again just the least
bit abashed by the reality of him.  For in spite of her obvious
pleasure at seeing him again, only thinly repressed for the first
moment or two, she was on the instant beginning to be troubled by
her thoughts in regard to him--the difficulties that contact with
him seemed to prognosticate.  For this meant contact and
friendship, maybe, and she was no longer in any mood to resist him,
whatever people might think.  And yet here was her friend, Grace
Marr.  Would she want her to know of Clyde and her interest in him?
She was troubled.  And yet she could not resist smiling and looking
at him in a frank and welcoming way.  She had been thinking of him
so much and wishing for him in some happy, secure, commendable way.
And now here he was.  And there could be nothing more innocent than
his presence here--nor hers.

"Just out for a walk?" he forced himself to say, although, because
of his delight and his fear of her really, he felt not a little
embarrassed now that she was directly before him.  At the same time
he added, recalling that she had been looking so intently at the
water:  "You want some of these water lilies?  Is that what you're
looking for?"

"Uh, huh," she replied, still smiling and looking directly at him,
for the sight of his dark hair blown by the wind, the pale blue
outing shirt he wore open at the neck, his sleeves rolled up and
the yellow paddle held by him above the handsome blue boat, quite
thrilled her.  If only she could win such a youth for her very own
self--just hers and no one else's in the whole world.  It seemed as
though this would be paradise--that if she could have him she would
never want anything else in all the world.  And here at her very
feet he sat now in this bright canoe on this clear July afternoon
in this summery world--so new and pleasing to her.  And now he was
laughing up at her so directly and admiringly.  Her girl friend was
far in the rear somewhere looking for daisies.  Could she?  Should
she?

"I was seeing if there was any way to get out to any of them," she
continued a little nervously, a tremor almost revealing itself in
her voice.  "I haven't seen any before just here on this side."

"I'll get you all you want," he exclaimed briskly and gayly.  "You
just stay where you are.  I'll bring them."  But then, bethinking
him of how much more lovely it would be if she were to get in with
him, he added:  "But see here--why don't you get in here with me?
There's plenty of room and I can take you anywhere you want to go.
There's lots nicer lilies up the lake here a little way and on the
other side too.  I saw hundreds of them over there just beyond that
island."

Roberta looked.  And as she did, another canoe paddled by, holding
a youth of about Clyde's years and a girl no older than herself.
She wore a white dress and a pink hat and the canoe was green.  And
far across the water at the point of the very island about which
Clyde was talking was another canoe--bright yellow with a boy and a
girl in that.  She was thinking she would like to get in without
her companion, if possible--with her, if need be.  She wanted so
much to have him all to herself.  If she had only come out here
alone.  For if Grace Marr were included, she would know and later
talk, maybe, or think, if she heard anything else in regard to them
ever.  And yet if she did not, there was the fear that he might not
like her any more--might even come to dislike her or give up being
interested in her, and that would be dreadful.

She stood staring and thinking, and Clyde, troubled and pained by
her doubt on this occasion and his own loneliness and desire for
her, suddenly called:  "Oh, please don't say no.  Just get in,
won't you?  You'll like it.  I want you to.  Then we can find all
the lilies you want.  I can let you out anywhere you want to get
out--in ten minutes if you want to."

She marked the "I want you to."  It soothed and strengthened her.
He had no desire to take any advantage of her as she could see.

"But I have my friend with me here," she exclaimed almost sadly and
dubiously, for she still wanted to go alone--never in her life had
she wanted any one less than Grace Marr at this moment.  Why had
she brought her?  She wasn't so very pretty and Clyde might not
like her, and that might spoil the occasion.  "Besides," she added
almost in the same breath and with many thoughts fighting her,
"maybe I'd better not.  Is it safe?"

"Oh, yes, maybe you better had," laughed Clyde seeing that she was
yielding.  "It's perfectly safe," he added eagerly.  Then
maneuvering the canoe next to the bank, which was a foot above the
water, and laying hold of a root to hold it still, he said:  "Of
course you won't be in any danger.  Call your friend then, if you
want to, and I'll row the two of you.  There's room for two and
there are lots of water lilies everywhere over there."  He nodded
toward the east side of the lake.

Roberta could no longer resist and seized an overhanging branch by
which to steady herself.  At the same time she began to call:  "Oh,
Gray-ace!  Gray-ace!  Where are you?" for she had at last decided
that it was best to include her.

A far-off voice as quickly answered:  "Hello-o!  What do you want?"

"Come up here.  Come on.  I got something I want to tell you."

"Oh, no, you come on down here.  The daisies are just wonderful."

"No, you come on up here.  There's some one here that wants to take
us boating."  She intended to call this loudly, but somehow her
voice failed and her friend went on gathering flowers.  Roberta
frowned.  She did not know just what to do.  "Oh, very well, then,"
she suddenly decided, and straightening up added:  "We can row down
to where she is, I guess."

And Clyde, delighted, exclaimed:  "Oh, that's just fine.  Sure.  Do
get in.  We'll pick these here first and then if she hasn't come,
I'll paddle down nearer to where she is.  Just step square in the
center and that will balance it."

He was leaning back and looking up at her and Roberta was looking
nervously and yet warmly into his eyes.  Actually it was as though
she were suddenly diffused with joy, enveloped in a rosy mist.

She balanced one foot.  "Will it be perfectly safe?"

"Sure, sure," emphasized Clyde.  "I'll hold it safe.  Just take
hold of that branch there and steady yourself by that."  He held
the boat very still as she stepped.  Then, as the canoe careened
slightly to one side, she dropped to the cushioned seat with a
little cry.  It was like that of a baby to Clyde.

"It's all right," he reassured her.  "Just sit in the center there.
It won't tip over.  Gee, but this is funny.  I can't make it out
quite.  You know just as I was coming around that point I was
thinking of you--how maybe you might like to come out to a place
like this sometime.  And now here you are and here I am, and it all
happened just like that."  He waved his hand and snapped his
fingers.

And Roberta, fascinated by this confession and yet a little
frightened by it, added:  "Is that so?"  She was thinking of her
own thoughts in regard to him.

"Yes, and what's more," added Clyde, "I've been thinking of you all
day, really.  That's the truth.  I was wishing I might see you
somewhere this morning and bring you out here."

"Oh, now, Mr. Griffiths.  You know you don't mean that," pleaded
Roberta, fearful lest this sudden contact should take too intimate
and sentimental a turn too quickly.  She scarcely liked that
because she was afraid of him and herself, and now she looked at
him, trying to appear a little cold or at least disinterested, but
it was a very weak effort.

"That's the truth, though, just the same," insisted Clyde.

"Well, I think it is beautiful myself," admitted Roberta.  "I've
been out here, too, several times now.  My friend and I."  Clyde
was once more delighted.  She was smiling now and full of wonder.

"Oh, have you?" he exclaimed, and there was more talk as to why he
liked to come out and how he had learned to swim here.  "And to
think I turned in here and there you were on the bank, looking at
those water lilies.  Wasn't that queer?  I almost fell out of the
boat.  I don't think I ever saw you look as pretty as you did just
now standing there."

"Oh, now, Mr. Griffiths," again pleaded Roberta cautiously.  "You
mustn't begin that way.  I'll be afraid you're a dreadful
flatterer.  I'll have to think you are if you say anything like
that so quickly."

Clyde once more gazed at her weakly, and she smiled because she
thought he was more handsome than ever.  But what would he think,
she added to herself, if she were to tell him that just before he
came around that point she was thinking of him too, and wishing
that he were there with her, and not Grace.  And how they might sit
and talk, and hold hands perhaps.  He might even put his arms
around her waist, and she might let him.  That would be terrible,
as some people here would see it, she knew.  And it would never do
for him to know that--never.  That would be too intimate--too bold.
But just the same it was so.  Yet what would these people here in
Lycurgus think of her and him now if they should see her, letting
him paddle her about in this canoe!  He a factory manager and she
an employee in his department.  The conclusion!  The scandal,
maybe, even.  And yet Grace Marr was along--or soon would be.  And
she could explain to her--surely.  He was out rowing and knew her,
and why shouldn't he help her get some lilies if he wanted to?  It
was almost unavoidable--this present situation, wasn't it?

Already Clyde had maneuvered the canoe around so that they were now
among the water lilies.  And as he talked, having laid his paddle
aside, he had been reaching over and pulling them up, tossing them
with their long, wet stems at her feet as she lay reclining in the
seat, one hand over the side of the canoe in the water, as she had
seen other girls holding theirs.  And for the moment her thoughts
were allayed and modified by the beauty of his head and arms and
the tousled hair that now fell over his eyes.  How handsome he was!



Chapter 16


The outcome of that afternoon was so wonderful for both that for
days thereafter neither could cease thinking about it or marveling
that anything so romantic and charming should have brought them
together so intimately when both were considering that it was not
wise for either to know the other any better than employee and
superior.

After a few moments of badinage in the boat in which he had talked
about the beauty of the lilies and how glad he was to get them for
her, they picked up her friend, Grace, and eventually returned to
the boathouse.

Once on the land again there developed not a little hesitation on
her part as well as his as to how farther to proceed, for they were
confronted by the problem of returning into Lycurgus together.  As
Roberta saw it, it would not look right and might create talk.  And
on his part, he was thinking of Gilbert and other people he knew.
The trouble that might come of it.  What Gilbert would say if he
did hear.  And so both he and she, as well as Grace, were dubious
on the instant about the wisdom of riding back together.  Grace's
own reputation, as well as the fact that she knew Clyde was not
interested in her, piqued her.  And Roberta, realizing this from
her manner, said:  "What do you think we had better do, excuse
ourselves?"

At once Roberta tried to think just how they could extricate
themselves gracefully without offending Clyde.  Personally she was
so enchanted that had she been alone she would have preferred to
have ridden back with him.  But with Grace here and in this
cautious mood, never.  She must think up some excuse.

And at the same time, Clyde was wondering just how he was to do
now--ride in with them and brazenly face the possibility of being
seen by some one who might carry the news to Gilbert Griffiths or
evade doing so on some pretext or other.  He could think of none,
however, and was about to turn and accompany them to the car when
the young electrician, Shurlock, who lived in the Newton household
and who had been on the balcony of the pavilion, hailed them.  He
was with a friend who had a small car, and they were ready to
return to the city.

"Well, here's luck," he exclaimed.  "How are you, Miss Alden?  How
do you do, Miss Marr?  You two don't happen to be going our way, do
you?  If you are, we can take you in with us."

Not only Roberta but Clyde heard.  And at once she was about to say
that, since it was a little late and she and Grace were scheduled
to attend church services with the Newtons, it would be more
convenient for them to return this way.  She was, however, half
hoping that Shurlock would invite Clyde and that he would accept.
But on his doing so, Clyde instantly refused.  He explained that he
had decided to stay out a little while longer.  And so Roberta left
him with a look that conveyed clearly enough the gratitude and
delight she felt.  They had had such a good time.  And he in turn,
in spite of many qualms as to the wisdom of all this, fell to
brooding on how sad it was that just he and Roberta might not have
remained here for hours longer.  And immediately after they had
gone, he returned to the city alone.

The next morning he was keener than ever to see Roberta again.  And
although the peculiarly exposed nature of the work at the factory
made it impossible for him to demonstrate his feelings, still by
the swift and admiring and seeking smiles that played over his face
and blazed in his eyes, she knew that he was as enthusiastic, if
not more so, as on the night before.  And on her part, although she
felt that a crisis of some sort was impending, and in spite of the
necessity of a form of secrecy which she resented, she could not
refrain from giving him a warm and quite yielding glance in return.
The wonder of his being interested in her!  The wonder and the
thrill!

Clyde decided at once that his attentions were still welcome.  Also
that he might risk saying something to her, supposing that a
suitable opportunity offered.  And so, after waiting an hour and
seeing two fellow workers leave from either side of her, he seized
the occasion to drift near and to pick up one of the collars she
had just stamped, saying, as though talking about that:  "I was
awfully sorry to have to leave you last night.  I wish we were out
there again to-day instead of here, just you and me, don't you?"

Roberta turned, conscious that now was the time to decide whether
she would encourage or discourage any attention on his part.  At
the same time she was almost faintingly eager to accept his
attentions regardless of the problem in connection with them.  His
eyes!  His hair!  His hands!  And then instead of rebuking or
chilling him in any way, she only looked, but with eyes too weak
and melting to mean anything less than yielding and uncertainty.
Clyde saw that she was hopelessly and helplessly drawn to him, as
indeed he was to her.  On the instant he was resolved to say
something more, when he could, as to where they could meet when no
one was along, for it was plain that she was no more anxious to be
observed than he was.  He well knew more sharply to-day than ever
before that he was treading on dangerous ground.

He began to make mistakes in his calculations, to feel that, with
her so near him, he was by no means concentrating on the various
tasks before him.  She was too enticing, too compelling in so many
ways to him.  There was something so warm and gay and welcome about
her that he felt that if he could persuade her to love him he would
be among the most fortunate of men.  Yet there was that rule, and
although on the lake the day before he had been deciding that his
position here was by no means as satisfactory as it should be,
still with Roberta in it, as now it seemed she well might be, would
it not be much more delightful for him to stay?  Could he not, for
the time being at least, endure the further indifference of the
Griffiths?  And who knows, might they not yet become interested in
him as a suitable social figure if only he did nothing to offend
them?  And yet here he was attempting to do exactly the thing he
had been forbidden to do.  What kind of an injunction was this,
anyhow, wherewith Gilbert had enjoined him?  If he could come to
some understanding with her, perhaps she would meet him in some
clandestine way and thus obviate all possibility of criticism.

It was thus that Clyde, seated at his desk or walking about, was
thinking.  For now his mind, even in the face of his duties, was
almost entirely engaged by her, and he could think of nothing else.
He had decided to suggest that they meet for the first time, if she
would, in a small park which was just west of the first outlying
resort on the Mohawk.  But throughout the day, so close to each
other did the girls work, he had no opportunity to communicate with
her.  Indeed noontime came and he went below to his lunch,
returning a little early in the hope of finding her sufficiently
detached to permit him to whisper that he wished to see her
somewhere.  But she was surrounded by others at the time and so the
entire afternoon went by without a single opportunity.

However, as he was going out, he bethought him that if he should
chance to meet her alone somewhere in the street, he would venture
to speak to her.  For she wanted him to--that he knew, regardless
of what she might say at any time.  And he must find some way that
would appear as accidental and hence as innocent to her as to
others.  But as the whistle blew and she left the building she was
joined by another girl, and he was left to think of some other way.

That same evening, however, instead of lingering about the Peyton
house or going to a moving picture theater, as he so often did now,
or walking alone somewhere in order to allay his unrest and
loneliness, he chose now instead to seek out the home of Roberta on
Taylor Street.  It was not a pleasing house, as he now decided, not
nearly so attractive as Mrs. Cuppy's or the house in which he now
dwelt.  It was too old and brown, the neighborhood too nondescript,
if conservative.  But the lights in different rooms glowing at this
early hour gave it a friendly and genial look.  And the few trees
in front were pleasant.  What was Roberta doing now?  Why couldn't
she have waited for him in the factory?  Why couldn't she sense now
that he was outside and come out?  He wished intensely that in some
way he could make her feel that he was out here, and so cause her
to come out.  But she didn't.  On the contrary, he observed Mr.
Shurlock issue forth and disappear toward Central Avenue.  And,
after that, pedestrian after pedestrian making their way out of
different houses along the street and toward Central, which caused
him to walk briskly about the block in order to avoid being seen.
At the same time he sighed often, because it was such a fine night--
a full moon rising about nine-thirty and hanging heavy and yellow
over the chimney tops.  He was so lonely.

But at ten, the moon becoming too bright, and no Roberta appearing,
he decided to leave.  It was not wise to be hanging about here.
But the night being so fine he resented the thought of his room and
instead walked up and down Wykeagy Avenue, looking at the fine
houses there--his uncle Samuel's among them.  Now, all their
occupants were away at their summer places.  The houses were dark.
And Sondra Finchley and Bertine Cranston and all that company--what
were they doing on a night like this?  Where dancing?  Where
speeding?  Where loving?  It was so hard to be poor, not to have
money and position and to be able to do in life exactly as you
wished.

And the next morning, more eager than usual, he was out of Mrs.
Peyton's by six-forty-five, anxious to find some way of renewing
his attentions to Roberta.  For there was that crowd of factory
workers that proceeded north along Central Avenue.  And she would
be a unit in it, of course, at about 7.10.  But his trip to the
factory was fruitless.  For, after swallowing a cup of coffee at
one of the small restaurants near the post-office and walking the
length of Central Avenue toward the mill, and pausing at a cigar
store to see if Roberta should by any chance come along alone, he
was rewarded by the sight of her with Grace Marr again.  What a
wretched, crazy world this was, he at once decided, and how
difficult it was in this miserable town for anyone to meet anyone
else alone.  Everyone, nearly, knew everyone else.  Besides,
Roberta knew that he was trying to get a chance to talk to her.
Why shouldn't she walk alone then?  He had looked at her enough
yesterday.  And yet here she was walking with Grace Marr and
appeared seemingly contented.  What was the matter with her anyhow?

By the time he reached the factory he was very sour.  But the sight
of Roberta taking her place at her bench and tossing him a genial
"good morning" with a cheerful smile, caused him to feel better and
that all was not lost.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon and a lull due to the
afternoon heat, the fag of steadily continued work, and the flare
of reflected light from the river outside was over all.  The tap,
tap, tap of metal stamps upon scores of collars at once--nearly
always slightly audible above the hum and whirr of the sewing
machines beyond was, if anything, weaker than usual.  And there was
Ruza Nikoforitch, Hoda Petkanas, Martha Bordaloue, Angelina Pitti
and Lena Schlict, all joining in a song called "Sweethearts" which
some one had started.  And Roberta, perpetually conscious of
Clyde's eyes, as well as his mood, was thinking how long it would
be before he would come around with some word in regard to
something.  For she wished him to--and because of his whispered
words of the day before, she was sure that it would not be long,
because he would not be able to resist it.  His eyes the night
before had told her that.  Yet because of the impediments of this
situation she knew that he must be having a difficult time thinking
of any way by which he could say anything to her.  And still at
certain moments she was glad, for there were such moments when she
felt she needed the security which the presence of so many girls
gave her.

And as she thought of all this, stamping at her desk along with the
others, she suddenly discovered that a bundle of collars which she
had already stamped as sixteens were not of that size but smaller.
She looked at it quickly and nervously, then decided that there was
but one thing to do--lay the bundle aside and await comment from
one of the foremen, including Clyde, or take it directly to him
now--really the better way, because it prevented any of the foremen
seeing it before he did.  That was what all the girls did when they
made mistakes of any kind.  And all trained girls were supposed to
catch all possible errors of that kind.

And yet now and in the face of all her very urgent desires she
hesitated, for this would take her direct to Clyde and give him the
opportunity he was seeking.  But, more terrifying, it was giving
her the opportunity she was seeking.  She wavered between loyalty
to Clyde as a superintendent, loyalty to her old conventions as
opposed to her new and dominating desire and her repressed wish to
have Clyde speak to her--then went over with the bundle and laid it
on his desk.  But her hands, as she did so, trembled.  Her face was
white--her throat taut.  At the moment, as it chanced, he was
almost vainly trying to calculate the scores of the different girls
from the stubs laid before him, and was having a hard time of it
because his mind was not on what he was doing.  And then he looked
up.  And there was Roberta bending toward him.  His nerves became
very taut, his throat and lips, dry, for here and now was his
opportunity.  And, as he could see, Roberta was almost suffocating
from the strain which her daring and self-deception was putting
upon her nerves and heart.

"There's been a distake" (she meant to say mistake) "in regard to
this bundle upstairs," she began.  "I didn't notice it either until
I'd stamped nearly all of them.  They're fifteen-and-a-half and
I've stamped nearly all of them sixteen.  I'm sorry."

Clyde noticed, as she said this, that she was trying to smile a
little and appear calm, but her cheeks were quite blanched and her
hands, particularly the one that held the bundle, trembled.  On the
instant he realized that although loyalty and order were bringing
her with this mistake to him, still there was more than that to it.
In a weak, frightened, and yet love-driven way, she was courting
him, giving him the opportunity he was seeking, wishing him to take
advantage of it.  And he, embarrassed and shaken for the moment by
this sudden visitation, was still heartened and hardened into a
kind of effrontery and gallantry such as he had not felt as yet in
regard to her.  She was seeking him--that was plain.  She was
interested, and clever enough to make the occasion which permitted
him to speak.  Wonderful!  The sweetness of her daring.

"Oh, that's all right," he said, pretending a courage and a daring
in regard to her which he did not feel even now.  "I'll just send
them down to the wash room and then we'll see if we can't restamp
them.  It's not our mistake, really."

He smiled most warmly and she met his look with a repressed smile
of her own, already turning and fearing that she had manifested too
clearly what had brought her.

"But don't go," he added quickly.  "I want to ask you something.
I've been trying to get a word with you ever since Sunday.  I want
you to meet me somewhere, will you?  There's a rule here that says
a head of a department can't have anything to do with a girl who
works for him--outside I mean.  But I want you to see me just the
same, won't you?  You know," and he smiled winsomely and coaxingly
into her eyes, "I've been just nearly crazy over you ever since you
came in here and Sunday made it worse.  And now I'm not going to
let any old rule come between me and you, if I can help it.  Will
you?"

"Oh, I don't know whether I can do that or not," replied Roberta,
who, now that she had succeeded in accomplishing what she had
wished, was becoming terrorized by her own daring.  She began
looking around nervously and feeling that every eye in the room
must be upon her.  "I live with Mr. and Mrs. Newton, my friend's
sister and brother-in-law, you know, and they're very strict.  It
isn't the same as if--"  She was going to add "I was home," but
Clyde interrupted her.

"Oh, now please don't say no, will you?  Please don't.  I want to
see you.  I don't want to cause you any trouble, that's all.
Otherwise I'd be glad to come round to your house.  You know how it
is."

"Oh, no, you mustn't do that," cautioned Roberta.  "Not yet
anyhow."  She was so confused that quite unconsciously she was
giving Clyde to understand that she was expecting him to come
around some time later.

"Well," smiled Clyde, who could see that she was yielding in part.
"We could just walk out near the end of some street here--that
street you live in, if you wish.  There are no houses out there.
Or there's a little park--Mohawk--just west of Dreamland on the
Mohawk Street line.  It's right on the river.  You might come out
there.  I could meet you where the car stops.  Will you do that?"

"Oh, I'd be afraid to do that I think--go so far, I mean.  I never
did anything like that before."  She looked so innocent and frank
as she said this that Clyde was quite carried away by the sweetness
of her.  And to think he was making a clandestine appointment with
her.  "I'm almost afraid to go anywhere here alone, you know.
People talk so here, they say, and some one would be sure to see
me.  But--"

"Yes, but what?"

"I'm afraid I'm staying too long at your desk here, don't you
think?"  She actually gasped as she said it.  And Clyde realizing
the openness of it, although there was really nothing very unusual
about it, now spoke quickly and forcefully.

"Well, then, how about the end of that street you live in?
Couldn't you come down there for just a little while to-night--a
half hour or so, maybe?"

"Oh, I couldn't make it to-night, I think--not so soon.  I'll have
to see first, you know.  Arrange, that is.  But another day."  She
was so excited and troubled by this great adventure of hers that
her face, like Clyde's at times, changed from a half smile to a
half frown without her realizing that it was registering these
changes.

"Well, then, how about Wednesday night at eight-thirty or nine?
Couldn't you do that?  Please, now."

Roberta considered most sweetly, nervously.  Clyde was enormously
fascinated by her manner at the moment, for she looked around,
conscious, or so she seemed, that she was being observed and that
her stay here for a first visit was very long.

"I suppose I'd better be going back to my work now," she replied
without really answering him.

"Wait a minute," pled Clyde.  "We haven't fixed on the time for
Wednesday.  Aren't you going to meet me?  Make it nine or eight-
thirty, or any time you want to.  I'll be there waiting for you
after eight if you wish.  Will you?"

"All right, then, say eight-thirty or between eight-thirty and
nine, if I can.  Is that all right?  I'll come if I can, you know,
and if anything does happen I'll tell you the next morning, you
see."  She flushed and then looked around once more, a foolish,
flustered look, then hurried back to her bench, fairly tingling
from head to toe, and looking as guilty as though she had been
caught red-handed in some dreadful crime.  And Clyde at his desk
was almost choking with excitement.  The wonder of her agreeing, of
his talking to her like that, of her venturing to make a date with
him at all here in Lycurgus, where he was so well-known!
Thrilling!

For her part, she was thinking how wonderful it would be just to
walk and talk with him in the moonlight, to feel the pressure of
his arm and hear his soft appealing voice.



Chapter 17


It was quite dark when Roberta stole out on Wednesday night to meet
Clyde.  But before that what qualms and meditations in the face of
her willingness and her agreement to do so.  For not only was it
difficult for her to overcome her own mental scruples within, but
in addition there was all the trouble in connection with the
commonplace and religious and narrow atmosphere in which she found
herself imbedded at the Newtons'.  For since coming here she had
scarcely gone anywhere without Grace Marr.  Besides on this
occasion--a thing she had forgotten in talking to Clyde--she had
agreed to go with the Newtons and Grace to the Gideon Baptist
Church, where a Wednesday prayer meeting was to be followed by a
social with games, cake, tea and ice cream.

In consequence she was troubled severely as to how to manage, until
it came back to her that a day or two before Mr. Liggett, in noting
how rapid and efficient she was, had observed that at any time she
wanted to learn one phase of the stitching operations going on in
the next room, he would have her taken in hand by Mrs. Braley, who
would teach her.  And now that Clyde's invitation and this church
affair fell on the same night, she decided to say that she had an
appointment with Mrs. Braley at her home.  Only, as she also
decided, she would wait until just before dinner Wednesday and then
say that Mrs. Braley had invited her to come to her house.  Then
she could see Clyde.  And by the time the Newtons and Grace
returned she could be back.  Oh, how it would feel to have him talk
to her--say again as he did in the boat that he never had seen any
one look so pretty as she did standing on the bank and looking for
water lilies.  Many, many thoughts--vague, dreadful, colorful, came
to her--how and where they might go--be--do--from now on, if only
she could arrange to be friends with him without harm to her or
him.  If need be, she now decided, she could resign from the
factory and get a place somewhere else--a change which would
absolve Clyde from any responsibility in regard to her.

There was, however, another mental as well as emotional phase in
regard to all this and that related to her clothes.  For since
coming to Lycurgus she had learned that the more intelligent girls
here dressed better than did those about Biltz and Trippetts Mills.
At the same time she had been sending a fair portion of her money
to her mother--sufficient to have equipped her exceptionally well,
as she now realized, had she retained it.  But now that Clyde was
swaying her so greatly she was troubled about her looks, and on the
evening after her conversation with him at the mill, she had gone
through her small wardrobe, fixing upon a soft blue hat which Clyde
had not yet seen, together with a checkered blue and white flannel
skirt and a pair of white canvas shoes purchased the previous
summer at Biltz.  Her plan was to wait until the Newtons and Grace
had departed for church and then swiftly dress and leave.

At eight-thirty, when night had finally fallen, she went east along
Taylor to Central Avenue, then by a circuitous route made her way
west again to the trysting place.  And Clyde was already there.
Against an old wooden fence that enclosed a five-acre cornfield, he
was leaning and looking back toward the interesting little city,
the lights in so many of the homes of which were aglow through the
trees.  The air was laden with spices--the mingled fragrance of
many grasses and flowers.  There was a light wind stirring in the
long swords of the corn at his back--in the leaves of the trees
overhead.  And there were stars--the big dipper and the little
dipper and the milky way--sidereal phenomena which his mother had
pointed out to him long ago.

And he was thinking how different was his position here to what it
had been in Kansas City.  There he had been so nervous in regard to
Hortense Briggs or any girl, really--afraid almost to say a word to
any of them.  Whereas here, and especially since he had had charge
of this stamping room, he had seemed to become aware of the fact
that he was more attractive than he had ever thought he was before.
Also that the girls were attracted to him and that he was not so
much afraid of them.  The eyes of Roberta herself showed him this
day how much she was drawn to him.  She was his girl.  And when she
came, he would put his arms around her and kiss her.  And she would
not be able to resist him.

He stood listening, dreaming and watching, the rustling corn behind
him stirring an old recollection in him, when suddenly he saw her
coming.  She looked trim and brisk and yet nervous, and paused at
the street end and looked about like a frightened and cautious
animal.  At once Clyde hurried forward toward her and called
softly:  "Hello.  Gee, it's nice to have you meet me.  Did you have
any trouble?"  He was thinking how much more pleasing she was than
either Hortense Briggs or Rita Dickerman, the one so calculating,
the other so sensually free and indiscriminate.

"Did I have any trouble?  Oh, didn't I though?"  And at once she
plunged into a full and picturesque account, not only of the
mistake in regard to the Newtons' church night and her engagement
with them, but of a determination on the part of Grace Marr not to
go to the church social without her, and how she had to fib, oh, so
terribly, about going over to Mrs. Braley's to learn to stitch--a
Liggett-Roberta development of which Clyde had heard nothing so far
and concerning which he was intensely curious, because at once it
raised the thought that already Liggett might be intending to
remove her from under his care.  He proceeded to question her about
that before he would let her go on with her story, an interest
which Roberta noticed and because of which she was very pleased.

"But I can't stay very long, you know," she explained briskly and
warmly at the first opportunity, the while Clyde laid hold of her
arm and turned toward the river, which was to the north and
untenanted this far out.  "The Baptist Church socials never last
much beyond ten-thirty or eleven, and they'll be back soon.  So
I'll have to manage to be back before they are."

Then she gave many reasons why it would be unwise for her to be out
after ten, reasons which annoyed yet convinced Clyde by their
wisdom.  He had been hoping to keep her out longer.  But seeing
that the time was to be brief, he was all the keener for a closer
contact with her now, and fell to complimenting her on her pretty
hat and cape and how becoming they were.  At once he tried putting
his arm about her waist, but feeling this to be a too swift advance
she removed his arm, or tried to, saying in the softest and most
coaxing voice "Now, now--that's not nice, is it?  Can't you just
hold my arm or let me hold yours?"  But he noted, once she
persuaded him to disengage her waist, she took his arm in a
clinging, snuggling embrace and measured her stride to his.  On the
instant he was thinking how natural and unaffected her manner was
now that the ice between them had been broken.

And how she went on babbling!  She liked Lycurgus, only she thought
it was the most religious town she had ever been in--worse than
Biltz or Trippetts Mills that way.  And then she had to explain to
Clyde what Biltz and Trippetts Mills were like--and her home--a
very little, for she did not care to talk about that.  And then
back to the Newtons and Grace Marr and how they watched her every
move.  Clyde was thinking as she talked how different she was from
Hortense Briggs or Rita, or any other girl he had ever known--so
much more simple and confiding--not in any way mushy as was Rita,
or brash or vain or pretentious, as was Hortense, and yet really as
pretty and so much sweeter.  He could not help thinking if she were
smartly dressed how sweet she would be.  And again he was wondering
what she would think of him and his attitude toward Hortense in
contrast to his attitude toward her now, if she knew.

"You know," he said at the very first opportunity, "I've been
trying to talk to you ever since you came to work at the factory
but you see how very watchful every one is.  They're the limit.
They told me when I came up there that I mustn't interest myself in
any girl working there and so I tried not to.  But I just couldn't
help this, could I?"  He squeezed her arm affectionately, then
stopped suddenly and, disengaging his arm from hers, put both his
about her.  "You know, Roberta, I'm crazy about you.  I really am.
I think you're the dearest, sweetest thing.  Oh, say!  Do you mind
my telling you?  Ever since you showed up there, I haven't been
able to sleep, nearly.  You've got such nice eyes and hair.  To-
night you look just too cute--lovely, I think.  Oh, Roberta,"
suddenly he caught her face between his two hands and kissed her,
before really she could evade him.  Then having done this he held
her while she resisted him, although it was almost impossible for
her to do so.  Instead she felt as though she wanted to put her
arms around him or have him hold her tight, and this mood in regard
to him and herself puzzled and troubled her.  It was awful.  What
would people think--say--if they knew?  She was a bad girl, really,
and yet she wanted to be this way--near him--now as never before.

"Oh, you mustn't, Mr. Griffiths," she pleaded.  "You really
mustn't, you know.  Please.  Some one might see us.  I think I hear
some one coming.  Please, now."  She looked about quite frightened,
apparently, while Clyde laughed ecstatically.  Life had presented
him a delicious sweet at last.  "You know I never did anything like
this before," she went on.  "Honest, I didn't.  Please.  It's only
because you said--"

Clyde was pressing her close, not saying anything in reply--his
pale face and dark hungry eyes held very close to hers.  He kissed
her again and again despite her protests, her little mouth and chin
and cheeks seeming too beautiful--too irresistible--then murmured
pleadingly, for he was too overcome to speak vigorously.

"Oh, Roberta, dearest, please, please, say that you love me.
Please do!  I know that you do, Roberta.  I can tell.  Please, tell
me now.  I'm crazy about you.  We have so little time."

He kissed her again upon the cheek and mouth, and suddenly he felt
her relax.  She stood quite still and unresisting in his arms.  He
felt a wonder of something--he could not tell what.  All of a
sudden he felt tears upon her face, her head sunk to his shoulder,
and then he heard her say:  "Yes, yes, yes.  I do love you.  Yes,
yes.  I do.  I do."

There was a sob--half of misery, half of delight--in her voice and
Clyde caught that.  He was so touched by her honesty and simplicity
that tears sprang to his own eyes.  "It's all right, Roberta.  It's
all right.  Please don't cry.  Oh, I think you're so sweet.  I do.
I do, Roberta."

He looked up and before him in the east over the low roofs of the
city was the thinnest, yellowest topmost arc of the rising July
moon.  It seemed at the moment as though life had given him all--
all--that he could possibly ask of it.



Chapter 18


The culmination of this meeting was but the prelude, as both Clyde
and Roberta realized, to a series of contacts and rejoicings which
were to extend over an indefinite period.  They had found love.
They were deliciously happy, whatever the problems attending its
present realization might be.  But the ways and means of continuing
with it were a different matter.  For not only was her connection
with the Newtons a bar to any normal procedure in so far as Clyde
was concerned, but Grace Marr herself offered a distinct and
separate problem.  Far more than Roberta she was chained, not only
by the defect of poor looks, but by the narrow teachings and
domestic training of her early social and religious life.  Yet she
wanted to be gay and free, too.  And in Roberta, who, while gay and
boastful at times, was still well within the conventions that
chained Grace, she imagined that she saw one who was not so bound.
And so it was that she clung to her closely and as Roberta saw it a
little wearisomely.  She imagined that they could exchange ideas
and jests and confidences in regard to the love life and their
respective dreams without injury to each other.  And to date this
was her one solace in an otherwise gray world.

But Roberta, even before the arrival of Clyde in her life, did not
want to be so clung to.  It was a bore.  And afterwards she
developed an inhibition in regard to him where Grace was concerned.
For she not only knew that Grace would resent this sudden
desertion, but also that she had no desire to face out within
herself the sudden and revolutionary moods which now possessed her.
Having at once met and loved him, she was afraid to think what, if
anything, she proposed to permit herself to do in regard to him.
Were not such contacts between the classes banned here?  She knew
they were.  Hence she did not care to talk about him at all.

In consequence on Monday evening following the Sunday on the lake
when Grace had inquired most gayly and familiarly after Clyde,
Roberta had as instantly decided not to appear nearly as interested
in him as Grace might already be imagining.  Accordingly, she said
little other than that he was very pleasant to her and had inquired
after Grace, a remark which caused the latter to eye her slyly and
to wonder if she were really telling what had happened since.  "He
was so very friendly I was beginning to think he was struck on
you."

"Oh, what nonsense!" Roberta replied shrewdly, and a bit alarmed.
"Why, he wouldn't look at me.  Besides, there's a rule of the
company that doesn't permit him to, as long as I work there."

This last, more than anything else, served to allay Grace's notions
in regard to Clyde and Roberta, for she was of that conventional
turn of mind which would scarcely permit her to think of any one
infringing upon a company rule.  Nevertheless Roberta was nervous
lest Grace should be associating her and Clyde in her mind in some
clandestine way, and she decided to be doubly cautious in regard to
Clyde--to feign a distance she did not feel.

But all this was preliminary to troubles and strains and fears
which had nothing to do with what had gone before, but took their
rise from difficulties which sprang up immediately afterwards.  For
once she had come to this complete emotional understanding with
Clyde, she saw no way of meeting him except in this very
clandestine way and that so very rarely and uncertainly that she
could not say when there was likely to be another meeting.

"You see, it's this way," she explained to Clyde when, a few
evenings later, she had managed to steal out for an hour and they
walked from the region at the end of Taylor Street down to the
Mohawk, where were some open fields and a low bank rising above the
pleasant river.  "The Newtons never go any place much without
inviting me.  And even if they didn't, Grace'd never go unless I
went along.  It's just because we were together so much in
Trippetts Mills that she feels that way, as though I were a part of
the family.  But now it's different, and yet I don't see how I am
going to get out of it so soon.  I don't know where to say I'm
going or whom I am going with."

"I know that, honey," he replied softly and sweetly.  "That's all
true enough.  But how is that going to help us now?  You can't
expect me to get along with just looking at you in the factory,
either, can you?"

He gazed at her so solemnly and yearningly that she was moved by
her sympathy for him, and in order to assuage his depression added:
"No, I don't want you to do that, dear.  You know I don't.  But
what am I to do?"  She laid a soft and pleading hand on the back of
one of Clyde's thin, long and nervous ones.

"I'll tell you what, though," she went on after a period of
reflection, "I have a sister living in Homer, New York.  That's
about thirty-five miles north of here.  I might say I was going up
there some Saturday afternoon or Sunday.  She's been writing me to
come up, but I hadn't thought of it before.  But I might go--that
is--I might--"

"Oh, why not do that?" exclaimed Clyde eagerly.  "That's fine!  A
good idea!"

"Let me see," she added, ignoring his exclamation.  "If I remember
right you have to go to Fonda first, then change cars there.  But I
could leave here any time on the trolley and there are only two
trains a day from Fonda, one at two, and one at seven on Saturday.
So I might leave here any time before two, you see, and then if I
didn't make the two o'clock train, it would be all right, wouldn't
it?  I could go on the seven.  And you could be over there, or meet
me on the way, just so no one here saw us.  Then I could go on and
you could come back.  I could arrange that with Agnes, I'm sure.  I
would have to write her."

"How about all the time between then and now, though?" he queried
peevishly.  "It's a long time till then, you know."

"Well, I'll have to see what I can think of, but I'm not sure,
dear.  I'll have to see.  And you think too.  But I ought to be
going back now," she added nervously.  She at once arose, causing
Clyde to rise, too, and consult his watch, thereby discovering that
it was already near ten.

"But what about us!" he continued persistently.  "Why couldn't you
pretend next Sunday that you're going to some other church than
yours and meet me somewhere instead?  Would they have to know?"

At once Clyde noted Roberta's face darken slightly, for here he was
encroaching upon something that was still too closely identified
with her early youth and convictions to permit infringement.

"Hump, uh," she replied quite solemnly.  "I wouldn't want to do
that.  I wouldn't feel right about it.  And it wouldn't be right,
either."

Immediately Clyde sensed that he was treading on dangerous ground
and withdrew the suggestion because he did not care to offend or
frighten her in any way.  "Oh, well.  Just as you say.  I only
thought since you don't seem to be able to think of any other way."

"No, no, dear," she pleaded softly, because she noted that he felt
that she might be offended.  "It's all right, only I wouldn't want
to do that.  I couldn't."

Clyde shook his head.  A recollection of his own youthful
inhibitions caused him to feel that perhaps it was not right for
him to have suggested it.

They returned in the direction of Taylor Street without, apart from
the proposed trip to Fonda, either having hit upon any definite
solution.  Instead, after kissing her again and again and just
before letting her go, the best he could suggest was that both were
to try and think of some way by which they could meet before, if
possible.  And she, after throwing her arms about his neck for a
moment, ran east along Taylor Street, her little figure swaying in
the moonlight.

However, apart from another evening meeting which was made possible
by Roberta's announcing a second engagement with Mrs. Braley, there
was no other encounter until the following Saturday when Roberta
departed for Fonda.  And Clyde, having ascertained the exact hour,
left by the car ahead, and joined Roberta at the first station
west.  From that point on until evening, when she was compelled to
take the seven o'clock train, they were unspeakably happy together,
loitering near the little city comparatively strange to both.

For outside of Fonda a few miles they came to a pleasure park
called Starlight where, in addition to a few clap-trap pleasure
concessions such as a ring of captive aeroplanes, a Ferris wheel, a
merry-go-round, an old mill and a dance floor, was a small lake
with boats.  It was after its fashion an idyllic spot with a little
band-stand out on an island near the center of the lake and on the
shore a grave and captive bear in a cage.  Since coming to Lycurgus
Roberta had not ventured to visit any of the rougher resorts near
there, which were very much like this, only much more strident.  On
sight of this both exclaimed:  "Oh, look!"  And Clyde added at
once:  "Let's get off here, will you--shall we?  What do you say?
We're almost to Fonda anyhow.  And we can have more fun here."

At once they climbed down.  And having disposed of her bag for the
time being, he led the way first to the stand of a man who sold
frankfurters.  Then, since the merry-go-round was in full blast,
nothing would do but that Roberta should ride with him.  And in the
gayest of moods, they climbed on, and he placed her on a zebra, and
then stood close in order that he might keep his arm about her, and
both try to catch the brass ring.  And as commonplace and noisy and
gaudy as it all was, the fact that at last he had her all to
himself unseen, and she him, was sufficient to evoke in both a kind
of ecstasy which was all out of proportion to the fragile, gimcrack
scene.  Round and round they spun on the noisy, grinding machine,
surveying now a few idle pleasure seekers who were in boats upon
the lake, now some who were flying round in the gaudy green and
white captive aeroplanes or turning upward and then down in the
suspended cages of the Ferris wheel.

Both looked at the woods and sky beyond the lake; the idlers and
dancers in the dancing pavilion dreaming and thrilling, and then
suddenly Clyde asked:  "You dance, don't you, Roberta?"

"Why, no, I don't," she replied, a little sadly, for at the very
moment she had been looking at the happy dancers rather ruefully
and thinking how unfortunate it was that she had never been allowed
to dance.  It might not be right or nice, perhaps--her own church
said it was not--but still, now that they were here and in love
like this--these others looked so gay and happy--a pretty medley of
colors moving round and round in the green and brown frame--it did
not seem so bad to her.  Why shouldn't people dance, anyway?  Girls
like herself and boys like Clyde?  Her younger brother and sister,
in spite of the views of her parents, were already declaring that
when the opportunity offered, they were going to learn.

"Oh, isn't that too bad!" he exclaimed, thinking how delightful it
would be to hold Roberta in his arms.  "We could have such fun now
if you could.  I could teach you in a few minutes if you wanted me
to."

"I don't know about that," she replied quizzically, her eyes
showing that his suggestion appealed to her.  "I'm not so clever
that way.  And you know dancing isn't considered so very nice in my
part of the country.  And my church doesn't approve of it, either.
And I know my parents wouldn't like me to."

"Oh, shucks," replied Clyde foolishly and gayly, "what nonsense,
Roberta.  Why, everybody dances these days or nearly everybody.
How can you think there's anything wrong with it?"

"Oh, I know," replied Roberta oddly and quaintly, "maybe they do in
your set.  I know most of those factory girls do, of course.  And I
suppose where you have money and position, everything's right.  But
with a girl like me, it's different.  I don't suppose your parents
were as strict as mine, either."

"Oh, weren't they, though?" laughed Clyde who had not failed to
catch the "your set"; also the "where you have money and position."

"Well, that's all you know about it," he went on.  "They were as
strict as yours and stricter, I'll bet.  But I danced just the
same.  Why, there's no harm in it, Roberta.  Come on, let me teach
you.  It's wonderful, really.  Won't you, dearest?"

He put his arm around her and looked into her eyes and she half
relented, quite weakened by her desire for him.

Just then the merry-go-round stopped and without any plan or
suggestion they seemed instinctively to drift to the side of the
pavilion where the dancers--not many but avid--were moving briskly
around.  Fox-trots and one-steps were being supplied by an
orchestrelle of considerable size.  At a turnstile, all the
remaining portions of the pavilion being screened in, a pretty
concessionaire was sitting and taking tickets--ten cents per dance
per couple.  But the color and the music and the motions of the
dancers gliding rhythmically here and there quite seized upon both
Clyde and Roberta.

The orchestrelle stopped and the dancers were coming out.  But no
sooner were they out than five-cent admission checks were once more
sold for the new dance.

"I don't believe I can," pleaded Roberta, as Clyde led her to the
ticket-stile.  "I'm afraid I'm too awkward, maybe.  I never danced,
you know."

"You awkward, Roberta," he exclaimed.  "Oh, how crazy.  Why, you're
as graceful and pretty as you can be.  You'll see.  You'll be a
wonderful dancer."

Already he had paid the coin and they were inside.

Carried away by a bravado which was three-fourths her conception of
him as a member of the Lycurgus upper crust and possessor of means
and position, he led the way into a corner and began at once to
illustrate the respective movements.  They were not difficult and
for a girl of Roberta's natural grace and zest, easy.  Once the
music started and Clyde drew her to him, she fell into the
positions and steps without effort, and they moved rhythmically and
instinctively together.  It was the delightful sensation of being
held by him and guided here and there that so appealed to her--the
wonderful rhythm of his body coinciding with hers.

"Oh, you darling," he whispered.  "Aren't you the dandy little
dancer, though.  You've caught on already.  If you aren't the
wonderful kid.  I can hardly believe it."

They went about the floor once more, then a third time, before the
music stopped and by the time it did, Roberta was lost in a sense
of delight such as had never come to her before.  To think she had
been dancing!  And it should be so wonderful!  And with Clyde!  He
was so slim, graceful--quite the handsomest of any of the young men
on the floor, she thought.  And he, in turn, was now thinking that
never had he known any one as sweet as Roberta.  She was so gay and
winsome and yielding.  She would not try to work him for anything.
And as for Sondra Finchley, well, she had ignored him and he might
as well dismiss her from his mind--and yet even here, and with
Roberta, he could not quite forget her.

At five-thirty when the orchestrelle was silenced for lack of
customers and a sign reading "Next Concert 7.30" hung up, they were
still dancing.  After that they went for an ice-cream soda, then
for something to eat, and by then, so swiftly had sped the time, it
was necessary to take the very next car for the depot at Fonda.

As they neared this terminal, both Clyde and Roberta were full of
schemes as to how they were to arrange for to-morrow.  For Roberta
would be coming back then and if she could arrange to leave her
sister's a little early Sunday he could come over from Lycurgus to
meet her.  They could linger around Fonda until eleven at least,
when the last train south from Homer was due.  And pretending she
had arrived on that they could then, assuming there was no one whom
they knew on the Lycurgus car, journey to that city.

And as arranged so they met.  And in the dark outlying streets of
that city, walked and talked and planned, and Roberta told Clyde
something--though not much--of her home life at Biltz.

But the great thing, apart from their love for each other and its
immediate expression in kisses and embraces, was the how and where
of further contacts.  They must find some way, only, really, as
Roberta saw it, she must be the one to find the way, and that soon.
For while Clyde was obviously very impatient and eager to be with
her as much as possible, still he did not appear to be very ready
with suggestions--available ones.

But that, as she also saw, was not easy.  For the possibility of
another visit to her sister in Homer or her parents in Biltz was
not even to be considered under a month.  And apart from them what
other excuses were there?  New friends at the factory--the post-
office--the library--the Y. W. C. A.--all suggestions of Clyde's at
the moment.  But these spelled but an hour or two together at best,
and Clyde was thinking of other week-ends like this.  And there
were so few remaining summer week-ends.



Chapter 19


The return of Roberta and Clyde, as well as their outing together,
was quite unobserved, as they thought.  On the car from Fonda they
recognized no one.  And at the Newtons' Grace was already in bed.
She merely awakened sufficiently to ask a few questions about the
trip--and those were casual and indifferent.  How was Roberta's
sister?  Had she stayed all day in Homer or had she gone to Biltz
or Trippetts Mills?  (Roberta explained that she had remained at
her sister's.)  She herself must be going up pretty soon to see her
parents at Trippetts Mills.  Then she fell asleep.

But at dinner the next night the Misses Opal Feliss and Olive Pope,
who had been kept from the breakfast table by a too late return
from Fonda and the very region in which Roberta had spent Saturday
afternoon, now seated themselves and at once, as Roberta entered,
interjected a few genial and well-meant but, in so far as Roberta
was concerned, decidedly troubling observations.

"Oh, there you are!  Look who's back from Starlight Park.  Howja
like the dancing over there, Miss Alden?  We saw you, but you
didn't see us."  And before Roberta had time to think what to
reply, Miss Feliss had added:  "We tried to get your eye, but you
couldn't see any one but him, I guess.  I'll say you dance swell."

At once Roberta, who had never been on very intimate terms with
either of these girls and who had neither the effrontery nor the
wit to extricate herself from so swift and complete and so
unexpected an exposure, flushed.  She was all but speechless and
merely stared, bethinking her at once that she had explained to
Grace that she was at her sister's all day.  And opposite sat
Grace, looking directly at her, her lips slightly parted as though
she would exclaim:  "Well, of all things!  And dancing!  A man!"
And at the head of the table, George Newton, thin and meticulous
and curious, his sharp eyes and nose and pointed chin now turned in
her direction.

But on the instant, realizing that she must say something, Roberta
replied:  "Oh, yes, that's so.  I did go over there for a little
while.  Some friends of my sister's were coming over and I went
with them."  She was about to add, "We didn't stay very long," but
stopped herself.  For at that moment a certain fighting quality
which she had inherited from her mother, and which had asserted
itself in the case of Grace before this, now came to her rescue.
After all, why shouldn't she be at Starlight Park if she chose?
And what right had the Newtons or Grace or anyone else to question
her for that matter?  She was paying her way.  Nevertheless, as she
realized, she had been caught in a deliberate lie and all because
she lived here and was constantly being questioned and looked after
in regard to her very least move.  Miss Pope added curiously, "I
don't suppose he's a Lycurgus boy.  I don't remember ever seeing
him around here."

"No, he isn't from here," returned Roberta shortly and coldly, for
by now she was fairly quivering with the realization that she had
been caught in a falsehood before Grace.  Also that Grace would
resent intensely this social secrecy and desertion of her.  At once
she felt as though she would like to get up from the table and
leave and never return.  But instead she did her best to compose
herself, and now gave the two girls with whom she had never been
familiar, a steady look.  At the same time she looked at Grace and
Mr. Newton with defiance.  If anything more were said she proposed
to give a fictitious name or two--friends of her brother-in-law in
Homer, or better yet to refuse to give any information whatsoever.
Why should she?

Nevertheless, as she learned later that evening, she was not to be
spared the refusing of it.  Grace, coming to their room immediately
afterward, reproached her with:  "I thought you said you stayed out
at your sister's all the time you were gone?"

"Well, what if I did say it?" replied Roberta defiantly and even
bitterly, but without a word in extenuation, for her thought was
now that unquestionably Grace was pretending to catechize her on
moral grounds, whereas in reality the real source of her anger and
pique was that Roberta was slipping away from and hence neglecting
her.

"Well, you don't have to lie to me in order to go anywhere or see
anybody without me in the future.  I don't want to go with you.
And what's more I don't want to know where you go or who you go
with.  But I do wish you wouldn't tell me one thing and then have
George and Mary find out that it ain't so, and that you're just
trying to slip away from me or that I'm lying to them in order to
protect myself.  I don't want you to put me in that position."

She was very hurt and sad and contentious and Roberta could see for
herself that there was no way out of this trying situation other
than to move.  Grace was a leech--a hanger-on.  She had no life of
her own and could contrive none.  As long as she was anywhere near
her she would want to devote herself to her--to share her every
thought and mood with her.  And yet if she told her about Clyde she
would be shocked and critical and would unquestionably eventually
turn on her or even expose her.  So she merely replied:  "Oh, well,
have it that way if you want to.  I don't care.  I don't propose to
tell anything unless I choose to."

And at once Grace conceived the notion that Roberta did not like
her any more and would have nothing to do with her.  She arose
immediately and walked out of the room--her head very high and her
spine very stiff.  And Roberta, realizing that she had made an
enemy of her, now wished that she was out of here.  They were all
too narrow here anyway.  They would never understand or tolerate
this clandestine relationship with Clyde--so necessary to him
apparently, as he had explained--so troublesome and even
disgraceful to her from one point of view, and yet so precious.
She did love him, so very, very much.  And she must now find some
way to protect herself and him--move to another room.

But that in this instance required almost more courage and decision
than she could muster.  The anomalous and unprotected nature of a
room where one was not known.  The look of it.  Subsequent
explanation to her mother and sister maybe.  Yet to remain here
after this was all but impossible, too, for the attitude of Grace
as well as the Newtons--particularly Mrs. Newton, Grace's sister--
was that of the early Puritans or Friends who had caught a
"brother" or "sister" in a great sin.  She was dancing--and
secretly!  There was the presence of that young man not quite
adequately explained by her trip home, to say nothing of her
presence at Starlight Park.  Besides, in Roberta's mind was the
thought that under such definite espionage as must now follow, to
say nothing of the unhappy and dictatorial attitude of Grace, she
would have small chance to be with Clyde as much as she now most
intensely desired.  And accordingly, after two days of unhappy
thought and then a conference with Clyde who was all for her
immediate independence in a new room where she would not be known
or spied upon, she proceeded to take an hour or two off; and having
fixed upon the southeast section of the city as one most likely to
be free from contact with either the Newtons or those whom thus far
she had encountered at the Newtons', she inquired there, and after
little more than an hour's search found one place which pleased
her.  This was in an old brick house in Elm Street occupied by an
upholsterer and his wife and two daughters, one a local milliner
and another still in school.  The room offered was on the ground
floor to the right of a small front porch and overlooking the
street.  A door off this same porch gave into a living room which
separated this room from the other parts of the house and permitted
ingress and egress without contact with any other portion of the
house.  And since she was still moved to meet Clyde clandestinely
this as she now saw was important.

Besides, as she gathered from her one conversation with Mrs.
Gilpin, the mother of this family, the character of this home was
neither so strict nor inquisitive as that of the Newtons.  Mrs.
Gilpin was large, passive, cleanly, not so very alert and about
fifty.  She informed Roberta that as a rule she didn't care to take
boarders or roomers at all, since the family had sufficient means
to go on.  However, since the family scarcely ever used the front
room, which was rather set off from the remainder of the house, and
since her husband did not object, she had made up her mind to rent
it.  And again she preferred some one who worked like Roberta--a
girl, not a man--and one who would be glad to have her breakfast
and dinner along with her family.  Since she asked no questions as
to her family or connections, merely looking at her interestedly
and seeming to be favorably impressed by her appearance, Roberta
gathered that here were no such standards as prevailed at the
Newtons.

And yet what qualms in connection with the thought of moving thus.
For about this entire clandestine procedure there hung, as she saw
it, a sense of something untoward and even sinful, and then on top
of it all, quarreling and then breaking with Grace Marr, her one
girl friend here thus far, and the Newtons on account of it, when,
as she well knew, it was entirely due to Grace that she was here at
all.  Supposing her parents or her sister in Homer should hear
about this through some one whom Grace knew and think strangely of
her going off by herself in Lycurgus in this way?  Was it right?
Was it possible that she could do things like this--and so soon
after her coming here?  She was beginning to feel as though her
hitherto impeccable standards were crumbling.

And yet there was Clyde now.  Could she give him up?

After many emotional aches she decided that she could not.  And
accordingly after paying a deposit and arranging to occupy the room
within the next few days, she returned to her work and after dinner
the same evening announced to Mrs. Newton that she was going to
move.  Her premeditated explanation was that recently she had been
thinking of having her younger brother and sister come and live
with her and since one or both were likely to come soon, she
thought it best to prepare for them.

And the Newtons, as well as Grace, feeling that this was all due to
the new connections which Roberta had recently been making and
which were tending to alienate her from Grace, were now content to
see her go.  Plainly she was beginning to indulge in a type of
adventure of which they could not approve.  Also it was plain that
she was not going to prove as useful to Grace as they had at first
imagined.  Possibly she knew what she was doing.  But more likely
she was being led astray by notions of a good time not consistent
with the reserved life led by her at Trippetts Mills.

And Roberta herself, once having made this move and settled herself
in this new atmosphere (apart from the fact that it gave her much
greater freedom in connection with Clyde) was dubious as to her
present course.  Perhaps--perhaps--she had moved hastily and in
anger and might be sorry.  Still she had done it now, and it could
not be helped.  So she proposed to try it for a while.

To salve her own conscience more than anything else, she at once
wrote her mother and her sister a very plausible version of why she
had been compelled to leave the Newtons.  Grace had grown too
possessive, domineering and selfish.  It had become unendurable.
However, her mother need not worry.  She was satisfactorily placed.
She had a room to herself and could now entertain Tom and Emily or
her mother or Agnes, in case they should ever visit her here.  And
she would be able to introduce them to the Gilpins whom she
proceeded to describe.

Nevertheless, her underlying thought in connection with all this,
in so far as Clyde and his great passion for her was concerned--
and hers for him--was that she was indeed trifling with fire and
perhaps social disgrace into the bargain.  For, although consciously
at this time she was scarcely willing to face the fact that this
room--its geometric position in relation to the rest of the house--
had been of the greatest import to her at the time she first saw it,
yet subconsciously she knew it well enough.  The course she was
pursuing was dangerous--that she knew.  And yet how, as she now so
often asked herself at moments when she was confronted by some
desire which ran counter to her sense of practicability and social
morality, was she to do?



Chapter 20


However, as both Roberta and Clyde soon found, after several weeks
in which they met here and there, such spots as could be
conveniently reached by interurban lines, there were still
drawbacks and the principal of these related to the attitude of
both Roberta and Clyde in regard to this room, and what, if any,
use of it was to be made by them jointly.  For in spite of the fact
that thus far Clyde had never openly agreed with himself that his
intentions in relation to Roberta were in any way different to
those normally entertained by any youth toward any girl for whom he
had a conventional social regard, still, now that she had moved
into this room, there was that ineradicable and possibly
censurable, yet very human and almost unescapable, desire for
something more--the possibility of greater and greater intimacy
with and control of Roberta and her thoughts and actions in
everything so that in the end she would be entirely his.  But how
HIS?  By way of marriage and the ordinary conventional and durable
existence which thereafter must ordinarily ensue?  He had never
said so to himself thus far.  For in flirting with her or any girl
of a lesser social position than that of the Griffiths here (Sondra
Finchley, Bertine Cranston, for instance) he would not--and that
largely due to the attitude of his newly-found relatives, their
very high position in this city--have deemed marriage advisable.
And what would they think if they should come to know?  For
socially, as he saw himself now, if not before coming here, he was
supposed to be above the type of Roberta and should of course
profit by that notion.  Besides there were all those that knew him
here, at least to speak to.  On the other hand, because of the very
marked pull that her temperament had for him, he had not been able
to say for the time being that she was not worthy of him or that he
might not be happy in case it were possible or advisable for him to
marry her.

And there was another thing now that tended to complicate matters.
And that was that fall with its chilling winds and frosty nights
was drawing near.  Already it was near October first and most of
those out-of-door resorts which, up to the middle of September at
least, had provided diversion, and that at a fairly safe distance
from Lycurgus, were already closed for the season.  And dancing,
except in the halls of the near-by cities and which, because of a
mood of hers in regard to them, were unacceptable, was also for the
time being done away with.  As for the churches, moving pictures,
and restaurants of Lycurgus, how under the circumstances, owing to
Clyde's position here, could they be seen in them?  They could not,
as both reasoned between them.  And so now, while her movements
were unrestrained, there was no place to go unless by some
readjustment of their relations he might be permitted to call on
her at the Gilpins'.  But that, as he knew, she would not think of
and, at first, neither had he the courage to suggest it.

However they were at a street-end one early October night about six
weeks after she had moved to her new room.  The stars were sharp.
The air cool.  The leaves were beginning to turn.  Roberta had
returned to a three-quarter green-and-cream-striped winter coat
that she wore at this season of the year.  Her hat was brown,
trimmed with brown leather and of a design that became her.  There
had been kisses over and over--that same fever that had been
dominating them continuously since first they met--only more
pronounced if anything.

"It's getting cold, isn't it?"  It was Clyde who spoke.  And it was
eleven o'clock and chill.

"Yes, I should say it is.  I'll soon have to get a heavier coat."

"I don't see how we are to do from now on, do you?  There's no
place to go any more much, and it won't be very pleasant walking
the streets this way every night.  You don't suppose we could fix
it so I could call on you at the Gilpins' once in a while, do you?
It isn't the same there now as it was at the Newtons'."

"Oh, I know, but then they use their sitting room every night
nearly until ten-thirty or eleven.  And besides their two girls are
in and out all hours up to twelve, anyhow, and they're in there
often.  I don't see how I can.  Besides, I thought you said you
didn't want to have any one see you with me that way, and if you
came there I couldn't help introducing you."

"Oh, but I don't mean just that way," replied Clyde audaciously and
yet with the feeling that Roberta was much too squeamish and that
it was high time she was taking a somewhat more liberal attitude
toward him if she cared for him as much as she appeared to:  "Why
wouldn't it be all right for me to stop in for a little while?
They wouldn't need to know, would they?"  He took out his watch and
discovered with the aid of a match that it was eleven-thirty.  He
showed the time to her.  "There wouldn't be anybody there now,
would there?"

She shook her head in opposition.  The thought not only terrified
but sickened her.  Clyde was getting very bold to even suggest
anything like that.  Besides this suggestion embodied in itself all
the secret fears and compelling moods which hitherto, although
actual in herself, she was still unwilling to face.  There was
something sinful, low, dreadful about it.  She would not.  That was
one thing sure.  At the same time within her was that overmastering
urge of repressed and feared desire now knocking loudly for
recognition.

"No, no, I can't let you do that.  It wouldn't be right.  I don't
want to.  Some one might see us.  Somebody might know you."  For
the moment the moral repulsion was so great that unconsciously she
endeavored to relinquish herself from his embrace.

Clyde sensed how deep was this sudden revolt.  All the more was he
flagellated by the desire for possession of that which now he half
feared to be unobtainable.  A dozen seductive excuses sprang to his
lips.  "Oh, who would be likely to see us anyhow, at this time of
night?  There isn't any one around.  Why shouldn't we go there for
a few moments if we want to?  No one would be likely to hear us.
We needn't talk so loud.  There isn't any one on the street, even.
Let's walk by the house and see if anybody is up."

Since hitherto she had not permitted him to come within half a
block of the house, her protest was not only nervous but vigorous.
Nevertheless on this occasion Clyde was proving a little rebellious
and Roberta, standing somewhat in awe of him as her superior, as
well as her lover, was unable to prevent their walking within a few
feet of the house where they stopped.  Except for a barking dog
there was not a sound to be heard anywhere.  And in the house no
light was visible.

"See, there's no one up," protested Clyde reassuringly.  "Why
shouldn't we go in for a little while if we want to?  Who will
know?  We needn't make any noise.  Besides, what is wrong with it?
Other people do it.  It isn't such a terrible thing for a girl to
take a fellow to her room if she wants to for a little while."

"Oh, isn't it?  Well, maybe not in your set.  But I know what's
right and I don't think that's right and I won't do it."

At once, as she said this, Roberta's heart gave a pained and
weakening throb, for in saying so much she had exhibited more
individuality and defiance than ever he had seen or that she
fancied herself capable of in connection with him.  It terrified
her not a little.  Perhaps he would not like her so much now if she
were going to talk like that.

His mood darkened immediately.  Why did she want to act so?  She
was too cautious, too afraid of anything that spelled a little life
or pleasure.  Other girls were not like that,--Rita, those girls at
the factory.  She pretended to love him.  She did not object to his
holding her in his arms and kissing her under a tree at the end of
the street.  But when it came to anything slightly more private or
intimate, she could not bring herself to agree.  What kind of a
girl was she, anyhow?  What was the use of pursuing her?  Was this
to be another case of Hortense Briggs with all her wiles and
evasions?  Of course Roberta was in no wise like her, but still she
was so stubborn.

Although she could not see his face she knew he was angry and quite
for the first time in this way.

"All right, then, if you don't want to, you don't have to," came
his words and with decidedly a cold ring to them.  "There are
others places I can go.  I notice you never want to do anything I
want to do, though.  I'd like to know how you think we're to do.
We can't walk the streets every night."  His tone was gloomy and
foreboding--more contentious and bitter than at any time ever
between them.  And his references to other places shocked and
frightened Roberta--so much so that instantly almost her own mood
changed.  Those other girls in his own world that no doubt he saw
from time to time!  Those other girls at the factory who were
always trying to make eyes at him!  She had seen them trying, and
often.  That Ruza Nikoforitch--as coarse as she was, but pretty,
too.  And that Flora Brandt!  And Martha Bordaloue--ugh!  To think
that any one as nice as he should be pursued by such wretches as
those.  However, because of that, she was fearful lest he would
think her too difficult--some one without the experience or daring
to which he, in his superior world, was accustomed, and so turn to
one of those.  Then she would lose him.  The thought terrified her.
Immediately from one of defiance her attitude changed to one of
pleading persuasion.

"Oh, please, Clyde, don't be mad with me now, will you?  You know
that I would if I could.  I can't do anything like that here.
Can't you see?  You know that.  Why, they'd be sure to find out.
And how would you feel if some one were to see us or recognize
you?"  In a pleading way she put one hand on his arm, then about
his waist and he could feel that in spite of her sharp opposition
the moment before, she was very much concerned--painfully so.
"Please don't ask me to," she added in a begging tone.

"Well, what did you want to leave the Newtons for then?" he asked
sullenly.  "I can't see where else we can go now if you won't let
me come to see you once in a while.  We can't go any place else."

The thought gave Roberta pause.  Plainly this relationship was not
to be held within conventional lines.  At the same time she did not
see how she could possibly comply.  It was too unconventional--too
unmoral--bad.

"I thought we took it," she said weakly and placatively, "just so
that we could go places on Saturday and Sunday."

"But where can we go Saturday and Sunday now?  Everything's
closed."

Again Roberta was checked by these unanswerable complexities which
beleaguered them both and she exclaimed futilely, "Oh, I wish I
knew what to do."

"Oh, it would be easy enough if you wanted to do it, but that's
always the way with you, you don't want to."

She stood there, the night wind shaking the drying whispering
leaves.  Distinctly the problem in connection with him that she had
been fearing this long while was upon her.  Could she possibly,
with all the right instruction that she had had, now do as he
suggested.  She was pulled and swayed by contending forces within
herself, strong and urgent in either case.  In the one instance,
however painful it was to her moral and social mood, she was moved
to comply--in another to reject once and for all, any such, as she
saw it, bold and unnatural suggestion.  Nevertheless, in spite of
the latter and because of her compelling affection she could not do
other than deal tenderly and pleadingly with him.

"I can't, Clyde, I can't.  I would if I could but I can't.  It
wouldn't be right.  I would if I could make myself, but I can't."
She looked up into his face, a pale oval in the dark, trying to see
if he would not see, sympathize, be moved in her favor.  However,
irritated by this plainly definite refusal, he was not now to be
moved.  All this, as he saw it, smacked of that long series of
defeats which had accompanied his attentions to Hortense Briggs.
He was not going to stand for anything now like that, you bet.  If
this was the way she was going to act, well let her act so--but not
with him.  He could get plenty of girls now--lots of them--who
would treat him better than this.

At once, and with an irritated shrug of the shoulders, as she now
saw, he turned and started to leave her, saying as he did so, "Oh,
that's all right, if that's the way you feel about it."  And
Roberta dumfounded and terrified, stood there.

"Please don't, go, Clyde.  Please don't leave me," she exclaimed
suddenly and pathetically, her defiance and courage undergoing a
deep and sad change.  "I don't want you to.  I love you so, Clyde.
I would if I could.  You know that."

"Oh, yes, I know, but you needn't tell me that" (it was his
experience with Hortense and Rita that was prompting him to this
attitude).  With a twist he released his body from her arm and
started walking briskly down the street in the dark.

And Roberta, stricken by this sudden development which was so
painful to both, called, "Clyde!"  And then ran after him a little
way, eager that he should pause and let her plead with him more.
But he did not return.  Instead he went briskly on.  And for the
moment it was all she could do to keep from following him and by
sheer force, if need be, restrain him.  Her Clyde!  And she started
running in his direction a little, but as suddenly stopped, checked
for the moment by the begging, pleading, compromising attitude in
which she, for the first time, found herself.  For on the one hand
all her conventional training was now urging her to stand firm--not
to belittle herself in this way--whereas on the other, all her
desires for love, understanding, companionship, urged her to run
after him before it was too late, and he was gone.  His beautiful
face, his beautiful hands.  His eyes.  And still the receding echo
of his feet.  And yet so binding were the conventions which had
been urged upon her up to this time that, though suffering
horribly, a balance between the two forces was struck, and she
paused, feeling that she could neither go forward nor stand still--
understand or endure this sudden rift in their wonderful
friendship.

Pain constricted her heart and whitened her lips.  She stood there
numb and silent--unable to voice anything, even the name Clyde
which persistently arose as a call in her throat.  Instead she was
merely thinking, "Oh, Clyde, please don't go, Clyde.  Oh, please
don't go."  And he was already out of hearing, walking briskly and
grimly on, the click and echo of his receding steps falling less
and less clearly on her suffering ears.

It was the first flashing, blinding, bleeding stab of love for her.



Chapter 21


The state of Roberta's mind for that night is not easily to be
described.  For here was true and poignant love, and in youth true
and poignant love is difficult to withstand.  Besides it was
coupled with the most stirring and grandiose illusions in regard to
Clyde's local material and social condition--illusions which had
little to do with anything he had done to build up, but were based
rather on conjecture and gossip over which he had no control.  And
her own home, as well as her personal situation was so unfortunate--
no promise of any kind save in his direction.  And here she was
quarreling with him--sending him away angry.  On the other hand was
he not beginning to push too ardently toward those troublesome and
no doubt dreadful liberties and familiarities which her morally
trained conscience would not permit her to look upon as right?  How
was she to do now?  What to say?

Now it was that she said to herself in the dark of her room, after
having slowly and thoughtfully undressed and noiselessly crept into
the large, old-fashioned bed.  "No, I won't do that.  I mustn't.  I
can't.  I will be a bad girl if I do.  I should not do that for him
even though he does want me to, and should threaten to leave me
forever in case I refuse.  He should be ashamed to ask me."  And at
the very same moment, or the next, she would be asking herself what
else under the circumstances they were to do.  For most certainly
Clyde was at least partially correct in his contention that they
had scarcely anywhere else they could go and not be recognized.
How unfair was that rule of the company.  And no doubt apart from
that rule, the Griffiths would think it beneath him to be troubling
with her, as would no doubt the Newtons and the Gilpins for that
matter, if they should hear and know who he was.  And if this
information came to their knowledge it would injure him and her.
And she would not do anything that would injure him--never.

One thing that occurred to her at this point was that she should
get a place somewhere else so that this problem should be solved--
a problem which at the moment seemed to have little to do with the
more immediate and intimate one of desiring to enter her room.  But
that would mean that she would not see him any more all day long--
only at night.  And then not every night by any means.  And that
caused her to lay aside this thought of seeking another place.

At the same time as she now meditated the dawn would come to-morrow
and there would be Clyde at the factory.  And supposing that he
should not speak to her nor she to him.  Impossible!  Ridiculous!
Terrible!  The mere thought brought her to a sitting posture in
bed, where distractedly a vision of Clyde looking indifferently and
coldly upon her came to her.

On the instant she was on her feet and had turned on the one
incandescent globe which dangled from the center of the room.  She
went to the mirror hanging above the old walnut dresser in the
corner and stared at herself.  Already she imagined she could see
dark rings under her eyes.  She felt numb and cold and now shook
her head in a helpless and distracted way.  He couldn't be that
mean.  He couldn't be that cruel to her now--could he?  Oh, if he
but knew how difficult--how impossible was the thing he was asking
of her!  Oh, if the day would only come so that she could see his
face again!  Oh, if it were only another night so that she could
take his hands in hers--his arm--feel his arms about her.

"Clyde, Clyde," she exclaimed half aloud, "you wouldn't do that to
me, would you--you couldn't."

She crossed to an old, faded and somewhat decrepit overstuffed
chair which stood in the center of the room beside a small table
whereon lay some nondescript books and magazines--the Saturday
Evening Post, Munsey's, the Popular Science Monthly, Bebe's Garden
Seeds, and to escape most distracting and searing thoughts, sat
down, her chin in her hands, her elbows planted on her knees.  But
the painful thoughts continuing and a sense of chill overtaking
her, she took a comforter off the bed and folded it about her, then
opened the seed catalogue--only to throw it down.

"No, no, no, he couldn't do that to me, he wouldn't."  She must not
let him.  Why, he had told her over and over that he was crazy
about her--madly in love with her.  They had been to all these
wonderful places together.

And now, without any real consciousness of her movements, she was
moving from the chair to the edge of the bed, sitting with elbows
on knees and chin in hands; or she was before the mirror or peering
restlessly out into the dark to see if there were any trace of day.
And at six, and six-thirty when the light was just breaking and it
was nearing time to dress, she was still up--in the chair, on the
edge of the bed, in the corner before the mirror.

But she had reached but one definite conclusion and that was that
in some way she must arrange not to have Clyde leave her.  That
must not be.  There must be something that she could say or do that
would cause him to love her still--even if, even if--well, even if
she must let him stop in here or somewhere from time to time--some
other room in some other rooming house maybe, where she could
arrange in some way beforehand--say that he was her brother or
something.

But the mood that dominated Clyde was of a different nature.  To
have understood it correctly, the full measure and obstinacy and
sullen contentiousness that had suddenly generated, one would have
had to return to Kansas City and the period in which he had been so
futilely dancing attendance upon Hortense Briggs.  Also his having
been compelled to give up Rita,--yet to no end.  For, although the
present conditions and situation were different, and he had no
moral authority wherewith to charge Roberta with any such unfair
treatment as Hortense had meted out to him, still there was this
other fact that girls--all of them--were obviously stubborn and
self-preservative, always setting themselves apart from and even
above the average man and so wishing to compel him to do a lot of
things for them without their wishing to do anything in return.
And had not Ratterer always told him that in so far as girls were
concerned he was more or less of a fool--too easy--too eager to
show his hand and let them know that he was struck on them.
Whereas, as Ratterer had explained, Clyde possessed the looks--the
"goods"--and why should he always be trailing after girls unless
they wanted him very much.  And this thought and compliment had
impressed him very much at that time.  Only because of the fiascos
in connection with Hortense and Rita he was more earnest now.  Yet
here he was again in danger of repeating or bringing upon himself
what had befallen him in the case of Hortense and Rita.

At the same time he was not without the self-incriminating thought
that in seeking this, most distinctly he was driving toward a
relationship which was not legitimate and that would prove
dangerous in the future.  For, as he now darkly and vaguely
thought, if he sought a relationship which her prejudices and her
training would not permit her to look upon as anything but evil,
was he not thereby establishing in some form a claim on her part to
some consideration from him in the future which it might not be so
easy for him to ignore?  For after all he was the aggressor--not
she.  And because of this, and whatever might follow in connection
with it, might not she be in a position to demand more from him
than he might be willing to give?  For was it his intention to
marry her?  In the back of his mind there lurked something which
even now assured him that he would never desire to marry her--could
not in the face of his high family connections here.  Therefore
should he proceed to demand--or should he not?  And if he did,
could he avoid that which would preclude any claim in the future?

He did not thus so distinctly voice his inmost feelings to himself,
but relatively of such was their nature.  Yet so great was the
temperamental and physical enticement of Roberta that in spite of a
warning nudge or mood that seemed to hint that it was dangerous for
him to persist in his demand, he kept saying to himself that unless
she would permit him to her room, he would not have anything more
to do with her, the desire for her being all but overpowering.

This contest which every primary union between the sexes, whether
with or without marriage implies, was fought out the next day in
the factory.  And yet without a word on either side.  For Clyde,
although he considered himself to be deeply in love with Roberta,
was still not so deeply involved but that a naturally selfish and
ambitious and seeking disposition would in this instance stand its
ground and master any impulse.  And he was determined to take the
attitude of one who had been injured and was determined not to be
friends any more or yield in any way unless some concession on her
part, such as would appease him, was made.

And in consequence he came into the stamping department that
morning with the face and air of one who was vastly preoccupied
with matters which had little, if anything, to do with what had
occurred the night before.  Yet, being far from certain that this
attitude on his part was likely to lead to anything but defeat, he
was inwardly depressed and awry.  For, after all, the sight of
Roberta, freshly arrived, and although pale and distrait, as
charming and energetic as ever, was not calculated to assure him of
any immediate or even ultimate victory.  And knowing her as well as
he thought he did, by now, he was but weakly sustained by the
thought that she might yield.

He looked at her repeatedly when she was not looking.  And when in
turn she looked at him repeatedly, but only at first when he was
not looking, later when she felt satisfied that his eyes, whether
directly bent on her or not, must be encompassing her, still no
trace of recognition could she extract.  And now to her bitter
disappointment, not only did he choose to ignore her, but quite for
the first time since they had been so interested in each other, he
professed to pay, if not exactly conspicuous at least noticeable
and intentional attention to those other girls who were always so
interested in him and who always, as she had been constantly
imagining, were but waiting for any slight overture on his part, to
yield themselves to him in any way that he might dictate.

Now he was looking over the shoulder of Ruza Nikoforitch, her plump
face with its snub nose and weak chin turned engagingly toward him,
and he commenting on something not particularly connected with the
work in hand apparently, for both were idly smiling.  Again, in a
little while, he was by the side of Martha Bordaloue, her plump
French shoulders and arms bare to the pits next to his.  And for
all her fleshy solidity and decidedly foreign flavor, there was
still enough about her which most men would like.  And with her
Clyde was attempting to jest, too.

And later it was Flora Brandt, the very sensuous and not unpleasing
American girl whom Roberta had seen Clyde cultivating from time to
time.  Yet, even so, she had never been willing to believe that he
might become interested in any of these.  Not Clyde, surely.

And yet he could not see her at all now--could not find time to say
a single word, although all these pleasant words and gay looks for
all these others.  Oh, how bitter!  Oh, how cruel!  And how utterly
she despised those other girls with their oglings and their open
attempts to take him from her.  Oh, how terrible.  Surely he must
be very opposed to her now--otherwise he could not do this, and
especially after all that had been between them--the love--the
kisses.

The hours dragged for both, and with as much poignance for Clyde as
for Roberta.  For his was a feverish, urgent disposition where
his dreams were concerned, and could ill brook the delay or
disappointments that are the chief and outstanding characteristics
of the ambitions of men, whatever their nature.  He was tortured
hourly by the thought that he was to lose Roberta or that to win her
back he would have to succumb to her wishes.

And on her part she was torn, not so much by the question as to
whether she would have to yield in this matter (for by now that was
almost the least of her worries), but whether, once so yielding,
Clyde would be satisfied with just some form of guarded social
contact in the room--or not.  And so continue on the strength of
that to be friends with her.  For more than this she would not
grant--never.  And yet--this suspense.  The misery of his
indifference.  She could scarcely endure it from minute to minute,
let alone from hour to hour, and finally in an agony of
dissatisfaction with herself at having brought all this on herself,
she retired to the rest room at about three in the afternoon and
there with the aid of a piece of paper found on the floor and a
small bit of pencil which she had, she composed a brief note:


"Please, Clyde, don't be mad at me, will you?  Please don't.
Please look at me and speak to me, won't you?  I'm so sorry about
last night, really I am--terribly.  And I must see you to-night at
the end of Elm Street at 8:30 if you can, will you?  I have
something to tell you.  Please do come.  And please do look at me
and tell me you will, even though you are angry.  You won't be
sorry.  I love you so.  You know I do.

"Your sorrowful,

"ROBERTA."


And in the spirit of one who is in agonized search for an opiate,
she folded up the paper and returning to the room, drew close to
Clyde's desk.  He was before it at the time, bent over some slips.
And quickly as she passed she dropped the paper between his hands.
He looked up instantly, his dark eyes still hard at the moment with
the mingled pain and unrest and dissatisfaction and determination
that had been upon him all day, and noting Roberta's retreating
figure as well as the note, he at once relaxed, a wave of puzzled
satisfaction as well as delight instantly filled him.  He opened it
and read.  And as instantly his body was suffused with a warm and
yet very weakening ray.

And Roberta in turn, having reached her table and paused to note if
by any chance any one had observed her, now looked cautiously
about, a strained and nervous look in her eyes.  But seeing Clyde
looking directly at her, his eyes filled with a conquering and yet
yielding light and a smile upon his lips, and his head nodding a
happy assent, she as suddenly experienced a dizzying sensation, as
though her hitherto constricted blood, detained by a constricted
heart and constricted nerves, were as suddenly set free.  And all
the dry marshes and cracked and parched banks of her soul--the dry
rivulets and streams and lakes of misery that seemed to dot her
being--were as instantly flooded with this rich upwelling force of
life and love.

He would meet her.  They would meet to-night.  He would put his
arms around her and kiss her as before.  She would be able to look
in his eyes.  They would not quarrel any more--oh, never if she
could help it.



Chapter 22


The wonder and, delight of a new and more intimate form of contact,
of protest gainsaid, of scruples overcome!  Days, when both, having
struggled in vain against the greater intimacy which each knew that
the other was desirous of yielding to, and eventually so yielding,
looked forward to the approaching night with an eagerness which was
as a fever embodying a fear.  For with what qualms--what protests
on the part of Roberta; what determination, yet not without a sense
of evil--seduction--betrayal, on the part of Clyde.  Yet the thing
once done, a wild convulsive pleasure motivating both.  Yet, not
without, before all this, an exaction on the part of Roberta to the
effect that never--come what might (the natural consequences of so
wild an intimacy strong in her thoughts) would he desert her, since
without his aid she would be helpless.  Yet, with no direct
statement as to marriage.  And he, so completely overcome and
swayed by his desire, thoughtlessly protesting that he never would--
never.  She might depend on that, at least, although even then
there was no thought in his mind of marriage.  He would not do
that.  Yet nights and nights--all scruples for the time being
abandoned, and however much by day Roberta might brood and condemn
herself--when each yielded to the other completely.  And dreamed
thereafter, recklessly and wildly, of the joy of it--wishing from
day to day for the time being that the long day might end--that the
concealing, rewarding feverish night were at hand.

And Clyde feeling, and not unlike Roberta, who was firmly and even
painfully convinced of it, that this was sin--deadly, mortal--since
both his mother and father had so often emphasized that--the
seducer--adulterer--who preys outside the sacred precincts of
marriage.  And Roberta, peering nervously into the blank future,
wondering what--how, in any case, by any chance, Clyde should
change, or fail her.  Yet the night returning, her mood once more
veering, and she as well as he hurrying to meet somewhere--only
later, in the silence of the middle night, to slip into this
unlighted room which was proving so much more of a Paradise than
either might ever know again--so wild and unrecapturable is the
fever of youth.

And--at times--and despite all his other doubts and fears, Clyde,
because of this sudden abandonment by Roberta of herself to his
desires, feeling for the first time, really, in all his feverish
years, that at last he was a man of the world--one who was truly
beginning to know women.  And so taking to himself an air or manner
that said as plainly as might have any words--"Behold I am no
longer the inexperienced, neglected simpleton of but a few weeks
ago, but an individual of import now--some one who knows something
about life.  What have any of these strutting young men, and gay,
coaxing, flirting girls all about me, that I have not?  And if I
chose--were less loyal than I am--what might I not do?"  And this
was proving to him that the notion which Hortense Briggs, to say
nothing of the more recent fiasco in connection with Rita had
tended to build up in his mind, i.e.,--that he was either
unsuccessful or ill-fated where girls were concerned was false.  He
was after all and despite various failures and inhibitions a youth
of the Don Juan or Lothario stripe.

And if now Roberta was obviously willing to sacrifice herself for
him in this fashion, must there not be others?

And this, in spite of the present indifference of the Griffiths,
caused him to walk with even more of an air than had hitherto
characterized him.  Even though neither they nor any of those
connected with them recognized him, still he looked at himself in
his mirror from time to time with an assurance and admiration which
before this he had never possessed.  For now Roberta, feeling that
her future was really dependent on his will and whim, had set
herself to flatter him almost constantly, to be as obliging and
convenient to him as possible.  Indeed, according to her notion of
the proper order of life, she was now his and his only, as much as
any wife is ever to a husband, to do with as he wished.

And for a time therefore, Clyde forgot his rather neglected state
here and was content to devote himself to her without thinking much
of the future.  The one thing that did trouble him at times was the
thought that possibly, in connection with the original fear she had
expressed to him, something might go wrong, which, considering her
exclusive devotion to him, might prove embarrassing.  At the same
time he did not trouble to speculate too deeply as to that.  He had
Roberta now.  These relations, in so far as either of them could
see, or guess, were a dark secret.  The pleasures of this left-
handed honeymoon were at full tide.  And the remaining brisk and
often sunshiny and warm November and first December days passed--as
in a dream, really--an ecstatic paradise of sorts in the very
center of a humdrum conventional and petty and underpaid work-a-day
world.

In the meantime the Griffiths had been away from the city since the
middle of June and ever since their departure Clyde had been
meditating upon them and all they represented in his life and that
of the city.  Their great house closed and silent, except for
gardeners and an occasional chauffeur or servant visible as he
walked from time to time past the place, was the same as a shrine
to him, nearly--the symbol of that height to which by some turn of
fate he might still hope to attain.  For he had never quite been
able to expel from his mind the thought that his future must in
some way be identified with the grandeur that was here laid out
before him.

Yet so far as the movements of the Griffiths family and their
social peers outside Lycurgus were concerned, he knew little other
than that which from time to time he had read in the society
columns of the two local papers which almost obsequiously pictured
the comings and goings of all those who were connected with the
more important families of the city.  At times, after reading these
accounts he had pictured to himself, even when he was off somewhere
with Roberta at some unheralded resort, Gilbert Griffiths racing in
his big car, Bella, Bertine and Sandra dancing, canoeing in the
moonlight, playing tennis, riding at some of the smart resorts
where they were reported to be.  The thing had had a bite and ache
for him that was almost unendurable and had lit up for him at times
and with overwhelming clarity this connection of his with Roberta.
For after all, who was she?  A factory girl!  The daughter of
parents who lived and worked on a farm and one who was compelled to
work for her own living.  Whereas he--he--if fortune would but
favor him a little--!  Was this to be the end of all his dreams in
connection with his perspective superior life here?

So it was that at moments and in his darker moods, and especially
after she had abandoned herself to him, his thoughts ran.  She was
not of his station, really--at least not of that of the Griffiths
to which still he most eagerly aspired.  Yet at the same time,
whatever the mood generated by such items as he read in The Star,
he would still return to Roberta, picturing her, since the other
mood which had drawn him to her had by no means palled as yet, as
delightful, precious, exceedingly worthwhile from the point of view
of beauty, pleasure, sweetness--the attributes and charms which
best identify any object of delight.

But the Griffiths and their friends having returned to the city,
and Lycurgus once more taken on that brisk, industrial and social
mood which invariably characterized it for at least seven months in
the year, he was again, and even more vigorously than before,
intrigued by it.  The beauty of the various houses along Wykeagy
Avenue and its immediate tributaries!  The unusual and intriguing
sense of movement and life there so much in evidence.  Oh, if he
were but of it!



Chapter 23


And then, one November evening as Clyde was walking along Wykeagy
Avenue, just west of Central, a portion of the locally celebrated
avenue which, ever since he had moved to Mrs. Peyton's he was
accustomed to traverse to and from his work, one thing did occur
which in so far as he and the Griffiths were concerned was destined
to bring about a chain of events which none of them could possibly
have foreseen.  At the time there was in his heart and mind that
singing which is the inheritance of youth and ambition and which
the dying of the old year, instead of depressing, seemed but to
emphasize.  He had a good position.  He was respected here.  Over
and above his room and board he had not less than fifteen dollars a
week to spend on himself and Roberta, an income which, while it did
not parallel that which had been derived from the Green-Davidson or
the Union League, was still not so involved with family miseries in
the one place or personal loneliness in the other.  And he had
Roberta secretly devoted to him.  And the Griffiths, thank
goodness, did not and should not know anything of that, though just
how in case of a difficulty it was to be avoided, he was not even
troubling to think.  His was a disposition which did not tend to
load itself with more than the most immediate cares.

And although the Griffiths and their friends had not chosen to
recognize him socially, still more and more all others who were not
connected with local society and who knew of him, did.  Only this
very day, because the spring before he had been made a room-chief,
perhaps, and Samuel Griffiths had recently paused and talked with
him, no less an important personage than Mr. Rudolph Smillie, one
of the several active vice-presidents, had asked him most cordially
and casually whether he played golf, and if so, when spring came
again, whether he might not be interested to join the Amoskeag, one
of the two really important golf clubs within a half dozen miles of
the city.  Now, what could that mean, if not that Mr. Smillie was
beginning to see him as a social possibility, and that he as well
as many others about the factory, were becoming aware of him as
some one who was of some importance to the Griffiths, if not the
factory.

This thought, together with one other--that once more after dinner
he was to see Roberta and in her room as early as eleven o'clock or
even earlier--cheered him and caused him to step along most briskly
and gayly.  For, since having indulged in this secret adventure so
many times, both were unconsciously becoming bolder.  Not having
been detected to date, they were of the notion that it was possible
they might not be.  Or if they were Clyde might be introduced as
her brother or cousin for the moment, anyhow, in order to avoid
immediate scandal.  Later, to avoid danger of comment or subsequent
detection, as both had agreed after some discussion, Roberta might
have to move to some other place where the same routine was to be
repeated.  But that would be easy, or at least better than no
freedom of contact.  And with that Roberta had been compelled to
agree.

However, on this occasion there came a contact and an interruption
which set his thoughts careening in an entirely different
direction.  Reaching the first of the more important houses of
Wykeagy Avenue, although he had not the slightest idea who lived
there, he was gazing interestedly at the high wrought-iron fence,
as well as the kempt lawn within, dimly illuminated by street
lamps, and upon the surface of which he could detect many heaps of
freshly fallen brown leaves being shaken and rolled by a winnowing
and gamboling wind.  It was all so starkly severe, placid,
reserved, beautiful, as he saw it, that he was quite stirred by the
dignity and richness of it.  And as he neared the central gate,
above which two lights were burning, making a circle of light about
it, a closed car of great size and solidity stopped directly in
front of it.  And the chauffeur stepping down and opening the door,
Clyde instantly recognized Sondra Finchley leaning forward in the
car.

"Go around to the side entrance, David, and tell Miriam that I
can't wait for her because I'm going over to the Trumbulls for
dinner, but that I'll be back by nine.  If she's not there, leave
this note and hurry, will you?"  The voice and manner were of that
imperious and yet pleasing mode which had so intrigued him the
spring before.

At the same time seeing, as she thought, Gilbert Griffiths
approaching along the sidewalk, she called, "Oh, hello.  Walking
to-night?  If you want to wait a minute, you can ride out with me.
I've just sent David in with a note.  He won't be long."

Now Sondra Finchley, despite the fact that she was interested in
Bella and the Griffiths' wealth and prestige in general was by no
means as well pleased with Gilbert.  He had been indifferent to her
in the beginning when she had tried to cultivate him and he had
remained so.  He had wounded her pride.  And to her, who was
overflowing with vanity and self-conceit, this was the last
offense, and she could not forgive him.  She could not and would
not brook the slightest trace of ego in another, and most
especially the vain, cold, self-centered person of Bella's brother.
He had too fine an opinion of himself, as she saw it, was one who
was too bursting with vanity to be of service to anyone.  "Hmp!
That stick."  It was so that she invariably thought of him.  "Who
does he think he is anyhow?  He certainly does think he's a lot
around here.  You'd think he was a Rockefeller or a Morgan.  And
for my part I can't see where he's a bit interesting--any more.  I
like Bella.  I think she's lovely.  But that smarty.  I guess he
would like to have a girl wait on him.  Well, not for me."  Such in
the main were the comments made by Sondra upon such reported acts
and words of Gilbert as were brought to her by others.

And for his part, Gilbert, hearing of the gyrations, airs, and
aspirations of Sondra from Bella from time to time, was accustomed
to remark:  "What, that little snip!  Who does she think she is
anyhow?  If ever there was a conceited little nut! . . ."

However, so tightly were the social lines of Lycurgus drawn, so few
the truly eligibles, that it was almost necessary and compulsory
upon those "in" to make the best of such others as were "in."  And
so it was that she now greeted Gilbert as she thought.  And as she
moved over slightly from the door to make room for him, Clyde
almost petrified by this unexpected recognition, and quite shaken
out of his pose and self-contemplation, not being sure whether he
had heard aright, now approached, his manner the epitome almost of
a self-ingratiating and somewhat affectionate and wistful dog of
high breeding and fine temperament.

"Oh, good evening," he exclaimed, removing his cap and bowing.
"How are you?" while his mind was registering that this truly was
the beautiful, the exquisite Sondra whom months before he had met
at his uncle's, and concerning whose social activities during the
preceding summer he had been reading in the papers.  And now here
she was as lovely as ever, seated in this beautiful car and
addressing him, apparently.  However, Sondra on the instant
realizing that she had made a mistake and that it was not Gilbert,
was quite embarrassed and uncertain for the moment just how to
extricate herself from a situation which was a bit ticklish, to say
the least.

"Oh, pardon me, you're Mr. Clyde Griffiths, I see now.  It's my
mistake.  I thought you were Gilbert.  I couldn't quite make you
out in the light."  She had for the moment an embarrassed and
fidgety and halting manner, which Clyde noticed and which he saw
implied that she had made a mistake that was not entirely
flattering to him nor satisfactory to her.  And this in turn caused
him to become confused and anxious to retire.

"Oh, pardon me.  But that's all right.  I didn't mean to intrude.
I thought . . ."  He flushed and stepped back really troubled.

But now Sondra, seeing at once that Clyde was if anything much more
attractive than his cousin and far more diffident, and obviously
greatly impressed by her charms as well as her social state, unbent
sufficiently to say with a charming smile:  "But that's all right.
Won't you get in, please, and let me take you where you are going.
Oh, I wish you would.  I will be so glad to take you."

For there was that in Clyde's manner the instant he learned that it
was due to a mistake that he had been recognized which caused even
her to understand that he was hurt, abashed and disappointed.  His
eyes took on a hurt look and there was a wavering, apologetic,
sorrowful smile playing about his lips.

"Why, yes, of course," he said jerkily, "that is, if you want me
to.  I understand how it was.  That's all right.  But you needn't
mind, if you don't wish to.  I thought . . ."  He had half turned
to go, but was so drawn by her that he could scarcely tear himself
away before she repeated:  "Oh, do come, get in, Mr. Griffiths.
I'll be so glad if you will.  It won t take David a moment to take
you wherever you are going, I'm sure.  And I am sorry about the
other, really I am.  I didn't mean, you know, that just because you
weren't Gilbert Griffiths--"

He paused and in a bewildered manner stepped forward and entering
the car, slipped into the seat beside her.  And she, interested by
his personality, at once began to look at him, feeling glad that it
was he now instead of Gilbert.  In order the better to see and
again reveal her devastating charms, as she saw them, to Clyde, she
now switched on the roof light.  And the chauffeur returning, she
asked Clyde where he wished to go--an address which he gave
reluctantly enough, since it was so different from the street in
which she resided.  As the car sped on, he was animated by a
feverish desire to make some use of this brief occasion which might
cause her to think favorably of him--perhaps, who knows--lead to
some faint desire on her part to contact him again at some time or
other.  He was so truly eager to be of her world.

"It's certainly nice of you to take me up this way," he now turned
to her and observed, smiling.  "I didn't think it was my cousin you
meant or I wouldn't have come up as I did."

"Oh, that's all right.  Don't mention it," replied Sondra archly
with a kind of sticky sweetness in her voice.  Her original
impression of him as she now felt, had been by no means so vivid.
"It's my mistake, not yours.  But I'm glad I made it now, anyhow,"
she added most definitely and with an engaging smile.  "I think I'd
rather pick you up than I would Gil, anyhow.  We don't get along
any too well, he and I.  We quarrel a lot whenever we do meet
anywhere."  She smiled, having completely recovered from her
momentary embarrassment, and now leaned back after the best
princess fashion, her glance examining Clyde's very regular
features with interest.  He had such soft smiling eyes she thought.
And after all, as she now reasoned, he was Bella's and Gilbert's
cousin, and looked prosperous.

"Well, that's too bad," he said stiffly, and with a very awkward
and weak attempt at being self-confident and even high-spirited in
her presence.

"Oh, it doesn't amount to anything, really.  We just quarrel,
that's all, once in a while."

She saw that he was nervous and bashful and decidedly unresourceful
in her presence and it pleased her to think that she could thus
befuddle and embarrass him so much.  "Are you still working for
your uncle?"

"Oh, yes," replied Clyde quickly, as though it would make an
enormous difference to her if he were not.  "I have charge of a
department over there now."

"Oh, really, I didn't know.  I haven't seen you at all, since that
one time, you know.  You don't get time to go about much, I
suppose."  She looked at him wisely, as much as to say, "Your
relatives aren't so very much interested in you, but really liking
him now, she said instead, "You have been in the city all summer, I
suppose?"

"Oh, yes," replied Clyde quite simply and winningly.  "I have to
be, you know.  It's the work that keeps me here.  But I've seen
your name in the papers often, and read about your riding and
tennis contests and I saw you in that flower parade last June, too.
I certainly thought you looked beautiful, like an angel almost."

There was an admiring, pleading light in his eyes which now quite
charmed her.  What a pleasing young man--so different to Gilbert.
And to think he should be so plainly and hopelessly smitten, and
when she could take no more than a passing interest in him.  It
made her feel sorry, a little, and hence kindly toward him.
Besides what would Gilbert think if only he knew that his cousin
was so completely reduced by her--how angry he would be--he, who so
plainly thought her a snip?  It would serve him just right if Clyde
were taken up by some one and made more of than he (Gilbert) ever
could hope to be.  The thought had a most pleasing tang for her.

However, at this point, unfortunately, the car turned in before
Mrs. Peyton's door and stopped.  The adventure for Clyde and for
her was seemingly over.

"That's awfully nice of you to say that.  I won't forget that."
She smiled archly as, the chauffeur opening the door, Clyde stepped
down, his own nerves taut because of the grandeur and import of
this encounter.  "So this is where you live.  Do you expect to be
in Lycurgus all winter?"

"Oh, yes.  I'm quite sure of it.  I hope to be anyhow," he added,
quite yearningly, his eyes expressing his meaning completely.

"Well, perhaps, then I'll see you again somewhere, some time.  I
hope so, anyhow."

She nodded and gave him her fingers and the most fetching and
wreathy of smiles, and he, eager to the point of folly, added:
"Oh, so do I."

"Good night!  Good night!" she called as the car sprang away, and
Clyde, looking after it, wondered if he would ever see her again so
closely and intimately as here.  To think that he should have met
her again in this way!  And she had proved so very different from
that first time when, as he distinctly recalled, she took no
interest in him at all.

He turned hopefully and a little wistfully toward his own door.

And Sondra, . . . why was it, she pondered, as the motor car sped
on its way, that the Griffiths were apparently not much interested
in him?



Chapter 24


The effect of this so casual contact was really disrupting in
more senses than one.  For now in spite of his comfort in and
satisfaction with Roberta, once more and in this positive and to
him entrancing way, was posed the whole question of his social
possibilities here.  And that strangely enough by the one girl of
this upper level who had most materialized and magnified for him
the meaning of that upper level itself.  The beautiful Sondra
Finchley!  Her lovely face, smart clothes, gay and superior
demeanor!  If only at the time he had first encountered her he had
managed to interest her.  Or could now.

The fact that his relations with Roberta were what they were now
was not of sufficient import or weight to offset the temperamental
or imaginative pull of such a girl as Sondra and all that she
represented.  Just to think the Wimblinger Finchley Electric
Sweeper Company was one of the largest manufacturing concerns here.
Its tall walls and stacks made a part of the striking sky line
across the Mohawk.  And the Finchley residence in Wykeagy Avenue,
near that of the Griffiths, was one of the most impressive among
that distinguished row of houses which had come with the latest and
most discriminating architectural taste here--Italian Renaissance--
cream hued marble and Dutchess County sandstone combined.  And the
Finchleys were among the most discussed of families here.

Ah, to know this perfect girl more intimately!  To be looked upon
by her with favor,--made, by reason of that favor, a part of that
fine world to which she belonged.  Was he not a Griffiths--as good
looking as Gilbert Griffiths any day?  And as attractive if he only
had as much money--or a part of it even.  To be able to dress in
the Gilbert Griffiths' fashion; to ride around in one of the
handsome cars he sported!  Then, you bet, a girl like this would be
delighted to notice him,--mayhap, who knows, even fall in love with
him.  Analschar and the tray of glasses.  But now, as he gloomily
thought, he could only hope, hope, hope.

The devil!  He would not go around to Roberta's this evening.  He
would trump up some excuse--tell her in the morning that he had
been called upon by his uncle or cousin to do some work.  He could
not and would not go, feeling as he did just now.

So much for the effect of wealth, beauty, the peculiar social state
to which he most aspired, on a temperament that was as fluid and
unstable as water.

On the other hand, later, thinking over her contact with Clyde,
Sondra was definitely taken with what may only be described as his
charm for her, all the more definite in this case since it
represented a direct opposite to all that his cousin offered by way
of offense.  His clothes and his manner, as well as a remark he had
dropped, to the effect that he was connected with the company in
some official capacity, seemed to indicate that he might be better
placed than she had imagined.  Yet she also recalled that although
she had been about with Bella all summer and had encountered
Gilbert, Myra and their parents from time to time, there had never
been a word about Clyde.  Indeed all the information she had
gathered concerning him was that originally furnished by Mrs.
Griffiths, who had said that he was a poor nephew whom her husband
had brought on from the west in order to help in some way.  Yet
now, as she viewed Clyde on this occasion, he did not seem so
utterly unimportant or poverty-stricken by any means--quite
interesting and rather smart and very attractive, and obviously
anxious to be taken seriously by a girl like herself, as she could
see.  And this coming from Gilbert's cousin--a Griffiths--was
flattering.

Arriving at the Trumbull's, a family which centered about one
Douglas Trumbull, a prosperous lawyer and widower and speculator of
this region, who, by reason of his children as well as his own good
manners and legal subtlety, had managed to ingratiate himself into
the best circles of Lycurgus society, she suddenly confided to Jill
Trumbull, the elder of the lawyer's two daughters:  "You know I had
a funny experience to-day."  And she proceeded to relate all that
had occurred in detail.  Afterward at dinner, Jill having appeared
to find it most fascinating, she again repeated it to Gertrude and
Tracy, the younger daughter and only son of the Trumbull family.

"Oh, yes," observed Tracy Trumbull, a law student in his father's
office, "I've seen that fellow, I bet, three or four times on
Central Avenue.  He looks a lot like Gil, doesn't he?  Only not so
swagger.  I've nodded to him two or three times this summer because
I thought he was Gil for the moment."

"Oh, I've seen him, too," commented Gertrude Trumbull.  "He wears a
cap and a belted coat like Gilbert Griffiths, sometimes, doesn't
he?  Arabella Stark pointed him out to me once and then Jill and I
saw him passing Stark's once on a Saturday afternoon.  He is better
looking than Gil, any day, I think."

This confirmed Sondra in her own thoughts in regard to Clyde and
now she added:  "Bertine Cranston and I met him one evening last
spring at the Griffiths'.  We thought he was too bashful, then.
But I wish you could see him now--he's positively handsome, with
the softest eyes and the nicest smile."

"Oh, now, Sondra," commented Jill Trumbull, who, apart from Bertine
and Bella, was as close to Sondra as any girl here, having been one
of her classmates at the Snedeker School, "I know some one who
would be jealous if he could hear you say that."

"And wouldn't Gil Griffiths like to hear that his cousin's better
looking than he is?" chimed in Tracy Trumbull.  "Oh, say--"

"Oh, he," sniffed Sondra irritably.  "He thinks he's so much.  I'll
bet anything it's because of him that the Griffiths won't have
anything to do with their cousin.  I'm sure of it, now that I think
of it.  Bella would, of course, because I heard her say last spring
that she thought he was good-looking.  And Myra wouldn't do
anything to hurt anybody.  What a lark if some of us were to take
him up some time and begin inviting him here and there--once in a
while, you know--just for fun, to see how he would do.  And how the
Griffiths would take it.  I know well enough it would be all right
with Mr. Griffiths and Myra and Bella, but Gil I'll bet would be as
peeved as anything.  I couldn't do it myself very well, because I'm
so close to Bella, but I know who could and they couldn't say a
thing."  She paused, thinking of Bertine Cranston and how she
disliked Gil and Mrs. Griffiths.  "I wonder if he dances or rides
or plays tennis or anything like that?"  She stopped and meditated
amusedly, the while the others studied her.  And Jill Trumbull, a
restless, eager girl like herself, without so much of her looks or
flair, however, observed:  "It would be a prank, wouldn't it?  Do
you suppose the Griffiths really would dislike it very much?"

"What's the difference if they did?" went on Sondra.  "They
couldn't do anything more than ignore him, could they?  And who
would care about that, I'd like to know.  Not the people who
invited him."

"Go on, you fellows, stir up a local scrap, will you?" put in Tracy
Trumbull.  "I'll bet anything that's what comes of it in the end.
Gil Griffiths won't like it, you can gamble on that.  I wouldn't if
I were in his position.  If you want to stir up a lot of feeling
here, go to it, but I'll lay a bet that's what it comes to."

Now Sondra Finchley's nature was of just such a turn that a thought
of this kind was most appealing to her.  However, as interesting as
the idea was to her at the time, nothing definite might have come
of it, had it not been that subsequent to this conversation and
several others held with Bertine Cranston, Jill Trumbull, Patricia
Anthony, and Arabella Stark, the news of this adventure, together
with some comments as to himself, finally came to the ears of
Gilbert Griffiths, yet only via Constance Wynant to whom, as local
gossips would have it, he was prospectively engaged.  And
Constance, hoping that Gilbert would marry her eventually, was
herself irritated by the report that Sondra had chosen to interest
herself in Clyde, and then, for no sane reason, as she saw it,
proclaim that he was more attractive than Gilbert.  So, as much to
relieve herself as to lay some plan of avenging herself upon
Sondra, if possible, she conveyed the whole matter in turn to
Gilbert, who at once proceeded to make various cutting references
to Clyde and Sondra.  And these carried back to Sondra, along with
certain embellishments by Constance, had the desired effect.  It
served to awaken in her the keenest desire for retaliation.  For if
she chose she certainly could be nice to Clyde, and have others be
nice to him, too.  And that would mean perhaps that Gilbert would
find himself faced by a social rival of sorts--his own cousin, too,
who, even though he was poor, might come to be liked better.  What
a lark!  At the very same time there came to her a way by which she
might most easily introduce Clyde, and yet without seeming so to
do, and without any great harm to herself, if it did not terminate
as she wished.

For in Lycurgus among the younger members of those smarter families
whose children had been to the Snedeker School, existed a rather
illusory and casual dinner and dance club called the "Now and
Then."  It had no definite organization, officers or abode.  Any
one, who, because of class and social connections was eligible and
chose to belong, could call a meeting of other members to give a
dinner or dance or tea in their homes.

And how simple, thought Sondra in browsing around for a suitable
vehicle by which to introduce Clyde, if some one other than herself
who belonged could be induced to get up something and then at her
suggestion invite Clyde.  How easy, say, for Jill Trumbull to give
a dinner and dance to the "Now and Thens," to which Clyde might be
invited.  And by this ruse she would thus be able to see him again
and find out just how much he did interest her and what he was
like.

Accordingly a small dinner for this club and its friends was
announced for the first Thursday in December, Jill Trumbull to be
the hostess.  To it were to be invited Sondra and her brother,
Stuart, Tracy and Gertrude Trumbull, Arabella Stark, Bertine and
her brother, and some others from Utica and Gloversville as well.
And Clyde.  But in order to safeguard Clyde against any chance of
failure or even invidious comment of any kind, not only she but
Bertine and Jill and Gertrude were to be attentive to and
considerate of him.  They were to see that his dance program was
complete and that neither at dinner nor on the dance floor was he
to be left to himself, but was to be passed on most artfully from
one to the other until evening should be over.  For, by reason of
that, others might come to be interested in him, which would not
only take the thorn from the thought that Sondra alone, of all the
better people of Lycurgus, had been friendly to him, but would
sharpen the point of this development for Gilbert, if not for Bella
and the other members of the Griffiths family.

And in accordance with this plan, so it was done.

And so it was that Clyde, returning from the factory one early
December evening about two weeks after his encounter with Sondra,
was surprised by the sight of a cream-colored note leaning against
the mirror of his dresser.  It was addressed in a large, scrawly
and unfamiliar hand.  He picked it up and turned it over without
being able in any way to fix upon the source.  On the back were the
initials B. T.  or J. T., he could not decide which, so elaborately
intertwined was the engraved penmanship.  He tore it open and drew
out a card which read:


                     The Now and Then Club
                      Will Hold Its First
                      Winter Dinner Dance
                        At the Home of
                       Douglas Trumbull
                        135 Wykeagy Ave
                    On Thursday, December 4
                   You Are Cordially Invited
          Will You Kindly Reply to Miss Jill Trumbull?


On the back of this, though, in the same scrawly hand that graced
the envelope was written:  "Dear Mr. Griffiths:  Thought you might
like to come.  It will be quite informal.  And I'm sure you'll like
it.  If so, will you let Jill Trumbull know?  Sondra Finchley."

Quite amazed and thrilled, Clyde stood and stared.  For ever since
that second contact with her, he had been more definitely
fascinated than at any time before by the dream that somehow, in
some way, he was to be lifted from the lowly state in which he now
dwelt.  He was, as he now saw it, really too good for the
Commonplace world by which he was environed.  And now here was
this--a social invitation issued by the "Now and Then Club," of
which, even though he had never heard of it, must be something
since it was sponsored by such exceptional people.  And on the back
of it, was there not the writing of Sondra herself?  How marvelous,
really!

So astonished was he that he could scarcely contain himself for
joy, but now on the instant must walk to and fro, looking at
himself in the mirror, washing his hands and face, then deciding
that his tie was not just right, perhaps, and changing to another--
thinking forward to what he should wear and back upon how Sondra
had looked at him on that last occasion.  And how she had smiled.
At the same time he could not help wondering even at this moment of
what Roberta would think, if now, by some extra optical power of
observation she could note his present joy in connection with this
note.  For plainly, and because he was no longer governed by the
conventional notions of his parents, he had been allowing himself
to drift into a position in regard to her which would certainly
spell torture to her in case she should discover the nature of his
present mood, a thought which puzzled him not a little, but did not
serve to modify his thoughts in regard to Sondra in the least.

That wonderful girl!

That beauty!

That world of wealth and social position she lived in!

At the same time so innately pagan and unconventional were his
thoughts in regard to all this that he could now ask himself, and
that seriously enough, why should he not be allowed to direct his
thoughts toward her and away from Roberta, since at the moment
Sondra supplied the keener thought of delight.  Roberta could not
know about this.  She could not see into his mind, could she--
become aware of any such extra experience as this unless he told
her.  And most assuredly he did not intend to tell her.  And what
harm, he now asked himself, was there in a poor youth like himself
aspiring to such heights?  Other youths as poor as himself had
married girls as rich as Sondra.

For in spite of all that had occurred between him and Roberta he
had not, as he now clearly recalled, given her his word that he
would marry her except under one condition.  And such a condition,
especially with the knowledge that he had all too clearly acquired
in Kansas City, was not likely to happen as he thought.

And Sondra, now that she had thus suddenly burst upon him again in
this way was the same as a fever to his fancy.  This goddess in her
shrine of gilt and tinsel so utterly enticing to him, had deigned
to remember him in this open and direct way and to suggest that he
be invited.  And no doubt she, herself, was going to be there, a
thought which thrilled him beyond measure.

And what would not Gilbert and the Griffiths think if they were to
hear of his going to this affair now, as they surely would?  Or
meet him later at some other party to which Sondra might invite
him?  Think of that!  Would it irritate or please them?  Make them
think less or more of him?  For, after all, this certainly was not
of his doing.  Was he not properly invited by people of their own
station here in Lycurgus whom most certainly they were compelled to
respect?  And by no device of his, either--sheer accident--the
facts concerning which would most certainly not reflect on him as
pushing.  As lacking as he was in some of the finer shades of
mental discrimination, a sly and ironic pleasure lay in the thought
that now Gilbert and the Griffiths might be compelled to
countenance him whether they would or not--invite him to their
home, even.  For, if these others did, how could they avoid it,
really?  Oh, joy!  And that in the face of Gilbert's high contempt
for him.  He fairly chuckled as he thought of it, feeling that
however much Gilbert might resent it, neither his uncle nor Myra
were likely to, and that hence he would be fairly safe from any
secret desire on the part of Gilbert to revenge himself on him for
this.

But how wonderful this invitation!  Why that intriguing scribble of
Sondra's unless she was interested in him some?  Why?  The thought
was so thrilling that Clyde could scarcely eat his dinner that
night.  He took up the card and kissed the handwriting.  And
instead of going to see Roberta as usual, he decided as before on
first reencountering her, to walk a bit, then return to his room,
and retire early.  And on the morrow as before he could make some
excuse--say that he had been over to the Griffiths' home, or some
one of the heads of the factory, in order to listen to an
explanation in regard to something in connection with the work,
since there were often such conferences.  For, in the face of this,
he did not care to see or talk to Roberta this night.  He could
not.  The other thought--that of Sondra and her interest in him--
was too enticing.



Chapter 25


But in the interim, in connection with his relations with Roberta
no least reference to Sondra, although, even when near her in the
factory or her room, he could not keep his thoughts from wandering
away to where Sondra in her imaginary high social world might be.
The while Roberta, at moments only sensing a drift and remoteness
in his thought and attitude which had nothing to do with her, was
wondering what it was that of late was beginning to occupy him so
completely.  And he, in his turn, when she was not looking was
thinking--supposing?--supposing--(since she had troubled to recall
herself to him), that he could interest a girl like Sondra in him?
What then of Roberta?  What?  And in the face of this intimate
relation that had now been established between them?  (Goodness!
The deuce!)  And that he did care for her (yes, he did), although
now--basking in the direct rays of this newer luminary--he could
scarcely see Roberta any longer, so strong were the actinic rays of
this other.  Was he all wrong?  Was it evil to be like this?  His
mother would say so!  And his father too--and perhaps everybody who
thought right about life--Sondra Finchley, maybe--the Griffiths--
all.

And yet!  And yet!  It was snowing the first light snow of the year
as Clyde, arrayed in a new collapsible silk hat and white silk
muffler, both suggested by a friendly haberdasher--Orrin Short,
with whom recently he had come in contact here--and a new silk
umbrella wherewith to protect himself from the snow, made his way
toward the very interesting, if not so very imposing residence of
the Trumbulls on Wykeagy Avenue.  It was quaint, low and rambling,
and the lights beaming from within upon the many drawn blinds gave
it a Christmas-card effect.  And before it, even at the prompt hour
at which he arrived, were ranged a half dozen handsome cars of
various builds and colors.  The sight of them, sprinkled on tops,
running boards and fenders with the fresh, flaky snow, gave him a
keen sense of a deficiency that was not likely soon to be remedied
in his case--the want of ample means wherewith to equip himself
with such a necessity as that.  And inside as he approached the
door he could hear voices, laughter and conversation commingled.

A tall, thin servant relieved him of his hat, coat and umbrella and
he found himself face to face with Jill Trumbull, who apparently
was on the look-out for him--a smooth, curly-haired blonde girl,
not too thrillingly pretty, but brisk and smart, in white satin
with arms and shoulders bare and rhinestones banded around her
forehead.

"No trouble to tell who you are," she said gayly, approaching and
giving Clyde her hand.  "I'm Jill Trumbull.  Miss Finchley hasn't
come yet.  But I can do the honors just as well, I guess.  Come
right in where the rest of us are."

She led the way into a series of connecting rooms that seemed to
join each other at right angles, adding as she went, "You do look
an awful lot like Gil Griffiths, don't you?"

"Do I?" smiled Clyde simply and courageously and very much
flattered by the comparison.

The ceilings were low.  Pretty lamps behind painted shades hugged
dark walls.  Open fires in two connecting rooms cast a rosy glow
upon cushioned and comfortable furniture.  There were pictures,
books, objects of art.

"Here, Tracy, you do the announcing, will you?" she called.  "My
brother, Tracy Trumbull, Mr. Griffiths.  Mr. Clyde Griffiths,
everybody," she added, surveying the company in general which in
turn fixed varying eyes upon him, while Tracy Trumbull took him by
the hand.  Clyde, suffering from a sense of being studied,
nevertheless achieved a warm smile.  At the same time he realized
that for the moment at least conversation had stopped.  "Don't all
stop talking on my account," he ventured, with a smile, which
caused most of those present to conceive of him as at his ease and
resourceful.  At the same time Tracy added:  "I'm not going to do
any man-to-man introduction stuff.  We'll stand right here and
point 'em out.  That's my sister, Gertrude, over there talking to
Scott Nicholson."  Clyde noted that a small, dark girl dressed in
pink with a pretty and yet saucy and piquant face, nodded to him.
And beside her a very de rigueur youth of fine physique and pink
complexion nodded jerkily.  "Howja do."  And a few feet from them
near a deep window stood a tall and yet graceful girl of dark and
by no means ravishing features talking to a broad-shouldered and
deep-chested youth of less than her height, who were proclaimed to
be Arabella Stark and Frank Harriet.  "They're arguing over a
recent Cornell-Syracuse foot-ball game . . . Burchard Taylor and
Miss Phant of Utica," he went on almost too swiftly for Clyde to
assemble any mental notes.  "Perley Haynes and Miss Vanda Steele
. . . well, I guess that's all as yet.  Oh, no, here come Grant and
Nina Temple."  Clyde paused and gazed as a tall and somewhat
dandified-looking youth, sharp of face and with murky-gray eyes,
steered a trim, young, plump girl in fawn gray and with a light
chestnut braid of hair laid carefully above her forehead, into the
middle of the room.

"Hello, Jill.  Hello, Vanda.  Hello, Wynette."  In the midst of
these greetings on his part, Clyde was presented to these two,
neither of whom seemed to pay much attention to him.  "Didn't think
we'd make it," went on young Cranston speaking to all at once.
"Nina didn't want to come, but I promised Bertine and Jill or I
wouldn't have, either.  We were up at the Bagleys'.  Guess who's up
there, Scott.  Van Peterson and Rhoda Hull.  They're just over for
the day."

"You don't say," called Scott Nicholson, a determined and self-
centered looking individual.  Clyde was arrested by the very
definite sense of social security and ease that seemed to reside in
everybody.  "Why didn't you bring 'em along?  I'd like to see Rhoda
again and Van, too."

"Couldn't.  They have to go back early, they say.  They may stop in
later for a minute.  Gee, isn't dinner served yet?  I expected to
sit right down."

"These lawyers!  Don't you know they don't eat often?" commented
Frank Harriet, who was a short, but broad-chested and smiling
youth, very agreeable, very good-looking and with even, white
teeth.  Clyde liked him.

"Well, whether they do or not, we do, or out I go.  Did you hear
who is being touted for stroke next year over at Cornell?"  This
college chatter relating to Cornell and shared by Harriet, Cranston
and others, Clyde could not understand.  He had scarcely heard of
the various colleges with which this group was all too familiar.
At the same time he was wise enough to sense the defect and steer
clear of any questions or conversations which might relate to them.
However, because of this, he at once felt out of it.  These people
were better informed than he was--had been to colleges.  Perhaps he
had better claim that he had been to some school.  In Kansas City
he had heard of the State University of Kansas--not so very far
from there.  Also the University of Missouri.  And in Chicago of
the University of Chicago.  Could he say that he had been to one of
those--that Kansas one, for a little while, anyway?  On the instant
he proposed to claim it, if asked, and then look up afterwards
what, if anything, he was supposed to know about it--what, for
instance, he might have studied.  He had heard of mathematics
somewhere.  Why not that?

But these people, as he could see, were too much interested in
themselves to pay much attention to him now.  He might be a
Griffiths and important to some outside, but here not so much--a
matter of course, as it were.  And because Tracy Trumbull for the
moment had turned to say something to Wynette Phant, he felt quite
alone, beached and helpless and with no one to talk to.  But just
then the small, dark girl, Gertrude, came over to him.

"The crowd's a little late in getting together.  It always is.  If
we said eight, they'd come at eight-thirty or nine.  Isn't that
always the way?"

"It certainly is," replied Clyde gratefully, endeavoring to appear
as brisk and as much at ease as possible.

"I'm Gertrude Trumbull," she repeated.  "The sister of the good-
looking Jill," a cynical and yet amused smile played about her
mouth and eyes.  "You nodded to me, but you don't know me.  Just
the same we've been hearing a lot about you."  She teased in an
attempt to trouble Clyde a little, if possible.  "A mysterious
Griffiths here in Lycurgus whom no one seems to have met.  I saw
you once in Central Avenue, though.  You were going into Rich's
candy store.  You didn't know that, though.  Do you like candy?"

"Oh, yes, I like candy.  Why?" asked Clyde on the instant feeling
teased and disturbed, since the girl for whom he was buying the
candy was Roberta.  At the same time he could not help feeling
slightly more at ease with this girl than with some others, for
although cynical and not so attractive, her manner was genial and
she now spelled escape from isolation and hence diffidence.

"You're probably just saying that," she laughed, a bantering look
in her eyes.  "More likely you were buying it for some girl.  You
have a girl, haven't you?"

"Why--"  Clyde paused for the fraction of a second because as she
asked this Roberta came into his mind and the query, "Had any one
ever seen him with Roberta?" flitted through his brain.  Also
thinking at the same time, what a bold, teasing, intelligent girl
this was, different from any that thus far he had known.  Yet quite
without more pause he added:  "No, I haven't.  What makes you ask
that?"

As he said this there came to him the thought of what Roberta would
think if she could hear him.  "But what a question," he continued a
little nervously now.  "You like to tease, don't you?"

"Who, me?  Oh, no.  I wouldn't do anything like that.  But I'm sure
you have just the same.  I like to ask questions sometimes, just to
see what people will say when they don't want you to know what they
really think."  She beamed into Clyde's eyes amusedly and
defiantly.  "But I know you have a girl just the same.  All good-
looking fellows have."

"Oh, am I good-looking?" he beamed nervously, amused and yet
pleased.  "Who said so?"

"As though you didn't know.  Well, different people.  I for one.
And Sondra Finchley thinks you're good-looking, too.  She's only
interested in men who are.  So does my sister Jill, for that
matter.  And she only likes men who are good-looking.  I'm
different because I'm not so good-looking myself."  She blinked
cynically and teasingly into his eyes, which caused him to feel
oddly out of place, not able to cope with such a girl at all, at
the same time very much flattered and amused.  "But don't you think
you're better looking than your cousin," she went on sharply and
even commandingly.  "Some people think you are."

Although a little staggered and yet flattered by this question
which propounded what he might have liked to believe, and although
intrigued by this girl's interest in him, still Clyde would not
have dreamed of venturing any such assertion even though he had
believed it.  Too vividly it brought the aggressive and determined
and even at times revengeful-looking features of Gilbert before
him, who, stirred by such a report as this, would not hesitate to
pay him out.

"Why, I don't think anything of the kind," he laughed.  "Honest, I
don't.  Of course I don't."

"Oh, well, then maybe you don't, but you are just the same.  But
that won't help you much either, unless you have money--that is, if
you want to run with people who have."  She looked up at him and
added quite blandly.  "People like money even more than they do
looks."

What a sharp girl this was, he thought, and what a hard, cold
statement.  It cut him not a little, even though she had not
intended that it should.

But just then Sondra herself entered with some youth whom Clyde did
not know--a tall, gangling, but very smartly-dressed individual.
And after them, along with others, Bertine and Stuart Finchley.

"Here she is now," added Gertrude a little spitefully, for she
resented the fact that Sondra was so much better-looking than
either she or her sister, and that she had expressed an interest in
Clyde.  "She'll be looking to see if you notice how pretty she
looks, so don't disappoint her."

The impact of this remark, a reflection of the exact truth, was not
necessary to cause Clyde to gaze attentively, and even eagerly.
For apart from her local position and means and taste in dress and
manners, Sondra was of the exact order and spirit that most
intrigued him--a somewhat refined (and because of means and
position showered upon her) less savage, although scarcely less
self-centered, Hortense Briggs.  She was, in her small, intense
way, a seeking Aphrodite, eager to prove to any who were
sufficiently attractive the destroying power of her charm, while at
the same time retaining her own personality and individuality free
of any entangling alliance or compromise.  However, for varying
reasons which she could not quite explain to herself, Clyde
appealed to her.  He might not be anything socially or financially,
but he was interesting to her.

Hence she was now keen, first to see if he were present, next to be
sure that he gained no hint that she had seen him first, and lastly
to act as grandly as possible for his benefit--a Hortensian
procedure and type of thought that was exactly the thing best
calculated to impress him.  He gazed and there she was--tripping
here and there in a filmy chiffon dance frock, shaded from palest
yellow to deepest orange, which most enhanced her dark eyes and
hair.  And having exchanged a dozen or more "Oh, Hellos," and
references with one and another to this, that and the other local
event, she at last condescended to evince awareness of his
proximity.

"Oh, here you are.  You decided to come after all.  I wasn't sure
whether you would think it worth while.  You've been introduced to
everybody, of course?"  She looked around as much as to say, that
if he had not been she would proceed to serve him in this way.  The
others, not so very much impressed by Clyde, were still not a
little interested by the fact that she seemed so interested in him.

"Yes, I met nearly everybody, I think."

"Except Freddie Sells.  He came in with me just now.  Here you are,
Freddie," she called to a tall and slender youth, smooth of cheek
and obviously becurled as to hair, who now came over and in his
closely-fitting dress coat looked down on Clyde about as a spring
rooster might look down on a sparrow.

"This is Clyde Griffiths, I was telling you about, Fred," she began
briskly.  "Doesn't he look a lot like Gilbert?"

"Why, you do at that," exclaimed this amiable person, who seemed to
be slightly troubled with weak eyes since he bent close.  "I hear
you're a cousin of Gil's.  I know him well.  We went through
Princeton together.  I used to be over here before I joined the
General Electric over at Schenectady.  But I'm around a good bit
yet.  You're connected with the factory, I suppose."

"Yes, I am," said Clyde, who, before a youth of obviously so much
more training and schooling than he possessed, felt not a little
reduced.  He began to fear that this individual would try to talk
to him about things which he could not understand, things
concerning which, having had no consecutive training of any kind,
he had never been technically informed.

"In charge of some department, I suppose?"

"Yes, I am," said Clyde, cautiously and nervously.

"You know," went on Mr. Sells, briskly and interestingly, being of
a commercial as well as technical turn, "I've always wondered just
what, outside of money, there is to the collar business.  Gil and I
used to argue about that when we were down at college.  He used to
try to tell me that there was some social importance to making and
distributing collars, giving polish and manner to people who
wouldn't otherwise have them, if it weren't for cheap collars.  I
think he musta read that in a book somewhere.  I always laughed at
him."

Clyde was about to attempt an answer, although already beyond his
depth in regard to this.  "Social importance."  Just what did he
mean by that--some deep, scientific information that he had
acquired at college.  He was saved a non-committal or totally
uninformed answer by Sondra who, without thought or knowledge of
the difficulty which was then and there before him, exclaimed:
"Oh, no arguments, Freddie.  That's not interesting.  Besides I
want him to meet my brother and Bertine.  You remember Miss
Cranston.  She was with me at your uncle's last spring."

Clyde turned, while Fred made the best of the rebuff by merely
looking at Sondra, whom he admired so very much.

"Yes, of course," Clyde began, for he had been studying these two
along with others.  To him, apart from Sondra, Bertine seemed
exceedingly attractive, though quite beyond his understanding also.
Being involved, insincere and sly, she merely evoked in him a
troubled sense of ineffectiveness, and hence uncertainty, in so far
as her particular world was concerned--no more.

"Oh, how do you do?  It's nice to see you again," she drawled, the
while her greenish-gray eyes went over him in a smiling and yet
indifferent and quizzical way.  She thought him attractive, but not
nearly as shrewd and hard as she would have preferred him to be.
"You've been terribly busy with your work, I suppose.  But now that
you've come out once, I suppose we'll see more of you here and
there."

"Well, I hope so," he replied, showing his even teeth.

Her eyes seemed to be saying that she did not believe what she was
saying and that he did not either, but that it was necessary,
possibly amusing, to say something of the sort.

And a related, though somewhat modified, version of this same type
of treatment was accorded him by Stuart, Sondra's brother.

"Oh, how do you do.  Glad to know you.  My sister has just been
telling me about you.  Going to stay in Lycurgus long?  Hope you
do.  We'll run into one another once in a while then, I suppose."

Clyde was by no means so sure, but he admired the easy, shallow way
in which Stuart laughed and showed his even white teeth--a quick,
genial, indifferent laugh.  Also the way in which he turned and
laid hold of Wynette Phant's white arm as she passed.  "Wait a
minute, Wyn.  I want to ask you something."  He was gone--into
another room--bending close to her and talking fast.  And Clyde had
noticed that his clothes were perfectly cut.

What a gay world, he thought.  What a brisk world.  And just then
Jill Trumbull began calling, "Come on, people.  It's not my fault.
The cook's mad about something and you're all late anyhow.  We'll
get it over with and then dance, eh?"

"You can sit between me and Miss Trumbull when she gets the rest of
us seated," assured Sondra.  "Won't that be nice?  And now you may
take me in."

She slipped a white arm under Clyde's and he felt as though he were
slowly but surely being transported to paradise.



Chapter 26


The dinner itself was chatter about a jumble of places, personalities,
plans, most of which had nothing to do with anything that Clyde had
personally contacted here.  However, by reason of his own charm, he
soon managed to overcome the sense of strangeness and hence
indifference in some quarters, more particularly the young women of
the group who were interested by the fact that Sondra Finchley liked
him.  And Jill Trumbull, sitting beside him, wanted to know where he
came from, what his own home life and connections were like, why he
had decided to come to Lycurgus, questions which, interjected as
they were between silly banter concerning different girls and their
beaus, gave Clyde pause.  He did not feel that he could admit the
truth in connection with his family at all.  So he announced that
his father conducted a hotel in Denver--not so very large, but still
a hotel.  Also that he had come to Lycurgus because his uncle had
suggested to him in Chicago that he come to learn the collar
business.  He was not sure that he was wholly interested in it or
that he would continue indefinitely unless it proved worth while;
rather he was trying to find out what it might mean to his future, a
remark which caused Sondra, who was also listening, as well as Jill,
to whom it was addressed, to consider that in spite of all rumors
attributed to Gilbert, Clyde must possess some means and position to
which, in case he did not do so well here, he could return.

This in itself was important, not only to Sondra and Jill, but to
all the others.  For, despite his looks and charm and family
connections here, the thought that he was a mere nobody, seeking,
as Constance Wynant had reported, to attach himself to his cousin's
family, was disquieting.  One couldn't ever be anything much more
than friendly with a moneyless clerk or pensioner, whatever his
family connections, whereas if he had a little money and some local
station elsewhere, the situation was entirely different.

And now Sondra, relieved by this and the fact that he was proving
more acceptable than she had imagined he would, was inclined to
make more of him than she otherwise would have done.

"Are you going to let me dance with you after dinner?" was one of
the first things he said to her, infringing on a genial smile given
him in the midst of clatter concerning an approaching dance
somewhere.

"Why, yes, of course, if you want me to," she replied, coquettishly,
seeking to intrigue him into further romanticisms in regard to her.

"Just one?"

"How many do you want?  There are a dozen boys here, you know.  Did
you get a program when you came in?"

"I didn't see any."

"Never mind.  After dinner you can get one.  And you may put me
down for three and eight.  That will leave you room for others."
She smiled bewitchingly.  "You have to be nice to everybody, you
know."

"Yes, I know."  He was still looking at her.  "But ever since I saw
you at my uncle's last April, I've been wishing I might see you
again.  I always look for your name in the papers."

He looked at her seekingly and questioningly and in spite of
herself, Sondra was captivated by this naive confession.  Plainly
he could not afford to go where or do what she did, but still he
would trouble to follow her name and movements in print.  She could
not resist the desire to make something more of this.

"Oh, do you?" she added.  "Isn't that nice?  But what do you read
about me?"

"That you were at Twelfth and Greenwood Lakes and up at Sharon for
the swimming contests.  I saw where you went up to Paul Smith's,
too.  The papers here seemed to think you were interested in some
one from Schroon Lake and that you might be going to marry him."

"Oh, did they?  How silly.  The papers here always say such silly
things."  Her tone implied that he might be intruding.  He looked
embarrassed.  This softened her and after a moment she took up the
conversation in the former vein.

"Do you like to ride?" she asked sweetly and placatively.

"I never have.  You know I never had much chance at that, but I
always thought I could if I tried."

"Of course, it's not hard.  If you took a lesson or two you could,
and," she added in a somewhat lower tone, "we might go for a canter
sometime.  There are lots of horses in our stable that you would
like, I'm sure."

Clyde's hair-roots tingled anticipatorily.  He was actually being
invited by Sondra to ride with her sometime and he could use one of
her horses in the bargain.

"Oh, I would love that," he said.  "That would be wonderful."

The crowd was getting up from the table.  Scarcely any one was
interested in the dinner, because a chamber orchestra of four
having arrived, the strains of a preliminary fox trot were already
issuing from the adjacent living room--a long, wide affair from
which all obstructing furniture with the exception of wall chairs
had been removed.

"You had better see about your program and your dance before all
the others are gone," cautioned Sondra.

"Yes, I will right away," said Clyde, "but is two all I get with
you?"

"Well, make it three, five and eight then, in the first half."  She
waved him gayly away and he hurried for a dance card.

The dances were all of the eager fox-trotting type of the period
with interpolations and variations according to the moods and
temperaments of the individual dancers.  Having danced so much with
Roberta during the preceding month, Clyde was in excellent form and
keyed to the breaking point by the thought that at last he was in
social and even affectional contact with a girl as wonderful as
Sondra.

And although wishing to seem courteous and interested in others
with whom he was dancing, he was almost dizzied by passing
contemplations of Sondra.  She swayed so droopily and dreamily in
the embrace of Grant Cranston, the while without seeming to,
looking in his direction when he was near, permitting him to sense
how graceful and romantic and poetic was her attitude toward all
things--what a flower of life she really was.  And Nina Temple,
with whom he was now dancing for his benefit, just then observed:
"She is graceful, isn't she?"

"Who?" asked Clyde, pretending an innocence he could not physically
verify, for his cheek and forehead flushed.  "I don't know who you
mean."

"Don't you?  Then what are you blushing for?"

He had realized that he was blushing.  And that his attempted
escape was ridiculous.  He turned, but just then the music stopped
and the dancers drifted away to their chairs.  Sondra moved off
with Grant Cranston and Clyde led Nina toward a cushioned seat in a
window in the library.

And in connection with Bertine with whom he next danced, he found
himself slightly flustered by the cool, cynical aloofness with
which she accepted and entertained his attention.  Her chief
interest in Clyde was the fact that Sondra appeared to find him
interesting.

"You do dance well, don't you?  I suppose you must have done a lot
of dancing before you came here--in Chicago, wasn't it, or where?"

She talked slowly and indifferently.

"I was in Chicago before I came here, but I didn't do so very much
dancing.  I had to work."  He was thinking how such girls as she
had everything, as contrasted with girls like Roberta, who had
nothing.  And yet, as he now felt in this instance, he liked
Roberta better.  She was sweeter and warmer and kinder--not so
cold.

When the music started again with the sonorous melancholy of a
single saxophone interjected at times, Sondra came over to him and
placed her right hand in his left and allowed him to put his arm
about her waist, an easy, genial and unembarrassed approach which,
in the midst of Clyde's dream of her, was thrilling.

And then in her coquettish and artful way she smiled up in his
eyes, a bland, deceptive and yet seemingly promising smile, which
caused his heart to beat faster and his throat to tighten.  Some
delicate perfume that she was using thrilled in his nostrils as
might have the fragrance of spring.

"Having a good time?"

"Yes--looking at you."

"When there are so many other nice girls to look at?"

"Oh, there are no other girls as nice as you."

"And I dance better than any other girl, and I'm much the best-
looking of any other girl here.  Now--I've said it all for you.
Now what are you going to say?"

She looked up at him teasingly, and Clyde realizing that he had a
very different type to Roberta to deal with, was puzzled and
flushed.

"I see," he said, seriously.  "Every fellow tells you that, so you
don't want me to."

"Oh, no, not every fellow."  Sondra was at once intrigued and
checkmated by the simplicity of his retort.  "There are lots of
people who don't think I'm very pretty."

"Oh, don't they, though?" he returned quite gayly, for at once he
saw that she was not making fun of him.  And yet he was almost
afraid to venture another compliment.  Instead he cast about for
something else to say, and going back to the conversation at the
table concerning riding and tennis, he now asked:  "You like
everything out-of-doors and athletic, don't you?"

"Oh, do I?" was her quick and enthusiastic response.  "There isn't
anything I like as much, really.  I'm just crazy about riding,
tennis, swimming, motor-boating, aqua-planing.  You swim, don't
you?"

"Oh, sure," said Clyde, grandly.

"Do you play tennis?"

"Well, I've just taken it up," he said, fearing to admit that he
did not play at all.

"Oh, I just love tennis.  We might play sometime together."
Clyde's spirits were completely restored by this.  And tripping as
lightly as dawn to the mournful strains of a popular love song, she
went right on.  "Bella Griffiths and Stuart and Grant and I play
fine doubles.  We won nearly all the finals at Greenwood and
Twelfth Lake last summer.  And when it comes to aqua-planing and
high diving you just ought to see me.  We have the swiftest motor-
boat up at Twelfth Lake now--Stuart has.  It can do sixty miles an
hour."

At once Clyde realized that he had hit upon the one subject that
not only fascinated, but even excited her.  For not only did it
involve outdoor exercise, in which obviously she reveled, but also
the power to triumph and so achieve laurels in such phases of sport
as most interested those with whom she was socially connected.  And
lastly, although this was something which he did not so clearly
realize until later, she was fairly dizzied by the opportunity all
this provided for frequent changes of costume and hence social
show, which was the one thing above all others that did interest
her.  How she looked in a bathing suit--a riding or tennis or
dancing or automobile costume!

They danced on together, thrilled for the moment at least, by this
mutual recognition of the identity and reality of this interest
each felt for the other--a certain momentary warmth or enthusiasm
which took the form of genial and seeking glances into each other's
eyes, hints on the part of Sondra that, assuming that Clyde could
fit himself athletically, financially and in other ways for such a
world as this, it might be possible that he would be invited here
and there by her; broad and for the moment self-deluding notions on
his part that such could and would be the case, while in reality
just below the surface of his outward or seeming conviction and
assurance ran a deeper current of self-distrust which showed as a
decidedly eager and yet slightly mournful light in his eye, a
certain vigor and assurance in his voice, which was nevertheless
touched, had she been able to define it, with something that was
not assurance by any means.

"Oh, the dance is done," he said sadly.

"Let's try to make them encore," she said, applauding.  The
orchestra struck up a lively tune and they glided off together once
more, dipping and swaying here and there--harmoniously abandoning
themselves to the rhythm of the music--like two small chips being
tossed about on a rough but friendly sea.

"Oh, I'm so glad to be with you again--to be dancing with you.
It's so wonderful . . . Sondra."

"But you mustn't call me that, you know.  You don't know me well
enough."

"I mean Miss Finchley.  But you're not going to be mad at me again,
are you?"

His face was very pale and sad again.

She noticed it.

"No.  Was I mad at you?  I wasn't really.  I like you some . . .
when you're not sentimental."

The music stopped.  The light tripping feet became walking ones.

"I'd like to see if it's still snowing outside, wouldn't you?"  It
was Sondra asking.

"Oh, yes.  Let's go."

Through the moving couples they hurried out a side-door to a world
that was covered thick with soft, cottony, silent snow.  The air
was filled with it silently eddying down.



Chapter 27


The ensuing December days brought to Clyde some pleasing and yet
complicating and disturbing developments.  For Sondra Finchley,
having found him so agreeable an admirer of hers, was from the
first inclined neither to forget nor neglect him.  But, occupying
the rather prominent social position which she did, she was at
first rather dubious as to how to proceed.  For Clyde was too poor
and decidedly too much ignored by the Griffiths themselves, even,
for her to risk any marked manifestation of interest in him.

And now, in addition to the primary motivating reason for all this--
her desire to irritate Gilbert by being friends with his cousin--
there was another.  She liked him.  His charm and his reverence for
her and her station flattered and intrigued her.  For hers was a
temperament which required adulation in about the measure which
Clyde provided it--sincere and romantic adulation.  And at the very
same time he represented physical as well as mental attributes
which were agreeable to her--amorousness without the courage at the
time, anyhow, to annoy her too much; reverence which yet included
her as a very human being; a mental and physical animation which
quite matched and companioned her own.

Hence it was decidedly a troublesome thought with Sondra how she
was to proceed with Clyde without attracting too much attention and
unfavorable comment to herself--a thought which kept her sly little
brain going at nights after she had retired.  However, those who
had met him at the Trumbulls' were so much impressed by her
interest in him that evening and the fact that he had proved so
pleasing and affable, they in turn, the girls particularly, were
satisfied that he was eligible enough.

And in consequence, two weeks later, Clyde, searching for
inexpensive Christmas presents in Stark's for his mother, father,
sisters, brother and Roberta, and encountering Jill Trumbull doing
a little belated shopping herself, was invited by her to attend a
pre-Christmas dance that was to be given the next night by Vanda
Steele at her home in Gloversville.  Jill herself was going with
Frank Harriet and she was not sure but that Sondra Finchley would
be there.  Another engagement of some kind appeared to be in the
way, but still she was intending to come if she could.  But her
sister Gertrude would be glad to have him escort her--a very polite
way of arranging for Gertrude.  Besides, as she knew, if Sondra
heard that Clyde was to be there, this might induce her to desert
her other engagement.

"Tracy will be glad to stop for you in time," she went on, "or--"
she hesitated--"perhaps you'd like to come over for dinner with us
before we go.  It'll be just the family, but we'd be delighted to
have you.  The dancing doesn't begin till eleven."

The dance was for Friday night, and on that night Clyde had
arranged to be with Roberta because on the following day she was
leaving for a three-day-over-Christmas holiday visit to her
parents--the longest stretch of time thus far she had spent away
from him.  And because, apart from his knowledge she had arranged
to present him with a new fountain pen and Eversharp pencil, she
had been most anxious that he should spend this last evening with
her, a fact which she had impressed upon him.  And he, on his part,
had intended to make use of this last evening to surprise her with
a white-and-black toilet set.

But now, so thrilled was he at the possibility of a reencounter
with Sondra, he decided that he would cancel this last evening
engagement with Roberta, although not without some misgivings as to
the difficulty as well as the decency of it.  For despite the fact
that he was now so lured by Sondra, nevertheless he was still
deeply interested in Roberta and he did not like to grieve her in
this way.  She would look so disappointed, as he knew.  Yet at the
same time so flattered and enthused was he by this sudden, if
tardy, social development that he could not now think of refusing
Jill.  What?  Neglect to visit the Steeles in Gloversville and in
company with the Trumbulls and without any help from the Griffiths,
either?  It might be disloyal, cruel, treacherous to Roberta, but
was he not likely to meet Sondra?

In consequence he announced that he would go, but immediately
afterwards decided that he must go round and explain to Roberta,
make some suitable excuse--that the Griffiths, for instance, had
invited him for dinner.  That would be sufficiently overawing and
compelling to her.  But upon arriving, and finding her out, he
decided to explain the following morning at the factory--by note,
if necessary.  To make up for it he decided he might promise to
accompany her as far as Fonda on Saturday and give her her present
then.

But on Friday morning at the factory, instead of explaining to her
with the seriousness and even emotional dissatisfaction which would
have governed him before, he now whispered:  "I have to break that
engagement to-night, honey.  Been invited to my uncle's, and I have
to go.  And I'm not sure that I can get around afterwards.  I'll
try if I get through in time.  But I'll see you on the Fonda car
to-morrow if I don't.  I've got something I want to give you, so
don't feel too bad.  Just got word this morning or I'd have let you
know.  You're not going to feel bad, are you?"  He looked at her as
gloomily as possible in order to express his own sorrow over this.

But Roberta, her presents and her happy last evening with him put
aside in this casual way, and for the first time, too, in this
fashion, shook her head negatively, as if to say "Oh, no," but her
spirits were heavily depressed and she fell to wondering what this
sudden desertion of her at this time might portend.  For, up to
this time, Clyde had been attentiveness itself, concealing his
recent contact with Sondra behind a veil of pretended, unmodified
affection which had, as yet, been sufficient to deceive her.  It
might be true, as he said, that an unescapable invitation had come
up which necessitated all this.  But, oh, the happy evening she had
planned!  And now they would not be together again for three whole
days.  She grieved dubiously at the factory and in her room
afterwards, thinking that Clyde might at least have suggested
coming around to her room late, after his uncle's dinner in order
that she might give him the presents.  But his eventual excuse made
this day was that the dinner was likely to last too late.  He could
not be sure.  They had talked of going somewhere else afterwards.

But meanwhile Clyde, having gone to the Trumbulls', and later to
the Steeles', was flattered and reassured by a series of
developments such as a month before he would not have dreamed of
anticipating.  For at the Steeles' he was promptly introduced to a
score of personalities there who, finding him chaperoned by the
Trumbulls and learning that he was a Griffiths, as promptly invited
him to affairs of their own--or hinted at events that were to come
to which he might be invited, so that at the close he found himself
with cordial invitations to attend a New Year's dance at the
Vandams' in Gloversville, as well as a dinner and dance that was to
be given Christmas Eve by the Harriets in Lycurgus, an affair to
which Gilbert and his sister Bella, as well as Sondra, Bertine and
others were invited.

And lastly, there was Sondra herself appearing on the scene at
about midnight in company with Scott Nicholson, Freddie Sells and
Bertine, at first pretending to be wholly unaware of his presence,
yet deigning at last to greet him with an, "Oh, hello, I didn't
expect to find you here."  She was draped most alluringly in a deep
red Spanish shawl.  But Clyde could sense from the first that she
was quite aware of his presence, and at the first available
opportunity he drew near to her and asked yearningly, "Aren't you
going to dance with me at all?"

"Why, of course, if you want me to.  I thought maybe you had
forgotten me by now," she said mockingly.

"As though I'd be likely to forget you.  The only reason I'm here
to-night is because I thought I might see you again.  I haven't
thought of any one or anything else since I saw you last."

Indeed so infatuated was he with her ways and airs, that instead of
being irritated by her pretended indifference, he was all the more
attracted.  And he now achieved an intensity which to her was quite
compelling.  His eyelids narrowed and his eyes lit with a blazing
desire which was quite disturbing to see.

"My, but you can say the nicest things in the nicest way when you
want to."  She was toying with a large Spanish comb in her hair for
the moment and smiling.  "And you say them just as though you meant
them."

"Do you mean to say that you don't believe me, Sondra," he inquired
almost feverishly, this second use of her name thrilling her now as
much as it did him.  Although inclined to frown on so marked a
presumption in his case, she let it pass because it was pleasing to
her.

"Oh, yes, I do.  Of course," she said a little dubiously, and for
the first time nervously, where he was concerned.  She was
beginning to find it a little hard to decipher her proper line of
conduct in connection with him, whether to repress him more or
less.  "But you must say now what dance you want.  I see some one
coming for me."  And she held her small program up to him archly
and intriguingly.  "You may have the eleventh.  That's the next
after this."

"Is that all?"

"Well, and the fourteenth, then, greedy," she laughed into Clyde's
eyes, a laughing look which quite enslaved him.

Subsequently learning from Frank Harriet in the course of a dance
that Clyde had been invited to his house for Christmas Eve, as well
as that Jessica Phant had invited him to Utica for New Year's Eve,
she at once conceived of him as slated for real success and decided
that he was likely to prove less of a social burden than she had
feared.  He was charming--there was no doubt of it.  And he was so
devoted to her.  In consequence, as she now decided, it might be
entirely possible that some of these other girls, seeing him
recognized by some of the best people here and elsewhere, would
become sufficiently interested, or drawn to him even, to wish to
overcome his devotion to her.  Being of a vain and presumptuous
disposition herself, she decided that that should not be.  Hence,
in the course of her second dance with Clyde, she said:  "You've
been invited to the Harriets' for Christmas Eve, haven't you?"

"Yes, and I owe it all to you, too," he exclaimed warmly.  "Are you
going to be there?"

"Oh, I'm awfully sorry.  I am invited and I wish now that I was
going.  But you know I arranged some time ago to go over to Albany
and then up to Saratoga for the holidays.  I'm going to-morrow, but
I'll be back before New Year's.  Some friends of Freddie's are
giving a big affair over in Schenectady New Year's Eve, though.
And your cousin Bella and my brother Stuart and Grant and Bertine
are going.  If you'd like to go, you might go along with us over
there."

She had been about to say "me," but had changed it to "us."  She
was thinking that this would certainly demonstrate her control over
him to all those others, seeing that it nullified Miss Phant's
invitation.  And at once Clyde accepted, and with delight, since it
would bring him in contact with her again.

At the same time he was astonished and almost aghast over the fact
that in this casual and yet very intimate and definite way she was
planning for him to reencounter Bella, who would at once carry the
news of his going with her and these others to her family.  And
what would not that spell, seeing that even as yet the Griffiths
had not invited him anywhere--not even for Christmas?  For although
the fact of Clyde having been picked up by Sondra in her car as
well as later, that he had been invited to the Now and Then, had
come to their ears, still nothing had been done.  Gilbert Griffiths
was wroth, his father and mother puzzled as to their proper course
but remaining inactive nonetheless.

But the group, according to Sondra, might remain in Schenectady
until the following morning, a fact which she did not trouble to
explain to Clyde at first.  And by now he had forgotten that
Roberta, having returned from her long stay at Biltz by then, and
having been deserted by him over Christmas, would most assuredly be
expecting him to spend New Year's Eve with her.  That was a
complication which was to dawn later.  Now he only saw bliss in
Sandra's thought of him and at once eagerly and enthusiastically
agreed.

"But you know," she said cautiously, "you mustn't pay so very much
attention to me over there or here or anywhere or think anything of
it, if I don't to you.  I may not be able to see so very much of
you if you do.  I'll tell you about that sometime.  You see my
father and mother are funny people.  And so are some of my friends
here.  But if you'll just be nice and sort of indifferent--you
know--I may be able to see quite a little of you this winter yet.
Do you see?"

Thrilled beyond words by this confession, which came because of his
too ardent approaches as he well knew, he looked at her eagerly and
searchingly.

"But you care for me a little, then, don't you?" he half-demanded,
half-pleaded, his eyes lit with that alluring light which so
fascinated her.  And cautious and yet attracted, swayed sensually
and emotionally and yet dubious as to the wisdom of her course,
Sondra replied:  "Well, I'll tell you.  I do and I don't.  That is,
I can't tell yet.  I like you a lot.  Sometimes I think I like you
more than others.  You see we don't know each other very well yet.
But you'll come with me to Schenectady, though, won't you?"

"Oh, will I?"

"I'll write you more about that, or call you up.  You have a
telephone, haven't you?"

He gave her the number.

"And if by any chance there's any change or I have to break the
engagement, don't think anything of it.  I'll see you later--
somewhere, sure."  She smiled and Clyde felt as though he were
choking.  The mere thought of her being so frank with him, and
saying that she cared for him a lot, at times, was sufficient to
cause him to almost reel with joy.  To think that this beautiful
girl was so anxious to include him in her life if she could--this
wonderful girl who was surrounded by so many friends and admirers
from which she could take her pick.



Chapter 28


Six-thirty the following morning.  And Clyde, after but a single
hour's rest after his return from Gloversville, rising, his mind
full of mixed and troubled thoughts as to how to readjust his
affairs in connection with Roberta.  She was going to Biltz to-day.
He had promised to go as far as Fonda.  But now he did not want to
go.  Of course he would have to concoct some excuse.  But what?

Fortunately the day before he had heard Whiggam tell Liggett there
was to be a meeting of department heads after closing hours in
Smillie's office to-day, and that he was to be there.  Nothing was
said to Clyde, since his department was included in Liggett's, but
now he decided that he could offer this as a reason and accordingly,
about an hour before noon, he dropped a note on her desk which read:


"HONEY:  Awfully sorry, but just told that I have to be at a
meeting of department heads downstairs at three.  That means I
can't go to Fonda with you, but will drop around to the room for a
few minutes right after closing.  Have something I want to give
you, so be sure and wait.  But don't feel too bad.  It can't be
helped.  See you sure when you come back Wednesday.

"CLYDE."


At first, since she could not read it at once, Roberta was pleased
because she imagined it contained some further favorable word about
the afternoon.  But on opening it in the ladies' rest room a few
minutes afterwards, her face fell.  Coupled as this was with the
disappointment of the preceding evening, when Clyde had failed to
appear, together with his manner of the morning which to her had
seemed self-absorbed, if not exactly distant, she began to wonder
what it was that was bringing about this sudden change.  Perhaps he
could not avoid attending a meeting any more than he could avoid
going to his uncle's when he was asked.  But the day before,
following his word to her that he could not be with her that
evening, his manner was gayer, less sober, than his supposed
affection in the face of her departure would warrant.  After all he
had known before that she was to be gone for three days.  He also
knew that nothing weighed on her more than being absent from him
any length of time.

At once her mood from one of hopefulness changed to one of deep
depression--the blues.  Life was always doing things like this to
her.  Here it was--two days before Christmas, and now she would
have to go to Biltz, where there was nothing much but such cheer as
she could bring, and all by herself, and after scarcely a moment
with him.  She returned to her bench, her face showing all the
unhappiness that had suddenly overtaken her.  Her manner was
listless and her movements indifferent--a change which Clyde
noticed; but still, because of his sudden and desperate feeling for
Sondra, he could not now bring himself to repent.

At one, the giant whistles of some of the neighboring factories
sounding the Saturday closing hours, both he and Roberta betook
themselves separately to her room.  And he was thinking to himself
as he went what to say now.  What to do?  How in the face of this
suddenly frosted and blanched affection to pretend an interest he
did not feel--how, indeed, continue with a relationship which now,
as alive and vigorous as it might have been as little as fifteen
days before, appeared exceedingly anemic and colorless.  It would
not do to say or indicate in any way that he did not care for her
any more--for that would be so decidedly cruel and might cause
Roberta to say what?  Do what?  And on the other hand, neither
would it do, in the face of his longings and prospects in the
direction of Sondra to continue in a type of approach and
declaration that was not true or sound and that could only tend to
maintain things as they were.  Impossible!  Besides, at the first
hint of reciprocal love on the part of Sondra, would he not be
anxious and determined to desert Roberta if he could?  And why not?
As contrasted with one of Sondra's position and beauty, what had
Roberta really to offer him?  And would it be fair in one of her
station and considering the connections and the possibilities that
Sondra offered, for her to demand or assume that he should continue
a deep and undivided interest in her as opposed to this other?
That would not really be fair, would it?

It was thus that he continued to speculate while Roberta, preceding
him to her room, was asking herself what was this now that had so
suddenly come upon her--over Clyde--this sudden indifference, this
willingness to break a pre-Christmas date, and when she was about
to leave for home and not to see him for three days and over
Christmas, too, to make him not wish to ride with her even so far
as Fonda.  He might say that it was that meeting, but was it?  She
could have waited until four if necessary, but something in his
manner had precluded that--something distant and evasive.  Oh, what
did this all mean?  And, so soon after the establishing of this
intimacy, which at first and up to now at least had seemed to be
drawing them indivisibly together.  Did it spell a change--danger
to or the end even of their wonderful love dream?  Oh, dear!  And
she had given him so much and now his loyalty meant everything--her
future--her life.

She stood in her room pondering this new problem as Clyde arrived,
his Christmas package under his arm, but still fixed in his
determination to modify his present relationship with Roberta, if
he could--yet, at the same time anxious to put as inconsequential a
face on the proceeding as possible.

"Gee, I'm awfully sorry about this, Bert," he began briskly, his
manner a mixture of attempted gayety, sympathy and uncertainty.
"I hadn't an idea until about a couple of hours ago that they were
going to have this meeting.  But you know how it is.  You just
can't get out of a thing like this.  You're not going to feel too
bad, are you?"  For already, from her expression at the factory as
well as here, he had gathered that her mood was of the darkest.
"I'm glad I got the chance to bring this around to you, though," he
added, handing the gift to her.  "I meant to bring it around last
night only that other business came up.  Gee, I'm sorry about the
whole thing.  Really, I am."

Delighted as she might have been the night before if this gift had
been given to her, Roberta now put the box on the table, all the
zest that might have been joined with it completely banished.

"Did you have a good time last night, dear?" she queried, curious
as to the outcome of the event that had robbed her of him.

"Oh, pretty good," returned Clyde, anxious to put as deceptive a
face as possible on the night that had meant so much to him and
spelled so much danger to her.  "I thought I was just going over to
my uncle's for dinner like I told you.  But after I got there I
found that what they really wanted me for was to escort Bella and
Myra over to some doings in Gloversvile.  There's a rich family
over there, the Steeles--big glove people, you know.  Well, anyhow,
they were giving a dance and they wanted me to take them over
because Gil couldn't go.  But it wasn't so very interesting.  I was
glad when it was all over."  He used the names Bella, Myra and
Gilbert as though they were long and assured intimates of his--an
intimacy which invariably impressed Roberta greatly.

"You didn't get through in time then to come around here, did you?"

"No, I didn't, 'cause I had to wait for the bunch to come back.
I just couldn't get away.  But aren't you going to open your
present?" he added, anxious to divert her thoughts from this
desertion which he knew was preying on her mind.

She began to untie the ribbon that bound his gift, at the same time
that her mind was riveted by the possibilities of the party which
he had felt called upon to mention.  What girls beside Bella and
Myra had been there?  Was there by any chance any girl outside of
herself in whom he might have become recently interested?  He was
always talking about Sondra Finchley, Bertine Cranston and Jill
Trumbull.  Were they, by any chance, at this party?

"Who all were over there beside your cousins?" she suddenly asked.

"Oh, a lot of people that you don't know.  Twenty or thirty from
different places around here."

"Any others from Lycurgus beside your cousins?" she persisted.

"Oh, a few.  We picked up Jill Trumbull and her sister, because
Bella wanted to.  Arabella Stark and Perley Haynes were already
over there when we got there."  He made no mention of Sondra or any
of the others who so interested him.

But because of the manner in saying it--something in the tone of
his voice and flick of his eyes, the answer did not satisfy
Roberta.  She was really intensely troubled by this new development,
but did not feel that under the circumstances it was wise to
importune Clyde too much.  He might resent it.  After all he had
always been identified with this world since ever she had known him.
And she did not want him to feel that she was attempting to assert
any claims over him, though such was her true desire.

"I wanted so much to be with you last night to give you your
present," she returned instead, as much to divert her own thoughts
as to appeal to his regard for her.  Clyde sensed the sorrow in her
voice and as of old it appealed to him, only now he could not and
would not let it take hold of him as much as otherwise it might
have.

"But you know how that was, Bert," he replied, with almost an air
of bravado.  "I just told you."

"I know," she replied sadly and attempting to conceal the true mood
that was dominating her.  At the same time she was removing the
paper and opening the lid to the case that contained her toilet
set.  And once opened, her mood changed slightly because never
before had she possessed anything so valuable or original.  "Oh,
this is beautiful, isn't it?" she exclaimed, interested for the
moment in spite of herself.  "I didn't expect anything like this.
My two little presents won't seem like very much now."

She crossed over at once to get her gifts.  Yet Clyde could see
that although his gift was exceptional, still it was not sufficient
to overcome the depression which his indifference had brought upon
her.  His continued love was far more vital than any present.

"You like it, do you?" he asked, eagerly hoping against hope that
it would serve to divert her.

"Of course, dear," she replied, looking at it interestedly.  "But
mine won't seem so much," she added gloomily, and not a little
depressed by the general outcome of all her plans.  "But they'll be
useful to you and you'll always have them near you, next your
heart, where I want them to be."

She handed over the small box which contained the metal Eversharp
pencil and the silver ornamental fountain pen she had chosen for
him because she fancied they would be useful to him in his work at
the factory.  Two weeks before he would have taken her in his arms
and sought to console her for the misery he was now causing her.
But now he merely stood there wondering how, without seeming too
distant, he could assuage her and yet not enter upon the customary
demonstrations.  And in order so to do he burst into enthusiastic
and yet somehow hollow words in regard to her present to him.

"Oh, gee, these are swell, honey, and just what I need.  You
certainly couldn't have given me anything that would come in
handier.  I can use them all the time."  He appeared to examine
them with the utmost pleasure and afterwards fastened them in his
pocket ready for use.  Also, because for the moment she was before
him so downcast and wistful, epitomizing really all the lure of the
old relationship, he put his arms around her and kissed her.  She
was winsome, no doubt of it.  And then when she threw her arms
around his neck and burst into tears, he held her close, saying
that there was no cause for all this and that she would be back
Wednesday and all would be as before.  At the same time he was
thinking that this was not true, and how strange that was--seeing
that only so recently he had cared for her so much.  It was amazing
how another girl could divert him in this way.  And yet so it was.
And although she might be thinking that he was still caring for her
as he did before, he was not and never would again.  And because of
this he felt really sorry for her.

Something of this latest mood in him reached Roberta now, even as
she listened to his words and felt his caresses.  They failed to
convey sincerity.  His manner was too restless, his embraces too
apathetic, his tone without real tenderness.  Further proof as to
this was added when, after a moment or two, he sought to disengage
himself and look at his watch, saying, "I guess I'll have to be
going now, honey.  It's twenty of three now and that meeting is for
three.  I wish I could ride over with you, but I'll see you when
you get back."

He bent down to kiss her but with Roberta sensing once and for all,
this time, that his mood in regard to her was different, colder.
He was interested and kind, but his thoughts were elsewhere--and at
this particular season of the year, too--of all times.  She tried
to gather her strength and her self-respect together and did, in
part--saying rather coolly, and determinedly toward the last:
"Well, I don't want you to be late, Clyde.  You better hurry.  But
I don't want to stay over there either later than Christmas night.
Do you suppose if I come back early Christmas afternoon, you will
come over here at all?  I don't want to be late Wednesday for
work."

"Why, sure, of course, honey, I'll be around," replied Clyde
genially and even wholeheartedly, seeing that he had nothing else
scheduled, that he knew of, for then, and would not so soon and
boldly seek to evade her in this fashion.  "What time do you expect
to get in?"

The hour was to be eight and he decided that for that occasion,
anyhow, a reunion would be acceptable.  He drew out his watch again
and saying, "I'll have to be going now, though," moved toward the
door.

Nervous as to the significance of all this and concerned about the
future, she now went over to him and seizing his coat lapels and
looking into his eyes, half-pleaded and half-demanded:  "Now, this
is sure for Christmas night, is it, Clyde?  You won't make any
other engagement this time, will you?"

"Oh, don't worry.  You know me.  You know I couldn't help that
other, honey, but I'll be on hand Tuesday, sure," he returned.  And
kissing her, he hurried out, feeling, perhaps, that he was not
acting as wisely as he should, but not seeing clearly how otherwise
he was to do.  A man couldn't break off with a girl as he was
trying to do, or at least might want to, without exercising some
little tact or diplomacy, could he?  There was no sense in that nor
any real skill, was there?  There must be some other and better way
than that, surely.  At the same time his thoughts were already
running forward to Sondra and New Year's Eve.  He was going with
her to Schenectady to a party and then he would have a chance to
judge whether she was caring for him as much as she had seemed to
the night before.

After he had gone, Roberta turned in a rather lorn and weary way
and looked out the window after him, wondering as to what her
future with him was to be, if at all?  Supposing now, for any
reason, he should cease caring for her.  She had given him so much.
And her future was now dependent upon him, his continued regard.
Was he going to get tired of her now--not want to see her any more?
Oh, how terrible that would be.  What would she--what could she do
then?  If only she had not given herself to him, yielded so easily
and so soon upon his demand.

She gazed out of her window at the bare snow-powdered branches of
the trees outside and sighed.  The holidays!  And going away like
this.  Oh!  Besides he was so high placed in this local society.
And there were so many things brighter and better than she could
offer calling him.

She shook her head dubiously, surveyed her face in the mirror, put
together the few presents and belongings which she was taking with
her to her home, and departed.



Chapter 29


Biltz and the fungoid farm land after Clyde and Lycurgus was
depressing enough to Roberta, for all there was too closely
identified with deprivations and repressions which discolor the
normal emotions centering about old scenes.

As she stepped down from the train at the drab and aged chalet
which did service for a station, she observed her father in the
same old winter overcoat he had worn for a dozen years, waiting for
her with the old family conveyance, a decrepit but still whole
buggy and a horse as bony and weary as himself.  He had, as she had
always thought, the look of a tired and defeated man.  His face
brightened when he saw Roberta, for she had always been his
favorite child, and he chatted quite cheerfully as she climbed in
alongside of him and they turned around and started toward the road
that led to the farmhouse, a rough and winding affair of dirt at a
time when excellent automobile roads were a commonplace elsewhere.

As they rode along Roberta found herself checking off mentally
every tree, curve, landmark with which she had been familiar.  But
with no happy thoughts.  It was all too drab.  The farm itself,
coupled with the chronic illness and inefficiency of Titus and the
inability of the youngest boy Tom or her mother to help much, was
as big a burden as ever.  A mortgage of $2000 that had been placed
on it years before had never been paid off, the north chimney was
still impaired, the steps were sagging even more than ever and the
walls and fences and outlying buildings were no different--save to
be made picturesque now by the snows of winter covering them.  Even
the furniture remained the same jumble that it had always been.
And there were her mother and younger sister and brother, who knew
nothing of her true relationship to Clyde--a mere name his here--
and assuming that she was wholeheartedly delighted to be back with
them once more.  Yet because of what she knew of her own life and
Clyde's uncertain attitude toward her, she was now, if anything,
more depressed than before.

Indeed, the fact that despite her seeming recent success she had
really compromised herself in such a way that unless through
marriage with Clyde she was able to readjust herself to the moral
level which her parents understood and approved, she, instead of
being the emissary of a slowly and modestly improving social
condition for all, might be looked upon as one who had reduced it
to a lower level still--its destroyer--was sufficient to depress
and reduce her even more.  A very depressing and searing thought.

Worse and more painful still was the thought in connection with all
this that, by reason of the illusions which from the first had
dominated her in connection with Clyde, she had not been able to
make a confidant of her mother or any one else in regard to him.
For she was dubious as to whether her mother would not consider
that her aspirations were a bit high.  And she might ask questions
in regard to him and herself which might prove embarrassing.  At
the same time, unless she had some confidant in whom she could
truly trust, all her troublesome doubts in regard to herself and
Clyde must remain a secret.

After talking for a few moments with Tom and Emily, she went into
the kitchen where her mother was busy with various Christmas
preparations.  Her thought was to pave the way with some
observations of her own in regard to the farm here and her life at
Lycurgus, but as she entered, her mother looked up to say:  "How
does it feel, Bob, to come back to the country?  I suppose it all
looks rather poor compared to Lycurgus," she added a little
wistfully.

Roberta could tell from the tone of her mother's voice and the
rather admiring look she cast upon her that she was thinking of her
as one who had vastly improved her state.  At once she went over to
her and, putting her arms about her affectionately, exclaimed:
"Oh, Mamma, wherever you are is just the nicest place.  Don't you
know that?"

For answer her mother merely looked at her with affectionate and
well-wishing eyes and patted her on the back.  "Well, Bobbie," she
added, quietly, "you know how you are about me."

Something in her mother's voice which epitomized the long years of
affectionate understanding between them--an understanding based,
not only on a mutual desire for each other's happiness, but a
complete frankness in regard to all emotions and moods which had
hitherto dominated both--touched her almost to the point of tears.
Her throat tightened and her eyes moistened, although she sought to
overcome any show of emotion whatsoever.  She longed to tell her
everything.  At the same time the compelling passion she retained
for Clyde, as well as the fact that she had compromised herself as
she had, now showed her that she had erected a barrier which could
not easily be torn down.  The conventions of this local world were
much too strong--even where her mother was concerned.

She hesitated a moment, wishing that she could quickly and clearly
present to her mother the problem that was weighing upon her and
receive her sympathy, if not help.  But instead she merely said:
"Oh, I wish you could have been with me all the time in Lycurgus,
Mamma.  Maybe--"  She paused, realizing that she had been on the
verge of speaking without due caution.  Her thought was that with
her mother near at hand she might have been able to have resisted
Clyde's insistent desires.

"Yes, I suppose you do miss me," her mother went on, "but it's
better for you, don't you think?  You know how it is over here, and
you like your work.  You do like your work, don't you?"

"Oh, the work is nice enough.  I like that part of it.  It's been
so nice to be able to help here a little, but it's not so nice
living all alone."

"Why did you leave the Newtons, Bob?  Was Grace so disagreeable?  I
should have thought she would have been company for you."

"Oh, she was at first," replied Roberta.  "Only she didn't have any
men friends of her own, and she was awfully jealous of anybody that
paid the least attention to me.  I couldn't go anywhere but she had
to go along, or if it wasn't that then she always wanted me to be
with her, so I couldn't go anywhere by myself.  You know how it is,
Mamma.  Two girls can't go with one young man."

"Yes, I know how it is, Bob."  Her mother laughed a little, then
added:  "Who is he?"

"It's Mr. Griffiths, Mother," she added, after a moment's
hesitation, a sense of the exceptional nature of her contact as
contrasted with this very plain world here passing like a light
across her eyes.  For all her fears, even the bare possibility of
joining her life with Clyde's was marvelous.  "But I don't want you
to mention his name to anybody yet," she added.  "He doesn't want
me to.  His relatives are so very rich, you know.  They own the
company--that is, his uncle does.  But there's a rule there about
any one who works for the company--any one in charge of a
department.  I mean not having anything to do with any of the
girls.  And he wouldn't with any of the others.  But he likes me--
and I like him, and it's different with us.  Besides I'm going to
resign pretty soon and get a place somewhere else, I think, and
then it won't make any difference.  I can tell anybody, and so can
he."

Roberta was thinking now that, in the face of her recent treatment
at the hands of Clyde, as well as because of the way in which she
had given herself to him without due precaution as to her ultimate
rehabilitation via marriage, that perhaps this was not exactly
true.  He might not--a vague, almost formless, fear this, as yet--
want her to tell anybody now--ever.  And unless he were going to
continue to love her and marry her, she might not want any one to
know of it, either.  The wretched, shameful, difficult position in
which she had placed herself by all this.

On the other hand, Mrs. Alden, learning thus casually of the odd
and seemingly clandestine nature of this relationship, was not only
troubled but puzzled, so concerned was she for Roberta's happiness.
For, although, as she now said to herself, Roberta was such a good,
pure and careful girl--the best and most unselfish and wisest of
all her children--still might it not be possible--?  But, no, no
one was likely to either easily or safely compromise or betray
Roberta.  She was too conservative and good, and so now she added:
"A relative of the owner, you say--the Mr. Samuel Griffiths you
wrote about?"

"Yes, Mamma.  He's his nephew."

"The young man at the factory?" her mother asked, at the same time
wondering just how Roberta had come to attract a man of Clyde's
position, for, from the very first she had made it plain that he
was a member of the family who owned the factory.  This in itself
was a troublesome fact.  The traditional result of such
relationships, common the world over, naturally caused her to be
intensely fearful of just such an association as Roberta seemed to
be making.  Nevertheless she was not at all convinced that a girl
of Roberta's looks and practicality would not be able to negotiate
an association of the sort without harm to herself.

"Yes," Roberta replied simply.

"What's he like, Bob?"

"Oh, awfully nice.  So good-looking, and he's been so nice to me.
I don't think the place would be as nice as it is except that he is
so refined, he keeps those factory girls in their place.  He's a
nephew of the president of the company, you see, and the girls just
naturally have to respect him."

"Well, that IS nice, isn't it?  I think it's so much better to work
for refined people than just anybody.  I know you didn't think so
much of the work over at Trippetts Mills.  Does he come to see you
often, Bob?"

"Well, yes, pretty often," Roberta replied, flushing slightly, for
she realized that she could not be entirely frank with her mother.

Mrs. Alden, looking up at the moment, noticed this, and, mistaking
it for embarrassment, asked teasingly:  "You like him, don't you?"

"Yes, I do, Mother," Roberta replied, simply and honestly.

"What about him?  Does he like you?"

Roberta crossed to the kitchen window.  Below it at the base of the
slope which led to the springhouse, and the one most productive
field of the farm, were ranged all the dilapidated buildings which
more than anything else about the place bespoke the meager material
condition to which the family had fallen.  In fact, during the last
ten years these things had become symbols of inefficiency and lack.
Somehow at this moment, bleak and covered with snow, they
identified themselves in her mind as the antithesis of all to which
her imagination aspired.  And, not strangely either, the last was
identified with Clyde.  Somberness as opposed to happiness--success
in love or failure in love.  Assuming that he truly loved her now
and would take her away from all this, then possibly the bleakness
of it all for her and her mother would be broken.  But assuming
that he did not, then all the results of her yearning, but possibly
mistaken, dreams would be not only upon her own head, but upon
those of these others, her mother's first.  She troubled what to
say, but finally observed:  "Well, he says he does."

"Do you think he intends to marry you?" Mrs. Alden asked, timidly
and hopefully, because of all her children her heart and hopes
rested most with Roberta.

"Well, I'll tell you, Mamma . . ."  The sentence was not finished,
for just then Emily, hurrying in from the front door, called:  "Oh,
Gifs here.  He came in an automobile.  Somebody drove him over, I
guess, and he's got four or five big bundles."

And immediately after came Tom with the elder brother, who, in a
new overcoat, the first result of his career with the General
Electric Company in Schenectady, greeted his mother affectionately,
and after her, Roberta.

"Why, Gifford," his mother exclaimed.  "We didn't expect you until
the nine o'clock.  How did you get here so soon?"

"Well, I didn't think I would be.  I ran into Mr. Rearick down in
Schenectady and he wanted to know if I didn't want to drive back
with him.  I see old Pop Myers over at Trippetts Mills has got the
second story to his house at last, Bob," he turned and added to
Roberta:  "I suppose it'll be another year before he gets the roof
on."

"I suppose so," replied Roberta, who knew the old Trippetts Mills
character well.  In the meantime she had relieved him of his coat
and packages which, piled on the dining-room table, were being
curiously eyed by Emily.

"Hands off, Em!" called Gifford to his little sister.  "Nothing
doing with those until Christmas morning.  Has anybody cut a
Christmas tree yet?  That was my job last year."

"It still is, Gifford," his mother replied.  "I told Tom to wait
until you came, 'cause you always get such a good one."

And just then through the kitchen door Titus entered, bearing an
armload of wood, his gaunt face and angular elbows and knees
contributing a sharp contrast to the comparative hopefulness of the
younger generation.  Roberta noticed it as he stood smiling upon
his son, and, because she was so eager for something better than
ever had been to come to all, now went over to her father and put
her arms around him.  "I know something Santy has brought my Dad
that he'll like."  It was a dark red plaid mackinaw that she was
sure would keep him warm while executing his chores about the
house, and she was anxious for Christmas morning to come so that he
could see it.

She then went to get an apron in order to help her mother with the
evening meal.  No additional moment for complete privacy occurring,
the opportunity to say more concerning that which both were so
interested in--the subject of Clyde--did not come up again for
several hours, after which length of time she found occasion to
say:  "Yes, but you mustn't ever say anything to anybody yet.  I
told him I wouldn't tell, and you mustn't."

"No, I won't, dear.  But I was just wondering.  But I suppose you
know what you're doing.  You're old enough now to take care of
yourself, Bob, aren't you?"

"Yes, I am, Ma.  And you mustn't worry about me, dear," she added,
seeing a shadow, not of distrust but worry, passing over her
beloved mother's face.  How careful she must be not to cause her to
worry when she had so much else to think about here on the farm.

Sunday morning brought the Gabels with full news of their social
and material progress in Homer.  Although her sister was not as
attractive as she, and Fred Gabel was not such a man as at any
stage in her life Roberta could have imagined herself interested
in, still, after her troublesome thoughts in regard to Clyde, the
sight of Agnes emotionally and materially content and at ease in
the small security which matrimony and her none-too-efficient
husband provided, was sufficient to rouse in her that flapping,
doubtful mood that had been assailing her since the previous
morning.  Was it not better, she thought, to be married to a man
even as inefficient and unattractive but steadfast as Fred Gabel,
than to occupy the anomalous position in which she now found
herself in her relations with Clyde?  For here was Gabel now
talking briskly of the improvements that had come to himself and
Agnes during the year in which they had been married.  In that time
he had been able to resign his position as teacher in Homer and
take over on shares the management of a small book and stationery
store whose principal contributory features were a toy department
and soda fountain.  They had been doing a good business.  Agnes, if
all went well, would be able to buy a mission parlor suite by next
summer.  Fred had already bought her a phonograph for Christmas.
In proof of their well-being, they had brought satisfactory
remembrances for all of the Aldens.

But Gabel had with him a copy of the Lycurgus Star, and at
breakfast, which because of the visitors this morning was unusually
late, was reading the news of that city, for in Lycurgus was
located the wholesale house from which he secured a portion of his
stock.

"Well, I see things are going full blast in your town, Bob," he
observed.  "The Star here says the Griffiths Company have got an
order for 120,000 collars from the Buffalo trade alone.  They must
be just coining money over there."

"There's always plenty to do in my department, I know that,"
replied Roberta, briskly.  "We never seem to have any the less to
do whether business is good or bad.  I guess it must be good all
the time."

"Pretty soft for those people.  They don't have to worry about
anything.  Some one was telling me they're going to build a new
factory in Ilion to manufacture shirts alone.  Heard anything about
that down there?"

"Why, no, I haven't.  Maybe it's some other company."

"By the way, what's the name of that young man you said was the
head of your department?  Wasn't he a Griffiths, too?" he asked
briskly, turning to the editorial page, which also carried news of
local Lycurgus society.

"Yes, his name is Griffiths--Clyde Griffiths.  Why?"

"I think I saw his name in here a minute ago.  I just wanted to see
if it ain't the same fellow.  Sure, here you are.  Ain't this the
one?"  He passed the paper to Roberta with his finger on an item
which read:


"Miss Vanda Steele, of Gloversville, was hostess at an informal
dance held at her home in that city Friday night, at which were
present several prominent members of Lycurgus society, among them
the Misses Sondra Finchiey, Bertine Cranston, Jill and Gertrude
Trumbull and Perley Haynes, and Messrs. Clyde Griffiths, Frank
Harriet, Tracy Trumbull, Grant Cranston and Scott Nicholson.  The
party, as is usual whenever the younger group assembles, did not
break up until late, the Lycurgus members motoring back just before
dawn.  It is already rumored that most of this group will gather at
the Ellerslies', in Schenectady, New Year's Eve for another event
of this same gay nature."


"He seems to be quite a fellow over there," Gabel remarked, even as
Roberta was reading.

The first thing that occurred to Roberta on reading this item was
that it appeared to have little, if anything, to do with the group
which Clyde had said was present.  In the first place there was no
mention of Myra or Bella Griffiths.  On the other hand, all those
names with which, because of recent frequent references on the part
of Clyde, she was becoming most familiar were recorded as present.
Sondra Finchley, Bertine Cranston, the Trumbull girls, Perley
Haynes.  He had said it had not been very interesting, and here it
was spoken of as gay and he himself was listed for another
engagement of the same character New Year's Eve, when, as a matter
of fact, she had been counting on being with him.  He had not even
mentioned this New Year's engagement.  And perhaps he would now
make some last minute excuse for that, as he had for the previous
Friday evening.  Oh, dear!  What did all this mean, anyhow!

Immediately what little romantic glamour this Christmas homecoming
had held for her was dissipated.  She began to wonder whether Clyde
really cared for her as he had pretended.  The dark state to which
her incurable passion for him had brought her now pained her
terribly.  For without him and marriage and a home and children,
and a reasonable place in such a local world as she was accustomed
to, what was there for a girl like her in the world?  And apart
from his own continuing affection for her--if it was really
continuing, what assurance had she, in the face of such incidents
as these, that he would not eventually desert her?  And if this was
true, here was her future, in so far as marriage with any one else
was concerned, compromised or made impossible, maybe, and with no
reliance to be placed on him.

She fell absolutely silent.  And although Gabel inquired:  "That's
the fellow, isn't it?" she arose without answering and said:
"Excuse me, please, a moment.  I want to get something out of my
bag," and hurried once more to her former room upstairs.  Once
there she sat down on the bed, and, resting her chin in her hands,
a habit when troublesome or necessary thoughts controlled her,
gazed at the floor.

Where was Clyde now?

What one, if any, of those girls did he take to the Steele party?
Was he very much interested in her?  Until this very day, because
of Clyde's unbroken devotion to her, she had not even troubled to
think there could be any other girl to whom his attentions could
mean anything.

But now--now!

She got up and walked to the window and looked out on that same
orchard where as a girl so many times she had been thrilled by the
beauty of life.  The scene was miserably bleak and bare.  The thin,
icy arms of the trees--the gray, swaying twigs--a lone, rustling
leaf somewhere.  And snow.  And wretched outbuildings in need of
repair.  And Clyde becoming indifferent to her.  And the thought
now came to her swiftly and urgently that she must not stay here
any longer than she could help--not even this day, if possible.
She must return to Lycurgus and be near Clyde, if no more than to
persuade him to his old affection for her, or if not that, then by
her presence to prevent him from devoting himself too wholly to
these others.  Decidedly, to go away like this, even for the
holidays, was not good.  In her absence he might desert her
completely for another girl, and if so, then would it not be her
fault?  At once she pondered as to what excuse she could make in
order to return this day.  But realizing that in view of all these
preliminary preparations this would seem inexplicably unreasonable,
to her mother most of all, she decided to endure it as she had
planned until Christmas afternoon, then to return, never to leave
for so long a period again.

But ad interim, all her thoughts were on how and in what way she
could make more sure, if at all, of Clyde's continued interest and
social and emotional support, as well as marriage in the future.
Supposing he had lied to her, how could she influence him, if at
all, not to do so again?  How to make him feel that lying between
them was not right?  How to make herself securely first in his
heart against the dreams engendered by the possible charms of
another?

How?



Chapter 30


But Roberta's return to Lycurgus and her room at the Gilpins'
Christmas night brought no sign of Clyde nor any word of
explanation.  For in connection with the Griffiths in the meantime
there had been a development relating to all this which, could she
or Clyde have known, would have interested both not a little.  For
subsequent to the Steele dance that same item read by Roberta fell
under the eyes of Gilbert.  He was seated at the breakfast table
the Sunday morning after the party and was about to sip from a cup
of coffee when he encountered it.  On the instant his teeth snapped
about as a man might snap his watch lid, and instead of drinking he
put his cup down and examined the item with more care.  Other than
his mother there was no one at the table or in the room with him,
but knowing that she, more than any of the others, shared his views
in regard to Clyde, he now passed the paper over to her.

"Look at who's breaking into society now, will you?" he admonished
sharply and sarcastically, his eyes radiating the hard and
contemptuous opposition he felt.  "We'll be having him up here
next!"

"Who?" inquired Mrs. Griffiths, as she took the paper and examined
the item calmly and judicially, yet not without a little of
outwardly suppressed surprise when she saw the name.  For although
the fact of Clyde's having been picked up by Sondra in her car
sometime before and later been invited to dinner at the Trumbulls',
had been conveyed to the family sometime before, still a society
notice in The Star was different.  "Now I wonder how it was that he
came to be invited to that?" meditated Mrs. Griffiths who was
always conscious of her son's mood in regard to all this.

"Now, who would do it but that little Finchley snip, the little
smart aleck?" snapped Gilbert.  "She's got the idea from somewhere--
from Bella for all I know--that we don't care to have anything to
do with him, and she thinks this is a clever way to hit back at me
for some of the things I've done to her, or that she thinks I've
done.  At any rate, she thinks I don't like her, and that's right,
I don't.  And Bella knows it, too.  And that goes for that little
Cranston show-off, too.  They're both always running around with
her.  They're a set of show-offs and wasters, the whole bunch, and
that goes for their brothers, too--Grant Cranston and Stew
Finchley--and if something don't go wrong with one or another of
that bunch one of these days, I miss my guess.  You mark my word!
They don't do a thing, the whole lot of them, from one year's end
to the other but play around and dance and run here and there, as
though there wasn't anything else in the world for them to do.  And
why you and Dad let Bella run with 'em as much as she does is more
than I can see."

To this his mother protested.  It was not possible for her to
entirely estrange Bella from one portion of this local social group
and direct her definitely toward the homes of certain others.  They
all mingled too freely.  And she was getting along in years and had
a mind of her own.

Just the same his mother's apology and especially in the face of
the publication of this item by no means lessened Gilbert's
opposition to Clyde's social ambitions and opportunities.  What!
That poor little moneyless cousin of his who had committed first
the unpardonable offense of looking like him and, second, of coming
here to Lycurgus and fixing himself on this very superior family.
And after he had shown him all too plainly, and from the first,
that he personally did not like him, did not want him, and if left
to himself would never for so much as a moment endure him.

"He hasn't any money," he declared finally and very bitterly to his
mother, "and he's hanging on here by the skin of his teeth as it
is.  And what for?  If he is taken up by these people, what can he
do?  He certainly hasn't the money to do as they do, and he can't
get it.  And if he could, his job here wouldn't let him go anywhere
much, unless some one troubled to pay his way.  And how he is going
to do his work and run with that crowd is more than I know.  That
bunch is on the go all the time."

Actually he was wondering whether Clyde would be included from now
on, and if so, what was to be done about it.  If he were to be
taken up in this way, how was he, or the family, either, to escape
from being civil to him?  For obviously, as earlier and subsequent
developments proved, his father did not choose to send him away.

Indeed, subsequent to this conversation, Mrs. Griffiths had laid
the paper, together with a version of Gilbert's views before her
husband at this same breakfast table.  But he, true to his previous
mood in regard to Clyde, was not inclined to share his son's
opinion.  On the contrary, he seemed, as Mrs. Griffiths saw it, to
look upon the development recorded by the item as a justification
in part of his own original estimate of Clyde.

"I must say," he began, after listening to his wife to the end, "I
can't see what's wrong with his going to a party now and then, or
being invited here and there even if he hasn't any money.  It looks
more like a compliment to him and to us than anything else.  I know
how Gil feels about him.  But it rather looks to me as though
Clyde's just a little better than Gil thinks he is.  At any rate, I
can't and I wouldn't want to do anything about it.  I've asked him
to come down here, and the least I can do is to give him an
opportunity to better himself.  He seems to be doing his work all
right.  Besides, how would it look if I didn't?"

And later, because of some additional remarks on the part of
Gilbert to his mother, he added:  "I'd certainly rather have him
going with some of the better people than some of the worse ones--
that's one thing sure.  He's neat and polite and from all I hear at
the factory does his work well enough.  As a matter of fact, I
think it would have been better if we had invited him up to the
lake last summer for a few days anyhow, as I suggested.  As it is
now, if we don't do something pretty soon, it will look as though
we think he isn't good enough for us when the other people here
seem to think he is.  If you'll take my advice, you'll have him up
here for Christmas or New Year's, anyhow, just to show that we
don't think any less of him than our friends do."

This suggestion, once transferred to Gilbert by his mother, caused
him to exclaim:  "Well, I'll be hanged!  All right, only don't
think I'm going to lay myself out to be civil to him.  It's a
wonder, if Father thinks he's so able, that he don't make a real
position for him somewhere."

Just the same, nothing might have come of this had it not been that
Bella, returning from Albany this same day, learned via contacts
and telephone talks with Sondra and Bertine of the developments in
connection with Clyde.  Also that he had been invited to accompany
them to the New Year's Eve dance at the Ellerslies' in Schenectady,
Bella having been previously scheduled to make a part of this group
before Clyde was thought of.

This sudden development, reported by Bella to her mother, was of
sufficient import to cause Mrs. Griffiths as well as Samuel, if not
Gilbert, later to decide to make the best of a situation which
obviously was being forced upon them and themselves invite Clyde
for dinner--Christmas Day--a sedate affair to which many others
were bid.  For this as they now decided would serve to make plain
to all and at once that Clyde was not being as wholly ignored as
some might imagine.  It was the only reasonable thing to do at this
late date.  And Gilbert, on hearing this, and realizing that in
this instance he was checkmated, exclaimed sourly:  "Oh, all right.
Invite him if you want to--if that's the way you and Dad feel about
it.  I don't see any real necessity for it even now.  But you fix
it to suit yourself.  Constance and I are going over to Utica for
the afternoon, anyhow, so I couldn't be there even if I wanted to."

He was thinking of what an outrageous thing it was that a girl whom
he disliked as much as he did Sondra could thus via her determination
and plottings thrust his own cousin on him and he be unable to
prevent it.  And what a beggar Clyde must be to attempt to attach
himself in this way when he knew that he was not wanted!  What sort
of a youth was he, anyhow?

And so it was that on Monday morning Clyde had received another
letter from the Griffiths, this time signed by Myra, asking him to
have dinner with them at two o'clock Christmas Day.  But, since
this at that time did not seem to interfere with his meeting
Roberta Christmas night at eight, he merely gave himself over to
extreme rejoicing in regard to it all now, and at last he was
nearly as well placed here, socially, as any one.  For although he
had no money, see how he was being received--and by the Griffiths,
too--among all the others.  And Sondra taking so great an interest
in him, actually talking and acting as though she might be ready to
fall in love.  And Gilbert checkmated by his social popularity.
What would you say to that?  It testified, as he saw it now, that
at least his relatives had not forgotten him or that, because of
his recent success in other directions, they were finding it
necessary to be civil to him--a thought that was the same as the
bays of victory to a contestant.  He viewed it with as much
pleasure almost as though there had never been any hiatus at all.



Chapter 31


Unfortunately, however, the Christmas dinner at the Griffiths',
which included the Starks and their daughter Arabella, Mr. and Mrs.
Wynant, who in the absence of their daughter Constance with Gilbert
were dining with the Griffiths, the Arnolds, Anthonys, Harriets,
Taylors and others of note in Lycurgus, so impressed and even
overawed Clyde that although five o'clock came and then six, he was
incapable of breaking away or thinking clearly and compellingly of
his obligation to Roberta.  Even when, slightly before six, the
greater portion of those who had been thus cheerfully entertained
began rising and making their bows and departing (and when he, too,
should have been doing the same and thinking of his appointment
with Roberta), being accosted by Violet Taylor, who was part of the
younger group, and who now began talking of some additional
festivities to be held that same evening at the Anthonys', and who
added most urgently, "You're coming with us, aren't you?  Sure you
are," he at once acquiesced, although his earlier promise to
Roberta forced the remembrance that she was probably already back
and expecting him.  But still he had time even now, didn't he?

Yet, once at the Anthonys', and talking and dancing with various
girls, the obligation faded.  But at nine he began worrying a
little.  For by this time she must be in her room and wondering
what had become of him and his promise.  And on Christmas night,
too.  And after she had been away three days.

Inwardly he grew more and more restless and troubled, the while
outwardly he maintained that same high spirit that characterized
him throughout the afternoon.  Fortunately for his own mood, this
same group, having danced and frolicked every night for the past
week until almost nervously exhausted, it now unanimously and
unconsciously yielded to weariness and at eleven thirty, broke up.
And after having escorted Bella Griffiths to her door, Clyde
hurried around to Elm Street to see if by any chance Roberta was
still awake.

As he neared the Gilpins' he perceived through the snow-covered
bushes and trees the glow of her single lamp.  And for the time
being, troubled as to what he should say--how excuse himself for
this inexplicable lapse--he paused near one of the large trees that
bordered the street, debating with himself as to just what he would
say.  Would he insist that he had again been to the Griffiths', or
where?  For according to his previous story he had only been there
the Friday before.  In the months before when he had no social
contacts, but was merely romanticizing in regard to them, the
untruths he found himself telling her caused him no twinges of any
kind.  They were not real and took up no actual portion of his
time, nor did they interfere with any of his desired contacts with
her.  But now in the face of the actuality and the fact that these
new contacts meant everything to his future, as he saw it, he
hesitated.  His quick conclusion was to explain his absence this
evening by a second invitation which had come later, also by
asseverating that the Griffiths being potentially in charge of his
material welfare, it was becoming more and more of a duty rather
than an idle, evasive pleasure to desert her in this way at their
command.  Could he help it?  And with this half-truth permanently
fixed in his mind, he crossed the snow and gently tapped at her
window.

At once the light was extinguished and a moment later the curtain
lifted.  Then Roberta, who had been mournfully brooding, opened the
door and admitted him, having previously lit a candle as was her
custom in order to avoid detection as much as possible, and at once
he began in a whisper:

"Gee, but this society business here is getting to be the dizzy
thing, honey.  I never saw such a town as this.  Once you go with
these people one place to do one thing, they always have something
else they want you to do.  They're on the go all the time.  When I
went there Friday (he was referring to his lie about having gone to
the Griffiths'), I thought that would be the last until after the
holidays, but yesterday, and just when I was planning to go
somewhere else, I got a note saying they expected me to come there
again to-day for dinner sure."

"And to-day when I thought the dinner would begin at two," he
continued to explain, "and end in time for me to be around here by
eight like I said, it didn't start until three and only broke up a
few minutes ago.  Isn't that the limit?  And I just couldn't get
away for the last four hours.  How've you been, honey?  Did you
have a good time?  I hope so.  Did they like the present I gave
you?"

He rattled off these questions, to which she made brief and
decidedly terse replies, all the time looking at him as much as to
say, "Oh, Clyde, how can you treat me like this?"

But Clyde was so much interested in his own alibi, and how to
convince Roberta of the truth of it, that neither before nor after
slipping off his coat, muffler and gloves and smoothing back his
hair, did he look at her directly, or even tenderly, or indeed do
anything to demonstrate to her that he was truly delighted to see
her again.  On the contrary, he was so fidgety and in part
flustered that despite his past professions and actions she could
feel that apart from being moderately glad to see her again he was
more concerned about himself and his own partially explained
defection than he was about her.  And although after a few moments
he took her in his arms and pressed his lips to hers, still, as on
Saturday, she could feel that he was only partially united to her
in spirit.  Other things--the affairs that had kept him from her on
Friday and to-night--were disturbing his thoughts and hers.

She looked at him, not exactly believing and yet not entirely
wishing to disbelieve him.  He might have been at the Griffiths',
as he said, and they might have detained him.  And yet he might not
have, either.  For she could not help recalling that on the
previous Saturday he had said he had been there Friday and the
paper on the other hand had stated that he was in Gloversville.
But if she questioned him in regard to these things now, would he
not get angry and lie to her still more?  For after all she could
not help thinking that apart from his love for her she had no real
claim on him.  But she could not possibly imagine that he could
change so quickly.

"So that was why you didn't come to-night, was it?" she asked, with
more spirit and irritation than she had ever used with him before.
"I thought you told me sure you wouldn't let anything interfere,"
she went on, a little heavily.

"Well, so I did," he admitted.  "And I wouldn't have either, except
for the letter I got.  You know I wouldn't let any one but my uncle
interfere, but I couldn't turn them down when they asked me to come
there on Christmas Day.  It's too important.  It wouldn't look
right, would it, especially when you weren't going to be here in
the afternoon?"

The manner and tone in which he said this conveyed to Roberta more
clearly than anything that he had ever said before how significant
he considered this connection with his relatives to be and how
unimportant anything she might value in regard to this relationship
was to him.  It came to her now that in spite of all his enthusiasm
and demonstrativeness in the first stages of this affair, possibly
she was much more trivial in his estimation than she had seemed to
herself.  And that meant that her dreams and sacrifices thus far
had been in vain.  She became frightened.

"Well, anyhow," she went on dubiously in the face of this, "don't
you think you might have left a note here, Clyde, so I would have
got it when I got in?"  She asked this mildly, not wishing to
irritate him too much.

"But didn't I just tell you, honey, I didn't expect to be so late.
I thought the thing would all be over by six, anyhow."

"Yes--well--anyhow--I know--but still--"

Her face wore a puzzled, troubled, nervous look, in which was
mingled fear, sorrow, depression, distrust, a trace of resentment
and a trace of despair, all of which, coloring and animating her
eyes, which were now fixed on him in round orblike solemnity,
caused him to suffer from a sense of having misused and demeaned
her not a little.  And because her eyes seemed to advertise this,
he flushed a dark red flush that colored deeply his naturally very
pale cheeks.  But without appearing to notice this or lay any
stress on it in any way at the time, Roberta added after a moment:
"I notice that The Star mentioned that Gloversville party Sunday,
but it didn't say anything about your cousins being over there.
Were they?"

For the first time in all her questioning of him, she asked this as
though she might possibly doubt him--a development which Clyde had
scarcely anticipated in connection with her up to this time, and
more than anything else, it troubled and irritated him.

"Of course they were," he replied falsely.  "Why do you want to ask
a thing like that when I told you they were?"

"Well, dear, I don't mean anything by it.  I only wanted to know.
But I did notice that it mentioned all those other people from
Lycurgus that you are always talking about, Sondra Finchley,
Bertine Cranston.  You know you never mentioned anybody but the
Trumbulls."

Her tone tended to make him bristle and grow cross, as she saw.

"Yes, I saw that, too, but it ain't so.  If they were there, I
didn't see them.  The papers don't always get everything right."
In spite of a certain crossness and irritation at being trapped in
this fashion, his manner did not carry conviction, and he knew it.
And he began to resent the fact that she should question him so.
Why should she?  Wasn't he of sufficient importance to move in this
new world without her holding him back in this way?

Instead of denying or reproaching him further, she merely looked at
him, her expression one of injured wistfulness.  She did not
believe him now entirely and she did not utterly disbelieve him.  A
part of what he said was probably true.  More important was it that
he should care for her enough not to want to lie to her or to treat
her badly.  But how was that to be effected if he did not want to
be kind or truthful?  She moved back from him a few steps and with
a gesture of helplessness said:  "Oh, Clyde, you don't have to
story to me.  Don't you know that?  I wouldn't care where you went
if you would just tell me beforehand and not leave me like this all
alone on Christmas night.  It's just that that hurts so."

"But I'm not storying to you, Bert," he reiterated crossly.  "I
can't help how things look even if the paper did say so.  The
Griffiths were over there, and I can prove it.  I got around here
as soon as I could to-day.  What do you want to get so mad about
all at once?  I've told you how things are.  I can't do just as I
want to here.  They call me up at the last minute and want me to
go.  And I just can't get out of it.  What's the use of being so
mad about it?"

He stared defiantly while Roberta, checkmated in this general way,
was at a loss as to how to proceed.  The item about New Year's Eve
was in her mind, but she felt that it might not be wise to say
anything more now.  More poignantly than ever now she was
identifying him with that gay life of which he, but not she, was a
part.  And yet she hesitated even now to let him know how sharp
were the twinges of jealousy that were beginning to assail her.
They had such a good time in that fine world--he and those he knew--
and she had so little.  And besides, now he was always talking
about that Sondra Finchley and that Bertine Cranston, or the papers
were.  Was it in either of those that he was most interested?

"Do you like that Miss Finchley very much?" she suddenly asked,
looking up at him in the shadow, her desire to obtain some slight
satisfaction--some little light on all this trouble--still
torturing her.

At once Clyde sensed the importance of the question--a suggestion
of partially suppressed interest and jealousy and helplessness,
more in her voice even than in the way she looked.  There was
something so soft, coaxing and sad about her voice at times,
especially when she was most depressed.  At the same time he was
slightly taken back by the shrewd or telepathic way in which she
appeared to fix on Sondra.  Immediately he felt that she should not
know--that it would irritate her.  At the same time, vanity in
regard to his general position here, which hourly was becoming more
secure apparently, caused him to say:

"Oh, I like her some, sure.  She's very pretty, and a dandy dancer.
And she has lots of money and dresses well."  He was about to add
that outside of that Sondra appealed to him in no other way, when
Roberta, sensing something of the true interest he felt in this
girl perhaps and the wide gulf that lay between herself and all his
world, suddenly exclaimed:  "Yes, and who wouldn't, with all the
money she has?  If I had as much money as that, I could too."

And to his astonishment and dismay even, at this point her voice
grew suddenly vibrant and then broke, as on a sob.  And as he could
both see and feel, she was deeply hurt--terribly and painfully
hurt--heartsore and jealous; and at once, although his first
impulse was to grow angry and defiant again, his mood as suddenly
softened.  For it now pained him not a little to think that some
one of whom he had once been so continuously fond up to this time
should be made to suffer through jealousy of him, for he himself
well knew the pangs of jealousy in connection with Hortense.  He
could for some reason almost see himself in Roberta's place.  And
for this reason, if no other, he now said, and quite softly:  "Oh,
now, Bert, as though I couldn't tell you about her or any one else
without your getting mad about it!  I didn't mean that I was
especially interested in her.  I was just telling you what I
thought you wanted to know because you asked me if I liked her,
that's all."

"Oh, yes, I know," replied Roberta, standing tensely and nervously
before him, her face white, her hands suddenly clenched, and
looking up at him dubiously and yet pleadingly.  "But they've got
everything.  You know they have.  And I haven't got anything,
really.  And it's so hard for me to keep up my end and against all
of them, too, and with all they have."  Her voice shook, and she
ceased talking, her eyes filling and her lips beginning to quiver.
And as swiftly she concealed her face with her hands and turned
away, her shoulders shaking as she did so.  Indeed her body was now
torn for the moment by the most desperate and convulsive sobs, so
much so that Clyde, perplexed and astonished and deeply moved by
this sudden display of a pent-up and powerful emotion, as suddenly
was himself moved deeply.  For obviously this was no trick or
histrionic bit intended to influence him, but rather a sudden and
overwhelming vision of herself, as he himself could sense, as a
rather lorn and isolated girl without friends or prospects as
opposed to those others in whom he was now so interested and who
had so much more--everything in fact.  For behind her in her vision
lay all the lorn and detached years that had marred her youth, now
so vivid because of her recent visit.  She was really intensely
moved--overwhelmingly and helplessly.

And now from the very bottom of her heart she exclaimed:  "If I'd
ever had a chance like some girls--if I'd ever been anywhere or
seen anything!  But just to be brought up in the country and
without any money or clothes or anything--and nobody to show you.
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!"

The moment she said these things she was actually ashamed of having
made so weak and self-condemnatory a confession, since that was
what really was troubling him in connection with her, no doubt.

"Oh, Roberta, darling," he said instantly and tenderly, putting his
arms around her, genuinely moved by his own dereliction.  "You
mustn't cry like that, dearest.  You mustn't.  I didn't mean to
hurt you, honest I didn't.  Truly, I didn't, dear.  I know you've
had a hard time, honey.  I know how you feel, and how you've been
up against things in one way and another.  Sure I do, Bert, and you
mustn't cry, dearest.  I love you just the same.  Truly I do, and I
always will.  I'm sorry if I've hurt you, honest I am.  I couldn't
help it to-night if I didn't come, honest, or last Friday either.
Why, it just wasn't possible.  But I won't be so mean like that any
more, if I can help it.  Honest I won't.  You're the sweetest,
dearest girl.  And you've got such lovely hair and eyes, and such a
pretty little figure.  Honest you have, Bert.  And you can dance
too, as pretty as anybody.  And you look just as nice, honest you
do, dear.  Won't you stop now, honey?  Please do.  I'm so sorry,
honey, if I've hurt you in any way."

There was about Clyde at times a certain strain of tenderness,
evoked by experiences, disappointments, and hardships in his own
life, which came out to one and another, almost any other, under
such circumstances as these.  At such times he had a soft and
melting voice.  His manner was as tender and gentle almost as that
of a mother with a baby.  It drew a girl like Roberta intensely to
him.  At the same time, such emotion in him, though vivid, was of
brief duration.  It was like the rush and flutter of a summer
storm--soon come and soon gone.  Yet in this instance it was
sufficient to cause Roberta to feel that he fully understood and
sympathized with her and perhaps liked her all the better for it.
Things were not so had for the moment, anyhow.  She had him and his
love and sympathy to a very marked degree at any rate, and because
of this and her very great comfort in it, and his soothing words,
she began to dry her eyes, to say that she was sorry to think that
she was such a cry-baby and that she hoped he would forgive her,
because in crying she had wet the bosom of his spotless white shirt
with her tears.  And she would not do it any more if Clyde would
just forgive her this once--the while, touched by a passion he
scarcely believed was buried in her in any such volume, he now
continued to kiss her hands, cheeks, and finally her lips.

And between these pettings and coaxings and kissings it was that he
reaffirmed to her, most foolishly and falsely in this instance
(since he was really caring for Sondra in a way which, while
different, was just as vital--perhaps even more so), that he
regarded her as first, last and most in his heart, always--a
statement which caused her to feel that perhaps after all she might
have misjudged him.  Also that her position, if anything, was more
secure, if not more wonderful than ever it had been before--far
superior to that of these other girls who might see him socially
perhaps, but who did not have him to love them in this wonderful
way.



Chapter 32


Clyde now was actually part and parcel of this local winter social
scene.  The Griffiths having introduced him to their friends and
connections, it followed as a matter of course that he would be
received in most homes here.  But in this very limited world, where
quite every one who was anything at all knew every one else, the
state of one's purse was as much, and in some instances even more,
considered than one's social connections.  For these local families
of distinction were convinced that not only one's family but one's
wealth was the be-all and end-all of every happy union meant to
include social security.  And in consequence, while considering
Clyde as one who was unquestionably eligible socially, still,
because it had been whispered about that his means were very
slender, they were not inclined to look upon him as one who might
aspire to marriage with any of their daughters.  Hence, while they
were to the fore with invitations, still in so far as their own
children and connections were concerned they were also to the fore
with precautionary hints as to the inadvisability of too numerous
contacts with him.

However, the mood of Sondra and her group being friendly toward
him, and the observations and comments of their friends and parents
not as yet too definite, Clyde continued to receive invitations to
the one type of gathering that most interested him--that which
began and ended with dancing.  And although his purse was short, he
got on well enough.  For once Sondra had interested herself in him,
it was not long before she began to realize what his financial
state was and was concerned to make his friendship for her at least
as inexpensive as possible.  And because of this attitude on her
part, which in turn was conveyed to Bertine, Grant Cranston and
others, it became possible on most occasions for Clyde, especially
when the affair was local, to go here and there without the
expenditure of any money.  Even when the affair was at any point
beyond Lycurgus and he consented to go, the car of another was
delegated to pick him up.

Frequently after the New Year's Eve trip to Schenectady, which
proved to be an outing of real import to both Clyde and Sondra--
seeing that on that occasion she drew nearer to him affectionately
than ever before--it was Sondra herself who chose to pick him up in
her car.  He had actually succeeded in impressing her, and in a way
that most flattered her vanity at the same time that it appealed to
the finest trait in her--a warm desire to have some one, some youth
like Clyde, who was at once attractive and of good social station,
dependent upon her.  She knew that her parents would not
countenance an affair between her and Clyde because of his poverty.
She had originally not contemplated any, though now she found
herself wishing that something of the kind might be.

However, no opportunity for further intimacies occurred until one
night about two weeks after the New Year's party.  They were
returning from a similar affair at Amsterdam, and after Bella
Griffiths and Grant and Bertine Cranston had been driven to their
respective homes, Stuart Finchley had called back:  "Now we'll take
you home, Griffiths."  At once Sondra, swayed by the delight of
contact with Clyde and not willing to end it so soon, said:  "If
you want to come over to our place, I'll make some hot chocolate
before you go home.  Would you like that?"

"Oh, sure I would," Clyde had answered gayly.

"Here goes then," called Stuart, turning the car toward the
Finchley home.  "But as for me, I'm going to turn in.  It's way
after three now."

"That's a good brother.  Your beauty sleep, you know," replied
Sondra.

And having turned the car into the garage, the three made their way
through the rear entrance into the kitchen.  Her brother having
left them, Sondra asked Clyde to be seated at a servants' table
while she brought the ingredients.  But he, impressed by this
culinary equipment, the like of which he had never seen before,
gazed about wondering at the wealth and security which could
sustain it.

"My, this is a big kitchen, isn't it?" he remarked.  "What a lot
of things you have here to cook with, haven't you?"

And she, realizing from this that he had not been accustomed to
equipment of this order before coming to Lycurgus and hence was all
the more easily to be impressed, replied:  "Oh, I don't know.
Aren't all kitchens as big as this?"

Clyde, thinking of the poverty he knew, and assuming from this that
she was scarcely aware of anything less than this, was all the more
overawed by the plethora of the world to which she belonged.  What
means!  Only to think of being married to such a girl, when all
such as this would become an everyday state.  One would have a cook
and servants, a great house and car, no one to work for, and only
orders to give, a thought which impressed him greatly.  It made
her various self-conscious gestures and posings all the more
entrancing.  And she, sensing the import of all this to Clyde, was
inclined to exaggerate her own inseparable connection with it.  To
him, more than any one else, as she now saw, she shone as a star, a
paragon of luxury and social supremacy.

Having prepared the chocolate in a commonplace aluminum pan, to
further impress him she sought out a heavily chased silver service
which was in another room.  She poured the chocolate into a highly
ornamented urn and then carried it to the table and put it down
before him.  Then swinging herself up beside him, she said:  "Now,
isn't this chummy?  I just love to get out in the kitchen like
this, but I can only do it when the cook's out.  He won't let any
one near the place when he's here."

"Oh, is that so?" asked Clyde, who was quite unaware of the ways of
cooks in connection with private homes--an inquiry which quite
convinced Sondra that there must have been little if any real means
in the world from which he sprang.  Nevertheless, because he had
come to mean so much to her, she was by no means inclined to turn
back.  And so when he finally exclaimed:  "Isn't it wonderful to be
together like this, Sondra?  Just think, I hardly got a chance to
say a word to you all evening, alone," she replied, without in any
way being irritated by the familiarity, "You think so?  I'm glad
you do," and smiled in a slightly supercilious though affectionate
way.

And at the sight of her now in her white satin and crystal evening
gown, her slippered feet swinging so intimately near, a faint
perfume radiating to his nostrils, he was stirred.  In fact, his
imagination in regard to her was really inflamed.  Youth, beauty,
wealth such as this--what would it not mean?  And she, feeling the
intensity of his admiration and infected in part at least by the
enchantment and fervor that was so definitely dominating him, was
swayed to the point where she was seeing him as one for whom she
could care--very much.  Weren't his eyes bright and dark--very
liquid and eager?  And his hair!  It looked so enticing, lying low
upon his white forehead.  She wished that she could touch it now--
smooth it with her hands and touch his cheeks.  And his hands--they
were thin and sensitive and graceful.  Like Roberta, and Hortense
and Rita before her, she noticed them.

But he was silent now with a tightly restrained silence which he
was afraid to liberate in words.  For he was thinking:  "Oh, if
only I could say to her how beautiful I really think she is.  If I
could just put my arms around her and kiss her, and kiss her, and
kiss her, and have her kiss me in the same way."  And strangely,
considering his first approaches toward Roberta, the thought was
without lust, just the desire to constrain and fondle a perfect
object.  Indeed, his eyes fairly radiated this desire and
intensity.  And while she noted this and was in part made dubious
by it, since it was the thing in Clyde she most feared--still she
was intrigued by it to the extent of wishing to know its further
meaning.

And so she now said, teasingly:  "Was there anything very important
you wanted to say?"

"I'd like to say a lot of things to you, Sondra, if you would only
let me," he returned eagerly.  "But you told me not to."

"Oh, so I did.  Well, I meant that, too.  I'm glad you mind so
well."  There was a provoking smile upon her lips and she looked at
him as much as to say:  "But you don't really believe I meant all
of that, do you?"

Overcome by the suggestion of her eyes, Clyde got up and, taking
both her hands in his and looking directly into her eyes, said:
"You didn't mean all of it, then, did you, Sondra?  Not all of it,
anyhow.  Oh, I wish I could tell you all that I am thinking."  His
eyes spoke, and now sharply conscious again of how easy it was to
inflame him, and yet anxious to permit him to proceed as he wished,
she leaned back from him and said, "Oh, yes, I'm sure I did.  You
take almost everything too seriously, don't you?"  But at the same
time, and in spite of herself, her expression relaxed and she once
more smiled.

"I can't help it, Sondra.  I can't!  I can't!" he began, eagerly
and almost vehemently.  "You don't know what effect you have on me.
You're so beautiful.  Oh, you are.  You know you are.  I think
about you all the time.  Really I do, Sondra.  You've made me just
crazy about you, so much so that I can hardly sleep for thinking
about you.  Gee, I'm wild!  I never go anywhere or see you any
place but what I think of you all the time afterward.  Even to-
night when I saw you dancing with all those fellows I could hardly
stand it.  I just wanted you to be dancing with me--no one else.
You've got such beautiful eyes, Sondra, and such a lovely mouth and
chin, and such a wonderful smile."

He lifted his hands as though to caress her gently, yet holding
them back, and at the same time dreamed into her eyes as might a
devotee into those of a saint, then suddenly put his arms about her
and drew her close to him.  She, thrilled and in part seduced by
his words, instead of resisting as definitely as she would have in
any other case, now gazed at him, fascinated by his enthusiasms.
She was so trapped and entranced by his passion for her that it
seemed to her now as though she might care for him as much as he
wished.  Very, very much, if she only dared.  He, too, was
beautiful and alluring to her.  He, too, was really wonderful, even
if he were poor--so much more intense and dynamic than any of these
other youths that she knew here.  Would it not be wonderful if, her
parents and her state permitting, she could share with him
completely such a mood as this?  Simultaneously the thought came to
her that should her parents know of this it might not be possible
for her to continue this relationship in any form, let alone to
develop it or enjoy it in the future.  Yet regardless of this
thought now, which arrested and stilled her for a moment, she
continued to yearn toward him.  Her eyes were warm and tender--
her lips wreathed with a gracious smile.

"I'm sure I oughtn't to let you say all these things to me.  I know
I shouldn't," she protested weakly, yet looking at him affectionately.
"It isn't the right thing to do, I know, but still--"

"Why not?  Why isn't it right, Sondra?  Why mayn't I when I care
for you so much?"  His eyes became clouded with sadness, and she,
noting it, exclaimed:  "Oh, well," then paused, "I--I--"  She was
about to add, "Don't think they would ever let us go on with it,"
but instead she only replied, "I guess I don't know you well
enough."

"Oh, Sondra, when I love you so much and I'm so crazy about you!
Don't you care at all like I care for you?"

Because of the uncertainty expressed by her, his eyes were now
seeking, frightened, sad.  The combination had an intense appeal
for her.  She merely looked at him dubiously, wondering what could
be the result of such an infatuation as this.  And he, noting the
wavering something in her own eyes, pulled her closer and kissed
her.  Instead of resenting it she lay for a moment willingly,
joyously, in his arms, then suddenly sat up, the thought of what
she was permitting him to do--kiss her in this way--and what it
must mean to him, causing her on the instant to recover all her
poise.  "I think you'd better go now," she said definitely, yet not
unkindly.  "Don't you?"

And Clyde, who himself had been surprised and afterwards a little
startled, and hence reduced by his own boldness, now pleaded rather
weakly, and yet submissively.  "Angry?"

And she, in turn sensing his submissiveness, that of the slave for
the master, and in part liking and in part resenting it, since like
Roberta and Hortense, even she preferred to be mastered rather than
to master, shook her head negatively and a little sadly.

"It's very late," was all she said, and smiled tenderly.

And Clyde, realizing that for some reason he must not say more, had
not the courage or persistence or the background to go further with
her now, went for his coat and, looking sadly but obediently back
at her, departed.



Chapter 33


One of the things that Roberta soon found was that her intuitive
notions in regard to all this were not without speedy substantiation.
For exactly as before, though with the usual insistence afterward
that there was no real help for it, there continued to be these same
last moment changes of plan and unannounced absences.  And although
she complained at times, or pleaded, or merely contented herself
with quite silent and not always obvious "blues," still these same
effected no real modification or improvement.  For Clyde was now
hopelessly enamored of Sandra and by no means to be changed, or
moved even, by anything in connection with Roberta.  Sondra was too
wonderful!

At the same time because she was there all of the working hours of
each day in the same room with him, he could not fail instinctively
to feel some of the thoughts that employed her mind--such dark,
sad, despairing thoughts.  And these seized upon him at times as
definitely and poignantly as though they were voices of accusation
or complaint--so much so that he could not help but suggest by way
of amelioration that he would like to see her and that he was
coming around that night if she were going to be home.  And so
distrait was she, and still so infatuated with him, that she could
not resist admitting that she wanted him to come.  And once there,
the psychic personality of the past as well as of the room itself
was not without its persuasion and hence emotional compulsion.

But most foolishly anticipating, as he now did, a future more
substantial than the general local circumstances warranted, he was
more concerned than ever lest his present relationship to Roberta
should in any way prove inimical to all this.  Supposing that
Sondra at some time, in some way, should find out concerning
Roberta?  How fatal that would be!  Or that Roberta should become
aware of his devotion to Sondra and so develop an active resentment
which should carry her to the length of denouncing or exposing him.
For subsequent to the New Year's Eve engagement, he was all too
frequently appearing at the factory of a morning with explanatory
statements that because of some invitation from the Griffiths,
Harriets, or others, he would not be able to keep an engagement
with her that night, for instance, that he had made a day or two
before.  And later, on three different occasions, because Sondra
had called for him in her car, he had departed without a word,
trusting to what might come to him the next day in the way of an
excuse to smooth the matter over.

Yet anomalous, if not exactly unprecedented as it may seem, this
condition of mingled sympathy and opposition gave rise at last to
the feeling in him that come what might he must find some method of
severing this tie, even though it lacerated Roberta to the point of
death (Why should he care?  He had never told her that he would
marry her.) or endangered his own position here in case she were
not satisfied to release him as voicelessly as he wished.  At other
times it caused him to feel that indeed he was a sly and shameless
and cruel person who had taken undue advantage of a girl who, left
to herself, would never have troubled with him.  And this latter
mood, in spite of slights and lies and thinly excused neglects and
absences at times in the face of the most definite agreements--so
strange is the libido of the race--brought about the reenactment of
the infernal or celestial command laid upon Adam and his breed:
"Thy desire shall be to thy mate."

But there was this to be said in connection with the relationship
between these two, that no time, owing to the inexperience of
Clyde, as well as Roberta, had there been any adequate understanding
or use of more than the simplest, and for the most part
unsatisfactory, contraceptive devices.  About the middle of
February, and, interestingly enough, at about the time when Clyde,
because of the continuing favor of Sondra, had about reached the
point where he was determined once and for all to end, not only this
physical, but all other connection with Roberta, she on her part was
beginning to see clearly that, in spite of his temporizing and her
own incurable infatuation for him, pursuit of him by her was futile
and that it would be more to the satisfaction of her pride, if not
to the ease of her heart, if she were to leave here and in some
other place seek some financial help that would permit her to
live and still help her parents and forget him if she could.
Unfortunately for this, she was compelled, to her dismay and terror,
to enter the factory one morning, just about this time, her face a
symbol of even graver and more terrifying doubts and fears than any
that had hitherto assailed her.  For now, in addition to her own
troubled conclusions in regard to Clyde, there had sprung up over
night the dark and constraining fear that even this might not now
be possible, for the present at least.  For because of her own and
Clyde's temporizing over his and her sentimentality and her
unconquerable affection for him, she now, at a time when it was most
inimical for both, found herself pregnant.

Ever since she had yielded to his blandishments, she had counted
the days and always had been able to congratulate herself that all
was well.  But forty-eight hours since the always exactly
calculated time had now passed, and there had been no sign.  And
for four days preceding this Clyde had not even been near her.  And
his attitude at the factory was more remote and indifferent than
ever.

And now, this!

And she had no one but him to whom she might turn.  And he was in
this estranged and indifferent mood.

Because of her fright, induced by the fear that with or without
Clyde's aid she might not easily be extricated from her threatened
predicament, she could see her home, her mother, her relatives, all
who knew her, and their thoughts in case anything like this should
befall her.  For of the opinion of society in general and what
other people might say, Roberta stood in extreme terror.  The
stigma of unsanctioned concupiscence!  The shame of illegitimacy
for a child!  It was bad enough, as she had always thought,
listening to girls and women talk of life and marriage and adultery
and the miseries that had befallen girls who had yielded to men and
subsequently been deserted, for a woman when she was safely married
and sustained by the love and strength of a man--such love, for
instance, as her brother-in-law Gabel brought to her sister Agnes,
and her father to her mother in the first years, no doubt--and
Clyde to her when he had so feverishly declared that he loved her.

But now--now!

She could not permit any thoughts in regard to his recent or
present attitude to delay her.  Regardless of either, he must help
her.  She did not know what else to do under such circumstances--
which way to turn.  And no doubt Clyde did.  At any rate he had
said once that he would stand by her in case anything happened.
And although, because at first, even on the third day on reaching
the factory, she imagined that she might be exaggerating the danger
and that it was perhaps some physical flaw or lapse that might
still overcome itself, still by late afternoon no evidence of any
change coming to her, she began to be a prey to the most nameless
terrors.  What little courage she had mustered up to this time
began to waver and break.  She was all alone, unless he came to her
now.  And she was in need of advice and good counsel--loving
counsel.  Oh, Clyde!  Clyde!  If he would only not be so
indifferent to her!  He must not be!  Something must be done, and
right away--quick--else--Great Heavens, what a terrible thing this
could easily come to be!

At once she stopped her work between four and five in the afternoon
and hurried to the dressing-room.  And there she penned a note--
hurried, hysterical--a scrawl.


"CLYDE--I must see you to-night, sure, SURE.  You mustn't fail me.
I have something to tell you.  Please come as soon after work as
possible, or meet me anywhere.  I'm not angry or mad about
anything.  But I must see you to-night, SURE.  Please say right
away where.

"ROBERTA."


And he, sensing a new and strange and quite terrified note in all
this the moment he read it, at once looked over his shoulder at her
and, seeing her face so white and drawn, signaled that he would
meet her.  For judging by her face the thing she had to tell must
be of the utmost importance to her, else why this tensity and
excitement on her part.  And although he had another engagement
later, as he now troublesomely recalled, at the Starks for dinner,
still it was necessary to do this first.  Yet, what was it anyhow?
Was anybody dead or hurt or what--her mother or father or brother
or sister?

At five-thirty, he made his way to the appointed place, wondering
what it could be that could make her so pale and concerned.  Yet at
the same time saying to himself that if this other dream in regard
to Sondra were to come true he must not let himself be reentangled
by any great or moving sympathy--must maintain his new poise and
distance so that Roberta could see that he no longer cared for her
as he had.  Reaching the appointed place at six o'clock, he found
her leaning disconsolately against a tree in the shadow.  She
looked distraught, despondent.

"Why, what's the matter, Bert?  What are you so frightened about?
What's happened?"

Even his obviously dwindling affection was restimulated by her
quite visible need of help.

"Oh, Clyde," she said at last, "I hardly know how to tell you.
It's so terrible for me if it's so."  Her voice, tense and yet low,
was in itself a clear proof of her anguish and uncertainty.

"Why, what is it, Bert?  Why don't you tell me?" he reiterated,
briskly and yet cautiously, essaying an air of detached assurance
which he could not quite manage in this instance.  "What's wrong?
What are you so excited about?  You're all trembly."

Because of the fact that never before in all his life had he been
confronted by any such predicament as this, it did not even now
occur to him just what the true difficulty could be.  At the same
time, being rather estranged and hence embarrassed by his recent
treatment of her, he was puzzled as to just what attitude to assume
in a situation where obviously something was wrong.  Being
sensitive to conventional or moral stimuli as he still was, he
could not quite achieve a discreditable thing, even where his own
highest ambitions were involved, without a measure of regret or at
least shame.  Also he was so anxious to keep his dinner engagement
and not to be further involved that his manner was impatient.  It
did not escape Roberta.

"You know, Clyde," she pleaded, both earnestly and eagerly, the
very difficulty of her state encouraging her to be bold and
demanding, "you said if anything went wrong you'd help me."

At once, because of those recent few and, as he now saw them,
foolish visits to her room, on which occasions because of some
remaining sentiment and desire on the part of both he had been
betrayed into sporadic and decidedly unwise physical relations with
her, he now realized what the difficulty was.  And that it was a
severe, compelling, dangerous difficulty, if it were true.  Also
that he was to blame and that here was a real predicament that must
be overcome, and that quickly, unless a still greater danger was to
be faced.  Yet, simultaneously, his very recent and yet decidedly
compelling indifference dictating, he was almost ready now to assume
that this might be little more than a ruse or lovelorn device or bit
of strategy intended to retain or reenlist his interest in spite of
himself--a thought which he was only in part ready to harbor.  Her
manner was too dejected and despairing.  And with the first dim
realization of how disastrous such a complication as this might
prove to be in his case, he began to be somewhat more alarmed than
irritated.  So much so that he exclaimed:

"Yes, but how do you know that there is anything wrong?  You can't
be sure so soon as all this, can you?  How can you?  You'll
probably be all right to-morrow, won't you?"  At the same time his
voice was beginning to suggest the uncertainty that he felt.

"Oh, no, I don't think so, Clyde.  I wish I did.  It's two whole
days, and it's never been that way before."

Her manner as she said this was so obviously dejected and self-
commiserating that at once he was compelled to dismiss the thought
of intrigue.  At the same time, unwilling to face so discouraging a
fact so soon, he added:  "Oh, well, that might not mean anything,
either.  Girls go longer than two days, don't they?"

The tone, implying as it did uncertainty and non-sophistication
even, which previously had not appeared characteristic of him, was
sufficient to alarm Roberta to the point where she exclaimed:  "Oh,
no, I don't think so.  Anyhow, it would be terrible, wouldn't it,
if something were wrong?  What do you suppose I ought to do?  Don't
you know something I can take?"

At once Clyde, who had been so brisk and urgent in establishing
this relationship and had given Roberta the impression that he was
a sophisticated and masterful youth who knew much more of life than
ever she could hope to know, and to whom all such dangers and
difficulties as were implied in the relationship could be left with
impunity, was at a loss what to do.  Actually, as he himself now
realized, he was as sparingly informed in regard to the mysteries
of sex and the possible complications attending upon such a
situation as any youth of his years could well be.  True, before
coming here he had browsed about Kansas City and Chicago with such
worldly-wise mentors of the hotel bell-boy world as Ratterer,
Higby, Hegglund and others and had listened to much of their
gossiping and boasting.  But their knowledge, for all their
boasting, as he now half guessed, must have related to girls who
were as careless and uninformed as themselves.  And beyond those
again, although he was by no means so clearly aware of that fact
now, lay little more than those rumored specifics and preventatives
of such quack doctors and shady druggists and chemists as dealt
with intelligences of the Hegglund and Ratterer order.  But even
so, where were such things to be obtained in a small city like
Lycurgus?  Since dropping Dillard he had no intimates let alone
trustworthy friends who could be depended on to help in such a
crisis.

The best he could think of for the moment was to visit some local
or near-by druggist who might, for a price, provide him with some
worth-while prescription or information.  But for how much?  And
what were the dangers in connection with such a proceeding?  Did
they talk?  Did they ask questions?  Did they tell any one else
about such inquiries or needs?  He looked so much like Gilbert
Griffiths, who was so well known in Lycurgus that any one
recognizing him as Gilbert might begin to talk of him in that way
and so bring about trouble.

And this terrible situation arising now--when in connection with
Sondra, things had advanced to the point where she was now secretly
permitting him to kiss her, and, more pleasing still, exhibiting
little evidences of her affection and good will in the form of
presents of ties, a gold pencil, a box of most attractive
handkerchiefs, all delivered to his door in his absence with a
little card with her initials, which had caused him to feel sure
that his future in connection with her was of greater and greater
promise.  So much so that even marriage, assuming that her family
might not prove too inimical and that her infatuation and diplomacy
endured, might not be beyond the bounds of possibility.  He could
not be sure, of course.  Her true intentions and affections so far
were veiled behind a tantalizing evasiveness which made her all the
more desirable.  Yet it was these things that had been causing him
to feel that he must now, and speedily, extract himself as
gracefully and unirritatingly as possible from his intimacy with
Roberta.

For that reason, therefore, he now announced, with pretended
assurance:  "Well, I wouldn't worry about it any more to-night if I
were you.  You may be all right yet, you know.  You can't be sure.
Anyhow, I'll have to have a little time until I can see what I can
do.  I think I can get something for you.  But I wish you wouldn't
get so excited."

At the same time he was far from feeling as secure as he sounded.
In fact he was very much shaken.  His original determination to
have as little to do with her as possible, was now complicated by
the fact that he was confronted by a predicament that spelled real
danger to himself, unless by some argument or assertion he could
absolve himself of any responsibility in connection with this--a
possibility which, in view of the fact that Roberta still worked
for him, that he had written her some notes, and that any least
word from her would precipitate an inquiry which would prove fatal
to him, was sufficient to cause him to feel that he must assist her
speedily and without a breath of information as to all this leaking
out in any direction.  At the same time it is only fair to say that
because of all that had been between them, he did not object to
assisting her in any way that he could.  But in the event that he
could not (it was so that his thoughts raced forward to an entirely
possible inimical conclusion to all this) well, then--well, then--
might it not be possible at least--some fellows, if not himself
would--to deny that he had held any such relationship with her and
so escape.  That possibly might be one way out--if only he were not
as treacherously surrounded as he was here.

But the most troublesome thing in connection with all this was the
thought that he knew of nothing that would really avail in such a
case, other than a doctor.  Also that that probably meant money,
time, danger--just what did it mean?  He would see her in the
morning, and if she weren't all right by then he would act.

And Roberta, for the first time forsaken in this rather casual and
indifferent way, and in such a crisis as this, returned to her room
with her thoughts and fears, more stricken and agonized than ever
before she had been in all her life.



Chapter 34


But the resources of Clyde, in such a situation as this, were slim.
For, apart from Liggett, Whiggam, and a few minor though decidedly
pleasant and yet rather remote department heads, all of whom were
now looking on him as a distinctly superior person who could
scarcely be approached too familiarly in connection with anything,
there was no one to whom he could appeal.  In so far as the social
group to which he was now so eagerly attaching himself was
concerned, it would have been absurd for him to attempt, however
slyly, to extract any information there.  For while the youths of
this world at least were dashing here and there, and because of
their looks, taste and means indulging themselves in phases of
libertinism--the proper wild oats of youth--such as he and others
like himself could not have dreamed of affording, still so far was
he from any real intimacy with any of these that he would not have
dreamed of approaching them for helpful information.

His sanest thought, which occurred to him almost immediately after
leaving Roberta, was that instead of inquiring of any druggist or
doctor or person in Lycurgus--more particularly any doctor, since
the entire medical profession here, as elsewhere, appeared to him
as remote, cold, unsympathetic and likely very expensive and
unfriendly to such an immoral adventure as this--was to go to some
near-by city, preferably Schenectady, since it was larger and as
near as any, and there inquire what, if anything, could be obtained
to help in such a situation as this.  For he must find something.

At the same time, the necessity for decision and prompt action was
so great that even on his way to the Starks', and without knowing
any drug or prescription to ask for, he resolved to go to
Schenectady the next night.  Only that meant, as he later reasoned,
that a whole day must elapse before anything could be done for
Roberta, and that, in her eyes, as well as his own, would be
leaving her open to the danger that any delay at all involved.
Therefore, he decided to act at once, if he could; excuse himself
to the Starks and then make the trip to Schenectady on the
interurban before the drug-stores over there should close.  But
once there--what?  How face the local druggist or clerk--and ask
for what?  His mind was troubled with hard, abrasive thoughts as to
what the druggist might think, look or say.  If only Ratterer or
Hegglund were here!  They would know, of course, and be glad to
help him.  Or Higby, even.  But here he was now, all alone, for
Roberta knew nothing at all.  There must be something though, of
course.  If not, if he failed there, he would return and write
Ratterer in Chicago, only in order to keep himself out of this as
much as possible he would say that he was writing for a friend.

Once in Schenectady, since no one knew him there, of course he
might say (the thought came to him as an inspiration) that he was a
newly married man--why not?  He was old enough to be one, and that
his wife, and that in the face of inability to care for a child
now, was "past her time" (he recalled a phrase that he had once
heard Higby use), and that he wanted something that would permit
her to escape from that state.  What was so wrong with that as an
idea?  A young married couple might be in just such a predicament.
And possibly the druggist would, or should be stirred to a little
sympathy by such a state and might be glad to tell him of
something.  Why not?  That would be no real crime.  To be sure, one
and another might refuse, but a third might not.  And then he would
be rid of this.  And then never again, without knowing a lot more
than he did now, would he let himself drift into any such
predicament as this.  Never!  It was too dreadful.

He betook himself to the Stark house very nervous and growing more
so every moment.  So much so that, the dinner being eaten, he
finally declared as early as nine-thirty that at the last moment at
the factory a very troublesome report, covering a whole month's
activities, had been requested of him.  And since it was not
anything he could do at the office, he was compelled to return to
his room and make it out there--a bit of energetic and ambitious
commercialism, as the Starks saw it, worthy of their admiration and
sympathy.  And in consequence he was excused.

But arrived at Schenectady, he had barely time to look around a
little before the last car for Lycurgus should be leaving.  His
nerve began to fail him.  Did he look enough like a young married
man to convince any one that he was one?  Besides were not such
preventatives considered very wrong--even by druggists?

Walking up and down the one very long Main Street still brightly
lighted at this hour, looking now in one drug-store window and
another, he decided for different reasons that each particular one
was not the one.  In one, as he saw at a glance, stood a stout,
sober, smooth-shaven man of fifty whose bespectacled eyes and iron
gray hair seemed to indicate to Clyde's mind that he would be most
certain to deny such a youthful applicant as himself--refuse to
believe that he was married--or to admit that he had any such
remedy, and suspect him of illicit relations with some young,
unmarried girl into the bargain.  He looked so sober, God-fearing,
ultra-respectable and conventional.  No, it would not do to apply
to him.  He had not the courage to enter and face such a person.

In another drug-store he observed a small, shriveled and yet dapper
and shrewd-looking man of perhaps thirty-five, who appeared to him
at the time as satisfactory enough, only, as he could see from the
front, he was being briskly assisted by a young woman of not more
than twenty or twenty-five.  And assuming that she would approach
him instead of the man--an embarrassing and impossible situation--
or if the man waited on him, was it not probable that she would
hear?  In consequence he gave up that place, and a third, a fourth,
and a fifth, for varying and yet equally cogent reasons--customers
inside, a girl and a boy at a soda fountain in front, an owner
posed near the door and surveying Clyde as he looked in and thus
disconcerting him before he had time to consider whether he should
enter or not.

Finally, however, after having abandoned so many, he decided that
he must act or return defeated, his time and carfare wasted.
Returning to one of the lesser stores in a side street, in which a
moment before he had observed an undersized chemist idling about,
he entered, and summoning all the bravado he could muster, began:
"I want to know something.  I want to know if you know of anything--
well, you see, it's this way--I'm just married and my wife is past
her time and I can't afford to have any children now if I can help
it.  Is there anything a person can get that will get her out of
it?"

His manner was brisk and confidential enough, although tinged with
nervousness and the inner conviction that the druggist must guess
that he was lying.  At the same time, although he did not know it,
he was talking to a confirmed religionist of the Methodist group
who did not believe in interfering with the motives or impulses of
nature.  Any such trifling was against the laws of God and he
carried nothing in stock that would in any way interfere with the
ways of the Creator.  At the same time he was too good a merchant
to wish to alienate a possible future customer, and so he now said:
"I'm sorry, young man, but I'm afraid I can't help you in this
case.  I haven't a thing of that kind in stock here--never handle
anything of that kind because I don't believe in 'em.  It may be,
though, that some of the other stores here in town carry something
of the sort.  I wouldn't be able to tell you."  His manner as he
spoke was solemn, the convinced and earnest tone and look of the
moralist who knows that he is right.

And at once Clyde gathered, and fairly enough in this instance,
that this man was reproachful.  It reduced to a much smaller
quantity the little confidence with which he had begun his quest.
And yet, since the dealer had not directly reproached him and had
even said that it might be possible that some of the other
druggists carried such a thing, he took heart after a few moments,
and after a brief fit of pacing here and there in which he looked
through one window and another, he finally espied a seventh dealer
alone.  He entered, and after repeating his first explanation he
was informed, very secretively and yet casually, by the thin, dark,
casuistic person who waited on him--not the owner in this instance--
that there was such a remedy.  Yes.  Did he wish a box?  That
(because Clyde asked the price) would be six dollars--a staggering
sum to the salaried inquirer.  However, since the expenditure
seemed unescapable--to find anything at all a great relief--he at
once announced that he would take it, and the clerk, bringing him
something which he hinted ought to prove "effectual" and wrapping
it up, he paid and went out.

And then actually so relieved was he, so great had been the strain
up to this moment, that he could have danced for joy.  Then there
was a cure, and it would work, of course.  The excessive and even
outrageous price seemed to indicate as much.  And under the
circumstances, might he not even consider that sum moderate, seeing
that he was being let off so easily?  However, he forgot to inquire
as to whether there was any additional information or special
direction that might prove valuable, and instead, with the package
in his pocket, some central and detached portion of the ego within
himself congratulating him upon his luck and undaunted efficiency
in such a crisis as this, he at once returned to Lycurgus, where he
proceeded to Roberta's room.

And she, like himself, impressed by his success in having secured
something which both he and she had feared did not exist, or if it
did, might prove difficult to procure, felt enormously relieved.
In fact, she was reimpressed by his ability and efficiency,
qualities with which, up to this time at least, she had endowed
him.  Also that he was more generous and considerate than under the
circumstances she feared he would be.  At least he was not coldly
abandoning her to fate, as previously in her terror she had
imagined that he might.  And this fact, even in the face of his
previous indifference, was sufficient to soften her mood in regard
to him.  So with a kind of ebullience, based on fattened hope
resting on the pills, she undid the package and read the
directions, assuring him the while of her gratitude and that she
would not forget how good he had been to her in this instance.  At
the same time, even as she untied the package, the thought came to
her--supposing they would not work?  Then what?  And how would she
go about arranging with Clyde as to that?  However, for the time
being, as she now reasoned, she must be satisfied and grateful for
this, and at once took one of the pills.

But once her expressions of gratefulness had been offered and Clyde
sensed that these same might possibly be looked upon as overtures
to a new intimacy between them, he fell back upon the attitude that
for days past had characterized him at the factory.  Under no
circumstances must he lend himself to any additional blandishments
or languishments in this field.  And if this drug proved effectual,
as he most earnestly hoped, it must be the last of any save the
most accidental and casual contacts.  For there was too much
danger, as this particular crisis had proved--too much to be lost
on his side--everything, in short--nothing but worry and trouble
and expense.

In consequence he retreated to his former reserve.  "Well, you'll
be all right now, eh?  Anyhow, let's hope so, huh?  It says to take
one every two hours for eight or ten hours.  And if you're just a
little sick, it says it doesn't make any difference.  You may have
to knock off a day or two at the factory, but you won't mind that,
will you, if it gets you out of this?  I'll come around to-morrow
night and see how you are, if you don't show up any time to-morrow."

He laughed genially, the while Roberta gazed at him, unable to
associate his present casual attitude with his former passion and
deep solicitude.  His former passion!  And now this!  And yet,
under the circumstances, being truly grateful, she now smiled
cordially and he the same.  Yet, seeing him go out, the door close,
and no endearing demonstrations of any kind having been exchanged
between them, she returned to her bed, shaking her head dubiously.
For, supposing that this remedy did not work after all?  And he
continued in this same casual and remote attitude toward her?  Then
what?  For unless this remedy proved effectual, he might still be
so indifferent that he might not want to help her long--or would
he?  Could he do that, really?  He was the one who had brought her
to this difficulty, and against her will, and he had so definitely
assured her that nothing would happen.  And now she must lie here
alone and worry, not a single person to turn to, except him, and he
was leaving her for others with the assurance that she would be all
right.  And he had caused it all!  Was this quite right?

"Oh, Clyde!  Clyde!"



Chapter 35


But the remedy he purchased failed to work.  And because of nausea
and his advice she had not gone to the factory, but lay about
worrying.  But, no saving result appearing, she began to take two
pills every hour instead of one--eager at any cost to escape the
fate which seemingly had overtaken her.  And this made her
exceedingly sick--so much so that when Clyde arrived at six-thirty
he was really moved by her deathly white face, drawn cheeks and
large and nervous eyes, the pupils of which were unduly dilated.
Obviously she was facing a crisis, and because of him, and, while
it frightened, at the same time it made him sorry for her.  Still,
so confused and perplexed was he by the problem which her unchanged
state presented to him that his mind now leaped forward to the
various phases and eventualities of such a failure as this.  The
need of additional advice or service of some physician somewhere!
But where and how and who?  And besides, as he now asked himself,
where was he to obtain the money in any such event?

Plainly in view of no other inspiration it was necessary for him to
return to the druggist at once and there inquire if there was
anything else--some other drug or some other thing that one might
do.  Or if not that, then some low-priced shady doctor somewhere,
who, for a small fee, or a promise of payments on time, would help
in this case.

Yet even though this other matter was so important--tragic almost--
once outside his spirits lifted slightly.  For he now recalled that
he had an appointment with Sondra at the Cranstons', where at nine
he and she, along with a number of others, were to meet and play
about as usual--a party.  Yet once at the Cranstons', and despite
the keen allurement of Sondra, he could not keep his mind off
Roberta's state, which rose before him as a specter.  Supposing now
any one of those whom he found gathered here--Nadine Harriet,
Perley Haynes, Violet Taylor, Jill Trumbull, Bella, Bertine, and
Sondra, should gain the least inkling of the scene he had just
witnessed?  In spite of Sondra at the piano throwing him a
welcoming smile over her shoulder as he entered, his thoughts were
on Roberta.  He must go around there again after this was over, to
see how she was and so relieve his own mind in case she were
better.  In case she was not, he must write to Ratterer at once for
advice.

In spite of his distress he was trying to appear as gay and
unconcerned as ever--dancing first with Perley Haynes and then with
Nadine and finally, while waiting for a chance to dance with
Sondra, he approached a group who were trying to help Vanda Steele
solve a new scenery puzzle and asserted that he could read messages
written on paper and sealed in envelopes (the old serial letter
trick which he had found explained in an ancient book of parlor
tricks discovered on a shelf at the Peytons').  It had been his
plan to use it before in order to give himself an air of ease and
cleverness, but to-night he was using it to take his mind off the
greater problem that was weighing on him.  And, although with the
aid of Nadine Harriet, whom he took into his confidence, he
succeeded in thoroughly mystifying the others, still his mind was
not quite on it.  Roberta was always there.  Supposing something
should really be wrong with her and he could not get her out of it.
She might even expect him to marry her, so fearful was she of her
parents and people.  What would he do then?  He would lose the
beautiful Sondra and she might even come to know how and why he had
lost her.  But that would be wild of Roberta to expect him to do
that.  He would not do it.  He could not do it.

One thing was certain.  He must get her out of this.  He must!  But
how?  How?

And although at twelve o'clock Sondra signaled that she was ready
to go and that if he chose he might accompany her to her door (and
even stop in for a few moments) and although once there, in the
shade of a pergola which ornamented the front gate, she had allowed
him to kiss her and told him that she was beginning to think he was
the nicest ever and that the following spring when the family moved
to Twelfth Lake she was going to see if she couldn't think of some
way by which she could arrange to have him there over week-ends,
still, because of this pressing problem in connection with Roberta,
Clyde was so worried that he was not able to completely enjoy this
new and to him exquisitely thrilling demonstration of affection on
her part--this new and amazing social and emotional victory of his.

He must send that letter to Ratterer to-night.  But before that he
must return to Roberta as he had promised and find out if she was
better.  And after that he must go over to Schenectady in the
morning, sure, to see the druggist over there.  For something must
be done about this unless she were better to-night.

And so, with Sondra's kisses thrilling on his lips, he left her to
go to Roberta, whose white face and troubled eyes told him as he
entered her room that no change had taken place.  If anything she
was worse and more distressed than before, the larger dosage having
weakened her to the point of positive illness.  However, as she
said, nothing mattered if only she could get out of this--that she
would almost be willing to die rather than face the consequences.
And Clyde, realizing what she meant and being so sincerely
concerned for himself, appeared in part distressed for her.
However, his previous indifference and the manner in which he had
walked off and left her alone this very evening prevented her from
feeling that there was any abiding concern in him for her now.  And
this grieved her terribly.  For she sensed now that he did not
really care for her any more, even though now he was saying that
she mustn't worry and that it was likely that if these didn't work
he would get something else that would; that he was going back to
the druggist at Schenectady the first thing in the morning to see
if there wasn't something else that he could suggest.

But the Gilpins had no telephone, and since he never ventured to
call at her room during the day and he never permitted her to call
him at Mrs. Peyton's, his plan in this instance was to pass by the
following morning before work.  If she were all right, the two
front shades would be raised to the top; if not, then lowered to
the center.  In that case he would depart for Schenectady at once,
telephoning Mr. Liggett that he had some outside duties to perform.

Just the same, both were terribly depressed and fearful as to what
this should mean for each of them.  Clyde could not quite assure
himself that, in the event that Roberta was not extricated, he
would be able to escape without indemnifying her in some form which
might not mean just temporary efforts to aid her, but something
more--marriage, possibly--since already she had reminded him that
he had promised to see her through.  But what had he really meant
by that at the time that he said it, he now asked himself.  Not
marriage, most certainly, since his thought was not that he had
ever wanted to marry her, but rather just to play with her happily
in love, although, as he well knew, she had no such conception of
his eager mood at that time.  He was compelled to admit to himself
that she had probably thought his intentions were more serious or
she would not have submitted to him at all.

But reaching home, and after writing and mailing the letter to
Ratterer, Clyde passed a troubled night.  Next morning he paid a
visit to the druggist at Schenectady, the curtains of Roberta's
windows having been lowered to the center when he passed.  But on
this occasion the latter had no additional aid to offer other than
the advisability of a hot and hence weakening bath, which he had
failed to mention in the first instance.  Also some wearying form
of physical exercise.  But noting Clyde's troubled expression and
judging that the situation was causing him great worry, he
observed:  "Of course, the fact that your wife has skipped a month
doesn't mean that there is anything seriously wrong, you know.
Women do that sometimes.  Anyhow, you can't ever be sure until the
second month has passed.  Any doctor will tell you that.  If she's
nervous, let her try something like this.  But even if it fails to
work, you can't be positive.  She might be all right next month
just the same."

Thinly cheered by this information, Clyde was about to depart, for
Roberta might be wrong.  He and she might be worrying needlessly.
Still--he was brought up with a round turn as he thought of it--
there might be real danger, and waiting until the end of the second
period would only mean that a whole month had elapsed and nothing
helpful accomplished--a freezing thought.  In consequence he now
observed:  "In case things don't come right, you don't happen to
know of a doctor she could go to, do you?  This is rather a serious
business for both of us, and I'd like to get her out of it if I
could."

Something about the way in which Clyde said this--his extreme
nervousness as well as his willingness to indulge in a form of
malpractice which the pharmacist by some logic all his own
considered very different from just swallowing a preparation
intended to achieve the same result--caused him to look suspiciously
at Clyde, the thought stirring in his brain that very likely after
all Clyde was not married, also that this was one of those youthful
affairs which spelled license and future difficulty for some
unsophisticated girl.  Hence his mood now changed, and instead of
being willing to assist, he now said coolly:  "Well, there may be a
doctor around here, but if so I don't know.  And I wouldn't
undertake to send any one to a doctor like that.  It's against the
law.  It would certainly go hard with any doctor around here who was
caught doing that sort of thing.  That's not to say, though, that
you aren't at liberty to look around for yourself, if you want to,"
he added gravely, giving Clyde a suspicious and examining glance,
and deciding it were best if he had nothing further to do with such
a person.

Clyde therefore returned to Roberta with the same prescription
renewed, although she had most decidedly protested that, since the
first box had not worked, it was useless to get more.  But since he
insisted, she was willing to try the drug the new way, although the
argument that a cold or nerves was the possible cause was only
sufficient to convince her that Clyde was at the end of his
resources in so far as she was concerned, or if not that, he was
far from being alive to the import of this both to herself and to
him.  And supposing this new treatment did not work, then what?
Was he going to stop now and let the thing rest there?

Yet so peculiar was Clyde's nature that in the face of his fears in
regard to his future, and because it was far from pleasant to be
harried in this way and an infringement on his other interests, the
assurance that the delay of a month might not prove fatal was
sufficient to cause him to be willing to wait, and that rather
indifferently, for that length of time.  Roberta might be wrong.
She might be making all this trouble for nothing.  He must see how
she felt after she had tried this new way.

But the treatment failed.  Despite the fact that in her distress
Roberta returned to the factory in order to weary herself, until
all the girls in the department assured her that she must be ill--
that she should not be working when she looked and plainly felt so
bad--still nothing came of it.  And the fact that Clyde could dream
of falling back on the assurance of the druggist that a first
month's lapse was of no import only aggravated and frightened her
the more.

The truth was that in this crisis he was as interesting an
illustration of the enormous handicaps imposed by ignorance, youth,
poverty and fear as one could have found.  Technically he did not
even know the meaning of the word "midwife," or the nature of the
services performed by her.  (And there were three here in Lycurgus
at this time in the foreign family section.)  Again, he had been in
Lycurgus so short a time, and apart from the young society men and
Dillard whom he had cut, and the various department heads at the
factory, he knew no one--an occasional barber, haberdasher, cigar
dealer and the like, the majority of whom, as he saw them, were
either too dull or too ignorant for his purpose.

One thing, however, which caused him to pause before ever he
decided to look up a physician was the problem of who was to
approach him and how.  To go himself was simply out of the
question.  In the first place, he looked too much like Gilbert
Griffiths, who was decidedly too well-known here and for whom he
might be mistaken.  Next, it was unquestionable that, being as
well-dressed as he was, the physician would want to charge him
more, maybe, than he could afford and ask him all sorts of
embarrassing questions, whereas if it could be arranged through
some one else--the details explained before ever Roberta was sent--
Why not Roberta herself! Why not?  She looked so simple and
innocent and unassuming and appealing at all times.  And in such a
situation as this, as depressed and downcast as she was, well . . .
For after all, as he now casuistically argued with himself, it was
she and not he who was facing the immediate problem which had to be
solved.

And again, as it now came to him, would she not be able to get it
done cheaper?  For looking as she did now, so distrait--  If only
he could get her to say that she had been deserted by some young
man, whose name she would refuse to divulge, of course, well, what
physician seeing a girl like her alone and in such a state--no one
to look after her--would refuse her?  It might even be that he
would help her out for nothing.  Who could tell?  And that would
leave him clear of it all.

And in consequence he now approached Roberta, intending to prepare
her for the suggestion that, assuming that he could provide a
physician and the nature of his position being what it was, she
must speak for herself.  But before he had spoken she at once
inquired of him as to what, if anything, more he had heard or done.
Wasn't some other remedy sold somewhere?  And this giving him the
opportunity he desired, he explained:  "Well, I've asked around and
looked into most of the drug-stores and they tell me if this one
won't work that none will.  That leaves me sorta stumped now,
unless you're willing to go and see a doctor.  But the trouble with
that is they're hard to find--the ones who'll do anything and keep
their mouths shut.  I've talked with several fellows without saying
who it's for, of course, but it ain't so easy to get one around
here, because they are all too much afraid.  It's against the law,
you see.  But what I want to know now is, supposing I find a doctor
who would do it, will you have the nerve to go and see him and tell
him what the trouble is?  That's what I want to know."

She looked at him dazedly, not quite grasping that he was hinting
that she was to go entirely alone, but rather assuming that of
course he meant to go with her.  Then, her mind concentrating
nervously upon the necessity of facing a doctor in his company, she
first exclaimed:  "Oh, dear, isn't it terrible to think of us
having to go to a doctor in this way?  Then he'll know all about
us, won't he?  And besides it's dangerous, isn't it, although I
don't suppose it could be much worse than those old pills."  She
went off into more intimate inquiries as to what was done and how,
but Clyde could not enlighten her.

"Oh, don't be getting nervous over that now," he said.  "It isn't
anything that's going to hurt you, I know.  Besides we'll be lucky
if we find some one to do it.  What I want to know is if I do find
a doctor, will you be willing to go to him alone?"  She started as
if struck, but unabashed now he went on, "As things stand with me
here, I can't go with you, that's sure.  I'm too well known around
here, and besides I look too much like Gilbert and he's known to
everybody.  If I should be mistaken for him, or be taken for his
cousin or relative, well, then the jig's up."

His eyes were not only an epitome of how wretched he would feel
were he exposed to all Lycurgus for what he was, but also in them
lurked a shadow of the shabby role he was attempting to play in
connection with her--in hiding thus completely behind her
necessity.  And yet so tortured was he by the fear of what was
about to befall him in case he did not succeed in so doing, that he
was now prepared, whatever Roberta might think or say, to stand his
ground.  But Roberta, sensing only the fact that he was thinking of
sending her alone, now exclaimed incredulously:  "Not alone, Clyde!
Oh, no, I couldn't do that!  Oh, dear, no!  Why, I'd be frightened
to death.  Oh, dear, no.  Why, I'd be so frightened I wouldn't know
what to do.  Just think how I'd feel, trying to explain to him
alone.  I just couldn't do that.  Besides, how would I know what to
say--how to begin?  You'll just have to go with me at first, that's
all, and explain, or I never can go--I don't care what happens."
Her eyes were round and excited and her face, while registering
all the depression and fear that had recently been there, was
transfigured by definite opposition.

But Clyde was not to be shaken either.

"You know how it is with me here, Bert.  I can't go, and that's all
there is to it.  Why, supposing I were seen--supposing some one
should recognize me?  What then?  You know how much I've been going
around here since I've been here.  Why, it's crazy to think that I
could go.  Besides, it will be a lot easier for you than for me.
No doctor's going to think anything much of your coming to him,
especially if you're alone.  He'll just think you're some one who's
got in trouble and with no one to help you.  But if I go, and it
should be any one who knows anything about the Griffiths, there'd
be the deuce to pay.  Right off he'd think I was stuffed with
money.  Besides, if I didn't do just what he wanted me to do
afterwards, he could go to my uncle, or my cousin, and then, good
night!  That would be the end of me.  And if I lost my place here
now, and with no money and that kind of scandal connected with me,
where do you suppose I would be after that, or you either?  I
certainly couldn't look after you then.  And then what would you
do?  I should think you'd wake up and see what a tough proposition
this is.  My name can't be pulled into this without trouble for
both of us.  It's got to be kept out, that's all, and the only way
for me to keep it out is for me to stay away from any doctor.
Besides, he'd feel a lot sorrier for you than he would for me.
You can't tell me!"

His eyes were distressed and determined, and, as Roberta could
gather from his manner, a certain hardness, or at least defiance,
the result of fright, showed in every gesture.  He was determined
to protect his own name, come what might--a fact which, because of
her own acquiescence up to this time, still carried great weight
with her.

"Oh, dear! dear!" she exclaimed, nervously and sadly now, the
growing and drastic terror of the situation dawning upon her, "I
don't see how we are to do then.  I really don't.  For I can't do
that and that's all there is to it.  It's all so hard--so terrible.
I'd feel too much ashamed and frightened to ever go alone."

But even as she said this she began to feel that she might, and
even would, go alone, if must be.  For what else was there to do?
And how was she to compel him, in the face of his own fears and
dangers, to jeopardize his position here?  He began once more, in
self-defense more than from any other motive:

"Besides, unless this thing isn't going to cost very much, I don't
see how I'm going to get by with it anyhow, Bert.  I really don't.
I don't make so very much, you know--only twenty-five dollars up to
now."  (Necessity was at last compelling him to speak frankly with
Roberta.)  "And I haven't saved anything--not a cent.  And you know
why as well as I do.  We spent the most of it together.  Besides if
I go and he thought I had money, he might want to charge me more
than I could possibly dig up.  But if you go and just tell him how
things are--and that you haven't got anything--if you'd only say
I'd run away or something, see--"

He paused because, as he said it, he saw a flicker of shame,
contempt, despair at being connected with anything so cheap and
shabby, pass over Roberta's face.  And yet in spite of this sly and
yet muddy tergiversation on his part--so great is the compelling
and enlightening power of necessity--she could still see that there
was some point to his argument.  He might be trying to use her as a
foil, a mask, behind which he, and she too for that matter, was
attempting to hide.  But just the same, shameful as it was, here
were the stark, bald headlands of fact, and at their base the
thrashing, destroying waves of necessity.  She heard him say:  "You
wouldn't have to give your right name, you know, or where you came
from.  I don't intend to pick out any doctor right around here,
see.  Then, if you'd tell him you didn't have much money--just your
weekly salary--"

She sat down weakly to think, the while this persuasive trickery
proceeded from him--the import of most of his argument going
straight home.  For as false and morally meretricious as this whole
plan was, still, as she could see for herself, her own as well as
Clyde's situation was desperate.  And as honest and punctilious as
she might ordinarily be in the matter of truth-telling and honest-
dealing, plainly this was one of those whirling tempests of fact
and reality in which the ordinary charts and compasses of moral
measurement were for the time being of small use.

And so, insisting then that they go to some doctor far away, Utica
or Albany, maybe--but still admitting by this that she would go--
the conversation was dropped.  And he having triumphed in the
matter of excepting his own personality from this, took heart to
the extent, at least, of thinking that at once now, by some hook or
crook, he must find a doctor to whom he could send her.  Then his
terrible troubles in connection with all this would be over.  And
after that she could go her way, as surely she must; then, seeing
that he would have done all that he could for her he would go his
way to the glorious denouement that lay directly before him in case
only this were adjusted.



Chapter 36


Nevertheless hours and even days, and finally a week and then ten
days, passed without any word from him as to the whereabouts of a
doctor to whom she could go.  For although having said so much to
her he still did not know to whom to apply.  And each hour and day
as great a menace to him as to her.  And her looks as well as her
inquiries registering how intense and vital and even clamorous at
moments was her own distress.  Also he was harried almost to the
point of nervous collapse by his own inability to think of any
speedy and sure way by which she might be aided.  Where did a
physician live to whom he might send her with some assurance of
relief for her, and how was he to find out about him?

After a time, however, in running over all the names of those he
knew, he finally struck upon a forlorn hope in the guise of Orrin
Short, the young man conducting the one small "gents' furnishing
store" in Lycurgus which catered more or less exclusively to the
rich youths of the city--a youth of about his own years and
proclivities, as Clyde had guessed, who ever since he had been here
had been useful to him in the matter of tips as to dress and style
in general.  Indeed, as Clyde had for some time noted, Short was a
brisk, inquiring and tactful person, who, in addition to being
quite attractive personally to girls, was also always most
courteous to his patrons, particularly to those whom he considered
above him in the social scale, and among these was Clyde.  For
having discovered that Clyde was related to the Griffiths, this
same Short had sought, as a means for his own general advancement
in other directions, to scrape as much of a genial and intimate
relationship with him as possible, only, as Clyde saw it, and in
view of the general attitude of his very high relatives, it had
not, up to this time at least, been possible for him to consider
any such intimacy seriously.  And yet, finding Short so very
affable and helpful in general, he was not above reaching at least
an easy and genial surface relationship with him, which Short
appeared to accept in good part.  Indeed, as at first, his manner
remained seeking and not a little sycophantic at times.  And so it
was that among all those with whom he could be said to be in either
intimate or casual contact, Short was about the only one who
offered even a chance for an inquiry which might prove productive
of some helpful information.

In consequence, in passing Short's place each evening and morning,
once he thought of him in this light, he made it a point to nod and
smile in a most friendly manner, until at least three days had gone
by.  And then, feeling that he had paved the way as much as his
present predicament would permit, he stopped in, not at all sure
that on this first occasion he would be able to broach the
dangerous subject.  The tale he had fixed upon to tell Short was
that he had been approached by a young working-man in the factory,
newly-married, who, threatened with an heir and not being able to
afford one as yet, had appealed to him for information as to where
he might now find a doctor to help him.  The only interesting
additions which Clyde proposed to make to this were that the young
man, being very poor and timid and not so very intelligent, was not
able to speak or do much for himself.  Also that he, Clyde, being
better informed, although so new locally as not to be able to
direct him to any physician (an after-thought intended to put the
idea into Short's mind that he himself was never helpless and so
not likely ever to want such advice himself), had already advised
the young man of a temporary remedy.  But unfortunately, so his
story was to run, this had already failed to work.  Hence something
more certain--a physician, no less--was necessary.  And Short,
having been here longer, and, as he had heard him explain, hailing
previously from Gloversville, it was quite certain, as Clyde now
argued with himself, that he would know of at least one--or should.
But in order to divert suspicion from himself he was going to add
that of course he probably could get news of some one in his own
set, only, the situation being so unusual (any reference to any
such thing in his own world being likely to set his own group
talking), he preferred to ask some one like Short, who as a favor
would keep it quiet.

As it chanced on this occasion, Short himself, owing to his having
done a very fair day's business, was in an exceedingly jovial frame
of mind.  And Clyde having entered, to buy a pair of socks,
perhaps, he began:  "Well, it's good to see you again, Mr.
Griffiths.  How are you?  I was just thinking it's about time you
stopped in and let me show you some of the things I got in since
you were here before.  How are things with the Griffiths Company
anyhow?"

Short's manner, always brisk, was on this occasion doubly
reassuring, since he liked Clyde, only now the latter was so
intensely keyed up by the daring of his own project that he could
scarcely bring himself to carry the thing off with the air he would
have liked to have employed.

Nevertheless, being in the store and so, seemingly, committed to
the project, he now began:  "Oh, pretty fair.  Can't kick a bit.
I always have all I can do, you know."  At the same time he began
nervously fingering some ties hung upon movable nickeled rods.  But
before he had wasted a moment on these, Mr. Short, turning and
spreading some boxes of very special ties from a shelf behind him
on the glass case, remarked:  "Never mind looking at those, Mr.
Griffiths.  Look at these.  These are what I want to show you and
they won't cost YOU any more.  Just got 'em in from New York this
morning."  He picked up several bundles of six each, the very
latest, as he explained.  "See anything else like this anywhere
around here yet?  I'll say you haven't."  He eyed Clyde smilingly,
the while he wished sincerely that such a young man, so well
connected, yet not rich like the others, would be friends with him.
It would place him here.

Clyde, fingering the offerings and guessing that what Short was
saying was true, was now so troubled and confused in his own mind
that he could scarcely think and speak as planned.  "Very nice,
sure," he said, turning them over, feeling that at another time he
would have been pleased to possess at least two.  "I think maybe
I'll take this one, anyhow, and this one, too."  He drew out two
and held them up, while he was thinking how to broach the so much
more important matter that had brought him here.  For why should he
be troubling to buy ties, dilly-dallying in this way, when all he
wanted to ask Short about was this other matter?  Yet how hard it
was now--how very hard.  And yet he really must, although perhaps
not so abruptly.  He would look around a little more at first in
order to allay suspicion--ask about some socks.  Only why should he
be doing that, since he did not need anything, Sondra only recently
having presented him with a dozen handkerchiefs, some collars, ties
and socks.  Nevertheless every time he decided to speak he felt a
sort of sinking sensation at the pit of his stomach, a fear that he
could not or would not carry the thing off with the necessary ease
and conviction.  It was all so questionable and treacherous--so
likely to lead to exposure and disgrace in some way.  He would
probably not be able to bring himself to speak to Short to-night.
And yet, as he argued with himself, how could the occasion ever be
more satisfactory?

Short, in the meantime having gone to the rear of the store and now
returning, with a most engaging and even sycophantic smile on his
face, began with:  "Saw you last Tuesday evening about nine o'clock
going into the Finchleys' place, didn't I?  Beautiful house and
grounds they have there."

Clyde saw that Short really was impressed by his social station
here.  There was a wealth of admiration mingled with a touch of
servility.  And at once, because of this, he took heart, since he
realized that with such an attitude dominating the other, whatever
he might say would be colored in part at least by his admirer's awe
and respect.  And after examining the socks and deciding that one
pair at least would soften the difficulty of his demand, he added:
"Oh, by the way, before I forget it.  There's something I've been
wanting to ask you about.  Maybe you can tell me what I want to
know.  One of the boys at the factory--a young fellow who hasn't
been married very long--about four months now, I guess--is in a
little trouble on account of his wife."  He paused, because of his
uncertainty as to whether he could succeed with this now or not,
seeing that Short's expression changed ever so slightly.  And yet,
having gone so far, he did not know how to recede.  So now he
laughed nervously and then added:  "I don't know why they always
come to me with their troubles, but I guess they think I ought to
know all about these things."  (He laughed again.)  "Only I'm about
as new and green here as anybody and so I'm kinda stumped.  But
you've been here longer than I have, I guess, and so I thought I
might ask you."

His manner as he said this was as nonchalant as he could make it,
the while he decided now that this was a mistake--that Short would
most certainly think him a fool or queer.  Yet Short, taken back by
the nature of the query, which he sensed as odd coming from Clyde
to him (he had noted Clyde's sudden restraint and slight
nervousness), was still so pleased to think that even in connection
with so ticklish a thing as this, he should be made the recipient
of his confidence, that he instantly recovered his former poise and
affability, and replied:  "Why, sure, if it's anything I can help
you with, Mr. Griffiths, I'll be only too glad to.  Go ahead, what
is it?"

"Well, it's this way," began Clyde, not a little revived by the
other's hearty response, yet lowering his voice in order to give
the dreadful subject its proper medium of obscurity, as it were.
"His wife's already two months gone and he can't afford a kid yet
and he doesn't know how to get rid of it.  I told him last month
when he first came to me to try a certain medicine that usually
works"--this to impress Short with his own personal wisdom and
resourcefulness in such situations and hence by implication to
clear his own skirts, as it were--"But I guess he didn't handle it
right.  Anyhow he's all worked up about it now and wants to see
some doctor who could do something for her, you see.  Only I don't
know anybody here myself.  Haven't been here long enough.  If it
were Kansas City or Chicago now," he interpolated securely, "I'd
know what to do.  I know three or four doctors out there."  (To
impress Short he attempted a wise smile.)  "But down here it's
different.  And if I started asking around in my crowd and it ever
got back to my relatives, they wouldn't understand.  But I thought
if you knew of any one you wouldn't mind telling me.  I wouldn't
really bother myself, only I'm sorry for this fellow."

He paused, his face, largely because of the helpful and interested
expression on Short's, expressing more confidence than when he had
begun.  And although Short was still surprised he was more than
pleased to be as helpful as he could.

"You say it's been two months now."

"Yes."

"And the stuff you suggested didn't work, eh?"

"No."

"She's tried it again this month, has she?"

"Yes."

"Well, that is bad, sure enough.  I guess she's in bad all right.
The trouble with this place is that I haven't been here so very
long either, Mr. Griffiths.  I only bought this place about a year
and a half ago.  Now, if I were over in Gloversville--"  He paused
for a moment, as though, like Clyde, he too were dubious of the
wisdom of entering upon details of this kind, but after a few
seconds continued:  "You see a thing like that's not so easy,
wherever you are.  Doctors are always afraid of getting in trouble.
I did hear once of a case over there, though, where a girl went to
a doctor--a fellow who lived a couple miles out.  But she was of
pretty good family too, and the fellow who took her to him was
pretty well-known about there.  So I don't know whether this doctor
would do anything for a stranger, although he might at that.  But I
know that sort of thing is going on all the time, so you might try.
If you wanta send this fellow to him, tell him not to mention me or
let on who sent him, 'cause I'm pretty well-known around there and
I wouldn't want to be mixed up in it in case anything went wrong,
you see.  You know how it is."

And Clyde, in turn, replied gratefully:  "Oh, sure, he'll
understand all right.  I'll tell him not to mention any names."  And
getting the doctor's name, he extracted a pencil and notebook from
his pocket in order to be sure that the important information
should not escape him.

Short, sensing his relief, was inclined to wonder whether there was
a working-man, or whether it was not Clyde himself who was in this
scrape.  Why should he be speaking for a young working-man at the
factory?  Just the same, he was glad to be of service, though at
the same time he was thinking what a bit of local news this would
be, assuming that any time in the future he should choose to retail
it.  Also that Clyde, unless he was truly playing about with some
girl here who was in trouble, was foolish to be helping anybody
else in this way--particularly a working-man.  You bet he wouldn't.

Nevertheless he repeated the name, with the initials, and the exact
neighborhood, as near as he could remember, giving the car stop and
a description of the house.  Clyde, having obtained what he
desired, now thanked him, and then went out while the haberdasher
looked after him genially and a little suspiciously.  These rich
young bloods, he thought.  That's a funny request for a fellow like
that to make of me.  You'd think with all the people he knows and
runs with here he'd know some one who would tip him off quicker
than I could.  Still, maybe, it's just because of them that he is
afraid to ask around here.  You don't know who he might have got in
trouble--that young Finchley girl herself, even.  You never can
tell.  I see him around with her occasionally, and she's gay
enough.  But, gee, wouldn't that be the . . .



Chapter 37


The information thus gained was a relief, but only partially so.
For both Clyde and Roberta there was no real relief now until this
problem should be definitely solved.  And although within a few
moments after he had obtained it, he appeared and explained that at
last he had secured the name of some one who might help her, still
there was yet the serious business of heartening her for the task
of seeing the doctor alone, also for the story that was to
exculpate him and at the same time win for her sufficient sympathy
to cause the doctor to make the charge for his service merely
nominal.

But now, instead of protesting as at first he feared that she
might, Roberta was moved to acquiesce.  So many things in Clyde's
attitude since Christmas had so shocked her that she was bewildered
and without a plan other than to extricate herself as best she
might without any scandal attaching to her or him and then going
her own way--pathetic and abrasive though it might be.  For since
he did not appear to care for her any more and plainly desired to
be rid of her, she was in no mood to compel him to do other than he
wished.  Let him go.  She could make her own way.  She had, and she
could too, without him, if only she could get out of this.  Yet, as
she said this to herself, however, and a sense of the full
significance of it all came to her, the happy days that would never
be again, she put her hands to her eyes and brushed away
uncontrollable tears.  To think that all that was should come to
this.

Yet when he called the same evening after visiting Short, his
manner redolent of a fairly worth-while achievement, she merely
said, after listening to his explanation in as receptive a manner
as she could:  "Do you know just where this is, Clyde?  Can we get
there on the car without much trouble, or will we have to walk a
long way?"  And after he had explained that it was but a little way
out of Gloversville, in the suburbs really, an interurban stop
being but a quarter of a mile from the house, she had added:  "Is
he home at night, or will we have to go in the daytime?  It would
be so much better if we could go at night.  There'd be so much less
danger of any one seeing us."  And being assured that he was, as
Clyde had learned from Short, she went on:  "But do you know is he
old or young?  I'd feel so much easier and safer if he were old.  I
don't like young doctors.  We've always had an old doctor up home
and I feel so much easier talking to some one like him."

Clyde did not know.  He had not thought to inquire, but to reassure
her he ventured that he was middle-aged--which chanced to be the
fact.

The following evening the two of them departed, but separately as
usual, for Fonda, where it was necessary to change cars.  And once
within the approximate precincts of the physician's residence, they
stepped down and made their way along a road, which in this mid-
state winter weather was still covered with old and dry-packed
snow.  It offered a comparatively smooth floor for their quick
steps.  For in these days, there was no longer that lingering
intimacy which formerly would have characterized both.  In those
other and so recent days, as Roberta was constantly thinking, he
would have been only too glad in such a place as this, if not on
such an occasion, to drag his steps, put an arm about her waist,
and talk about nothing at all--the night, the work at the factory,
Mr. Liggett, his uncle, the current movies, some place they were
planning to go, something they would love to do together if they
could.  But now . . .  And on this particular occasion, when most
of all, and if ever, she needed the full strength of his devotion
and support!  Yet now, as she could see, he was most nervously
concerned as to whether, going alone in this way, she was going to
get scared and "back out"; whether she was going to think to say
the right thing at the right time and convince the doctor that he
must do something for her, and for a nominal fee.

"Well, Bert, how about you?  All right?  You're not going to get
cold feet now, are you?  Gee, I hope not because this is going to
be a good chance to get this thing done and over with.  And it
isn't like you were going to some one who hadn't done anything like
this before, you know, because this fellow has.  I got that
straight.  All you have to do now, is to say, well, you know, that
you're in trouble, see, and that you don't know how you're going to
get out of it unless he'll help you in some way, because you
haven't any friends here you can go to.  And besides, as things
are, you couldn't go to 'em if you wanted to.  They'd tell on you,
see.  Then if he asks where I am or who I am, you just say that I
was a fellow here--but that I've gone--give any name you want to,
but that I've gone, and you don't know where I've gone to--run
away, see.  Then you'd better say, too, that you wouldn't have come
to him only that you heard of another case in which he helped some
one else--that a girl told you, see.  Only you don't want to let on
that you're paid much, I mean,--because if you do he may want to
make the bill more than I can pay, see, unless he'll give us a few
months in which to do it, or something like that, you see."

Clyde was so nervous and so full of the necessity of charging
Roberta with sufficient energy and courage to go through with this
and succeed, now that he had brought her this far along with it,
that he scarcely realized how inadequate and trivial, even, in so
far as her predicament and the doctor's mood and temperament were
concerned, his various instructions and bits of inexperienced
advice were.  And she on her part was not only thinking how easy it
was for him to stand back and make suggestions, while she was
confronted with the necessity of going forward, and that alone, but
also that he was really thinking more of himself than he was of
her--some way to make her get herself out of it inexpensively and
without any real trouble to him.

At the same time, even here and now, in spite of all this, she was
still decidedly drawn to him--his white face, his thin hands,
nervous manner.  And although she knew he talked to encourage her
to do what he had not the courage or skill to do himself, she was
not angry.  Rather, she was merely saying to herself in this crisis
that although he advised so freely she was not going to pay
attention to him--much.  What she was going to say was not that she
was deserted, for that seemed too much of a disagreeable and self-
incriminating remark for her to make concerning herself, but rather
that she was married and that she and her young husband were too
poor to have a baby as yet--the same story Clyde had told the
druggist in Schenectady, as she recalled.  For after all, what did
he know about how she felt?  And he was not going with her to make
it easier for her.

Yet dominated by the purely feminine instinct to cling to some one
for support, she now turned to Clyde, taking hold of his hands and
standing quite still, wishing that he would hold and pet her and
tell her that it was all right and that she must not be afraid.
And although he no longer cared for her, now in the face of this
involuntary evidence of her former trust in him, he released both
hands and putting his arms about her, the more to encourage her
than anything else, observed:  "Come on now, Bert.  Gee, you can't
act like this, you know.  You don't want to lose your nerve now
that we're here, do you?  It won't be so hard once you get there.
I know it won't.  All you got to do is to go up and ring the bell,
see, and when he comes, or whoever comes, just say you want to see
the doctor alone, see.  Then he'll understand it's something
private and it'll be easier."

He went on with more advice of the same kind, and she, realizing
from his lack of spontaneous enthusiasm for her at this moment how
desperate was her state, drew herself together as vigorously as she
could, and saying:  "Well, wait here, then, will you?  Don't go
very far away, will you?  I may be right back," hurried along in
the shadow through the gate and up a walk which led to the front
door.

In answer to her ring the door was opened by one of those
exteriorly as well as mentally sober, small-town practitioners who,
Clyde's and Short's notion to the contrary notwithstanding, was the
typical and fairly conservative physician of the countryside--
solemn, cautious, moral, semi-religious to a degree, holding some
views which he considered liberal and others which a fairly liberal
person would have considered narrow and stubborn into the bargain.
Yet because of the ignorance and stupidity of so many of those
about him, he was able to consider himself at least fairly learned.
In constant touch with all phases of ignorance and dereliction as
well as sobriety, energy, conservatism, success and the like, he
was more inclined, where fact appeared to nullify his early
conclusion in regard to many things, to suspend judgment between
the alleged claims of heaven and hell and leave it there suspended
and undisturbed.  Physically he was short, stocky, bullet-headed
and yet interestingly-featured, with quick gray eyes and a pleasant
mouth and smile.  His short iron-gray hair was worn "bangs"
fashion, a bit of rural vanity.  And his arms and hands, the latter
fat and pudgy, yet sensitive, hung limply at his sides.  He was
fifty-eight, married, the father of three children, one of them a
son already studying medicine in order to succeed to his father's
practice.

After showing Roberta into a littered and commonplace waiting room
and asking her to remain until he had finished his dinner, he
presently appeared in the door of an equally commonplace inner
room, or office, where were his desk, two chairs, some medical
instruments, books and apparently an ante-chamber containing other
medical things, and motioned her to a chair.  And because of his
grayness, solidity, stolidity, as well as an odd habit he had of
blinking his eyes, Roberta was not a little overawed, though by no
means so unfavorably impressed as she had feared she might be.  At
least he was old and he seemed intelligent and conservative, if not
exactly sympathetic or warm in his manner.  And after looking at
her curiously a moment, as though seeking to recognize some one of
the immediate vicinity, he began:  "Well, now who is this, please?
And what can I do for you?"  His voice was low and quite
reassuring--a fact for which Roberta was deeply grateful.

At the same time, startled by the fact that at last she had reached
the place and the moment when, if ever, she must say the degrading
truth about herself, she merely sat there, her eyes first upon him,
then upon the floor, her fingers beginning to toy with the handle
of the small bag she carried.

"You see, well," she began, earnestly and nervously, her whole
manner suddenly betraying the terrific strain under which she was
laboring.  "I came . . . I came . . . that is . . . I don't know
whether I can tell you about myself or not.  I thought I could just
before I came in, but now that I am here and I see you . . ."  She
paused and moved back in her chair as though to rise, at the same
time that she added:  "Oh, dear, how very dreadful it all is.  I'm
so nervous and . . ."

"Well, now, my dear," he resumed, pleasantly and reassuringly,
impressed by her attractive and yet sober appearance and wondering
for the moment what could have upset so clean, modest and sedate-
looking a girl, and hence not a little amused by her "now that I
see you,"--"Just what is there about me 'now that you see me,'" he
repeated after her, "that so frightens you?  I am only a country
doctor, you know, and I hope I'm not as dreadful as you seem to
think.  You can be sure that you can tell me anything you wish--
anything at all about yourself--and you needn't be afraid.  If
there's anything I can do for you, I'll do it."

He was decidedly pleasant, as she now thought, and yet so sober and
reserved and probably conventional withal that what she was holding
in mind to tell him would probably shock him not a little--and then
what?  Would he do anything for her?  And if he would, how was she
to arrange about money, for that certainly would be a point in
connection with all this?  If only Clyde or some one were here to
speak for her.  And yet she must speak now that she was here.  She
could not leave without.  Once more she moved and twisted, seizing
nervously on a large button of her coat to turn between her thumb
and forefinger, and then went on chokingly.

"But this is . . . this is . . . well, something different, you
know, maybe not what you think. . . .  I . . . I . . . well . . ."

Again she paused, unable to proceed, shading from white to red and
back as she spoke.  And because of the troubled modesty of her
approach, as well as a certain clarity of eye, whiteness of
forehead, sobriety of manner and dress, the doctor could scarcely
bring himself to think for a moment that this was anything other
than one of those morbid exhibitions of innocence, or rather
inexperience, in connection with everything relating to the human
body--so characteristic of the young and unsophisticated in some
instances.  And so he was about to repeat his customary formula in
such cases that all could be told to him without fear or
hesitation, whatever it might be, when a secondary thought, based
on Roberta's charm and vigor, as well as her own thought waves
attacking his cerebral receptive centers, caused him to decide that
he might be wrong.  After all, why might not this be another of
those troublesome youthful cases in which possibly immorality and
illegitimacy was involved.  She was so young, healthy and
attractive, besides, they were always cropping up, these cases,--in
connection with the most respectable-looking girls at times.  And
invariably they spelled trouble and distress for doctors.  And, for
various reasons connected with his own temperament, which was
retiring and recessive, as well as the nature of this local social
world, he disliked and hesitated to even trifle with them.  They
were illegal, dangerous, involved little or no pay as a rule, and
the sentiment of this local world was all against them as he knew.
Besides he personally was more or less irritated by these young
scamps of boys and girls who were so free to exercise the normal
functions of their natures in the first instance, but so ready
to refuse the social obligations which went with them--marriage
afterwards.  And so, although in several cases in the past
ten years where family and other neighborhood and religious
considerations had made it seem quite advisable, he had assisted
in extricating from the consequences of their folly several young
girls of good family who had fallen from grace and could not
otherwise be rescued, still he was opposed to aiding, either by
his own countenance or skill, any lapses or tangles not heavily
sponsored by others.  It was too dangerous.  Ordinarily it was his
custom to advise immediate and unconditional marriage.  Or, where
that was not possible, the perpetrator of the infamy having
decamped, it was his general and self-consciously sanctioned
practice to have nothing at all to do with the matter.  It was too
dangerous and ethically and socially wrong and criminal into the
bargain.

In consequence he now looked at Roberta in an extremely sober
manner.  By no means, he now said to himself, must he allow himself
to become emotionally or otherwise involved here.  And so in order
to help himself as well as her to attain and maintain a balance
which would permit of both extricating themselves without too much
trouble, he drew toward him his black leather case record book and,
opening it, said:  "Now, let's see if we can't find out what the
trouble is here.  What is your name?"

"Ruth Howard.  Mrs. Howard," replied Roberta nervously and tensely,
at once fixing upon a name which Clyde had suggested for her use.
And now, interestingly enough, at mention of the fact that she was
married, he breathed easier.  But why the tears then?  What reason
could a young married woman have for being so intensely shy and
nervous?

"And your husband's first name?" he went on.

As simple as the question was, and as easy as it should have been
to answer, Roberta nevertheless hesitated before she could bring
herself to say:  "Gifford," her older brother's name.

"You live around her, I presume?"

"In Fonda."

"Yes.  And how old are you?"

"Twenty-two."

"How long have you been married?"

This inquiry being so intimately connected with the problem before
her, she again hesitated before saying, "Let me see--three months."

At once Dr. Glenn became dubious again, though he gave her no sign.
Her hesitancy arrested him.  Why the uncertainty?  He was wondering
now again whether he was dealing with a truthful girl or whether
his first suspicions were being substantiated.  In consequence he
now asked:  "Well, now what seems to be the trouble, Mrs. Howard?
You need have no hesitancy in telling me--none whatsoever.  I am
used to such things year in and out, whatever they are.  That is my
business, listening to the troubles of people."

"Well," began Roberta, nervously once more, this terrible
confession drying her throat and thickening her tongue almost,
while once more she turned the same button of her coat and gazed at
the floor.  "It's like this . . .  You see . . . my husband hasn't
much money . . . and I have to work to help out with expenses and
neither of us make so very much."  (She was astonishing herself
with her own shameful power to lie in this instance--she, who had
always hated to lie.)  "So . . . of course . . . we can't afford
to . . . to have . . . well, any . . . children, you see, so soon,
anyhow, and . . ."

She paused, her breath catching, and really unable to proceed
further with this wholesale lying.

The doctor realizing from this, as he thought, what the true
problem was--that she was a newly-married girl who was probably
faced by just such a problem as she was attempting to outline--yet
not wishing to enter upon any form of malpractice and at the same
time not wishing to appear too discouraging to a young couple just
starting out in life, gazed at her somewhat more sympathetically,
the decidedly unfortunate predicament of these young people, as
well as her appropriate modesty in the face of such a conventionally
delicate situation, appealing to him.  It was too bad.  Young people
these days did have a rather hard time of it, getting started in
some cases, anyhow.  And they were no doubt faced by some pressing
financial situations.  Nearly all young people were.  Nevertheless,
this business of a contraceptal operation or interference with the
normal or God-arranged life processes, well, that was a ticklish and
unnatural business at best which he wanted as little as possible to
do with.  Besides, young, healthy people, even though poor, when
they undertook marriage, knew what they were about.  And it was not
impossible for them to work, the husband anyhow, and hence manage in
some way.

And now straightening himself around in his chair very soberly and
authoritatively, he began:  "I think I understand what you want to
say to me, Mrs. Howard.  But I'm also wondering if you have
considered what a very serious and dangerous thing it is you have
in mind.  But," he added, suddenly, another thought as to whether
his own reputation in this community was in any way being tarnished
by rumor of anything he had done in the past coming to him, "just
how did you happen to come to me, anyhow?"

Something about the tone of his voice, the manner in which he asked
the question--the caution of it as well as the possibly impending
resentment in case it should turn out that any one suspected him of
a practice of this sort--caused Roberta to hesitate and to feel
that any statement to the effect that she had heard of or been sent
by any one else--Clyde to the contrary notwithstanding--might be
dangerous.  Perhaps she had better not say that she had been sent
by any one.  He might resent it as an insult to his character as a
reputable physician.  A budding instinct for diplomacy helped her
in this instance, and she replied:  "I've noticed your sign in
passing several times and I've heard different people say you were
a good doctor."

His uncertainty allayed, he now continued:  "In the first place,
the thing you want done is something my conscience would not permit
me to advise.  I understand, of course, that you consider it
necessary.  You and your husband are both young and you probably
haven't very much money to go on, and you both feel that an
interruption of this kind will be a great strain in every way.  And
no doubt it will be.  Still, as I see it, marriage is a very sacred
thing, and children are a blessing--not a curse.  And when you went
to the altar three months ago you were probably not unaware that
you might have to face just such a situation as this.  All young
married people are, I think."  ("The altar," thought Roberta sadly.
If only it were so.)  "Now I know that the tendency of the day in
some quarters is very much in this direction, I am sorry to say.
There are those who feel it quite all right if they can shirk the
normal responsibilities in such cases as to perform these
operations, but it's very dangerous, Mrs. Howard, very dangerous
legally and ethically as well as medically very wrong.  Many women
who seek to escape childbirth die in this way.  Besides it is a
prison offense for any doctor to assist them, whether there are bad
consequences or not.  You know that, I suppose.  At any rate, I,
for one, am heartily opposed to this sort of thing from every point
of view.  The only excuse I have ever been able to see for it is
when the life of the mother, for instance, depends upon such an
operation.  Not otherwise.  And in such cases the medical
profession is in accord.  But in this instance I'm sure the
situation isn't one which warrants anything like that.  You seem to
me to be a strong, healthy girl.  Motherhood should hold no serious
consequences for you.  And as for money reasons, don't you really
think now that if you just go ahead and have this baby, you and
your husband would find means of getting along?  You say your
husband is an electrician?"

"Yes," replied Roberta, nervously, not a little overawed and
subdued by his solemn moralizing.

"Well, now, there you are," he went on.  "That's not such an
unprofitable profession.  At least all electricians charge enough.
And when you consider, as you must, how serious a thing you are
thinking of doing, that you are actually planning to destroy a
young life that has as good a right to its existence as you have to
yours . . ." he paused in order to let the substance of what he was
saying sink in--"well, then, I think you might feel called upon to
stop and consider--both you and your husband.  Besides," he added,
in a diplomatic and more fatherly and even intriguing tone of
voice, "I think that once you have it it will more than make up to
you both for whatever little hardship its coming will bring you.
Tell me," he added curiously at this point, "does your husband know
of this?  Or is this just some plan of yours to save him and
yourself from too much hardship?"  He almost beamed cheerfully as,
fancying he had captured Roberta in some purely nervous and
feminine economy as well as dread, he decided that if so he could
easily extract her from her present mood.  And she, sensing his
present drift and feeling that one lie more or less could neither
help nor harm her, replied quickly:  "He knows."

"Well, then," he went on, slightly reduced by the fact that his
surmise was incorrect, but none the less resolved to dissuade her
and him, too:  "I think you two should really consider very
seriously before you go further in this matter.  I know when young
people first face a situation like this they always look on the
darkest side of it, but it doesn't always work out that way.  I
know my wife and I did with our first child.  But we got along.
And if you will only stop now and talk it over, you'll see it in a
different light, I'm sure.  And then you won't have your conscience
to deal with afterwards, either."  He ceased, feeling reasonably
sure that he had dispelled the fear, as well as the determination
that had brought Roberta to him--that, being a sensible, ordinary
wife, she would now desist of course--think nothing more of her
plan and leave.

But instead of either acquiescing cheerfully or rising to go, as he
thought she might, she gave him a wide-eyed terrified look and then
as instantly burst into tears.  For the total effect of his address
had been to first revive more clearly than ever the normal social
or conventional aspect of the situation which all along she was
attempting to shut out from her thoughts and which, under ordinary
circumstances, assuming that she was really married, was exactly
the attitude she would have taken.  But now the realization that
her problem was not to be solved at all, by this man at least,
caused her to be seized with what might best be described as morbid
panic.

Suddenly beginning to open and shut her fingers and at the same
time beating her knees, while her face contorted itself with pain
and terror, she exclaimed:  "But you don't understand, doctor, you
don't understand!  I HAVE to get out of this in some way!  I have
to.  It isn't like I told you at all.  I'm not married.  I haven't
any husband at all.  But, oh, you don't know what this means to me.
My family!  My father!  My mother!  I can't tell you.  But I must
get out of it.  I must!  I must!  Oh, you don't know, you don't
know!  I must!  I must!"  She began to rock backward and forward,
at the same time swaying from side to side as in a trance.

And Glenn, surprised and startled by this sudden demonstration as
well as emotionally affected, and yet at the same time advised
thereby that his original surmise had been correct, and hence that
Roberta had been lying, as well as that if he wished to keep
himself out of this he must now assume a firm and even heartless
attitude, asked solemnly:  "You are not married, you say?"

For answer now Roberta merely shook her head negatively and
continued to cry.  And at last gathering the full import of her
situation, Dr. Glenn got up, his face a study of troubled and yet
conservative caution and sympathy.  But without saying anything at
first he merely looked at her as she wept.  Later he added:  "Well,
well, this is too bad.  I'm sorry."  But fearing to commit himself
in any way, he merely paused, adding after a time soothingly and
dubiously:  "You mustn't cry.  That won't help you any."  He then
paused again, still determined not to have anything to do with this
case.  Yet a bit curious as to the true nature of the story he
finally asked:  "Well, then where is the young man who is the cause
of your trouble?  Is he here?"

Still too overcome by shame and despair to speak, Roberta merely
shook her head negatively.

"But he knows that you're in trouble, doesn't he?"

"Yes," replied Roberta faintly.

"And he won't marry you?"

"He's gone away."

"Oh, I see.  The young scamp!  And don't you know where he's gone?"

"No," lied Roberta, weakly.

"How long has it been since he left you?"

"About a week now."  Once more she lied.

"And you don't know where he is?"

"No."

"How long has it been since you were sick?"

"Over two weeks now," sobbed Roberta.

"And before that you have always been regular?"

"Yes."

"Well, in the first place," his tone was more comfortable and
pleasant than before--he seemed to be snatching at a plausible
excuse for extricating himself from a case which promised little
other than danger and difficulty, "this may not be as serious as
you think.  I know you're probably very much frightened, but it's
not unusual for women to miss a period.  At any rate, without an
examination it wouldn't be possible to be sure, and even if you
were, the most advisable thing would be to wait another two weeks.
You may find then that there is nothing wrong.  I wouldn't be
surprised if you did.  You seem to be oversensitive and nervous and
that sometimes brings about delays of this kind--mere nervousness.
At any rate, if you'll take my advice, whatever you do, you'll not
do anything now but just go home and wait until you're really sure.
For even if anything were to be done, it wouldn't be advisable for
you to do anything before then."

"But I've already taken some pills and they haven't helped me,"
pleaded Roberta.

"What were they?" asked Glenn interestedly, and, after he had
learned, merely commented:  "Oh, those.  Well, they wouldn't be
likely to be of any real service to you, if you were pregnant.  But
I still suggest that you wait, and if you find you pass your second
period, then it will be time enough to act, although I earnestly
advise you, even then, to do nothing if you can help it, because I
consider it wrong to interfere with nature in this way.  It would
be much better, if you would arrange to have the child and take
care of it.  Then you wouldn't have the additional sin of
destroying a life upon your conscience."

He was very grave and felt very righteous as he said this.  But
Roberta, faced by terrors which he did not appear to be able to
grasp, merely exclaimed, and as dramatically as before:  "But I
can't do that, doctor, I tell you!  I can't.  I can't!  You don't
understand.  Oh, I don't know what I shall do unless I find some
way out of this.  I don't!  I don't!  I don't!"

She shook her head and clenched her fingers and rocked to and fro
while Glenn, impressed by her own terrors, the pity of the folly
which, as he saw it, had led her to this dreadful pass, yet
professionally alienated by a type of case that spelled nothing but
difficulty for him stood determinedly before her and added:  "As I
told you before, Miss--" (he paused) "Howard, if that is your name,
I am seriously opposed to operations of this kind, just as I am to
the folly that brings girls and young men to the point where they
seem to think they are necessary.  A physician may not interfere in
a case of this kind unless he is willing to spend ten years in
prison, and I think that law is fair enough.  Not that I don't
realize how painful your present situation appears to you.  But
there are always those who are willing to help a girl in your
state, providing she doesn't wish to do something which is morally
and legally wrong.  And so the very best advice I can give you now
is that you do nothing at all now or at any time.  Better go home
and see your parents and confess.  It will be much better--much
better, I assure you.  Not nearly as hard as you think or as wicked
as this other way.  Don't forget there is a life there--a human--if
it is really as you think.  A human life which you are seeking to
end and that I cannot help you to do.  I really cannot.  There may
be doctors--I know there are--men here and there who take their
professional ethics a little less seriously than I do; but I cannot
let myself become one of them.  I am sorry--very.

"So now the best I can say is--go home to your parents and tell
them.  It may look hard now but you are going to feel better about
it in the long run.  If it will make you or them feel any better
about it, let them come and talk to me.  I will try and make them
see that this is not the worst thing in the world, either.  But as
for doing what you want--I am very, very sorry, but I cannot.  My
conscience will not permit me."

He paused and gazed at her sympathetically, yet with a determined
and concluded look in his eye.  And Roberta, dumbfounded by this
sudden termination of all her hopes in connection with him and
realizing at last that not only had she been misled by Clyde's
information in regard to this doctor, but that her technical as
well as emotional plea had failed, now walked unsteadily to the
door, the terrors of the future crowding thick upon her.  And once
outside in the dark, after the doctor had most courteously and
ruefully closed the door behind her, she paused to lean against a
tree that was there--her nervous and physical strength all but
failing her.  He had refused to help her.  He had refused to help
her.  And now what?



Chapter 38


The first effect of the doctor's decision was to shock and terrify
them both--Roberta and Clyde--beyond measure.  For apparently now
here was illegitimacy and disgrace for Roberta.  Exposure and
destruction for Clyde.  And this had been their one solution
seemingly.  Then, by degrees, for Clyde at least, there was a
slight lifting of the heavy pall.  Perhaps, after all, as the
doctor had suggested--and once she had recovered her senses
sufficiently to talk, she had told him--the end had not been
reached.  There was the bare possibility, as suggested by the
druggist, Short and the doctor, that she might be mistaken.  And
this, while not producing a happy reaction in her, had the
unsatisfactory result of inducing in Clyde a lethargy based more
than anything else on the ever-haunting fear of inability to cope
with this situation as well as the certainty of social exposure in
case he did not which caused him, instead of struggling all the
more desperately, to defer further immediate action.  For, such was
his nature that, although he realized clearly the probably tragic
consequences if he did not act, still it was so hard to think to
whom else to apply to without danger to himself.  To think that the
doctor had "turned her down," as he phrased it, and that Short's
advice should have been worth as little as that!

But apart from nervous thoughts as to whom to turn to next, no
particular individual occurred to him before the two weeks were
gone, or after.  It was so hard to just ask anywhere.  One just
couldn't do it.  Besides, of whom could he ask now?  Of whom?
These things took time, didn't they?  Yet in the meantime, the days
going by, both he and Roberta had ample time to consider what, if
any, steps they must take--the one in regard to the other--in case
no medical or surgical solution was found.  For Roberta, while
urging and urging, if not so much by words as by expression and
mood at her work, was determined that she must not be left to fight
this out alone--she could not be.  On the other hand, as she could
see, Clyde did nothing.  For apart from what he had already
attempted to do, he was absolutely at a loss how to proceed.  He
had no intimates and in consequence he could only think of
presenting the problem as an imaginary one to one individual and
another here or there in the hope of extracting some helpful
information.  At the same time, and as impractical and evasive as
it may seem, there was the call of that diverting world of which
Sondra was a part, evenings and Sundays, when, in spite of
Roberta's wretched state and mood, he was called to go here and
there, and did, because in so doing he was actually relieving his
own mind of the dread specter of disaster that was almost
constantly before it.  If only he could get her out of this!  If
only he could.  But how, without money, intimates, a more familiar
understanding of the medical or if not that exactly, then the sub
rosa world of sexual free-masonry which some at times--the bell-
hops of the Green-Davidson, for instance, seemed to understand.  He
had written to Ratterer, of course, but there had been no answer,
since Ratterer had removed to Florida and as yet Clyde's letter had
not reached him.  And locally all those he knew best were either
connected with the factory or society--individuals on the one hand
too inexperienced or dangerous, or on the other hand, too remote
and dangerous, since he was not sufficiently intimate with any of
them as yet to command their true confidence and secrecy.

At the same time he must do something--he could not just rest and
drift.  Assuredly Roberta could not long permit him to do that--
faced as she was by exposure.  And so from time to time he actually
racked himself--seized upon straws and what would have been looked
upon by most as forlorn chances.  Thus, for instance, an associate
foreman, chancing to reminisce one day concerning a certain girl in
his department who had "gotten in trouble" and had been compelled
to leave, he had been given the opportunity to inquire what he
thought such a girl did in case she could not afford or did not
want to have a child.  But this particular foreman, being as
uninformed as himself, merely observed that she probably had to see
a doctor if she knew one or "go through with it"--which left Clyde
exactly where he was.  On another occasion, in connection with a
conversation in a barber shop, relating to a local case reported in
The Star where a girl was suing a local ne'er-do-well for breach of
promise, the remark was made that she would "never have sued that
guy, you bet, unless she had to."  Whereupon Clyde seized the
opportunity to remark hopefully, "But wouldn't you think that she
could find some way of getting out of trouble without marrying a
fellow she didn't like?"

"Well, that's not so easy as you may think, particularly around
here," elucidated the wiseacre who was trimming his hair.  "In the
first place it's agin' the law.  And next it takes a lotta money.
An' in case you ain't got it, well, money makes the mare go, you
know."  He snip-snipped with his scissors while Clyde, confronted
by his own problem, meditated on how true it was.  If he had a lot
of money--even a few hundred dollars--he might take it now and
possibly persuade her--who could tell--to go somewhere by herself
and have an operation performed.

Yet each day, as on the one before, he was saying to himself that
he must find some one.  And Roberta was saying to herself that she
too must act--must not really depend on Clyde any longer if he were
going to act so.  One could not trifle or compromise with a terror
of this kind.  It was a cruel imposition on her.  It must be that
Clyde did not realize how terribly this affected her and even him.
For certainly, if he were not going to help her out of it, as he
had distinctly said he would do at first, then decidedly she could
not be expected to weather the subsequent storm alone.  Never,
never, never!  For, after all, as Roberta saw it, Clyde was a man--
he had a good position--it was not he, but she, who was in this
treacherous position and unable to extricate herself alone.

And beginning with the second day after the second period, when she
discovered for once and all that her worst suspicions were true,
she not only emphasized the fact in every way that she could that
she was distressed beyond all words, but on the third day announced
to him in a note that she was again going to see the doctor near
Gloversville that evening, regardless of his previous refusal--so
great was her need--and also asking Clyde whether he would
accompany her--a request which, since he had not succeeded in doing
anything, and although he had an engagement with Sondra, he
instantly acceded to--feeling it to be of greater importance than
anything else.  He must excuse himself to Sondra on the ground of
work.

And accordingly this second trip was made, a long and nervous
conversation between himself and Roberta on the way resulting in
nothing more than some explanations as to why thus far he had not
been able to achieve anything, plus certain encomiums addressed to
her concerning her courage in acting for herself in this way.

Yet the doctor again would not and did not act.  After waiting
nearly an hour for his return from somewhere, she was merely
permitted to tell him of her unchanged state and her destroying
fears in regard to herself, but with no hint from him that he could
be induced to act as indeed he could act.  It was against his
prejudices and ethics.

And so once more Roberta returned, this time not crying, actually
too sad to cry, choked with the weight of her impending danger and
the anticipatory fears and miseries that attended it.

And Clyde, hearing of this defeat, was at last reduced to a
nervous, gloomy silence, absolutely devoid of a helpful suggestion.
He could not think what to say and was chiefly fearful lest Roberta
now make some demand with which socially or economically he could
not comply.  However, in regard to this she said little on the way
home.  Instead she sat and stared out of the window--thinking of
her defenseless predicament that was becoming more real and
terrible to her hourly.  By way of excuse she pleaded that she had
a headache.  She wanted to be alone--only to think more--to try to
work out a solution.  She must work out some way.  That she knew.
But what?  How?  What could she do?  How could she possibly escape?
She felt like a cornered animal fighting for its life with all odds
against it, and she thought of a thousand remote and entirely
impossible avenues of escape, only to return to the one and only
safe and sound solution that she really felt should be possible--
and that was marriage.  And why not?  Hadn't she given him all, and
that against her better judgment?  Hadn't he overpersuaded her?
Who was he anyway to so cast her aside?  For decidedly at times,
and especially since this latest crisis had developed, his manner,
because of Sondra and the Griffiths and what he felt to be the
fatal effect of all this on his dreams here, was sufficient to make
plain that love was decidedly dead, and that he was not thinking
nearly so much of the meaning of her state to her, as he was of its
import to him, the injury that was most certain to accrue to him.
And when this did not completely terrify her, as mostly it did, it
served to irritate and slowly develop the conclusion that in such a
desperate state as this, she was justified in asking more than
ordinarily she would have dreamed of asking, marriage itself, since
there was no other door.  And why not?  Wasn't her life as good as
his?  And hadn't he joined his to hers, voluntarily?  Then, why
shouldn't he strive to help her now--or, failing that, make this
final sacrifice which was the only one by which she could be
rescued apparently.  For who were all the society people with whom
he was concerned anyhow?  And why should he ask her in such a
crisis to sacrifice herself, her future and good name, just because
of his interest in them?  They had never done anything very much
for him, certainly not as much as had she.  And, just because he
was wearying now, after persuading her to do his bidding--was that
any reason why now, in this crisis, he should be permitted to
desert her?  After all, wouldn't all of these society people in
whom he was so much interested feel that whatever his relationship
to them, she would be justified in taking the course which she
might be compelled to take?

She brooded on this much, more especially on the return from this
second attempt to induce Dr. Glenn to help her.  In fact, at
moments, her face took on a defiant, determined look which was
seemingly new to her, but which only developed suddenly under such
pressure.  Her jaw became a trifle set.  She had made a decision.
He would have to marry her.  She must make him if there were no
other way out of this.  She must--she must.  Think of her home, her
mother, Grace Marr, the Newtons, all who knew her in fact--the
terror and pain and shame with which this would sear all those in
any way identified with her--her father, brothers, sisters.
Impossible!  Impossible!  It must not and could not be!  Impossible.
It might seem a little severe to her, even now, to have to insist on
this, considering all the emphasis Clyde had hitherto laid upon his
prospects here.  But how, how else was she to do?

Accordingly the next day, and not a little to his surprise, since
for so many hours the night before they had been together, Clyde
received another note telling him that he must come again that
night.  She had something to say to him, and there was something in
the tone of the note that seemed to indicate or suggest a kind of
defiance of a refusal of any kind, hitherto absent in any of her
communications to him.  And at once the thought that this
situation, unless cleared away, was certain to prove disastrous, so
weighed upon him that he could not but put the best face possible
on it and consent to go and hear what it was that she had to offer
in the way of a solution--or--on the other hand, of what she had to
complain.

Going to her room at a late hour, he found her in what seemed to
him a more composed frame of mind than at any time since this
difficulty had appeared, a state which surprised him a little,
since he had expected to find her in tears.  But now, if anything,
she appeared more complacent, her nervous thoughts as to how to
bring about a satisfactory conclusion for herself having called
into play a native shrewdness which was now seeking to exercise
itself.

And so directly before announcing what was in her mind, she began
by asking:  "You haven't found out about another doctor, have you,
Clyde, or thought of anything?"

"No, I haven't, Bert," he replied most dismally and wearisomely,
his own mental tether-length having been strained to the breaking
point.  "I've been trying to, as you know, but it's so darn hard to
find any one who isn't afraid to monkey with a case like this.
Honest, to tell the truth, Bert, I'm about stumped.  I don't know
what we are going to do unless you can think of something.  You
haven't thought or heard of any one else you could go to, have
you?"  For, during the conversation that had immediately followed
her first visit to the doctor, he had hinted to her that by
striking up a fairly intimate relationship with one of the foreign
family girls, she might by degrees extract some information there
which would be of use to both.  But Roberta was not of a
temperament that permitted of any such facile friendships, and
nothing had come of it.

However, his stating that he was "stumped" now gave her the
opportunity she was really desiring, to present the proposition
which she felt to be unavoidable and not longer to be delayed.  Yet
being fearful of how Clyde would react, she hesitated as to the
form in which she would present it, and, after shaking her head and
manifesting a nervousness which was real enough, she finally said:
"Well, I'll tell you, Clyde.  I've been thinking about it and I
don't see any way out of it unless--unless you, well, marry me.
It's two months now, you know, and unless we get married right
away, everybody'll know, won't they?"

Her manner as she said this was a mixture of outward courage born
out of her conviction that she was in the right and an inward
uncertainty about Clyde's attitude, which was all the more fused by
a sudden look of surprise, resentment, uncertainty and fear that
now transformation-wise played over his countenance; a variation
and play which, if it indicated anything definite, indicated that
she was seeking to inflict an unwarranted injury on him.  For since
he had been drawing closer and closer to Sondra, his hopes had
heightened so intensely that, hearkening to this demand on the part
of Roberta now, his brow wrinkled and his manner changed from one
of comparatively affable, if nervous, consideration to that of
mingled fear, opposition as well as determination to evade drastic
consequence.  For this would spell complete ruin for him, the loss
of Sondra, his job, his social hopes and ambitions in connection
with the Griffiths--all--a thought which sickened and at the same
time caused him to hesitate about how to proceed.  But he would
not! he would not!  He would not do this!  Never!  Never!!
Never!!!

Yet after a moment he exclaimed equivocally:  "Well, gee, that's
all right, too, Bert, for you, because that fixes everything
without any trouble at all.  But what about me?  You don't want to
forget that that isn't going to be easy for me, the way things are
now.  You know I haven't any money.  All I have is my job.  And
besides, the family don't know anything about you yet--not a thing.
And if it should suddenly come out now that we've been going
together all this time, and that this has happened, and that I was
going to have to get married right away, well, gee, they'll know
I've been fooling 'em and they're sure to get sore.  And then what?
They might even fire me."

He paused to see what effect this explanation would have, but
noting the somewhat dubious expression which of late characterized
Roberta's face whenever he began excusing himself, he added
hopefully and evasively, seeking by any trick that he could to
delay this sudden issue:  "Besides, I'm not so sure that I can't
find a doctor yet, either.  I haven't had much luck so far, but
that's not saying that I won't.  And there's a little time yet,
isn't there?  Sure there is.  It's all right up to three months
anyway."  (He had since had a letter from Ratterer who had
commented on this fact.)  "And I did hear something the other day
of a doctor over in Albany who might do it.  Anyway, I thought I'd
go over and see before I said anything about him."

His manner, when he said this, was so equivocal that Roberta could
tell he was merely lying to gain time.  There was no doctor in
Albany.  Besides it was so plain that he resented her suggestion
and was only thinking of some way of escaping it.  And she knew
well enough that at no time had he said directly that he would
marry her.  And while she might urge, in the last analysis she
could not force him to do anything.  He might just go away alone,
as he had once said in connection with inadvertently losing his job
because of her.  And how much greater might not his impulse in that
direction now be, if this world here in which he was so much
interested were taken away from him, and he were to face the
necessity of taking her and a child, too.  It made her more
cautious and caused her to modify her first impulse to speak out
definitely and forcefully, however great her necessity might be.
And so disturbed was he by the panorama of the bright world of
which Sondra was the center and which was now at stake, that he
could scarcely think clearly.  Should he lose all this for such a
world as he and Roberta could provide for themselves--a small home--
a baby, such a routine work-a-day life as taking care of her and a
baby on such a salary as he could earn, and from which most likely
he would never again be freed!  God!  A sense of nausea seized him.
He could not and would not do this.  And yet, as he now saw, all
his dreams could be so easily tumbled about his ears by her and
because of one false step on his part.  It made him cautious and
for the first time in his life caused tact and cunning to visualize
itself as a profound necessity.

And at the same time, Clyde was sensing inwardly and somewhat
shamefacedly all of this profound change in himself.

But Roberta was saying:  "Oh, I know, Clyde, but you yourself said
just now that you were stumped, didn't you?  And every day that
goes by just makes it so much the worse for me, if we're not going
to be able to get a doctor.  You can't get married and have a child
born within a few months--you know that.  Every one in the world
would know.  Besides I have myself to consider as well as you, you
know.  And the baby, too."  (At the mere mention of a coming child
Clyde winced and recoiled as though he had been slapped.  She noted
it.)  "I just must do one of two things right away, Clyde--get
married or get out of this and you don't seem to be able to get me
out of it, do you?  If you're so afraid of what your uncle might
think or do in case we get married," she added nervously and yet
suavely, "why couldn't we get married right away and then keep it a
secret for a while--as long as we could, or as long as you thought
we ought to," she added shrewdly.  "Meanwhile I could go home and
tell my parents about it--that I am married, but that it must be
kept a secret for a while.  Then when the time came, when things
got so bad that we couldn't stay here any longer without telling,
why we could either go away somewhere, if we wanted to--that is, if
you didn't want your uncle to know, or we could just announce that
we were married some time ago.  Lots of young couples do that
nowadays.  And as for getting along," she went on, noting a sudden
dour shadow that passed over Clyde's face like a cloud, "why we
could always find something to do--I know I could, anyhow, once the
baby is born."

When first she began to speak, Clyde had seated himself on the edge
of the bed, listening nervously and dubiously to all she had to
offer.  However, when she came to that part which related to
marriage and going away, he got up--an irresistible impulse to move
overcoming him.  And when she concluded with the commonplace
suggestion of going to work as soon as the baby was born, he looked
at her with little less than panic in his eyes.  To think of
marrying and being in a position where it would be necessary to do
that, when with a little luck and without interference from her, he
might marry Sondra.

"Oh, yes, that's all right for you, Bert.  That fixes everything up
for you, but how about me?  Why, gee whiz, I've only got started
here now as it is, and if I have to pack up and get out, and I
would have to, if ever they found out about this, why I don't know
what I'd do.  I haven't any business or trade that I could turn my
hand to.  It might go hard with both of us.  Besides my uncle gave
me this chance because I begged him to, and if I walked off now he
never would do anything for me."

In his excitement he was forgetting that at one time and another in
the past he had indicated to Roberta that the state of his own
parents was not wholly unprosperous and that if things did not go
just to his liking here, he could return west and perhaps find
something to do out there.  And it was some general recollection of
this that now caused her to ask:  "Couldn't we go out to Denver or
something like that?  Wouldn't your father be willing to help you
get something for a time, anyhow?"

Her tone was very soft and pleading, an attempt to make Clyde feel
that things could not be as bad as he was imagining.  But the mere
mention of his father in connection with all this--the assumption
that he, of all people, might prove an escape from drudgery for
them both, was a little too much.  It showed how dreadfully
incomplete was her understanding of his true position in this
world.  Worse, she was looking for help from that quarter.  And,
not finding it, later might possibly reproach him for that--who
could tell--for his lies in connection with it.  It made so very
clear now the necessity for frustrating, if possible, and that at
once, any tendency toward this idea of marriage.  It could not be--
ever.

And yet how was he to oppose this idea with safety, since she felt
that she had this claim on him--how say to her openly and coldly
that he could not and would not marry her?  And unless he did so
now she might think it would be fair and legitimate enough for her
to compel him to do so.  She might even feel privileged to go to
his uncle--his cousin (he could see Gilbert's cold eyes) and expose
him!  And then destruction!  Ruin!  The end of all his dreams in
connection with Sondra and everything else here.  But all he could
think of saying now was:  "But I can't do this, Bert, not now,
anyway," a remark which at once caused Roberta to assume that the
idea of marriage, as she had interjected it here, was not one
which, under the circumstances, he had the courage to oppose--his
saying, "not now, anyway."  Yet even as she was thinking this, he
went swiftly on with:  "Besides I don't want to get married so
soon.  It means too much to me at this time.  In the first place
I'm not old enough and I haven't got anything to get married on.
And I can't leave here.  I couldn't do half as well anywhere else.
You don't realize what this chance means to me.  My father's all
right, but he couldn't do what my uncle could and he wouldn't.  You
don't know or you wouldn't ask me to do this."

He paused, his face a picture of puzzled fear and opposition.  He
was not unlike a harried animal, deftly pursued by hunter and
hound.  But Roberta, imagining that his total defection had been
caused by the social side of Lycurgus as opposed to her own low
state and not because of the superior lure of any particular girl,
now retorted resentfully, although she desired not to appear so:
"Oh, yes, I know well enough why you can't leave.  It isn't your
position here, though, half as much as it is those society people
you are always running around with.  I know.  You don't care for me
any more, Clyde, that's it, and you don't want to give these other
people up for me.  I know that's it and nothing else.  But just the
same it wasn't so very long ago that you did, although you don't
seem to remember it now."  Her cheeks burned and her eyes flamed as
she said this.  She paused a moment while he gazed at her wondering
about the outcome of all this.  "But you can't leave me to make out
any way I can, just the same, because I won't be left this way,
Clyde.  I can't!  I can't!  I tell you."  She grew tense and
staccato, "It means too much to me.  I don't know how to do alone
and I, besides, have no one to turn to but you and you must help
me.  I've got to get out of this, that's all, Clyde, I've got to.
I'm not going to be left to face my people and everybody without
any help or marriage or anything."  As she said this, her eyes
turned appealingly and yet savagely toward him and she emphasized
it all with her hands, which she clinched and unclinched in a
dramatic way.  "And if you can't help me out in the way you
thought," she went on most agonizedly as Clyde could see, "then
you've got to help me out in this other, that's all.  At least
until I can do for myself I just won't be left.  I don't ask you to
marry me forever," she now added, the thought that if by presenting
this demand in some modified form, she could induce Clyde to marry
her, it might be possible afterwards that his feeling toward her
would change to a much more kindly one.  "You can leave me after a
while if you want to.  After I'm out of this.  I can't prevent you
from doing that and I wouldn't want to if I could.  But you can't
leave me now.  You can't.  You can't!  Besides," she added, "I
didn't want to get myself in this position and I wouldn't have, but
for you.  But you made me and made me let you come in here.  And
now you want to leave me to shift for myself, just because you
think you won't be able to go in society any more, if they find out
about me."

She paused, the strain of this contest proving almost too much for
her tired nerves.  At the same time she began to sob nervously and
yet not violently--a marked effort at self-restraint and recovery
marking her every gesture.  And after a moment or two in which both
stood there, he gazing dumbly and wondering what else he was to say
in answer to all this, she struggling and finally managing to
recover her poise, she added:  "Oh, what is it about me that's so
different to what I was a couple of months ago, Clyde?  Will you
tell me that?  I'd like to know.  What is it that has caused you to
change so?  Up to Christmas, almost, you were as nice to me as any
human being could be.  You were with me nearly all the time you
had, and since then I've scarcely had an evening that I didn't beg
for.  Who is it?  What is it?  Some other girl, or what, I'd like
to know--that Sondra Finchley or Bertine Cranston, or who?"

Her eyes as she said this were a study.  For even to this hour, as
Clyde could now see to his satisfaction, since he feared the effect
on Roberta of definite and absolute knowledge concerning Sondra,
she had no specific suspicion, let alone positive knowledge
concerning any girl.  And coward-wise, in the face of her present
predicament and her assumed and threatened claims on him, he was
afraid to say what or who the real cause of this change was.
Instead he merely replied and almost unmoved by her sorrow, since
he no longer really cared for her:  "Oh, you're all wrong, Bert.
You don't see what the trouble is.  It's my future here--if I leave
here I certainly will never find such an opportunity.  And if I
have to marry in this way or leave here it will all go flooey.  I
want to wait and get some place first before I marry, see--save
some money and if I do this I won't have a chance and you won't
either," he added feebly, forgetting for the moment that up to this
time he had been indicating rather clearly that he did not want to
have anything more to do with her in any way.

"Besides," he continued, "if you could only find some one, or if
you would go away by yourself somewhere for a while, Bert, and go
through with this alone, I could send you the money to do it on, I
know.  I could have it between now and the time you had to go."

His face, as he said this, and as Roberta clearly saw, mirrored the
complete and resourceless collapse of all his recent plans in
regard to her.  And she, realizing that his indifference to her had
reached the point where he could thus dispose of her and their
prospective baby in this casual and really heartless manner, was
not only angered in part, but at the same time frightened by the
meaning of it all.

"Oh, Clyde," she now exclaimed boldly and with more courage and
defiance than at any time since she had known him, "how you have
changed!  And how hard you can be.  To want me to go off all by
myself and just to save you--so you can stay here and get along and
marry some one here when I am out of the way and you don't have to
bother about me any more.  Well, I won't do it.  It's not fair.
And I won't, that's all.  I won't.  And that's all there is to it.
You can get some one to get me out of this or you can marry me and
come away with me, at least long enough for me to have the baby and
place myself right before my people and every one else that knows
me.  I don't care if you leave me afterwards, because I see now
that you really don't care for me any more, and if that's the way
you feel, I don't want you any more than you want me.  But just the
same, you must help me now--you must.  But, oh, dear," she began
whimpering again, and yet only slightly and bitterly.  "To think
that all our love for each other should have come to this--that I
am asked to go away by myself--all alone--with no one--while you
stay here, oh, dear! oh, dear!  And with a baby on my hands
afterwards.  And no husband."

She clinched her hands and shook her head bleakly.  Clyde,
realizing well enough that his proposition certainly was cold and
indifferent but, in the face of his intense desire for Sondra, the
best or at least safest that he could devise, now stood there
unable for the moment to think of anything more to say.

And although there was some other discussion to the same effect,
the conclusion of this very difficult hour was that Clyde had
another week or two at best in which to see if he could find a
physician or any one who would assist him.  After that--well after
that the implied, if not openly expressed, threat which lay at the
bottom of this was, unless so extricated and speedily, that he
would have to marry her, if not permanently, then at least
temporarily, but legally just the same, until once again she was
able to look after herself--a threat which was as crushing and
humiliating to Roberta as it was torturing to him.



Chapter 39


Opposing views such as these, especially where no real skill to
meet such a situation existed, could only spell greater difficulty
and even eventual disaster unless chance in some form should aid.
And chance did not aid.  And the presence of Roberta in the factory
was something that would not permit him to dismiss it from his
mind.  If only he could persuade her to leave and go somewhere else
to live and work so that he should not always see her, he might
then think more calmly.  For with her asking continuously, by her
presence if no more, what he intended to do, it was impossible for
him to think.  And the fact that he no longer cared for her as he
had, tended to reduce his normal consideration of what was her due.
He was too infatuated with, and hence disarranged by his thoughts
of Sondra.

For in the very teeth of this grave dilemma he continued to pursue
the enticing dream in connection with Sondra--the dark situation in
connection with Roberta seeming no more at moments than a dark
cloud which shadowed this other.  And hence nightly, or as often as
the exigencies of his still unbroken connection with Roberta would
permit, he was availing himself of such opportunities as his
flourishing connections now afforded.  Now, and to his great pride
and satisfaction, it was a dinner at the Harriets' or Taylors' to
which he was invited; or a party at the Finchleys' or the
Cranstons', to which he would either escort Sondra or be animated
by the hope of encountering her.  And now, also without so many of
the former phases or attempts at subterfuge, which had previously
characterized her curiosity in regard to him, she was at times
openly seeking him out and making opportunities for social contact.
And, of course, these contacts being identical with this typical
kind of group gathering, they seemed to have no special
significance with the more conservative elders.

For although Mrs. Finchley, who was of an especially shrewd and
discerning turn socially, had at first been dubious over the
attentions being showered upon Clyde by her daughter and others,
still observing that Clyde was more and more being entertained, not
only in her own home by the group of which her daughter was a part,
but elsewhere, everywhere, was at last inclined to imagine that he
must be more solidly placed in this world than she had heard, and
later to ask her son and even Sondra concerning him.  But receiving
from Sondra only the equivocal information that, since he was Gil
and Bella Griffiths' cousin, and was being taken up by everybody
because he was so charming--even if he didn't have any money--she
couldn't see why she and Stuart should not be allowed to entertain
him also, her mother rested on that for the time being--only
cautioning her daughter under no circumstances to become too
friendly.  And Sondra, realizing that in part her mother was right,
yet being so drawn to Clyde was now determined to deceive her, at
least to the extent of being as clandestinely free with Clyde as
she could contrive.  And was, so much so that every one who was
privy to the intimate contacts between Clyde and Sondra might have
reported that the actual understanding between them was assuming
an intensity which most certainly would have shocked the elder
Finchleys, could they have known.  For apart from what Clyde had
been, and still was dreaming in regard to her, Sondra was truly
being taken with thoughts and moods in regard to him which were
fast verging upon the most destroying aspects of the very profound
chemistry of love.  Indeed, in addition to handclasps, kisses and
looks of intense admiration always bestowed when presumably no one
was looking, there were those nebulous and yet strengthening and
lengthening fantasies concerning a future which in some way or
other, not clear to either as yet, was still always to include each
other.

Summer days perhaps, and that soon, in which he and she would be in
a canoe at Twelfth Lake, the long shadows of the trees on the bank
lengthening over the silvery water, the wind rippling the surface
while he paddled and she idled and tortured him with hints of the
future; a certain forest path, grass-sodden and sun-mottled to the
south and west of the Cranston and Phant estates, near theirs,
through which they might canter in June and July to a wonderful
view known as Inspiration Point some seven miles west; the country
fair at Sharon, at which, in a gypsy costume, the essence of
romance itself, she would superintend a booth, or, in her smartest
riding habit, give an exhibition of her horsemanship--teas, dances
in the afternoon and in the moonlight at which, languishing in his
arms, their eyes would speak.

None of the compulsion of the practical.  None of the inhibitions
which the dominance and possible future opposition of her parents
might imply.  Just love and summer, and idyllic and happy progress
toward an eventual secure and unopposed union which should give him
to her forever.

And in the meantime, in so far as Roberta was concerned, two more
long, dreary, terrifying months going by without that meditated
action on her part which must result once it was taken in Clyde's
undoing.  For, as convinced as she was that apart from meditating
and thinking of some way to escape his responsibility, Clyde had no
real intention of marrying her, still, like Clyde, she drifted,
fearing to act really.  For in several conferences following that
in which she had indicated that she expected him to marry her, he
had reiterated, if vaguely, a veiled threat that in case she
appealed to his uncle he would n