The Splendid Silence

ALAN SULLIVAN February 15 1927

The Splendid Silence

ALAN SULLIVAN February 15 1927

The Splendid Silence

Fate marshals her forces for a crisis in the British Columbia forest

ALAN SULLIVAN

The story so far: Duncan Seymour, son of Rodney

Seymour, of the Moat House, Sussex, England—old Oxonian and London man-about town—learns that his father is to be married for the second time. He does not meet his stepmother, Marian, until she is installed as mistress in his father’s house. Then he is tormented by the feeling that he has seen her before, in some scandalous situation.

Ultimately, he accuses her of having lived at Santa Margherita, in Italy, with a man not her husband. She pleads with him to keep his knowledge secret, and after a dramatic scene, in which he finally consents to this, his father comes upon them and accuses his son of making love to his wife. Duncan realizes that he cannot explain the scene which his father has witnessed and decides to leave England. After taking farewell of his fiancee, Lois Chester, he sails for the west coast of Canada where he owns some property willed to him by his mother.

On his arrival in British Columbia, he encounters a forthright Canadian, Berry, who takes him to a pulp-mill being erected at Ocean Bay for the Cartright Estate. There he enters Berry’s employ and meets a Jap, Kyashi, who, he is astonished to learn, was at Oxford with him. Kyashi offers to buy the Seymour property but Duncan declines to sell. Back in England, Sarah Bannister, sister to Duncan’s mother, has been trying to discover the reason for his sudden decision to leave home.

THE door closed, and she sat for a while, in meditative silence. The only point in the conversation on which she could fasten was that remark, T rather need it.’ Baffling, this, but quite eloquent. Of course a woman like her—and Sarah reflected again on her charm —must have seen all kinds and all sides of men. Rodney

for his part, had seen but one side of women, it being his nature not to go further. Now Rodney was under a great misapprehension, while Marian honored Rodney’s son for what he had done. That sounded as though it had been in some way protective.

On her way up Sloane Street, Marian was wondering what sort of impression she had really made, when a voice came at her elbow, and, looking up, she saw John Wragge.

“How do you do?”

“Oh!” she said uncertainly, putting out her hand.

He held it for a moment. “I’ve been away for some weeks. Didn’t write, because I wanted to congratulate you myself. May I do that now?”

Strange to be talking to him thus in London! Stranger still that he should be the first person she met after leaving Sarah Bannister! For an instant she found it hard to speak. Wragge seemed to understand this.

“I’m so glad,” he said, “very glad. You’re not in town much, are you?”

“No.” She feltthankfulforhis ease. “Only occasionally, and we go back to-night after dinner.”

“The Chesters have asked me down for a week end. Do you think I might—” He broke off with the ghost of a smile. “No, perhaps I’d better not.”

It was in his mind that he’d like to ask Seymour and his wife to dine with him in town, and also go over to see them while he was with the Chesters. It was in Marian’s

mind that she would like him to come. To her, he was now just a big boy with charming manners and a quick brain. He had touched her own life very intimately for a very short period, then sheered off into his more youthful and natural orbit. And when he said :he had better not,’ she knew perfectly well what he meant. That was on her account.

“I’ve never met your husband, that fortunate man,” he went on, “but hope to some day. What about Duncan? I’ve heard of him from Lois Chester, but not much.” “He’s gone off to America to shoot.”

“A quick decision, I’m told. Was he afraid he’d fall in love with his stepmother?” This with a faint smile she remembered very distinctly.

“No, John. I’m much too old for that.”

“Age has no place in you, Marian. You don't look a day older.”

This was dangerous ground, and she tried to steer him off it. Then she wondered if he would be asked to the Chesters if there were not something on between him and Lois. But was Lois free? Of one thing she was convinced. He must never know the real reason for Duncan's leaving. She remembered something Miss Bannister had said.

“I can’t escape time, and don’t expect to. As for Duncan, he took it into his head he wanted to kill big game. What are you busy on now?”

“A different kind of big game, but quite as exciting. It 's a group of newspapers. I’m getting ’em into a sort of pool, and,” he went on casually. “I think Chester wants to join us. That’s what we’re going to talk about, I fancy.”

“Isn’t Lois engaged to Duncan?” she asked suddenly He shrugged his shoulders. “Dunno, I’m sure. She doesn’t strike me as an engaged girl."

“Are you fond of her, John?”

“I could be—she’s my sort you know. I say, Marian, you don’t—”

She cut in with a quick little laugh. She saw Lois much as Miss Bannister did—a bit hard,—a bit calculating— and determined to do as well as possible for herself when it came to marriage. Not much real sentiment there. Nor could she imagine Lois responding completely to this man of whose nature she herself knew so much.

“Don’t be precipitate, John.” Then with a look both grave and affectionate, she added, “any more.”

It was her graceful way of dismissing not only him but the memory that was in both their minds, and she went on to meet her husband with thoughts many and varied. What a change had come over life in the past few weeks. It was like slipping into harbor after the buffeting of a long hard storm, and lying sheltered with never a whisper of the gale outside. Moat House was the harbor. As for its master, she knew, as she had known from the first, that he could never arouse in her the fire of any profound feeling. But for that she was distinctly thankful, and had been quite sincere when she told Wragge that she did not expect to evade the touch of time. She wanted the charms of life without its passionate reactions. And, because she had—never had—and now never could have—a son of her own, she experienced for Duncan an emotion deeper than gratitude and admiration. It was the maternal hunger of a woman for one toward whom her thwarted instincts were turning. How tragic that it should be Duncan of whom her husband never spoke!

Seymour had consistently held his peace. The sense of outrage was still there, the revolt that a son of his could, as he believed so overstep decency and have no word of self excuse. Something new, that for a Seymour! But while the thing still rankled periodically, its sharpness was being overcome by the happiness of his new life.

How fortunate he had been.

Marian fitted into Moat House with perfect ease and completeness. She wanted no more than to be there with him. He found a new taste in existence, discovered in himself new powers that were very stimulating, and delighted in displaying his prize to his Sussex neighbors. What a fool he had been to wait so long and how fortunate that he had waited—for her. Thus he argued, with slightly fatuous gratitude. And never had she seemed more charming and effective than to-day, while he watched her coming up the opposite side of Bond Street.

Then he wondered how the talk with Sarah Bannister had gone.

Secretly, he was a little afraid of that lady’s quickness and penetration.

“Well, how is Sarah, and how did you hit it off?”

“I like her so much, Rodney, and she’s good enough to say that she likes me.”

“Naturally. I quite expected that.”

“I didn’t, being—well—the successor to her own sister.”

“That would not affect Sarah.”

“She says you must come with me next time, and within a fortnight.”

“All right. What did she talk about?”

“Of Duncan—a good deal,” said Marian gravely. It was a relief to be able to speak of Duncan, and feel safe by using another person in the process.

“Miss Bannister is very fond of him.”

“Yes, always.” Seymour’s voice was a little stiff.

“She quite approves of this trip of his, and thinks it will help in many ways.”

He pressed her arm. “What a generous soul you are, Marian, to be able to speak like that. I can’t—”

He broke off, greatly touched. How generous she was toward one who had so far misread her. What a woman! What a wonderful woman, and how worthy of all the protection he could offer. And how right he had been in what he had done—so right that now he could afford to speak of Duncan almost calmly.

“I have naturally avoided that subject, dear. I know, of course, that she not only wanted to see you, but also to hear about him. Had he written her?”

“I don’t think so. She didn’t mention it.”

“Did he see her before he went off?”

“Yes, just for a moment to say good-by.”

“No reference to anything else?”

“Miss Bannister did not say so.”

“I hardly thought there would be—under the circumstances.”

“She said that Duncan was to her mind a bit of a Puritan.” Marian hazarded this, because it struck her at the time as being a shrewd remark by a shrewd observer. And, too, it seemed only fair to Duncan to repeat it.

Seymour looked at her rather oddly as though asking whether on the face of things this was not a little wide of the mark. Puritans did not make love to their father’s wife.

“Sarah is wise in many ways, but so far as Duncan is concerned her affections sometimes blind her. Come into Asprey’s. I saw something there you might like.”

JOHN WRAGGE, that very ambitious and personable young man, went down to Sussex for the week end, drawn thither far more by the attraction of Lois than by the prospect of enlisting her father in the new enterprise. She appealed to his instincts very forcibly, but having had one profoundly emotional experience a few years previously, he had since learned to mask his feelings with remarkable success.

The affair with Marian was but the outcome of that

experience, a sort of rebound during which he completely gave way to the strange desire which a young man sometimes acquires for the companionship of a woman older than himself, and it so happened that it found Marian in a condition of desperate loneliness. Had Wragge been other than he was, she would not have vibrated in unison as she did, and the response was in its essence more pity for themselves than anything else. Duncan had been told the truth in this matter. She longed to feel just once in her life an unseeking and spontaneous love, even though it be for a very short time.

The effect passed from Wragge more rapidly than from her, as she knew it inevitably must. To Marian it was so nething tender and sincere and rather beautiful, because the boy opened his very soul to her, never dreaming how complete was the revelation. And Wragge, for his part, had never forgotten. For Marian, he felt a sort of honor, and the affairs of later life had done nothing to sully this. She had refused to marry him, though he begged her to, saying that she was too much older than himself for that, and when they parted in Paris he went back to England reverencing her for having shown him what a woman could be. She only assured him, with a wistful affection, that it was now all finished and done with, and they must both think of it as a bit of mutual forgetfulness during which the weight of the world had been lifted for a little while.

After that, had come real ambition, and he found himself weighing men and affairs with a sort of cool precision that gave him a comforting sense of his own powers and left not much room for sentiment. He thought of marriage quite dispassionately. When he married, he decided, it would be a girl who was something more than a companion, and a very definite assistant. He intended to be rich, and with money he had made himself. That was where his wife must help, not so much by saving as by perception of values, by judgment more than self denial. This capacity he thought he saw in Lois.

He did not trouble himself about Duncan. It was odd that Duncan should go off the day Marian arrived—a gauche sort of thing under the circumstances —but never for an instance did he imagine the real cause. Portcfino was too far away, the Villa Solaro too hidden, and they had not seen a single traveler while they were there. So, as matters stood, Duncan’s decision fitted very well with the plans of John Wragge. With thoughts like this running through his mind, he went down to Sussex.

Lois met him at the station in her two seater, and nodded approvingly when she saw his golf clubs.

“We can get in a round before tea, so please change at once.” She looked very attractive with her tweeds, Austrian hat, small oval face and soft clear colour.

“Splendid! Its good to be out of town. But,” he added smiling, “I’ve got a table at The Embassy for next week.”

She approved of that, and of him. She liked his self-possession, and the feeling he gave one that there was always something about him unused and in reserve In comparison he came off very well.

“Father wants to talk business: with you after tea. Are you. going to lose all his money for him? He seems quite willing.” “Mine goes with it if I do. I don’t think you need worry.”' “Aren’t you frightfully young for all this?”

“All what?”

“Oh, syndicates and pools and contracts—whatever pools are.”

“I’m thirty,” he said. “Antiquarian! How long will you take to make your fortune— and ours?”

He would have liked to suggest that with her assistance he could save a good deal of time. But that was a little precipitate.

“It shouldn’t take long. Then I’ll be established.”

She smiled provocatively. “Are you just as in earnest about your golf? I’m getting rather nervous.”

TOIS went about golf as deliberately as she did about -*—■' most things. She handled her clubs in a neat, workmanlike way, and her brain operated in much the same fashion. John Wragge, she thought, suited her very well. He contemplated the future with an assurance rather refreshing after Duncan’s devoted belief that everything would come right in the end if she would only wait for him. He expected to find her waiting when he came back, whenever that might be. Suppose that happened this afternoon, what would he make of it? He had sworn himself to her, but she was cooly aware that she herself had made no such promise. Against a possible Moat House she now balanced John Wragge,and found the scales practically even.

This was what went on inside her sleek head, while at the same time Wragge was wondering how far she was committed. He wished that he had known Duncan Seymour. Then after feeling about for an opening, he made one deliberately.

“Do you hear anything from Seymour?”

“No—but why should I?”

“You’re old friends, aren’t you?”

“We’ve lived next each other most of our lives, but that’s nothing.”

“I had some idea you were engaged,” he said casually. She laughed. “What put that into your head?” “Dunno—I may have got it from Mrs. Seymour. Saw her this week.”

“Well, I’m not engaged. And what do you think of Marian now? You hadn’t much to say about her last time, but they weren’t married then.”

“I’m glad you’re not engaged; and as to Mr. Seymour he’s much to be congratulated.”

“Mrs. or Mr.?” she queried a little acridly.

“He is.”

“You never told me if you knew her well, or where you met, or anything about it. And the marriage was rather sudden and mysterious, don’t you think?”

“She’s a very charming woman. I only met her once or twice.”

“You knew that Duncan left the day after she got here?”

“I heard so. Why was it?”

“He said that he’d had a row with his father. Funny it should happen just then.”

“Chaps do have rows with their fathers, you know.” Lois made a long and successful putt, then tilted her head a little on one side.

“I think it’s all so queer. He wouldn’t tell me a thing, but, naturally, it must have involved her.” She paused here, sending him a quick significant glance. “You don’t suppose Mr. Seymour has been let in for something, and Duncan knows what it is, and that’s why he went away. I mean, that he told his father, who wouldn’t believe it, and they both lost their tempers.”

“You mean that his marriage has let him in for it?” said Wragge, his tone undergoing a subtle change.

She noticed the tone, and it made her instantly more curious. And the more so because she was becoming greatly attracted by Wragge himself. Was it possible that he did know something? And was the knowledge shared by Duncan. But they did not know each other!

“It’s happened before, hasn’t it?” she hazarded.

He spent an unnecessary time over teeing his ball, then gave her an entirely new kind of look.

“I’ve never met Mr. Seymour or his son, but as to her, all I know is that she once did a very big and beautiful thing cut of sheer pity for some one who had no claim on her whatever.”

He said this so simply and candidly that Lois felt a little abashed, and felt that curiosity had gone a shade too far. Men didn’t often speak of women like this, and it was still more rare from one woman of another. So she rather admired him for the way he put it, and hoped that seme day seme one wculd speak of her like this. And wouldn’t it be a good idea if she could persuade the Seymours to ccme over, informally, next day, so that she might see Marian and Wragge together. One might get something from that.

“I’ll tell her what a champion of hers you are,” she smiled approvingly. “Now you tell me what you’re going to do after you’ve made all that money.”

He laughed. “I have not got as far as that yet, but I think the making of it will be as interesting as anything that comes after it.”

“Is it the effort and contest?” she asked sagely.

“I think so—and the feeling that one can do better next time, and that no effort is really thrown away. The situations that come about are interesting—with men on different sides of the fence—and the probing of men’s minds, and anticipating what they are going to say or do.” “You’re frightfully analytical. It makes me wonder where father will come in. He’s not a bit like that.”

“I’m only going to tell him that if he likes he can do ust what I’m doing, and on the same terms.”

“Is the business all in England?”

“Practically. But paper supplies will come from Canada.”

“Are you going out there?”

“I expect so.”

“Where. What part?”

“To British Columbia.”

Her eyes rounded a little. “That’s where Duncan is —shooting grizzlies or something.”

“I don’t expect to meet any grizzlies. Strictly business with me.”

“When will you go?”

“In possibly two or three months—if the thing comes . off.”

“Alone?”

An attractive idea swam into his head, and he smiled at her suddenly. “Not if you and your father would like to come along. It would certainly be something new, and you’d enjoy it.”

She regarded him with fixed attention. The thought was novel and inviting. It meant that she would see much of him, and under conditions that ought to be very favorable. Further, she might see Duncan in his new setting. She could tell a good deal from that. And what an admirable chance for comparison!

“You’re rather a clever person. What made you think of it?”

“You,” said John Wragge, “and you take your stroke at this hole.”

“I don’t want the stroke. I’m going to play you level.”

She did. And so exhilarated was she by his suggestion that she very nearly beat him. On the way home, she put questions about British Columbia. How did people live there? Was there anything except grizzlies and big trees? Were the natives dangerous? Did people make money quickly?

“I fancy that you’ll find everything there one finds here,” he answered much amused.

She laughed, and Wragge had a shrewd idea that Chester would get little peace till the desired decision was made. Queer, how often business negotiations were influenced by things that had nothing to do with business!

They talked about it later. Chester, who had become a widower at about the same time as his neighbour, Seymour, but had not remarried, was a man of ample means, limited imagination,' and suffered a good deal from boredom. Privately, he was rather afraid of Lois, who always seemed to know exactly what she wanted, and managed him and his house with very definite success. He had anticipated her marrying Duncan, and looked at it with the placid acceptance that comes from being used to seeing the same young man about the place month after month. He was good friends with the elder Seymour. They shot over each others’ coverts, and hunted with the same pack. They were, in short, a very ordinary and representative pair of English country gentlemen, who liked dogs and horses better than they did'London, and would die at an advanced age with the colors of youth still flying bravely in their cheeks.

TOHN WRAGGE’S manner was very happily chosen.

If he had urged Chester to come in, promising him large and quick returns, the other man would have wondered what was the matter, and probably balked. But there was nothing of this. Wragge said that he could get the necessary money elsewhere—which was true, because he had a habit of getting what he went after, but if Chester cared to join them he would be very glad.

“The thing is safe enough, judging by past records. One London morning daily, one evening paper and two in the Midlands. They’ve all made satisfactory earnings, and are well established, but bigger profits will come by amalgamation. Management will be cheaper, also press work, because two of the plants are now running at half capacity. And by buying paper for the lot under one contract there’s a large saving. We can take the whole output of one mill. We’ll be able to swing a lot more advertising, and that’s where the real money is. And,’ he added significantly, “this will lead to other things’ probably bigger.”

As it happened, Chester had a great respect for the printed word, and always credited people who wrote with a sort of omniscience. It wasn’t in his line. Now the idea of being on the inside, of having some say in the direction of what people read at breakfast, the thing he and his friends got their ideas from, rather fascinated him. And Wragge had spoken of a directorship as being quite possible.

He asked a great many questions, scrutinizing his guest with eyes that became more and more friendly. A very competent fellow, he thought, and should go far in these days when youth was cheerfully shouldering responsibilities that used to be left to older shoulders. Well, why not ally the future of Lois with youth—in a practical fashion?

Lois seemed interested from an angle that had nothing to do with investments. She liked the chap, too. That was obvious. And this trip to British Columbia would give him a chance to look the chap over. Of course young people nowadays generally settled these things for

themselves first, then handed the information over to their parents afterwards. But one ought to have some kind of a hand in it. And what about Duncan? That made Chester uncomfortable for a moment.^ But that would have to be left to Lois.

“I’ll probably join you,” he said; “and will let you know early next week. Now how about that trip?”

Wragge was explaining, when Lois entered, and settled down in fixed attention.

“Don’t you think it would be rather wonderful, father?” she said.

“It might—but what would you do while I was away?” “I’d be away, too. I’m going with you.”

“Nonsense—that’s impossible.”

She turned on Wragge a pair of very commanding eyes. “Is it impossible? Be careful what you say.”

He laughed. “No, but I warned you that it might not be comfortable.”

“Is that all you know about me? I’m rather tired of comfort, and want a totally new set of sensations. I wouldn’t miss this for anything. Please don’t argue, father; it isn’t any use—really.”

CHESTER, taking a constitutional next morning, ^ encountered his neighbour engaged in the same peaceful occupation. They talked for a while, cutting across fields and poking along the edge of coverts. Pheasants and partridges were doing well, the young birds strong and healthy. Seymour acted as though he were very happy.

“Gad, imagine London against this! You’ll be here all summer as usual?”

“I don’t think so, this year. Lois and I may take a trip to America. In fact,” he added with a chuckle, “she seems to have decided that already.”

Seymour pricked up his ears. “Eh-when?” Duncan was in America.

“Possibly in a couple of months.”

“Going into something out there?”

“I may—yes—I think I will. The chap who’s interested is with us for the week end, so won’t you bring your wife over to tea? You might fancy it yourself.”

The only thing that Seymour fancied, very much, just then, was Marian. He felt very proud to be seen with her, and Moat House had taken on a new charm and significance since her coming. Duncan was, in a way, still there, but moved in a sort of background from which his square, honest face had a habit of standing out at times with a startling distinction. There was no help for that. He had asked for it. Now, however, he appeared to demand a passing recognition.

“My son is in America, you know.”

Chester nodded, a little surprised. He understood that the subject was one to avoided.

“So Lois told me.”

“Any idea where you are going?”

“The place is called Ocean Bay. It’s at the other end of nowhere, I believe.”

Ocean Bay, reflected Seymour, might be somewhere near Pacific Narrows; but, considering the magnitude of the country, it was very unlikely.

“You might come across Duncan. How long will you be away?”

“Perhaps six weeks, or a little more. We’ll do some sight-seeing of course. You’ll come to tea, won’t you?” “With pleasure. What’s the chap’s name?”

“Wragge—John Wragge—and rather a friend of Lois. A capable fellow, I take it.”

“I’ve never met him.”

“He knows your wife slightly. There won't be anyone else.”

They parted at the deep set lane between the Chester place and Moat House. Seymour tramped home, and found Marian.

“Chester wants us to come over to tea, and I said we would.”

“All right, dear.”

“They’re off to America in a couple of monthsgoing to British Columbia.”

Her expression changed ever so slightly. The day before this, she had had a note from Sarah Bannister. Sarah had heard from Duncan to her great relief, and sent on the news because Duncan had asked that Marian be told. He had also asked that nothing be said to his father at present, preferring to wait till there was something definite to say concerning his own progress. It would make him feel more independent. It was strange to her to know more about Duncan than his own father, stranger still to be bound to silence. But Seymour had not mentioned his son since the day he left.

“To what part are they going?”

“A place called Ocean Bay—somewhere quite in the wilderness.”

Ocean Bay! That was Duncan’s present headquarters'! Her mind sped to the other point of the situation. She and her husband were asked to meet John Wragge. What a triangle! But she could ferret out no sound reason for declining.

“Will anyone else be there?”

Continued on page 27

Continued from page 20

"Only the man who is interested in the proposed business—the promoter of it, I fancy. His name is Bragg—no Wragge. Chester says he knows you slightly ” ‘‘That must be John Wragge.” Her eyes were without a cloud. “I met him on Sloane Street a few days ago.”

‘‘Have you known him long?” Seymour was always interested to hear about her friends.

‘T met him about three years ago, and have not seen him since, except one night w hen you and I were dining. He was with Lois. You don’t remember?”

He remembered seeing Lois with a man he did not know, and in his then condition nothing but Marian stayed in his mind. He told her as much, pinching her cheek, then sat and put his arm round her.

The talk diverged after that, Marian, as a newcomer, feeling rather diffident about discussing Lois. Seymour, watching her, thought again how marvellously well she had taken the affair of Duncan, while at the same moment she pictured herself meeting John Wragge in the presence of her husband. The thing would have to come sometime, so why not now? Then she could settle down with the conviction that no other situation could arise which would be half so uncomfortable. But she wished that Sarah Bannister had not sent on the news from British Columbia. The possession of it made her feel like a conspirator.

'UHEY went -to the Chester s next day, 1 Marian, rather silent. Of course, she could depend on Wragge. She kept repeating this to herself, and the moment they met she was entirely at ease. During a pause in the conversation, she turned unexpectedly to Lois, and found the girl’s eyes fixed on her. They seemed very penetrating.

“I hear you’re going to.British Columbia?”

Lois nodded. “Isn’t it exciting? Father and I are going with Mr. Wragge.”

“What does one do there, Mr. Wragge?’ The voice was very natural.

“My hands will be full of business, but I can’t answer for anyone else if things drag a bit.”

“My son Duncan is out there.”

Seymour announced this suddenly, perceiving that to ignore the fact was, under the circumstances, altogether too pointed. “Heard from him, Lois?”

“Not a word. He must be slaughtering droves of grizzlies.”

“The beggar hasn’t written me, either. You might remember that if you see him.” “We’re hardly likely to, I’m afraid, from what Mr. Wragge says.” She laughed a little, and became busy with teacups. “He’s probably looking very wild and fierce and not a bit like Half Moon Street days. Do you take sugar, Mrs. Seymour?”

“Please—and lemon.”

“I hear that Mr. Wragge is an old friend of yours.” This with a studied glance.

“We’ve known each other for the last few years.”

“He told me something very interesting about ycu. It made me frightfully curious.”

“I hope it was nothing about my age.” Marian smiled, but her pulse had quickened.

“No. He said you’d done something big and fine for someone who had no claim on you, whatever. I suspect that’s only one of many similar things, and it made me hope that some day someone might say it for me.”

It was sheer curiosity, and not mea for a thrust, but if Lois had known everything her words could not have been more barbed. How many, if they knew of that occasion, would believe it had occurred but once. Of all the friends she had, probably only John Wragge himself.

“He gilds his acquaintances with unmerited praise, but it’s rather nice just the same—even though one doesn’t deserve it.”

It was very neat, and Lois recognized that further probing was useless. She still wanted to know what Marian had done, but perhaps she could get it out of Wragge later on.

“Any message for Duncan in case we did run across him?” she asked suavely.

“Is it any use sending them? You’ll have such a lot to tell each other.”

Checkmate again! They were alone now, the three men having gone into another room to consult maps. She could hear Wragge’s voice, very level and clear. Was Seymour going into the thing, too?

“Duncan went off awfully suddenly, didn't he? Can you tell me if the difference with his father was really as serious as all that?”

“I was not at the interview that decided it.”

Lois made a gesture. Tantalizing to be sitting beside this woman, who, she felt, could say so much if she only would. And could husbands have secrets from their wives in such matters? She doubted it.

“You see,” went on the low, colorful voice, “it’s really very difficult for me. Were ycu engaged to Duncan?”

“No,” said Lois hastily, “nothing was settled.”

“I’m glad to know that for both your sakes. It leaves him so much freer to turn his hand to anything that promises well. And there’s something very fine about him.”

“But you hardly saw him. You must have been much impressed.”

“I know of something he did, something big and fine, for one who had no claim on him, whatever. You’ve heard that before this afternoon, but this time it’s true,” she concluded with a smile.

To be Continued