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Title: The Cup of Fury - A Novel of Cities and Shipyards
Author: Hughes, Rupert, 1872-1956
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Cup of Fury - A Novel of Cities and Shipyards" ***

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THE CUP OF FURY



BOOKS BY RUPERT HUGHES

 The Cup of Fury
 The Unpardonable Sin
 We Can't Have Everything
 In a Little Town
 The Thirteenth Commandment
 Clipped Wings
 What Will People Say?
 The Last Rose of Summer
 Empty Pockets
 Long Ever Ago

HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK

Established 1817



[Illustration: "It would be nice to be married," Marie Louise reflected,
"if one could stay single at the same time."]



THE CUP OF FURY

A Novel of Cities and Shipyards

BY RUPERT HUGHES

Author of "We Can't Have Everything" "The Unpardonable Sin" etc.

ILLUSTRATED BY HENRY RALEIGH

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS

NEW YORK AND LONDON



THE CUP OF FURY

 Copyright, 1919, by Harper & Brothers
 Printed in the United States of America
 Published May, 1919



ILLUSTRATIONS

  "It would be nice to be married," Marie Louise
      reflected, "if one could stay single at the same
      time."                                              Frontispiece
                                                             Facing p.
  He tried to swing her to the pommel, but she fought
      herself free and came to the ground and was almost
      trampled.                                                      3
  "This is the life for me. I've been a heroine and a
      war-worker about as long as I can."                           75
  "'It's beautiful overhead if you're going that way,'"
      Davidge quoted. He set out briskly, but Marie
      Louise hung back. "Aren't you afraid to push on
      when you can't see where you're going?" she
      demanded.                                                     91
  There was something hallowed and awesome about it all.
      It had a cathedral majesty.                                  166
  How quaint a custom it is for people who know each
      other well and see each other in plain clothes
      every day to get themselves up with meticulous
      skill in the evening like Christmas parcels for
      each other's examination.                                    235
  "So I have already done something more for Germany.
      That's splendid. Now tell me what else I can do."
      Nicky was too intoxicated with his success to see
      through her thin disguise.                                   270
  Nobody recognized the lily-like beauty of Miss Webling
      in the smutty-faced passer-boy crouching at
      Sutton's elbow.                                              282



BOOK I

IN LONDON



[Illustration: He tried to swing her to the pommel, but she fought
herself free and came to the ground and was almost trampled.]



THE CUP OF FURY

CHAPTER I


Then the big door swung back as if of itself. Marie Louise had felt
that she would scream if she were kept a moment outside. The luxury of
simply wishing the gate ajar gave her a fairy-book delight enhanced by
the pleasant deference of the footman, whose face seemed to be hung on
the door like a Japanese mask.

Marie Louise rejoiced in the dull splendor of the hall. The obsolete
gorgeousness of the London home had never been in good taste, but had
grown as lovable with years as do the gaudy frumperies of a rich old
relative. All the good, comfortable shelter of wealth won her blessing
now as never before. The stairway had something of the grand manner,
too, but it condescended graciously to escort her up to her own room;
and there, she knew, was a solitude where she could cry as hard as she
wanted to, and therefore usually did not want to. Besides, her mood
now was past crying for.

She was afraid of the world, afraid of the light. She felt the
cave-impulse to steal into a deep nook and cower there till her heart
should be replenished with courage automatically, as ponds are fed
from above.

Marie Louise wanted walls about her, and stillness, and people shut
out. She was in one of the moods when the soul longs to gather its
faculties together in a family, making one self of all its selves.
Marie Louise had known privation and homelessness and the perils they
bring a young woman, and now she had riches and a father and mother
who were great people in a great land, and who had adopted her into
their own hearts, their lives, their name. But to-day she asked
nothing more than a deep cranny in a dark cave.

She would have said that no human voice or presence could be anything
but a torture to her. And yet, when she hurried up the steps, she was
suddenly miraculously restored to cheerfulness by the tiny explosion
of a child's laughter instantly quenched. She knew that she was about
to be ambushed as usual. She must pretend to be completely surprised
once more, and altogether terrified with her perfect regularity.

Her soul had been so utterly surprised and terrified in the outer
world that this infantile parody was curiously welcome, since nothing
keeps the mind in balance on the tight-rope of sanity like the
counterweight that comedy furnishes to tragedy, farce to frenzy, and
puerility to solemnity.

The children called her "Auntie," but they were not hers except
through the adoption of a love that had to claim some kinship. They
looked like her children, though--so much so, indeed, that strangers
thought that she was their young mother. But it was because she looked
like their mother, who had died, that the American girl was a member
of this British household, inheriting some of its wealth and much of
its perilous destiny.

She had been ambuscaded in the street to-day by demons not of faery,
but of fact, that had leaped out at her from nowhere. It solaced her
somehow to burlesque the terror that had whelmed her, and, now that
she was assailed by ruthless thugs of five and seven years, the
shrieks she had not dared to release in the street she gave forth with
vigor, as two nightgowned tots flung themselves at her with
milk-curdling cries of:

"Boo-ooh!"

Holding up pink fat hands for pistols, they snapped their thumbs at
her and said:

"Bang! Bang!"

And she emitted most amusing squeals of anguish and staggered back,
stammering:

"Oh, p-p-please, Mr. Robbobber and Miss Burgurgular, take my l-l-life
but spare my m-m-money."

She had been so genuinely scared before that she marred the sacred
text now, and the First Murderer, who had all the conservative
instincts of childhood, had to correct her misquotation of the sacred
formula:

"No, no, Auntie. Say, 'Take my money but spare my life!' Now we dot to
do it all over."

"I beg your pardon humbly," she said, and went back to be ambushed
again. This time the boy had an inspiration. To murder and robbery he
would add scalping.

But Marie Louise was tired. She had had enough of fright, real or
feigned, and refused to be scalped. Besides, she had been to the
hairdresser's, and she explained that she really could not afford to
be scalped. The boy was bitterly disappointed, and he grew furious
when the untimely maid came for him and for his ruthless sister and
demanded that they come to bed at once or be reported.

As the warriors were dragged off to shameful captivity, Marie Louise,
watching them, was suddenly shocked by the thought of how early in
life humanity begins to revel in slaughter. The most innocent babes
must be taught not to torture animals. Cruelty comes with them like a
caul, or a habit brought in from a previous existence. They always
almost murder their mothers and sometimes quite slay them when they
are born. Their first pastimes are killing games, playing dead,
stories of witches, cannibalistic ogres. The American Indian is the
international nursery pet because of his traditional fiendishness.

It seemed inconsistent, but it was historically natural that the boy
interrupted in his massacre of his beloved aunt should hang back to
squall that he would say his prayers only to her. Marie Louise glanced
at her watch. She had barely time to dress for dinner, but the
children had to be obeyed. She made one weak protest.

"Fräulein hears your prayers."

"But she's wented out."

"Well, I'll hear them, then."

"Dot to tell us fairy-'tory, too," said the girl.

"All right, one fairy-'tory--"

She went to the nursery, and the cherubs swarmed up to her lap
demanding "somefin bluggy."

Invention failed her completely. She hunted through her memory among
the Grimms' fairy-tales. She could recall nothing that seemed sweet
and guileless enough for these two lambs.

All that she could think of seemed to be made up of ghoulish plots;
of children being mistreated by harsh stepmothers; of their being
turned over to peasants to slay; of their being changed into animals
or birds; of their being seized by wolves, or by giants that drank
blood and crunched children's bones as if they were reed birds; of
hags that cut them up into bits or thrust them into ovens and cooked
them for gingerbread. It occurred to her that all the German
fairy-stories were murderously cruel. She felt a revulsion against
each of the legends. But her mind could not find substitutes.

After a period of that fearful ordeal when children tyrannize for
romances that will not come, her mind grew mutinous and balked. She
confessed her poverty of ideas.

The girl, Bettina, sulked; the boy screamed:

"Aw, botheration! We might as well say our prayers and go to bed."

In the least pious of moods they dropped from her knees to their own
and put their clasped hands across her lap. They became in a way
hallowed by their attitude, and the world seemed good to her again as
she looked down at the two children, beautiful as only children can
be, innocent of wile, of hardship and of crime, safe at home and
praying to their heavenly Father from whose presence they had so
recently come.

But as she brooded over them motherly and took strength from them as
mothers do, she thought of other children in other countries orphaned
in swarms, starving in multitudes, waiting for food like flocks of
lambs in the blizzard of the war. She thought still more vividly of
children flung into the ocean. She had seen these children at her
knees fighting against bitter medicines, choking on them and blurting
them out at mouth and nose and almost, it seemed, at eyes. So it was
very vivid to her how children thrown into the sea must have gagged
with terror at the bitter medicine of death, strangled and smothered
as they drowned.

She heard the prayers mumbled through, but at the hasty "Amen" she
protested.

"You didn't thank God for anything. Haven't you anything to thank God
for?"

If they had expressed any doubt, she would have told them of dozens of
special mercies, but almost instantly they answered, "Oh yes!" They
looked at each other, understood, nodded, clapped their hands, and
chuckled with pride. Then they bent their heads, gabled their
finger-tips, and the boy said:

"We t'ank Dee, O Dod, for making sink dat old _Lusitania_." And the
girl said, "A-men!"

Marie Louise gave a start as if she had been stabbed. It was the loss
of the _Lusitania_ that had first terrified her. She had just seen it
announced on the placards of newsboys in London streets, and had fled
home to escape from the vision, only to hear the children thank Heaven
for it! She rose so suddenly that she flung the children back from
their knees to their haunches. They stared up at her in wondering
fear. She stepped outside the baleful circle and went striding up and
down the room, fighting herself back to self-control, telling herself
that the children were not to blame, yet finding them the more
repulsive for their very innocence. The purer the lips, the viler the
blasphemy.

She was not able to restrain herself from denouncing them with all her
ferocity. She towered over them and cried out upon them: "You wicked,
wicked little beasts, how dare you put such loathsome words into a
prayer! God must have gasped with horror in heaven at the shame of it.
Wherever did you get so hateful an idea?"

"Wicked your own self!" the boy snapped back. "Fräulein read it in the
paper about the old boat, and she walked up and down the room like
what you do, and she said, '_Ach, unser_ Dott--how dood you are to us,
to make sink dat _Lusitania_!'"

He was going on to describe her ecstasy, but Marie Louise broke in:
"It's Fräulein's work, is it? I might have known that! Oh, the fiend,
the harpy!"

The boy did not know what a harpy was, but he knew that his beloved
Fräulein was being called something, and he struck at Marie Louise
fiercely, kicked at her shins and tried to bite her hands, screaming:
"You shall not call our own precious Fräulein names. Harpy, your own
self!"

And the little girl struck and scratched and made a curdled face and
echoed, "Harpy, your own self!"

It hurt Marie Louise so extravagantly to be hated by these irascible
cherubs that her anger vanished in regret. She pleaded: "But, my
darlings, you don't know what you are saying. The _Lusitania_ was a
beautiful ship--"

The boy, Victor, was loyal always to his own: "She wasn't as beautiful
as my yacht what I sail in the Round Pond."

Marie Louise condescended to argue: "Oh yes, she was! She was a great
ship, noble like Saint Paul's Cathedral, and she was loaded with
passengers, men and women and children: and then suddenly she was
ripped open and sunk, and little children like you were thrown into
the water, into the deep, deep, deep ocean. And the big waves tore
them from their mothers' arms and ran off with them, choking and
strangling them and dragging them down and down--forever down."

She was dizzied by the horde of visions mobbing her brain. Then the
onrush of horror was checked abruptly as she saw the supercilious lad
regarding her frenzy calmly. His comment was:

"It served 'em jolly well right for bein' on 'at old boat."

Marie Louise almost swooned with dread of such a soul. She shrank from
the boy and groaned, "Oh, you toad, you little toad!"

He was frightened a little by her disgust, and he took refuge in a
higher authority. "Fräulein told us. And she knows."

The bit lassiky stormed to his support: "She does so!" and drove it
home with the last nail of feminine argument: "So there now!"

Marie Louise retorted, weakly: "We'll see! We'll soon see!" And she
rushed out of the room, like another little girl, straight to the door
of Sir Joseph, where she knocked impatiently. His man appeared and
murmured through a crevice: "Sorry, miss, but Seh Joseph is
dressing."

Marie Louise went to Lady Webling's door, and a maid came to whisper:
"She is in her teb. We're having dinner at tome to-night, miss."

Marie Louise nodded. Dinner must be served, and on time. It was the
one remaining solemnity that must not be forgotten or delayed.

She went to her own room. Her maid was in a stew about the hour, and
the gown that was to be put on. Marie Louise felt that black was the
only wear on such a Bartholomew's night. But Sir Joseph hated black so
well that he had put a clause in his will against its appearance even
at his own funeral. Marie Louise loved him dearly, but she feared his
prejudices. She had an abject terror of offending him, because she
felt that she owed everything she had, and was, to the whim of his
good grace. Gratitude was a passion with her, and it doomed her, as
all passions do, good or bad, to the penalties human beings pay for
every excess of virtue or vice--if, indeed, vice is anything but an
immoderate, untimely virtue.



CHAPTER II


Marie Louise let her maid select the gown. She was an exquisite
picture as she stood before the long mirror and watched the buckling
on of her armor, her armor of taffeta and velvet with the colors of
sunlit leaves and noon-warmed flowers in carefully elected wrinkles
assured with many a hook and eye. Her image was radiant and pliant and
altogether love-worthy, but her thoughts were sad and stern.

She was resolved that Fräulein should not remain in the house another
night. She wondered that Sir Joseph had not ousted her from the family
at the first crash of war. The old crone! She could have posed for one
of the Grimms' most vulturine witches. But she had kept a civil tongue
in her head till now; the children adored her, and Sir Joseph had
influence enough to save her from being interned or deported.

Hitherto, Marie Louise had felt sorry for her in her dilemma of being
forced to live at peace in the country her own country was locked in
war with. Now she saw that the woman's oily diplomacy was only for
public use, and that all the while she was imbruing the minds of the
little children with the dye of her own thoughts. The innocents
naturally accepted everything she told them as the essence of truth.

Marie Louise hoped to settle the affair before dinner, but by the time
she was gowned and primped, the first premature guest had arrived like
the rashest primrose, shy, surprised, and surprising. Sir Joseph had
gone below already. Lady Webling was hull down on the stairway.

Marie Louise saw that her protest must wait till after the dinner, and
she followed to do her duty to the laws of hospitality.

Sir Joseph liked to give these great affairs. He loved to eat and to
see others eat. "The more the merrier," was his motto--one of the
most truthless of the old saws. Little dinners at Sir Joseph's--what
he called "on fameals"--would have been big dinners elsewhere. A big
dinner was like a Lord Mayor's banquet. He needed only a crier at his
back and a Petronius to immortalize his _gourmandise_.

To-night he had great folk and small fry. Nobody pretended to know the
names of everybody. Sir Joseph himself leaned heavily on the man who
sang out the labels of the guests, and even then his wife whispered
them to him as they came forward, and for a precaution, kept slipping
them into the conversation as reminders.

There were several Americans present: a Doctor and Mrs. Clinton
Worthing who had come over with a special shipload of nurses. The ship
had been fitted out by Mrs. Worthing, who had been Muriel Schuyler,
daughter of the giant plutocrat, Jacob Schuyler, who was lending
England millions of money weekly. A little American millionaire,
Willie Enslee, living in England now on account of some scandal in his
past, was there. He did not look romantic.

Marie Louise had no genius for names, or faces, either. To-night she
was frightened, and she made some horrible blunders, greeting the
grisly Mr. Verrinder by the name of Mr. Hilary. The association was
clear, for Mr. Hilary had called Mr. Verrinder atrocious names in
Parliament; but it was like calling "Mr. Capulet" "Mr. Montague."
Marie Louise tried to redeem her blunder by putting on an extra
effusiveness for the sake of Mr. and Mrs. Norcross. Mrs. Norcross had
only recently shaken off the name of Mrs. Patchett after a resounding
divorce. So Marie Louise called her new husband by the name of her
old, which made it very pleasant.

Her wits were so badly dispersed that she gave up the attempt to take
in the name of an American whom Lady Webling passed along to her as
"Mr. Davidge, of the States." And he must have been somebody of
importance, for even Sir Joseph got his name right. Marie Louise,
however, disliked him cordially at once--for two reasons: first, she
hated herself so much that she could not like anybody just then; next,
this American was entirely too American. He was awkward and
indifferent, but not at all with the easy amble and patrician
unconcern of an English aristocrat.

Marie Louise was American-born herself, and humbly born, at that, but
she liked extreme Americanism never the more. Perhaps she was a bit of
a snob, though fate was getting ready to beat the snobbery out of her.
And hers was an unintentional, superficial snobbery, at worst. Some
people said she was affected and that she aped the swagger dialect.
But she had a habit of taking on the accent and color of her
environments. She had not been in England a month before she spoke
Piccadilly almost impeccably. She had caught French and German
intonations with equal speed and had picked up music by ear with the
same amazing facility in the days when certain kinds of music were her
livelihood.

In one respect her Englishness of accent was less an imitation or an
affectation than a certain form of politeness and modesty. When an
Englishwoman said, "Cahn't you?" it seemed tactless to answer, "No, I
cann't." To respond to "Good mawning" with "Good morrning" had the
effect of a contradiction or a correction. She had none of the
shibboleth spirit that leads certain people to die or slay for a
pronunciation. The pronunciation of the people she was talking to was
good enough for her. She conformed also because she hated to see
people listening less to what she said than to the Yankee way she said
it.

This man Davidge had a superb brow and a look of success, but he bored
her before he reached her. She made ready for flight to some other
group. Then he startled her--by being startled as he caught sight of
her. When Lady Webling transmitted him with a murmur of his name and a
tender, "My daughter," Davidge stopped short and mumbled:

"I've had the pleasure of meeting you before, somewhere, haven't I?"

Marie Louise snubbed him flatly. "I think not."

He took the slap with a smile. "Did I hear Lady Webling call you her
daughter?"

Marie Louise did not explain, but answered, curtly, "Yes," with the
aristocratic English parsimony that makes it almost "Yis."

"Then you're right and I'm wrong. I beg your pardon."

"Daon't mention it," said Marie Louise, and drew closer to Lady
Webling and the oncoming guest. She had the decency to reproach
herself for being beastly to the stranger, but his name slipped at
once through the sieve of her memory.

Destiny is the grandiose title we give to the grand total of a long
column of accidents when we stop to tot up the figures. So we wait
till that strange sum of accidents which we call a baby is added up
into a living child of determined sex before we fasten a name that
changes an it to a him or a her.

The accidents that result in a love-affair, too, we look back on and
outline into a definite road, and we call that Fate. We are great for
giving names to selected fragments of the chaos of life.

In after years Marie Louise and this man Davidge would see something
mystic and intended in the meeting that was to be the detached
prologue of their after conflicts. They would quite misremember what
really happened--which was, that she retained no impression of him at
all, and that he called himself a fool for mixing her with a girl he
had met years and years before for just a moment, and had never
forgotten because he had not known her well enough to forget her.

He had reason enough to distrust his sanity for staring at a
resplendent creature in a London drawing-room and imagining for a
moment that she was a long-lost, long-sought girl of old dreams--a
girl he had seen in a cheap vaudeville theater in a Western
state. She was one of a musical team that played all sorts of
instruments--xylophones, saxophones, trombones, accordions,
cornets, comical instruments concealed in hats and umbrellas. This
girl had played each of them in turn, in solo or with the rest of
the group. The other mummers were coarse and vaude-vulgar, but she
had captivated Davidge with her wild beauty, her magnetism, and
the strange cry she put into her music.

When she played the trombone she looked to him like one of the angels
on a cathedral trumpeting an apocalyptic summons to the dead to bloom
from their graves. When she played the cornet it was with a superhuman
tone that shook his emotions almost insufferably. She had sung, too,
in four voices--in an imitation of a bass, a tenor, a contralto, and
finally as a lyric soprano, then skipping from one to the other. They
called her "Mamise, the Quartet in One."

Davidge had thought her marvelous and had asked the manager of the
theater to introduce him. The manager thought him a young fool, and
Davidge had felt himself one when he went back to the dingy stage,
where he found Mamise among a troupe of trained animals waiting to go
on. She was teasing a chittering, cigar-smoking trained ape on a
bicycle, and she proved to be an extraordinarily ordinary, painfully
plebeian girl, common in voice and diction, awkward and rather
contemptuous of the stage-door Johnnie. Davidge had never ceased to
blush, and blushed again now, when he recalled his labored compliment,
"I expect to see your name in the electric lights some of these
days--or nights, Miss Mamise."

She had grumbled, "Much ubbliged!" and returned to the ape, while
Davidge slunk away, ashamed.

He had not forgotten that name, though the public had. He had never
seen "Mamise" in the electric lights. He had never found the name in
any dictionary. He had supposed her to be a foreigner--Spanish,
Polish, Czech, French, or something. He had not been able to judge her
nationality from the two gruff words, but he had often wondered what
had happened to her. She might have been killed in a train wreck or
been married to the ape-trainer or gone to some other horrible
conclusion. He had pretty well buried her among his forgotten
admirations and torments, when lo and behold! she emerged from a crowd
of peeresses and plutocrats in London.

He had sprung toward her with a wild look of recognition before he had
had time to think it over. He had been rebuffed by a cold glance and
then by an English intonation and a fashionable phrase. He decided
that his memory had made a fool of him, and he stood off, humble and
confused.

But his eyes quarreled with his ears, and kept telling him that this
tall beauty who ignored him so perfectly, so haughtily, was really his
lost Mamise.

If men would trust their intuitions oftener they would not go wrong so
often, perhaps, since their best reasoning is only guesswork, after
all. It was not going to be destiny that brought Davidge and Marie
Louise together again so much as the man's hatred of leaving anything
unfinished--even a dream or a vague desire. There was no shaking
Davidge off a thing he determined on except as you shake off a
snapping-turtle, by severing its body from its head.

A little later Sir Joseph sought the man out and treated him
respectfully, and Marie Louise knew he must be somebody. She found him
staring at her over Sir Joseph's shoulder and puzzling about her. And
this made her wretchedly uncomfortable, for perhaps, after all, she
fretted, he had indeed met her somewhere before, somewhere in one of
those odious strata she had passed through on her way up to the estate
of being called daughter by Lady Webling.

She forgot her misgivings and was restored to equanimity by the
incursion of Polly Widdicombe and her husband. Polly was one of the
best-dressed women in the world. Her husband had the look of the
husband of the best-dressed woman in the world. Polly had a wiry
voice, and made no effort to soften it, but she was tremendously
smart. She giggled all the time and set people off in her vicinity,
though her talk was rarely witty on its own account.

Laughter rippled all through her life. She talked of her griefs in
a plucky, riant way, making eternal fun of herself as a giddy fool.
She carried a delightful jocundity wherever she went. She was
aristocratic, too, in the postgraduate degree of being careless,
reckless, superior even to good manners. She had a good heart and
amiable feelings; these made manners enough.

She had lineage as well, for her all-American family ran straight back
into the sixteen hundreds, which was farther than many a duke dared
trace his line. She had traveled the world; she had danced with kings,
and had made two popes laugh and tweak her pointed chin. She wasn't
afraid of anybody, not even of peasants and servants, or of being
friendly with them, or angry with them.

Marie Louise adored her. She felt that it would make no difference to
Polly's affection if she found out all there was to find out about
Marie Louise. And yet Polly's friendship did not have the dull
certainty of indestructibility. Marie Louise knew that one word wrong
or one act out of key might end it forever, and then Polly would be
her loud and ardent enemy, and laugh at her instead of for her. Polly
could hate as briskly as she could love.

She was in one of her vitriolic moods now because of the _Lusitania_.

"I shouldn't have come to-night," she said, "except that I want to
talk to a lot of people about Germany. I want to tell everybody I know
how much I loathe 'em all. 'The Hymn of Hate' is a lullaby to what I
feel."

Polly was also conducting a glorious war with Lady Clifton-Wyatt. Lady
C.-W. had bullied everybody in London so successfully that she went
straight up against Polly Widdicombe without a tremor. She got
what-for, and everybody was delighted. The two were devoted enemies
from then on, and it was beautiful to see them come together.

Lady Clifton-Wyatt followed Polly up the receiving line to-night and
invited a duel, but Polly was in no humor for a fight with anybody but
Germans. She turned her full-orbed back on Lady C.-W. and, so to
speak, gnashed her shoulder-blades at her. Lady C.-W. passed by
without a word, and Marie Louise was glad to hide behind Polly, for
Marie Louise was mortally afraid of Lady C.-W.

She saw the American greet her as if he had met her before. Lady
Clifton-Wyatt was positively polite to him. He must be a very great
man.

She heard Lady Clifton-Wyatt say something about, "How is the new ship
coming on?" and the American said, "She's doing as well as could be
expected."

So he was a ship-builder. Marie Louise thought that his must be a
heartbreaking business in these days when ships were being slaughtered
in such numbers. She asked Polly and her husband if they knew him or
his name.

Widdicombe shook his head. Polly laughed at her husband. "How do you
know? He might be your own mother, for all you can tell. Put on your
distance-glasses, you poor fish." She turned to Marie Louise. "You
know how near-sighted Tom is."

"An excellent fault in a man," said Marie Louise.

"Oh, I don't know," said Polly. "You can't trust even the blind ones.
And you'll notice that when Tom comes to one of these décolleté
dinners, he wears his reading-glasses."

All this time Widdicombe was taking out his distance-glasses,
taking off his reading-glasses and pouching them and putting them
away, and putting on his distance-glasses, and from force of habit
putting their pouch away. Then he stared at Davidge, took off his
distance-glasses, found the case with difficulty, put them up,
pocketed them, and stood blearing into space while he searched for
his reading-glasses, found them, put the case back in his pocket and
saddled his nose with the lenses.

Polly waited in a mockery of patience and said:

"Well, after all that, what?"

"I don't know him," said Widdicombe.

It was a good deal of an anticlimax to so much work.

Polly said: "That proves nothing. Tom's got a near-memory, too. The
man's a pest. If he didn't make so much money, I'd abandon him on a
door-step."

That was Polly's form of baby-talk. Everybody knew how she doted
on Tom: she called him names as one scolds a pet dog. Widdicombe had
the helpless manner of one, and was always at heel with Polly. But
he was a Titan financially, and he was signing his name now to
munitions-contracts as big as national debts.

Marie Louise was summoned from the presence of the Widdicombes by one
of Lady Webling's most mysterious glances, to meet a new-comer whom
Lady Webling evidently regarded as a special treasure. Lady Webling
was as wide as a screen, and she could always form a sort of alcove in
front of her by turning her back on the company. She made such a nook
now and, taking Marie Louise's hand in hers, put it in the hand of the
tall and staring man whose very look Marie Louise found invasive. His
handclasp was somehow like an illicit caress.

How strange it is that with so much modesty going about, people should
be allowed to wear their hands naked! The fashion of the last few
years compelling the leaving off of gloves was not really very nice.
Marie Louise realized it for the first time. Her fastidious right hand
tried to escape from the embrace of the stranger's fingers, but they
clung devil-fishily, and Lady Webling's soft cushion palm was there
conniving in the abduction. And her voice had a wheedling tone:

"This is my dear Nicky I have spoken of so much--Mr. Easton, you
know."

"Oh yes," said Marie Louise.

"Be very nice to him," said Lady Webling. "He is taking you out to
dinner."

At that moment the butler appeared, solemn as a long-awaited priest,
and there was such a slow crystallization as follows a cry of "Fall
in!" to weary soldiers. The guests were soon in double file and on the
march to the battlefield with the cooks.

Nicky Easton still had Marie Louise's hand; he had carried it up into
the crook of his right arm and kept his left hand over it for guard. A
lady can hardly wrench loose from such an attention, but Marie Louise
abhorred it.

Nicky treated her as a sort of possession, and she resented his
courtesies. He began too soon with compliments. One hates to have even
a bunch of violets jabbed into one's nose with the command, "Smell!"

She disliked his accent, too. There was a Germanic something in it as
faint as the odor of high game. It was a time when the least hint of
Teutonism carried the stench of death to British nostrils.

Lady Webling and Sir Joseph were known to be of German birth, and
their phrases carried the tang, but Sir Joseph had become a
naturalized citizen ages ago and had won respect and affection a
decade back. His lavish use of his money for charities and for great
industries had won him his knighthood, and while there was a certain
sniff of suspicion in certain fanatic quarters at the mention of his
name, those who knew him well had so long ago forgotten his alien
birth that they forgave it him now.

As for Marie Louise, she no longer heeded the Prussic acid of his
speech. She was as used to it as to his other little mannerisms. She
did not think of the old couple as fat and awkward. She did not
analyze their attributes or think of their features in detail. She
thought of them simply as them. But Easton was new; he brought in a
subtle whiff of the hated Germany that had done the _Lusitania_ to
death.

The fate of the ship made the dinner resemble a solemn wake. The
triumphs of the chef were but funeral baked meats. The feast was
brilliant and large and long, and it seemed criminal to see such waste
of provender when so much of the world was hungry. The talk was almost
all of the _Lusitania_ and the deep damnation of her taking off. Many
of the guests had crossed the sea in her graceful shell, and they
felt a personal loss as well as a bitterness of rage at the worst of
the German sea crimes.

Davidge was seated remotely from Marie Louise, far down the flowery
lane of the table. She could not see him at all, for the candles and
the roses. Just once she heard his voice in a lull. Its twang carried
it all the way up the alley:

"A man that would kill a passenger-ship would shoot a baby in its
cradle. When you think how long it takes to build a ship, how much
work she represents, how sweet she is when she rides out and all
that--by Gosh! there's no word mean enough for the skoundrels. There's
nothing they won't do now--absolutely nothing."

She heard no more of him, and she did not see him again that night.
She forgot him utterly. Even the little wince of distress he gave her
by his provincialism was forgotten in the anguish her foster-parents
caused her.

For Marie Louise had a strange, an odious sensation that Sir Joseph
and Lady Webling were not quite sincere in their expressions of horror
and grief over the finished epic, the _Lusitania_. It was not for lack
of language; they used the strongest words they could find. But there
was missing the subtile somewhat of intonation and gesture that actors
call sincerity. Marie Louise knew how hard it is even for a great
actor to express his simplest thoughts with conviction. No, it was
when he expressed them best that he was least convincing, since an
emotion that can be adequately presented is not a very big emotion; at
least it does not overwhelm the soul. Inadequacy, helplessness,
gaucherie, prove that the feelings are bigger than the eloquence. They
"get across the footlights" between each player on the human stage and
his audience.

Yes, that was it: Sir Joseph and Lady Webling were protesting too well
and too much. Marie Louise hated herself for even the disloyalty of
such a criticism of them, but she was repelled somehow by such
rhetoric, and she liked far better the dour silence of old Mr.
Verrinder. He looked a bishop who had got into a layman's evening
dress by mistake. He was something very impressive and influential in
the government, nobody knew just what.

Marie Louise liked still better than Verrinder's silence the
distracted muttering and stammering of a young English aviator, the
Marquess of Strathdene, who was recuperating from wounds and was going
up in the air rapidly on the Webling champagne. He was maltreating his
bread and throwing in champagne with an apparent eagerness for the
inevitable result. Before he grew quite too thick to be understood, he
groaned to himself, but loudly enough to be heard the whole length and
breadth of the table: "I remember readin' about old Greek witch name
Circe--changed human beings into shape of swine. I wonder who turned
those German swine into the shape of human beings."

Marie Louise noted that Lady Webling was shocked--by the vulgarity, no
doubt. "Swine" do not belong in dining-room language--only in the
platters or the chairs. Marie Louise caught an angry look also in the
eye of Nicholas Easton, though he, too, had been incisive in his
comments on the theme of the dinner. His English had been uncannily
correct, his phrases formal with the exactitude of a book on syntax or
the dialogue of a gentleman in a novel. But he also was drinking too
much, and as his lips fuddled he had trouble with a very formal
"without which." It resulted first as "veetowit veech," then as
"whidthout witch." He made it on the third trial.

Marie Louise, turning her eyes his way in wonder, encountered two
other glances moving in the same direction. Lady Webling looked
anxious, alarmed. Mr. Verrinder's gaze was merely studious. Marie
Louise felt an odd impression that Lady Webling was sending a kind of
heliographic warning, while the look of Mr. Verrinder was like a
search-light that studies and registers, then moves away.

Marie Louise disliked Easton more and more, but Lady Webling kept
recommending him with her solicitous manner toward him. She made
several efforts, too, to shift the conversation from the _Lusitania_;
but it swung always back. Much bewilderment was expressed because the
ship was not protected by a convoy. Many wondered why she was where
she was when she was struck, and how she came to take that course at
all.

Lady Clifton-Wyatt, who had several friends on board and was uncertain
of their fate, was unusually fierce in blaming the government. She
always blamed it for everything, when it was Liberal. And now she
said:

"It was nothing short of murder to have left the poor ship to steal in
by herself without protection. Whatever was the Admiralty thinking of?
If the Cabinet doesn't fall for this, we might as well give up."

The Liberals present acknowledged her notorious prejudices with a sigh
of resignation. But the Marquess of Strathdene rolled a foggy eye and
a foggy tongue in answer:

"Darlling llady, there must have been war-ships waitin' to convoy the
_Lusitania_; but she didn't come to rendezvous because why? Because
some filthy Zherman gave her a false wireless and led her into a
trap."

This amazing theory with its drunken inspiration of plausibility
startled the whole throng. It set eyeballs rolling in all directions
like a break in a game of pool. Everybody stared at Strathdene, then
at somebody else. Marie Louise's racing gaze noted that Mr.
Verrinder's eyes went slowly about again, studying everybody except
Strathdene.

Lady Clifton-Wyatt's eyes as they ran simply expressed a disgust that
she put into words with her usual frankness:

"Don't be more idiotic than necess'ry, my dear boy; there are secret
codes, you know."

"S-secret codes I know? Secret codes the Germans know--that's what you
mean, sweetheart. I don't know one little secret, but Huns-- Do you
know how many thousand Germans there are loose in England--do you?"

Lady Clifton-Wyatt shook her head impatiently. "I haven't the faintest
notion. Far more than I wish, I'm sure."

"I hope so, unless you wish fifty thousand. And God knows how many
more. And I'm not alluthing to Germans in disguise, naturalized
Germans--quinine pills with a little coating. I'm not referring to
you, of course, Sir Joseph. Greates' respect for you. Ever'body has.
You have done all you could to overcome the fatal error of your
parents. You're a splen'id gen'l'man. Your 'xception proves rule. Even
Germans can't all be perf'ly rotten."

"Thank you, Marquess, thank you," said Sir Joseph, with a natural
embarrassment.

Marie Louise noted the slight difference between the English "Thank
you" and Sir Joseph's "Thang gyou."

Then Lady Webling's eyes went around the table, catching up the
women's eyes and forms, and she led them in a troop from the
embarrassing scene. She brought the embarrassment with her to the
drawing-room, where the women sat about smoking miserably and waiting
for the men to come forth and take them home.



CHAPTER III


There must have been embarrassment enough left to go round the
dining-table, too, for in an unusually brief while the men flocked
into the drawing-room. And they began to plead engagements in offices
or homes or Parliament.

It was not yet ten o'clock when the last of the guests had gone,
except Nicholas Easton. And Sir Joseph took him into his own study.
Easton walked a trifle too solemnly straight, as if he had set himself
an imaginary chalk-line to follow. He jostled against the door, and as
he closed it, swung with it uncertainly.

Lady Webling asked almost at once, with a nod of the head in the
direction of the study door:

"Well, my dear child, what do you think of Nicky?"

"Oh, I don't know. He's nice, but--"

"We're very fond of him, Sir Joseph and I--and we do hope you will
be."

Marie Louise wondered if they were going to select a husband for her.
It was a dreadful situation, because there was no compulsion except
the compulsion of obligation. They never gave her a chance to do
anything for them; they were always doing things for her. What an
ingrate she would be to rebuff their first real desire! And yet to
marry a man she felt such antipathy for--surely there could be some
less hateful way of obliging her benefactors. She felt like a castaway
on a desert, and there was something of the wilderness in the
immensity of the drawing-room with its crowds of untenanted divans and
of empty chairs drawn into groups as the departed guests had left
them.

Lady Webling stood close to Marie Louise and pressed for an answer.

"You don't really dislike Nicky, do you?"

"N-o-o. I've not known him long enough to dislike him very well."

She tried to soften the rebuff with a laugh, but Lady Webling sighed
profoundly and smothered her disappointment in a fond "Good night."
She smothered the great child, too, in a hugely buxom embrace. When
Marie emerged she was suddenly reminded that she had not yet spoken to
Lady Webling of Fräulein Ernst's attack on the children's souls. She
spoke now.

"There's one thing, mamma, I've been wanting to tell you all evening.
Please don't let it distress you, but really I'm afraid you'll have to
get rid of Fräulein."

Lady Webling's voluminous yawn was stricken midway into a gasp. Marie
Louise told her the story of the diabolical prayer. Lady Webling took
the blow without reeling. She expressed shock, but again expressed it
too perfectly.

She promised to "reprimand the foolish old soul."

"To reprimand her!" Marie Louise cried. "You won't send her away?"

"Send her away where, my child? Where should we send the poor thing?
But I'll speak to her very sharply. It was outrageous of her. What if
the children should say such things before other people? It would be
frightful! Thank you for telling me, my dear. And now I'm for bed! And
you should be. You look quite worn out. Coming up?"

Lady Webling laughed and glanced at the study door, implying and
rejoicing in the implication that Marie Louise was lingering for a
last word with Easton.

Really she was trying to avoid climbing the long stairs with Lady
Webling's arm about her. For the first time in her life she distrusted
the perfection of the old soul's motives. She felt like a Judas when
Lady Webling offered her cheek for another good-night kiss. Then she
pretended to read a book while she listened for Lady Webling's last
puff as she made the top step.

At once she poised for flight. But the study door opened and Easton
came out. He was bending down to murmur into Sir Joseph's downcast
countenance. Easton was saying, with a tremulous emotion, "This is the
beginning of the end of England's control of the sea."

Marie Louise almost felt that there was a quiver of eagerness rather
than of dread in his tone, or that the dread was the awe of a horrible
hope.

Sir Joseph was brooding and shaking his head. He seemed to start as he
saw Marie Louise. But he smiled on her dotingly and said:

"You are not gone to bed yet?"

She shook her head and sorrowed over him with a sudden rush of
gratitude to his defense. She did not reward Easton's smile with any
favor, though he widened his eyes in admiration.

Sir Joseph said: "Good night, Nicky. It is long before I see you some
more."

Nicholas nodded. "But I shall see Miss Marie Louise quite soon now."

This puzzled Marie Louise. She pondered it while Nicky bent and kissed
her hand, heaved a guttural, gluttonous "Ah!" and went his way.

It was nearly a week later before she had a clue to the riddle. Then
Sir Joseph came home to luncheon unexpectedly. He had an envelope with
him, sealed with great red buttons of wax. He asked Marie Louise into
his office and said, with an almost stealthy importance:

"My darling, I have a little favor to ask of you. Sometimes, you see,
when I am having a big dealing on the Stock Exchange I do not like
that everybody knows my business. Too many people wish to know all I
do, so they can be doing the same. What everybody knows helps nobody.
It is my wish to get this envelope to a man without somebody finding
out something. Understand?"

"Yes, papa!" Marie Louise answered with the utmost confidence that
what he did was good and wise and straight. She experienced a qualm
when Sir Joseph explained that Nicky was the man. She wondered why he
did not come to the house. Then she rebuked herself for presuming to
question Sir Joseph's motives. He had never been anything but good to
her, and he had been so whole-heartedly good that for her to give
thought-room to a suspicion of him was heinous.

He had business secrets and stratagems of tremendous financial moment.
She had known him to work up great drives on the market and to use all
sorts of people to prepare his attacks. She did not understand big
business methods. She regarded them all with childlike bewilderment.
When, then, Sir Joseph asked her to meet Nicky, as if casually, in
Regent's Park, and convey the envelope from her hand to Nicky's
without any one's witnessing the transfer, she felt the elation of a
child intrusted with an important errand. So she walked all the way to
Regent's Park with the long strides of a young woman out for a
constitutional. She found a bench where she was told to, and sat down
to bask in the spring air, and wait.

By and by Easton sauntered along, lifted his hat to Marie Louise, and
made a great show of surprise. She rose and gave him her hand. She had
taken the precaution to wear gloves--also she had the envelope in her
hand. She left it in Nicky's. He smuggled it into his coat pocket, and
murmuring, "So sorry I can't stop," lifted his hat and hurried off.

Marie Louise sat down again and after a time resumed her constitutional.

Sir Joseph was full of thanks when she saw him at night.

Some days later he asked Marie Louise to meet Nicky outside a Bond
Street shop. She was to have a small parcel and drop it. Nicky would
stoop and pick it up and hand her in its stead another of similar
wrapper. She was to thank him and come home.

Another day Marie Louise received from Sir Joseph a letter and a
request to take the children with her for a long walk, ending at the
Round Pond in Kensington Gardens. The children carried their private
navies with them and squatted at the brim of the huge basin, poking
their reluctant yachts to sea. The boy Victor perfected a wonderful
scheme for using a long stick as a submarine. He thrust his arm under
water and from a distance knocked his sister's sailboat about till its
canvas was afloat and it filled and sank. All the while he wore the
most distant of expressions, but canny little Bettina soon realized
who had caused this catastrophe and how, and she went for Victor of
the U-stick with finger-nails and feet and nearly rounded him into the
toy ocean. It evidently made a difference whose ship was gored.

Marie Louise darted forward to save Victor from a ducking as well as a
trouncing, and nearly ran over a man who was passing.

It was Ross Davidge, whiling away an hour between appointments. He
thought he recognized Marie Louise, but he was not sure. Women in the
morning look so unlike their evening selves. He dared not speak.

Davidge lingered around trying to get up the courage to speak, but
Marie Louise was too distraught with the feud even to see him when she
looked at him. She would not have known him, anyway.

Davidge was confirmed in his guess at her identity by the appearance
of the man he had seen at her side at the dinner. But the confirmation
was Davidge's exile, for the fellow lifted his hat with a look of
great surprise and said to Marie Louise, "Fancy finding you heah!"

"Blah!" said Davidge to himself, and went on about his business.

Marie Louise did not pretend surprise at seeing Easton, but went on
scolding Victor and Bettina.

"If any of these other boys catch you playing submarine they'll
submarine you!"

And she brought the proud Bettina to book with a, "You were so glad
the _Lusitania_ was sunk, you see now how it feels!"

She felt the puerile incongruity of the rebuke, but it sufficed to
send Bettina into a cyclone of grief. She was already one of those
who are infinitely indifferent to the sufferings of others and
infinitesimally sensitive to their own.

When Nicky heard the story he gave Marie Louise a curious look of
disapproval and took Bettina into his lap. She was also already one of
those ladies who find a man's lap an excellent consolation. He got rid
of her adroitly and when she and Victor were once more engaged in
navigation Nicky took up the business he had come for.

"May I stop a moment?" he said, and sat down.

"I have a letter for you," said Marie Louise.

His roving eyes showed him that the coast was clear, and he slipped a
letter into her hand-bag which she opened, and from it he took the
letter she cautiously disclosed. He chatted awhile and moved away.

This sort of meeting took place several times in several places. When
the crowds were too great or a bobby loitered about, Nicky would
murmur to Marie Louise that she had better start home. He would take
her arm familiarly and the transfer of the parcel would be deftly
achieved.

This messenger service went on for several weeks. Sir Joseph
apologized for the trouble he gave Marie Louise. He seemed to be
sincerely unhappy about it, and his little eyes in their fat, watery
bags peered at her with a tender regret and an ulterior regret as
well.

He explained a dozen times that he sent her because it was such an
important business and he had no one else to trust. And Marie Louise,
for all her anxiety, was sadly glad of his confidence, regarded it as
sacred, and would not violate it so much as to make the least effort
to learn what messages she was carrying. Nothing, of course, would
have been easier than to pry open one of these envelopes. Sometimes
the lapel was hardly sealed. But she would as soon have peeked into a
bathroom.

Late in June the Weblings left town and settled in the great country
seat Sir Joseph had bought from a bankrupt American who had bought it
from nobility gone back to humility. Here life was life. There were
forests and surreptitious pheasants, deer that would almost but never
quite come to call, unseen nightingales that sang from lofty nave and
transept like cherubim all wings and voice.

The house was usually full of guests, but they were careful not to
intrude upon their hosts nor their hosts upon them. The life was like
life at a big hotel. There was always a little gambling to be had,
tennis, golf, or music, or a quiet chat, gardens to stroll and sniff
or grub in, horses to ride, motors at beck and call, solitude or
company.

Lady Clifton-Wyatt came down for a week-end and struck up a great
friendship with the majestic Mrs. Prothero from Washington, D. C., so
grand a lady that even Lady C.-W. was a bit in awe of her, so gracious
a personage that even Lady C.-W. could not pick a quarrel with her.

Mrs. Prothero gathered Marie Louise under her wing and urged her to
visit her when she came to America. But Polly Widdicombe had already
pledged Marie Louise to make her home her own on that side of the sea.
Polly came down, too, and had "the time of her young life" in doing a
bit of the women's war work that became the beautiful fashion of the
time. The justification of it was that it released men for the
trenches, but Polly insisted that it was shamefully good sport.

She and Marie Louise went about in breeches and shirts and worked like
hostlers around the stables and in the paddocks, breaking colts and
mucking out stalls. They donned the blouses and boots of peasants, and
worked in the fields with rake and hoe and harrow. They even tried the
plow, but they followed it too literally, and the scallopy furrows
they drew across the fields made the yokels laugh or grieve, according
to their natures.

The photographers were alive to the piquancy of these revelations, and
portraits of Marie Louise in knickers and puttees, and armed with
agricultural weapons, appeared in the pages of all the weeklies along
with other aristocrats and commoners. Some of these even reached
America.

There was just one flaw for Rosalind in this "As You Like It" life and
that was the persistence of the secret association with Nicky. It was
the strangest of clandestine affairs.

Marie Louise had always liked to get out alone in a saddle or behind
the wheel of a runabout, and Sir Joseph, when he came up from town,
fell into the habit of asking her once in a while to take another
little note to Nicky.

She found him in out-of-the-way places. He would step from a clump of
bushes by the road and hail her car, or she would overtake him and
offer him a lift to his inn, or she would take horse and gallop across
country and find him awaiting her in some lonely avenue or in the
twist of a ravine.

He was usually so preoccupied and furtive that he made no proffer of
courtship; but once when he seemed peculiarly triumphant he rode so
close to her that their knees girded and their spurs clashed, and he
tried to clip her in his arms. She gathered her horse and let him go,
and he plunged ahead so abruptly that the clinging Nicky dragged Marie
Louise from her saddle backward. He tried to swing her to the pommel
of his own, but she fought herself free and came to the ground and was
almost trampled. She was so rumpled and so furious, and he so
frightened, that he left her and spurred after her horse, brought him
back, and bothered her no more that day.

"If you ever annoy me again," she said, "it'll be the last you'll see
of me."

She was too useful to be treated as a mere beauty, and she had him
cowed.

It was inevitable that Marie Louise, being silently urged to love
Nicky, should helplessly resist the various appeals in his behalf.

There is no worse enemy to love than recommendation. There is
something froward about the passion. It hangs back like a fretful
child, loathing what is held out for its temptation, longing for the
forbidden, the sharp, the perilous.

Next to being asked to love, trying to love is the gravest impediment.
Marie Louise kept telling herself that she ought to marry Nicky, and
herself kept refusing to obey.

From very perversity her heart turned to other interests. She was
desperately in love with soldiers _en masse_ and individually. There
was safety in numbers and a canceling rivalry between those who were
going out perhaps to death and those who had come back from the jaws
of death variously the worse for the experience.

The blind would have been irresistible in their groping need of
comfort, if there had not been the maimed of body or mind putting out
their incessant pleas for a gramercy of love. Those whose wounds were
hideous took on an uncanny beauty from their sacrifice.

She busied herself about them and suffered ecstasies of pity.

She wanted to go to France and get near to danger, to help the freshly
wounded, to stanch the spouting arteries, to lend courage to the souls
dismayed by the first horror of the understanding that thenceforth
they must go through life piecemeal.

But whenever she made application she met some vague rebuff. Her
appeals were passed on and on and the blame for their failure was
referred always to some remote personage impossible to reach.

Eventually it dawned on her that there was actually an official
intention to keep her out of France. This stupefied her for a time.
One day it came over her that she was herself suspect. This seemed
ridiculous beyond words in view of her abhorrence of the German cause
in large and in detail. Ransacking her soul for an explanation, she
ran upon the idea that it was because of her association with the
Weblings.

She was ashamed to have given such a thought passage through her mind.
But it came back as often as she drove it out and then the thought
began to hover about her that perhaps the suspicion was not so insane
as she believed. The public is generally unreasonable, but its
intuitions, like a woman's, are the resultants of such complex
instincts that they are above analysis.

But the note-carrying went on, and she could not escape from the
suspicion or its shadow of disgrace. Like a hateful buzzard it was
always somewhere in her sky.

Once the suspicion had domiciled itself in her world, it was
incessantly confirmed by the minutiæ of every-day existence. The
interchange of messages with Nicky Easton grew unexplainable on any
other ground. The theory of secret financial dealings looked
ludicrous; or if the dealings were financial, they must be some of the
trading with the enemy that was so much discussed in the papers.

She felt that she had been conniving in one of the spy-plots that all
the Empire was talking about. She grew afraid to the last degree of
fear. She saw herself on the scaffold. She resolved to carry no more
messages.

But the next request of Sir Joseph's found her complying automatically.
It had come to be her habit to do what he asked her to do, and to take
pride in the service as a small installment on her infinite debt. And
every time her resentment rose to an overboiling point, Sir Joseph or
Lady Webling would show her some exquisite kindness or do some great
public service that won commendation from on high.

One day when she was keyed up to protest Lady Webling discharged
Fräulein Ernst for her pro-Germanism and engaged an English nurse.
Another day Lady Webling asked her to go on a visit to a hospital.
There she lavished tenderness on the British wounded and ignored the
German. How could Marie Louise suspect her of being anti-British?
Another time when Marie Louise was almost ready to rebel she saw Sir
Joseph's name heading a war subscription, and that night he made, at a
public meeting, a speech denouncing Germany in terms of vitriol.

After all, Marie Louise was not English. And America was still
neutral. The President had wrung from Germany a promise of better
behavior, and in a sneaking way the promise was kept, with many a
violation quickly apologized for.

Still, England wrestled for her life. There seemed to be hardly room
in the papers for the mere names of the dead and the wounded, and
those still more pitiable ones, the missing.

Marie Louise lost many a friend, and all of her friends lost and lost.
She wore herself out in suffering for others, in visiting the sick,
the forlorn, the anxious, the newly bereaved.

The strain on Marie Louise's heart was the more exhausting because she
had a craven feeling all the while that perhaps she was being used
somehow as a tool for the destruction of English plans and men. She
tried to get the courage to open one of those messages, but she was
afraid that she might find confirmation. She made up her mind again
and again to put the question point-blank to Sir Joseph, but her
tongue faltered. If he were guilty, he would deny it; if he were
innocent, the accusation would break his heart. She hated Nicky too
much to ask him. He would lie in any case.

She was nagged incessantly by a gadfly of conscience that buzzed in
her ears the counsel to tell the police. Sometimes on her way to a
tryst with Easton a spirit in her feet led her toward a police
station, but another spirit carried her past, for she would visualize
the sure consequences of such an exposure. If her suspicions were
false, she would be exposed as a combination of dastard and dolt. If
they were true, she would be sending Sir Joseph and Lady Webling
perhaps to the gallows.

To betray those who had been so angelic to her was simply unthinkable.

Irresolution and meditation made her a very Hamlet of postponement and
inaction. Hamlet had only a ghost for counselor, and a mother to be
the first victim of his rashness. No wonder he hesitated. And Marie
Louise had only hysterical suspicion to account for her thoughts; and
the victims of her first step would be the only father and mother she
had ever really known. America itself was another Hamlet of debate and
indecision, weighing evidences, pondering theories, deferring the
sword, hoping that Germany would throw away the baser half. And all
the while time slid away, lives slid away, nations fell.

In the autumn the town house was opened again. There was much thinly
veiled indignation in the papers and in the circulation of gossip
because of Sir Joseph's prominence in English life. The Germans were
so relentless and so various in their outrages upon even the cruel
usages of combat that the sound of a German name grew almost
unbearable. People were calling for Sir Joseph's arrest. Others
scoffed at the cruelty and cowardice of such hysteria.

A once-loved prince of German blood had been frozen out of the navy,
and the internment camps were growing like boom towns. Yet other
Germans somehow were granted an almost untrammeled freedom, and
thousands who had avoided evil activity were tolerated throughout the
war.

Sir Joseph kept retorting to suspicion with subscription. He took
enormous quantities of the government loans. His contributions to the
Red Cross and the multitudinous charities were more like endowments
than gifts. How could Marie Louise be vile enough to suspect him?

Yet in spite of herself she resolved at last to refuse further
messenger service. Then she learned that Nicky had left England and
gone to America on most important financial business of a most
confidential nature.

Marie Louise was too glad of her release to ask questions. She
rejoiced that she had not insulted her foster-parents with mutiny, and
she drudged at whatever war work the committees found for her. They
found nothing very picturesque, but the more toilsome her labor was
the more it served for absolution of any evil she might have done.

And now that the dilemma of loyalty was taken from her soul, her body
surrendered weakly. She had time to fall ill. It was enough that she
got her feet wet. Her convalescence was slow even in the high hills of
Matlock.

The winter had passed, and the summer of 1916 had come before Marie
Louise was herself. The Weblings had moved out to the country again;
the flowers were back in the gardens; the deer and the birds were in
their summer garb and mood. But now the house guests were all wounded
soldiers and nurses. Sir Joseph had turned over his estate for a war
hospital.

Lady Webling went among her visitors like a queen making her rounds.
Sir Joseph squandered money on his distinguished company. Marie Louise
joined them and took what comfort she could in such diminution of pain
and such contributions of war power as were permitted her. Those were
the only legitimate happinesses in the world.

The tennis-courts were peopled now with players glad of one arm or one
eye or even a demodeled face. On the golf-links crutched men hobbled.
The horses in the stables bore only partial riders. The card-parties
were squared by players using hands made by hand. The music-room
resounded with five-finger improvisations and with vocalists who had
little but their voices left. They howled, "Keep your head down,
Fritzie boy," or, "We gave them hell at Neuve Chapelle, and here we
are and here we are again," or moaned love-songs with a sardonic
irony.

And the guests at tea! And the guests who could not come to tea!

Young Hawdon was there. "Well, Marie Louise," he had said, "I'm back
from France, but not _in toto_. Fact is, I'm neither here nor there.
Quite a sketchy party you have. But we'll charge it all to Germany,
and some day we'll collect. Some day! Some day!" And he burst into
song.

The wonder was that there was so much bravery. At times there was
hilarity, but it was always close to tears.

The Weblings went back to London early and took Marie Louise with
them. She wanted to stay with the poor soldiers, but Sir Joseph said
that there was just as much for her to do in town. There was no lack
of poor soldiers anywhere. Besides, he needed her, he said. This set
her heart to plunging with the old fear. But he was querulous and
irascible nowadays, and Lady Webling begged her not to excite him, for
she was afraid of a paralysis. He had the look of a Damocles living
under the sword.

The news from America was more encouraging to England and to the
Americans in England. German spies were being arrested with amazing
frequence. Ambassadors were floundering in hot water and setting up a
large traffic in return-tickets. Even the trunks of certain
"Americans" were searched--men and women who were amazed to learn that
curious German documents had got mixed up in their own effects. Some
most peculiar checks and receipts turned up.

It was shortly after a cloudy account of one of these trunk-raids had
been published in the London papers that Sir Joseph had his first
stroke of paralysis.

Sir Joseph was in pitiful case. His devotion to Marie Louise was
heartbreaking. Her sympathy had not been exhausted, but schooled
rather by its prolonged exercise, and she gave the forlorn old wretch
a love and a tenderness that had been wrought to a fine art without
losing any of its spontaneous reality.

At first he could move only a bit of the great bulk, sprawled like a
snowdrift under the sheet. He was helpless as a shattered soldier, but
slowly he won back his faculties and his members. The doors that were
shut between his brain and his powers opened one by one, and he became
a man again.

The first thing he wrote with his rediscovered right hand was his
signature to a document his lawyer brought him after a consultation.
It was a transfer of twenty thousand pounds in British war bonds, "for
services rendered and other valuable considerations," to his dear
daughter Marie Louise Webling.

When the warrant was handed to her with the bundle of securities,
Marie Louise was puzzled, then shocked as the old man explained with
his still uncertain lips. When she understood, she rejected the gift
with horror. Sir Joseph pleaded with her in a thick speech that had
relapsed to an earlier habit.

"I am theenkink how close I been by dyink. Du bist--zhoo are in my
vwill, of coorse, but a man says, 'I vwill,' and some heirs says, 'You
vwon't yet!' Better I should make sure of somethink."

"But I don't want money, papa--not like this. And I won't have you
speak of wills and such odious things."

"You have been like our own daughter only more obeyink as poor Hedwig.
You should not make me sick by to refuse."

She could only quiet him by accepting the wealth and bringing him the
receipt for its deposit in a safe of her own.

When he was once more able to hoist his massive body to its feet and
to walk to his own door, he said:

"_Mein_--my _Gott_! Look at the calendar once. It is nineteen
seventeen already."

He ceased to be that simple, primitive thing, a sick man; he became
again the financier. She heard of him anew on war-industry boards. She
saw his name on lists of big subscriptions. He began to talk anew of
Nicky, and he spoke with unusual anxiety of U-boats. He hoped that
they would have a bad week. There was no questioning his sincerity in
this.

And one evening he came home in a womanish flurry. He pinched the ear
of Marie Louise and whispered to her:

"Nicky is here in England--safe after the sea voyage. Be a nize girl,
and you shall see him soon now."



CHAPTER IV


The next morning Marie Louise, waking, found her windows opaque with
fog. The gardens she usually looked over, glistening green all winter
through, were gone, and in their place was a vast bale of sooty cotton
packed so tight against the glass that her eyes could not pierce to
the sill.

Marie Louise went down to breakfast in a room like a smoky tunnel
where the lights burned sickly. She was in a murky and suffocating
humor, but Sir Joseph was strangely content for the hour and the air.
He ate with the zest of a boy on a holi-morn, and beckoned her into
his study, where he confided to her great news:

"Nicky telephoned me. He brings wonderful news out of America. Big
business he has done. He cannot come yet by our house, for even
servants must not see him here. So you shall go and meet him. You take
your own little car, and go most careful till you find Hyde Park gate.
Inside you stop and get out to see if something is matter with the
engine. A man is there--Nicky. He steps in the car. You get in and
drive slowly--so slowly. Give him this letter--put in bosom of dress
not to lose. He tells you maybe something, and he gives you envelope.
Then he gets out, and you come home--but carefully. Don't let one of
those buses run you over in the fog. I should not risk you if not most
important."

Marie Louise pleaded illness, and fear of never finding the place. But
Sir Joseph stared at her with such wonder and pain that she yielded
hastily, took the envelope, folded it small, thrust it into her chest
pocket and went out to the garage, where she could hardly bully the
chauffeur into letting her take her own car. He put all the curtains
on, and she pushed forth into obfuscation like a one-man submarine.
There was something of the effect of moving along the floor of the
sea. The air was translucent, a little like water-depths, but
everything was a blur.

Luck was with her. She neither ran over nor was run over. But she was
so tardy in finding the gate, and Nicky was so damp, so chilled, and
so uneasy with the apparitions and the voices that had haunted him in
the fog that he said nothing more cordial than:

"At last! So you come!"

He climbed in, shivering with cold or fear. And she ran the car a
little farther into the nebulous depths. She gave him the letter from
Sir Joseph and took from him another.

Nicky did not care to tarry.

"I should get back to my house with this devil's cold I've caught," he
said. "Do you still have no sun in this bedamned England?"

The "you" struck Marie Louise as odd coming from a professed
Englishman, even if he did lay the blame for his accent on years spent
in German banking-houses.

"How did you find the United States?" Marie Louise asked, with a
sudden qualm of homesickness.

"Those United States! Ha! United about what? Money!"

"I think you can get along better afoot," said Marie Louise, as she
made a turn and slipped through the pillars of the gate.

"_Au revoir!_" said Nicky, and he dived out, slamming the door back of
him.

That night there was one of Sir Joseph's dinners. But almost nobody
came, except Lieutenant Hawdon and old Mr. Verrinder. Sir Joseph and
Lady Webling seemed more frightened than insulted by the last-moment
regrets of the guests. Was it an omen?

It was not many days before Sir Joseph asked Marie Louise to carry
another envelope to Nicky. She went out alone, shuddering in the wet
and edged air. She found the bench agreed on, and sat waiting, craven
and mutinous. Nicky did not come, but another man passed her, looked
searchingly, turned and came back to murmur under his lifted hat:

"Miss Webling?"

She gave him her stingiest "Yis."

"Mr. Easton asked me to meet you in his place, and explain."

"He is not coming?"

"He can't. He is ill. A bad cold only. He has a letter for you. Have
you one for him?"

Marie Louise liked this man even less than she would have liked Nicky
himself. She was alarmed, and showed it. The stranger said:

"I am Mr. von Gröner, a frient of--of Nicky's."

Marie Louise vibrated between shame and terror. But von Gröner's
credentials were good; it was surely Nicky's hand that had penned the
lines on the envelope. She took it reluctantly and gave him the letter
she carried.

She hastened home. Sir Joseph was in a sad flurry, but he accepted the
testimony of Nicky's autograph.

The next day Marie Louise must go on another errand. This time her
envelope bore the name of Nicky and the added line, "_Kindness of Mr.
von Gröner._"

Von Gröner tried to question Marie Louise, but her wits were in an
absolute maelstrom of terror. She was afraid of him, afraid that
he represented Nicky, afraid that he did not, afraid that he was a
real German, afraid that he was a pretended spy, or an English
secret-service man. She was afraid of Sir Joseph and his wife, afraid
to obey them or disobey them, to love them or hate them, betray them
or be betrayed. She had lost all sense of direction, of impetus,
of desire.

She saw that Sir Joseph and Lady Webling were in a state of panic,
too. They smiled at her with a wan pity and fear. She caught them
whispering often. She saw them cling together with a devotion that
would have been a burlesque in a picture seen by strangers. It would
have been almost as grotesque as a view of a hippopotamus and his mate
cowering hugely together and nuzzling each other under the menace of a
lightning-storm.

Marie Louise came upon them once comparing the envelope she had just
brought with other letters of Nicky's. Sir Joseph slipped them into a
book, then took one of them out cautiously and showed it to Marie
Louise.

"Does that look really like the writing from Nicky?"

"Yes," she said, then, "No," then, "Of course," then, "I don't know."

Lady Webling said, "Sit down once, my child, and tell me just how this
man von Gröner does, acts, speaks."

She told them. They quizzed her. She was afraid that they would take
her into their confidence, but they exchanged querying looks and
signaled caution.

Sir Joseph said: "Strange how long Nicky stays sick, and his
memory--little things he mixes up. I wonder is he dead yet. Who
knows?"

"Dead?" Marie Louise cried. "Dead, and sends you letters?"

"Yes, but such a funny letter this last one is. I think I write him
once more and ask him is he dead or crazy, maybe. Anyway, I think I
don't feel so very good now--mamma and I take maybe a little journey.
You come along with, yes?"

A rush of desperate gratitude to the only real people in her world led
her to say:

"Whatever you want me to do is what I want to do--or wherever to go."

Lady Webling drew her to her breast, and Sir Joseph held her hand in
one of his and patted it with the flabby other, mumbling:

"Yes, but what is it we want you to do?"

From his eyes came a scurry of tears that ran in panic among the folds
of his cheeks. He shook them off and smiled, nodding and still patting
her hand as he said:

"Better I write one letter more for Mr. von Gröner. I esk him to come
himself after dark to-night now."

Marie Louise waited in her room, watching the sunlight die out of the
west. She felt somehow as if she were a prisoner in the Tower, a
princess waiting for the morrow's little visit to the scaffold. Or did
the English shoot women, as Edith Cavell had been shot?

There was a knock at the door, but it was not the turnkey. It was the
butler to murmur, "Dinner, please." She went down and joined mamma and
papa at the table. There were no guests except Terror and Suspense,
and both of them wore smiling masks and made no visible sign of their
presence.

After dinner Marie Louise had her car brought round to the door. There
was nothing surprising about that. Women had given up the ancient
pretense that their respectability was something that must be policed
by a male relative or squire except in broad daylight. Neither vice
nor malaria was believed any longer to come from exposure to the night
air; nor was virtue regarded like a sum of money that must not be
risked by being carried about alone after dark. It had been easy
enough to lose under the old régime.

So Marie Louise launched out in her car much as a son of the family
might have done. She drove to a little square too dingily middle class
to require a policeman. She sounded her horn three squawks and swung
open the door, and a man waiting under an appointed tree stepped from
its shadow and into the shadow of the car before it stopped. She
dropped into high speed and whisked out of the square.

"You have for me a message," said Mr. von Gröner.

"Yes. Sir Joseph wants to see you."

"Me?"

"Yes--at the house. We'll go there at once if you please."

"Certainly. Delighted. But Nicky--I ought to telephone him I shall be
gone."

"Nicky is well enough to telephone?"

"Not to come to the telephone, but there is a servant. If you will
please stop somewhere. I shall be a moment only."

Marie Louise felt that she ought not to stop, but she could hardly
kidnap the man. So she drew up at a shop and von Gröner left her, her
heart shaking her with a faint tremor like that of the engine of her
car.

Von Gröner returned promptly, but he said: "I think we should not go
too straight to your father's house. Might be we are followed. We can
tell soon. Go in the park, please, and suddenly stop, turn round, and
I look at what cars follow."

She let him command her. She was letting everybody command her; she
had no destination, no North Star in her life. Von Gröner kept her
dodging about Regent's Park till she grew angry.

"This seems rather silly, doesn't it? I am going home. Sir Joseph has
worries enough without--"

"Ah, he has worries?"

She did not answer. The eagerness in his voice did not please her. He
kept up a rain of questions, too, but she answered them all by
referring him to Sir Joseph.

At last they reached the house. As they got out, two men closed in on
the car and peered into their faces. Von Gröner snapped at them, and
they fell back.

Marie Louise had taken along her latchkey. She opened the door herself
and led von Gröner to Sir Joseph's room.

As she lifted her hand to knock she heard Lady Webling weeping
frantically, crying out something incoherent. Marie Louise fell back
and motioned von Gröner away, but he pushed the door open and, taking
her by the elbow, thrust her forward.

Lady Webling stopped short with a wail. Sir Joseph, who had been
trying to quiet her by patting her hand, paused with his palm
uplifted.

Before Marie Louise could speak she saw that the old couple was not
alone. By the mantel stood Mr. Verrinder. By the door, almost touching
Marie Louise, was a tall, grim person she had not seen. He closed the
door behind von Gröner and Marie Louise.

Mr. Verrinder said, "Be good enough to sit down." To von Gröner he
said, "How are you, Bickford?"



CHAPTER V


Sir Joseph was staring at the new-comer, and his German nativity told
him what Marie Louise had not been sure of, that von Gröner was no
German. When Verrinder gave him an English name it shook Marie Louise
with a new dismay. Sir Joseph turned from the man to Marie Louise and
demanded:

"Marie Louise, you ditt not theenk this man is a Cherman?"

This one more shame crushed Marie Louise. She dropped into a chair,
appealing feebly to the man she had retrieved:

"Your name is not von Gröner?"

Bickford grinned. "Well, in a manner of speakin'. You might say it's
my pen-name. Not that I've ever been in the pen--except with Nicky."

"Nicky is in the-- He's not ill?"

"Well, he's a bit sick. He was a bit seasick to start with, and when
we gave him the collar--well, he doesn't like his room."

"But his letters--" Marie Louise pleaded, her fears racing ahead of
her questions.

"I was always a hand at forgery, but I thought best to turn it to the
aid of me country. I'm proud if you liked me work. The last ones were
not up to the mark. _I_ was hurried, and Nicky was ugly. He refused to
answer any more questions. I had to do it all on me own. Ahfterwards I
found I had made a few mistakes."

When Marie Louise realized that this man had been calmly taking the
letters addressed to Nicky and answering them in his feigned script to
elicit further information from Sir Joseph and enmesh him further, she
dropped her hands at her sides, feeling not only convicted of crime,
but of imbecility as well.

Sir Joseph and Lady Webling spread their hands and drew up their
shoulders in surrender and gave up hope of bluff.

Verrinder wanted to be merciful and avoid any more climaxes.

"You see it's all up, Sir Joseph, don't you?" he said.

Sir Joseph drew himself again as high as he could, though the burden
of his flesh kept pulling him down. He did not answer.

"Come now, Sir Joseph, be a sport."

"The Englishman's releechion," sneered Sir Joseph, "to be ein
_Sportmann_."

"Oh, I know you can't understand it," said Verrinder. "It seems to be
untranslatable into German--just as we can't seem to understand
_Germanity_ except that it is the antonym of _humanity_. You fellows
have no boyhood literature, I am told, no Henty or Hughes or Scott to
fill you with ideas of fair play. You have no games to teach you. One
really can't blame you for being such rotters, any more than one can
blame a Kaffir for not understanding cricket.

"But sport aside, use your intelligence, old man. _I_'ve laid my cards
on the table--enough of them, at least. We've trumped every trick, and
we've all the trumps outstanding. You have a few high cards up your
sleeve. Why not toss them on the table and throw yourselves on the
mercy of his Majesty?"

The presence of Marie Louise drove the old couple to a last battle for
her faith. Lady Webling stormed, "All what you accuse us is lies,
lies!"

Verrinder grew stern:

"Lies, you say? We have you, and your daughter--also Nicky. We
have--well, I'll not annoy you with their names. Over in the States
they have a lot more of you fellows.

"You and Sir Joseph have lived in this country for years and years.
You have grown fat--I mean to say rich--upon our bounty. We have loved
and trusted you. His Majesty has given you both marks of his most
gracious favor."

"We paid well for that," sneered Lady Webling.

"Yes, I fancy you did--but with English pounds and pence that you
gained with the help of British wits and British freedom. You have
contributed to charities, yes, and handsomely, too, but not entirely
without the sweet usages of advertisement. You have not hidden that
part of your bookkeeping from the public.

"But the rest of your books--you don't show those. We know a ghastly
lot about them, and it is not pretty, my dear lady. I had hoped you
would not force us to publish those transactions. You have plotted the
destruction of the British Empire; you have conspired to destroy ships
in dock and at sea; you have sent God knows how many lads to their
death--and women and children, too. You have helped to blow up
munitions-plants, and on your white heads is the blood of many and
many a poor wretch torn to pieces at his lathe. You have made widows
of women and orphans of children who never heard of you, nor you of
them. Nor have you cared--or dared--to inquire.

"Sir Joseph has been perfecting a great scheme to buy up what
munitions-plants he could in this country in order to commit sabotage
and slow up the production of the ammunition our troops are crying
for. He has plotted with others to send defective shells that will rip
up the guns they do not fit, and powders that will explode too soon or
not at all. God! to think that the lives of our brave men and the life
of our Empire should be threatened by such people as you!

"And in the American field Sir Joseph has connived with a syndicate to
purchase factories, to stop production at the source, since your
U-boats and your red-handed diplomatic spies cannot stop it otherwise.
Your agents have corrupted a few of the Yankees, and killed others,
and would have killed more if the name of your people had not become
such a horror even in that land where millions of Germans live that
every proffer is suspect.

"You see, we know you, Lady Webling and Sir Joseph. We have watched
you all the while from the very first, and we know that you are not
innocent even of complicity in the supreme infamy of luring the
_Lusitania_ to her death."

He was quivering with the rush of his emotions over the broken dam of
habitual reticence.

Lady Webling and Sir Joseph had quivered, too, less under the impact
of his denunciation than in the confusion of their own exposure to
themselves and to Marie Louise.

They had watched her eyes as she heard Mr. Verrinder's philippic. They
had seen her pass from incredulity to belief. They had seen her glance
at them and glance away in fear of them.

This broke them utterly, for she was utterly dear to them. She was
dearer than their own flesh and blood. She had replaced their dead.
She had been born to them without pain, without infancy, born full
grown in the prime of youth and beauty. They had watched her love grow
to a passion, and their own had grown with it.

What would she do now? She was the judge they feared above England.
They awaited her sentence.

Her eyes wandered to them and searched them through. At first, under
the spell of Verrinder's denunciation, she saw them as two bloated
fiends, their hands dripping blood, their lips framed to lies, their
brains to cunning and that synonym for Germanism, _ruthlessness_--the
word the Germans chose, as their Kaiser chose Huns for an ideal.

But she looked again. She saw the pleading in their eyes. Their very
uncomeliness besought her mercy. After all, she had seen none of the
things Verrinder described. The only real things to her, the only
things she knew of her own knowledge, were the goodnesses of these
two. They were her parents. And now for the first time they needed
her. The mortgage their generosity had imposed on her had fallen due.

How could she at the first unsupported obloquy of a stranger turn
against them? Her first loyalty was due to them, and no other loyalty
was under test. Something swept her to her feet. She ran to them and,
as far as she could, gathered them into her arms. They wept like two
children whom reproaches have hardened into defiance, but whom
kindness has melted.

Verrinder watched the spectacle with some surprise and not altogether
with scorn. Whatever else Miss Webling was, she was a good sport. She
stuck to her team in defeat.

He said, not quite harshly, "So, Miss Webling, you cast your lot with
them."

"I do."

"Do you believe that what I said was true?"

"No."

"Really, you should be careful. Those messages you carried incriminate
you."

"I suppose they do, though I never knew what was in them. No, I'll
take that back. I'm not trying to crawl out of it."

"Then since you confess so much, I shall have to ask you to come with
them."

"To the--the Tower of London?"

"The car is ready."

Marie Louise was stabbed with fright. She seized the doomed twain in a
faster embrace.

"What are you going to do with these poor souls?"

"Their souls my dear Miss Webling, are outside our jurisdiction."

"With their poor bodies, then?"

"I am not a judge or a jury, Miss Webling. Everything will be done
with propriety. They will not be torpedoed in midocean without
warning. They will have the full advantage of the British law to the
last."

That awful word jarred them all. But Sir Joseph was determined to make
a good end. He drew himself up with another effort.

"Excuse, pleass, Mr. Verrinder--might it be we should take with us a
few little things?"

"Of course."

"Thang gyou." He bowed and turned to go, taking his wife and Marie
Louise by the arm, for mutual support.

"If you don't mind, I'll come along," said Mr. Verrinder.

Sir Joseph nodded. The three went heavily up the grandiose stairway as
if a gibbet waited at the top. They went into Sir Joseph's room, which
adjoined that of his wife. Mr. Verrinder paused on the sill somewhat
shyly:

"This is a most unpleasant task, but--"

Marie Louise hesitated, smiling gruesomely.

"My room is across the hall. You can hardly be in both places at once,
can you?"

"I fancy I can trust you--especially as the house is surrounded. If
you don't mind joining us later."

Marie Louise went to her room. Her maid was there in a palsy of fear.
The servants had not dared apply themselves to the keyholes, but they
knew that the master was visited by the police and that a cordon was
drawn about the house.

The ashen girl offered her help to Marie Louise, wondering if she
would compromise herself with the law, but incapable of deserting so
good a mistress even at such a crisis. Marie Louise thanked her and
told her to go to bed, compelled her to leave. Then she set about the
dreary task of selecting a few necessaries--a nightgown, an extra day
gown, some linen, some silver, and a few brushes. She felt as if she
were laying out her own grave-clothes, and that she would need little
and not need that little long.

She threw a good-by look, a long, sweeping, caressing glance, about
her castle, and went across the hall, lugging her hand-bag. Before she
entered Sir Joseph's room she knocked.

It was Mr. Verrinder that answered, "Come in."

He was seated in a chair, dejected and making himself as inoffensive
as possible. Lady Webling had packed her own bag and was helping the
helpless Sir Joseph find the things he was looking for in vain, though
they were right before him. Marie Louise saw evidences that a larger
packing had already been done. Verrinder had surprised them, about to
flee.

Sir Joseph was ready at last. He was closing his bag when he took a
last glance, and said:

"My toot'-brush and powder."

He went to his bathroom cabinet, and there he saw in the little
apothecary-shop a bottle of tablets prescribed for him during his
illness. It was conspicuously labeled "_Poison_."

He stood staring at the bottle so long in such fascination that Lady
Webling came to the door to say:

"Vat is it you could not find now, papa?"

She leaned against the edge of the casement, and he pointed to the
bottle. Their eyes met, and in one long look they passed through a
brief Gethsemane. No words were exchanged. She nodded. He took the
bottle from the shelf stealthily, unscrewed the top, poured out a heap
of tablets and gave them to her, then poured another heap into his fat
palm.

"_Prosit_!" he said, and they flung the venom into their throats. It
was brackish merely from the coating, but they could not swallow all
the pellets. He filled a glass of water at the faucet and handed it to
his wife. She quaffed enough to get the pellets down her resisting
throat, and handed the glass to him.

They remained staring at each other, trying to crowd into their eyes
an infinity of strange passionate messages, though their features were
all awry with nausea and the premonition of lethal pains.

Verrinder began to wonder at their delay. He was about to rise. Marie
Louise went to the door anxiously. Sir Joseph mumbled:

"Look once, my darlink. I find some bong-bongs. Vould you like, yes?"

With a childish canniness he held the bottle so that she could see the
skull and cross-bones and the word beneath.

Marie Louise, not realizing that they had already set out on the
adventure, gave a stifled cry and snatched at the bottle. It fell to
the floor with a crash, and the tablets leaped here and there like
tiny white beetles. Some of them ran out into the room and caught
Verrinder's eye.

Before he could reach the door Sir Joseph had said, triumphantly, to
Marie Louise:

"Mamma and I did eat already. Too bad you do not come vit. _Adé,
Töchterchen. Lebewohl!_"

He was reaching his awkward arms out to clasp her when Verrinder burst
into the homely scene of their tragedy. He caught up the broken bottle
and saw the word "_Poison_." Beneath were the directions, but no word
of description, no mention of the antidote.

"What is this stuff?" Verrinder demanded, in a frenzy of dread and
wrath and self-reproach.

"I don't know," Marie Louise stammered.

Verrinder repeated his demand of Sir Joseph.

"_Weiss nit_," he mumbled, beginning to stagger as the serpent struck
its fangs into his vitals.

Verrinder ran out into the hall and shouted down the stairs:

"Bickford, telephone for a doctor, in God's name--the nearest one.
Send out to the nearest chemist and fetch him on the run--with every
antidote he has. Send somebody down to the kitchen for warm water,
mustard, coffee."

There was a panic below, but Marie Louise knew nothing except the
swirling tempest of her own horror. Sir Joseph and Lady Webling, blind
with torment, wrung and wrenched with spasms of destruction, groped
for each other's hands and felt their way through clouds of fire to a
resting-place.

Marie Louise could give them no help, but a little guidance toward the
bed. They fell upon it--and after a hideous while they died.



CHAPTER VI


The physician arrived too late--physicians were hard to get for
civilians. While he was being hunted down and brought in, Verrinder
fought an unknown poison with what antidotes he could improvise, and
saw that they merely added annoyance to agony.

His own failure had been unnerving. He had pursued this eminent couple
for months, trying in vain to confirm suspicion by proof and
strengthen assurance with evidence, and always delaying the blow in
the hope of gathering in still more of Germany's agents. At last he
had thrown the slowly woven net about the Weblings and revealed them
to themselves as prisoners of his cunning. Then their souls slipped
out through the meshes, leaving their useless empty bodies in his
care, their bodies and the soul and body of the young woman who was
involved in their guilt.

Verrinder did not relish the story the papers would make of it. So he
and the physician devised a statement for the press to the effect that
the Weblings died of something they had eaten. The stomach of Europe
was all deranged, and Sir Joseph had been famous for his dinners;
there was a kind of ironic logic in his epitaph.

Verrinder left the physician to fabricate and promulgate the story and
keep him out of it. Then he addressed himself to the remaining
prisoner, Miss Marie Louise Webling.

He had no desire to display this minnow as his captive after the
whales had got away, but he hoped to find her useful in solving some
of the questions the Weblings had left unanswered when they bolted
into eternity. Besides, he had no intention of letting Marie Louise
escape to warn the other conspirators and to continue her nefarious
activities.

His first difficulty was not one of frightening Miss Webling into
submission, but of soothing her into coherence. She had loved the old
couple with a filial passion, and the sight of their last throes had
driven her into a frenzy of grief. She needed the doctor's care before
Verrinder could talk to her at all. The answers he elicited from her
hysteria were full of contradiction, of evident ignorance, of
inaccuracy, of folly. But so he had found all human testimony; for
these three things are impossible to mankind: to see the truth, to
remember it, and to tell it.

When first Marie Louise came out of the avalanche of her woes, it was
she who began the questioning. She went up and down the room
disheveled, tear-smirched, wringing her hands and beating her breast
till it hurt Verrinder to watch her brutality to that tender flesh.

"What--what does it mean?" she sobbed. "What have you done to my poor
papa and mamma? Why did you come here?"

"Surely you must know."

"What do I know? Only that they were good sweet people."

"Good sweet spies!"

"Spies! Those poor old darlings?"

"Oh, I say--really, now, you surely can't have the face, the
insolence, to--"

"I haven't any insolence. I haven't anything but a broken heart."

"How many hearts were broken--how many hearts were stopped, do you
suppose, because of your work?"

"My what?"

"I refer to the lives that you destroyed."

"I--I destroyed lives? Which one of us is going mad?"

"Oh, come, now, you knew what you were doing. You were glad and proud
for every poor fellow you killed."

"It's you, then, that are mad." She stared at him in utter fear. She
made a dash for the door. He prevented her. She fell back and looked
to the window. He took her by the arm and twisted her into a chair. He
had seen hysteria quelled by severity. He stood over her and spoke
with all the sternness of his stern soul.

"You will gain nothing by trying to make a fool of me. You carried
messages for those people. The last messages you took you delivered to
one of our agents."

Her soul refused her even self-defense. She could only stammer the
fact, hardly believing it as she put it forth:

"I didn't know what was in the letters. I never knew."

Verrinder was disgusted by such puerile defense:

"What did you think was in them, then?"

"I had no idea. Papa--Sir Joseph didn't take me into his confidence."

"But you knew that they were secret."

"He told me that they were--that they were business messages--secret
financial transactions."

"Transactions in British lives--oh, they were that! And you knew it."

"I did not know it! I did not know it! I did not know it!"

She realized too late that the strength of the retort suffered by its
repetition. It became nonsense on the third iterance. She grew afraid
even to defend herself.

Seeing how frightened she was at bay, Mr. Verrinder forebore to drive
her to distraction.

"Very well, you did not know what the messages contained. But why did
you consent to such sneaking methods? Why did you let them use you for
such evident deceit?"

"I was glad to be of use to them. They had been so good to me for so
long. I was used to doing as I was told. I suppose it was gratitude."

It was then that Mr. Verrinder delivered himself of his bitter opinion
of gratitude, which has usually been so well spoken of and so rarely
berated for excess.

"Gratitude is one of the evils of the world. I fancy that few other
emotions have done more harm. In moderation it has its uses, but in
excess it becomes vicious. It is a form of voluntary servitude; it
absolutely destroys all respect for public law; it is the foundation
of tyrannies; it is the secret of political corruption; it is the
thing that holds dynasties together, family despotism; it is
soul-mortgage, bribery. It is a monster of what the Americans call
graft. It is chloroform to the conscience, to patriotism, to every
sense of public duty. 'Scratch my back, and I am your slave'--that's
gratitude."

Mr. Verrinder rarely spoke at such length or with such apothegm.

Marie Louise was a little more dazed than ever to hear gratitude
denounced. She was losing all her bearings. Next he demanded:

"But admitting that you were duped by your gratitude, how did it
happen that your curiosity never led you to inquire into the nature of
those messages?"

"I respected Sir Joseph beyond all people. I supposed that what he did
was right. I never knew it not to be. And then--well, if, I did wonder
a little once in a while, I thought I'd better mind my own business."

Verrinder had his opinion of this, too. "Minding your own business!
That's another of those poisonous virtues. Minding your own business
leads to pacifism, malevolent neutrality, selfishness of every sort.
It's death to charity and public spirit. Suppose the Good Samaritan
had minded his own business! But-- Well, this is getting us no
forwarder with you. You carried those messages, and never felt even a
woman's curiosity about them! You met Nicky Easton often, and never
noted his German accent, never suspected that he was not the
Englishman he pretended to be. Is that true?"

He saw by the wild look in her eyes and their escape from his own that
he had scored a hit. He did not insist upon her acknowledging it.

"And your only motive was gratitude?"

"Yes, sir."

"You never asked any pay for it?"

"No, sir."

"You never received anything for it?"

"No, sir."

"We find the record of a transfer to you of securities for some twenty
thousand pounds. Why was that given you?"

"It--it was just out of generosity. Sir Joseph said he was afraid I
might be--that his will might be broken, and--"

"Ah! you discussed his will with him, then?"

She was horrified at his implication. She cried, "Oh, I begged him not
to, but he insisted."

"He said there were other heirs and they might contest his will. Did
he mention the heirs?"

"No, sir. I don't think so. I don't remember that he did."

"He did not by any chance refer to the other grandparents of the two
children? Mr. and Mrs. Oakby, the father and mother of the father of
Victor and Bettina?"

"He didn't refer to them, I'm sure. Yes, I am quite sure."

"Did he say that his money would be left in trust for his grandchildren?"

"No."

"And he gave you twenty thousand pounds just out of generosity?"

"Yes. Yes, Mr. Verrinder."

"It was a fairish amount of money for messenger fees, wasn't it? And
it came to you while you were carrying those letters to Nicky?"

"No! Sir Joseph had been ill. He had had a stroke of paralysis."

"And you were afraid he might have another?"

"No!"

"You were not afraid of that?"

"Yes, of course I was, but-- What are you trying to make me say--that
I went to him and demanded the money?"

"That idea occurs to you, does it?"

She writhed with disgust at the suggestion. Yet it had a clammy
plausibility. Mr. Verrinder went on:

"These messages, you say, concerned a financial transaction?"

"So papa told me."

"And you believed him?"

"Naturally."

"You never doubted him?"

All the tortures of doubt that had assailed her recurred to her now
and paralyzed her power to utter the ringing denial that was needed.
He went on:

"Didn't it strike you as odd that Sir Joseph should be willing to pay
you twenty thousand pounds just to carry messages concerning some
mythical business?"

She did not answer. She was afraid to commit herself to anything.
Every answer was a trap. Verrinder went on: "Twenty thousand pounds is
a ten-per-centum commission on two hundred thousand pounds. That was
rather a largish transaction to be carried on through secret letters,
eh? Nicky Easton was not a millionaire, was he? Now I ask you, should
you think of him as a Rothschild? Or was he, do you think, acting as
agent for some one else, perhaps, and if so, for whom?"

She answered none of these. They were based on the assumption that she
had put forward herself. She could find nothing to excuse her.
Verrinder was simply playing tag with her. As soon as he touched her
he ran away and came at her from another direction.

"Of course, we know that you were only the adopted daughter of Sir
Joseph. But where did you first meet him?"

"In Berlin."

The sound of that word startled her. That German name stood for all
the evils of the time. It was the inaccessible throne of hell.

Verrinder was startled by it, too.

"In Berlin!" he exclaimed, and nodded his head. "Now we are getting
somewhere. Would you mind telling me the circumstances?"

She blushed a furious scarlet.

"I--I'd rather not."

"I must insist."

"Please send me to the Tower and have me imprisoned for life. I'd
rather be there than here. Or better yet--have me shot. It would make
me happier than anything you could do."

"I'm afraid that your happiness is not the main object of the moment.
Will you be so good as to tell me how you met Sir Joseph in--in
Berlin."

Marie Louise drew a deep breath. The past that she had tried to
smother under a new life must be confessed at such a time of all
times!

"Well, you know that Sir Joseph had a daughter; the two children
up-stairs are hers, and--and what's to become of them, in Heaven's
name?"

"One problem at a time, if you don't mind. Sir Joseph had a daughter.
That would be Mrs. Oakby."

"Yes. Her husband died before her second baby was born, and she died
soon after. And Sir Joseph and Lady Webling mourned for her bitterly,
and--well, a year or so later they were traveling on the Continent--in
Germany, they were, and one night they went to the Winter Garten in
Berlin--the big music-hall, you know. Well, they were sitting far
back, and an American team of musicians came on--the Musical Mokes, we
were called."

"We?"

She bent her head in shame. "I was one of them. I played a xylophone
and a saxophone and an accordion--all sorts of things. Well, Lady
Webling gave a little gasp when she saw me, and she looked at Sir
Joseph--so she told me afterward--and then they got up and stole 'way
up front just as I left the stage--to make a quick change, you know. I
came back--in tights, playing a big trombone, prancing round and
making an awful noise. Lady Webling gave a little scream; nobody heard
her because I made a loud blat on the trombone in the ear of the
black-face clown, and he gave a shriek and did a funny fall, and--"

"But, pardon me--why did Lady Webling scream?"

"Because I looked like her dead daughter. It was so horrible to see
her child come out of the grave in--in tights, blatting a trombone at
a clown in that big variety theater."

"I can quite understand. And then--"

"Well, Sir Joseph came round to the stage door and sent in his card.
The man who brought it grinned and told everybody an old man was
smitten on me; and Ben, the black-face man, said, 'I'll break his
face,' but I said I wouldn't see him.

"Well, when I was dressed and leaving the theater with the black-face
man, you know, Sir Joseph was outside. He stopped me and said: 'My
child! My child!' and the tears ran down his face. I stopped, of
course, and said, 'What's the matter now?' And he said, 'Would you
come with me?' and I said, 'Not in a thousand years, old Creepo
Christmas!' And he said: 'My poor wife is in the carriage at the curb.
She wants to speak to you.' And then of course I had to go, and she
reached out and dragged me in and wept all over me. I thought they
were both crazy, but finally they explained, and they asked me to go
to their hotel with them. So I told Ben to be on his way, and I went.

"Well, they asked me a lot of questions, and I told them a little--not
everything, but enough, Heaven knows. And they begged me to be their
daughter. I thought it would be pretty stupid, but they said they
couldn't stand the thought of their child's image going about as I
was, and I wasn't so stuck on the job myself--odd, how the old
language comes back, isn't it? I haven't heard any of it for so long
I'd almost forgotten it." She passed her handkerchief across her lips
as if to rub away a bad taste. It left the taste of tears. She sighed:
"Well, they adopted me, and I learned to love them. And--and that's
all."

"And you learned to love their native country, too, I fancy."

"At first I did like Germany pretty well. They were crazy about us in
Berlin. I got my first big money and notices and attention there. You
can imagine it went to my head. But then I came to England and tried
to be as English as I could, so as not to be conspicuous. I never
wanted to be conspicuous off the stage--or on it, for that matter. I
even took lessons from the man who had the sign up, you remember,
'Americans taught to speak English!' I always had a gift for foreign
languages, and I got to thinking in English, too."

"One moment, please. Did you say 'Americans taught?' Americans?"

"Yes."

"You're not American?"

"Why, of course!"

"Damned stupid of me!"

Verrinder frowned. This complicated matters. He had cornered her, only
to have her abscond into neutral territory. He had known that Marie
Louise was an adopted child, but had not suspected her Americanism.
This required a bit of thinking. While he studied it in the back room
of his brain his forehead self was saying:

"So Sir Joseph befriended you, and that was what won your amazing,
unquestioning gratitude?"

"That and a thousand thousand little kindnesses. I loved them like
mother and father."

"But your own--er--mother and father--you must have had parents of
your own--what was their nationality?"

"Oh, they were, as we say, 'Americans from 'way back.' But my father
left my mother soon after I was born. We weren't much good, I guess.
It was when I was a baby. He was very restless, they say. I suppose I
got my runaway nature from him. But I've outgrown that. Anyway, he
left my mother with three children. My little brother died. My mother
was a seamstress in a little town out West--an awful hole it was. I
was a tiny little girl when they took me to my mother's funeral. I
remember that, but I can't remember her. That was my first death. And
now this! I've lost a mother and father twice. That hasn't happened to
many people. So you must forgive me for being so crazy. So many of my
loved are dead. It's frightful. We lose so many as we grow up. Life is
like walking through a graveyard, with the sextons always busy opening
new places. There was so much crying and loneliness before, and now
this war goes on and on--as if we needed a war!"

"God knows, we don't."

Marie Louise went to the window and raised the curtain. A haggard gray
light had been piping the edges of the shade. Now the full casement
let in a flood of warm morning radiance.

The dull street was alive again. Sparrows were hopping. Wagons were on
the move. Small and early tradesfolk were about their business.
Servants were opening houses as shops were being opened in town.

The big wheel had rolled London round into the eternal day. Doors and
windows were being flung ajar. Newspapers and milk were taken in,
ashes put out, cats and dogs released, front stoops washed, walks
swept, gardens watered. Brooms were pendulating. In the masters' rooms
it was still night and slumber-time, but humble people were alert.

The morning after a death is a fearful thing. Those papers on the
steps across the way were doubtless loaded with more tragedies from
the front, and among the cruel facts was the lie that concealed the
truth about the Weblings, who were to read no more morning papers, eat
no more breakfasts, set out on no more journeys.

Grief came to Marie Louise now with a less brackish taste. Her sorrow
had the pity of the sunlight on it. She wept not now for the terror
and hatefulness of the Weblings' fate, but for the beautiful things
that would bless them no more, for the roses that would glow unseen,
the flowers that would climb old walls and lean out unheeded, asking
to be admired and proffering fragrance in payment of praise. The
Weblings were henceforth immune to the pleasant rumble of wagons in
streets, to the cheery good mornings of passers-by, the savor of
coffee in the air, the luscious colors of fruits piled upon silver
dishes.

Then she heard a scamper of bare feet, the squeals of mischief-making
children escaping from a pursuing nurse.

It had been a favorite pastime of Victor and Bettina to break in upon
Marie Louise of mornings when she forgot to lock her door. They loved
to steal in barefoot and pounce on her with yelps of savage delight
and massacre her, pull her hair and dance upon her bed and on her as
she pleaded for mercy.

She heard them coming now, and she could not reach the door before it
opened and disclosed the grinning, tousle-curled cherubs in their
sleeping-suits.

They darted in, only to fall back in amazement. Marie Louise was not
in bed. The bed had not been slept in. Marie Louise was all dressed,
and she had been crying. And in a chair sat a strange, formidable old
gentleman who looked tired and forlorn.

"Auntie!" they gasped.

She dropped to her knees, and they ran to her for refuge from the
strange man.

She hugged them so hard that they cried, "Don't!"

Without in the least understanding what it was all about, they heard
her saying to the man:

"And now what's to become of these poor lambs?"

The old stranger passed a slow gray hand across his dismal face and
pondered.

The children pointed, then remembered that it is impolite to point,
and drew back their little index hands and whispered:

"Auntie, what you up so early for?" and, "Who is that?"

And she whispered, "S-h-h!"

Being denied the answer to this charade, they took up a new interest.

"I wonder is grandpapa up, too, and all dressed," said Victor.

"And maybe grandmamma," Bettina shrilled.

"I'll beat you to their room," said Victor.

Marie Louise seized them by their hinder garments as they fled.

"You must not bother them."

"Why not?" said Victor.

"Will so!" said Bettina, pawing to be free.

Marie Louise implored: "Please, please! They've gone."

"Where?"

She cast her eyes up at that terrible query, and answered it vaguely.

"Away."

"They might have told a fellow good-by," Victor brooded.

"They--they forgot, perhaps."

"I don't think that was very nice of them," Bettina pouted.

Victor was more cheerful. "Perhaps they did; perhaps they kissed us
while we was asleep--_were_ asleep."

Bettina accepted with delight.

"Seems to me I 'member somebody kissin' me. Yes, I 'member now."

Victor was skeptical. "Maybe you only had a dream about it."

"What else is there?" said Mr. Verrinder, rising and patting Victor on
the shoulder. "You'd better run along to your tubs now."

They recognized the authority in his voice and obeyed.

The children took their beauty with them, but left their destiny to be
arranged by higher powers, the gods of Eld.

"What is to become of them," Louise groaned again, "when I go to
prison?"

Verrinder was calm. "Sir Joseph's will doubtless left the bulk of his
fortune to them. That will provide for their finances. And they have
two grandparents left. The Oakbys will surely be glad to take the
children in, especially as they will come with such fortunes."

"You mean that I am to have no more to do with them?"

"I think it would be best to remove them to a more strictly English
influence."

This hurt her horribly. She grew impatient for the finishing blow.

"And now that they are disposed of, have you decided what's to become
of me?"

"It is not for me to decide. By the by, have you any one to represent
you or intercede for you here, or act as your counsel in England?"

She shook her head. "A good many people have been very nice to me, of
course. I've noticed, though, that even they grew cold and distant of
late. I'd rather die than ask any of them."

"But have you no relatives living--no one of importance in the States
who could vouch for you?"

She shook her head with a doleful humility.

"None of our family were ever important that I ever heard of, though
of course one never knows what relatives are lurking about. Mine will
never claim me; that's certain. I did have a sister--poor thing!--if
she's alive. We didn't get along very well. I was too wild and
restless as a girl. She was very good, hard-working, simple, homely as
sin--or homely as virtue. I was all for adventure. I've had my fill of
it. But once you begin it, you can't stop when you've had enough. If
she's not dead, she's probably married and living under another
name--Heaven knows what name or where. But I could find her, perhaps.
I'd love to go to her. She was a very good girl. She's probably
married a good man and has brought up her children piously, and never
mentioned me. I'd only bring disgrace on her. She'd disown me if I
came home with this cloud of scandal about me."

"No one shall know of this scandal unless you tell."

She laughed harshly, with a patronizing superiority.

"Really, Mr. Verrinder, did you ever know a secret to be kept?"

"This one will be."

She laughed again at him, then at herself.

He rose wearily. "I think I shall have to be getting along. I haven't
had a bath or a shave to-day. I shall ask you to keep to your room and
deny yourself to all visitors. I won't ask you to promise not to
escape. If the guard around the house is not capable of detaining you,
you're welcome to your freedom, though I warn you that England is as
hard to get out of as to get into nowadays. Whatever you do, for your
own sake, at least, keep this whole matter secret and stick to the
story we agreed on. Good morning!"

He bowed himself out. No rattling of chains marked his closing of the
door, but if he had been a turnkey in Newgate he could not have left
Marie Louise feeling more a prisoner. Her room was her body's jail,
but her soul was in a dungeon, too.

As Verrinder went down the hall he scattered a covey of whispering
servants.

The nurse who had waited to seize the children when they came forth
had left them to dress themselves while she hastened to publish in the
servants' dining-room the appalling fact that she had caught sight of
a man in Miss Marie Louise's room. The other servants had many other
even more astounding things to tell--to wit: that after mysterious
excitements about the house, with strange men going and coming, and
the kitchen torn to pieces for mustard and warm milk and warm water
and strong coffee, and other things, Sir Joseph and Lady Webling were
no more, and the whole household staff was out of a job. Strange
police-like persons were in the house, going through all the papers in
Sir Joseph's room. The servants could hardly wait to get out with the
gossip.

And Mr. Verrinder had said that this secret would be kept!



CHAPTER VII


Somewhere along about this time, though there is no record of the
exact date--and it was in a shabby home in a humble town where dates
made little difference--a homely woman sniffed.

Her name was Mrs. Nuddle.

What Mrs. Nuddle was sniffing at was a page of fashion cartoons,
curious human hieroglyphs that women can read and run to buy.
Highly improbable garments were sketched on utterly impossible
figures--female eels who could crawl through their own garters, eels
of strange mottlings, with heads like cranberries, feet like thorns,
and no spines at all.

Mrs. Nuddle was as opposite in every way as could be. She could not
have crawled through her own washtub if she had knocked the bottom out
of it. She was a caricature made by nature and long, hard work, and
she laughed at the caricatures devised by art in a hurry.

She was about to cast the paper aside as a final rebuke when she
caught sight of portraits of real people of fashion. They did not look
nearly so fashionable as the cartoons, but they were at least
possible. Some of them were said to be prominent in charity; most of
them were prominent out of their corsages.

Now Mrs. Nuddle sniffed at character, not at caricature. Leaning
against her washtub and wringer, both as graceful as their engineer,
she indulged herself in the pitiful but unfailing solace of the poor
and the ugly, which is to attribute to the rich dishonesty and to the
beautiful wickedness.

The surf Mrs. Nuddle had raised in the little private sea of her tub
had died down, and a froth of soap dried on the rawhide of her big
forearms as her heifer eyes roamed the newspaper-gallery of portraits.
One sudsy hand supported and suppressed her smile of ridicule. These
women, belles and swells, were all as glossy as if they had been
ironed.

Mrs. Nuddle sneered: "If the hussies would do an honest day's work it
would be better for their figgers." She was mercifully oblivious of
the fact that her tub-calisthenics had made her no more exquisite than
a cow in a kimono.

Mrs. Nuddle scorned the lily-fingered tulip-fleshed beauties. Their
sentimental alarms had nothing in common with her problem, which was
the riddle of a husband who was faithful only to the bottle, who was
indifferent to the children he got so easily, and was poetical only in
that he never worked save when the mood was on him.

Again Mrs. Nuddle made to cast aside the paper that had come into her
home wrapped round a bundle of laundry. But now she was startled, and
she would have startled anybody who might have been watching her, for
she stared hard at a photographed beauty and gasped:

"Sister!"

She in her disordered garb, unkempt, uncorseted, and uncommonly
common, greeted with the word "Sister!" the photograph of a very
young, very beautiful, very gracile creature, in a mannish costume
that emphasized her femininity, in a foreign garden, in a braw hat
with curls cascading from under it, with a throat lilying out of a
flaring collar, with hands pocketed in a smart jacket, and below that
a pair of most fashionable legs in riding-breeches and puttees! She
carried not a parasol nor a riding-crop, but a great reaping-hook
swung across her shoulder, and she smiled as impudently, as
immortally, as if she were Youth and had slain old Time and carried
off his scythe.

The picture did not reply to Mrs. Nuddle's cry, but Mrs. Nuddle's
eldest daughter, a precocious little adventuress of eleven or so, who
was generally called "Sister," turned from the young brother whose
smutty face she was just smacking and snapped:

"Aw, whatcha want?"

Little Sister supposed that her irritating mother was going to tell
her to stop doing something, or to start doing something--either of
which behests she always hated and only obeyed because her mother was
bigger than she was. She turned and saw her mother swaying and
clutching at the air. Sister had a gorgeous hope that mother would
fall into the tub and be interesting for once. But mother was a born
disappointer. She shook off the promising swoon, righted herself, and
began fiercely to scan the paper to find out whose name the picture
bore. The caption was torn off.

Being absolutely sure who it was, she wanted to find out who it really
was.

In her frantic curiosity she remembered that her husband had stripped
off a corner of the paper, dipped it in the stove, lighted his pipe
with it, thrown it flaming on the floor, spat it out with practised
accuracy, and trodden it as he went away. Mrs. Nuddle ran to pick it
up.

On the charred remnant she read:

  The Beautiful Miss.... One of London's reigning beaut.... daughter
  of Sir Joseph W.... doing farm work on the estate in....

Mrs. Nuddle sniffed no more. She flopped to a backless chair and
squatted in a curious burlesque of Rodin's statue of "The Thinker."
One heavy hand pinched her dewlap. Her hair was damp with steam and
raining about her face. Her old waist was half buttoned, and no one
would have regretted if it had been all buttoned. She was as plebeian
as an ash-can and as full of old embers.

She was still immobilized when her husband came in. Now he gasped. His
wife was loafing! sitting down! in the middle of the day! Thinking was
loafing with her. He was supposed to do the family thinking. It was
doubly necessary that she should work now, because he was on a strike.
He had been to a meeting of other thinkers--ground and lofty thinkers
who believed that they had discovered the true evil of the world and
its remedy.

The evil was the possession of money by those who had accumulated it.
The remedy was to take it away from them. Then the poor would be rich,
which was right, and the rich would be poor, which was righter still.

It was well known that the only way to end the bad habit of work was
to quit working. And the way to insure universal prosperity was to
burn down the factories and warehouses, destroy all machinery and
beggar the beasts who invented, invested, built, and hired and tried
to get rich by getting riches.

This program would take some little time to perfect, and meanwhile
Jake was willing that his wife should work. Indeed, a sharp fear
almost unmanned him--what if she should fall sick and have to loaf in
the horsepital? What if she should die? O Gord! Her little children
would be left motherless--and fatherless, for he would, of course, be
too busy saving the world to save his children. He would lose, too,
the prestige enjoyed only by those who have their money in their
wife's name. So he spoke to her with more than his wonted gentleness:

"Whatta hellsa matter wit choo?"

She felt the unusual concern in his voice, and smiled at him as best
she could:

"I got a kind of a jolt. I seen this here pitcher, and I thought for a
minute it was my sister."

"Your sister? How'd she get her pitcher in the paper? Who did she
shoot?"

He snatched the sheet from her and saw the young woman in the
young-manly garb.

Jake gloated over the picture: "Some looker! What is she, a queen in
burlecue?"

Mrs. Nuddle held out the burned sliver of paper.

He roared. "London's ranging beaut? And you're what thinks she's your
sister! The one that ran away? Was she a beaut like this?"

Mrs. Nuddle nodded. He whistled and said, with great tact:

"Cheese! but I have the rotten luck! Why didn't I see her first?
Whyn't you tell me more about her? You never talk about her none. Why
not?" No answer. "All I know is she went wrong and flew the coop."

Mrs. Nuddle flared at this. "Who said she went wrong?"

"You did!" Jake retorted with vigor. "Usedn't you to keep me awake
praying for her--hollerin' at God to forgive her? Didn't you, or did
you?" No answer. "And you think this is her!" The ridiculousness of
the fantasy smote him. "Say, you must 'a' went plumb nutty! Bendin'
over that tub must 'a' gave you a rush of brains to the head."

He laughed uproariously till she wanted to kill him. She tried to take
back what she had said:

"Don't you set there tellin' me I ever told you nothin' mean about my
pore little sister. She was as good a girl as ever lived, Mamise
was."

"You're changin' your tune now, ain'tcha? Because you think she looks
like a grand dam in pants! And where dya get that Mamise stuff? What
was her honestogawd name? Maryer? You're tryin' to swell her up a
little, huh?"

"No, I ain't. She was named Marie Louise after her gran'-maw, on'y
as a baby she couldn't say it right. She said 'Mamise.' That's what
she called her poor little self--Mamise. Seems like I can see her
now, settin' on the floor like Sister. And where is she now? O
Gawd! whatever become of her, runnin' off thataway--a little
sixteen-year-ol' chile, runnin' off with a cheap thattical troupe,
because her aunt smacked her.

"She never had no maw and no bringin' up, and she was so pirty. She
had all the beauty of the fambly, folks all said."

"And that ain't no lie," said Jake, with characteristic gallantry.
"There's nothin' but monopoly everywheres in the world. She got all
the looks and I got you. I wonder who got her!"

Jake sighed as he studied the paper, ransacked it noisily for an
article about her, but, finding none, looked at the date and growled:

"Aw, this paper's nearly a year old--May, 1916, it says."

This quelled his curiosity a little, and he turned to his dinner,
flinging it into his jaws like a stoker. His wife went slip-slopping
from stove to table, ministering to him.

Jake Nuddle did not look so dangerous as he was. He was like an old
tomato-can that an anarchist has filled with dynamite and provided
with a trigger for the destruction of whosoever disturbs it.
Explosives are useful in place. But Jake was of the sort that blow up
regardless of the occasion.

His dynamite was discontent. He hated everybody who was richer or
better paid, better clothed, better spoken of than he was. Yet he had
nothing in him of that constructive envy which is called emulation and
leads to progress, to days of toil, nights of thought. His idea of
equality was not to climb to the peak, but to drag the climbers down.
Prating always of the sufferings of the poor, he did nothing to soothe
them or remove them. His only contribution to the improvement of wages
was to call a strike and get none at all. His contribution to the war
against oppressive capital was to denounce all successful men as
brutes and tyrants, lumping the benefactors with the malefactors.

Men of his type made up the blood-spillers of the French Revolution,
and the packs of the earlier Jacquerie, the thugs who burned châteaux
and shops, and butchered women as well as men, growling their ominous
refrain:

"Noo sum zum cum eel zaw" ("_Nous sommes hommes comme ils sont_").

The Jake Nuddles were hate personified. They formed secret armies of
enemies now inside the nation and threatened her success in the war.
The thing that prevented their triumph was that their blunders were
greater than their malice, their folly more certain than their
villainy. As soon as America entered the lists against Germany, the
Jake Nuddles would begin doing their stupid best to prevent
enlistment, to persuade desertion, to stop war-production, to wreck
factories and trains, to ruin sawmills and burn crops. In the name of
freedom they would betray its most earnest defenders, compel the
battle-line to face both ways. They were more subtle than the snaky
spies of Germany, and more venomous.

As he wolfed his food now, Jake studied the picture of Marie Louise.
The gentlest influence her beauty exerted upon him was a beastly
desire. He praised her grace because it tortured his wife. But even
fiercer than his animal impulse was his rage of hatred at the look of
cleanliness and comeliness, the environment of luxury only emphasized
by her peasant disguise.

When he had mopped his plate with his bread, he took up the paper
again and glared at it with hostile envy.

"Dammer and her arristocratic ways! Daughter of a Sir and a Lady, eh?
Just wait till we get through with them Sirs and Ladies. We'll mow 'em
down. You'll see. Robbin' us poor toilers that does all the work!
We'll put an end to their peerages and their deer-parks. What Germany
leaves of these birds we'll finish up. And then we'll take this rotten
United States, the rottenest tyranny of all. Gawdammit! You just
wait!"

His wife just waited till he had smashed the picture in the face,
knocked the pretty lady's portrait to the floor and walked on it as he
strode out to his revolution. Incidentally he trod on little Sister's
hand, and she sent up a caterwaul. Her little brother howled in duet.
Then father turned on them.

"Aw, shut up or I'll--"

He did not finish his sentence. He rarely finished anything--except
his meals. He left his children crying and his wife in a new distress;
but then, revolutions cannot pause for women and children.

When he had gone, and Sister's tears had dried on her smutty face,
Mrs. Nuddle picked up the smitten and trampled picture of England's
reigning beauty and thought how lucky Miss W. was to be in England,
blissful on Sir and Lady Somebody-or-other's estate.



CHAPTER VIII


When Mr. Verrinder left Marie Louise he took from her even the props
of hostility. She had nothing to lean on now, nobody to fight with for
life and reputation. She had only suspense and confusion. Agitated
thoughts followed one another in waves across her soul--grief for her
foster-father and mother, memory of their tendernesses, remorse for
seeming to have deserted them in their last hours, remorse for having
been the dupe of their schemes, and remorse for that remorse, grief at
losing the lovable, troublesome children, creature distress at giving
up the creature comforts of the luxurious home, the revulsion of her
unfettered mind and her restless young body at the prospect of
exchanging liberty and occupation for the half-death of an idle
cell--a kind of coffin residence--fear of being executed as a spy, and
fear of being released to drag herself through life with the ball and
chain of guilt forever rolling and clanking at her feet.

Verrinder's mind was hardly more at rest when he left her and walked
to his rooms. He carried the regret of a protector of England who had
bungled his task and let the wards of his suspicion break loose. The
fault was not his, but he would never escape the reproach. He had no
taste for taking revenge on the young woman. It would not salve his
pride to visit on her pretty head the thwarted punishments due Sir
Joseph and his consort in guilt. Besides, in spite of his cynicism, he
had been touched by Marie Louise's sincerities. She proved them by the
very contradictions of her testimony, with its history of keen
intelligence alternating with curious blindness. He knew how people
get themselves all tangled up in conflicting duties, how they let
evils slide along, putting off till to-morrow the severing of the
cords and the stepping forth with freedom from obligation. He knew
that the very best people, being those who are most sensitive to
gratitude and to other people's pains, are incessantly let in for
complications that never involve selfish or self-righteous persons.

As an executive of the law, he knew how many laws there are unwritten
and implied that make obedience to the law an experiment in
caddishness and ingratitude. There were reasons enough then to believe
that Marie Louise had meant no harm and had not understood the evil in
which she was so useful an accomplice. Even if she were guilty and her
bewilderment feigned, her punishment would be untimely at this moment
when the Americans who abhorred and distrusted Germany had just about
persuaded the majority of their countrymen that the world would be
intolerable if Germany triumphed, and that the only hope of defeating
her tyranny lay in joining hands with England, France, and Italy.

The enemies of England would be only too glad to make a martyr out of
Miss Webling if she were disciplined by England. She would be
advertised, as a counterweight to the hideous mistake the Germans made
in immortalizing with their bullets the poor little nurse, "_die_
Cavell."

Verrinder was not himself at all till he had bathed, shaved, and
clothed his person in clean linen and given his inner man its tea and
toast. Once this restoration was made, his tea deferred helped him to
the conclusion that the one wise thing was to restore Marie Louise
quietly to her own country. He went with freshened step and determined
mind to a conference with the eminent men concerned. He made his own
confession of failure and took more blame than he need have accepted.
Then he told his plans for Marie Louise and made the council agree
with him.

Early in the afternoon he called on Miss Webling and found the house a
flurry of undertakers, curious relatives, and thwarted reporters. The
relatives and the reporters he satisfied with a few well-chosen lies.
Then he sent his name up to Marie Louise. The butler thrust the
card-tray through the door as if he were tossing a bit of meat to some
wild animal.

"I'll be down," said Marie Louise, and she primped herself like
another Mary Queen of Scots receiving a call from the executioner. She
was calmed by the hope that she would learn her fate, at least, and
she cared little what it was, so long as it was not unknown.

Verrinder did not delay to spread his cards on the table.

"Miss Webling, I begin again with a question: If we should offer you
freedom and silence, would you go back to America and tell no one of
what has happened here?"

The mere hint was like flinging a door open and letting the sunlight
into a dungeon. The very word "America" was itself a rush of fresh
air. The long-forgotten love of country came back into her heart on a
cry of hope.

"Oh, you don't mean that you might?"

"We might. In fact, we will, if you will promise--"

She could not wait for his formal conclusion. She broke in: "I'll
promise anything--anything! Oh I don't want to be free just for the
sake of escaping punishment! No, no. I just want a chance to--to
expiate the evil I have done. I want to do some good to undo all the
bad I've brought about. I won't try to shift any blame. I want to
confess. It will take this awful load off my heart to tell people what
a wicked fool I've been."

Verrinder checked her: "But that is just what you must not do. Unless
you can assure us that you will carry this burden about with you and
keep it secret at no matter what cost, then we shall have to proceed
with the case--legally. We shall have to exhume Sir Joseph and Lady
Webling, as it were, and drag the whole thing through the courts. We'd
really rather not, but if you insist--"

"Oh, I'll promise. I'll keep the secret. Let them rest."

She was driven less by the thought of her own liberty than the terror
of exposing the dead. The mere thought brought back pictures of
hideous days when the grave was not refuge enough from vengeance, when
bodies were dug up, gibbeted, haled by a chain along the unwashed
cobblestones, quartered with a sword in the market-place and then
flung back to the dark.

Verrinder may have feared that Marie Louise yielded under duress, and
that when she was out of reach of the law she would forget, so he
said

"Would you swear to keep this inviolate?"

"Yes!"

"Have you a Bible?"

She thought there must be one, and she searched for it among the
bookshelves. But first she came across one in the German tongue. It
fell open easily, as if it had been a familiar companion of Sir
Joseph's. She abhorred the sight of the words that youthful
Sunday-school lessons had given an unearthly sanctity as she
recognized them twisted into the German paraphrase and printed in the
twisted German type. But she said:

"Will this do?"

Verrinder shook his head. "I don't know that an oath on a German Bible
would really count. It might be considered a mere heap of paper."

Marie Louise put it aside and brushed its dust off her fingers. She
found an English Bible after a further search. Its pages had seen the
light but seldom. It slipped from her hand and fell open. She knelt to
pick it up with a tremor of fear.

She rose, and before she closed it glanced at the page before her.
These words caught her eye:

  For thus saith the Lord God of Israel unto me. Take the winecup of
  this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send
  thee, to drink it. And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad
  because of the sword that I will send among them.

She showed them to Verrinder. He nodded solemnly, took the book from
her hand, closed it, and held it before her. She put the slim tips of
her young fingers near the talon of his old thumb and echoed in a
timid, silvern voice the broken phrases he spoke in a tone of bronze:

"I solemnly swear--that so long as I live--I will tell no one--what I
know--of the crimes and death--of Sir Joseph and Lady Webling--unless
called upon--in a court of law. This oath is made--with no mental
reservations--and is binding--under all circumstances whatsoever--so
help me God!"

When she had whispered the last invocation he put the book away and
gripped her hand in his.

"I must remind you that releasing you is highly illegal--and perhaps
immoral. Our action might be overruled and the whole case opened. But
I think you are safe, especially if you get to America--the sooner the
better."

"Thank you!" she said.

He laughed, somewhat pathetically.

"Good luck!"

He did not tell her that England would still be watching over her,
that her name and her history were already cabled to America, that
she would be shadowed to the steamer, observed aboard the boat,
and picked up at the dock by the first of a long series of detectives
constituting a sort of serial guardian angel.



BOOK II

IN NEW YORK

[Illustration: "This is the life for me. I've been a heroine and a
war-worker about as long as I can."]



CHAPTER I


Leaving England quickly was not easy in those days. Passenger-steamers
were few, irregular, and secret. The passport regulations were
exceedingly rigorous, and even Mr. Verrinder's influence could not
speed the matter greatly.

There was the Webling estate to settle up, also. At Verrinder's
suggestion Marie Louise put her affairs into the hands of counsel, and
he arranged her surrender of all claims on the Webling estate. But he
insisted that she should keep the twenty thousand pounds that had been
given to her absolutely. He may have been influenced in this by his
inability to see from what other funds he could collect his fee.

Eventually he placed her aboard a liner, and her bonds in the purser's
safe; and eventually the liner stole out into the ocean, through such
a gantlet of lurking demons as old superstitions peopled it with.

She had not told the children good-by, but had delivered them to the
Oakbys and run away. The Oakbys had received her with a coldness that
startled her. They used the expression, "Under the circumstances,"
with a freezing implication that made her wonder if the secret had
already trickled through to them.

On the steamer there was nobody she knew. At the dock no friends
greeted her. She did not notice that her arrival was noted by a
certain Mr. Larrey, who had been detailed to watch her and saw with
some pride how pretty she was. "It'll be a pleasure to keep an eye on
her," he told a luckless colleague who had a long-haired pacifist
professor allotted to him. But Marie Louise's mystic squire had not
counted on her stopping in New York for only a day and then setting
forth on a long, hot, stupid train-ride of two days to the little town
of her birth, Wakefield.

Larrey found it appalling. Marie Louise found it far smaller and
shabbier than she had imagined. Yet it had grown some, too, since her
time.

At least, most of the people she had known had moved away to the
cities or the cemeteries, and new people had taken their place. She
had not known many of the better people. Her mother had been too
humble to sew for them.

Coming from London and the country life of England, she found the town
intolerably ugly. It held no associations for her. She had been
unhappy there, and she said: "Poor me! No wonder I ran away." She
justified her earlier self with a kind of mothering sympathy. She
longed for some one to mother her present self.

But her sister was not to be found. The old house where they had lived
was replaced by a factory that had made suspenders and now was turning
out cartridge-belts. She found no one who knew her sister at all. She
did not give her own name, for many reasons, and her face was not
remembered. A few people recalled the family. The town marshal vaguely
placed her father as a frequent boarder at the jail.

One sweet old lady, for whom Marie Louise's mother had done sewing,
had a kind of notion that one of the sisters had run away and that the
other sister had left town with somebody for somewhere sometime after.
But that was all that the cupboard of her recollection disclosed.

Anatole France has a short story of Pilate in his old age meeting his
predecessor as Proconsul in Jerusalem. During their senile gossip the
elder asks if Pilate had known a certain beauty named Mary of Magdala.
Pilate shakes his head. The other has heard that she took up with a
street-preacher called Jesus from the town of Nazareth. Pilate
ponders, shakes his head again, and confesses, "I don't remember
him."

It was not strange, then, that Marie Louise's people, who had made
almost no impression on the life of the town, should have lapsed from
its memory. But it was discouraging. Marie Louise felt as much of an
anachronism as old Rip Van Winkle, though she looked no more like him
than an exquisite, fashionable young woman could look like a
gray-bearded sot who has slept in his clothes for twenty years.

Her private detective, Larrey, homesick for New York, was overjoyed
when she went back, but she was disconsolate and utterly detached from
life. The prodigal had come home, but the family had moved away.

She took a comfortable little nook in an apartment hotel and settled
down to meditate. The shops interested her, and she browsed away among
them for furniture and clothes and books.

Marie Louise had not been in her homeless home long when the President
visited Congress and asked it to declare a state of war against
Germany. She was exultant over the great step, but the wilful few who
held Congress back from answering the summons revealed to her why the
nation had been so slow in responding to the crisis. Even now, after
so much insult and outrage, vast numbers of Americans denied that
there was any cause for war.

But the patience of the majority had been worn thin. The opposition
was swept away, and America declared herself in the arena--in spirit
at least. Impatient souls who had prophesied how the millions would
spring to arms overnight wondered at the failure to commit a miracle.
The Germans, who had prepared for forty years, laughed at the new
enemy and felt guaranteed by five impossibilities: that America should
raise a real army, or equip it, or know how to train it, or be able to
get it past the submarine barrier, or feed the few that might sneak
through.

America's vast resources were unready, unwieldy, unknown. The first
embarrassment was the panic of volunteers.

Marie Louise was only one of the hundred million who sprang madly in
all directions and landed nowhere. She wanted to volunteer, too, but
for what? What could she do? Where could she get it to do? In the
chaos of her impatience she did nothing.

Supping alone at the Biltmore one night, she was seen, hailed, and
seized by Polly Widdicombe. Marie Louise's detective knew who Polly
was. He groaned to note that she was the first friend his client had
found.

Polly, giggling adorably, embraced her and kissed her before everybody
in the big Tudor Room. And Polly's husband greeted her with warmth of
hand and voice.

Marie Louise almost wept, almost cried aloud with joy. The prodigal
was home, had been welcomed with a kiss. Evidently her secret had not
crossed the ocean. She could take up life again. Some day the past
would confront and denounce her, perhaps; but for the moment she was
enfranchised anew of human society.

Polly said that she had read of Sir Joseph's death and his wife's, and
what a shock it must have been to poor Marie Louise, but how well she
bore up under it, and how perfectly darn beautiful she was, and what a
shame that it was almost midnight! She and her hub were going to
Washington. Everybody was, of course. Why wasn't Marie Louise there?
And Polly's husband was to be a major--think of it! He was going to be
all dolled up in olive drab and things and-- "Damn the clock, anyway;
if we miss that train we can't get on another for days. And what's
your address? Write it on the edge of that bill of fare and tear it
off, and I'll write you the minute I get settled, for you must come to
us and nowhere else and-- Good-by, darling child, and-- All right,
Tom, I'm coming!"

And she was gone.

Marie Louise went back to her seclusion much happier and yet much
lonelier. She had found a friend who had not heard of her disgrace.
She had lost a friend who still rejoiced to see her.

But her faithful watchman was completely discouraged. When he turned
in his report he threatened to turn in his resignation unless he were
relieved of the futile task of recording Marie Louise's blameless and
eventless life.

And then the agent's night was turned to day--at least his high noon
was turned to higher. For a few days later Marie Louise was abruptly
addressed by Nicky Easton.

She had been working in the big Red Cross shop on Fifth Avenue,
rolling bandages and making dressings with a crowd of other
white-fingered women. A cable had come that there was a sudden need
for at least ten thousand bandages. These were not yet for American
soldiers in France, though their turn would come, and their wholesale
need. But as Marie Louise wrought she could imagine the shattered
flesh, the crying nerves of some poor patriot whose gaping wound this
linen pack would smother. And her own nerves cried out in vicarious
crucifixion. At noon she left the factory for a little air and a bite
of lunch.

Nicky Easton appeared out of her list of the buried. She gasped at
sight of him.

"I thought you were dead."

He laughed: "If I am it, thees is my _Doppelgänger_." And he began to
hum with a grisly smile Schubert's setting to Heine's poem of the man
who met his own ghost and double, aping his love-sorrow outside the
home of his dead sweetheart:

              "_Der Mond zeigt mir meine eig'ne Gestalt.
              Du Doppelgänger, du bleicher Geselle!
              Was äffst du nach mein Liebesleid,
              Das mich gequält auf dieser Stelle
              So manche Nacht in alter Zeit._"

Marie Louise was terrified by the harrowing emotions the song always
roused in her, but more by the dreadful sensation of walking that
crowded Avenue with a man humming German at her side.

"Hush! Hush, in Heaven's name!" she pleaded.

He laughed Teutonically, and asked her to lunch with him.

"I have another engagement, and I am late," she said.

"Where are you living?"

She felt inspired to give him a false address. He insisted on walking
with her to the Waldorf, where she said her engagement was.

"You don't ask me where I have been?"

"I was just going to. The last I heard you were in the London Tower or
somewhere. However did you get out?"

"The same way like you ditt. I thought you should choin me therein,
but you also told all you knew and some more yet, yes?"

She saw then that he had turned state's evidence. Perhaps he had
betrayed Sir Joseph. Somehow she found it possible to loathe him
extra. She lacked the strength to deny his odious insinuation about
herself. He went on:

"Now I am in America. I could not dare go to Germany now. But here I
try to gain back my place in _Deutschland_. These English think they
use me for a stool-pitcheon. But they will find out, and when
_Deutschland ist über alles--ach, Gott_! You shall help me. We do some
work togedder. I come soon by your house. _Auf_--Goot-py."

He left her at the hotel door and lifted his hat. She went into the
labyrinth and lost herself. When her heart had ceased fluttering and
she grew calm from very fatigue of alarm she resolved to steal out of
New York.

She spent an afternoon and an evening of indecision. Night brought
counsel. Polly Widdicombe had offered her a haven, and in the country.
It would be an ideal hiding-place. She set to work at midnight packing
her trunk.



CHAPTER II


Marie Louise tried all the next morning to telephone from New York to
Washington, but it seemed that everybody on earth was making the same
effort. It was a wire Babel.

Washington was suddenly America in the same way that London had long
been England; and Paris France. The entire population was apparently
trying to get into Washington in order to get out again. People wrote,
telegraphed, radiographed, telephoned, and traveled thither by all
the rail- and motor-roads. Washington was the narrow neck of the
funnel leading to the war, and the sleepy old home of debate and
administration was suddenly dumfounded to find itself treated to all
the horrors of a boom-town--it was like San Francisco in '49.

Marie Louise, who had not yet recovered her American dialect, kept
pleading with Long Distance:

"Oh, I say, cahn't you put me through to Washington? It's no end
important, really! Rosslyn, seven three one two. I want to speak to
Mrs. Widdicombe. I am Miss Webling. Thank you."

The obliging central asked her telephone number and promised to call
her in a moment. Eternity is but a moment--to some centrals. Marie
Louise, being finite and ephemeral, never heard from that central
again. Later she took up the receiver and got another central, who had
never heard her tale of woe and had to have it all over again. This
central also asked her name and number and promised to report, then
vanished into the interstellar limbo where busy centrals go.

Again and again Marie Louise waited and called, and told and retold
her prayer till it turned to gibberish and she began to doubt her own
name and to mix the telephone number hopelessly. Then she went into
her hand-bag and pawed about in the little pocket edition of confusion
till she found the note that Polly had sent her at once from
Washington with the address, Grinden Hall, Rosslyn, and the telephone
number and the message.

  So glad you're on this side of the water, dear. Do run over and
  see us. Perfect barn of a house, and lost in the country, but
  there's always room--especially for you, dear. You'll never get in
  at a hotel.

Marie Louise propped this against the telephone and tried again.

The seventh central dazed her with, "We can take nothing but gov'ment
business till two P.M."

Marie Louise rose in despair, searched in her bag for her watch,
gasped, put the watch and the note back in her bag, snapped it, and
rose to go.

She decided to send Polly a telegram. She took out the note for the
address and telephoned a telegram, saying that she would arrive at
five o'clock. The telegraph-operator told her that the company could
not guarantee delivery, as traffic over the wires was very heavy.
Marie Louise sighed and rose, worn out with telephone-fag.

She told the maid to ask the hall-boy to get her a taxi, and hastily
made ready to leave. Her trunks had gone to the station an hour ago,
and they had been checked through from the house.

Her final pick-up glance about the room did not pick up the note she
had propped on the telephone-table. She left it there and closed the
door on another chapter of her life.

She rode to the station, and, after standing in line for a weary
while, learned that not a seat was to be had in a parlor-car to-day,
to-morrow, or any day for two weeks. Berths at night were still more
unobtainable.

She decided that she might as well go in a day-coach. Scores of people
had had the same idea before her. The day-coaches were filled. She
sidled through the crowded aisles and found no seat. She invaded the
chair-cars in desperation.

In one of these she saw a porter bestowing hand-luggage. She appealed
to him. "You must have one chair left."

He was hardly polite in his answer. "No, ma'am, I ain't. I ain't a
single chair."

"But I've got to sit somewhere," she said.

The porter did not comment on such a patent fallacy. He moved back to
the front to repel boarders. Several men stared from the depths of
their dentist's chairs, but made no proffer of their seats. They
believed that woman's newfangled equality included the privilege of
standing up.

One man, however, gave a start as of recognition, real or pretended.
Marie Louise did not know him, and said so with her eyes. His smile of
recognition changed to a smile of courtesy. He proffered her his seat
with an old-fashioned gesture. She declined with a shake of the head
and a coldly correct smile.

He insisted academically, as much as to say: "I can see that you are a
gentlewoman. Please accept me as a gentleman and permit me to do my
duty." There was a brief, silent tug-of-war between his unselfishness
and hers. He won. Before she realized it, she had dropped wearily into
his place.

"But where will you sit?" she said.

"Oh, I'll get along."

He smiled and moved off, lugging his suit-case. He had the air of one
who would get along. He had shown himself masterful in two combats,
and compelled her to take the chair he had doubtless engaged with
futile providence days before.

"Rahthah a decentish chap, with a will of his own," she thought.

The train started, left the station twilight, plunged into the tunnel
of gloom and made the dip under the Hudson River. People felt their
ears buzz and smother. Wise ones swallowed hard. The train came back
to the surface and the sunlight, and ran across New Jersey.

Marie Louise decided to take her luncheon early, to make sure of it.
Nearly everybody else had decided to do the same thing. At this time
all the people in America seemed to be thinking _en masse_. When she
reached the dining-car every seat was taken and there was a long
bread-line in the narrow corridor.

The wilful man was at the head. He fished for her eye, caught it, and
motioned to her to take his place. She shook her head. But it seemed
to do no good to shake heads at him; he came down the corridor and
lifted his hat. His voice and words were pleading, but his tone was
imperative.

"Please take my place."

She shook her head, but he still held his hand out, pointing. She was
angry at being bossed even for her own benefit. Worse yet, by the time
she got to the head of the line the second man had moved up to first.
He stared at her as if he wondered what she was doing there. She fell
back, doubly vexed, but That Man advanced and gave the interloper a
look like a policeman's shove. The fellow backed up on the next man's
toes. Then the cavalier smiled Miss Webling to her place and went back
to the foot of the class without waiting for her furious thanks.

She wanted to stamp her foot. She had always hated to be cowed or
compelled to take chairs or money. People who had tried to move her
soul or lend her their experience or their advantages had always
aroused resentment.

Before long she had a seat. The man opposite her was just thumbing his
last morsel of pie. She supposed that when he left That Man would take
the chair and order her luncheon for her. But it was not so to be. She
passed him still well down the line. He had probably given his place
to other women in succession. She did not like that. It seemed a
trifle unfaithful or promiscuous or something. The rescuer owes the
rescuee a certain fidelity. He did not look at her. He did not claim
even a glance of gratitude.

It was so American a gallantry that she resented it. If he had seemed
to ask for the alms of a smile, she would have insulted him. Yet it
was not altogether satisfactory to be denied the privilege. She fumed.
Everything was wrong. She sat in her cuckoo's nest and glared at the
reeling landscape.

Suddenly she began pawing through that private chaos, looking for
Polly Widdicombe's letter. She could not find it. She found the checks
for her trunks, a handkerchief, a pair of gloves, and various other
things, but not the letter. This gave her a new fright.

She remembered now that she had left it on the telephone-table. She
could see it plainly as her remembered glance took its last survey of
the room. The brain has a way of developing occasional photographs
very slowly. Something strikes our eyes, and we do not really see it
till long after. We hear words and say, "How's that?" or, "I beg your
pardon!" and hear them again before they can be repeated.

This belated feat of memory encouraged Miss Webling to hope that she
could remember a little farther back to the contents of the letter and
the telephone number written there. But her memory would not respond.
The effort to cudgel it seemed to confuse it. She kept on forgetting
more and more completely.

All she could remember was what Polly Widdicombe had said about there
being no chance to get into a hotel--"an hôtel," Marie Louise still
thought it.

It grew more and more evident that the train would be hours late.
People began to worry audibly about the hotels that would probably
refuse them admission. At length they began to stroll toward the
dining-car for an early dinner.

Marie Louise, to make sure of the meal and for lack of other
employment, went along. There was no queue in the corridor now. She
did not have to take That Man's place. She found one at a little empty
table. But by and by he appeared, and, though there were other vacant
seats, he sat down opposite her.

She could hardly order the conductor to eject him. In fact, seeing
that she owed him for her seat-- It suddenly smote her that he must
have paid for it. She owed him money! This was unendurable!

He made no attempt to speak to her, but at length she found courage to
speak to him.

"I beg your pardon--"

He looked up and about for the salt or something to pass, but she went
on:

"May I ask you how much you paid for the seat you gave me?"

He laughed outright at this unexpected demand:

"Why, I don't remember, I'm sure."

"Oh, but you must, and you must let me repay it. It just occurred to
me that I had cheated you out of your chair, and your money, too."

"That's mighty kind of you," he said.

He laughed again, but rather tenderly, and she was grateful to him for
having the tact not to be flamboyant about it and not insisting on
forgetting it.

"I'll remember just how much it was in a minute, and if you will feel
easier about it, I'll ask you for it."

"I could hardly rob a perfect stranger," she began.

He broke in: "They say nobody is perfect, and I'm not a perfect
stranger. I've met you before, Miss Webling."

"Not rilly! Wherever was it? I'm so stupid not to remember--even your
name."

He rather liked her for not bluffing it through. He could understand
her haziness the better from the fact that when he first saw her in
the chair-car and leaped to his feet it was because he had identified
her once more with the long-lost, long-sought beauty of years long
gone--the girl he had seen in the cheap vaudeville theater. This slip
of memory had uncovered another memory. He had corrected the
palimpsest and recalled her as the Miss Webling whom he had met in
London. She had given him the same start then as now, and, as he
recalled it, she had snubbed him rather vigorously. So he had kept his
distance. But the proffer of the money for the chair-car chair broke
the ice a little. He said at last:

"My name is Ross Davidge. I met you at your father's house in
London."

This seemed to agitate her peculiarly. She trembled and gasped:

"You don't mean it. I-- Oh yes, of course I remember--"

"Please don't lie about it," he pleaded, bluntly, "for of course you
don't."

She laughed, but very nervously.

"Well, we did give very large dinners."

"It was a very large one the night I was there. I was a mile down the
street from you, and I said nothing immortal. I was only a business
acquaintance of Sir Joseph's, anyway. It was about ships, of course."

He saw that her mind was far away and under strange excitation. But
she murmured, distantly:

"Oh, so you are--interested in ships?"

"I make 'em for a living."

"Rilly! How interesting!"

This constraint was irksome. He ventured:

"How is the old boy? Sir Joseph, I mean. He's well, I hope."

Her eyes widened. "Didn't you know? Didn't you read in the papers--about
their death together?"

"Theirs? His wife and he died together?"

"Yes."

"In a submarine attack?"

"No, at home. It was in all the papers--about their dying on the same
night, from--from ptomaine poisoning."

"No!"

He put a vast amount of shock and regret in the mumbled word. He
explained: "I must have been out in the forest or in the mines at the
time. Forgive me for opening the old wound. How long ago was it? I see
you're out of mourning."

"Sir Joseph abominated black; and besides, few people wear mourning in
England during the war."

"That's so. Poor old England! You poor Englishwomen--mothers and
daughters! My God! what you've gone through! And such pluck!"

Before he realized what he was doing his hand went across and touched
hers, and he clenched it for just a moment of fierce sympathy. She did
not resent the message. Then he muttered:

"I know what it means. I lost my father and mother--not at once, of
course--years apart. But to lose them both in one night!"

She made a sharp attempt at self-control:

"Please! I beg you--please don't speak of it."

He was so sorry that he said nothing more. Marie Louise was doubly
fascinating to him because she was in sorrow and afraid of something
or somebody. Besides, she was inaccessible, and Ross Davidge always
felt a challenge from the impossible and the inaccessible.

She called for her check and paid it, and tipped the waiter and rose.
She smiled wretchedly at him as he rose with her. She left the
dining-car, and he sat down and cursed himself for a brute and a
blunderer.

He kept in the offing, so that if she wanted him she could call him,
but he thought it the politer politeness not to italicize his
chivalry. He was so distressed that he forgot that she had forgotten
to pay him for the chair.

It was good and dark when the train pulled into Washington at last.
The dark gave Marie Louise another reason for dismay. The appearance
of a man who had dined at Sir Joseph's, and the necessity for telling
him the lie about that death, had brought on a crisis of nerves. She
was afraid of the dark, but more afraid of the man who might ask
still more questions. She avoided him purposely when she left the
train.

A porter took her hand-baggage and led her to the taxi-stand. Polly
Widdicombe's car was not waiting. Marie Louise went to the front of
the building to see if she might be there. She was appalled at the
thought of Polly's not meeting her. She needed her blessed giggle as
never before.

It was a very majestic station. Marie Louise had heard people say that
it was much too majestic for a railroad station. As if America did not
owe more to the iron god of the rails than to any of her other
deities!

Before her was the Capitol, lighted from below, its dome floating
cloudily above the white parapets as if mystically sustained. The
superb beauty of it clutched her throat. She wanted to do something
for it and all the holy ideals it symbolized.

Evidently Polly was not coming. The telegram had probably never
reached her. The porter asked her, "Was you thinkin' of a taxi?" and
she said, "Yes," only to realize that she had no address to give the
driver.



BOOK III

IN WASHINGTON

[Illustration: "'It's beautiful overhead if you're going that way,'"
Davidge quoted. He set out briskly, but Marie Louise hung back. "Aren't
you afraid to push on when you can't see where you're going?" she
demanded.]



CHAPTER I


She went through her hand-bag again, while the porter computed how
many tips he was missing and the cab-starter looked insufferable
things about womankind.

She asked if any of them knew where Grinden Hall might be, but they
shook their heads. She had a sudden happy idea. She would ask the
telephone Information for the number. She hurried to a booth, followed
by the despondent porter. She asked for Information and got her, but
that was all.

"Please give me the numba of Mrs. Widdicombe's, in Rosslyn."

A Washington dialect eventually told her that the number was a private
wire and could not be given.

Marie Louise implored a special dispensation, but it was against the
rules.

She asked for the supervisor--who was equally sorry and adamant. Marie
Louise left the booth in utter defeat. There was nothing to do but go
to a hotel till the morrow.

She recalled the stories of the hopelessness of getting a room. Yet
she had no choice but to make the try. She had got a seat on the train
where there were none. Perhaps she could trust her luck to provide her
with a lodging, too.

"We'll go back to the taxi-stand," she told the porter.

He did not conceal his joy at being rid of her.

She tried the Shoreham first, and when the taxicab deposited her under
the umbrellas of the big trees and she climbed the homelike steps to a
lobby with the air of a living-room she felt welcome and secure.
Brilliant clusters were drifting to dinner, and the men were more
picturesque than the women, for many of them were in uniform. Officers
of the army and navy of the United States and of Great Britain and of
France gave the throng the look of a costume-party.

There was a less interesting crowd at the desk, and now nobody offered
her his place at the head of the line. It would have done no good, for
the room-clerk was shaking his head to all the suppliants. Marie
Louise saw women turned away, married couples, men alone. But
new-comers pressed forward and kept trying to convince the deskman
that he had rooms somewhere, rooms that he had forgotten, or was
saving for people who would never arrive.

He stood there shaking his head like a toy in a window. People tried
to get past him in all the ways people try to get through life, in the
ways that Saint Peter must grow very tired of at the gate of
heaven--bluff, whine, bribery, intimidation, flirtation.

Some demanded their rights with full confidence and would not take no
for answer. Some pleaded with hopelessness in advance; they were used
to rebuffs. They appealed to his pity. Some tried corruption; they
whispered that they would "make it all right," or they managed a sly
display of money--one a one-dollar bill with the "1" folded in,
another a fifty-dollar bill with the "50" well to the fore. Some grew
ugly and implied favoritism; they were the born strikers and
anarchists. Even though they looked rich, they had that habit of
finding oppression and conspiracy everywhere. A few women appealed to
his philanthropy, and a few others tried to play the siren. But his
head oscillated from side to side, and nobody could swing it up and
down.

Marie Louise watched the procession anxiously. There seemed to be no
end to it. The people who had come here first had been turned away
into outer darkness long ago and had gone to other hotels. The present
wretches were those who had gone to the other hotels first and made
this their second, third, or sixth choice.

Marie Louise did not go to the desk. She could take a hint at second
hand. She would have been glad of a place to sit down, but all the
divans were filled with gossipers very much at home and somewhat
contemptuous of the vulgar herd trying to break into their select and
long-established circle. She heard a man saying, with amiable anger:
"Ah'm mahty sah'y Ah can't put you up at ouah haouse, but we've got
'em hangin' on the hat-rack in the hall. You infunnal patriots have
simply ruined this little old taown."

She heard a pleasant laugh. "Don't worry. I'll get along somehow."

She glanced aside and saw That Man again. She had forgotten his name
again; yet she felt curiously less lonely, not nearly so hopeless. The
other man said:

"Say, Davidge, are you daown heah looking for one of these dollah-a-yeah
jobs? Can you earn it?"

"I'm not looking for a job. I'm looking for a bed."

"Not a chance. The government's taken ovah half the hotels for
office-buildings."

"I'll go to a Turkish bath, then."

"Good Lawd! man, I hud a man propose that, and the hotel clerk said he
had telephoned the Tukkish bath, and a man theah said: 'For God's sake
don't send anybody else heah! We've got five hundred cots full
naow.'"

"There's Baltimore."

"Baltimer's full up. So's Alexandra. Go on back home and write a
letta."

"I'll try a few more hotels first."

"No use--not an openin'."

"Well, I've usually found that the best place to look for things is
where people say they don't grow."

Marie Louise thought that this was most excellent advice. She decided
to follow it and keep on trying.

As she was about to move toward the door the elevator, like a great
cornucopia, spilled a bevy of men and women into the lobby. Leading
them all came a woman of charm, of distinction, of self-possession.
She was smiling over one handsome shoulder at a British officer.

The forlorn Marie Louise saw her, and her eyes rejoiced; her face was
kindled with haven-beacons. She pressed forward with her hand out, and
though she only murmured the words, a cry of relief thrilled them.

"Lady Clifton-Wyatt! What luck to find you!"

Lady Clifton-Wyatt turned with a smile of welcome in advance. Her hand
went forward. Her smile ended suddenly. Blank amazement passed into
contemptuous wrath. Her hand went back. With the disgust of a sick
eagle in a zoo, she drew a film over her eyes.

The smile on Marie Louise's face also hung unsupported for a moment.
It faded, then rallied. She spoke with patience, underlining the words
with an affectionate reproof:

"My dear Lady Clifton-Wyatt, I am Miss Webling--Marie Louise. Don't
you know me?"

Lady Clifton-Wyatt answered: "I did. But I don't!"

Then she turned and moved toward the dining-room door.

The head waiter bowed with deference and command and beckoned Lady
Clifton-Wyatt. She obeyed him with meek hauteur.



CHAPTER II


As she came out of the first hotel of her selection and rejection
Marie Louise asked the car-starter the name of another. He mentioned
the New Willard.

It was not far, and she was there before she had time to recover from
the staggering effect of Lady Clifton-Wyatt's bludgeon-like snub. As
timidly as the waif and estray that she was, she ventured into the
crowded, gorgeous lobby with its lofty and ornate ceiling on its big
columns. At one side a long corridor ran brokenly up a steep hill. It
was populous with loungers who had just finished their dinners or were
waiting for a chance to get into the dining-rooms. Orchestra music was
lilting down the aisle.

When Marie Louise had threaded the crowd and reached the desk a very
polite and eager clerk asked her if she had a reservation. He seemed
to be as regretful as she when she said no. He sighed, "We've turned
away a hundred people in the last two hours."

She accepted her dismissal dumbly, then paused to ask, "I say, do you
by any chance know where Grinden Hall is?"

He shook his head and turned to another clerk to ask, "Do you know of
a hotel here named Grinden Hall?"

The other shook his head, too. There was a vast amount of head-shaking
going on everywhere in Washington. He added, "I'm new here." Nearly
everybody seemed to be new here. It seemed as if the entire populace
had moved into a ready-made town.

Marie Louise had barely the strength to explain, "Grinden Hall is not
an hotel; it is a home, in Rosslyn, wherever that is."

"Oh, Rosslyn--that's across the river in Virginia."

"Do you know, by any chance, Major Thomas Widdicombe?"

He shook his head. Major Widdicombe was a big man, but the town was
fairly swarming with men bigger than he. There were shoals of
magnates, but giants in their own communities were petty nuisances
here pleading with room-clerks for cots and with head waiters for
bread. The lobby was a thicket of prominent men set about like trees.
Several of them had the Congressional look. Later history would record
them as the historic statesmen of titanic debates, men by whose
eloquence and leadership and committee-room toil the Republic would be
revolutionized in nearly every detail, and billions made to flow like
water.

As Marie Louise collected her porter and her hand-luggage for her next
exit she saw Ross Davidge just coming in. She stepped behind a large
politician or something. She forgot that she owed Davidge money, and
she felt a rather pleasurable agitation in this game of hide-and-seek,
but something made her shy of Davidge. For one thing, it was ludicrous
to be caught being turned out of a second hotel.

The politician walked away, and Davidge would have seen Marie Louise
if he had not stopped short and turned a cold shoulder on her, just as
the distant orchestra, which had been crooning one of Jerome Kern's
most insidiously ingratiating melodies, began to blare with all its
might the sonorities of "The Star-spangled Banner."

Miss Webling saw the people in the alley getting to their feet slowly,
awkwardly. A number of army and navy officers faced the music and
stood rigid at attention. The civilians in the lobby who were already
standing began to pull their hats off sheepishly like embarrassed
peasants. People were still as self-conscious as if the song had just
been written. They would soon learn to feel the tremendous importance
of that eternal query, the only national anthem, perhaps, that ever
began with a question and ended with a prayer. Americans would soon
learn to salute it with eagerness and to deal ferociously with
men--and women, too--who were slow to rise.

Marie Louise watched Davidge curiously. He was manifestly on fire with
patriotism, but he was ashamed to show it, ashamed to stand erect and
click his heels. He fumbled his hat and slouched, and looked as if he
had been caught in some guilt. He was indeed guilty of a childish
fervor. He wanted to shout, he wanted to weep, he wanted to fight
somebody; but he did not know how to express himself without striking
an attitude, and he was incapable of being a _poseur_--except as an
American posily affects poselessness.

When the anthem ended, people sank into their chairs with sighs of
relief; the officers sharply relaxed; the civilians straightened up
and felt at home again. Ross Davidge marched to the desk, not noticing
Marie Louise, who motioned to her porter to come along with her
luggage and went to hunt shelter at the Raleigh Hotel. She kept her
taxi now and left her hand-baggage in it while she received the
inevitable rebuff. From there she traveled to hotel after hotel,
marching in with the dismal assurance that she would march right out
again.

The taxi-driver was willing to take her to hotels as long as they and
her money lasted. Her strength and her patience gave out first. At the
Lafayette she advanced wearily, disconsolately to the desk. She saw
Ross Davidge stretched out in a big chair. He did not see her. His hat
was pulled over his eyes, and he had the air of angry failure. If he
despaired, what chance had she?

She received the usual regrets from the clerk. As she left the desk
the floor began to wabble. She hurried to an inviting divan and
dropped down, beaten and distraught. She heard some one approach, and
her downcast eyes saw a pair of feet move up and halt before her.

Since Lady Clifton-Wyatt's searing glance and words Marie Louise had
felt branded visibly, and unworthy of human kindness and shelter. She
was piteously grateful to this man for his condescension in saying:

"You'll have to excuse me for bothering you again. But I'm afraid
you're in worse trouble than I am. Nobody seems to be willing to take
you in."

He meant this as a light jocularity, but it gave her a moment's
serious fear that he had overheard Lady Clifton-Wyatt's slashing
remark. But he went on:

"Won't you allow me to try to find you a place? Don't you know anybody
here?"

"I know numbers of people, but I don't know where any of them are."

She told him of her efforts to get to Rosslyn by telephone, by
telegraph, by train or taxicab. Little tears added a sparkle to
laughter, but threatened rain. She ended with, "And now that I've
unloaded my riddles on you, aren't you sorry you spoke?"

"Not yet," he said, with a subtle compliment pleasantly implying that
she was perilous. Everybody likes to be thought perilous. He went on:
"I don't know Rosslyn, but it can't be much of a place for size. If
you have a friend there, we'll find her if we have to go to every
house in Rosslyn."

"But it's getting rather late, isn't it, to be knocking at all the
doors all by myself?"

She had not meant to hint, and it was a mere coincidence that he
thought to say:

"Couldn't I go along?"

"Thank you, but it's out in the country rather far, I'm afraid."

"Then I must go along."

"I couldn't think of troubling you."

The end of it was that he had his way, or she hers, or both theirs. He
made no nonsense of adventure or escapade about it, and she was too
well used to traveling alone to feel ashamed or alarmed. He led her to
the taxi, told the driver that Grinden Hall was their objective and
must be found. Then he climbed in with her, and they rode in a dark
broken with the fitful lightnings of street-lamps and motors.

The taxi glided out M Street. The little shops of Georgetown went
sidelong by. The cab turned abruptly to the left and clattered across
the old aqueduct bridge. On a broad reach of the Potomac the new-risen
moon spread a vast sheet of tin-foil of a crinkled sheen. This was all
that was beautiful about the sordid neighborhood, but it was very
beautiful, and tender to a strange degree.

Once across, the driver stopped and leaned round to call in at the
door:

"This is Rosslyn. Where do yew-all want to go next?"

"Grinden Hall. Ask somebody."

"Ask who? They ain't a soul tew be saw."

They waited in the dark awhile; then Davidge got out and, seeing a
street-car coming down through the hills like a dragon in fiery
scales, he stopped it to ask the motorman of Grinden Hall. He knew
nothing, but a sleepy passenger said that he reckoned that that
was the fancy name of Mr. Sawtell's place, and he shouted the
directions:

"Yew go raht along this road ovah the caw tracks, and unda a bridge
and keep a-goin' up a ridge and ova till yew come to a shawp tu'n to
the raht. Big whaht mansion, ain't it?"

"I don't know," said Davidge. "I never saw it."

"Well, I reckon that's the place. Only 'Hall' I knaow about up heah."

The motorman kicked his bell and started off.

"Nothing like trying," said Davidge, and clambered in. The taxicab
went veering and yawing over an unusually Virginian bad road. After a
little they entered a forest. The driver threw on his search-light,
and it tore from the darkness pictures of forest eerily green in the
glare--old trees slanting out, deep channels blackening into
mysterious glades. The car swung sharply to the right and growled up a
hill, curving and swirling and threatening to capsize at every moment.
The sense of being lost was irresistible.

Marie Louise fell to pondering; suddenly she grew afraid to find
Grinden Hall. She knew that Polly knew Lady Clifton-Wyatt. They might
have met since Polly wrote that letter. Lady Clifton-Wyatt had
perhaps--had doubtless--told Polly all about Marie Louise. Polly would
probably refuse her shelter. She knew Polly: there was no middle
ground between her likes and dislikes; she doted or she hated. She was
capable of smothering her friends with affection and of making them
ancient enemies in an instant. For her enemies she had no use or
tolerance. She let them know her wrath.

The car stopped. The driver got down and went forward to a narrow lane
opening from the narrow road. There was a sign-board there. He read it
by the light of the moon and a few matches. He came back and said:

"Here she is. Grinden Hall is what she says on that theah sign-bode."

Marie Louise was in a flutter. "What time is it?" she asked.

Davidge held his watch up and lighted a match.

"A little after one."

"It's awfully late," she said.

The car was turning at right angles now, and following a narrow track
curling through a lawn studded with shrubbery. There was a moment's
view of all Washington beyond the valley of the moon-illumined river.
Its lights gleamed in a patient vigilance. It had the look of the holy
city that it is. The Capitol was like a mosque in Mecca, the Mecca of
the faithful who believe in freedom and equality. The Washington
Monument, picked out from the dark by a search-light, was a lofty
steeple in a dream-world.

Davidge caught a quick breath of piety and reverence. Marie Louise was
too frightened by her own destiny to think of the world's anxieties.

The car raced round the circular road. Her eyes were snatched from the
drowsy town, small with distance, to the imminent majesty of a great
Colonial portico with columns tall and stately and white, a temple of
Parthenonian dignity in the radiance of the priestly moon. There was
not a light in any window, no sign of life.

The car stopped. But-- Marie Louise simply dared not face Polly and
risk a scene in the presence of Davidge. She tapped on the glass and
motioned the driver to go on. He could not believe her gestures. She
leaned out and whispered:

"Go on--go on! I'll not stop!"

Davidge was puzzled, but he said nothing; and Marie Louise made no
explanation till they were outside again, and then she said:

"Do you think I'm insane?"

"This is not my party," he said.

She tried to explain: "There wasn't a light to be seen. They couldn't
have got my telegram. They weren't expecting me. They may not have
been at home. I hadn't the courage to stop and wake the house."

That was not her real reason, but Davidge asked for no other. If he
noted that she was strangely excited over a trifle like getting a few
servants and a hostess out of bed, he made no comment.

When she pleaded, "Do you mind if I go back to Washington with you?"
he chuckled: "It's certainly better than going alone. But what will
you do when you get there?"

"I'll go to the railroad station and sit up," Marie Louise announced.
"I'm no end sorry to have been such a nuisance."

"Nuisance!" he protested, and left his intonation to convey all the
compliments he dared not utter.

The cab dived into another woods and ran clattering down a roving
hill road. Up the opposite steep it went with a weary gait. It crawled
to the top with turtle-like labor. Davidge knew the symptoms, and he
frowned in the shadow, yet smiled a little.

The car went banging down, held by a squealing brake. The light grew
faint, and in the glimmer there was a close shave at the edge of a
hazardous bridge over a deep, deep ravine. The cab rolled forward on
the rough planks under its impetus, but it picked up no speed.
Half-way across, it stopped.

"Whatever is the matter?" Marie Louise exclaimed.

Davidge leaned out and called to the driver, "What's the matter now?"
though he knew full well.

"Gas is gone, I reckon," the fellow snarled, as he got down. After a
moment's examination he confirmed his diagnosis. "Yep, gas is all
gone. I been on the go too long on this one call."

"In Heaven's name, where can you get some more gasolene?" said Marie
Louise.

"Nearest garodge is at Rosslyn, I reckon, lady."

"How far is that?"

"I'd hate to say, lady. Three, fo' mahls, most lahkly, and prob'ly
closed naow."

"Go wake it up at once."

"No thanky, lady. I got mahty po' feet for them hills."

"What do you propose to do?"

"Ain't nothin' tew dew but wait fo' somebody to come along."

"When will that be?"

"Along todes mawnin' they ought to be somebody along, milkman or
somethin'."

"Cheerful!" said Marie Louise.

"Batt'ries kind o' sick, tew, looks lahk. I was engaged by the houah,
remember," the driver reminded them as he clambered back to his place,
put his feet up on the dashboard and let his head roll into a position
of ease.

The dimming lights waned and did not wax. By and by they went where
lights go when they go out. There was no light now except the moonset,
shimmering mistily across the tree-tops of the rotunda of the forest,
just enough to emphasize the black of the well they were in.



CHAPTER III


How would she take it?

That was what interested Davidge most. What was she really like? And
what would she do with this intractable situation? What would the
situation do with her? For situations make people as well as people
situations.

Now was the time for an acquaintance of souls. An almost absolute dark
erased them from each other's sight. Their eyes were as useless as the
useless eyes of fish in subterrene caverns. Miss Webling could have
told Davidge the color of his eyes, of course, being a woman. But
being a man, he could not remember the color of hers, because he had
noted nothing about her eyes except that they were very eye-ish.

He would have blundered ridiculously in describing her appearance. His
information of her character was all to gain. He had seen her
wandering about Washington homeless among the crowds and turned from
every door. She had borne the ordeal as well as could be asked. She
had accepted his proffer of protection with neither terror nor
assurance.

He supposed that in a similar plight the old-fashioned woman--or at
least the ubiquitous woman of the special eternal type that
fictionists call "old-fashioned"--would have been either a bleating,
tremulous gazelle or a brazen siren. But Miss Webling behaved like
neither of these. She took his gallantry with a matter-of-fact
reasonableness, much as a man would accept the offer of another man's
companionship on a tiresome journey. She gave none of those
multitudinous little signals by which a woman indicates that she is
either afraid that a man will try to hug her or afraid that he will
not. She was apparently planning neither to flirt nor to faint.

Davidge asked in a matter-of-fact tone: "Do you think you could walk
to town? The driver says it's only three-fo' miles."

She sighed: "My feet would never make it. And I have on high-heeled
boots."

His "Too bad!" conveyed more sympathy than she expected. He had
another suggestion.

"You could probably get back to the home of Mrs. Widdicombe. That
isn't so far away."

She answered, bluntly, "I shouldn't think of it!"

He made another proposal without much enthusiasm.

"Then I'd better walk in to Washington and get a cab and come back for
you."

She was even blunter about this: "I shouldn't dream of that. You're a
wreck, too."

He lied pluckily, "Oh, I shouldn't mind."

"Well, I should! And I don't fancy the thought of staying here alone
with that driver."

He smiled in the dark at the double-edged compliment of implying that
she was safer with him than with the driver. But she did not hear his
smile.

She apologized, meekly: "I've got you into an awful mess, haven't I? I
usually do make a mess of everything I undertake. You'd better beware
of me after this."

His "I'll risk it" was a whole cyclopedia of condensed gallantry.

They sat inept for a time, thinking aimlessly, seeing nothing, hearing
only the bated breath of the night wind groping stealthily through the
tree-tops, and from far beneath, the still, small voice of a brook
feeling its way down its unlighted stairs.

At last her voice murmured, "Are you quite too horribly uncomfortable
for words?"

His voice was a deep-toned bell somehow articulate: "I couldn't be
more comfortable except for one thing. I'm all out of cigars."

"Oh!" He had a vague sense of her mental struggle before she spoke
again, timidly:

"I fancy you don't smoke cigarettes?"

"When I can't get cigars; any tobacco is better than none."

Another blank of troubled silence, then, "I wonder if you'd say that
of mine."

Her voice was both defiant and trepidate. He laughed. "I'll guarantee
to."

A few years before he would have accepted a woman's confession that
she smoked cigarettes as a confession of complete abandonment to all
the other vices. A few years farther back, indeed, and he would have
said that any man who smoked cigarettes was worthless. Since then he
had seen so many burly heroes and so many unimpeachable ladies smoke
them that he had almost forgotten his old prejudice. In some of the
United States it was then against the law for men (not to say women
and children) to sell or give away or even to possess cigarettes.
After the war crusades would start against all forms of tobacco, and
at least one clergyman would call every man who smoked cigarettes a
"drug-addict." It is impossible for anybody to be moral enough not to
be immoral to somebody.

But intolerances go out of style as suddenly as new creeds come in. He
knew soldiers who held a lighted stub in one hand while they rolled a
cigarette with the other. He knew Red Cross saints who could puff a
forbidden cigarette like a prayer. He wondered how he or any one had
ever made such a fierce taboo of a wisp of aromatic leaves kindled in
a tiny parcel. Such strange things people choose for their tests of
virtue--tests that have nothing whatever to do with the case, whether
savage or civilized folk invent them.

He heard Miss Webling fumbling in a hand-bag. He heard the click of
her rings against metal. He heard the little noise of the portals of a
cigarette-case opening. His hands and hers stumbled together, and his
fingers selected a little cylinder from the row.

He produced a match and held the flame before her. He filled his eyes
with her vivid features as the glow detached her from the dark. Of her
eyes he saw only the big lids, but he noted her lips, pursed a trifle
with the kissing muscles, and he sighed as she blew a smoke about her
like a goddess creating a cloud of vanishment. He lighted his own
cigarette and threw the match away. They returned to a perfect gloom
mitigated by the slight increase and decrease in the vividness of
their tobacco-tips as they puffed.

She was the first to speak:

"I have a whole box of fags in my hand-bag. I usually have a good
supply. When you want another-- Does it horrify you to see a woman
smoke?"

He was very superior to his old bigotry. "Quite the contrary!"

This was hardly honest enough, so he said:

"It did once, though. I remember how startled I was years ago when I
was in England and I saw ladies smoking in hotel corridors; and on the
steamer coming back, there was a countess or something who sat in the
balcony and puffed away. Of course, at the big dinners in London they
smoked, too. They did at Sir Joseph's, I remember."

He did not see her wince at this name.

"There were some odd fish surrounding old Sir Joseph. Some of them I
couldn't quite make out. He was just a little hard to get at, himself.
I got very huffy at the old boy once or twice, I'm sorry to say. It
was about ships. I'm a crank on ships. Everybody has at least one
mania. That's mine--ships. Sir Joseph and I quarreled about them. He
wanted to buy all I could make, but he was in no hurry to have 'em
finished. I told him he talked more like a German trying to stop
production than like a Britisher trying to speed it up. That made him
huffy. I'm sorry I did him such an injustice. When you insult a man,
and he dies--What a terrible repartee dying is! He had offered me a
big price, too, but it's not money I want to make; it's ships. And I
want to see 'em at work. Did you ever see a ship launched?"

"No, I never did."

"There's nothing prettier. Come over to my shipyard and I'll show you.
We're going to put one over before long. I'll let you christen her."

"That would be wonderful."

"It's better than that. The civilized world is starting out on the
most poetic job it ever undertook."

"Indeed?"

"Yep. The German sharks are gradually dragging all our shipping under
water. The inventors don't seem able to devise any cure for the
submarines except to find 'em and fight 'em. They're hard to find, and
they won't fight. But they keep popping up and stabbing our pretty
ships to death. And now the great game is on, the greatest game that
civilized men ever fought with hell."

"What's that?"

"We're going to try to build ships faster than the Hun can sink 'em.
Isn't that a glorious job for you? Was there ever a--well, a nobler
idea? We can't kill the beast; so we're going to choke him to death
with food." He laughed to hide his embarrassing exaltation.

She was not afraid of it: "It is rather a stupendous inspiration,
isn't it?"

"Who was it said he'd rather have written Gray's 'Elegy' than taken
Quebec? I'd rather have thought up this thought than written the
Iliad. Nobody knows who invented the idea. He's gone to oblivion
already, but he has done more for the salvation of freedom than all
the poets of time."

This shocked her, yet thrilled her with its loftiness. She thrilled to
him suddenly, too. She saw that she was within the aura of a fiery
spirit--a business man aflame. And she saw in a white light that the
builders of things, even of perishable things, are as great as the
weavers of immortal words--not so well remembered, of course, for
posterity has only the words. Poets and highbrows scorn them, but
living women who can see the living men are not so foolish. They are
apt to prefer the maker to the writer. They reward the poet with a
smile and a compliment, but give their lives to the manufacturers, the
machinists, the merchants. Then the neglected poets and their toadies
the critics grow sarcastic about this and think that they have
condemned women for materialism when they are themselves blind to its
grandeur. They ignore the divinity that attends the mining and
smelting and welding and selling of iron things, the hewing and sawing
and planing of woods, the sowing and reaping and distribution of
foods. They make a priestcraft and a ritual of artful language, and
are ignorant of their own heresy. But since they deal in words, they
have a fearful advantage and use it for their own glorification, as
priests are wont to do.

Marie Louise had a vague insight into the truth, but was not aware of
her own wisdom. She knew only that this Davidge who had made himself
her gallant, her messenger and servant, was really a genius, a giant.
She felt that the rôles should be reversed and she should be waiting
upon him.

In Sir Joseph's house there had been a bit of statuary representing
Hercules and Omphale. The mighty one was wearing the woman's kirtle
and carrying her distaff, and the girl was staggering under the
lion-skin and leaning on the bludgeon. Marie Louise always hated the
group. It seemed to her to represent just the way so many women tried
to master the men they infatuated. But Marie Louise despised
masterable men, and she had no wish to make a toy of one. Yet she had
wondered if a man and a woman could not love each other more perfectly
if neither were master or mistress, but both on a parity--a team,
indeed.

Davidge enjoyed talking to her, at least. That comforted her. When she
came back from her meditations he was saying:

"My company is reaching out. We've bought a big tract of swamp, and
we're filling it in and clearing it, and we're going to lay out a
shipyard there and turn out ships--standardized ships--as fast as we
can. We're steadying the ground first, sinking concrete piles in steel
casing--if you put 'em end to end, they'd reach twenty-five miles.
They're just to hold the ground together. That's what the whole
country has got to do before it can really begin to begin--put some
solid ground under its feet. When the ship is launched she mustn't
stick on the ways or in the mud.

"Of course, I'd rather go as a soldier, but I've got no right to. I
can ride or walk all day, and shoot straight and stand all kinds of
weather, and killing Germans would just about tickle me to death. But
this is a time when every man has got to do what he can do better than
he can do anything else. And I've spent my life in shipyards.

"I was a common laborer first--swinging a sledge; I had an arm then!
That was before we had compressed-air riveters. I was a union man and
went on strike and fought scabs and made the bosses eat crow. Now I'm
one of the bosses. I'm what they call a capitalist and an oppressor of
labor. Now I put down strikes and fight the unions--not that I don't
believe in 'em, not that I don't know where labor was before they had
unions and where it would be without 'em to-day and to-morrow, but
because all these things have to be adjusted gradually, and because
the main thing, after all, is building ships--just now, of course,
especially.

"When I was a workman I took pride in my job, and I thought I was an
artist at it. I wouldn't take anybody's lip. Now that I'm a boss I
have to take everybody's lip, because I can't strike. I can't go to my
boss and demand higher wages and easier hours, because my boss is the
market. But I don't suppose there's anything on earth that interests
you less than labor problems."

"They might if I knew the first thing about them."

"Well, the first thing is that they are the next war, the big war
after this one's over. The job is to keep it down till peace comes.
Then hell will pop--if you'll pardon my French. I'm all for labor
getting its rights, but some of the men don't want the right to
work--they want the right to loaf. I say let the sky be the limit of
any man's opportunity--the sky and his own limitations and ambitions.
But a lot of the workmen don't want opportunity; they've got no
ambition; they hate to build things. They talk about the terrible
conditions their families live in, and how gorgeously the rich men
live. But the rich men were poor once, and the poor can be rich--if
they can and will.

"The war is going to be the fight between the makers and the breakers,
the uplifters and the down-draggers, you might say. And it's going to
be some war!

"The men on the wrong side--what I call the wrong side, at least--are
just as much our enemies as the Germans. We've got to watch 'em just
as close. They'd just as soon burn an unfinished ship as the Germans
would sink her when she's on her way.

"That little ship I'm building now! Would you believe it? It has to be
guarded every minute. Most of our men are all right. They'd work
themselves to death for the ship, and they pour out their sweat like
prayers. But sneaks get in among 'em, and it only takes a fellow with
a bomb one minute to undo the six months' work of a hundred."

"Tell me about your ship," she said.

A ship she could understand. It was personal and real; labor theories
were as foreign to her as problems in metaphysics.

"Well, it's my first-born, this ship," he said. "Of course I've built
a lot of other ships, but they were for other people--just jobs, for
wages or commissions. This one is all my own--a freighter, ugly as sin
and commodious as hell--I beg your pardon! But the world needs
freighters--the hungry mobs of Europe, they'll be glad to see my
little ship come in, if ever she does. If she doesn't I'll-- But
she'll last a few trips before they submarine her--I guess."

He fell silent among his visions and left her to her own.

He saw himself wandering about a shipyard, a poor thing, but his own.
His mind was like a mold-loft full of designs and detail-drawings to
scale, blue-prints and models. On the way a ship was growing for him.
As yet she was a ghastly thing all ribs, like the skeleton of some
ancient sea-monster left ashore at high tide and perished eons back,
leaving only the bones.

His fancy saw her transverses taking on their iron flesh. He saw the
day of her nativity. He heard them knock out the blocks that lowered
the sliding-ways to the groundways and sent her swirling into the
sea.

He saw her ready for her cargo, saw a Niagara of wheat cascading into
her hold. He saw her go forth into the sea.

Then he saw the ship stagger, a wound opened in her side, from the
bullet of a submarine.

It was all so vivid that he spoke aloud in a frenzy of ire:

"If the Germans kill my ship I'll kill a German! By God, I will!"

He was startled by the sound of his own voice, and he begged her
pardon humbly.

She had been away in reverie, too. The word "submarine" had sent her
back into her haunting remembrances of the _Lusitania_ and of her own
helpless entanglement in the fate of other ships--their names as
unknown to her as the names and faces of the men that died with them,
or perished of starvation and thirst in the lifeboats sent adrift. The
thought of these poor anonymities frightened her. She shuddered with
such violence that Davidge was startled from his own wrath.

"You're having a chill," he said. "I wish you would take my coat. You
don't want to get sick."

She shook her head and chattered, "No, no."

"Then you'd better get out and walk up and down this bridge awhile.
There's not even a lap-robe here."

"I should like to walk, I think."

She stepped out, aided by his hand, a strong hand, and warm about her
icy fingers. Her knees were weak, and he set her elbow in the hollow
of his arm and guided her. They walked like the blind leading the
blind through a sea of pitch. The only glimmer was the little
scratches of light pinked in the dead sky by a few stars.

"'It's beautiful overhead, if you're going that way,'" Davidge
quoted.

He set out briskly, but Marie Louise hung back timidly.

"Not so fast! I can't see a thing."

"That's the best time to keep moving."

"But aren't you afraid to push on when you can't see where you're
going?" she demanded.

"Who can ever tell where he's going? The sunlight is no guaranty.
We're all bats in the daytime and not cats at night. The main thing is
to sail on and on and on."

She caught a little of his recklessness--suffered him to hurry her to
and fro through the inky air till she was panting for breath and
tired. Then they groped to the rail and peered vainly down at the
brook, which, like an unbroken child, was heard and not seen. They
leaned their elbows on the rail and stared into the muffling gloom.

"I think I'll have another of your cigarettes," he said.

"So will I," said she.

There was a cozy fireside moment as they took their lights from the
same match. When he threw the match overboard he said:

"Like a human life, eh? A little spark between dark and dark."

He was surprised at stumbling into rhyme, and apologized. But she
said:

"Do you know, I rather like that. It reminds me of a poem about a
rain-storm--Russell Lowell's, I fancy; it told of a flock of sheep
scampering down a dusty road and clattering across a bridge and back
to the dust again. He said it was like human life, 'a little noise
between two silences.'"

"H'm!" was the best Davidge could do. But the agony of the brevity of
existence seized them both by the hearts, and their hearts throbbed
and bled like birds crushed in the claws of hawks. Their hearts had
such capabilities of joy, such songs in them, such love and longing,
such delight in beauty--and beauty was so beautiful, so frequent, so
thrilling! Yet they could spend but a glance, a sigh, a regret, a
gratitude, and then their eyes were out, their ears still, their lips
cold, their hearts dust. The ache of it was beyond bearing.

"Let's walk. I'm cold again," she whispered.

He felt that she needed the sense of hurry, and he went so fast that
she had to run to keep up with him. There seemed to be some comfort in
the privilege of motion for its own sake; motion was life; motion was
godhood; motion was escape from the run-down clock of death.

Back and forth they kept their promenade, till her body refused to
answer the whips of restlessness. Her brain began to shut up shop. It
would do no more thinking this night.

She stumbled toward the taxicab. Davidge lifted her in, and she sank
down, completely done. She fell asleep.

Davidge took his place in the cab and wondered lazily at the quaint
adventure. He was only slightly concerned with wondering at the cause
of her uneasiness. He was used to minding his own business.

She slept so well that when the groping search-light of a coming
automobile began to slash the night and the rubber wheels boomed
across the bridge she did not waken. If the taxi-driver heard its
sound, he preferred to pretend not to. The passengers in the passing
car must have been surprised, but they took their wonderment with
them. We so often imagine mischief when there is innocence and _vice
versa_; for opportunity is just as likely to create distaste as
interest and the lack of it to instigate enterprise.

Davidge drowsed and smiled contentedly in the dark and did not know
that he was not awake until at some later time he was half aroused by
the meteoric glow and whiz of another automobile. It had gone before
he was quite awake, and he sank back into sleep.

Before he knew it, many black hours had slid by and daylight was come;
the rosy fingers of light were moving about, recreating the world to
vision, sketching a landscape hazily on a black canvas, then stippling
in the colors, and finishing, swiftly but gradually, the details to an
inconceivable minuteness of definition, giving each leaf its own sharp
contour and every rock its every facet. From the brook below a
mistlike cigarette smoke exhaled. The sky was crimson, then pink, then
amber, then blue.

Birds began to twitter, to fashion little crystal stanzas, and to
hurl themselves about the valley as if catapults propelled them. One
songster perched on the iron rail of the bridge and practised a vocal
lesson, cocking his head from side to side and seeming to approve his
own skill.

A furred caterpillar resumed his march across the Appian Way, making
of each crack between boards a great abyss to be bridged cautiously
with his own body. The day's work was begun, while Davidge drowsed and
smiled contentedly at the side of the strange, sleeping woman as if
they had been married for years.



CHAPTER IV


The sky was filled with morning when a noise startled Davidge out of
nullity. He was amazed to find a strange woman asleep at his elbow. He
remembered her suddenly.

With a clatter of wheels and cans and hoofs a milkman's wagon and team
came out of the hills. Davidge stepped down from the car and stopped
the loud-voiced, wide-mouthed driver with a gesture. He spoke in a low
voice which the milkman did not copy. The taxi-driver woke to the
extent of one eye and a horrible yawn, while Davidge explained his
plight.

"Gasolene gave out, hey?" said the milkman.

"It certainly did," said Davidge, "and I'd be very much obliged if
you'd get me some more."

"Wa-all, I'm purty busy."

"I'll pay you anything you ask."

The milkman was modest in his ambitions.

"How'd two dollars strike ye?"

"Five would be better if you hurried."

This looked suspicious, but the milkman consented.

"Wa-all, all right, but what would I fetch the gasolene in?"

"One of your milk-cans."

"They're all fuller melk."

"I'll buy one, milk and all."

"Wa-all, I reckon I'll hev to oblige you."

"Here's five dollars on account. There'll be five more when you get
back."

"Wa-all, all ri-ight. Get along there, Jawn Henry."

John Henry got along. Even his _cloppety-clop_ did not waken Miss
Webling.

The return of the rattletrap and the racket of filling the tank with
the elixir finished her sleep, however. She woke in confusion,
finding herself sitting up, dressed, in her little room, with three
strange men at work outside.

When the tank was filled, Davidge entered her compartment with a
cheery "Good morning," and slammed the door after him. The gasolene,
like the breath of a god, gave life to the dead. The car snarled and
jumped, and went roaring across the bridge, up the hill and down
another, and down that and up another.

Here they caught, through a frame of leaves, a glimpse of Washington
in the sunrise, a great congregation of marble temples and trees and
sky-colored waters, the shaft of the Monument lighted with the milky
radiance of a mountain peak on its upper half, the lower part still
dusk with valley shadow, and across the plateau of roofs the solemn
Capitol in as mythical a splendor as the stately dome that Kubla Khan
decreed in Xanadu.

This sight of Canaan from Pisgah-height was no luxury to the
taxi-driver, and he hustled his coffee-grinder till he reached Rosslyn
once more, crossed the Potomac's many-tinted stream, and rattled
through Georgetown and the shabby, sleeping little shops of M Street
into the tree-tunnels of Washington.

He paused to say, "Where do we go from here?"

Davidge and Marie Louise looked their chagrin. They still had no place
to go.

"To the Pennsylvania Station," said Davidge. "We can at least get
breakfast there."

The streets of Washington are never so beautiful as at this still hour
when nothing stirs but the wind in the trees and the grass on the
lawns, and hardly anybody is abroad except the generals on their
bronze horses fronting their old battles with heroic eyes. The station
outside was something Olympic but unfrequented. Inside, it was a vast
cathedral of untenanted pews.

Davidge paid the driver a duke's ransom. There was no porter about,
and he carried Marie Louise's suit-cases to the parcel-room. Her
baggage had had a long journey. She retreated to the women's room for
what toilet she could make, and came forth with a very much washed
face. Somnambulistic negroes took their orders at the lunch-counter.

Marie Louise had weakly decided to return to New York again, but the
hot coffee was full of defiance, and she said that she would make
another try at Mrs. Widdicombe as soon as a human hour arrived.

And she showed a tactfulness that won much respect from Davidge when
she said:

"Do get your morning paper and read it. I'm sure I have nothing to say
that I haven't said, and if I had, it could wait till you find out how
the battle goes in Europe."

He bought her a paper, too, and they sat on a long bench, exchanging
comments on the news that made almost every front page a chapter in
world history.

She heard him groan with rage. When she looked up he pointed to the
submarine record of that week.

"Last week the losses took a horrible jump--forty ships of over
sixteen hundred tons. This week it's almost as bad--thirty-eight
ships of over sixteen hundred, thirteen ships under, and eight
fishing-vessels. Think of it--all of 'em merchant-ships!

"Pretty soon I've got to send my ship out to run the gantlet. She's
like Little Red Riding Hood going through the forest to take old
Granny Britain some food. And the wolves are waiting for her. What a
race of people, what a pack of beasts!"

Marie Louise had an idea. "I'll tell you a pretty name for your
ship--_Little Red Riding Hood_. Why don't you give her that?"

He laughed. "The name would be heavier than the cargo. I wonder what
the crew would make of it. No, this ship, my first one, is to be named
after"--he lowered his voice as one does on entering a church--"after
my mother."

"Oh, that's beautiful!" Marie Louise said. "And will she be there to
christen-- Oh, I remember, you said--"

He nodded three or four times in wretchedness. But the grief was his
own, and he must not exploit it. He assumed an abrupt cheer.

"I'll name the next ship after you, if you don't mind."

This was too glorious to be believed. What bouquet or jewel could
equal it? She clapped her hands like a child hearing a Christmas
promise.

"What is your first name, Miss Webling?"

She suddenly realized that they were not, after all, such old friends
as the night had seemed to make them.

"My first two names," she said, "are Marie Louise."

"Oh! Well, then we'll call the ship _Marie Louise_."

She saw that he was a little disappointed in the name, so she said:

"When I was a girl they called me Mamise."

She was puzzled to see how this startled him.

He jumped audibly and fastened a searching gaze on her. Mamise! He had
thought of Mamise when he saw her, and now she gave the name. Could
she possibly be the Mamise he remembered? He started to ask her, but
checked himself and blushed. A fine thing it would be to ask this
splendid young princess, "Pardon me, Princess, but were you playing in
cheap vaudeville a few years ago?" It was an improbable coincidence
that he should meet her thus, but an almost impossible coincidence
that she should wear both the name and the mien of Mamise and not be
Mamise. But he dared not ask her.

She noted his blush and stammer, but she was afraid to ask their
cause.

"_Mamise_ it shall be," he said.

And she answered, "I was never so honored in my life."

"Of course," he warned her, "the boat isn't built yet. In fact, the
new yard isn't built yet. There's many a slip 'twixt the keel and the
ship. She might never live to be launched. Some of these sneaking
loafers on our side may blow her up before the submarines get a chance
at her."

There he was, speaking of submarines once more! She shivered, and she
looked at the clock and got up and said:

"I think I'll try Mrs. Widdicombe now."

"Let me go along," said Davidge.

But she shook her head. "I've taken enough of your life--for the
present."

Trying to concoct a felicitous reply, he achieved only an eloquent
silence. He put her and her luggage aboard a taxicab, and then she
gave him her most cordial hand.

"I could never hope to thank you enough," she said, "and I won't begin
to try. Send me your address when you have one, and I'll mail you Mrs.
Widdicombe's confidential telephone number. I do want to see you soon
again, unless you've had enough of me for a lifetime."

He did very handsomely by the lead she gave him:

"I couldn't have enough--not in a lifetime."

The taxi-driver snipped the strands of their gaze as he whisked her
away.

Marie Louise felt a forenoon elation in the cool air and the bright
streets, thick with men and women in herds hurrying to their patriotic
tasks, and a multitude of officers and enlisted men seeking their
desks. She was here to join them, and she hoped that it would not be
too hard to find some job with a little thrill of service in it.

As she went through Georgetown now M Street was different--full of
marketers and of briskness. The old bridge was crowded. As her car
swooped up the hills and skirted the curves to Polly Widdicombe's she
began to be afraid again. But she was committed to the adventure and
she was eager for the worst of it. She found the house without trouble
and saw in the white grove of columns Polly herself, bidding good-by
to her husband, whose car was waiting at the foot of the steps.

Polly hailed Marie Louise with cries of such delight that before the
cab had made the circle and drawn up at the steps the hunted look was
gone and youth come back to Marie Louise's anxious smile. Polly kissed
her and presented her husband, pointing to the gold leaves on his
shoulders with militaristic pride.

Widdicombe blushed and said: "Fearless desk-fighter has to hurry off
to battle with ruthless stenographers. Such are the horrors of war!"

He insisted on paying Marie Louise's driver, though she said, "Women
will never be free so long as men insist on paying all their bills."

Polly said: "Hush, or the brute will set me free!"

He kissed Polly, waved to Marie Louise, stepped into his car, and shot
away.

Polly watched him with devout eyes and said:

"Poor boy! he's dying to get across into the trenches, but they won't
take him because he's a little near-sighted, thank God! And he works
like a dog, day and night." Then she returned to the rites of
hospitality. "Had your breakfast?"

"At the station." The truth for once coincided very pleasantly with
convenience.

"Then I know what you want," said Polly, "a bath and a nap. After that
all-night train-trip you ought to be a wreck."

"I am."

Polly led her to a welcoming room that would have been quite pretty
enough if it had had only a bed and a chair. Marie Louise felt as if
she had come out of the wilderness into a city of refuge. Polly had an
engagement, a committee meeting of women war-workers, and would not be
back until luncheon-time. Marie Louise steeped herself in a hot tub,
then in a long sweet sleep in a real bed. She was wakened by the
voices of children, and looked out from her window to see the
Widdicombe tots drilling in a company of three with a drum, a flag,
and a wooden gun. The American army was not much bigger compared with
the European nations in arms, but it would grow.

Polly came home well charged with electricity, the new-woman idea that
was claiming half of the war, the true squaw-spirit that takes up the
drudgery at home while the braves go out to swap missiles with the
enemy. When Marie Louise said that she, too, had come to Washington to
get into harness somewhere, Polly promised her a plethora of
opportunities.

At luncheon Polly was reminded of the fact that a photographer was
coming over from Washington. He had asked for sittings, and she had
acceded to his request.

"I never can get photographs enough of my homely self," said Polly.
"I'm always hoping that by some accident the next one will make me
look as I want to look--make ithers see me as I see mysel'!"

When the camera-man arrived Polly insisted that Marie Louise must
pose, too, and grew so urgent that she consented at last, to quiet
her. They spent a harrowing afternoon striking attitudes all over the
place, indoors and out, standing, sitting, heads and half-lengths,
profile and three-quarters and full face. Their muscles ached with the
struggle to assume and retain beatific expressions on an empty soul.

The consequences of that afternoon of self-impersonation were
far-reaching for Marie Louise.

According to the Washingtonian custom, one of the new photographs
appeared the following Sunday in each of the four newspapers. The
Sunday after that Marie Louise's likeness appeared with "Dolly
Madison's" and Jean Elliott's syndicated letters on "The Week in
Washington" in Sunday supplements throughout the country. Every now
and then her likeness popped out at her from _Town and Country_,
_Vogue_, _Harper's Bazaar_, _The Spur_, what not?

One of those countless images fell into the hands of Jake Nuddle, who
had been keeping an incongruous eye on the Sunday supplements for some
time. This time the double of Mamise was not posed as a farmerette in
an English landscape, but as a woman of fashion in a Colonial
drawing-room.

He hurried to his wife with the picture, and she called it "Mamise"
with a recrudescent anguish of doubt.

"She's in this country now, the paper says," said Jake. "She's in
Washington, and if I was you I'd write her a little letter astin' her
is she our sister."

Mrs. Nuddle was crying too loosely to note that "our." The more Jake
considered the matter the less he liked the thought of waiting for a
letter to go and an answer to come.

"Meet 'em face to face; that's me!" he declared at last. "I think I'll
just take a trip to the little old capital m'self. I can tell the rest
the c'mittee I'm goin' to put a few things up to some them Senators
and Congersmen. That'll get my expenses paid for me."

There simply was nobody that Jake Nuddle would not cheat, if he
could.

His always depressing wife suggested: "Supposin' the lady says she
ain't Mamise, how you goin' to prove she is? You never seen her."

Jake snarled at her for a fool, but he knew that she was right. He
resisted the dismal necessity as long as he could, and then extended
one of his most cordial invitations:

"Aw, hell! I reckon I'll have to drag you along."

He grumbled and cursed his fate and resolved to make Mamise pay double
for ruining his excursion.



CHAPTER V


For a time Marie Louise had the solace of being busy and of nibbling
at the edge of great occasions. The nation was reconstituting its
whole life, and Washington was the capital of all the Allied peoples,
their brazen serpent and their promise of salvation. Almost everybody
was doing with his or her might what his or her hand found to do.
Repetition and contradiction of effort abounded; there was every
confusion of counsel and of action. But the Republic was gathering
itself for a mighty leap into the arena. For the first time women were
being not merely permitted, but pleaded with, to lend their aid.

Marie Louise rolled bandages at a Red Cross room presided over by a
pleasant widow, Mrs. Perry Merithew, with a son in the aviation, who
was forever needing bandages. Mamise tired of these, bought a car and
joined the Women's Motor Corps. She had a collision with a reckless
wretch named "Pet" Bettany, and resigned. She helped with big
festivals, toiled day and night at sweaters, and finally bought
herself a knitting-machine and spun out half a dozen pairs of socks a
day, by keeping a sweatshop pace for sweatshop hours. She was trying
to find a more useful job. The trouble was that everybody wanted to be
at something, to get into a uniform of some sort, to join the
universal mobilization.

She went out little of evenings, preferring to keep herself in
the seclusion of the Rosslyn home. Gradually her fears subsided
and she felt that her welcome was wearing through. She began to
look for a place to live. Washington was in a panic of rentals.
Apartments cost more than houses. A modest creature who had paid
seventy-five dollars a month for a little flat let it for five
hundred a month for the duration of the war. A gorgeous Sultana
who had a two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar-a-month apartment rented it
for a thousand dollars a month "for the duration." Marie Louise had
money enough, but she could hardly find anything that it would
buy.

She planned to secure a clerical post in some of the offices. She took
up shorthand and poked a typewriter and read books on system and
efficiency, then gave them up as Greek.

Once in a while she saw Ross Davidge. He suffered an intermittent
fever of hope and despondency. He, too, was trying to do his bit, but
he was lost in the maelstrom swirling through the channels of official
life. He would come to town for a few days, wait about, fuming, and
return in disgust to his shipyard. It was not altogether patriotism
that pulled him back to Washington. Marie Louise was there, and he
lost several appointments with the great folk he came to see, because
their hours clashed with Marie Louise's.

On one of his voyages he was surprised to find at his hotel an
invitation to dine at Mrs. Prothero's. Little as he knew of the
eminent ones of the fashionable world, he knew the famous name of
Prothero. He had spoken with reverence always of her late husband, one
of the rebuilders of the American navy, a voice crying in the
wilderness for a revival of the ancient glories of the merchant
marine. Davidge had never met him or his widow. He felt that he could
not refuse the unexplained opportunity to pay at least his respects to
the relict of his idol.

But he wondered by what means Mrs. Prothero, whom everybody had heard
of, had heard of him. When he entered her door on the designated
evening his riddle was answered.

The butler glanced at his card, then picked from a heap on the console
a little envelope which he proffered on his tray. The envelope was
about the size of those that new-born parents use to inclose the
proclamation of the advent of a new-born infant. The card inside
Davidge's envelope carried the legend, "Miss Webling."

The butler led him to the drawing-room door and announced him. There
indeed was Marie Louise, arm in arm with a majestic granddam in a
coronet of white hair.

Marie Louise put out her hand, and Davidge went to it. She clasped his
and passed it on to Mrs. Prothero with a character:

"This is the great Mr. Davidge, the shipwright."

Mrs. Prothero pressed his hand and kept it while she said: "It is
like Marie Louise to bring youth to cheer up an old crone like me."

Davidge muffed the opening horribly. Instead of saying something
brilliant about how young Mrs. Prothero looked, he said:

"Youth? I'm a hundred years old."

"You are!" Mrs. Prothero cried. "Then how old does that make me, in
the Lord's name--a million?"

Davidge could not even recover the foot he had put in it. By looking
foolish and keeping silent he barely saved himself from adding the
other foot. Mrs. Prothero smiled at his discomfiture.

"Don't worry. I'm too ancient to be caught by pretty speeches--or to
like the men who have 'em always ready."

She pressed his hand again and turned to welcome the financial
Cyclops, James Dyckman, and his huge wife, and Captain Fargeton, a
foreign military attaché with service chevrons and wound-chevrons and
a _croix de guerre_, and a wife, who had been Mildred Tait.

"All that and an American spouse!" said Davidge to Marie Louise.

"Have you never had an American spouse?" she asked, brazenly.

"Not one!" he confessed.

Major and Polly Widdicombe had come in with Marie Louise, and Davidge
drifted into their circle. The great room filled gradually with men of
past or future fame, and the poor women who were concerned in enduring
its acquisition.

Marie Louise was radiant in mood and queenly in attire. Davidge was
startled by the magnificence of her jewelry. Some of it was of old
workmanship, royal heirloomry. Her accent was decidedly English, yet
her race was undoubtedly American. The many things about her that had
puzzled him subconsciously began to clamor at least for the attention
of curiosity. He watched her making the best of herself, as a skilful
woman does when she is all dressed up in handsome scenery among
toplofty people.

Polly was describing the guests as they came in:

"That's Colonel Harvey Forbes. His name has been sent to Congress for
approval as a brigadier-general. I knew him in the midst of the
wildest scandal--remind me to tell you. He was only a captain then.
He'll probably end as a king or something. This war is certainly good
to some people."

Davidge watched Marie Louise studying the somber officer. He was a bit
jealous, shamed by his own civilian clothes. Suddenly Marie Louise's
smile at Polly's chatter stopped short, shriveled, then returned to
her face with a look of effort. Her muscles seemed to be determined
that her lips should not droop.

Davidge heard the butler announce:

"Lady Clifton-Wyatt and General Sir Hector Havendish."

Davidge wondered which of the two names could have so terrified
Marie Louise. Naturally he supposed that it was the man's. He turned
to study the officer in his British uniform. He saw a tall,
loose-jointed, jovial man of horsy look and carriage, and no hint of
mystery--one would say an intolerance of mystery.

Lady Clifton-Wyatt was equally amiable. She laughed and wrung the
hands of Mrs. Prothero. They were like two school-girls met in another
century.

Davidge noted that Marie Louise turned her back and listened with
extraordinary interest to Major Widdicombe's old story about an
Irishman who did or said something or other. Davidge heard Mrs.
Prothero say to Lady Clifton-Wyatt, with all the joy in the world:

"Who do you suppose is here but our Marie Louise?"

"Our Marie Louise?" Lady Clifton-Wyatt echoed, with a slight chill.

"Yes, Marie Louise Webling. It was at her house that I met you. Where
has the child got to? There she is."

Without raising her voice she focused it between Marie Louise's
shoulder-blades.

"Marie Louise, my dear!"

Marie Louise turned and came up like a wax image on casters pulled
forward by an invisible window-dresser. Lady Clifton-Wyatt's limber
attitude grew erect, deadly, ominously hostile. She looked as if she
would turn Marie Louise to stone with a Medusa glare, but she
evidently felt that she had no right to commit petrifaction in Mrs.
Prothero's home; so she bowed and murmured:

"Ah, yis! How are you?"

To Davidge's amazement, Miss Webling, instead of meeting the rebuff
in kind, wavered before it and bowed almost gratefully. Then, to
Davidge's confusion, Lady Clifton-Wyatt marched on him with a gush of
cordiality as if she had been looking for him around the Seven Seas.
She remembered him, called him by name and told him that she had seen
his pickchah in one of the papahs, as one of the creatahs of the new
fleet.

Mrs. Prothero was stunned for a moment by the scene, but she had
passed through so many women's wars that she had learned to
ignore them even when--especially when--her drawing-room was the
battleground.

Her mind was drawn from the incident by the materialization of the
butler.

Lady Clifton-Wyatt, noting that the tide was setting toward the
dining-room and that absent-minded Sir Hector was floating along the
current at the elbow of the pretty young girl, said to Davidge:

"Are you taking me out or--"

It was a horrible moment, for all its unimportance, but he mumbled:

"I--I am sorry, but--er--Miss Webling--"

"Oh! Ah!" said Lady Clifton-Wyatt. It was a very short "Oh!" and a
very long "Ah!" a sort of gliding, crushing "Ah!" It went over him
like a tank, leaving him flat.

Lady Clifton-Wyatt reached Sir Hector's arm in a few strides and
unhooked him from the girl--also the girl from him. The girl was
grateful. Sir Hector was used to disappointments.

Davidge went to Marie Louise, who stood lonely and distraught. He felt
ashamed of his word "sorry" and hoped she hadn't heard it. Silently
and crudely he angled his arm, and she took it and went along with him
in a somnambulism.

Davidge, manlike, tried to cheer up his elbow-mate by a compliment. A
man's first aid to a woman in distress is a compliment or a few pats
of the hand. He said:

"This is the second big dinner you and I have attended. There were
bushels of flowers between us before, but I'd rather see your face
than a ton of roses."

The compliment fell out like a ton of coal. He did not like it at all.
She seemed not to have heard him, for she murmured:

"Yis, isn't it?"

Then, as the occultists say, he went into the silence. There is
nothing busier than a silence at a dinner. The effort to think with no
outlet in speech kept up such a roaring in his head that he could
hardly grasp what the rest were saying.

Lady Clifton-Wyatt sat at Davidge's right and kept invading his quiet
communion with Marie Louise by making remarks of the utmost
graciousness somehow fermented--like wine turned vinegar.

"I wonder if you remember when we met in London, Mr. Davidge? It was
just after the poor _Lusitania_ was sunk."

"So it was," said Davidge.

"It was at Sir Joseph Webling's. You knew he was dead, didn't you? Or
did you?"

"Yes, Miss Webling told me."

"Oh, did she! I was curious to know."

She cast a look past him at Marie Louise and saw that the girl was
about ready to make a scene. She smiled and deferred further torture.

Mrs. Prothero supervened. She had the beautiful theory that the way to
make her guests happy was to get them to talking about themselves. She
tried to draw Davidge out of his shell. But he talked about her
husband instead, and of the great work he had done for the navy. He
turned the tables of graciousness on her. Her nod recognized the
chivalry; her lips smiled with pride in her husband's praise; her eyes
glistened with an old regret made new. "He would have been useful
now," she sighed.

"He was the man who laid the keel-blocks of our new navy," said
Davidge. "The thing we haven't got and have got to get is a merchant
marine."

He could talk of that, though he could not celebrate himself. He was
still going strong when the dinner was finished.

Mrs. Prothero clung to the old custom. She took the women away with
her to the drawing-room, leaving the men alone.

Davidge noted that Lady Clifton-Wyatt left the dining-room with a kind
of eagerness, Marie Louise reluctantly. She cast him a look that
seemed to cry "Help!" He wondered what the feud could be that threw
Miss Webling into such apparent panic. He could not tolerate the
thought that she had a yellow streak in her.



CHAPTER VI


Lady Clifton-Wyatt, like many another woman, was kept in order by the
presence of men. She knew that the least charming of attributes in
masculine eyes are the female feline, the gift and art of claws.

Men can be catty, too--tom-catty, yet contemptibly feline when they
are not on their good behavior. There are times when the warning,
"Gentlemen, there are ladies present," restores them to order as
quickly as the entrance of a teacher turns a school-room of young
savages into an assembly of young saints.

The women in Mrs. Prothero's drawing-room could not hear any of the
words the men mixed with their smoke, but they could hear now and then
a muffled explosion of laughter of a quality that indicated what had
provoked it.

The women, too, were relieved of a certain constraint by their
isolation. They seemed to enjoy the release. It was like getting their
minds out of tight corsets. They were not impatient for the men--as
some of the men may have imagined. These women were of an age where
they had something else to think of besides men. They had careers to
make or keep among women as well as the men among men.

The servants kept them on guard till the coffee, tobacco, and liqueurs
were distributed. Then recess was declared. Marie Louise found herself
on a huge tapestried divan provided with deep, soft cushions that held
her like a quicksands. On one side of her was the mountainous Mrs.
Dyckman resembling a stack of cushions cased in silk; on the other was
Mildred Tait Fargeton, whose father had been ambassador to France.

Marie Louise listened to their chatter with a frantic impatience.
Polly was heliographing ironic messages with her eyes. Polly was
hemmed in by the wife of a railroad juggler, who was furious at the
Administration because it did not put all its transportation problems
in her husband's hands. She would not have intrusted him with the
buying of a spool of thread; but that was different.

Mrs. Prothero was monopolized by Lady Clifton-Wyatt. Marie Louise
could see that she herself was the theme of the talk, for Mrs.
Prothero kept casting startled glances Marie-Louise-ward, and Lady
Clifton-Wyatt glances of baleful stealth.

Marie Louise had proved often enough that she was no coward, but
even the brave turn poltroon when they fight without a sense of
justification. Her pride told her that she ought to cross over to Lady
Clifton-Wyatt and demand that she speak up. But her sense of guilt
robbed her of her courage. And that oath she had given to Mr.
Verrinder without the least reluctance now loomed before her as the
greatest mistake of her life. Her sword and shield were both in pawn.

She gave herself up for lost and had only one hope, that the men would
not come in--especially that Ross Davidge would not come in in time to
learn what Lady Clifton-Wyatt was so eager to publish. She gave Mrs.
Prothero up for lost, too, and Polly. But she wanted to keep Ross
Davidge fond of her.

Then in a lull Mrs. Prothero spoke up sharply:

"I simply can't believe it, my dear. I don't know that I ever saw a
German spy, but that child is not one. I'd stake my life on it."

"And now the avalanche!" thought Marie Louise.

The word "spy" was beginning to have more than an academic or
fictional interest to Americans, and it caught the ear of every person
present.

Mrs. Dyckman and Mme. Fargeton sat up as straight as their curves
permitted and gasped:

"A German spy! Who? Where?"

Polly Widdicombe sprang to her feet and darted to Mrs. Prothero's
side.

"Oh, how lovely! Tell me who she is! I'm dying to shoot a spy."

Marie Louise sickened at the bloodthirstiness of Polly the insouciante.

Mrs. Prothero tried to put down the riot of interest by saying:

"Oh, it's nothing. Lady Clifton-Wyatt is just joking."

Lady Clifton-Wyatt was at bay. She shot a glance at Marie Louise and
insisted:

"Indeed I'm not! I tell you she is a spy."

"Who's a spy?" Polly demanded.

"Miss Webling," said Lady Clifton-Wyatt.

Polly began to giggle; then she frowned with disappointment.

"Oh, I thought you meant it."

"I do mean it, and if you'll take my advice you'll be warned in
time."

Polly turned, expecting to find Marie Louise showing her contemptuous
amusement, but the look she saw on Marie Louise's face was disconcerting.
Polly's loyalty remained staunch. She hated Lady Clifton-Wyatt anyway,
and the thought that she might be telling the truth made her a little
more hatable. Polly stormed:

"I won't permit you to slander my best friend."

Lady Clifton-Wyatt replied, "I don't slahnda hah, and if she is yaw
best friend--well--"

Lady Clifton-Wyatt hated Polly and was glad of the weapon against her.
Polly felt a sudden terrific need of retorting with a blow. Men had
never given up the fist on the mouth as the simple, direct answer to
an insult too complicated for any other retort. She wanted to slap
Lady Clifton-Wyatt's face. But she did not know how to fight. Perhaps
women will acquire the male prerogative of the smash in the jaw along
with the other once exclusive masculine privileges. It will do them no
end of good and help to clarify all life for them. But for the present
Polly could only groan, "Agh!" and turn to throw an arm about Marie
Louise and drag her forward.

"I'd believe one word of Marie Louise against a thousand of yours,"
she declared.

"Very well--ahsk hah, then."

Polly was crying mad, and madder than ever because she hated herself
for crying when she got mad. She almost sobbed now to Marie Louise,
"Tell her it's a dirty, rotten lie."

Marie Louise had been dragged to her feet. She temporized, "What has
she sai-said?"

Polly snickered nervously, "Oh, nothing--except that you were a German
spy."

And now somewhere, somehow, Marie Louise found the courage of
desperation. She laughed:

"Lady Clifton-Wyatt is notori--famous for her quaint sense of humor."

Lady Clifton-Wyatt sneered, "Could one expect a spy to admit it?"

Marie Louise smiled patiently. "Probably not. But surely even you
would hardly insist that denying it proves it?"

This sophistry was too tangled for Polly. She spoke up:

"Let's have the details, Lady Clifton-Wyatt--if you don't mind."

"Yes, yes," the chorus murmured.

Lady Clifton-Wyatt braced herself. "Well, in the first place Miss
Webling is not Miss Webling."

"Oh, but I am," said Marie Louise.

Lady Clifton-Wyatt gasped, "You don't mean to pretend that--"

"Did you read the will?" said Marie Louise.

"No, of course not, but--"

"It says there that I was their daughter."

"Well, we'll not quibble. Legally you may have been, but actually you
were their adopted child."

"Yis?" said Marie Louise. "And where did they find me? Had you
heard?"

"Since you force me to it, I must say that it is generally believed
that you were the natural daughter of Sir Joseph."

Marie Louise was tremendously relieved by having something that she
could deny. She laughed with a genuineness that swung the credulity
all her way. She asked:

"And who was my mother--my natural mother, could you tell me? I really
ought to know."

"She is believed to have been a--a native of Australia."

"Good Heavens! You don't mean a kangaroo?"

"An actress playing in Vienna."

"Oh, I am relieved! And Sir Joseph was my father--yes. Do go on."

"Whether Sir Joseph was your father or not, he was born in Germany and
so was his wife, and they took a false oath of allegiance to his
Majesty. All the while they were loyal only to the Kaiser. They worked
for him, spied for him. It is said that the Kaiser had promised to
make Sir Joseph one of the rulers over England when he captured the
island. Sir Joseph was to have any castle he wanted and untold
wealth."

"What was I to have?" Marie Louise was able to mock her. "Wasn't I to
have at least Westminster Abbey to live in? And one of the crown
princes for a husband?"

Lady Clifton-Wyatt lost her temper and her bearings.

"Heaven knows what you were promised, but you did your best to earn
it, whatever it was."

Mrs. Prothero lost patience. "Really, my dear Lady Clifton-Wyatt, this
is all getting beyond me."

Lady Clifton-Wyatt grew scarlet, too. She spoke with the wrath of a
Tisiphone whipping herself to a frenzy. "I will bring you proofs. This
creature was a paid secret agent, a go-between for Sir Joseph and the
Wilhelmstrasse. She carried messages. She went into the slums of
Whitechapel disguised as a beggar to meet the conspirators. She
carried them lists of ships with their cargoes, dates of sailing,
destinations. She carried great sums of money. She was the paymaster
of the spies. Her hands are red with the blood of British sailors and
women and children. She grew so bold that at last she attracted the
attention of even Scotland Yard. She was followed, traced to Sir
Joseph's home. It was found that she lived at his house.

"One of the spies, named Easling or Oesten, was her lover. He was
caught and met his deserts before a firing-squad in the Tower. His
confession implicated Sir Joseph. The police raided his place. A
terrific fight ensued. He resisted arrest. He tried to shoot one of
our police. The bullet went wild and killed his wife. Before he could
fire again he was shot down by one of our men."

The astonishing transformations the story had undergone in its transit
from gossip to gossip stunned Marie Louise. The memory of the reality
saddened her beyond laughter. Her distress was real, but she had
self-control enough to focus it on Lady Clifton-Wyatt and murmur:

"Poor thing, she is quite mad!"

There is nothing that so nearly drives one insane as to be accused of
insanity.

The prosecutrix almost strangled on her indignation at Marie Louise's
calm.

"The effrontery of this woman is unendurable, Mrs. Prothero. If you
believe her, you must permit me to leave. I know what I am saying. I
have had what I tell you from the best authority. Of course, it may
sound insane, but wait until you learn what the German secret agents
have been doing in America for years and what they are doing now."

There had been publication enough of the sickening duplicity of
ambassadors and attachés to lead the Americans to believe that
Teutonism meant anything revolting. Mrs. Prothero was befuddled at
this explosion in her quiet home. She asked:

"But surely all this has never been published, has it? I think we
should have heard of it here."

"Of course not," said Lady Clifton-Wyatt. "We don't publish the
accounts of the submarines we sink, do we? No more do we tell the
Germans what spies of theirs we have captured. And, since Sir Joseph
and his wife were dead, there would have been no profit in publishing
broadcast the story of the battle. So they agreed to let it be known
that they died peacefully or rather painfully in their beds, of
ptomaine poisoning."

"That's true," said Mrs. Prothero. "That's what I read. That's what
I've always understood."

Now, curiously, as often happens in court, the discovery that a
witness has stumbled on one truth in a pack of lies renders all he has
said authentic and shifts the guilt to the other side. Marie Louise
could feel the frost of suspicion against her forming in the air.

Polly made one more onset: "But, tell me, Lady Clifton-Wyatt, where
was Marie Louise during all this Wild West End pistol-play?"

"In her room with her lover," snarled Lady Clifton-Wyatt. "The
servants saw her there."

This threw a more odious light on Marie Louise. She was not merely a
nice clean spy, but a wanton.

Polly groaned: "Tell that to Scotland Yard! I'd never believe it."

"Scotland Yard knows it without my telling," said Lady Clifton-Wyatt.

"But how did Marie Louise come to escape and get to America?"

"Because England did not want to shoot a woman, especially not a
young woman of a certain prettiness. So they let her go, when she
swore that she would never return to England. But they did not trust
her. She is under observation now! Your home is watched, my dear Mrs.
Widdicombe, and I dare say there is a man on guard outside now, my
dear Mrs. Prothero."

This sent a chill along every spine. Marie Louise was frightened out
of her own brief bravado.

There was a lull in the trial while everybody reveled in horror. Then
Mrs. Prothero spoke in a judicial tone.

"And now, Miss Webling, please tell us your side of all this. What
have you to say in your own behalf?"

Marie Louise's mouth suddenly turned dry as bark; her tongue was like
a dead leaf. She was inarticulate with remembrance of her oath to
Verrinder. She just managed to whisper:

"Nothing!"

It sounded like an autumn leaf rasping across a stone. Polly cried out
in agony:

"Marie Louise!"

Marie Louise shook her head and could neither think nor speak. There
was a hush of waiting. It was broken by the voices of the men
strolling in together. They were utterly unwelcome. They stopped and
stared at the women all staring at Marie Louise.

Seeing Davidge about to ask what the tableau stood for, she found
voice to say:

"Mr. Davidge, would you be so good as to take me home--to Mrs.
Widdicombe's, that is. I--I am a little faint."

"Delighted! I mean--I'm sorry--I'd be glad," he stammered, eager to be
at her service, yet embarrassed by the sudden appeal.

"You'll pardon me, Mrs. Prothero, for running away!"

"Of course," said Mrs. Prothero, still dazed.

He bowed to her, and all round. Marie Louise nodded and whispered,
"Good night!" and moved toward the door waveringly. Davidge's heart
leaped with pity for her.

Lady Clifton-Wyatt checked him as he hurried past her.

"Oh, Mr. Davidge, I'm stopping at the Shoreham. Won't you drop in and
have a cup of tea with me to-morrow at hahf pahst fah?"

"Thank you! Yes!"



CHAPTER VII


The intended victim of Lady Clifton-Wyatt's little lynching-bee walked
away, holding her head high. But she felt the noose still about her
neck and wondered when the rope would draw her back and up.

Marie Louise marched through Mrs. Prothero's hall in excellent form,
with just the right amount of dizziness to justify her escape on the
plea of sudden illness. The butler, like a benign destiny, opened the
door silently and let her out into the open as once before in London a
butler had opened a door and let her into the welcome refuge of
walls.

She gulped the cool night air thirstily, and it gave her courage.
But it gave her no wisdom. She had indeed got away from Lady
Clifton-Wyatt's direct accusation of being a spy and she had brought
with her unscathed the only man whose good opinion was important to
her. But she did not know what she wanted to do with him, except that
she did not want him to fall into Lady Clifton-Wyatt's hands--in
which she had left her reputation.

Polly Widdicombe would have gone after Marie Louise forthwith, but
Polly did not intend to leave her pet foewoman in possession of the
field--not that she loved Marie Louise more, but that she loved Lady
Clifton-Wyatt less. Polly was dazed and bewildered by Marie Louise's
defection, but she would not accept Lady Clifton-Wyatt's version of
this story or of any other.

Besides, Polly gleaned that Marie Louise wanted to be alone, and she
knew that the best gift friendship can bestow at times is solitude.
The next best gift is defense in absence. Polly announced that she
would not permit her friend to be traduced; and Lady Clifton-Wyatt,
seeing that the men had flocked in from the dining-room and knowing
that men always discount one woman's attack on another as mere
cattiness, assumed her most angelic mien and changed the subject.

                  *       *       *       *       *

As usual in retreats, the first problem was transportation. Marie
Louise found herself and Davidge outside Mrs. Prothero's door, with no
means of getting to Rosslyn. She had come in the Widdicombe car;
Davidge had come in a hotel cab and sent it away. Luckily at last a
taxi returning to the railroad terminal whizzed by. Davidge yelled in
vain. Then he put his two fingers to his mouth and let out a short
blast that brought the taxi-driver round. In accordance with the
traffic rules, he had to make the circuit of the big statue-crowned
circle in front of Mrs. Prothero's home, one of those numerous hubs
that give Washington the effect of what some one called "revolving
streets."

When he drew up at the curb Davidge's first question was:

"How's your gasolene supply?"

"Full up, boss."

Marie Louise laughed. "You don't want to spend another night in a taxi
with me, I see."

Davidge writhed at this deduction. He started to say, "I'd be glad to
spend the rest of my life in a taxi with you." That sounded a little
too flamboyant, especially with a driver listening in. So he said
nothing but "Huh!"

He explained to the driver the route to Grinden Hall, and they set
forth.

Marie Louise had a dilemma of her own. Lady Clifton-Wyatt had had the
last word, and it had been an invitation to Davidge to call on her.
Worse yet, he had accepted it. Lady Clifton-Wyatt's purpose was, of
course, to rob Marie Louise of this last friend. Perhaps the wretch
had a sentimental interest in Davidge, too. She was a widow and a
man-grabber; she still had a tyrannic beauty and a greed of conquest.
Marie Louise was determined that Davidge should not fall into her
clutches, but she could hardly exact a promise from him to stay away.

The taxi was crossing the aqueduct bridge before she could brave
the point. She was brazen enough to say, "You'll accept Lady
Clifton-Wyatt's invitation to tea, of course?"

"Oh, I suppose so," said Davidge. "No American woman can resist a
lord; so how could an American man resist a Lady?"

"Oh!"

This helpless syllable expressed another defeat for Marie Louise. When
they reached the house she bade him good night without making any
arrangement for a good morrow, though Davidge held her hand decidedly
longer than ever before.

She stood on the portico and watched his cab drive off. She gazed
toward Washington and did not see the dreamy constellation it made
with the shaft of the Monument ghostly luminous as if with a
phosphorescence of its own. She felt an outcast indeed. She imagined
Polly hurrying back to ask questions that could not be dodged any
longer. She had no right to defend herself offensively from the
rightful demands of a friend and hostess. Besides, the laws of
hospitality would not protect her from Polly's temper. Polly would
have a perfect right to order her from the house. And she would, too,
when she knew everything. It would be best to decamp before being
asked to.

Marie Louise whirled and sped into the house, rang for the maid, and
said:

"My trunks! Please have them brought down--or up, from wherever they
are, will you?"

"Your trunks, miss!"

"And a taxicab. I shall have to leave at once."

"But--oh, I am sorry. Shall I help you pack?"

"Thank you, no--yes--no!"

The maid went out with eyes popping, wondering what earthquake had
sent the guest home alone for such a headlong exit.

Things flew in the drowsy house, and Marie Louise's chamber looked
like the show-room of a commercial traveler for a linen-house when
Polly appeared at the door and gasped:

"What in the name of--I didn't know you were sick enough to be
delirious!"

She came forward through an archipelago of clothes to where Marie
Louise was bending over a trunk. Polly took an armload of things away
from her and put them back in the highboy. As she set her arms akimbo
and stood staring at Marie Louise with a lovable and loving insolence,
she heard the sound of a car rattling round the driveway, and her
first words were:

"Who's coming here at this hour?"

"That's the taxi for me," Marie Louise explained.

Polly turned to the maid, "Go down and send it away--no, tell the
driver to go to the asylum for a strait-jacket."

The maid smiled and left. Marie Louise was afraid to believe her own
hopes.

"You don't mean you want me to stay, do you--not after what that woman
said?"

"Do you imagine for a moment," returned Polly, "that I'd ever believe
a word that cat could utter? Good Lord! if Lady Clifton-Wyatt told me
it was raining and I could see it was, I'd know it wasn't and put down
my umbrella."

Marie Louise rejoiced at the trust implied, but she could not make a
fool of so loyal a friend. She spoke with difficulty:

"What if what she said was the truth, or, anyway, a kind of burlesque
of it?"

"Marie Louise!" Polly gasped, and plounced into a chair. "Tell me the
truth this minute, the true truth."

Marie Louise was perishing for a confidante. She had gone about as far
without one as a normal woman can. She sat wondering how to begin,
twirling her rings on her fingers. "Well, you see--you see--it is true
that I'm not Sir Joseph's daughter. I was born in a little village--in
America--Wakefield--out there in the Middle West. I ran away from
home, and--"

She hesitated, blanched, blushed, skipped over the years she tried not
to think of and managed never to speak of. She came down to:

"Well, anyway, at last I was in Berlin--on the stage--"

"You were an actress?" Polly gasped.

Marie Louise confessed, "Well, I'd hardly say that."

She told Polly what she had told Mr. Verrinder of the appearance of
Sir Joseph and Lady Webling, of their thrill at her resemblance to
their dead daughter, of their plea that she leave the stage and enter
their family, of her new life, and the outbreak of the war.

Major Widdicombe pounded on the door and said: "Are you girls going to
talk all night? I've got to get up at seven and save the country."

Polly cried to him, "Go away," and to Marie Louise, "Go on."

Marie Louise began again, but just as she reached the first suspicions
of Sir Joseph's loyalty she remembered the oath she had plighted to
Verrinder and stopped short.

"I forgot! I can't!"

Polly groaned: "Oh, my God! You're not going to stop there! I loathe
serials."

Marie Louise shook her head. "If only I could tell you; but I just
can't! That's all; I can't!"

Polly turned her eyes up in despair. "Well, I might as well go to bed,
I suppose. But I sha'n't sleep a wink. Tell me one thing, though. You
weren't really a German spy, were you?"

"No, no! Of course not! I loathe everything German."

"Well, let the rest rest, then. So long as Lady Clifton-Wyatt is a
liar I can stand the strain. If you had been a spy, I suppose I'd have
to shoot you or something; but so long as you're not, you don't budge
out of this house. Is that understood?"

Marie Louise nodded with a pathetic gratitude, and Polly stamped a
kiss on her brow like a notarial seal.



CHAPTER VIII


The next morning's paper announced that spring had officially arrived
and been recognized at the Capitol--a certain Senator had taken off
his wig. Washington accepted this as the sure sign that the weather
was warm. It would not be officially autumn till that wig fell back
into place.

There were less formal indications: for instance, the annual
flower-duel between the two terraces on Massachusetts Avenue. The
famous Embassy Terrace forsythias began it, and flaunted little
fringes of yellow glory. The slopes of the Louise Home replied by
setting their magnolia-trees on fire with flowers like lamps, flowers
that hurried out ahead of their own leaves and then broke and covered
the ground with great petals of shattered porcelain. The Embassy
Terrace put out lamps of its own closer to the ground, but more
gorgeous--irises in a row of blue, blue footlights.

The Louise Home, where gentlewomen of better days, ambassadresses of
an earlier régime, kept their state, had the last word, the word that
could not be bettered, for it uttered wistaria, wistful lavender
clusters weeping from the trellises in languorous grace.

Marie Louise, looking from her open window in Rosslyn, felt in the
wind a sense of stroking fingers. The trees were brisk with hope. The
river went its way in a more sparkling flow. The air blew from the
very fountains of youth with a teasing blarney. She thought of Ross
Davidge and smiled tenderly to remember his amiable earnestness. But
she frowned to remember his engagement with Lady Clifton-Wyatt. She
wondered what excuse she could invent to checkmate that woman.

Suddenly inspiration came to her. She remembered that she had
forgotten to pay Davidge for the seat he surrendered her in the
chair-car. She telephoned him at his hotel. He was out. She pursued
him by wire travel till she found him in an office of the Shipping
Board. He talked on the corner of a busy man's desk. She heard the
busy man say with a taunting voice, "A lady for you, Davidge."

She could hear the embarrassment in his voice. She was in for it now,
and she felt silly when she explained why she bothered him. But she
was stubborn, too. When he understood, he laughed with the constraint
of a man bandying enforced gallantries on another man's telephone.

"I'd hate to be as honest as all that."

"It's not honesty," she persisted. "It's selfishness. I can't rest
while the debt is on my mind."

He was perplexed. "I've got to see several men on the Shipping Board.
There's a big fight on between the wooden-ship fellows and the
steel-ship men, and I'm betwixt and between 'em. I won't have time to
run out to see you."

"I shouldn't dream of asking you. I was coming in to town, anyway."

"Oh! Well, then--well--er--when can I meet you?"

"Whenever you say! The Willard at--When shall you be free?"

"Not before four and then only for half an hour."

"Four it is."

"Fine! Thank you ever so much. I'll buy me a lot of steel with all
that money you owe me."

Marie Louise put up the receiver. People have got so used to the
telephone that they can see by it. Marie Louise could visualize
Davidge angry with embarrassment, confronting the important man whose
office he had desecrated with this silly hammockese. She felt that she
had made herself a nuisance and lost a trick. She had taken a deuce
with her highest trump and had not captured the king.

Furthermore, to keep Davidge from meeting Lady Clifton-Wyatt would be
only to-day's battle. There would still be to-morrows and the
day-afters. Lady Clifton-Wyatt had declared herself openly hostile to
Marie Louise, and would get her sooner or later. Flight from
Washington would be the only safety.

But Marie Louise did not want to leave Washington. She loved
Washington and the opportunities it offered a woman to do important
work in the cosmopolitan whirl of its populace. But she could not live
on at Polly Widdicombe's forever.

Marie Louise decided that her hour had struck. She must find a nook of
her own. And she would have to live in it all by herself. Who was
there to live with? She felt horribly deserted in life. She had looked
at numerous houses and apartments from time to time. Apartments were
costlier and fewer than houses. Since she was doomed to live alone,
anyway, she might as well have a house. Her neighbors would more
easily be kept aloof.

She sought a real-estate agent, Mr. Hailstorks, of the sort known as
affable. But the dwellings he had to show were not even that. Places
she had found not altogether odious before were rented now. Places
that her heart went out to to-day proved to have been rented
yesterday.

Finally she ran across a residence of a sort. She sighed to Mr.
Hailstorks:

"Well, a carpenter made it--so let it pass for a house. I'll take it
if it has a floor. I'm like Gelett Burgess: 'I don't so much care for
a door, but this crawling around without touching the ground is
getting to be quite a bore.'"

"Yes, ma'am," said Mr. Hailstorks, bewilderedly.

He unlocked the door of somebody's tenantless ex-home with its lonely
furniture, and Marie Louise intruded, as one does, on the chairs,
rugs, pictures, and vases that other people have been born with, have
achieved, or have had thrust upon them. She wondered, as one does,
what sort of beings they could have been that had selected such things
to live among, and what excuse they had had for them.

Mr. Hailstorks had a surprise in store for her. He led her to the rear
of the house and raised a shade. Instead of the expectable back yard,
Marie Louise was startled to see a noble landscape leap into view. The
house loomed over a precipitous descent into a great valley. A stream
ran far below, and then the cliffs rose again opposite in a succession
of uplifting terraces that reminded her somehow of Richmond Hill
superbly built up above the silver Thames.

"Whatever is all that?" she cried.

"Rock Creek Park, ma'am," said Mr. Hailstorks, who had a sincere
real-estately affection for parks, since they raised the price of
adjoining property and made renting easier.

"And what's the price of all this grandeur?"

"Only three hundred a month," said Mr. Hailstorks.

"Only!" gasped Marie Louise.

"It will be four hundred in a week or two--yes ma'am," said Mr.
Hailstorks.

So Marie Louise seized it before its price rose any farther.

She took a last look at Rock Creek Park, henceforth her private
game-preserve. As she stared, an idea came to her. She needed one. The
park, it occurred to her, was an excellent wilderness to get lost
in--with Ross Davidge.

                  *       *       *       *       *

She was late to her meeting with Davidge--not unintentionally. He was
waiting on the steps of the hotel, smoking, when she drove up in the
car she had bought for her Motor Corps work.

He said what she hoped he would say:

"I didn't know you drove so well."

She quoted a popular phrase: "'You don't know the half of it, dearie.'
Hop in, and I'll show you."

He thought of Lady Clifton-Wyatt, and Marie Louise knew he thought of
her. But he was not hero or coward enough to tell a woman that he had
an engagement with another woman. She pretended to have forgotten that
he had told her, though she could think of little else. She whisked
round the corner of I Street, or Eye Street, and thence up Sixteenth
Street, fast and far.

She was amazed at her own audacity, and Davidge could not make her
out. She had a scared look that puzzled him. She was really thinking
that she was the most unconscionable kidnapper that ever ran off with
some other body's child. He could hardly dun her for the money, and
she had apparently forgotten it again.

They were well to the north when she said:

"Do you know Rock Creek Park?"

"No, I've never been in it."

"Would you like a glimpse? I think it's the prettiest park in the
world."

She looked at her watch with that twist of the wrist now becoming
almost universal and gasped:

"Oh, dear! I must turn back. But it's just about as short to go
through the park. I mustn't make you late to Lady Clifton-Wyatt's
tea."

He could find absolutely nothing to say to that except, "It's mighty
pretty along here." She turned into Blagdon Road and coasted down the
long, many-turning dark glade. At the end she failed to steer to the
south. The creek itself crossed the road. She drove the car straight
through its lilting waters. There was exhilaration in the splashing
charge across the ford. Then the road wound along the bank, curling
and writhing with it gracefully through thick forests, over bridges
and once more right through the bright flood. The creek scrambling
among its piled-up boulders was too gay to suggest any amorous mood,
and Marie Louise did not quite dare to drive the car down to the
water's edge at any of the little green plateaus where picnics were
being celebrated on the grass.

"I always lose my way in this park," she said. "I expect I'm lost
now."

She began to regret Davidge's approaching absence, with a strange
loneliness. He was becoming tenderly necessary to her. She sighed,
hardly meaning to speak aloud, "Too bad you're going away so soon."

He was startled to find that his departure meant something to her. He
spoke with an affectionate reassurance.

She stopped the car on a lofty plateau where several ladies and
gentlemen were exercising their horses at hurdle-jumping. The élan of
rush, plunge and recovery could not excite Mamise now.

"I'll tell you what we'll do. The next time I come to Washington you
drive me over to my shipyard and I'll show you the new boat and the
new yard for the rest of the flock."

"That would be glorious. I should like to know something about
ships."

"I can teach you all I know in a little while."

"You know all there is to know, don't you?"

"Lord help us, I should say not! I knew a little about the old
methods, but they're all done away with. The fabricated ship is an
absolute novelty. The old lines are gone, and the old methods. What
few ship-builders we had are trying to forget what they know.
Everybody is green. We had to find out for ourselves and pass it along
to the foremen, and they hand it out to the laborers.

"The whole art is in a confusion. There is going to be a ghastly lot
of mistakes and waste and scandal, but if we win out there'll be such
a cloudburst that the Germans will think it's raining ships. Niagara
Falls will be nothing to the cascade of iron hulls going overboard.
Von Tirpitz with his ruthless policy will be like the old woman who
tried to sweep the tide back with a broom."

He grew so fervent in his vision of the new creation that he hardly
saw the riders as they stormed the hurdles. Marie Louise took fire
from his glow and forgot the petty motive that had impelled her to
bring him to this place. Suddenly he realized how shamelessly eloquent
he had been, and subsided with a slump.

"What a bore I am to tell all this to a woman!"

She rose at that. "The day has passed when a man can apologize for
talking business to a woman. I've been in England for years, you know,
and the women over there are doing all the men's work and getting
better wages at it than the men ever did. After the war they'll never
go back to their tatting and prattle. I'm going to your shipyard and
have a look-in, but not the way a pink debutante follows a naval
officer over a battle-ship, staring at him and not at the works. I'm
going on business, and if I like ship-building, I may take it up."

"Great!" he laughed, and slapped her hand where it lay on the wheel.
He apologized again for his roughness.

"I'll forgive anything except an apology," she said.

As she looked proudly down at the hand he had honored with a blow as
with an accolade she saw by her watch that it was after six.

"Great Heavens! it's six and more!" she cried. "Lady Clifton-Wyatt
will never forgive you--or me. I'll take you to her at once."

"Never mind Lady Clifton-Wyatt," he said. "But I've got another
engagement for dinner--with a man, at half past six. I wish I
hadn't."

They were drifting with the twilight into an elegiac mood, suffering
the sweet sorrow of parting.

The gloaming steeped the dense woods, and the romance of sunset and
gathering night saddened the business man's soul, but wakened a new
and unsuspected woman in Marie Louise.

Her fierce imaginations were suddenly concerned with conquests of
ambition, not of love. So fresh a realm was opened to her that she was
herself renewed and restored to that boyish-girlish estate of young
womanhood before love has educated it to desire and the slaveries of
desire. The Aphrodite that lurks in every woman had been put to flight
by the Diana that is also there.

Davidge on the other hand had warmed toward Marie Louise suddenly, as
he saw how ardent she could be. He had known her till now only in her
dejected and terrified, distracted humors. Now he saw her on fire, and
love began to blaze within him.

He felt his first impulse to throw an arm about her and draw her to
his breast, but though the solitude was complete and the opportunity
perfect, he saw that she was in no spirit for dalliance. There is no
colder chaperon for a woman than a new ambition to accomplish
something worth while.

As they drew up at the New Willard she was saying:

"Telephone the minute you come to town again. Good-by. I'm late to
dinner."

She meant that she was late to life, late to a career.

Davidge stared at her in wonderment as she bent to throw the lever
into first speed. She roughed it in her impatience, and the growl of
the gear drowned the sound of another man's voice calling her name.
This man ran toward her, but she did not notice him and got away
before he could overtake her.

Davidge was jostled by him as he ran, and noted that he called Miss
Webling "Mees Vapelink." The Teutonic intonation did not fall
pleasantly on the American ear at that time. Washington was a
forbidden city to Germanic men and soon would banish the enemy women,
too.

The stranger took refuge on the sidewalk, and his curses were snarly
with the Teutonic _r_. Davidge studied him and began to remember him.
He had seen him with Marie Louise somewhere. Suddenly his mind,
ransacking the filing-cabinet of his memory, turned up a picture of
Nicky Easton at the side of Marie Louise at the dinner in Sir Joseph's
home. He could not remember the name, but a man has a ready label for
anybody he hates.

He began to worry now. Who was this spick foreigner who ran hooting
after her? It was not like Davidge to be either curious or suspicious.
But love was beginning its usual hocus-pocus with character and
turning a tired business man into a restless swain.

Davidge resented Easton's claim on Marie Louise, whatever it was, as
an invasion of some imagined property right of his own, or at least of
some option he had secured somehow. He was alarmed at the Teutonic
accent of the interloper. He began to take heed of how little he knew
of Marie Louise, after all. He recalled Sir Joseph Webling's German
accent. An icy fear chilled him.

His important business parley was conducted with an absent-mindedness
that puzzled his host, the eminent iron-master, Jacob Cruit, who had
exchanged an income of a million a year and dictatorial powers for a
governmental wage of one dollar per annum, no authority, no gratitude,
and endless trouble.

Davidge's head was buzzing with thoughts in which Cruit had no part:

"Can she be one of those horrible women who have many lovers? Is she a
woman of affairs? What is all this mystery about her? What was she so
afraid of the night she would not stop at Mrs. Widdicombe's? Why was
she so upset by the appearance of Lady Clifton-Wyatt? Why was she in
such a hurry to get me away from Mrs. Prothero's dinner, and to keep
me from keeping my engagement with Lady Clifton-Wyatt? Why so much
German association?"

He thought of dozens of explanations, most of them wild, but none of
them so wild as the truth--that Marie Louise was cowering under the
accusation of being a German agent.

He resolved that he would forget Marie Louise, discharge her from the
employment of his thoughts. Yet that night as he lay cooking in his
hot berth he thought of Marie Louise instead of ships. None of his
riot of thoughts was so fantastic as the fact that she was even then
thinking of ships and not of him.

That night Marie Louise ransacked the library that the owner of
Grinden Hall had left with the other furniture. Some member of the
family had been a cadet at Annapolis, and his old text-books littered
the shelves. Marie Louise selected and bore away an armload, not of
novels, but of books whose very backs had repelled her before. They
were the very latest romance to her now.

The authors of _An Elementary Manual for the Deviation of the
Compass in Iron Ships_, _The Marine Steam-engine_, and _An Outline
of Ship-building_, _Theoretical and Practical_, could hardly have
dreamed that their works would one night go up-stairs in the embrace
of a young woman's arms. The books would have struck a naval architect
as quaintly old-fashioned, but to Marie Louise they were as full of
news as the latest evening extra. The only one she could understand
with ease was Captain Samuels's _From the Forecastle to the
Cabin_, and she was thrilled by his account of the struggles of his
youth, his mutinies, his champion of the Atlantic, the semi-clipper
_Dreadnaught_, but most of all, by his glowing picture of the decay of
American marine glory.

She read till she could sit up no longer. Then she undressed and
dressed for sleep, snapped on the reading-lamp, and took up another
book, Bowditch's _American Navigation_. It was the "Revised Edition of
1883," but it was fresh sensation to her. She lay prone like the
reading Magdalen in the picture, her hair pouring down over her
shoulders, her bosom pillowed on the volume beneath her eyes.



CHAPTER IX


Passengers arriving at Washington in the early morning may keep their
cubbyholes until seven, no later. By half past seven they must be off
the car. Jake Nuddle was an ugly riser. He had always regarded the
alarm-clock as the most hateful of all the inventions of capitalists
to enslave the poor. Jake had strange ideas of capitalists, none
stranger than that they are luxurious persons who sleep late and knock
off work early.

Waking Jake was one of the most dangerous of his wife's prerogatives.
On this morning, if he had been awaker he would have bitten off the
black hand that reached into his berth and twitched the sheet at seven
of a non-working day. The voice that murmured appealingly through the
curtains, "S'em o'clock, please!" did not please Jake at all.

He cursed his annoying and nudging wife a few times heartily, then
began to make his acutely unbeautiful toilet. In the same small
wheeled hotel capitalists, statesmen, matrons, and misses were
dressing in quarters just as strait. Jake and his wife had always got
in each other's way, but never more cumbersomely than now. Jake found
his wife's stockings when he sought his socks. Her corset-strings
seemed to be everywhere. Whatever he laid hold of brought along her
corset. He thrust his head and arms into something white and came out
of it sputtering:

"That's your damned shimmy. Where's my damned shirt?"

Somehow they made it at last, got dressed and washed somehow and left
the caravansary. Mrs. Nuddle carried the heavier baggage. They had
breakfast at the lunch-counter; then they went out and looked at the
Capitol. It inspired in Jake's heart no national reverence. He said to
his awestruck wife:

"There's where that gang of robbers, the Congersmen, meet and agree
on their hold-ups. They're all the hirelings of the capitalists.

"They voted for this rotten war without consulting the people. They
didn't dare consult 'em. They knew the people wasn't in favor of no
such crime. But the Congersmen get their orders from Wall Street, and
them brokers wanted the war because they owned so much stock that
wouldn't be worth the paper it was printed on unless the United States
joined the Allies and collected for 'em off Germany."

It was thus that Jake and his kind regarded the avalanche of
horrific woe that German ambition spilled upon the world and kept
rolling down from the mountain-tops of heaped-up munitions. It was
thus that they contemplated the mangled villages of innocent Belgium,
the slavery-drives in the French towns, the windrows of British
dead, the increasing lust of conquest, which grew by what it fed
on, till at last America, driven frantic by the endless carnage,
took up belatedly the gigantic task of throwing back the avalanche
across the mountain to the other side before it engulfed and
ruined the world. While Europe agonized in torments unthinkable,
immeasurable, and yet mysteriously endurable only because there
was no escape visible, the Jake Nuddles, illiterate and literate,
croaked their batrachian protest against capital, bewailed the lot
of imaginary working-men, and belied the life of real working-men.

Staring at the Capitol, which means so much nobility to him who has
the nobility to understand the dream that raised it, he burlesqued its
ideals. Cruel, corrupt, lazy, and sloven of soul, he found there what
he knew best because it was his own. Aping a sympathy he could not
feel, he grew maudlin:

"So they drag our poor boys from their homes in droves and send 'em
off to the slaughter-house in France--all for money! Anything to grind
down the honest workman into the dust, no matter how many mothers'
hearts they break!"

Jake was one of those who never express sympathy for anybody except in
the course of a tirade against somebody else. He had small use for
wives, mothers, or children except as clubs to pound rich men with.
His wife, who knew him all too well, was not impressed by his
eloquence. Her typical answer to his typical tirade was, "I wonder how
on earth we're goin' to find Mamise."

Jake groaned at the anticlimax to his lofty flight, but he realized
that the main business before the house was what his wife propounded.

He remembered seeing an Information Bureau sign in the station. He had
learned from the newspaper in which he had seen Mamise's picture that
she was visiting Major Widdicombe. He had written the name down on the
tablets of his memory, and his first plan was to find Major
Widdicombe. Jake had a sort of wolfish cunning in tracing people he
wanted to meet. He could always find anybody who might lend him money.
He had mysterious difficulties in tracing some one who could give him
work.

He left his wife to simmer in the station while he set forth on a
scouting expedition. After much travel he found at last the office of
the Ordnance Department, in which Major Widdicombe toiled, and he
appeared at length at Major Widdicombe's desk.

Jake was cautious. He would not state his purpose. He hardly dared to
claim relationship with Miss Webling until he was positive that she
was his sister-in-law. Noting Jake's evasiveness, the Major discreetly
evaded the request for his guest's address. He would say no more
than:

"Miss Webling is coming down to lunch with me at the--that is with my
wife. I'll tell her you're looking for her; if she wants to meet you,
I'll tell you, if you come back here."

"All right, mucher bliged," said Jake. Baffled and without further
recourse, he left the Major's presence, since there seemed to be
nothing else to do. But once outside, he felt that there had been
something highly unsatisfactory about the parley. He decided to
imitate Mary's little lamb and to hang about the building till the
Major should appear. In an hour or two he was rewarded by seeing
Widdicombe leave the door and step into an automobile. Jake heard him
tell the driver, "The Shoreham."

Jake walked to the hotel and saw Marie Louise seated at a table by a
window. He recognized her by her picture and was duly triumphant. He
was ready to advance and demand recognition. Then he realized that he
could make no claim on her without his awful wife's corroboration. He
took a street-car back to the station and found his nominal helpmeet
sitting just where he had left her.

Abbie had bought no newspaper, book, or magazine to while away the
time with. She was not impatient of idleness. It was luxury enough
just not to be warshin' clo'es, cookin' vittles, or wrastlin' dishes.
She took a dreamy content in studying the majesty of the architecture,
but her interest in it was about that of a lizard basking on a fallen
column in a Greek peristyle. It was warm and spacious and nobody
disturbed her drowsy beatitude.

When Jake came and summoned her she rose like a rheumatic old
househound and obeyed her master's voice.

Jake gave her such a vote of confidence as was implied in letting her
lug the luggage. It was cheaper for her to carry it than for him to
store it in the parcel-room. It caused the fellow-passengers in the
street-car acute inconvenience, but Jake was superior to public
opinion of his wife. In such a homely guise did the fates approach
Miss Webling.



CHAPTER X


The best place for a view is in one's back yard; then it is one's own.
If it is in the front yard, then the house is only part of the
public's view.

In London Marie Louise had lived at Sir Joseph Webling's home, its
gray, fog-stained, smoked-begrimed front flush with the pavement. But
back of the house was a high-walled garden with a fountain that never
played. There was a great rug of English-green grass, very green all
winter and still greener all summer. At an appropriate spot was a
tree; a tea-table sat under it; in blossom-time it sprinkled pink
petals on the garden hats of the women; and on the grass they fell, to
twist Tennyson, softlier than tired eyelids on tired eyes.

So Marie Louise adored her new home with its unpromising entrance and
its superb surprise from the rear windows. When she broke the news to
Polly Widdicombe, that she was leaving her, they had a good fight over
it. Yet Polly could hardly insist that Marie Louise stay with her
forever, especially when Marie Louise had a perfectly good home of her
own.

Polly went along for a morning of reconstruction work. There were
pictures, chairs, cushions, and knickknacks that simply had to be
hidden away. The original tenants evidently had the theory that a bare
space on a wall or a table was as indecent as on a person's person.

They had taken crude little chromos and boxed them in gaudy frames,
many of whose atrocities were aggravated by panels of plush of a color
that could hardly be described by any other name than fermented prune.
Over the corner of these they had thrown "throws" or drapes of
malicious magenta horribly figured in ruthless incompatibilities.

Chairs of unexplainable framework were upholstered with fabrics of
studied delirium. Every mantel was an exhibit of models of what not to
do. When Henry James said that Americans had no end of taste, but most
of it was bad, he must have based his conclusions on such a
conglomerate as this.

Polly and Marie Louise found some of the furniture bad enough to be
amusing. But they toted a vanload of it into closets and storerooms.
Where the pictures came away they left staring spaces of unfaded
wall-paper. Still, they were preferable to the pictures.

By noon the women were exhausted. They washed their dust-smutted hands
and faces and exclaimed upon the black water they left. But the
exercise had given them appetite, and when Marie Louise locked the
front door she felt all the comfort of a householder. She had a home
of her very own to lock up, and though she had roamed through
pleasures and palaces, she agreed that, be it ever so horrible,
there's no place like home.

She and Polly were early to their luncheon engagement with Major
Widdicombe. Their appetites disputed the clock. Polly decided to
telephone her husband for Heaven's sake to come at once to her
rescue.

While Polly was telephoning Marie Louise sat waiting on a divan. Her
muscles were so tired that she grew nearly as placidly animal as her
sister in the Pennsylvania Station. She was as different in every
other way as possible. Her life, her environment, her ambitions, had
been completely alien to anything Mrs. Nuddle had known. She had been
educated and evolved by entirely different joys and sorrows, fears and
successes.

Mrs. Nuddle had been afraid that her husband would beat her again, or
kill one of the children in his rage, or get himself sent to prison or
to the chair; Mrs. Nuddle had been afraid that the children would be
run over in the street, would pull a boilerful of boiling water over
onto them, or steal, or go wrong in any of the myriad ways that
children have of going wrong. Mrs. Nuddle's ecstasies were a job well
done, a word of praise from a customer, a chance to sit down, an
interval without pain or worry when her children were asleep, or when
her husband was working and treating her as well as one treats an old
horse.

Of such was the kingdom of Mrs. Nuddle.

Marie Louise had dwelt in a world no more and no less harrowing, but
infinitely unlike. The two sisters were no longer related to each
other by any ties except blood kinship. Mrs. Nuddle was a good woman
gone wrong, Marie Louise a goodish woman gone variously; Mrs. Nuddle a
poor advertisement of a life spent in honest toil, early rising, early
bedding, churchgoing, and rigid economy; Marie Louise a most
attractive evidence of how much depends on a careful carriage, a
cultivated taste in clothes, and an elegant acquaintance.

At last, after years of groping toward each other, the sisters were to
be brought together. But there was to be an intervention. Even while
Marie Louise sat relaxed in a fatigue that she would have called
contentment trouble was stealing toward her.

The spider who came and sat beside this Miss Muffet was Nicky Easton.
He frightened her, but he would not let her run away.

As he dropped to her side she rose with a gasp, but he pressed her
back with a hasty grip on her arm and a mandatory prayer:

"Wait once, pleass."

The men who had shadowed Marie Louise had months before given her up
as hopelessly correct. But guardian angels were still provided for
Nicky Easton; and one of them, seeing this meeting, took Marie Louise
back into the select coterie of the suspects.

There's no cure for your bodily aches and pains like terror. It lifts
the paralytic from his bed, makes the lame scurry, and gives the blind
eyes enough for running. Marie Louise's fatigue fell from her like a
burden whose straps are slit.

When Nicky said: "I could not find you in New York. Now we are here we
can have a little talkink," she stammered: "Not here! Not now!"

"Why not, pleass?"

"I have an engagement--a friend--she has just gone to telephone a
moment."

"You are ashamed of me, then?"

She let him have it. "Yes!"

He winced at the slap in the face.

She went on: "Besides, she knows you. Her husband is an officer in the
army. I can't talk to you here."

"Where, then, and when?"

"Any time--any place--but here."

"Any time is no time. You tell me, or I stay now."

"Come to--to my house."

"You have a howiss, then?"

"Yes. I just took it to-day. I shall be there this afternoon--at
three, if you will go."

"Very goot. The address is--"

She gave it; he repeated it, mumbled, "At sree o'clock I am there,"
and glided away just as Polly returned.

They were eating a consommé madrilène when the Major arrived. He
dutifully ate what his wife had selected for him, and listened amiably
to what she had to tell him about her morning, though he was bursting
to tell her about his. Polly made a vivid picture of Marie Louise's
new home, ending with:

"Everything on God's earth in it except a piano and a book."

This reminded Marie Louise of the books she had read on ship-building,
and she asked if she might borrow them. Polly made a woeful face at
this.

"My dear! When a woman starts to reading up on a subject a man is
interested in, she's lost--and so is he. Beware of it, my dear."

Tom demurred: "Go right on, Marie Louise, so that you can take an
intelligent interest in what your husband is working on."

"My husband!" said Marie Louise. "Aren't you both a trifle premature?"

Polly went glibly on: "Don't listen to Tom, my dear. What does he know
about what a man wants his wife to take an intelligent interest in?
Once a woman knows about her husband's business, he's finished with
her and ready for the next. Tom's been trying to tell me for ten years
what he's working at, and I haven't the faintest idea yet. It always
gives him something to hope for. When he comes home of evenings he can
always say, 'Perhaps to-night's the night when she'll listen.' But
once you listen intelligently and really understand, he's through with
you, and he'll quit you for some pink-cheeked ignoramus who hasn't
heard about it yet."

Marie Louise, being a woman, knew how to get her message to another
woman; the way seems to be to talk right through her talk. The acute
creatures have ears to hear with and mouths to talk with, and they
apparently find no difficulty in using both at the same time.
Somewhere along about the middle of Polly's discourse Marie Louise
began to answer it before it was finished. Why should she wait when
she knew what was coming? So she said contemporaneously and
covocally:

"But I'm not going to marry a ship-builder, my dear. Don't be absurd!
I'm not planning to take an intelligent interest in Mr. Davidge's
business. I'm planning to take an intelligent interest in my own. I'm
going to be a ship-builder myself, and I want to learn the A B C's."

They finished that argument at the same time and went on together down
the next stretch in a perfect team:

"Oh, well of course, if            "Mr. Davidge tells me,"
that's the case," asserted         Marie Louise explained, "that
Polly, "then you're quite          women are needed in ship-
crazy--unless you're simply        building, and that anybody
hunting for a new sensation.       can learn. In fact, every-
And on that score I'll admit       body has to, anyway; so
that it sounds rather interest-    I've got as good a chance as
ing. I may take a whack at         a man. I'm as strong as a
it myself. I'm quite fed up        horse. Fine! Come along,
on bandages and that sort of       and we'll build a U-boat
thing. Get me a job in the         chaser together. Mr. Davidge
same factory or whatever           would be delighted to
they call it. Will you?"           have you, I'm sure."

This was arrant hubbub to the mere man who was not capable of carrying
on a conversation except by the slow, primitive methods of Greek
drama, strophe and antistrophe, one talking while the other listened,
then _vice versa_.

So he had time to remember that he had something to remember, and to
dig it up. He broke in on the dialogue:

"By the way, that reminds me, Marie Louise. There's a man in town
looking for you."

"Looking for me!" Marie Louise gasped, alert as an antelope at once.
"What was his name?"

"I can't seem to recall it. I'll have it in a minute. He didn't
impress me very favorably, so I didn't tell him you were living with
us."

Polly turned on Tom: "Come along, you poor nut! I hate riddles, and so
does Marie Louise."

"That's it!" Tom cried. "_Riddle--Nuddle_. His name is Nuddle. Do you
know a man named Nuddle?"

The name conveyed nothing to Marie Louise except a suspicion that Mr.
Verrinder had chosen some pseudonym.

"What was his nationality?" she asked. "English?"

"I should say not! He was as Amurrican as a piece of pungkin pie."

Marie Louise felt a little relieved, but still at sea. When Widdicombe
asked what message he should take back her curiosity led her to brave
her fate and know the worst:

"Tell him to come to my house at any time this afternoon--no, not
before five. I have some shopping to do, and the servants to engage."

She did not ask Polly to go with her, and Polly took the hint conveyed
in Marie Louise's remark as they left the dining-room, "I've a little
telephoning to do."

Polly went her way, and Marie Louise made a pretext of telephoning.

Major Widdicombe did not see Jake Nuddle as he went down the steps,
for the reason that Jake saw him first and drew his wife aside. He
wondered what had become of Marie Louise.

Jake and his wife hung about nonplussed for a few minutes, till Marie
Louise came out. She had waited only to make sure that Tom and Polly
got away. When she came down the steps she cast a casual glance at
Jake and her sister, who came toward her eagerly. But she assumed that
they were looking at some one else, for they meant nothing to her
eyes.

She had indeed never seen this sister before. The sister who waddled
toward her was not the sister she had left in Wakefield years before.
That sister was young and lean and a maid. Marriage and hard work and
children had swaddled this sister in bundles of strange flesh and
drawn the face in new lines.

Marie Louise turned her back on her, but heard across her shoulder the
poignant call:

"Mamise!"

That voice was the same. It had not lost its own peculiar cry, and
it reverted the years and altered the scene like a magician's
"Abracadabra!"

Marie Louise swung round just in time to receive the full brunt of her
sister's charge. The repeated name identified the strange-looking
matron as the girl grown old, and Marie Louise gathered her into her
arms with a fierce homesickness. Her loneliness had found what it
needed. She had kinfolk now, and she sobbed: "Abbie darling! My
darling Abbie!" while Abbie wept: "Mamise! Oh, my poor little
Mamise!"

A cluster of cab-drivers wondered what it was all about, but Jake
Nuddle felt triumphant. Marie Louise looked good to him as he
looked her over, and for the nonce he was content to have the slim,
round fashionable creature enveloped in his wife's arms for a
sister-in-law.

Abbie, a little homelier than ever with her face blubbery and
tear-drenched, turned to introduce what she had drawn in the
matrimonial lottery.

"Mamise!" she said. "I want you should meet my husbin'."

"I'm delighted!" said Mamise, before she saw her sister's fate. She
was thorough-trained if not thorough-born, and she took the shock
without reeling.

Jake's hand was not as rough so it ought to have been, and his
cordiality was sincere as he growled:

"Pleaster meecher, Mamise."

He was ready already with her first name, but she had nothing to call
him by. It never occurred to Abbie that her sister would not
instinctively know a name so familiar to Mrs. Nuddle as Mr. Nuddle,
and it was a long while before Marie Louise managed to pick it up and
piece it together.

Her embarrassment at meeting Jake was complete. She asked:

"Where are you living--here in Washington?"

"Laws, no!" said Abbie; and that reminded her of the bundles she had
dropped at the sight of Mamise. They had played havoc with the
sidewalk traffic, but she hurried to regain them.

Jake could be the gentleman when there was somebody looking who
counted. So he checked his wife with amazement at the preposterousness
of her carrying bundles while Sir Walter Raleigh was at hand. He
picked them up and brought them to Marie Louise's feet, disgusted at
the stupid amazement of his wife, who did not have sense enough to
conceal it. Marie Louise was growing alarmed at the perfect plebeiance
of her kith. She was unutterably ashamed of herself for noticing such
things, but the eye is not to blame for what it can't help seeing, nor
the ear for what is forced upon it. She had a feeling that the first
thing to do was to get her sister in out of the rain of glances from
the passers-by.

"You must come to me at once," she said. "I've just taken a house.
I've got no servants in yet, and you'll have to put up with it as it
is."

Abbie gasped at the "servants." She noted the authority with which
Marie Louise beckoned a chauffeur and pointed to the bundles, which he
hastened to seize.

Abbie was overawed by the grandeur of her first automobile and showed
it on her face. She saw many palaces on the way and expected Marie
Louise to stop at any of them. When the car drew up at Marie Louise's
home Abbie was bitterly disappointed; but when she got inside she
found her dream of paradise. Marie Louise was distressed at Abbie's
loud praise of the general effect and her unfailing instinct for
picking out the worst things on the walls or the floors. This distress
caused a counter-distress of self-rebuke.

Jake was on his dignity at first, but finally he unbent enough to take
off his coat, hang it over a chair, and stretch himself out on a divan
whose ulterior maroon did not disturb his repose in the least.

"This is what I call something like," he said; and then, "And now,
Mamise, set in and tell us all about yourself."

This was the last thing Mamise wanted to do, and she evaded with a
plea:

"I can wait. I want to hear all about you, Abbie darling. How are you,
and how long have you been married, and where do you live?"

"Goin' on eight years come next October, and we got three childern. I
been right poorly lately. Don't seem to take as much interest in
worshin' as I useter."

"Washing!" Marie Louise exclaimed. "You don't wash, do you? That is, I
mean to say--professionally?"

"Yes, I worsh. Do right smart of work, too."

Marie Louise was overwhelmed. She had a hundred thousand dollars, and
her sister was a--washerwoman! It was intolerable. She glanced at
Jake.

"But Mr.--your husband--"

"Oh, Jake, he works--off and on. But he ain't got what you might call
a hankerin' for it. He can take work or let it alone. I can't say as
much for him when it comes to licker. Fact is, some the women say,
'Why, Mrs. Nuddle, how do you ever--'"

"Your name isn't--it isn't Nuddle, is it?" Marie Louise broke in.

"Sure it is. What did you think it was?"

So the sleeping brother-in-law was the mysterious inquirer. That
solved one of her day's puzzles and solved it very tamely. So many of
life's mysteries, like so many of fiction's, peter out at the end.
They don't sustain.

Marie Louise still belonged to the obsolescent generation that
believed it a husband's duty to support his wife by his own labor. The
thought of her sister supporting a worthless husband by her own toil
was odious. The first task was to get Jake to work. It was only
natural that she should think of her own new mania.

She spoke so eagerly that she woke Jake when she said: "I have it! Why
doesn't your husband go in for ship-building?"

Marie Louise told him about Davidge and what Davidge had said of the
need of men. She was sure that she could get him a splendid job, and
that Mr. Davidge would do anything for her.

Jake was about to rebuke such impudence as it deserved, but a thought
struck him, and he chewed it over. Among the gang of idealists he
consorted with, or at least salooned with, the dearest ambition of all
was to turn America's dream of a vast fleet of ships into a nightmare
of failure. In order to secure "just recognition" for the workman they
would cause him to be recognized as both a loafer and a traitor--that
was their ideal of labor.

As Marie Louise with unwitting enthusiasm rhapsodized over the
shipyard Jake's interest kindled. To get into a shipyard just growing,
and spread his doctrines among the men as they came in, to bring off
strikes and to play tricks with machinery everywhere, to wreck
launching-ways so that hulls that escaped all other attacks would
crack through and stick--it was a Golconda of opportunities for this
modern conquistador. He could hardly keep his face straight till he
heard Marie Louise out. He fooled her entirely with his ardor; and
when he asked, "Do you think your gentleman friend, this man Davidge,
would really give me a job?" she cried, with more enthusiasm than
tact:

"I know he would. He'd give anybody a job. Besides, I'm going to take
one myself. And, Abbie honey, what would you say to your becoming a
ship-builder, too? It would be immensely easier and pleasanter than
washing clothes."

Before Abbie could recover the breath she lost at the picture of
herself as a builder of ships the door-bell rang. Abbie peeked and
whispered:

"It's a man."

"Do you suppose it's that feller Davidge?" said Jake.

"No, it's--it's--somebody else," said Marie Louise, who knew who it
was without looking.

She was at her wit's end now. Nicky Easton was at the door, and a
sister and a brother-in-law whose existence she had not suspected were
in the parlor.



CHAPTER XI


If anything is anybody's very own, it is surely his past, or
hers--particularly hers. But Nicky Easton was bringing one of the most
wretched chapters of Marie Louise's past to her very door. She did not
want to reopen it, especially not before her new-found family. One
likes to have a few illusions left for these reunions. So she said:

"Abbie darling, would you forgive me if I saw this--person alone?
Besides, you'll be wanting to get settled in your room, if Mr.--Ja--your
husband doesn't mind taking your things up."

Abbie had not been used to taking dismissals graciously. She had never
been to court and been permitted to retire. Besides, people who know
how to take an eviction gracefully usually know enough to get out
before they are put out. But Abbie had to be pushed, and she went,
heartbroken, disgraced, resentful. Jake sulked after her. They moved
like a couple of old flea-bitten mongrels spoken to sharply.

And of course they stole back to the head of the stairs and listened.

Nicky had his face made up for a butler, or at least a maid. When he
saw Marie Louise he had to undo his features, change his opening
oration, and begin all over again.

"It is zhoo yourself, then," he said.

"Yes. Come in, do. I have no servants yet."

"Ah!" he cooed, encouraged at once.

She squelched his hopes. "My sister and her husband are here,
however."

This astounded him so that he spoke in two languages at once: "Your
schwister! Since how long do you have a sester? And where did you
get?"

"I have always had her, but we haven't seen each other for years."

He gasped, "_Was Sie nicht sagen_!"

"And if you wouldn't mind not talking German--"

"_Recht so_. Excuse. Do I come in--no?"

She stepped back, and he went into the drawing-room. He smiled at what
he saw, and was polite, if cynical.

"You rent foornished?"

"Yes."

He waved her to a chair so that he might sit down.

"_Was giebt's neues_--er--what is the noose?"

"I have none. What is yours?"

"You mean you do not wish to tell. If I should commence once, I should
never stop. But we are both alife yet. That is always somethink. I was
never so nearly not."

Marie Louise could not withhold the protest:

"You saved yourself by betraying your friends."

"Well, I telled--I told only what the English knew already. If they
let me go for it, it was no use to kill everybody, should I?"

He was rather miserable about it, for he could see that she despised
him more for being an informer than for having something to inform. He
pleaded in extenuation:

"But I shall show how usefool I can be to my country. Those English
shall be sorry to let me go, and my people glad. And so shall you."

She studied him, and dreaded him, loathing his claim on her, longing
to order him never to speak again to her, yet strangely interested in
his future power for evil. The thought occurred to her that if she
could learn his new schemes she might thwart them. That would be some
atonement for what she had not prevented before. This inspiration
brightened her so suddenly and gave such an eagerness to her manner
that he saw the light and grew suspicious--a spy has to be, for he
carries a weapon that has only one cartridge in it.

Marie Louise waited for him to explain his purpose till the suspense
began to show; then she said, bluntly:

"What mischief are you up to now?"

"Mitschief--me?" he asked, all innocently.

"You said you wanted to see me."

"I always want to see you. You interest--my eyes--my heart--"

"Please don't." She said it with the effect of slamming a door.

She looked him full in the eyes angrily, then remembered her
curiosity. He saw her gaze waver with a double motive.

It is strange how people can fence with their glances, as if they were
emanations from the eyes instead of mere reflections of light back and
forth. But however it is managed, this man and this woman played their
stares like two foils feeling for an opening. At length he surrendered
and resolved to appeal:

"How do you feel about--about us?"

"Who are us?"

"We Germans."

"We are not Germans. I'm American."

"Then England is your greater enemy than Germany."

She wanted to smile at that, but she said:

"Perhaps."

He pleaded for his cause. "America ought not to have joined the war
against the _Vaterland_. It is only a few Americans--bankers who
lended money to England--who wish to fight us."

Up-stairs Jake's heart bounded. Here was a fellow-spirit. He listened
for Marie Louise's response; he caught the doubt in her tone. She
could not stomach such an absurdity:

"Bosh!" she said.

It sounded like "Boche!" And Nicky flushed.

"You have been in this Washington town too long. I think I shall go
now."

Marie Louise made no objection. She had not found out what he was up
to, but she was sick of duplicity, sick of the sight of him and all he
stood for. She did not even ask him to come again. She went to the
door with him and stood there a moment, long enough for the man who
was shadowing Nicky to identify her. She watched Nicky go and hoped
that she had seen the last of him. But up-stairs the great heart of
Jake Nuddle was seething with excitement. He ran to the front window,
caught a glimpse of Nicky, and hurried back down the stairs.

Abbie called out, "Where you goin'?"

Jake did not answer such a meddlesome question, but he said to Marie
Louise, as he brushed past her on the stairs:

"I'm going to the drug-store to git me some cigars."

Nicky paused on the curb, looking for a cab. He had dismissed his own,
hoping to spend a long while with Marie Louise. He saw that he was
not likely to pick up a cab in such a side-street, and so he walked on
briskly.

He was furious with Marie Louise. He had had hopes of her, and she had
fooled him. These Americans were no longer dependable.

And then he heard footsteps on the walk, quick footsteps that spelled
hurry. Nicky drew aside to let the speeder pass; but instead he heard
a constabular "Hay!" and his shoulder-blades winced.

It was only Jake Nuddle. Jake had no newspaper to sell, but he had an
idea for a collaboration which would bring him some of that easy money
the Germans were squandering like drunken sailors.

"You was just talkin' to my sister-in-law," said Jake.

"Ah, you are then the brother of Marie Louise?"

"Yep, and I couldn't help hearin' a little of what passed between
you."

Jake's slyness had a detective-like air in Nicky's anxious eyes. He
warned himself to be on guard. Jake said:

"I'm for Germany unanimous. I think it's a rotten shame for America to
go into this war. And some of us Americans are sayin' we won't stand
for it. We don't own no Congersmen; we're only the protelarriat, as
the feller says; but we're goin' to put this country on the bum, and
that's what old Kaiser Bill wants we should do, or I miss my guess,
hay?"

Nicky was cautious:

"How do you propose to help the All Highest?"

"Sabotodge."

"You interest me," said Nicky.

They had come to one of the circles that moon the plan of Washington.
Nicky motioned Jake to a bench, where they could command the approach
and be, like good children, seen and not heard. Jake outlined his
plan.

When Nicky Easton had rung Marie Louise's bell he had not imagined how
much help Marie Louise would render him in giving him the precious
privilege of meeting her unprepossessing brother-in-law; nor had she
dreamed what peril she was preparing for Davidge in planning to secure
for him and his shipyard the services of this same Jake, as lazy and
as amiable as any side-winder rattlesnake that ever basked in the
sunlit sand.



BOOK IV

AT THE SHIPYARD

[Illustration: There was something hallowed and awesome about it all. It
had a cathedral majesty.]



CHAPTER I


Davidge despised a man who broke his contracts. He broke one with
himself and despised himself. He broke his contract to ignore the
existence of Marie Louise. The next time he came to Washington he
sought her out. He called up the Widdicombe home and learned that she
had moved. She had no telephone yet, for it took a vast amount of time
to get any but a governmental telephone installed. So he noted her
address, and after some hesitation decided to call. If she did not
want to see him, her butler could tell him that she was out.

He called. Marie Louise had tried in vain to get in servants who would
stay. Abbie talked to them familiarly--and so did Jake. The virtuous
ones left because of Jake, and the others left because of Abbie.

So Abbie went to the door when Davidge called. He supposed that the
butler was having a day off and the cook was answering the bell. He
offered his card to Abbie.

She wiped her hand on her apron and took it, then handed it back to
him, saying:

"You'll have to read it. I ain't my specs."

Davidge said, "Please ask Miss Webling if she can see Mr. Davidge."

"You're not Mr. Davidge!" Abbie gasped, remembering the importance
Marie Louise gave him.

"Yes," said Davidge, with proper modesty.

"Well, I want to know!"

Abbie wiped her hand again and thrust it forward, seizing his
questioning fingers in a practised clench, and saying, "Come right on
in and seddown." She haled the befuddled Davidge to a chair and
regarded him with beaming eyes. He regarded her with the eyes of
astonishment--and the ears, too, for the amazing servant, forever
wiping her hands, went to the stairs and shrieked:

"Mamee-eese! Oh, Ma-mee-uz! Mist' Davidge is shere."

Poor Mamise! She had to come down upon such a scene, and without
having had any chance to break the news that she had a sister she had
to introduce the sister. She had no chance to explain her till a
fortunate whiff of burning pastry led Abbie to groan, "My Lord, them
pies!" and flee.

If ever Marie Louise had been guilty of snobbery, she was doing
penance for it now. She was too loyal to what her family ought to have
been and was not to apologize for Abbie, but she suffered in a social
purgatory.

Worse yet, she had to ask Davidge to give her brother-in-law a job.
And Davidge said he would. He said it before he saw Jake. And when he
saw him, though he did not like him, he did not guess what treachery
the fellow planned. He invited him to come to the shipyard--by train.

He invited Mamise to ride thither in her own car the next day to see
his laboratory for ships, never dreaming that the German menace was
already planning its destruction.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Not only in cheap plays and farces do people continue in perplexities
that one question and one answer would put an end to. In real life we
incessantly dread to ask the answers to conundrums that we cannot
solve, and persist in misery for lack of a little frankness.

For many a smiling mile, on the morrow, Davidge rode in a torment. So
stout a man, to be fretted by so little a matter! Yet he was unable to
bring himself to the point of solving his curiosity. The car had
covered forty miles, perhaps, while his thoughts ran back and forth,
lacing the road like a dog accompanying a carriage. A mental
speedometer would have run up a hundred miles before he made the
plunge and popped the subject.

"Mamise is an unusual name," he remarked.

Marie Louise was pleasantly startled by the realization that his long
silence had been devoted to her.

"Like it?" she asked.

"You bet." The youthfulness of this embarrassed him and made her
laugh. He grew solemn for about eleven hundred yards of road that went
up and down and up and down in huge billows. Then he broke out again:

"It's an unusual name."

She laughed patiently. "So I've heard."

The road shot up a swirling hill into an old, cool grove.

"I only knew one other--er--Mamise."

This sobered her. It was unpleasant not to be unique. The chill woods
seemed to be rather glum about it, too. The road abandoned them and
flung into a sun-bathed plain.

"Really? You really knew another--er--Mamise?"

"Yes. Years ago."

"Was she nice?"

"Very."

"Oh!" She was sorry about that, too. The road slipped across a
loose-planked, bone-racking bridge. With some jealousy she asked,
"What was she like?"

"You."

"That's odd." A little shabby, topply-tombed graveyard glided by,
reverting to oblivion. "Tell me about her."

A big motor charged past so fast that the passengers were only blurs,
a grim chauffeur-effect with blobs of fat womankind trailing snapping
veils. The car trailed a long streamer of dust that tasted of the
road. When this was penetrated they entered upon a stretch of pleasant
travel for eyes and wheels, on a long, long channel through a fruitful
prairie, a very allegory of placid opulence.

"It was funny," said Davidge. "I was younger than I am. I went to a
show one night. A musical team played that everlasting 'Poet and
Peasant' on the xylophones. They played nearly everything on nearly
everything--same old stuff, accordions, horns, bells; same old jokes
by the same fool clown and the solemn dubs. But they had a girl with
'em--a young thing. She didn't play very well. She had a way with her,
though--seemed kind of disgusted with life and the rest of the troupe
and the audience. And she had a right to be disgusted, for she was as
pretty as--I don't know what. She was just beautiful--slim and limber
and long--what you might imagine a nymph would look like if she got
loose in a music-hall.

"I was crazy about her. If I could ever have written a poem about
anybody, it would have been about her. She struck me as something sort
of--well, divine. She wore the usual, and not much of it--low neck,
bare arms, and--tights. But I kind of revered her; she was so dog-on
pretty.

"When the drop fell on that act I was lost. I was an orphan for true.
I couldn't rest till I saw the manager and asked him to take me back
and introduce me to her. He gave me a nasty grin and said he didn't
run that kind of a theater, and I said I'd knock his face off if he
thought I thought he did. Well, he gave in finally and took me back. I
fell down the side-aisle steps and sprawled along the back of the
boxes and stumbled up the steps to the stage.

"And then I met Mamise--that was her name on the program--Mamise. She
was pretty and young as ever, but she wasn't a nymph any longer. She
was just a young, painted thing, a sulky, disgusted girl. And she was
feeding a big monkey--a chimpanzee or something. It was sitting on a
bicycle and smoking a cigar--getting ready to go on the stage.

"It was so human and so unhuman and so ugly, and she was so graceful,
that it seemed like a sort of satire on humanity. The manager said,
'Say, Mamise, this gentleman here wants to pays his respecks.' She
looked up in a sullen way, and the chimpanzee showed his teeth at me,
and I mumbled something about expecting to see the name Mamise up in
the big electric lights.

"She gave me a look that showed she thought I was a darned fool, and I
agreed with her then--and since. She said, 'Much obliged' in a
contemptuous contralto and--and turned to the other monkey.

"The interview was finished. I backed over a scene-prop, knocked down
a stand of Indian-clubs, and got out into the alley. I was mad at her
at first, but afterward I always respected her for snubbing me. I
never saw her again, never saw her name again. As for the big electric
lights, I was a punk prophet. But her name has stood out in electric
lights in my--my memory. I suppose she left the stage soon after. She
may be dead now.

"It hurt me a lot to have her wither me with that one big, slow glance
of hers, but I was glad of it afterward. It made me feel more
comfortable about her. If she had welcomed every stranger that came
along she--well, as she didn't, she must have been a good girl, don't
you suppose?"

The road still pierced the golden scene, a monotony of plenty, an
endless-seeming treasure of sheaves of wheat and stacks of corn, with
pumpkins of yellow metal and twisted ingots of squash; but an autumnal
sorrow clouded the landscape for Marie Louise.

"What do you call a good girl?" she asked.

"That's a hard question to answer nowadays."

"Why nowadays?"

"Oh, because our ideas of good are so much more merciful and our ideas
of girls are so much more--complicated. Anyway, as the fellow said,
that's my story. And now you know all about Mamise that I know. Can
you forgive her for wearing your name?"

"I could forgive that Mamise anything," she sighed. "But this Mamise I
can't forgive at all."

This puzzled him. "I don't quite get that."

She let him simmer in his own perplexity through a furlong of what
helpless writers call "a shady dell"; its tenderness won from him a
timid confession.

"You reminded me of her when I first met you. You are as different as
can be, and yet somehow you remind me of each other."

"Somehow we are each other."

He leaned forward and stared at her, and she spared him a hasty glance
from the road. She was blushing.

He was so childishly happy that he nearly said, "It's a small world,
after all." He nearly swung to the other extreme. "Well, I'll be--" He
settled like a dying pendulum on, "Well--well!" They both laughed, and
he put out his hand. "Pleased to meet you again."

She let go the wheel and pressed his hand an instant.

The plateau was ended, and the road went overboard in a long, steep
cascade. She pushed out the clutch and coasted. The whir of the engine
stopped. The car sailed softly.

He was eager for news of the years between then and now. It was so
wonderful that the surly young beginner in vaudeville should have
evolved into this orchid of the salons. He was interested in the
working of such social machinery. He urged:

"Tell me all about yourself."

"No, thanks."

"But what happened to you after I saw you? You don't remember me, of
course."

"I remember the monkey."

They both laughed at the unconscious brutality of this. He turned
solemn and asked:

"You mean that so many men came back to call on you?"

"No, not so many--too many, but not many. But--well, the monkey was
more unusual, I suppose. He traveled with us several weeks. He was
very jealous. He had a fight with a big trained dog that I petted
once. They nearly killed each other before they could be separated.
And such noises as they made! I can hear them yet. The manager of the
monkey wanted to marry me. I was unhappy with my team, but I hated
that man--he was such a cruel beast with the monkey that supported
him. He'd have beaten me, too, I suppose, and made me support him."

Davidge sighed with relief as if her escape had been just a moment
before instead of years ago.

"Lord! I'm glad you didn't marry him! But tell me what did happen
after I saw you."

The road led them into a sizable town, street-car tracks, bad
pavements, stupid shops, workmen's little homes in rows like
chicken-houses, then better streets, better homes, business blocks
well paved, a hotel, a post-office, a Carnegie library, a gawky Civil
War statue, then poorer shops, rickety pavements, shanties, and the
country again.

Davidge noted that she had not answered his question. He repeated it:

"What happened after you and the monkey-trainer parted?"

"Oh, years later I was in Berlin with a team called the Musical Mokes,
and Sir Joseph and Lady Webling saw me and thought I looked like their
daughter, and they adopted me--that's all."

She had grown a bit weary of her autobiography. Abbie had made her
tell it over and over, but had tried in vain to find out what went on
between her stage-beginnings and her last appearance in Berlin.

Davidge was fascinated by her careless summary of such great events;
for to one in love, all biography of the beloved becomes important
history. But having seen her as a member of Sir Joseph's household, he
was more interested in the interregnum.

"But between your reaching Berlin and the time I saw you what
happened?"

"That's my business."

She saw him wince at the abrupt discourtesy of this. She apologized:

"I don't mean to be rude, but--well, it wouldn't interest you."

"Oh yes, it would. Don't tell me if you don't want to, but--"

"But--"

"Oh, nothing!"

"You mean you'll think that if I don't tell you it's because I'm
ashamed to."

"Oh no, not at all."

"Oh yes, at all. Well, what if I were?"

"I can't imagine your having done anything to be ashamed of."

"O Lord! Am I as stupid as that comes to?"

"No! But I mean, you couldn't have done anything to be really ashamed
of."

"That's what I mean. I've done numberless things I'd give my right arm
not to have done."

"I mean really wicked things."

"Such as--"

"Oh--well, I mean being bad."

"Woman-bad or man-bad?"

"Bad for a woman."

"So what's bad for one is not bad for another."

"Well, not exactly, but there is a difference."

"If I told you that I had been very, very wicked in those mysterious
years, would it seem important to you?"

"Of course! Horribly! It couldn't help it, if a man cared much for a
woman."

"And if a woman cared a lot for a man, ought it to make a difference
what he had done before he met her?"

"Well, of course--but that's different."

"Why?"

"Oh, because it is."

"Men say 'Because!' too, I see."

"It's just shorthand with us. It means you know it so well there's no
need of explaining."

"Oh! Well, if you--I say, _if_ you were very much in love with me--"

"Which I--"

"Don't be odiously polite. I'm arguing, not fishing. If you were
deeply in love with me, would it make a good deal of difference to you
if several years ago I had been--oh, loose?"

"It would break my heart."

Marie Louise liked him the better for this, but she held to her
argument.

"All right. Now, still supposing that we loved each other, ought I
to inquire of you if the man of my possible choice had been
perfectly--well, spotless, all that time? Ought I expect that he was
saving himself up for me, feeling himself engaged to me, you might
say, long before he met me, and keeping perfectly true to his
future fiancée--ought I to expect that?"

He flushed a little as he mumbled:

"Hardly!"

She laughed a trifle bitterly:

"So we're there already?"

"Where?"

"At the double standard. What's crime for the goose is pastime for the
gander."

He did not intend to give up man's ancient prerogative.

"Well, it's better to have almost any standard than none, isn't it?"

"I wonder."

"The single standard is better than the sixteen to one--silver for men
and gold for women."

"Perhaps! But you men seem to believe in a sixteen to none. Mind you,
I'm not saying I've been bad."

"I knew you couldn't have been."

"Oh yes, I could have been--I'm not saying I wasn't. I'm not saying
anything at all. I'm saying that it's nobody's business but my own."

"Even your future husband has no right to know?"

"None whatever. He has the least right of all, and he'd better not try
to find out."

"You women are changing things!"

"We have to, if we're going to live among men. When you're in
Rome--"

"You're going to turn the world upside down, I suppose?"

"We've always done that more or less, and nobody ever could stop us,
from the Garden of Eden on. In the future, one thing is sure: a lot of
women will go wrong, as the saying is, under the new conditions, with
liberty and their own money and all. But, good Lord! millions of women
went wrong in the old days! The first books of the Bible tell about
all the kinds of wickedness that we know to-day. Somebody complained
that with all our modern science we hadn't invented one new deadly
sin. We go on using the same old seven--well, indecencies. It will be
the same with women. It's bound to be. You can't keep women unfree.
You've simply got to let them loose. The old ways were hideous; and
it's dishonest and vicious to pretend that people used to be better
than they were, just as an argument in favor of slavery, for fear they
will be worse than the imaginary woman they put up for an argument. I
fancy women were just about as good and just about as bad in old
Turkey, in the jails they call harems, as they are in a three-ringed
circus to-day.

"When the old-fashioned woman went wrong she lied or cried or
committed suicide or took to the streets or went on with her social
success, as the case might be. She'll go on doing much the same--just
as men do. Some men repent, some cheat, some kill themselves; others
go right along about their business, whether it's in a bank, a church,
a factory, a city or a village or anywhere.

"But in the new marriage--for marriage is really changing, though the
marrying people are the same old folks--in the new marriage a man must
do what a woman has had to do all along: take the partner for better
or worse and no questions asked."

He humored her heresy because he found it too insane to reason with.
"In other words, we'll take our women as is."

"That's the expression--_as is_. A man will take his sweetheart 'as
is' or leave her. And whichever he does, as you always say, oh, she'll
get along somehow."

"The old-fashioned home goes overboard, then?"

"That depends on what you mean by the old-fashioned home. I had one,
and it could well be spared. There were all kinds of homes in old
times and the Middle Ages and nowadays, and there'll be all kinds
forever. But we're wrangling like a pair of lovers instead of getting
along beautifully like a pair of casual acquaintances."

"Aren't we going to be more than that?"

"I hope not. I want a place on your pay-roll; I'm not asking for a job
as your wife."

"You can have it."

"Thanks, but I have another engagement. When I have made my way in the
world and can support you in the style you're accustomed to, I may
come and ask for your hand."

Her flippancy irked him worse than her appalling ideas, but she grew
more desirable as she grew more infuriating, for the love-game has
some resemblances to the fascinating-sickening game of golf. She did
not often argue abstrusely, and she was already fagged out mentally.
She broke off the debate.

"Now let's think of something else, if you don't mind."

They talked of everything else, but his soul was chiefly engaged in
alternating vows to give her up and vows to make her his own in spite
of herself; and he kept on trying to guess the conundrum she posed him
in refusing to enlighten him as to those unmentionable years between
his first sight of her and his second.

In making love, as in other popular forms of fiction, the element of
mystery is an invaluable adjunct to the property value. He was still
pondering her and wondering what she was pondering when they reached
the town where his shipyard lay.



CHAPTER II


From a hilltop Marie Louise saw below her in panorama an ugly mess
of land and riverscape--a large steel shed, a bewilderment of
scaffolding, then a far stretch of muddy flats spotted with flies that
were probably human beings, among a litter of timber, of girders, of
machine-shanties, of railroad tracks, all spread out along a dirty
water.

A high wire fence surrounded what seemed to need no protection. In the
neighborhood were numbers of workmen's huts--some finished, and long
rows of them in building, as much alike and as graceful as a pan of
raw biscuits.

She saw it all as it was, with a stranger's eyes. Davidge saw it with
the eyes a father sees a son through, blind to evident faults, vividly
accepting future possibilities as realities.

Davidge said, with repressed pride:

"Well, thar she blows!"

"What?"

"My shipyard!" This with depressed pride.

"Oh, rilly! So it is! How wonderful!" This with forced enthusiasm.

"You don't like it," he groaned.

"I'm crazy about it."

"If you could have seen it when it was only marsh and weeds and
mud-holes and sluices you'd appreciate what we've reclaimed and the
work that has been done."

The motor pitched down a badly bruised road.

"Where's the ship that's nearly done--your mother's ship?"

"Behind the shed, in among all that scaffolding."

"Don't tell me there's a ship in there!"

"Yep, and she's just bursting to come out."

They entered the yard, past a guardian who looked as if a bottle of
beer would buy him, and a breath strong enough to blow off the froth
would blow him over.

Within a great cage of falsework Marie Louise could see the ship that
Davidge had dedicated to his mother. But he did not believe Marie
Louise ready to understand it.

"Let's begin at the beginning," he said. "See those railroad tracks
over there? Well, that's where the timber comes from the forests and
the steel from the mills. Now we'll see what happens to 'em in the
shop."

He took her into the shed and showed her the traveling-cranes that
could pick up a locomotive between their long fingers and carry it
across the long room like a captured beetle.

"Up-stairs is the mold-loft. It's our dressmaking-shop. We lay down
the design on the floor, and mark out every piece of the ship in exact
size, and then make templates of wood to match--those are the
patterns. It's something like making a gown, I suppose."

"I see," said Marie Louise. "Then you fit the dress together out in
the yard."

"Exactly," said Davidge. "You've mastered the whole thing already.
It's a long climb up there. Will you try it?"

"Later, perhaps. I want to see these delightful what-you-may-call-'ems
first."

She watched the men at work, each group about its own machine, like
priests at their various altars. Davidge explained to her the cruncher
that manicured thick plates of steel sheets as if they were
finger-nails, or beveled their edges; the puncher that needled
rivet-holes through them as if they were silk, the ingenious Lysholm
tables with rollers for tops.

Marie Louise was like a child in a wholesale toy-shop, understanding
nothing, ecstatic over everything, forbidden to touch anything. In her
ignorance of technical matters, the simplest device was miraculous.
The whole place was a vast laboratory of mysteries and magic.

There was a something hallowed and awesome about it all. It had a
cathedral grandeur, even though it was a temple builded with hands for
the sake of the things builded with hands. The robes of the votaries
were grimy and greasy, and the prayer they poured out was sweat. They
chewed tobacco and spat regardless. They eyed her as curiously as she
them. They swaggered each his own way, one by extra obliviousness,
another with a flourish of gesture. They seemed to want to speak, and
so did she, but embarrassment caused a common silence.

On the ground they had cleared and under the roof they had established
they had fashioned vessels that should carry not myrrh and nard to
make a sweet smell or to end in a delicate smoke, but wheat, milk and
coal, clothes and shoes and shells, for the feeding and warming of
people in need, and for the destruction of the god of destruction.

Marie Louise's response to the mood of the place was conversion, a
passion to take vows of eternal industry, to put on the holy vestments
of toil and wield the--she did not even know the names of the tools.
She only knew that they were sacred implements.

She was in an almost trancelike state when Davidge led her from this
world with its own sky of glass to the outer world with the same old
space-colored sky. He conducted her among heaps of material waiting to
be assembled, the raw stuffs of creation.

As they drew near the almost finished ship the noise of the riveting
which had been but a vague palpitation of the air became a well-nigh
intolerable staccato.

Men were at work everywhere, Lilliputian against the bulk of the hull
they were contriving. Davidge escorted Marie Louise with caution
across tremulous planks, through dark caverns into the hold of the
ship.

In these grottoes of steel the clamor of the riveters grew maddening
in her ears. They were everywhere, holding their machine-guns against
reverberant metal and hammering steel against steel with a superhuman
velocity; for man had made himself more than man by his own
inventions, had multiplied himself by his own machineries.

"That's the great Sutton," Davidge remarked, presently. "He's our
prima donna. He's the champion riveter of this part of the country.
Like to meet him?"

Marie Louise nodded yes before she noted that the man was stripped to
the waist. Runnels of sweat ran down his flesh and shot from the
muscles leaping beneath his swart hide.

Davidge went up to him and, after howling in vain, tapped his brawn.
Sutton looked up, shut off his noise, and turned to Davidge with the
impatience of a great tenor interrupted in a cadenza by a mere
manager.

Davidge yelled, with unnecessary voltage:

"Sutton, I want to present you to Miss Webling."

Sutton realized his nakedness like another Adam, and his confusion
confused Marie Louise. She nodded. He nodded. Perhaps he made his
muscles a little tauter.

Davidge had planned to ask Sutton to let Marie Louise try to drive a
rivet, just to show her how hopeless her ambition was, but he dared
not loiter. Marie Louise, feeling silly in the silence, asked,
stupidly:

"So that's a riveter?"

"Yes, ma'am," Sutton confessed, "this is a riveter."

"Oh!" said Marie Louise.

"Well, I guess we'll move on," said Davidge. As conversation, it was
as unimportant as possible, but it had a negative historical value,
since it left Marie Louise unconvinced of her inability to be a
rivetress.

She said, "Thank you," and moved on. Davidge followed. Sutton took up
his work again, as a man does after a woman has passed by, pretending
to be indignant, trying by an added ferocity to conceal his delight.

At a distance Davidge paused to say: "He's a great card, Sutton. He
gets a lot of money, but he earns it before he spends it, and he's my
ideal of a workman. His work comes first. He hogs all the pay the
traffic will bear, but he goes on working and he takes a pride in
being better than anybody else in his line. So many of these infernal
laborers have only one ideal--to do the least possible work and earn
enough to loaf most of the time."

Marie Louise thought of some of Jake Nuddle's principles and wondered
if she had done right in recommending him for a place on Davidge's
pay-roll. She was afraid he would be a slacker, never dreaming that he
would be industrious in all forms of destruction. Jake never demanded
short hours for his conspiracies.

At the top of the unfinished deck Marie Louise forgot Jake and gave
her mind up to admiring Davidge as the father of all this factory. He
led her down, out and along the bottom-land, through bogs, among heaps
of rusty iron, to a concrete building-slip. He seemed to be very
important about something, but she could not imagine what it was. She
saw nothing but a long girder made up of sections. It lay along a flat
sheet of perforated steel--the homeliest contraption imaginable.

"Whatever is all this," she asked,--"the beginning of a bridge?"

"Yes and no. It's the beginning of part of the bridge we're building
across the Atlantic."

"I don't believe that I quite follow you."

"This is the keel of a ship."

"No!"

"Yep!"

"And was the _Clara_ like this once?"

"No. _Clara's_ an old-fashioned creature like mother. This is a
newfangled thing like--like you."

"Like me! This isn't--"

"This is to be the _Mamise_."

She could not hide her disappointment in her namesake.

"I must confess she's not very beautiful to start with."

"Neither were you at first, I suppose. I--I beg your pardon. I
mean--"

He tried to tell her about the new principles of fabricated ships, the
standardizing of the parts, and their manufacture at distances by
various steel plants, the absence of curved lines, the advantage of
all the sacrifice of the old art for the new speed.

In spite of what she had read she could not make his information her
own. And yet it was thrilling to look at. She broke out:

"I've just got to learn how to build ships. It's the one thing on
earth that will make me happy."

"Then I'll have to get it for you."

"You mean it?"

"If anything I could do could make you happy--cutting off my right
arm, or--"

"That's no end nice of you. But I am in earnest. I'm wretchedly
unhappy, doing nothing. We women, I fancy, are most of us just where
boys are when they have outgrown boyhood and haven't reached
manhood--when they are crazy to be at something, and can't even decide
where to begin. Women have got to come out in the world and get to
work. Here's my job, and I want it!"

He looked at the delicate hands she fluttered before him, and he
smiled. She protested:

"I always loved physical exercise. In England I did the roughest sort
of farmwork. I'm stronger than I look. I think I'd rather play one of
those rat-tat-tat instruments than--than a harp in New Jerusalem."

Davidge shook his head. "I'm afraid you're not quite strong enough. It
takes a lot of power to hold the gun against the hull. The compressed
air kicks and shoves so hard that even men tire quickly. Sutton
himself has all he can do to keep alive."

"Give me a hammer, then, and let me--smite something."

"Don't you think you'd rather begin in the office? You could learn the
business there first. Besides, I don't like the thought of your
roughing up those beautiful hands of yours."

"If men would only quit trying to keep women's hands soft and clean,
the world would be the better for it."

"Well, come down and learn the business first--you'd be nearer me."

She sidestepped this sentimental jab and countered with a practical
left hook:

"But you'd teach me ship-building?"

"I'd rather teach you home-building."

"If you mean a home on the bounding main, I'll get right to work."

He was stubborn about beginning with office tasks, and he took her to
the mold-loft. She was fascinated but appalled by her own ignorance of
what had come to be the most important of all knowledge.

She sighed. "I've always been such a smatterer. I never have really
known anything about anything. Most women are so astonishingly
ignorant and indifferent about the essentials of men's life."

She secretly resolved that she would study some of the basic
principles of male existence--bookkeeping, drafting, letter-writing,
filing, trading. It amused her as a kind of new mischief to take a
course of business instruction on the sly and report for duty not as
an ignoramus, but as a past-mistress in office practice. It was at
least a refreshing novelty in duplicity.

She giggled a little at the quaintness of her conspiracy. The old
song, "Trust Her Not--She Is Fooling Thee," occurred to her in a
fantastic parody: "Trust her not--she is fooling thee; she is
clandestine at the business college; she is leading a double-entry
life. She writes you in longhand, but she is studying shorthand. She
is getting to be very fast--on the typewriter."

Davidge asked her why she snickered, but she would not divulge her
plot. She was impatient to spring it. She wondered if in a week she
could learn all she had to learn--if she worked hard. It would be
rather pleasant to sit at his desk-leaf and take dictation from
him--confidential letters that he would intrust to no one else,
letters written in a whisper and full of dark references. She hoped
she could learn stenographic velocity in a few days.

As she and Davidge walked back to the car she noted the workmen's
shanties.

"If I come here, may I live in one of those cunning new bungalettes?"

"Indeed not! There are some nice houses in town."

"I'm sick of nice houses. I want to rough it. In the next war millions
of women will live in tents the way the men do. Those shanties would
be considered palaces in Belgium and northern France. In fact, any
number of women are over there now building huts for the poor souls."

Davidge grew more and more wretched. He could not understand such a
twisted courtship. His sweetheart did not want jewels and luxuries and
a life of wealthy ease. Her only interest in him seemed to be that he
would let her live in a shanty, wear overalls, and pound steel all day
for union wages.



CHAPTER III


An eloquent contrast with Marie Louise was furnished by Jake Nuddle.
He was of the ebb type. He was degenerating into a shirker, a
destroyer, a money-maniac, a complainer of other men's successes. His
labor was hardly more than a foundation for blackmailing. He loved no
country, had not even a sense of following the crowd. He called the
Star-spangled Banner a dirty rag, and he wanted to wipe his feet on
it. He was useless, baneful, doomed.

Marie Louise was coming into a new Canaan. What she wanted was work
for the work's sake, to be building something and thereby building
herself, to be helping her country forward, to be helping mankind,
poor and rich. The sight of the flag made her heart ache with a
rapture of patriotism. She had the urge to march with an army.

Marie Louise was on the up grade, Jake on the down. They met at the
gate of the shipyard.

Jake and Abbie had come over by train. Jake was surly in his tone to
Davidge. His first question was, "Where do we live?"

Marie Louise answered, "In one of those quaint little cottages."

Jake frowned before he looked. He was one of those who hate before
they see, feel nausea before they taste, condemn the unknown, the
unheard, the unoffending.

By the time Jake's eyes had found the row of shanties his frown was a
splendid thing.

"Quaint little hog-pens!" he growled. "Is this company the same as all
the rest--treatin' its slaves like swine?"

Davidge knew the type. For the sake of Marie Louise he restrained his
first impulses and spoke with amiable acidity:

"There are better houses in town, some of them very handsome."

"Yah--but what rent?"

"Rather expensive. Rather distant, too, but you can make it easily in
an automobile."

"Where would I git a nautomobile?"

"I can introduce you to the man who sold me mine."

"How would I get the price?"

"Just where I did."

"Whurr's that?"

"Oh, all over the place. I used to be a common unskilled laborer like
you. And now I own a good part of this business. Thousands of men who
began poorer than I did are richer than I am. The road's just as open
to you as to me."

Jake had plenty of answers for this. He had memorized numbers of them
from the tracts; but also he had plans that would not be furthered by
quarreling with Davidge the first day. He could do Davidge most harm
by obeying him and outwardly catering to him. He solaced his pride
with a thought of what Davidge's business would look like when he got
through with it.

He laughed: "All right, boss. I was just beefin', for the fun of
beefin'. Them shanties suit me elegant."

Then his fool wife had to go and bust in, "Oh, Jake, if you would do
like Mr. Davidge done, and git rich and live easy!"

Jake gave her a pantomimic rebuke that reduced her to a pulpy
silence.

Marie Louise thought to restore Abbie's spirits a little by saying
that she herself was coming down to work and to live in one of those
very shanties. But Abbie gave her up as hopeless. Why any one should
want to leave a house like what Mamise had, and money in the bank, and
no call to lift her hand for nothing except to ring a bell and get
somebody to fetch anything, and leave all that and live like a
squatter and actually work--well, it did beat all how foolish some
folks could be in the world nowadays.

Marie Louise left Abbie and Jake to establish themselves. She had to
get back to Washington. Davidge had planned to go with her, but a
long-distance telephone-call, and a visit from a group of prospective
strikers, and a warning that a consignment of long-expected machinery
had not yet arrived, took him out of the car. He was tempted to go
with Marie Louise, anyway, but she begged him not to neglect his
business for her unimportant self, and bade him good-by in an old
Wakefield phrase, "If I don't see you again, hello!"

She returned to Washington alone, but not lonely. Her thoughts smoked
through her brain like a dust-cloud of shining particles, each radiant
atom a great idea. The road home was through the sky; the villages and
groves were vague pink clouds; the long downward slopes were shafts of
sunlight, the ridges rainbows.

It would take her hardly any time to conquer the mysteries of
stenography. Surely they must be easy, considering some of the people
that practised the art. She would study ship-building, and drafting,
too. Her water-color landscapes had been highly praised by certain
young men and old ladies in England. She would learn how to keep her
own bank-account and revamp her arithmetic. She would take up light
bookkeeping; and she would build up her strength in a gymnasium so
that she could swing a sledge as well as the next one. She would offer
her home in Washington for rent. With the mobs pouring in, it would
not be untenanted long.

Her last expectation was realized first. The morning after she reached
home she visited Mr. Hailstorks and told him she would sublet her
mansion. Now that she wanted to collect rent from it instead of paying
rent for it her description of its advantages was inevitably altered.
With perfect sincerity she described its very faults as attractions.

Thereafter her life was made miserable by the calls of people who
wanted to look the place over. She had incessant offers, but she would
not surrender her nest till she was ready to go back to the shipyard,
and that was always to-morrow--the movable to-morrow which like the
horizon is always just beyond.

She sent herself to school and was dazed by her ignorance. In
arithmetic she had forgotten what she had gained at the age of ten,
and it was not easy to recapture it.

On the typewriter she had to learn the alphabet all over again in a
new order, and this was fiendishly hard. She studied the touch-system
with the keyboard covered, and her blunders were disheartening. Her
deft fingers seemed hardly to be her own. They would not obey her will
at all.

Shorthand was baffling. It took her five times as long to write in
shorthand as in longhand such thrilling literature as: "Dear
customer,--Letter received and contents noted. In reply to same would
say--"

At first she was a trifle snobbish and stand-offish with some of the
pert young fellow-pupils, but before long her opinion of them
increased to a respect verging on awe.

They could take dictation, chew gum, and fix their back hair with the
free hand all at once. Their fingers pattered the keyboard like rain,
and their letters were exquisitely neat. They had studied for a long
time, and had acquired proficiency. And it is no easy thing to acquire
proficiency in any task, from cobbling shoes to polishing sonnets or
moving armies.

Marie Louise was humiliated to find that she really did not know how
to spell some of the simplest words. When she wrote with running pen
she never stopped to spell. She just sketched the words and let them
go. She wrote, "I beleive I recieved," so that nobody could tell _e_
from _i_; and she put the dot where it might apply to either. Her
punctuation was all dashes.

The typewriter would not permit anything vague. A word stood out in
its stark reality, howling "Illiterate!" at her. Her punctuation
simply would not do.

Pert young misses who were honored by a wink from an
ice-cream-soda-counter keeper or by an invitation to a street-car
conductors' dance turned out work of a Grecian perfection, while Marie
Louise bit her lips and blushed with shame under the criticisms of her
teacher. She was back in school again, the dunce of the class, and
abject discouragements alternated with spurts of zeal.

In the mean while the United States was also learning the rudiments of
war and the enormous office-practice it required. Before the war was
over the army of 118,000 men and 5,000 officers in February, 1917,
would be an army of over 3,000,000, and of these over 2,000,000 would
have been carried to Europe, half of them in British ships; 50,000 of
these would be killed to Russia's 1,700,000 dead, Germany's 1,600,000,
France's 1,385,000, England's 706,200, Italy's 406,000, and Belgium's
102,000. The wounded Americans would be three times the total present
army. Everybody was ignorant, blunderful. Externally and internally
the United States was as busy as a trampled ant-hill.

Everything in those days was done in drives. The armies made drives;
the financiers made drives; the charities made drives. The world-heart
was never so driven. And this was all on top of the ordinary human
suffering, which did not abate one jot for all its overload. Teeth
ached just as fiercely; jealousy was just as sickly green; empires
crackled; people starved in herds; cities were pounded to gravel; army
after army was taken prisoner or slaughtered; yet each agitated atom
in the chaos was still the center of the tormented universe.

Marie Louise suffered for mankind and for herself. She was lonely,
love-famished, inept, dissatisfied, and abysmally ashamed of her
general ineffectiveness. Then one of Washington's infamous hot weeks
supervened. In the daytime the heat stung like a cat-o'-nine-tails.
The nights were suffocation. She "slept," gasping as a fish flounders
on dry land. After the long strain of fighting for peace, toiling for
rest, the mornings would find Marie Louise as wrecked as if she had
come in from a prolonged spree. Then followed a day of drudgery at the
loathly necessities of her stupid work.

Detail and delay are the tests of ambition. Ambition sees the
mountain-peak blessed with sunlight and cries, "That is my goal!" But
the feet must cross every ditch, wade every swamp, scramble across
every ledge. The peak is the harder to see the nearer it comes; the
last cliffs hide it altogether, and when it is reached it is only a
rough crag surrounded by higher crags. The glory that lights it is
glory in distant eyes alone.

So for poor Mamise. She had run away from a squalid home to the
gorgeous freedom of stage-life, only to find that the stage also is
squalid and slavish, and that the will-o'-the-wisp of gorgeous freedom
had jumped back to home life. She left the cheap theaters for the
expensive luxury of Sir Joseph's mansion. But that had its squalors
and slaveries, too. She had fled from troubled England to joyous
America, only to find in America a thousand distresses.

Then her eyes had been caught with the glitter of true freedom. She
would be a builder of ships--cast off the restraint of womanhood and
be a magnificent builder of ships! And now she was finding that this
dream was also a nightmare.

Everywhere she looked was dismay, futility, failure. The hot wave
found her an easy victim. A frightened servant who did not know the
difference between sunstroke and heat prostration nearly killed her
before a doctor came.

The doctor sent Marie Louise to bed, and in bed she stayed. It was her
trained nurse who wrote a letter to Mr. Davidge regretting that she
could not come to the launching of the _Clara_. Abbie was not present,
either. She came up to be with Marie Louise. This was not the least of
Marie Louise's woes.

She was quite childish about missing the great event. She wept because
another hand swung the netted champagne-bottle against the bow as it
lurched down the toboggan-slide.

Davidge wrote her about the launching, but it was a business man's
letter, with the poetry all smothered. He told her that there had
been an accident or two, and nearly a disaster--an unexploded
infernal-machine had been found. A scheme to wreck the launching-ways
had been detected on the final inspection.

Marie Louise read the letter aloud to Abbie, and, even though she knew
the ship was safe, trembled as if it were still in jeopardy. Her
shaken faith in humanity was still capable of feeling bewilderment at
the extremes of German savagery. She cried out to her sister:

"How on earth can anybody be fiendish enough to have tried to destroy
that ship even before it was launched? How could a German spy have got
into the yard?"

"It didn't have to have been a German," said Abbie, bitterly.

"Who else would have wanted to play such a dastardly trick? No
American would!"

"Well, it depends on what you call Amurrican," said Abbie. "There's
some them Independent workmen so independent they ain't got any
country any more 'n what Cain had."

"You can't suppose that Mr. Davidge has enemies among his own
people?"

"O' course he has! Slews of 'em. Some them workmen can't forgive the
man that gives 'em a job."

"But he pays big wages. Think of what Jake gets."

"Oh, him! If he got all they was, he'd holler he was bein' cheated.
Hollerin' and hatin' always come easy to Jake. If they wasn't easy, he
wouldn't do 'em."

Marie Louise gasped: "Abbie! In Heaven's name, you don't imply--"

"No, I don't!" snapped Abbie. "I never implied in my life, and don't
you go sayin' I did."

Abbie was at bay now. She had to defend her man from outside
suspicion. Suspicion of her husband is a wife's prerogative

Marie Louise was too much absorbed in the general vision of man's
potential villainy to follow up the individual clue. She was
frightened away from considering Jake as a candidate for such infamy.
Her wildest imaginings never put him in association with Nicky
Easton.

There were so many excursions and alarms in the world of 1917 that the
riddle of who tried to sink the ship on dry land joined a myriad
others in the riddle limbo.

When Marie Louise was well enough to go back to her business school
she found riddles enough in trying to decide where this letter or that
had got to on the crazy keyboard, or what squirmy shorthand symbol it
was that represented this syllable or that.

She had lost the little speed she had had, and it was double drudgery
regaining the forgotten lore. But she stood the gaff and found herself
on the dizzy height of graduation from a lowly business school. She
had traveled a long way from the snobbery of her recent years.

Davidge recognized her face and her voice when she presented herself
before him. But her soul was an utter stranger. She did not invite him
to call on her or warn him that she was coming to call on him.

She appeared in his anteroom and bribed one of the clerks to go to him
with a message:

"A young lady's outside--wants a position--as a stenogerpher."

Davidge growled without looking up:

"Why bother me? Send her to the chief clerk."

"She wants to see you specially."

"I'm out."

"Said Miss Webling sent her."

"O Lord!--show her in."

Marie Louise entered. Davidge looked up, leaped up.

She did not come in with the drawing-room, train-dragging manner of
Miss Webling. She did not wear the insolent beauty of Mamise of the
Musical Mokes. She was a white-waisted, plain-skirted office-woman, a
businessette. She had a neat little hat and gave him a secretarial
bow.

He rushed to her hand, and they had a good laugh like two children
playing pretend. Then he said:

"Why the camouflage?"

The word was not very new even then, or he would not have used it.

She explained, with royal simplicity:

"I want a job."

She brought out her diploma and a certificate giving her a civil-service
status. She was quite conceited about it.

She insisted on displaying her accomplishments.

"Give me some dictation," she dictated.

He nodded, pummeled his head for an idea while she took from her
hand-bag, not a vanity-case, but a stenographer's notebook and a sheaf
of pencils.

He noted that she sat down stenographically--very concisely. She
perched her notebook on the desk of one crossed knee and perked her
eyes up as alertly as a sparrow.

All this professionalism sat so quaintly on the two Marie Louises he
had known that he roared with laughter as at a child dressed up.

She smiled patiently at his uproar till it subsided. Then he sobered
and began to dictate:

"Ready? 'Miss Mamise'--cross that out--'Miss Marie Louise Webling'--you
know the address; I don't. 'Dear--My dear'--no, just 'Dear Miss
Webling. Reference is had to your order of recent date that this
house engage you as amanuensis.' Dictionary in the bookcase
outside--comma--no, period. 'In reply I would--I wish to--I beg to--we
beg to say that we should--I should just as soon engage Mona Lisa for
a stenographer as you.' Period and paragraph.

"'We have,'--comma,--'however,'--comma,--'another position to offer
you,'--comma,--'that is, as wife to the senior member of this firm.'
Period. 'The best wages we can--we can offer you are--is the use of
one large,'--comma,--'slightly damaged heart and a million thanks a
minute.' Period. 'Trusting that we may be favored with a prompt and
favorable reply, we am--I are--am--yours very sincerely, truly
yours,'--no, just say 'yours,' and I'll sign it. By the way, do you
know what the answer will be?"

"Yes."

"Do you mean it?"

"I mean that I know the answer."

"Let me have it."

"Can't you guess?"

"'Yes'?"

"No."

"Oh!"

A long glum pause till she said, "Am I fired?"

"Of course not."

More pause. She intervened in his silence.

"What do I do next, please?"

He said, of habit, "Why, sail on, and on, and on."

He reached for his basket of unanswered mail. He said:

"I've given you a sample of my style, now you give me a sample of
yours, and then I'll see if I can afford to keep you as a stenographer
instead of a wife."

She nodded, went to a typewriter in a corner of his office, and seated
herself at the musicless instrument. Her heart pit-a-patted as fast as
her fingers, but she drew up the letter in a handsome style while he
sat and stared at her and mused upon the strange radiance she brought
into the office in a kind of aureole.

He grew abruptly serious when Miss Gabus, his regular stenographer,
entered and stared at the interloper with amazement, comma,
suspicion, comma, and hostility, period. She murmured a very
rasping "I beg your pardon," and stepped out, as Marie Louise rose
from the writing-machine and brought him an extraordinarily
accurate version of his letter.

And now he had two women on his hands and one on his heart. He dared
not oust Miss Gabus for the sake of Miss Webling. He dared not show
his devotion to Marie Louise, though as a matter of fact it made him
glow like a lighthouse.

He put Mamise to work in the chief clerk's office. It was noted that
he made many more trips to that office than ever before. Instead of
pressing the buzzer for a boy or a stenographer, he usually came out
himself on all sorts of errands. His buzzer did not buzz, but the
gossip did.

Mamise was vaguely aware of it, and it distressed her till she grew
furious. She was so furious at Davidge for not being deft enough to
conceal his affection that she began to resent it as an offense and
not a compliment.

The impossible Mamise insisted on taking up her residence in one of
the shanties. When he took the liberty of urging her to live at a
hotel or at some of the more comfortable homes she snubbed him
bluntly. When he desperately urged her to take lunch or dinner with
him she drew herself up and mocked the virtuous scorn of a movie
stenographer and said:

"Sir! I may be only a poor typist, but no wicked capitalist shall loor
me to lunch with him. You'd probably drug the wine."

"Then will you--"

"No, I will not go motoring with you. How dare you!"

"May I call, then?"

More as a punishment than a hospitality, she said:

"Yessir--the fourteenth house on the left side of the road is me."

The days were still long and the dark tardy when he marched up the
street. It was a gantlet of eyes and whispers. He felt inane to an
imbecility. The whole village was eying the boss on his way to spark a
stenog. His little love-affair was as clandestine as Lady Godiva's
famous bareback ride.

He cut his call short after an age-long half-hour of enduring the
ridicule twinkling in Mamise's eyes. He stayed just late enough for it
to get dark enough to conceal his return through that street. He was
furious at the situation and at Mamise for teasing him so. But she
became all the dearer for her elusiveness.



CHAPTER IV


After the novelty of the joke wore off Mamise grew as uncomfortable as
he. She was beginning to love him more and her job less. But she was
determined not to throw away her independence. Pride was her duenna,
and a ruthless one. She tried to feed her pride on her ambition and on
an occasional visit to the ship that was to wear her name.

She met Sutton, the prima donna riveter. He was always clattering away
like a hungry woodpecker, but he always had time to stop and discuss
his art with her.

Once or twice he let her try the riveter--the "gun," he called it; but
her thumb was not strong enough to hold the trigger against that
hundred-and-fifty-pound pressure per square inch.

One day Marie Louise came on Jake Nuddle and Sutton in a wrangle. She
caught enough of the parley to know that Jake was sneering at Sutton's
waste of energy and enthusiasm, his long hours and low pay. Sutton
earned a very substantial income, but all pay was low pay to Jake, who
was spreading the gospel of sabotage through the shipyard.

Meanwhile the good ship _Clara_, weaned from the dock, floated in the
basin and received her equipment. And at last the day came when she
was ready for her trial trip.

That morning the smoke rolled from her funnels in a twisted skein.
What had once been ore in many a mine, and trees in many a forest, had
become an individual, as what has been vegetables and fruits and the
flesh of animals becomes at last a child with a soul, a name, a fate.

It was impossible to think now that the _Clara_ was merely an iron box
with an engine to push it about. _Clara_ was somebody, a personality,
a lovable, whimsical, powerful creature. She was "she" to everybody.
And at last one morning she kicked up her heels and took a long white
bone in her teeth and went her ways.

The next day _Clara_ came back. There was something about her manner
of sweeping into the bay, about the proud look of her as she came to a
halt, that convinced all the watchers in the shipyard of her success.

When they learned that she had exceeded all her contract stipulations
there was a tumult of rejoicing; for her success was the success of
every man and lad in the company's employ--at least so thought all who
had any instinct of team-play and collective pride. A few soreheads
were glum, or sneered at the enthusiasm of the others. It was strange
that Jake Nuddle was associated with all of these groups.

_Clara_ was not permitted to linger and rest on her laurels. She had
work to do. Every ship in the world was working overtime except the
German Kiel Canal boats. _Clara_ was gone from the view the next
morning. Mamise missed her as she looked from the office window. She
mentioned this to Davidge, for fear he might not know. Somebody might
have stolen her. He explained:

"She's going down to Norfolk to take on a cargo of food for
England--wheat for the Allies. I'm glad she's going to take
breadstuffs to people. My mother used to be always going about to
hungry folks with a basket of food on her arm."

Mamise had Jake and Abbie in to dinner that night. She was all agog
about the success of _Clara_, and hoped that _Mamise_ would one day do
as well.

Jake took a sudden interest in the matter. "Did the boss tell you
where the _Clara_ was goin' to?"

"Yes--Norfolk."

Jake considered his unmentionable cigar a few minutes, then rose and
mumbled:

"Goin' out to get some more cigars."

Abbie called after him, "Hay, you got a whole half-box left." But Jake
did not seem to hear the recall.

He came back later cigarless and asked for the box.

"I thought you went out to git some," said Abbie, who felt it
necessary to let no occasion slip for reminding him of some blunder he
had made. Jake laughed very amiably.

"Well, so I did, and I went into a cigar-store, at that. But I hadda
telephone a certain party, long-distance--and I forgot."

Abbie broke in, "Who you got to long-distance to?"

Jake did not answer.

Two days later Davidge was so proud that he came out into the main
office and told all the clerks of the new distinction.

"They loaded the _Clara_ in record time with wheat for England. She
sails to-day."

At his first chance to speak to Marie Louise he said:

"You compared her to Little Red Riding Hood--remember? Well, she's
starting out through the big woods with a lot of victuals for old
Granny England. If only the wolves don't get her!"

He felt, and Mamise felt, as lonely and as anxious for her as if she
were indeed a little red-bonneted forest-farer on an errand of mercy.

Ships have always been dear to humankind because of the dangers they
run and because of the pluck they show in storms and fires, and the
unending fights they make against wind and wave. But of late they had
had unheard-of enemies to meet, the submarine and the infernal machine
placed inside the cargo.

Marie Louise spoke of this at the supper-table that night:

"To think, with so little food in the world and so many starving to
death, people could sink ships full of wheat!"

On the second day after the _Clara_ set forth on the ocean Marie
Louise took dictation for an hour and wrote out her letters as fast as
she could. In the afternoon she took the typewritten transcripts into
Davidge's office to drop them into his "in" basket.

The telephone rang. His hand went out to it, and she heard him say:

"Mr. Davidge speaking.... Hello, Ed.... What? You're too close to the
'phone.... That's better.... You're too far away--start all over.... I
don't get that.... Yes--a life-boat picked up with what--oh, six
survivors. Yes--from what ship? I say, six survivors from what
ship?... The _Clara_? She's gone? _Clara_?"

He reeled and wavered in his chair. "What happened--many lost? And the
boat--cargo--everything--everybody but those six! They got her, then!
The Germans got her--on her first voyage! God damn their guts!
Good-by, Ed."

He seemed to be calm, but the hand that held up the receiver groped
for the hook with a pitiful blind man's gesture.

Mamise could not resist that blundering helplessness. She ran forward
and took his hand and set the receiver in place.

He was too numb to thank her, but he was grateful. His mother was
dead. The ship he had named for her was dead. He needed mothering.

Mamise put her hands on his shoulders and gripped them as if to hold
them together under their burden. She said:

"I heard. I can't tell you how-- Oh, what can we do in such a world!"

He laughed foolishly and said, with a stumbling voice:

"I'll get a German for this--somehow!"



CHAPTER V


Mamise shuddered when she heard the blood-cry wrung out of Davidge's
agony.

She knew that the ship was more than a ship to him. Its death was as
the death of many children. It might mean the death of many children.
She stood over him, weeping for him like another Niobe among her
slaughtered family. The business man in his tragedy had to have some
woman at hand to do his weeping for him. He did not know how to sob
his own heart out.

She felt the vigor of a high anger grip his muscles. When she heard
him groan, "I'll get a German for this!" somehow it horrified her,
coming from him; yet it was becoming the watchword of the whole
nation.

America had stood by for three years feeding Europe's hungry and
selling munitions to the only ones that could come and get them.
America had been forced into the war by the idiotic ingenuities of the
Germans, who kept frustrating all their own achievements, the cruel
ones thwarting the clever ones; the liars undermining the fighters;
the wise, who knew so much, not knowing the first thing--that torture
never succeeded, that a reputation for broken faith is the most
expensive of all reputations, that a policy of terror and trickery and
megalomania can accomplish nothing but its own eventual ruin.

America was aroused at last. The German rhinoceros in its blind
charges had wakened and enraged the mammoth. A need for German blood
was the frank and undeniable passion of the American Republic. To kill
enough Germans fast enough to crush them and their power and their
glory was the acknowledged business of the United States until further
notice.

The strangest people were voicing this demand. Preachers were
thundering it across their pulpits, professors across their desks,
women across their cradles, pacifists across their shattered dreams,
business men across their counters, "Kill Germans!"

It was a frightful crusade; yet who was to blame for it but the
Germans and their own self-advertised frightfulness? The world was
fighting for its life and health against a plague, a new outrush from
that new plague-spot whence so many floods of barbarism had broken
over civilization.

They came forth now in gray streams like the torrent of rats that
pursued the wicked Bishop Hatto to his tower. Only the world was not
Bishop Hatto, and it did not flee. It gathered to one vast circular
battle, killing and killing rats upon rats in a frenzy of loathing
that grew with the butchery.

Countless citizens of German origin fought and died with the
Americans, but nobody thought of them as Germans now, and least of all
did they so think of themselves. In the mind of the Allied nations,
German and vermin were linked in rhyme and reason.

It may be unjust and unsympathetic, but the very best people feel it a
duty to destroy microbes, insects, and beasts of prey without mercy.
The Germans themselves had proclaimed their own nature with pride.
Peaceful Belgium--invaded, burned, butchered, ravished, dismantled,
mulcted, deported, enslaved--was the first sample of German work.

Davidge had hated Germany's part in the war from the first, for the
world's sake, for the sake of the little nations trampled and starved
and the big nations thrown into desperation, and for the insolence and
omnipresence of the German menace--for the land filled with graves,
the sea with ships, the air with indiscriminate slaughter.

Now it had come straight home to himself. His own ship was assassinated;
the hill of wheat she carried had been spilled into the sterile sea.
Nearly all of her crew had been murdered or drowned. He had a
blood-feud of his own with Germany.

He was startled to find Mamise recoiling from him. He looked at her
with a sudden demand:

"Does it shock you to have me hate 'em?"

"No! No, indeed!" she cried. "I wasn't thinking of them, but of you. I
never saw you before like this. You scared me a little. I didn't know
you could be so angry."

"I'm not half as angry as I'd like to be. Don't you abominate 'em,
too?"

"Oh yes--I wish that Germany were one big ship and all the Germans on
board, and I had a torpedo big enough to blast them all to--where they
belong."

This wish seemed to him to prove a sufficient lack of affection for
the Germans, and he added, "Amen!" with a little nervous reaction into
uncouth laughter.

But this was only another form of his anguish. At such times the
distraught soul seems to have need of all its emotions and expressions,
and to run among them like a frantic child.

Davidge's next mood was a passionate regret for the crew, the dead
engineers and sailors shattered and blasted and cast into the sea, the
sufferings of the little squad that escaped into a life-boat without
water or provisions or shelter from the sun and the lashing spray.

Then he pictured the misery of hunger that the ship's cargo would have
relieved. He had been reading much of late of the Armenian--what word
or words could name that woe so multitudinous that, like the number of
the stars, the mind refused to attempt its comprehension?

He saw one of those writhing columns winding through a rocky
wilderness--old crones knocked aside to shrivel with famine, babies
withering like blistered flowers from the flattened breasts of their
mothers dying with hunger, fatigue, blows, violation, and despair. He
thought of Poland childless and beyond pity; of the Serbian shambles.
The talons of hunger a millionfold clutched him, and he groaned
aloud:

"If they'd only stolen my wheat and given it to somebody--to anybody!
But to pour it into the sea!"

He could not linger in that slough and stay sane. His struggling soul
broke loose from the depths and hunted safety in self-ridicule:

"I might better have left the wheat at home and never have built the
fool ship."

He began to laugh again, an imbecile ironic cachinnation.

"The blithering idiot I've been! To go and work and work and work, and
drive my men and all the machinery for months and months to make a
ship and put in the engines and send it down and load it, and all for
some"--a gesture expressed his unspeakable thought--"of a German to
blow it to hell and gone, with a little clock-bomb in one second!"

In his abysmal discouragement his ideals were all topsy-turvy. He
burlesqued his own religion as the most earnest constantly do, for we
all revolve around ourselves as well as our suns.

"What's the use," he maundered--"what's the use of trying to do
anything while they're alive and at work right here in our country?
They're everywhere! They swarm like cockroaches out of every hole as
soon as the light gets low! We've got to blister 'em all to death with
rough-on-rats before we can build anything that will last. There's no
stopping them without wiping 'em off the earth."

She did not argue with him. At such times people do not want arguments
or good counsel or correction. They want somebody to stand by in mute
fellowship to watch and listen and suffer, too. So Mamise helped
Davidge through that ordeal. He turned from rage at the Germans to
contempt for himself.

"It's time I quit out of this and went to work with the army. It makes
me sick to be here making ships for Germans to sink. The thing to do
is to kill the Germans first and build the ships when the sea is safe
for humanity. I'm ashamed of myself sitting in an office shooting with
a telephone and giving out plans and contracts and paying wages to a
gang of mechanics. It's me for a rifle and a bayonet."

Mamise had to oppose this:

"Who's going to get you soldiers across the sea or feed you when you
get there if all the ship-builders turn soldier?"

"Let somebody else do it."

"But who can do it as well as you can? The Germans said that America
could never put an army across or feed it if she got it there. If you
go on strike you'll prove the truth of that."

Then she began to chant his own song to him. A man likes to hear his
nobler words recalled. Here is one of the best resources a woman has.
Mamise was speaking for him as well as for herself when she said:

"Oh, I remember how you thrilled me with your talk of all the ships
you would build. You said it was the greatest poem ever written, the
idea of making ships faster than the Germans could sink them. It was
that that made me want to be a ship-builder. It was the first big
ambition I ever had. And now you tell me it's useless and foolish!"

He saw the point without further pressure.

"You're right," he said. "My job's here. It would be selfish and showy
to knock off this work and grab a gun. I'll stick. It's hard, though,
to settle down here when everybody else is bound for France."

Mamise was one of those unusual wise persons who do not continue to
argue a case that has already been won. She added only the warm
personal note to help out the cold generality.

"There's my ship to finish, you know. You couldn't leave poor _Mamise_
out there on the stocks unfinished."

The personal note was so warm that he reached out for her. He needed
her in his arms. He caught her roughly to him and knew for the first
time the feel of her body against his, the sweet compliance of her
form to his embrace.

But there was an anachronism to her in the contact. She was in one of
those moods of exaltation, of impersonal nationalism, that women were
rising to more and more as a new religion. She was feeling terribly
American, and, though she had no anger for him and saw no insult in
his violence, she seemed to be above and beyond mere hugging and
kissing. She was in a Joan of Arc humor, so she put his hands away,
yet squeezed them with fervor, for she knew that she had saved him
from himself and to himself. She had brought him back to his east
again, and the morning is always wonderful.

She had renewed his courage, however, so greatly that he did not
despair of her. He merely postponed her, as people were postponing
everything beautiful and lovable "for the duration of the war."

He reached for the buzzer. Already Mamise heard its rattlesnake
clatter. But his hand paused and went to hers as he stammered:

"We've gone through this together, and you've helped me--I can't tell
you how much, honey. Only, I hope we can go through a lot more trouble
together. There's plenty of it ahead."

She felt proud and meek and dismally happy. She squeezed his big hand
again in both of hers and sighed, with a smile:

"I hope so."

Then he pressed the buzzer, and Miss Gabus was inside the door with
suspicious promptitude. Davidge said:

"Mr. Avery, please--and the others--all the others right away. Ask
them to come here; and you might come back, Miss Gabus."

Mr. Avery, the chief clerk, and other clerks and stenographers,
gathered, wondering what was about to happen. Some of them came
grinning, for when they had asked Miss Gabus what was up she had
guessed: "I reckon he's goin' to announce his engagement."

The office force came in like an ill-drilled comic-opera chorus.
Davidge waited till the last-comer was waiting. Then he said:

"Folks, I've just had bad news. The _Clara_--they got her! The Germans
got her. She was blown up by a bomb. She was two days out and going
like a greyhound when she sank with all on board except six of the
crew who got away in a life-boat and were picked up by a tramp."

There was a shock of silence, then a hubbub of gasps, oaths, of
incredulous protests.

Miss Gabus was the first to address Davidge:

"My Gawd! Mr. Davidge, what you goin' to do about it?"

They thought him a man of iron when he said, quietly:

"We'll build some more ships. And if they sink those we'll--build some
more."

He was a man of iron, but iron can bend and break and melt, and so can
steel. Yet there is a renewal of strength, and, thanks to Mamise,
Davidge was recalled to himself, though he was too shrewd or too
tactful to give her the credit for redeeming him.

His resolute words gave the office people back to their own
characters or their own reactions and their first phrases. Each
had something to say. One, "She was such a pretty boat!" another, "Was
she insured, d'you suppose?" a third, a fourth, and the rest: "The
poor engineer--and the sailors!" "All that work for nothin'!" "The
money she cost!" "The Belgians could 'a' used that wheat!" "Those
Germans! Is there anything they won't do?"

The chief clerk shepherded them back to their tasks. Davidge took up
the telephone to ask for more steel. Mamise renewed the cheerful
_rap-rap-rap_ of her typewriter.

The shock that struck the office had yet to rush through the yard.
There was no lack of messengers to go among the men with the bad word
that the first of the Davidge ships had been destroyed. It was a
personal loss to nearly everybody, as it had been to Davidge, for
nearly everybody had put some of his soul and some of his sweat into
that slow and painful structure so instantly annulled. The mockery of
the wasted toil embittered every one. The wrath of the workers was
both loud and ferocious.

Jake Nuddle was one of the few who did not revile the German plague.
He was not in the least excited over the dead sailors. They did not
belong to his union. Besides, Jake did not love work or the things it
made. He claimed to love the workers and the money they made.

He was tactless enough to say to a furious orator:

"Ah, what's it to you? The more ships the Germans sink the more you
got to build and the more they'll have to pay you. If Davidge goes
broke, so much the better. The sooner we bust these capitalists the
sooner the workin'-man gets his rights."

The orator retorted: "This is war-times. We got to make ships to win
the war."

Jake laughed. "Whose war is it? The capitalists'. You're fightin' for
Morgan and Rockefeller to save their investments and to help 'em to
grind you into the dirt. England and France and America are all
land-grabbers. They're no better 'n Germany."

The workers wanted a scapegoat, and Jake unwittingly volunteered. They
welcomed him with a bloodthirsty roar. They called him vigorous
shipyard names and struck at him. He backed off. They followed. He
made a crucial mistake; he whirled and ran. They ran after him. Some
of them threw hammers and bolts. Some of these struck him as he fled.
Workmen ahead of him were roused by the noise and headed him off.

He darted through an opening in the side of the _Mamise_. The crowd
followed him, chased him out on an upper deck.

"Throw him overboard! Kill him!" they shouted.

He took refuge behind Sutton the riveter, whose gun had made such
noise that he had heard none of the clamor. Seeing Jake's white face
and the mark of a thrown monkey-wrench on his brow, Sutton shut off
the compressed air and confronted the pursuers. He was naked to the
waist, and he had no weapon, but he held them at bay while he
demanded:

"What's the big idea? What you playin'? Puss in a corner? How many of
yous guys does it take to lick this one gink?"

A burly patriot, who forgot that his name and his accent were
Teutonic, roared:

"Der sneagin' Sohn off a peach ain't sorry _die Clara_ is by dose tam
Chermans _gesunken_!"

"What!" Sutton howled. "The _Clara_ sunk? Whatya mean--sunk?"

Bohlmann told him. Sutton wavered. He had driven thousands of rivets
into the frame of the ship, and a little explosive had opened all the
seams and ended her days! When at last he understood the _Clara's_
fate and Nuddle's comments he turned to Jake with baleful calm:

"And you thought it was good business, did you? And these fellers
was thinkin' about lynchin' you, was they? Well, they're all
wrong--they're all wrong: we'd ought to save lynchin' for real
guys. What you need is somethin' like--this!"

His terrific fist lashed out and caught Jake in the right eye. Jake in
a daze of indignation and amazement went over backward; his head
struck the steel deck, and his soul went out. When it came back he lay
still for a while, pretending to be unconscious until the gang had
dispersed, satisfied, and Sutton was making ready to begin riveting
again. Then he picked himself up and edged round Sutton, growling:

"I'll fix you for this, you--"

Sutton did not wait to learn what Jake was going to call him. His big
foot described an upward arc, and Jake a parabola, ending in a drop
that almost took him through an open hatch into the depth of the hold.
He saved himself, peering over the edge, too weak for words--hunched
back, crawled around the steel abyss, and betook himself to a safe
hiding-place under the tank-top till the siren should blow and
disperse his enemies.



CHAPTER VI


The office force left pretty promptly on the hour. When Mamise noted
that desks were being cleared for inaction she began mechanically to
conform. Then she paused.

On other afternoons she had gone home with the crowd of employees, too
weary with office routine to be discontent. But now she thought of
Davidge left alone in his office to brood over his lost ship, the
brutal mockery of such loving toil. It seemed heartless to her as his
friend to desert him in the depths. But as one of his stenographers,
it would look shameless to hang round with the boss. She shifted from
foot to foot and from resolve to resolve.

Their relations were undergoing as many strains and stresses as a
ship's frame in the various waves and weathers that confront it. She
had picked up some knowledge of the amazing twists a ship encounters
at rest and in motion--stresses in still water, with cargo and
without, hogging and sagging stresses, seesaw strains, tensile,
compressive, transverse, racking, pounding; bumps, blows, collisions,
oscillations, running aground--stresses that crumpled steel or
scissored the rivets in two.

It was hard to foresee the critical stress that should mean life or
death to the ship and its people. Some went humbly forth and came home
with rich cargo; some steamed out in pride and never came back; some
limped in from the sea racked and ruined; some ran stupidly ashore in
fogs; some fought indomitably through incredible tempests. Some died
dramatic deaths on cliffs where tidal waves hammered them to shreds;
some turned turtle at their docks and went down in the mud. Some led
long and honorable lives, and others, beginning with glory,
degenerated into cattle-ships or coastal tramps.

People were but ships and bound for as many destinations and
destinies. Their fates depended as much and yet as little on their
pilots and engineers, their engines and their frames. The test of the
ship and of the person was the daily drudgery and the unforeseen
emergency.

Davidge believed in preliminary tests of people and boats. Before
he hired a man or trusted a partner he inquired into his past
performances. He had been unable to insist on investigation in the
recent mad scramble for labor due to the sudden withdrawal into the
national army of nearly every male between twenty-one and thirty-one
and of hundreds of thousands of volunteers of other ages.

He had given his heart to Marie Louise Webling, of whom he knew little
except that she would not tell him much. And on her dubious voucher he
had taken Jake Nuddle into his employ. Now he had to accept them as he
had to accept steel, taking it as it came and being glad to get any at
all.

Hitherto he had insisted on preliminary proofs. He wanted no steel in
a ship's hull or in any part of her that had not behaved well in the
shop tests, in the various machines that put the metal under bending
stress, cross-breaking, hammering, drifting, shearing, elongation,
contraction, compression, deflection, tension, and torsion stresses.
The best of the steels had their elastic limits; there was none that
did not finally snap.

Once this point was found, the individual metal was placed according
to its quality, the responsibility imposed on it being only a tenth of
its proved capacity. That ought to have been enough of a margin of
safety. Yet it did not prevent disasters.

People could not always be put to such shop tests beforehand. A
reference or two, a snap judgment based on first impressions, ushered
a man or a woman into a place where weakness or malice could do
incalculable harm. In every institution, as in every structure, these
danger-spots exist. Davidge, for all his care and knowledge of people,
could only take the best he could get.

Jake Nuddle had got past the sentry-line with ludicrous ease and had
contrived already the ruin of one ship. His program, which included
all the others, had had a little setback, but he could easily regain
his lost ground, for the mob had vented its rage against him and was
appeased.

Mamise was inside the sentry-lines, too, both of Davidge's shop and
his heart. Her purposes were loyal, but she was drifting toward a
supreme stress that should try her inmost fiber. And at the moment she
felt an almost unbearable strain in the petty decision of whether to
go with the clerks or stop with the boss.

Mamise was not so much afraid of what the clerks would say of her. It
was Davidge that she was protecting. She did not want to have them
talking about him--as if anything could have stopped them from that!

While she debated between being unselfish enough to leave him
unconsoled and being selfish enough to stay, she spent so much time
that the outer office was empty, anyway.

Seeing herself alone, she made a quick motion toward the door. Miss
Gabus came out, stared violently, and said:

"Was you goin' in?"

"No--oh no!" said Mamise. "I left something in my desk."

She opened her desk, took out a pencil-nub and hurried away,
ostentatiously passing the other clerks as they struggled across the
yard to the gate.

She walked to her shanty and found it all pins and needles. She was so
desperate that she went to see her sister.

Marie Louise found Abbie in her kitchen, sewing buttons on the
extremely personal property of certain bachelors whom she washed for
in spite of Jake's high earnings--from which she benefited no more
than before. If Jake had come into a million, or shattered the world
to bits and then rebuilt it nearer to his heart's desire, he would not
have had enough to make much difference to Abbie. Mamise had made many
handsome presents to Abbie, but somehow they vanished, or at least got
Abbie no farther along the road to contentment or grace.

Mamise was full of the story of the disaster to the _Clara_. She drew
Abbie into the living-room away from the children, who were playing in
the kitchen because it was full of the savor of the forthcoming
supper.

"Abbie dear, have you heard the news?"

Abbie gasped, "Oh God, is anything happened to Jake--killed or
arrested or anything?"

"No, no--but _Clara_--the _Clara_--"

"Clara who?"

"The ship, the first ship we built, she's destroyed."

"For the land's sake! I want to know! Well, what you know about
that!"

Abbie could not rise to very lofty heights of emotion or language over
anything impersonal. She made hardly so much noise over this tragedy
as a hen does over the delivery of an egg.

Mamise was distressed by her stolidity. She understood with regret why
Jake did not find Abbie an ideal inspirational companion. She hated to
think well of Jake or ill of her sister, but one cannot help receiving
impressions.

She did her best to stimulate Abbie to a decent warmth, but Abbie was
as immune to such appeals as those people were who were still
wondering why America went to war with Germany.

Abbie was entirely perfunctory in her responses to Mamise's pictures
of the atrocity. She grew really indignant when she looked at the
clock and saw that Jake was late to dinner. She broke in on Mamise's
excitement with a distressful:

"And we got steak 'n' cab'ge for supper."

"I must hurry back to my own shack," said Mamise, rising.

"You stay right where you are. You're goin' to eat with us."

"Not to-night, thanks, dear."

She kept no servant of her own. She enjoyed the circumstance of
getting her meals. She was camping out in her shanty. To-night she
wanted to be busy about something especially about a kitchen--the
machine-shop of the woman who wants to be puttering at something.

She was dismally lonely, but she was not equal to a supper at Jake's.
She would have liked a few children of her own, but she was glad that
she did not own the Nuddle children, especially the elder two.

The Nuddles had given three hostages to Fortune. Jake cared little
whether Fortune kept the hostages or not, or whether or not she
treated them as the Germans treated Belgian hostages.

Little Sister was the oldest of the trio completed by Little Brother
and a middle-sized bear named Sam. Sis and Sam were juvenile
anarchists born with those gifts of mischief, envy, indolence, and
denunciation that Jake and the literary press-agents of the same
spirit flattered as philosophy or even as philanthropy. Little
Brother was a quiet, patient gnome with quaint instincts of industry
and accumulation. He was always at work at something. His mud-pie
bakery was famous for two blocks. He gathered bright pebbles and
shells. In the marble season he was a plutocrat in taws and agates.
Being always busy, he always had time to do more things. He even
volunteered to help his mother. When he got an occasional penny he
hoarded it in hiding. He had need to, for Sam borrowed what he could
and stole what he could not wheedle.

Little Brother was not stingy, but he saved; he bought his mother
petty gifts once in a while when he had enough to pay for something.

Little Sister and Sam were capable in emotional crises of sympathy or
hatred to express themselves volubly. Little Brother had no gifts of
speech. He made gifts of pebbles or of money awkwardly, shyly, with
few words. Mamise, as she tried to extricate herself from Abbie's
lassoing hospitality, paused in the door and studied the children,
contrasting them with the Webling grandchildren who had been born with
gold spoons in their mouths and somebody to take them out, fill them,
and put them in again. But luxury seemed to make small difference in
character.

She mused upon the three strange beings that had come into the world
as a result of the chance union of Jake and Abbie. Without that they
would never have existed and the world would have never known the
difference, nor would they.

Sis and Sam were quarreling vigorously. Little Brother was silent upon
the hearth. He had collected from the gutter many small stones and
sticks. They were treasures to him and he was as important about them
as a miser about his shekels. Again and again he counted them, taking
a pleasure in their arithmetic. Already he was advanced in mathematics
beyond the others and he loved to arrange his wealth for the sheer
delight of arrangement; orderliness was an instinct with him already.

For a time Mamise noted how solemnly he kept at work, building a little
stone house and painfully making it stand. He was a home-builder
already.

Sam had paid no heed to the work. But, wondering what Mamise was
looking at, he turned and saw his brother. A grin stretched his
mouth. Little Brother grew anxious. He knew that when something he had
builded interested Sam its doom was close.

"Whass 'at?" said Sam.

"None yer business," said Little Brother, as spunky as Belgium before
the Kaiser.

"'S'ouse, ain't it?"

"You lea' me 'lone, now!"

"Where d'you git it at?"

"I built it."

"Gimme't!"

"You build you one for your own self now."

"'At one's good enough for me."

"Maw! You make Sam lea' my youse alone."

Mrs. Nuddle moaned: "Sammie, don't bother Little Brother now. You go
on about your own business."

Smash! splash! Sam had kicked the house into ruins with the side of
his foot.

Mamise was so angry that before she knew it she had darted at him and
smacked him with violence. Instantly she was ashamed of herself. Sam
began to rub his face and yowl:

"Maw, she gimme a swipe in the snoot! She hurt me, so she did."

Mamise was disgusted. Abbie appeared at the door equally disgusted; it
was intolerable that any one should slap her children but herself. She
had accepted too much of Mamise's money to be very indignant, but she
did rise to a wail:

"Seems to me, Mamise, you might keep your hands off my childern."

"I'm sorry. I forgot myself. But Sam is so like his father I just
couldn't help taking a whack at him. The little bully knocked over his
brother's house just to hear it fall. When he grows up he'll be just
as much of a nuisance as Jake and he'll call it syndicalism or
internationalism or something, just as Jake does."

Jake came in on the scene. He brought home his black eye and a white
story.

When Abbie gasped, "What on earth's the matter?" he growled: "I bumped
into a girder. Whatya s'pose?"

Abbie accepted the eye as a fact and the story as a fiction, but she
knew that, however Jake stood in the yard, as a pugilist he was the
home champion.

She called Little Sister to bring from the ice-box a slice of the
steak she had bought for dinner. On the high wages Jake was
earning--or at least receiving--the family was eating high.

Little Sister told her brother Sam, "It's a shame to waste good meat
on his old black lamp." And Sam's regret was, "I wisht I'd 'a' gave it
to um."

Little Sister knew better than to let her father hear any of this, but
it was only another cruel evidence that great lovers of the public
welfare are apt to be harshly regarded at home. It is too much to
expect that one who tenderly considers mankind in the mass should have
time to be kind to them in particular.

Jake was not even appreciated by Mamise, whom he did appreciate. Every
time he praised her looks or her swell clothes she acted as if he made
her mad.

To-night when he found her at the house her first gush of anxiety for
him was followed by a remark of singular heartlessness:

"But, oh, did you hear of the destruction of the _Clara_?"

"Yes, I heard of the destruction of the _Clara_," he echoed, with a
sneer. "If I had my way the whole rotten fleet would follow her to the
bottom of the ocean!"

"Why, Jake!" was Abbie's best.

Jake went on: "And it will, too, or I'm a liar. The Germans will get
them boats as fast as they build 'em." He laughed. "I tell you them
Kaiser-boys just eats ships."

"But how were they able to destroy the _Clara_?" Mamise demanded.

"Easiest thing you know. When she laid up at Norfolk they just put a
bomb into her."

"But how did they know she was going to Norfolk to load?"

"Oh, we--they have ways."

The little slip from "we" to "they" caught Mamise's ear. Her first
intuition of its meaning was right, and out of her amazement the first
words that leaped were:

"Poor Abbie!"

Thought, like lightning, breaks through the air in a quick slash from
cloud to ground. Mamise's whole thought was from zig to zag in some
such procedure as this, but infinitely swift.

"We--they? That means that Jake considers himself a part of the German
organization for destruction, the will to ruin. That means that Jake
must have been involved in the wreck of the _Clara_. That means that
he deliberately connived at a crime against his country. That means
that he is a traitor as well as a murderer. That means that my sister
is the wife of a fiend. Poor Abbie!"

This thought stunned and blinded Mamise a long moment. She heard Jake
grumbling:

"What ya mean--'poor Abbie!'?"

Mamise was afraid to say. She cast one glance at Jake, and the
lightning of understanding struck him. He realized what she was
thinking--or at least he suspected it, because he was thinking of his
own past. He was realizing that he had met Nicky Easton through
Mamise, though Mamise did not know this--that is, he hoped she did
not. And yet perhaps she did.

And now Mamise and Jake were mutually afraid of each other. Abbie
was altogether in the dark, and a little jealous of Mamise and
her peculiar secrets, but her general mood was one of stolid
thoughtlessness.

Jake, suspecting Mamise's suspicion of him, was moved to justify
himself by one of his tirades against society in general. Abbie, who
had about as much confidence in the world as an old rabbit in a doggy
country, had heard Jake thunder so often that his denunciations had
become as vaguely lulling as a continual surf. Generalizations meant
nothing to her bovine soul. She was thinking of something else,
usually, throughout all the fiery Jakiads. While he indicted whole
nations and denounced all success as a crime against unsuccess she was
hunting through her work-basket for a good thread to patch Sam's pants
with.

Abbie was unmoved, but Mamise was appalled. It was her first encounter
with the abysmal hatred of which some of these loud lovers of mankind
are capable. Jake's theories had been merely absurd or annoying
before, but now they grew monstrous, for they seemed to be confirmed
by an actual crime.

Mamise felt that she must escape from the presence of Jake or attack
him. She despised him too well to argue with him, and she rose to go.

Abbie pleaded with her in vain to stay to supper. She would not be
persuaded. She walked to her own bungalow and cooked herself a little
meal of her own. She felt stained once more with vicarious guilt, and
wondered what she had done so to be pursued and lassoed by the crimes
of others.

She remembered that she had lost her chance to clear herself of Sir
Joseph Webling's guilt by keeping his secret. If she had gone to the
British authorities with her first suspicion of Sir Joseph and Nicky
Easton she would have escaped from sharing their guilt. She would
have been branded as an informer, but only by the conspirators; and
Sir Joseph himself and Lady Webling might have been saved from
self-destruction.

Now she was in the same situation almost exactly. Again she had only
suspicion for her guide. But in England she had been a foreigner and
Sir Joseph was her benefactor. Here she was in her own country, and
she owed nothing to Jake Nuddle, who was a low brute, as ruthless to
his wife as to his flag.

It came to Mamise with a sharp suddenness that her one clear duty was
to tell Davidge what she knew about Jake. It was not a pretty duty,
but it was a definite. She resolved that the first thing she did in
the morning would be to go to Davidge with what facts she had. The
resolution brought her peace, and she sat down to her meager supper
with a sense of pleasant righteousness.

Mamise felt so redeemed that she took up a novel, lighted a cigarette,
and sat down by her lamp to pass a well-earned evening of spinsterial
respectability. Then the door opened and Abbie walked in. Abbie did
not think it sisterly to knock. She paused to register her formal
protest against Mamise's wicked addiction to tobacco.

"I must say, Mamise, I do wisht you'd break yourself of that horbul
habbut."

Mamise laughed tolerantly. "You were cooking cabbage when I was at
your house. Why can't I cook this vegetable?"

"But I wa'n't cooking the cabbage in my face."

"You were cooking it in mine. But let's not argue about botany or
ethics."

Abbie was not aware of mentioning either of those things, but she had
other matters to discuss. She dropped into a chair, sighing:

"Jake's went out to telephone, and I thought I'd just run over for a
few words. You see, I--"

"Where was Jake telephoning?"

"I d'know. He's always long-distancin' somebody. But what I come
for--"

"Doesn't it ever occur to you to wonder?"

"Long as it ain't some woman--or if it is, as long as it's long
distance--why should I worry my head about it? The thing I wanted to
speak of is--"

"Didn't it rather make your blood run cold to hear Jake speak as he
did of the lost ship?"

"Oh, I'm so used to his rantin' it goes in one ear and out the
other."

"You'd better keep a little of it in your brain. I'm worried about
your husband, even if you're not, Abbie dear."

"What call you got to worry?"

"I have a ghastly feeling that my brother-in-law is mixed up in the
sinking of the _Clara_."

"Don't be foolish!"

"I'm trying not to be. But do you remember the night I told you both
that the _Clara_ was going to Norfolk to take on her cargo? Well, he
went out to get cigars, though he had a lot, and he let it slip that
he had been talking on the long-distance telephone. When the _Clara_
is sunk, he is not surprised. He says, 'We--they have ways.' He
prophesies the sinking of all the ships Mr. Davidge--"

Abbie seized this name as a weapon of self-defense and mate-defense.

"Oh, you're speakin' for Mr. Davidge now."

"Perhaps. He's my employer, and Jake's, too. I feel under some
obligations to him, even though Jake doesn't. I feel some obligations
to the United States, and Jake doesn't. I distrust and abhor Germany,
and Jake likes her as well as he does us. The background is perfect.
When such crimes are being done as Germany keeps doing, condoning them
is as bad as committing them."

"Big words!" sniffed Abbie. "Can't you talk United States?"

"All right, my dear. I say that since Jake is glad the _Clara_ was
sunk and hopes that more ships will be sunk, he is as bad as the men
that sank her. And what's more, I have made up my mind that Jake
helped to sink her, and that he works in this yard simply for a chance
to sink more ships. Do you get those words of one syllable?"

"No," said Abbie. Ideas of one syllable are as hard to grasp as words
of many. "I don't know what you're drivin' at a tall."

"Poor Abbie!" sighed Mamise. "Dream on, if you want to. But I'm going
to tell Mr. Davidge to keep a watch on Jake. I'm going to warn him
that Jake is probably mixed up in the sinking of that beautiful ship
he named after his mother."

Even Abbie could not miss the frightful meaning of this. She was one
of those who never trust experience, one of those who think that, in
spite of all the horrible facts of the past, horrible things are
impossible in the future. Higher types of the same mind had gone about
saying that war was impossible, later insisting that it was impossible
that the United States should be dragged into this war because it was
so horrible, and next averring that since this war was so horrible
there could never be another.

Even Abbie could imagine what would happen if Mamise denounced Jake as
an accomplice in the sinking of the Clara. It would be so terrible
that it must be impossible. The proof that Jake was innocent was the
thought of what would happen to him and to her and their children if
he were found guilty. She summed it all up in a phrase:

"Mamise, you're plumb crazy!"

"I hope so, but I'm also crazy enough to put Mr. Davidge on his
guard."

"And have him fire Jake, or get him arrested?"

"Perhaps."

"Ain't you got any sense of decency or dooty a tall?"

"I'm trying to find out."

"Well, I always knew a woman who'd smoke cigarettes would do
anything."

"I'll do this."

"O' course you won't; but if you did, I'd--why, I'd--why, I just don't
know what I'd do."

"Would you give up Jake?"

"Give up Jake? Divorce him or something?"

Mamise nodded.

Abbie gasped: "Why, you're positively immor'l! Posi-_tive_-ly! He's
the father of my childern! I'll stick to Jake through thick and
thin."

"Through treason and murder, too? You were an American, you know,
before you ever met him. And I was an American before he became my
brother-in-law. And I don't intend to let him make me a partner in his
guilt just because he made you give him a few children."

"I won't listen to another word," cried Abbie. "You're too indecent to
talk to." And she slammed the door after her.

"Poor Abbie!" said Mamise, and closed her book, rubbed the light out
of her cigarette, and went to bed.

But not to sleep. Abbie had not argued well, but sometimes that is
best for the arguments, for then the judge becomes their attorney.
Mamise tossed on a grid of perplexities. Neither her mind nor her body
could find comfort.

She rose early to escape her thoughts. It was a cold, raw morning, and
Abbie came dashing through the drizzle with her shawl over her head
and her cheeks besprent with tears and rain. She flung herself on
Mamise and sobbed:

"I ain't slep' a wink all night. I been thinkin' of Jake and the
childern. I was mad at you last night, but I'm sorry for what I said.
You're my own sister--all I got in the world besides the three
childern. And I'm all you got, and I know it ain't in you to go and
send the father o' my childern to jail and ruin my life. I've had a
hard life, and so've you, Mamise honey, but we got to be friends and
love one another, for we're all that's left of our fambly, and it
couldn't be that one sister would drive the other to distraction and
drag the family name in the mud. It couldn't be, could it, Mamise?
Tell me you was only teasin' me! I didn't mean what I said last night
about you bein' indecent, and you didn't mean what you said about
Jake, did you, Mamise? Say you didn't, or I'll just die right here."

She had left the door open, and a gust of windy rain came lashing in.
The world outside was cold and wet, and Abbie was warm and afraid and
irresistibly pitiful.

Mamise could only hug and kiss her and say:

"I'll see! I'll see!"

When people do not know what their chief mysteries, themselves, will
do they say, "I'll see."

Mamise thought of Davidge, and she could not promise to leave him in
ignorance of the menace imminent above him. But when at last she tore
herself from Abbie's clutching hands and hurried away to the office
she looked back and saw Abbie out in the rain, staring after her in
terror and shaking her head helplessly. She could not promise herself
that she would tell Davidge.



CHAPTER VII


She reached the office late in spite of her early start. Davidge had
gone. He had gone to Pittsburgh to try to plead for more steel for
more ships.

The head clerk told her this. He was in an ugly mood, sarcastic about
Mamise's tardiness, and bitter with the knowledge that all the work of
building another _Clara_ had to be carried through with its endless
detail and the chance of the same futility. He was as sick about it as
a Carlyle who must rewrite a burned-up history, an Audubon who must
repaint all his pictures.

Davidge had left no good-by for Mamise. This hurt her. She wished that
she had stopped to tell him good night the afternoon before.

In his prolonged absence Mamise wondered if he were really in
Pittsburgh or in Washington with Lady Clifton-Wyatt. She experienced
the first luxury of jealousy; it was aggravated by alarm. She was left
alone, a prey to the appeals of Abbie, who could not persuade her to
promise silence.

But the next night Jake was gone. Abbie explained that he had been
called out of town to a meeting of a committee of his benevolent
insurance order. Mamise wondered and surmised.

Jake went to meet Nicky Easton and claim his pay for his share in the
elimination of the _Clara_. Nicky paid him so handsomely that Jake
lost his head and imagined himself already a millionaire. Strangely,
he did not at once set about dividing his wealth among his beloved
"protelariat." He made a royal progress from saloon to saloon, growing
more and more haughty, and pounding on successive bars with a vigor
that increased as his articulation effervesced. His secret would
probably have bubbled out of him if he had not been so offensive that
he was bounced out of every barroom before he had time to get to the
explanation of his wealth. In one "poor man's club" he fell asleep
and rolled off his chair to a comfortable berth among the spittoons.

Next morning Jake woke up with his head swollen and his purse
vanished. He sought out Nicky and demanded another fee. Nicky laughed
at his claim; but Jake grew threatening, and Nicky was frightened into
offering him a chance to win another fortune by sinking another ship.
He staked Jake to the fare for his return and promised to motor down
some dark night and confer with him. Jake rolled home in state.

On the same train went a much interested sleuth who detached himself
from the entourage of Nicky and picked up Jake.

Jake had attracted some attention when he first met Nicky in
Washington, but the sadly overworked Department of Justice could not
provide a squad of escorts for every German or pro-German suspect.
Before the war was over the secret army under Mr. Bielaski reached a
total of two hundred and fifty thousand, but the number of suspects
reached into the millions. From Nicky Easton alone a dozen activities
radiated; and studying him and his communicants was a slow and complex
task.

Mr. Larrey decided that the best way to get a line on Jake would be to
take a job alongside him and "watch his work." It was the easiest
thing in the world to get a job at Davidge's shipyard; and it was
another of the easiest things in the world to meet Jake, for Jake was
eager to meet workmen, particularly workmen like Larrey, who would
listen to reason, and take an interest in the gentle art of slowing up
production. Larrey was all for sabotage.

One evening Jake invited him to his house for further development. On
that evening Mamise dropped in. She did not recognize Larrey, but he
remembered her perfectly.

He could hardly believe his camera eyes at first when he saw the great
Miss Webling enter a workman's shanty and accept Jake Nuddle's
introduction:

"Larrey, old scout, this is me sister-in-law. Mamise, shake hands with
me pal Larrey."

Larrey had been the first of her shadows in New York, but had been
called off when she proved unprofitable and before she met Easton. And
now he found her at work in a shipyard where strange things were
happening! He was all afire with the covey of spies he had flushed.
His first impulse was to shoot off a wire in code to announce his
discovery. Then he decided to work this gold-mine himself. It would be
pleasanter to cultivate this pretty woman than Jake Nuddle, and she
would probably fall for him like a thousand of brick. But when he
invited himself to call on her her snub fell on him like a thousand of
brick. She would not let him see her home, and he was furious till
Jake explained, "She's sweet on the boss."

Larrey decided that he had better call on Davidge and tip him off to
the past of his stenographer and get him to place her under
observation.

The next day Davidge came back from his protracted journey. He had
fought a winning battle for an allotment of steel. He was boyish with
the renewal of battle ardor, and boyish in his greeting of Mamise. He
made no bones of greeting her before all the clerks with a horribly
embarrassing enthusiasm:

"Lord! but I've been homesick to see you!"

Miss Gabus was disgusted. Mamise was silly with confusion.

Those people who are always afraid of new customs have dreaded public
life for women lest it should destroy modesty and rob them of the
protection of guardians, duennas, and chaperons. But the world seems
to have to have a certain amount of decency to get along on, at all,
and provides for it among humans about as well as it provides for the
protection of other plants and animals, letting many suffer and perish
and some prosper.

The anxious conservatives who are always risking their own souls in
spasms of anxiety over other people's souls would have given up Mamise
and Davidge for lost, since she lived alone and he was an unattached
bachelor. But curiously enough, their characters chaperoned them,
their jobs and ambitions excited and fatigued them, and their moods of
temptation either did not coincide or were frustrated by circumstances
and crowds.

Each knew well what it was to suffer an onset of desperate emotion, of
longing, of reckless, helpless adoration. But in office hours these
anguishes were as futile as prayers for the moon. Outside of office
hours there were other obstacles, embarrassments, interferences.

These protections and ambitions would not suffice forever, any more
than a mother's vigilance, maidenly timidity, convent walls or
_yashmaks_ will infallibly prevail. But they managed to kill a good
deal of time--and very dolefully.

Mamise was in peculiar peril now. She was beginning to feel very sorry
for herself, and even sorrier for Davidge. She remembered how cruelly
he had been bludgeoned by the news of the destruction of his first
ship, and she kept remembering the wild, sweet pangs of her sympathy,
the strange ecstasy of entering into the grief of another. She
remembered how she had seized his shoulders and how their hands had
wrestled together in a common anguish. The remembrance of that
communion came back to her in flashes of feverish demand for a renewal
of union, for a consummation of it, indeed. She was human, and nothing
human was alien to her.

Davidge had spoken of marriage--had told her that he was a candidate
for her husbandcy. She had laughed at him then, for her heart had been
full of the new wine of ambition. Like other wines, it had its morning
after when all that had been so alluring looked to be folly. Her own
loneliness told her that Davidge was lonely, and that two lonelinesses
combined would make a festival, as two negatives an affirmative.

When Davidge came back from his trip the joy in his eyes at sight of
her kindled her smoldering to flame. She would have been glad if he
had snatched her to his breast and crushed her there. She had that
womanly longing to be crushed, and he the man's to crush. But fate
provided a sentinel. Miss Gabus was looking on; the office force stood
by, and the day's work was waiting to be done.

Davidge went to his desk tremulous; Mamise to her typewriter. She
hammered out a devil's tattoo on it, and he devoured estimates and
commercial correspondence, while an aromatic haze enveloped them both
as truly as if they had been faun and nymph in a bosky glade.

Miss Gabus played Mrs. Grundy all morning and at the noon hour made a
noble effort to rescue Mamise from any opportunity to cast an evil
spell over poor Mr. Davidge. Women have a wonderful pity for men that
other women cultivate! Yet all that Miss Gabus said to Miss Webling
was:

"Goin' to lunch now, Mi' Swebling?"

And all that Miss Webling said was:

"Not just yet--thank you."

Both were almost swooning with the tremendous significance of the
moment.

Miss Webling felt that she was defying all the powers of espionage and
convention when she made so brave as to linger while Miss Gabus left
the room in short twitches, with the painful reluctance of one who
pulls off an adhesive plaster by degrees. When at last she was really
off, Miss Webling went to Davidge's door, feeling as wicked as the
maid in Ophelia's song, though she said no more than:

"Well, did you have a successful journey?"

Davidge whirled in his chair.

"Bully! Sit down, won't you?"

He thought that no goddess had ever done so divine a thing so
ambrosially as she when she smiled and shook her incredibly exquisite
head. He rose to his feet in awe of her. His restless hands, afraid to
lay hold of their quarry, automatically extracted his watch from his
pocket and held it beneath his eyes. He stared at it without
recognizing the hour, and stammered:

"Will you lunch with me?"

"No, thank you!"

This jolted an "Oh!" out of him. Then he came back with:

"When am I going to get a chance to talk to you?"

"You know my address."

"Yes, but--" He thought of that horrible evening when he had marched
through the double row of staring cottages. But he was determined.
"Going to be home this evening?"

"By some strange accident--yes."

"By some strange accident, I might drop round."

"Do."

They laughed idiotically, and she turned and glided out.

She went to the mess-hall and moved about, selecting her dishes.
Pretending not to see that Miss Gabus was pretending not to see her,
she took her collation to another table and ate with the relish of a
sense of secret guilt--the guilt of a young woman secretly betrothed.

Davidge kept away from the office most of the afternoon because Mamise
was so intolerably sweet and so tantalizingly unapproachable. He made
a pretext of inspecting the works. She had a sugary suspicion of his
motive, and munched it with strange comfort.

What might have happened if Davidge had called on her in her then mood
and his could easily be guessed. But there are usually interventions.
The chaperon this time was Mr. Larrey, the operative of the Department
of Justice. He also had his secret.

He arrived at Davidge's home just as Davidge finished the composition
of his third lawn tie and came down-stairs to go. When he saw Larrey
he was a trifle curt with his visitor. Thinking him a workman and
probably an ambassador from one of the unions on the usual mission of
such ambassadors--more pay, less hours, or the discharge of some
unorganized laborer--Davidge said:

"Better come round to the office in the morning."

"I can't come to your office," said Larrey.

"Why not? It's open to everybody."

"Yeh, but I can't afford to be seen goin' there."

"Good Lord! Isn't it respectable enough for you?"

"Yeh, but--well, I think it's my duty to tip you off to a little slick
work that's goin' on in your establishment."

"Won't it keep till to-morrow evening?"

"Yeh--I guess so. It's only one of your stenographers."

This checked Davidge. By a quaint coincidence he was about to call on
one of his stenographers. Larrey amended his first statement:
"Leastways, I'll say she calls herself a stenographer. But that's only
her little camouflage. She's not on the level."

Davidge realized that the stenographer he was wooing was not on the
level. She was in the clouds. But his curiosity was piqued. He
motioned Larrey to a chair and took another.

"Shoot," he said.

"Well, it's this Miss Webling. Know anything about her?"

"Something," said Davidge. He was too much amused to be angry. He
thought that Larrey was another of those amateur detectives who
flattered Germany by crediting her with an omnipresence in evil. He
was a faithful reader of Ellis Parker Butler's famous sleuth, and he
grinned at Larrey. "Well, Mr. Philo Gubb, go on. Your story interests
me."

Larrey reddened. He spoke earnestly, explained who he was, showed his
credentials, and told what he knew of Miss Webling. He added what he
imagined Davidge knew.

Davidge found the whole thing too preposterous to be insolent. His
chivalry in Mamise's behalf was not aroused, because he thought that
the incident would make a good story to tell her. He drew Larrey out
by affecting amazed incredulity.

Larrey explained: "She's an old friend of ours. We got the word from
the British to pick the lady up when she first landed in this country.
She was too slick for us, I guess, because we never got the goods on
her. We gave her up after a couple of weeks. Then her trail crossed
Nicky Easton's once more."

"And who is Nicky Easton?"

"He's a German agent she knew in London--great friend of her adopted
father's. The British nabbed him once, but he split on the gang, and
they let him off. Whilst I was trailin' him I ran into a feller named
Nuddle--he come up to see Easton. I followed him here, and lo and
behold! Miss Webling turns up, too! And passin' herself off for
Nuddle's sister-in-law! Nuddle's a bad actor, but she's worse. And she
pretends to be a poor workin'-girl. Cheese! You should have seen her
in New York all dolled up!"

Davidge ignored the opportunity to say that he had had the privilege
of seeing Miss Webling all dolled up. He knew why Mamise was living as
she did. It was a combination of lark and crusade. He nursed Larrey's
story along, and asked with patient amusement:

"What's your theory as to her reason for playing such a game?"

He smiled as he said this, but sobered abruptly when Larrey
explained:

"You lost a ship not long ago, didn't you? You got other ships on the
ways, ain't you? Well, I don't need to tell you it's good business for
the Huns to slow up or blow up all the ships they can. Every boat they
stop cuts down the supplies of the Allies just so much. This Miss
Webling's adopted father was in on the sinking of the _Lusitania_, and
this girl was, too, probably. She carried messages between old Webling
and Easton, and walked right into a little trap the British laid for
her. She put up a strong fight, and, being an American, was let go.
But her record got to this country before she did. You ask me what
she's up to. Well, what should she be up to but the Kaiser's work?
She's no stenographer, and she wouldn't be here playin' tunes on a
typewriter unless she had some good business reason. Well, her
business is--she's a ship-wrecker."

The charge was ridiculous, yet there were confirmations or seeming
confirmations of it. The mere name of Nicky Easton was a thorn in
Davidge's soul. He remembered Easton in London at Mamise's elbow, and
in Washington pursuing her car and calling her "Mees Vapelink."

Davidge promised Larrey that he would look into the matter, and bade
him good night with mingled respect and fear.

When he set out at length to call on Mamise he was grievously troubled
lest he had lost his heart to a clever adventuress. He despised his
suspicions, and yet--somebody had destroyed his ship. He remembered
how shocked she had been by the news. Yet what else could the worst
spy do but pretend to be deeply worried? Davidge had never liked Jake
Nuddle; Mamise's alleged relationship by marriage did not gain
plausibility on reconsideration. The whim to live in a workman's
cottage was even less convincing.

Mr. Larrey had spoiled Davidge's blissful mood and his lover's program
for the evening. Davidge moved slowly toward Mamise's cottage, not as
a suitor, but as a student.

Larrey shadowed him from force of habit, and saw him going with
reluctant feet, pausing now and then, irresolute. Davidge was thinking
hard, calling himself a fool, now for trusting Mamise and now for
listening to Larrey. To suspect Mamise was to be a traitor to his
love: not to suspect her was to be a traitor to his common sense and
to his beloved career.

And the Mamise that awaited the belated Davidge was also in a state of
tangled wits. She, too, had dressed with a finikin care, as Davidge
had, neither of them stopping to think how quaint a custom it is for
people who know each other well and see each other in plain clothes
every day to get themselves up with meticulous skill in the evening
like Christmas parcels for each other's examination. Nature dresses
the birds in the mating season. Mankind with the aid of the
dressmaker and the haberdasher plumes up at will.

But as Cæsar had his Brutus, Charles I his Cromwell, and Davidge his
Larrey, so Mamise had her sister Abbie.

Abbie came in unexpectedly and regarded Mamise's costume with no
illusions except her own cynical ones:

"What you all diked up about?"

Mamise shrugged her eyebrows, her lips, and her shoulders.

Abbie guessed. "That man comin'?"

Mamise repeated her previous business.

"Kind of low neck, don't you think? And your arms nekked."

Mamise drew over her arms a scarf that gave them color rather than
concealment. Abbie scorned the subterfuge.

"Do you think it's proper to dress like that for a man to come
callin'?"

"I did think so till you spoke," snapped Mamise in all the bitterness
of the ancient feud between loveliness unashamed and unlovely shame.

Abbie felt unwelcome. "Well, I just dropped over because Jake's went
out to some kind of meetin'."

"With whom? Where?"

"Oh, some of the workmen--a lot of soreheads lookin' for more wages."

Mamise was indignant: "The soldiers get thirty dollars a month on a
twenty-four-hour, seven-day shift. Jake gets more than that a week for
loafing round the shop about seven hours a day. How on earth did you
ever tie yourself up to such a rotten bounder?"

Abbie longed for a hot retort, but was merely peevish:

"Well, I ain't seen you marryin' anything better. I guess I'll go
home. I don't seem to be wanted here."

This was one of those exact truths that decent people must immediately
deny. Mamise put her arms about Abbie and said:

"Forgive me, dear--I'm a beast. But Jake is such a--" She felt Abbie
wriggling ominously and changed to: "He's so unworthy of you. These
are such terrible times, and the world is in such horrible need of
everybody's help and especially of ships. It breaks my heart to see
anybody wasting his time and strength interfering with the builders
instead of joining them. It's like interfering with the soldiers.
It's a kind of treason. And besides, he does so little for you and the
children."

This last Abbie was willing to admit. She shed a few tears of
self-esteem, but she simply could not rise to the heights of suffering
for anything as abstract as a cause or a nation or a world. She was
like so many of the air-ships the United States was building then: she
could not be induced to leave the ground or, if she got up, to glide
back safely.

She tried now to love her country, but she hardly rose before she
fell.

"Oh, I know it's tur'ble what folks are sufferin', but--well, the
Lord's will be done, I say."

"And I say it's mainly the devil's will that's being done!" said
Mamise.

This terrified Abbie. "I wisht you'd be a little careful of your
language, Mamise. Swearin' and cigarettes both is pretty much of a
load for a lady to git by with."

"O Lord!" sighed Mamise, in despair. She was capable of long, high
flights, but she could not carry such a passenger.

Abbie continued: "And do you think it's right, seein' men here all by
yourself?"

"I'm not seeing men--but a man."

"But all by yourself."

"I'm not all by myself when he's here."

"You'll get the neighbors talkin'--you'll see!"

"A lot I care for their talk!"

"Why don't you marry him and settle down respectable and have childern
and--"

"Why don't you go home and take care of your own?"

"I guess I better." And she departed forthwith.



CHAPTER VIII


The two sisters had managed to fray each other's nerves raw. The mere
fact that Abbie advocated marriage and maternity threw Mamise into a
cantankerous distaste for her own dreams.

Larrey had delayed Davidge long enough for Mamise to be rid of Abbie,
but the influence of both Larrey and Abbie was manifest in the
strained greetings of the caller and the callee. Instead of the
eagerness to rush into each other's arms that both had felt in the
morning, Davidge entered Mamise's presence with one thought dominant:
"Is she really a spy? I must be on my guard." And Mamise was thinking,
"If he should be thinking what Abbie thought, how odious!"

Thus once more their moods chaperoned them. Love could not attune
them. She sat; he sat. When their glances met they parted at once.

She mistook his uncertainty for despondency. She assumed that he was
brooding over his lost ship. Out of a long silence she spoke:

"I wonder if the world will ever forget and forgive?"

"Forget and forgive who--whom, for what?"

"Germany for all she's done to this poor world--Belgium, the
_Lusitania_, the _Clara_?"

He smiled sadly. "The _Clara_ was a little slow tub compared to the
_Lusitania_, but she meant a lot to me."

"And to me. So did the _Lusitania_. She nearly cost me my life."

He was startled. "You didn't plan to sail on her?"

"No, but--" She paused. She had not meant to open this subject.

But he was aching to hear her version of what Larrey had told.

"How do you mean--she nearly cost you your life?"

"Oh, that's one of the dark chapters of my past."

"You never told me about it."

"I'd rather not."

"Please!" He said it with a surprising earnestness. He had a sudden
hope that her confession might be an absolving explanation.

She could not fathom this eagerness, but she felt a desire to release
that old secret. She began, recklessly:

"Well, I told you how I ran away from home and went on the stage, and
Sir Joseph Webling--"

"You told me that much, but not what happened before you met him."

"No, I didn't tell you that, and I'm not going to now, but--well, Sir
Joseph was like a father to me; I never had one of my own--to know and
remember. Sir Joseph was German born, and perhaps the ruthlessness was
contagious, for he--well, I can't tell you."

"Please!"

"I swore not to."

"You gave your oath to a German?"

"No, to an English officer in the Secret Service. I'm always
forgetting and starting to tell."

"Why did you take your oath?"

"I traded secrecy for freedom."

"You mean you turned state's evidence?"

"Oh no, I didn't tell on them. I didn't know what they were up to when
they used me for-- But I'm skidding now. I want to tell you--terribly.
But I simply must not. I made an awful mistake that night at Mrs.
Prothero's in pretending to be ill."

"You only pretended?"

"Yes, to get you away. You see, Lady Clifton-Wyatt got after me,
accused me of being a spy, of carrying messages that resulted in the
sinking of ships and the killing of men. She said that the police came
to our house, and Sir Joseph tried to kill one of them and killed his
own wife and then was shot by an officer and that they gave out the
story that Sir Joseph and Lady Webling died of ptomaine poisoning. She
said Nicky Easton was shot in the Tower. Oh, an awful story she told,
and I was afraid she'd tell you, so I spirited you away on the pretext
of illness."

Davidge was astounded at this confirmation of Larrey's story. He
said:

"But it wasn't true what Lady C.-W. told?"

"Most of it was false, but it was fiction founded on fact, and I
couldn't explain it without breaking my oath. And now I've pretty
nearly broken it, after all. I've sprained it badly."

"Don't you want to go on and--finish it off?"

"I want to--oh, how I want to! but I've got to save a few shreds of
respectability. I kidnapped you the day you were going to tea with
Lady C.-W. to keep you from her. I wish now I'd let you go. Then you'd
have known the worst of me--or worse than the worst."

She turned a harrowed glance his way, and saw, to her bewilderment,
that he was smiling broadly. Then he seized her hands and felt a need
to gather her home to his arms.

She was so amazed that she fell back to stare at him. Studying his
radiant face, she somehow guessed that he had known part of her story
before and was glad to hear her confess it, but her intuition missed
fire when she guessed at the source of his information.

"You have been talking to Lady Clifton-Wyatt, after all!"

"Not since I saw her with you."

"Then who told you?"

He laughed now, for it pleased him mightily to have her read his heart
so true.

"The main thing is that you told me. And now once more I ask you: will
you marry me?"

This startled her indeed. She startled him no less by her brusquerie:

"Certainly not."

"And why not?"

"I'll marry no man who is so careless whom he marries as you are."



CHAPTER IX


The whimsical solemnity of this made him roar. But a man does not love
a woman the less for being feminine, and when she thwarts him by a
womanliness she delights him excruciatingly.

But Mamise was in earnest. She believed in one emotion at a time. It
offended her to have Davidge suggest that the funeral baked meats of
her tragedy should coldly furnish forth a wedding breakfast. She
wanted to revel awhile in her elegiac humor and pay full honor to her
sorrow, full penalty for her guilt. She put aside his amorous
impatience and returned to her theme.

"Well, after all the evil I have done, I wanted to make some
atonement. I was involved in the sinking of I don't know how many
ships, and I wanted to take some part in building others. So when I
met you and you told me that women could build ships, too, you wakened
a great hope in me, and an ambition. I wanted to get out in the yards
and swing a sledge or drive a riveting-gun."

"With those hands?" He laughed and reached for them.

She put them out of sight back of her as one removes dangerous toys
from the clutch of a child, and went on:

"But you wouldn't let me. So I took up the next best thing, office
work. I studied that hateful stenography and learned to play a
typewriter."

"It keeps you nearer to me."

"But I don't want to be near you. I want to build ships. Please let me
go out in the yard. Please give me a real job."

He could not keep from laughing at her, at such delicacy pleading for
such toil. His amusement humiliated her and baffled her so that at
length she said:

"Please go on home. It's getting late, and I don't like you at all."

"I know you don't like me, but couldn't you love me?"

"That's more impossible than liking you, since you won't let me have
my only wish."

"It's too brutal, I tell you. And it's getting too cold. It would
simply ruin your perfect skin. I don't want to marry a longshoreman,
thank you."

"Then I'll thank you to go on home. I'm tired out. I've got to get up
in the morning at the screech of dawn and take up your ghastly
drudgery again."

"If you'll marry me you won't have to work at all."

"But work is the one thing I want. So if you'll kindly take yourself
off I'll be much obliged. You've no business here, anyway, and it's
getting so late that you'll have all the neighbors talking."

"A lot I care!"

"Well, I care a lot," she said, blandly belying her words to Abbie.
"I've got to live among them."

It was a miserable ending to an evening of such promise. He felt as
sheepish as a cub turned out of his best girl's house by a sleepy
parent, but he had no choice. He rose drearily, fought his way into
his overcoat, and growled:

"Good night!"

She sighed "Good night!" and wished that she were not so cantankerous.
The closing of the door shook her whole frame, and she made a step
forward to call him back, but sank into a chair instead, worn out with
the general unsatisfactoriness of life, the complicated mathematical
problem that never comes out even. Marriage is a circle that cannot be
quite squared.

She sat droopily in her chair for a long while, pondering mankind and
womankind and their mutual dependence and incompatibility. It would be
nice to be married if one could stay single at the same time. But it
was hopelessly impossible to eat your cake and have it, too.

Abbie, watching from her window and not knowing that Davidge had gone,
imagined all sorts of things and wished that her wild sister would
marry and settle down. And yet she wished that she herself had stayed
single, for the children were a torment, and of her husband she could
only say that she did not know whether he bothered her the more when
he was away or when he was at home.

When Davidge left Mamise he looked back at the lonely cottage she
stubbornly and miserably occupied and longed to hale her from it into
a palace. As he walked home his heart warmed to all the little
cottages, most of them dark and cheerless, and he longed to change all
these to palaces, too. He felt sorry for the poor, tired people that
lived so humbly there and slept now but to rise in the morning to
begin moiling again.

Sometimes from his office window he surveyed the long lines at the
pay-windows and felt proud that he could pour so much treasure into
the hands of the poor. If he had not schemed and borrowed and
organized they would not have had their wages at all.

But now he wished that there might be no poor and no wages, but
everybody palaced and living on money from home. That seemed to be the
idea, too, of his more discontented working-men, but he could not
imagine how everybody could have a palace and everybody live at ease.
Who was to build the palaces? Who was to cut the marble from the
mountains and haul it, and who to dig the foundations and blast the
steel and fasten the girders together? It was easy for the dreamers
and the literary loafers and the irresponsible cartoonists to denounce
the capitalists and draw pictures of them as obese swine wallowing in
bags of gold while emaciated children put out their lean hands in
vain. But cartoons were not construction, and the men who would
revolutionize the world could not, as a rule, keep their own books
straight.

Material riches were everywhere, provided one had the mental riches to
go out and get them. Davidge had been as poor as the poorest man at
his works, but he had sold muscle for money and brains for money. He
had dreamed and schemed and drawn up tremendous plans while they took
their pay and went home to their evenings of repose in the bosoms of
their families or the barrooms of idleness.

Still there was no convincing them of the realization that they could
not get capital by slandering capitalists, or ease by ease, but only
by sweat. And so everybody was saying that as soon as this great war
was over a greater war was coming upon the world. He wondered what
could be done to stay that universal fury from destroying utterly all
that the German horror might spare.

Thinking of such things, he forgot, for the nonce, the pangs of
love.



BOOK V

IN WASHINGTON

[Illustration: How quaint a custom it is for people who know each other
well and see each other in plain clothes every day to get themselves up
with meticulous skill in the evening like Christmas parcels for each
other's examination.]



CHAPTER I


The threat of winter was terrifying the long-suffering world. People
thought of the gales that would harass the poor souls in the clammy
trenches, the icy winds that would flutter the tents of the men in
camps, the sleety storms that would lash the workers on the docks and
on the decks of ships and in the shipyards; the final relentless
persecution of the refugees, crowded upon the towns that had not
enough for themselves.

To be cold when one is despondent is a fearsome thing. Mamise woke in
the chill little cottage and had to leap from her snug bed to a cold
bathroom, come out chattering to a cold kitchen. Just as her house
grew a little warm, she had to leave it for a long, windy walk to an
office not half warm enough.

The air was full of orphan leaves, and Cossack whirlwinds stampeded
them down the roads as ruthlessly as Uhlans herding Belgian fugitives
along. The dour autumn seemed to wrench hopes from the heart like
shriveled leaves, and to fill the air with swirling discouragements.
The men at work about the ships were numb and often stopped to blow
upon their aching fingers. The red-hot rivets went in showers that
threatened to blister, but gave no warmth.

The ambitions of Mamise congealed along with the other stirring
things. She was sorely tempted to give up the unwomanly battle and
accept Davidge's offer of a wedding-ring. She had, of course, her
Webling inheritance to fall back upon, but she had come to hate it so
as tainted money that she would not touch it or its interest. She put
it all into Liberty Bonds and gave a good many of those to various
charities. Not the least of her delights in her new career had been
her emancipation from slavery to the money Mr. Verrinder had spoken of
as her wages for aiding Sir Joseph Webling.

A marriage with Davidge was an altogether different slavery, a
thoroughly patriotic livelihood. It would permit her to have servants
to wait on her and build her fires. She would go out only when she
wished, and sleep late of mornings. She would have multitudinous furs
and a closed and heated limousine to carry her through the white
world. She could salve her conscience by taking up some of the more
comfortable forms of war work. She could manage a Red Cross
bandage-factory or a knitting-room or serve hot dishes in a cozy
canteen.

At times from sheer creature discomfort she inclined toward matrimony,
as many another woman has done. These craven moods alternated with
periods of self-rebuke. She told herself that such a marriage would
dishonor her and cheat Davidge.

Besides, marriage was not all wedding-bells and luxury; it had its
gall as well as its honey. Even in divorceful America marriage still
possesses for women a certain finality. Only one marriage in nine
ended in divorce that year.

Mamise knew men and women, married, single, and betwixt. She was far,
indeed, from that more or less imaginary character so frequent in
fiction and so rare in reality, the young woman who knows nothing of
life and mankind. Like every other woman that ever lived, she knew a
good deal more than she would confess, and had had more experience
than she would admit under oath. In fact, she did not deny that she
knew more than she wished she knew, and Davidge had found her very
tantalizing about just how much her experience totaled up.

She had observed the enormous difference between a man and a woman who
meet occasionally and the same people chained together interminably.
Quail is a delicacy for invalids and gourmets, but notoriously
intolerable as a steady diet. On the other hand, bread is forever
good. One never tires of bread. And a lucky marriage is as perennially
refreshing as bread and butter. The maddening thing about marriage is
what makes other lotteries irresistible: after all, capital prizes do
exist, and some people get them.

Mamise had seen happy mates, rich and poor. In her lonelier hours she
coveted their dual blessedness, enriched with joys and griefs shared
in plenty and in privation.

Mamise liked Davidge better than she had ever liked any other man.
She supposed she loved him. Sometimes she longed for him with a kind
of ferocity. Then she was afraid of him, of what he would be like as a
husband, of what she would be like as a wife.

Mamise was in an absolute chaos of mind, afraid of everything and
everybody, from the weather to wedlock. She had been lured into an
office by the fascinating advertisements of freedom, a career,
achievement, doing-your-bit and other catchwords. She had found that
business has its boredoms no less than the prison walls of home,
commerce its treadmills and its oakum-picking no less than the jail.
The cozy little cottage and the pleasant chores of solitude began to
nag her soul.

The destruction of the good ship _Clara_ had dealt her a heavier blow
than she at first realized, for the mind suffers from obscure internal
injuries as the body does after a great shock. She understood what
bitter tragedies threaten the business man no less than the monarch,
the warrior, the poet, and the lover, though there has not been many
an Æschylos or Euripides or Dante to make poetry of the Prometheus
chained to the rocks of trade with the vulture pay-roll gnawing at his
profits; the OEdipos in the factory who sees everything gone horribly
awry; or the slow pilgrim through the business hell with all the
infernal variations of bankruptcy, strikes, panics, and competition.

The blowing up of the _Clara_ had revealed the pitiful truth that men
may toil like swarming bees upon a painful and costly structure, only
to see it all annulled at once by a careless or a malicious stranger.
The _Clara_ served as a warning that the ship _Mamise_ now on the
stocks and growing ever so slowly might be never finished, or
destroyed as soon as done. A pall of discontent was gathering about
her. It was the turn of that season in her calendar. The weather was
conspiring with the inner November.

The infamous winter of 1917-18 was preparing to descend upon the
blackest year in human annals. Everybody was unhappy; there was a
frightful shortage of food among all nations, a terrifying shortage of
coal, and the lowest temperature ever known would be recorded.
America, less unfortunate than the other peoples, was bitterly
disappointed in herself.

There was food in plenty for America, but not for her confederates.
The prices were appalling. Wages went up and up, but never quite
caught the expenses. It was necessary to send enormous quantities of
everything to our allies lest they perish before we could arrive with
troops. And Germany went on fiendishly destroying ships, foodstuffs,
and capital, displaying in every victory a more insatiable cruelty, a
more revolting cynicism toward justice, mercy, or truth.

The Kaiserly contempt for America's importance seemed to be justified.
People were beginning to remember Rome, and to wonder if, after all,
Germany might not crush France and England with the troops that had
demolished Russia. And then America would have to fight alone.

At this time Mamise stumbled upon an old magazine of the ancient date
of 1914. It was full of prophecies that the Kaiser would be dethroned,
exiled, hanged, perhaps. The irony of it was ghastly. Nothing was more
impossible than the downfall of the Kaiser--who seemed verifying his
boasts that he took his crown from God. He was praising the strong
sword of the unconquerable Germany. He was marshaling the millions
from his eastern front to throw the British troops into the sea and
smother the France he had bled white. The best that the most hopeful
could do was to mutter: "Hurry! hurry! We've got to hurry!"

Mamise grew fretful about the delay to the ship that was to take her
name across the sea. She went to Davidge to protest: "Can't you hurry
up my ship? If she isn't launched soon I'm going to go mad."

Davidge threw back his head and emitted a noise between laughter and
profanity. He picked up a letter and flung it down.

"I've just got orders changing the specifications again. This is the
third time, and the third time's the charm; for now we've got to take
out all we've put in, make a new set of drawings and a new set of
castings and pretty blamed near tear down the whole ship and rebuild
it."

"In the name of Heaven, why?"

"In the name of hades, because we've got to get a herd of railroad
locomotives to France, and sending them over in pieces won't do. They
want 'em ready to run. So the powers that be have ordered me to
provide two hatchways big enough to lower whole locomotives through,
and pigeonholes in the hold big enough to carry them. As far as the
_Mamise_ is concerned, that means we've just about got to rub it out
and do it over again. It's a case of back to the mold-loft for
_Mamise_."

"And about how much more delay will this mean?"

"Oh, about ninety days or thereabouts. If we're lucky we'll launch her
by spring."

This was almost worse than the death of the _Clara_. That tragedy had
been noble; it dealt a noble blow and woke the heart to a noble grief
and courage. But deferment made the heart sick, and the brain and
almost the stomach.

Davidge liked the disappointment no better than Mamise did, but he was
used to it.

"And now aren't you glad you're not a ship-builder? How would you feel
if you had got your wish to work in the yard and had turned your
little velvet hands into a pair of nutmeg-graters by driving about ten
thousand rivets into those plates, only to have to cut 'em all out
again and drive 'em into an entirely new set of plates, knowing that
maybe they'd have to come out another time and go back? How'd you like
that?"

Mamise lifted her shoulders and let them fall.

Davidge went on:

"That's a business man's life, my dear--eternally making things that
won't sell, putting his soul and his capital and his preparation into
a pile of stock that nobody will take off his hands. But he has to go
right on, borrowing money and pledging the past for the future and
never knowing whether his dreams will turn out to be dollars
or--junk!"

Mamise realized for the first time the pathos, the higher drama of the
manufacturer's world, that world which poets and some other literary
artists do not describe because they are too ignorant, too petty, too
bookish. They sneer at the noble word _commercial_ as if it were a
reproach!

Mamise, however, looked on Davidge in his swivel-chair as a kind of
despondent demigod, a Titan weary of the eternal strife. She tried to
rise beyond a poetical height to the clouds of the practical.

"What will you do with all the workmen who are on that job?"

Davidge grinned. "They're announcing their monthly strike for higher
wages--threatening to lay off the force. It'd serve 'em right to take
'em at their word for a while. But you simply can't fight a labor
union according to Queensbery rules, so I'll give 'em the raise and
put 'em on another ship."

"And the _Mamise_ will be idle and neglected for three months."

"Just about."

"The Germans couldn't have done much worse by her, could they?"

"Not much."

"I think I'll call it a day and go home," said Mamise.

"Better call it a quarter and go to New York or Palm Beach or
somewhere where there's a little gaiety."

"Are you sick of seeing me round?"

"Since you won't marry me--yes."

Mamise sniffed at this and set her little desk in order, aligned the
pencils in the tray, put the carbons back in the box and the rubber
cover on the typewriter. Then she sank it into its well and put on her
hat.

Davidge held her heavy coat for her and could not resist the
opportunity to fold her into his arms. Just as his arms closed about
her and he opened his lips to beg her not to desert him he saw over
her shoulder the door opening.

He had barely time to release her and pretend to be still holding her
coat when Miss Gabus entered. His elaborate guiltlessness confirmed
her bitterest suspicions, and she crossed the room to deposit a sheaf
of letters in Davidge's "in" basket and gather up the letters in his
"out" basket. She passed across the stage with an effect of absolute
refrigeration, like one of Richard III's ghosts.

Davidge was furious at Miss Gabus and himself. Mamise was furious at
them both--partly for the awkwardness of the incident, partly for the
failure of Davidge's enterprise against her lips.

When Miss Gabus was gone the ecstatic momentum was lost. Davidge
grumbled:

"Shall I see you to-morrow?"

"I don't know," said Mamise.

She gave him her hand. He pressed it in his two palms and shook his
head. She shook her head. They were both rebuking the bad behavior of
the fates.

Mamise trudged homeward--or at least houseward. She was in another of
her irresolute states, and irresolution is the most disappointing of
all the moods to the irresolute ones and all the neighbors. It was
irresolution that made "Hamlet" a five-act play, and only a
Shakespeare could have kept him endurable.

Mamise was becoming unendurable to herself. When she got to her
cottage she found it as dismal as an empty ice-box. When she had
started the fire going she had nothing else to do. In sheer
desperation she decided to answer a few letters. There was an old one
from Polly Widdicombe. She read it again. It contained the usual
invitation to come back to reason and Washington.

Just for something positive to do she resolved to go. There was a
tonic in the mere act of decision. She wrote a letter. She felt that
she could not wait so long as its answer would require. She resolved
to send a telegram.

This meant hustling out into the cold again, but it was something to
do, somewhere to go, some excuse for a hope.

Polly telegraphed:

  Come without fail dying to see you bring along a scuttle of coal
  if you can.

Mamise showed Davidge the telegram. He was very plucky about letting
her go. For her sake he was so glad that he concealed his own
loneliness. That made her underestimate it. He confirmed her belief
that he was glad to be rid of her by making a lark of her departure.
He filled an old suit-case with coal and insisted on her taking it.
The porter who lugged it along the platform at Washington gave Mamise
a curious look. He supposed that this was one of those suit-cases full
of bottled goods that were coming into Washington in such multitudes
since the town had been decreed absolutely dry. He shook it and was
surprised when he failed to hear the glug-glug of liquor.

But Polly welcomed the suit-case as if it had been full of that other
form of carbon which women wear in rings and necklaces. The whole
country was underheated. To the wheatless, meatless, sweetless days
there were added the heatless months. Major Widdicombe took his
breakfasts standing up in his overcoat. Polly and Mamise had theirs in
bed, and the maids that brought it wore their heaviest clothes.

There were long lines of petitioners all day at the offices of the
Fuel Administration. But it did little good. All the shops and
theaters were kept shut on Mondays. Country clubs were closed. Every
device to save a lump of coal was put into legal effect so that the
necessary war factories might run and the ships go over the sea. Soon
there would be gasoleneless Sundays by request, and all the people
would obey. Bills of fare at home and at hotel would be regulated by
law. Restaurants would be fined for serving more than one meat to one
person. Grocers would be fined for selling too much sugar to a family.
Placards, great billboards, and all the newspapers were filled with
counsels to save, save, save, and buy, buy, buy Bonds, Bonds, Bonds.
People grew depressed at all this effort, all this sacrifice with so
little show of accomplishment.

American troops, except a pitiful few, were still in America and
apparently doomed to stay. This could easily be proved by mathematics,
for there were not ships enough to carry them and their supplies. The
Germans were building up reserves in France, and they had every
advantage of inner lines. They could hurl an avalanche of men at any
one of a hundred points of the thin Allied line almost without
warning, and wherever they struck the line would split before the
reserves could be rushed up to the crevasse. And once through, what
could stop them? Indeed, the whisper went about that the Allies had no
reserves worth the name. France and England were literally "all in."

Success and the hope of success did not make the Germans meek. They
credited God with a share in their achievement and pinned an Iron
Cross on Him, but they kept mortgaging His resources for the future.
Those who had protested that the war had been forced on a peaceful
Germany and that her majestic fight was all in self-defense came out
now to confess--or rather to boast--that they had planned this triumph
all along; for thirty years they had built and drilled and stored up
reserves. And now they were about to sweep the world and make it a
German planet.

The peaceful Kaiser admitted that he had toiled for this approaching
day of glory. His war-weary, hunger-pinched subjects were whipped up
to further endurance by a brandy of fiery promises, the prospects of
incalculable loot, vast colonies, mountains of food, and indemnities
sky-high. They were told to be glad that America had come into the war
openly at last, so that her untouched treasure-chest could pay the
bills.

In the whole history of chicken-computation there were probably never
so many fowls counted before they were hatched--and in the final
outcome never such a crackling and such a stench of rotten eggs.

But no one in those drear days was mad enough to see the outcome. The
strategical experts protested against the wasteful "side-shows" in
Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Saloniki, and the taking of Jerusalem was
counted merely a pretty bit of Christmas shopping that could not weigh
against the fall of Kerensky, the end of Russian résistance in the
Bolshevik upheaval, and the Italian stampede down their own
mountainsides.

Of all the optimists crazy enough to prophesy a speedy German
collapse, no one put his finger on Bulgaria as the first to break.

So sublime, indeed, was the German confidence that many in America who
had been driven to cover because of their Teutonic activities before
America entered the war began to dream that they, too, would reap a
great reward for their martyrdom on behalf of the Fatherland.

The premonition of the dawning of _Der Tag_ stirred the heart of Nicky
Easton, of course. He had led for months the life of a fox in a
hunt-club county. Every time he put his head out he heard the bay of
the hounds. He had stolen very few chickens, and he expected every
moment to be pounced on. But now that he felt assured of a German
triumph in a little while, he began to think of the future. His heart
turned again to Mamise.

His life of hiding and stealing about from place to place had
compelled him to a more ascetic existence than he had been used to.
His German accent did not help him, and he had found that even those
heavy persons known as light women, though they had no other virtue,
had patriotism enough to greet his advances with fierce hostility.
His dialect insulted those who had relinquished the privilege of being
insulted, and they would not soil their open palms with German-stained
money.

In his alliance with Jake Nuddle for the blowing up of the _Clara_,
and their later communications looking toward the destruction of other
ships, he kept informed of Mamise. He always asked Jake about her. He
was bitterly depressed by the news that she was "sweet on" Davidge. He
was exultant when he learned from Jake that she had given up her work
in the office and had gone to Washington. Jake learned her address
from Abbie, and passed it on to Nicky.

Nicky was tempted to steal into Washington and surprise her. But enemy
aliens were forbidden to visit the capital, and he was afraid to go by
train. He had wild visions of motoring thither and luring her to a
ride with him. He wanted to kidnap her. He might force her to marry
him by threatening to kill her and himself. At least he might make her
his after the classic manner of his fellow-countrymen in Belgium. But
he had not force enough to carry out anything so masterful. He was a
sentimental German, not a warrior.

In his more emotional moods he began to feel a prophetic sorrow for
Marie Louise after the Germans had conquered the world. She would be
regarded as a traitress. She had been adopted by Sir Joseph Webling
and had helped him, only to abandon the cause and go over to the
enemy.

If Nicky could convert her again to loyalty, persuade her to do some
brave deed for the Fatherland in redemption of her blacksliding, then
when _Der Tag_ came he could reveal what she had done. When in that
resurrection day the graves opened and all the good German spies and
propagandists came forth to be crowned by _Gott_ and the Kaiser, Nicky
could lead Marie Louise to the dual throne, and, describing her
reconciliation to the cause, claim her as his bride. And the Kaiser
would say, "_Ende gut, alles gut!_"

Never a missionary felt more sanctity in offering salvation to a lost
soul by way of repentance than Nicky felt when he went to the house of
an American friend and had Mamise called on the long-distance
telephone.

Mamise answered, "Yes, this is Miss Webling," to the faint-voiced
long-distance operator, and was told to hold the wire. She heard:
"All ready with Washington. Go ahead." Then she heard a timid query:

"Hallow, hallow! Iss this Miss Vapelink?"

She was shocked at the familiar dialect. She answered:

"This is Miss Webling, yes. Who is it?"

"You don'd know my woice?"

"Yes--yes. I know you--"

"Pleass to say no names."

"Where are you?"

"In Philadelphia."

"All right. What do you want?"

"To see you."

"You evidently know my address."

"You know I cannot come by Vashington."

"Then how can I see you?"

"You could meet me some place, yes?"

"Certainly not."

"It is important, most important."

"To whom?"

"To you--only to you. It is for your sake."

She laughed at this; yet it set her curiosity on fire, as he hoped it
would. He could almost hear her pondering. But what she asked was:

"How did you find my address?"

"From Chake--Chake Nuttle."

He could not see the wild look that threw her eyes and lips wide. She
had never dreamed of such an acquaintance. The mere possibility of it
set her brain whirling. It seemed to explain many things, explain them
with a horrible clarity. She dared not reveal her suspicions to Nicky.
She said nothing till she heard him speak again:

"Vell, you come, yes?"

"Where?"

"You could come here best?"

"No, it's too far."

"By Baltimore we could meet once?"

"All right. Where? When?"

"To-morrow. I do not know Baltimore good. Ve could take ride by
automobile and talk so. Yes?"

"All right." This a little anxiously.

"To-morrow evening. I remember it is a train gets there from
Vashington about eight. I meet you. Make sure nobody sees you take
that train, yes?"

"Yes."

"You know people follow people sometimes."

"Yes."

"I trust you alvays, Marie Louise."

"All right. Good-by."

"Goot-py, Marie Louise."



CHAPTER II


While Mamise was talking her telephone ear had suffered several sharp
and painful rasps, as if angry rattlesnakes had wakened in the
receiver.

The moment she put it up the bell rang. Supposing that Nicky had some
postscript to add, she lifted the receiver again. Her ear was as
bewildered as your tongue when it expects to taste one thing and
tastes another, for it was Davidge's voice that spoke, asking for her.
She called him by name, and he growled:

"Good Lord! is that you? Who was the fascinating stranger who kept me
waiting so long?"

"Don't you wish you knew?" she laughed. "Where are you now? At the
shipyard?"

"No, I'm in Washington--ran up on business. Can I see you to-night?"

"I hope so--unless we're going out--as I believe we are. Hold the
wire, won't you, while I ask." She came back in due season to say,
"Polly says you are to come to dinner and go to a dance with us
afterward."

"A dance? I'm not invited."

"It's a kind of club affair at a hotel. Polly has the right to take
you--no end of big bugs will be there."

"I'm rusty on dancing, but with you--"

"Thanks. We'll expect you, then. Dinner is at eight. Wrap up well.
It's cold, isn't it?"

He thought it divine of her to think of his comfort. The thought of
her in his arms dancing set his heart to rioting. He was singing as he
dressed, and as he rode put to Grinden Hall, singing a specimen of the
new musical insanity known as "jazz"--so pestilential a music that
even the fiddlers capered and writhed.

The Potomac was full of tumultuous ice, and the old Rosslyn bridge
squealed with cold under the motor. It was good to see the lights of
the Hall at last, and to thaw himself out at the huge fireplace.

"Lucky to get a little wood," said Major Widdicombe. "Don't know what
we'll do when it's gone. Coal is next to impossible."

Then the women came down, Polly and Mamise and two or three other
house guests, and some wives of important people. They laid off their
wraps and then decided to keep them on.

Davidge had been so used to seeing Mamise as a plainly clad,
discouraged office-hack that when she descended the stairs and paused
on the landing a few steps from the floor, to lift her eyebrows and
her lip-corners at him, he was glad of the pause.

"Break it to me gently," he called across the balustrade.

She descended the rest of the way and advanced, revealed in her
complete height and all her radiant vesture. He was dazed by her
unimagined splendor.

As she gave him her hand and collected with her eyes the tribute in
his, she said:

"Break what to you gently?"

"You!" he groaned. "Good Lord! Talk about 'the glory that was Greece
and the grandeur that was Rome'!"

With amiable reciprocity she returned him a compliment on his evening
finery.

"The same to you and many of them. You are quite stunning in
décolleté. For a pair of common laborers, we are certainly gaudy."

Polly came up and greeted Davidge with, "So you're the fascinating
brute that keeps Marie Louise down in the penitentiary of that awful
ship-factory."

Davidge indicated her brilliance and answered: "Never again. She's
fired! We can't afford her."

"Bully for you," said Polly. "I suppose I'm an old-fashioned,
grandmotherly sort of person, but I'll be damned if I can see why a
woman that can look as gorgeous as Marie Louise here should be
pounding typewriter keys in an office. Of course, if she had to-- But
even then, I should say that it would be her solemn religious duty to
sell her soul for a lot of glad-rags.

"A lot of people are predicting that women will never go back to the
foolish frills and furbelows of before the war; but--well, I'm no
prophetess, but all I can say is that if this war puts an end to the
dressmaker's art, it will certainly put civilization on the blink.
Now, honestly, what could a woman accomplish in the world if she
worked in overalls twenty-four hours a day for twenty-four years--what
could she make that would be more worth while than getting herself all
dressed up and looking her best?"

Davidge said: "You're talking like a French aristocrat before the
Revolution; but I wish you could convince her of it."

Mamise was trying to take her triumph casually, but she was thrilled,
thrilled with the supreme pride of a woman in her best clothes--in and
out of her best clothes, and liberally illuminated with jewelry. She
was now something like a great singer singing the highest note of her
master-aria in her best rôle--herself at once the perfect instrument
and the perfect artist.

Marie Louise went in on Davidge's arm. The dining-room was in gala
attire, the best silver and all of it out--flowers and candles. But
the big vault was cold; the men shivered and marveled at the women,
who left their wraps on the backs of their chairs and sat up in no
apparent discomfort with shoulders, backs, chests, and arms naked to
the chill.

Polly was moved to explain to the great folk present just who Mamise
was. She celebrated Mamise in her own way.

"To look at Miss Webling, would you take her for a perfect nut? She
is, though--the worst ever. Do you know what she has done? Taken up
stenography and gone into the office of a ship-building gang!"

The other squaws exclaimed upon her with various out-cries of
amazement.

"What's more," said Mamise, "I live on my salary."

This was considered incredible in the Washington of then. Mamise
admitted that it took management.

Mamise said: "Polly, can you see me living in a shanty cooking my own
breakfast and dinner and waiting on myself and washing my own dishes?
And for lunch going to a big mess-hall, waiting on myself, too, and
eating on the swollen arm of a big chair?"

Polly shook her head in despair of her. "Let those do it that have
to. Nobody's going to get me to live like a Belgian refugee without
giving me the same excuse."

Mamise suddenly felt that her heroism was hardly more than a silly
affectation, a patriotic pose. In these surroundings the memory of her
daily life was disgusting, plain stupidity. Here she was in her
element, at her superlative. She breathed deeply of the atmosphere of
luxury, the incense of rich food served ceremoniously to resplendent
people.

"I'm beginning to agree with you, Polly. I don't think I'll ever go
back to honest work again."

She thought she saw in Davidge's eyes a gleam of approval. It occurred
to her that he was renewing his invitation to her to become his wife
and live as a lady. She was not insulted by the surmise.

When the women departed for the drawing-room, the men sat for a while,
talking of the coal famine, the appalling debts the country was
heaping into mountains--the blood-sweating taxes, the business end of
the war, the prospect for the spring campaign on the Western Front,
the avalanche of Russia, the rise of the Bolsheviki, the story that
they were in German pay, the terrible toll of American lives it would
take to replace the Russian armies, and the humiliating delay in
getting men into uniform, equipped, and ferried across the sea. The
astounding order had just been promulgated, shutting down all industry
and business for four days and for the ten succeeding Mondays in order
to eke out coal; this was regarded as worse than the loss of a great
battle. Every aspect of the war was so depressing that the coroner's
inquest broke up at once when Major Widdicombe said:

"I get enough of this in the shop, and I'm frozen through. Let's go in
and jaw the women."

Concealing their loneliness, the men entered the drawing-room with the
majestic languor of lions well fed.

Davidge paused to study Mamise from behind a smokescreen that
concealed his stare. She was listening politely to the wife of Holman,
of the War Trade Board. Mrs. Holman's stories were always long, and
people were always interrupting them because they had to or stay mute
all night. Davidge was glad of her clatter, because it gave him a
chance to revel in Mamise. She was presented to his eyes in a kind of
mitigated silhouette against a bright-hued lamp-shade. She was seated
sidewise on a black Chinese chair. On the back of it her upraised arm
rested. Davidge's eyes followed the strange and marvelous outline
described by the lines of that arm, running into the sharp rise of a
shoulder, like an apple against the throat, the bizarre shape of the
head in its whimsical coiffure, the slope of the other shoulder
carrying the caressing glance down that arm to the hand clasping a
sheaf of outspread plumes against her knee, and on along to where one
quaint impossible slipper with a fantastic high heel emerged from a
stream of fabric that flowed on out to the train.

Then with the vision of honorable desire he imagined the body of her
where it disappeared below the shoulders into the possession of the
gown; he imagined with a certain awe what she must be like beneath all
those long lines, those rounded surfaces, those eloquent wrinkles with
their curious little pockets full of shadow, among the pools of light
that satin shimmers with.

In other times and climes men had worn figured silks and satins and
brocades, had worn long gowns and lace-trimmed sleeves, jeweled
bonnets and curls, but now the male had surrendered to the female his
prehistoric right to the fanciful plumage. These war days were grown
so austere that it began to seem wrong even for women to dress with
much more than a masculine sobriety. But the occasion of this ball had
removed the ban on extravagance.

The occasion justified the maximum display of jewelry, too, and Mamise
wore all she had. She had taken her gems from their prison in the
safe-deposit box in the Trust Company cellar. They seemed to be glad
to be at home in the light again. They reveled in it, winking,
laughing, playing a kind of game in which light chased light through
the deeps of color.

The oddity of the feminine passion for precious stones struck Davidge
sharply. The man who built iron ships to carry freight wondered at the
curious industry of those who sought out pebbles of price, and
polished them, shaped them, faceted them, and fastened them in metals
of studied design, petrified jellies that seemed to quiver yet defied
steel.

He contrasted the cranes that would lift a locomotive and lower it
into the hold of one of his ships with the tiny pincers with which a
lapidary picked up a diamond fleck and sealed it in platinum. He
contrasted the pneumatic riveter with the tiny hammers of the
goldsmith. There seemed to be no less vanity about one than the other.
The work of the jeweler would outlast the iron hull. A diamond as
large as a rivet-head would cost far more than a ship. Jewels, like
sonnets and symphonies and flower-gardens, were good for nothing, yet
somehow worth more than anything useful.

He wondered what the future would do to these arts and their
patronesses. The one business of the world now was the manufacture,
transportation, and efficient delivery of explosives.

He could understand how offensive bejeweled and banqueted people were
to the humble, who went grimy and weary in dirty overalls over their
plain clothes to their ugly factories and back to their uglier homes.

It was a consummation devoutly to be wished that nobody should spend
his life or hers soiled and tired and fagged with a monotonous task.
It seemed hard that the toiling woman and the wife and daughter of the
toiler might not alleviate their bleak persons with pearl necklaces
about their throats, with rubies pendant from their ears, and their
fingers studded with sapphire and topaz.

Yet it did not look possible, somehow. And it seemed better that a few
should have them rather than none at all, better that beauty should be
allowed to reign somewhere than nowhere during its brief perfection.

And after all, what proof was there that the spoliation of the rich
and the ending of riches would mean the enrichment of the poor?
When panics came and the rich fasted the poor starved. Would the
reduction of the opulent and the elevation of the paupers all to the
same plain average make anybody happier? Would the poor be glad to
learn that they could never be rich? With nobody to envy, would
contentment set in? With ambition rated as a crime, the bequeathing
of comfort to one's children rendered impossible, the establishment
of one's destiny left to the decision of boards and by-laws, would
there be satisfaction? The Bolsheviki had voted "universal happiness."
It would be interesting to see how well Russia fared during the
next year and how universally happiness might be distributed.

He frowned and shook his head as if to free himself from these
nettlesome riddles and left them to the Bolshevist Samaritans to solve
in the vast laboratory where the manual laborers at last could work
out their hearts' desires, with the upper class destroyed and the even
more hateful middle class at their mercy.

It was bitter cold on the way to the ballroom in the Willard Hotel,
and Davidge in his big coat studied Mamise smothered in a voluminous
sealskin overcoat. This, too, had meant hardship for the poor. Many
men had sailed on a bitter voyage to arctic regions and endured every
privation of cold and hunger and peril that this young woman might
ride cozy in any chill soever. The fur coat had cost much money, but
little of it had fallen into the frosted hands of the men who clubbed
the seal to death on the ice-floes. The sleek furrier in the warm city
shop, when he sold the finished garment, took in far more than the men
who went out into the wilderness and brought back the pelts. That did
not seem right; yet he had a heavy rent to pay, and if he did not
create the market for the furs, the sealers would not get paid at all
for their voyage.

A division of the spoils that would rob no one, nor kill the industry,
was beyond Davidge's imagining. He comforted himself with the thought
that those loud mouths that advertised solutions of these labor
problems were fools or liars or both; and their mouths were the tools
they worked with most.

The important immediate thing to contemplate was the fascinating head
of Mamise, quaintly set on the shapeless bulk of a sea-lion.



CHAPTER III


Davidge had been a good dancer once, and he had not entirely neglected
the new school of foot improvisation, so different from the old set
steps.

Mamise was amazed to find that the strenuous business man had so much
of the faun in his soul. He had evidently listened to the pipes of Pan
and could "shake a sugar-heel" with a practised skill. There was a
startling authority in the firmness with which he gathered her in and
swept her through the kaleidoscopic throng, now dipping, now skipping,
now limping, now running.

He gripped the savory body of Mamise close to him and found her to his
whim, foreseeing it with a mysterious prescience. Holding her thus
intimately in the brief wedlock of the dance, he began to love her in
a way that he could think of only one word for--_terrible_.

She seemed to grow afraid, too, of the spell that was befogging them,
and sought rescue in a flippancy. There was also a flattering spice of
jealousy in what she murmured:

"You haven't spent all your afternoons and evenings building ships,
young man!"

"No?"

"What cabarets have you graduated from?"

He quoted her own words, "Don't you wish you knew?"

"No."

"One thing is certain. I've never found in any of 'em as light a
feather as you."

"Are you referring to my head or my feet?"

"Your blessed feet!"

His arm about her tightened to a suffocation, and he whirled her in a
delirium of motion.

"That's unfair!" she protested, affrighted yet delighted by the fire
of his ecstasy in their union. The music stopped, and she clung to him
dizzily while he applauded with the other dancers till the band
renewed the tune. She had regained her mental with her bodily
equilibrium, and she danced more staidly; yet she had seen into the
crater of his heart and was not sorry that it existed.

The reprise of the dance was brief, and he had to surrender her from
his embrace. He was unwontedly rhapsodic. "I wish we could sail on and
on and on forever."

"Forever is a long time," she smiled.

"May I have the next dance?"

"Certainly not! Take Polly round and pay for your supper. But
don't--"

"Don't what?"

"I don't know."

Polly was taken for the next dance, and he was glad of it, but he
suffered at seeing how perfectly Mamise footed it with a young
officer who also knew how to compel her to his whim. Davidge wondered
if Mamise could be responding to this fellow as keenly as she
responded to himself. The thought was intolerable. She could not be
so wanton. It would amount to a hideous infidelity. Moorish jealousy
smoldered in his heart, and he cursed public dancing as an infamous,
an unbelievable promiscuity. Yet when he had Polly Widdicombe for
the next dance, her husband had no cause for jealousy. Polly was a
temperate dancer, all gaiety, estheticism plus athleticism.

Davidge kept twisting his head about to see how Mamise comported
herself. He was being swiftly wrung to that desperate condition in
which men are made ready to commit monogamy. He felt that he could not
endure to have Mamise free any longer.

He presented himself to her for the next dance.

She laughed. "I'm booked."

He blanched at the treacherous heartlessness and sat the dance
out--stood it out, rather, among the superfluous men on the
side-lines. A morose and ridiculous gloom possessed him at seeing
still a fourth stranger with his arms about Mamise, her breast to his
and her procedure obedient to his. Worse yet, when a fifth insolent
stranger cut in on the twin stars, Mamise abandoned her fourth
temporary husband for another with a levity that amounted to
outrageous polyandry.

Davidge felt no impulse to cut in. He disliked dancing so intensely
that he wanted to put an end to the abomination, reform it altogether.
He did not want to dance between those white arms so easily forsworn.
He wanted to rescue Mamise from this place of horror and hale her away
to a cave with no outlook on mankind.

It was she who sought him where he glowered. Perhaps she understood
him. If she did, she was wise enough to enjoy the proof of her sway
over him and still sane enough to take a joy in her triumph.

She introduced her partner--Davidge would almost have called the
brute a paramour. He did not get the man's name and was glad of
it--especially as the hunter deserted her and went after his next
Sabine.

"You've lost your faithful stenographer," was the first phrase of
Mamise's that Davidge understood.

"Why so?" he grumbled.

"Because this is the life for me. I've been a heroine and a war-worker
about as long as I can. I'm for the fleshpots and the cold-cream jars
and the light fantastic. Aren't you going to dance with me any more?"

"Just as you please," Davidge said, with a singularly boyish
sulkiness, and wondered why Mamise laughed so mercilessly:

"Of course I please."

The music struck up an abandoned jig, but he danced with great dignity
till his feet ran away with him. Then he made off with her again in
one of his frenzies, and a laughter filled his whole being.

She heard him growl something.

"What did you say?" she said.

"I said, 'Damn you!'"

She laughed so heartily at this that she had to stop dancing for a
moment. She astonished him by a brazen question:

"Do you really love me as much as that?"

"More," he groaned, and they bobbed and ducked and skipped as he
muttered a wild anachronism:

"If you don't marry me I'll murder you."

"You're murdering me now. May I breathe, please?"

He was furious at her evasion of so solemn a proposal. Yet she was so
beautifully alive and aglow that he could not exactly hate her. But he
said:

"I won't ask you again. Next time you can ask me."

"All right; that's a bet. I'll give you fair warning."

And then that dance was over, and Mamise triumphant in all things. She
was tumultuously hale and happy, and her lover loved her.

To her that hath--for now, whom should Mamise see but Lady Clifton-Wyatt?
Her heart ached with a reminiscent fear for a moment; then a malicious
hope set it going again. Major Widdicombe claimed Mamise for the next
dance, and extracted her from Davidge's possession. As they danced
out, leaving Davidge stranded, Mamise noted that Lady C.-W. was
regarding Davidge with a startled interest.

The whirl of the dance carried her close to Lady Clifton-Wyatt, and
she knew that Lady C.-W. had seen her. Broken glimpses revealed to her
that Lady C.-W. was escorting her escort across the ballroom floor
toward Davidge.

She saw the brazen creature tap Davidge's elbow and smile, putting out
her hand with coquetry. She saw her debarrass herself of her
companion, a French officer whose exquisite horizon-blue uniform was
amazingly crossed with the wound and service chevrons of three years'
warfaring. Nevertheless, Lady Clifton-Wyatt dropped him for the
civilian Davidge. Mamise, flitting here and there, saw that Davidge
was being led to the punch-altar, thence to a lonely strip of chairs,
where Lady C.-W. sat herself down and motioned him to drop anchor
alongside.

Mamise longed to be near enough to hear what she could guess: her
enemy's artless prelude followed by gradual modulations to her main
theme--Mamise's wicked record.

Mamise wished that she had studied lip-reading to get the details. But
this was a slight vexation in the exultance of her mood. She was
serene in the consciousness that Davidge already knew the facts about
her, and that Lady Clifton-Wyatt's gossip would fall with the dreary
thud of a story heard before. So Mamise's feet flew, and her heart
made a music of its own to the tune of:

"Thank God, I told him!"

She realized, as never before, the tremendous comfort and convenience
of the truth. She had been by instinct as veracious as a politely bred
person may be, but now she understood that the truth is mighty good
business. She resolved to deal in no other wares.

This resolution lasted just long enough for her to make a hasty
exception: she would begin her exclusive use of the truth as soon as
she had told Polly a neat lie in explanation of her inexplicable
journey to Baltimore.

Lady C.-W. was doing Mamise the best turn in her power. Davidge was
still angry at Mamise's flippancy in the face of his ardor. But Lady
C.-W.'s attack gave the flirt the dignity of martyrdom. When Lady
C.-W. finished her subtly casual account of all that Mamise had done
or been accused of doing, Davidge crushed her with the quiet remark:

"So she told me."

"She told you that!"

"Yes, and explained it all!"

"She would!" was the best that Lady Clifton-Wyatt could do, but she
saw that the case was lost. She saw that Davidge's gaze was following
Mamise here and there amid the dancers, and she was sportswoman enough
to concede:

"She is a beauty, anyway--there's no questioning that, at least."

It was the canniest thing she could have done to re-establish herself
in Davidge's eyes. He felt so well reconciled with the world that he
said:

"You wouldn't care to finish this dance, I suppose?"

"Why not?"

Lady Clifton-Wyatt was democratic--in the provinces and the
States--and this was as good a way of changing the subject as any. She
rose promptly and entered the bosom of Davidge. The good American who
did not believe in aristocracies had just time to be overawed at
finding himself hugging a real Lady with a capital L when the music
stopped.

It is an old saw that what is too foolish to be said can be sung.
Music hallows or denatures whatever it touches. It was quite proper,
because quite customary, for Davidge and Lady Clifton-Wyatt to stand
enfolded in each other's embrace so long as a dance tune was in the
air. The moment the musicians quit work the attitude became indecent.

Amazing and eternal mystery, that custom can make the same thing mean
everything, or nothing, or all the between-things. The ancient
Babylonians carried the idea of the permissible embrace to the
ultimate intimacy in their annual festivals, and the good women
doubtless thought no more of it than a woman of to-day thinks of
waltzing with a presentable stranger. They went home to their husbands
and their housework as if they had been to church. Certain Bolsheviki,
even in the year 1918, put up placards renewing the ancient
Mesopotamian custom, under the guise of a community privilege and a
civic duty.

And yet some people pretend to differentiate between fashions and
morals!

But nobody at this dance was foolish enough to philosophize. Everybody
was out for a good time, and a Scotsman from the British embassy came
up to claim Lady Clifton-Wyatt's hand and body for the next dance.
Davidge had been mystically attuned anew to Mamise, and he found her
in a mood for reconciliation. She liked him so well that when the
Italian aviator to whom she had pledged the "Tickle Toe" came to
demand it, she perjured herself calmly and eloped with Davidge. And
Davidge, instead of being alarmed by her easy morals, was completely
reassured.

But he found her unready with another perjury when he abruptly asked
her:

"What are you doing to-morrow?"

"Let me see," she temporized in a flutter, thinking of Baltimore and
Nicky.

"If you've nothing special on, how about a tea-dance? I'm getting
addicted to this."

"I'm afraid I'm booked up for to-morrow," she faltered. "Polly keeps
the calendar. Yes, I know we have some stupid date--I can't think just
what. How about the day after?"

The deferment made his amorous heart sick, and to-morrow's to-morrow
seemed as remote as Judgment Day. Besides, as he explained:

"I've got to go back to the shipyard to-morrow evening. Couldn't you
give me a lunch--an early one at twelve-thirty?"

"Yes, I could do that. In fact, I'd love it!"

"And me too?"

"That would be telling."

At this delicious moment an insolent cub in boots and spurs cut in and
would not be denied. Davidge was tempted to use his fists, but Mamise,
though she longed to tarry with Davidge, knew the value of tantalism,
and consented to the abduction. For revenge Davidge took up with Polly
and danced after Mamise, to be near her. He followed so close that
the disastrous cub, in a sudden pirouette, contrived to swipe Polly
across the shin and ankle-bones with his spur.

She almost swooned of agony, and clung to Davidge for support, mixing
astonishing profanity with her smothered groans. The cub showered
apologies on her, and reviled "Regulations" which compelled him to
wear spurs with his boots, though he had only a desk job.

Polly smiled at him murderously, and said it was nothing. But Mamise
saw her distress, rid herself of the hapless criminal and gave Polly
her arm, as she limped through the barrage of hurtling couples. Polly
asked Davidge to retrieve her husband from the sloe-eyed ambassadress
who was hypnotizing him. She wailed to Mamise:

"I know I'm marked for life. I ought to have a wound-chevron for this.
I've got to go home and put my ankle in splints. I'll probably have to
wear it in a sling for a month. I'd like to kill the rotten hound that
put me out of business. And I had the next dance with that beautiful
Rumanian devil! You stay and dance with your ship-builder!"

Mamise could not even think of it, and insisted on bidding good night
to the crestfallen Davidge. He offered to ride out home with her, but
Polly refused. She wanted to have a good cry in the car.

Davidge bade Mamise good night, reminded her that she was plighted to
luncheon at twelve-thirty, and went to the house of the friend he was
stopping with, the hotels being booked solid for weeks ahead. He was
nursing a stern determination to endure bachelordom no longer.

Mamise was thinking of Davidge tenderly with one of her brains, while
another segment condoled with Polly. But most of her wits were engaged
in hunting a good excuse for her Baltimore escapade the next
afternoon, and in discarding such implausible excuses as occurred to
her.

Bitter chill it was, and these owls, for all their feathers, were
a-cold. Major Widdicombe was chattering.

"I danced myself into a sweat, and now my undershirt is all icicles. I
know I'll die of pneumonia."

He shifted his foot, and one of his spurs grazed the ankle of Polly,
who was snuggling to him for warmth.

She yowled: "My Gawd! My yankle! You'll not last long enough for
pneumonia if you touch me again."

He was filled with remorse, but when he tried to reach round to
embrace her, she would none of him.

When they got to the bridge, they were amazed at the lazy old Potomac.
It was a white torment of broken ice, roaring and slashing and
battering the piers of the ancient bridge ominously, huge sheets
clambering up and falling back split and broken, with the uproar of an
attack on a walled town.

The chauffeur went to full speed, and the frosty boards shrilled under
the flight.

The house was cold when they reached it, and Mamise's room was like a
storage-vault. She tore off her light dancing-dress and shivered as
she stripped and took refuge in a cobwebby nightgown. She threw on a
heavy bathrobe and kept it on when she crept into the icy interstice
between the all-too-snowy sheets.

She had forgotten to explain to Polly about her Baltimore venture, and
she shivered so vigorously that sleep was impossible to her palsied
bones. She grew no warmer from besetting visions of the battle-front.
She tried to shame herself out of her chill by contrasting her opulent
bed with the dreadful dugouts in France, the observation posts, the
shell-riddled ruins, where millions somehow existed. Again, as at
Valley Forge, American soldiers were marching there in the snow
barefooted, or in rags or in wooden sabots, for lack of ships to get
new shoes across.

Yet, in these frozen hells there were not men enough. The German
offensive must not find the lines so sparsely defended. Men must be
combed out of every cranny of the nations and herded to the slaughter.
America was denying herself warmth in order to build shells and to
shuttle the ships back and forth. There was need of more women,
too--thousands more to nurse the men, to run the canteens, to mend the
clothes, to warm men's hearts _via_ their stomachs, and to take their
minds off the madness of war a little while. The Salvation Army would
furnish them hot doughnuts in the trenches and heat up their courage.
Actors and actresses were playing at all the big cantonments now.
Later they would be going across to play in France--one-night stands,
two a day in Picardy.

Suddenly Mamise felt the need to go abroad. In a kind of burlesque of
the calling of the infant Samuel, she sat up in her bed, startled as
by a voice calling her to a mission. She had been an actress, a
wanderer, a performer in cheap theaters, a catcher of late trains, a
dweller in rickety hotels. She knew cold, and she had played half clad
in draughty halls.

She had escaped from the life and had tried to escape the memory of
it. But now that she was so cold she felt that nothing was so pitiful
as to be cold. She understood, with a congealing vividness, how those
poor droves of lads in bitterer cold were suffering, scattered along
the frontiers of war like infinite flocks of sheep caught in a
blizzard. She felt ashamed to be here shivering in this palatial
misery when she might be sharing the all-but-unbearable squalor of the
soldiers.

The more she recoiled from the hardships the more she felt the
impulse. It would be her atonement.

She would buy a trombone and retire into the wilderness to practise
it. She would lay her dignity, her aristocracy, her pride, on the
altar of sacrifice, and go among the despondent soldiers as a Sister
of Gaiety. Perhaps Bill the Blackfaceman would be going over--if he
had not stayed in Germany too long and been interned there. To return
to the team with him, being the final degradation, would be the final
atonement. She felt that she was called, called back. There could be
nothing else she would hate more to do; therefore she would love to do
that most of all.

She would lunch with Davidge to-morrow, tell him her plan, bid him
farewell, go to Baltimore, learn Nicky's secret, thwart it one way or
another--and then set about her destiny.

She abhorred the relapse so utterly that she wept. The warm tears
refreshed her eyes before they froze on her cheeks, and she fell
asleep in the blissful assurance of a martyrdom.



CHAPTER IV


The next morning Mamise woke in her self-warmed bed, at the nudge of a
colored maid bundled up like an Eskimo, who carried a breakfast-tray
in mittened hands.

Mamise said: "Oh, good morning, Martha. I'll bathe before breakfast if
you'll turn on the hot water, please."

"Hot water? Humph! Pipes done froze last night, an' bus' loose this
mo'nin', and fill the kitchen range with water an' bus' loose again.
No plumber here yit. Made this breakfuss on the gas-stove. That's
half-froze, tew. I tell you, ma'am, you're lucky to git your coffee
nohow. Better take it before it freezes, tew."

Mamise sighed and glanced at the clock. The reproachful hands stood at
eleven-thirty.

"Did the clock freeze, too? That can't be the right time!"

"Yessum, that's the raht tahm."

"Great heavens!"

"Yes, ma'am."

Mamise sat up, drew the comforters about her back, and breakfasted
with speed. She dressed with all the agility she could muster.

She regretted the bath. She missed it, and so must we all. In modern
history, as in modern fiction, it is not nice in the least for the
heroine--even such a dubious heroine as Mamise--to have a bathless
day. As for heroes, in the polite chronicles they get at least two
baths a day: one heroic cold shower in the morning and one hot tub in
the late afternoon before getting into the faultless evening attire.
This does not apply to heroes of Russian masterpieces, of course, for
they never bathe. ("Why should they," my wife puts in, "since they're
going to commit suicide, anyway?")

But the horrors of the Great War included this atrocity, that the
very politest people came to know the old-fashioned luxury of an
extra-dry life. There was a time when cleanliness was accounted as
ungodliness and the Christian saints anathematized the bath as an
Oriental pollution. During our war of wars there was a vast amount of
helpless holy living.

Exquisite gentlemen kept to their clothes for weeks at a time and grew
rancid and lousy among the rats that were foul enough to share their
stinking dens with them. If these gentlemen were wounded, perchance,
they added stale blood, putrefaction, and offal to their abominable
fetor.

And women who had been pretty and soapy and without smell, and who had
once blanched with shame at the least maculation, lived with these
slovenly men and vermin and dead horses and old dead soldiers and
shared their glorious loathsomeness.

The world acquired a strong stomach, and Mamise's one skip-bath day
must be endured. If the indecency ever occurred again it will be left
unmentioned. Heaven knows that even this morning she looked pure
enough when she was dressed.

Mamise found that Polly was still in bed, giving her damaged ankle as
an excuse. She stuck it out for Mamise's inspection, and Mamise
pretended to be appalled at the bruise she could almost see.

Mamise remembered her plan to go abroad and entertain the soldiers.
Polly tried to dissuade her from an even crazier scheme than
ship-building, but ended by promising to telephone her husband to look
into the matter of a passport for her.

Despite her best efforts, it was already twelve-thirty and Mamise had
not left the house. She was afraid that Davidge would be miffed. Polly
suggested telephoning the hotel.

Those were bad days for telephoners. The wires were as crowded as
everything else.

"It will take an hour to get the hotel," said Mamise, "another hour to
page the man. I'll make a dash for it. He'll give me a little grace, I
know."

The car was not ready when she got to the door. The engine was balky
and bucky with the cold, and the chauffeur in a like mood. The roads
were sleety and skiddy, and required careful driving.

Best of all, when she reached the bridge at last, she found it closed
to traffic. The Potomac had been infected by the war spirit. In sheer
Hunnishness it had ravaged its banks, shearing away boat-houses and
piers, and carrying all manner of wreckage down to pound the old
aqueduct bridge with. The bridge was not expected to live.

It did, but it was not intrusted with traffic till long after the
distraught Mamise had been told that the only way to get to Washington
was by the Highway Bridge from Alexandria, and this meant a détour of
miles. It gave Mamise her first and only grand rounds through Fort
Myer and the Arlington National Cemetery. She felt sorry for the
soldiers about the cold barracks, but she was in no mood to respond to
the marble pages of the Arlington epic.

The night before she had beheld in a clear vision the living hosts in
Flanders and France, but here under the snow lay sixteen thousand
dead, two thousand a hundred and eleven heroes under one monument of
eternal anonymity--dead from all our wars, and many of them with their
wives and daughters privileged to lie beside them.

But the mood is everything, and Mamise was too fretful to rise to this
occasion; and when her car had crept the uneasy miles and reached the
Alexandria bridge and crossed it, and wound through Potomac Park, past
the Washington Monument standing like a stupendous icicle, and reached
the hotel, she was just one hour late.

Davidge had given her up in disgust and despair, after vain efforts to
reach her at various other possible luncheon-places. He searched them
all on the chance that she might have misunderstood the rendezvous.
And Mamise spent a frantic hour trying to find him at some hotel. He
had registered nowhere, since a friend had put him up. The sole result
of this interesting game of two needles hunting each other through a
haystack was that Davidge went without lunch and Mamise ate alone.

In the late afternoon Davidge made another try. He finally got Polly
Widdicombe on the telephone and asked for Mamise. Polly expressed her
amazement.

"Why, she just telephoned that she was staying in town to dine with
you and go to the theater."

"Oh!" said the befuddled Davidge. "Oh, of course! Silly of me!
Good-by!"

Now he was indeed in a mental mess. Besides, he had another engagement
to dinner. He spent a long, exasperating hour in a telephone-chase
after his host, told a poor lie to explain the necessity for breaking
the engagement, and spent the rest of the evening hunting Mamise in
vain.

When he took the train for his shipyard at last he was in a hopeless
confusion between rage at Mamise and fear that some mishap had
befallen her. It would have been hard to tell whether he loved her or
hated her the more.

But she, after giving up the pursuit of him, had taken up an inquiry
into the trains to Baltimore. The time was now too short for her to
risk a journey out to Grinden Hall and back for a suit-case, in view
of the Alexandria détour. She must, therefore, travel without baggage.
Therefore she must return the same night. She found, to her immense
relief, that this could be done. The seven-o'clock train to Baltimore
reached there at eight, and there was a ten-ten train back.

She had not yet devised a lie to appease Polly with, but now an
inspiration came to her. She had told Davidge that she was dining out
with Polly somewhere; consequently it would be safe to tell Polly that
she was dining out with Davidge somewhere. The two would never meet to
compare notes. Besides, it is pleasanter to lie by telephone. One
cannot be seen to blush.

She called up Grinden Hall and was luckily answered by what Widdicombe
called "the ebony maid with the ivory head." Mamise told her not to
summon her lame mistress to the telephone, but merely to say that Miss
Webling was dining with Mr. Davidge and going to the theater with him.
She made the maid repeat this till she had it by heart, then rang
off.

This was the message that Polly received and later transmitted to
Davidge for his bewilderment.

To fill the hours that must elapse before her train could leave,
Mamise went to one of those moving-picture shows that keep going
without interruption. Public benefactors maintain them for the
salvation of women who have no homes or do not want to go to them
yet.

The moving-picture service included the usual news weekly, as usual
leading one to marvel why the stupid subjects shown were selected from
all the fascinating events of the time. Then followed a doleful
imitation of Mr. Charles Chaplin, which proved by its very fiasco the
artistry of the original.

The _cinema de résistance_ was a long and idiotic vampire picture in
which a stodgy creature lured impossible males to impossible ruin by
wiles and attitudes that would have driven any actual male to flight,
laughter, or a call for the police. But the audience seemed to enjoy
it, as a substitute, no doubt, for the old-fashioned gruesome
fairy-stories that one accepts because they are so unlike the tiresome
realities. Mamise wondered if vampirism really succeeded in life. She
was tempted to try a little of it some time, just as an experiment, if
ever opportunity offered.

In any case, the picture served its main purpose. It whiled away the
dull afternoon till the dinner hour. She took her dinner on the train,
remembering vividly how her heart history with Davidge had begun on a
train. She missed him now, and his self-effacing gallantry.

The man opposite her wanted to be cordial, but his motive was ill
concealed, and Mamise treated him as if he didn't quite exist.
Suddenly she remembered with a gasp that she had never paid Davidge
for that chair he gave up to her. She vowed again that she would not
forget. She felt a deep remorse, too, for a day of lies and tricks.
She regretted especially the necessity of deceiving Davidge. It was
her privilege to hoodwink Polly and other people, but she had no right
to deceive Davidge. She was beginning to feel that she belonged to
him.

She resolved to atone for these new transgressions, too, as well as
her old, by getting over to France as soon as possible and subjecting
herself to a self-immolation among hardships. After the war--assuming
that the war would soon end and that she would come out of it
alive--afterward she could settle down and perhaps marry Davidge.

Reveling in these pleasantly miserable schemes, she was startled to
find Baltimore already gathering round the train. And she had not even
begun to organize her stratagems against Nicky Easton. She made a
hasty exit from the car and sought the cab-ranks outside.

From the shadows a shadowy man semi-detached himself, lifted his hat,
and motioned her to an open door. She bent her head down and her
knees up and entered a little room on wheels.

Nicky had evidently given the chauffeur instructions, for as soon as
Nicky had come in, doubled up, and seated himself the limousine moved
off--into what adventures? Mamise was wondering.



BOOK VI

IN BALTIMORE

[Illustration: "So I have already done something more for Germany. That's
splendid. Now tell me what else I can do." Nicky was too intoxicated with
his success to see through her thin disguise.]



CHAPTER I


Mamise remembered her earlier visits to Baltimore as a tawdry young
vaudevillette. She had probably walked from the station, lugging her
own valise, to some ghastly theatrical boarding-house. Perhaps some
lover of hers had carried her baggage for her. If so, she had
forgotten just which one of her experiences he was.

Now she hoped to be even more obscure and unconsidered than she had
been then, when a little attention was meat and drink, and her name in
the paper was a sensation. She knew that publicity, like love, flees
whoso pursueth and pursues who flees it, but she prayed that the rule
would be proved by an exception to-night, and that she might sneak out
as anonymously as she had sneaked in.

Nicky Easton was a more immediate problem. He was groping for her
hands. When he found them she was glad that she had her gloves on.
They were chaperoned, too, as it were, by their heavy wraps. She was
fairly lost in her furs and he in a burly overcoat, so that when in a
kind of frenzy he thrust one cumbrous arm about her the insulation was
complete. He might as well have been embracing the cab she was in.

But the insolence of the intention enraged her, and she struggled
against him as a she-bear might rebuff a too familiar bruin--buffeted
his arms away and muttered:

"You imbecile! Do you want me to knock on the glass and tell the
driver to let me out?"

"_Nein doch_!"

"Then let me alone or I will."

Nicky sighed abysmally and sank back. He said nothing at all to her,
and she said the same to him while long strips of Baltimorean marble
stoops went by. They turned into Charles Street and climbed past its
statue-haunted gardens and on out to the north.

They were almost at Druid Hill Park before Mamise realized that she
was wasting her time and her trip for nothing. She spoke angrily:

"You said you wanted to see me. I'm here."

Nicky fidgeted and sulked:

"I do not neet to told you now. You have such a hatink from me, it is
no use."

"If you had told me you simply wanted to spoon with me I could have
stayed at home. You said you wanted to ask me something."

"I have my enswer. It is not any neet to esk."

Mamise was puzzled; her wrath was yielding to curiosity. But she could
not imagine how to coax him out of silence.

His disappointment coaxed him. He groaned:

"_Ach Gott_, I am so lunly. My own people doand trust me. These
Yenkees also not. I get no chence to proof how I loaf my _Vaterland_.
But the time comes soon, and I must make patience. _Eile mit Weile!_"

"You'd better tell me what's on your mind," Mamise suggested, but he
shook his head. The car rolled into the gloom of the park, a gloom
rather punctuated than diminished by the street-lamps. Mamise realized
that she could not extort Nicky's secret from him by asserting her own
dignity.

She wondered how to persuade him, and found no ideas except such silly
schemes as were suggested by her memory of the vampire picture. She
hated the very passage of such thoughts through her mind, but they
kept returning, with an insistent idea that a patriotic vampire might
accomplish something for her country as Delilah and Judith had
"vamped" for theirs. She had never seen a vampire exercise her
fascinations in a fur coat in a dark automobile, but perhaps the dark
was all the better for her purpose.

At any rate, she took the dare her wits presented her, and after a
struggle with her own mutinous muscles she put out her hand and sought
Nicky's, as she cooed:

"Come along, Nicky, don't be so cantankerous."

His hand registered the surprise he felt in the fervor of its clutch:

"But you are so colt!"

She insinuated, "You couldn't expect me to make love to you the very
first thing, could you?"

"You mean you do like me?"

Her hands wringing his told the lie her tongue refused. And he,
encouraged and determined to prove his rating with her, flung his arm
about her again and drew her, resisting only in her soul, close to
him.



CHAPTER II


But when his lips hunted hers she hid them in her fur collar; and he,
imputing it to coquetry, humored her, finding her delicate timidity
enhancing and inspiring. He chuckled:

"You shall kiss me yet."

"Not till you have told me what you sent for me for."

"No, feerst you must give me one to proof your good fate--your good
face--" He was trying to say "good faith."

She was stubborn, but he was more obstinate still, and he had the
advantage of the secret.

And so at last she sighed "All right," and put up her cheek to pay the
price. His arms tightened about her, and his lips were not content
with her cheek. He fought to win her lips, but she began to tear off
her gloves to scratch his eyes out if need be for release.

She was revolted, and she would have marred his beauty if he had not
let her go. Once freed, she regained her self-control, for the sake of
her mission, and said, with a mock seriousness:

"Now, be careful, or I won't listen to you at all."

Sighing with disappointment, but more determined than ever to make her
his, he said:

"Feerst I must esk you, how is your feelink about Chermany?"

"Just as before."

"Chust as vich 'before'? Do you loaf Chermany or hate?"

She was permitted to say only one thing. It came hard:

"I love her, of course."

"_Ach, behüt' dich, Gott!_" he cried, and would have clasped her
again, but she insisted on discipline. He began his explanation.

"I did told you how, to safe my life in England, I confessed
somethings. Many of our people here will not forgive. My only vay to
get back vere I have been is to make--as Americans say--to make myself
skvare by to do some big vork. I have done a little, not much, but
more can be if you help."

"What could I do?"

"Much things, but the greatest--listen once: our Chermany has no fear
of America so long America is on this side of the Atlentic Ozean.
Americans build ships; Chermany must destroy fester as they build.
Already I have made one ship less for America. I cannot pooblish
advertisink, but my people shall one day know, and that day comes
soon; _Der Tag_ is almost here--you shall see! Our army grows alvays,
in France; and England and France can get no more men. Ven all is
ready, Chermany moves like a--a avalenche down a mountain and covers
France to the sea.

"On that day our fleet--our glorious ships--comes out from Kiel Canal,
vere man holds them beck like big dogs in leash. Oh those beautiful
day, Chermany conquers on lent and on sea. France dies, and England's
navy goes down into the deep and comes never back.

"_Ach Gott_, such a day it shall be--when old England's empire goes
into history, into ancient history vit Roossia and Rome and Greece and
Bebylonia.

"England gone, France gone, Italy gone--who shall safe America and her
armies and her unborn ships, and her cannon and shell and air-ships
not yet so much as begun?

"_Der Tag_ shall be like the lest day ven _Gott_ makes the graves open
and the dead come beck to life. The Americans shall fall on knees
before our Kaiser, and he shall render chudgment. Such a payink!

"Now the Yenkees despise us Chermans. Ve cannot go to this city, to
that dock. Everywhere is dead-lines and permissions and internment
camps and persecutions, and all who are not in prison are afraid. They
change their names from Cherman to English now, but soon they shall
lift their heads and it shall be the Americans who shall know the
dead-lines, the licenses, the internment camps.

"So, Marie Louise, my sveetheart, if you can show and I can show that
in the dark night ve did not forget the _Vaterland_, ve shall be proud
and safe.

"It is to make you safe ven comes _Der Tag_ I speak to you now. I vish
you should share my vork now, so you can share my life efterwards.
Now do I loaf you, Marie Louise? Now do I give you proof?"

Mamise was all ashudder with the intensity of his conviction. She
imagined an all-conquering Germany in America. She needed but to
multiply the story of Belgium, of Serbia, of prostrate Russia. The
Kaiser had put in the shop-window of the world samples enough of the
future as it would be made by Germany.

And in the mood of that day, with defeatism rife in Europe, and
pessimism miasmatic in America, there was reason enough for Nicky to
believe in his prophecy and to inspire belief in its possibility. The
only impossible thing about it was that the world should ever endure
the dominance of Germany. Death would seem better to almost everybody
than life in such a civilization as she promised.

Mamise feared the Teutonic might, but she could not for a moment
consent to accept it. There was only one thing for her to do, and that
was to learn what plans she could, and thwart them. Here within her
grasp was the long-sought opportunity to pay off the debt she had
incurred. She could be a soldier now, at last. There was no price that
Nicky might have demanded too great, too costly, too shameful for her
to pay. To denounce him or defy him would be a criminal waste of
opportunity.

She said: "I understand. You are right, of course. Let me help in any
way I can. I only wish there were something big for me to do."

Nicky was overjoyed. He had triumphed both as patriot and as lover.

"There is a big think for you to do," he said. "You can all you
vill."

"Tell me," she pleaded.

"You are in shipyard. This man Davidge goes on building ships. I gave
him fair warning. I sinked one ship for him, but he makes more."

"You sank his ship?" Mamise gasped.

"Sure! The _Clara_, he called her. I find where she goes to take
cargo. I go myself. I row up behind the ship in little boat, and I
fasten by the rudder-post under the water, where no one sees, a bomb.
It is all innocent till ship moves. Then every time the rudder turns a
little screw turns in the machine.

"It turns for two, three days; then--_boom_! It makes explosion, tears
ship to pieces, and down she goes. And so goes all the next ships if
you help again."

"Again? What do you mean by again?"

"It is you, Marie Louise, who sinks the _Clara_."

Her laugh of incredulity was hardly more than a shiver of dread.

"_Ja wohl!_ You did told Chake Nuttle vat Davidge tells you. Chake
Nuttle tells me. I go and make sink the ship!"

"Jake Nuddle! It was Jake that told you!" Mamise faltered, seeing her
first vague suspicions damnably confirmed.

"Sure! Chake Nuttle is my _Leutnant_. He has had much money. He gets
more. He shall be rich man after comes _Der Tag_. It might be we make
him von Nuttle! and you shall be Gräfin von Oesten."

Mamise was in an abject terror. The thick trees of the park were
spooky as the dim light of the car elicited from the black wall of
dark faint details of tree-trunks and naked boughs stark with winter.
She was in a hurry to learn the rest and be gone. She spoke with a
poor imitation of pride:

"So I have already done something more for Germany. That's splendid.
Now tell me what else I can do, for I want to--to get busy right
away."

Nicky was too intoxicated with his success to see through her thin
disguise.

"You are close by Davidge. Chake Nuttle tells me he is sveet on you.
You have his confidence. You can learn what secrets he has. Next time
we do not vait for ship to be launched and to go for cargo. It might
go some place ve could not find.

"So now ve going blow up those ships before they touch vater--ve blow
up his whole yard. You shall go beck and take up again your vork, and
ven all is right I come down and get a job. I dress like vorkman and
get into the yard. And I bring in enough bombs to blow up all the
ships and the cranes and the machines.

"Chake Nuttle tells me Davidge just gets a plate-bending machine.
Forty-five t'ousand dollars it costs him, and long time to get. In one
minute--poof! Ve bend that plate-bender!"

He laughed a great Teutonic laugh and supposed that she was laughing,
too. When he had subsided a little, he said:

"So now you know vat you are to make! You like to do so much for
Chermany, yes?"

"Oh yes! Yes!" said Mamise.

"You promise to do vat I send you vord?"

"Yes." She would have promised to blow up the Capitol.

"_Ach_, how beautiful you are even in the dark! Kiss me!"

Remembering Judith, she paid that odious price, wishing that she might
have the beast's infamous head with a sword. It was a kiss of
betrayal, but she felt that it was no Judas-kiss, since Nicky was no
Christ.

He told her more of his plans in detail, and was so childishly proud
of his superb achievements, past and future, that she could hardly
persuade him to take her back to the station. He assured her that
there was abundant time, but she would not trust his watch. She
explained how necessary it was for her to return to Washington and to
Polly Widdicombe's house before midnight. And at last he yielded to
her entreaties, opened the door, and leaned out to tell the driver to
turn back.

Mamise was uneasy till they were out of the park and into the lighted
streets again. But there was no safety here, for as they glided down
Charles Street a taxicab going with the reckless velocity of taxicabs
tried to cut across their path.

There was a swift fencing for the right of way, and then the two cars
came together with a clash and much crumpling of fenders.

The drivers descended to wrangle over the blame, and Mamise had
visions of a trip to the police station, with a consequent exposure.
But Nicky was alive to the danger of notoriety. He got out and assumed
the blame, taking the other driver's part and offering to pay the
damages.

The taxicab-driver assessed them liberally at fifty dollars, and Nicky
filled his palm with bills, ordering his own driver to proceed. The
car limped along with a twisted steering-gear, and Nicky growled
thanksgivings over the narrow escape the German Empire had had from
losing two of its most valuable agents.

Mamise was sick with terror of what might have been. She saw the
collision with a fatal result, herself and Nicky killed and flung to
the street, dead together. It was not the fear of dying that froze
her soul; it was the posthumous blow she would have given to Davidge's
trust in her and all women, the pain she would have inflicted on his
love. For to his dying day he would have believed her false to him, a
cheap and nasty trickster, sneaking off to another town to a
rendezvous with another man. And that man a German!

The picture of his bitter disillusionment and of her own unmerited and
eternal disgrace was intolerably real in spite of the fact that she
knew it to be untrue, for our imaginations are far more ancient and
more irresistible than our late and faltering reliance on the truth;
the heavens and hells we fancy have more weight with our credulities
than any facts we encounter. We can dodge the facts or close our eyes
to them, but we cannot escape our dreams, whether our eyes are wide or
sealed.

Mamise could not free herself of this nightmare till she had bidden
Nicky good-by the last time and left him in the cab outside the
station.

Further nightmares awaited her, for in the waiting-room she could not
fight off the conviction that the train would never arrive. When it
came clanging in on grinding wheels and she clambered aboard, she knew
that it would be wrecked, and the finding of her body in the débris,
or its disappearance in the flames, would break poor Davidge's heart
and leave her to the same ignominy in his memory.

While the train swung on toward Washington, she added another torment
to her collection: how could she save Davidge from Nicky without
betraying her sister's husband into the hands of justice? What right
had she to tell Davidge anything when her sacred duty to her family
and her poor sister must first be heartlessly violated?



BOOK VII

AT THE SHIPYARD

[Illustration: Nobody recognized the lily-like beauty of Miss Webling in
the smutty-faced passer-boy crouching at Sutton's elbow.]



CHAPTER I

Mamise was astounded by the altered aspect of her own soul, for people
can on occasion accomplish what the familiar Irish drillmaster invited
his raw recruits to do--"Step out and take a look at yourselves."

Also, like the old lady of the nursery rhymes whose skirts were cut
off while she slept, Mamise regarded herself with incredulity and
exclaimed:

"Can this be I?"

If she had had a little dog at home, it would have barked at her in
unrecognition and convinced her that she was not herself.

What astounded her was the realization that the problem of disregarding
either her love or her duty was no longer a difficult problem. In
London, when she had dimly suspected her benefactors, the Weblings,
of betraying the trust that England put in them, she had abhorred
the thought of mentioning her surmise to any one who might harm them.
Later, at the shipyard, when she had suspected her sister's husband of
disloyalty, she had put away the thought of action because it would
involve her sister's ruin. But now, as she left Baltimore, convinced
that her sister's husband was in a plot against her lover and her
country, she felt hardly so much as a brake on her eagerness for the
sacrifice of her family or herself. The horror had come to be a solemn
duty so important as to be almost pleasant. She was glad to have
something at last to give up for her nation.

The thorough change in her desires was due to a complete change in
her soul. She had gradually come to love the man whose prosperity was
threatened by her sister's husband, and her vague patriotism had been
stirred from dreams to delirium. Almost the whole world was
undergoing such a war change. The altar of freedom so shining
white had recently become an altar of sacrifice splashed with the
blood of its votaries. Men were offering themselves, casting from
them all the old privileges of freedom, the hopes of success in love
and business, and submitting to discipline, to tyranny, to vile
hardships. Wives and mothers were hurrying their men to the
slaughter; those who had no men to give or men too weak for the
trenches or unwilling to go were ashamed of themselves because they
were missing from the beadroll of contributors.

Mamise had become fanatic with the rest. She had wished to build
ships, and had been refused more than a stenographer's share in the
process. Next she had planned to go to the firing-line herself and
offer what gift she had--the poor little gift of entertaining the
soldiers with the vaudeville stunts she had lived down. And while she
waited for a passport to join the army of women in France, she found
at hand an opportunity to do a big deed, to thwart the enemy, to save
ships and all the lives that ships alone could save. The price would
be the liberty and what little good name her sister's husband had; it
would mean protests and tears from her poor sister, whom life had
dealt with harshly enough already.

But Mamise counted the cost as nothing compared to what it would buy.
She dared not laugh aloud in the crowded chair-car, but her inner
being was shaken with joy. She had learned to love Davidge and to
adore that strange, shapeless idea that she called her country.
Instead of sacrificing her lover to her people, she could serve both
by the same deed. She was wildly impatient for the moment when she
could lay before Davidge the splendid information she had secured at
the expense of a few negligible lies. If they should cost her a decade
in purgatorial torments, she would feel that they were worth it.

She reached Washington at a little after eleven and Grinden Hall
before midnight. Now as she stood on the portico and looked across the
river at the night-lit city, she felt such a pride as she had never
known.

She waved a salutation to the wraith of a town, her mind, if not her
lips, voicing the words:

"You owe me something, old capital. You'll never put up any statues to
me or carve my name on any tablets, but I'm doing something for you
that will mean more than anybody will ever realize."

She turned and found the black maid gaping at her sleepily and
wondering what invisible lover she was waving at. Mamise made no
explanation, but went in, feeling a trifle foolish, but divinely so.

Polly got out of bed and came all bundled up to Mamise's room to
demand an accounting.

"I was just on the point of telephoning the police to see if you had
been found in the river."

Mamise did not bother either to explain her past lies or tell any new
ones. She majestically answered:

"Polly darling, I have been engaged in affairs of state, which I am
not at liberty to divulge to the common public."

"Rot!" said Polly. "I believe the 'affairs,' but not the 'state.'"

Mamise was above insult. "Some day you will know. You've heard of
Helen of Troy, the lady with the face that launched a thousand
ships? Well, this face of mine will launch at least half a dozen
freight-boats."

Polly yawned. "I'll call my doctor in the morning and have you taken
away quietly. Your mind's wandering, as well as the rest of you."

Mamise chuckled like a child with a great secret, and Polly waddled
back to her bed.

Next morning Mamise woke into a world warm with her own importance,
though the thermometer was farther down than Washington's oldest
records. She called Davidge on the long-distance telephone, and there
was a zero in his voice that she had never heard before.

"This is Mamise," she sang.

"Yes?" Simply that and nothing more.

She laughed aloud, glad that he cared enough for her to be so angry at
her. She forgot the decencies of telephone etiquette enough to sing
out:

"Do you really love me so madly?"

He loathed sentimentalities over the telephone, and she knew it, and
was always indulging in them. But the fat was on the wire now, and he
came back at her with a still icier tone:

"There's only one good excuse for what you've done. Are you
telephoning from a hospital?"

"No, from Polly's."

"Then I can't imagine any excuse."

"But you're a business man, not an imaginator," she railed. "You
evidently don't know me. I'm 'Belle Boyd, the Rebel Spy,' and also
'Joan of Arkansas,' and a few other patriots. I've got news for you
that will melt the icicles off your eyebrows."

"News?" he answered, with no curiosity modifying his anger.

"War news. May I come down and tell you about it?"

"This is a free country."

"Fine! You're simply adorable when you try to sulk. What time would be
most convenient?"

"I make no more appointments with you, young woman."

"All right. Then I'll wait at my shanty till you come."

"I was going to rent it."

"You just dare! I am coming back to work. The strike is over."

"You'd better come to the office as soon as you get here."

"All right. Give my love to Miss Gabus."

She left the telephone and set about packing her things in a fury.
Polly reminded her that she had appointments for fittings at
dressmakers'.

"I never keep appointments," said Mamise. "You can cancel them for me
till this cruel war is over. Have the bills sent to me at the
shipyard, will you, dear? Sorry to bother you, but I've barely time to
catch my train."

Polly called her a once unmentionable name that was coming into
fashionable use after a long exile. Women had draped themselves in a
certain animal's pelt with such freedom and grace for so many years
that its name had lost enough of its impropriety to be spoken, and not
too much to express disapproval.

"You skunk!" said Polly. And Mamise laughed. Everything made her laugh
now; she was so happy that she began to cry.

"Why the crocodiles?" said Polly. "Because you're leaving me?"

"No, I'm crying because I didn't realize how unhappy I had always been
before I am as happy as I am now. I'm going to be useful at last,
Polly. I'm going to do something for my country."

She was sharing in that vast national ecstasy which is called
patriotism and which turns the flames of martyrdom into roses.

When Mamise reached the end of her journey she found Davidge waiting
for her at the railroad station with a limousine.

His manner was studiously insulting, but he was helplessly glad to see
her, and the humiliation he had suffered from her failure to keep her
engagements with him in Washington was canceled by the tribute of her
return to him. The knot of his frown was solved by the mischief of her
smile. He had to say:

"Why didn't you meet me at luncheon?"

"How could I prevent the Potomac from putting the old bridge out of
commission?" she demanded. "I got there in time, but they wouldn't let
me across, and by the time I reached the hotel you had gone, and I
didn't know where to find you. Heaven knows I tried."

The simplicity of this explanation deprived him of every excuse for
further wrath, and he was not inspired to ask any further questions.
He was capable of nothing better than a large and stupid:

"Oh!"

"Wait till you hear what I've got to tell you."

But first he disclosed a little plot of his own with a comfortable
guiltiness:

"How would you like," he stammered, "since you say you have news--how
would you like--instead of going to your shanty--I've had a fire built
in it--but--how would you like to take a ride in the car--out into the
country, you know? Then you could tell me, and nobody would hear or
interrupt."

She was startled by the similarity of his arrangement to that of Nicky
Easton, but she approached it with different dread.

She regretted the broad daylight and the disconcerting landscape. In
the ride with Nicky she had been enveloped in the dark. Now the sky
was lined with unbleached wool. The air was thick with snow withheld,
and the snow on the ground took the color of the sky. But the light
was searching, cynical, and the wayside scenes were revealed with the
despondent starkness of a Russian novel. In this romanceless,
colorless dreariness it was not easy for Mamise to gloss over the
details of her meeting with Nicky Easton.

There was no escaping this part of the explanation, however, and she
could see how little comfort Davidge took from the news that she had
gone so far to be alone with a former devotee. A man does not want his
sweetheart to take risks for him beyond a certain point, and he would
rather not be saved at all than be saved by her at too high a price.
The modern man has a hard time living down the heritage from the
ten-thousand-year habitude of treating his women like children who
cannot be trusted to take care of themselves.

Mamise had such poor success with the part of her chronicle she wished
to publish that she boggled miserably the part she wanted to handle
with most discretion. As is usual in such cases, the most conspicuous
thing about her message was her inability to conceal the fact that she
was concealing something. Davidge's imagination was consequently so
busy that he paid hardly any attention to the tremendous facts she so
awkwardly delivered.

She might as well have told him flat that Nicky would not divulge his
plot except with his arms about her and his lips at her cheeks. That
would not have been easy telling, but it was all too easy imagining
for Davidge. He was thrown into an utter wretchedness by the vision he
had of her surrender to the opportunity and to the undoubted
importunity of her companion. He had a morbid desire to make her
confess, and confessors have a notorious appetite for details.

"You weren't riding with Easton alone in the dark all that
time--without--"

She waited for the question as for a bludgeon. Davidge had some
trouble in wielding it. He hated the thought so much that the words
were unspeakable, and he hunted for some paraphrase. In the sparse
thesaurus of his vocabulary he found nothing subtle. He groaned:

"Without his--his making love to you?"

"I wish you wouldn't ask me," said Mamise.

"I don't need to. You've answered," Davidge snarled. "And so will
he."

Mamise's heart was suddenly a live coal, throbbing with fire and
keenly painful--yet very warm. She had a man who loved her well enough
to hate for her and to avenge her. That was something gained.

Davidge brooded. It was inconceivably hideous that he should have
given his heart to this pretty thing at his side only to have her
ensconce herself in the arms of another man and give him the liberty
of her cheeks--Heaven knew, hell knew, what other liberties. He vowed
that he would never put his lips where another man's had been.

Mamise seemed to feel soiled and fit only for the waste-basket of
life. She had delivered her "message to Garcia," and Garcia rewarded
her with disgust. She waited shame-fast for a moment before she could
even falter:

"Did you happen to hear the news I brought you? Or doesn't it interest
you?"

Davidge answered with repugnance:

"Agh!"

In her meekness she needed some insult to revive her, and this
sufficed. She flared instantly:

"I'm sorry I told you. I hope that Nicky blows up your whole damned
shipyard and you with it; and I'd like to help him!"

Nothing less insane could have served the brilliant effect of that
outburst. It cleared the sultry air like a crackling thunderbolt. A
gentle rain followed down her cheeks, while the overcharged heart of
Davidge roared with Jovian laughter.

There is no cure for these desperate situations like such an
explosion. It burns up at once the litter of circumstance and leaves
hardly an ash. It fuses elements that otherwise resist welding, and it
annihilates all minor fears in one great terror that ends in a joyous
relief.

Mamise was having a noble cry now, and Davidge was sobbing with
laughter--the two forms of recreation most congenial to their
respective sexes.

Davidge caught her hands and cooed with such noise that the driver
outside must have heard the reverberations through the glass:

"You blessed child! I'm a low-lived brute, and you're an angel."

A man loves to call himself a brute, and a woman loves to be called an
angel, especially when it is untrue in both cases.

The sky of their being thus cleansed with rain and thunder, and all
blue peace again, they were calm enough by and by to consider the main
business of the session--what was to be done to save the shipyard from
destruction?

Mamise had to repeat most of what she had told, point by point:

Nicky was not going to wait till the ships were launched or even
finished. He was impatient to strike a resounding blow at the American
program. Nicky was going to let Mamise know just when the blow was to
be struck, so that she might share in the glory of it when triumphant
Germany rewarded her faithful servants in America. Jake Nuddle was to
take part in the ship-slaughter for the double privilege of protesting
against this capitalistic war and of crippling those cruel capitalists
to whom he owed all his poverty--to hear him tell it.

When Mamise had finished this inventory of the situation Davidge
pondered aloud:

"Of course, we ought to turn the case over to the Department of
Justice and the Military and Naval Intelligence to handle, but--"

"But I'd like to shelter my poor sister if I could," said Mamise. "Of
course, I wouldn't let any tenderness for Jake Nuddle stand in the way
of my patriotic duty, for Heaven knows he's as much of a traitor to my
poor sister as he is to everything else that's decent, but I'd like to
keep him out of it somehow. Something might happen to make it
possible, don't you suppose?"

"I might cripple him and send him to a hospital to save his life,"
said Davidge.

"Anything to keep him out of it," said Mamise. "If I should tell the
authorities, though, they'd put him in jail right away, wouldn't
they?"

"Probably. And they'd run your friend Nicky down and intern him. Then
I'd lose my chance to lay hands on him as--"

"As he did on you," was what he started to say, but he stopped in
time.

This being Davidge's fierce desire, he found plenty of justification
for it in other arguments. In the first place, there was no telling
where Nicky might be. He had given Mamise no hint of his headquarters.
She had neglected to ask where she could reach him, and had been
instructed simply to wait till he gave her the signal. No doubt he
could be picked up somewhere in the enormous, ubiquitous net with
which America had been gradually covered by the secret services and by
the far-flung line of the American Protective League made up of
private citizens. But there would be a certain unsatisfactoriness
about nipping his plot so far from even the bud. Prevention is wisdom,
but it lacks fascination.

And supposing that they found Nicky, what evidence had they against
him, except Mamise's uncorroborated statement that he had discussed
certain plots with her? Enemy aliens could be interned without trial,
but that meant a halcyon existence for Nicky and every comfort except
liberty. This was not to be considered. Davidge had a personal grudge,
too, to satisfy. He owed Nicky punishment for sinking the ship named
after Davidge's mother and for planning to sink the ship he was naming
after the woman he hoped to make his wife.

Davidge was eager to seize Nicky in the very act of planting his
torpedo and hoist him with his own petard. So he counseled a plan of
waiting further developments. Mamise was the more willing, since it
deferred the hateful moment when Jake Nuddle would be exposed. She had
a hope that things might so happen as to leave him out of the
dénouement entirely.

And now Davidge and Mamise were in perfect agreement, conspirators
against a conspiracy. And there was the final note of the terrible in
their compact: their failure meant the demolition of all those growing
ships, the nullification of Davidge's entire contribution to the war;
their success would mean perhaps the death of Easton and the
blackening of the name of Mamise's sister and her sister's children.

The solemnity of the outlook made impossible any talk of love. Davidge
left Mamise at her cottage and rode back to his office, feeling like
the commander of a stockade in the time of an Indian uprising. Mamise
found that his foresight had had the house warmed for her; and there
were flowers in a jar. She smiled at his tenderness even in his wrath.
But the sight of the smoke rolling from the chimney had caught the eye
of her sister, and she found Abbie waiting to welcome her.

The two rushed to each other with the affection of blood-kin, but
Mamise felt like a Judas when she kissed the sister she was planning
to betray. Abbie began at once to recite a catalogue of troubles. They
were sordid and petty, but Mamise shivered to think how real a tragedy
impended. She wondered how right she was to devastate her sister's
life for the sake of a cause which, after all, was only the imagined
welfare of millions of total strangers. She could not see the nation
for the people, but her sister was her sister, and pitifully human.
That was the worst wrench of war, the incessant compulsions to tear
the heart away from its natural moorings.



CHAPTER II


Davidge thought it only fair to take the Department of Justice
operative, Larrey, into his confidence. Larrey was perfectly willing
to defer reporting to his office chief until the more dramatic
conclusion; for he had an easily understandable ambition to share in
the glory of it. It was agreed that a closer watch than ever should be
kept on the shipyard and its approaches. Easton had promised to notify
Mamise of his arrival, but he might grow suspicious of her and strike
without warning.

The period of waiting was as maddening as the suspense of the poor
insomniac who implored the man next door to "drop the other shoe."
Mamise suffered doubly from her dual interest in Abbie and in Davidge.
She dared not tell Abbie what was in the wind, though she tried to
undermine gradually the curious devotion Abbie bore to her worthless
husband. But Mamise's criticisms of Jake only spurred Abbie to new
defenses of him and a more loyal affection.

Day followed day, and Mamise found the routine of the office
intolerably monotonous. Time gnawed at her resolution, and she began
to hope to be away when Easton made his attempt. It occurred to her
that it would be pleasant to have an ocean between her and the crisis.
She said to Davidge:

"I wish Nicky would come soon, for I have applied for a passport to
France. Major Widdicombe got me the forms to fill out, and he promised
to expedite them. I ought to go the minute they come."

This information threw Davidge into a complex dismay. Here was another
of Mamise's long-kept secrets. The success of her plan meant the loss
of her, or her indefinite postponement. It meant more yet. He
groaned.

"Good Lord! everybody in the United States is going to France except
me. Even the women are all emigrating. I think I'll just turn the
shipyard over to the other officers of the corporation and go with
you. Let Easton blow it up then, if he wants to, so long as I get into
the uniform and into the fighting."

This new commotion was ended by a shocking and unforeseen occurrence.
The State Department refused to grant Mamise a passport, and dazed
Widdicombe by letting him know confidentially that Mamise was on the
red list of suspects because of her Germanized past. This was news to
Widdicombe, and he went to Polly in a state of bewilderment.

Polly had never told him what Mamise had told her, but she had to let
out a few of the skeletons in Mamise's closet now. Widdicombe felt
compromised in his own loyalty, but Polly browbeat him into
submission. She wrote to Mamise and broke the news to her as gently as
she could, but the rebuff was cruel. Mamise took her sorrow to
Davidge.

He was furious and proposed to "go to the mat" with the State
Department. Mamise, however, shook her head; she saw that her only
hope of rehabilitation lay in a positive proof of her fidelity.

"I got my name stained in England because I didn't have the pluck to
do something positive. I was irresolution personified, and I'm paying
for it. But for once in my life I learned a lesson, and when I learned
what Nicky planned I ran right to you with it. Now if we catch Nicky
red-handed, and I turn over my own brother-in-law to justice, that
ought to redeem me, oughtn't it?"

Davidge had a better idea for her protection. "Marry me, and then they
can't say anything."

"Then they'll suspect you," she said. "Too many good Americans have
been dragged into hot water by pro-German wives, and I'm not going to
marry you till I can bring you some other dower than a spotted
reputation."

"I'd take you and be glad to get you if you were as polka-dotted as a
leopardess," said Davidge.

"Just as much obliged; but no, thank you," said Mamise. "Furthermore,
if we were married, the news would reach Nicky Easton through Jake
Nuddle, and then Nicky would lose all trust in me, and come down on us
without warning."

"This makes about the fifteenth rejection I've had," said Davidge.
"And I'd sworn never to ask you again."

"I promised to ask you when the time was ripe," said Mamise.

"Don't forget. Barkis is always willin' and waitin'."

"While we're both waiting," Mamise went on, "there's one thing you've
got to do for me, or I'll never propose to you."

"Granted, to the half my shipyard."

"It's only a job in your shipyard. I can't stand this typewriter-tapping
any longer. I'm going mad. I want to swing a hammer or something. You
told me that women could build a whole ship if they wanted to, and I
want to build my part of one."

"But--"

"If you speak of my hands, I'll prove to you how strong they are.
Besides, if I were out in the yard at work, I could keep a better
watch for Nicky, and I could keep you better informed as to the
troubles always brewing among the workmen."

"But--"

"I'm strong enough for it, too. I've been taking a lot of exercise
recently to get in trim. If you don't believe me, feel that muscle."

She flexed her biceps, and he took hold of it timidly in its silken
sleeve. It amazed him, for it was like marble. Still, he hated to lose
her from the neighborliness of the office; he hated to send her out
among the workmen with their rough language and their undoubted
readiness to haze her and teach her her place. But she was stubborn
and he saw that her threat was in earnest when she said:

"If you don't give me a job, I'll go to some other company."

Then he yielded and wrote her a note to the superintendent of the
yard, and said:

"You can begin to-morrow."

She smiled in her triumph and made the very womanly comment: "But I
haven't a thing to wear. Do you know a good ladies' tailor who can fit
me out with overalls, some one who has been 'Breeches-maker to the
Queen' and can drape a baby-blue denim pant modishly?"

The upshot of it was that she decided to make her own trousseau, and
she went shopping for materials and patterns. She ended by visiting an
emporium for "gents' furnishings." The storekeeper asked her what
size her husband wore, and she said:

"Just about my own."

He gave her the smallest suit in stock, and she held it up against
her. It was much too brief, and she was heartened to know that there
were workmen littler than she.

She bought the garment that came nearest to her own dimensions, and
hurried home with it joyously. It proved to be a perfect misfit, and
she worked over it as if it were a coming-out gown; and indeed it was
her costume for her début into the world of manual labor.

Abbie dropped in and surprised her in her attitudes and was handsomely
scandalized:

"When's the masquerade?" she asked.

Mamise told her of her new career.

Abbie was appalled. "It's against the Bible for a woman to wear a
man's things!" she protested. Abbie could quote the Scripture for
every discouraging purpose.

"I'd rather wear them than wash them," said Mamise; "and if you'll
take my advice you'll get a suit of overalls yourself and earn an
honest living and five times as much money as Jake would give you--if
he ever gave you any."

But Abbie wailed that Mamise had gone indecent as well as crazy, and
trembled at the thought of what the gossips along the row would do
with the family reputation. The worst of it was that Mamise had money
in the bank and did not have to work.

That was the incomprehensible thing to Jake Nuddle. He accepted the
familiar theory that all capital is stolen goods, and he reproached
Mamise with the double theft of poor folks' money and now of poor
folks' work. Mamise's contention that there were not enough workmen
for the country's needs fell on deaf ears, for Jake believed that work
was a crime against the sacred cause of the laboring-man. His ideal of
a laboring-man was one who seized the capital from the capitalists and
then ceased to labor.

But Jake's too familiar eyes showed that he regarded Mamise as a very
interesting spectacle. The rest of the workmen seemed to have the same
opinion when she went to the yard in her overalls next morning. She
was the first woman to take up man's work in the neighborhood, and she
had to endure the most searching stares, grins, frowns, and comments
that were meant to be overheard.

She struck all the men as immodest; some were offended and some were
delighted. As usual, modesty was but another name for conformity.
Mamise had to face the glares of the conventional wives and daughters
in their bodices that followed every contour, their light skirts that
blew above the knees, and their provocative hats and ribbons. They
made it plain to her that they were outraged by this shapeless
passer-by in the bifurcated potato-sack, with her hair tucked up under
a vizored cap and her hands in coarse mittens.

Mamise had studied the styles affected by the workmen as if they were
fashion-plates from Paris, and she had equipped herself with a slouchy
cap, heavy brogans, a thick sweater, a woolen shirt, and thick
flannels underneath.

She was as well concealed as she could manage, and yet her femininity
seemed to be emphasized by her very disguise. The roundness of bosom
and hip and the fineness of shoulder differed too much from the
masculine outline to be hidden. And somehow there was more coquetry in
her careful carelessness than in all the exaggerated womanishness of
the shanty belles. She had been a source of constant wonder to the
community from the first. But now she was regarded as a downright
menace to the peace and the morals of society.

Mamise reported to the superintendent and gave him Davidge's card. The
old man respected Davidge's written orders and remembered the private
instructions Davidge had given him to protect Mamise from annoyance at
all costs. The superintendent treated her as if she were a child
playing at salesmanship in a store. And this was the attitude of all
the men except a few incorrigible gallants, who tried to start
flirtations and make movie dates with her.

Sutton, the master riveter, alone received her with just the right
hospitality. He had no fear that she would steal his job or his glory
or that any man would. He had talked with her often and let her
practise at his riveting-gun. He had explained that her ambition to be
a riveter was hopeless, since it would take at least three month's
apprenticeship before she could hope to begin on such a career. But
her sincere longings to be a builder and not a loafer won his
respect.

When she expressed a shy wish to belong to his riveting-gang he said:

"Right you are, miss--or should I say mister?"

"I'd be proud if you'd call me bo," said Mamise.

"Right you are, bo. We'll start you in as a passer-boy. I'll be glad
to get rid of that sleep-walker. Hay, Snotty!" he called to a grimy
lad with an old bucket. The youth rubbed the back of his greasy glove
across the snub of nose that had won him his name, and, shifting his
precocious quid, growled:

"Ah, what!"

"Ah, go git your time--or change to another gang. Tell the supe. I'm
not fast enough for you. Go on--beat it!"

Mamise saw that she already had an enemy. She protested against
displacing another toiler, but Sutton told her that there were jobs
enough for the cub.

He explained the nature of Mamise's duties, talking out of one side of
his mouth and using the other for ejaculations of an apparently
inexhaustible supply of tobacco-juice. Seeing that Mamise's startled
eyes kept following these missiles, he laughed:

"Do you use chewin'?"

"I don't think so," said Mamise, not quite sure of his meaning.

"Well, you'll have to keep a wad of gum goin', then, for you cert'n'y
need a lot of spit in this business."

Mamise found this true enough, and the next time Davidge saw her she
kept her grinders milling and used the back of her glove with a
professional air. For the present, however, she had no brain-cells to
spare for mastication. Sutton introduced her to his crew.

"This gink here with the whiskers is Zupnik; he's the holder-on; he
handles the dolly and hangs on to the rivets while I swat 'em. The
pill over by the furnace is the heater; his name is Pafflow, and his
job is warming up the rivets. Just before they begin to sizzle he
yanks 'em out with the tongs and throws 'em to you. You ketch 'em in
the bucket--I hope, and take 'em out with your tongs and put 'em in
the rivet-hole, and then Zupnik and me we do the rest. And what do we
call you? Miss Webling is no name for a workin'-man."

"My name is Marie Louise."

"Moll is enough."

And Moll she was thenceforth.

The understanding of Mamise's task was easier than its performance.
Pafflow sent the rivets to her fast and fleet, and they were red-hot.
The first one passed her and struck Sutton. His language blistered.
The second sizzled against her hip. The third landed in the pail with
a pleasant clink, but she was so slow in getting her tongs about it,
and fitting it into its place, that it was too cold for use. This
threw her into a state of hopelessness. She was ready to resign.

"I think I'd better go back to crocheting," she sighed.

Sutton gave her a playful shove that almost sent her off the
platform:

"Nah, you don't, Moll. You made me chase Snotty off the job, and
you're goin' t'rough wit' it. You ain't doin' no worse 'n I done
meself when I started rivetin'. Cheese! but I spoiled so much work I
got me tail kicked offen me a dozen times!"

This was politer language than some that he used. His conversation was
interspersed with words that no one prints. They scorched Mamise's
ears like red-hot rivets at first, but she learned to accept them as
mere emphasis. And, after all, blunt Anglo-Saxon never did any harm
that Latin paraphrase could prevent.

The main thing was Sutton's rough kindliness, his splendid efficiency,
and his infinite capacity for taking pains with each rivet-head,
hammering it home, then taking up his pneumatic chipping-tool to trim
it neat. That is the genius and the glory of the artisan, to perfect
each detail _ad unguem_, like a poet truing up a sonnet.

Sutton was putting in thousands on thousands of rivets a month, and
every one of them was as important to him as every other. He feared
the thin knife-blade of the rivet-tester as the scrupulous writer
dreads the learned critic's scalpel.

Mamise was dazed to learn that the ship named after her would need
nearly half a million rivets, each one of them necessary to the
craft's success. The thought of the toil, the noise, the sweat,
the money involved made the work a sort of temple-building, and
the thought of Nicky Easton's ability to annul all that devout
accomplishment in an instant nauseated her like a blasphemy. She
felt herself a priestess in a holy office and renewed her flagging
spirits with prayers for strength and consecration.

But few of the laborers had Sutton's pride or Mamise's piety in the
work. Just as she began to get the knack of catching and placing the
rivets Pafflow began to register his protest against her sex. He took
a low joy in pitching rivets wild, and grinned at her dancing lunges
after them.

Mamise would not tattle, but she began again to lose heart. Sutton's
restless appetite for rivets noted the new delay, and he grasped the
cause of it at once. His first comment was to walk over to the furnace
and smash Pafflow in the nose.

"You try any of that I. W. W. sabotodge here, you----, and I'll stuff
you in a rivet-hole and turn the gun loose on you."

Pafflow yielded first to force and later to the irresistible power of
Mamise's humility. Indeed, her ardor for service warmed his
indifferent soul at last, and he joined with her to make a brilliant
team, hurtling the rivets in red arcs from the coke to the pail with
the precision of a professional baseball battery.

Mamise eventually acquired a womanly deftness in plucking up the rivet
and setting it in place, and Davidge might have seen grounds for
uneasiness in her eager submissiveness to Sutton as she knelt before
him, watched his eye timidly, and glowed like coke under the least
breath of his approval.



CHAPTER III


Sutton was a mighty man in his way, and earning a wage that would have
been accounted princely a year before. All the workers were receiving
immense increase of pay, but the champion riveters were lavishly
rewarded.

The whole shipyard industry was on a racing basis. Plans were being
laid to celebrate the next Fourth of July with an unheard-of number of
launchings. Every boat-building company was trying to put overboard an
absolute maximum of hulls on that day.

"Hurry-up" Hurley, who had driven the first rivets into a steel ship
pneumatically, and Charles M. Schwab, of Bethlehem, were the inspiring
leaders in the rush, and their ambition was to multiply the national
output by ten. The spirit of emulation thrilled all the thrillable
workmen, but the riveters were the spectacular favorites. Their names
appeared in the papers as they topped each other's scores, and Sutton
kept outdoing himself. For special occasions he groomed himself like a
race-horse, resting the day before the great event and then giving
himself up to a frenzy of speed.

On one noble day of nine hours' fury he broke the world's record
temporarily. He drove four thousand eight hundred and seventy-five
three-quarter-inch rivets into place. Then he was carried away to a
twenty-four-hour rest, like an exhausted prizefighter.

That was one of the great days in Mamise's history, for she was
permitted to assist in the achievement, and she was not entirely
grateful to Davidge for suppressing the publication of her name
alongside Sutton's. Her photograph appeared with his in many of the
supplements, but nobody recognized the lily-like beauty of Miss
Webling in the smutty-faced passer-boy crouching at Sutton's elbow.
The publication of her photograph as an English belle had made
history for her, in that it brought Jake Nuddle into her life; but
this picture had no follow-up except in her own pride.

This rapture, however, long postdated her first adventure into the
shipyard. That grim period of eight hours was an alternation of shame,
awkwardness, stupidity, failure, fatigue, and despair.

She did not even wash up for lunch, but picked her fodder from her
pail with her companions. She smoked a convivial cigarette with the
gang and was proud as a boy among grown-ups. She even wanted to be
tough and was tempted to use ugly words in a swaggering pride.

But after her lunch it was almost impossible for her to get up and go
back to her task, and she would have fainted from sheer weariness
except that she had forsworn such luxuries as swoons.

The final whistle found her one entire neuralgia. The unending use of
the same muscles, the repetition of the same rhythmic series, the
cranium-shattering clatter of all the riveting-guns, the anxiety to be
sure of each successive rivet, quite burned her out. And she learned
that the reward for this ordeal was, according to the minimum
wage-scale adopted by the Emergency Fleet Corporation, thirty cents an
hour for eight hours, with a ten-per-cent. increase for a six-day
week. This would amount to all of two dollars and sixty-four cents for
the day, and fifteen dollars for the week!

It was munificent for a passer-boy, but it was ruinous for a young
woman of independent fortune and an ambition to look her best. She
gasped with horror when she realized the petty reward for such
prolonged torment. She was too weary to contrast the wage with the
prices of food, fuel, and clothing. While wages climbed expenses
soared.

She understood as never before, and never after, why labor is
discontent and why it is so easily stirred to rebellion, why it feels
itself the exploited slave of imaginary tyrants. She went to bed at
eight and slept in the deeps of sweat-earned repose.

The next morning, getting up was like scourging a crowd of fagged-out
children to school. All her limbs and sundry muscles whose existence
she had never realized before were like separate children, each aching
and wailing: "I can't! I won't!"

But the lameness vanished when she was at work again, and her sinews
began to learn their various trades and to manage them automatically.
She grew strong and lusty, and her task grew easy. She began to
understand that while the employee has troubles enough and to spare,
he has none of the torments of leadership; he is not responsible for
the securing of contracts and materials, for borrowings of capital
from the banks, or for the weekly nightmare of meeting the pay-roll.
There are two hells in the cosmos of manufacture: the dark pit where
the laborer fights the tiny worms of expense and the dizzy crags where
the employer battles with the dragons of aggregates.

Mamise saw that most of the employees were employees because they
lacked the self-starter of ambition. They were lazy-minded, and even
their toiling bodies were lazy. For all their appearance of effort
they did not ordinarily attain an efficiency of thirty per cent. of
their capabilities. The turnover in employment was three times what it
should have been. Three hundred men were hired for every hundred
steadily at work, and the men at work did only a third of the work
they could have done. The total wastefulness of man rivaled the
ghastly wastefulness of nature with spawn and energy.

The poor toilers were more reckless, more shiftless, relatively more
dissipated, than the idle rich, for the rich ordinarily squandered
only the interest on their holdings, while the laborer wasted his
capital in neglecting to make full use of his muscle. The risks they
took with life and limb were amazing.

On Saturdays great numbers quit work and waited for their pay. On
Mondays the force was greatly reduced by absentees nursing the
hang-over from the Sunday drunk, and of those that came to work so
many were unfit that the Monday accident increase was proverbial.

The excuse of slavery or serfdom was no longer legitimate, though it
was loudly proclaimed by the agitators, the trade-union editors, and
the parlor reformers. For, say what they would, labor could resign or
strike at will; the laborer had his vote and his equality of
opportunity. He was free even from the ordinary obligations, for
nobody expected the workman to make or keep a contract for his
services after it became inconvenient to him.

There were bad sports among them, as among the rich and the classes
between. There were unions and individuals that were tyrants in power
and cry-babies in trouble. There was much cruelty, trickery, and
despotism inside the unions--ferocious jealousy of union against
union, and mutual destructiveness.

This was, of course, inevitable, and it only proved that lying,
cheating, and bullying were as natural to the so-called "laborer" as
to the so-called "capitalist." The folly is in making the familiar
distinction between them. Mamise saw that the majority of manual
laborers did not do a third of the work they might have done and she
knew that many of the capitalists did three times as much as they had
to.

It is the individual that tells the story, and Mamise, who had known
hard-working, firm-muscled men, and devoted mothers and pure daughters
among the rich, found them also among the poor, but intermingled here,
as above, with sots, degenerates, child-beaters, and wantons.

Mamise learned to admire and to be fond of many of the men and their
families. But she had adventures with blackguards, rakes, and brutes.
She was lovingly entreated by many a dear woman, but she was snubbed
and slandered by others who were as extravagant, indolent, and immoral
as the wives and daughters of the rich.

But all in all, the ship-builders loafed horribly in spite of the
poetic inspiration of their calling and the prestige of public
laudation; in spite of the appeals for hulls to carry food to the
starving and troops to the anxious battle-front of Europe. In spite
also of the highest wages ever paid to a craft, they kept their
efficiency at a lower point than lower paid workmen averaged in the
listless pre-war days. Yet there was no lack of outcry that the
workman was throttled and enslaved by the greed of capital. There was
no lack of outcry that profiteers were bleeding the nation to death
and making martyrs of the poor.

Most of the capitalists had been workmen themselves and had risen from
the lethargic mass by the simple expedient of using their brains for
schemes and making their muscles produce more than the average output.
The laborers who failed failed because when they got their eight-hour
day they did not turn their leisure to production. And some of them
dared to claim that the manual toilers alone produced the wealth and
should alone be permitted to enjoy it, as if it were possible or
desirable to choke off initiative and adventure or to devise a society
in which the man whose ambition is to avoid work will set the pace for
the man who loves it for itself and whose discontent goads him on to
self-improvement! As if it were possible or desirable for the man who
works half-heartedly eight hours a day to keep down the man who works
whole-souledly eighteen hours a day! For time is power.

Even the benefits the modern laborer enjoys are largely the result of
intervention in his behalf by successful men of enterprise who thrust
upon the toiler the comforts, the safeguards, and the very privileges
he will not or cannot seek for himself.

During the war the employers of labor, the generals of these
tremendous armies, were everlastingly alert to find some means to
stimulate them to do themselves justice. The best artists of the
country devised eloquent posters, and these were stuck up everywhere,
reminding the laborer that he was the partner of the soldier. Orators
visited the yards and harangued the men. After each appeal there was a
brief spurt of enthusiasm that showed what miracles could be
accomplished if they had not lapsed almost at once into the usual
sullen drudgery.

There were appeals to thrift also. The government needed billions of
dollars, needed them so badly that the pennies of the poorest man must
be sought for. Few of the workmen had the faintest idea of saving. The
wives of some of them were humbly provident, but many of them were
debt-runners in the shops and wasters in the kitchens.

A gigantic effort was put forth to teach the American people thrift.
The idea of making small investments in government securities was
something new. Bonds were supposed to be for bankers and plutocrats.
Vast campaigns of education were undertaken, and the rich implored the
poor to lay aside something for a rainy day. The rich invented schemes
to wheedle the poor to their own salvation. So huge had been the
wastefulness before that the new fashion produced billions upon
billions of investments in Liberty Bonds, and hundreds of millions in
War Savings Stamps.

Bands of missionaries went everywhere, to the theaters, the
moving-picture houses, the schools, the shops, the factories,
preaching the new gospel of good business and putting it across in the
name of patriotism.

One of these troupes of crusaders marched upon Davidge's shipyard. And
with it came Nicky Easton at last.

Easton had deferred his advent so long that Mamise and Davidge had
come almost to yearn for him with heartsick eagerness. The first
inkling of the prodigal's approach was a visit that Jake Nuddle paid
to Mamise late one evening. She had never broached to him the matter
of her talk with Easton, waiting always for him to speak of it to her.
She was amazed to see him now, and he brought amazement with him.

"I just got a call on long distance," he said, "and a certain party
tells me you was one of us all this time. Why didn't you put a feller
wise?"

Mamise was inspired to answer his reproach with a better: "Because I
don't trust you, Jake. You talk too much."

This robbed Jake of his bluster and convinced him that the elusive
Mamise was some tremendous super-spy. He became servile at once, and
took pride in being the lackey of her unexplained and unexplaining
majesty. Mamise liked him even less in this rôle than the other.

She took his information with a languid indifference, as if the
terrifying news were simply a tiresome confirmation of what she had
long expected. Jake was tremulous with excitement and approval.

"Well, well, who'd 'a' thought our little Mamise was one of them
slouch-hounds you read about? I see now why you've been stringin' that
Davidge boob along. You got him eatin' out your hand. And I see now
why you put them jumpers on and went out into the yards. You just got
to know everything, ain't you?"

Mamise nodded and smiled felinely, as she imagined a queen of mystery
would do. But as soon as she could get rid of Jake she was like a
child alone in a graveyard.

Jake had told her that Nicky would be down in a few days, and not to
be surprised when he appeared. She wanted to get the news to Davidge,
but she dared not go to his rooms so late. And in the morning she was
due at her job of passing rivets. She crept into bed to rest her
dog-tired bones against the morrow's problems. Her dreams were all of
death and destruction, and of steel ships crumpled like balls of
paper thrown into a waste-basket.

If she had but known it, Davidge was making the rounds of his
sentry-line. The guard at one gate was sound asleep. He found two
others playing cards, and a fourth man dead drunk.

Inside the yards the great hulls rose up to the moon like the
buttresses of a cliff. Only, they were delicately vulnerable, and
Europe waited for them.



CHAPTER IV


True sleep came to Mamise so late that her alarm-clock could hardly
awaken her. It took all her speed to get her to her post. She dared
not keep Sutton waiting, and fear of the time-clock had become a habit
with her. As she caught the gleaming rivets and thrust them into their
sconces, she wondered if all this toil were merely a waste of effort
to give the sarcastic gods another laugh at human folly.

She wanted to find Davidge and took at last the desperate expedient of
pretended sickness. The passer-boy Snotty was found to replace her,
and she hurried to Davidge's office.

Miss Gabus stared at her and laughed. "Tired of your rivetin' a'ready?
Come to get your old job back?"

Mamise shook her head and asked for Davidge. He was out--no, not out
of town, but out in the yard or the shop or up in the mold-loft or
somewheres, she reckoned.

Mamise set out to find him, and on the theory that among places to
look for anything or anybody the last should be first she climbed the
long, long stairs to the mold-loft.

He was not among the acolytes kneeling at the templates; nor was he in
the cathedral of the shop. She sought him among the ships, and came
upon him at last talking to Jake Nuddle, of all people!

Nuddle saw Mamise first and winked, implying that he also was making a
fool of Davidge. Davidge looked sheepish, as he always did when he was
caught in a benevolent act.

"I was just talking to your brother-in-law, Miss Webling," he said,
"trying to drive a few rivets into that loose skull. I don't want to
fire him, on your account, but I don't see why I should pay an I. W.
W. or a Bolshevist to poison my men."

Davidge had been alarmed by the indifference of his sentinels. He
thought it imbecile to employ men like Nuddle to corrupt the men
within, while the guards admitted any wanderer from without. He was
making a last attempt to convert Nuddle to industry for Mamise's sake,
trying to pluck this dingy brand from the burning.

"I was just showing Nuddle a little bookkeeping in patriotism," he
said. "The Liberty Loan people are coming here, and I want the yard to
do itself proud. Some of the men and women are going without
necessities to help the government, while Nuddle and some others are
working for the Kaiser. This is the record of Nuddle and his crew:

"'Wages, six to ten dollars a day guaranteed by the government.
Investment in Liberty Bonds, nothing; purchases of War Savings Stamps,
nothing; contributions to Red Cross, Y. M. C. A., K. of C., J. W. B.,
Salvation Army, nothing; contributions to relief funds of the Allies,
nothing. Time spent at drill, none; time spent in helping recruiting,
none. A clean sheet, and a sheet full of time spent in interfering
with other men's work, sneering at patriotism, saying the Kaiser is no
worse than the Allies, pretending that this is a war to please the
capitalists, and that a soldier is a fool.'

"In other words, Nuddle, you are doing the Germans' business, and I
don't intend to pay you American money any longer unless you do more
work with your hands and less with your jaw."

Nuddle was stupid enough to swagger.

"Just as you say, Davidge. You'll change your tune before long,
because us workin'-men, bein' the perdoocers, are goin' to take over
all these plants and run 'em to soot ourselves."

"Fine!" said Davidge. "And will you take over my loans at the banks to
meet the pay-rolls?"

"We'll take over the banks!" said Jake, majestically. "We'll take over
everything and let the workin'-men git their doos at last."

"What becomes of us wicked plutocrats?"

"We'll have you workin' for us."

"Then we'll be the workin'-men, and it will be our turn to take over
things and set you plutocrats to workin' for us, I suppose. And we'll
be just where we are now."

This was growing too seesawy for Nuddle, and he turned surly.

"Some of you won't be in no shape to take over nothin'."

Davidge laughed. "It's as bad as that, eh? Well, while I can, I'll
just take over your button."

"You mean I'm fired?"

"Exactly," said Davidge, holding out his hand for the badge that
served as a pass to the yards and the pay-roll. "Come with me, and
you'll get what money's coming to you."

This struck through Nuddle's thick wits. He cast a glance of dismay at
Mamise. If he were discharged, he could not help Easton with the grand
blow-up. He whined:

"Ain't you no regard for a family man? I got a wife and kids dependent
on me."

"Well, do what Karl Marx did--let them starve or live on their own
money while you prove that capital is as he said, 'a vampire of dead
labor sucking the life out of living labor.' Or feed them on the wind
you try to sell me."

"Aw, have a heart! I talk too much, but I'm all right," Jake pleaded.

Davidge relented a little. "If you'll promise to give your mouth a
holiday and your hands a little work I'll keep you to the end of the
month. And then, on your way!"

"All right, boss; much obliged," said Jake, so relieved at his respite
that he bustled away as if victorious, winking shrewdly at Mamise--who
winked back, with some difficulty.

She waited till he was a short distance off, then she murmured,
quickly:

"Don't jump--but Nicky Easton is coming here in the next few days; I
don't know just when. He told Jake; Jake told me. What shall we do?"

Davidge took the blow with a smile:

"Our little guest is coming at last, eh? He promised to see you first.
I'll have Larrey keep close to you, and the first move he makes we'll
jump him. In the mean while I'll put some new guards on the job
and--well, that's about all we can do but wait."

"I mustn't be seen speaking to you too friendly. Jake thinks I'm
fooling you."

"God help me, if you are, for I love you. And I want you to be
careful. Don't run any risks. I'd rather have the whole shipyard
smashed than your little finger."

"Thanks, but if I could swap my life for one ship it would be the best
bargain I ever bought. Good-by."

As she ran back to her post Davidge smiled at the womanishness of her
gait, and thought of Joan of Arc, never so lovably feminine as in her
armor.



CHAPTER V


Days of harrowing restiveness followed, Mamise starting at every word
spoken to her, leaping to her feet at every step that passed her
cottage, springing from her sleep with a cry, "Who's there!" at every
breeze that fumbled a shutter.

But nothing happened; nobody came for her.

The afternoon of the Liberty Loan drive was declared a half-holiday.
The guards were doubled at the gates, and watchmen moved among the
crowds; but strangers were admitted if they looked plausible, and
several motor-loads of them rolled in. Some of them carried bundles of
circulars and posters and application blanks. Some of them were of
foreign aspect, since a large number of the workmen had to be
addressed in other languages than English.

Mamise drifted from one audience to another. She encountered her
team-mate Pafflow and tried to find a speaker who was using his
language.

At length a voice of an intonation familiar to him threw him into an
ecstasy. What was jargon to Mamise was native music to him, and she
lingered at his elbow, pretending to share his thrill in order to
increase it.

She felt a twitch at her sleeve, and turned idly.

Nicky Easton was at her side. Her mind, all her minds, began to
convene in alarm like the crew of a ship attacked.

"Nicky!" she gasped.

"No names, pleass! But to follow me quick."

"I'm right with you." She turned to follow him. "One minute." She
stepped back and spoke fiercely to Pafflow. "Pafflow, find Mr.
Davidge. Tell him Nicky is here. Remember, _Nicky is here_. It's life
and death. Find him."

Pafflow mumbled, "Nicky is here!" and Mamise ran after Nicky, who was
lugging a large suit-case. He was quivering with excitement.

"I didn't knew you in pentaloons, but Chake Nuttle pointet you owit,"
he laughed.

"Wh-where is Jake?"

"He goes ahead vit a boondle of bombs. Nobody is on the _Schiff_. Ve
could not have so good a chence again."

Mamise might have, ought to have, seized him and cried for help; but
she could not somehow throw off the character she had assumed with
Nicky. She obeyed him in a kind of automatism. Her eyes searched the
crowd for Larrey, who had kept all too close to her of recent days and
nights. But he had fallen under the hypnotism of some too eloquent
spellbinder.

Mamise felt the need of doing a great heroic feat, but she could not
imagine what it might be. Pending the arrival from heaven of some
superfeminine inspiration, she simply went along to be in at the
death.

Pafflow was a bit stupid and two bits stubborn. He puzzled over
Mamise's peculiar orders. He wanted to hear the rest of that fiery
speech. He turned and stared after Mamise and noted the way she went,
with the foppish stranger carrying the heavy baggage. But he was used
to obeying orders after a little balking, and in time his slow brain
started him on the hunt for Davidge. He quickened his pace and asked
questions, being put off or directed hither and yon.

At last he saw the boss sitting on a platform behind whose fluttering
bunting a white-haired man was hurling noises at the upturned faces of
the throng. Pafflow supposed that his jargon was English.

Getting to Davidge was not easy. But Pafflow was stubborn. He pushed
as close to the front as he could, and there a wall of bodies held
him.

The orator was checked in full career with almost fatal results by the
sudden bellowing of a voice from the crowd below. He supposed that he
was being heckled. He paused among the ruins of his favorite period,
and said:

"Well, my friend, what is it?"

Pafflow ignored him and shouted: "Meesta Davutch! O-o-h, Meesta
Davutch. Neecky is here."

Davidge, hearing his name bruited, rose and called into the mob,
"What's that?"

"Neecky is here."

When Davidge understood he was staggered. For a moment he stood in a
stupor. Then he apologized to the speaker. "An emergency call. Please
forgive me and go right on!"

He bowed to the other distinguished guests and left the platform.
Pafflow found him and explained.

"Moll, the passer-boy, my gang, she say find you, life and death, and
say Neecky is here! I doan' know what she means, but now I find you."

"Which way--where--did you--have you an idea where she went?"

"She go over by new ship _Mamise_--weeth gentleman all dressy up."

Davidge ran toward the scaffolding surrounding the almost finished
hull. He recognized one or two of his plain-clothes guards and stopped
just long enough to tell them to get together and search every ship at
once, and to make no excitement about it.

The scaffolding was like a jungle, and he prowled through it with
caution and desperate speed, up and down the swaying, cleated planks
and in and out of the hull.

He searched the hold first, expecting that Nicky would naturally plant
his explosives there. That indeed was his scheme, but Mamise had found
among her tumbled wits one little idea only, and that was to delay
Nicky as long as possible.

She suggested to him that before he began to lay his train of wires he
ought to get a general view of the string of ships. The best point was
the top deck, where they were just about to hoist the enormous rudder
to the stern-post.

Nicky accepted the suggestion, and Mamise guided him through the
labyrinth. They had met Jake at the base of the falsework, and he came
along, leaving his bundle. Nicky carried his suit-case with him. He
did not intend to be separated from it. Jake was always glad to be
separated from work.

They made the climb, and Nicky's artistic soul lingered to praise the
beautiful day for the beautiful deed. In a frenzy of talk, Mamise
explained to him what she could. She pointed to the great hatchway for
the locomotives and told him:

"The ship would have been in the water now if it weren't for that big
hatch. It set us--the company back ninety days."

"And now the ship goes to be in the sky in about nine minutes. Come
along once."

"Look down here, how deep it is!" said Mamise, and led him to the
edge. She was ready to thrust him into the pit, but he kept a firm
grip on a rope, and she sighed with regret.

But Davidge, looking up from the depth of the well, saw Nicky and
Mamise peering over the edge. His face vanished.

"Who iss?" said Nicky. "Somebody is below dere. Who iss?"

Mamise said she did not know, and Jake had not seen.

Nicky was in a flurry. The fire in Davidge's eyes told him that
Davidge was looking for him. There was a dull sound in the hitherto
silent ship of some one running.

Nicky grew hysterical with wrath. To be caught at the very outset of
his elaborate campaign was maddening. He opened his suit-case, took
out from the protecting wadding a small iron death-machine and held it
in readiness. A noble plan had entered his brain for rescuing his
dream.

Nuddle, glancing over the side, recognized Davidge and told Nicky who
it was that came. When Davidge reached the top deck, he found Nicky
smiling with the affability of a floorwalker.

"Meester Davitch--please, one momend. I holt in my hant a little
machine to blow us all high-sky if you are so unkind to be impolite.
You move--I srow. We all go up togedder in much pieces. Better it is
you come with me and make no trouble, and then I let you safe your
life. You agree, yes? Or must I srow?"

Davidge looked at the bomb, at Nicky, at Nuddle, then at Mamise. Life
was sweet here on this high steel crag, with the cheers of the crowds
about the stands coming faintly up on the delicious breeze. He knew
explosives. He had seen them work. He could see what that handful of
lightning in Nicky's grasp would do to this mountain he had built.

Life was sweet where the limpid river spread its indolent floods far
and wide. And Mamise was beautiful. The one thing not sweet and not
beautiful was the triumph of this sardonic Hun.

Davidge pondered but did not speak.

With all the superiority of the Kultured German for the untutored
Yankee, Nicky said, "Vell?"

Perhaps it was the V that did it. For Davidge, without a word, went
for him.



CHAPTER VI


The most tremendous explosives refuse to explode unless some detonator
like fulminate of mercury is set off first. Each of us has his own
fulminate, and the snap of a little cap of it brings on our
cataclysm.

It was a pity, seeing how many Germans were alienated from their
country by the series of its rulers' crimes, and seeing how many
German names were in the daily lists of our dead, that the word and
the accent grew so hateful to the American people. It was a pity, but
the Americans were not to blame if the very intonation of a Teutonism
made their ears tingle.

Davidge prized life and had no suicidal inclinations or temptations.
No imaginable crisis in his affairs could have convinced him to
self-slaughter. He was brave, but cautious.

Even now, if Nicky Easton, poising the bombshell with its appalling
threat, had murmured a sardonic "Well?" Davidge would probably have
smiled, shrugged, and said:

"You've got the bead on me, partner. I'm yours." He would have gone
along as Nicky's prisoner, waiting some better chance to recover his
freedom.

But the mal-pronunciation of the shibboleth strikes deep centers of
racial feeling and makes action spring faster than thought. The
Sicilians at vespers asked the Frenchmen to pronounce "cheecheree,"
and slew them when they said "sheesheree." So Easton snapped a
fulminate in Davidge when his Prussian tongue betrayed him into that
impertinent, intolerable alien "Vell?"

Davidge was helpless in his own frenzy. He leaped.

Nicky could not believe his eyes. He paused for an instant's
consideration. As a football-player hesitates a sixteenth of a second
too long before he passes the ball or punts it, and so forfeits his
opportunity, so Nicky Easton stood and stared for the length of time
it takes the eyes to widen.

That was just too long for him and just long enough for Davidge, who
went at him football fashion, hurling himself through the air like a
vast, sprawling tarantula. Nicky's grip on the bomb relaxed. It fell
from his hand. Davidge swiped at it wildly, smacked it, and knocked it
out of bounds beyond the deck. Then Davidge's hundred-and-eighty-pound
weight smote the light and wickery frame of Nicky and sent him
collapsing backward, staggering, wavering, till he, too, went
overboard.

Davidge hit the deck like a ball-player sliding for a base, and he
went slithering to the edge. He would have followed Nicky over the
hundred-foot steel precipice if Mamise had not flung herself on him
and caught his heel. He was stopped with his right arm dangling out in
space and his head at the very margin of the deck.

In this very brief meanwhile Jake Nuddle, who had been panic-stricken
at the sight of the bomb in Nicky's hand, had been backing away
slowly. He would have backed into the abyss if he had not struck a
stanchion and clutched it desperately.

And now the infernal-machine reached bottom. It lighted on the huge
blade of the ship's anchor lying on a wharf waiting to be hoisted into
place. The shell burst with an all-rending roar and sprayed rags of
steel in every direction. The upward stream caught Nicky in midair and
shattered him to shreds.

Nuddle's whole back was obliterated and half a corpse fell forward,
headless, on the deck. Davidge's right arm was ripped from the
shoulder and his hat vanished, all but the brim.

Mamise was untouched by the bombardment, but the downward rain of
fragments tore her flesh as she lay sidelong.

The bomb, exploding in the open air, lost much of its efficiency, but
the part of the ship nearest was crumpled like an old tomato-can that
a boy has placed on a car track to be run over.

The crash with its reverberations threw the throngs about the
speakers' stands into various panics, some running away from the
volcano, some toward it. Many people were knocked down and trampled.

Larrey and his men were the first to reach the deck. They found
Davidge and Mamise in a pool of blood rapidly enlarging as the torn
arteries in Davidge's shoulder spouted his life away. A quick
application of first aid saved him until the surgeon attached to the
shipyard could reach him.

Mamise's injuries were painful and cruel, but not dangerous. Of
Jake Nuddle there was not enough left to assure Larrey of his
identification. Of Nicky Easton there was so little trace that the
first searchers did not know that he had perished.

Davidge and Mamise were taken to the hospital, and when Davidge was
restored to consciousness his first words were a groan of awful
satisfaction:

"I got a German!"

When he learned that he had no longer a right arm he smiled again and
muttered:

"It's great to be wounded for your country."

Which was a rather inelegant paraphrase of the classic "_Dulce et
decorum_," but caught its spirit admirably.

Of Jake Nuddle he knew nothing and forgot everything till some days
later, when he was permitted to speak to Mamise, in whose welfare he
was more interested than his own, and the story of whose unimportant
wounds harrowed him more than his own.

Her voice came to him over the bedside telephone. After an exchange of
the inevitable sympathies and regrets and tendernesses, Mamise
sighed:

"Well, we're luckier than poor Jake."

"We are? What happened to him?"

"He was killed, horribly. His pitiful wife! Abbie has been here and
she is inconsolable. He was her idol--not a very pretty one, but idols
are not often pretty. It's too terribly bad, isn't it?"

Davidge's bewildered silence was his epitaph for Jake. Even though he
were dead, one could hardly praise him, though, now that he was dead,
Davidge felt suddenly that he must have been indeed the first and the
eternal victim of his own qualities.

Jake had been a complainer, a cynic, a loafer always from his cradle
on--indeed, his mother used to say that he nearly kicked her to death
before he was born.

Mamise had hated and loathed him, but she felt now that Abbie had been
righter than she in loving the wretch who had been dowered with no
beauty of soul or body.

She waited for Davidge to say something. After a long silence, she
asked:

"Are you there?"

"Yes."

"You don't say anything about poor Jake."

"I--I don't know what to say."

He felt it hateful to withhold praise from the dead, and yet a kind of
honesty forced him to oppose the habit of lauding all who have just
died, since it cheapened the praise of the dead who deserve praise--or
what we call "deserve."

Mamise spoke in a curiously unnatural tone: "It was noble of poor Jake
to give his life trying to save the ship, wasn't it?"

"What's that?" said Davidge, and she spoke with labored precision.

"I say that you and I, who were the only witnesses, feel sorry that
poor Jake had to be killed in the struggle with Easton."

"Oh, I see! Yes--yes," said Davidge, understanding.

Mamise went on: "Mr. Larrey was here and he didn't know who Jake was
till I told him how he helped you try to disarm Nicky. It will be a
fine thing for poor Abbie and her children to remember that, won't
it?"

Davidge's heart ached with a sudden appreciation of the sweet purpose
of Mamise's falsehood.

"Yes, yes," he said. "I'll give Abbie a pension on his account."

"That's beautiful of you!"

And so it was done. It pleased a sardonic fate to let Jake Nuddle pose
in his tomb as the benefactor he had always pretended to be.

The operative, Larrey, had made many adverse reports against him, but
in the blizzard of reports against hundreds of thousands of suspects
that turned the Department of Justice files into a huge snowdrift
these earlier accounts of Nuddle's treasonable utterances and deeds
were forgotten.

The self-destruction of Nicky Easton took its brief space in the
newspapers overcrowded with horrors, and he, too, was all but
forgotten.

When, after some further time, Mamise was able to call upon Davidge in
her wheeled chair, she found him strangely lacking in cordiality. She
was bitterly hurt at first, until she gleaned from his manner that he
was trying to remove himself gracefully from her heart because of his
disability.

She amazed him by her sudden laughter. He was always slow to
understand why his most solemn or angry humor gave her so much
amusement.

While her nurse and his were talking at a little distance it pleased
her to lean close to Davidge and tease him excruciatingly with a
flirtatious manner.

"Before very long I'm going to take up that bet we made."

"What bet?"

"That the next proposal would come from me. I'm going to propose the
first of next week."

"If you do, I'll refuse you."

Though she understood him perfectly, it pleased her to assume a motive
he had never dreamed of.

"Oh, you mustn't think that I'm going to be an invalid for life. The
doctor says I'll be as well as ever in a little while."

Davidge could not see how he was to tell her that he didn't mean that
without telling her just what he did mean. In his tormented petulance
he turned his back on her and groaned.

"Oh, go away and let me alone."

She was laughing beyond the limits called ladylike as she began to
wheel her chair toward the door. The nurse ran after her, asking:

"What on earth?"

Mamise assured, "Nothing on earth, but a lot in heaven," and would not
explain the riddle.



CHAPTER VII


Davidge was the modern ideal of an executive. He appeared never to do
any work. He kept an empty desk and when he was away no one missed
him. He would not use a roll-top desk, but sat at a flat table with
nothing on it but a memorandum-pad, a calendar, an "in" and an "out"
basket, both empty most of the time.

He had his work so organized that it went on in his absence as if he
were there. He insisted that the executives of the departments should
follow the same rule. If they were struck down in battle their places
were automatically supplied as in the regular army.

So when Davidge went to the hospital the office machine went on as if
he had gone to lunch.

Mamise called on him oftener than he had called on her. She left the
hospital in a few days after the explosion, but she did not step into
his office and run the corporation for him as a well-regulated heroine
of recent fiction would have done. She did not feel that she knew
enough. And she did not know enough. She kept to her job with the
riveting-gang and expected to be discharged any day for lack of pull
with the new boss.

But while she lasted she was one of the gang, and proud of it. She was
neither masculine nor feminine, but human. As Vance Thompson has said,
the lioness is a lion all but a little of the time, and so Mamise put
off sexlessness with her overalls and put it on with her petticoats.
She put off the coarseness at the same time as she scrubbed away the
grime.

The shipyard was still a realm of faery to her. It was an unending
experience of miracles, commonplace to the men, but wonder-work to
her. She had not known what "pneumatic" or "hydraulic" really meant.
The acetylene flame-knife, the incomprehensible ability of levers to
give out so much more power than was put in them, dazed her. Nothing
in the Grimms' stories could parallel the benevolent ogres of air and
water and their dumfounding transformations.

She learned that machinery can be as beautiful as any other human
structure. Fools and art-snobs had said that machinery is ugly, and
some of it is indeed nearly as ugly as some canvases, verses, and
cathedrals. Other small-pates chattered of how the divine works of
nature shamed the crudities of man. They spoke of the messages of the
mountains, the sublimities of sunsets, and the lessons taught by the
flowerets. These things are impressive, but it ought to be possible to
give them praise without slandering man's creations, for a God that
could make a man that could make a work of art would have to be a
better God than one who could merely make a work of art himself.

But machinery has its messages, too. It enables the little cave-dweller
to pulverize the mountain; to ship it to Mohammed in Medina; to pick it
up and shoot it at his enemies.

Mamise, at any rate, was so enraptured by the fine art of machinery
that when she saw a traveling-crane pick up a mass of steel and go
down the track with it to its place, she thought that no poplar-tree
was ever so graceful. And the rusty hulls of the new ships showing the
sky through the steel lace of their rivetless sides were fairer than
the sky.

Surgeons in steel operated on the battered epidermis of the _Mamise_
and sewed her up again. It was slow work and it had all the
discouraging influence of work done twice for one result. But the toil
went on, and when at last Davidge left the hospital he was startled by
the change in the vessel. As a father who has left a little girl at
home comes back to find her a grown woman, so he saw an almost
finished ship where he had left a patchwork of iron plates.

It thrilled him to be back at work again. The silence of the hospital
had irked his soul. Here the air was full of the pneumatic riveter.
They called it the gun that would win the war. The shipyard atmosphere
was shattered all day long as if with machine-gun fire and the
riveters were indeed firing at Germany. Every red-hot rivet was a
bullet's worth.

The cry grew louder for ships. The submarine was cutting down the
world's whole fleet by a third. In February the Germans sank the
_Tuscania_, loaded with American soldiers, and 159 of them were lost.
Uncle Sam tightened his lips and added the _Tuscania's_ dead soldiers
to the _Lusitania's_ men and women and children on the invoice against
Germany. He tightened his belt, too, and cut down his food for
Europe's sake. He loosened his purse-strings and poured out gold and
bonds and war-savings stamps, borrowing, lending, and spending with
the desperation of a gambler determined to break the bank.

While Davidge was still in the hospital the German offensive broke. It
succeeded beyond the scope of the blackest prophecy. It threw the fear
of hell into the stoutest hearts. All over the country people were
putting pins in maps, always putting them farther back. Everybody
talked strategy, and geography became the most dreadful of topics.

On March 29th Pershing threw what American troops were abroad into the
general stock, gave them to Haig and Foch to use as they would.

On the same day the mysterious giant cannon of the Germans sent a
shell into Paris, striking a church and killing seventy-five
worshipers. And it was on a Good Friday that the men of _Gott_ sent
this harbinger of good-will.

The Germans began to talk of the end of Great Britain, the erasure of
France, and the reduction of America to her proper place.

Spring came to the dismal world again with a sardonic smile. In
Washington the flower-duel was renewed between the Embassy terrace and
the Louise Home. The irises made a drive and the forsythia sent up its
barrage. The wistaria and the magnolia counterattacked. The Senator
took off his wig again to give official sanction to summer and to rub
his bewildered head the better.

The roving breezes fluttered tragic newspapers everywhere--in the
parks, on the streets, on the scaffolds of the buildings, along the
tented lanes, and in the barrack-rooms.

This wind was a love-zephyr as of old. But the world was frosted with
a tremendous fear. What if old England fell? Empires did fall.
Nineveh, Babylon, and before them Ur and Nippur, and, after, Persia
and Alexander's Greece and Rome. Germany was making the great try to
renew Rome's sway; her Emperor called himself the Cæsar. What if he
should succeed?

Distraught by so many successes, the Germans grew frantic. They were
diverted from one prize to another.

The British set their backs to the wall. The French repeated their
Verdun watchword, "No thoroughfare," and the Americans began to come
up. The Allies were driven finally to what they had always realized to
be necessary, but had never consented to--a unified command. They put
all their destinies into the hands of Foch.

Instantly and melodramatically the omens changed. Foch could live up
to his own motto now, "Attack, attack, attack." He had been like a man
gambling his last francs. Now he had word that unlimited funds were on
the way from his Uncle Sam. He did not have to count his money over
and over. He could squander it regardless.

In every direction he attacked, attacked, attacked. The stupefied
world saw the German hordes checked, driven rearward, here, there, the
other place.

Towns were redeemed, rivers regained, prisoners scooped up by the ten
thousand. The pins began a great forward march along the maps. People
fought for the privilege of placing them. Geography became the most
fascinating sport ever known.

Davidge had come from the hospital minus one arm just as the bulletins
changed from grave to gay. He was afraid now that the war would be
over before his ships could share the glorious part that ships played
in all this victory. The British had turned all their hulls to the
American shores and the American troops were pouring into them in
unbelievable floods.

Secrecy lost its military value. The best strategy that could be
devised was to publish just how many Americans were landing in
France.

General March would carry the news to Secretary Baker and he would
scatter it broadcast through George Creel's Committee on Public
Information, using telegraph, wireless, telephone, cable, post-office,
placard, courier.

Davidge had always said that the war would be over as soon as the
Germans got the first real jolt. With them war was a business and they
would withdraw from it the moment they foresaw a certain bankruptcy
ahead.

But there was the war after the war to be considered--the war for
commerce, the postponed war with disgruntled labor and the impatient
varieties of socialists and with the rabid Bolshevists frankly
proclaiming their intention to destroy civilization as it stood.

Like a prudent skipper, Davidge began to trim his ship for the new
storm that must follow the old. He took thought of the rivalries that
would spring up inevitably between the late Allies, like brothers now,
but doomed to turn upon one another with all the greater bitterness
after war. For peace hath her wickedness no less renowned than war.

What would labor do when the spell of consecration to the war was gone
and the pride of war wages must go before a fall? The time would come
abruptly when the spectacle of employers begging men to work at any
price would be changed to the spectacle of employers having no work
for men--at any price.

The laborers would not surrender without a battle. They had tasted
power and big money and they would not be lulled by economic
explanations.

Mamise came upon Davidge one day in earnest converse with a faithful
old toiler who had foreseen the same situation and wanted to know what
his boss thought about it.

Iddings had worked as a mechanic all his life. He had worked hard, had
lived sober, had turned his wages over to his wife, and spent them on
his home and his children.

He was as good a man as could be found. Latterly he had been tormented
by two things, the bitterness of increasing infirmities and dwindling
power and the visions held out to him by Jake Nuddle and the disciples
Jake had formed before he was taken away.

As Mamise came up in her overalls Iddings was saying:

"It ain't right, boss, and you know it. When a man like me works as
hard as I done and cuts out all the fun and the booze and then sees
old age comin' on and nothin' saved to speak of and no chance to save
more'n a few hundred dollars, whilst other men has millions--why, I'm
readin' the other day of a woman spendin' eighty thousand dollars on a
fur coat, and my old woman slavin' like a horse all her life and goin'
round in a plush rag--I tell you it ain't right and you can't prove it
is."

"I'm not going to try to," said Davidge. "I didn't build the world
and I can't change it much. I see nothing but injustice everywhere I
look. It's not only among men, but among animals and insects and
plants. The weeds choke out the flowers; the wolves eat up the sheep
unless the dogs fight the wolves; the gentle and the kind go under
unless they're mighty clever. They call it the survival of the
fittest, but it's really the survival of the fightingest."

"That's what I'm comin' to believe," said Iddings. "The workman will
never get his rights unless he fights for 'em."

"Never."

"And if he wants to get rich he's got to fight the rich."

"No. He wants to make sure he's fighting his real enemies and fighting
with weapons that won't be boomerangs."

"I don't get that last."

"Look here, Iddings, there are a lot of damned fools filling workmen's
heads with insanity, telling them that their one hope of happiness is
to drag down the rich, to blow up the factories or take control of
'em, to bankrupt the bankers and turn the government upside down. If
they can't get a majority at the polls they won't pay any attention to
the polls or the laws. They'll butcher the police and assassinate the
big men. But that game can't win. It's been tried again and again by
discontented idiots who go out and kill instead of going out to work.

"You can't get rich by robbing the rich and dividing up their money.
If you took all that Rockefeller is said to have and divided it up
among the citizens of the country you'd get four or five dollars
apiece at most, and you'd soon lose that.

"Rockefeller started as a laboring-man at wages you wouldn't look at
to-day. The laboring-men alongside could have made just as much as he
did if they'd a mind to. Somebody said he could have written
Shakespeare's plays if he had a mind to, and Lamb said, 'Yes, if you'd
a mind to.' The thing seems to be to be born with a mind to and to
cultivate a mind to.

"You take Rockefeller's money away and he'll make more while you're
fumbling with what you've got. Take Shakespeare's plays away and he'll
write others while you're scratching your head.

"Don't let 'em fool you, Iddings, into believing that rich men get
rich by stealing. We all cheat more or less, but no man ever built up
a big fortune by plain theft. Men make money by making it.

"Karl Marx, who wrote your 'Workmen's Bible,' called capital a
vampire. Well, there aren't any vampires except in the movies.

"Speaking of vamping wealth, did you ever hear how I got where I
am?--not that it's so very far and not that I like to talk about
myself--but just to show you how true your man Marx is.

"I was a working-man and worked hard. I put by a little out of what I
made. Of nights I studied. I learned all ends of the ship-building
business in a way. But I needed money to get free. It never occurred
to me to claim somebody else's money as mine. I thought the rich would
help me to get rich if I helped them to get richer. My idea of getting
capital was to go get it. I was a long time finding where there was
any.

"By and by I heard of an old wreck on the coast--a steamer had run
aground and the hull was abandoned after they took out what machinery
they could salvage. The hull stood up in the storms and the sand began
to bury it. It would have been 'dead capital' then for sure.

"The timbers were sound, though, and I found I could buy it cheap. I
put in all I had saved in all my life, eight thousand dollars, for the
hull. I got a man to risk something with me.

"We took the hull off the ground, refitted it, stepped in six masts,
and made a big schooner of her.

"She cost us sixty thousand dollars all told. Before she was ready to
sail we sold her for a hundred and twenty thousand. The buyers made
big money out of her. The schooner is carrying food now and giving
employment to sailors.

"Who got robbed on that transaction? Where did 'dead labor suck the
life out of living labor,' as Karl Marx says? You could do the same.
You could if you would. There's plenty of old hulls lying around on
the sands of the world."

Iddings had nothing in him to respond to the poetry of this.

"That's all very fine," he growled, "but where would I get my start? I
got no eight thousand or anybody to lend me ten dollars."

"The banks will lend to men who will make money make money. It's not
the guarantee they want so much as inspiration. Pierpont Morgan said
he lent on character, not on collateral."

"Morgan, humph!"

"The trouble isn't with Morgan, but with you. What do you do with your
nights? Study? study? beat your brains for ideas? No, you go home,
tired, play with the children, talk with the wife, smoke, go to bed.
It's a beautiful life, but it's not a money-making life. You can't
make money by working eight hours a day for another man's money.
You've got to get out and find it or dig it up.

"That business with the old hull put me on my feet, put dreams in my
head. I looked about for other chances, took some of them and wished I
hadn't. But I kept on trying. The war in Europe came. The world was
crazy for ships. They couldn't build 'em fast enough to keep ahead of
the submarines. On the Great Lakes there was a big steamer not doing
much work. I heard of her. I went up and saw her. The job was to get
her to the ocean. I managed it on borrowed money, bought her, and
brought her up the Saint Lawrence to the sea--and down to New York. I
made a fortune on that deal. Then did I retire and smoke my pipe of
peace? No. I looked for another chance.

"When our country went into the war she needed ships of her own. She
had to have shipyards first to build 'em in. My lifelong ambition was
to make ships from the keel-plate up. I looked for the best place to
put a shipyard, picked on this spot because other people hadn't found
it. My partners and I got the land cheap because it was swamp. We
worked out our plans, sitting up all night over blue-prints and
studying how to save every possible penny and every possible waste
motion.

"And now look at the swamp. It's one of the prettiest yards in the
world. The Germans sank my _Clara_. Did I stop or go to making
speeches about German vampires? No. I went on building.

"The Germans tried to get my next boat. I fought for her as I'll fight
the Germans, the I. W. W., the Bolshevists, or any other sneaking
coyotes that try to destroy my property.

"I lost this right arm trying to save that ship. And now that I'm
crippled, am I asking for a pension or an admission to an old folks'
home? Am I passing the hat to you other workers? No. I'm as good as
ever I was. I made my left arm learn my right arm's business. If I
lose my left arm next I'll teach my feet to write. And if I lose
those, by God! I'll write with my teeth, or wigwag my ears.

"The trouble with you, Iddings, and the like of you is you brood over
your troubles, instead of brooding over ways to improve yourself. You
spend time and money on quack doctors. But I tell you, don't fight
your work or your boss. Fight nature, fight sleep, fight fatigue,
fight the sky, fight despair, and if you want money hunt up a place
where it's to be found."

If Iddings had had brains enough to understand all this he would not
have been Iddings working by the day. His stubborn response was:

"Well, I'll say the laboring-man is being bled by the capitalists and
he'll never get his rights till he grabs 'em."

"And I'll say be sure that you're grabbing your rights and not
grabbing your own throat.

"I'm for all the liberty in the world, for the dignity of labor, the
voice of labor, the labor-union, the profit-sharing basis, the
republic of labor. I think the workers ought to have a voice in
running the work--all the share they can handle, all the control that
won't hurt the business. But the business has got to come first, for
it's business that makes comfort. I'll let any man run this shop who
can run it as well as I can or better.

"What I'm against is letting somebody run my business who can't run
his own. Talk won't build ships, old man. And complaints and protests
won't build ships, or make any important money.

"Poor men are just as good as rich men and ought to have just the same
rights, votes, privileges. But the first right a poor man ought to
preserve is the right to become a rich man. Riches are beautiful
things, Iddings, and they're worth working for. And they've got to be
worked for.

"A laboring-man is a man that labors, whether he labors for two
dollars a day or a thousand; and a loafer is a loafer, whether he has
millions or dimes. Well, I've talked longer than I ever did before or
ever will again. Do you believe anything I say?"

"No."

Davidge had to laugh. "Well, Iddings, I've got to hand it to you for
obstinacy; you've got an old mule skinned to death. But old mules
can't compete with race-horses. Balking and kicking won't get you very
far."

He walked away, and Mamise went along. Davidge was in a somber mood.

"Poor old fellow, he's got no self-starter, no genius, no ideas, and
he's doomed to be a drudge. It's the rotten cruelty of the world that
most people are born without enough get-up-and-get to bring them and
their work together without a whistle and a time-clock and an
overseer. What scheme could ever be invented to keep poor old Iddings
up to the level of a Sutton or a Sutton down to his?"

Mamise had heard a vast amount of discontented talk among the men.

"There's an awful lot of trouble brewing."

"Trouble is no luxury to me," said Davidge. "Blessed is he that
expects trouble, for he shall get it. Wait till this war is over and
then you'll see a real war."

"Shall we all get killed or starved?"

"Probably. But in the mean while we had better sail on and on and on.
The storm will find us wherever we are, and there's more danger close
ashore than out at sea. Let's make a tour of the _Mamise_ and see how
soon she'll be ready to go overboard."



CHAPTER VIII


Nicky Easton's attempt to assassinate the ship had failed, but the
wounds he dealt her had retarded her so that she missed by many weeks
the chance of being launched on the Fourth of July with the other
ships that made the Big Splash on that holy day. The first boat took
her dive at one minute after midnight and eighty-one ships followed
her into the astonished sea.

While the damaged parts of the _Mamise_ were remade, Davidge pushed
the work on other portions of the ship's anatomy, so that when at
length she was ready for the dip she was farther advanced than steel
ships usually are before they are first let into the sea.

Her upper works were well along, her funnel was in, and her mast and
bridge. She looked from a distance like a ship that had run ashore.

There was keen rivalry among the building-crews of the ships that grew
alongside the _Mamise_, and each gang strove to put its boat overboard
in record time. The "Mamisers," as they called themselves, fought
against time and trouble to redeem her from the "jinx" that had set
her back again and again. During the last few days the heat was
furious and the hot plates made an inferno of the work. Then an icy
rain set in. The workers would not stop for mean weather, hot or
cold.

Mamise, the rivet-passer, stood to her task in a continual shower-bath.
The furnace was sheltered, but the hot rivets must be passed across
the rain curtain. Sutton urged her to lay off and give way to Snotty
or somebody whose health didn't matter a damn. Davidge ordered her
home, but her pride in her sex and her zest for her ship kept her at
work.

And then suddenly she sneezed!

She sneezed again and again helplessly, and she was stricken with a
great fear. For in that day a sneeze was not merely the little
explosion of tickled surfaces or a forewarning of a slight cold. It
was the alarum of the new Great Death, the ravening lion under the
sheep's wool of influenza.

The world that had seen the ancient horror of famine come stalking
back from the Dark Ages trembled now before the plague. The influenza
swept the world with recurrent violences.

Men who had feared to go to the trenches were snatched from their
offices and from their homes. Men who had tried in vain to get into
the fight died in their beds. Women and children perished innumerably.
Hearse-horses were overworked. The mysterious, invisible all-enemy did
not spare the soldiers; it sought them in the dugouts, among the
reserves, at the ports of embarkation and debarkation, at the
training-camps. In the hospitals it slew the convalescent wounded and
killed the nurses.

From America the influenza took more lives than the war itself.

It baffled science and carried off the doctors. Masks appeared and
people in offices were dressed in gauze muzzles. In some of the cities
the entire populace went with bandaged mouths, and a man who would
steal a furtive puff of a cigarette stole up a quiet street and kept
his eyes alert for the police.

Whole families were stricken down and brave women who dared the
pestilence found homes where father, mother, and children lay writhing
and starving in pain and delirium.

At the shipyard every precaution was taken, and Davidge fought the
unseen hosts for his men and for their families. Mamise had worn
herself down gadding the workmen's row with medicines and victuals in
her basket. And yet the death-roll mounted and strength was no
protection.

In Washington and other cities the most desperate experiments in
sanitation were attempted. Offices were closed or dismissed early.
Stenographers took dictation in masks. It was forbidden to crowd the
street-cars. All places of public assembly were closed, churches no
less than theaters and moving-picture shows. It was as illegal to hold
prayer-meetings as dances.

This was the supreme blow at religion. The preachers who had confessed
that the Church had failed to meet the war problems were dazed.
Mankind had not recovered from the fact that the world had been made a
hell by the German Emperor, who was the most pious of rulers and
claimed to take his crown from God direct. The German Protestants and
priests had used their pulpits for the propaganda of hate. The
Catholic Emperor of Austria had aligned his priests. Catholic and
Protestants fought for the Allies in the trenches, unfrocked or in
their pulpits. The Bishop of London was booed as a slacker. The Pope
wrung his hands and could not decide which way to turn. One British
general frivolously put it, "I am afraid that the dear old Church has
missed the bus this trip."

All religions were split apart and, as Lincoln said of the Civil War,
both sides sent up their prayers to the same God, demanding that He
crush the enemy.

For all the good the Y. M. C. A. accomplished, it ended the war with
the contempt of most of the soldiers. Individual clergymen won love
and crosses of war, but as men, not as saints.

The abandoned world abandoned all its gods, and men fought men in the
name of mankind.

Even against the plague the churchfolk were refused permission to pray
together. Christian Scientists published full pages of advertising
protesting against the horrid situation, but nobody heeded.

The ship of state lurched along through the mingled storms, mastless,
rudderless, pilotless, priestless, and everybody wondered which would
live the longer, the ship or the storm.

And then Mamise sneezed. And the tiny at-choo! frightened her to the
soul of her soul. It frightened the riveting-crew as well. The plague
had come among them.

"Drop them tongs and go home!" said Sutton.

"I've got to help finish my ship," Mamise pleaded.

"Go home, I tell you."

"But she's to be launched day after to-morrow and I've got to christen
her."

"Go home or I'll carry you," said Sutton, and he advanced on her. She
dropped her tongs and ran through the gusty rain, across the yard, out
of the gate, and down the muddy paths as if a wolf pursued.

She flung into her cottage, lighted the fires, heated water, drank a
quart of it, took quinine, and crept into her bed. Her tremors shook
the covers off. Sweat rained out of her pores and turned to ice-water
with the following ague.

The doctor came. Sutton had gone for him and threatened to beat him up
if he delayed. The doctor had nothing to give her but orders to stay
in bed and wait. Davidge came, and Abbie, and they tried to pretend
that they were not in a worse panic than Mamise.

There were no nurses to be spared and Abbie was installed. In spite of
her malministrations or because of them, Mamise grew better. She
stayed in bed all that day and the next, and when the morning of the
launching dawned, she felt so well that Abbie could not prevent her
from getting up and putting on her clothes.

She was to be woman again to-day and to wear the most fashionable gown
in her wardrobe and the least masculine hat.

She felt a trifle giddy as she dressed, but she told Abbie that she
never felt better. Her only alarm was the difficulty in hooking her
frock at the waist. Abbie fought them together with all her might and
main.

"If being a workman is going to take away my waistline, here's where I
quit work," said Mamise. "As Mr. Dooley says, I'm a pathrite, but I'm
no bigot."

Davidge had told her to keep to her room. He had telephoned to Polly
Widdicombe to come down and christen the ship. Polly was delayed and
Davidge was frantic. In fact, the Widdicombe motor ran off the road
into a slough of despond, and Polly did not arrive until after the
ship was launched from the ways and the foolhardy Mamise was in the
hospital.

When Davidge saw Mamise climbing the steps to the launching-platform
he did not recognize her under her big hat till she paused for breath
and looked up, counting the remaining steep steps and wondering if her
tottering legs would negotiate the height.

He ran down and haled her up, scolding her with fury. He had been on
the go all night, and he was raw with uneasiness.

"I'm all right," Mamise pleaded. "I got caught in the jam at the gate
and was nearly crushed. That's all. It's glorious up here and I'd
rather die than miss it."

It was a sight to see. The shipyard was massed with workmen and their
families, and every roof was crowded. On a higher platform in the rear
the reporters of the moving-picture newspapers were waiting with their
cameras. On the roof of a low shed a military band was tootling
merrily.

And the sky had relented of its rain. The day was a masterpiece of
good weather. A brilliant throng mounted to the platform, an admiral,
sea-captains and lieutenants, officers of the army, a Senator,
Congressmen, judges, capitalists, the jubilant officers of the
ship-building corporation. And Mamise was the queen of the day. She
was the "sponsor" for the ship and her name stood out on both sides of
the prow, high overhead where the launching-crew grinned down on her
and called her by her _nom de guerre_, "Moll."

The moving-picture men yelled at her and asked her to pose. She went
to the rail and tried to smile, feeling as silly as a Sunday-school
girl repeating a golden text, and looking it.

Once more she would appear in the Sunday supplements, and her childish
confusion would make throngs in moving-picture theaters laugh with
pleasant amusement. Mamise was news to-day.

The air was full of the hubbub of preparation. Underneath the upreared
belly of the ship gnomes crouched, pounding the wedges in to lift the
hull so that other gnomes could knock the shoring out.

There was a strange fascination in the racket of the shores falling
over, the dull clatter of a vast bowling-alley after a ten-strike.

Painters were at work brushing over the spots where the shores had
rested.

Down in the tanks inside the hull were a few luckless anonymities with
search-lights, put there to watch for leaks from loose rivet-heads.
They would be in the dark and see nothing of the festival. Always
there has to be some one in the dark at such a time.

The men who would saw the holding-blocks stood ready, as solemn as
clergymen. The cross-saws were at hand for their sacred office. The
sawyers and the other workmen were overdoing their unconcern. Mamise
caught sight of Sutton, lounging in violent indifference, but giving
himself away by the frenzy of his jaws worrying his quid and spurting
tobacco juice in all directions.

There was reason, too, for uneasiness. Sometimes a ship would not
start when the blocks were sawed through. There would be a long delay
while hydraulic jacks were sought and put to work to force her
forward. Such a delay had a superstitious meaning. Nobody liked a ship
that was afraid of her element. They wanted an eagerness in her
get-away. Or suppose she shot out too impetuously and listed on the
ways, ripping the scaffolding to pieces like a whale thrashing a raft
apart. Suppose she careened and stuck or rolled over in the mud. Such
things had happened and might happen again. The _Mamise_ had suffered
so many mishaps that the other ship crews called her a hoodoo.

At last the hour drew close. Davidge was a fanatic on schedules. He
did not want his ship to be late to her engagement.

"She's named after me, poor thing," said Mamise. "She's bound to be
late."

"She'll be on time for once," Davidge growled.

In the older days with the old-fashioned ships the boats had gone to
the sea like brides with trousseaux complete. The launching-guests had
made the journey with her; a dinner had been served aboard, and when
the festivities were ended the waiting tugs had taken the new ship to
the old sea for the honeymoon.

But nowadays only hulls were launched, as a rule. The mere husk was
then brought to the equipping-dock to receive her engines and all her
equipment.

The _Mamise_ was farther advanced, but she would have to tie up for
sixty days at least. The carpenters had her furniture all ready and
waiting, but she could not put forth under her own steam for two
months more.

The more reason for impatience at any further delay. Davidge went
along the launching-platform rails, like a captain on the bridge,
eager to move out of the slip.

"Make ready!" he commanded. "Stand by! Where's the bottle? Good Lord!
Where's the bottle?"

That precious quart of champagne was missing now. The bottle had been
prepared by an eminent jeweler with silver decoration and a silken
net. The neck would be a cherished souvenir thereafter, made into a
vase to hold flowers.

The bottle was found, a cable was lowered from aloft and the bottle
fastened to it.

Davidge explained to Mamise for the tenth time just what she was to
do. He gave the signal to the sawyers. The snarl of the teeth in the
holding-blocks was lost in the noise of the band. The great whistle on
the fabricating-plant split the air. The moving-picture camera-men
cranked their machines. The last inches of the timbers that held the
ship ashore were gnawed through. The sawyers said they could feel the
ship straining. She wanted to get to her sea. They loved her for it.

Suddenly she was "sawed off." She was moving. The rigid mountain was
an avalanche of steel departing down a wooden hill.

Mamise stared, gasped, paralyzed with launch-fright. Davidge nudged
her. She hurled the bottle at the vanishing keel. It broke with a loud
report. The wine splashed everywhichway. Some of it spattered Mamise's
new gown.

Her muscles went to work in womanly fashion to brush off the stain.

When she looked up, ashamed of her homely misbehavior, she cried:

"O Lord! I forgot to say, 'I christen thee _Mamise_.'"

"Say it now," said Davidge.

She shouted the words down the channel opening like an abyss as the
vast hulk diminished toward the river. Far below she could see the
water leap back from the shock of the new-comer. Great, circling
ripples retreated outward. Waves fought and threw up bouquets of
spume.

The chute smoked with the heat of the ship's passage and a white cloud
of steam flew up and followed her into the river.

She was launched, beautifully, perfectly. She sailed level. She was
water-borne.

People were cheering, the band was pounding all out of time, every eye
following the ship, the leader forgetting to lead.

Mamise wept and Davidge's eyes were wet. Something surged in him like
the throe of the river where the ship went in. It was good to have
built a good ship.

Mamise wrung his hand. She would have kissed him, but she remembered
in time. The camera caught the impulse. People laughed at that in the
movie theaters. People cheered in distant cities as they assisted
weeks after in the début of _Mamise_.

The movies took the people everywhere on magic carpets. Yet there were
curious people who bewailed them as inartistic!

Mamise's little body and her little soul were almost blasted by the
enormity of her emotions. The ship was like a child too big for its
mother, and the ending of the long travail left her wrecked.

She tried to enter into the hilarity of the guests, but she was filled
with awe and prostrate as if a god had passed by.

The crowd began to trickle down the long steps to the feast in the
mess hall. She dreaded the descent, the long walk, the sitting at
table. She wanted to go home and cry very hard and be good and sick
for a long while.

But she could not desert Davidge at such a time or mar his triumph by
her hypochondria. She wavered as she climbed down. She rode with
Davidge to the mess-hall in his car and forced herself to voice
congratulations too solemn and too fervid for words.

The guests of honor sat at a table disguised with scenery as a ship's
deck. A thousand people sat at the other tables and took part in the
banquet.

Mamise could not eat the food of human caterers. She had fed on
honey-dew and drunk the milk of paradise.

She lived through the long procession of dishes and heard some of the
oratory, the glowing praises of Davidge and Uncle Sam, Mr. Schwab, Mr.
Hurley, President Wilson, the Allies, and everybody else. She heard it
proclaimed that America was going back to the sea, so long neglected.
The prodigal was returning home.

Mamise could think of nothing but a wish to be in bed. The room began
to blur. People's faces went out of focus. Her teeth began to chatter.
Her jaw worked ridiculously like a riveting-gun. She was furious at
it.

She heard Davidge whispering: "What's the matter, honey? You're ill
again."

"I--I fancy--I--I guess I--I--am," she faltered.

"O God!" he groaned, "why did you come out?"

He rose, lifted her elbow, murmured something to the guests. He would
have supported her to the door, but she pleaded:

"Don't! They'll think it's too much ch-ch-champagne. I'm all right!"

She made the door in excellent control, but it cost her her last cent
of strength. Outside, she would have fallen, but he huddled her in his
arms, lifted her, carried her to his car. He piled robes on her, but
those riveters inside her threatened to pound her to death. Burning
pains gnawed her chest like cross-cut saws.

When the car stopped she was not in front of her cottage, but before
the hospital.

When the doctor finished his inspection she heard him mumble to
Davidge:

"Pneumonia! Double pneumonia!"



CHAPTER IX


Once more Mamise had come between Davidge and his work. He did not
care what happened to his ships or his shipyard. He watched Mamise
fighting for life, if indeed she fought, for he could not get to her
through the fog.

She was often delirious and imagined herself back in her cruel times.
He learned a few things about that mystic period she would never
disclose. And he was glad that she had never told him more. He fled
from her, for eavesdropping on a delirium has something of the
contemptible quality of peeping at a nakedness.

He supposed that Mamise would die. All the poor women with pasts that
he had read about, in what few novels he had read, had died or it had
been found out that they had magically retained their innocence
through years of evil environment.

He supposed also that Mamise would die, because that was the one thing
needful to make his life a perfect failure. He had not gone to war,
yet he had lost his arm. He had never really desperately loved before,
and now he would lose his heart. It was just as well, because if
Mamise lived he would lose her, anyway. He would not tie her to the
crippled thing he was.

While the battalions of disease ravaged the poor Belgium of Mamise's
body the world outside went on making history. The German Empire kept
caving in on all sides. Her armies held nowhere. Her only pride was in
saving a defeat from being a disaster. Her confederates were
disintegrating. The newspapers mentioned now, not cities that
surrendered to the Allies, but nations.

And at last Germany added one more to her unforgivable assaults upon
the patience of mankind. Just as the Allies poised for the last
tremendous all-satisfying _coup de grâce_ the Empire put up her hands
and whined the word that had become the world-wide synonym for
poltroonery, "_Kamerad!_"

Foch wept, American soldiers cursed because they could not prove their
mettle and drive the boche into the Rhine. Never was so bitter a
disappointment mingled with a triumph so magnificent. The world went
wild with the news of peace. The nations all made carnival over the
premature rumor and would not be denied their rhapsodies because the
story was denied. They made another and a wilder carnival when the
news was confirmed.

Davidge took the peace without enthusiasm. Mamise had been better, but
was worse again. She got still better than before and not quite so
worse again. And so in a climbing zigzag she mounted to health at
last.

She had missed the carnival and she woke on the morning after. Nearly
everybody was surprised to find that ending this one war had brought a
dozen new wars, a hundred, a myriad.

The danger that had united the nations into a holy crusade had ended,
and the crusaders were men again. They were back in the same old world
with the same old sins and sorrows and selfishnesses, and unnumbered
new ones. And they had the habit of battle--the gentlest were
accustomed to slaughter.

It was not the Central Powers alone that had disintegrated. The
Entente Cordiale was turned into a caldron of toil and trouble. No two
people in any one nation agreed on the best way to keep the peace.
Nobody could accept any other body's theories.

Russia, whose collapse had cost the Allies a glimpse of destruction
and a million lives, was a new plague spot, the center of the world's
dread. While the people in Russia starved or slew one another their
terrible missionaries went about the world preaching chaos as the new
gospel and fanning the always smoldering discontent of labor into a
prairie fire.

Ships were needed still. Europe must be fed. Hunger was the
Bolshevists' blood-brother. Unemployment was the third in the grim
fraternity.

Davidge increased his force daily, adding a hundred men or more to his
army, choosing mainly from the returning hordes of soldiers.

When Mamise at last had left the hospital she found a new ship
growing where the _Mamise_ had dwelt. The _Mamise_ was at the
equipping-dock, all but ready for the sea, about to steam out and take
on a cargo of food to Poland, the new-old country gathering her three
selves together under the spell of Paderewski's patriotic fire.

Mamise wanted to go to work again. Her strength was back and she was
not content to return to crochet-hooks and tennis-racquets. She had
tasted the joy of machinery, had seen it add to her light muscles a
giant's strength. She wanted to build a ship all by herself,
especially the riveting.

Davidge opposed her with all his might. He pointed out that the dream
of women laboring with men, each at her job, had been postponed, like
so many other dreams, lost like so many other benefits that mitigated
war.

The horrors of peace were upon the world. Men were driving the women
back to the kitchen. There were not jobs enough for all.

But Mamise pleaded to be allowed to work at least till her own ship
was finished. So Davidge yielded to quiet her. She put back into her
overalls and wielded a monkey-wrench in the engine-room. She took
flying trips on the lofty cranes.

One afternoon when the whistle blew she remained aloft alone to revel
in the wonder view of the world, the wide and gleaming river, the
peaceful hills, the so-called handiwork of God, and everywhere the
pitiful beauty of man's efforts to work out his destiny and enslave
the forces.

Human power was not the least of these forces. Ingenious men had
learned how to use not only wind currents, waterfalls, and lightning
and the heat stored up in coal, but to use also the power stored up in
the muscles of their more slow-brained fellows. And these forces broke
loose at times with the ruinous effect of tornadoes, floods, and
thunderbolts.

The laborers needed merciful and intelligent handling, and the better
they were the better their work. It was hard to say what was heresy
and what was wisdom, what was oppression and what was helpful
discipline. Whichever way one turned, there was misunderstanding,
protest, revolt.

Mamise thought that everybody ought to be happy and love everybody
else. She thought that it ought to be joy enough to go on working in
that splendid shop and about the flock of ships on the ways.

And yet people would insist on being miserable. She, the priestess of
unalloyed rapture, also sighed.

Hearing a step on the crane, she was startled. After all, she was only
a woman, alone up here, and help could never reach her if any one
threatened her. She looked over the edge.

There came the man who most of all threatened her--Davidge. He
endangered her future most of all, whether he married her or deserted
her. He evidently had no intention of marrying her, for she had given
him chances enough and hints enough.

He had a telegram in his hand and apologized for following her.

"I didn't know but it might be bad news."

"There's nobody to send me bad news except you and Abbie." She opened
the telegram. It was an invitation from Polly to come back to sanity
and a big dance at the Hotel Washington. She smiled. "I wonder if I'll
ever dance again."

Davidge was tired from the climb. He dropped to the seat occupied by
the chauffeur of the crane. He rose at once with an apology and
offered his place to Mamise.

She shook her head, then gave a start:

"Great Heavens! that reminds me! That seat of yours I took on the
train from New York. I've never paid for it."

"Oh, for the Lord's sake--"

"I'm going to pay it. That's where all the trouble started. How much
was it?"

"I don't remember."

"About two dollars now."

"Exactly one then."

She drove her hand down into the pocket of her breeches and dragged up
a fistful of small money.

"To-day was pay-day. Here's your dollar."

"Want a receipt?"

"Sure, Mike. I couldn't trust you."

An odd look crossed his face. He did not play easily, but he tried:

"I can't give you a receipt now, because everybody is looking."

"Do you mean that you had an idea of kissing me?" she gasped.

"Yep."

"You reckless devil! Do you think that a plutocrat can kiss every poor
goil in the shop?"

"You're the only one here."

"Well, then, do you think you'll take advantage of my womanly
helplessness?"

"Yes."

"Never! Overalls is royal raiment when wore for voitue's sake. You'll
never kiss me till you put a wedding-ring on me finger."

He looked away, sobered and troubled.

She stared at him. "Good Heavens! Can't you take a hint?"

"Not that one."

"Then I insist on your marrying me. You have compromised me
hopelessly. Everybody says I am working here just to be near you, and
that's a fact."

He was a caricature of mental and physical awkwardness.

She gasped: "And still he doesn't answer me! Must I get on my knees to
you?"

She dropped on her knees, a blue denim angel on a cloud, praying
higher.

He stormed: "For Heaven's sake, get up! Somebody will see you."

She did not budge. "I'll not rise from my knees till you promise to
marry me."

He started to escape, moved toward the steps. She seized his knees and
moaned:

"Oh, pity me! pity me!"

He was excruciated with her burlesque, tried to drag her to her feet,
but he had only one hand and he could not manage her.

"Please get up. I can't make you. I've only one arm."

"Let's see if it fits." She rose and, holding his helpless hand,
whirled round into his arm. "Perfect!" Then she stood there and called
from her eyrie to the sea-gulls that haunted the river, "In the
presence of witnesses this man has taken me for his affianced
fiancée."

                  *       *       *       *       *

They had a wedding in the village church. Abbie was matron of honor
and gave her sister away. Her children were very dressed up and
highly uncomfortable. Abbie drew Mamise aside after the signing of the
book.

"Oh, thank Gawd you're marrit at last, Mamise! You've been such a
worrit to me. I hope you'll be as happy as poor Jake and me was. If he
only hadn't 'a' had to gave his life for you, you wouldn't 'a' been.
But he's watchin' you from up there and-- Oh dear! Oh dear!"

Jake was already a tradition of increasing beauty. So may we all of us
be!

Mamise insisted on dragging Davidge away from the shipyard for a brief
honeymoon.

"You're such a great executive, they'll never miss you. But I shall. I
decline to take my honeymoon or live my married life alone."

They went up to Washington for a while of shopping. The city was
already reverting to type. The heart had gone out of the stay-at-home
war-workers and the tide was on the ebb save for a new population of
returned soldiers, innumerably marked with the proofs of sacrifice,
not only by their service chevrons, their wound stripes, but also by
the parts of their brave bodies that they had left in France.

They were shy and afraid of themselves and of the world, and
especially of their women. But, as Adelaide wrote of the new task of
rehabilitation, "a merciful Providence sees to it that we become, in
time, used to anything. If we had all been born with one arm or one
leg our lives and loves would have gone on just the same."

To many another woman, as to Mamise, was given the privilege of adding
herself to her wounded lover to complete him.

Polly Widdicombe, seeing Mamise and Davidge dancing together, smiled
through her tears, almost envying her her husband. Davidge danced as
well with one arm as with two, but Mamise, as she clasped that blunt
shoulder and that pocketed sleeve, was given the final touch of
rapture made perfect with regret: she had the aching pride of a
soldier's sweetheart, for she could say:

"I am his right arm."

THE END





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