You Know What Husbands Are
A little scandalous gossip, especially if husbands are the topic, does put a little kick in the Pekoe. Occasionally it has other results not quite so pleasant.
BEATRICE RED PATH
ANDY FAULKNER thrust his arms into the sleeves of his overcoat with a sense of satisfaction. He had been addressing a meeting of chartered accountants on “Some Uncommon Phases of Modern Accountancy” and knew from the way in which several of the men had spoken to him that it had been well expressed. His only disappointment was that old man Rutherford, the head of the firm, had not been at the dinner. Andy had rather hoped to impress him with this paper upon which he
had spent time and thought. Still, Rutherford would probably hear of it from other members of the firm and the indirect effect might be even greater. He turned, feeling a hand laid on his shoulder. “That was a topping fine address.” It was Jack Rutherford, a nephew of the old man’s and a junior member of the firm. “I wish my uncle had been able to get here tonight. He’d have been more than pleased.” “I was wishing it myself,” Andy replied, with a gratified expression on his lean dark face. “It went off better than I expected.” “Come back and have a drink with me before you go home.” I“Thanks, but I’m not taking any. I’d best be getting along. It’s a brute of a night and I’ve quite a bit of a way to go.” “Glad I don’t live out in the wilds. Why don’t you move into the city?” “We like it out there. Wouldn’t move in for the world. Can I drive you along?” “Rather walk, thanks. The smoke in that room was so thick I want to get some fresh air into my lungs. Well— so long.”
It was undoubtedly a brute of a night. The rain was slashing the dark with thin bright swords; rivers of water swirled along the curbs; rain drops bounced off the wet pavements like hard peas. Few people were on the streets, and those were hurrying for shelter. The lights from passing motors flung jagged reflections that were blinding. Andy was constantly obliged to clear the windshield. If Marjorie wouldn’t make such a fuss when he stayed in town he would never of thought of taking this thirteen-mile drive to-night. Turning up the collar of his coat, he settled himself for an unp'easant time. Fast driving was an impossibility; he was obliged to keep on the alert every moment even at the leisurely rate at which he was going. As he came to a cross street, a car that was coming towards him skidded badly, almost swerving on top of him. He jerked the wheel sharply to avoid the oncoming motor, and in doing so his own back wheels skidded. His car took a sudden dive to one side, just as a street car came to a standstill at that particular point. There was the sound of ripping mud guards, and he was flung violently against the windshield which broke into jagged edges with a shower of splintering glass. His engine roared for a moment and then stopped dead. “Are you hurt, there?” It was the motorman from the street car who had run around to see what damage had been done. Andy stared stupidly for a moment, dazed and giddy. He could feel a warm stream running down one side of his face; he felt shaken and sick. A group of men were gathering around the car and he pulled himself together with an effort. “No,” he attempted a laugh, “I guess I’m not hurt. What about the old bus?” The quickly gathering crowd turned their attention to the front of the car. Andy stepped out and regarded it ruefully. One fender was badly twisted, a lamp hung limply, while the front of the radiator was dented. The rest of the car except foi the wind-shield had withstood the impact fairly well. A policeman in a glistening rubber coat appeared from nowhere, a notebook in his hand. “It was nobody’s fault,” Andy explained as he gave his name and address, “just the filthy condition of the streets. If you could help me push the car to that garage over there—” “What’s happened? Had a smash?”
Andy turned at the sound of the fammiliar voice, to find Jack Rutherford beside him. As Rutherford lent his shoulder to help to push the car into the garage, Andy explained what had happened. As the lights of the brightly lit garage fell on Andy’s face Rutherford looked at him sharply. “Look here, you’re all in. That cut looks nasty. You’re coming home with me. Here,” to one of the garage men, “call me a taxi, will you?”
Andy gave a laugh that dwindled feebly away. “That brute of a windshield—I came up against it—I do feel done. But I must get home. Marjorie—•” “Rot. You’re not going to drive out there to-night. You’ll stay with me.” “I couldn’t do that. You don’t know how Marjorie worries—•” But when he reached Rutherford’s apartment his protests ended sharply as his legs wilted under him. He caught at a chair, laughing weakly. Rutherford took him by the arm, steadying him. “You’re going straight off to bed. I’ll call up Marjorie and explain and then I’m going to get a doctor in to look at that cut.” “I’ll call her up.”
“No, you don’t. She’ll keep you for an hour assuring her that you aren’t hurt. I know women,” he said, with the blithe confidence of a bachelor, “they won’t believe anything until they see it with their own eyes and then as often as not they refuse to credit it. Marjorie will have to take my word for it this time.” MARJORIE FAULKNER sat behind the tea table in her pretty chintz-curtained sitting room, the light from a log file coloring her animated face, as she listened to the conversation eddying around her. “My dear,” Hilda Cavendish was saying as she crossed her slender feet in their brown satin slippers, “you know what husbands are.”
Marjorie nodded as she lifted the heavy silver tea pot. After a year of marriage she was quite ready to admit that she knew all that there was to know about husbands. Hilda Cavendish took a cigarette from a blue enamelled case with diamond hinges and lit it. Hilda Cavendish’s cool air of self-assurance always made Marjorie feel slightly childish. Hilda’s husband was a very successful stock broker and Hilda appeared to have everything she could possibly desire. A child of wealthy lumber people, her wedding to Eric Cavendish had been the social affair of the year.
Hilda was a contrast to Nora Brent. Hilda affected a lack of energy, whereas Nora went everywhere, and did everything: golf, bridge and Badminton. Yet Marjorie felt, in spite of this, that Nora camouflaged, in this way, her interest in her children. Cyril Brent had successfully managed tffe Brent Steel Company ever since his father’s sudden death. Marjorie’s little face was flushed and sparkling. She felt flattered that, coming from a small town as she did, these friends of Andy’s had so readily accepted her as one of themselves. Their pose was to know nothing, while all the time hiding quick brains and an intelligent knowledge of current events behind a pretence of ignorance. They affected to despise anything even verging on the intellectual. This had de-
ceived Marjorie at first until she had been brought up with a jerk to find that in reality their familiarity with books, music and art was far greater than her own. It was not an unnatural mistake to make; she had never heard them talk about anything except the appalling state of their finances, the poverty of their wardrobes, or the shortcomings of their husbands. But they were amusing and bright, at times witty, even. They made her laugh with their manifest absurdities. Hilda took a puff at her cigarette, leaning back to watch the smoke rising slowly in a twisting coil. “People think,” she went on, “that Eric is a model husband. You know he has such good manners with strangers. But they don’t see him in his own home. He’s so mean. Yesterday he joined that new golf club; and yet I had to refuse to go to the Arnold’s dinner because I literally hadn’t a rag to wear. Men are so unutterably—”
“But, my dear,” broke in Nora, “I’m sure Eric isn’t half as impossible as Cyril.” She pulled her clever little hat farther down over her dark shingled hair and reached forward for a muffin. “Cyril thinks it’s quite amusing enough for me to stay at home and look after the children while he goes everywhere and has the most wonderful time. That’s marriage from the man’s point of view. I’m merely an unpaid nurse and housekeeper. He actually suggested my doing without a nurse now that the children are growing older. Everyone knows they’re more bother then than ever. Just imagine if you suggested their staying in for one afternoon. Well!
“Oh, they’re all the same,” agreed Hilda, “I never knew a man that wasn’t selfish.” “But you’re fond of Eric?” Marjorie asked a little doubtfully. “Why, of course, I am,” Hilda retorted, “he can be fascinating at times. Still I can’t help seeing he’s selfish. And then—” “If you could only trust a man,” Nora exclaimed. “Cyril’s affairs—a man always seems to prefer a common woman, I suppose they feel freer—-and can take more liberties. It was scarcely a year after we were married that Cyril had an affair with a horrible little actress. Oh, of course, he denied it. But you can’t trust a man. They lie as easily as anything.”
“What do you suppose happened the other night?” Marjorie began, seizing on a break in the conversation. So far she felt she had been rather left out of things. “Andy went to one of those perfectly awful men’s dinners the other night. On the way home he drove straight into a street car,” she gave a deprecatory little laugh. “Never saw it; fancied he was driving along an empty street. But you can imagine—men are all the same. A dinner is just an excuse, you know.”
v “I never knew that Andy— “I suppose be wasn’t hurt a bit—” “He’s still wearing a piece of court plaster. The motor was smashed to atoms. Jack Rutherford had to call me up long after midnight. Andy, I suppose couldn’t. Jack said he was keeping him for the night. Men do stick together. But you know if he wasn’t—he could easily have taken the last bus. Of course, I haven’t said a word. What’s the use?” “None whatever,” Hilda laughed, “I learned that long ago. He was lucky not to be arrested. They’re so frightfully strict now—driving a car—while—while he was—” “I know,” Marjorie put in soberly, “I was afraid of that.” Hilda rose to her feet. “I’m afraid we really must be going. Whenever are you going to move into town?”
“I love it out here. But, of course, if Andy’s going to spend his nights in town—well, it’s not a bit of use my being out here.” “I should think not,” Nora rejoined. “If I lived in the country I’d never see Cyril. A husband loves to think his wife is tucked safely away in the country. So healthy. And it leaves them so delightfully free.” “You don’t expect a man ever to consider anyone except himself, do you?” Hilda said, twisting a silver fox scarf around her throat. “If there is one who does he should be put in the zoo.” They all laughed gaily. After they had left and the sound of their car had died away Marjorie flitted about the room, picking up a cup emptying an ash tray, puffing up a cushion. She had enjoyed herself and her large grey eyes shone with animation, her soft cheeks were delicately flushed. At the sound of footsteps some moments later on the veranda she ran to the door. “Hello, darling.” Andy stooped to kiss her. “My, it’s good to be home,” he said, laying his cheek against her smooth little head. “I’m always in such a hurry to get home that I’m going to be arrested for speeding one of these days. Been having a party?” he went on, his glance on the tea table. “Just Hilda and Nora. They motored out for the afternoon.” “Have a good time?” “Yes, lovely.” She put up a hand to smooth back a few hairs. She felt a sudden excess of fondness for him because he was so good looking, so nice in every way. “Dear, did you know that Eric v'as so mean? Hilda said—” “Eric. Mean. Rather the reverse I should think. What’s the trouble? Aren’t he and Hilda getting on these days?” “Of course they are. She adores him.”
Andy laughed sceptically. “But she does. Only she can’t help seeing how very mean he is. He’ll spend any amount on himself but if she—” “Nonsense. I don’t believe it. Besides if it were true she hasn’t got to say so.” “Nora’s having a hard time. Cyril’s affairs. Did you know that he—” “Really—you women. How you talk about your husbands.” Marjorie’s lovely curved eyebrows lifted in surprise. “Why, what do you mean, dearest? I’m only telling you the truth. If men will do these things—” “That isn’t the point. Men don’t talk about their wives. If they haven’t anything decent to say, they say nothing. But a woman will tell you she adores her husband and the next instant she’ll make him out to be the worst scoundrel unhung. You women—•” “But, darling, you don’t understand. Nora wasn’t say-
ing it in any nasty way.
She’s awfully in love with Cyril. We were discussing men, that’s all. And Nora said—” “I know. I can imagine what she said. I hope to heaven you don’t slang me like that.” The look in Marjorie’s eyes was the essence of reproach. “Dearest. How can you say such a thing? How can you even think it?” “I don’t. I know you wouldn’t. You’re not that kind. And there aren’t any very hectic bits in my life to make tales of. A dull old thing, your husband, I’m afraid.” There was a sudden flicker of color in Marjorie’s soft cheeks. Her eyes rested for an instant upon the tiny strip of court plaster on Andy’s forehead. She slipped an arm around his neck and offered her lips for a kiss. “Dear old thing. I don’t find you dull. I don’t want you a bit different from what you are.” “We’re both satisfied then,” Andy said with more sentiment than he usually permitted to creep into his voice. She was so
sweet and soft and yielding; so gay in her bright scarlet frock; so different from other women. Suddenly he was very humble, wondering why he should have got so much more than other men. Poor old Eric.
MR. RUTHERFORD leaned back in his swivel chair and looked intently at Andy Faulkner who was standing beside the window, an expression of suppressed rage on his lean face. “You see,” Mr. Rutherford said quietly, “now that Billings is leaving us I intended to offer you a junior partnership in the firm. I’ve been exceptionally pleased with the work you’ve been doing lately. But I’m afraid it’s impossible. I don’t want to take anyone into the firm who hasn’t the reputation for being essentially sound and responsible. It is neither sane nor sound to run your motor into a street car, is it?” Andy shrugged his shoulders. “Of course, sir, if you choose to believe every bit of gossip that is going the rounds instead of taking my word—” “It came very direct. I’ve always understood you were a good driver. And a good driver doesn’t usually have accidents of that sort—if he’s sober. He can generally see a street car ahead of him.” Andy lifted his shoulders slightly. He bad already contradicted the story; there was no sense in denying it. “I’ve nothing more to say, sir. I told you how it happened. As you don’t want to believe me, I must conclude that you want me to resign.” “Nonsense,” blustered Mr. Rutherford, “I don’t want you to do anything of the sort. This was a matter of the junior partnership, nothing to do with resigning. I wouldn’t have alluded to the story at all if it weren’t for the partnership question. But as it is—”
“I prefer to resign, sir,” Andy said quickly, "I don’t think there’s anything more to be said.” Outside in the street Andy choked with anger. Never did he remember being in such a passionate fury. It had been all he could do to keep his hands off the old man’s thick throat. Old woman, listening to gossip that hadn’t even a grain of truth in it. If he wanted to, he could call in Jack to deny this ridiculous tale. But then Jack and the old man had never been on the best of terms and probably the old fool would think that Jack was merely lying to help out a friend.
He couldn’t quite understand how the tale started. If he had had a reputation for that sort of thing he would not have been surprised. But he could have counted on the fingers of one hand the number of drinks he had taken in the past month. Old fool Rutherford. Old woman. He walked quickly, the frown on his face deepening, as the fury inside him came to the surface. He felt a sudden need of Marjorie with her sweetness, her understanding, her implicit confidence and belief.
MARJORIE was on the stairs when he let himself in with his key. Her eyes opened in surprise. “Andy, darling, whatever are you doing out here at this hour? Is it a half holiday?”
“A whole one for me after this,” he said grimly, throwing his gloves down on the hall table and making for the sitting room.
“Andy!” Marjorie stood framed in the doorway, “Whatever do you mean?”
“You don’t need to tell the servants all about it,” he said, his temper gaining control of him. He pulled out a cigarette nervously and lit it. “I’ve resigned. I’m not going to work for a gossipy old fool like Rutherford.”
“Resigned! Oh, Andy.”
Andy puffed fiercely at his cigarette. “He’s got hold of some ridiculous story about the night of the accident. Seems to think I was drunk—too blind to see the blasted street car. The old fool swears he has reliable information. Said he couldn’t offer me a paitnership. I wasn’t sound.
I got out.”
Marjorie came slowly into the room, her face coloring, a look of inquiry in her eyes. “Was it true then—-?”
He wheeled and stared at her in astonishment, then a wave of anger overcame him. “Are you mad? You know perfectly well I wasn’t drunk. What I’d like to know is who started the story. If I could find out who it was, I’d wring their silly necks.”
Marjorie looked down at the tips of her slippers. Andy moved over to the mantelpiece and shoved the ornaments nervously about. A deep scowl showed on his face. “You’ll have something to talk about now, my dear, when you invite your friends in for tea. You can tell them what a drunkard your husband is.”
Something in Marjorie’s face, in the way she was sitting attracted his attention. He looked at her sharply. His eyes narrowed and his face grew white.
“Marjorie,” his voice was tensely controlled, “you didn’t by any chance let those women think I wasn’t sober the night of the accident? Brent is quite a friend of Rutherford’s. We do the Brent audit. And Hilda was here, too.”
Marjorie’s soft red mouth tightened. “I did tell them about the accident, of course. They may have thought—” “Thought. What did you say?”
He had come over from the fire place and was standing looking down into her face. It infuriated her to have him speak to her like that. Her eyes blazed as she stared back at him unflinchingly.
“I don’t have to tell you everything I I say, surely?”
“You did tell them then. I know it. You wanted to contribute some spice to the conversation. That it was my reputation being damned didn’t mean a jot to you. You’re like all the rest of them. You think nothing of slanging your husband. It’s a game. Well, I hope your’re satisfied now.”
He swung away from her towards the door. In another moment the front door slammed. She could hear the sound of his foot steps on the path; then the roar of the car starting. He was going back to town. Well, let him go. She didn’t want him bursting into the house like that, in a rage; accusing her of having spread a damaging report about him ; flying off like an angry child. She moved slowly across the room to the telep one and picked up the receiver.
^ “Grant 2356. ïs that you Hilda? Yes, didn’t you know who it was? My dear, Andy is simply raging . . . such a scene . . . oh, simply because he thinks I was gossiping about him the other day . . when I told you and Nora about the accident. I’m furious.”
A langui i voice came over the telephone.
“My dear. Don’t worry. That’s just a man’s nonsense. They all think we gossip. But if you knew all I know of the way men talk at their clubs. Oh, I’d take a very firm stand with Andy. I really would. If he goes and behaves like that what can he expect?”
“But I don’t know,” Marjorie spoke back into the receiver “I don’t think perhaps ...”
“My dear, you’re altogether too much inclined to be sweet and forgiving. Take my advice and make him apologize to you. I’ll call you up in the moi ning. I’m in a horrid rush ”
The telephone clicked and Marjorie put it down, feeling fortified by Hilda’s counsels. Hilda had been married for five years. Andy would certainly have to apologize to her before she would forgive him.
Dinner time came and went and Andy did not come in. She began to be anxious and restless. Her anger died down and she felt if only he would come home she would run into his arms and forgive him. But the hours passed and at last she gave up all hope of his coming back that night. He was probably staying with Jack Rutherford, having a gorgeous time, while she worried her self to death out here. Her cheeks brightened with fresh anger as she went upstairs to bed.
WHEN she awakened in the morning the first thing she saw was Andy’s bed. Empty. It brought everything back to her with a rush. Suppose he didn’t come back to-day; or to-morrow; or even the next day. Suppose he left her. Men left their wives on any excuse. Suppose Andy should leave her! She couldn’t live without him. She wanted him back at any cost to her pride. She would go herself and see old Rutherford.
Slowly she got out of bed, her mind made up. That was of course what she must do. See old Rutherford and explain everything to him. It would be quite easy. Old men were always more reasonable than young ones. Old Rutherford would see it all in the light of a huge joke. Her spirits lifted. It might be even amusing ana at the same time Andy couldn’t help seeing that she had made a martyr of herself for his sake.
She was so preoccupied that she scarcely tasted the breakfast that an inquisitive maid brought to her on a tray. She must look her best. A man was always so influenced by a woman’s appearance. She chose a small purple velvet hat and swung a grey fox fur across her shoulders. She paused to look at herself in the mirror before she left the room. She looked rather demure and appealing in that hat. Old Rutherford wouldn’t be able to resist her appeal for Andy.
But her elation died as the bus took her swiftly into the city. As it stopped on her signal near the offices of Rutherford and Company her heart almost stopped beating. She wished she hadn’t come. Somehow everything took on a different aspect from what it had that morning, in her bright familiar room. She felt immeasurably small and insignificant as she stepped inside the elevator that was crowded with men, one or two of whom gave her an inquiring glance. She was becoming more frightened every moment She didn’t see how she was going to explain it after all. Whatever was she going to say?
“Mr. Rutherford isn’t in yet,” crisply remarked a very efficient young person, “if you would care to wait you can sit in his office. He won’t be long.”
Her heart sank as she murmured that she would wait. That efficient young person somehow made her feel remarkably silly and ineffectual. She followed the girl into an inner office and sat down on the edge of a leather chair while the stenographer pulled the door softly shut behind her. Marjorie opened her bag and peered into the tiny round mirror inside, putting another dab of powder on her nose before she shut it with a snap.
It seemed as though he would never come. She detested waiting.
The door opened with an abruptness that startled her, and an elderly man with a small white moustache looked at her inquiringly over the tops of his glasses. She smiled and stood up bolding out her hand.
“How do you do, Mr. Rutherford. I’m Marjorie Faulkner.”
He shook hands gravely. “Marjorie Faulkner. Then you must be Andy’s wife?”
She felt all at once for some inexplicable reason that it was not going to be easy to carry off the situation. He appeared to be so tremendously solemn.
“Sit down—sit down, won’t you?” he said, waving her back into her chair.
“Mr. Rutherford, Andy told me that you had heard some report about the motor accident. It wasn’t true. He wasn’t drunk. I know perfectly well he wasn’t.” “Oh,” remarked Mr. Rutherford. He was sitting far back in his chair. Far from appearing embarrassed at her direct attack, he gave the impression of being unconcerned. His look seemed to be boring right through her. “So, it wasn’t true, you say?”
“Of course it wasn’t,” she went or in an indignant tone that she hoped would catch his attention.
“That’s curious, for I thought I had it on the best authority. Came pretty direct, too, or I wouldn’t have listened to it. I don’t usually pay any attention to that sort of story. The point is,” he explained, "that a rumor of this kind with no foundation does just as much harm as a police court conviction.”
“Oh, but you couldn’t let a little gossip over the tea cups—”
“Ah,” interrupted Mr. Rutherford, pouncing on this, “there was some talk about it, then? I understood that what I heard came from a reliable source.”
She recoiled under the direct attack. “Yes—you see—
Mr. Rutherford came to her assistance “I know how it is,” he broke in in his kindest tones, “you and Andy haven’t been on the best of terms. Probably some little quarrel the night before. You just loathed him and felt like scratching him in front of your friends.”
How willingly Marjorie could have taken his cue and done some scratching at this very moment! How she loathed him—a detestable old man; she was almost glad that Andy had left the firm!
“Why, no,” she answered, “that’s not it at all. I simply adore Andy! Whatever made you think that?”
“I’m afraid I’m a little bit dull,” went on Mr. Rutherford, “I—it’s all a bit confusing, isn’t it? But if you ‘adore Andy’ may I ask if you did or did not tell your friends he was drunk the night he had the accident? And if so, and you haven’t quarreled lately with him, why you started such a tale?”
It was sumrising how obtuse these business men were, thought Marjorie. Here she was, trying to make amends in a way that put no strain on either her own or his emotions and the old dumbell was far too dense to play up to her lead. Really she couldn’t understand how such men got any business at all!
“Why,” she said, returning to her former light manner, “it was just like this, Mr. Rutherford. Of course I didn’t for a moment think it would do Andy any harm. It wa., all more or less half-fun, you see. We, Hilda Cavendish and Nora Brent and I, you know, were discussing husbands in general, and I must have told them of Andy’s rather lame excuse for staying in town with Jack that night. I suppose they must have somehow got the imoression that I was serious. They all know that I simply worship Andy. I know they think the world of their husbands, too.”
“Getting to the meat of the matter,” summed up Mr. Rutherford dispassionately, “you told them Andy was drunk that night as your contribution to the afternoon’s husband chivvying?”
“I can’t remember just exactly word for word—. I’m sure I couldn’t have told them that. You see—Andy wasn’t drunk at all. So I couldn’t have said so, could I?” Marjorie looked up at him with an air of elation.
“That undoubtedly proves it, doesn’t it?” was the dry comment of Mr. Rutherford.
Marjorie felt a wave of relief. At last she had been able to make him understand. A sigh of satisfaction escaped her.
“Well, it’s all settled then. I knew you would only have to hear the facts and then—”
“Not quite so fast, my dear young lady,” interrupted Mr. Rutherford. He glanced at his watch. Simpkins would be coming in by appointment in a few minutes. “You forget,” he went on quickly, “that the opening may be already filled. I will see about it. You’ll have to leave me now, but just as a suggestion—there are—other and happier ways,. Mrs. Faulkner, of expressing your affection for your husband.”
He held the door open for her as he spoke and shook her by the hand as she passed through. It was all done so rapidly that Marjorie found herself in the outer office with perhaps the tiniest feeling of doubt as to the success of her interview. Powdering her nose in the corridor had the effect of restoring some of her self-confidence.
Thank Heavens it was all over. It was like being released from a trap. She took a long breath that went through her whole body as she emerged on to the street.
She looked forward to finding Andy at home when she got back and telling the poor dear to cheer up, that she had fixed up everything now, and in a few years he would be running the Rutherford firm. Really, men after al) were rather slow. It took women to put through business with promptness.
AS SHF came into the house she smelt tobacco smoke. Andy had come home. She felt like singing as she ran up stairs. He was standing in the door of his room and she noticed that he was not looking any more cheerful than the day before.
‘Hello old glum face,” she cried, “you don’t need to look so down at heels any more. I’ve fixed everything up. You’re going to be junior partner. At least I’m pretty sure you are. I saw Mr. Rutherford and explained everything. I took the blame for it all,” she admitted generously.
Why didn’t he look pleased at that? Instead he just stood staring at her without the glimmer of an expression on his face.
“Well, don’t you think you might thank me for fixing it up for you?” she asked, still puzzled at his silence and lack of appreciation. “It wasn’t very much fun. Mr. Rutherford isn’t very quick in the pick-up.”
“Do you mean to tell me you saw Rutherford? What a waste of his time. Jack explained it all yesterday, and I accepted his offer last night.”
She couldn’t believe it. Hot color played over her face.
“Andy!—the old beast—he never told me a word of it. If it was all settled— why didn’t he say so—Oh, then, he was just playing with me—trying to make me see—oh!”
“He was rather annoyed you know. Probably wanted to let you see how it struck others.”
She was ashamed to look at him. Suddenly she was growing smaller and smaller before his very eyes. An overwhelming loathing for the small person in the pretty purple hat with the gray fur over her arm overcame her. It was like wanting to step on a worm and finding that the worm was yourself. Again the color rushed back into her face. “That old dumbell,” she had actually thought of him.
But there was something—she could do. She went slowly over to the telephone. “Grant 2356,” a quiet voice ordered.
Irritably Andy wished she would leave the Cavendishes alone for a while. He started for the telephone to stop her.
“Oh, is that you Hilda? I just wanted to ring you up and tell you that of course it wasn’t true what I said the other day ...”
Roughly she felt herself seized. The telephone fell to the floor. For a moment she experienced an actual physical fear, a terror that gripped her and numbed her till she heard: “You adorable little fool! Do you want that chatterbox to carry the gossip all round town with her to-morrow, besides wearing out the telephone to-night?”
“I thought—I meant to make up for starting it all.” With both arms clasped round bis neck, she pleaded. “You don’t despise me then?”
“It doesn’t seem as if I did.” With one hard he drew her worried face up and looked amusedly into her eyes. “You know what husbands are.”