IF TED WARE had called to his wife, on entering the house as he used to call, a year or so ago. he would never have seen what he did see. In fact, if Ted had not. a year or so ago. ceased that eager pronunciation of Nannie's name, simultaneous with the opening of the outer door, there probably would have been nothing to see. As it was, from where he stood, with one hand still on the polished latch of the Dutch door, the turquoise blue hangings at the rear windows of the living-room made a sympathetic background for the tableau.
The sun. streaming through the diamond shaped panes of the casement, caught on Nannie’s fair hair and made a ghostly halo of those shimmering little wisps that her net never did manage to confine; it leaped and danced among the crystal beads that decorated her gray tea gown; it shone in steady globules of light from her long chain of amber. And. like a spotlight, it laid a luminous pool about the two tense figures: Dwight Lorillard,
bending forward slightly, and Nannie, her slender body bent back, beneath the pressure of his kiss.
Ted’s reactions to this little domestic scene were quaint; the first, that there never was a woman who could look quite so lovely when she was being kissed, as Nannie. He was almost grateful to Lorillard for giving him this first opportunity of admiring his wife from a distance. The color in her cheeks was no deeper than usual, yet it seemed warmer, more exquisite; her dark lashes had dropped over her gray eyes; the tilt of her little chin, the throbbing line of her white throat—only Lorillard’s flushed face became rather in the way, there.... And with that realization, started the second train of thoughts, pounding noisily through Ted’s brain until it met in collision with his rather proprietory cataloguing of Nannie's charms.
Three o’clock in the afternoon was an extraordinary hour for Dwight Lorillard to be kissing Nannie!
As though Lorillard sensed that, he released her, still steadying her with one arm, still leaning slightly towards her. #■
"Oh. Nannie!” he said, huskily.
"Oh, Dwight!” said Nannie, her clear little-girl voice overlaid with an emotion which might or might not have’ been merely excitement.
Ted retired hastily and quietly through the hall, and went up the stairs to his room. He had come home early in the hopes of finding Nannie, and even possibly Lorillard. to take them with him t.o the golf links. But Ted understood the values of things, and he realized that golf could be nothing but a strenuous anti-climax to the two below in the living-room. He changed rapidly and made off alone to the country club, whistling as he reached the end of the cool box-walk that stretched fromthe dining-room garden to the beginning of the path.
When he returned, at seven, Nannie’s maid met him at the head of the stairs.
"Mrs. Ware is indisposed, sir,” she told him. “She asked me to tell you that she is lying down and will have her dinner in her room,”
“Yes,” said Ted.
CO NANNIE was indisposed, ■ was she? , And having ^ dinner in the sanctity of her own room? It was the first time that she had sent him such a message, and he wondered, idly, whether or no she expected him to go to her. Probably she did, he decided—and as instantly he decided not to go. After all, it was only three or four, months that Nannie had had-her own inviolate chamber, and a lady ought to be permitted free rein with all the dramatic possibilities. Nannie did so enjoy her emotions, and if the prime duty of a husband was not to be obliging, then he, Ted Ware, would like to know what it was!
So he dressed cheerfully, ate a cheerful meal in the cool dining-room, with a copy 6f Moore’s “Impressions and Opinions” open beside his plate, and retired to the west piazza, where he could sit in the biggest wicker chair, with all the cushions, and divide his'attention amon^the sunset, the book, and the middling tall glass that rested on the teakwood stand.
Just above him, Nannie was sitting bolt upright on the chaise-longue, waiting. She had waited expectantly dur-, ing the hour that followed his return from the links; when she heard him moving about in the dining-room, her first irritation had given way to a dangerous patience. But now, when she knew that he was below on the verandah, her waiting was electric. Was he coming? He’d better come! Her ears strained; in the still of her room, she could hear her heart beating, a frigid, formal tump-tump-tümp. Through her open window came the sound of the butler, a staccato clinking, Ted’s brief “Thanks.” Ice! He wasn’t coming!
She flopped down on the pillows; then, just in case he should come, rearranged herself into an equally comfortable, but more broken-hearted position. For a few moments she lay quite still, her fingers running absently over the long golden beads that hung about her neck, still waiting, though no longer for Ted. Just waiting...
The clock on her bureau struck nine, and Nannie waited no longer. Beneath the heavy amber of her necklace, her bosom rose and fell; her breath emerged from between parted lips in short, uneven spurts. For an interval she was so engrossed with these physical phenomena of misery that she forgot to be unhappy. Then the tears that had been steadily rising in her eyes overflowed and trickled down her cheeks'; she did not wipe them away.
Nine o’clock, and Ted had not come! He did not care that she was miserable, ill, almost. Her Ted, Ted Ware, who had been such a lover, who had desired her happiness above all other things in the world.... And after only two and a half years of marriage!
Nannie was not altogether surprised; for some time she had seen it coming, Ted had changed, was still changing.
Those first months after their marriage liad been so happy-. Ted had been perfect; he had seemed to exist only to fulfil her slightest wishes, and he had acted as though all his life had been leading towards this supreme summit of happiness—the constant opportunity of doing things for Nannie. She wasn’t sure when she first noticed the change in him; suddenly it was there. , There were plenty of tangible examples of it. .
TOURING those first months, he had never retired be^7 hind the covers of a book, after dinner, as he did now. Why, he hardly read at all, then! Unless, of course, Nannie herself had something to do which he could notshare. And if he did pick up a book or magazine to fill the time while she was occupied, he didn’t—as he did now— look up with that irritating little smile of his and say,“Oh, you’ve finished what you were doing?” when she clambered into his lap, kissed his forehead, and laid her slim fingers across the page.
He called always to her, impatiently, excitedly, the moment he entered the house, as though he could not wait another moment to hold her in his arms. And if she wasn’t there to gjreet him, he searched the gardens, the grounds, would even walk over to the piazza of the club, to see if she might be there, having tea. Now—well, to-day!—he had gone directly to the links without even trying to find her.
Nannie had realized all these things before, but somehow they, had not struck her with such cumulative force, until to-day. Dwight Lorillard had come for luncheon, and in her room, while she dressed, Nannie’s heart had pounded. Dwight had not seen the gray and crystal teagown, and though luncheon was hardly the appropriate time to wear it, almost any hour would do for a dress that was so utterly becoming. And, as she arranged her hair before the mirror, her eyes had dropped to the framed picture pf her husband on the dressing-table.
She never dressed for him, in this way, any more! He was used to her; he accepted her stolidly!
And when she came down the blue carpeted stairs into the square hall where Dwight stood waiting, there was that sudden leap in his eyes. Once Ted’s eyes used to do that. Luncheon had been like those first joyous meals alone with Ted; they had laughed excitedly over nothing, and once when Dwight’s foot touched hers beneath the table, they had both trembled. Then that moment in the living-room, that moment when Dwight had swept her into his arms and pressed his mouth upon hers!
Nannie sighed. No, it was gone; it was for her and Ted no longer. She popped the largest of the amber beads into her mouth and gnawed at it reflectively. Of course all the trouble might not be with Ted; some of it might be with marriage. But did marriage always have to be so terrible, so tragic? Or was it just that she and Ted were unsuited? She loved him—yes, in a way, but these daily resentments, these hourly disappointments and little hurts, were eating into her love like a worm into an apple. If only Ted could have remained a lover; if only it could have been Ted who had swept her into his arms
to-dây, and Dwight Lorillard who had gone directly from the garage to the links!
But Ted had changed. He had grown accustomed to her love, bored with it. If it were Dwight Lorillard downstairs, reading a book and drinking a highball there on the verandah—but Dwight wouldn’t be doing that. He would would be in her room, his arms about her, comforting her.
Nannie gulped. After all his protestations, Ted could do that! He could sit there, calmly reading, sipping his hateful drink, and leaving her alone—why she might be committing suicide, for all he knew! She dabbed at her eyes resentfully. She wasn’t going to kill herself, though. Very likely Ted wished she would. Well, he would be disappointed if he did! Nannie Ware didn’t have to choose death as a release from a dull marriage: Dwight Lorillard was waiting, ready at any moment to take her away, and doubtless there were others, if she cared to look for them.
T~YWIGHT understood, though. He hadn’t said much,
■ but she could tell. Dwight wouldn’t treat her as Ted had treated her. He wasn’t the type. Everyone said that Ted was awfully cynical. Sometimes she was rather proud of him for that—and he was funny. But it didn’t pay to be cynical about your wife. He’d see. She’d— she’d get a divorce!
Her shoulders shook, and she searched miserably for her handkerchief. Someone was moving about oh the verandah below; she wondered whether it was Ted or the butler, and whether, if it was Ted, he could hear her. Her sobs increased; it is difficult to say how much louder they might have become, had she not fallen asleep.
1 Ted, below, had put down his book and crossed to switch out the electric lights. He sat there in the cool darkness, sipping his drink and wondering what Nannie was up to. At the moment, he reflected, she was. probably either weeping or asleep—Nannie could not remain shut up alone in her room for four hours without doing either one or the other. What it was all about, he had no. idea; Ted was not overmodest, but he had never made any pretense of understanding his wife’s mental processes. She might, quite as likely as not, be crying because she had so led Lorillard astray; or he, her; or because it was a Saturday night on the seventh of the month. ,
Ted Ware took Nannie seriously some times— but he was always amused by her. When they were engaged—and Ted had been no prouder of the exquisite blonde girl who was his fiancee, than he was now of the even more exquisite, and still blonde young woman who for nearly three years had been his wife—Nannie had confided in him her loathing of domesticity.
“If I ever get to be a wife, Ted!” she had exclaimed in whispered horror.
And he had assured her that he would never consider her as such. He had known at the time that Nannie’s ultimate destiny was wifehood, and that Nannie would be as adorably wifely a wife as ever wore a plain gold wedding ring, (for she had turned thumbs down at the suggestion of platinum) but that was something else again. Ted liked Nannie.
“Well,” he thought to himself, “I’ll know in the morning. At least I’ll know if Nannie hasn’t forgotten.” And with the smile of a young man vastly pleased with life and its attendant follies, he wandered through the still house, up the stairs, and to bed.
Nannie was late for breakfast, and Ted was seated behind a barricade of Sunday newspapers when she arrived.
“ ’Lo,” he said nonchalantly, not wanting to commit-¿íimself too much until he knew her mood.
“Good morning,” said Nannie pleasantly—oh, ever1 so pleasantly!—and sat down opposite him.
She wore a straight little linen frock which struck Ted as being iaintly business-like for a Sunday morning breákfast en famille.
Therefore: “Have a nice time last night?” he asked, in jhis best conversational manner.
Nannie looked sad. “I wasn’t feeling well,” she said stiffly. “I—I was thinking.”
“Good Heavens!” Said Ted—and then, at the expression of her face, decided to call it off. It was a dirty trick to make fun of Nannie. And she looked so like a little girl who has'just lost, or misplaced, her first illusion.*“I’m sorry, dear.”
“Hm,” said Nannie. She leaned forward suddenly, with an air.... an air... . Ted had not interpreted the air before she flung her bolt. “Ted,
Dwight Lorillard wants me to marry him.”
' I 'ED swallowed a mouthful of hot coffee and spluttered. “He always did have such a big heart,” he murmured, recovering himself.
“You don’t seem to take it very seriously,” said Nannie. “I—I may do it, Ted.”
Ted reflected that it really was thoughtful of Nannie to be late for breakfast; on the days when
she wanted to emote; he wondered if she purposely gave him the necessary head-start to consume his first two cups of coffee and become articulate for the day.
“Better divorce me first,” he suggested amiably. “Some people are awfully particular about bigamy.”
“I—I intended to divorce you, Ted,” she answered, tears welling up in her gray eyes. “I—I don’t think we’ve made—made much of a success of th-things!”
Ted was silent. The point was this: unless he was careful, Nannie, already on the verge of an explosion, would weep lengthily. And though Ted loved Nannie dearly, he really wished she wouldn’t. Of course if he wanted to take the morning off to comfort her properly, all would be well, but Ted didn’t care much for that sort of thing. The best thing, therefore, was to make her mad. If he made her mad enough, she’d choke before she’d cry.
“Well, so long as the servants don’t know...” he said, and shrugged his shoulders.
Nannie stiffened. “I might have knownyou felt that way about it, Ted Ware! I’ve just been lying to myself about you because it’s been easier. I—I am fond of you in a way, and I won’t pretend that I’m not. In fact, it’s because I am, that—that I think we ought to get a divorce.”
Ted gulped. “Well, of course it’s justas you say, Nannie,” he responded affably. -
Nannie stared at him. “Do you—do you mean to say that you don’t even care?” she demanded in a whisper.
“Of course I care. But I want you to be happy, and— Well, it’s just about whatever you think best. You know how you feel about Lorillard. And as we’ve both said, this business of pretending that we couldn’t get along without each other is all bunk. We did up to three years ago and we—we— can again. We. . ” His voice trailed off.
It had been a long sentence, especially for that hour of the morning, and halfway through it, his attention had been distracted by the picture of an exceedingly pretty girl in the photogravure section of the Times which lay beside his plate. Funny how difficult it was to read a caption upside down. .
Nannie was wordless. She looked disgustedly at her coffee, at the bread lying so neatly on the plate beside the electric toaster. Then she tried another line, a line she had herself been pursuing alone.
“Ted, have you ever been disappointed in our marriage? I want you to answer me honestly. I mean haven’t you ever—well, wanted to kiss someone else or something? I mean—I don’t mean just that. I mean sometimes haven’t you felt that you just had to kiss someone, that it was —well. . . . ”
“A duty?” suggested Ted.
“Sort of,” confessed Nannie. “To yourself, I mean. Because— Don’t you ever feel that we’ve sort of—well, left romance and everything behind. That we’re becoming—dull and stereotyped? Don’t you, Ted?”
“No,” answered Ted, promptly and truthfully. “Do you?”
NANNIE flushed. “Why—I don’t know. Sometimes it seems as if we—if wé— weren’t so much lovers Ted. It isn’t you, it’s .1 don’t think I like marriage any more, if it’s like this.”
Ted looked up at her, and was, for a moment, lost in contemplation. No one could look so little and wistful as Nannie, Nannie who wanted to wear flowing tea-gowns and be regal. Regal! He grinned, and wished awfully that she’d call a truce just long enough for him to kiss her. But Nanny did not play the game that way; she took her pleasures more seriously. He caught her reproachful eyes, fastened on his face.
“You always did say that you didn’t want to be a wife,” he prompted helpfully. After all, if she was determined to—er—pluck the mental daisy, he might as well keep the ball rolling, what ho! He loves me—he loves me not; I like it—I like it not.
She received his suggestion almost gratefully; her gray eyes opened a bit wider and her little mouth became even more than ever serious.
“That’s just it, Ted. And I feel so married! It isn’t that I care so much for Dwight. It’s just that he’s escape.”
Ted nodded. “I see. Out of the frying-pan . . . ” He paused. “No,” he said, “I should never call Lorillard the fire. Ever noticed, Nannie, that he always talks as though he had a mouthful of water?” “Ted Ware!” Nannie rose to her feet. “What a perfectly horrid thing to say!”
Her husband grinned appreciatively. “I never did see how Lucie Agnew could kiss the blighter.” he murmured.
Nannie was standing at the window, her back towards him, but he saw her shoulders move convulsively.
“I don’t want to prejudice you against him, though,” said Ted. “Sorry.”
Nannie was silent, and Ted . continued his reflections.
“I don’t see, though, how a—er—continuous circus of matrimony, shall I call it?—is going to make you feel less married, Nannie. Quaint idea, though. Once married, too much married. Twice married, only half as much—is that the idea?”
“I don’t care what you see,” Nannie answered, in a choked voice, her face still turned towards the window. “And I don’t care -what you don’t see! I— I don’t think I like you any more, Ted!”
“Er? Oh, well.” Ted, too, got up, but he strolled towards the piazza, the papers clutched beneath one arm. “I never could see what you found in me, you know. Always said I was the one blot on your otherwise faultless good taste.”
But Nannie was not going to let him go so easily. “Ted! You’ve got to talk with me! We’ve got to settle this thing— now! Don’t you think we’d better get a divorce?”
“Hmm,” said Ted, in the doorway. “Really, it’s just as you say, Nannie. I’ve always wanted to be divorced—divorced and married seven or nine times, you know.”
Nannie wheeled about, large tears streaming down her face. “Ted Ware! What do you mean?” “Oh, just a whim of mine!” said Ted. “Nothing personal.”
XTANNIE had follow-ed him to the door, and together they went out on the verandah. She sank, a tragic heap, in the biggest wicker chair and stared miserably, unseeingly, ahead of her. Ted considered suggesting to her that since she was going to be uncomfortable, anyway, she might choose a less desired seat, but he decided against it. “Well,” said Nannie finally, in a flat, even voice,
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“do you want to stay here or will you find a place in the city?”
“Huh?” said Ted.
“We can’t very well go on living together, can we?”
Ted started, and recovered himself. “No. Oh, no,” he said. “I might as well go to the apartment. I have to be in the city, anyway. And you’re comfortable here.” 1
“Comfortable!” repeated Nannie tragically. “Comf. ...” Then, her interest increasing in spite of herself, for Nannie did like action. . .. “When will you go?”
Ted looked up and grinned. “I’d rather like to read the papers first, old thing.”
“Oh!” said Nannie, agonized. “Oh!” And with a swishing of skirts and a little trail of gulps, she fled to her room.
Though, as Ted had said so positively, life was never dull or stereotyped in the mansion where Nannie ruled, affairs fell pretty well to form for a few days. The servants, of course, had to be considered, and there was nothing for them to see but a calm and unchanged master and a mistress whose time was occupied in frenzied little flights from wherever she happened to be to her own room, and muffled sobs. The cook, who was past middle age, but in her time had borne six children, had her own explanation of the matter.... But after all, it is not necessary to go into the social conversation of the kitchen. It is enough that the servants were considered, and that Nannie bore this tragic ending to her marriage as a woman-of-the-world should.
On Monday morning, Ted drove to work as usual, and at five o’clock, Nannie had summoned sufficient strength to tell her maid to tell the butler that Mr. Ware would not be at home for dinner. On the last syllable of that fatal word— she was klready lying on her bed when she made the announcement—she buried her face in the pillows.
DWIGHT LORILLARD called on Monday evening, and though Nannie knew that she should be overjoyed, she could not quite bring herself to the point where she could dress and go down. The morning’s mail brought his frantic scrawl —Is anything wrong?—and she left it unanswered. He did talk as though his mouth was full of water; he wrote that way, too.
Tuesday passed, somehow. Wednesday... And on Thursday morning, Nannie was fully recovered. Her decision of the day before had strengthened her amazingly. She was all over feeling unhappy over Ted, and since she had herself so thoroughly under control, it was probably time for her to go to the city and chat with him, at luncheon, about the mechanical details of the divorce.
It was a hot morning, and Nannie surveyed her wardrobe critically. It really was much too hot for the taupe charmeuse that had arrived only the day before from her dress-maker. But the lighter frocks were all old, and Ted had seen them. The taupe was becoming, even more becoming than the gray and crystal teagown. Curious, how new dresses always were so perfect! She would look radiant in the taupe—not, of course, thought Nannie severely, that it mattered in the least how she looked. The days when she dressed to please Ted were over; gone irrevocably. Just to show, she would wear the taupe; he had never seen it; she would come to him, completely as a stranger. That, of course, involved a new hat and slippers, but the gown needed them anyway.
So Nannie drove the small car into town herself, did her shopping—a most gay and becoming hat for a heart-broken lady—and a pair of gray slippers with sparkling buckles. She purchased a corsage—not because forget-me-nots were one of Ted’s favorite flowers, and assuredly not because there was anything appropriate about them!—merely because they were charming with the gown. And so to Ted’s office, her cheeks growing a deeper and deeper rose.
“Can you wait just a moment, Mrs. Ware?”
Oh, yes, Nannie could wait. She was glad to wait; she rearranged her bouquet, wondered whether she had sprayed too much of that new and expensive perfume on her hair.
“Will you come now?”
Her eyes were wide and shining as she faced her husband; the secretary withdrew.
“Good morning, Nannie.”
“Good morning, Ted.” Her voice was trembling with excitement; it must have been éxcitement. She wondered just how she should act, what Ted would do ;. ..
“You look awfully pretty,” he said, quite as though nothing had happened. “How’s everything?”
“All right.” She was twisting her gray gloves nervously. “I thought—maybe we might lunch together,” she said. “I—had to come in town to do some shopping and—. We have some things still to talk over, you know. About the—divorce.” “Ah!” he said. “Yes. The divorce.” He leaned towards her, smiling. “New perfume, Nannie. It’s nice. The divorce. Why don’t you meet me at the Ritz at one? I’m rather rushed just now—all right for you?”
Nannie nodded; she rose, held out her hand to him. “One o’clock, then.”
“One,” repeated Ted gravely. “I shall look forward to it.”
Nannie looked forward to it, too; in fact she did nothing else. She couldn’t seem to remember the shopping that had brought her to town, and she walked slowly up the Avenue, a bright, fresh figure in the listless summer crowd. At half past twelve, she was already at the hotel, waiting.
IF ONLY Ted hadn’t been so natural, she would feel more at ease. She sat there on the cushioned bench, darting quick glances at the people who wandered by, warming to the looks of admiration that the j^oung men turned upon her, the envy and approval of the girls. Her dress was successful; she wondered whether Ted had liked it. He had said she looked pretty—funny thing for him to say, under the circumstances.
His eyebrows shot upwards in a slightly quizzical expression when he found her there, waiting, but he made no remark. They shook hands and she followed him silently into the dining room. Nannie was nervous; she remarked that it was rather a crowd for this time of the year, that she had had no idea it would be so hot in town....
“Oh—I almost forgot! I’ve got a grand piece of scandal for you,” said Ted, and began forthwith to relate it.
Nannie listened with wavering attention. How could Ted be so interested in something , else, when there was this question of the divorce between them?
“I know,” she said, when he had finished. “Everyone’s wondered how long it would take Claire to find it out. She—” And the side of the story that Lucie Agnew had told her on the afternoon before, followed.
Why didn’t Ted speak of the divorce? He was rattling on about something else, now—amusing, yes, but.... She laughed suddenly, as he neared the point of his story. Ted was entertaining.
Quite a bit of gossip can be collected in four days, and conversation continued at a brisk trot. Nannie laughed and shrugged her shoulders, wrinkled up her nose and made little gestures with her hand—but all the time the business of the divorce lay in her mind, waiting to be taken up.
“Good Heavens!” said Ted suddenly, “I’ve got to go! I have an appointment down-town at three.”
Nannie started. “But—we haven’t decided anything about the divorce.”
“So we haven’t!” said Ted, in surprised accents. “It clean escaped my mind. Why didn’t you remind me, Nannie?”
“Why. . . ."Nannie didn’t know whether to be indignant with him or not. She wished he didn’t have an appointment, though. “I might stay in town,” she offered. “Could you have dinner with me?”
“I’m sorry. You see I didn’t know you’d be coming in. I have an engagement.”
Nannie's face fell. “I think I'll stay in town, anyway,” she decided. “I’ll call up Dwight and get him to take me to a show. Dwight—”
Ted put down his glass of water and their eyes met. Nannie pouted and tossed her head ever so slightly.
“Well—goodbye,” she said.
"Goodbye,” said Ted.
But she did not call Dwight. With the afternoon, the day had grown hotter, really much too hot to remain in the city to be with any man.
Back at the house, her spirits fell. As she was eating her solitary dinner, a terrible thought struck her. What if Ted had misunderstood her trip to the city? It was possible, after all. Somehow the new gown and the delicious luncheon had made her forget her errand. Of course, really, it showed how uninterested she was in the divorce, how little she cared. But Ted might think she had been content just to be with him; he bright think she hadn't come to discuss the divorce at all!
SHE frowned. She wondered whether Ted really had a dinner engagement, or whether it was merely that he didn’t want to be with her. After all, she had wasted nearly three hours of his valuable time that day—for one couldn’t call that luncheon a social affair. It should have been pure business, only....
Night was settling over the garden, and Nannie felt suddenly unaccountably lonely. Why had Ted let her talk on in that absurd way? Why hadn’t he brought the conversation around to the divorce? He had probably been laughing at her all the time. Though he had seemed to be amused. Amused! Nannie’s chin went up in the air. She must stop thinking about things like that. A man doesn’t find luncheon with a woman whom he no longer loves, and from whom he is getting a divorce, amusing. He had probably been horribly bored. Bored with her. And only three years ago... Nannie sniffed.
She wandered aimlessly into the livingroom and picked up a book, but she didn’t feel like reading. She considered telephoning Dwight, but she decided finally that she didn’t feel like talking. She wished she had something to do. If she hadn’t married Ted, she wouldn’t be all alone in a big empty house to-night. It had been a mistake, the greatest mistake of her life, that marriage. Nannie sniffed again. Well, there wasn’t anything else to do; she might as well go to bed. If she had known, when she married Ted Ware, that it would come to this.... !
Nannie couldn’t remember quite what she used to do before she and Ted separated. The days seemed endless and empty now. Dwight came, uninvited for tea, on Saturday, but Nannie was in a difficult mood, and he left her coldly.
She ought to write to a lawyer and have things set in motion for the divorce. Nannie was rather vague about what one did. Perhaps Ted was doing it. She’d telephone him, or go to see him, only he might think she merely wanted to be with him. Men were such egoists, even the best of them. And the longer Nannie had to consider, the more she realized how horribly Ted might misconstrue that luncheon.
On Monday afternoon, Nannie decided to go in town for dinner. It was unbearable, this eating alone. If she went to the club, everyone would want to know where Ted was, and she couldn’t bear to go into the details yet. Not that she cared, but she just didn’t have the energy. She was feeling rather listless, and a trip to the city, dinner in a gay cafe with people about, would brighten her up.
She dressed slowly, her mouth drooping a little at the corners. Ted had insisted on buying this dress one day when they were in town together, and she had worn it only a few times. • It wasn’t the sort of dress she liked much; it was a girlish affair, white lawn sprinkled with round red polka dots, tied about the waist with a cherry colored sash. It was a man’s idea of a dress, all right, but at least it was the coolest thing she had. She coiled her blonde hair and drew down over it a floppy leghorn hat, trimmed with cherries. If that wasn’t girlish, thought Nannie scornfully, she didn’t know what was!
SHE sat quietly in the comfortable wicker pullman chair, wondering where she should dine. Her thoughts kept returning to the little French restaurant in the basement of their apartment building. Her frock would look attractive beside the red-and-white checked gingham curtains and table cloths. Of course there was a chance that Ted might be there.... Nannie shrugged. After all, she couldn’t stay away from every restaurant and hotel in Vancouver just because Ted might happen in.
She came, a little shyly, into the outer of the two rooms and peered about her. No, Ted wasn’t there; thank heaven for that! And she continued on into the other room, the room of the red-and-white checked gingham that went so prettily with her gown, that had benches with the gingham cushions where she and Ted used to sit. She stood in the doorway, her gray eyes wandering from table to table.
“Two?” inquired the head-waiter.
Nannie shook her head. “One.” There was a suggestion of disappointment about her, as she followed him. Then someone called her name.
Ted was almost hidden behind a large palm. He looked very cool and attractive as he sat there, just beginning on his favorite filet-d’anchois; he held out his hand and she took it, flushing. “Oh, hello,” she said. The waiter paused respectfully.
“Meeting Dwight here?” Ted inquired.
She shook her head.
“Will you sit down with me?”
She sat down. “I—I didn’t know you’d be here,” she said dully. “I—after all, I had to eat somewhere.” She looked rather miserable, and Ted was so smiling, so—so natural looking!
“Why, of course, Nannie,” he said. He reached across the table and patted her hand; she withdrew it quickly and a blush crept up over her cheeks. Ted oughtn’t to do that, and—and she oughtn’t to like it.
“Since I’m here, we may as well talk about the divorce,” she said stiffly. “I -I was going to write you. I’ve been thinking about it a lot.”
“What a coincidence!” said Ted. “So have I. But you know what they say about great minds.” He leaned forward, smiling, his eyes making all sorts of pretty compliments as they looked at her. “I had one idea that I thought was worth saving, Nannie. Don’t you think it would be rather amusing to send out announcements—engraved and all that rot—Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Ware take great pleasure in announcing.... what ho?”
Nannie smiled in spite of herself. Wasn’t it just like Ted to have thought of that? He was such a nut, so....
“Can’t you imagine Dwight Lorillard’s dear old mother opening it under the impression that it’s a wedding announcement?”
“We have simply unlimited opportunities for excitement,” he continued. “There’s going to be that chic interval when we’re neither married nor unmarried and we can scandalize people by appearing together in public places and flirting outrageously.”
“And then after we really are divorced,” said Nannie, drawn into the game in spite of herself, “we can plead with hostesses to invite us together and place us side by side. We're not married any more, my dear, so it’s really quite proper!”
TED was looking at her speculatively.
“I was just wondering what our status is right now,” he said. “Do you suppose we’re sufficiently separated for me to tell you that you look exceedingly charming?” Nannie chuckled delightedly; her scruples were gone; she was having a lovely time, and after all, they were talking about the divorce. “Oh, I’m sure we are,” she answered. “Anything else you want to say?”
“Your mouth,” said Ted, “looks exactly like a cherry that has dropped off your hat.”
“Yes?” agreed Nannie dimpling. “And my eyes?”
But dinners must end, some time. “Want to go to the theatre?” Ted asked carelessly.
They went to a restaurant afterwards, and as they stood in the doorway, they recognized Lucie Agnew with three other people they knew. Ted looked at Nannie and Nannie looked at Ted.
, “Shall we join them?” asked Nannie.
“Do you want to?” Ted inquired levelly.
While they hesitated, they were discovered and dragged over to the party. But even restaurants must close some time.
“Well,” said Nannie, as they stood watching the cab that bore their friends away, “I suppose I can catch the threeeleven.” Inexplicably she shivered, standing there in the warm street beneath the light of one of the lamps.
“I’ll take you to the train,” said Ted. “Want to walk?” .
Nannie nodded. They were both silent as they went along, thinking .their own thoughts, until Nannie broke the quiet by speaking hers—part of them, at least.
“You know, Ted, I think it’s getting cool. Have you—” this last with elaborate carelessness, “happened to notice my old gray cape anywhere about the apartment?”
Ted’s eyes shone suddenly and he did not lock at her. T think it’s in the hall closet,” he answered, as carelessly. “We can walk over and see.”
“Hmm,” said Nannie. Then, sharply, “ You’re sure there’s time?”
“Oh, lots Of time,” said Ted, with assurance. “Plenty of timet”
They were silent again, again thinking their own thoughts.
“Shall I run up and get it?” asked Ted, as they reached the doorway of the apartment house.
“Hmm,” said Nannie. “No, don’t bother. I’ll go.”
Again that glimmer appeared in Ted’s eyes. “I’d quite as soon.”
“I wouldn’t think of letting you,” said Nannie, and started towards the elevator, her eyes on the floor.
Ted followed her. “Please let me,” he said.
“No,” said Nannie firmly, “I will go.”
She raised her eyes to Ted’s, and for an instant, there before the elevator boy, they stared at one another. Nannie’s eyes dropped first, and she gave a deep, excited little laugh.
“Then we’ll both go,” said Ted.
They paused for a moment in the hallway of the apartment; Ted closed the door behind them, but Nannie, her finger on the electric light button had not pressed it.
“Do you—-do you think it’s —proper?” she asked suddenly, in a faint small voice.
IN THE darkness, Ted seemed to be considering. Then his voice came to her, a voice that was almost jubilant. “Probably not/” he said. He reached over abruptly and switched, on the lights. Nannie’s cheeks were scarlet as she was revealed, leaning against the wall, her leghorn hat lying on the little table. “Nannie, you beloved little humbug, you!” said Ted “You—”
He had just that flash of her, lips
slightly parted, eyes shining, before she turned off the light....
And so, without any legal procedure, the case of Ware versus Ware was dropped. But the plaintiff and the defendant talked many things over and many things were decided, the ones of most immediate concern being that Nannie should return to the country on the ten o’clock train the next morning, and expect Ted at the usual hour.
The day did not drag for Nannie. She gathered great bunches of flowers from the gardens and arranged them in vases; Ted did like to see them about. She had Marie press her prettiest organdie, and she arranged her hair in exactly the way he liked best. She went down into the kitchen and gave the cook many instructions for dinner, so many, in fact, that after she had gone the cook gave an elaborate wink to the butler. Oh, it was a busy day for Nannie, right enough
Ted, driving down from the city, anticipated these preparations and grinned to himself. Nannie was a good little kid. Perhaps he had become a trifle accustomed to her, after all... . Have to be a chameleon, though, to be thoroughly accustomed, he told himself. The road slipped beneath his wheels; he turned off the main road towards the house. Mustn’t forget, now, what Nannie had told him last night . . ..
And so, at five thirty, Ted Ware opened the screen door of the house, and, one hand still on the knob, raised his voice in a lusty cry.
“Nannie! Oh, Nannie!”
There was no answer, and he tried it again.
Nannie’s maid appeared suddenly from the direction of the kitchen, a little
“Oh—Mr. Ware,” she began, “Mrs. Ware said for me to be sure and tell you the moment you got in that she’d gone over to the clubhouse and that if you' wanted to come after her she’d wait until half past six.”
Ted, feeling a trifle foolish, released the door knob. “Thanks,” he said. “Thanks.” He stood for a moment, quite still; then a grin spread slowly over his face. He went up to his room and changed rapidly into his golf clothes—time for a few holes before dinner—and he made off to the country-club, whistling as he reached the end of the cool box walk that stretched from the dining-room garden to the beginning of the path.