Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Adventures of Sally
Author: Wodehouse, P. G. (Pelham Grenville)
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 Adventures of Sally" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE ADVENTURES OF SALLY


By P. G. Wodehouse



CHAPTER I. SALLY GIVES A PARTY



1

Sally looked contentedly down the long table. She felt happy at last.
Everybody was talking and laughing now, and her party, rallying after an
uncertain start, was plainly the success she had hoped it would be. The
first atmosphere of uncomfortable restraint, caused, she was only too
well aware, by her brother Fillmore’s white evening waistcoat, had
worn off; and the male and female patrons of Mrs. Meecher’s select
boarding-house (transient and residential) were themselves again.

At her end of the table the conversation had turned once more to the
great vital topic of Sally’s legacy and what she ought to do with it.
The next best thing to having money of one’s own, is to dictate the
spending of somebody else’s, and Sally’s guests were finding a good deal
of satisfaction in arranging a Budget for her. Rumour having put the
sum at their disposal at a high figure, their suggestions had certain
spaciousness.

“Let me tell you,” said Augustus Bartlett, briskly, “what I’d do, if
I were you.” Augustus Bartlett, who occupied an intensely subordinate
position in the firm of Kahn, Morris and Brown, the Wall Street brokers,
always affected a brisk, incisive style of speech, as befitted a man
in close touch with the great ones of Finance. “I’d sink a couple of
hundred thousand in some good, safe bond-issue--we’ve just put one out
which you would do well to consider--and play about with the rest. When
I say play about, I mean have a flutter in anything good that crops up.
Multiple Steel’s worth looking at. They tell me it’ll be up to a hundred
and fifty before next Saturday.”

Elsa Doland, the pretty girl with the big eyes who sat on Mr. Bartlett’s
left, had other views.

“Buy a theatre. Sally, and put on good stuff.”

“And lose every bean you’ve got,” said a mild young man, with a deep
voice across the table. “If I had a few hundred thousand,” said the
mild young man, “I’d put every cent of it on Benny Whistler for the
heavyweight championship. I’ve private information that Battling Tuke
has been got at and means to lie down in the seventh...”

“Say, listen,” interrupted another voice, “lemme tell you what I’d do
with four hundred thousand...”

“If I had four hundred thousand,” said Elsa Doland, “I know what would
be the first thing I’d do.”

“What’s that?” asked Sally.

“Pay my bill for last week, due this morning.”

Sally got up quickly, and flitting down the table, put her arm round her
friend’s shoulder and whispered in her ear:

“Elsa darling, are you really broke? If you are, you know, I’ll...”

Elsa Doland laughed.

“You’re an angel, Sally. There’s no one like you. You’d give your last
cent to anyone. Of course I’m not broke. I’ve just come back from the
road, and I’ve saved a fortune. I only said that to draw you.”

Sally returned to her seat, relieved, and found that the company had now
divided itself into two schools of thought. The conservative and prudent
element, led by Augustus Bartlett, had definitely decided on three
hundred thousand in Liberty Bonds and the rest in some safe real estate;
while the smaller, more sporting section, impressed by the mild young
man’s inside information, had already placed Sally’s money on Benny
Whistler, doling it out cautiously in small sums so as not to spoil the
market. And so solid, it seemed, was Mr. Tuke’s reputation with those
in the inner circle of knowledge that the mild young man was confident
that, if you went about the matter cannily and without precipitation,
three to one might be obtained. It seemed to Sally that the time had
come to correct certain misapprehensions.

“I don’t know where you get your figures,” she said, “but I’m afraid
they’re wrong. I’ve just twenty-five thousand dollars.”

The statement had a chilling effect. To these jugglers with
half-millions the amount mentioned seemed for the moment almost too
small to bother about. It was the sort of sum which they had been
mentally setting aside for the heiress’s car fare. Then they managed to
adjust their minds to it. After all, one could do something even with a
pittance like twenty-five thousand.

“If I’d twenty-five thousand,” said Augustus Bartlett, the first to
rally from the shock, “I’d buy Amalgamated...”

“If I had twenty-five thousand...” began Elsa Doland.

“If I’d had twenty-five thousand in the year nineteen hundred,” observed
a gloomy-looking man with spectacles, “I could have started a revolution
in Paraguay.”

He brooded sombrely on what might have been.

“Well, I’ll tell you exactly what I’m going to do,” said Sally. “I’m
going to start with a trip to Europe... France, specially. I’ve heard
France well spoken of--as soon as I can get my passport; and after I’ve
loafed there for a few weeks, I’m coming back to look about and find
some nice cosy little business which will let me put money into it and
keep me in luxury. Are there any complaints?”

“Even a couple of thousand on Benny Whistler...” said the mild young
man.

“I don’t want your Benny Whistler,” said Sally. “I wouldn’t have him if
you gave him to me. If I want to lose money, I’ll go to Monte Carlo and
do it properly.”

“Monte Carlo,” said the gloomy man, brightening up at the magic name.
“I was in Monte Carlo in the year ‘97, and if I’d had another fifty
dollars... just fifty... I’d have...”

At the far end of the table there was a stir, a cough, and the grating
of a chair on the floor; and slowly, with that easy grace which actors
of the old school learned in the days when acting was acting, Mr.
Maxwell Faucitt, the boarding-house’s oldest inhabitant, rose to his
feet.

“Ladies,” said Mr. Faucitt, bowing courteously, “and...” ceasing to bow
and casting from beneath his white and venerable eyebrows a quelling
glance at certain male members of the boarding-house’s younger set who
were showing a disposition towards restiveness, “... gentlemen. I feel
that I cannot allow this occasion to pass without saying a few words.”

His audience did not seem surprised. It was possible that life, always
prolific of incident in a great city like New York, might some day
produce an occasion which Mr. Faucitt would feel that he could allow to
pass without saying a few words; but nothing of the sort had happened as
yet, and they had given up hope. Right from the start of the meal they
had felt that it would be optimism run mad to expect the old gentleman
to abstain from speech on the night of Sally Nicholas’ farewell
dinner party; and partly because they had braced themselves to it, but
principally because Miss Nicholas’ hospitality had left them with a
genial feeling of repletion, they settled themselves to listen
with something resembling equanimity. A movement on the part of the
Marvellous Murphys--new arrivals, who had been playing the Bushwick with
their equilibristic act during the preceding week--to form a party of
the extreme left and heckle the speaker, broke down under a cold look
from their hostess. Brief though their acquaintance had been, both of
these lissom young gentlemen admired Sally immensely.

And it should be set on record that this admiration of theirs was not
misplaced. He would have been hard to please who had not been attracted
by Sally. She was a small, trim, wisp of a girl with the tiniest hands
and feet, the friendliest of smiles, and a dimple that came and went
in the curve of her rounded chin. Her eyes, which disappeared when she
laughed, which was often, were a bright hazel; her hair a soft mass of
brown. She had, moreover, a manner, an air of distinction lacking in the
majority of Mrs. Meecher’s guests. And she carried youth like a banner.
In approving of Sally, the Marvellous Murphys had been guilty of no
lapse from their high critical standard.

“I have been asked,” proceeded Mr. Faucitt, “though I am aware that
there are others here far worthier of such a task--Brutuses compared
with whom I, like Marc Antony, am no orator--I have been asked to
propose the health...”

“Who asked you?” It was the smaller of the Marvellous Murphys who spoke.
He was an unpleasant youth, snub-nosed and spotty. Still, he could
balance himself with one hand on an inverted ginger-ale bottle while
revolving a barrel on the soles of his feet. There is good in all of us.

“I have been asked,” repeated Mr. Faucitt, ignoring the unmannerly
interruption, which, indeed, he would have found it hard to answer, “to
propose the health of our charming hostess (applause), coupled with the
name of her brother, our old friend Fillmore Nicholas.”

The gentleman referred to, who sat at the speaker’s end of the table,
acknowledged the tribute with a brief nod of the head. It was a nod of
condescension; the nod of one who, conscious of being hedged about by
social inferiors, nevertheless does his best to be not unkindly. And
Sally, seeing it, debated in her mind for an instant the advisability
of throwing an orange at her brother. There was one lying ready to her
hand, and his glistening shirt-front offered an admirable mark; but
she restrained herself. After all, if a hostess yields to her primitive
impulses, what happens? Chaos. She had just frowned down the exuberance
of the rebellious Murphys, and she felt that if, even with the highest
motives, she began throwing fruit, her influence for good in that
quarter would be weakened.

She leaned back with a sigh. The temptation had been hard to resist. A
democratic girl, pomposity was a quality which she thoroughly disliked;
and though she loved him, she could not disguise from herself that,
ever since affluence had descended upon him some months ago, her brother
Fillmore had become insufferably pompous. If there are any young men
whom inherited wealth improves, Fillmore Nicholas was not one of them.
He seemed to regard himself nowadays as a sort of Man of Destiny. To
converse with him was for the ordinary human being like being received
in audience by some more than stand-offish monarch. It had taken Sally
over an hour to persuade him to leave his apartment on Riverside Drive
and revisit the boarding-house for this special occasion; and, when he
had come, he had entered wearing such faultless evening dress that he
had made the rest of the party look like a gathering of tramp-cyclists.
His white waistcoat alone was a silent reproach to honest poverty,
and had caused an awkward constraint right through the soup and fish
courses. Most of those present had known Fillmore Nicholas as an
impecunious young man who could make a tweed suit last longer than one
would have believed possible; they had called him “Fill” and helped him
in more than usually lean times with small loans: but to-night they had
eyed the waistcoat dumbly and shrank back abashed.

“Speaking,” said Mr. Faucitt, “as an Englishman--for though I have long
since taken out what are technically known as my ‘papers’ it was as a
subject of the island kingdom that I first visited this great country--I
may say that the two factors in American life which have always made
the profoundest impression upon me have been the lavishness of American
hospitality and the charm of the American girl. To-night we have been
privileged to witness the American girl in the capacity of hostess, and
I think I am right in saying, in asseverating, in committing myself to
the statement that this has been a night which none of us present here
will ever forget. Miss Nicholas has given us, ladies and gentlemen, a
banquet. I repeat, a banquet. There has been alcoholic refreshment. I
do not know where it came from: I do not ask how it was procured, but we
have had it. Miss Nicholas...”

Mr. Faucitt paused to puff at his cigar. Sally’s brother Fillmore
suppressed a yawn and glanced at his watch. Sally continued to lean
forward raptly. She knew how happy it made the old gentleman to deliver
a formal speech; and though she wished the subject had been different,
she was prepared to listen indefinitely.

“Miss Nicholas,” resumed Mr. Faucitt, lowering his cigar, “... But why,”
 he demanded abruptly, “do I call her Miss Nicholas?”

“Because it’s her name,” hazarded the taller Murphy.

Mr. Faucitt eyed him with disfavour. He disapproved of the marvellous
brethren on general grounds because, himself a resident of years
standing, he considered that these transients from the vaudeville stage
lowered the tone of the boarding-house; but particularly because the one
who had just spoken had, on his first evening in the place, addressed
him as “grandpa.”

“Yes, sir,” he said severely, “it is her name. But she has another name,
sweeter to those who love her, those who worship her, those who have
watched her with the eye of sedulous affection through the three years
she has spent beneath this roof, though that name,” said Mr. Faucitt,
lowering the tone of his address and descending to what might almost be
termed personalities, “may not be familiar to a couple of dud acrobats
who have only been in the place a week-end, thank heaven, and are off
to-morrow to infest some other city. That name,” said Mr. Faucitt,
soaring once more to a loftier plane, “is Sally. Our Sally. For three
years our Sally has flitted about this establishment like--I choose the
simile advisedly--like a ray of sunshine. For three years she has
made life for us a brighter, sweeter thing. And now a sudden access of
worldly wealth, happily synchronizing with her twenty-first birthday, is
to remove her from our midst. From our midst, ladies and gentlemen,
but not from our hearts. And I think I may venture to hope, to
prognosticate, that, whatever lofty sphere she may adorn in the future,
to whatever heights in the social world she may soar, she will still
continue to hold a corner in her own golden heart for the comrades of
her Bohemian days. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you our hostess, Miss
Sally Nicholas, coupled with the name of our old friend, her brother
Fillmore.”

Sally, watching her brother heave himself to his feet as the cheers died
away, felt her heart beat a little faster with anticipation. Fillmore
was a fluent young man, once a power in his college debating society,
and it was for that reason that she had insisted on his coming here
tonight.

She had guessed that Mr. Faucitt, the old dear, would say all sorts of
delightful things about her, and she had mistrusted her ability to
make a fitting reply. And it was imperative that a fitting reply should
proceed from someone. She knew Mr. Faucitt so well. He looked on these
occasions rather in the light of scenes from some play; and, sustaining
his own part in them with such polished grace, was certain to be pained
by anything in the nature of an anti-climax after he should have ceased
to take the stage. Eloquent himself, he must be answered with eloquence,
or his whole evening would be spoiled.

Fillmore Nicholas smoothed a wrinkle out of his white waistcoat; and
having rested one podgy hand on the table-cloth and the thumb of the
other in his pocket, glanced down the table with eyes so haughtily
drooping that Sally’s fingers closed automatically about her orange, as
she wondered whether even now it might not be a good thing...

It seems to be one of Nature’s laws that the most attractive girls
should have the least attractive brothers. Fillmore Nicholas had not
worn well. At the age of seven he had been an extraordinarily beautiful
child, but after that he had gone all to pieces; and now, at the age of
twenty-five, it would be idle to deny that he was something of a mess.
For the three years preceding his twenty-fifth birthday, restricted
means and hard work had kept his figure in check; but with money there
had come an ever-increasing sleekness. He looked as if he fed too often
and too well.

All this, however, Sally was prepared to forgive him, if he would only
make a good speech. She could see Mr. Faucitt leaning back in his chair,
all courteous attention. Rolling periods were meat and drink to the old
gentleman.

Fillmore spoke.

“I’m sure,” said Fillmore, “you don’t want a speech... Very good of you
to drink our health. Thank you.”

He sat down.

The effect of these few simple words on the company was marked, but not
in every case identical. To the majority the emotion which they brought
was one of unmixed relief. There had been something so menacing, so easy
and practised, in Fillmore’s attitude as he had stood there that the
gloomier-minded had given him at least twenty minutes, and even the
optimists had reckoned that they would be lucky if they got off with
ten. As far as the bulk of the guests were concerned, there was
no grumbling. Fillmore’s, to their thinking, had been the ideal
after-dinner speech.

Far different was it with Mr. Maxwell Faucitt. The poor old man was
wearing such an expression of surprise and dismay as he might have
worn had somebody unexpectedly pulled the chair from under him. He was
feeling the sick shock which comes to those who tread on a non-existent
last stair. And Sally, catching sight of his face, uttered a sharp
wordless exclamation as if she had seen a child fall down and hurt
itself in the street. The next moment she had run round the table and
was standing behind him with her arms round his neck. She spoke across
him with a sob in her voice.

“My brother,” she stammered, directing a malevolent look at the
immaculate Fillmore, who, avoiding her gaze, glanced down his nose
and smoothed another wrinkle out of his waistcoat, “has not said
quite--quite all I hoped he was going to say. I can’t make a speech,
but...” Sally gulped, “... but, I love you all and of course I shall
never forget you, and... and...”

Here Sally kissed Mr. Faucitt and burst into tears.

“There, there,” said Mr. Faucitt, soothingly. The kindest critic could
not have claimed that Sally had been eloquent: nevertheless Mr. Maxwell
Faucitt was conscious of no sense of anti-climax.



2



Sally had just finished telling her brother Fillmore what a pig he was.
The lecture had taken place in the street outside the boarding-house
immediately on the conclusion of the festivities, when Fillmore, who
had furtively collected his hat and overcoat, had stolen forth into the
night, had been overtaken and brought to bay by his justly indignant
sister. Her remarks, punctuated at intervals by bleating sounds from the
accused, had lasted some ten minutes.

As she paused for breath, Fillmore seemed to expand, like an indiarubber
ball which has been sat on. Dignified as he was to the world, he had
never been able to prevent himself being intimidated by Sally when
in one of these moods of hers. He regretted this, for it hurt his
self-esteem, but he did not see how the fact could be altered. Sally
had always been like that. Even the uncle, who after the deaths of their
parents had become their guardian, had never, though a grim man, been
able to cope successfully with Sally. In that last hectic scene three
years ago, which had ended in their going out into the world, together
like a second Adam and Eve, the verbal victory had been hers. And it
had been Sally who had achieved triumph in the one battle which Mrs.
Meecher, apparently as a matter of duty, always brought about with each
of her patrons in the first week of their stay. A sweet-tempered
girl, Sally, like most women of a generous spirit, had cyclonic
potentialities.

As she seemed to have said her say, Fillmore kept on expanding till he
had reached the normal, when he ventured upon a speech for the defence.

“What have I done?” demanded Fillmore plaintively.

“Do you want to hear all over again?”

“No, no,” said Fillmore hastily. “But, listen. Sally, you don’t
understand my position. You don’t seem to realize that all that sort of
thing, all that boarding-house stuff, is a thing of the past. One’s got
beyond it. One wants to drop it. One wants to forget it, darn it! Be
fair. Look at it from my viewpoint. I’m going to be a big man...”

“You’re going to be a fat man,” said Sally, coldly.

Fillmore refrained from discussing the point. He was sensitive.

“I’m going to do big things,” he substituted. “I’ve got a deal on at
this very moment which... well, I can’t tell you about it, but it’s
going to be big. Well, what I’m driving at, is about all this sort of
thing”--he indicated the lighted front of Mrs. Meecher’s home-from-home
with a wide gesture--“is that it’s over. Finished and done with. These
people were all very well when...”

“... when you’d lost your week’s salary at poker and wanted to borrow a
few dollars for the rent.”

“I always paid them back,” protested Fillmore, defensively.

“I did.”

“Well, we did,” said Fillmore, accepting the amendment with the air of
a man who has no time for chopping straws. “Anyway, what I mean is, I
don’t see why, just because one has known people at a certain period in
one’s life when one was practically down and out, one should have
them round one’s neck for ever. One can’t prevent people forming an
I-knew-him-when club, but, darn it, one needn’t attend the meetings.”

“One’s friends...”

“Oh, friends,” said Fillmore. “That’s just where all this makes me so
tired. One’s in a position where all these people are entitled to call
themselves one’s friends, simply because father put it in his will that
I wasn’t to get the money till I was twenty-five, instead of letting me
have it at twenty-one like anybody else. I wonder where I should have
been by now if I could have got that money when I was twenty-one.”

“In the poor-house, probably,” said Sally.

Fillmore was wounded.

“Ah! you don’t believe in me,” he sighed.

“Oh, you would be all right if you had one thing,” said Sally.

Fillmore passed his qualities in swift review before his mental eye.
Brains? Dash? Spaciousness? Initiative? All present and correct. He
wondered where Sally imagined the hiatus to exist.

“One thing?” he said. “What’s that?”

“A nurse.”

Fillmore’s sense of injury deepened. He supposed that this was always
the way, that those nearest to a man never believed in his ability
till he had proved it so masterfully that it no longer required the
assistance of faith. Still, it was trying; and there was not much
consolation to be derived from the thought that Napoleon had had to go
through this sort of thing in his day. “I shall find my place in the
world,” he said sulkily.

“Oh, you’ll find your place all right,” said Sally. “And I’ll come
round and bring you jelly and read to you on the days when visitors are
allowed... Oh, hullo.”

The last remark was addressed to a young man who had been swinging
briskly along the sidewalk from the direction of Broadway and who now,
coming abreast of them, stopped.

“Good evening, Mr. Foster.”

“Good evening. Miss Nicholas.”

“You don’t know my brother, do you?”

“I don’t believe I do.”

“He left the underworld before you came to it,” said Sally. “You
wouldn’t think it to look at him, but he was once a prune-eater among
the proletariat, even as you and I. Mrs. Meecher looks on him as a son.”

The two men shook hands. Fillmore was not short, but Gerald Foster
with his lean, well-built figure seemed to tower over him. He was an
Englishman, a man in the middle twenties, clean-shaven, keen-eyed, and
very good to look at. Fillmore, who had recently been going in for one
of those sum-up-your-fellow-man-at-a-glance courses, the better to fit
himself for his career of greatness, was rather impressed. It seemed to
him that this Mr. Foster, like himself, was one of those who Get There.
If you are that kind yourself, you get into the knack of recognizing the
others. It is a sort of gift.

There was a few moments of desultory conversation, of the kind that
usually follows an introduction, and then Fillmore, by no means sorry
to get the chance, took advantage of the coming of this new arrival to
remove himself. He had not enjoyed his chat with Sally, and it seemed
probable that he would enjoy a continuation of it even less. He was glad
that Mr. Foster had happened along at this particular juncture. Excusing
himself briefly, he hurried off down the street.

Sally stood for a minute, watching him till he had disappeared round the
corner. She had a slightly regretful feeling that, now it was too late,
she would think of a whole lot more good things which it would have been
agreeable to say to him. And it had become obvious to her that Fillmore
was not getting nearly enough of that kind of thing said to him
nowadays. Then she dismissed him from her mind and turning to Gerald
Foster, slipped her arm through his.

“Well, Jerry, darling,” she said. “What a shame you couldn’t come to the
party. Tell me all about everything.”



3



It was exactly two months since Sally had become engaged to Gerald
Foster; but so rigorously had they kept the secret that nobody at Mrs.
Meecher’s so much as suspected it. To Sally, who all her life had hated
concealing things, secrecy of any kind was objectionable: but in this
matter Gerald had shown an odd streak almost of furtiveness in his
character. An announced engagement complicated life. People fussed about
you and bothered you. People either watched you or avoided you. Such
were his arguments, and Sally, who would have glossed over and found
excuses for a disposition on his part towards homicide or arson, put
them down to artistic sensitiveness. There is nobody so sensitive as
your artist, particularly if he be unsuccessful: and when an artist has
so little success that he cannot afford to make a home for the woman
he loves, his sensitiveness presumably becomes great indeed. Putting
herself in his place, Sally could see that a protracted engagement,
known by everybody, would be a standing advertisement of Gerald’s
failure to make good: and she acquiesced in the policy of secrecy,
hoping that it would not last long. It seemed absurd to think of Gerald
as an unsuccessful man. He had in him, as the recent Fillmore had
perceived, something dynamic. He was one of those men of whom one could
predict that they would succeed very suddenly and rapidly--overnight, as
it were.

“The party,” said Sally, “went off splendidly.” They had passed the
boarding-house door, and were walking slowly down the street. “Everybody
enjoyed themselves, I think, even though Fillmore did his best to spoil
things by coming looking like an advertisement of What The Smart Men
Will Wear This Season. You didn’t see his waistcoat just now. He
had covered it up. Conscience, I suppose. It was white and bulgy and
gleaming and full up of pearl buttons and everything. I saw Augustus
Bartlett curl up like a burnt feather when he caught sight of it. Still,
time seemed to heal the wound, and everybody relaxed after a bit. Mr.
Faucitt made a speech and I made a speech and cried, and...oh, it was
all very festive. It only needed you.”

“I wish I could have come. I had to go to that dinner, though. Sally...”
 Gerald paused, and Sally saw that he was electric with suppressed
excitement. “Sally, the play’s going to be put on!”

Sally gave a little gasp. She had lived this moment in anticipation for
weeks. She had always known that sooner or later this would happen. She
had read his plays over and over again, and was convinced that they were
wonderful. Of course, hers was a biased view, but then Elsa Doland also
admired them; and Elsa’s opinion was one that carried weight. Elsa was
another of those people who were bound to succeed suddenly. Even old Mr.
Faucitt, who was a stern judge of acting and rather inclined to consider
that nowadays there was no such thing, believed that she was a girl with
a future who would do something big directly she got her chance.

“Jerry!” She gave his arm a hug. “How simply terrific! Then Goble and
Kohn have changed their minds after all and want it? I knew they would.”

A slight cloud seemed to dim the sunniness of the author’s mood.

“No, not that one,” he said reluctantly. “No hope there, I’m afraid. I
saw Goble this morning about that, and he said it didn’t add up right.
The one that’s going to be put on is ‘The Primrose Way.’ You remember?
It’s got a big part for a girl in it.”

“Of course! The one Elsa liked so much. Well, that’s just as good. Who’s
going to do it? I thought you hadn’t sent it out again.”

“Well, it happens...” Gerald hesitated once more. “It seems that this
man I was dining with to-night--a man named Cracknell...”

“Cracknell? Not the Cracknell?”

“The Cracknell?”

“The one people are always talking about. The man they call the
Millionaire Kid.”

“Yes. Why, do you know him?”

“He was at Harvard with Fillmore. I never saw him, but he must be rather
a painful person.”

“Oh, he’s all right. Not much brains, of course, but--well, he’s all
right. And, anyway, he wants to put the play on.”

“Well, that’s splendid,” said Sally: but she could not get the right
ring of enthusiasm into her voice. She had had ideals for Gerald. She
had dreamed of him invading Broadway triumphantly under the banner of
one of the big managers whose name carried a prestige, and there seemed
something unworthy in this association with a man whose chief claim to
eminence lay in the fact that he was credited by metropolitan gossip
with possessing the largest private stock of alcohol in existence.

“I thought you would be pleased,” said Gerald.

“Oh, I am,” said Sally.

With the buoyant optimism which never deserted her for long, she had
already begun to cast off her momentary depression. After all, did
it matter who financed a play so long as it obtained a production? A
manager was simply a piece of machinery for paying the bills; and if
he had money for that purpose, why demand asceticism and the finer
sensibilities from him? The real thing that mattered was the question
of who was going to play the leading part, that deftly drawn character
which had so excited the admiration of Elsa Doland. She sought
information on this point.

“Who will play Ruth?” she asked. “You must have somebody wonderful. It
needs a tremendously clever woman. Did Mr. Cracknell say anything about
that?”

“Oh, yes, we discussed that, of course.”

“Well?”

“Well, it seems...” Again Sally noticed that odd, almost stealthy
embarrassment. Gerald appeared unable to begin a sentence to-night
without feeling his way into it like a man creeping cautiously down a
dark alley. She noticed it the more because it was so different from
his usual direct method. Gerald, as a rule, was not one of those who
apologize for themselves. He was forthright and masterful and inclined
to talk to her from a height. To-night he seemed different.

He broke off, was silent for a moment, and began again with a question.

“Do you know Mabel Hobson?”

“Mabel Hobson? I’ve seen her in the ‘Follies,’ of course.”

Sally started. A suspicion had stung her, so monstrous that its
absurdity became manifest the moment it had formed. And yet was
it absurd? Most Broadway gossip filtered eventually into the
boarding-house, chiefly through the medium of that seasoned sport, the
mild young man who thought so highly of the redoubtable Benny Whistler,
and she was aware that the name of Reginald Cracknell, which was always
getting itself linked with somebody, had been coupled with that of Miss
Hobson. It seemed likely that in this instance rumour spoke truth,
for the lady was of that compellingly blonde beauty which attracts the
Cracknells of this world. But even so...

“It seems that Cracknell...” said Gerald. “Apparently this man
Cracknell...” He was finding Sally’s bright, horrified gaze somewhat
trying. “Well, the fact is Cracknell believes in Mabel Hobson...and...
well, he thinks this part would suit her.”

“Oh, Jerry!”

Could infatuation go to such a length? Could even the spacious heart of
a Reginald Cracknell so dominate that gentleman’s small size in heads as
to make him entrust a part like Ruth in “The Primrose Way” to one who,
when desired by the producer of her last revue to carry a bowl of roses
across the stage and place it on a table, had rebelled on the plea that
she had not been engaged as a dancer? Surely even lovelorn Reginald
could perceive that this was not the stuff of which great emotional
actresses are made.

“Oh, Jerry!” she said again.

There was an uncomfortable silence. They turned and walked back in the
direction of the boarding-house. Somehow Gerald’s arm had managed to get
itself detached from Sally’s. She was conscious of a curious dull ache
that was almost like a physical pain.

“Jerry! Is it worth it?” she burst out vehemently.

The question seemed to sting the young man into something like his usual
decisive speech.

“Worth it? Of course it’s worth it. It’s a Broadway production. That’s
all that matters. Good heavens! I’ve been trying long enough to get a
play on Broadway, and it isn’t likely that I’m going to chuck away my
chance when it comes along just because one might do better in the way
of casting.”

“But, Jerry! Mabel Hobson! It’s... it’s murder! Murder in the first
degree.”

“Nonsense. She’ll be all right. The part will play itself. Besides,
she has a personality and a following, and Cracknell will spend all the
money in the world to make the thing a success. And it will be a start,
whatever happens. Of course, it’s worth it.”

Fillmore would have been impressed by this speech. He would have
recognized and respected in it the unmistakable ring which characterizes
even the lightest utterances of those who get there. On Sally it had not
immediately that effect. Nevertheless, her habit of making the best of
things, working together with that primary article of her creed that
the man she loved could do no wrong, succeeded finally in raising her
spirits. Of course Jerry was right. It would have been foolish to refuse
a contract because all its clauses were not ideal.

“You old darling,” she said affectionately attaching herself to the
vacant arm once more and giving it a penitent squeeze, “you’re quite
right. Of course you are. I can see it now. I was only a little startled
at first. Everything’s going to be wonderful. Let’s get all our chickens
out and count ‘em. How are you going to spend the money?”

“I know how I’m going to spend a dollar of it,” said Gerald completely
restored.

“I mean the big money. What’s a dollar?”

“It pays for a marriage-licence.”

Sally gave his arm another squeeze.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” she said. “Look at this man. Observe him. My
partner!”



CHAPTER II. ENTER GINGER



1



Sally was sitting with her back against a hillock of golden sand,
watching with half-closed eyes the denizens of Roville-sur-Mer at their
familiar morning occupations. At Roville, as at most French seashore
resorts, the morning is the time when the visiting population assembles
in force on the beach. Whiskered fathers of families made cheerful
patches of colour in the foreground. Their female friends and relatives
clustered in groups under gay parasols. Dogs roamed to and fro, and
children dug industriously with spades, ever and anon suspending their
labours in order to smite one another with these handy implements. One
of the dogs, a poodle of military aspect, wandered up to Sally: and
discovering that she was in possession of a box of sweets, decided to
remain and await developments.

Few things are so pleasant as the anticipation of them, but Sally’s
vacation had proved an exception to this rule. It had been a magic month
of lazy happiness. She had drifted luxuriously from one French town to
another, till the charm of Roville, with its blue sky, its Casino,
its snow-white hotels along the Promenade, and its general glitter
and gaiety, had brought her to a halt. Here she could have stayed
indefinitely, but the voice of America was calling her back. Gerald had
written to say that “The Primrose Way” was to be produced in Detroit,
preliminary to its New York run, so soon that, if she wished to see the
opening, she must return at once. A scrappy, hurried, unsatisfactory
letter, the letter of a busy man: but one that Sally could not ignore.
She was leaving Roville to-morrow.

To-day, however, was to-day: and she sat and watched the bathers with
a familiar feeling of peace, revelling as usual in the still novel
sensation of having nothing to do but bask in the warm sunshine and
listen to the faint murmur of the little waves.

But, if there was one drawback, she had discovered, to a morning on the
Roville plage, it was that you had a tendency to fall asleep: and this
is a degrading thing to do so soon after breakfast, even if you are on
a holiday. Usually, Sally fought stoutly against the temptation, but
to-day the sun was so warm and the whisper of the waves so insinuating
that she had almost dozed off, when she was aroused by voices close at
hand. There were many voices on the beach, both near and distant, but
these were talking English, a novelty in Roville, and the sound of the
familiar tongue jerked Sally back from the borders of sleep. A few feet
away, two men had seated themselves on the sand.

From the first moment she had set out on her travels, it had been one of
Sally’s principal amusements to examine the strangers whom chance threw
in her way and to try by the light of her intuition to fit them out with
characters and occupations: nor had she been discouraged by an almost
consistent failure to guess right. Out of the corner of her eye she
inspected these two men.

The first of the pair did not attract her. He was a tall, dark man whose
tight, precise mouth and rather high cheeks bones gave him an appearance
vaguely sinister. He had the dusky look of the clean-shaven man whose
life is a perpetual struggle with a determined beard. He certainly
shaved twice a day, and just as certainly had the self-control not to
swear when he cut himself. She could picture him smiling nastily when
this happened.

“Hard,” diagnosed Sally. “I shouldn’t like him. A lawyer or something, I
think.”

She turned to the other and found herself looking into his eyes. This
was because he had been staring at Sally with the utmost intentness ever
since his arrival. His mouth had opened slightly. He had the air of a
man who, after many disappointments, has at last found something worth
looking at.

“Rather a dear,” decided Sally.

He was a sturdy, thick-set young man with an amiable, freckled face and
the reddest hair Sally had ever seen. He had a square chin, and at one
angle of the chin a slight cut. And Sally was convinced that, however
he had behaved on receipt of that wound, it had not been with superior
self-control.

“A temper, I should think,” she meditated. “Very quick, but soon over.
Not very clever, I should say, but nice.”

She looked away, finding his fascinated gaze a little embarrassing.

The dark man, who in the objectionably competent fashion which, one
felt, characterized all his actions, had just succeeded in lighting
a cigarette in the teeth of a strong breeze, threw away the match and
resumed the conversation, which had presumably been interrupted by the
process of sitting down.

“And how is Scrymgeour?” he inquired.

“Oh, all right,” replied the young man with red hair absently. Sally was
looking straight in front of her, but she felt that his eyes were still
busy.

“I was surprised at his being here. He told me he meant to stay in
Paris.”

There was a slight pause. Sally gave the attentive poodle a piece of
nougat.

“I say,” observed the red-haired young man in clear, penetrating tones
that vibrated with intense feeling, “that’s the prettiest girl I’ve seen
in my life!”



2



At this frank revelation of the red-haired young man’s personal
opinions, Sally, though considerably startled, was not displeased. A
broad-minded girl, the outburst seemed to her a legitimate comment on a
matter of public interest. The young man’s companion, on the other hand,
was unmixedly shocked.

“My dear fellow!” he ejaculated.

“Oh, it’s all right,” said the red-haired young man, unmoved. “She can’t
understand. There isn’t a bally soul in this dashed place that can speak
a word of English. If I didn’t happen to remember a few odd bits of
French, I should have starved by this time. That girl,” he went on,
returning to the subject most imperatively occupying his mind, “is an
absolute topper! I give you my solemn word I’ve never seen anybody to
touch her. Look at those hands and feet. You don’t get them outside
France. Of course, her mouth is a bit wide,” he said reluctantly.

Sally’s immobility, added to the other’s assurance concerning the
linguistic deficiencies of the inhabitants of Roville, seemed to
reassure the dark man. He breathed again. At no period of his life
had he ever behaved with anything but the most scrupulous correctness
himself, but he had quailed at the idea of being associated even
remotely with incorrectness in another. It had been a black moment for
him when the red-haired young man had uttered those few kind words.

“Still you ought to be careful,” he said austerely.

He looked at Sally, who was now dividing her attention between the
poodle and a raffish-looking mongrel, who had joined the party, and
returned to the topic of the mysterious Scrymgeour.

“How is Scrymgeour’s dyspepsia?”

The red-haired young man seemed but faintly interested in the
vicissitudes of Scrymgeour’s interior.

“Do you notice the way her hair sort of curls over her ears?” he said.
“Eh? Oh, pretty much the same, I think.”

“What hotel are you staying at?”

“The Normandie.”

Sally, dipping into the box for another chocolate cream, gave an
imperceptible start. She, too, was staying at the Normandie. She
presumed that her admirer was a recent arrival, for she had seen nothing
of him at the hotel.

“The Normandie?” The dark man looked puzzled. “I know Roville pretty
well by report, but I’ve never heard of any Hotel Normandie. Where is
it?”

“It’s a little shanty down near the station. Not much of a place. Still,
it’s cheap, and the cooking’s all right.”

His companion’s bewilderment increased.

“What on earth is a man like Scrymgeour doing there?” he said. Sally
was conscious of an urgent desire to know more and more about the absent
Scrymgeour. Constant repetition of his name had made him seem almost
like an old friend. “If there’s one thing he’s fussy about...”

“There are at least eleven thousand things he’s fussy about,”
 interrupted the red-haired young man disapprovingly. “Jumpy old
blighter!”

“If there’s one thing he’s particular about, it’s the sort of hotel
he goes to. Ever since I’ve known him he has always wanted the best. I
should have thought he would have gone to the Splendide.” He mused on
this problem in a dissatisfied sort of way for a moment, then seemed to
reconcile himself to the fact that a rich man’s eccentricities must be
humoured. “I’d like to see him again. Ask him if he will dine with me at
the Splendide to-night. Say eight sharp.”

Sally, occupied with her dogs, whose numbers had now been augmented by
a white terrier with a black patch over its left eye, could not see
the young man’s face: but his voice, when he replied, told her that
something was wrong. There was a false airiness in it.

“Oh, Scrymgeour isn’t in Roville.”

“No? Where is he?”

“Paris, I believe.”

“What!” The dark man’s voice sharpened. He sounded as though he were
cross-examining a reluctant witness. “Then why aren’t you there? What
are you doing here? Did he give you a holiday?”

“Yes, he did.”

“When do you rejoin him?”

“I don’t.”

“What!”

The red-haired young man’s manner was not unmistakably dogged.

“Well, if you want to know,” he said, “the old blighter fired me the day
before yesterday.”



3



There was a shuffling of sand as the dark man sprang up. Sally, intent
on the drama which was unfolding itself beside her, absent-mindedly gave
the poodle a piece of nougat which should by rights have gone to the
terrier. She shot a swift glance sideways, and saw the dark man standing
in an attitude rather reminiscent of the stern father of melodrama about
to drive his erring daughter out into the snow. The red-haired young
man, outwardly stolid, was gazing before him down the beach at a fat
bather in an orange suit who, after six false starts, was now actually
in the water, floating with the dignity of a wrecked balloon.

“Do you mean to tell me,” demanded the dark man, “that, after all the
trouble the family took to get you what was practically a sinecure
with endless possibilities if you only behaved yourself, you have
deliberately thrown away...” A despairing gesture completed the
sentence. “Good God, you’re hopeless!”

The red-haired young man made no reply. He continued to gaze down the
beach. Of all outdoor sports, few are more stimulating than watching
middle-aged Frenchmen bathe. Drama, action, suspense, all are here. From
the first stealthy testing of the water with an apprehensive toe to the
final seal-like plunge, there is never a dull moment. And apart from the
excitement of the thing, judging it from a purely aesthetic standpoint,
his must be a dull soul who can fail to be uplifted by the spectacle of
a series of very stout men with whiskers, seen in tight bathing suits
against a background of brightest blue. Yet the young man with red hair,
recently in the employment of Mr. Scrymgeour, eyed this free circus
without any enjoyment whatever.

“It’s maddening! What are you going to do? What do you expect us to do?
Are we to spend our whole lives getting you positions which you won’t
keep? I can tell you we’re... it’s monstrous! It’s sickening! Good God!”

And with these words the dark man, apparently feeling, as Sally had
sometimes felt in the society of her brother Fillmore, the futility of
mere language, turned sharply and stalked away up the beach, the dignity
of his exit somewhat marred a moment later by the fact of his straw hat
blowing off and being trodden on by a passing child.

He left behind him the sort of electric calm which follows the falling
of a thunderbolt; that stunned calm through which the air seems still to
quiver protestingly. How long this would have lasted one cannot say:
for towards the end of the first minute it was shattered by a purely
terrestrial uproar. With an abruptness heralded only by one short, low
gurgling snarl, there sprang into being the prettiest dog fight that
Roville had seen that season.

It was the terrier with the black patch who began it. That was Sally’s
opinion: and such, one feels, will be the verdict of history. His best
friend, anxious to make out a case for him, could not have denied that
he fired the first gun of the campaign. But we must be just. The fault
was really Sally’s. Absorbed in the scene which had just concluded and
acutely inquisitive as to why the shadowy Scrymgeour had seen fit to
dispense with the red-haired young man’s services, she had thrice in
succession helped the poodle out of his turn. The third occasion was too
much for the terrier.

There is about any dog fight a wild, gusty fury which affects the
average mortal with something of the helplessness induced by some vast
clashing of the elements. It seems so outside one’s jurisdiction. One is
oppressed with a sense of the futility of interference. And this was no
ordinary dog fight. It was a stunning mêlée, which would have excited
favourable comment even among the blasé residents of a negro quarter or
the not easily-pleased critics of a Lancashire mining-village. From all
over the beach dogs of every size, breed, and colour were racing to the
scene: and while some of these merely remained in the ringside seats
and barked, a considerable proportion immediately started fighting one
another on general principles, well content to be in action without
bothering about first causes. The terrier had got the poodle by the
left hind-leg and was restating his war-aims. The raffish mongrel
was apparently endeavouring to fletcherize a complete stranger of the
Sealyham family.

Sally was frankly unequal to the situation, as were the entire crowd of
spectators who had come galloping up from the water’s edge. She had been
paralysed from the start. Snarling bundles bumped against her legs and
bounced away again, but she made no move. Advice in fluent French rent
the air. Arms waved, and well-filled bathing suits leaped up and down.
But nobody did anything practical until in the centre of the theatre of
war there suddenly appeared the red-haired young man.

The only reason why dog fights do not go on for ever is that Providence
has decided that on each such occasion there shall always be among those
present one Master Mind; one wizard who, whatever his shortcomings in
other battles of life, is in this single particular sphere competent and
dominating. At Roville-sur-Mer it was the red-haired young man. His dark
companion might have turned from him in disgust: his services might not
have seemed worth retaining by the haughty Scrymgeour: he might be a
pain in the neck to “the family”; but he did know how to stop a dog
fight. From the first moment of his intervention calm began to steal
over the scene. He had the same effect on the almost inextricably
entwined belligerents as, in mediaeval legend, the Holy Grail, sliding
down the sunbeam, used to have on battling knights. He did not look like
a dove of peace, but the most captious could not have denied that he
brought home the goods. There was a magic in his soothing hands, a
spell in his voice: and in a shorter time than one would have believed
possible dog after dog had been sorted out and calmed down; until
presently all that was left of Armageddon was one solitary small Scotch
terrier, thoughtfully licking a chewed leg. The rest of the combatants,
once more in their right mind and wondering what all the fuss was about,
had been captured and haled away in a whirl of recrimination by voluble
owners.

Having achieved this miracle, the young man turned to Sally. Gallant,
one might say reckless, as he had been a moment before, he now gave
indications of a rather pleasing shyness. He braced himself with that
painful air of effort which announces to the world that an Englishman is
about to speak a language other than his own.

“J’espère,” he said, having swallowed once or twice to brace himself up
for the journey through the jungle of a foreign tongue, “J’espère que
vous n’êtes pas--oh, dammit, what’s the word--J’espère que vous n’êtes
pas blessée?”

“Blessée?”

“Yes, blessée. Wounded. Hurt, don’t you know. Bitten. Oh, dash it.
J’espère...”

“Oh, bitten!” said Sally, dimpling. “Oh, no, thanks very much. I wasn’t
bitten. And I think it was awfully brave of you to save all our lives.”

The compliment seemed to pass over the young man’s head. He stared at
Sally with horrified eyes. Over his amiable face there swept a vivid
blush. His jaw dropped.

“Oh, my sainted aunt!” he ejaculated.

Then, as if the situation was too much for him and flight the only
possible solution, he spun round and disappeared at a walk so rapid that
it was almost a run. Sally watched him go and was sorry that he had torn
himself away. She still wanted to know why Scrymgeour had fired him.



4



Bedtime at Roville is an hour that seems to vary according to one’s
proximity to the sea. The gilded palaces along the front keep deplorable
hours, polluting the night air till dawn with indefatigable jazz: but at
the pensions of the economical like the Normandie, early to bed is the
rule. True, Jules, the stout young native who combined the offices of
night-clerk and lift attendant at that establishment, was on duty in the
hall throughout the night, but few of the Normandie’s patrons made use
of his services.

Sally, entering shortly before twelve o’clock on the night of the day
on which the dark man, the red-haired young man, and their friend
Scrymgeour had come into her life, found the little hall dim and silent.
Through the iron cage of the lift a single faint bulb glowed: another,
over the desk in the far corner, illuminated the upper half of Jules,
slumbering in a chair. Jules seemed to Sally to be on duty in some
capacity or other all the time. His work, like women’s, was never done.
He was now restoring his tissues with a few winks of much-needed beauty
sleep. Sally, who had been to the Casino to hear the band and afterwards
had strolled on the moonlit promenade, had a guilty sense of intrusion.

As she stood there, reluctant to break in on Jules’ rest--for her
sympathetic heart, always at the disposal of the oppressed, had long
ached for this overworked peon--she was relieved to hear footsteps in
the street outside, followed by the opening of the front door. If Jules
would have had to wake up anyway, she felt her sense of responsibility
lessened. The door, having opened, closed again with a bang. Jules
stirred, gurgled, blinked, and sat up, and Sally, turning, perceived
that the new arrival was the red-haired young man.

“Oh, good evening,” said Sally welcomingly.

The young man stopped, and shuffled uncomfortably. The morning’s
happenings were obviously still green in his memory. He had either not
ceased blushing since their last meeting or he was celebrating their
reunion by beginning to blush again: for his face was a familiar
scarlet.

“Er--good evening,” he said, disentangling his feet, which, in the
embarrassment of the moment, had somehow got coiled up together.

“Or bon soir, I suppose you would say,” murmured Sally.

The young man acknowledged receipt of this thrust by dropping his hat
and tripping over it as he stooped to pick it up.

Jules, meanwhile, who had been navigating in a sort of somnambulistic
trance in the neighbourhood of the lift, now threw back the cage with a
rattle.

“It’s a shame to have woken you up,” said Sally, commiseratingly,
stepping in.

Jules did not reply, for the excellent reason that he had not been
woken up. Constant practice enabled him to do this sort of work without
breaking his slumber. His brain, if you could call it that, was working
automatically. He had shut up the gate with a clang and was tugging
sluggishly at the correct rope, so that the lift was going slowly up
instead of retiring down into the basement, but he was not awake.

Sally and the red-haired young man sat side by side on the small seat,
watching their conductor’s efforts. After the first spurt, conversation
had languished. Sally had nothing of immediate interest to say, and her
companion seemed to be one of these strong, silent men you read about.
Only a slight snore from Jules broke the silence.

At the third floor Sally leaned forward and prodded Jules in the lower
ribs. All through her stay at Roville, she had found in dealing with the
native population that actions spoke louder than words. If she wanted
anything in a restaurant or at a shop, she pointed; and, when she wished
the lift to stop, she prodded the man in charge. It was a system worth a
dozen French conversation books.

Jules brought the machine to a halt: and it was at this point that
he should have done the one thing connected with his professional
activities which he did really well--the opening, to wit, of the iron
cage. There are ways of doing this. Jules’ was the right way. He was
accustomed to do it with a flourish, and generally remarked “V’la!” in
a modest but self-congratulatory voice as though he would have liked
to see another man who could have put through a job like that. Jules’
opinion was that he might not be much to look at, but that he could open
a lift door.

To-night, however, it seemed as if even this not very exacting feat was
beyond his powers. Instead of inserting his key in the lock, he stood
staring in an attitude of frozen horror. He was a man who took most
things in life pretty seriously, and whatever was the little difficulty
just now seemed to have broken him all up.

“There appears,” said Sally, turning to her companion, “to be a hitch.
Would you mind asking what’s the matter? I don’t know any French myself
except ‘oo la la!’”

The young man, thus appealed to, nerved himself to the task. He eyed the
melancholy Jules doubtfully, and coughed in a strangled sort of way.

“Oh, esker... esker vous...”

“Don’t weaken,” said Sally. “I think you’ve got him going.”

“Esker vous... Pourquoi vous ne... I mean ne vous... that is to say,
quel est le raison...”

He broke off here, because at this point Jules began to explain. He
explained very rapidly and at considerable length. The fact that neither
of his hearers understood a word of what he was saying appeared not
to have impressed itself upon him. Or, if he gave a thought to it,
he dismissed the objection as trifling. He wanted to explain, and he
explained. Words rushed from him like water from a geyser. Sounds which
you felt you would have been able to put a meaning to if he had detached
them from the main body and repeated them slowly, went swirling down the
stream and were lost for ever.

“Stop him!” said Sally firmly.

The red-haired young man looked as a native of Johnstown might have
looked on being requested to stop that city’s celebrated flood.

“Stop him?”

“Yes. Blow a whistle or something.”

Out of the depths of the young man’s memory there swam to the surface
a single word--a word which he must have heard somewhere or read
somewhere: a legacy, perhaps, from long-vanished school-days.

“Zut!” he barked, and instantaneously Jules turned himself off at the
main. There was a moment of dazed silence, such as might occur in a
boiler-factory if the works suddenly shut down.

“Quick! Now you’ve got him!” cried Sally. “Ask him what he’s talking
about--if he knows, which I doubt--and tell him to speak slowly. Then we
shall get somewhere.”

The young man nodded intelligently. The advice was good.

“Lentement,” he said. “Parlez lentement. Pas si--you know what I
mean--pas si dashed vite!”

“Ah-a-ah!” cried Jules, catching the idea on the fly. “Lentement. Ah,
oui, lentement.”

There followed a lengthy conversation which, while conveying nothing to
Sally, seemed intelligible to the red-haired linguist.

“The silly ass,” he was able to announce some few minutes later, “has
made a bloomer. Apparently he was half asleep when we came in, and he
shoved us into the lift and slammed the door, forgetting that he had
left the keys on the desk.”

“I see,” said Sally. “So we’re shut in?”

“I’m afraid so. I wish to goodness,” said the young man, “I knew French
well. I’d curse him with some vim and not a little animation, the chump!
I wonder what ‘blighter’ is in French,” he said, meditating.

“It’s the merest suggestion,” said Sally, “but oughtn’t we to do
something?”

“What could we do?”

“Well, for one thing, we might all utter a loud yell. It would scare
most of the people in the hotel to death, but there might be a survivor
or two who would come and investigate and let us out.”

“What a ripping idea!” said the young man, impressed.

“I’m glad you like it. Now tell him the main out-line, or he’ll think
we’ve gone mad.”

The young man searched for words, and eventually found some which
expressed his meaning lamely but well enough to cause Jules to nod in a
depressed sort of way.

“Fine!” said Sally. “Now, all together at the word ‘three.’
One--two--Oh, poor darling!” she broke off. “Look at him!”

In the far corner of the lift, the emotional Jules was sobbing silently
into the bunch of cotton-waste which served him in the office of a
pocket-handkerchief. His broken-hearted gulps echoed hollowly down the
shaft.



5



In these days of cheap books of instruction on every subject under the
sun, we most of us know how to behave in the majority of life’s little
crises. We have only ourselves to blame if we are ignorant of what to
do before the doctor comes, of how to make a dainty winter coat for baby
out of father’s last year’s under-vest and of the best method of coping
with the cold mutton. But nobody yet has come forward with practical
advice as to the correct method of behaviour to be adopted when
a lift-attendant starts crying. And Sally and her companion, as a
consequence, for a few moments merely stared at each other helplessly.

“Poor darling!” said Sally, finding speech. “Ask him what’s the matter.”

The young man looked at her doubtfully.

“You know,” he said, “I don’t enjoy chatting with this blighter. I mean
to say, it’s a bit of an effort. I don’t know why it is, but talking
French always makes me feel as if my nose were coming off. Couldn’t we
just leave him to have his cry out by himself?”

“The idea!” said Sally. “Have you no heart? Are you one of those fiends
in human shape?”

He turned reluctantly to Jules, and paused to overhaul his vocabulary.

“You ought to be thankful for this chance,” said Sally. “It’s the only
real way of learning French, and you’re getting a lesson for nothing.
What did he say then?”

“Something about losing something, it seemed to me. I thought I caught
the word perdu.”

“But that means a partridge, doesn’t it? I’m sure I’ve seen it on the
menus.”

“Would he talk about partridges at a time like this?”

“He might. The French are extraordinary people.”

“Well, I’ll have another go at him. But he’s a difficult chap to chat
with. If you give him the least encouragement, he sort of goes off like
a rocket.” He addressed another question to the sufferer, and listened
attentively to the voluble reply.

“Oh!” he said with sudden enlightenment. “Your job?” He turned to Sally.
“I got it that time,” he said. “The trouble is, he says, that if we yell
and rouse the house, we’ll get out all right, but he will lose his job,
because this is the second time this sort of thing has happened, and
they warned him last time that once more would mean the push.”

“Then we mustn’t dream of yelling,” said Sally, decidedly. “It means
a pretty long wait, you know. As far as I can gather, there’s just a
chance of somebody else coming in later, in which case he could let
us out. But it’s doubtful. He rather thinks that everybody has gone to
roost.”

“Well, we must try it. I wouldn’t think of losing the poor man his job.
Tell him to take the car down to the ground-floor, and then we’ll just
sit and amuse ourselves till something happens. We’ve lots to talk
about. We can tell each other the story of our lives.”

Jules, cheered by his victims’ kindly forbearance, lowered the car to
the ground floor, where, after a glance of infinite longing at the keys
on the distant desk, the sort of glance which Moses must have cast at
the Promised Land from the summit of Mount Pisgah, he sagged down in a
heap and resumed his slumbers. Sally settled herself as comfortably as
possible in her corner.

“You’d better smoke,” she said. “It will be something to do.”

“Thanks awfully.”

“And now,” said Sally, “tell me why Scrymgeour fired you.”

Little by little, under the stimulating influence of this nocturnal
adventure, the red-haired young man had lost that shy confusion which
had rendered him so ill at ease when he had encountered Sally in the
hall of the hotel; but at this question embarrassment gripped him once
more. Another of those comprehensive blushes of his raced over his face,
and he stammered.

“I say, I’m glad... I’m fearfully sorry about that, you know!”

“About Scrymgeour?”

“You know what I mean. I mean, about making such a most ghastly ass of
myself this morning. I... I never dreamed you understood English.”

“Why, I didn’t object. I thought you were very nice and complimentary.
Of course, I don’t know how many girls you’ve seen in your life, but...”

“No, I say, don’t! It makes me feel such a chump.”

“And I’m sorry about my mouth. It is wide. But I know you’re a
fair-minded man and realize that it isn’t my fault.”

“Don’t rub it in,” pleaded the young man. “As a matter of fact, if you
want to know, I think your mouth is absolutely perfect. I think,” he
proceeded, a little feverishly, “that you are the most indescribable
topper that ever...”

“You were going to tell me about Scrymgeour,” said Sally.

The young man blinked as if he had collided with some hard object while
sleep-walking. Eloquence had carried him away.

“Scrymgeour?” he said. “Oh, that would bore you.”

“Don’t be silly,” said Sally reprovingly. “Can’t you realize that we’re
practically castaways on a desert island? There’s nothing to do till
to-morrow but talk about ourselves. I want to hear all about you,
and then I’ll tell you all about myself. If you feel diffident about
starting the revelations, I’ll begin. Better start with names. Mine is
Sally Nicholas. What’s yours?”

“Mine? Oh, ah, yes, I see what you mean.”

“I thought you would. I put it as clearly as I could. Well, what is it?”

“Kemp.”

“And the first name?”

“Well, as a matter of fact,” said the young man, “I’ve always rather
hushed up my first name, because when I was christened they worked a
low-down trick on me!”

“You can’t shock me,” said Sally, encouragingly. “My father’s name was
Ezekiel, and I’ve a brother who was christened Fillmore.”

Mr. Kemp brightened. “Well, mine isn’t as bad as that... No, I don’t
mean that,” he broke off apologetically. “Both awfully jolly names, of
course...”

“Get on,” said Sally.

“Well, they called me Lancelot. And, of course, the thing is that I
don’t look like a Lancelot and never shall. My pals,” he added in a more
cheerful strain, “call me Ginger.”

“I don’t blame them,” said Sally.

“Perhaps you wouldn’t mind thinking of me as Ginger?’’ suggested the
young man diffidently.

“Certainly.”

“That’s awfully good of you.”

“Not at all.”

Jules stirred in his sleep and grunted. No other sound came to disturb
the stillness of the night.

“You were going to tell me about yourself?” said Mr. Lancelot (Ginger)
Kemp.

“I’m going to tell you all about myself,” said Sally, “not because I
think it will interest you...”

“Oh, it will!”

“Not, I say, because I think it will interest you...”

“It will, really.”

Sally looked at him coldly.

“Is this a duet?” she inquired, “or have I the floor?”

“I’m awfully sorry.”

“Not, I repeat for the third time, because I think It will interest you,
but because if I do you won’t have any excuse for not telling me your
life-history, and you wouldn’t believe how inquisitive I am. Well, in
the first place, I live in America. I’m over here on a holiday. And it’s
the first real holiday I’ve had in three years--since I left home, in
fact.” Sally paused. “I ran away from home,” she said.

“Good egg!” said Ginger Kemp.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I mean, quite right. I bet you were quite right.”

“When I say home,” Sally went on, “it was only a sort of imitation
home, you know. One of those just-as-good homes which are never as
satisfactory as the real kind. My father and mother both died a good
many years ago. My brother and I were dumped down on the reluctant
doorstep of an uncle.”

“Uncles,” said Ginger Kemp, feelingly, “are the devil. I’ve got an...
but I’m interrupting you.”

“My uncle was our trustee. He had control of all my brother’s money
and mine till I was twenty-one. My brother was to get his when he was
twenty-five. My poor father trusted him blindly, and what do you think
happened?”

“Good Lord! The blighter embezzled the lot?”

“No, not a cent. Wasn’t it extraordinary! Have you ever heard of a
blindly trusted uncle who was perfectly honest? Well, mine was. But the
trouble was that, while an excellent man to have looking after one’s
money, he wasn’t a very lovable character. He was very hard. Hard!
He was as hard as--well, nearly as hard as this seat. He hated poor
Fill...”

“Phil?”

“I broke it to you just now that my brother’s name was Fillmore.”

“Oh, your brother. Oh, ah, yes.”

“He was always picking on poor Fill. And I’m bound to say that Fill
rather laid himself out as what you might call a pickee. He was always
getting into trouble. One day, about three years ago, he was expelled
from Harvard, and my uncle vowed he would have nothing more to do with
him. So I said, if Fill left, I would leave. And, as this seemed to be
my uncle’s idea of a large evening, no objection was raised, and Fill
and I departed. We went to New York, and there we’ve been ever since.
About six months’ ago Fill passed the twenty-five mark and collected his
money, and last month I marched past the given point and got mine. So it
all ends happily, you see. Now tell me about yourself.”

“But, I say, you know, dash it, you’ve skipped a lot. I mean to say, you
must have had an awful time in New York, didn’t you? How on earth did
you get along?”

“Oh, we found work. My brother tried one or two things, and finally
became an assistant stage-manager with some theatre people. The only
thing I could do, having been raised in enervating luxury, was ballroom
dancing, so I ball-room danced. I got a job at a place in Broadway
called ‘The Flower Garden’ as what is humorously called an
‘instructress,’ as if anybody could ‘instruct’ the men who came there.
One was lucky if one saved one’s life and wasn’t quashed to death.”

“How perfectly foul!”

“Oh, I don’t know. It was rather fun for a while. Still,” said Sally,
meditatively, “I’m not saying I could have held out much longer: I was
beginning to give. I suppose I’ve been trampled underfoot by more fat
men than any other girl of my age in America. I don’t know why it was,
but every man who came in who was a bit overweight seemed to make for me
by instinct. That’s why I like to sit on the sands here and watch
these Frenchmen bathing. It’s just heavenly to lie back and watch a two
hundred and fifty pound man, coming along and feel that he isn’t going
to dance with me.”

“But, I say! How absolutely rotten it must have been for you!”

“Well, I’ll tell you one thing. It’s going to make me a very
domesticated wife one of these days. You won’t find me gadding about in
gilded jazz-palaces! For me, a little place in the country somewhere,
with my knitting and an Elsie book, and bed at half-past nine! And now
tell me the story of your life. And make it long because I’m perfectly
certain there’s going to be no relief-expedition. I’m sure the last
dweller under this roof came in years ago. We shall be here till
morning.”

“I really think we had better shout, you know.”

“And lose Jules his job? Never!”

“Well, of course, I’m sorry for poor old Jules’ troubles, but I hate to
think of you having to...”

“Now get on with the story,” said Sally.



6



Ginger Kemp exhibited some of the symptoms of a young bridegroom called
upon at a wedding-breakfast to respond to the toast. He moved his feet
restlessly and twisted his fingers.

“I hate talking about myself, you know,” he said.

“So I supposed,” said Sally. “That’s why I gave you my autobiography
first, to give you no chance of backing out. Don’t be such a shrinking
violet. We’re all shipwrecked mariners here. I am intensely interested
in your narrative. And, even if I wasn’t, I’d much rather listen to it
than to Jules’ snoring.”

“He is snoring a bit, what? Does it annoy you? Shall I stir him?”

“You seem to have an extraordinary brutal streak in your nature,” said
Sally. “You appear to think of nothing else but schemes for harassing
poor Jules. Leave him alone for a second, and start telling me about
yourself.”

“Where shall I start?”

“Well, not with your childhood, I think. We’ll skip that.”

“Well...” Ginger Kemp knitted his brow, searching for a dramatic
opening. “Well, I’m more or less what you might call an orphan, like
you. I mean to say, both my people are dead and all that sort of thing.”

“Thanks for explaining. That has made it quite clear.”

“I can’t remember my mother. My father died when I was in my last
year at Cambridge. I’d been having a most awfully good time at the
‘varsity,’” said Ginger, warming to his theme. “Not thick, you know, but
good. I’d got my rugger and boxing blues and I’d just been picked for
scrum-half for England against the North in the first trial match, and
between ourselves it really did look as if I was more or less of a snip
for my international.”

Sally gazed at him wide eyed.

“Is that good or bad?” she asked.

“Eh?”

“Are you reciting a catalogue of your crimes, or do you expect me to get
up and cheer? What is a rugger blue, to start with?”

“Well, it’s... it’s a rugger blue, you know.”

“Oh, I see,” said Sally. “You mean a rugger blue.”

“I mean to say, I played rugger--footer--that’s to say, football--Rugby
football--for Cambridge, against Oxford. I was scrum-half.”

“And what is a scrum-half?” asked Sally, patiently. “Yes, I know you’re
going to say it’s a scrum-half, but can’t you make it easier?”

“The scrum-half,” said Ginger, “is the half who works the scrum. He
slings the pill out to the fly-half, who starts the three-quarters
going. I don’t know if you understand?”

“I don’t.”

“It’s dashed hard to explain,” said Ginger Kemp, unhappily. “I mean,
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone before who didn’t know what a
scrum-half was.”

“Well, I can see that it has something to do with football, so we’ll
leave it at that. I suppose it’s something like our quarter-back. And
what’s an international?”

“It’s called getting your international when you play for England, you
know. England plays Wales, France, Ireland, and Scotland. If it hadn’t
been for the smash, I think I should have played for England against
Wales.”

“I see at last. What you’re trying to tell me is that you were very good
at football.”

Ginger Kemp blushed warmly.

“Oh, I don’t say that. England was pretty short of scrum-halves that
year.”

“What a horrible thing to happen to a country! Still, you were likely
to be picked on the All-England team when the smash came? What was the
smash?”

“Well, it turned out that the poor old pater hadn’t left a penny. I
never understood the process exactly, but I’d always supposed that we
were pretty well off; and then it turned out that I hadn’t anything at
all. I’m bound to say it was a bit of a jar. I had to come down from
Cambridge and go to work in my uncle’s office. Of course, I made an
absolute hash of it.”

“Why, of course?”

“Well, I’m not a very clever sort of chap, you see. I somehow didn’t
seem able to grasp the workings. After about a year, my uncle, getting
a bit fed-up, hoofed me out and got me a mastership at a school, and I
made a hash of that. He got me one or two other jobs, and I made a hash
of those.”

“You certainly do seem to be one of our most prominent young hashers!”
 gasped Sally.

“I am,” said Ginger, modestly.

There was a silence.

“And what about Scrymgeour?” Sally asked.

“That was the last of the jobs,” said Ginger. “Scrymgeour is a pompous
old ass who thinks he’s going to be Prime Minister some day. He’s a big
bug at the Bar and has just got into Parliament. My cousin used to devil
for him. That’s how I got mixed up with the blighter.”

“Your cousin used...? I wish you would talk English.”

“That was my cousin who was with me on the beach this morning.”

“And what did you say he used to do for Mr. Scrymgeour?”

“Oh, it’s called devilling. My cousin’s at the Bar, too--one of our
rising nibs, as a matter of fact...”

“I thought he was a lawyer of some kind.”

“He’s got a long way beyond it now, but when he started he used to devil
for Scrymgeour--assist him, don’t you know. His name’s Carmyle, you
know. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? He’s rather a prominent johnny in his
way. Bruce Carmyle, you know.”

“I haven’t.”

“Well, he got me this job of secretary to Scrymgeour.”

“And why did Mr. Scrymgeour fire you?”

Ginger Kemp’s face darkened. He frowned. Sally, watching him, felt that
she had been right when she had guessed that he had a temper. She liked
him none the worse for it. Mild men did not appeal to her.

“I don’t know if you’re fond of dogs?” said Ginger.

“I used to be before this morning,” said Sally. “And I suppose I shall
be again in time. For the moment I’ve had what you might call rather a
surfeit of dogs. But aren’t you straying from the point? I asked you why
Mr. Scrymgeour dismissed you.”

“I’m telling you.”

“I’m glad of that. I didn’t know.”

“The old brute,” said Ginger, frowning again, “has a dog. A very jolly
little spaniel. Great pal of mine. And Scrymgeour is the sort of fool
who oughtn’t to be allowed to own a dog. He’s one of those asses who
isn’t fit to own a dog. As a matter of fact, of all the blighted,
pompous, bullying, shrivelled-souled old devils...”

“One moment,” said Sally. “I’m getting an impression that you don’t like
Mr. Scrymgeour. Am I right?”

“Yes!”

“I thought so. Womanly intuition! Go on.”

“He used to insist on the poor animal doing tricks. I hate seeing a
dog do tricks. Dogs loathe it, you know. They’re frightfully sensitive.
Well, Scrymgeour used to make this spaniel of his do tricks--fool-things
that no self-respecting dogs would do: and eventually poor old Billy got
fed up and jibbed. He was too polite to bite, but he sort of shook his
head and crawled under a chair. You’d have thought anyone would have
let it go at that, but would old Scrymgeour? Not a bit of it! Of all the
poisonous...”

“Yes, I know. Go on.”

“Well, the thing ended in the blighter hauling him out from under the
chair and getting more and more shirty, until finally he laid into him
with a stick. That is to say,” said Ginger, coldly accurate, “he started
laying into him with a stick.” He brooded for a moment with knit brows.
“A spaniel, mind you! Can you imagine anyone beating a spaniel? It’s
like hitting a little girl. Well, he’s a fairly oldish man, you know,
and that hampered me a bit: but I got hold of the stick and broke it
into about eleven pieces, and by great good luck it was a stick he
happened to value rather highly. It had a gold knob and had been
presented to him by his constituents or something. I minced it up
a goodish bit, and then I told him a fair amount about himself. And
then--well, after that he shot me out, and I came here.”

Sally did not speak for a moment.

“You were quite right,” she said at last, in a sober voice that had
nothing in it of her customary flippancy. She paused again. “And what
are you going to do now?” she said.

“I don’t know.”

“You’ll get something?”

“Oh, yes, I shall get something, I suppose. The family will be pretty
sick, of course.”

“For goodness’ sake! Why do you bother about the family?” Sally burst
out. She could not reconcile this young man’s flabby dependence on his
family with the enterprise and vigour which he had shown in his dealings
with the unspeakable Scrymgeour. Of course, he had been brought up to
look on himself as a rich man’s son and appeared to have drifted as such
young men are wont to do; but even so... “The whole trouble with you,”
 she said, embarking on a subject on which she held strong views, “is
that...”

Her harangue was interrupted by what--at the Normandie, at one o’clock
in the morning--practically amounted to a miracle. The front door of
the hotel opened, and there entered a young man in evening dress.
Such persons were sufficiently rare at the Normandie, which catered
principally for the staid and middle-aged, and this youth’s presence was
due, if one must pause to explain it, to the fact that, in the middle
of his stay at Roville, a disastrous evening at the Casino had so
diminished his funds that he had been obliged to make a hurried shift
from the Hotel Splendide to the humbler Normandie. His late appearance
to-night was caused by the fact that he had been attending a dance
at the Splendide, principally in the hope of finding there some
kind-hearted friend of his prosperity from whom he might borrow.

A rapid-fire dialogue having taken place between Jules and the newcomer,
the keys were handed through the cage, the door opened and the lift was
set once more in motion. And a few minutes later, Sally, suddenly aware
of an overpowering sleepiness, had switched off her light and jumped
into bed. Her last waking thought was a regret that she had not been
able to speak at length to Mr. Ginger Kemp on the subject of enterprise,
and resolve that the address should be delivered at the earliest
opportunity.



CHAPTER III. THE DIGNIFIED MR. CARMYLE



1



By six o’clock on the following evening, however, Sally had been forced
to the conclusion that Ginger would have to struggle through life as
best he could without the assistance of her contemplated remarks: for
she had seen nothing of him all day and in another hour she would have
left Roville on the seven-fifteen express which was to take her to
Paris, en route for Cherbourg and the liner whereon she had booked her
passage for New York.

It was in the faint hope of finding him even now that, at half-past six,
having conveyed her baggage to the station and left it in charge of
an amiable porter, she paid a last visit to the Casino Municipale. She
disliked the thought of leaving Ginger without having uplifted him. Like
so many alert and active-minded girls, she possessed in a great degree
the quality of interesting herself in--or, as her brother Fillmore
preferred to put it, messing about with--the private affairs of others.
Ginger had impressed her as a man to whom it was worth while to give a
friendly shove on the right path; and it was with much gratification,
therefore, that, having entered the Casino, she perceived a flaming
head shining through the crowd which had gathered at one of the
roulette-tables.

There are two Casinos at Roville-sur-Mer. The one on the Promenade goes
in mostly for sea-air and a mild game called boule. It is the big Casino
Municipale down in the Palace Massena near the railway station which is
the haunt of the earnest gambler who means business; and it was plain to
Sally directly she arrived that Ginger Kemp not only meant business
but was getting results. Ginger was going extremely strong. He was
entrenched behind an opulent-looking mound of square counters: and, even
as Sally looked, a wooden-faced croupier shoved a further instalment
across the table to him at the end of his long rake.

“Epatant!” murmured a wistful man at Sally’s side, removing an elbow
from her ribs in order the better to gesticulate. Sally, though no French
scholar, gathered that he was startled and gratified. The entire crowd
seemed to be startled and gratified. There is undoubtedly a
certain altruism in the make-up of the spectators at a Continental
roulette-table. They seem to derive a spiritual pleasure from seeing
somebody else win.

The croupier gave his moustache a twist with his left hand and the wheel
a twist with his right, and silence fell again. Sally, who had shifted
to a spot where the pressure of the crowd was less acute, was now able
to see Ginger’s face, and as she saw it she gave an involuntary laugh.
He looked exactly like a dog at a rat-hole. His hair seemed to bristle
with excitement. One could almost fancy that his ears were pricked up.

In the tense hush which had fallen on the crowd at the restarting of the
wheel, Sally’s laugh rang out with an embarrassing clearness. It had a
marked effect on all those within hearing. There is something almost of
religious ecstasy in the deportment of the spectators at a table where
anyone is having a run of luck at roulette, and if she had guffawed in
a cathedral she could not have caused a more pained consternation. The
earnest worshippers gazed at her with shocked eyes, and Ginger, turning
with a start, saw her and jumped up. As he did so, the ball fell with a
rattling click into a red compartment of the wheel; and, as it ceased to
revolve and it was seen that at last the big winner had picked the wrong
colour, a shuddering groan ran through the congregation like that which
convulses the penitents’ bench at a negro revival meeting. More
glances of reproach were cast at Sally. It was generally felt that her
injudicious behaviour had changed Ginger’s luck.

The only person who did not appear to be concerned was Ginger himself.
He gathered up his loot, thrust it into his pocket, and elbowed his
way to where Sally stood, now definitely established in the eyes of the
crowd as a pariah. There was universal regret that he had decided to
call it a day. It was to the spectators as though a star had suddenly
walked off the stage in the middle of his big scene; and not even a loud
and violent quarrel which sprang up at this moment between two excitable
gamblers over a disputed five-franc counter could wholly console them.

“I say,” said Ginger, dexterously plucking Sally out of the crowd,
“this is topping, meeting you like this. I’ve been looking for you
everywhere.”

“It’s funny you didn’t find me, then, for that’s where I’ve been. I was
looking for you.”

“No, really?” Ginger seemed pleased. He led the way to the quiet
ante-room outside the gambling-hall, and they sat down in a corner.
It was pleasant here, with nobody near except the gorgeously uniformed
attendant over by the door. “That was awfully good of you.”

“I felt I must have a talk with you before my train went.”

Ginger started violently.

“Your train? What do you mean?”

“The puff-puff,” explained Sally. “I’m leaving to-night, you know.”

“Leaving?” Ginger looked as horrified as the devoutest of the
congregation of which Sally had just ceased to be a member. “You don’t
mean leaving? You’re not going away from Roville?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“But why? Where are you going?”

“Back to America. My boat sails from Cherbourg tomorrow.”

“Oh, my aunt!”

“I’m sorry,” said Sally, touched by his concern. She was a warm-hearted
girl and liked being appreciated. “But...”

“I say...” Ginger Kemp turned bright scarlet and glared before him at
the uniformed official, who was regarding their tête-à-tête with the
indulgent eye of one who has been through this sort of thing himself. “I
say, look here, will you marry me?”



2



Sally stared at his vermilion profile in frank amazement. Ginger, she
had realized by this time, was in many ways a surprising young man, but
she had not expected him to be as surprising as this.

“Marry you!”

“You know what I mean.”

“Well, yes, I suppose I do. You allude to the holy state. Yes, I know
what you mean.”

“Then how about it?”

Sally began to regain her composure. Her sense of humour was tickled.
She looked at Ginger gravely. He did not meet her eye, but continued to
drink in the uniformed official, who was by now so carried away by
the romance of it all that he had begun to hum a love-ballad under his
breath. The official could not hear what they were saying, and would not
have been able to understand it even if he could have heard; but he was
an expert in the language of the eyes.

“But isn’t this--don’t think I am trying to make difficulties--isn’t
this a little sudden?”

“It’s got to be sudden,” said Ginger Kemp, complainingly. “I thought you
were going to be here for weeks.”

“But, my infant, my babe, has it occurred to you that we are practically
strangers?” She patted his hand tolerantly, causing the uniformed
official to heave a tender sigh. “I see what has happened,” she said.
“You’re mistaking me for some other girl, some girl you know really
well, and were properly introduced to. Take a good look at me, and
you’ll see.”

“If I take a good look at you,” said Ginger, feverishly, “I’m dashed if
I’ll answer for the consequences.”

“And this is the man I was going to lecture on ‘Enterprise.’”

“You’re the most wonderful girl I’ve ever met, dash it!” said Ginger,
his gaze still riveted on the official by the door “I dare say it is
sudden. I can’t help that. I fell in love with you the moment I saw you,
and there you are!”

“But...”

“Now, look here, I know I’m not much of a chap and all that, but...
well, I’ve just won the deuce of a lot of money in there...”

“Would you buy me with your gold?”

“I mean to say, we should have enough to start on, and... of course I’ve
made an infernal hash of everything I’ve tried up till now, but there
must be something I can do, and you can jolly well bet I’d have a
goodish stab at it. I mean to say, with you to buck me up and so forth,
don’t you know. Well, I mean...”

“Has it struck you that I may already be engaged to someone else?”

“Oh, golly! Are you?”

For the first time he turned and faced her, and there was a look in his
eyes which touched Sally and drove all sense of the ludicrous out of
her. Absurd as it was, this man was really serious.

“Well, yes, as a matter of fact I am,” she said soberly.

Ginger Kemp bit his lip and for a moment was silent.

“Oh, well, that’s torn it!” he said at last.

Sally was aware of an emotion too complex to analyse. There was pity in
it, but amusement too. The emotion, though she did not recognize it, was
maternal. Mothers, listening to their children pleading with engaging
absurdity for something wholly out of their power to bestow, feel that
same wavering between tears and laughter. Sally wanted to pick Ginger up
and kiss him. The one thing she could not do was to look on him, sorry
as she was for him, as a reasonable, grown-up man.

“You don’t really mean it, you know.”

“Don’t I!” said Ginger, hollowly. “Oh, don’t I!”

“You can’t! There isn’t such a thing in real life as love at first
sight. Love’s a thing that comes when you know a person well and...”
 She paused. It had just occurred to her that she was hardly the girl to
lecture in this strain. Her love for Gerald Foster had been sufficiently
sudden, even instantaneous. What did she know of Gerald except that
she loved him? They had become engaged within two weeks of their first
meeting. She found this recollection damping to her eloquence, and ended
by saying tamely:

“It’s ridiculous.”

Ginger had simmered down to a mood of melancholy resignation.

“I couldn’t have expected you to care for me, I suppose, anyway,” he
said, sombrely. “I’m not much of a chap.”

It was just the diversion from the theme under discussion which Sally
had been longing to find. She welcomed the chance of continuing the
conversation on a less intimate and sentimental note.

“That’s exactly what I wanted to talk to you about,” she said, seizing
the opportunity offered by this display of humility. “I’ve been looking
for you all day to go on with what I was starting to say in the lift
last night when we were interrupted. Do you mind if I talk to you like
an aunt--or a sister, suppose we say? Really, the best plan would be for
you to adopt me as an honorary sister. What do you think?”

Ginger did not appear noticeably elated at the suggested relationship.

“Because I really do take a tremendous interest in you.”

Ginger brightened. “That’s awfully good of you.”

“I’m going to speak words of wisdom. Ginger, why don’t you brace up?”

“Brace up?”

“Yes, stiffen your backbone and stick out your chin, and square your
elbows, and really amount to something. Why do you simply flop about and
do nothing and leave everything to what you call ‘the family’? Why do
you have to be helped all the time? Why don’t you help yourself? Why do
you have to have jobs found for you? Why don’t you rush out and get one?
Why do you have to worry about what, ‘the family’ thinks of you? Why
don’t you make yourself independent of them? I know you had hard luck,
suddenly finding yourself without money and all that, but, good heavens,
everybody else in the world who has ever done anything has been broke at
one time or another. It’s part of the fun. You’ll never get anywhere
by letting yourself be picked up by the family like... like a floppy
Newfoundland puppy and dumped down in any old place that happens to
suit them. A job’s a thing you’ve got to choose for yourself and get for
yourself. Think what you can do--there must be something--and then go
at it with a snort and grab it and hold it down and teach it to take
a joke. You’ve managed to collect some money. It will give you time
to look round. And, when you’ve had a look round, do something! Try to
realize you’re alive, and try to imagine the family isn’t!”

Sally stopped and drew a deep breath. Ginger Kemp did not reply for a
moment. He seemed greatly impressed.

“When you talk quick,” he said at length, in a serious meditative voice,
“your nose sort of goes all squiggly. Ripping, it looks!”

Sally uttered an indignant cry.

“Do you mean to say you haven’t been listening to a word I’ve been
saying,” she demanded.

“Oh, rather! Oh, by Jove, yes.”

“Well, what did I say?”

“You... er... And your eyes sort of shine, too.”

“Never mind my eyes. What did I say?”

“You told me,” said Ginger, on reflection, “to get a job.”

“Well, yes. I put it much better than that, but that’s what it amounted
to, I suppose. All right, then. I’m glad you...”

Ginger was eyeing her with mournful devotion. “I say,” he interrupted,
“I wish you’d let me write to you. Letters, I mean, and all that. I have
an idea it would kind of buck me up.”

“You won’t have time for writing letters.”

“I’ll have time to write them to you. You haven’t an address or anything
of that sort in America, have you, by any chance? I mean, so that I’d
know where to write to.”

“I can give you an address which will always find me.” She told him the
number and street of Mrs. Meecher’s boarding-house, and he wrote them
down reverently on his shirt-cuff. “Yes, on second thoughts, do write,”
 she said. “Of course, I shall want to know how you’ve got on. I... oh,
my goodness! That clock’s not right?”

“Just about. What time does your train go?”

“Go! It’s gone! Or, at least, it goes in about two seconds.” She made a
rush for the swing-door, to the confusion of the uniformed official who
had not been expecting this sudden activity. “Good-bye, Ginger. Write to
me, and remember what I said.”

Ginger, alert after his unexpected fashion when it became a question
of physical action, had followed her through the swing-door, and they
emerged together and started running down the square.

“Stick it!” said Ginger, encouragingly. He was running easily and well,
as becomes a man who, in his day, had been a snip for his international
at scrum-half.

Sally saved her breath. The train was beginning to move slowly out of
the station as they sprinted abreast on to the platform. Ginger dived
for the nearest door, wrenched it open, gathered Sally neatly in his
arms, and flung her in. She landed squarely on the toes of a man who
occupied the corner seat, and, bounding off again, made for the window.
Ginger, faithful to the last, was trotting beside the train as it
gathered speed.

“Ginger! My poor porter! Tip him. I forgot.”

“Right ho!”

“And don’t forget what I’ve been saying.”

“Right ho!”

“Look after yourself and ‘Death to the Family!’”

“Right ho!”

The train passed smoothly out of the station. Sally cast one last look
back at her red-haired friend, who had now halted and was waving a
handkerchief. Then she turned to apologize to the other occupant of the
carriage.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, breathlessly. “I hope I didn’t hurt you.”

She found herself facing Ginger’s cousin, the dark man of yesterday’s
episode on the beach, Bruce Carmyle.



3



Mr. Carmyle was not a man who readily allowed himself to be disturbed
by life’s little surprises, but at the present moment he could not help
feeling slightly dazed. He recognized Sally now as the French girl who
had attracted his cousin Lancelot’s notice on the beach. At least he had
assumed that she was French, and it was startling to be addressed by
her now in fluent English. How had she suddenly acquired this gift of
tongues? And how on earth had she had time since yesterday, when he
had been a total stranger to her, to become sufficiently intimate with
Cousin Lancelot to be sprinting with him down station platforms and
addressing him out of railway-carriage windows as Ginger? Bruce Carmyle
was aware that most members of that sub-species of humanity, his
cousin’s personal friends, called him by that familiar--and, so Carmyle
held, vulgar--nickname: but how had this girl got hold of it?

If Sally had been less pretty, Mr. Carmyle would undoubtedly have looked
disapprovingly at her, for she had given his rather rigid sense of the
proprieties a nasty jar. But as, panting and flushed from her run, she
was prettier than any girl he had yet met, he contrived to smile.

“Not at all,” he said in answer to her question, though it was far from
the truth. His left big toe was aching confoundedly. Even a girl with
a foot as small as Sally’s can make her presence felt on a man’s toe if
the scrum-half who is handling her aims well and uses plenty of vigour.

“If you don’t mind,” said Sally, sitting down, “I think I’ll breathe a
little.”

She breathed. The train sped on.

“Quite a close thing,” said Bruce Carmyle, affably. The pain in his toe
was diminishing. “You nearly missed it.”

“Yes. It was lucky Mr. Kemp was with me. He throws very straight,
doesn’t he.”

“Tell me,” said Carmyle, “how do you come to know my Cousin? On the
beach yesterday morning...”

“Oh, we didn’t know each other then. But we were staying at the same
hotel, and we spent an hour or so shut up in an elevator together. That
was when we really got acquainted.”

A waiter entered the compartment, announcing in unexpected English that
dinner was served in the restaurant car. “Would you care for dinner?”

“I’m starving,” said Sally.

She reproved herself, as they made their way down the corridor, for
being so foolish as to judge anyone by his appearance. This man was
perfectly pleasant in spite of his grim exterior. She had decided by the
time they had seated themselves at the table she liked him.

At the table, however, Mr. Carmyle’s manner changed for the worse. He
lost his amiability. He was evidently a man who took his meals seriously
and believed in treating waiters with severity. He shuddered austerely
at a stain on the table-cloth, and then concentrated himself frowningly
on the bill of fare. Sally, meanwhile, was establishing cosy relations
with the much too friendly waiter, a cheerful old man who from the start
seemed to have made up his mind to regard her as a favourite daughter.
The waiter talked no English and Sally no French, but they were getting
along capitally, when Mr. Carmyle, who had been irritably waving aside
the servitor’s light-hearted advice--at the Hotel Splendide the waiters
never bent over you and breathed cordial suggestions down the side of
your face--gave his order crisply in the Anglo-Gallic dialect of the
travelling Briton. The waiter remarked, “Boum!” in a pleased sort of
way, and vanished.

“Nice old man!” said Sally.

“Infernally familiar!” said Mr. Carmyle.

Sally perceived that on the topic of the waiter she and her host did not
see eye to eye and that little pleasure or profit could be derived from
any discussion centring about him. She changed the subject. She was not
liking Mr. Carmyle quite so much as she had done a few minutes ago, but
it was courteous of him to give her dinner, and she tried to like him as
much as she could.

“By the way,” she said, “my name is Nicholas. I always think it’s a good
thing to start with names, don’t you?”

“Mine...”

“Oh, I know yours. Ginger--Mr. Kemp told me.”

Mr. Carmyle, who since the waiter’s departure, had been thawing,
stiffened again at the mention of Ginger.

“Indeed?” he said, coldly. “Apparently you got intimate.”

Sally did not like his tone. He seemed to be criticizing her, and she
resented criticism from a stranger. Her eyes opened wide and she looked
dangerously across the table.

“Why ‘apparently’? I told you that we had got intimate, and I explained
how. You can’t stay shut up in an elevator half the night with anybody
without getting to know him. I found Mr. Kemp very pleasant.”

“Really?”

“And very interesting.”

Mr. Carmyle raised his eyebrows.

“Would you call him interesting?”

“I did call him interesting.” Sally was beginning to feel the
exhilaration of battle. Men usually made themselves extremely agreeable
to her, and she reacted belligerently under the stiff unfriendliness
which had come over her companion in the last few minutes.

“He told me all about himself.”

“And you found that interesting?”

“Why not?”

“Well...” A frigid half-smile came and went on Bruce Carmyle’s dark
face. “My cousin has many excellent qualities, no doubt--he used to
play football well, and I understand that he is a capable amateur
pugilist--but I should not have supposed him entertaining. We find him a
little dull.”

“I thought it was only royalty that called themselves ‘we.’”

“I meant myself--and the rest of the family.”

The mention of the family was too much for Sally. She had to stop
talking in order to allow her mind to clear itself of rude thoughts.

“Mr. Kemp was telling me about Mr. Scrymgeour,” she went on at length.

Bruce Carmyle stared for a moment at the yard or so of French bread
which the waiter had placed on the table.

“Indeed?” he said. “He has an engaging lack of reticence.”

The waiter returned bearing soup and dumped it down.

“V’la!” he observed, with the satisfied air of a man who has
successfully performed a difficult conjuring trick. He smiled at Sally
expectantly, as though confident of applause from this section of his
audience at least. But Sally’s face was set and rigid. She had been
snubbed, and the sensation was as pleasant as it was novel.

“I think Mr. Kemp had hard luck,” she said.

“If you will excuse me, I would prefer not to discuss the matter.”

Mr. Carmyle’s attitude was that Sally might be a pretty girl, but she
was a stranger, and the intimate affairs of the Family were not to be
discussed with strangers, however prepossessing.

“He was quite in the right. Mr. Scrymgeour was beating a dog...”

“I’ve heard the details.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that. Well, don’t you agree with me, then?”

“I do not. A man who would throw away an excellent position simply
because...”

“Oh, well, if that’s your view, I suppose it is useless to talk about
it.”

“Quite.”

“Still, there’s no harm in asking what you propose to do about
Gin--about Mr. Kemp.”

Mr. Carmyle became more glacial.

“I’m afraid I cannot discuss...”

Sally’s quick impatience, nobly restrained till now, finally got the
better of her.

“Oh, for goodness’ sake,” she snapped, “do try to be human, and don’t
always be snubbing people. You remind me of one of those portraits of
men in the eighteenth century, with wooden faces, who look out of
heavy gold frames at you with fishy eyes as if you were a regrettable
incident.”

“Rosbif,” said the waiter genially, manifesting himself suddenly beside
them as if he had popped up out of a trap.

Bruce Carmyle attacked his roast beef morosely. Sally who was in the
mood when she knew that she would be ashamed of herself later on, but
was full of battle at the moment, sat in silence.

“I am sorry,” said Mr. Carmyle ponderously, “if my eyes are fishy. The
fact has not been called to my attention before.”

“I suppose you never had any sisters,” said Sally. “They would have told
you.”

Mr. Carmyle relapsed into an offended dumbness, which lasted till the
waiter had brought the coffee.

“I think,” said Sally, getting up, “I’ll be going now. I don’t seem to
want any coffee, and, if I stay on, I may say something rude. I thought
I might be able to put in a good word for Mr. Kemp and save him from
being massacred, but apparently it’s no use. Good-bye, Mr. Carmyle, and
thank you for giving me dinner.”

She made her way down the car, followed by Bruce Carmyle’s indignant,
yet fascinated, gaze. Strange emotions were stirring in Mr. Carmyle’s
bosom.



CHAPTER IV. GINGER IN DANGEROUS MOOD



Some few days later, owing to the fact that the latter, being
preoccupied, did not see him first, Bruce Carmyle met his cousin
Lancelot in Piccadilly. They had returned by different routes from
Roville, and Ginger would have preferred the separation to continue. He
was hurrying on with a nod, when Carmyle stopped him.

“Just the man I wanted to see,” he observed.

“Oh, hullo!” said Ginger, without joy.

“I was thinking of calling at your club.”

“Yes?”

“Yes. Cigarette?”

Ginger peered at the proffered case with the vague suspicion of the man
who has allowed himself to be lured on to the platform and is accepting
a card from the conjurer. He felt bewildered. In all the years of their
acquaintance he could not recall another such exhibition of geniality on
his cousin’s part. He was surprised, indeed, at Mr. Carmyle’s speaking
to him at all, for the affaire Scrymgeour remained an un-healed wound,
and the Family, Ginger knew, were even now in session upon it.

“Been back in London long?”

“Day or two.”

“I heard quite by accident that you had returned and that you were
staying at the club. By the way, thank you for introducing me to Miss
Nicholas.”

Ginger started violently.

“What!”

“I was in that compartment, you know, at Roville Station. You threw
her right on top of me. We agreed to consider that an introduction. An
attractive girl.”

Bruce Carmyle had not entirely made up his mind regarding Sally, but on
one point he was clear, that she should not, if he could help it, pass
out of his life. Her abrupt departure had left him with that baffled and
dissatisfied feeling which, though it has little in common with love at
first sight, frequently produces the same effects. She had had, he could
not disguise it from himself, the better of their late encounter and he
was conscious of a desire to meet her again and show her that there was
more in him than she apparently supposed. Bruce Carmyle, in a word,
was piqued: and, though he could not quite decide whether he liked or
disliked Sally, he was very sure that a future without her would have an
element of flatness.

“A very attractive girl. We had a very pleasant talk.”

“I bet you did,” said Ginger enviously.

“By the way, she did not give you her address by any chance?”

“Why?” said Ginger suspiciously. His attitude towards Sally’s address
resembled somewhat that of a connoisseur who has acquired a unique work
of art. He wanted to keep it to himself and gloat over it.

“Well, I--er--I promised to send her some books she was anxious to
read...”

“I shouldn’t think she gets much time for reading.”

“Books which are not published in America.”

“Oh, pretty nearly everything is published in America, what? Bound to
be, I mean.”

“Well, these particular books are not,” said Mr. Carmyle shortly. He was
finding Ginger’s reserve a little trying, and wished that he had been
more inventive.

“Give them to me and I’ll send them to her,” suggested Ginger.

“Good Lord, man!” snapped Mr. Carmyle. “I’m capable of sending a few
books to America. Where does she live?”

Ginger revealed the sacred number of the holy street which had the luck
to be Sally’s headquarters. He did it because with a persistent devil
like his cousin there seemed no way of getting out of it: but he did it
grudgingly.

“Thanks.” Bruce Carmyle wrote the information down with a gold pencil
in a dapper little morocco-bound note-book. He was the sort of man who
always has a pencil, and the backs of old envelopes never enter into his
life.

There was a pause. Bruce Carmyle coughed.

“I saw Uncle Donald this morning,” he said.

His manner had lost its geniality. There was no need for it now, and he
was a man who objected to waste. He spoke coldly, and in his voice there
was a familiar sub-tingle of reproof.

“Yes?” said Ginger moodily. This was the uncle in whose office he
had made his debut as a hasher: a worthy man, highly respected in the
National Liberal Club, but never a favourite of Ginger’s. There were
other minor uncles and a few subsidiary aunts who went to make up the
Family, but Uncle Donald was unquestionably the managing director of
that body and it was Ginger’s considered opinion that in this capacity
he approximated to a human blister.

“He wants you to dine with him to-night at Bleke’s.”

Ginger’s depression deepened. A dinner with Uncle Donald would hardly
have been a cheerful function, even in the surroundings of a banquet
in the Arabian Nights. There was that about Uncle Donald’s personality
which would have cast a sobering influence over the orgies of the
Emperor Tiberius at Capri. To dine with him at a morgue like that
relic of Old London, Bleke’s Coffee House, which confined its custom
principally to regular patrons who had not missed an evening there for
half a century, was to touch something very near bed-rock. Ginger was
extremely doubtful whether flesh and blood were equal to it.

“To-night?” he said. “Oh, you mean to-night? Well...”

“Don’t be a fool. You know as well as I do that you’ve got to go.”
 Uncle Donald’s invitations were royal commands in the Family. “If you’ve
another engagement you must put it off.”

“Oh, all right.”

“Seven-thirty sharp.”

“All right,” said Ginger gloomily.

The two men went their ways, Bruce Carmyle eastwards because he had
clients to see in his chambers at the Temple; Ginger westwards because
Mr. Carmyle had gone east. There was little sympathy between these
cousins: yet, oddly enough, their thoughts as they walked centred on the
same object. Bruce Carmyle, threading his way briskly through the crowds
of Piccadilly Circus, was thinking of Sally: and so was Ginger as he
loafed aimlessly towards Hyde Park Corner, bumping in a sort of coma
from pedestrian to pedestrian.

Since his return to London Ginger had been in bad shape. He mooned
through the days and slept poorly at night. If there is one thing
rottener than another in a pretty blighted world, one thing which gives
a fellow the pip and reduces him to the condition of an absolute onion,
it is hopeless love. Hopeless love had got Ginger all stirred up. His
had been hitherto a placid soul. Even the financial crash which had so
altered his life had not bruised him very deeply. His temperament had
enabled him to bear the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with
a philosophic “Right ho!” But now everything seemed different. Things
irritated him acutely, which before he had accepted as inevitable--his
Uncle Donald’s moustache, for instance, and its owner’s habit of
employing it during meals as a sort of zareba or earthwork against the
assaults of soup.

“By gad!” thought Ginger, stopping suddenly opposite Devonshire House.
“If he uses that damned shrubbery as soup-strainer to-night, I’ll slosh
him with a fork!”

Hard thoughts... hard thoughts! And getting harder all the time, for
nothing grows more quickly than a mood of rebellion. Rebellion is a
forest fire that flames across the soul. The spark had been lighted in
Ginger, and long before he reached Hyde Park Corner he was ablaze and
crackling. By the time he returned to his club he was practically a
menace to society--to that section of it, at any rate, which embraced
his Uncle Donald, his minor uncles George and William, and his aunts
Mary, Geraldine, and Louise.

Nor had the mood passed when he began to dress for the dismal
festivities of Bleke’s Coffee House. He scowled as he struggled morosely
with an obstinate tie. One cannot disguise the fact--Ginger was warming
up. And it was just at this moment that Fate, as though it had been
waiting for the psychological instant, applied the finishing touch.
There was a knock at the door, and a waiter came in with a telegram.

Ginger looked at the envelope. It had been readdressed and forwarded
on from the Hotel Normandie. It was a wireless, handed in on board the
White Star liner Olympic, and it ran as follows:

Remember. Death to the Family. S.

Ginger sat down heavily on the bed.

The driver of the taxi-cab which at twenty-five minutes past seven drew
up at the dingy door of Bleke’s Coffee House in the Strand was rather
struck by his fare’s manner and appearance. A determined-looking sort of
young bloke, was the taxi-driver’s verdict.



CHAPTER V. SALLY HEARS NEWS



It had been Sally’s intention, on arriving in New York, to take a room
at the St. Regis and revel in the gilded luxury to which her wealth
entitled her before moving into the small but comfortable apartment
which, as soon as she had the time, she intended to find and make her
permanent abode. But when the moment came and she was giving directions
to the taxi-driver at the dock, there seemed to her something
revoltingly Fillmorian about the scheme. It would be time enough to
sever herself from the boarding-house which had been her home for three
years when she had found the apartment. Meanwhile, the decent thing to
do, if she did not want to brand herself in the sight of her conscience
as a female Fillmore, was to go back temporarily to Mrs. Meecher’s
admirable establishment and foregather with her old friends. After all,
home is where the heart is, even if there are more prunes there than the
gourmet would consider judicious.

Perhaps it was the unavoidable complacency induced by the thought
that she was doing the right thing, or possibly it was the tingling
expectation of meeting Gerald Foster again after all these weeks of
separation, that made the familiar streets seem wonderfully bright as
she drove through them. It was a perfect, crisp New York morning, all
blue sky and amber sunshine, and even the ash-cans had a stimulating
look about them. The street cars were full of happy people rollicking
off to work: policemen directed the traffic with jaunty affability:
and the white-clad street-cleaners went about their poetic tasks with a
quiet but none the less noticeable relish. It was improbable that any of
these people knew that she was back, but somehow they all seemed to be
behaving as though this were a special day.

The first discordant note in this overture of happiness was struck by
Mrs. Meecher, who informed Sally, after expressing her gratification
at the news that she required her old room, that Gerald Foster had left
town that morning.

“Gone to Detroit, he has,” said Mrs. Meecher. “Miss Doland, too.” She
broke off to speak a caustic word to the boarding-house handyman,
who, with Sally’s trunk as a weapon, was depreciating the value of the
wall-paper in the hall. “There’s that play of his being tried out there,
you know, Monday,” resumed Mrs. Meecher, after the handyman had bumped
his way up the staircase. “They been rehearsing ever since you left.”

Sally was disappointed, but it was such a beautiful morning, and New
York was so wonderful after the dull voyage in the liner that she was
not going to allow herself to be depressed without good reason. After
all, she could go on to Detroit tomorrow. It was nice to have something
to which she could look forward.

“Oh, is Elsa in the company?” she said.

“Sure. And very good too, I hear.” Mrs. Meecher kept abreast of
theatrical gossip. She was an ex-member of the profession herself,
having been in the first production of “Florodora,” though, unlike
everybody else, not one of the original Sextette. “Mr. Faucitt was down
to see a rehearsal, and he said Miss Doland was fine. And he’s not easy
to please, as you know.”

“How is Mr. Faucitt?”

Mrs. Meecher, not unwillingly, for she was a woman who enjoyed the
tragedies of life, made her second essay in the direction of lowering
Sally’s uplifted mood.

“Poor old gentleman, he ain’t over and above well. Went to bed early
last night with a headache, and this morning I been to see him and he
don’t look well. There’s a lot of this Spanish influenza about. It might
be that. Lots o’ people have been dying of it, if you believe what you
see in the papers,” said Mrs. Meecher buoyantly.

“Good gracious! You don’t think...?”

“Well, he ain’t turned black,” admitted Mrs. Meecher with regret. “They
say they turn black. If you believe what you see in the papers, that is.
Of course, that may come later,” she added with the air of one confident
that all will come right in the future. “The doctor’ll be in to see him
pretty soon. He’s quite happy. Toto’s sitting with him.”

Sally’s concern increased. Like everyone who had ever spent any length
of time in the house, she had strong views on Toto. This quadruped, who
stained the fame of the entire canine race by posing as a dog, was a
small woolly animal with a persistent and penetrating yap, hard to bear
with equanimity in health and certainly quite outside the range of a
sick man. Her heart bled for Mr. Faucitt. Mrs. Meecher, on the other
hand, who held a faith in her little pet’s amiability and power to
soothe which seven years’ close association had been unable to shake,
seemed to feel that, with Toto on the spot, all that could be done had
been done as far as pampering the invalid was concerned.

“I must go up and see him,” cried Sally. “Poor old dear.”

“Sure. You know his room. You can hear Toto talking to him now,” said
Mrs. Meecher complacently. “He wants a cracker, that’s what he wants.
Toto likes a cracker after breakfast.”

The invalid’s eyes, as Sally entered the room, turned wearily to the
door. At the sight of Sally they lit up with an incredulous rapture.
Almost any intervention would have pleased Mr. Faucitt at that moment,
for his little playmate had long outstayed any welcome that might
originally have been his: but that the caller should be his beloved
Sally seemed to the old man something in the nature of a return of the
age of miracles.

“Sally!”

“One moment. Here, Toto!”

Toto, struck momentarily dumb by the sight of food, had jumped off the
bed and was standing with his head on one side, peering questioningly at
the cracker. He was a suspicious dog, but he allowed himself to be lured
into the passage, upon which Sally threw the cracker down and slipped
in and shut the door. Toto, after a couple of yaps, which may have been
gratitude or baffled fury, trotted off downstairs, and Mr. Faucitt drew
a deep breath.

“Sally, you come, as ever, as an angel of mercy. Our worthy Mrs. Meecher
means well, and I yield to no man in my respect for her innate kindness
of heart: but she errs in supposing that that thrice-damned whelp of
hers is a combination of sick-nurse, soothing medicine, and a week at
the seaside. She insisted on bringing him here. He was yapping then, as
he was yapping when, with womanly resource which I cannot sufficiently
praise, you decoyed him hence. And each yap went through me like
hammer-strokes on sheeted tin. Sally, you stand alone among womankind.
You shine like a good deed in a naughty world. When did you get back?”

“I’ve only just arrived in my hired barouche from the pier.”

“And you came to see your old friend without delay? I am grateful and
flattered. Sally, my dear.”

“Of course I came to see you. Do you suppose that, when Mrs. Meecher
told me you were sick, I just said ‘Is that so?’ and went on talking
about the weather? Well, what do you mean by it? Frightening everybody.
Poor old darling, do you feel very bad?”

“One thousand individual mice are nibbling the base of my spine, and
I am conscious of a constant need of cooling refreshment. But what of
that? Your presence is a tonic. Tell me, how did our Sally enjoy foreign
travel?”

“Our Sally had the time of her life.”

“Did you visit England?”

“Only passing through.”

“How did it look?” asked Mr. Faucitt eagerly.

“Moist. Very moist.”

“It would,” said Mr. Faucitt indulgently. “I confess that, happy as I
have been in this country, there are times when I miss those wonderful
London days, when a sort of cosy brown mist hangs over the streets and
the pavements ooze with a perspiration of mud and water, and you see
through the haze the yellow glow of the Bodega lamps shining in the
distance like harbour-lights. Not,” said Mr. Faucitt, “that I specify
the Bodega to the exclusion of other and equally worthy hostelries. I
have passed just as pleasant hours in Rule’s and Short’s. You missed
something by not lingering in England, Sally.”

“I know I did--pneumonia.”

Mr. Faucitt shook his head reproachfully.

“You are prejudiced, my dear. You would have enjoyed London if you had
had the courage to brave its superficial gloom. Where did you spend your
holiday? Paris?”

“Part of the time. And the rest of the while I was down by the sea. It
was glorious. I don’t think I would ever have come back if I hadn’t had
to. But, of course, I wanted to see you all again. And I wanted to be at
the opening of Mr. Foster’s play. Mrs. Meecher tells me you went to one
of the rehearsals.”

“I attended a dog-fight which I was informed was a rehearsal,” said Mr.
Faucitt severely. “There is no rehearsing nowadays.”

“Oh dear! Was it as bad as all that?”

“The play is good. The play--I will go further--is excellent. It has
fat. But the acting...”

“Mrs. Meecher said you told her that Elsa was good.”

“Our worthy hostess did not misreport me. Miss Doland has great
possibilities. She reminds me somewhat of Matilda Devine, under whose
banner I played a season at the Old Royalty in London many years ago.
She has the seeds of greatness in her, but she is wasted in the present
case on an insignificant part. There is only one part in the play. I
allude to the one murdered by Miss Mabel Hobson.”

“Murdered!” Sally’s heart sank. She had been afraid of this, and it
was no satisfaction to feel that she had warned Gerald. “Is she very
terrible?”

“She has the face of an angel and the histrionic ability of that curious
suet pudding which our estimable Mrs. Meecher is apt to give us on
Fridays. In my professional career I have seen many cases of what I may
term the Lady Friend in the role of star, but Miss Hobson eclipses them
all. I remember in the year ‘94 a certain scion of the plutocracy
took it into his head to present a female for whom he had conceived an
admiration in a part which would have taxed the resources of the ablest.
I was engaged in her support, and at the first rehearsal I recollect
saying to my dear old friend, Arthur Moseby--dead, alas, these many
years. An excellent juvenile, but, like so many good fellows, cursed
with a tendency to lift the elbow--I recollect saying to him ‘Arthur,
dear boy, I give it two weeks.’ ‘Max,’ was his reply, ‘you are an
incurable optimist. One consecutive night, laddie, one consecutive
night.’ We had, I recall, an even half-crown upon it. He won. We opened
at Wigan, our leading lady got the bird, and the show closed next day.
I was forcibly reminded of this incident as I watched Miss Hobson
rehearsing.”

“Oh, poor Ger--poor Mr. Foster!”

“I do not share your commiseration for that young man,” said Mr. Faucitt
austerely. “You probably are almost a stranger to him, but he and I have
been thrown together a good deal of late. A young man upon whom, mark my
words, success, if it ever comes, will have the worst effects. I dislike
him. Sally. He is, I think, without exception, the most selfish and
self-centred young man of my acquaintance. He reminds me very much
of old Billy Fothergill, with whom I toured a good deal in the later
eighties. Did I ever tell you the story of Billy and the amateur
who...?”

Sally was in no mood to listen to the adventures of Mr. Fothergill.
The old man’s innocent criticism of Gerald had stabbed her deeply. A
momentary impulse to speak hotly in his defence died away as she saw
Mr. Faucitt’s pale, worn old face. He had meant no harm, after all. How
could he know what Gerald was to her?

She changed the conversation abruptly.

“Have you seen anything of Fillmore while I’ve been away?”

“Fillmore? Why yes, my dear, curiously enough I happened to run into him
on Broadway only a few days ago. He seemed changed--less stiff and aloof
than he had been for some time past. I may be wronging him, but there
have been times of late when one might almost have fancied him a trifle
up-stage. All that was gone at our last encounter. He appeared glad to
see me and was most cordial.”

Sally found her composure restored. Her lecture on the night of the
party had evidently, she thought, not been wasted. Mr. Faucitt, however,
advanced another theory to account for the change in the Man of Destiny.

“I rather fancy,” he said, “that the softening influence has been the
young man’s fiancée.”

“What? Fillmore’s not engaged?”

“Did he not write and tell you? I suppose he was waiting to inform you
when you returned. Yes, Fillmore is betrothed. The lady was with
him when we met. A Miss Winch. In the profession, I understand. He
introduced me. A very charming and sensible young lady, I thought.”

Sally shook her head.

“She can’t be. Fillmore would never have got engaged to anyone like
that. Was her hair crimson?”

“Brown, if I recollect rightly.”

“Very loud, I suppose, and overdressed?”

“On the contrary, neat and quiet.”

“You’ve made a mistake,” said Sally decidedly. “She can’t have been like
that. I shall have to look into this. It does seem hard that I can’t go
away for a few weeks without all my friends taking to beds of sickness
and all my brothers getting ensnared by vampires.”

A knock at the door interrupted her complaint. Mrs. Meecher entered,
ushering in a pleasant little man with spectacles and black bag.

“The doctor to see you, Mr. Faucitt.” Mrs. Meecher cast an appraising
eye at the invalid, as if to detect symptoms of approaching
discoloration. “I’ve been telling him that what I think you’ve gotten is
this here new Spanish influenza. Two more deaths there were in the paper
this morning, if you can believe what you see...”

“I wonder,” said the doctor, “if you would mind going and bringing me a
small glass of water?”

“Why, sure.”

“Not a large glass--a small glass. Just let the tap run for a few
moments and take care not to spill any as you come up the stairs. I
always ask ladies, like our friend who has just gone,” he added as the
door closed, “to bring me a glass of water. It keeps them amused and
interested and gets them out of the way, and they think I am going to do
a conjuring trick with it. As a matter of fact, I’m going to drink it.
Now let’s have a look at you.”

The examination did not take long. At the end of it the doctor seemed
somewhat chagrined.

“Our good friend’s diagnosis was correct. I’d give a leg to say it
wasn’t, but it was. It is this here new Spanish influenza. Not a bad
attack. You want to stay in bed and keep warm, and I’ll write you out a
prescription. You ought to be nursed. Is this young lady a nurse?”

“No, no, merely...”

“Of course I’m a nurse,” said Sally decidedly. “It isn’t difficult,
is it, doctor? I know nurses smooth pillows. I can do that. Is there
anything else?”

“Their principal duty is to sit here and prevent the excellent and
garrulous lady who has just left us from getting in. They must also be
able to aim straight with a book or an old shoe, if that small woolly
dog I met downstairs tries to force an entrance. If you are equal to
these tasks, I can leave the case in your hands with every confidence.”

“But, Sally, my dear,” said Mr. Faucitt, concerned, “you must not waste
your time looking after me. You have a thousand things to occupy you.”

“There’s nothing I want to do more than help you to get better. I’ll
just go out and send a wire, and then I’ll be right back.”

Five minutes later, Sally was in a Western Union office, telegraphing
to Gerald that she would be unable to reach Detroit in time for the
opening.



CHAPTER VI. FIRST AID FOR FILLMORE



1



It was not till the following Friday that Sally was able to start for
Detroit. She arrived on the Saturday morning and drove to the Hotel
Statler. Having ascertained that Gerald was stopping in the hotel and
having ‘phoned up to his room to tell him to join her, she went into the
dining-room and ordered breakfast.

She felt low-spirited as she waited for the food to arrive. The nursing
of Mr. Faucitt had left her tired, and she had not slept well on the
train. But the real cause of her depression was the fact that there had
been a lack of enthusiasm in Gerald’s greeting over the telephone just
now. He had spoken listlessly, as though the fact of her returning
after all these weeks was a matter of no account, and she felt hurt and
perplexed.

A cup of coffee had a stimulating effect. Men, of course, were always
like this in the early morning. It would, no doubt, be a very different
Gerald who would presently bound into the dining-room, quickened and
restored by a cold shower-bath. In the meantime, here was food, and she
needed it.

She was pouring out her second cup of coffee when a stout young man,
of whom she had caught a glimpse as he moved about that section of the
hotel lobby which was visible through the open door of the dining-room,
came in and stood peering about as though in search of someone. The
momentary sight she had had of this young man had interested Sally. She
had thought how extraordinarily like he was to her brother Fillmore. Now
she perceived that it was Fillmore himself.

Sally was puzzled. What could Fillmore be doing so far west? She had
supposed him to be a permanent resident of New York. But, of course,
your man of affairs and vast interests flits about all over the place.
At any rate, here he was, and she called him. And, after he had stood in
the doorway looking in every direction except the right one for another
minute, he saw her and came over to her table.

“Why, Sally?” His manner, she thought, was nervous--one might almost
have said embarrassed. She attributed this to a guilty conscience.
Presently he would have to break to her the news that he had become
engaged to be married without her sisterly sanction, and no doubt he was
wondering how to begin. “What are you doing here? I thought you were in
Europe.”

“I got back a week ago, but I’ve been nursing poor old Mr. Faucitt ever
since then. He’s been ill, poor old dear. I’ve come here to see Mr.
Foster’s play, ‘The Primrose Way,’ you know. Is it a success?”

“It hasn’t opened yet.”

“Don’t be silly, Fill. Do pull yourself together. It opened last
Monday.”

“No, it didn’t. Haven’t you heard? They’ve closed all the theatres
because of this infernal Spanish influenza. Nothing has been playing
this week. You must have seen it in the papers.”

“I haven’t had time to read the papers. Oh, Fill, what an awful shame!”

“Yes, it’s pretty tough. Makes the company all on edge. I’ve had the
darndest time, I can tell you.”

“Why, what have you got to do with it?”

Fillmore coughed.

“I--er--oh, I didn’t tell you that. I’m sort of--er--mixed up in the
show. Cracknell--you remember he was at college with me--suggested that
I should come down and look at it. Shouldn’t wonder if he wants me to
put money into it and so on.”

“I thought he had all the money in the world.”

“Yes, he has a lot, but these fellows like to let a pal in on a good
thing.”

“Is it a good thing?”

“The play’s fine.”

“That’s what Mr. Faucitt said. But Mabel Hobson...”

Fillmore’s ample face registered emotion.

“She’s an awful woman, Sally! She can’t act, and she throws her
weight about all the time. The other day there was a fuss about a
paper-knife...”

“How do you mean, a fuss about a paper-knife?”

“One of the props, you know. It got mislaid. I’m certain it wasn’t my
fault...”

“How could it have been your fault?” asked Sally wonderingly. Love
seemed to have the worst effects on Fillmore’s mentality.

“Well--er--you know how it is. Angry woman... blames the first person
she sees... This paper-knife...”

Fillmore’s voice trailed off into pained silence.

“Mr. Faucitt said Elsa Doland was good.”

“Oh, she’s all right,” said Fillmore indifferently. “But--” His face
brightened and animation crept into his voice. “But the girl you want to
watch is Miss Winch. Gladys Winch. She plays the maid. She’s only in
the first act, and hasn’t much to say, except ‘Did you ring, madam?’ and
things like that. But it’s the way she says ‘em! Sally, that girl’s a
genius! The greatest character actress in a dozen years! You mark my
words, in a darned little while you’ll see her name up on Broadway in
electric light. Personality? Ask me! Charm? She wrote the words and
music! Looks?...”

“All right! All right! I know all about it, Fill. And will you kindly
inform me how you dared to get engaged without consulting me?”

Fillmore blushed richly.

“Oh, do you know?”

“Yes. Mr. Faucitt told me.”

“Well...”

“Well?”

“Well, I’m only human,” argued Fillmore.

“I call that a very handsome admission. You’ve got quite modest, Fill.”

He had certainly changed for the better since their last meeting.

It was as if someone had punctured him and let out all the pomposity.
If this was due, as Mr. Faucitt had suggested, to the influence of Miss
Winch, Sally felt that she could not but approve of the romance.

“I’ll introduce you sometime,’ said Fillmore.

“I want to meet her very much.”

“I’ll have to be going now. I’ve got to see Bunbury. I thought he might
be in here.”

“Who’s Bunbury?”

“The producer. I suppose he is breakfasting in his room. I’d better go
up.”

“You are busy, aren’t you. Little marvel! It’s lucky they’ve got you to
look after them.”

Fillmore retired and Sally settled down to wait for Gerald, no longer
hurt by his manner over the telephone. Poor Gerald! No wonder he had
seemed upset.

A few minutes later he came in.

“Oh, Jerry darling,” said Sally, as he reached the table, “I’m so sorry.
I’ve just been hearing about it.”

Gerald sat down. His appearance fulfilled the promise of his voice
over the telephone. A sort of nervous dullness wrapped him about like a
garment.

“It’s just my luck,” he said gloomily. “It’s the kind of thing that
couldn’t happen to anyone but me. Damned fools! Where’s the sense in
shutting the theatres, even if there is influenza about? They let people
jam against one another all day in the stores. If that doesn’t hurt them
why should it hurt them to go to theatres? Besides, it’s all infernal
nonsense about this thing. I don’t believe there is such a thing as
Spanish influenza. People get colds in their heads and think they’re
dying. It’s all a fake scare.”

“I don’t think it’s that,” said Sally. “Poor Mr. Faucitt had it quite
badly. That’s why I couldn’t come earlier.”

Gerald did not seem interested either by the news of Mr. Faucitt’s
illness or by the fact that Sally, after delay, had at last arrived. He
dug a spoon sombrely into his grape-fruit.

“We’ve been hanging about here day after day, getting bored to death
all the time... The company’s going all to pieces. They’re sick of
rehearsing and rehearsing when nobody knows if we’ll ever open. They
were all keyed up a week ago, and they’ve been sagging ever since. It
will ruin the play, of course. My first chance! Just chucked away.”

Sally was listening with a growing feeling of desolation. She tried to
be fair, to remember that he had had a terrible disappointment and was
under a great strain. And yet... it was unfortunate that self-pity was a
thing she particularly disliked in a man. Her vanity, too, was hurt. It
was obvious that her arrival, so far from acting as a magic restorative,
had effected nothing. She could not help remembering, though it made
her feel disloyal, what Mr. Faucitt had said about Gerald. She had never
noticed before that he was remarkably self-centred, but he was thrusting
the fact upon her attention now.

“That Hobson woman is beginning to make trouble,” went on Gerald,
prodding in a despairing sort of way at scrambled eggs. “She ought never
to have had the part, never. She can’t handle it. Elsa Doland could play
it a thousand times better. I wrote Elsa in a few lines the other day,
and the Hobson woman went right up in the air. You don’t know what a
star is till you’ve seen one of these promoted clothes-props from the
Follies trying to be one. It took me an hour to talk her round and keep
her from throwing up her part.”

“Why not let her throw up her part?”

“For heaven’s sake talk sense,” said Gerald querulously. “Do you suppose
that man Cracknell would keep the play on if she wasn’t in it? He would
close the show in a second, and where would I be then? You don’t seem
to realize that this is a big chance for me. I’d look a fool throwing it
away.”

“I see,” said Sally, shortly. She had never felt so wretched in her
life. Foreign travel, she decided, was a mistake. It might be pleasant
and broadening to the mind, but it seemed to put you so out of touch
with people when you got back. She analysed her sensations, and arrived
at the conclusion that what she was resenting was the fact that Gerald
was trying to get the advantages of two attitudes simultaneously. A man
in trouble may either be the captain of his soul and superior to pity,
or he may be a broken thing for a woman to pet and comfort. Gerald,
it seemed to her, was advertising himself as an object for her
commiseration, and at the same time raising a barrier against it. He
appeared to demand her sympathy while holding himself aloof from it. She
had the uncomfortable sensation of feeling herself shut out and useless.

“By the way,” said Gerald, “there’s one thing. I have to keep her
jollying along all the time, so for goodness’ sake don’t go letting it
out that we’re engaged.”

Sally’s chin went up with a jerk. This was too much.

“If you find it a handicap being engaged to me...”

“Don’t be silly.” Gerald took refuge in pathos. “Good God! It’s tough!
Here am I, worried to death, and you...”

Before he could finish the sentence, Sally’s mood had undergone one
of those swift changes which sometimes made her feel that she must be
lacking in character. A simple, comforting thought had come to her,
altering her entire outlook. She had come off the train tired and
gritty, and what seemed the general out-of-jointness of the world was
entirely due, she decided, to the fact that she had not had a bath and
that her hair was all anyhow. She felt suddenly tranquil. If it was
merely her grubby and dishevelled condition that made Gerald seem to her
so different, all was well. She put her hand on his with a quick gesture
of penitence.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I’ve been a brute, but I do sympathize,
really.”

“I’ve had an awful time,” mumbled Gerald.

“I know, I know. But you never told me you were glad to see me.”

“Of course I’m glad to see you.”

“Why didn’t you say so, then, you poor fish? And why didn’t you ask me
if I had enjoyed myself in Europe?”

“Did you enjoy yourself?”

“Yes, except that I missed you so much. There! Now we can consider my
lecture on foreign travel finished, and you can go on telling me your
troubles.”

Gerald accepted the invitation. He spoke at considerable length, though
with little variety. It appeared definitely established in his mind that
Providence had invented Spanish influenza purely with a view to wrecking
his future. But now he seemed less aloof, more open to sympathy.
The brief thunderstorm had cleared the air. Sally lost that sense of
detachment and exclusion which had weighed upon her.

“Well,” said Gerald, at length, looking at his watch, “I suppose I had
better be off.”

“Rehearsal?”

“Yes, confound it. It’s the only way of getting through the day. Are you
coming along?”

“I’ll come directly I’ve unpacked and tidied myself up.”

“See you at the theatre, then.”

Sally went out and rang for the lift to take her up to her room.



2



The rehearsal had started when she reached the theatre. As she entered
the dark auditorium, voices came to her with that thin and reedy effect
which is produced by people talking in an empty building. She sat down
at the back of the house, and, as her eyes grew accustomed to the gloom,
was able to see Gerald sitting in the front row beside a man with a bald
head fringed with orange hair whom she took correctly to be Mr. Bunbury,
the producer. Dotted about the house in ones and twos were members of
the company whose presence was not required in the first act. On the
stage, Elsa Doland, looking very attractive, was playing a scene with a
man in a bowler hat. She was speaking a line, as Sally came in.

“Why, what do you mean, father?”

“Tiddly-omty-om,” was the bowler-hatted one’s surprising reply.
“Tiddly-omty-om... long speech ending in ‘find me in the library.’ And
exit,” said the man in the bowler hat, starting to do so.

For the first time Sally became aware of the atmosphere of nerves.
Mr. Bunbury, who seemed to be a man of temperament, picked up his
walking-stick, which was leaning against the next seat, and flung it
with some violence across the house.

“For God’s sake!” said Mr. Bunbury.

“Now what?” inquired the bowler hat, interested, pausing hallway across
the stage.

“Do speak the lines, Teddy,” exclaimed Gerald. “Don’t skip them in that
sloppy fashion.”

“You don’t want me to go over the whole thing?” asked the bowler hat,
amazed.

“Yes!”

“Not the whole damn thing?” queried the bowler hat, fighting with
incredulity.

“This is a rehearsal,” snapped Mr. Bunbury. “If we are not going to do
it properly, what’s the use of doing it at all?”

This seemed to strike the erring Teddy, if not as reasonable, at any
rate as one way of looking at it. He delivered the speech in an injured
tone and shuffled off. The atmosphere of tenseness was unmistakable now.
Sally could feel it. The world of the theatre is simply a large nursery
and its inhabitants children who readily become fretful if anything goes
wrong. The waiting and the uncertainty, the loafing about in strange
hotels in a strange city, the dreary rehearsing of lines which had been
polished to the last syllable more than a week ago--these things had
sapped the nerve of the Primrose Way company and demoralization had set
in. It would require only a trifle to produce an explosion.

Elsa Doland now moved to the door, pressed a bell, and, taking a
magazine from the table, sat down in a chair near the footlights.
A moment later, in answer to the ring, a young woman entered, to be
greeted instantly by an impassioned bellow from Mr. Bunbury.

“Miss Winch!”

The new arrival stopped and looked out over the footlights, not in the
pained manner of the man in the bowler hat, but with the sort of
genial indulgence of one who has come to a juvenile party to amuse the
children. She was a square, wholesome, good-humoured looking girl with
a serious face, the gravity of which was contradicted by the faint smile
that seemed to lurk about the corner of her mouth. She was certainly not
pretty, and Sally, watching her with keen interest, was surprised that
Fillmore had had the sense to disregard surface homeliness and recognize
her charm. Deep down in Fillmore, Sally decided, there must lurk an
unsuspected vein of intelligence.

“Hello?” said Miss Winch, amiably.

Mr. Bunbury seemed profoundly moved.

“Miss Winch, did I or did I not ask you to refrain from chewing gum
during rehearsal?”

“That’s right, so you did,” admitted Miss Winch, chummily.

“Then why are you doing it?”

Fillmore’s fiancée revolved the criticized refreshment about her tongue
for a moment before replying.

“Bit o’ business,” she announced, at length.

“What do you mean, a bit of business?”

“Character stuff,” explained Miss Winch in her pleasant, drawling voice.
“Thought it out myself. Maids chew gum, you know.”

Mr. Bunbury ruffled his orange hair in an over-wrought manner with the
palm of his right hand.

“Have you ever seen a maid?” he asked, despairingly.

“Yes, sir. And they chew gum.”

“I mean a parlour-maid in a smart house,” moaned Mr. Bunbury. “Do you
imagine for a moment that in a house such as this is supposed to be the
parlour-maid would be allowed to come into the drawing-room champing
that disgusting, beastly stuff?”

Miss Winch considered the point.

“Maybe you’re right.” She brightened. “Listen! Great idea! Mr. Foster
can write in a line for Elsa, calling me down, and another giving me
a good come-back, and then another for Elsa saying something else, and
then something really funny for me, and so on. We can work it up into a
big comic scene. Five or six minutes, all laughs.”

This ingenious suggestion had the effect of depriving the producer
momentarily of speech, and while he was struggling for utterance, there
dashed out from the wings a gorgeous being in blue velvet and a hat of
such unimpeachable smartness that Sally ached at the sight of it with a
spasm of pure envy.

“Say!”

Miss Mabel Hobson had practically every personal advantage which
nature can bestow with the exception of a musical voice. Her figure was
perfect, her face beautiful, and her hair a mass of spun gold; but her
voice in moments of emotion was the voice of a peacock.

“Say, listen to me for just one moment!”

Mr. Bunbury recovered from his trance.

“Miss Hobson! Please!”

“Yes, that’s all very well...”

“You are interrupting the rehearsal.”

“You bet your sorrowful existence I’m interrupting the rehearsal,”
 agreed Miss Hobson, with emphasis. “And, if you want to make a little
easy money, you go and bet somebody ten seeds that I’m going to
interrupt it again every time there’s any talk of writing up any darned
part in the show except mine. Write up other people’s parts? Not while I
have my strength!”

A young man with butter-coloured hair, who had entered from the wings in
close attendance on the injured lady, attempted to calm the storm.

“Now, sweetie!”

“Oh, can it, Reggie!” said Miss Hobson, curtly.

Mr. Cracknell obediently canned it. He was not one of your brutal
cave-men. He subsided into the recesses of a high collar and began to
chew the knob of his stick.

“I’m the star,” resumed Miss Hobson, vehemently, “and, if you think
anybody else’s part’s going to be written up... well, pardon me while I
choke with laughter! If so much as a syllable is written into anybody’s
part, I walk straight out on my two feet. You won’t see me go, I’ll be
so quick.”

Mr. Bunbury sprang to his feet and waved his hands.

“For heaven’s sake! Are we rehearsing, or is this a debating society?
Miss Hobson, nothing is going to be written into anybody’s part. Now are
you satisfied?”

“She said...”

“Oh, never mind,” observed Miss Winch, equably. “It was only a random
thought. Working for the good of the show all the time. That’s me.”

“Now, sweetie!” pleaded Mr. Cracknell, emerging from the collar like a
tortoise.

Miss Hobson reluctantly allowed herself to be reassured.

“Oh, well, that’s all right, then. But don’t forget I know how to look
after myself,” she said, stating a fact which was abundantly obvious to
all who had had the privilege of listening to her. “Any raw work, and
out I walk so quick it’ll make you giddy.”

She retired, followed by Mr. Cracknell, and the wings swallowed her up.

“Shall I say my big speech now?” inquired Miss Winch, over the
footlights.

“Yes, yes! Get on with the rehearsal. We’ve wasted half the morning.”

“Did you ring, madam?” said Miss Winch to Elsa, who had been reading her
magazine placidly through the late scene.

The rehearsal proceeded, and Sally watched it with a sinking heart. It
was all wrong. Novice as she was in things theatrical, she could see
that. There was no doubt that Miss Hobson was superbly beautiful and
would have shed lustre on any part which involved the minimum of words
and the maximum of clothes: but in the pivotal role of a serious play,
her very physical attributes only served to emphasize and point her
hopeless incapacity. Sally remembered Mr. Faucitt’s story of the lady
who got the bird at Wigan. She did not see how history could fail to
repeat itself. The theatrical public of America will endure much from
youth and beauty, but there is a limit.

A shrill, passionate cry from the front row, and Mr. Bunbury was on his
feet again. Sally could not help wondering whether things were going
particularly wrong to-day, or whether this was one of Mr. Bunbury’s
ordinary mornings.

“Miss Hobson!”

The action of the drama had just brought that emotional lady on left
centre and had taken her across to the desk which stood on the other
side of the stage. The desk was an important feature of the play, for it
symbolized the absorption in business which, exhibited by her husband,
was rapidly breaking Miss Hobson’s heart. He loved his desk better than
his young wife, that was what it amounted to, and no wife can stand that
sort of thing.

“Oh, gee!” said Miss Hobson, ceasing to be the distressed wife and
becoming the offended star. “What’s it this time?”

“I suggested at the last rehearsal and at the rehearsal before and
the rehearsal before that, that, on that line, you, should pick up
the paper-knife and toy negligently with it. You did it yesterday, and
to-day you’ve forgotten it again.”

“My God!” cried Miss Hobson, wounded to the quick. “If this don’t beat
everything! How the heck can I toy negligently with a paper-knife when
there’s no paper-knife for me to toy negligently with?”

“The paper-knife is on the desk.”

“It’s not on the desk.”

“No paper-knife?”

“No paper-knife. And it’s no good picking on me. I’m the star, not the
assistant stage manager. If you’re going to pick on anybody, pick on
him.”

The advice appeared to strike Mr. Bunbury as good. He threw back his
head and bayed like a bloodhound.

There was a momentary pause, and then from the wings on the prompt side
there shambled out a stout and shrinking figure, in whose hand was a
script of the play and on whose face, lit up by the footlights, there
shone a look of apprehension. It was Fillmore, the Man of Destiny.



3



Alas, poor Fillmore! He stood in the middle of the stage with the
lightning of Mr. Bunbury’s wrath playing about his defenceless head, and
Sally, recovering from her first astonishment, sent a wave of sisterly
commiseration floating across the theatre to him. She did not often pity
Fillmore. His was a nature which in the sunshine of prosperity had a
tendency to grow a trifle lush; and such of the minor ills of life as
had afflicted him during the past three years, had, she considered,
been wholesome and educative and a matter not for concern but for
congratulation. Unmoved, she had watched him through that lean period
lunching on coffee and buckwheat cakes, and curbing from motives of
economy a somewhat florid taste in dress. But this was different. This
was tragedy. Somehow or other, blasting disaster must have smitten the
Fillmore bank-roll, and he was back where he had started. His presence
here this morning could mean nothing else.

She recalled his words at the breakfast-table about financing the
play. How like Fillmore to try to save his face for the moment with an
outrageous bluff, though well aware that he would have to reveal the
truth sooner or later. She realized how he must have felt when he had
seen her at the hotel. Yes, she was sorry for Fillmore.

And, as she listened to the fervent eloquence of Mr. Bunbury, she
perceived that she had every reason to be. Fillmore was having a bad
time. One of the chief articles of faith in the creed of all theatrical
producers is that if anything goes wrong it must be the fault of the
assistant stage manager and Mr. Bunbury was evidently orthodox in his
views. He was showing oratorical gifts of no mean order. The paper-knife
seemed to inspire him. Gradually, Sally began to get the feeling that
this harmless, necessary stage-property was the source from which
sprang most, if not all, of the trouble in the world. It had disappeared
before. Now it had disappeared again. Could Mr. Bunbury go on struggling
in a universe where this sort of thing happened? He seemed to doubt it.
Being a red-blooded, one-hundred-per-cent American man, he would try
hard, but it was a hundred to one shot that he would get through. He
had asked for a paper-knife. There was no paper-knife. Why was there no
paper-knife? Where was the paper-knife anyway?

“I assure you, Mr. Bunbury,” bleated the unhappy Fillmore, obsequiously.
“I placed it with the rest of the properties after the last rehearsal.”

“You couldn’t have done.”

“I assure you I did.”

“And it walked away, I suppose,” said Miss Hobson with cold scorn,
pausing in the operation of brightening up her lower lip with a
lip-stick.

A calm, clear voice spoke.

“It was taken away,” said the calm, clear voice.

Miss Winch had added herself to the symposium. She stood beside
Fillmore, chewing placidly. It took more than raised voices and
gesticulating hands to disturb Miss Winch.

“Miss Hobson took it,” she went on in her cosy, drawling voice. “I saw
her.”

Sensation in court. The prisoner, who seemed to feel his position
deeply, cast a pop-eyed glance full of gratitude at his advocate.
Mr. Bunbury, in his capacity of prosecuting attorney, ran his fingers
through his hair in some embarrassment, for he was regretting now that
he had made such a fuss. Miss Hobson thus assailed by an underling,
spun round and dropped the lip-stick, which was neatly retrieved by the
assiduous Mr. Cracknell. Mr. Cracknell had his limitations, but he was
rather good at picking up lip-sticks.

“What’s that? I took it? I never did anything of the sort.”

“Miss Hobson took it after the rehearsal yesterday,” drawled Gladys
Winch, addressing the world in general, “and threw it negligently at the
theatre cat.”

Miss Hobson seemed taken aback. Her composure was not restored by Mr.
Bunbury’s next remark. The producer, like his company, had been feeling
the strain of the past few days, and, though as a rule he avoided
anything in the nature of a clash with the temperamental star, this
matter of the missing paper-knife had bitten so deeply into his soul
that he felt compelled to speak his mind.

“In future, Miss Hobson, I should be glad if, when you wish to throw
anything at the cat, you would not select a missile from the property
box. Good heavens!” he cried, stung by the way fate was maltreating
him, “I have never experienced anything like this before. I have
been producing plays all my life, and this is the first time this has
happened. I have produced Nazimova. Nazimova never threw paper-knives at
cats.”

“Well, I hate cats,” said Miss Hobson, as though that settled it.

“I,” murmured Miss Winch, “love little pussy, her fur is so warm, and if
I don’t hurt her she’ll do me no...”

“Oh, my heavens!” shouted Gerald Foster, bounding from his seat and for
the first time taking a share in the debate. “Are we going to spend the
whole day arguing about cats and paper-knives? For goodness’ sake, clear
the stage and stop wasting time.”

Miss Hobson chose to regard this intervention as an affront.

“Don’t shout at me, Mr. Foster!”

“I wasn’t shouting at you.”

“If you have anything to say to me, lower your voice.”

“He can’t,” observed Miss Winch. “He’s a tenor.”

“Nazimova never...” began Mr. Bunbury.

Miss Hobson was not to be diverted from her theme by reminiscences of
Nazimova. She had not finished dealing with Gerald.

“In the shows I’ve been in,” she said, mordantly, “the author wasn’t
allowed to go about the place getting fresh with the leading lady. In
the shows I’ve been in the author sat at the back and spoke when he was
spoken to. In the shows I’ve been in...”

Sally was tingling all over. This reminded her of the dog-fight on the
Roville sands. She wanted to be in it, and only the recognition that it
was a private fight and that she would be intruding kept her silent. The
lure of the fray, however, was too strong for her wholly to resist it.
Almost unconsciously, she had risen from her place and drifted down the
aisle so as to be nearer the white-hot centre of things. She was now
standing in the lighted space by the orchestra-pit, and her presence
attracted the roving attention of Miss Hobson, who, having concluded her
remarks on authors and their legitimate sphere of activity, was looking
about for some other object of attack.

“Who the devil,” inquired Miss Hobson, “is that?”

Sally found herself an object of universal scrutiny and wished that she
had remained in the obscurity of the back rows.

“I am Mr. Nicholas’ sister,” was the best method of identification that
she could find.

“Who’s Mr. Nicholas?”

Fillmore timidly admitted that he was Mr. Nicholas. He did it in the
manner of one in the dock pleading guilty to a major charge, and
at least half of those present seemed surprised. To them, till now,
Fillmore had been a nameless thing, answering to the shout of “Hi!”

Miss Hobson received the information with a laugh of such exceeding
bitterness that strong men blanched and Mr. Cracknell started so
convulsively that he nearly jerked his collar off its stud.

“Now, sweetie!” urged Mr. Cracknell.

Miss Hobson said that Mr. Cracknell gave her a pain in the gizzard. She
recommended his fading away, and he did so--into his collar. He seemed
to feel that once well inside his collar he was “home” and safe from
attack.

“I’m through!” announced Miss Hobson. It appeared that Sally’s presence
had in some mysterious fashion fulfilled the function of the last straw.
“This is the by-Goddest show I was ever in! I can stand for a whole lot,
but when it comes to the assistant stage manager being allowed to fill
the theatre with his sisters and his cousins and his aunts it’s time to
quit.”

“But, sweetie!” pleaded Mr. Cracknell, coming to the surface.

“Oh, go and choke yourself!” said Miss Hobson, crisply. And, swinging
round like a blue panther, she strode off. A door banged, and the sound
of it seemed to restore Mr. Cracknell’s power of movement. He, too, shot
up stage and disappeared.

“Hello, Sally,” said Elsa Doland, looking up from her magazine. The
battle, raging all round her, had failed to disturb her detachment.
“When did you get back?”

Sally trotted up the steps which had been propped against the stage to
form a bridge over the orchestra pit.

“Hello, Elsa.”

The late debaters had split into groups. Mr. Bunbury and Gerald were
pacing up and down the central aisle, talking earnestly. Fillmore had
subsided into a chair.

“Do you know Gladys Winch?” asked Elsa.

Sally shook hands with the placid lodestar of her brother’s affections.
Miss Winch, on closer inspection, proved to have deep grey eyes and
freckles. Sally’s liking for her increased.

“Thank you for saving Fillmore from the wolves,” she said. “They would
have torn him in pieces but for you.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Miss Winch.

“It was noble.”

“Oh, well!”

“I think,” said Sally, “I’ll go and have a talk with Fillmore. He looks
as though he wanted consoling.”

She made her way to that picturesque ruin.



4



Fillmore had the air of a man who thought it wasn’t loaded. A wild,
startled expression had settled itself upon his face and he was
breathing heavily.

“Cheer up!” said Sally. Fillmore jumped like a stricken jelly. “Tell me
all,” said Sally, sitting down beside him. “I leave you a gentleman of
large and independent means, and I come back and find you one of the
wage-slaves again. How did it all happen?”

“Sally,” said Fillmore, “I will be frank with you. Can you lend me ten
dollars?”

“I don’t see how you make that out an answer to my question, but here
you are.”

“Thanks.” Fillmore pocketed the bill. “I’ll let you have it back next
week. I want to take Miss Winch out to lunch.”

“If that’s what you want it for, don’t look on it as a loan, take it as
a gift with my blessing thrown in.” She looked over her shoulder at
Miss Winch, who, the cares of rehearsal being temporarily suspended, was
practising golf-shots with an umbrella at the other side of the stage.
“However did you have the sense to fall in love with her, Fill?”

“Do you like her?” asked Fillmore, brightening.

“I love her.”

“I knew you would. She’s just the right girl for me, isn’t she?”

“She certainly is.”

“So sympathetic.”

“Yes.”

“So kind.”

“Yes.”

“And she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the
girl who marries you will need.”

Fillmore drew himself up with as much hauteur as a stout man sitting in
a low chair can achieve.

“Some day I will make you believe in me, Sally.”

“Less of the Merchant Prince, my lad,” said Sally, firmly. “You just
confine yourself to explaining how you got this way, instead of taking
up my valuable time telling me what you mean to do in the future. You’ve
lost all your money?”

“I have suffered certain reverses,” said Fillmore, with dignity, “which
have left me temporarily... Yes, every bean,” he concluded simply.

“How?”

“Well...” Fillmore hesitated. “I’ve had bad luck, you know. First I
bought Consolidated Rails for the rise, and they fell. So that went
wrong.”

“Yes?”

“And then I bought Russian Roubles for the fall, and they rose. So that
went wrong.”

“Good gracious! Why, I’ve heard all this before.”

“Who told you?”

“No, I remember now. It’s just that you remind me of a man I met at
Roville. He was telling me the story of his life, and how he had made a
hash of everything. Well, that took all you had, I suppose?”

“Not quite. I had a few thousand left, and I went into a deal that
really did look cast-iron.”

“And that went wrong!”

“It wasn’t my fault,” said Fillmore querulously. “It was just my
poisonous luck. A man I knew got me to join a syndicate which had
bought up a lot of whisky. The idea was to ship it into Chicago in
herring-barrels. We should have cleaned up big, only a mutt of a
detective took it into his darned head to go fooling about with a
crowbar. Officious ass! It wasn’t as if the barrels weren’t labelled
‘Herrings’ as plainly as they could be,” said Fillmore with honest
indignation. He shuddered. “I nearly got arrested.”

“But that went wrong? Well, that’s something to be thankful for. Stripes
wouldn’t suit your figure.” Sally gave his arm a squeeze. She was
very fond of Fillmore, though for the good of his soul she generally
concealed her affection beneath a manner which he had once compared,
not without some reason, to that of a governess who had afflicted their
mutual childhood. “Never mind, you poor ill-used martyr. Things are sure
to come right. We shall see you a millionaire some day. And, oh heavens,
brother Fillmore, what a bore you’ll be when you are! I can just see
you being interviewed and giving hints to young men on how to make good.
‘Mr. Nicholas attributes his success to sheer hard work. He can lay his
hand on his bulging waistcoat and say that he has never once indulged in
those rash get-rich-quick speculations, where you buy for the rise and
watch things fall and then rush out and buy for the fall and watch ‘em
rise.’ Fill... I’ll tell you what I’ll do. They all say it’s the first
bit of money that counts in building a vast fortune. I’ll lend you some
of mine.”

“You will? Sally, I always said you were an ace.”

“I never heard you. You oughtn’t to mumble so.”

“Will you lend me twenty thousand dollars?”

Sally patted his hand soothingly.

“Come slowly down to earth,” she said. “Two hundred was the sum I had in
mind.”

“I want twenty thousand.”

“You’d better rob a bank. Any policeman will direct you to a good bank.”

“I’ll tell you why I want twenty thousand.”

“You might just mention it.”

“If I had twenty thousand, I’d buy this production from Cracknell. He’ll
be back in a few minutes to tell us that the Hobson woman has quit: and,
if she really has, you take it from me that he will close the show. And,
even if he manages to jolly her along this time and she comes back, it’s
going to happen sooner or later. It’s a shame to let a show like this
close. I believe in it, Sally. It’s a darn good play. With Elsa Doland
in the big part, it couldn’t fail.”

Sally started. Her money was too recent for her to have grown fully
accustomed to it, and she had never realized that she was in a position
to wave a wand and make things happen on any big scale. The financing of
a theatrical production had always been to her something mysterious
and out of the reach of ordinary persons like herself. Fillmore, that
spacious thinker, had brought it into the sphere of the possible.

“He’d sell for less than that, of course, but one would need a bit in
hand. You have to face a loss on the road before coming into New York.
I’d give you ten per cent on your money, Sally.”

Sally found herself wavering. The prudent side of her nature, which
hitherto had steered her safely through most of life’s rapids, seemed
oddly dormant. Sub-consciously she was aware that on past performances
Fillmore was decidedly not the man to be allowed control of anybody’s
little fortune, but somehow the thought did not seem to grip her. He had
touched her imagination.

“It’s a gold-mine!”

Sally’s prudent side stirred in its sleep. Fillmore had chosen an
unfortunate expression. To the novice in finance the word gold-mine
had repellent associations. If there was one thing in which Sally had
proposed not to invest her legacy, it was a gold-mine; what she had had
in view, as a matter of fact, had been one of those little fancy shops
which are called Ye Blue Bird or Ye Corner Shoppe, or something like
that, where you sell exotic bric-a-brac to the wealthy at extortionate
prices. She knew two girls who were doing splendidly in that line. As
Fillmore spoke those words, Ye Corner Shoppe suddenly looked very good
to her.

At this moment, however, two things happened. Gerald and Mr. Bunbury,
in the course of their perambulations, came into the glow of the
footlights, and she was able to see Gerald’s face: and at the same time
Mr. Reginald Cracknell hurried on to the stage, his whole demeanour that
of the bearer of evil tidings.

The sight of Gerald’s face annihilated Sally’s prudence at a single
stroke. Ye Corner Shoppe, which a moment before had been shining
brightly before her mental eye, flickered and melted out. The whole
issue became clear and simple. Gerald was miserable and she had it in
her power to make him happy. He was sullenly awaiting disaster and she
with a word could avert it. She wondered that she had ever hesitated.

“All right,” she said simply.

Fillmore quivered from head to foot. A powerful electric shock could not
have produced a stronger convulsion. He knew Sally of old as cautious
and clear-headed, by no means to be stampeded by a brother’s eloquence;
and he had never looked on this thing as anything better than a hundred
to one shot.

“You’ll do it?” he whispered, and held his breath. After all he might
not have heard correctly.

“Yes.”

All the complex emotion in Fillmore’s soul found expression in one vast
whoop. It rang through the empty theatre like the last trump, beating
against the back wall and rising in hollow echoes to the very gallery.
Mr. Bunbury, conversing in low undertones with Mr. Cracknell across the
footlights, shied like a startled mule. There was reproach and menace in
the look he cast at Fillmore, and a minute earlier it would have reduced
that financial magnate to apologetic pulp. But Fillmore was not to
be intimidated now by a look. He strode down to the group at the
footlights,

“Cracknell,” he said importantly, “one moment, I should like a word with
you.”



CHAPTER VII. SOME MEDITATIONS ON SUCCESS



If actors and actresses are like children in that they are readily
depressed by disaster, they have the child’s compensating gift of being
easily uplifted by good fortune. It amazed Sally that any one mortal
should have been able to spread such universal happiness as she had
done by the simple act of lending her brother Fillmore twenty thousand
dollars. If the Millennium had arrived, the members of the Primrose
Way Company could not have been on better terms with themselves. The
lethargy and dispiritedness, caused by their week of inaction, fell from
them like a cloak. The sudden elevation of that creature of the abyss,
the assistant stage manager, to the dizzy height of proprietor of the
show appealed to their sense of drama. Most of them had played in pieces
where much the same thing had happened to the persecuted heroine round
about eleven o’clock, and the situation struck them as theatrically
sound. Also, now that she had gone, the extent to which Miss Hobson had
acted as a blight was universally recognized.

A spirit of optimism reigned, and cheerful rumours became current. The
bowler-hatted Teddy had it straight from the lift-boy at his hotel that
the ban on the theatres was to be lifted on Tuesday at the latest; while
no less an authority than the cigar-stand girl at the Pontchatrain had
informed the man who played the butler that Toledo and Cleveland were
opening to-morrow. It was generally felt that the sun was bursting
through the clouds and that Fate would soon despair of the hopeless task
of trying to keep good men down.

Fillmore was himself again. We all have our particular mode of
self-expression in moments of elation. Fillmore’s took the shape of
buying a new waistcoat and a hundred half-dollar cigars and being very
fussy about what he had for lunch. It may have been an optical illusion,
but he appeared to Sally to put on at least six pounds in weight on the
first day of the new regime. As a serf looking after paper-knives and
other properties, he had been--for him--almost slim. As a manager
he blossomed out into soft billowy curves, and when he stood on the
sidewalk in front of the theatre, gloating over the new posters which
bore the legend,

     FILLMORE NICHOLAS

     PRESENTS


the populace had to make a detour to get round him.

In this era of bubbling joy, it was hard that Sally, the fairy godmother
responsible for it all, should not have been completely happy too; and
it puzzled her why she was not. But whatever it was that cast the faint
shadow refused obstinately to come out from the back of her mind and
show itself and be challenged. It was not till she was out driving in
a hired car with Gerald one afternoon on Belle Isle that enlightenment
came.

Gerald, since the departure of Miss Hobson, had been at his best. Like
Fillmore, he was a man who responded to the sunshine of prosperity. His
moodiness had vanished, and all his old charm had returned. And yet...
it seemed to Sally, as the car slid smoothly through the pleasant woods
and fields by the river, that there was something that jarred.

Gerald was cheerful and talkative. He, at any rate, found nothing wrong
with life. He held forth spaciously on the big things he intended to do.

“If this play get over--and it’s going to--I’ll show ‘em!” His jaw was
squared, and his eyes glowed as they stared into the inviting future.
“One success--that’s all I need--then watch me! I haven’t had a chance
yet, but...”

His voice rolled on, but Sally had ceased to listen. It was the time of
year when the chill of evening follows swiftly on the mellow warmth
of afternoon. The sun had gone behind the trees, and a cold wind was
blowing up from the river. And quite suddenly, as though it was the
wind that had cleared her mind, she understood what it was that had been
lurking at the back of her thoughts. For an instant it stood out nakedly
without concealment, and the world became a forlorn place. She had
realized the fundamental difference between man’s outlook on life and
woman’s.

Success! How men worshipped it, and how little of themselves they had to
spare for anything else. Ironically, it was the theme of this very play
of Gerald’s which she had saved from destruction. Of all the men she
knew, how many had any view of life except as a race which they must
strain every nerve to win, regardless of what they missed by the wayside
in their haste? Fillmore--Gerald--all of them. There might be a woman in
each of their lives, but she came second--an afterthought--a thing for
their spare time. Gerald was everything to her. His success would never
be more than a side-issue as far as she was concerned. He himself,
without any of the trappings of success, was enough for her. But she was
not enough for him. A spasm of futile jealousy shook her. She shivered.

“Cold?” said Gerald. “I’ll tell the man to drive back... I don’t see any
reason why this play shouldn’t run a year in New York. Everybody says
it’s good... if it does get over, they’ll all be after me. I...”

Sally stared out into a bleak world. The sky was a leaden grey, and the
wind from the river blew with a dismal chill.



CHAPTER VIII. REAPPEARANCE OF MR. CARMYLE--AND GINGER



1



When Sally left Detroit on the following Saturday, accompanied by
Fillmore, who was returning to the metropolis for a few days in order to
secure offices and generally make his presence felt along Broadway, her
spirits had completely recovered. She felt guiltily that she had been
fanciful, even morbid. Naturally men wanted to get on in the world.
It was their job. She told herself that she was bound up with Gerald’s
success, and that the last thing of which she ought to complain was the
energy he put into efforts of which she as well as he would reap the
reward.

To this happier frame of mind the excitement of the last few days had
contributed. Detroit, that city of amiable audiences, had liked “The
Primrose Way.” The theatre, in fulfilment of Teddy’s prophecy, had
been allowed to open on the Tuesday, and a full house, hungry for
entertainment after its enforced abstinence, had welcomed the play
wholeheartedly. The papers, not always in agreement with the applause of
a first-night audience, had on this occasion endorsed the verdict, with
agreeable unanimity hailing Gerald as the coming author and Elsa Doland
as the coming star. There had even been a brief mention of Fillmore as
the coming manager. But there is always some trifle that jars in our
greatest moments, and Fillmore’s triumph had been almost spoilt by the
fact that the only notice taken of Gladys Winch was by the critic who
printed her name--spelt Wunch--in the list of those whom the cast “also
included.”

“One of the greatest character actresses on the stage,” said Fillmore
bitterly, talking over this outrage with Sally on the morning after the
production.

From this blow, however, his buoyant nature had soon enabled him to
rally. Life contained so much that was bright that it would have been
churlish to concentrate the attention on the one dark spot. Business had
been excellent all through the week. Elsa Doland had got better at
every performance. The receipt of a long and agitated telegram from Mr.
Cracknell, pleading to be allowed to buy the piece back, the passage of
time having apparently softened Miss Hobson, was a pleasant incident.
And, best of all, the great Ike Schumann, who owned half the theatres
in New York and had been in Detroit superintending one of his musical
productions, had looked in one evening and stamped “The Primrose Way”
 with the seal of his approval. As Fillmore sat opposite Sally on the
train, he radiated contentment and importance.

“Yes, do,” said Sally, breaking a long silence.

Fillmore awoke from happy dreams.

“Eh?”

“I said ‘Yes, do.’ I think you owe it to your position.”

“Do what?”

“Buy a fur coat. Wasn’t that what you were meditating about?”

“Don’t be a chump,” said Fillmore, blushing nevertheless. It was true
that once or twice during the past week he had toyed negligently, as
Mr. Bunbury would have said, with the notion, and why not? A fellow must
keep warm.

“With an astrakhan collar,” insisted Sally.

“As a matter of fact,” said Fillmore loftily, his great soul ill-attuned
to this badinage, “what I was really thinking about at the moment was
something Ike said.”

“Ike?”

“Ike Schumann. He’s on the train. I met him just now.”

“We call him Ike!”

“Of course I call him Ike,” said Fillmore heatedly. “Everyone calls him
Ike.”

“He wears a fur coat,” Sally murmured.

Fillmore registered annoyance.

“I wish you wouldn’t keep on harping on that damned coat. And, anyway,
why shouldn’t I have a fur coat?”

“Fill...! How can you be so brutal as to suggest that I ever said you
shouldn’t? Why, I’m one of the strongest supporters of the fur coat.
With big cuffs. And you must roll up Fifth Avenue in your car, and I’ll
point and say ‘That’s my brother!’ ‘Your brother? No!’ ‘He is, really.’
‘You’re joking. Why, that’s the great Fillmore Nicholas.’ ‘I know. But
he really is my brother. And I was with him when he bought that coat.’”

“Do leave off about the coat!”

“‘And it isn’t only the coat,’ I shall say. ‘It’s what’s underneath.
Tucked away inside that mass of fur, dodging about behind that dollar
cigar, is one to whom we point with pride... ’”

Fillmore looked coldly at his watch.

“I’ve got to go and see Ike Schumann.”

“We are in hourly consultation with Ike.”

“He wants to see me about the show. He suggests putting it into Chicago
before opening in New York.”

“Oh no,” cried Sally, dismayed.

“Why not?”

Sally recovered herself. Identifying Gerald so closely with his play,
she had supposed for a moment that if the piece opened in Chicago it
would mean a further prolonged separation from him. But of course there
would be no need, she realized, for him to stay with the company after
the first day or two.

“You’re thinking that we ought to have a New York reputation before
tackling Chicago. There’s a lot to be said for that. Still, it works
both ways. A Chicago run would help us in New York. Well, I’ll have
to think it over,” said Fillmore, importantly, “I’ll have to think it
over.”

He mused with drawn brows.

“All wrong,” said Sally.

“Eh?”

“Not a bit like it. The lips should be compressed and the forefinger of
the right hand laid in a careworn way against the right temple. You’ve a
lot to learn. Fill.”

“Oh, stop it!”

“Fillmore Nicholas,” said Sally, “if you knew what pain it gives me to
josh my only brother, you’d be sorry for me. But you know it’s for your
good. Now run along and put Ike out of his misery. I know he’s waiting
for you with his watch out. ‘You do think he’ll come, Miss Nicholas?’
were his last words to me as he stepped on the train, and oh, Fill, the
yearning in his voice. ‘Why, of course he will, Mr. Schumann,’ I said.
‘For all his exalted position, my brother is kindliness itself. Of
course he’ll come.’ ‘If I could only think so!’ he said with a gulp. ‘If
I could only think so. But you know what these managers are. A thousand
calls on their time. They get brooding on their fur coats and forget
everything else.’ ‘Have no fear, Mr. Schumann,’ I said. ‘Fillmore
Nicholas is a man of his word.’”

She would have been willing, for she was a girl who never believed in
sparing herself where it was a question of entertaining her nearest and
dearest, to continue the dialogue, but Fillmore was already moving down
the car, his rigid back a silent protest against sisterly levity. Sally
watched him disappear, then picked up a magazine and began to read.

She had just finished tracking a story of gripping interest through
a jungle of advertisements, only to find that it was in two parts, of
which the one she was reading was the first, when a voice spoke.

“How do you do, Miss Nicholas?”

Into the seat before her, recently released from the weight of the
coming manager, Bruce Carmyle of all people in the world insinuated
himself with that well-bred air of deferential restraint which never
left him.



2



Sally was considerably startled. Everybody travels nowadays, of course,
and there is nothing really remarkable in finding a man in America whom
you had supposed to be in Europe: but nevertheless she was conscious of
a dream-like sensation, as though the clock had been turned back and a
chapter of her life reopened which she had thought closed for ever.

“Mr. Carmyle!” she cried.

If Sally had been constantly in Bruce Carmyle’s thoughts since they
had parted on the Paris express, Mr. Carmyle had been very little in
Sally’s--so little, indeed, that she had had to search her memory for a
moment before she identified him.

“We’re always meeting on trains, aren’t we?” she went on, her composure
returning. “I never expected to see you in America.”

“I came over.”

Sally was tempted to reply that she gathered that, but a sudden
embarrassment curbed her tongue. She had just remembered that at their
last meeting she had been abominably rude to this man. She was never
rude to anyone, without subsequent remorse. She contented herself with a
tame “Yes.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Carmyle, “it is a good many years since I have taken
a real holiday. My doctor seemed to think I was a trifle run down. It
seemed a good opportunity to visit America. Everybody,” said Mr. Carmyle
oracularly, endeavouring, as he had often done since his ship had left
England, to persuade himself that his object in making the trip had not
been merely to renew his acquaintance with Sally, “everybody ought to
visit America at least once. It is part of one’s education.”

“And what are your impressions of our glorious country?” said Sally
rallying.

Mr. Carmyle seemed glad of the opportunity of lecturing on an impersonal
subject. He, too, though his face had shown no trace of it, had been
embarrassed in the opening stages of the conversation. The sound of his
voice restored him.

“I have been visiting Chicago,” he said after a brief travelogue.

“Oh!”

“A wonderful city.”

“I’ve never seen it. I’ve come from Detroit.”

“Yes, I heard you were in Detroit.”

Sally’s eyes opened.

“You heard I was in Detroit? Good gracious! How?”

“I--ah--called at your New York address and made inquiries,” said Mr.
Carmyle a little awkwardly.

“But how did you know where I lived?”

“My cousin--er--Lancelot told me.”

Sally was silent for a moment. She had much the same feeling that
comes to the man in the detective story who realizes that he is being
shadowed. Even if this almost complete stranger had not actually come to
America in direct pursuit of her, there was no disguising the fact that
he evidently found her an object of considerable interest. It was a
compliment, but Sally was not at all sure that she liked it. Bruce
Carmyle meant nothing to her, and it was rather disturbing to find that
she was apparently of great importance to him. She seized on the mention
of Ginger as a lever for diverting the conversation from its present too
intimate course.

“How is Mr. Kemp?” she asked.

Mr. Carmyle’s dark face seemed to become a trifle darker.

“We have had no news of him,” he said shortly.

“No news? How do you mean? You speak as though he had disappeared.”

“He has disappeared!”

“Good heavens! When?”

“Shortly after I saw you last.”

“Disappeared!”

Mr. Carmyle frowned. Sally, watching him, found her antipathy stirring
again. There was something about this man which she had disliked
instinctively from the first, a sort of hardness.

“But where has he gone to?”

“I don’t know.” Mr. Carmyle frowned again. The subject of Ginger was
plainly a sore one. “And I don’t want to know,” he went on heatedly,
a dull flush rising in the cheeks which Sally was sure he had to shave
twice a day. “I don’t care to know. The Family have washed their hands
of him. For the future he may look after himself as best he can. I
believe he is off his head.”

Sally’s rebellious temper was well ablaze now, but she fought it down.
She would dearly have loved to give battle to Mr. Carmyle--it was odd,
she felt, how she seemed to have constituted herself Ginger’s champion
and protector--but she perceived that, if she wished, as she did, to
hear more of her red-headed friend, he must be humoured and conciliated.

“But what happened? What was all the trouble about?”

Mr. Carmyle’s eyebrows met.

“He--insulted his uncle. His uncle Donald. He insulted him--grossly. The
one man in the world he should have made a point of--er--”

“Keeping in with?”

“Yes. His future depended upon him.”

“But what did he do?” cried Sally, trying hard to keep a thoroughly
reprehensible joy out of her voice.

“I have heard no details. My uncle is reticent as to what actually
took place. He invited Lancelot to dinner to discuss his plans, and
it appears that Lancelot--defied him. Defied him! He was rude and
insulting. My uncle refuses to have anything more to do with him.
Apparently the young fool managed to win some money at the tables at
Roville, and this seems to have turned his head completely. My uncle
insists that he is mad. I agree with him. Since the night of that dinner
nothing has been heard of Lancelot.”

Mr. Carmyle broke off to brood once more, and before Sally could speak
the impressive bulk of Fillmore loomed up in the aisle beside them.
Explanations seemed to Fillmore to be in order. He cast a questioning
glance at the mysterious stranger, who, in addition to being in
conversation with his sister, had collared his seat.

“Oh, hullo, Fill,” said Sally. “Fillmore, this is Mr. Carmyle. We met
abroad. My brother Fillmore, Mr. Carmyle.”

Proper introduction having been thus effected, Fillmore approved of Mr.
Carmyle. His air of being someone in particular appealed to him.

“Strange you meeting again like this,” he said affably.

The porter, who had been making up berths along the car, was now
hovering expectantly in the offing.

“You two had better go into the smoking room,” suggested Sally. “I’m
going to bed.”

She wanted to be alone, to think. Mr. Carmyle’s tale of a roused and
revolting Ginger had stirred her.

The two men went off to the smoking-room, and Sally found an empty seat
and sat down to wait for her berth to be made up. She was aglow with a
curious exhilaration. So Ginger had taken her advice! Excellent Ginger!
She felt proud of him. She also had that feeling of complacency,
amounting almost to sinful pride, which comes to those who give advice
and find it acted upon. She had the emotions of a creator. After all,
had she not created this new Ginger? It was she who had stirred him
up. It was she who had unleashed him. She had changed him from a meek
dependent of the Family to a ravening creature, who went about the place
insulting uncles.

It was a feat, there was no denying it. It was something attempted,
something done: and by all the rules laid down by the poet it should,
therefore, have earned a night’s repose. Yet, Sally, jolted by the
train, which towards the small hours seemed to be trying out some new
buck-and-wing steps of its own invention, slept ill, and presently, as
she lay awake, there came to her bedside the Spectre of Doubt, gaunt and
questioning. Had she, after all, wrought so well? Had she been wise in
tampering with this young man’s life?

“What about it?” said the Spectre of Doubt.



3



Daylight brought no comforting answer to the question. Breakfast failed
to manufacture an easy mind. Sally got off the train, at the Grand
Central station in a state of remorseful concern. She declined the offer
of Mr. Carmyle to drive her to the boarding-house, and started to walk
there, hoping that the crisp morning air would effect a cure.

She wondered now how she could ever have looked with approval on her
rash act. She wondered what demon of interference and meddling had
possessed her, to make her blunder into people’s lives, upsetting them.
She wondered that she was allowed to go around loose. She was nothing
more nor less than a menace to society. Here was an estimable young man,
obviously the sort of young man who would always have to be assisted
through life by his relatives, and she had deliberately egged him on
to wreck his prospects. She blushed hotly as she remembered that mad
wireless she had sent him from the boat.

Miserable Ginger! She pictured him, his little stock of money gone,
wandering foot-sore about London, seeking in vain for work; forcing
himself to call on Uncle Donald; being thrown down the front steps by
haughty footmen; sleeping on the Embankment; gazing into the dark waters
of the Thames with the stare of hopelessness; climbing to the parapet
and...

“Ugh!” said Sally.

She had arrived at the door of the boarding-house, and Mrs. Meecher was
regarding her with welcoming eyes, little knowing that to all practical
intents and purposes she had slain in his prime a red-headed young
man of amiable manners and--when not ill-advised by meddling, muddling
females--of excellent behaviour.

Mrs. Meecher was friendly and garrulous. Variety, the journal which,
next to the dog Toto, was the thing she loved best in the world, had
informed her on the Friday morning that Mr. Foster’s play had got over
big in Detroit, and that Miss Doland had made every kind of hit. It was
not often that the old alumni of the boarding-house forced their
way after this fashion into the Hall of Fame, and, according to Mrs.
Meecher, the establishment was ringing with the news. That blue ribbon
round Toto’s neck was worn in honour of the triumph. There was also,
though you could not see it, a chicken dinner in Toto’s interior, by way
of further celebration.

And was it true that Mr. Fillmore had bought the piece? A great man, was
Mrs. Meecher’s verdict. Mr. Faucitt had always said so...

“Oh, how is Mr. Faucitt?” Sally asked, reproaching herself for having
allowed the pressure of other matters to drive all thoughts of her late
patient from her mind.

“He’s gone,” said Mrs. Meecher with such relish that to Sally, in her
morbid condition, the words had only one meaning. She turned white and
clutched at the banisters.

“Gone!”

“To England,” added Mrs. Meecher. Sally was vastly relieved.

“Oh, I thought you meant...”

“Oh no, not that.” Mrs. Meecher sighed, for she had been a little
disappointed in the old gentleman, who started out as such a promising
invalid, only to fall away into the dullness of robust health once more.
“He’s well enough. I never seen anybody better. You’d think,” said Mrs.
Meecher, bearing up with difficulty under her grievance, “you’d
think this here new Spanish influenza was a sort of a tonic or
somep’n, the way he looks now. Of course,” she added, trying to find
justification for a respected lodger, “he’s had good news. His brother’s
dead.”

“What!”

“Not, I don’t mean, that that was good news, far from it, though, come
to think of it, all flesh is as grass and we all got to be prepared for
somep’n of the sort breaking loose...but it seems this here new brother
of his--I didn’t know he’d a brother, and I don’t suppose you knew he
had a brother. Men are secretive, ain’t they!--this brother of his
has left him a parcel of money, and Mr. Faucitt he had to get on the
Wednesday boat quick as he could and go right over to the other side to
look after things. Wind up the estate, I believe they call it. Left in a
awful hurry, he did. Sent his love to you and said he’d write. Funny him
having a brother, now, wasn’t it? Not,” said Mrs. Meecher, at heart a
reasonable woman, “that folks don’t have brothers. I got two myself, one
in Portland, Oregon, and the other goodness knows where he is. But what
I’m trying to say...”

Sally disengaged herself, and went up to her room. For a brief while the
excitement which comes of hearing good news about those of whom we are
fond acted as a stimulant, and she felt almost cheerful. Dear old Mr.
Faucitt. She was sorry for his brother, of course, though she had never
had the pleasure of his acquaintance and had only just heard that he had
ever existed; but it was nice to think that her old friend’s remaining
years would be years of affluence.

Presently, however, she found her thoughts wandering back into their
melancholy groove. She threw herself wearily on the bed. She was tired
after her bad night.

But she could not sleep. Remorse kept her awake. Besides, she could hear
Mrs. Meecher prowling disturbingly about the house, apparently in search
of someone, her progress indicated by creaking boards and the strenuous
yapping of Toto.

Sally turned restlessly, and, having turned remained for a long instant
transfixed and rigid. She had seen something, and what she had seen
was enough to surprise any girl in the privacy of her bedroom. From
underneath the bed there peeped coyly forth an undeniably masculine shoe
and six inches of a grey trouser-leg.

Sally bounded to the floor. She was a girl of courage, and she meant to
probe this matter thoroughly.

“What are you doing under my bed?”

The question was a reasonable one, and evidently seemed to the intruder
to deserve an answer. There was a muffled sneeze, and he began to crawl
out.

The shoe came first. Then the legs. Then a sturdy body in a dusty coat.
And finally there flashed on Sally’s fascinated gaze a head of so nearly
the maximum redness that it could only belong to one person in the
world.

“Ginger!”

Mr. Lancelot Kemp, on all fours, blinked up at her.

“Oh, hullo!” he said.



CHAPTER IX. GINGER BECOMES A RIGHT-HAND MAN



It was not till she saw him actually standing there before her with his
hair rumpled and a large smut on the tip of his nose, that Sally really
understood how profoundly troubled she had been about this young man,
and how vivid had been that vision of him bobbing about on the waters
of the Thames, a cold and unappreciated corpse. She was a girl of keen
imagination, and she had allowed her imagination to riot unchecked.
Astonishment, therefore, at the extraordinary fact of his being there
was for the moment thrust aside by relief. Never before in her life had
she experienced such an overwhelming rush of exhilaration. She flung
herself into a chair and burst into a screech of laughter which even to
her own ears sounded strange. It struck Ginger as hysterical.

“I say, you know!” said Ginger, as the merriment showed no signs of
abating. Ginger was concerned. Nasty shock for a girl, finding blighters
under her bed.

Sally sat up, gurgling, and wiped her eyes.

“Oh, I am glad to see you,” she gasped.

“No, really?” said Ginger, gratified. “That’s fine.” It occurred to him
that some sort of apology would be a graceful act. “I say, you know,
awfully sorry. About barging in here, I mean. Never dreamed it was your
room. Unoccupied, I thought.”

“Don’t mention it. I ought not to have disturbed you. You were having a
nice sleep, of course. Do you always sleep on the floor?”

“It was like this...”

“Of course, if you’re wearing it for ornament, as a sort of
beauty-spot,” said Sally, “all right. But in case you don’t know, you’ve
a smut on your nose.”

“Oh, my aunt! Not really?”

“Now would I deceive you on an important point like that?”

“Do you mind if I have a look in the glass?”

“Certainly, if you can stand it.”

Ginger moved hurriedly to the dressing-table.

“You’re perfectly right,” he announced, applying his handkerchief.

“I thought I was. I’m very quick at noticing things.”

“My hair’s a bit rumpled, too.”

“Very much so.”

“You take my tip,” said Ginger, earnestly, “and never lie about under
beds. There’s nothing in it.”

“That reminds me. You won’t be offended if I asked you something?”

“No, no. Go ahead.”

“It’s rather an impertinent question. You may resent it.”

“No, no.”

“Well, then, what were you doing under my bed?”

“Oh, under your bed?”

“Yes. Under my bed. This. It’s a bed, you know. Mine. My bed. You were
under it. Why? Or putting it another way, why were you under my bed?”

“I was hiding.”

“Playing hide-and-seek? That explains it.”

“Mrs. What’s-her-name--Beecher--Meecher--was after me.”

Sally shook her head disapprovingly.

“You mustn’t encourage Mrs. Meecher in these childish pastimes. It
unsettles her.”

Ginger passed an agitated hand over his forehead.

“It’s like this...”

“I hate to keep criticizing your appearance,” said Sally, “and
personally I like it; but, when you clutched your brow just then, you
put about a pound of dust on it. Your hands are probably grubby.”

Ginger inspected them.

“They are!”

“Why not make a really good job of it and have a wash?”

“Do you mind?”

“I’d prefer it.”

“Thanks awfully. I mean to say it’s your basin, you know, and all that.
What I mean is, seem to be making myself pretty well at home.”

“Oh, no.”

“Touching the matter of soap...”

“Use mine. We Americans are famous for our hospitality.”

“Thanks awfully.”

“The towel is on your right.”

“Thanks awfully.”

“And I’ve a clothes brush in my bag.”

“Thanks awfully.”

Splashing followed like a sea-lion taking a dip. “Now, then,” said
Sally, “why were you hiding from Mrs. Meecher?”

A careworn, almost hunted look came into Ginger’s face. “I say, you
know, that woman is rather by way of being one of the lads, what! Scares
me! Word was brought that she was on the prowl, so it seemed to me a
judicious move to take cover till she sort of blew over. If she’d found
me, she’d have made me take that dog of hers for a walk.”

“Toto?”

“Toto. You know,” said Ginger, with a strong sense of injury, “no dog’s
got a right to be a dog like that. I don’t suppose there’s anyone
keener on dogs than I am, but a thing like a woolly rat.” He shuddered
slightly. “Well, one hates to be seen about with it in the public
streets.”

“Why couldn’t you have refused in a firm but gentlemanly manner to take
Toto out?”

“Ah! There you rather touch the spot. You see, the fact of the matter
is, I’m a bit behind with the rent, and that makes it rather hard to
take what you might call a firm stand.”

“But how can you be behind with the rent? I only left here the Saturday
before last and you weren’t in the place then. You can’t have been here
more than a week.”

“I’ve been here just a week. That’s the week I’m behind with.”

“But why? You were a millionaire when I left you at Roville.”

“Well, the fact of the matter is, I went back to the tables that night
and lost a goodish bit of what I’d won. And, somehow or another, when I
got to America, the stuff seemed to slip away.”

“What made you come to America at all?” said Sally, asking the question
which, she felt, any sensible person would have asked at the opening of
the conversation.

One of his familiar blushes raced over Ginger’s face. “Oh, I thought I
would. Land of opportunity, you know.”

“Have you managed to find any of the opportunities yet?”

“Well, I have got a job of sorts, I’m a waiter at a rummy little place
on Second Avenue. The salary isn’t big, but I’d have wangled enough out
of it to pay last week’s rent, only they docked me a goodish bit for
breaking plates and what not. The fact is, I’m making rather a hash of
it.”

“Oh, Ginger! You oughtn’t to be a waiter!”

“That’s what the boss seems to think.”

“I mean, you ought to be doing something ever so much better.”

“But what? You’ve no notion how well all these blighters here seem to
be able to get along without my help. I’ve tramped all over the place,
offering my services, but they all say they’ll try to carry on as they
are.”

Sally reflected.

“I know!”

“What?”

“I’ll make Fillmore give you a job. I wonder I didn’t think of it
before.”

“Fillmore?”

“My brother. Yes, he’ll be able to use you.”

“What as?”

Sally considered.

“As a--as a--oh, as his right-hand man.”

“Does he want a right-hand man?”

“Sure to. He’s a young fellow trying to get along. Sure to want a
right-hand man.”

“‘M yes,” said Ginger reflectively. “Of course, I’ve never been a
right-hand man, you know.”

“Oh, you’d pick it up. I’ll take you round to him now. He’s staying at
the Astor.”

“There’s just one thing,” said Ginger.

“What’s that?”

“I might make a hash of it.”

“Heavens, Ginger! There must be something in this world that you
wouldn’t make a hash of. Don’t stand arguing any longer. Are you dry?
and clean? Very well, then. Let’s be off.”

“Right ho.”

Ginger took a step towards the door, then paused, rigid, with one leg in
the air, as though some spell had been cast upon him. From the passage
outside there had sounded a shrill yapping. Ginger looked at Sally. Then
he looked--longingly--at the bed.

“Don’t be such a coward,” said Sally, severely.

“Yes, but...”

“How much do you owe Mrs. Meecher?”

“Round about twelve dollars, I think it is.”

“I’ll pay her.”

Ginger flushed awkwardly.

“No, I’m hanged if you will! I mean,” he stammered, “it’s frightfully
good of you and all that, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am, but
honestly, I couldn’t...”

Sally did not press the point. She liked him the better for a rugged
independence, which in the days of his impecuniousness her brother
Fillmore had never dreamed of exhibiting.

“Very well,” she said. “Have it your own way. Proud. That’s me all over,
Mabel. Ginger!” She broke off sharply. “Pull yourself together. Where is
your manly spirit? I’d be ashamed to be such a coward.”

“Awfully sorry, but, honestly, that woolly dog...”

“Never mind the dog. I’ll see you through.”

They came out into the passage almost on top of Toto, who was stalking
phantom rats. Mrs. Meecher was manoeuvring in the background. Her face
lit up grimly at the sight of Ginger.

“Mister Kemp! I been looking for you.”

Sally intervened brightly.

“Oh, Mrs. Meecher,” she said, shepherding her young charge through the
danger zone, “I was so surprised to meet Mr. Kemp here. He is a great
friend of mine. We met in France. We’re going off now to have a long
talk about old times, and then I’m taking him to see my brother...”

“Toto...”

“Dear little thing! You ought to take him for a walk,” said Sally. “It’s
a lovely day. Mr. Kemp was saying just now that he would have liked to
take him, but we’re rather in a hurry and shall probably have to get
into a taxi. You’ve no idea how busy my brother is just now. If we’re
late, he’ll never forgive us.”

She passed on down the stairs, leaving Mrs. Meecher dissatisfied
but irresolute. There was something about Sally which even in her
pre-wealthy days had always baffled Mrs. Meecher and cramped her style,
and now that she was rich and independent she inspired in the chatelaine
of the boarding-house an emotion which was almost awe. The front door
had closed before Mrs. Meecher had collected her faculties; and Ginger,
pausing on the sidewalk, drew a long breath.

“You know, you’re wonderful!” he said, regarding Sally with unconcealed
admiration.

She accepted the compliment composedly.

“Now we’ll go and hunt up Fillmore,” she said. “But there’s no need to
hurry, of course, really. We’ll go for a walk first, and then call at
the Astor and make him give us lunch. I want to hear all about you. I’ve
heard something already. I met your cousin, Mr. Carmyle. He was on the
train coming from Detroit. Did you know that he was in America?”

“No, I’ve--er--rather lost touch with the Family.”

“So I gathered from Mr. Carmyle. And I feel hideously responsible. It
was all through me that all this happened.”

“Oh, no.”

“Of course it was. I made you what you are to-day--I hope I’m
satisfied--I dragged and dragged you down until the soul within you
died, so to speak. I know perfectly well that you wouldn’t have dreamed
of savaging the Family as you seem to have done if it hadn’t been for
what I said to you at Roville. Ginger, tell me, what did happen? I’m
dying to know. Mr. Carmyle said you insulted your uncle!”

“Donald. Yes, we did have a bit of a scrap, as a matter of fact. He made
me go out to dinner with him and we--er--sort of disagreed. To start
with, he wanted me to apologize to old Scrymgeour, and I rather gave it
a miss.”

“Noble fellow!”

“Scrymgeour?”

“No, silly! You.”

“Oh, ah!” Ginger blushed. “And then there was all that about the soup,
you know.”

“How do you mean, ‘all that about the soup’? What about the soup? What
soup?”

“Well, things sort of hotted up a bit when the soup arrived.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I mean, the trouble seemed to start, as it were, when the waiter had
finished ladling out the mulligatawny. Thick soup, you know.”

“I know mulligatawny is a thick soup. Yes?”

“Well, my old uncle--I’m not blaming him, don’t you know--more his
misfortune than his fault--I can see that now--but he’s got a heavy
moustache. Like a walrus, rather, and he’s a bit apt to inhale the stuff
through it. And I--well, I asked him not to. It was just a suggestion,
you know. He cut up fairly rough, and by the time the fish came round
we were more or less down on the mat chewing holes in one another. My
fault, probably. I wasn’t feeling particularly well-disposed towards
the Family that night. I’d just had a talk with Bruce--my cousin, you
know--in Piccadilly, and that had rather got the wind up me. Bruce
always seems to get on my nerves a bit somehow and--Uncle Donald asking
me to dinner and all that. By the way, did you get the books?”

“What books?”

“Bruce said he wanted to send you some books. That was why I gave him
your address.” Sally stared.

“He never sent me any books.”

“Well, he said he was going to, and I had to tell him where to send
them.”

Sally walked on, a little thoughtfully. She was not a vain girl, but it
was impossible not to perceive in the light of this fresh evidence that
Mr. Carmyle had made a journey of three thousand miles with the sole
object of renewing his acquaintance with her. It did not matter, of
course, but it was vaguely disturbing. No girl cares to be dogged by a
man she rather dislikes.

“Go on telling me about your uncle,” she said.

“Well, there’s not much more to tell. I’d happened to get that wireless
of yours just before I started out to dinner with him, and I was more or
less feeling that I wasn’t going to stand any rot from the Family. I’d
got to the fish course, hadn’t I? Well, we managed to get through that
somehow, but we didn’t survive the fillet steak. One thing seemed to
lead to another, and the show sort of bust up. He called me a good many
things, and I got a bit fed-up, and finally I told him I hadn’t any more
use for the Family and was going to start out on my own. And--well, I
did, don’t you know. And here I am.”

Sally listened to this saga breathlessly. More than ever did she feel
responsible for her young protégé, and any faint qualms which she had
entertained as to the wisdom of transferring practically the whole
of her patrimony to the care of so erratic a financier as her brother
vanished. It was her plain duty to see that Ginger was started well in
the race of life, and Fillmore was going to come in uncommonly handy.

“We’ll go to the Astor now,” she said, “and I’ll introduce you to
Fillmore. He’s a theatrical manager and he’s sure to have something for
you.”

“It’s awfully good of you to bother about me.”

“Ginger,” said Sally, “I regard you as a grandson. Hail that cab, will
you?”



CHAPTER X. SALLY IN THE SHADOWS



1



It seemed to Sally in the weeks that followed her reunion with Ginger
Kemp that a sort of golden age had set in. On all the frontiers of her
little kingdom there was peace and prosperity, and she woke each morning
in a world so neatly smoothed and ironed out that the most captious
pessimist could hardly have found anything in it to criticize.

True, Gerald was still a thousand miles away. Going to Chicago to
superintend the opening of “The Primrose Way”; for Fillmore had acceded
to his friend Ike’s suggestion in the matter of producing it first in
Chicago, and he had been called in by a distracted manager to revise the
work of a brother dramatist, whose comedy was in difficulties at one of
the theatres in that city; and this meant he would have to remain on
the spot for some time to come. It was disappointing, for Sally had been
looking forward to having him back in New York in a few days; but she
refused to allow herself to be depressed. Life as a whole was much
too satisfactory for that. Life indeed, in every other respect, seemed
perfect. Fillmore was going strong; Ginger was off her conscience; she
had found an apartment; her new hat suited her; and “The Primrose Way”
 was a tremendous success. Chicago, it appeared from Fillmore’s account,
was paying little attention to anything except “The Primrose Way.”
 National problems had ceased to interest the citizens. Local problems
left them cold. Their minds were riveted to the exclusion of all else
on the problem of how to secure seats. The production of the piece,
according to Fillmore, had been the most terrific experience that had
come to stir Chicago since the great fire.

Of all these satisfactory happenings, the most satisfactory, to Sally’s
thinking, was the fact that the problem of Ginger’s future had been
solved. Ginger had entered the service of the Fillmore Nicholas
Theatrical Enterprises Ltd. (Managing Director, Fillmore
Nicholas)--Fillmore would have made the title longer, only that was all
that would go on the brass plate--and was to be found daily in the outer
office, his duties consisting mainly, it seemed, in reading the evening
papers. What exactly he was, even Ginger hardly knew. Sometimes he felt
like the man at the wheel, sometimes like a glorified office boy, and
not so very glorified at that. For the most part he had to prevent the
mob rushing and getting at Fillmore, who sat in semi-regal state in the
inner office pondering great schemes.

But, though there might be an occasional passing uncertainty in Ginger’s
mind as to just what he was supposed to be doing in exchange for the
fifty dollars he drew every Friday, there was nothing uncertain about
his gratitude to Sally for having pulled the strings and enabled him to
do it. He tried to thank her every time they met, and nowadays they
were meeting frequently; for Ginger was helping her to furnish her new
apartment. In this task, he spared no efforts. He said that it kept him
in condition.

“And what I mean to say is,” said Ginger, pausing in the act of carrying
a massive easy chair to the third spot which Sally had selected in the
last ten minutes, “if I didn’t sweat about a bit and help you after the
way you got me that job...”

“Ginger, desist,” said Sally.

“Yes, but honestly...”

“If you don’t stop it, I’ll make you move that chair into the next
room.”

“Shall I?” Ginger rubbed his blistered hands and took a new grip.
“Anything you say.”

“Silly! Of course not. The only other rooms are my bedroom, the bathroom
and the kitchen. What on earth would I want a great lumbering chair in
them for? All the same, I believe the first we chose was the best.”

“Back she goes, then, what?”

Sally reflected frowningly. This business of setting up house was
causing her much thought.

“No,” she decided. “By the window is better.” She looked at him
remorsefully. “I’m giving you a lot of trouble.”

“Trouble!” Ginger, accompanied by a chair, staggered across the room.
“The way I look at it is this.” He wiped a bead of perspiration from his
freckled forehead. “You got me that job, and...”

“Stop!”

“Right ho... Still, you did, you know.”

Sally sat down in the armchair and stretched herself. Watching Ginger
work had given her a vicarious fatigue. She surveyed the room proudly.
It was certainly beginning to look cosy. The pictures were up, the
carpet down, the furniture very neatly in order. For almost the first
time in her life she had the restful sensation of being at home. She had
always longed, during the past three years of boarding-house existence,
for a settled abode, a place where she could lock the door on herself
and be alone. The apartment was small, but it was undeniably a haven.
She looked about her and could see no flaw in it... except... She had a
sudden sense of something missing.

“Hullo!” she said. “Where’s that photograph of me? I’m sure I put it on
the mantelpiece yesterday.”

His exertions seemed to have brought the blood to Ginger’s face. He was
a rich red. He inspected the mantelpiece narrowly.

“No. No photograph here.”

“I know there isn’t. But it was there yesterday. Or was it? I know I
meant to put it there. Perhaps I forgot. It’s the most beautiful thing
you ever saw. Not a bit like me; but what of that? They touch ‘em up in
the dark-room, you know. I value it because it looks the way I should
like to look if I could.”

“I’ve never had a beautiful photograph taken of myself,” said Ginger,
solemnly, with gentle regret.

“Cheer up!”

“Oh, I don’t mind. I only mentioned...”

“Ginger,” said Sally, “pardon my interrupting your remarks, which I know
are valuable, but this chair is--not--right! It ought to be where it was
at the beginning. Could you give your imitation of a pack-mule just
once more? And after that I’ll make you some tea. If there’s any tea--or
milk--or cups.”

“There are cups all right. I know, because I smashed two the day before
yesterday. I’ll nip round the corner for some milk, shall I?”

“Yes, please nip. All this hard work has taken it out of me terribly.”

Over the tea-table Sally became inquisitive.

“What I can’t understand about this job of yours. Ginger--which as you
are just about to observe, I was noble enough to secure for you--is the
amount of leisure that seems to go with it. How is it that you are able
to spend your valuable time--Fillmore’s valuable time, rather--juggling
with my furniture every day?”

“Oh, I can usually get off.”

“But oughtn’t you to be at your post doing--whatever it is you do? What
do you do?”

Ginger stirred his tea thoughtfully and gave his mind to the question.

“Well, I sort of mess about, you know.” He pondered. “I interview divers
blighters and tell ‘em your brother is out and take their names and
addresses and... oh, all that sort of thing.”

“Does Fillmore consult you much?”

“He lets me read some of the plays that are sent in. Awful tosh most of
them. Sometimes he sends me off to a vaudeville house of an evening.”

“As a treat?”

“To see some special act, you know. To report on it. In case he might
want to use it for this revue of his.”

“Which revue?”

“Didn’t you know he was going to put on a revue? Oh, rather. A whacking
big affair. Going to cut out the Follies and all that sort of thing.”

“But--my goodness!” Sally was alarmed. It was just like Fillmore, she
felt, to go branching out into these expensive schemes when he ought to
be moving warily and trying to consolidate the small success he had had.
All his life he had thought in millions where the prudent man would have
been content with hundreds. An inexhaustible fount of optimism bubbled
eternally within him. “That’s rather ambitious,” she said.

“Yes. Ambitious sort of cove, your brother. Quite the Napoleon.”

“I shall have to talk to him,” said Sally decidedly. She was annoyed
with Fillmore. Everything had been going so beautifully, with everybody
peaceful and happy and prosperous and no anxiety anywhere, till he had
spoiled things. Now she would have to start worrying again.

“Of course,” argued Ginger, “there’s money in revues. Over in London
fellows make pots out of them.”

Sally shook her head.

“It won’t do,” she said. “And I’ll tell you another thing that won’t do.
This armchair. Of course it ought to be over by the window. You can see
that yourself, can’t you.”

“Absolutely!” said Ginger, patiently preparing for action once more.



2



Sally’s anxiety with regard to her ebullient brother was not lessened by
the receipt shortly afterwards of a telegram from Miss Winch in Chicago.

Have you been feeding Fillmore meat?

the telegram ran: and, while Sally could not have claimed that she
completely understood it, there was a sinister suggestion about
the message which decided her to wait no longer before making
investigations. She tore herself away from the joys of furnishing and
went round to the headquarters of the Fillmore Nicholas Theatrical
Enterprises Ltd. (Managing Director, Fillmore Nicholas) without delay.

Ginger, she discovered on arrival, was absent from his customary post,
his place in the outer office being taken by a lad of tender years and
pimply exterior, who thawed and cast off a proud reserve on hearing
Sally’s name, and told her to walk right in. Sally walked right in, and
found Fillmore with his feet on an untidy desk, studying what appeared
to be costume-designs.

“Ah, Sally!” he said in the distrait, tired voice which speaks of vast
preoccupations. Prosperity was still putting in its silent, deadly work
on the Hope of the American Theatre. What, even at as late an epoch as
the return from Detroit, had been merely a smooth fullness around the
angle of the jaw was now frankly and without disguise a double chin. He
was wearing a new waistcoat and it was unbuttoned. “I am rather busy,”
 he went on. “Always glad to see you, but I am rather busy. I have a
hundred things to attend to.”

“Well, attend to me. That’ll only make a hundred and one. Fill, what’s
all this I hear about a revue?”

Fillmore looked as like a small boy caught in the act of stealing jam
as it is possible for a great theatrical manager to look. He had been
wondering in his darker moments what Sally would say about that project
when she heard of it, and he had hoped that she would not hear of it
until all the preparations were so complete that interference would be
impossible. He was extremely fond of Sally, but there was, he knew,
a lamentable vein of caution in her make-up which might lead her to
criticize. And how can your man of affairs carry on if women are buzzing
round criticizing all the time? He picked up a pen and put it down;
buttoned his waistcoat and unbuttoned it; and scratched his ear with one
of the costume-designs.

“Oh yes, the revue!”

“It’s no good saying ‘Oh yes’! You know perfectly well it’s a crazy
idea.”

“Really... these business matters... this interference...”

“I don’t want to run your affairs for you, Fill, but that money of mine
does make me a sort of partner, I suppose, and I think I have a right to
raise a loud yell of agony when I see you risking it on a...”

“Pardon me,” said Fillmore loftily, looking happier. “Let me explain.
Women never understand business matters. Your money is tied up
exclusively in ‘The Primrose Way,’ which, as you know, is a tremendous
success. You have nothing whatever to worry about as regards any new
production I may make.”

“I’m not worrying about the money. I’m worrying about you.”

A tolerant smile played about the lower slopes of Fillmore’s face.

“Don’t be alarmed about me. I’m all right.”

“You aren’t all right. You’ve no business, when you’ve only just got
started as a manager, to be rushing into an enormous production like
this. You can’t afford it.”

“My dear child, as I said before, women cannot understand these things.
A man in my position can always command money for a new venture.”

“Do you mean to say you have found somebody silly enough to put up
money?”

“Certainly. I don’t know that there is any secret about it. Your
friend, Mr. Carmyle, has taken an interest in some of my forthcoming
productions.”

“What!” Sally had been disturbed before, but she was aghast now.

This was something she had never anticipated. Bruce Carmyle seemed to be
creeping into her life like an advancing tide. There appeared to be no
eluding him. Wherever she turned, there he was, and she could do nothing
but rage impotently. The situation was becoming impossible.

Fillmore misinterpreted the note of dismay in her voice.

“It’s quite all right,” he assured her. “He’s a very rich man. Large
private means, besides his big income. Even if anything goes wrong...”

“It isn’t that. It’s...”

The hopelessness of explaining to Fillmore stopped Sally. And while she
was chafing at this new complication which had come to upset the orderly
routine of her life there was an outburst of voices in the other office.
Ginger’s understudy seemed to be endeavouring to convince somebody that
the Big Chief was engaged and not to be intruded upon. In this he was
unsuccessful, for the door opened tempestuously and Miss Winch sailed
in.

“Fillmore, you poor nut,” said Miss Winch, for though she might wrap up
her meaning somewhat obscurely in her telegraphic communications, when
it came to the spoken word she was directness itself, “stop picking
straws in your hair and listen to me. You’re dippy!”

The last time Sally had seen Fillmore’s fiancée, she had been impressed
by her imperturbable calm. Miss Winch, in Detroit, had seemed a girl
whom nothing could ruffle. That she had lapsed now from this serene
placidity, struck Sally as ominous. Slightly though she knew her, she
felt that it could be no ordinary happening that had so animated her
sister-in-law-to-be.

“Ah! Here you are!” said Fillmore. He had started to his feet
indignantly at the opening of the door, like a lion bearded in its den,
but calm had returned when he saw who the intruder was.

“Yes, here I am!” Miss Winch dropped despairingly into a swivel-chair,
and endeavoured to restore herself with a stick of chewing-gum.
“Fillmore, darling, you’re the sweetest thing on earth, and I love you,
but on present form you could just walk straight into Bloomingdale and
they’d give you the royal suite.”

“My dear girl...”

“What do you think?” demanded Miss Winch, turning to Sally.

“I’ve just been telling him,” said Sally, welcoming this ally, “I
think it’s absurd at this stage of things for him to put on an enormous
revue...”

“Revue?” Miss Winch stopped in the act of gnawing her gum. “What revue?”
 She flung up her arms. “I shall have to swallow this gum,” she said.
“You can’t chew with your head going round. Are you putting on a revue
too?”

Fillmore was buttoning and unbuttoning his waistcoat. He had a hounded
look.

“Certainly, certainly,” he replied in a tone of some feverishness. “I
wish you girls would leave me to manage...”

“Dippy!” said Miss Winch once more. “Telegraphic address: Tea-Pot,
Matteawan.” She swivelled round to Sally again. “Say, listen! This boy
must be stopped. We must form a gang in his best interests and get
him put away. What do you think he proposes doing? I’ll give you three
guesses. Oh, what’s the use? You’d never hit it. This poor wandering lad
has got it all fixed up to star me--me--in a new show!”

Fillmore removed a hand from his waistcoat buttons and waved it
protestingly.

“I have used my own judgment...”

“Yes, sir!” proceeded Miss Winch, riding over the interruption. “That’s
what he’s planning to spring on an unsuspicious public. I’m sitting
peacefully in my room at the hotel in Chicago, pronging a few cents’
worth of scrambled eggs and reading the morning paper, when the
telephone rings. Gentleman below would like to see me. Oh, ask him to
wait. Business of flinging on a few clothes. Down in elevator. Bright
sunrise effects in lobby.”

“What on earth do you mean?”

“The gentleman had a head of red hair which had to be seen to be
believed,” explained Miss Winch. “Lit up the lobby. Management had
switched off all the electrics for sake of economy. An Englishman he
was. Nice fellow. Named Kemp.”

“Oh, is Ginger in Chicago?” said Sally. “I wondered why he wasn’t on his
little chair in the outer office.

“I sent Kemp to Chicago,” said Fillmore, “to have a look at the show. It
is my policy, if I am unable to pay periodical visits myself, to send a
representative...”

“Save it up for the long winter evenings,” advised Miss Winch, cutting
in on this statement of managerial tactics. “Mr. Kemp may have been
there to look at the show, but his chief reason for coming was to tell
me to beat it back to New York to enter into my kingdom. Fillmore wanted
me on the spot, he told me, so that I could sit around in this office
here, interviewing my supporting company. Me! Can you or can you not,”
 inquired Miss Winch frankly, “tie it?”

“Well...” Sally hesitated.

“Don’t say it! I know it just as well as you do. It’s too sad for
words.”

“You persist in underestimating your abilities, Gladys,” said Fillmore
reproachfully. “I have had a certain amount of experience in theatrical
matters--I have seen a good deal of acting--and I assure you that as a
character-actress you...”

Miss Winch rose swiftly from her seat, kissed Fillmore energetically,
and sat down again. She produced another stick of chewing-gum, then
shook her head and replaced it in her bag.

“You’re a darling old thing to talk like that,” she said, “and I hate to
wake you out of your daydreams, but, honestly, Fillmore, dear, do just
step out of the padded cell for one moment and listen to reason. I know
exactly what has been passing in your poor disordered bean. You took
Elsa Doland out of a minor part and made her a star overnight. She goes
to Chicago, and the critics and everybody else rave about her. As a
matter of fact,” she said to Sally with enthusiasm, for hers was an
honest and generous nature, “you can’t realize, not having seen her
play there, what an amazing hit she has made. She really is a sensation.
Everybody says she’s going to be the biggest thing on record. Very
well, then, what does Fillmore do? The poor fish claps his hand to his
forehead and cries ‘Gadzooks! An idea! I’ve done it before, I’ll do it
again. I’m the fellow who can make a star out of anything.’ And he picks
on me!”

“My dear girl...”

“Now, the flaw in the scheme is this. Elsa is a genius, and if he hadn’t
made her a star somebody else would have done. But little Gladys? That’s
something else again.” She turned to Sally. “You’ve seen me in action,
and let me tell you you’ve seen me at my best. Give me a maid’s part,
with a tray to carry on in act one and a couple of ‘Yes, madam’s’ in act
two, and I’m there! Ellen Terry hasn’t anything on me when it comes to
saying ‘Yes, madam,’ and I’m willing to back myself for gold, notes,
or lima beans against Sarah Bernhardt as a tray-carrier. But there I
finish. That lets me out. And anybody who thinks otherwise is going to
lose a lot of money. Between ourselves the only thing I can do really
well is to cook...”

“My dear Gladys!” cried Fillmore revolted.

“I’m a heaven-born cook, and I don’t mind notifying the world to that
effect. I can cook a chicken casserole so that you would leave home and
mother for it. Also my English pork-pies! One of these days I’ll take
an afternoon off and assemble one for you. You’d be surprised! But
acting--no. I can’t do it, and I don’t want to do it. I only went on the
stage for fun, and my idea of fun isn’t to plough through a star part
with all the critics waving their axes in the front row, and me knowing
all the time that it’s taking money out of Fillmore’s bankroll that
ought to be going towards buying the little home with stationary
wash-tubs... Well, that’s that, Fillmore, old darling. I thought I’d
just mention it.”

Sally could not help being sorry for Fillmore. He was sitting with his
chin on his hands, staring moodily before him--Napoleon at Elba. It was
plain that this project of taking Miss Winch by the scruff of the neck
and hurling her to the heights had been very near his heart.

“If that’s how you feel,” he said in a stricken voice, “there is nothing
more to say.”

“Oh, yes there is. We will now talk about this revue of yours. It’s
off!”

Fillmore bounded to his feet; he thumped the desk with a well-nourished
fist. A man can stand just so much.

“It is not off! Great heavens! It’s too much! I will not put up with
this interference with my business concerns. I will not be tied and
hampered. Here am I, a man of broad vision and... and... broad vision...
I form my plans... my plans... I form them... I shape my schemes... and
what happens? A horde of girls flock into my private office while I
am endeavouring to concentrate... and concentrate... I won’t stand it.
Advice, yes. Interference, no. I... I... I... and kindly remember that!”

The door closed with a bang. A fainter detonation announced the
whirlwind passage through the outer office. Footsteps died away down the
corridor.

Sally looked at Miss Winch, stunned. A roused and militant Fillmore was
new to her.

Miss Winch took out the stick of chewing-gum again and unwrapped it.

“Isn’t he cute!” she said. “I hope he doesn’t get the soft kind,” she
murmured, chewing reflectively.

“The soft kind.”

“He’ll be back soon with a box of candy,” explained Miss Winch, “and he
will get that sloshy, creamy sort, though I keep telling him I like the
other. Well, one thing’s certain. Fillmore’s got it up his nose. He’s
beginning to hop about and sing in the sunlight. It’s going to be hard
work to get that boy down to earth again.” Miss Winch heaved a gentle
sigh. “I should like him to have enough left in the old stocking to
pay the first year’s rent when the wedding bells ring out.” She bit
meditatively on her chewing-gum. “Not,” she said, “that it matters. I’d
be just as happy in two rooms and a kitchenette, so long as Fillmore
was there. You’ve no notion how dippy I am about him.” Her freckled face
glowed. “He grows on me like a darned drug. And the funny thing is that
I keep right on admiring him though I can see all the while that he’s
the most perfect chump. He is a chump, you know. That’s what I love
about him. That and the way his ears wiggle when he gets excited. Chumps
always make the best husbands. When you marry, Sally, grab a chump.
Tap his forehead first, and if it rings solid, don’t hesitate. All the
unhappy marriages come from the husband having brains. What good are
brains to a man? They only unsettle him.” She broke off and scrutinized
Sally closely. “Say, what do you do with your skin?”

She spoke with solemn earnestness which made Sally laugh.

“What do I do with my skin? I just carry it around with me.”

“Well,” said Miss Winch enviously, “I wish I could train my darned fool
of a complexion to get that way. Freckles are the devil. When I was
eight I had the finest collection in the Middle West, and I’ve been
adding to it right along. Some folks say lemon-juice’ll cure ‘em. Mine
lap up all I give ‘em and ask for more. There’s only one way of getting
rid of freckles, and that is to saw the head off at the neck.”

“But why do you want to get rid of them?”

“Why? Because a sensitive girl, anxious to retain her future husband’s
love, doesn’t enjoy going about looking like something out of a dime
museum.”

“How absurd! Fillmore worships freckles.”

“Did he tell you so?” asked Miss Winch eagerly.

“Not in so many words, but you can see it in his eye.”

“Well, he certainly asked me to marry him, knowing all about them, I
will say that. And, what’s more, I don’t think feminine loveliness
means much to Fillmore, or he’d never have picked on me. Still, it is
calculated to give a girl a jar, you must admit, when she picks up a
magazine and reads an advertisement of a face-cream beginning, ‘Your
husband is growing cold to you. Can you blame him? Have you really tried
to cure those unsightly blemishes?’--meaning what I’ve got. Still, I
haven’t noticed Fillmore growing cold to me, so maybe it’s all right.”

It was a subdued Sally who received Ginger when he called at her
apartment a few days later on his return from Chicago. It seemed to her,
thinking over the recent scene, that matters were even worse than
she had feared. This absurd revue, which she had looked on as a mere
isolated outbreak of foolishness, was, it would appear, only a specimen
of the sort of thing her misguided brother proposed to do, a sample
selected at random from a wholesale lot of frantic schemes. Fillmore,
there was no longer any room for doubt, was preparing to express
his great soul on a vast scale. And she could not dissuade him. A
humiliating thought. She had grown so accustomed through the years to
being the dominating mind that this revolt from her authority made her
feel helpless and inadequate. Her self-confidence was shaken.

And Bruce Carmyle was financing him... It was illogical, but Sally could
not help feeling that when--she had not the optimism to say “if”--he
lost his money, she would somehow be under an obligation to him, as
if the disaster had been her fault. She disliked, with a whole-hearted
intensity, the thought of being under an obligation to Mr. Carmyle.

Ginger said he had looked in to inspect the furniture on the chance that
Sally might want it shifted again: but Sally had no criticisms to make
on that subject. Weightier matters occupied her mind. She sat Ginger
down in the armchair and started to pour out her troubles. It soothed
her to talk to him. In a world which had somehow become chaotic again
after an all too brief period of peace, he was solid and consoling.

“I shouldn’t worry,” observed Ginger with Winch-like calm, when she had
finished drawing for him the picture of a Fillmore rampant against a
background of expensive revues. Sally nearly shook him.

“It’s all very well to tell me not to worry,” she cried. “How can I help
worrying? Fillmore’s simply a baby, and he’s just playing the fool. He
has lost his head completely. And I can’t stop him! That is the awful
part of it. I used to be able to look him in the eye, and he would
wag his tail and crawl back into his basket, but now I seem to have no
influence at all over him. He just snorts and goes on running round in
circles, breathing fire.”

Ginger did not abandon his attempts to indicate the silver lining.

“I think you are making too much of all this, you know. I mean to say,
it’s quite likely he’s found some mug... what I mean is, it’s just
possible that your brother isn’t standing the entire racket himself.
Perhaps some rich Johnnie has breezed along with a pot of money. It
often happens like that, you know. You read in the paper that some
manager or other is putting on some show or other, when really the chap
who’s actually supplying the pieces of eight is some anonymous lad in
the background.”

“That is just what has happened, and it makes it worse than ever.
Fillmore tells me that your cousin, Mr. Carmyle, is providing the
money.”

This did interest Ginger. He sat up with a jerk.

“Oh, I say!” he exclaimed.

“Yes,” said Sally, still agitated but pleased that she had at last
shaken him out of his trying attitude of detachment.

Ginger was scowling.

“That’s a bit off,” he observed.

“I think so, too.”

“I don’t like that.”

“Nor do I.”

“Do you know what I think?” said Ginger, ever a man of plain speech and
a reckless plunger into delicate subjects. “The blighter’s in love with
you.”

Sally flushed. After examining the evidence before her, she had reached
the same conclusion in the privacy of her thoughts, but it embarrassed
her to hear the thing put into bald words.

“I know Bruce,” continued Ginger, “and, believe me, he isn’t the sort of
cove to take any kind of flutter without a jolly good motive. Of course,
he’s got tons of money. His old guvnor was the Carmyle of Carmyle, Brent
& Co.--coal mines up in Wales, and all that sort of thing--and I suppose
he must have left Bruce something like half a million. No need for the
fellow to have worked at all, if he hadn’t wanted to. As far as having
the stuff goes, he’s in a position to back all the shows he wants to.
But the point is, it’s right out of his line. He doesn’t do that sort
of thing. Not a drop of sporting blood in the chap. Why I’ve known him
stick the whole family on to me just because it got noised about that
I’d dropped a couple of quid on the Grand National. If he’s really
brought himself to the point of shelling out on a risky proposition like
a show, it means something, take my word for it. And I don’t see what
else it can mean except... well, I mean to say, is it likely that he’s
doing it simply to make your brother look on him as a good egg and a
pal, and all that sort of thing?”

“No, it’s not,” agreed Sally. “But don’t let’s talk about it any more.
Tell me all about your trip to Chicago.”

“All right. But, returning to this binge for a moment, I don’t see
how it matters to you one way or the other. You’re engaged to another
fellow, and when Bruce rolls up and says: ‘What about it?’ you’ve simply
to tell him that the shot isn’t on the board and will he kindly melt
away. Then you hand him his hat and out he goes.”

Sally gave a troubled laugh.

“You think that’s simple, do you? I suppose you imagine that a girl
enjoys that sort of thing? Oh, what’s the use of talking about it? It’s
horrible, and no amount of arguing will make it anything else. Do let’s
change the subject. How did you like Chicago?”

“Oh, all right. Rather a grubby sort of place.”

“So I’ve always heard. But you ought not to mind that, being a
Londoner.”

“Oh, I didn’t mind it. As a matter of fact, I had rather a good time.
Saw one or two shows, you know. Got in on my face as your brother’s
representative, which was all to the good. By the way, it’s rummy how
you run into people when you move about, isn’t it?”

“You talk as if you had been dashing about the streets with your eyes
shut. Did you meet somebody you knew?”

“Chap I hadn’t seen for years. Was at school with him, as a matter of
fact. Fellow named Foster. But I expect you know him, too, don’t you? By
name, at any rate. He wrote your brother’s show.”

Sally’s heart jumped.

“Oh! Did you meet Gerald--Foster?”

“Ran into him one night at the theatre.”

“And you were really at school with him?”

“Yes. He was in the footer team with me my last year.”

“Was he a scrum-half, too?” asked Sally, dimpling.

Ginger looked shocked.

“You don’t have two scrum-halves in a team,” he said, pained at this
ignorance on a vital matter. “The scrum-half is the half who works the
scrum and...”

“Yes, you told me that at Roville. What was Gerald--Mr. Foster then? A
six and seven-eighths, or something?”

“He was a wing-three,” said Ginger with a gravity befitting his theme.
“Rather fast, with a fairly decent swerve. But he would not learn to
give the reverse pass inside to the centre.”

“Ghastly!” said Sally.

“If,” said Ginger earnestly, “a wing’s bottled up by his wing and the
back, the only thing he can do, if he doesn’t want to be bundled into
touch, is to give the reverse pass.”

“I know,” said Sally. “If I’ve thought that once, I’ve thought it a
hundred times. How nice it must have been for you meeting again. I
suppose you had all sorts of things to talk about?”

Ginger shook his head.

“Not such a frightful lot. We were never very thick. You see, this chap
Foster was by way of being a bit of a worm.”

“What!”

“A tick,” explained Ginger. “A rotter. He was pretty generally barred at
school. Personally, I never had any use for him at all.”

Sally stiffened. She had liked Ginger up to that moment, and later on,
no doubt, she would resume her liking for him: but in the immediate
moment which followed these words she found herself regarding him with
stormy hostility. How dare he sit there saying things like that about
Gerald?

Ginger, who was lighting a cigarette without a care in the world,
proceeded to develop his theme.

“It’s a rummy thing about school. Generally, if a fellow’s good at
games--in the cricket team or the footer team and so forth--he
can hardly help being fairly popular. But this blighter Foster
somehow--nobody seemed very keen on him. Of course, he had a few of his
own pals, but most of the chaps rather gave him a miss. It may have been
because he was a bit sidey... had rather an edge on him, you know...
Personally, the reason I barred him was because he wasn’t straight.
You didn’t notice it if you weren’t thrown a goodish bit with him, of
course, but he and I were in the same house, and...”

Sally managed to control her voice, though it shook a little.

“I ought to tell you,” she said, and her tone would have warned him had
he been less occupied, “that Mr. Foster is a great friend of mine.”

But Ginger was intent on the lighting of his cigarette, a delicate
operation with the breeze blowing in through the open window. His head
was bent, and he had formed his hands into a protective framework which
half hid his face.

“If you take my tip,” he mumbled, “you’ll drop him. He’s a wrong ‘un.”

He spoke with the absent-minded drawl of preoccupation, and Sally could
keep the conflagration under no longer. She was aflame from head to
foot.

“It may interest you to know,” she said, shooting the words out like
bullets from between clenched teeth, “that Gerald Foster is the man I am
engaged to marry.”

Ginger’s head came slowly up from his cupped hands. Amazement was in his
eyes, and a sort of horror. The cigarette hung limply from his mouth. He
did not speak, but sat looking at her, dazed. Then the match burnt his
fingers, and he dropped it with a start. The sharp sting of it seemed to
wake him. He blinked.

“You’re joking,” he said, feebly. There was a note of wistfulness in his
voice. “It isn’t true?”

Sally kicked the leg of her chair irritably. She read insolent
disapproval into the words. He was daring to criticize...

“Of course it’s true...”

“But...” A look of hopeless misery came into Ginger’s pleasant face. He
hesitated. Then, with the air of a man bracing himself to a dreadful,
but unavoidable, ordeal, he went on. He spoke gruffly, and his eyes,
which had been fixed on Sally’s, wandered down to the match on the
carpet. It was still glowing, and mechanically he put a foot on it.

“Foster’s married,” he said shortly. “He was married the day before I
left Chicago.”



3



It seemed to Ginger that in the silence which followed, brooding over
the room like a living presence, even the noises in the street had
ceased, as though what he had said had been a spell cutting Sally
and himself off from the outer world. Only the little clock on the
mantelpiece ticked--ticked--ticked, like a heart beating fast.

He stared straight before him, conscious of a strange rigidity. He felt
incapable of movement, as he had sometimes felt in nightmares; and not
for all the wealth of America could he have raised his eyes just then to
Sally’s face. He could see her hands. They had tightened on the arm of
the chair. The knuckles were white.

He was blaming himself bitterly now for his oafish clumsiness in
blurting out the news so abruptly. And yet, curiously, in his remorse
there was something of elation. Never before had he felt so near to her.
It was as though a barrier that had been between them had fallen.

Something moved... It was Sally’s hand, slowly relaxing. The fingers
loosened their grip, tightened again, then, as if reluctantly relaxed
once more. The blood flowed back.

“Your cigarette’s out.”

Ginger started violently. Her voice, coming suddenly out of the silence,
had struck him like a blow.

“Oh, thanks!”

He forced himself to light another match. It sputtered noisily in the
stillness. He blew it out, and the uncanny quiet fell again.

Ginger drew at his cigarette mechanically. For an instant he had seen
Sally’s face, white-cheeked and bright-eyed, the chin tilted like a flag
flying over a stricken field. His mood changed. All his emotions had
crystallized into a dull, futile rage, a helpless fury directed at a man
a thousand miles away.

Sally spoke again. Her voice sounded small and far off, an odd flatness
in it.

“Married?”

Ginger threw his cigarette out of the window. He was shocked to find
that he was smoking. Nothing could have been farther from his intention
than to smoke. He nodded.

“Whom has he married?”

Ginger coughed. Something was sticking in his throat, and speech was
difficult.

“A girl called Doland.”

“Oh, Elsa Doland?”

“Yes.”

“Elsa Doland.” Sally drummed with her fingers on the arm of the chair.
“Oh, Elsa Doland?”

There was silence again. The little clock ticked fussily on the
mantelpiece. Out in the street automobile horns were blowing. From
somewhere in the distance came faintly the rumble of an elevated train.
Familiar sounds, but they came to Sally now with a curious, unreal sense
of novelty. She felt as though she had been projected into another world
where everything was new and strange and horrible--everything except
Ginger. About him, in the mere sight of him, there was something known
and heartening.

Suddenly, she became aware that she was feeling that Ginger was behaving
extremely well. She seemed to have been taken out of herself and to be
regarding the scene from outside, regarding it coolly and critically;
and it was plain to her that Ginger, in this upheaval of all things, was
bearing himself perfectly. He had attempted no banal words of sympathy.
He had said nothing and he was not looking at her. And Sally felt that
sympathy just now would be torture, and that she could not have borne to
be looked at.

Ginger was wonderful. In that curious, detached spirit that had come
upon her, she examined him impartially, and gratitude welled up from the
very depths of her. There he sat, saying nothing and doing nothing, as
if he knew that all she needed, the only thing that could keep her sane
in this world of nightmare, was the sight of that dear, flaming head
of his that made her feel that the world had not slipped away from her
altogether.

Ginger did not move. The room had grown almost dark now. A spear of
light from a street lamp shone in through the window.

Sally got up abruptly. Slowly, gradually, inch by inch, the great
suffocating cloud which had been crushing her had lifted. She felt alive
again. Her black hour had gone, and she was back in the world of
living things once more. She was afire with a fierce, tearing pain that
tormented her almost beyond endurance, but dimly she sensed the fact
that she had passed through something that was worse than pain, and,
with Ginger’s stolid presence to aid her, had passed triumphantly.

“Go and have dinner, Ginger,” she said. “You must be starving.”

Ginger came to life like a courtier in the palace of the Sleeping
Beauty. He shook himself, and rose stiffly from his chair.

“Oh, no,” he said. “Not a bit, really.”

Sally switched on the light and set him blinking. She could bear to be
looked at now.

“Go and dine,” she said. “Dine lavishly and luxuriously. You’ve
certainly earned...” Her voice faltered for a moment. She held out her
hand. “Ginger,” she said shakily, “I... Ginger, you’re a pal.”

When he had gone. Sally sat down and began to cry. Then she dried her
eyes in a business-like manner.

“There, Miss Nicholas!” she said. “You couldn’t have done that an hour
ago... We will now boil you an egg for your dinner and see how that
suits you!”



CHAPTER XI. SALLY RUNS AWAY



If Ginger Kemp had been asked to enumerate his good qualities, it is not
probable that he would have drawn up a very lengthy list. He might have
started by claiming for himself the virtue of meaning well, but after
that he would have had to chew the pencil in prolonged meditation. And,
even if he could eventually have added one or two further items to the
catalogue, tact and delicacy of feeling would not have been among them.

Yet, by staying away from Sally during the next few days he showed
considerable delicacy. It was not easy to stay away from her, but he
forced himself to do so. He argued from his own tastes, and was strongly
of opinion that in times of travail, solitude was what the sufferer most
desired. In his time he, too, had had what he would have described as
nasty jars, and on these occasions all he had asked was to be allowed to
sit and think things over and fight his battle out by himself.

By Saturday, however, he had come to the conclusion that some form of
action might now be taken. Saturday was rather a good day for picking up
the threads again. He had not to go to the office, and, what was still
more to the point, he had just drawn his week’s salary. Mrs. Meecher had
deftly taken a certain amount of this off him, but enough remained to
enable him to attempt consolation on a fairly princely scale. There
presented itself to him as a judicious move the idea of hiring a car and
taking Sally out to dinner at one of the road-houses he had heard about
up the Boston Post Road. He examined the scheme. The more he looked at
it, the better it seemed.

He was helped to this decision by the extraordinary perfection of the
weather. The weather of late had been a revelation to Ginger. It was his
first experience of America’s Indian Summer, and it had quite overcome
him. As he stood on the roof of Mrs. Meecher’s establishment on the
Saturday morning, thrilled by the velvet wonder of the sunshine, it
seemed to him that the only possible way of passing such a day was to
take Sally for a ride in an open car.

The Maison Meecher was a lofty building on one of the side-streets at
the lower end of the avenue. From its roof, after you had worked
your way through the groves of washing which hung limply from the
clothes-line, you could see many things of interest. To the left
lay Washington Square, full of somnolent Italians and roller-skating
children; to the right was a spectacle which never failed to intrigue
Ginger, the high smoke-stacks of a Cunard liner moving slowly down the
river, sticking up over the house-tops as if the boat was travelling
down Ninth Avenue.

To-day there were four of these funnels, causing Ginger to deduce the
Mauritania. As the boat on which he had come over from England, the
Mauritania had a sentimental interest for him. He stood watching her
stately progress till the higher buildings farther down the town shut
her from his sight; then picked his way through the washing and went
down to his room to get his hat. A quarter of an hour later he was
in the hall-way of Sally’s apartment house, gazing with ill-concealed
disgust at the serge-clad back of his cousin Mr. Carmyle, who was
engaged in conversation with a gentleman in overalls.

No care-free prospector, singing his way through the Mojave Desert
and suddenly finding himself confronted by a rattlesnake, could have
experienced so abrupt a change of mood as did Ginger at this revolting
spectacle. Even in their native Piccadilly it had been unpleasant to run
into Mr. Carmyle. To find him here now was nothing short of nauseating.
Only one thing could have brought him to this place. Obviously, he must
have come to see Sally; and with a sudden sinking of the heart Ginger
remembered the shiny, expensive automobile which he had seen waiting at
the door. He, it was clear, was not the only person to whom the idea had
occurred of taking Sally for a drive on this golden day.

He was still standing there when Mr. Carmyle swung round with a frown
on his dark face which seemed to say that he had not found the janitor’s
conversation entertaining. The sight of Ginger plainly did nothing to
lighten his gloom.

“Hullo!” he said.

“Hullo!” said Ginger.

Uncomfortable silence followed these civilities.

“Have you come to see Miss Nicholas?”

“Why, yes.”

“She isn’t here,” said Mr. Carmyle, and the fact that he had found
someone to share the bad news, seemed to cheer him a little.

“Not here?”

“No. Apparently...” Bruce Carmyle’s scowl betrayed that resentment which
a well-balanced man cannot but feel at the unreasonableness of others.
“... Apparently, for some extraordinary reason, she has taken it into
her head to dash over to England.”

Ginger tottered. The unexpectedness of the blow was crushing. He
followed his cousin out into the sunshine in a sort of dream. Bruce
Carmyle was addressing the driver of the expensive automobile.

“I find I shall not want the car. You can take it back to the garage.”

The chauffeur, a moody man, opened one half-closed eye and spat
cautiously. It was the way Rockefeller would have spat when approaching
the crisis of some delicate financial negotiation.

“You’ll have to pay just the same,” he observed, opening his other eye
to lend emphasis to the words.

“Of course I shall pay,” snapped Mr. Carmyle, irritably. “How much is
it?”

Money passed. The car rolled off.

“Gone to England?” said Ginger, dizzily.

“Yes, gone to England.”

“But why?”

“How the devil do I know why?” Bruce Carmyle would have found his best
friend trying at this moment. Gaping Ginger gave him almost a physical
pain. “All I know is what the janitor told me, that she sailed on the
Mauretania this morning.”

The tragic irony of this overcame Ginger. That he should have stood on
the roof, calmly watching the boat down the river...

He nodded absently to Mr. Carmyle and walked off. He had no further
remarks to make. The warmth had gone out of the sunshine and all
interest had departed from his life. He felt dull, listless, at a loose
end. Not even the thought that his cousin, a careful man with his money,
had had to pay a day’s hire for a car which he could not use brought him
any balm. He loafed aimlessly about the streets. He wandered in the Park
and out again. The Park bored him. The streets bored him. The whole
city bored him. A city without Sally in it was a drab, futile city, and
nothing that the sun could do to brighten it could make it otherwise.

Night came at last, and with it a letter. It was the first even passably
pleasant thing that had happened to Ginger in the whole of this dreary
and unprofitable day: for the envelope bore the crest of the good ship
Mauretania. He snatched it covetously from the letter-rack, and carried
it upstairs to his room.

Very few of the rooms at Mrs. Meecher’s boarding-house struck any
note of luxury. Mrs. Meecher was not one of your fashionable interior
decorators. She considered that when she had added a Morris chair to the
essentials which make up a bedroom, she had gone as far in the direction
of pomp as any guest at seven-and-a-half per could expect her to go. As
a rule, the severity of his surroundings afflicted Ginger with a touch
of gloom when he went to bed; but to-night--such is the magic of a
letter from the right person--he was uplifted and almost gay. There are
moments when even illuminated texts over the wash-stand cannot wholly
quell us.

There was nothing of haste and much of ceremony in Ginger’s method of
approaching the perusal of his correspondence. He bore himself after the
manner of a small boy in the presence of unexpected ice-cream, gloating
for awhile before embarking on the treat, anxious to make it last out.
His first move was to feel in the breast-pocket of his coat and produce
the photograph of Sally which he had feloniously removed from her
apartment. At this he looked long and earnestly before propping it
up within easy reach against his basin, to be handy, if required, for
purposes of reference. He then took off his coat, collar, and shoes,
filled and lit a pipe, placed pouch and matches on the arm of the Morris
chair, and drew that chair up so that he could sit with his feet on the
bed. Having manoeuvred himself into a position of ease, he lit his pipe
again and took up the letter. He looked at the crest, the handwriting of
the address, and the postmark. He weighed it in his hand. It was a bulky
letter.

He took Sally’s photograph from the wash-stand and scrutinized it once
more. Then he lit his pipe again, and, finally, wriggling himself into
the depths of the chair, opened the envelope.

“Ginger, dear.”

Having read so far, Ginger found it necessary to take up the photograph
and study it with an even greater intentness than before. He gazed at it
for many minutes, then laid it down and lit his pipe again. Then he went
on with the letter.

“Ginger, dear--I’m afraid this address is going to give you rather a
shock, and I’m feeling very guilty. I’m running away, and I haven’t even
stopped to say good-bye. I can’t help it. I know it’s weak and cowardly,
but I simply can’t help it. I stood it for a day or two, and then I
saw that it was no good. (Thank you for leaving me alone and not coming
round to see me. Nobody else but you would have done that. But then,
nobody ever has been or ever could be so understanding as you.)”

Ginger found himself compelled at this point to look at the photograph
again.

“There was too much in New York to remind me. That’s the worst of being
happy in a place. When things go wrong you find there are too many
ghosts about. I just couldn’t stand it. I tried, but I couldn’t. I’m
going away to get cured--if I can. Mr. Faucitt is over in England, and
when I went down to Mrs. Meecher for my letters, I found one from him.
His brother is dead, you know, and he has inherited, of all things,
a fashionable dress-making place in Regent Street. His brother was
Laurette et Cie. I suppose he will sell the business later on, but, just
at present, the poor old dear is apparently quite bewildered and that
doesn’t seem to have occurred to him. He kept saying in his letter how
much he wished I was with him, to help him, and I was tempted and ran.
Anything to get away from the ghosts and have something to do. I don’t
suppose I shall feel much better in England, but, at least, every street
corner won’t have associations. Don’t ever be happy anywhere, Ginger.
It’s too big a risk, much too big a risk.

“There was a letter from Elsa Doland, too. Bubbling over with affection.
We had always been tremendous friends. Of course, she never knew
anything about my being engaged to Gerald. I lent Fillmore the money to
buy that piece, which gave Elsa her first big chance, and so she’s very
grateful. She says, if ever she gets the opportunity of doing me a good
turn... Aren’t things muddled?

“And there was a letter from Gerald. I was expecting one, of course,
but... what would you have done, Ginger? Would you have read it? I sat
with it in front of me for an hour, I should think, just looking at the
envelope, and then... You see, what was the use? I could guess exactly
the sort of thing that would be in it, and reading it would only have
hurt a lot more. The thing was done, so why bother about explanations?
What good are explanations, anyway? They don’t help. They don’t do
anything... I burned it, Ginger. The last letter I shall ever get from
him. I made a bonfire on the bathroom floor, and it smouldered and went
brown, and then flared a little, and every now and then I lit another
match and kept it burning, and at last it was just black ashes and a
stain on the tiles. Just a mess!

“Ginger, burn this letter, too. I’m pouring out all the poison to you,
hoping it will make me feel better. You don’t mind, do you? But I know
you don’t. If ever anybody had a real pal...

“It’s a dreadful thing, fascination, Ginger. It grips you and you are
helpless. One can be so sensible and reasonable about other people’s
love affairs. When I was working at the dance place I told you about
there was a girl who fell in love with the most awful little beast. He
had a mean mouth and shiny black hair brushed straight back, and anybody
would have seen what he was. But this girl wouldn’t listen to a word.
I talked to her by the hour. It makes me smile now when I think how
sensible and level-headed I was. But she wouldn’t listen. In some
mysterious way this was the man she wanted, and, of course, everything
happened that one knew would happen.

“If one could manage one’s own life as well as one can manage other
people’s! If all this wretched thing of mine had happened to some other
girl, how beautifully I could have proved that it was the best thing
that could have happened, and that a man who could behave as Gerald has
done wasn’t worth worrying about. I can just hear myself. But, you see,
whatever he has done, Gerald is still Gerald and Sally is still Sally
and, however much I argue, I can’t get away from that. All I can do is
to come howling to my redheaded pal, when I know just as well as he does
that a girl of any spirit would be dignified and keep her troubles to
herself and be much too proud to let anyone know that she was hurt.

“Proud! That’s the real trouble, Ginger. My pride has been battered and
chopped up and broken into as many pieces as you broke Mr. Scrymgeour’s
stick! What pitiful creatures we are. Girls, I mean. At least, I suppose
a good many girls are like me. If Gerald had died and I had lost him
that way, I know quite well I shouldn’t be feeling as I do now. I should
have been broken-hearted, but it wouldn’t have been the same. It’s
my pride that is hurt. I have always been a bossy, cocksure little
creature, swaggering about the world like an English sparrow; and now
I’m paying for it! Oh, Ginger, I’m paying for it! I wonder if running
away is going to do me any good at all. Perhaps, if Mr. Faucitt has some
real hard work for me to do...

“Of course, I know exactly how all this has come about. Elsa’s pretty
and attractive. But the point is that she is a success, and as a success
she appeals to Gerald’s weakest side. He worships success. She is going
to have a marvellous career, and she can help Gerald on in his. He can
write plays for her to star in. What have I to offer against that? Yes,
I know it’s grovelling and contemptible of me to say that, Ginger. I
ought to be above it, oughtn’t I--talking as if I were competing for
some prize... But I haven’t any pride left. Oh, well!

“There! I’ve poured it all out and I really do feel a little better
just for the moment. It won’t last, of course, but even a minute is
something. Ginger, dear, I shan’t see you for ever so long, even if we
ever do meet again, but you’ll try to remember that I’m thinking of
you a whole lot, won’t you? I feel responsible for you. You’re my baby.
You’ve got started now and you’ve only to stick to it. Please, please,
please don’t ‘make a hash of it’! Good-bye. I never did find that
photograph of me that we were looking for that afternoon in the
apartment, or I would send it to you. Then you could have kept it on
your mantelpiece, and whenever you felt inclined to make a hash of
anything I would have caught your eye sternly and you would have pulled
up.

“Good-bye, Ginger. I shall have to stop now. The mail is just closing.

“Always your pal, wherever I am.---SALLY.”

Ginger laid the letter down, and a little sound escaped him that was
half a sigh, half an oath. He was wondering whether even now some
desirable end might not be achieved by going to Chicago and breaking
Gerald Foster’s neck. Abandoning this scheme as impracticable, and
not being able to think of anything else to do he re-lit his pipe and
started to read the letter again.



CHAPTER XII. SOME LETTERS FOR GINGER



Laurette et Cie,

Regent Street,

London, W.,

England.



January 21st.

Dear Ginger,--I’m feeling better. As it’s three months since I last
wrote to you, no doubt you will say to yourself that I would be a poor,
weak-minded creature if I wasn’t. I suppose one ought to be able to get
over anything in three months. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I haven’t quite
succeeded in doing that, but at least I have managed to get my troubles
stowed away in the cellar, and I’m not dragging them out and looking at
them all the time. That’s something, isn’t it?

I ought to give you all my impressions of London, I suppose; but I’ve
grown so used to the place that I don’t think I have any now. I seem to
have been here years and years.

You will see by the address that Mr. Faucitt has not yet sold his
inheritance. He expects to do so very soon, he tells me--there is a
rich-looking man with whiskers and a keen eye whom he is always lunching
with, and I think big deals are in progress. Poor dear! he is crazy to
get away into the country and settle down and grow ducks and things.
London has disappointed him. It is not the place it used to be. Until
quite lately, when he grew resigned, he used to wander about in a
disconsolate sort of way, trying to locate the landmarks of his youth.
(He has not been in England for nearly thirty years!) The trouble is, it
seems, that about once in every thirty years a sort of craze for change
comes over London, and they paint a shop-front red instead of blue, and
that upsets the returned exile dreadfully. Mr. Faucitt feels like Rip
Van Winkle. His first shock was when he found that the Empire was a
theatre now instead of a music-hall. Then he was told that another
music-hall, the Tivoli, had been pulled down altogether. And when on top
of that he went to look at the baker’s shop in Rupert Street, over which
he had lodgings in the eighties, and discovered that it had been turned
into a dressmaker’s, he grew very melancholy, and only cheered up a
little when a lovely magenta fog came on and showed him that some things
were still going along as in the good old days.

I am kept quite busy at Laurette et Cie., thank goodness. (Not being a
French scholar like you--do you remember Jules?--I thought at first that
Cie was the name of the junior partner, and looked forward to meeting
him. “Miss Nicholas, shake hands with Mr. Cie, one of your greatest
admirers.”) I hold down the female equivalent of your job at the
Fillmore Nicholas Theatrical Enterprises Ltd.--that is to say, I’m a
sort of right-hand woman. I hang around and sidle up to the customers
when they come in, and say, “Chawming weather, moddom!” (which is
usually a black lie) and pass them on to the staff, who do the actual
work. I shouldn’t mind going on like this for the next few years, but
Mr. Faucitt is determined to sell. I don’t know if you are like that,
but every other Englishman I’ve ever met seems to have an ambition to
own a house and lot in Loamshire or Hants or Salop or somewhere.
Their one object in life is to make some money and “buy back the old
place”--which was sold, of course, at the end of act one to pay the
heir’s gambling debts.

Mr. Faucitt, when he was a small boy, used to live in a little village
in Gloucestershire, near a place called Cirencester--at least, it isn’t:
it’s called Cissister, which I bet you didn’t know--and after forgetting
about it for fifty years, he has suddenly been bitten by the desire to
end his days there, surrounded by pigs and chickens. He took me down to
see the place the other day. Oh, Ginger, this English country! Why any
of you ever live in towns I can’t think. Old, old grey stone houses with
yellow haystacks and lovely squelchy muddy lanes and great fat trees and
blue hills in the distance. The peace of it! If ever I sell my soul, I
shall insist on the devil giving me at least forty years in some English
country place in exchange.

Perhaps you will think from all this that I am too much occupied to
remember your existence. Just to show how interested I am in you, let
me tell you that, when I was reading the paper a week ago, I happened to
see the headline, “International Match.” It didn’t seem to mean anything
at first, and then I suddenly recollected. This was the thing you had
once been a snip for! So I went down to a place called Twickenham, where
this football game was to be, to see the sort of thing you used to do
before I took charge of you and made you a respectable right-hand man.
There was an enormous crowd there, and I was nearly squeezed to death,
but I bore it for your sake. I found out that the English team were the
ones wearing white shirts, and that the ones in red were the Welsh. I
said to the man next to me, after he had finished yelling himself
black in the face, “Could you kindly inform me which is the English
scrum-half?” And just at that moment the players came quite near where
I was, and about a dozen assassins in red hurled themselves violently
on top of a meek-looking little fellow who had just fallen on the ball.
Ginger, you are well out of it! That was the scrum-half, and I gathered
that that sort of thing was a mere commonplace in his existence.
Stopping a rush, it is called, and he is expected to do it all the time.
The idea of you ever going in for such brutal sports! You thank your
stars that you are safe on your little stool in Fillmore’s outer office,
and that, if anybody jumps on top of you now, you can call a cop. Do you
mean to say you really used to do these daredevil feats? You must have
hidden depths in you which I have never suspected.

As I was taking a ride down Piccadilly the other day on top of a bus, I
saw somebody walking along who seemed familiar. It was Mr. Carmyle. So
he’s back in England again. He didn’t see me, thank goodness. I don’t
want to meet anybody just at present who reminds me of New York.

Thanks for telling me all the news, but please don’t do it again. It
makes me remember, and I don’t want to. It’s this way, Ginger. Let me
write to you, because it really does relieve me, but don’t answer my
letters. Do you mind? I’m sure you’ll understand.

So Fillmore and Gladys Winch are married! From what I have seen of
her, it’s the best thing that has ever happened to Brother F. She is a
splendid girl. I must write to him...



Laurette et Cie..

London



March 12th.

Dear Ginger,--I saw in a Sunday paper last week that “The Primrose Way”
 had been produced in New York, and was a great success. Well, I’m very
glad. But I don’t think the papers ought to print things like that. It’s
unsettling.

Next day, I did one of those funny things you do when you’re feeling
blue and lonely and a long way away from everybody. I called at your
club and asked for you! Such a nice old man in uniform at the desk said
in a fatherly way that you hadn’t been in lately, and he rather fancied
you were out of town, but would I take a seat while he inquired. He
then summoned a tiny boy, also in uniform, and the child skipped off
chanting, “Mister Kemp! Mister Kemp!” in a shrill treble. It gave me
such an odd feeling to hear your name echoing in the distance. I felt so
ashamed for giving them all that trouble; and when the boy came back
I slipped twopence into his palm, which I suppose was against all the
rules, though he seemed to like it.

Mr. Faucitt has sold the business and retired to the country, and I am
rather at a loose end...



                                                 Monk’s Crofton,
                                                 (whatever that means)
                                                 Much Middleford,
                                                 Salop,
                                                 (slang for Shropshire)
                                                 England.



April 18th.

Dear Ginger,--What’s the use? What is the use? I do all I can to get
right away from New York, and New York comes after me and tracks me down
in my hiding-place. A week or so ago, as I was walking down the Strand
in an aimless sort of way, out there came right on top of me--who do you
think? Fillmore, arm in arm with Mr. Carmyle! I couldn’t dodge. In the
first place, Mr. Carmyle had seen me; in the second place, it is a day’s
journey to dodge poor dear Fillmore now. I blushed for him. Ginger!
Right there in the Strand I blushed for him. In my worst dreams I had
never pictured him so enormous. Upon what meat doth this our Fillmore
feed that he is grown so great? Poor Gladys! When she looks at him she
must feel like a bigamist.

Apparently Fillmore is still full of big schemes, for he talked airily
about buying all sorts of English plays. He has come over, as I suppose
you know, to arrange about putting on “The Primrose Way” over here. He
is staying at the Savoy, and they took me off there to lunch, whooping
joyfully as over a strayed lamb. It was the worst thing that could
possibly have happened to me. Fillmore talked Broadway without a pause,
till by the time he had worked his way past the French pastry and was
lolling back, breathing a little stertorously, waiting for the coffee
and liqueurs, he had got me so homesick that, if it hadn’t been that I
didn’t want to make a public exhibition of myself, I should have broken
down and howled. It was crazy of me ever to go near the Savoy. Of
course, it’s simply an annex to Broadway. There were Americans at every
table as far as the eye could reach. I might just as well have been at
the Astor.

Well, if Fate insists in bringing New York to England for my special
discomfiture, I suppose I have got to put up with it. I just let events
take their course, and I have been drifting ever since. Two days ago
I drifted here. Mr. Carmyle invited Fillmore--he seems to love
Fillmore--and me to Monk’s Crofton, and I hadn’t even the shadow of an
excuse for refusing. So I came, and I am now sitting writing to you in
an enormous bedroom with an open fire and armchairs and every other sort
of luxury. Fillmore is out golfing. He sails for New York on Saturday on
the Mauretania. I am horrified to hear from him that, in addition to all
his other big schemes, he is now promoting a fight for the light-weight
championship in Jersey City, and guaranteeing enormous sums to both
boxers. It’s no good arguing with him. If you do, he simply quotes
figures to show the fortunes other people have made out of these things.
Besides, it’s too late now, anyway. As far as I can make out, the fight
is going to take place in another week or two. All the same, it makes my
flesh creep.

Well, it’s no use worrying, I suppose. Let’s change the subject. Do you
know Monk’s Crofton? Probably you don’t, as I seem to remember hearing
something said about it being a recent purchase. Mr. Carmyle bought it
from some lord or other who had been losing money on the Stock Exchange.
I hope you haven’t seen it, anyway, because I want to describe it at
great length. I want to pour out my soul about it. Ginger, what has
England ever done to deserve such paradises? I thought, in my ignorance,
that Mr. Faucitt’s Cissister place was pretty good, but it doesn’t even
begin. It can’t compete. Of course, his is just an ordinary country
house, and this is a Seat. Monk’s Crofton is the sort of place they used
to write about in the English novels. You know. “The sunset was falling
on the walls of G---- Castle, in B----shire, hard by the picturesque
village of H----, and not a stone’s throw from the hamlet of J----.” I
can imagine Tennyson’s Maud living here. It is one of the stately homes
of England; how beautiful they stand, and I’m crazy about it.

You motor up from the station, and after you have gone about three
miles, you turn in at a big iron gate with stone posts on each side with
stone beasts on them. Close by the gate is the cutest little house with
an old man inside it who pops out and touches his hat. This is only the
lodge, really, but you think you have arrived; so you get all ready to
jump out, and then the car goes rolling on for another fifty miles or so
through beech woods full of rabbits and open meadows with deer in them.
Finally, just as you think you are going on for ever, you whizz round a
corner, and there’s the house. You don’t get a glimpse of it till then,
because the trees are too thick.

It’s very large, and sort of low and square, with a kind of tower at
one side and the most fascinating upper porch sort of thing with
battlements. I suppose in the old days you used to stand on this and
drop molten lead on visitors’ heads. Wonderful lawns all round, and
shrubberies and a lake that you can just see where the ground dips
beyond the fields. Of course it’s too early yet for them to be out, but
to the left of the house there’s a place where there will be about
a million roses when June comes round, and all along the side of the
rose-garden is a high wall of old red brick which shuts off the kitchen
garden. I went exploring there this morning. It’s an enormous place,
with hot-houses and things, and there’s the cunningest farm at one end
with a stable yard full of puppies that just tear the heart out of you,
they’re so sweet. And a big, sleepy cat, which sits and blinks in
the sun and lets the puppies run all over her. And there’s a lovely
stillness, and you can hear everything growing. And thrushes and
blackbirds... Oh, Ginger, it’s heavenly!

But there’s a catch. It’s a case of “Where every prospect pleases and
only man is vile.” At least, not exactly vile, I suppose, but terribly
stodgy. I can see now why you couldn’t hit it off with the Family.
Because I’ve seen ‘em all! They’re here! Yes, Uncle Donald and all of
them. Is it a habit of your family to collect in gangs, or have I just
happened to stumble into an accidental Old Home Week? When I came down
to dinner the first evening, the drawing-room was full to bursting
point--not simply because Fillmore was there, but because there were
uncles and aunts all over the place. I felt like a small lion in a den
of Daniels. I know exactly now what you mean about the Family. They look
at you! Of course, it’s all right for me, because I am snowy white clear
through, but I can just imagine what it must have been like for you with
your permanently guilty conscience. You must have had an awful time.

By the way, it’s going to be a delicate business getting this letter
through to you--rather like carrying the despatches through the enemy’s
lines in a Civil War play. You’re supposed to leave letters on the table
in the hall, and someone collects them in the afternoon and takes them
down to the village on a bicycle. But, if I do that some aunt or uncle
is bound to see it, and I shall be an object of loathing, for it is no
light matter, my lad, to be caught having correspondence with a human
Jimpson weed like you. It would blast me socially. At least, so I gather
from the way they behaved when your name came up at dinner last night.
Somebody mentioned you, and the most awful roasting party broke loose.
Uncle Donald acting as cheer-leader. I said feebly that I had met you
and had found you part human, and there was an awful silence till they
all started at the same time to show me where I was wrong, and how
cruelly my girlish inexperience had deceived me. A young and innocent
half-portion like me, it appears, is absolutely incapable of suspecting
the true infamy of the dregs of society. You aren’t fit to speak to the
likes of me, being at the kindest estimate little more than a blot on
the human race. I tell you this in case you may imagine you’re popular
with the Family. You’re not.

So I shall have to exercise a good deal of snaky craft in smuggling this
letter through. I’ll take it down to the village myself if I can sneak
away. But it’s going to be pretty difficult, because for some reason I
seem to be a centre of attraction. Except when I take refuge in my
room, hardly a moment passes without an aunt or an uncle popping out
and having a cosy talk with me. It sometimes seems as though they were
weighing me in the balance. Well, let ‘em weigh!

Time to dress for dinner now. Good-bye.

Yours in the balance,

Sally.

P.S.--You were perfectly right about your Uncle Donald’s moustache, but
I don’t agree with you that it is more his misfortune than his fault. I
think he does it on purpose.



                                                  (Just for the moment)
                                                  Monk’s Crofton,
                                                  Much Middleford,
                                                  Salop,
                                                  England.



April 20th.

Dear Ginger,--Leaving here to-day. In disgrace. Hard, cold looks from
the family. Strained silences. Uncle Donald far from chummy. You can
guess what has happened. I might have seen it coming. I can see now that
it was in the air all along.

Fillmore knows nothing about it. He left just before it happened.
I shall see him very soon, for I have decided to come back and stop
running away from things any longer. It’s cowardly to skulk about over
here. Besides, I’m feeling so much better that I believe I can face
the ghosts. Anyway, I’m going to try. See you almost as soon as you get
this.

I shall mail this in London, and I suppose it will come over by the same
boat as me. It’s hardly worth writing, really, of course, but I have
sneaked up to my room to wait till the motor arrives to take me to the
station, and it’s something to do. I can hear muffled voices. The Family
talking me over, probably. Saying they never really liked me all along.
Oh, well!

Yours moving in an orderly manner to the exit,

Sally.



CHAPTER XIII. STRANGE BEHAVIOUR OF A SPARRING-PARTNER



1



Sally’s emotions, as she sat in her apartment on the morning of her
return to New York, resembled somewhat those of a swimmer who, after
wavering on a raw morning at the brink of a chill pool, nerves himself
to the plunge. She was aching, but she knew that she had done well. If
she wanted happiness, she must fight for it, and for all these months
she had been shirking the fight. She had done with wavering on the
brink, and here she was, in mid-stream, ready for whatever might befall.
It hurt, this coming to grips. She had expected it to hurt. But it was
a pain that stimulated, not a dull melancholy that smothered. She felt
alive and defiant.

She had finished unpacking and tidying up. The next move was certainly
to go and see Ginger. She had suddenly become aware that she wanted very
badly to see Ginger. His stolid friendliness would be a support and a
prop. She wished now that she had sent him a cable, so that he could
have met her at the dock. It had been rather terrible at the dock.
The echoing customs sheds had sapped her valour and she felt alone and
forlorn.

She looked at her watch, and was surprised to find how early it was. She
could catch him at the office and make him take her out to lunch. She
put on her hat and went out.

The restless hand of change, always active in New York, had not spared
the outer office of the Fillmore Nicholas Theatrical Enterprises Ltd. in
the months of her absence. She was greeted on her arrival by an entirely
new and original stripling in the place of the one with whom at her last
visit she had established such cordial relations. Like his predecessor
he was generously pimpled, but there the resemblance stopped. He was a
grim boy, and his manner was stern and suspicious. He peered narrowly at
Sally for a moment as if he had caught her in the act of purloining the
office blotting-paper, then, with no little acerbity, desired her to
state her business.

“I want Mr. Kemp,” said Sally.

The office-boy scratched his cheek dourly with a ruler. No one would
have guessed, so austere was his aspect, that a moment before her
entrance he had been trying to balance it on his chin, juggling the
while with a pair of paper-weights. For, impervious as he seemed
to human weaknesses, it was this lad’s ambition one day to go into
vaudeville.

“What name?” he said, coldly.

“Nicholas,” said Sally. “I am Mr. Nicholas’ sister.”

On a previous occasion when she had made this announcement, disastrous
results had ensued; but to-day it went well. It seemed to hit the
office-boy like a bullet. He started convulsively, opened his mouth, and
dropped the ruler. In the interval of stooping and recovering it he was
able to pull himself together. He had not been curious about Sally’s
name. What he had wished was to have the name of the person for whom she
was asking repeated. He now perceived that he had had a bit of luck.
A wearying period of disappointment in the matter of keeping the
paper-weights circulating while balancing the ruler, had left him
peevish, and it had been his intention to work off his ill-humour on
the young visitor. The discovery that it was the boss’s sister who was
taking up his time, suggested the advisability of a radical change of
tactics. He had stooped with a frown: he returned to the perpendicular
with a smile that was positively winning. It was like the sun suddenly
bursting through a London fog.

“Will you take a seat, lady?” he said, with polished courtesy even
unbending so far as to reach out and dust one with the sleeve of his
coat. He added that the morning was a fine one.

“Thank you,” said Sally. “Will you tell him I’m here.”

“Mr. Nicholas is out, miss,” said the office-boy, with gentlemanly
regret. “He’s back in New York, but he’s gone out.”

“I don’t want Mr. Nicholas. I want Mr. Kemp.”

“Mr. Kemp?”

“Yes, Mr. Kemp.”

Sorrow at his inability to oblige shone from every hill-top on the boy’s
face.

“Don’t know of anyone of that name around here,” he said,
apologetically.

“But surely...” Sally broke off suddenly. A grim foreboding had come to
her. “How long have you been here?” she asked.

“All day, ma’am,” said the office-boy, with the manner of a Casablanca.

“I mean, how long have you been employed here?”

“Just over a month, miss.”

“Hasn’t Mr. Kemp been in the office all that time?”

“Name’s new to me, lady. Does he look like anything? I meanter say,
what’s he look like?”

“He has very red hair.”

“Never seen him in here,” said the office-boy. The truth shone coldly
on Sally. She blamed herself for ever having gone away, and told herself
that she might have known what would happen. Left to his own resources,
the unhappy Ginger had once more made a hash of it. And this hash must
have been a more notable and outstanding hash than any of his previous
efforts, for, surely, Fillmore would not lightly have dismissed one who
had come to him under her special protection.

“Where is Mr. Nicholas?” she asked. It seemed to her that Fillmore was
the only possible source of information. “Did you say he was out?”

“Really out, miss,” said the office-boy, with engaging candour. “He went
off to White Plains in his automobile half-an-hour ago.”

“White Plains? What for?”

The pimpled stripling had now given himself up wholeheartedly to
social chit-chat. Usually he liked his time to himself and resented the
intrusion of the outer world, for he who had chosen jugglery for
his walk in life must neglect no opportunity of practising: but so
favourable was the impression which Sally had made on his plastic mind
that he was delighted to converse with her as long as she wished.

“I guess what’s happened is, he’s gone up to take a look at Bugs
Butler,” he said.

“Whose butler?” said Sally mystified.

The office-boy smiled a tolerant smile. Though an admirer of the sex, he
was aware that women were seldom hep to the really important things in
life. He did not blame them. That was the way they were constructed, and
one simply had to accept it.

“Bugs Butler is training up at White Plains, miss.”

“Who is Bugs Butler?”

Something of his former bleakness of aspect returned to the office-boy.
Sally’s question had opened up a subject on which he felt deeply.

“Ah!” he replied, losing his air of respectful deference as he
approached the topic. “Who is he! That’s what they’re all saying, all
the wise guys. Who has Bugs Butler ever licked?”

“I don’t know,” said Sally, for he had fixed her with a penetrating gaze
and seemed to be pausing for a reply.

“Nor nobody else,” said the stripling vehemently. “A lot of stiffs out
on the coast, that’s all. Ginks nobody has ever heard of, except Cyclone
Mullins, and it took that false alarm fifteen rounds to get a referee’s
decision over him. The boss would go and give him a chance against the
champ, but I could have told him that the legitimate contender was
K-leg Binns. K-leg put Cyclone Mullins out in the fifth. Well,” said the
office-boy in the overwrought tone of one chafing at human folly, “if
anybody thinks Bugs Butler can last six rounds with Lew Lucas, I’ve two
bucks right here in my vest pocket that says it ain’t so.”

Sally began to see daylight.

“Oh, Bugs--Mr. Butler is one of the boxers in this fight that my brother
is interested in?”

“That’s right. He’s going up against the lightweight champ. Lew Lucas is
the lightweight champ. He’s a bird!”

“Yes?” said Sally. This youth had a way of looking at her with his head
cocked on one side as though he expected her to say something.

“Yes, sir!” said the stripling with emphasis. “Lew Lucas is a hot
sketch. He used to live on the next street to me,” he added as clinching
evidence of his hero’s prowess. “I’ve seen his old mother as close as
I am to you. Say, I seen her a hundred times. Is any stiff of a Bugs
Butler going to lick a fellow like that?”

“It doesn’t seem likely.”

“You spoke it!” said the lad crisply, striking unsuccessfully at a fly
which had settled on the blotting-paper.

There was a pause. Sally started to rise.

“And there’s another thing,” said the office-boy, loath to close the
subject. “Can Bugs Butler make a hundred and thirty-five ringside
without being weak?”

“It sounds awfully difficult.”

“They say he’s clever.” The expert laughed satirically. “Well,
what’s that going to get him? The poor fish can’t punch a hole in a
nut-sundae.”

“You don’t seem to like Mr. Butler.”

“Oh, I’ve nothing against him,” said the office-boy magnanimously. “I’m
only saying he’s no licence to be mixing it with Lew Lucas.”

Sally got up. Absorbing as this chat on current form was, more important
matters claimed her attention.

“How shall I find my brother when I get to White Plains?” she asked.

“Oh, anybody’ll show you the way to the training-camp. If you hurry,
there’s a train you can make now.”

“Thank you very much.”

“You’re welcome.”

He opened the door for her with an old-world politeness which disuse had
rendered a little rusty: then, with an air of getting back to business
after a pleasant but frivolous interlude, he took up the paper-weights
once more and placed the ruler with nice care on his upturned chin.



2



Fillmore heaved a sigh of relief and began to sidle from the room. It
was a large room, half barn, half gymnasium. Athletic appliances of
various kinds hung on the walls and in the middle there was a wide
roped-off space, around which a small crowd had distributed itself with
an air of expectancy. This is a commercial age, and the days when a
prominent pugilist’s training activities used to be hidden from the
public gaze are over. To-day, if the public can lay its hands on fifty
cents, it may come and gaze its fill. This afternoon, plutocrats to the
number of about forty had assembled, though not all of these, to the
regret of Mr. Lester Burrowes, the manager of the eminent Bugs Butler,
had parted with solid coin. Many of those present were newspaper
representatives and on the free list--writers who would polish up Mr.
Butler’s somewhat crude prognostications as to what he proposed to do
to Mr. Lew Lucas, and would report him as saying, “I am in really superb
condition and feel little apprehension of the issue,” and artists who
would depict him in a state of semi-nudity with feet several sizes too
large for any man.

The reason for Fillmore’s relief was that Mr. Burrowes, who was a great
talker and had buttonholed him a quarter of an hour ago, had at last had
his attention distracted elsewhere, and had gone off to investigate some
matter that called for his personal handling, leaving Fillmore free to
slide away to the hotel and get a bite to eat, which he sorely needed.
The zeal which had brought him to the training-camp to inspect the final
day of Mr. Butler’s preparation--for the fight was to take place on the
morrow--had been so great that he had omitted to lunch before leaving
New York.

So Fillmore made thankfully for the door. And it was at the door that he
encountered Sally. He was looking over his shoulder at the moment, and
was not aware of her presence till she spoke.

“Hallo, Fillmore!”

Sally had spoken softly, but a dynamite explosion could not have
shattered her brother’s composure with more completeness. In the leaping
twist which brought him facing her, he rose a clear three inches from
the floor. He had a confused sensation, as though his nervous system had
been stirred up with a pole. He struggled for breath and moistened his
lips with the tip of his tongue, staring at her continuously during the
process.

Great men, in their moments of weakness, are to be pitied rather than
scorned. If ever a man had an excuse for leaping like a young ram,
Fillmore had it. He had left Sally not much more than a week ago in
England, in Shropshire, at Monk’s Crofton. She had said nothing of any
intention on her part of leaving the country, the county, or the house.
Yet here she was, in Bugs Butler’s training-camp at White Plains, in the
State of New York, speaking softly in his ear without even going
through the preliminary of tapping him on the shoulder to advertise her
presence. No wonder that Fillmore was startled. And no wonder that, as
he adjusted his faculties to the situation, there crept upon him a chill
apprehension.

For Fillmore had not been blind to the significance of that invitation
to Monk’s Crofton. Nowadays your wooer does not formally approach a
girl’s nearest relative and ask permission to pay his addresses; but,
when he invites her and that nearest relative to his country home and
collects all the rest of the family to meet her, the thing may be
said to have advanced beyond the realms of mere speculation. Shrewdly
Fillmore had deduced that Bruce Carmyle was in love with Sally, and
mentally he had joined their hands and given them a brother’s blessing.
And now it was only too plain that disaster must have occurred. If the
invitation could mean only one thing, so also could Sally’s presence at
White Plains mean only one thing.

“Sally!” A croaking whisper was the best he could achieve. “What...
what...?”

“Did I startle you? I’m sorry.”

“What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at Monk’s Crofton?”

Sally glanced past him at the ring and the crowd around it.

“I decided I wanted to get back to America. Circumstances arose which
made it pleasanter to leave Monk’s Crofton.”

“Do you mean to say...?”

“Yes. Don’t let’s talk about it.”

“Do you mean to say,” persisted Fillmore, “that Carmyle proposed to you
and you turned him down?”

Sally flushed.

“I don’t think it’s particularly nice to talk about that sort of thing,
but--yes.”

A feeling of desolation overcame Fillmore. That conviction, which
saddens us at all times, of the wilful bone-headedness of our fellows
swept coldly upon him. Everything had been so perfect, the whole
arrangement so ideal, that it had never occurred to him as a possibility
that Sally might take it into her head to spoil it by declining to play
the part allotted to her. The match was so obviously the best thing that
could happen. It was not merely the suitor’s impressive wealth that made
him hold this opinion, though it would be idle to deny that the prospect
of having a brother-in-lawful claim on the Carmyle bank-balance had cast
a rosy glamour over the future as he had envisaged it. He honestly
liked and respected the man. He appreciated his quiet and aristocratic
reserve. A well-bred fellow, sensible withal, just the sort of husband
a girl like Sally needed. And now she had ruined everything. With the
capricious perversity which so characterizes her otherwise delightful
sex, she had spilled the beans.

“But why?”

“Oh, Fill!” Sally had expected that realization of the facts would
produce these symptoms in him, but now that they had presented
themselves she was finding them rasping to the nerves. “I should have
thought the reason was obvious.”

“You mean you don’t like him?”

“I don’t know whether I do or not. I certainly don’t like him enough to
marry him.”

“He’s a darned good fellow.”

“Is he? You say so. I don’t know.”

The imperious desire for bodily sustenance began to compete successfully
for Fillmore’s notice with his spiritual anguish.

“Let’s go to the hotel and talk it over. We’ll go to the hotel and I’ll
give you something to eat.”

“I don’t want anything to eat, thanks.”

“You don’t want anything to eat?” said Fillmore incredulously. He
supposed in a vague sort of way that there were eccentric people of
this sort, but it was hard to realize that he had met one of them. “I’m
starving.”

“Well, run along then.”

“Yes, but I want to talk...”

He was not the only person who wanted to talk. At the moment a small
man of sporting exterior hurried up. He wore what his tailor’s
advertisements would have called a “nobbly” suit of checked tweed
and--in defiance of popular prejudice--a brown bowler hat. Mr. Lester
Burrowes, having dealt with the business which had interrupted their
conversation a few minutes before, was anxious to resume his remarks
on the subject of the supreme excellence in every respect of his young
charge.

“Say, Mr. Nicholas, you ain’t going’? Bugs is just getting ready to
spar.”

He glanced inquiringly at Sally.

“My sister--Mr. Burrowes,” said Fillmore faintly. “Mr. Burrowes is Bugs
Butler’s manager.”

“How do you do?” said Sally.

“Pleased to meecher,” said Mr. Burrowes. “Say...”

“I was just going to the hotel to get something to eat,” said Fillmore.

Mr. Burrowes clutched at his coat-button with a swoop, and held him with
a glittering eye.

“Yes, but, say, before-you-go-lemme-tell-ya-somef’n. You’ve never seen
this boy of mine, not when he was feeling right. Believe me, he’s there!
He’s a wizard. He’s a Hindoo! Say, he’s been practising up a left shift
that...”

Fillmore’s eye met Sally’s wanly, and she pitied him. Presently she
would require him to explain to her how he had dared to dismiss Ginger
from his employment--and make that explanation a good one: but in the
meantime she remembered that he was her brother and was suffering.

“He’s the cleverest lightweight,” proceeded Mr. Burrowes fervently,
“since Joe Gans. I’m telling you and I know! He...”

“Can he make a hundred and thirty-five ringside without being weak?”
 asked Sally.

The effect of this simple question on Mr. Burrowes was stupendous. He
dropped away from Fillmore’s coat-button like an exhausted bivalve,
and his small mouth opened feebly. It was as if a child had suddenly
propounded to an eminent mathematician some abstruse problem in the
higher algebra. Females who took an interest in boxing had come into
Mr. Burrowes’ life before---in his younger days, when he was a famous
featherweight, the first of his three wives had been accustomed to sit
at the ringside during his contests and urge him in language of the
severest technicality to knock opponents’ blocks off--but somehow he had
not supposed from her appearance and manner that Sally was one of the
elect. He gaped at her, and the relieved Fillmore sidled off like a bird
hopping from the compelling gaze of a snake. He was not quite sure that
he was acting correctly in allowing his sister to roam at large among
the somewhat Bohemian surroundings of a training-camp, but the instinct
of self-preservation turned the scale. He had breakfasted early, and if
he did not eat right speedily it seemed to him that dissolution would
set in.

“Whazzat?” said Mr. Burrowes feebly.

“It took him fifteen rounds to get a referee’s decision over Cyclone
Mullins,” said Sally severely, “and K-leg Binns...”

Mr. Burrowes rallies.

“You ain’t got it right” he protested. “Say, you mustn’t believe what
you see in the papers. The referee was dead against us, and Cyclone was
down once for all of half a minute and they wouldn’t count him out. Gee!
You got to kill a guy in some towns before they’ll give you a decision.
At that, they couldn’t do nothing so raw as make it anything but a win
for my boy, after him leading by a mile all the way. Have you ever seen
Bugs, ma’am?”

Sally had to admit that she had not had that privilege. Mr. Burrowes
with growing excitement felt in his breast-pocket and produced a
picture-postcard, which he thrust into her hand.

“That’s Bugs,” he said. “Take a slant at that and then tell me if he
don’t look the goods.”

The photograph represented a young man in the irreducible minimum of
clothing who crouched painfully, as though stricken with one of the
acuter forms of gastritis.

“I’ll call him over and have him sign it for you,” said Mr. Burrowes,
before Sally had had time to grasp the fact that this work of art was a
gift and no mere loan. “Here, Bugs--wantcher.”

A youth enveloped in a bath-robe, who had been talking to a group of
admirers near the ring, turned, started languidly towards them, then,
seeing Sally, quickened his pace. He was an admirer of the sex.

Mr. Burrowes did the honours.

“Bugs, this is Miss Nicholas, come to see you work out. I have been
telling her she’s going to have a treat.” And to Sally. “Shake hands
with Bugs Butler, ma’am, the coming lightweight champion of the world.”

Mr. Butler’s photograph, Sally considered, had flattered him. He was, in
the flesh, a singularly repellent young man. There was a mean and cruel
curve to his lips and a cold arrogance in his eye; a something dangerous
and sinister in the atmosphere he radiated. Moreover, she did not like
the way he smirked at her.

However, she exerted herself to be amiable.

“I hope you are going to win, Mr. Butler,” she said.

The smile which she forced as she spoke the words removed the coming
champion’s doubts, though they had never been serious. He was convinced
now that he had made a hit. He always did, he reflected, with the girls.
It was something about him. His chest swelled complacently beneath the
bath-robe.

“You betcher,” he asserted briefly.

Mr. Burrows looked at his watch.

“Time you were starting, Bugs.”

The coming champion removed his gaze from Sally’s face, into which he
had been peering in a conquering manner, and cast a disparaging glance
at the audience. It was far from being as large as he could have
wished, and at least a third of it was composed of non-payers from the
newspapers.

“All right,” he said, bored.

His languor left him, as his gaze fell on Sally again, and his spirits
revived somewhat. After all, small though the numbers of spectators
might be, bright eyes would watch and admire him.

“I’ll go a couple of rounds with Reddy for a starter,” he said. “Seen
him anywheres? He’s never around when he’s wanted.”

“I’ll fetch him,” said Mr. Burrowes. “He’s back there somewheres.”

“I’m going to show that guy up this afternoon,” said Mr. Butler coldly.
“He’s been getting too fresh.”

The manager bustled off, and Bugs Butler, with a final smirk, left Sally
and dived under the ropes. There was a stir of interest in the audience,
though the newspaper men, blasé through familiarity, exhibited no
emotion. Presently Mr. Burrowes reappeared, shepherding a young man
whose face was hidden by the sweater which he was pulling over his head.
He was a sturdily built young man. The sweater, moving from his body,
revealed a good pair of shoulders.

A last tug, and the sweater was off. Red hair flashed into view, tousled
and disordered: and, as she saw it, Sally uttered an involuntary gasp
of astonishment which caused many eyes to turn towards her. And the
red-headed young man, who had been stooping to pick up his gloves,
straightened himself with a jerk and stood staring at her blankly and
incredulously, his face slowly crimsoning.



3



It was the energetic Mr. Burrowes who broke the spell.

“Come on, come on,” he said impatiently. “Li’l speed there, Reddy.”

Ginger Kemp started like a sleep-walker awakened; then recovering
himself, slowly began to pull on the gloves. Embarrassment was stamped
on his agreeable features. His face matched his hair.

Sally plucked at the little manager’s elbow. He turned irritably, but
beamed in a distrait sort of manner when he perceived the source of the
interruption.

“Who--him?” he said in answer to Sally’s whispered question. “He’s just
one of Bugs’ sparring-partners.”

“But...”

Mr. Burrowes, fussy now that the time had come for action, interrupted
her.

“You’ll excuse me, miss, but I have to hold the watch. We mustn’t waste
any time.”

Sally drew back. She felt like an infidel who intrudes upon the
celebration of strange rites. This was Man’s hour, and women must keep
in the background. She had the sensation of being very small and yet
very much in the way, like a puppy who has wandered into a church. The
novelty and solemnity of the scene awed her.

She looked at Ginger, who with averted gaze was fiddling with his
clothes in the opposite corner of the ring. He was as removed from
communication as if he had been in another world. She continued to
stare, wide-eyed, and Ginger, shuffling his feet self-consciously,
plucked at his gloves.

Mr. Butler, meanwhile, having doffed his bath-robe, stretched himself,
and with leisurely nonchalance put on a second pair of gloves, was
filling in the time with a little shadow boxing. He moved rhythmically
to and fro, now ducking his head, now striking out with his muffled
hands, and a sickening realization of the man’s animal power swept over
Sally and turned her cold. Swathed in his bath-robe, Bugs Butler had
conveyed an atmosphere of dangerousness: in the boxing-tights which
showed up every rippling muscle, he was horrible and sinister, a machine
built for destruction, a human panther.

So he appeared to Sally, but a stout and bulbous eyed man standing at
her side was not equally impressed. Obviously one of the Wise Guys
of whom her friend the sporting office-boy had spoken, he was frankly
dissatisfied with the exhibition.

“Shadow-boxing,” he observed in a cavilling spirit to his companion.
“Yes, he can do that all right, just like I can fox-trot if I ain’t got
a partner to get in the way. But one good wallop, and then watch him.”

His friend, also plainly a guy of established wisdom, assented with a
curt nod.

“Ah!” he agreed.

“Lew Lucas,” said the first wise guy, “is just as shifty, and he can
punch.”

“Ah!” said the second wise guy.

“Just because he beats up a few poor mutts of sparring-partners,” said
the first wise guy disparagingly, “he thinks he’s someone.”

“Ah!” said the second wise guy.

As far as Sally could interpret these remarks, the full meaning of which
was shrouded from her, they seemed to be reassuring. For a comforting
moment she ceased to regard Ginger as a martyr waiting to be devoured by
a lion. Mr. Butler, she gathered, was not so formidable as he appeared.
But her relief was not to be long-lived.

“Of course he’ll eat this red-headed gink,” went on the first wise guy.
“That’s the thing he does best, killing his sparring-partners. But Lew
Lucas...”

Sally was not interested in Lew Lucas. That numbing fear had come back
to her. Even these cognoscenti, little as they esteemed Mr. Butler, had
plainly no doubts as to what he would do to Ginger. She tried to tear
herself away, but something stronger than her own will kept her there
standing where she was, holding on to the rope and staring forlornly
into the ring.

“Ready, Bugs?” asked Mr. Burrowes.

The coming champion nodded carelessly.

“Go to it,” said Mr. Burrowes.

Ginger ceased to pluck at his gloves and advanced into the ring.



4



Of all the learned professions, pugilism is the one in which the trained
expert is most sharply divided from the mere dabbler. In other fields
the amateur may occasionally hope to compete successfully with the man
who has made a business of what is to him but a sport, but at boxing
never: and the whole demeanour of Bugs Butler showed that he had laid
this truth to heart. It would be too little to say that his bearing
was confident: he comported himself with the care-free jauntiness of
an infant about to demolish a Noah’s Ark with a tack-hammer. Cyclone
Mullinses might withstand him for fifteen rounds where they yielded to
a K-leg Binns in the fifth, but, when it came to beating up a
sparring-partner and an amateur at that, Bugs Butler knew his
potentialities. He was there forty ways and he did not attempt to
conceal it. Crouching as was his wont, he uncoiled himself like a
striking rattlesnake and flicked Ginger lightly over his guard. Then
he returned to his crouch and circled sinuously about the ring with the
amiable intention of showing the crowd, payers and deadheads alike, what
real footwork was. If there was one thing on which Bugs Butler prided
himself, it was footwork.

The adverb “lightly” is a relative term, and the blow which had just
planted a dull patch on Ginger’s cheekbone affected those present in
different degrees. Ginger himself appeared stolidly callous. Sally
shuddered to the core of her being and had to hold more tightly to the
rope to support herself. The two wise guys mocked openly. To the
wise guys, expert connoisseurs of swat, the thing had appeared richly
farcical. They seemed to consider the blow, administered to a third
party and not to themselves, hardly worth calling a blow at all. Two
more, landing as quickly and neatly as the first, left them equally
cold.

“Call that punching?” said the first wise guy.

“Ah!” said the second wise guy.

But Mr. Butler, if he heard this criticism--and it is probable that he
did--for the wise ones had been restrained by no delicacy of feeling
from raising their voices, was in no way discommoded by it. Bugs Butler
knew what he was about. Bright eyes were watching him, and he meant to
give them a treat. The girls like smooth work. Any roughneck could sail
into a guy and knock the daylights out of him, but how few could be
clever and flashy and scientific? Few, few, indeed, thought Mr. Butler
as he slid in and led once more.

Something solid smote Mr. Butler’s nose, rocking him on to his heels and
inducing an unpleasant smarting sensation about his eyes. He backed
away and regarded Ginger with astonishment, almost with pain. Until this
moment he had scarcely considered him as an active participant in the
scene at all, and he felt strongly that this sort of thing was bad form.
It was not being done by sparring-partners.

A juster man might have reflected that he himself was to blame. He had
undeniably been careless. In the very act of leading he had allowed his
eyes to flicker sideways to see how Sally was taking this exhibition of
science, and he had paid the penalty. Nevertheless, he was piqued. He
shimmered about the ring, thinking it over. And the more he thought it
over, the less did he approve of his young assistant’s conduct. Hard
thoughts towards Ginger began to float in his mind.

Ginger, too, was thinking hard thoughts. He had not had an easy time
since he had come to the training camp, but never till to-day had he
experienced any resentment towards his employer. Until this afternoon
Bugs Butler had pounded him honestly and without malice, and he had gone
through it, as the other sparring-partners did, phlegmatically, taking
it as part of the day’s work. But this afternoon there had been a
difference. Those careless flicks had been an insult, a deliberate
offence. The man was trying to make a fool of him, playing to the
gallery: and the thought of who was in that gallery inflamed Ginger past
thought of consequences. No one, not even Mr. Butler, was more keenly
alive than he to the fact that in a serious conflict with a man who
to-morrow night might be light-weight champion of the world he stood no
chance whatever: but he did not intend to be made an exhibition of in
front of Sally without doing something to hold his end up. He proposed
to go down with his flag flying, and in pursuance of this object he dug
Mr. Butler heavily in the lower ribs with his right, causing that expert
to clinch and the two wise guys to utter sharp barking sounds expressive
of derision.

“Say, what the hell d’ya think you’re getting at?” demanded the
aggrieved pugilist in a heated whisper in Ginger’s ear as they fell into
the embrace. “What’s the idea, you jelly bean?”

Ginger maintained a pink silence. His jaw was set, and the temper which
Nature had bestowed upon him to go with his hair had reached white
heat. He dodged a vicious right which whizzed up at his chin out of the
breaking clinch, and rushed. A left hook shook him, but was too high
to do more. There was rough work in the far corner, and suddenly with
startling abruptness Bugs Butler, bothered by the ropes at his back and
trying to side-step, ran into a swing and fell.

“Time!” shouted the scandalized Mr. Burrowes, utterly aghast at
this frightful misadventure. In the whole course of his professional
experience he could recall no such devastating occurrence.

The audience was no less startled. There was audible gasping. The
newspaper men looked at each other with a wild surmise and conjured up
pleasant pictures of their sporting editors receiving this sensational
item of news later on over the telephone. The two wise guys, continuing
to pursue Mr. Butler with their dislike, emitted loud and raucous
laughs, and one of them, forming his hands into a megaphone, urged the
fallen warrior to go away and get a rep. As for Sally, she was conscious
of a sudden, fierce, cave-womanly rush of happiness which swept away
completely the sickening qualms of the last few minutes. Her teeth
were clenched and her eyes blazed with joyous excitement. She looked
at Ginger yearningly, longing to forget a gentle upbringing and shout
congratulation to him. She was proud of him. And mingled with the pride
was a curious feeling that was almost fear. This was not the mild and
amiable young man whom she was wont to mother through the difficulties
of a world in which he was unfitted to struggle for himself. This was a
new Ginger, a stranger to her.

On the rare occasions on which he had been knocked down in the past,
it had been Bugs Butler’s canny practice to pause for a while and rest
before rising and continuing the argument, but now he was up almost
before he had touched the boards, and the satire of the second wise guy,
who had begun to saw the air with his hand and count loudly, lost its
point. It was only too plain that Mr. Butler’s motto was that a man
may be down, but he is never out. And, indeed, the knock-down had been
largely a stumble. Bugs Butler’s educated feet, which had carried him
unscathed through so many contests, had for this single occasion managed
to get themselves crossed just as Ginger’s blow landed, and it was to
his lack of balance rather than the force of the swing that his downfall
had been due.

“Time!” he snarled, casting a malevolent side-glance at his manager.
“Like hell it’s time!”

And in a whirlwind of flying gloves he flung himself upon Ginger,
driving him across the ring, while Mr. Burrowes, watch in hand, stared
with dropping jaw. If Ginger had seemed a new Ginger to Sally, still
more did this seem a new Bugs Butler to Mr. Burrowes, and the manager
groaned in spirit. Coolness, skill and science--these had been the
qualities in his protégé which had always so endeared him to Mr. Lester
Burrowes and had so enriched their respective bank accounts: and now, on
the eve of the most important fight in his life, before an audience of
newspaper men, he had thrown them all aside and was making an exhibition
of himself with a common sparring-partner.

That was the bitter blow to Mr. Burrowes. Had this lapse into the
unscientific primitive happened in a regular fight, he might have
mourned and poured reproof into Bug’s ear when he got him back in his
corner at the end of the round; but he would not have experienced this
feeling of helpless horror--the sort of horror an elder of the church
might feel if he saw his favourite bishop yielding in public to the
fascination of jazz. It was the fact that Bugs Butler was lowering
himself to extend his powers against a sparring-partner that shocked Mr.
Burrowes. There is an etiquette in these things. A champion may batter
his sparring-partners into insensibility if he pleases, but he must do
it with nonchalance. He must not appear to be really trying.

And nothing could be more manifest than that Bugs Butler was trying. His
whole fighting soul was in his efforts to corner Ginger and destroy him.
The battle was raging across the ring and down the ring, and up the ring
and back again; yet always Ginger, like a storm-driven ship, contrived
somehow to weather the tempest. Out of the flurry of swinging arms he
emerged time after time bruised, bleeding, but fighting hard.

For Bugs Butler’s fury was defeating its object. Had he remained his
cool and scientific self, he could have demolished Ginger and cut
through his defence in a matter of seconds. But he had lapsed back into
the methods of his unskilled novitiate. He swung and missed, swung and
missed again, struck but found no vital spot. And now there was blood on
his face, too. In some wild mêlée the sacred fount had been tapped, and
his teeth gleamed through a crimson mist.

The Wise Guys were beyond speech. They were leaning against one another,
punching each other feebly in the back. One was crying.

And then suddenly the end came, as swiftly and unexpectedly as the
thing had begun. His wild swings had tired Bugs Butler, and with fatigue
prudence returned to him. His feet began once more their subtle weaving
in and out. Twice his left hand flickered home. A quick feint, a short,
jolting stab, and Ginger’s guard was down and he was swaying in the
middle of the ring, his hands hanging and his knees a-quiver.

Bugs Butler measured his distance, and Sally shut her eyes.



CHAPTER XIV. MR. ABRAHAMS RE-ENGAGES AN OLD EMPLOYEE



1



The only real happiness, we are told, is to be obtained by bringing
happiness to others. Bugs Butler’s mood, accordingly, when some thirty
hours after the painful episode recorded in the last chapter he awoke
from a state of coma in the ring at Jersey City to discover that Mr. Lew
Lucas had knocked him out in the middle of the third round, should have
been one of quiet contentment. His inability to block a short left-hook
followed by a right to the point of the jaw had ameliorated quite a
number of existences.

Mr. Lew Lucas, for one, was noticeably pleased. So were Mr. Lucas’s
seconds, one of whom went so far as to kiss him. And most of the crowd,
who had betted heavily on the champion, were delighted. Yet Bugs Butler
did not rejoice. It is not too much to say that his peevish bearing
struck a jarring note in the general gaiety. A heavy frown disfigured
his face as he slouched from the ring.

But the happiness which he had spread went on spreading. The two Wise
Guys, who had been unable to attend the fight in person, received the
result on the ticker and exuberantly proclaimed themselves the richer
by five hundred dollars. The pimpled office-boy at the Fillmore Nicholas
Theatrical Enterprises Ltd. caused remark in the Subway by whooping
gleefully when he read the news in his morning paper, for he, too, had
been rendered wealthier by the brittleness of Mr. Butler’s chin. And
it was with fierce satisfaction that Sally, breakfasting in her little
apartment, informed herself through the sporting page of the details of
the contender’s downfall. She was not a girl who disliked many people,
but she had acquired a lively distaste for Bugs Butler.

Lew Lucas seemed a man after her own heart. If he had been a personal
friend of Ginger’s he could not, considering the brief time at his
disposal, have avenged him with more thoroughness. In round one he had
done all sorts of diverting things to Mr. Butler’s left eye: in round
two he had continued the good work on that gentleman’s body; and in
round three he had knocked him out. Could anyone have done more? Sally
thought not, and she drank Lew Lucas’s health in a cup of coffee and
hoped his old mother was proud of him.

The telephone bell rang at her elbow. She unhooked the receiver.

“Hullo?”

“Oh, hullo,” said a voice.

“Ginger!” cried Sally delightedly.

“I say, I’m awfully glad you’re back. I only got your letter this
morning. Found it at the boarding-house. I happened to look in there
and...”

“Ginger,” interrupted Sally, “your voice is music, but I want to see
you. Where are you?”

“I’m at a chemist’s shop across the street. I was wondering if...”

“Come here at once!”

“I say, may I? I was just going to ask.”

“You miserable creature, why haven’t you been round to see me before?”

“Well, as a matter of fact, I haven’t been going about much for the last
day. You see...”

“I know. Of course.” Quick sympathy came into Sally’s voice. She gave
a sidelong glance of approval and gratitude at the large picture of Lew
Lucas which beamed up at her from the morning paper. “You poor thing!
How are you?”

“Oh, all right, thanks.”

“Well, hurry.”

There was a slight pause at the other end of the wire.

“I say.”

“Well?”

“I’m not much to look at, you know.”

“You never were. Stop talking and hurry over.”

“I mean to say...”

Sally hung up the receiver firmly. She waited eagerly for some minutes,
and then footsteps came along the passage. They stopped at her door and
the bell rang. Sally ran to the door, flung it open, and recoiled in
consternation.

“Oh, Ginger!”

He had stated the facts accurately when he had said that he was not much
to look at. He gazed at her devotedly out of an unblemished right eye,
but the other was hidden altogether by a puffy swelling of dull purple.
A great bruise marred his left cheek-bone, and he spoke with some
difficulty through swollen lips.

“It’s all right, you know,” he assured her.

“It isn’t. It’s awful! Oh, you poor darling!” She clenched her teeth
viciously. “I wish he had killed him!”

“Eh?”

“I wish Lew Lucas or whatever his name is had murdered him. Brute!”

“Oh, I don’t know, you know.” Ginger’s sense of fairness compelled him
to defend his late employer against these harsh sentiments. “He isn’t a
bad sort of chap, really. Bugs Butler, I mean.”

“Do you seriously mean to stand there and tell me you don’t loathe the
creature?”

“Oh, he’s all right. See his point of view and all that. Can’t blame
him, if you come to think of it, for getting the wind up a bit in the
circs. Bit thick, I mean to say, a sparring-partner going at him like
that. Naturally he didn’t think it much of a wheeze. It was my fault
right along. Oughtn’t to have done it, of course, but somehow, when he
started making an ass of me and I knew you were looking on... well, it
seemed a good idea to have a dash at doing something on my own. No right
to, of course. A sparring-partner isn’t supposed...”

“Sit down,” said Sally.

Ginger sat down.

“Ginger,” said Sally, “you’re too good to live.”

“Oh, I say!”

“I believe if someone sandbagged you and stole your watch and chain
you’d say there were faults on both sides or something. I’m just a cat,
and I say I wish your beast of a Bugs Butler had perished miserably.
I’d have gone and danced on his grave... But whatever made you go in for
that sort of thing?”

“Well, it seemed the only job that was going at the moment. I’ve always
done a goodish bit of boxing and I was very fit and so on, and it looked
to me rather an opening. Gave me something to get along with. You get
paid quite fairly decently, you know, and it’s rather a jolly life...”

“Jolly? Being hammered about like that?”

“Oh, you don’t notice it much. I’ve always enjoyed scrapping rather.
And, you see, when your brother gave me the push...”

Sally uttered an exclamation.

“What an extraordinary thing it is--I went all the way out to White
Plains that afternoon to find Fillmore and tackle him about that and I
didn’t say a word about it. And I haven’t seen or been able to get hold
of him since.”

“No? Busy sort of cove, your brother.”

“Why did Fillmore let you go?”

“Let me go? Oh, you mean... well, there was a sort of mix-up. A kind of
misunderstanding.”

“What happened?”

“Oh, it was nothing. Just a...”

“What happened?”

Ginger’s disfigured countenance betrayed embarrassment. He looked
awkwardly about the room.

“It’s not worth talking about.”

“It is worth talking about. I’ve a right to know. It was I who sent you
to Fillmore...”

“Now that,” said Ginger, “was jolly decent of you.”

“Don’t interrupt! I sent you to Fillmore, and he had no business to let
you go without saying a word to me. What happened?”

Ginger twiddled his fingers unhappily.

“Well, it was rather unfortunate. You see, his wife--I don’t know if you
know her?...”

“Of course I know her.”

“Why, yes, you would, wouldn’t you? Your brother’s wife, I mean,”
 said Ginger acutely. “Though, as a matter of fact, you often find
sisters-in-law who won’t have anything to do with one another. I know a
fellow...”

“Ginger,” said Sally, “it’s no good your thinking you can get out of
telling me by rambling off on other subjects. I’m grim and resolute and
relentless, and I mean to get this story out of you if I have to use a
corkscrew. Fillmore’s wife, you were saying...”

Ginger came back reluctantly to the main theme.

“Well, she came into the office one morning, and we started fooling
about...”

“Fooling about?”

“Well, kind of chivvying each other.”

“Chivvying?”

“At least I was.”

“You were what?”

“Sort of chasing her a bit, you know.”

Sally regarded this apostle of frivolity with amazement.

“What do you mean?”

Ginger’s embarrassment increased.

“The thing was, you see, she happened to trickle in rather quietly when
I happened to be looking at something, and I didn’t know she was there
till she suddenly grabbed it...”

“Grabbed what?”

“The thing. The thing I happened to be looking at. She bagged it...
collared it... took it away from me, you know, and wouldn’t give it back
and generally started to rot about a bit, so I rather began to chivvy
her to some extent, and I’d just caught her when your brother happened
to roll in. I suppose,” said Ginger, putting two and two together, “he
had really come with her to the office and had happened to hang back for
a minute or two, to talk to somebody or something... well, of course, he
was considerably fed to see me apparently doing jiu-jitsu with his wife.
Enough to rattle any man, if you come to think of it,” said Ginger, ever
fair-minded. “Well, he didn’t say anything at the time, but a bit later
in the day he called me in and administered the push.”

Sally shook her head.

“It sounds the craziest story to me. What was it that Mrs. Fillmore took
from you?”

“Oh, just something.”

Sally rapped the table imperiously.

“Ginger!”

“Well, as a matter of fact,” said her goaded visitor, “It was a
photograph.”

“Who of? Or, if you’re particular, of whom?”

“Well... you, to be absolutely accurate.”

“Me?” Sally stared. “But I’ve never given you a photograph of myself.”

Ginger’s face was a study in scarlet and purple.

“You didn’t exactly give it to me,” he mumbled. “When I say give, I
mean...”

“Good gracious!” Sudden enlightenment came upon Sally. “That photograph
we were hunting for when I first came here! Had you stolen it all the
time?”

“Why, yes, I did sort of pinch it...”

“You fraud! You humbug! And you pretended to help me look for it.” She
gazed at him almost with respect. “I never knew you were so deep and
snaky. I’m discovering all sorts of new things about you.”

There was a brief silence. Ginger, confession over, seemed a trifle
happier.

“I hope you’re not frightfully sick about it?” he said at length. “It
was lying about, you know, and I rather felt I must have it. Hadn’t the
cheek to ask you for it, so...”

“Don’t apologize,” said Sally cordially. “Great compliment. So I have
caused your downfall again, have I? I’m certainly your evil genius,
Ginger. I’m beginning to feel like a regular rag and a bone and a hank
of hair. First I egged you on to insult your family--oh, by the way, I
want to thank you about that. Now that I’ve met your Uncle Donald I can
see how public-spirited you were. I ruined your prospects there, and now
my fatal beauty--cabinet size--has led to your destruction once more.
It’s certainly up to me to find you another job, I can see that.”

“No, really, I say, you mustn’t bother. I shall be all right.”

“It’s my duty. Now what is there that you really can do? Burglary, of
course, but it’s not respectable. You’ve tried being a waiter and a
prize-fighter and a right-hand man, and none of those seems to be just
right. Can’t you suggest anything?”

Ginger shook his head.

“I shall wangle something, I expect.”’

“Yes, but what? It must be something good this time. I don’t want to be
walking along Broadway and come on you suddenly as a street-cleaner. I
don’t want to send for an express-man and find you popping up. My
idea would be to go to my bank to arrange an overdraft and be told the
president could give me two minutes and crawl in humbly and find you
prezzing away to beat the band in a big chair. Isn’t there anything in
the world that you can do that’s solid and substantial and will keep you
out of the poor-house in your old age? Think!”

“Of course, if I had a bit of capital...”

“Ah! The business man! And what,” inquired Sally, “would you do, Mr.
Morgan, if you had a bit of capital?”

“Run a dog-thingummy,” said Ginger promptly.

“What’s a dog-thingummy?”

“Why, a thingamajig. For dogs, you know.”

Sally nodded.

“Oh, a thingamajig for dogs? Now I understand. You will put things so
obscurely at first. Ginger, you poor fish, what are you raving about?
What on earth is a thingamajig for dogs?”

“I mean a sort of place like fellows have. Breeding dogs, you know, and
selling them and winning prizes and all that. There are lots of them
about.”

“Oh, a kennels?”

“Yes, a kennels.”

“What a weird mind you have, Ginger. You couldn’t say kennels at first,
could you? That wouldn’t have made it difficult enough. I suppose, if
anyone asked you where you had your lunch, you would say, ‘Oh, at a
thingamajig for mutton chops’... Ginger, my lad, there is something in
this. I believe for the first time in our acquaintance you have spoken
something very nearly resembling a mouthful. You’re wonderful with dogs,
aren’t you?”

“I’m dashed keen on them, and I’ve studied them a bit. As a matter of
fact, though it seems rather like swanking, there isn’t much about dogs
that I don’t know.”

“Of course. I believe you’re a sort of honorary dog yourself. I could
tell it by the way you stopped that fight at Roville. You plunged into a
howling mass of about a million hounds of all species and just whispered
in their ears and they stopped at once. Why, the more one examines this,
the better it looks. I do believe it’s the one thing you couldn’t help
making a success of. It’s very paying, isn’t it?”

“Works out at about a hundred per cent on the original outlay, I’ve been
told.”

“A hundred per cent? That sounds too much like something of Fillmore’s
for comfort. Let’s say ninety-nine and be conservative. Ginger, you
have hit it. Say no more. You shall be the Dog King, the biggest
thingamajigger for dogs in the country. But how do you start?”

“Well, as a matter of fact, while I was up at White Plains, I ran into
a cove who had a place of the sort and wanted to sell out. That was what
made me think of it.”

“You must start to-day. Or early to-morrow.”

“Yes,” said Ginger doubtfully. “Of course, there’s the catch, you know.”

“What catch?”

“The capital. You’ve got to have that. This fellow wouldn’t sell out
under five thousand dollars.”

“I’ll lend you five thousand dollars.”

“No!” said Ginger.

Sally looked at him with exasperation. “Ginger, I’d like to slap you,”
 she said. It was maddening, this intrusion of sentiment into business
affairs. Why, simply because he was a man and she was a woman,
should she be restrained from investing money in a sound commercial
undertaking? If Columbus had taken up this bone-headed stand towards
Queen Isabella, America would never have been discovered.

“I can’t take five thousand dollars off you,” said Ginger firmly.

“Who’s talking of taking it off me, as you call it?” stormed Sally.
“Can’t you forget your burglarious career for a second? This isn’t the
same thing as going about stealing defenceless girls’ photographs. This
is business. I think you would make an enormous success of a dog-place,
and you admit you’re good, so why make frivolous objections? Why
shouldn’t I put money into a good thing? Don’t you want me to get rich,
or what is it?”

Ginger was becoming confused. Argument had never been his strong point.

“But it’s such a lot of money.”

“To you, perhaps. Not to me. I’m a plutocrat. Five thousand dollars!
What’s five thousand dollars? I feed it to the birds.”

Ginger pondered woodenly for a while. His was a literal mind, and he
knew nothing of Sally’s finances beyond the fact that when he had first
met her she had come into a legacy of some kind. Moreover, he had been
hugely impressed by Fillmore’s magnificence. It seemed plain enough that
the Nicholases were a wealthy family.

“I don’t like it, you know,” he said.

“You don’t have to like it,” said Sally. “You just do it.”

A consoling thought flashed upon Ginger.

“You’d have to let me pay you interest.”

“Let you? My lad, you’ll have to pay me interest. What do you think this
is--a round game? It’s a cold business deal.”

“Topping!” said Ginger relieved. “How about twenty-five per cent.”

“Don’t be silly,” said Sally quickly. “I want three.”

“No, that’s all rot,” protested Ginger. “I mean to say--three. I don’t,”
 he went on, making a concession, “mind saying twenty.”

“If you insist, I’ll make it five. Not more.”

“Well, ten, then?”

“Five!”

“Suppose,” said Ginger insinuatingly, “I said seven?”

“I never saw anyone like you for haggling,” said Sally with disapproval.
“Listen! Six. And that’s my last word.”

“Six?”

“Six.”

Ginger did sums in his head.

“But that would only work out at three hundred dollars a year. It isn’t
enough.”

“What do you know about it? As if I hadn’t been handling this sort of
deal in my life. Six! Do you agree?”

“I suppose so.”

“Then that’s settled. Is this man you talk about in New York?”

“No, he’s down on Long Island at a place on the south shore.”

“I mean, can you get him on the ‘phone and clinch the thing?”

“Oh, yes. I know his address, and I suppose his number’s in the book.”

“Then go off at once and settle with him before somebody else snaps him
up. Don’t waste a minute.”

Ginger paused at the door.

“I say, you’re absolutely sure about this?”

“Of course.”

“I mean to say...”

“Get on,” said Sally.



2



The window of Sally’s sitting-room looked out on to a street
which, while not one of the city’s important arteries, was capable,
nevertheless, of affording a certain amount of entertainment to the
observer: and after Ginger had left, she carried the morning paper to
the window-sill and proceeded to divide her attention between a third
reading of the fight-report and a lazy survey of the outer world. It was
a beautiful day, and the outer world was looking its best.

She had not been at her post for many minutes when a taxi-cab stopped
at the apartment-house, and she was surprised and interested to see her
brother Fillmore heave himself out of the interior. He paid the driver,
and the cab moved off, leaving him on the sidewalk casting a large
shadow in the sunshine. Sally was on the point of calling to him, when
his behaviour became so odd that astonishment checked her.

From where she sat Fillmore had all the appearance of a man practising
the steps of a new dance, and sheer curiosity as to what he would do
next kept Sally watching in silence. First, he moved in a resolute sort
of way towards the front door; then, suddenly stopping, scuttled back.
This movement he repeated twice, after which he stood in deep thought
before making another dash for the door, which, like the others, came
to an abrupt end as though he had run into some invisible obstacle. And,
finally, wheeling sharply, he bustled off down the street and was lost
to view.

Sally could make nothing of it. If Fillmore had taken the trouble to
come in a taxi-cab, obviously to call upon her, why had he abandoned the
idea at her very threshold? She was still speculating on this mystery
when the telephone-bell rang, and her brother’s voice spoke huskily in
her ear.

“Sally?”

“Hullo, Fill. What are you going to call it?”

“What am I... Call what?”

“The dance you were doing outside here just now. It’s your own
invention, isn’t it?”

“Did you see me?” said Fillmore, upset.

“Of course I saw you. I was fascinated.”

“I--er--I was coming to have a talk with you. Sally...”

Fillmore’s voice trailed off.

“Well, why didn’t you?”

There was a pause--on Fillmore’s part, if the timbre of at his voice
correctly indicated his feelings, a pause of discomfort. Something was
plainly vexing Fillmore’s great mind.

“Sally,” he said at last, and coughed hollowly into the receiver.

“Yes.”

“I--that is to say, I have asked Gladys... Gladys will be coming to see
you very shortly. Will you be in?”

“I’ll stay in. How is Gladys? I’m longing to see her again.”

“She is very well. A trifle--a little upset.”

“Upset? What about?”

“She will tell you when she arrives. I have just been ‘phoning to her.
She is coming at once.” There was another pause. “I’m afraid she has bad
news.”

“What news?”

There was silence at the other end of the wire.

“What news?” repeated Sally, a little sharply. She hated mysteries.

But Fillmore had rung off. Sally hung up the receiver thoughtfully. She
was puzzled and anxious. However, there being nothing to be gained by
worrying, she carried the breakfast things into the kitchen and tried to
divert herself by washing up. Presently a ring at the door-bell brought
her out, to find her sister-in-law.

Marriage, even though it had brought with it the lofty position of
partnership with the Hope of the American Stage, had effected no
noticeable alteration in the former Miss Winch. As Mrs. Fillmore she
was the same square, friendly creature. She hugged Sally in a muscular
manner and went on in the sitting-room.

“Well, it’s great seeing you again,” she said. “I began to think you
were never coming back. What was the big idea, springing over to England
like that?”

Sally had been expecting the question, and answered it with composure.

“I wanted to help Mr. Faucitt.”

“Who’s Mr. Faucitt?”

“Hasn’t Fillmore ever mentioned him? He was a dear old man at the
boarding-house, and his brother died and left him a dressmaking
establishment in London. He screamed to me to come and tell him what to
do about it. He has sold it now and is quite happy in the country.”

“Well, the trip’s done you good,” said Mrs. Fillmore. “You’re prettier
than ever.”

There was a pause. Already, in these trivial opening exchanges, Sally
had sensed a suggestion of unwonted gravity in her companion. She missed
that careless whimsicality which had been the chief characteristic of
Miss Gladys Winch and seemed to have been cast off by Mrs. Fillmore
Nicholas. At their meeting, before she had spoken, Sally had not
noticed this, but now it was apparent that something was weighing on her
companion. Mrs. Fillmore’s honest eyes were troubled.

“What’s the bad news?” asked Sally abruptly. She wanted to end the
suspense. “Fillmore was telling me over the ‘phone that you had some bad
news for me.”

Mrs. Fillmore scratched at the carpet for a moment with the end of her
parasol without replying. When she spoke it was not in answer to the
question.

“Sally, who’s this man Carmyle over in England?”

“Oh, did Fillmore tell you about him?”

“He told me there was a rich fellow over in England who was crazy about
you and had asked you to marry him, and that you had turned him down.”

Sally’s momentary annoyance faded. She could hardly, she felt, have
expected Fillmore to refrain from mentioning the matter to his wife.

“Yes,” she said. “That’s true.”

“You couldn’t write and say you’ve changed your mind?”

Sally’s annoyance returned. All her life she had been intensely
independent, resentful of interference with her private concerns.

“I suppose I could if I had--but I haven’t. Did Fillmore tell you to try
to talk me round?”

“Oh, I’m not trying to talk you round,” said Mrs. Fillmore quickly.
“Goodness knows, I’m the last person to try and jolly anyone into
marrying anybody if they didn’t feel like it. I’ve seen too many
marriages go wrong to do that. Look at Elsa Doland.”

Sally’s heart jumped as if an exposed nerve had been touched.

“Elsa?” she stammered, and hated herself because her voice shook.
“Has--has her marriage gone wrong?”

“Gone all to bits,” said Mrs. Fillmore shortly. “You remember she
married Gerald Foster, the man who wrote ‘The Primrose Way’?”

Sally with an effort repressed an hysterical laugh.

“Yes, I remember,” she said.

“Well, it’s all gone bloo-ey. I’ll tell you about that in a minute.
Coming back to this man in England, if you’re in any doubt about it...
I mean, you can’t always tell right away whether you’re fond of a man or
not... When first I met Fillmore, I couldn’t see him with a spy-glass,
and now he’s just the whole shooting-match... But that’s not what I
wanted to talk about. I was saying one doesn’t always know one’s
own mind at first, and if this fellow really is a good fellow... and
Fillmore tells me he’s got all the money in the world...”

Sally stopped her.

“No, it’s no good. I don’t want to marry Mr. Carmyle.”

“That’s that, then,” said Mrs. Fillmore. “It’s a pity, though.”

“Why are you taking it so much to heart?” said Sally with a nervous
laugh.

“Well...” Mrs. Fillmore paused. Sally’s anxiety was growing. It must,
she realized, be something very serious indeed that had happened if it
had the power to make her forthright sister-in-law disjointed in her
talk. “You see...” went on Mrs. Fillmore, and stopped again. “Gee! I’m
hating this!” she murmured.

“What is it? I don’t understand.”

“You’ll find it’s all too darned clear by the time I’m through,” said
Mrs. Fillmore mournfully. “If I’m going to explain this thing, I
guess I’d best start at the beginning. You remember that revue of
Fillmore’s--the one we both begged him not to put on. It flopped!”

“Oh!”

“Yes. It flopped on the road and died there. Never got to New York at
all. Ike Schumann wouldn’t let Fillmore have a theatre. The book wanted
fixing and the numbers wanted fixing and the scenery wasn’t right: and
while they were tinkering with all that there was trouble about the
cast and the Actors Equity closed the show. Best thing that could have
happened, really, and I was glad at the time, because going on with
it would only have meant wasting more money, and it had cost a fortune
already. After that Fillmore put on a play of Gerald Foster’s and that
was a frost, too. It ran a week at the Booth. I hear the new piece he’s
got in rehearsal now is no good either. It’s called ‘The Wild Rose,’ or
something. But Fillmore’s got nothing to do with that.”

“But...” Sally tried to speak, but Mrs. Fillmore went on.

“Don’t talk just yet, or I shall never get this thing straight. Well,
you know Fillmore, poor darling. Anyone else would have pulled in his
horns and gone slow for a spell, but he’s one of those fellows whose
horse is always going to win the next race. The big killing is always
just round the corner with him. Funny how you can see what a chump a man
is and yet love him to death... I remember saying something like that to
you before... He thought he could get it all back by staging this fight
of his that came off in Jersey City last night. And if everything had
gone right he might have got afloat again. But it seems as if he can’t
touch anything without it turning to mud. On the very day before the
fight was to come off, the poor mutt who was going against the champion
goes and lets a sparring-partner of his own knock him down and fool
around with him. With all the newspaper men there too! You probably
saw about it in the papers. It made a great story for them. Well, that
killed the whole thing. The public had never been any too sure that this
fellow Bugs Butler had a chance of putting up a scrap with the champion
that would be worth paying to see; and, when they read that he couldn’t
even stop his sparring-partners slamming him all around the place they
simply decided to stay away. Poor old Fill! It was a finisher for
him. The house wasn’t a quarter full, and after he’d paid these two
pluguglies their guarantees, which they insisted on having before they’d
so much as go into the ring, he was just about cleaned out. So there you
are!”

Sally had listened with dismay to this catalogue of misfortunes.

“Oh, poor Fill!” she cried. “How dreadful!”

“Pretty tough.”

“But ‘The Primrose Way’ is a big success, isn’t it?” said Sally, anxious
to discover something of brightness in the situation.

“It was.” Mrs. Fillmore flushed again. “This is the part I hate having
to tell you.”

“It was? Do you mean it isn’t still? I thought Elsa had made such a
tremendous hit. I read about it when I was over in London. It was even
in one of the English papers.”

“Yes, she made a hit all right,” said Mrs. Fillmore drily. “She made
such a hit that all the other managements in New York were after her
right away, and Fillmore had hardly sailed when she handed in her notice
and signed up with Goble and Cohn for a new piece they are starring her
in.”

“Ah, she couldn’t!” cried Sally.

“My dear, she did! She’s out on the road with it now. I had to break the
news to poor old Fillmore at the dock when he landed. It was rather a
blow. I must say it wasn’t what I would call playing the game. I know
there isn’t supposed to be any sentiment in business, but after all we
had given Elsa her big chance. But Fillmore wouldn’t put her name up
over the theatre in electrics, and Goble and Cohn made it a clause in
her contract that they would, so nothing else mattered. People are like
that.”

“But Elsa... She used not to be like that.”

“They all get that way. They must grab success if it’s to be grabbed.
I suppose you can’t blame them. You might just as well expect a cat to
keep off catnip. Still, she might have waited to the end of the New York
run.” Mrs. Fillmore put out her hand and touched Sally’s. “Well, I’ve
got it out now,” she said, “and, believe me, it was one rotten job. You
don’t know how sorry I am. Sally. I wouldn’t have had it happen for a
million dollars. Nor would Fillmore. I’m not sure that I blame him for
getting cold feet and backing out of telling you himself. He just hadn’t
the nerve to come and confess that he had fooled away your money. He was
hoping all along that this fight would pan out big and that he’d be
able to pay you back what you had loaned him, but things didn’t happen
right.”

Sally was silent. She was thinking how strange it was that this room in
which she had hoped to be so happy had been from the first moment of her
occupancy a storm centre of bad news and miserable disillusionment. In
this first shock of the tidings, it was the disillusionment that hurt
most. She had always been so fond of Elsa, and Elsa had always seemed
so fond of her. She remembered that letter of Elsa’s with all its
protestations of gratitude... It wasn’t straight. It was horrible.
Callous, selfish, altogether horrible...

“It’s...” She choked, as a rush of indignation brought the tears to her
eyes. “It’s... beastly! I’m... I’m not thinking about my money. That’s
just bad luck. But Elsa...”

Mrs. Fillmore shrugged her square shoulders.

“Well, it’s happening all the time in the show business,” she said. “And
in every other business, too, I guess, if one only knew enough about
them to be able to say. Of course, it hits you hard because Elsa was a
pal of yours, and you’re thinking she might have considered you after
all you’ve done for her. I can’t say I’m much surprised myself.” Mrs.
Fillmore was talking rapidly, and dimly Sally understood that she was
talking so that talk would carry her over this bad moment. Silence now
would have been unendurable. “I was in the company with her, and it
sometimes seems to me as if you can’t get to know a person right through
till you’ve been in the same company with them. Elsa’s all right, but
she’s two people really, like these dual identity cases you read about.
She’s awfully fond of you. I know she is. She was always saying so,
and it was quite genuine. If it didn’t interfere with business there’s
nothing she wouldn’t do for you. But when it’s a case of her career you
don’t count. Nobody counts. Not even her husband. Now that’s funny.
If you think that sort of thing funny. Personally, it gives me the
willies.”

“What’s funny?” asked Sally, dully.

“Well, you weren’t there, so you didn’t see it, but I was on the spot
all the time, and I know as well as I know anything that he simply
married her because he thought she could get him on in the game. He
hardly paid any attention to her at all till she was such a riot in
Chicago, and then he was all over her. And now he’s got stung. She
throws down his show and goes off to another fellow’s. It’s like
marrying for money and finding the girl hasn’t any. And she’s got stung,
too, in a way, because I’m pretty sure she married him mostly because
she thought he was going to be the next big man in the play-writing
business and could boost her up the ladder. And now it doesn’t look as
though he had another success in him. The result is they’re at outs. I
hear he’s drinking. Somebody who’d seen him told me he had gone all to
pieces. You haven’t seen him, I suppose?”

“No.”

“I thought maybe you might have run into him. He lives right opposite.”

Sally clutched at the arm of her chair.

“Lives right opposite? Gerald Foster? What do you mean?”

“Across the passage there,” said Mrs. Fillmore, jerking her thumb at the
door. “Didn’t you know? That’s right, I suppose you didn’t. They moved
in after you had beaten it for England. Elsa wanted to be near you, and
she was tickled to death when she found there was an apartment to be had
right across from you. Now, that just proves what I was saying a while
ago about Elsa. If she wasn’t fond of you, would she go out of her way
to camp next door? And yet, though she’s so fond of you, she doesn’t
hesitate about wrecking your property by quitting the show when she sees
a chance of doing herself a bit of good. It’s funny, isn’t it?”

The telephone-bell, tinkling sharply, rescued Sally from the necessity
of a reply. She forced herself across the room to answer it.

“Hullo?”

Ginger’s voice spoke jubilantly.

“Hullo. Are you there? I say, it’s all right, about that binge, you
know.”

“Oh, yes?”

“That dog fellow, you know,” said Ginger, with a slight diminution of
exuberance. His sensitive ear had seemed to detect a lack of animation
in her voice. “I’ve just been talking to him over the ‘phone, and it’s
all settled. If,” he added, with a touch of doubt, “you still feel like
going into it, I mean.”

There was an instant in which Sally hesitated, but it was only an
instant.

“Why, of course,” she said, steadily. “Why should you think I had
changed my mind?”

“Well, I thought... that is to say, you seemed... oh, I don’t know.”

“You imagine things. I was a little worried about something when you
called me up, and my mind wasn’t working properly. Of course, go ahead
with it. Ginger. I’m delighted.”

“I say, I’m awfully sorry you’re worried.”

“Oh. it’s all right.”

“Something bad?”

“Nothing that’ll kill me. I’m young and strong.”

Ginger was silent for a moment.

“I say, I don’t want to butt in, but can I do anything?”

“No, really, Ginger, I know you would do anything you could, but this
is just something I must worry through by myself. When do you go down to
this place?”

“I was thinking of popping down this afternoon, just to take a look
round.”

“Let me know what train you’re making and I’ll come and see you off.”

“That’s ripping of you. Right ho. Well, so long.”

“So long,” said Sally.

Mrs. Fillmore, who had been sitting in that state of suspended animation
which comes upon people who are present at a telephone conversation
which has nothing to do with themselves, came to life as Sally replaced
the receiver.

“Sally,” she said, “I think we ought to have a talk now about what
you’re going to do.”

Sally was not feeling equal to any discussion of the future. All she
asked of the world at the moment was to be left alone.

“Oh, that’s all right. I shall manage. You ought to be worrying about
Fillmore.”

“Fillmore’s got me to look after him,” said Gladys, with quiet
determination. “You’re the one that’s on my mind. I lay awake all last
night thinking about you. As far as I can make out from Fillmore, you’ve
still a few thousand dollars left. Well, as it happens, I can put you on
to a really good thing. I know a girl...”

“I’m afraid,” interrupted Sally, “all the rest of my money, what there
is of it, is tied up.”

“You can’t get hold of it?”

“No.”

“But listen,” said Mrs. Fillmore, urgently. “This is a really good
thing. This girl I know started an interior decorating business some
time ago and is pulling in the money in handfuls. But she wants more
capital, and she’s willing to let go of a third of the business to
anyone who’ll put in a few thousand. She won’t have any difficulty
getting it, but I ‘phoned her this morning to hold off till I’d heard
from you. Honestly, Sally, it’s the chance of a lifetime. It would put
you right on easy street. Isn’t there really any way you could get your
money out of this other thing and take on this deal?”

“There really isn’t. I’m awfully obliged to you, Gladys dear, but it’s
impossible.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Fillmore, prodding the carpet energetically with her
parasol, “I don’t know what you’ve gone into, but, unless they’ve given
you a share in the Mint or something, you’ll be losing by not making the
switch. You’re sure you can’t do it?”

“I really can’t.”

Mrs. Fillmore rose, plainly disappointed.

“Well, you know best, of course. Gosh! What a muddle everything is.
Sally,” she said, suddenly stopping at the door, “you’re not going to
hate poor old Fillmore over this, are you?”

“Why, of course not. The whole thing was just bad luck.”

“He’s worried stiff about it.”

“Well, give him my love, and tell him not to be so silly.”

Mrs. Fillmore crossed the room and kissed Sally impulsively.

“You’re an angel,” she said. “I wish there were more like you. But I
guess they’ve lost the pattern. Well, I’ll go back and tell Fillmore
that. It’ll relieve him.”

The door closed, and Sally sat down with her chin in her hands to think.



3



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

“Mother,” he said.

“Pa?” said Mrs. Abrahams.

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

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

“Ain’t gobbling,” said Master Abrahams.

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

“Dead?” inquired Mrs. Abrahams, apprehensively. The story had sounded to
her as though it were heading that way. “Wipe your mouth, Jakie dear.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pop!” said Master Abrahams.

“Yes, Jakie?”

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

The slight depression caused by the contemplation of Sally’s troubles
left Mr. Abrahams as mist melts beneath a sunbeam.

“That’s a good boy, Jakie,” he said.

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



CHAPTER XV. UNCLE DONALD SPEAKS HIS MIND



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

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

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

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

Uncle Donald’s walrus moustache heaved gently upon his laboured breath,
like seaweed on a ground-swell. There had been stairs to climb.

“What’s this? What’s this?” he contrived to ejaculate at last. “You
packing?”

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

“You going away?”

“Yes.”

“Where you going?”

“America.”

“When you going?”

“To-morrow morning.”

“Why you going?”

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

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

Bruce Carmyle flushed darkly. And it is interesting to record that at
this moment there flitted through his mind the thought that Ginger’s
behaviour at Bleke’s Coffee House, on a certain notable occasion, had
not been so utterly inexcusable as he had supposed. There was no doubt
that the Family’s Chosen One could be trying.

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

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

You would have thought that that would have put matters on a pleasanter
footing. But no. Having lapped up the restorative, Uncle Donald returned
to the attack quite un-softened.

“Never thought you were a fool before,” he said severely.

Bruce Carmyle’s proud spirit chafed. This sort of interview, which had
become a commonplace with his cousin Ginger, was new to him. Hitherto,
his actions had received neither criticism nor been subjected to it.

“I’m not a fool.”

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

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

The Head of the Family drank in a layer of moustache and blew it out
again.

“Need we discuss it?” he said with asperity. “We’re going to discuss it!
Whatch think I climbed all these blasted stairs for with my weak heart?
Gimme another!”

Mr. Carmyle gave him another.

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

“O’Rafferty Special.”

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

“Bilby’s in Oxford Street.”

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

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

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

“I met her at Roville, in France.”

“Travelling with her family?”

“Travelling alone,” said Bruce Carmyle, reluctantly.

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

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

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

“Really, Uncle Donald!”

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

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

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

“I beg your pardon?”

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

Outside the pages of the more old-fashioned type of fiction nobody ever
really ground his teeth, but Bruce Carmyle came nearer to it at that
moment than anyone had ever come before. He scowled blackly, and the
last trace of suavity left him.

“I shall do nothing of the kind,” he said briefly. “I sail to-morrow.”

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

“Eh?” he said.

Mr. Carmyle having started to defy, evidently decided to make a good job
of it.

“I am over twenty-one,” said he. “I am financially independent. I shall
do as I please.”

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

“I have reflected.”

“Your position in the county...”

“I’ve thought of that.”

“You could marry anyone you pleased.”

“I’m going to.”

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

“Yes.”

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

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

“Oh, damn the Family!” he cried.

There was a painful silence, broken only by the relieved sigh of the
armchair as Uncle Donald heaved himself out of it.

“After that,” said Uncle Donald, “I have nothing more to say.”

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

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

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

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

“What was what called?”

“That whisky.”

“O’Rafferty Special.”

“And wherj get it?”

“Bilby’s, in Oxford Street.”

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



CHAPTER XVI. AT THE FLOWER GARDEN



1



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

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

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

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

“I don’t mean you’re like that,” he said. “You’re different. I could see
that directly I saw you. You have a sympathetic nature. That’s why I’m
telling you all this. You’re a sensible and broad-minded girl and can
understand. I’ve done everything for that woman. I got her this job as
hostess here--you wouldn’t believe what they pay her. I starred her in
a show once. Did you see those pearls she was wearing? I gave her those.
And she won’t speak to me. Just because I didn’t like her hat. I wish
you could have seen that hat. You would agree with me, I know, because
you’re a sensible, broad-minded girl and understand hats. I don’t know
what to do. I come here every night.” Sally was aware of this. She had
seen him often, but this was the first time that Lee Schoenstein, the
gentlemanly master of ceremonies, had inflicted him on her. “I come here
every night and dance past her table, but she won’t look at me. What,”
 asked Mr. Cracknell, tears welling in his pale eyes, “would you do about
it?”

“I don’t know,” said Sally, frankly.

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

“A big one would do it better.”

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

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

“Yes,” said Sally.

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

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

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

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

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

“Miss Nicholas.”

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

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

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

“No.”

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

“I don’t go to many theatres.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Miss Nicholas.”

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



2



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

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

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

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

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

“To-night!”

“We docked at ten.”

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

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

“Shall we dance this?” he asked.

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

“If you like.”

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

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

“Sally!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Very well,” said Sally.

3



Bruce Carmyle, in the capacity of accepted suitor, found himself at
something of a loss. He had a dissatisfied feeling. It was not the
manner of Sally’s acceptance that caused this. It would, of course, have
pleased him better if she had shown more warmth, but he was prepared to
wait for warmth. What did trouble him was the fact that his correct mind
perceived now for the first time that he had chosen an unsuitable moment
and place for his outburst of emotion. He belonged to the orthodox
school of thought which looks on moonlight and solitude as the proper
setting for a proposal of marriage; and the surroundings of the Flower
Garden, for all its nice-ness and the nice manner in which it was
conducted, jarred upon him profoundly.

Music had begun again, but it was not the soft music such as a lover
demands if he is to give of his best. It was a brassy, clashy rendering
of a ribald one-step, enough to choke the eloquence of the most ardent.
Couples were dipping and swaying and bumping into one another as far
as the eye could reach; while just behind him two waiters had halted in
order to thrash out one of those voluble arguments in which waiters
love to indulge. To continue the scene at the proper emotional level
was impossible, and Bruce Carmyle began his career as an engaged man by
dropping into Smalltalk.

“Deuce of a lot of noise,” he said querulously.

“Yes,” agreed Sally.

“Is it always like this?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Infernal racket!”

“Yes.”

The romantic side of Mr. Carmyle’s nature could have cried aloud at the
hideous unworthiness of these banalities. In the visions which he had
had of himself as a successful wooer, it had always been in the moments
immediately succeeding the all-important question and its whispered
reply that he had come out particularly strong. He had been accustomed
to picture himself bending with a proud tenderness over his partner in
the scene and murmuring some notably good things to her bowed head. How
could any man murmur in a pandemonium like this. From tenderness Bruce
Carmyle descended with a sharp swoop to irritability.

“Do you often come here?”

“Yes.”

“What for?”

“To dance.”

Mr. Carmyle chafed helplessly. The scene, which should be so romantic,
had suddenly reminded him of the occasion when, at the age of twenty, he
had attended his first ball and had sat in a corner behind a potted palm
perspiring shyly and endeavouring to make conversation to a formidable
nymph in pink. It was one of the few occasions in his life at which he
had ever been at a complete disadvantage. He could still remember the
clammy discomfort of his too high collar as it melted on him. Most
certainly it was not a scene which he enjoyed recalling; and that
he should be forced to recall it now, at what ought to have been the
supreme moment of his life, annoyed him intensely. Almost angrily he
endeavoured to jerk the conversation to a higher level.

“Darling,” he murmured, for by moving his chair two feet to the right
and bending sideways he found that he was in a position to murmur, “you
have made me so...”

“Batti, batti! I presto ravioli hollandaise,” cried one of the disputing
waiters at his back--or to Bruce Carmyle’s prejudiced hearing it sounded
like that.

“La Donna e mobile spaghetti napoli Tettrazina,” rejoined the second
waiter with spirit.

“... you have made me so...”

“Infanta Isabella lope de Vegas mulligatawny Toronto,” said the first
waiter, weak but coming back pluckily.

“... so happy...”

“Funiculi funicula Vincente y Blasco Ibanez vermicelli sul campo della
gloria risotto!” said the second waiter clinchingly, and scored a
technical knockout.

Bruce Carmyle gave it up, and lit a moody cigarette. He was oppressed by
that feeling which so many of us have felt in our time, that it was all
wrong.

The music stopped. The two leading citizens of Little Italy vanished and
went their way, probably to start a vendetta. There followed comparative
calm. But Bruce Carmyle’s emotions, like sweet bells jangled, were out
of tune, and he could not recapture the first fine careless rapture. He
found nothing within him but small-talk.

“What has become of your party?” he asked.

“My party?”

“The people you are with,” said Mr. Carmyle. Even in the stress of his
emotion this problem had been exercising him. In his correctly ordered
world girls did not go to restaurants alone.

“I’m not with anybody.”

“You came here by yourself?” exclaimed Bruce Carmyle, frankly aghast.
And, as he spoke, the wraith of Uncle Donald, banished till now,
returned as large as ever, puffing disapproval through a walrus
moustache.

“I am employed here,” said Sally.

Mr. Carmyle started violently.

“Employed here?”

“As a dancer, you know. I...”

Sally broke off, her attention abruptly diverted to something which
had just caught her eye at a table on the other side of the room.
That something was a red-headed young man of sturdy build who had just
appeared beside the chair in which Mr. Reginald Cracknell was sitting
in huddled gloom. In one hand he carried a basket, and from this basket,
rising above the din of conversation, there came a sudden sharp yapping.
Mr. Cracknell roused himself from his stupor, took the basket, raised
the lid. The yapping increased in volume.

Mr. Cracknell rose, the basket in his arms. With uncertain steps and a
look on his face like that of those who lead forlorn hopes he crossed
the floor to where Miss Mabel Hobson sat, proud and aloof. The next
moment that haughty lady, the centre of an admiring and curious
crowd, was hugging to her bosom a protesting Pekingese puppy, and Mr.
Cracknell, seizing his opportunity like a good general, had deposited
himself in a chair at her side. The course of true love was running
smooth again.

The red-headed young man was gazing fixedly at Sally.

“As a dancer!” ejaculated Mr. Carmyle. Of all those within sight of the
moving drama which had just taken place, he alone had paid no attention
to it. Replete as it was with human interest, sex-appeal, the punch, and
all the other qualities which a drama should possess, it had failed to
grip him. His thoughts had been elsewhere. The accusing figure of Uncle
Donald refused to vanish from his mental eye. The stern voice of Uncle
Donald seemed still to ring in his ear.

A dancer! A professional dancer at a Broadway restaurant! Hideous doubts
began to creep like snakes into Bruce Carmyle’s mind. What, he asked
himself, did he really know of this girl on whom he had bestowed the
priceless boon of his society for life? How did he know what she was--he
could not find the exact adjective to express his meaning, but he knew
what he meant. Was she worthy of the boon? That was what it amounted
to. All his life he had had a prim shrinking from the section of the
feminine world which is connected with the light-life of large cities.
Club acquaintances of his in London had from time to time married into
the Gaiety Chorus, and Mr. Carmyle, though he had no objection to
the Gaiety Chorus in its proper place--on the other side of the
footlights--had always looked on these young men after as social
outcasts. The fine dashing frenzy which had brought him all the way from
South Audley Street to win Sally was ebbing fast.

Sally, hearing him speak, had turned. And there was a candid honesty
in her gaze which for a moment sent all those creeping doubts scuttling
away into the darkness whence they had come. He had not made a fool of
himself, he protested to the lowering phantom of Uncle Donald. Who, he
demanded, could look at Sally and think for an instant that she was not
all that was perfect and lovable? A warm revulsion of feeling swept over
Bruce Carmyle like a returning tide.

“You see, I lost my money and had to do something,” said Sally.

“I see, I see,” murmured Mr. Carmyle; and if only Fate had left him
alone who knows to what heights of tenderness he might not have soared?
But at this moment Fate, being no respecter of persons, sent into his
life the disturbing personality of George Washington Williams.

George Washington Williams was the talented coloured gentleman who
had been extracted from small-time vaudeville by Mr. Abrahams to do
a nightly speciality at the Flower Garden. He was, in fact, a
trap-drummer: and it was his amiable practice, after he had done a few
minutes trap-drumming, to rise from his seat and make a circular tour of
the tables on the edge of the dancing-floor, whimsically pretending
to clip the locks of the male patrons with a pair of drumsticks held
scissor-wise. And so it came about that, just as Mr. Carmyle was bending
towards Sally in an access of manly sentiment, and was on the very verge
of pouring out his soul in a series of well-phrased remarks, he was
surprised and annoyed to find an Ethiopian to whom he had never been
introduced leaning over him and taking quite unpardonable liberties with
his back hair.

One says that Mr. Carmyle was annoyed. The word is weak. The
interruption coming at such a moment jarred every ganglion in his body.
The clicking noise of the drumsticks maddened him. And the gleaming
whiteness of Mr. Williams’ friendly and benignant smile was the last
straw. His dignity writhed beneath this abominable infliction. People
at other tables were laughing. At him. A loathing for the Flower Garden
flowed over Bruce Carmyle, and with it a feeling of suspicion and
disapproval of everyone connected with the establishment. He sprang to
his feet.

“I think I will be going,” he said.

Sally did not reply. She was watching Ginger, who still stood beside the
table recently vacated by Reginald Cracknell.

“Good night,” said Mr. Carmyle between his teeth.

“Oh, are you going?” said Sally with a start. She felt embarrassed. Try
as she would, she was unable to find words of any intimacy. She tried to
realize that she had promised to marry this man, but never before had he
seemed so much a stranger to her, so little a part of her life. It came
to her with a sensation of the incredible that she had done this thing,
taken this irrevocable step.

The sudden sight of Ginger had shaken her. It was as though in the last
half-hour she had forgotten him and only now realized what marriage with
Bruce Carmyle would mean to their comradeship. From now on he was dead
to her. If anything in this world was certain that was. Sally Nicholas
was Ginger’s pal, but Mrs. Carmyle, she realized, would never be allowed
to see him again. A devastating feeling of loss smote her like a blow.

“Yes, I’ve had enough of this place,” Bruce Carmyle was saying.

“Good night,” said Sally. She hesitated. “When shall I see you?” she
asked awkwardly.

It occurred to Bruce Carmyle that he was not showing himself at his
best. He had, he perceived, allowed his nerves to run away with him.

“You don’t mind if I go?” he said more amiably. “The fact is, I can’t
stand this place any longer. I’ll tell you one thing, I’m going to take
you out of here quick.”

“I’m afraid I can’t leave at a moment’s notice,” said Sally, loyal to
her obligations.

“We’ll talk over that to-morrow. I’ll call for you in the morning and
take you for a drive somewhere in a car. You want some fresh air after
this.” Mr. Carmyle looked about him in stiff disgust, and expressed
his unalterable sentiments concerning the Flower Garden, that apple of
Isadore Abrahams’ eye, in a snort of loathing. “My God! What a place!”

He walked quickly away and disappeared. And Ginger, beaming happily,
swooped on Sally’s table like a homing pigeon.



4



“Good Lord, I say, what ho!” cried Ginger. “Fancy meeting you here. What
a bit of luck!” He glanced over his shoulder warily. “Has that blighter
pipped?”

“Pipped?”

“Popped,” explained Ginger. “I mean to say, he isn’t coming back or any
rot like that, is he?”

“Mr. Carmyle? No, he has gone.”

“Sound egg!” said Ginger with satisfaction. “For a moment, when I saw
you yarning away together, I thought he might be with your party. What
on earth is he doing over here at all, confound him? He’s got all Europe
to play about in, why should he come infesting New York? I say, it
really is ripping, seeing you again. It seems years... Of course, one
get’s a certain amount of satisfaction writing letters, but it’s not the
same. Besides, I write such rotten letters. I say, this really is rather
priceless. Can’t I get you something? A cup of coffee, I mean, or an egg
or something? By jove! this really is top-hole.”

His homely, honest face glowed with pleasure, and it seemed to Sally as
though she had come out of a winter’s night into a warm friendly room.
Her mercurial spirits soared.

“Oh, Ginger! If you knew what it’s like seeing you!”

“No, really? Do you mean, honestly, you’re braced?”

“I should say I am braced.”

“Well, isn’t that fine! I was afraid you might have forgotten me.”

“Forgotten you!”

With something of the effect of a revelation it suddenly struck Sally
how far she had been from forgetting him, how large was the place he had
occupied in her thoughts.

“I’ve missed you dreadfully,” she said, and felt the words inadequate as
she uttered them.

“What ho!” said Ginger, also internally condemning the poverty of speech
as a vehicle for conveying thought.

There was a brief silence. The first exhilaration of the reunion over,
Sally deep down in her heart was aware of a troubled feeling as though
the world were out of joint. She forced herself to ignore it, but it
would not be ignored. It grew. Dimly she was beginning to realize what
Ginger meant to her, and she fought to keep herself from realizing it.
Strange things were happening to her to-night, strange emotions stirring
her. Ginger seemed somehow different, as if she were really seeing him
for the first time.

“You’re looking wonderfully well,” she said trying to keep the
conversation on a pedestrian level.

“I am well,” said Ginger. “Never felt fitter in my life. Been out in the
open all day long... simple life and all that... working like blazes.
I say, business is booming. Did you see me just now, handing over Percy
the Pup to what’s-his-name? Five hundred dollars on that one deal. Got
the cheque in my pocket. But what an extraordinarily rummy thing that
I should have come to this place to deliver the goods just when you
happened to be here. I couldn’t believe my eyes at first. I say, I
hope the people you’re with won’t think I’m butting in. You’ll have to
explain that we’re old pals and that you started me in business and all
that sort of thing. Look here,” he said lowering his voice, “I know
how you hate being thanked, but I simply must say how terrifically
decent...”

“Miss Nicholas.”

Lee Schoenstein was standing at the table, and by his side an expectant
youth with a small moustache and pince-nez. Sally got up, and the next
moment Ginger was alone, gaping perplexedly after her as she vanished
and reappeared in the jogging throng on the dancing floor. It was the
nearest thing Ginger had seen to a conjuring trick, and at that moment
he was ill-attuned to conjuring tricks. He brooded, fuming, at what
seemed to him the supremest exhibition of pure cheek, of monumental
nerve, and of undiluted crust that had ever come within his notice. To
come and charge into a private conversation like that and whisk her away
without a word...

“Who was that blighter?” he demanded with heat, when the music ceased
and Sally limped back.

“That was Mr. Schoenstein.”

“And who was the other?”

“The one I danced with? I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

Sally perceived that the conversation had arrived at an embarrassing
point. There was nothing for it but candour.

“Ginger,” she said, “you remember my telling you when we first met that
I used to dance in a Broadway place? This is the place. I’m working
again.”

Complete unintelligence showed itself on Ginger’s every feature.

“I don’t understand,” he said--unnecessarily, for his face revealed the
fact.

“I’ve got my old job back.”

“But why?”

“Well, I had to do something.” She went on rapidly. Already a light
dimly resembling the light of understanding was beginning to appear in
Ginger’s eyes. “Fillmore went smash, you know--it wasn’t his fault, poor
dear. He had the worst kind of luck--and most of my money was tied up in
his business, so you see...”

She broke off confused by the look in his eyes, conscious of an absurd
feeling of guilt. There was amazement in that look and a sort of
incredulous horror.

“Do you mean to say...” Ginger gulped and started again. “Do you mean
to tell me that you let me have... all that money... for the
dog-business... when you were broke? Do you mean to say...”

Sally stole a glance at his crimson face and looked away again quickly.
There was an electric silence.

“Look here,” exploded Ginger with sudden violence, “you’ve got to marry
me. You’ve jolly well got to marry me! I don’t mean that,” he added
quickly. “I mean to say I know you’re going to marry whoever you
please... but won’t you marry me? Sally, for God’s sake have a dash
at it! I’ve been keeping it in all this time because it seemed rather
rotten to bother you about it, but now....Oh, dammit, I wish I could put
it into words. I always was rotten at talking. But... well, look here,
what I mean is, I know I’m not much of a chap, but it seems to me you
must care for me a bit to do a thing like that for a fellow... and...
I’ve loved you like the dickens ever since I met you... I do wish you’d
have a stab at it, Sally. At least I could look after you, you know,
and all that... I mean to say, work like the deuce and try to give you a
good time... I’m not such an ass as to think a girl like you could ever
really... er... love a blighter like me, but...”

Sally laid her hand on his.

“Ginger, dear,” she said, “I do love you. I ought to have known it all
along, but I seem to be understanding myself to-night for the first
time.” She got up and bent over him for a swift moment, whispering in
his ear, “I shall never love anyone but you, Ginger. Will you try
to remember that.” She was moving away, but he caught at her arm and
stopped her.

“Sally...”

She pulled her arm away, her face working as she fought against the
tears that would not keep back.

“I’ve made a fool of myself,” she said. “Ginger, your cousin... Mr.
Carmyle... just now he asked me to marry him, and I said I would.”

She was gone, flitting among the tables like some wild creature running
to its home: and Ginger, motionless, watched her go.



5



The telephone-bell in Sally’s little sitting-room was ringing jerkily
as she let herself in at the front door. She guessed who it was at the
other end of the wire, and the noise of the bell sounded to her like the
voice of a friend in distress crying for help. Without stopping to
close the door, she ran to the table and unhooked the receiver. Muffled,
plaintive sounds were coming over the wire.

“Hullo... Hullo... I say... Hullo...”

“Hullo, Ginger,” said Sally quietly.

An ejaculation that was half a shout and half gurgle answered her.

“Sally! Is that you?”

“Yes, here I am, Ginger.”

“I’ve been trying to get you for ages.”

“I’ve only just come in. I walked home.”

There was a pause.

“Hullo.”

“Yes?”

“Well, I mean...” Ginger seemed to be finding his usual difficulty in
expressing himself. “About that, you know. What you said.”

“Yes?” said Sally, trying to keep her voice from shaking.

“You said...” Again Ginger’s vocabulary failed him. “You said you loved
me.”

“Yes,” said Sally simply.

Another odd sound floated over the wire, and there was a moment of
silence before Ginger found himself able to resume.

“I... I... Well, we can talk about that when we meet. I mean, it’s no
good trying to say what I think over the ‘phone, I’m sort of knocked
out. I never dreamed... But, I say, what did you mean about Bruce?”

“I told you, I told you.” Sally’s face was twisted and the receiver
shook in her hand. “I’ve made a fool of myself. I never realized... And
now it’s too late.”

“Good God!” Ginger’s voice rose in a sharp wail. “You can’t mean you
really... You don’t seriously intend to marry the man?”

“I must. I’ve promised.”

“But, good heavens...”

“It’s no good. I must.”

“But the man’s a blighter!”

“I can’t break my word.”

“I never heard such rot,” said Ginger vehemently. “Of course you can. A
girl isn’t expected...”

“I can’t, Ginger dear, I really can’t.”

“But look here...”

“It’s really no good talking about it any more, really it isn’t... Where
are you staying to-night?”

“Staying? Me? At the Plaza. But look here...”

Sally found herself laughing weakly.

“At the Plaza! Oh, Ginger, you really do want somebody to look after
you. Squandering your pennies like that... Well, don’t talk any more
now. It’s so late and I’m so tired. I’ll come and see you to-morrow.
Good night.”

She hung up the receiver quickly, to cut short a fresh outburst of
protest. And as she turned away a voice spoke behind her.

“Sally!”

Gerald Foster was standing in the doorway.



CHAPTER XVII. SALLY LAYS A GHOST



1



The blood flowed slowly back into Sally’s face, and her heart, which
had leaped madly for an instant at the sound of his voice, resumed its
normal beat. The suddenness of the shock over, she was surprised to
find herself perfectly calm. Always when she had imagined this meeting,
knowing that it would have to take place sooner or later, she had felt
something akin to panic: but now that it had actually occurred it hardly
seemed to stir her. The events of the night had left her incapable of
any violent emotion.

“Hullo, Sally!” said Gerald.

He spoke thickly, and there was a foolish smile on his face as he
stood swaying with one hand on the door. He was in his shirt-sleeves,
collarless: and it was plain that he had been drinking heavily. His face
was white and puffy, and about him there hung like a nimbus a sodden
disreputableness.

Sally did not speak. Weighed down before by a numbing exhaustion, she
seemed now to have passed into that second phase in which over-tired
nerves enter upon a sort of Indian summer of abnormal alertness. She
looked at him quietly, coolly and altogether dispassionately, as if he
had been a stranger.

“Hullo!” said Gerald again.

“What do you want?” said Sally.

“Heard your voice. Saw the door open. Thought I’d come in.”

“What do you want?”

The weak smile which had seemed pinned on Gerald’s face vanished. A tear
rolled down his cheek. His intoxication had reached the maudlin stage.

“Sally... S-Sally... I’m very miserable.” He slurred awkwardly over the
difficult syllables. “Heard your voice. Saw the door open. Thought I’d
come in.”

Something flicked at the back of Sally’s mind. She seemed to have
been through all this before. Then she remembered. This was simply Mr.
Reginald Cracknell over again.

“I think you had better go to bed, Gerald,” she said steadily. Nothing
about him seemed to touch her now, neither the sight of him nor his
shameless misery.

“What’s the use? Can’t sleep. No good. Couldn’t sleep. Sally, you don’t
know how worried I am. I see what a fool I’ve been.”

Sally made a quick gesture, to check what she supposed was about
to develop into a belated expression of regret for his treatment of
herself. She did not want to stand there listening to Gerald apologizing
with tears for having done his best to wreck her life. But it seemed
that it was not this that was weighing upon his soul.

“I was a fool ever to try writing plays,” he went on. “Got a winner
first time, but can’t repeat. It’s no good. Ought to have stuck to
newspaper work. I’m good at that. Shall have to go back to it. Had
another frost to-night. No good trying any more. Shall have to go back
to the old grind, damn it.”

He wept softly, full of pity for his hard case.

“Very miserable,” he murmured.

He came forward a step into the room, lurched, and retreated to the safe
support of the door. For an instant Sally’s artificial calm was shot
through by a swift stab of contempt. It passed, and she was back again
in her armour of indifference.

“Go to bed, Gerald,” she said. “You’ll feel better in the morning.”

Perhaps some inkling of how he was going to feel in the morning worked
through to Gerald’s muddled intelligence, for he winced, and his manner
took on a deeper melancholy.

“May not be alive in the morning,” he said solemnly. “Good mind to
end it all. End it all!” he repeated with the beginning of a sweeping
gesture which was cut off abruptly as he clutched at the friendly door.

Sally was not in the mood for melodrama.

“Oh, go to bed,” she said impatiently. The strange frozen indifference
which had gripped her was beginning to pass, leaving in its place a
growing feeling of resentment--resentment against Gerald for degrading
himself like this, against herself for ever having found glamour in the
man. It humiliated her to remember how utterly she had once allowed his
personality to master hers. And under the sting of this humiliation she
felt hard and pitiless. Dimly she was aware that a curious change had
come over her to-night. Normally, the sight of any living thing in
distress was enough to stir her quick sympathy: but Gerald mourning
over the prospect of having to go back to regular work made no appeal to
her--a fact which the sufferer noted and commented upon.

“You’re very unsymp... unsympathetic,” he complained.

“I’m sorry,” said Sally. She walked briskly to the door and gave it a
push. Gerald, still clinging to his chosen support, moved out into the
passage, attached to the handle, with the air of a man the foundations
of whose world have suddenly lost their stability. He released the
handle and moved uncertainly across the passage. Finding his own door
open before him, he staggered over the threshold; and Sally, having
watched him safely to his journey’s end, went into her bedroom with the
intention of terminating this disturbing night by going to sleep.

Almost immediately she changed her mind. Sleep was out of the question.
A fever of restlessness had come upon her. She put on a kimono, and
went into the kitchen to ascertain whether her commissariat arrangements
would permit of a glass of hot milk.

She had just remembered that she had that morning presented the last
of the milk to a sandy cat with a purposeful eye which had dropped in
through the window to take breakfast with her, when her regrets for this
thriftless hospitality were interrupted by a muffled crash.

She listened intently. The sound had seemed to come from across the
passage. She hurried to the door and opened it. As she did so, from
behind the door of the apartment opposite there came a perfect fusillade
of crashes, each seeming to her strained hearing louder and more
appalling than the last.

There is something about sudden, loud noises in the stillness of the
night which shatters the most rigid detachment. A short while before,
Gerald, toying with the idea of ending his sorrows by violence, had
left Sally unmoved: but now her mind leapt back to what he had said,
and apprehension succeeded indifference. There was no disputing the fact
that Gerald was in an irresponsible mood, under the influence of
which he was capable of doing almost anything. Sally, listening in the
doorway, felt a momentary panic.

A brief silence had succeeded the fusillade, but, as she stood there
hesitating, the noise broke out again; and this time it was so loud and
compelling that Sally hesitated no longer. She ran across the passage
and beat on the door.



2



Whatever devastating happenings had been going on in his home, it was
plain a moment later that Gerald had managed to survive them: for there
came the sound of a dragging footstep, and the door opened. Gerald stood
on the threshold, the weak smile back on his face.

“Hullo, Sally!”

At the sight of him, disreputable and obviously unscathed, Sally’s
brief alarm died away, leaving in its place the old feeling of impatient
resentment. In addition to her other grievances against him, he had
apparently frightened her unnecessarily.

“Whatever was all that noise?” she demanded.

“Noise?” said Gerald, considering the point open-mouthed.

“Yes, noise,” snapped Sally.

“I’ve been cleaning house,” said Gerald with the owl-like gravity of a
man just conscious that he is not wholly himself.

Sally pushed her way past him. The apartment in which she found herself
was almost an exact replica of her own, and it was evident that Elsa
Doland had taken pains to make it pretty and comfortable in a niggly
feminine way. Amateur interior decoration had always been a hobby
of hers. Even in the unpromising surroundings of her bedroom at
Mrs. Meecher’s boarding-house she had contrived to create a certain
daintiness which Sally, who had no ability in that direction herself,
had always rather envied. As a decorator Elsa’s mind ran in the
direction of small, fragile ornaments, and she was not afraid of
over-furnishing. Pictures jostled one another on the walls: china of all
description stood about on little tables: there was a profusion of lamps
with shades of parti-coloured glass: and plates were ranged along a
series of shelves.

One says that the plates were ranged and the pictures jostled one
another, but it would be more correct to put it they had jostled and
had been ranged, for it was only by guess-work that Sally was able
to reconstruct the scene as it must have appeared before Gerald had
started, as he put it, to clean house. She had walked into the flat
briskly enough, but she pulled up short as she crossed the threshold,
appalled by the majestic ruin that met her gaze. A shell bursting in the
little sitting-room could hardly have created more havoc.

The psychology of a man of weak character under the influence of alcohol
and disappointed ambition is not easy to plumb, for his moods follow one
another with a rapidity which baffles the observer. Ten minutes before,
Gerald Foster had been in the grip of a clammy self-pity, and it seemed
from his aspect at the present moment that this phase had returned. But
in the interval there had manifestly occurred a brief but adequate
spasm of what would appear to have been an almost Berserk fury. What had
caused it and why it should have expended itself so abruptly, Sally was
not psychologist enough to explain; but that it had existed there was
ocular evidence of the most convincing kind. A heavy niblick, flung
petulantly--or remorsefully--into a corner, showed by what medium the
destruction had been accomplished.

Bleak chaos appeared on every side. The floor was littered with every
imaginable shape and size of broken glass and china. Fragments of
pictures, looking as if they had been chewed by some prehistoric animal,
lay amid heaps of shattered statuettes and vases. As Sally moved slowly
into the room after her involuntary pause, china crackled beneath her
feet. She surveyed the stripped walls with a wondering eye, and turned
to Gerald for an explanation.

Gerald had subsided on to an occasional table, and was weeping softly
again. It had come over him once more that he had been very, very badly
treated.

“Well!” said Sally with a gasp. “You’ve certainly made a good job of
it!”

There was a sharp crack as the occasional table, never designed by its
maker to bear heavy weights, gave way in a splintering flurry of broken
legs under the pressure of the master of the house: and Sally’s mood
underwent an abrupt change. There are few situations in life which do
not hold equal potentialities for both tragedy and farce, and it was
the ludicrous side of this drama that chanced to appeal to Sally at
this moment. Her sense of humour was tickled. It was, if she could have
analysed her feelings, at herself that she was mocking--at the feeble
sentimental Sally who had once conceived the absurd idea of taking this
preposterous man seriously. She felt light-hearted and light-headed, and
she sank into a chair with a gurgling laugh.

The shock of his fall appeared to have had the desirable effect of
restoring Gerald to something approaching intelligence. He picked
himself up from the remains of a set of water-colours, gazing at Sally
with growing disapproval.

“No sympathy,” he said austerely.

“I can’t help it,” cried Sally. “It’s too funny.”

“Not funny,” corrected Gerald, his brain beginning to cloud once more.

“What did you do it for?”

Gerald returned for a moment to that mood of honest indignation, which
had so strengthened his arm when wielding the niblick. He bethought him
once again of his grievance.

“Wasn’t going to stand for it any longer,” he said heatedly. “A fellow’s
wife goes and lets him down... ruins his show by going off and playing
in another show... why shouldn’t I smash her things? Why should I stand
for that sort of treatment? Why should I?”

“Well, you haven’t,” said Sally, “so there’s no need to discuss it. You
seem to have acted in a thoroughly manly and independent way.”

“That’s it. Manly independent.” He waggled his finger impressively.
“Don’t care what she says,” he continued. “Don’t care if she never comes
back. That woman...”

Sally was not prepared to embark with him upon a discussion of the
absent Elsa. Already the amusing aspect of the affair had begun to fade,
and her hilarity was giving way to a tired distaste for the sordidness
of the whole business. She had become aware that she could not
endure the society of Gerald Foster much longer. She got up and spoke
decidedly.

“And now,” she said, “I’m going to tidy up.”

Gerald had other views.

“No,” he said with sudden solemnity. “No! Nothing of the kind. Leave it
for her to find. Leave it as it is.”

“Don’t be silly. All this has got to be cleaned up. I’ll do it. You go
and sit in my apartment. I’ll come and tell you when you can come back.”

“No!” said Gerald, wagging his head.

Sally stamped her foot among the crackling ruins. Quite suddenly the
sight of him had become intolerable.

“Do as I tell you,” she cried.

Gerald wavered for a moment, but his brief militant mood was ebbing
fast. After a faint protest he shuffled off, and Sally heard him go into
her room. She breathed a deep breath of relief and turned to her task.

A visit to the kitchen revealed a long-handled broom, and, armed with
this, Sally was soon busy. She was an efficient little person, and
presently out of chaos there began to emerge a certain order. Nothing
short of complete re-decoration would ever make the place look habitable
again, but at the end of half an hour she had cleared the floor, and
the fragments of vases, plates, lamp-shades, pictures and glasses were
stacked in tiny heaps against the walls. She returned the broom to the
kitchen, and, going back into the sitting-room, flung open the window
and stood looking out.

With a sense of unreality she perceived that the night had gone. Over
the quiet street below there brooded that strange, metallic light which
ushers in the dawn of a fine day. A cold breeze whispered to and fro.
Above the house-tops the sky was a faint, level blue.

She left the window and started to cross the room. And suddenly there
came over her a feeling of utter weakness. She stumbled to a chair,
conscious only of being tired beyond the possibility of a further
effort. Her eyes closed, and almost before her head had touched the
cushions she was asleep.



3



Sally woke. Sunshine was streaming through the open window, and with
it the myriad noises of a city awake and about its business. Footsteps
clattered on the sidewalk, automobile horns were sounding, and she could
hear the clank of street cars as they passed over the points. She could
only guess at the hour, but it was evident that the morning was well
advanced. She got up stiffly. Her head was aching.

She went into the bathroom, bathed her face, and felt better. The dull
oppression which comes of a bad night was leaving her. She leaned out
of the window, revelling in the fresh air, then crossed the passage and
entered her own apartment. Stertorous breathing greeted her, and she
perceived that Gerald Foster had also passed the night in a chair. He
was sprawling by the window with his legs stretched out and his head
resting on one of the arms, an unlovely spectacle.

Sally stood regarding him for a moment with a return of the distaste
which she had felt on the previous night. And yet, mingled with the
distaste, there was a certain elation. A black chapter of her life was
closed for ever. Whatever the years to come might bring to her, they
would be free from any wistful yearnings for the man who had once been
woven so inextricably into the fabric of her life. She had thought that
his personality had gripped her too strongly ever to be dislodged,
but now she could look at him calmly and feel only a faint half-pity,
half-contempt. The glamour had departed.

She shook him gently, and he sat up with a start, blinking in the strong
light. His mouth was still open. He stared at Sally foolishly, then
scrambled awkwardly out of the chair.

“Oh, my God!” said Gerald, pressing both his hands to his forehead and
sitting down again. He licked his lips with a dry tongue and moaned.
“Oh, I’ve got a headache!”

Sally might have pointed out to him that he had certainly earned one,
but she refrained.

“You’d better go and have a wash,” she suggested.

“Yes,” said Gerald, heaving himself up again.

“Would you like some breakfast?”

“Don’t!” said Gerald faintly, and tottered off to the bathroom.

Sally sat down in the chair he had vacated. She had never felt quite
like this before in her life. Everything seemed dreamlike. The splashing
of water in the bathroom came faintly to her, and she realized that she
had been on the point of falling asleep again. She got up and opened the
window, and once more the air acted as a restorative. She watched the
activities of the street with a distant interest. They, too, seemed
dreamlike and unreal. People were hurrying up and down on mysterious
errands. An inscrutable cat picked its way daintily across the road. At
the door of the apartment house an open car purred sleepily.

She was roused by a ring at the bell. She went to the door and opened
it, and found Bruce Carmyle standing on the threshold. He wore a light
motor-coat, and he was plainly endeavouring to soften the severity of
his saturnine face with a smile of beaming kindliness.

“Well, here I am!” said Bruce Carmyle cheerily. “Are you ready?”

With the coming of daylight a certain penitence had descended on Mr.
Carmyle. Thinking things over while shaving and subsequently in his
bath, he had come to the conclusion that his behaviour overnight had not
been all that could have been desired. He had not actually been brutal,
perhaps, but he had undoubtedly not been winning. There had been an
abruptness in the manner of his leaving Sally at the Flower Garden which
a perfect lover ought not to have shown. He had allowed his nerves
to get the better of him, and now he desired to make amends. Hence a
cheerfulness which he did not usually exhibit so early in the morning.

Sally was staring at him blankly. She had completely forgotten that he
had said that he would come and take her for a drive this morning. She
searched in her mind for words, and found none. And, as Mr. Carmyle
was debating within himself whether to kiss her now or wait for a more
suitable moment, embarrassment came upon them both like a fog, and the
genial smile faded from his face as if the motive-power behind it had
suddenly failed.

“I’ve--er--got the car outside, and...”

At this point speech failed Mr. Carmyle, for, even as he began the
sentence, the door that led to the bathroom opened and Gerald Foster
came out. Mr. Carmyle gaped at Gerald: Gerald gaped at Mr. Carmyle.

The application of cold water to the face and head is an excellent thing
on the morning after an imprudent night, but as a tonic it only goes
part of the way. In the case of Gerald Foster, which was an extremely
serious and aggravated case, it had gone hardly any way at all. The
person unknown who had been driving red-hot rivets into the base of
Gerald Foster’s skull ever since the moment of his awakening was still
busily engaged on that task. He gazed at Mr. Carmyle wanly.

Bruce Carmyle drew in his breath with a sharp hiss, and stood rigid. His
eyes, burning now with a grim light, flickered over Gerald’s person
and found nothing in it to entertain them. He saw a slouching figure
in shirt-sleeves and the foundations of evening dress, a disgusting,
degraded figure with pink eyes and a white face that needed a shave. And
all the doubts that had ever come to vex Mr. Carmyle’s mind since his
first meeting with Sally became on the instant certainties. So Uncle
Donald had been right after all! This was the sort of girl she was!

At his elbow the stout phantom of Uncle Donald puffed with satisfaction.

“I told you so!” it said.

Sally had not moved. The situation was beyond her. Just as if this had
really been the dream it seemed, she felt incapable of speech or action.

“So...” said Mr. Carmyle, becoming articulate, and allowed an impressive
aposiopesis to take the place of the rest of the speech. A cold fury
had gripped him. He pointed at Gerald, began to speak, found that he was
stuttering, and gulped back the words. In this supreme moment he was not
going to have his dignity impaired by a stutter. He gulped and found a
sentence which, while brief enough to insure against this disaster, was
sufficiently long to express his meaning.

“Get out!” he said.

Gerald Foster had his dignity, too, and it seemed to him that the time
had come to assert it. But he also had a most excruciating headache, and
when he drew himself up haughtily to ask Mr. Carmyle what the devil he
meant by it, a severe access of pain sent him huddling back immediately
to a safer attitude. He clasped his forehead and groaned.

“Get out!”

For a moment Gerald hesitated. Then another sudden shooting spasm
convinced him that no profit or pleasure was to be derived from a
continuance of the argument, and he began to shamble slowly across to
the door. Bruce Carmyle watched him go with twitching hands. There was
a moment when the human man in him, somewhat atrophied from long disuse,
stirred him almost to the point of assault; then dignity whispered more
prudent counsel in his ear, and Gerald was past the danger-zone and out
in the passage. Mr. Carmyle turned to face Sally, as King Arthur on
a similar but less impressive occasion must have turned to deal with
Guinevere.

“So...” he said again.

Sally was eyeing him steadily--considering the circumstances, Mr.
Carmyle thought with not a little indignation, much too steadily.

“This,” he said ponderously, “is very amusing.”

He waited for her to speak, but she said nothing.

“I might have expected it,” said Mr. Carmyle with a bitter laugh.

Sally forced herself from the lethargy which was gripping her.

“Would you like me to explain?” she said.

“There can be no explanation,” said Mr. Carmyle coldly.

“Very well,” said Sally.

There was a pause.

“Good-bye,” said Bruce Carmyle.

“Good-bye,” said Sally.

Mr. Carmyle walked to the door. There he stopped for an instant and
glanced back at her. Sally had walked to the window and was looking out.
For one swift instant something about her trim little figure and the
gleam of her hair where the sunlight shone on it seemed to catch at
Bruce Carmyle’s heart, and he wavered. But the next moment he was strong
again, and the door had closed behind him with a resolute bang.

Out in the street, climbing into his car, he looked up involuntarily
to see if she was still there, but she had gone. As the car, gathering
speed, hummed down the street. Sally was at the telephone listening to
the sleepy voice of Ginger Kemp, which, as he became aware who it
was that had woken him from his rest and what she had to say to him,
magically lost its sleepiness and took on a note of riotous ecstasy.

Five minutes later, Ginger was splashing in his bath, singing
discordantly.



CHAPTER XVIII. JOURNEY’S END



Darkness was beginning to gather slowly and with almost an apologetic
air, as if it regretted the painful duty of putting an end to the
perfect summer day. Over to the west beyond the trees there still
lingered a faint afterglow, and a new moon shone like a silver sickle
above the big barn. Sally came out of the house and bowed gravely three
times for luck. She stood on the gravel, outside the porch, drinking in
the sweet evening scents, and found life good.

The darkness, having shown a certain reluctance at the start, was now
buckling down to make a quick and thorough job of it. The sky turned
to a uniform dark blue, picked out with quiet stars. The cement of the
state road which led to Patchogue, Babylon, and other important centres
ceased to be a pale blur and became invisible. Lights appeared in the
windows of the houses across the meadows. From the direction of the
kennels there came a single sleepy bark, and the small white woolly dog
which had scampered out at Sally’s heels stopped short and uttered a
challenging squeak.

The evening was so still that Ginger’s footsteps, as he pounded along
the road on his way back from the village, whither he had gone to buy
provisions, evening papers, and wool for the sweater which Sally was
knitting, were audible long before he turned in at the gate. Sally could
not see him, but she looked in the direction of the sound and once again
felt that pleasant, cosy thrill of happiness which had come to her every
evening for the last year.

“Ginger,” she called.

“What ho!”

The woolly dog, with another important squeak, scuttled down the drive
to look into the matter, and was coldly greeted. Ginger, for all his
love of dogs, had never been able to bring himself to regard Toto with
affection. He had protested when Sally, a month before, finding Mrs.
Meecher distraught on account of a dreadful lethargy which had seized
her pet, had begged him to offer hospitality and country air to the
invalid.

“It’s wonderful what you’ve done for Toto, angel,” said Sally, as he
came up frigidly eluding that curious animal’s leaps of welcome. “He’s a
different dog.”

“Bit of luck for him,” said Ginger.

“In all the years I was at Mrs. Meecher’s I never knew him move at
anything more rapid than a stately walk. Now he runs about all the
time.”

“The blighter had been overeating from birth,” said Ginger. “That was
all that was wrong with him. A little judicious dieting put him right.
We’ll be able,” said Ginger brightening, “to ship him back next week.”

“I shall quite miss him.”

“I nearly missed him--this morning--with a shoe,” said Ginger. “He was
up on the kitchen table wolfing the bacon, and I took steps.”

“My cave-man!” murmured Sally. “I always said you had a frightfully
brutal streak in you. Ginger, what an evening!”

“Good Lord!” said Ginger suddenly, as they walked into the light of the
open kitchen door.

“Now what?”

He stopped and eyed her intently.

“Do you know you’re looking prettier than you were when I started down
to the village!”

Sally gave his arm a little hug.

“Beloved!” she said. “Did you get the chops?”

Ginger froze in his tracks, horrified.

“Oh, my aunt! I clean forgot them!”

“Oh, Ginger, you are an old chump. Well, you’ll have to go in for a
little judicious dieting, like Toto.”

“I say, I’m most awfully sorry. I got the wool.”

“If you think I’m going to eat wool...”

“Isn’t there anything in the house?”

“Vegetables and fruit.”

“Fine! But, of course, if you want chops...”

“Not at all. I’m spiritual. Besides, people say that vegetables are good
for the blood-pressure or something. Of course you forgot to get the
mail, too?”

“Absolutely not! I was on to it like a knife. Two letters from fellows
wanting Airedale puppies.”

“No! Ginger, we are getting on!”

“Pretty bloated,” agreed Ginger complacently. “Pretty bloated. We’ll be
able to get that two-seater if things go buzzing on like this. There was
a letter for you. Here it is.”

“It’s from Fillmore,” said Sally, examining the envelope as they went
into the kitchen. “And about time, too. I haven’t had a word from him
for months.”

She sat down and opened the letter. Ginger, heaving himself on to the
table, wriggled into a position of comfort and started to read his
evening paper. But after he had skimmed over the sporting page he
lowered it and allowed his gaze to rest on Sally’s bent head with a
feeling of utter contentment.

Although a married man of nearly a year’s standing, Ginger was still
moving about a magic world in a state of dazed incredulity, unable fully
to realize that such bliss could be. Ginger in his time had seen many
things that looked good from a distance, but not one that had borne the
test of a closer acquaintance--except this business of marriage.

Marriage, with Sally for a partner, seemed to be one of the very few
things in the world in which there was no catch. His honest eyes glowed
as he watched her. Sally broke into a little splutter of laughter.

“Ginger, look at this!”

He reached down and took the slip of paper which she held out to him.
The following legend met his eye, printed in bold letters:

                                 POPP’S

                              OUTSTANDING

                 SUCCULENT----APPETIZING----NUTRITIOUS.



                        (JUST SAY “POP!” A CHILD

                              CAN DO IT.)



Ginger regarded this cipher with a puzzled frown.

“What is it?” he asked.

“It’s Fillmore.”

“How do you mean?”

Sally gurgled.

“Fillmore and Gladys have started a little restaurant in Pittsburg.”

“A restaurant!” There was a shocked note in Ginger’s voice. Although
he knew that the managerial career of that modern Napoleon, his
brother-in-law, had terminated in something of a smash, he had
never quite lost his reverence for one whom he considered a bit of a
master-mind. That Fillmore Nicholas, the Man of Destiny, should have
descended to conducting a restaurant--and a little restaurant at
that--struck him as almost indecent.

Sally, on the other hand--for sisters always seem to fail in proper
reverence for the greatness of their brothers--was delighted.

“It’s the most splendid idea,” she said with enthusiasm. “It really does
look as if Fillmore was going to amount to something at last. Apparently
they started on quite a small scale, just making pork-pies...”

“Why Popp?” interrupted Ginger, ventilating a question which was
perplexing him deeply.

“Just a trade name, silly. Gladys is a wonderful cook, you know, and she
made the pies and Fillmore toddled round selling them. And they did
so well that now they’ve started a regular restaurant, and that’s a
success, too. Listen to this.” Sally gurgled again and turned over the
letter. “Where is it? Oh yes! ‘... sound financial footing. In fact, our
success has been so instantaneous that I have decided to launch out on
a really big scale. It is Big Ideas that lead to Big Business. I am
contemplating a vast extension of this venture of ours, and in a very
short time I shall organize branches in New York, Chicago, Detroit, and
all the big cities, each in charge of a manager and each offering as
a special feature, in addition to the usual restaurant cuisine, these
Popp’s Outstanding Pork-pies of ours. That done, and having established
all these branches as going concerns, I shall sail for England and
introduce Popp’s Pork-pies there...’ Isn’t he a little wonder!”

“Dashed brainy chap. Always said so.”

“I must say I was rather uneasy when I read that. I’ve seen so many of
Fillmore’s Big Ideas. That’s always the way with him. He gets something
good and then goes and overdoes it and bursts. However, it’s all right
now that he’s got Gladys to look after him. She has added a postscript.
Just four words, but oh! how comforting to a sister’s heart. ‘Yes, I
don’t think!’ is what she says, and I don’t know when I’ve read anything
more cheering. Thank heaven, she’s got poor dear Fillmore well in hand.”

“Pork-pies!” said Ginger, musingly, as the pangs of a healthy
hunger began to assail his interior. “I wish he’d sent us one of the
outstanding little chaps. I could do with it.”

Sally got up and ruffled his red hair.

“Poor old Ginger! I knew you’d never be able to stick it. Come on, it’s
a lovely night, let’s walk to the village and revel at the inn. We’re
going to be millionaires before we know where we are, so we can afford
it.”


THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Adventures of Sally" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home