The Haunted Lady

Should a virtuous woman endanger her reputation to save her spurned lover from a fail term? This question, as well as the ethics of true sportsmanship, is featured in this vivid story.


The Haunted Lady

Should a virtuous woman endanger her reputation to save her spurned lover from a fail term? This question, as well as the ethics of true sportsmanship, is featured in this vivid story.


The Haunted Lady


Should a virtuous woman endanger her reputation to save her spurned lover from a fail term? This question, as well as the ethics of true sportsmanship, is featured in this vivid story.

THE man looked up, startled by the muffled crash of glass shattering upon the exquisite blendings of a Bokhara prayer-rug.

It was a very small crash, yet it echoed and re-echoed in the warm intimacy of that charming, book-lined room. It spoke so inevitably of some shameful, violent, secret thing—some unheard-of, shameful thing that had no right to be there.

The man’s eyes—fine, clear, gray eyes that were just a little stern—rested upon his wife for a moment, and then went back to the pages of his book. He simply could not sit and stare at her, because she had obviously forgotten him, and it couldn’t be fair to violate her privacy like that.

But, though he was no longer looking at her as she sat there, taut as a wire that has been stretched and stretched, little by little, to the breaking point, he could still see her. His eyes could not strike through the memory of her face to the printed words that he tried to find—her face that was so small and sweet and secret. And he could still see that gallant struggle of hers to keep her firm, tight mouth from twitching, and the way her bright color lost ground and wavered to a moon pallor along her high cheek-bones.

The glass had fallen from her hand upon the Bokhara rug—a rug they had once chosen together in their happy rambles about the world. And it was plain that it had fallen because the hand trembled so it could no longer hold it.

Yet the room lay as calm and quiet as it had been for the past hour. Even the fire had glowed steadily and noiselessly, a bank of flame and rose coals. A quiet, safe room, shut in from the world by curtains of brown linen, upon which imps of scarlet and green and orange worsted danced.

Then, that muffled splintering of glass, dropped by a hand that trembled.

She was not reading. Lately, she had ceased to read on these evenings when they stayed home together. Instead, she sat quite still in the big velvet chair that was her favorite, her dark-blue eyes fixed half angrily upon some phantom in the fire. When his eyes glimpsed her in the brief space of turning a page, it seemed to him that her jaw, always too sharp and powerful for beauty, was etched raw against the darkness. For when her own reading-lamp was off, her corner of the room lay in shadow.

And yet, she used always to read. Her throaty chuckles would come across to him, and he would glance up to find her convulsed with merriment, slim fingers rumpling her already rumpled hair in passionate delight. Or he would hear a soft, husky moan, but if he so much as stirred she would say instantly, angrily, “Don’t look, Burke, I’m an idiot. But I can’t stand things about children and dogs.” And if he looked, anyway, always the shining drops lay upon her cheeks, wending their way unheeded to the softness of her bosom.

Sometimes she used to say suddenly, “Burke, put

down that silly sporting page and listen.” She suffered, you see, from the permanent delusion that Burke Innes, because he was a tennis champion, read nothing but the sporting pages. “You know, this woman can write.”

In those days, if she put down her book, it was to caress and maul the great Dane, who always lay as close to her small feet as he could get, in the hope that she would remember his existence and vouchsafe him a word or two. Or to come and sit upon the arm of Burke’s leather chair and indulge in one of her whirlwinds of talk—colorful, pungent, witty talk, full of a bright malice and a gay sophistication. But usually he had to take her book away from her, when the fire had quite died down and he himself was the victim of one prodigious yawn after another, and carry her away to bed in spite of her pleas and protests.

But now—these silences in the dusk of the lampless corner. This broken glass.

And on the nights when they did not stay at home together—Gretchen, who had always been so aloof, so easily bored, so impersonal; Gretchen, who had disdained so much and so many; Gretchen, of whom lesser people were wont to say: “Personally, I do think that young Mrs. Burke Innes is an awful snob. She does think herself grand, doesn’t she?”

But young Mrs. Burke Innes didn’t think herself grand, nor was she a snob, though she had some slight justification for being socially a little exclusive. After all, she had been Gretchen Hunt-Douglass. And Burke Innes’s money, which allowed him to spend his life in the pursuit of sport upon the tennis-court and the polo field, was at least three generations old. It was only

that Gretchen looked upon the multitude with a clear, cool gaze and too often found them wanting in everything worth while. A self-sufficient woman, Gretchen Innes.

But now—this sparkling, incessant talk, almost gushing, with people she had been wont to forget existed. Almost as though she were bidding for favor, for popularity. This surrender of her cool, aloof disdain. This broken glass.

But he went on reading or trying to read, pretending to read. It was part of his code—and men who had met him in the heat and danger of a polo game, or in the strain and high tension of a championship tennis match declared that Burke Innes was the finest, cleanest sportsman in Canada—it was part of his code that a man must never interfere with another man’s game. Even more particularly a woman’s, and that woman his wife, whom he loved.

Suddenly she said, “Burke!”

The great Dane got up, rigid, his eyes fastened upon her. But she put him down with a firm little hand on his swelling neck. A small, kind, firm hand on which glowed the opal she wore defiantly.

The man laid down his book with a smile. He was almost good-looking when he smiled. The sweetness of it softened the stern lines of his tanned, lean, sharp face. The gray eyes lifted under the line of black brows that met above his nose and that, without a smile, made him look a little fierce. He was so lean and dark, except for the gray eyes.

“Yes, my darling?” he said.

“I can’t stand it any longer,” said Gretchen, and she pushed back the lion-cub mop of hair from her forehead.

At the tone of her voice, the man opposite, who loved her better than all the world, felt his heart turn over within him. For as a rule, Gretchen had the most charming of voices, low and crisp, with a thousand dainty lights and shades. He had first fallen in love with her voice, that day almost ten years ago when she had come out on the tennis-courts just as he finished a hard set. He had heard her voice behind him before he saw her, and it had struck deep into his heart like an arrow, telling him that the woman with such a voice might possess all those things he had been seeking in a woman. And because he had liked the coolness of it, and the disdain, and the suggestion of lightly controlled laughter, and the hint of courage, he had turned. And he had seen her for the first time standing there, her tawny, lion-cub head bare, her pugnacious jaw thrust forward, her slim figure clothed in a green sweater and a woolly, white skirt.

Now, to-night, her voice was raw and panic-stricken and it broke because the breath back of it failed. But that was not what made Burke’s heart quail and almost stop beating. It was the shame and guilt with which the voice was laden.

He didn’t say anything. Sat looking at the broken glass near the toe of her silver slipper, at the little sodden spot where the green liqueur had dripped. He could not look at her. To see Gretchen’s eyes—those dark-blue, deep-set eyes, that were so full of pride, so secret of inner thoughts. To see shame upon that brave imperious mouth.

“I can’t stand another night of it,” she said, swiftly, as though she wanted to be rid of them, those shameful words. “I can’t. I shall go mad. I sit here—I sit here

—night after night, thinking about it, strangling with it I go to bed and lie there, suffocating, haunted with it I am haunted. I tell you, I shall go mad.”

Burke Innes got up and stood half-turned from her. On his feet, he was very tall, lean, hard. There was something inflexible about him—something inflexible beside his lean, hard strength. A man of honor, a man of principle, a sportsman playing life’s game according to a rigid code. In no way did he betray his thoughts, his feelings.

The voice went on passionately. “I should have told you then. But I couldn’t. I thought it would kill me to tell you. I think I was living in a mist. And, Burke, though I know you love me and I love you, I do not always know what you will think. Besides, I didn’t want the decision to rest upon your shoulders. I couldn’t —couldn’t bear to hurt you. I thought you need never know.”

Burkes Innes made a swift gesture of appeal. His iron control wavered just that much. The menace of this unknown shame and guilt that weighted his wife’s voice, the menace which he now realized had been hovering above him for weeks, months, had approached near and become a monstrous nightmare. If she would only give a name to this horror. But he would not ask her. It was fair that she should be allowed to tell him whatever she had to tell in her own way.

“Do you know where Maurice Greer was between twelve and four the night his wife was murdered? Do you know? Do you want to know?”

He turned then and looked full at her. Amazement had sent him white beneath the heavy tan. Amazement. Nothing more yet. Just sheer, incredulous amazement.

Gretchen Innes had risen and stood facing him. Her face was working, but her voice sounded angry.

“He was here—with me.”

The great Dane growled, deep in his throat, whimpered, began to whine dismally. Gretchen touched him with the toe of her silver slipper and he was quiet.

The man and woman stood looking at each other.

Maurice Greer. For an instant the man flashed before Burke Innes. That smooth, fair, Greek head, with a touch of the faun about it, and the dark, smiling eyes, the tender, wistful mouth. And the face of the wife who had been murdered, with its unwholesome, ugly beauty, its heavy eyelids, its half-open, painted lips.

In the still room, the man whose wife had said to him, “He was here—with me,” tried slowly, painfully, to outline clearly to himself just what those words meant.

AT FOUR o’clock on a certain night in June now almost a year ago, Maurice Greer had telephoned to the police station. They had gone to the Greer bungalow in Rupert Bay which the police knew well, because, in spite of the tangled grounds that surrounded it, neighbors had sometimes phoned to protest against the hilarity and jazz which disturbed their slumbers.

It was a glorified bungalow, set well back from the highway rambling about among the mammoth B.C. trees, and on the long, uncovered veranda they found Maurice Greer, walking up and down, up and down. Even as the car swung into the drive, they saw him make a swift turn and walk back, and turn again swiftly and walk, as though something drove him close. He was hatless, and his blond hair was as smoothly groomed as though he were just starting for some exclusive little dinner party. His dinner clothes were immaculate and worn as only Maurice Greer could wear them. He was smoking a cigaret, with afl the ease and nonchalance for which he was famous.

But for all that, he looked, in the half light from the porch lamps, haggard and desperate.

Inside, they found Veronica Greer.

“I—haven’t touched anything,” said Maurice Greer, in a desperate, nonchalant voice.

They had seen her often enough—handsome, blackhaired Veronica Greer. Some of them had even known her before she was Veronica Greer.

But on that June night, she lay quite still, her ivory body covered with only the thinnest of night-robes, her black hair, that was her greatest beauty and that she still wore long, flung about her like some lace mantilla such as her grandmothers might have worn.

She had been shot through the heart and probably had never known that her swift, passionate, reckless young life was ending.

There was a gun—a gun that Maurice Greer explained he always kept in the house. The bungalow was distant from its nearest neighbors. He was away a great deal in the evening. His wife was nervous.

Followed, inexorably, those awful days after the tragedy, which for sheer horror and ugliness and humiliation always so far surpass the tragedy itself.

The coroner fixed the hour of Mrs. Greer’s death as sometime between two and three in the morning.

The servants, whose quarters were some distance from the house, had heard voices sometime after midnight. They did not know exactly what time. Hilarious voices. Then angry voices. They didn’t recognize the voices. They didn’t pay any attention, because there were often voices in the bungalow. Also they had heard vaguely a sound which might have been a shot, but which they took for an automobile exhaust on the highway. Mrs. Greer had had a guest for dinner, but he had left duly by the front door and his hat and coat had been presented to him by the Chinese house-man. The guest was fortunately able to account for his movements from that time on. The servants knew nothing of anyone who had come after his departure.

Mr. Greer had not been at home for dinner. They did not know what time he had returned. He was driving his own car—the big, black roadster with the naked silver girl on the radiator, spreading draperies behind her in the wind that his speed always made for her.

Maurice Greer said that he had telephoned the moment he came home, and the telephone at the police station had rung at exactly ten minutes after four. He had left the Samarkand, where he had been playing bridge with some easterners who lived there, at a little after eleven. He had disappeared, swiftly, in the big, black car. At four o’clock he had telephoned the police station.

Five hours.

The thing had torn Vancouver wide open.

No one believed—at least no one who knew them— that Maurice Greer had shot Veronica. If he had been going to shoot her, he would have done it years before. There had been cause enough since the very first months of their marriage.

In fact why Maurice Greer, who might have married almost anyone, had ever married Veronica, no one had ever quite understood. It was even rumored that he

might have married the famous heiress, Janet Grant. Janet herself knew that nothing but the fact that he had never asked her had kept him from it. He was that kind of a man—a throw-back to all that was romantic, all that was poetical, able somehow to melt the hearts of women with that tender, wistful, unscrupulous smile of his.

And with all that, he had suddenly married Veronica.

The truth was that he had loved her. And he had married her, as she knew, because being what he was himself, Maurice Greer could not find it in some secret, chivalrous corner of his heart to judge or condemn any woman. One night, Veronica had spoken brokenly, bitterly, of the odds that life had stacked against her. And that strange chivalry in Maurice that made him every woman’s champion, except against himself, sent him to his knees before this girl whom all the world condemned, this bedraggled, bitter damsel in distress.

But it was not long before Veronica made it quite clear to him that for once at least his chivalry had been mistaken—before he knew himself tricked and cheated. And those who loved him turned away as that ghastly, fatal marriage gradually dimmed and submerged the bright and shining things that had always made them forgive Maurice Greer his weaknesses.

There were people in Vancouver' who said that Veronica could not help herself, that her heritage of bad blood was too much for her. And they, of course, were not surprised when they heard of how she had been found that June dawn, in the cluttered, perfumed room, where the electric piano played over and over some silly, syncopated tune.

But that Maurice, after six years of playing the game as Veronica played it, after six years of taking his fun where he found it while she did the same, should suddenly have shot his tawdry, unfaithful, unloved wife—that was too silly.

Every one said so. Every one except the police.

They merely said, very politely, “Of course, Mr. Greer, there won’t be any trouble about your telling us exactly where you were between eleven and four that night.”

Maurice Greer laughed. “Our old friend the alibi, eh?” he said, his eyebrows making a very sophisticated but rather pathetic question mark in his forehead.

“If you don’t mind,” said the Crown attorney—it had been taken over by the Crown attorney by that time—T should like to know especially about the hours between two and four. It was after two that Mrs. Greer was shot.”

“It sounds,” said Maurice, still smiling that dazzling smile of his—“it sounds like a detective story and not such a very good one at that.”

The Crown attorney smiled, too. But plainly he had no sense of humor.

“An alibi,” said Maurice Greer, musingly. “I should have thought of that. I daresay there are a number of people who would have lied for me. Good society melodrama, this. I understand society melodrama’s very popular in the movies just now.”

He lighted a cigaret and made the other man a little bow. He was always a bit of an actor, Maurice Greer.

“I’m sorry, my dear sir; I have no alibi.”

And that was that.

“Of course,” said Mrs. William Wosley Grant when she heard of it,

“it’s all perfectly ridiculous. I’ve read of such things, but I certainly never thought one would happen to us. He was with some woman. Anyone can see that.

Evidently with some woman he had no business to be with. Maurice always found that kind the most interesting.

But it’s silly of him not to tell now under the circumstances. But, of course,

Maurice would have a lot of fool notions about protecting the woman. As if a woman who would receive Maurice Greer, with his reputation, between two and four in the morning, deserved any protection. Probably she hasn’t a shred of reputation to bless herself with anyway.

At least I hope she’ll have the decency to own up now that he’s in trouble.”

But she did not own up.

Of course at first there seemed no real necessity. Maurice Greer wouldn’t be convicted. Everyone was sure of that.

Possibly that was why he was convicted.

Perhaps the jury that tried him hadn’t the delicate sensibilities to understand the defense of chivalry that was so subtly placed before them, or to appreciate that a gentleman cannot prove an alibi at the expense of a woman’s good name. They did not prove a good audience for the brilliant society drama that was presented before them in the court-room with the best criminal lawyer of his day as the stage manager. Being solid, unromantic citizens themselves, they did not altogether approve of Maurice Greer’s debonair, devil-may-care bearing in the court-room, nor of his reputation as a trifler with women

And Veronica Greer was dead, and the brilliant criminal lawyer knew, as one of the first principles of his profession, that you cannot attack the character of a dead woman before a Canadian jury and get away with it, no matter how vile that woman may have been.

Half-way through the trial, which was a sensation, the lawyer for the defense began to sense the hostility. He did not like the cold eye of the third juryman from the left on the upper row, nor the shallow friendliness of the smile given him by the stout man in the corner seat. He began to realize, too, that the tide of convictions which arises every so often, had set in all over the country. But even then, he did not think it would overwhelm his indifferent, debonair client.

Bùt it did.

Maurice Greer was convicted of the murder of his wife, Veronica Greer, and sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind prison walls, instead of in the pursuits of pleasure which had hitherto occupied him.

Even then, the woman did not own up.

“The thing I hate most,” said Mrs. Grant, vindictively, on the afternoon when she had allowed her well-known weakness for Maurice to influence her to the extent of permitting Janet to go and say good-by to him, “is thinking that Veronica may know of all this and be laughing at us. The little beast.”

Janet Grant, heiress to all the Grant millions and the social prestige that went with them, only continued to look out the window, her homely, freckled little face pinched. At last she said, “I wonder who the woman is?”

The world—the whole, newspaper-reading world—also wondered. For seven days. Then it forgot.

The fashionable world which had known Maurice Greer very well and liked him much, and had known his wife Veronica and found it necessary to ostracize her, wondered longer than that. All of seventy days. And then most of them forgot.

Only Janet Grant wondered about the women who wait at prison gates. Would a man be glad to see even the wrong woman then, if she had proved herself? Janet did not forget. •

And one other woman could not.

AND so Burke and Gretchen Innes stood face to face, » in the warm intimacy of their firelit library—Burke and Gretchen Innes, whom every one knew to be the happiest of married couples: Burke, with his rigid, oldfashioned code of honor and conduct, his standard of clean sportsmanship; and Gretchen, his wife, whose name was like a star among the Japanese lanterns of the modern women of her set.

Between them lay those five words. “He was here—with me.”

So, having remembered all those things which it was necessary for him to remember, Burke Innes thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his gray housecoat and said very quietly to his wife, “And it was here that Maurice Greer was until four o’clock that morning?” Gretchen nodded, and the unruly, lion-cub mop tumbled over her forehead more than ever and shadowed her eyes, so that they looked hot and, defiant, instead of pleading and tearful.

"Yes,” said Gretchen, “until almost four o’clock.”

“Then he was here when his wife was shot? Where”—he was fighting hard to keep his voice level and steady, that it might remind him that he was a gentleman and not a savage—“where was I?” Gretchen gave him the faintest ghost of a smile. Not as though she wanted to smile, but as though she must smile at that level, cold, accusing “Where was I?” or give up the fight before it started.

“Don’t you remember? You’d gone to Victoria to play in the Pacific Northwest Tennis Tournament.”

“Oh, yes. And while I was away— Maurice Greer came here—”

Gretchen set her jaw, looking at him angrily, miserably. Words were so hard for Gretchen. She could not make them her servants. She hated words. They were so inadequate. They betrayed you into the hands of misunderstanding. They stripped you of your rights to privacy. Why, they had been married for years before she ever found the abandon to say to Burke the million love thoughts—wild, gorgeous love thoughts—that all the time had seethed in her heart and head for him.

And besides, it had been their way, a secretly mutual, secretly understood way, to avoid talk of serious things. Now she must attempt to throw a bridge of words across the hell that yawned between them, and she felt it to be a flimsy, treacherous thing that would cast her headlong into the depths.

Finally, she said, “Burke, perhaps I could make you understand—” Her voice died, of hopelessness and agony and shame.

Those dark brows of Burke Innes's drew down heavily over his eyes.

“I didn’t know you and Maurice Greer were friends.”

“We weren’t. Of course we weren't. How silly—”


He waited for her. Gave her every chance. Would not condemn her unheard. Would not hurry her. But some» Continued on page 65

Continued from page 16

ching of what that waiting cost him wrote itself in the sharp lines that carved themselves from his nostrils to his lips.

Gretchen flung across the room, because she could not stand there before him, even though his eyes were upon the Bokhara rug at his feet.

Her silver slippers tapped on the liare, oak floor—little, angry taps. Above them, he saw her lovely, shimmering ankles — little girl ankles so round and sweet. And then the soft roundness of her body, that showed no traces of maturity even in the bright silver dress to testify to the son she had borne him. Her fine, round throat and then her small, secret face, white now, with red spots on either cheek and dark things written in the smudges beneat h her eyes.

How like Gretchen to pretend, now, to be angry. She had pretended, so, to be angry when the birth pangs tore her, and angrier still when death hovered so very close above her small, disordered head. It was self-defence, that anger of Gretchen’s. He had always understood Gretchen better than she understood herself. She had no power of self-analysis—of any kind of analysis. She insisted always, to herself, upon being the things she wanted to be, and forgot those things that lurk within every soul or else it would be no longer human—those dark things.

He wondered, in deepest misery, what had betrayed them into this horrible place, where she could not meet his eyes, but stood with her bare shoulders to him, lighting a cigarette and then grinding it out fiercely on the silver ash tray.

Maurice Greer—of all men. The sort of man they called a sheik. All Burke's young, clean manhood revolted from the thing. Why, he was probably soft all over from lack of exercise. It would be easy to take him in one hand and break him in two.

He dragged his mind back from that flaming desire. For Maurice Greer was in prison. He had gone to prison because some woman did not speak when he might not.

“I can never make you understand,” said Gretchen’s voice, harshly despairing. She sat on the arm of the chair, one silver toe moving back and forth across the body of the great Dane. “I’m such a fool at talking. And nobody can explain the unexplainable. But I’ll try. For God’s sake, listen—listen.

“They plead temporary insanity as a defense for murder, don’t they? Well, there are other things that ought to have temporary insanity as a defense, too. They ought, they ought.

“Years ago, before I knew you, Maurice and I were—oh, nothing. Only, one night at a dance, he kissed me. That’s all. And I liked it and so did he. He was the only man before you that ever made me feel—I think, Burke, he was the only man who ever kissed me. I wasn’t a girl who let men kiss me—”

The little appeal choked her, but she stiffened herself again.

“Well, when Maurice kissed me it thrilled me so that I was afraid—because it was new, and I did not like him. I did not. I went home and lay awake all night, remembering it and not liking him. But whenever I saw him, my bieath always stopped and I felt that dizzy little thrill and I knew he could move me, terribly. I think he must have known it, too.

“But then—you came. And you were my love and my man, and I had been created for you and I had been waiting

for you always, and you loved me, and my real life began then. The rest—before yon came—ceased to be. I can never remember me, with out you, Burke.

“But, when you have kissed a man like that, it’s an unfinished thing. It’s like a snake, lying in a shell waiting to hatch. You forget it, but it lies there. When we met, there was always just a little something between us—a little, secret understanding. I know it now. We always smiled at each other, because there was something unacknowledged that we knew. And I would never dance with him.

“And on that night I had been sitting for hours under the trees. You know, Burke, how heavenly it can be down there? I could see the moon on the water, a silver mantle of romance. And the garden was so sweet. The roses had begun to bloom, and the hyacinths and the daffodils were all about my feet. And in the tree over my head, there was a honeysuckle vine. I remember that the moonlight seemed made of honeysuckle perfume.

“The rest—is harder to tell, Burke. Harder. But I had been reading some silly poetry, and some sillier sophisticated stories. And there came to me a foolish, foolish thought such as women have sometimes. I wondered if I had missed part of the glory of life and love because I hadn’t had—many loves. I wondered if I had been listening all the time to one melody, when there were many melodies if only a woman cared to open her ears to them. I felt—this was my greatest sin, darling—I felt as if our love were dull and domestic and drab because it was safe and sane and righteous. And it seemed to me that all the romance in the world was dead and I would never know it again. And that made my heart ache with the queerest, saddest ache I had ever known. It was all because of that silly, terrible poem I had been reading about a woman of—many loves.

“I don’t think I had been dozing—just dreaming. Anyway, when I saw it all again, the world didn’t seem real at all. If you could have seen it. It was a world crying for romance—crying.

“He saw me sitting there and he stopped his car by the wall below the trees. He jumped the wall and came in. I remember he didn’t wear any hat and his hair was smooth and glistening in the moonlight. He looked so young and handsome and fair—not as though he could possibly be evil. He kissed my hand, there in the garden.”

Again Burke had to listen to the death of that hot, breaking, shameful voice.

“Cheap. Cheap and common and shameful it was. But, Burke, I forgot I was a married woman. I even forgot you. I even forgot—” but that name she could not name in this one story, “I just remembered that old, unfinished kiss and I was a silly girl again.

“Maybe other women have had those silly, dizzy, drugged moments, when something in them reaches back to the bright youth they hate to surrender, even for the finer things. Maybe all women, even women as fortunate as I, have blank moments in the every-day mill of life, when they cry out that romance has passed them by. And if in that moment, that one, little weak moment, comes a June garden, and an unfinished love story, and a man like Maurice Greer, whose genius is to make even the sordid romantic—

“I cannotexplain to you about Maurice. No woman could explain Maurice to a

man. Only there is something that stirs your pulses, and swamps you in a fire of tenderness. And—”

The poor, worn voice whispered now, the shameful secret of it all.

“And, Burke, maybe women have a beast within, just as men have. Only he is more tightly chained and there is less chance for him to break forth and wreak havoc—havoc. But because women do not know he is there, when he does clamor, they have less defense, because they do not know.

“When he kissed me again—

“I must have been mad. I tell you I must have been mad. Don’t you see? I am not cheap. I am not common. I am not untrustworthy. My whole life says I am not. Am I then to be judged by one moment of madness?

“And then I hated him. I hated him. I hate him now. I could kill him. When a man has been drunk and finds some low woman beside him, doesn’t he hate her and hate himself, and want to kill her and himself?

“Because that is the way I felt about Maurice, when he left me.

“I had my name to think of, my son, you—and I hated him. I hope he rots in a prison cell. But I wish he would not haunt meso—in prison. In prison. I thought at least you would never have to know. But he has made me tell you—by haunting me.”

The broken glass cried out beneath her restless feet.

“Then you and he didn’t agree about this— silence?” said Burke.

His voice was cold. His face was severe enough now, his lean, dark face that could be so forbidding in spite of its youth.

And she saw accusation in his eyes.

Gretchen went scarlet, painfully, horribly. Shame was upon her, enveloping her. Shame was in the aching breath he saw her draw, in the hands that twisted and untwisted, so that first the platinum wedding ring flashed into view and then the defiant opal.

“I never saw him again,” she cried at him. “I hope I will never see him again. I can see in your face that you—can’t forgive me, but I tell you—”

She stopped.

Quietly he said, “I’ll have to think this thing out, Gretchen. I want you to think it out. We must see what we can do about it. I must go away, until we can think this thing out.”

She started toward him. The pain in his dark face. The suffering in his gray eyes. And she could not comfort him.

The door closed behind him, not loudly, but with a horrible finality.

It echoed in the room where only an hour before that glass had crashed upon the Bokhara prayer rug.

Gretchen staggered.

“He’s—gone,” she said to the great Dane, who rose and came close to her, pressing himself against her knees to console her.

Above the wind that shook the tree tops she heard the car purr away—away.

“He has left us,” said Gretchen, with something that started to be a brave laugh and turned into a sob. “I cannot blame him. How could he forgive me? How could he understand?”

But all the time, strangely, the mist seemed to be clearing from her brain. The bands of steel that had held her were loosening. That murderous red fog of hatred rolled back, little by little.

Well, this was the end—the end of everything. She had told him. That was necessary. She could not have lived another hour with that lie between them. And now he had gone away, and there had been accusation in his eyes.

But she was no longer haunted. Not as she had been. Only for the first time, now, she began to think of Maurice Greer without that murderous film of scarlet hatred.

He had not told. He had taken a life sentence in prison, rather than tell. It must be terrible to be shut up in prison, to face the long years of life from behind those steel bars.

And she had shut him there. She had pronounced that life sentence, she and no other. She had clanged that gate upon him. The verdict had rested with hei alone.

The old arguments filed past her. But she knew them now for what they had always been—part of ber hatred, part of her revenge.

“Oh, God, what a rotter I’ve been,” she cried to the silent night, and the great dog whined and muzzled against her.

Then a new fear walked in, to keep her ghastly company.

If she told now! Perhaps, after a while, Burke might forgive her. Perhaps time might soften that judgment that had looked out of his eyes. He had loved her greatly. Perhaps some day he might forgive her—as other men had forgiven their wives, and they might wipe out the past, and be happy as they had been.

But if she cried her shame to the world, she made that impossible.

Oh, she knew Burke’s pride. His name had stood always for the finest things, the cleanest sportsmanship. If she dragged that proud name of his into the gutter, if she took upon herself this scandal that had rocked the whole nation, she would shut herself from him forever.

He could never forgive the woman whom the world would know as Maurice Greer’s alibi. That much was certain.

And still that inner conviction grew and grew.

It would have been easier if she had told at once. She had allowed Maurice Greer to spend months in prison. She had taken advantage of his chivalry, almost as much as that poor, murdered woman whom she had so scorned.

She shuddered away from the coldnesses, the insults, most of all from the fellowship, the equality of cheap women whom she had loathed and who would welcome her now as one of themselves, whether she would or no.

But none of these things mattered, now that the mist was gone. Clear-cut as a gallows against the sun, the things that she must do stood forth. Only when it was done, could her soul know peace with itself.

THE Crown Attorney of Vancouver was a little surprised the next morning when a slightly flustered stenographer came in to tell him that Mrs. Burke Innes wanted to see him at once.

Of course he knew Mrs. Burke Innes by sight and reputation. Everyone in Vancouver did. But he had never had the pleasure of meeting her, and he wondered what possible business she would have with him, and at this early hour. These society women didn’t usually get up before noon, he had been given to understand. And here it was only just past nine, and Mrs. Innes wanted to see him.

So he told the stenographer to show her in and was almost instantly aware of a lady standing in the doorway.

A very arrogant, imperial lady, in a short white skirt with an indefinable distinction about it, and a woolly orange sweater, buttoned up high about her throat, and an impudent orange hat, pulled far down over her right eye. Her hands, in white gauntlets that ended in wide orange cuffs, were folded tightly above a flat bag of many colors and orange stockings showed boyishly below the hem of her skirt.

But for all her perfection of grooming, all her smart arrogance, the Crown Attorney somehow got the impression that this lady had not slept, had certainly not closed those dark-blue, angry eyes all night long. And he felt that the scarlet bow of her mouth had been painted on over gray lips.

He bowed, of course, and indicated a chair. But she did not sit down. She only came across upon her small, flat-heeled white shoes and stood with one hand resting upon the desk.

“I want to tell you something,” she said, in a cold, crisp voice.

Now the Crown Attorney had heard many astounding confessions in that unpretentious office. As a rule, he spurred men and women on to those confessions. That was his business.

But looking at this haughty orange and white lady, with the impudent orange hat pulled down over her right eye, he felt a desire, an imperative desire, to keep her from speaking further. He did not want to hear what she had to say. He did not want to listen or to watch while she said it. He had never felt like that before.

He did not speak. There seemed nothing to say, in face of this lady’s frozen face and cold, crisp voice.

“Maurice Greer,” said the lady—and now the scarlet bow of her lips was plainly painted like a scarlet letter upon her white face—“Maurice Greer was with me on the night his wife was murdered. He was with me from midnight until four o’clock. He was with me between two and three, when she was killed. He did not kill her. Will you be kind enough to make out the

necessary papers or—or whatever is correct legally, and I will do whatever it is essential for me to do.”

She went to the window and stood looking down into the street. Her jaw was outlined against the green window-shade. But the Crown Attorney saw that she was trembling so that it was necessary for her to lean heavily against the window-frame.

And she looked, this orange and white lady, with that impudent orange hat pulled so rakishly over her right eye, like a woman who knows that she has just signed her own death warrant.

THE group of men lounging in the club dressing-rooms turned at the sound of the shrill whistle and the horrified “My God!” that followed it.

There were five or six men in the dressing rooms. It was noon of the day of the finals in the men’s singles.

Big Jim Turner was there, looking at the comic section of the morning paper and giving forth riotous guffaws like a fourteen-year-old schoolboy. His shoulders appeared to blot out one side of the room, those shoulders that were back of his famous, almost unreturnable serve.

With him were the Renny brothers, slim and a little shy, their mild blue eyes and straw hair indicating nothing of their demon swiftness and accuracy upon the tennis courts; and wizened, dried-up Little Phil Dellivan, beginning to go bald, but still a wizard in the art of the unexpected, outguessing opponents with twice his skill.

With Burke Innes, they were the ranking tennis stars of the province—a province, moreover, that had produced more than one Canadian champion.

Burke Innes had been there himself, only a moment before, long and lean and dark and dangerous—the personification of the best in Canadian athletes. He always looked younger, too, in his tennis clothes, and almost handsome, because of his fine shoulders and slender waist.

The large, fat man who had whistled came forward. In his hands he held a futuristic afternoon extra, bright pink paper from which black and green headlines screamed.

“I say,” he gasped, “this is terrible.” Little Phil looked at him crossly. He particularly disliked people who, reading headlines that you couldn’t see, said, “This is terrible.”

“What the devil’s the matter with you, Barney?” he said. “You act more like a lunatic every day.”

The youngest Renny brother wasjlooking over his shoulder and his face had gone pale. Even Jim Turner, upon whom things dawned slowly off the tennis-court, had finally been jarred into nervousness. “What is it?” he said.

“Burke Innes’s wife,” said Barney. “I wouldn’t have believed it. This is terrible.”

“You said that once already,” said Little Phil. “Is she dead?”

“No. Worse. Much worse.”

He read it, wheezing with excitement between paragraphs. There was a little comprehending, shamefaced pause when he finished.

“Where’s Burke?” said Little Phil.

“He was here just a minute ago,” said Jim Turner. “I guess we better put off the matches.”

“He had a paper,” said the older Renny brother. “I saw him take it from the boy. I didn’t know—”

“It wouldn’t be fair for him to play to-day,” said Jim Turner slowly. “Especially the finals. Gosh, it must have taken a lot of nerve for a woman to do that. To walk right up and tell on herself.” “What else could she do, for Heaven’s sake?” said Little Phil irritably. “Let a guy spend the rest of his life in jail for something he didn’t do?”

“I wonder what we’d better do about the matches,” said Barney, perspiring freely, “this is terrible. The biggest crowd we’ve ever had, too. Mrs. Grant’s here already—giving a luncheon. And I tell you, this will be just like throwing a bombshell. The Burke Inneses of all people. She was always so strict, too. Now Maurice will be out, and I wonder if he’ll marry Janet Grant. I suppose everybody’ll make a hero out of him. Maurice is like that—in the end everything turns out for his glory. Now about the tournament—” At exactly that moment, Burke Innes strolled in. He had the afternoon paper in his hand. His face was set like a mask, but his eyes were alight, unreadable but brilliant.

A perfect mask, that face, dark and lean and hard and smiling. No chance

to tell from that anything of what he felt.

“Great crowd we’ve got, Barney,” he said, in his level, steady voice; and then, to Jim Turner, “and I’m going to beat you this afternoon if it takes a leg.” And he smiled.

“Then,” said Barney, wiping his forehead, “we aren’t going to call the matches off?”

Burke Innes looked at him coldly. “Why,” he asked, “should you call the matches off?”

GRETCHEN INNES folded a black

and gold kimono and laid it carefully in the shining black leather suitcase. Then, she folded one of the chiffon nightgowns that Abbie had laid out so carefully on the bed. She was just smoothing it absently when Abbie came in.

“In any cast of characters,” Gretchen used to say with a grin, “Abbie would be listed as the faithful old family retainer.” As she came in, Abbie said, “That was Mr. Innes on the phone, Miss Gretchen.” Gretchen’s hand turned to stone.

“Yes?” she said, and she felt that the beating of her heart must shake her voice.

Abbie went on calmly sorting things from the big cedar drawers.

“He said it wasn’t necessary for him to speak to you,” said Abbie in a matter-offact way. “He just wants you to come right on over to the Country Club as soon as you can. He said to be sure to come because he’s playing Jim Turner in the finals this afternoon and he wants you there.”

“Is that all he said?”

Abbie laid a little pile of silk and lace on the floor. “You need some more of those brassieres, Miss Gietchen,” she said, “but I guess these’ll do till you get home. Oh, he said tell you be sure to come. Not to let anything interfere.”

Then, as her mistress did not stir, “Here’s your hat,” said A.bbie. “You haven’t get time to change. Anyway, that looks all right foi a tennis match.” Mrs. Burke Innes pulled the orange sport hat far down over her right eye and uucked the unruly lion-cub T op under it, so that only the edges of it showed.

“My gloves. Aboie,” said Mr«. Burke Innes, and her voice nan the desperate determination of a woman who has pulled herself up to it by her ooot straps—“my gloves.”

She drew them on, angrily controlling the hands that would have trembled.

“My bag,” said Mrs. Burke Innes, and Abbie thought she had never seen anything so defiant and yet so frightened as the way Mrs. Innes swung the bizarre trifle over her wrist.

“Will you be in for dinner, Miss Gretchen?” asked Abbie.

“I don’t know, Abbie,” said Mrs. Burke Innes. “OhI don’t know.”

But to herself she was saying, over and over, “Has he seen the papers? Oh, God, has he seen the papers?”

THE Country Club stands were packed so that not an inch of boards showed between the smart sport skirts and the smarter white flannels and tweed golf trousers. Everybody who was anybody, whether they knew anything about tennis or not, had come to the tournament.

As Barney had predicted, the afternoon paper had exploded in Vancouver and its environments and like a bombshell there had been nothing like it since the Smengers’ divorce case. Every now and then between games, that rushing, sibilant roar like the hissing of many serpents, swept the fashionable throng.

That Burke Innes should play had seemed the crowning surprise of the day that had witnessed the biggest shock they had ever known.

“That’s Burke Innes’s idea of good sportsmanship,” said Mrs. Grant with a sniff. “I might have known that. I hope he realizes that Maurice Greer was something of a sport himself.”

But when, just in the pause between sets—Jim Turner had won the first set and Burke Innes by magnificent service and sheer, blinding speed had captured the second one when a lady came across the strip oí lawn from the clubhouse and entered her box alone, the whole stands were literally flabbergasted, literally struck dumb for the space of an entire minute.

They watched her in bewildered silence, this arrogant, orange and white lady, who flung her white coat so nonchalantly over a chair and settled herself so unconcernedly in another. Her sharp little chin

was held very high, and she did not seem to see the hundreds of faces that stared at her—stared and stared.

They could not see, of course, how her heartbeats were actually shaking her whole body, or how each breath cost her such a struggle that she believed she could never, never take another.

They could only watch her haughtiness and her indifference, and then the silence broke in a gasp, and the gasp was followed by that hissing, rushing sound as of many waters.

Gretchen did not see them. She knew they were there, like horrible creatures in a nightmare. But she was really conscious of only one thing—the lean, dark, hard figure on the tennis-courts in the sun.

Had he seen the paper?

“Well,” said Mrs. Grant, rubbing her nose in a way that was characteristic but hardly aristocratic, “I didn’t think she’d dare.”

“Why not?” said Tanet Grant, bitterly. “I’d be glad to be able to do what she’s done.”

The match ended.

And then Burke Innes did one of those things that a Burke Innes never does. One of those theatrical, dashing things that might have been done—oh, by a Maurice Greer, for instance. But, being Burke Innes, he did it well, so boldly and darkly and impressively that every one in the grand-stands held their breath.

For he came off the court where he had played so brilliantly, and went straight to his wife and bowed gallantly above her little white, and orange glove. Being the victor, it had almost the air of a knight coming to receive the reward of conquest.

And he said, loud enough so that many people about could hear and thus repeat later: “If I won, my dear, it’s only because I wanted to pay tribute to the standard of gameness and good sportsmanship that you have set me to-day.”

“Ah,” said Mrs. Grant, when some excited bystander had carried the speech to her box, where she still lingered, “that is very clever. He is trying to becloud the issue. He means to stand by her and make us like it. That’s all very fine, but I shan’t do it. I think Maurice is quite the most heroic of them all, and I shan’t do it.”

“Well,” said her daughter,.{'tfith the first defiance of twenty-five years, “I shall.”

And so it happened that Janet Grant slipped her arm through Gretchen’s, and they walked, laughing and talking very brightly indeed, the length of that inquisitorial grand-stand, with Burke Innes strolling beside them.

IN THE car Gretchen said explosively, “You did that so wonderfully, Burke! But—what about just you and me?” Her husband smiled at her. “You’re funny, Gretchen,” he said.

“Maybe,” said Gretchen, “but—does that mean, Burke, that you’ve forgiven me?”

“It looks rather like it, doesn’t it?” said Burke Innes, very busy piloting the big roadster out of the grounds through the crowds of expensive automobiles. “Then you’ve—seen the papers?”

“Of course.”

“And you forgive me in spite of my telling the Crown attorney—”

“In spite of your telling the Crown attorney!” said Burke Innes, turning utterly astonished gray eyes upon her. “Good Heavens, Gretchen, did you think I could ever have forgiven you if you hadn’t done that?”

Gretchen took off the impudent orange hat, that she might see him better, and the wind whipped her short hair into a lion’s mane.

“You mean—you wouldn’t have forgiven me if I hadn’t proved Maurice’s alibi?” she gasped at him.

Burke Innes did not look at her. His eyes were on the dangerous curve beneath a culvert just ahead.

“There was never anything else to forgive,” said Burke Innes. “I can’t talk a lot of rot, you know. But no man is capable of judging the temptations and defeats and victories of a woman’s soul, Gretchen. And—women are so much better than we are. I wasn’t so dumb I didn't understand your temporary insanity defense, Gretchen. Every man could understand that if he didn’t hang on to his man-pride too tight. I felt sorry. But—men and women aren't

different, they’re just human beings. I

tried to do as I know you would have done if I’d—made that mistake. I shall always be sorry, but I knew every word you said was true, and that you had loved me—and only me—always.

“But of course I could never have forgiven you for that—missing alibi. That was why I left that night. Because of course that was just a matter of clean sportsmanship.”

“Burke,” said Gretchen and he knew

that she was weeping at last, “I do think you’re a funny man.”

The car swung around the curve and into a shadow, cast by the low-hanging oak trees. The man leaned down and crushed her very close to him, so that her small, weeping face was hidden on his shoulder.

“And I do think,” he said, “that you’re a very game woman, Gretchen, and the best sport I know.”