SECURITY

To be safe, to feel money-|armed against "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”—that was what Lena wanted above all else in life, and that was what she demanded of marriage until her heart told her that she couldnt pay the price.

BEATRICE REDPATH July 15 1926

SECURITY

To be safe, to feel money-|armed against "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”—that was what Lena wanted above all else in life, and that was what she demanded of marriage until her heart told her that she couldnt pay the price.

BEATRICE REDPATH July 15 1926

SECURITY

To be safe, to feel money-|armed against "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”—that was what Lena wanted above all else in life, and that was what she demanded of marriage until her heart told her that she couldnt pay the price.

BEATRICE REDPATH

SHE would stare and stare into the mirror.It was not because she took any particular satisfaction in what she saw there, though it well might have been. Bright glancing eyes; red lips; white even teeth.

There was a freshness in her small young face that reminded you of a rose bud on a June morning, the dew sparkling upon it. She could find nothing to indicate that one of these days she might be sick and unable to work.

The girls in the office were forever talking among themselves of girls suddenly obliged to leave work because they were sick; girls with no relations; no one to fall back upon.

“If you’ve no relations, no money saved up, what’s to become of you if you fall sick?” The question always made some of the clear color recede from Lena’s face; put a haunted look into her bright eyes.

“What’s to become of you?” She could find no answer to the question. No one could. They could cite instances, but no one could ever tell what became of these unfortunates.

“If a girl’s alone in the world she should marry the first man who asks her. She’s a fool if she doesn’t.”

There was wisdom in that remark. Just as foolish for a drowning man to reject a passing spar, as a girl with no relations not to marry the first man who asked her. Frequently Lena turned the question over in her mind. Suppose the only man there was any likelihood of asking you should be a man for whom you didn’t care: someone for whom you could care might appear later on; could you take the risk? Could you wait until this other should arrive? She thought she could. But always these currents were moving vaguely and mistily through her mind, fretting her; stirring up fears.

Charlie was the only man she thought of as being in love with her. And he was a man she would never have considered marrying if it hadn’t been for the unrest and uneasiness tormenting her. He made her laugh; they had fun together; he was so cheery and casual. He seemed to think life was nothing but a carnival. He wore gay ties, and the checks or stripes in his suits were too apparent. She judged him shallow; incapable of much feeling. She was waiting for someone dark and slim, with a quiet manner that held back a wealth of emotion; Charlie with his round face and constant laugh did not meet her requirements.

She caught cold one day in the spring, when the streets ran like rivers, and the girls in the office cried out at the sight of her: “You’re ill!” “You look ghastly!” “You’ll be sick the first thing. Then what will you do?”

She hurried home to the apartment she shared with another girl, to stare and stare in the mirror. There were blue smudges beneath her eyes; the color was drained from her cheeks; she was going to be sick; panic laid hold on her. That evening, when Charlie came to see her, she was wistful and pale and very sweet.

“You need someone to take care of you,” Charlie exclaimed, his eyes filled with a warm light. “You’re too little and soft and weak to be fighting your way alone. You’re not the kind to be earning your living. You should be tucked safely away in a nice little house, with a man to look out for you. And I want to be the man.”

He filled the tiny room; he was so substantial; so solid and secure. Wasn’t he offering her exactly what she wanted? She almost forgot the suits, his round face and constant laugh. He was so tender beneath his gaiety. It didn’t seem any hardship to allow him to protect her; to care for her; to cherish her. And in return she would give him her soft red lips and the bright glances from her eyes.

“We’ll be married right away and I’ll take you on a trip so that you can shake off that cold. It’s a nasty one. What’s the sense of waiting? It isn’t as though either of us had relations to bother about. No one to worry us; no one to hand us out advice.”

It was delicious to feel wrapped around with that warm, protecting security. She had never known what it was to feel safe before. It was worth everything. What if she didn’t care as she might have cared for someone else? She was getting what she wanted.

It was only towards the end of the honeymoon that she made a discovery.

“We must be trottin’ back,” remarked Charlie over the grapefruit at breakfast in their hotel. He pretended to turn his pockets inside out with what she might have considered a funny little gesture. “See that. I’ll have to hustle around and get some of the old coin together again.” She laid down her spoon, amazement written all over her face. “You can write a cheque, can’t you?”

He laughed joyously, her remark appearing to amuse him hugely. “Oh, I can write it all right,” and his eyes twinkled merrily.

“Haven’t you any investments or bonds?”

“You didn’t think you were marrying Rockefeller, did you?”

Her eyes were wide and frightened; “But I thought every man had investments. What have you been doing with your money all this time?”

Charlie didn’t resent her question. He only smiled at her over his coffee cup. “I’ve been reckless, I suppose. There’s always some way of getting rid of the old coin. I like to take people out and give them a good time. And then I lend money and sometimes the poor devils can’t pay it back. Something or other is always cropping up. I should have saved. But then I didn’t suspect I was going to get a little thing like you to spend it on.’

She was appalled. Then she was no safer than she had been. She looked into his round, good-humored face with a bitter, bitter reproach, of which he was blissfully unaware. She couldn’t forgive him for having unwittingly deceived her. “You had no business to marry; you should have waited. You should have told me you had nothing.”

He was still merely amused. “I suspect I can make enough to keep a little bit of a thing like you.

I’m getting on. You won’t have to do without.

You just tell me what you want and I will see that you get it as long as it isn’t the Government House you’re asking for.”

It brought her no comfort. There was no certainty in a grain broker’s business. The money he made one day, he might lose the next; and if it weren’t lost, it would slip through his fingers. She might have known he was the casually generous kind; she had seen it already; he wanted to buy everything in sight for her.

“We must save,” she said, a clear light of determination in her eyes. “We must begin at once.”

“That’s the way to talk,” he cried admiringly, “you’re not one of those little golddiggers who want a man for just what they can get out of him. We’ll save. But you’ll have to let me buy you some pretty things now and then.”

'T'HEY hadn’t been home more than a week when he drove up one evening in a taxi and a huge cumbersome parcel was deposited in the hall of the small furnished house they had taken. Charlie’s face was radiant as he tore at the paper wrappings with energetic fingers.

A tall mirror emerged. “There,” he said, standing back and surveying it with deep satisfaction, “it cost a pretty penny but I’ll say it’s worth it. Stand in front of it; then I’ll have two of you. That’s worth the price.”

She could see at a glance what it must have cost. She could have screamed; she could have beaten her hands together; she could have stamped on the floor.

“We have no money for presents,” she cried, “don’t you see how foolish it is. How are we ever going to save if you go on in this absurd fashion? Mirrors, when we haven’t a cent of capital. You haven’t even life insurance.”

Charlie was staggered. He looked from her to the mirror and back again to her pretty flushed face in consternation. He laid a hand fondly on the dull gilt frame. “I thought you’d like to hang it up over your dressing table. The one there isn’t half good enough!” There wag anger in her eyes; scorn on her red lips. “I want others things before mirrors. I’d do without anything so I could know there was money in the bank.” Charlie tried to appease her, carrying the mirror up to her room, hanging it on the wall, while she followed him, protesting almost hysterically against his wastefulness.

But don’t you see,” he said soothingly, between strokes of the hammer, as he drove a nail into the wall, “half the world is in the same position as we are—”

Lena wouldn’t listen; her feet tapped the floor; her eyes threatened him with tears should he persist in his argument. “But don’t you see,” he repeated so anxious to calm her fears, “that half the world-r-”

She wouldn’t let him finish. She was so impatient, so eager to speak what was in her mind. The words came tumbling in a quick torrent. “We’ve no one behind us,” she cried, flinging her arms wide in a dramatic gesture.

Look at the Marryats, the Parks, the Hendersons, they all have someone.”

He searched his mind for something further to reassure her. He remembered some statistics he had read lately.

Seventy-five per cent, of the people in the world are only two weeks ahead of the bailiff.”

That drove her frantic; it appalled her; it smote the color from her cheeks. What a world—what a world. Her voice changed; became pitiful. “It isn’t as though I wanted so much. It’s not much to ask for, is it? I don’t want a splendid house, or servants, or jewels, or any of the things most women want. I only want to feel safe. That’s all.”

Charlie’s round face was troubled; all his joy in the mirror vanished. To him she looked small, soft, and so weak; it was terrible that he couldn’t give her what she wanted.

I’ll save,” he cried eagerly, “I’ll begin right away. To-morrow. Suppose we buy one of those kid’s tin banks. I ve always lots of change in my pockets. I could be dropping it in. You’ve no idea, they say, how quickly it mounts up. Just a nickel now and then—”

“I’ll get one,” she said, her mouth a red determined line. But a week after the tin bank had been installed on the mantelpiece in the living room, Charlie drove home with her one night in a taxi and found no change in his pockets. “Why, there’s the tin bank,” he cried brightening. “I’ll get a hammer and burst it open.”

She watched him, as he did so, with smouldering eyes. ‘‘Cheerio,’’ and he gathered up the quick stream of silver that flowed out on the table, “that was a great little idea of yours to keep money handy. You didn’t know you had a safe breaker in the house. When the kids come along they’ll have to hide their tin banks or I’ll be after them.”

Her mouth twisted: did he really imagine for a moment that she would ever bring children into the world while existence was so precarious? Never, no, never! In that moment she almost hated him.

T ENA sat with an accident insurance folder laid out

' before her, puzzling over it, her mouth puckered much like a child’s on the edge of tears. She couldn’t make it out and Charlie didn’t seem to want to help her. His attitude was one of indifference.

“In event of total or permanent disability,” she read aloud, the words hideous on her fresh lips, “no premiums payable during disability.” She lifted her head to look at him as he puffed away at his pipe, weaving smoke rings that floated lightly to the ceiling. “We could manage that, couldn’t we?”

He shook his head. “Scarcely yet awhile.”

She sighed deeply. For months and months she had been saving and now she felt he was humoring her by merely listening. He was more pre-occupied with the smoke rings than with her words. The insurance policy was of no importance to him. It would be even like him, she thought, fiercely exasperated, to suggest that they abandon the idea of the policy and buy something for the house.

But Charlie at that moment was not thinking of buying anything. He was looking at her through the melting smoke rings. Instead of her soft pink face, he was seeing himself stretched out, maimed, mangled, scarred. Permanent disability. He shivered.

He got up and went to the window. The sash was up and he could see a handful of stars and a broken bit of moon over the roofs. He took a long breath and felt better. Permanent disability! A chill crept over his skin, trickling down his spine. Had Lena no feeling whatever? Over and over again she could unconcernedly drag these images out of her mind, holding them up before him. “If you died to-morrow,” was one of her favorite remarks,

‘ there would be nothing at all.” Lately she hadn’t even allowed him death. Blinded, maimed, scarred, mangled, these were the pictures her words were forever painting. It took all his store of good spirits to combat her anxieties.

He turned back into the room with its flamboyant wall paper, so obviously that of a rented house. She wouldn’t allow him to buy anything to make their surroundings more pleasant. She must have every penny put straight into the bank. He had always wanted to save; meant to do so; but her feverish hoarding of every cent was making saving odious to him.

Her bright satiny head was bent over the folder. She was doing sums on her fingers, calculating half aloud. A queer expression crossed his fresh-colored face as he stood, hands in his pockets, watching her.

“I believe,” he said, with a gravity unusual to him, “you’d sell your soul for this security you’re forever talking about. If a rich man should come along I believe you’d go with him.”

She returned his look, her mouth tightening. “I believe I would,” she responded with staggering coolness, “I really believe I would.”

He nodded at that and sat down. She was quite candid ; it was as well to know these things. He realized starkly just why she had married him. It didn’t bring any particular bitterness into his mind; he only felt desperately sorry for her. She hadn’t got what she had married for; he was only a source of disappointment to her. He did not see how it could ever be otherwise.

Already she had pushed aside their last words as though they were vapor. It was not in the least likely that any rich man would come along and offer her security. What was likely was something different; this, for instance: “Oh, Charlie, suppose your business should fail. Whatever would we do then?”

He had trained himself to an inexhaustible patience. “It’s a good little business. It will carry along. It’s not keeping me awake at nights.”

“But you never can tell. Businesses fail all the time. And we’ve no capital, scarcely any money in the bank; no one to help us.”

He gave an uneasy smile. It was only a mask slipped over his face to hide the ache that was behind. “I’m not the Royal Bank, of course, but I’m not looking for failure. I’m not expecting it. The business is growing. Five years from now 111 have money to invest; a house of our own. That will satisfy you, won’t it?”

But the threat of five years blotted all comfort from that remark. She wasn’t looking as far ahead as that; it was to-day she was thinking of, to-morrow, any day.

“It’s so little to ask for,” she whispered, “so little.”

Charlie stirred restlessly. He felt himself to be a brute, a monster. He was as tormented as she herself, but he forced a smile. “Why worry? Can’t we enjoy ourselves? Can’t we take what comes and make the most of it? Suppose we go on a trip up the river. It’s splendid these nights with a full moon. OT what do you say to a play and supper afterwards at a restaurant? Wouldn’t you like that?” He was pleading with her, imploring her. “Let’s go sky-larking tomorrow.”

Her lips quivered; she was on the verge of tears. He could talk of trips on the river, of supper parties. Skylarking! Her lips curled.

“I can’t understand you,” she cried bitterly. “How can you be happy? We haven’t even the foundations for happiness.”

“I can’t help it,” his tone was an apology. “I can’t seem to help enjoying things.” His glance wandered back to the open window, to that silver scrap of moon over the roofs, that sprinkling of stars. It filled his mind with suggestions of things that were pleasant; it took him away from that hot room. He remembered a dancing pavilion he had taken her to, before they were married. Light feet; laughter; bobbing colored lights; music; song. Outside this little room he had a swift impression that all the world was gay; everyone was laughing; life was a revelry. Laughter, joy and gladness; to take his chance of facing whatever came along was all the security he needed.

She looked at him with grave eyes and wondered why she had married him. He was nothing but a harlequin. Why—why—why? He was shallow, incapable of any depth of feeling, incapable of anything except catching at the bright moments as they passed. Casual, cheerful, indifferent. It was clear to her that they could never understand one another.

CYRIL MARKS was one of Charlie’s wide circle of friends. Charlie was forever producing someone of whom Lena had never even heard, with whom he appeared to be on intimate terms. He brought Marks up to her one evening at a cabaret to which he had insisted on taking her.

“Marks is an old friend of mine,” he explained, beaming on the slim, dark man beside him, “he used to be a great little dancer at one time. I guess he hasn't forgotten.” Marks hadn’t forgotten. He steered Lena out across the shining floor with a sureness which was delightful. The room was crowded. Girls, mere bright wisps of chiffon, floated tirelessly about, clasped by strong male arms. The music throbbed, discordantly pleasing, rasping notes rising to a high pitch of emotional sound. Their feet moved in perfect rhythm. They passed Charlie sitting at his little white table, grinning cheerfully at them, delighted that he had been able to produce a partner for Lena who proved so satisfactory.

“And to think of old Charlie having something like you hidden away. Who ever would have imagined it?”

Lena laughed softly, glancing up at him with bright eyes. Here was the man for whom she should have waited, a man who would make any woman feel secure and happy. She liked his thin dark face, his luminous brown eyes. He would be capable of intense feeling; he wasn’t shallow like Charlie.

When he wasn’t whispering flattery he was talking of his business, his last slice of good luck. “Life’s been good to me,” he said in a tone of gratification, “I’ve been lucky. I’m what you might call rich, but I intend to be richer before I’m through. There’s no end to my ambition.”

Yes, here indeed was the man she should have married. She couldn’t help telling him her own fears and he listened sympathetically. “Poor old Charlie. He’s a good sort, but he’s got no foresight. A woman could never feel safe with him. His hand’s forever in his pocket. He doesn’t know when to refuse.”

She sighed and he drew her closer. “Poor little woman, it’s hard to be married to a man of that sort. Now if you were married to me—”

Her heart fluttered; she looked up at him with a shy soft smile on her lips.

It became amusing to them both, this flirtation carried on right under Charlie’s eyes. Marks thought it a tremendous joke. It was what you might have expected of Charlie. Blind as a bat where his own interests were concerned; didn’t have sense enough even to hold his wife.

They didn’t have to meet secretly, to „ plot or to plan. It was Charlie who arranged the meetings. “I’ll get Cyril and we’ll go to a show to-night,” he would frequently say, “or shall it be a cabaret this time?”

Lena put Charlie’s attitude down to indifference, to his terrible casualness, to his cheerful unconcern. Would it matter to him if he knew how Cyril was making love to her? She didn’t think it would. Nothing vital ever mattered to him; he seemed to her at times like a child blowing bubbles—a child catching at feathers in the air.

And Charlie lived on in a fool’s paradise. He couldn’t be grateful enough to Cyril Marks for bringing a spice of fun into Lena’s life. She didn’t torment herself any more; she didn’t worry all the time; she was indifferent as to how he spent his money. “It was just fun she wanted,” he told himself, “someone to make her laugh.”

He squandered his money foolishly, wantonly, paying for elaborate suppers which Cyril Marks usually ordered. Lena never demurred.

“What shall it be to-night?” Cyril Marks inquired on one of these occasions. “Suppose we say oysters to begin with. The mushrooms sound good. And perhaps a sweet afterwards;” he scribbled hard on the order pad while Lena admired the proficient way he did it; ‘‘there’s nothing good enough for Madame, is there, Charlie?” he went on, smiling at her from across the table. Lena didn’t notice that it was Charlie who paid the bill.

They had uproarious times together, the three of them, and Charlie never guessed, never surmised. Everyone was happy.

And then came that for which Lena had waited half fearfully. “I’ve cleaned up close on a hundred thousand lately,” Cyril Marks murmured above her head one evening as they danced, “it’s about time we settled things.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, shrinking from the starkness of words, knowing quite well what he meant.

“You know. I’m ready whenever you are. You only have to say the word.”

“But what—but what about Charlie?”

“Oh, Charlie. He’ll be the same cheerful Charlie twelve hours after you’ve left him. You’ll see. He has as much feeling as a shell fish. There’s nothing to him. Haven’t you always said so? He won’t break his heart.”

She hung back, frightened before such a definite step. She liked things as they were; she saw no reason to make any change just yet.

“Do you think I’m satisfied to go on like this? Do you think any man would be? I’m not made of wood. You’ve got to come away with me.”

She didn’t know why she hesitated, for she realized that even from the beginning she had absolutely made up her mind. Couldn’t he give her what she wanted? Wasn’t it her only chance? Wouldn’t she love almost any man with whom she could feel secure? If she hadn’t fallen in love yet with Cyril Marks it was only because she hadn’t let herself go. She knew he was the man for her.

“What do you think?” he was urging her; “what do you expect? Do you suppose I’m content to make love to you right under Charlie’s nose? It’s more or nothing. You’ve got to decide.”

More or nothing. The old dread clutched her; the old terror she had always known. She clung to him. “Whatever you say,” she whispered.

CHARLIE stood on the curb, jingling some money in his pockets, trying to decide whether it should be sweets or some of those dewy pink roses that reminded him always so much of Lena. Business had been good and he wanted to celebrate. To-night they would have a party, the three of them. He smiled with anticipation.

He noticed the big yellow taxi come down the street and draw up in front of a tobacconist’s across the road. A man got out and darted into the store. It was Cyril, and he hailed him cheerfully. But Cyril did not appear to hear. In another moment he came out, a parcel under his arm and jumped into the waiting cab. Queer, Charlie thought, for he was sure Cyril had seen him. Why had he pretended not to?

He stood idly on the edge of the sidewalk watching the motor start slowly down the street. It was piled with suitcases. His eyes followed it. And then through the square window at the back he caught a glimpse of a feather and a familiar profile.

For one instant he stood immovable. “If a rich man should come along I believe you would go with him.” “I believe I would.”

It was instantaneous. His casual, cheerful demeanor dropped from him. Flame; fury; ungovernable rage. His woman being stolen from him. He sprang forward into the thick of the traffic, his eyes on that moving yellow cab.

Motors, trucks, buses, sprang up before him, blocking him, threatening him, barricading him. Motor horns screamed in his ears; bells beat out a warning. He paid no attention to them. A policeman shouted as he slipped aside from a passing wheel. Dodging, twisting, he kept his eyes always on that yellow car ahead.

He caught up with it; with a spring he was on the running board, his hands grasping at the partly lowered window, his face working horribly. He looked like a madman; he terrified them both. But it was stark surprise as well as terror that sprang up in Lena’s face.

Cyril Marks leaned across her. With a quick thrust through the window his fist caught Charlie full on the chest, throwing him backwards under the wheels of an oncoming motor.

Lena shrieked. Her body shook as though something volcanic had taken place. “I—you—we’ve killed him!” she sobbed, shuddering into the corner, her face white and quivering.

Scream of whistles; wheels rasping; people crowding forward; shouts and loud cries. A policeman held high a white-gloved hand, arresting that human avalanche descending upon the inert figure under the wheels.

Lena tugged desperately at the door. “Let me out—let me out,” she sobbed.

Cyril Marks caught her arm in a savage grasp. “You damned little fool. Sit still, can’t you? Go ahead!” he shouted to the startled driver. “Drive like the very devil!”

It was impossible to obey that order, for all traffic was at a standstill. Lena slipped out of the motor.

IT WAS hours and hours before Lena was allowed to see him. Finally a stiffly starched nurse led her along an endless corridor and opened a door. Lena stepped back, thinking it the wrong room. That white face on the pillow was never Charlie.

He opened his eyes. “Whatever are you doing here?” his voice was the weakest whisper. It scarcely reached her. “Where’s Marks?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’re going away with him?”

She shook her head.

“But you must.” He struggled to raise himself on one elbow while sweat stood out on his face. “You’ve got to go now. There’s nothing else for it.”

He fell slowly back on his pillows, exhausted by the effort of words. She was white and small and quiet, looking at him from across the room. He spoke to her with his eyes shut. “I can’t look out for you. Marks can. It’s what you were always afraid of. Now it’s come. You go with Marks.”

She didn’t stir, and at length he opened his eyes again and saw her still standing there, a white ghost of herself. He tried to manage a smile. There was the faintest imaginable glimmer of the old Charlie. “Don’t worry about me, if that’s it. I’ll wriggle in out of the wet. You run along with Marks. He’ll look out for you. You’d best be trottin’ now. He’ll give you that blessed old security you’re always hankering for.”

Again she shook her head. She had brought him to this; it was all her fault. She wasn’t thinking of herself as she said: “I’ll get my old job back again for a while. We’ll manage.”

IT WAS a warm evening in early spring.

Charlie was able now to get around the house in a wheel chair. They had promised him that in a couple of weeks he could get back to work. He had come as far as the veranda, to wait for Lena to come home.

Footsteps came slowly shuffling along the pavement. It was old Wilks who lived next door. Seeing Charlie he stopped and started up the path towards him.

“All alone, are you? Isn’t she home yet?”

“Not yet.”

The old man sat down on the steps with a sigh. The path was bordered with low bushes on which little pink buds were bursting forth. It was the beginning of spring.

Charlie pulled out his watch and held it slant-wise to catch the moonlight. Half past eight! She was never as late as this. Mr. Wilks had brought to the surface all the fear Charlie had been stifling.

Charlie hadn’t seen very much of Lena these last months. She was away all day at the office, and in the evenings she was usually tired and went to bed early. It was as well that it was that way. He had a dim foreboding that she was only waiting until he was able to get about. Then she would go away with Marks. That thought intensified with every moment that went by. They had never spoken of what had happened. Cyril was never mentioned between them.

“I wonder why she doesn’t come home,” Mr. Wilks went on. peering down the long street painted with moonlight and shadow. “Is she often as late as this?" “No.”

The old man looked up at him sharply. “You’re not nervous, are you? You're not afraid something's happened to her?" “I’m sure she’s safe.”

A tender young moon was slipping up the sky; a tree at the end of the veranda was bursting into blossom. “She’s a bit late, isn’t she?” observed Mr. Wilks.

“She’s such a bit of a thing," Mr. Wilks laughed softly, “the kind you’d like to keep safely at home. It don’t seem right, her out working for a living. I dare say it won’t be for much longer. What does the doctor say? Won’t you soon be getting around?”

“Yes, very soon.”

He was smothering, choking. He wished Mr. Wilks would go. Apparently his thought flashed to the old man, for he got slowly to his feet.

“Well, I’ll be getting along. I hope she comes home soon.” He shuffled softly down the path. “You never know—a bit of a thing like her,” he murmured as he went, slowly shaking his head.

Charlie sat motionless. It had come— it had come. Well, hadn’t he been expecting it? Hadn’t he known? Just as soon as she felt? herself free to go—and now she was free. The spring night pressed all around him, but he noticed nothing.

Quick feet this time; a rush; a laugh. She was standing before him.

“Did you think I was never coming? I’m so late. A girl at the office cut her hand badly. I took her home and of course I missed my bus.”

He couldn’t speak. The lump in his throat was strangling him.

“What’s the matter? Did you think I was hurt?”

He shook his head.

“Then what frightened you? I can see you’ve been frightened. Your hand,” and she touched it, “it’s as cold as a stone.” “I thought you had gone away.”

“Gone! Where?”

•‘With Cyril Marks.”

“Why—why—” she began, surprise showing in her face.

“You needn’t feel tied,” he insisted valiantly, “I’ll be getting about soon now.” He almost succeeded in keeping all emotion out of his voice, but his heart was pounding, pounding.

“I know,” she said, her mouth twisting, “I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m still wanting that security I was always begging for. Why, there’s no such thing, really. You see, it was because I was only thinking of myself. Now there are other things—”

Her white scarf floated behind her with the effect of wings. The glimmer of her white face in the dusk was mysterious and lovely. She took a step nearer to him and the pale spring moonlight was all about her. Charlie blinked as he looked at her. This was something outside his experience, but even Charlie knew love when he met it face to face.