THE OTHER MAN’S CARD

BEATRICE HERON-MAXWELL January 1 1922

THE OTHER MAN’S CARD

BEATRICE HERON-MAXWELL January 1 1922

THE OTHER MAN’S CARD

BEATRICE HERON-MAXWELL

CHANCE, the wayward goddess, in one of her most whimsical moods, looking round for a human ball to toss, spotted Macclaren Heswell, who for the moment was at a loose end—and realised he would make ideal sport. For in his official capacity out East he had learnt to do everything by rule and rote, to weigh all his actions in a balance and repress both inclination and impulse unless they tallied with expediency. But his leave was nearly over and he had the major part of a holiday-fund still at the bank, and in the midst of Montreal’s New Year revelry he felt lonely and bored—lonelier than he had felt since he first left Canada for England, to take on the post an uncle had found for him in the British Consular Service.

His little extra table, squeezed in at the Ritz for the sake of auld lang syne, by Monsieur Charles, who remembered Heswell as a former frequenter, seemed like a cage, shutting him off from the general gaiety. Every Jack had a Jill except himself,whetherintête-à-têteor“square”parties, or the plural groups of many mixed couples. The fact that he had, rather prematurely, packed his evening clothes made him feel even more apart from the surrounding, gaiety.

But suddenly the bars melted away. Across the room a pair of challenging eyes met his, a pair of parted seductive lips smiled at him, and an outstretched hand held up a champagne beaker in unmistakable invitation.

Swiftly he responded by raising his own and she held him with her conquering glance while together they drained their glasses.

It was the libation to happy Chance!

The riot of a battle of flowers with its ammunition of fluffy balls gave him his second opportunity, and when he stood up, and, aiming discreetly, caught her on one gleaming shoulder from which the strap of diamonds and jet had slipped, she returned the shot with an added gleam of provocation.

IN THE crush of diners surging out towards the ball-room Heswell was close to her, and as she bent her head and

screened it with her hands from the whirling drifts of imitation-snow descending on them, he used the squawking doll just presented to him as a weather-guard for her.

“Don’t you hate to be out in the cold?” she asked, under her breath, her wonderful glowing eyes conveying a sympathetic understanding to him.

“As much as I love being in the sun when it shines,” he answered meaningly.

“Yes—one can see you’re used to sunny hours,” she went on and touched her cheek, while the tan of his face deepened at the sous-entendu. Five minutes later they were dancing together, and Hesw'ell felt that he was holding in his arms what he had missed and desired through arid years, in a far colony, and disappointing days since Montreal’s glamor emphasised how he had dropped out of the swim of social pleasure. When they stopped, she sat for a moment at his table. It was a wonderful tête-à-tête.

Youth and the evanescent joy of life, and all the exquisite fragrant charm of a feminine personality that both allured, and contrasted with, his own—these were at his beck and call from that moment.

The difference in him from the men by whom she was surrounded appealed to Enid Fane; she sensed at once that under his gravity of look and air of aloofness there were temperament and passion.

He was not a mere society worldling, but a primitive man, conventional by circumstance, not choice. It was piquant to captivate him, and in the process she learnt a new lesson—the first chapter in her own book of Heart’s Desire.

She was at the zenith of her beauty and popularity; exclusive too in her selection of friends, and she had just dismissed a probationer because his ways did not please her fastidious taste.

Hw host this New Year’s Eve was merely, one of the

usual crowd; a gambling, jovial war profiteer with money to burn and an uncongenial wife well in the background. Enid felt quite free to add this sunburnt handsome stranger to the outer circle of her group of satellites, and the inner one of her special inti mates. And to her own surprise, the attraction proved reciprocal.

SHE found herself, after the first gay advance, with a new sensation in which shyness, self disparagement, tender hope and fear, jealousy, despair, and ecstasy all played their part and blent themselves into the greatest of emotions—love!

For the next few days life was a rainbow to them both— beginning and end tethered to earth, but compassing heaven in its span. She had asked his name just as the night of the Old Year merged into the dawn of the New, and he had answered, with a reminiscent touch of his acquired caution, that his friends called him Larry.

The nickname pleased her and she deliberately avoided knowdedge of any further label because she liked to set him apart even in the smallest details from every other man. Chance, still directing the episode, willed that he should meet no one who knew him that week while he and Enid were inseparable. He had looked up an old McGill chum when he first reached the city, only to learn that the man was at a Winter resort in the Laurentians. On the day of his departure he found the friend had called at his hotel, missed him, and left a card. Heswell thrust the card into his pocket, eager to rejoin Enid, and thought of it no more.

But when the final moment came and she realised that it was the parting of the ways, the whim seized her to know more of “Larry,” the man she loved.

“You must go, I suppose,” she said, “right away to this horrid old colony. Where is it?”

“In the back of beyond,” he answered evasively, “it was a desert before—it will be Hades now.”

“Won’t you write?”

Continued on pane 43

T he Other Man’s Card

Continued from page 17

'What’s the good? You wouldn’t read letters that told of sandstorms and rainy seasons, Eurasian gossip and official chat'. They’d go into the waste paper basket—like me! It has been a very perfect dream. Hadn’t we better leave it at that?” She reflected. There was a strain of romance in her nature that favoured the idea of laying this sweet memory away in lavender and rosemary. And no practical realisation of dreams was possible for exiles!

Yet, when she clung to him with her heart and soul on her lips at the instant of good-bye, something again urged her to draw aside the veil between them.

“I simply must know your name, Larry,” she said, as he put her gently away—“Tell me—Larry Who?”

He was taking out the latch-key he was carrying for her and with it came his friend’s card.

“Larry who?” repeated Enid insistently. And once more the ingrained habit of carefulness asserted itself.

He handed her the card and she read the name aloud. “Mr. Laurence D. Harper,” adding the pencilled address down in the corner: “St. James’ Club.”

“Laurence Harper,” she repeated softly and tucked the card into the ‘V’ of her dress. “My Larry for ever and ever!” And Heswell said nothing but “Goodbye. . ”

IT WAS only a year later that he returned to Montreal. Things had gone badly w;th him. A virulent local epidemic of fever had laid him so low that sick leave was imperative with possible retirement, unpensioned, to face. The first person he ran up against when he limped, a shadow of himself, into his club, was Harper.

“Hallo!” exclaimed Harper, “what’s happened to you, old man?” Heswell briefly explained.

“I was sorry to miss you when you were over before,” Harper said, “and by Gad! here’s a queer thing! Weren’t you rather keen on Enid Fane? Someone^ told me you were about a lot together.”

Heswell deliberately lighted a cigarette before he answered coldly—“I knew her— yes.”

“An awfully odd thing has just happened,’’pursued Harper.“I had a letter from her lawyers a week ago.” He had an irritating knack of telling news in sections.

Heswell’s mind had time to give him a kaleidoscopic glimpse of trouble—possibly a breach of promise action. One could never tell with women—and in a flash he remembered the card incident.

“I had never spoken to her in my life,” continued Harper, “seen her out and about of course, and once at a Windsor Hotel ball I picked up a brooch she dropped and gave it back to her. But it doesn’t seem sufficient reason,—the whole thing is inexplicable to me.”

Heswell’s patience, frayed and fretted ny physical weakness, gave way.

“For God’s sake,” he burst out, “explain yourself. What’s the letter about and why do you mix me up with it?” “Only because I wondered whether you had ever mentioned me to her,” Harper »aid, “cracked me up in any way. She’s lead, you see. poor girl! And she's left me »11 her money—nearly » hundred thousand lollars!”