PURE inspiration was not for Jacqueline. Her ideas, even such brilliant, irresistible ones as this, developed more naturally. They just grew, bit by bit, out of circumstances. So, when Payne Trenchard drove blithely into Montreal to arrange the final details of his ‘stupid bachelor dinner’ and left her, all alone, to burn up a past in her boudoir fireplace, letters from darling boys, pictures of her dearest lovers, mementoes of this moon light night and that moonlight night, he created circumstances almost certain to start her idea mechanism working full speed. Payne said, himself, that she got into trouble every time he turned his back. Well, why did he turn it? Whatever happened was going to be his fault.
Jacqueline’s idea was not ready yet. It was sort of simmering. She curled up on the hearth rug, in the midst of her precious debris, in a pale pink peignoir which touched, charmingly, here and there, the long delicate area of her delightful twenty-two year oldness. Pink heels to match, escaped a pair of black silk mules with big silver pom poms. Her hair, dark copper, clung trimly to her high-held head. A package of cigarettes and a box of matches were at hand to assist her in the sad rite of destruction. “It’s no fun to burn up a past,” she murmured, “—if it is a past.”
Jacqueline held a letter in her hand a moment and then, regretful but grim and with pressed together lips, she struck a match, lighted the paper and dropped it into the fireplace. The last decipherable thing to turn crisp and black was: “Yours from ashes to ashes-—Tommy.”
The next was harder. It was a picture, and Jacqueline put the match of goodbye to it with very dim eyes. As the curling flame reached for the gay smiling face, an unintentional little sob came up in her throat. She could not stand it. She blew' out the flame, kissed the gay, smiling face, and sure that it had cooled, pressed the picture to her bosom. So one young man has not lived in vain. Jacqueline’s eyes were gray and misty and until someone puts a rose light in a shell of ivory there will be nothing to describe her coloring. In fact, that young man whose picture she caressed has had a very full life.
She rose, pensive, and stood in a French window which opened upon her boudoir balcony. Far down at the end of the rolling slopes of lawn which were part of her dad’s domain, a September moon climbed dripping out of Lake St. Louis. Vague levels of shadow to the right would, in the day time, be those sweeps of brown field, white fences, hedges, hidden but palatial manor houses, stables, paddocks which in that belt along the Lake Shore Road, marked the country seats of the mighty.
IF, AT that moment, Jacqueline had not been thinking of the gay, smiling face, she might have thought of the hundreds of valuable acres, the stables full of blood horses, the yacht in the Bay, the motors, the huge stone pile of Harner House with its seventeen suites and thirty-four tiled bathrooms to all of which she was sole and direct heiress. She was a Canadian princess, different from other princesses only in that she was richer, prettier, had younger, healthier, redder blood, and her castle was more sanitary and in better taste. She was the daughter of J. J. (Jack) Harner, who had long possessed every material thing a man could want, but who, if you asked him what he had, would say: “I have a daughter. Have you seen her?”
So, almost everybody called him Big Jack Harner and Jacqueline, Little Jack Harner, and since her mother was a memory, the two Jacks when they weren’t in Europe, Florida, California, at the Montesquien in Montreal, or on the high seas, lived among themselves, adoring and adored.
Of course, Payne Trenchard had been about the place ever since a day in his eighteenth year when he’d lumbered across the fields to see what these parvenu Harners were like and had had a highball and a pipe with Jacqueline’s father. Little Jack was nine then, and had stuck out her tongue at the big clumsy boy in the slouchy riding breeches.
She felt like doing it now. That was her attitude toward her fiancé. It was only that he’d appointed himself her assistant guardian for the last thirteen years, always at her heels, teaching her to ride to hounds, swim the crawl, take a racing sloop around the buoy, smoke (since she would do it) and drink (since her sort of girl couldn’t avoid it), and letting her practice flirting on him —it was only for all these things that she tolerated his dictatorial, hard headed bullying at all. Payne Trenchard always turned up at the wrong moment to prevent her driving to Quebec from a dance at two a.m., with a perfectly nice man, or to keep her from joining, incognito, the chorus of a New York revue.
Consequently, when his mumbled incoherencies one evening took the turn that she’d have to be married some day to some man: ‘If you don’t like me after a few weeks, you can divorce me—and all that,’ it occurred to her that he might be less alert at spoiling her fun as a husband than otherwise. Also, Big Jack had told her once that if she was ever asked by young Trenchard and refused, he’d disown her. So she said: “All right, Payne darling. Now what do we do? Kiss?”
“Yes,” Payne had said huskily. Of course, there was no great thrill in kissing Payne. She’d been doing it off and on for thirteen years, particularly when she thought it would embarrass him. But never quite—like this.
Little Jack Harner turned away from the late September night, and came back into her boudoir. Little lights and fades in her gray eyes were the almost visible marking of her mind toward her brilliant idea. “His bachelor dinner indeed,” she muttered. “His wedding is a mere detail, but his bachelor dinner—Well, if he knew what I was thinking—”
Piles of letters, pictures, dance programmes, menus, books, crumbling flowers, men’s handkerchiefs, remained on the hearth rug. They were the last and dearest. She couldn’t burn them. She hadn’t the heart. Not those three. She sat down again, toying with this and that, lighted a cigarette and squinted through the smoke. “It would be just like burning their darling selves,” she whispered.
A line in a letter caught her eye and made her remember nights on the deck of a steamer in the Adriatic with Valley Jamieson. Valley was a lover any girl would regret; older than the rest, dark and adventurous and at home in the world. So, for two days on the deck of that steamer she and Valley Jamieson had loved each other with their eyes, and then otherwise, until at Adrianople she was ready to slip down the gangplank and run away with him. To Odessa, probably. But it was raining when they reached Adrianople, and the venture was postponed to Salonica. And at Salonica it was too hot.
Jacqueline had recovered from the episode rather quickly, during the following winter in New York. Peter helped her. She had to take care of Peter. One of the other piles of letters was Peter’s, and the letters in that pile were poems, or just as good. Peter was a half mad young dramatist, far too great a genius to be successful or to be able to take care of himself. He couldn’t ever get his clothes on straight and someone had to retie his neckties and give him sympathy. He wouldn’t have refused a little subsidy either, being quite above money, his or anyone else’s. It had seemed no more than her duty to Little Jack Harner to let Peter worship her with his fevered eyes, to lend him half her months’ allowance, buy him lunches at smart restaurants, and to give him two kisses a week. The only practical thing Peter ever did was to take them both on Monday.
The third pile of letters was smaller and less important. Jacqueline had no real reason to keep Jeff Bone’s letters at all. Yet she’d kept them. Possibly he was her ‘if man,’ the one thoroughly impossible fellow a woman is said to treasure so that she may always wonder what life would have been like—if.
Jefferson Bone was just a plain Alberta oil driller, except that he could sink more pipe per day with a diamond drill than any other two outfits in the state. Big Jack Harner sent him to Ecuador to open up some oil land there and later on interrupted a cruise to California in the yacht to drop down and look things over.
Jacqueline never got over her first impression of Jeff Bone coming aboard in his boots. She’d looked at a lone mountain and she’d seen a giant pine tree on the shore of a small lake.
He was six feet four and red brown all over, at least his face and neck and hands, and he had short brown hair and serene eyes which could have out-stared the devil.
Later on, they had gone into the interior to see a well brought in. On the last trek, Jeff Bone carried her across a mountain stream. He didn’t talk much, and when he did she felt uncomfortable and thrilled. He said: “People are about like oil drillin’. You got to go way down deep and explode a lot of dynamite before you know what’s there.” On that principle, he proceeded to dynamite Little Jack Harner. In the tense moment when they stood together waiting the underground rumble which would either bring a rush of oil sand or pronounce a dry hole, he asked her to marry him. He said they could do it in Guayaquil on the way back. Jacqueline had been almost frightened into saying yes, and she never afterward could quite forget Jeff Bone.
It was no more than natural, alone in her boudoir listening to the whispers of the dear ghosts of her delightful past, that Jacqueline should be uneasy and wish for Payne. Vaguely, she felt herself getting into trouble. Payne ought to be there. “It’s more important than a bachelor dinner,” she muttered. Suddenly she hated the whole institution of bachelor dinners. They made her mad. “Why shouldn’t a girl-—if a man does?” she demanded. “Why shouldn’t I have a bachelor dinner?”
Jacqueline’s idea had arrived, full grown, complete, irrevocable. She glowed with it. She adored it. She would give a bachelor dinner the same night Payne his. The practical difficulties evaporated in the rosy mist of inspiration. Telegrams — that was how. She had three days and a man could come a long way in three days. That is, he could if he wanted to. Maybe they wouldn’t want to. But she thought they would.
When they received her telegrams, her sort of telegrams, they probably would.
Another misgiving also was swept aside. “It’s no more than fair to Payne,” she decided. “How can Payne really be sure I love him unless I see the others again? It might be Peter I want to marry, for all Payne knows.” She hopped up from the hearth rug to her desk chair and dashed off a trial telegram with a pink quill pen. She read it over several times. Then she read it aloud to see how it would sound if anyone were to read it aloud. “Hate to miss marrying you, Valley. Stop. Dine with me here Thursday. Stop. Love and Kisses-—Jacqueline.” It sounded a little formal; so she wrote in a “darling” after the Valley.
A desperately busy hour followed, Jacqueline being practical, Jacqueline giving concern to such definite things as people’s addresses. No good sending telegrams unless you knew where to send them. Where on earth would Valley be? And Jeff Bone? But she wasn’t going to ask him really. It would be silly. He might not even remember her. And if he did come, he’d probably appear in boots and a flannel shirt. The only thing she knew positively about Jeff Bone was the name of an oil company, the West Coast Producing Company. So she wrote a wire to Mr. Jefferson Bone, West Coast Producing Company, San Francisco, and she said in it: “Must be married on Friday. Stop. Come to dinner Thursday —Miss Jacqueline Harner.”
Peter’s address, seventeen West Eleventh Street, she knew, of course, and she took a chance, finally, on reaching Valley Jamieson through the Racquet Club. “There,” she said proudly, folding up the three slips and ringing for the maid. She felt very matter of fact and business like with her telegrams. ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way,’ was what her father always said. He’d be proud of her. “Harriet? Is that you? Here are some telegrams. Give them to Arthur and tell him to drive over to Westbury and get them off at once.”
Jacqueline sat on the edge of her chaise longue for a moment of contemplation. She had the sense of having done a good job, a pleasant, relaxed feeling. Through the partly opened French window to her balcony, came all kinds of soft, friendly little sounds. The night was cooing to her. Presently she heard a whistling, somebody whistling out there, but before she had time to wonder what it was she heard her name called in a low voice, “Jacqueline—”
Quickly she jumped up and hurried to the balcony, leaned over the rail. “Who is that? Payne? How perfectly cute and romantic of you, Payne. I didn’t think you had it in you. What—?”
A voice came up from the dark. “Why aren’t you in bed? I saw your light as I drove by and thought you might be worried about something. Go to bed, now. Goodnight.”
“What! Goodnight? Is that all? Shades of the Montagu. I have a balcony and a lover and he won’t even climb it.”
“Oh, Lord!” It was a groan.
While the scraping sound of patent leather evening shoes against rough stone marked her fiance’s precarious progress from ground to window ledge to the balcony support, Jacqueline hummed a little tune. It was bravado. She was afraid he might fall and break his neck or be shot by the night watchman and it wouldn’t look well underneath her balcony. Besides, Payne was too useful to be lost in any such casual manner. She might want to marry him on Friday after all. Who could tell about Friday when it was only Monday?
So she was right happy to see his disheveled but otherwise nice blond head come up over the railing. “You do look silly, darling.”
“I feel it,” he said. “And you look shamefully lovely.”
“I feel it,” said Jacqueline, “—lovely, I mean. Now you can say you love me, once, and kiss me, twice, and then go. I’m sleepy. No-—not a single hug.”
But, it was a temptation to allow him a hug. He looked sweet sitting there with his shirt all mussed and a smudge on his nose. Payne Trenchard was anything but handsome but he had points. He was full-sized and a good example of his type, the prep, school, Varsity, lieutenant of infantry, guns and horses type of young country gentleman with a business in the background. He ran true to form, always, and however much she missed the romantic flair, the adventurous impulse, the charming eccentricity in him, it was at least comfortable to remember that he was always there, always the same. Also, she could read his every thought. That was a help. “Is that all you have to tell me tonight, Jacqueline?” he asked.
When he had slipped down out of sight, she turned back into the room and stepped over the mementoes of Peter and Valley Jamieson and Jeff Bone to the bottom drawer of her chifferobe. There was a riding crop there which Payne had given her once and taken back the same day because she used it on the wrong horse. The horse would have run away with her but for Payne. Nevertheless, she’d made him give her the crop again, as a matter of principle. Also, there was a bathing suit of hers which at an inopportune moment had ripped out at the shoulder. Payne had hurried to the pavilion for needle and thread and resewn the thing with big half-inch stitches.
Jacqueline had a momentary feeling of guilt just then. She wondered what gave it to her. Presently, she rang for Harriet again. Maybe, Arthur hadn’t sent the telegrams. Maybe, the office was closed.
In the meantime, Payne Trenchard, smoothed out as much as possible, was admitted at the front door. He found Big Jack Harner in the library with a pipe and as soon as they were together it was evident, without more than a look and a nod, how much understanding can exist between a man of any age and the boy who has grown up next door to him. In fact, their difference in age was in a sense obliterated now. They were just two men, one of whom had a daughter and the other loved her. “I saw the house still lighted as I drove by,” said Payne, “so I thought I’d drop in and sign you up for my party on Thursday. You’re coming of course?”
Big Jack Harner flushed with pleasure. “I never heard of fathers-in-law attending a man’s bachelor dinner. You must be mighty sure of yourself.”
Payne laughed. “My reputation, such as it is, is safe with you. By the way, you did me a good turn to-night. Had a blow-out in Westbury on the way out. Your chauffeur came along while I was struggling with the rotten tire and changed it for me.”
Big Jack’s gray eyes, Jacqueline’s eyes only smaller and keener and maybe a shade kinder, bent upon him. “You do look a mess. What was Arthur doing in Westbury?”
“Oh, he had some wires to send. While he fixed my tire, I got the Western Union fellow out of bed and sent them for him. Well, don’t forget. Thursday, at eight.” He was an easy going, open-minded fellow, Payne. Jacqueline could read his every thought.
BIG JACK HARNER did not forget Thursday, at eight. But an unexpected board meeting of an oil company in which he was interested had delayed him in town and by the time he had come out, dressed, and was ready to start for Montreal again, eight o’clock had almost struck. He swore at oil company board meetings while the butler was putting him into his coat. That was the way when they tried to make a Director and VicePresident out of a field man. The fellow comes tearing East with a lot of radical plans. Why, he could remember only a few years ago when Jefferson Bone was a common ordinary drill operator. Now he wanted to run the company.
While the butler was searching in the coat closet for his stick, Big Jack heard the door bell. He opened the door himself and a small, pale-faced, but burning-eyed youth stepped inside. An old brown hat came somewhat tardily off his head and, though he was in evening dress of a sort, his general appearance gave sufficient reason to expect and to hope that he’d come to the wrong place. “Yes?”
“I’m Peter Bonsell,” said the youth, as though he dared anyone to deny it and as though the name were enough. “I came to see Jacqueline.”
“I’m her father,” offered Big Jack.
“I don’t doubt it,” said Peter belligerently. “But I came to see the younger generation. Oh don’t worry. Jacqueline expects me.”
Big Jack delayed no longer. He was going to Payne’s bachelor party if it was the last act of his life. He was tired of worrying about Jacqueline, anyway. She’d been acting strangely for a girl about to be married. She’d dodged all the wedding parties she could, skipped the final fitting of her wedding dress, and spent the time getting the wildest looking silver colored dinner gown he’d ever seen. What did she want of more dinner gowns? Maybe, she wasn’t so keen about marrying Payne. Well, Jacqueline’s father was fair enough to understand how she might not be. Payne had physical courage but he wasn’t exactly emotionally flaming. At least, he didn’t show it. As Arthur drove him down the winding drive, another car turned in the gate, passed the lodge house, and sped by them up towards the house. Big Jack turned to watch it.
THREE young men, apparently unconscious of each others’ presence and in reality conscious of nothing else, were waiting in the drawing room at Harner House. One of them was small, pale, fiery-eyed and half dressed. His tie and one shoe were unfastened but he didn’t seem to care. Another was huge, a great brown fellow, immaculately groomed, who sat there moody and stark as a boulder on a mountain-side. The third young gentleman, if that drawing room had been the stage of a musical comedy, must have been the leading man. He suggested tenor solos and moonlight; for he was very suave and handsome indeed.
Perhaps, it was his greater ease in any social situation which emboldened Valley Jamieson to interrupt their silence. Even so, both Peter and Mr. Jefferson Bone were startled by the sound of his voice. “I beg your pardon, gentlemen. None of us apparently knows the others, and I’m sure I can’t guess what, if I may so call it, what unlucky accident brings you two here to-night. But, unless I’m mistaken, I can show you something which will convince you both that it would be hardly appropriate to remain.” He drew a yellow slip, a Western Union telegram, from his inside pocket and spread it open under a lamp on a table.
Peter glanced, uncertainly, first at Jefferson Bone and then at the telegram. Then he went quickly to the table and read the message. After a moment he flushed and began digging into the contents of a ragged pig-skin wallet. With a dramatic gesture he spread a second telegram beside the first. “Gentlemen,” he said, “there—is perfidy.”
Jeff Bone stood up, grinning broadly. “Don’t take life so seriously, youngster,” he said. “I have a ticket of admission, too.” He reached the table in two steps, glanced carelessly at the two wires and put his own on top of them. “That makes us all even.”
But Peter was furious. “It’s all right if you want to let her make a fool of you. I don’t.” His eyes narrowed until their smoldering gave out only a gleam. “Furthermore, she needn’t think I came here for her. I don’t believe in marriage. I’ve written a great play about it. None of the producers can even understand it. So, I’m going to produce it myself when I get the money. Old man Hamer’s got it. I want it.”
Valley Jamieson came closer to the other two. “We’ll have to get together on this. Since you’re so frank, I’ll say that, although Jacqueline herself amuses me, there is also the matter of bonds. Now Mr. Harner buys many bonds. I sell a few. See?” He turned to Jeff Bone. “Now, sir, if you’ll tell us what you want, perhaps we can arrange something—”
Jeff Bone laughed again. “I don’t want anything I can’t take by myself. I want the girl.”
“Darlings!” Jacqueline appeared in the doorway. Big Jack Harner was as accurate about that silver dress as men are about dresses. It wasn’t silver. It was silver-green, quite different, and the difference was the thing which made alive the strands of red in her hair and lighted the rose glow under her skin. She came into the room with her hands out to all of them at once. “You precious darlings!” All things, animals, and people that Little Jack Harner liked were ‘darlings!’ and just as all her letters ended ‘with love and kisses.’ “Don’t you think this is a cute idea?” she demanded; “when I haven’t seen you in years and have to be married to-morrow! I couldn’t have borne it. Who would have thought of a girl giving a bachelor dinner but me, Valley? Isn’t it sweet! Has Baldwin brought your cocktails? Peter, come here. I see I have to dress you as usual. Now, just look at that tie. Have you missed me, Peter? Won’t you be sorry when I’m married?”
In spite of their declared sordid intentions, neither Peter nor Valley Jamieson could resist the presence of Jacqueline. Her fundamental naivette was disarming; her gaiety was infectious; her person was lovely even beyond their memories. Occasionally, her gray eyes opened almost shyly, uncertainly, full of question, to Jefferson Bone. But she needn’t have been afraid. He was smiling. He told her, simply, that he’d returned from Equador a couple of years ago. No, he wasn’t drilling oil wells any more. That is, not personally.
So, Jacqueline carried her bachelor party through that first hour. Somehow, she went in to dinner on three men’s arms. She had had the small table put up in the great blue dining hall and she managed to place Peter on her right and Valley on her left. Opposite, pleasant enough but taking small part in their gay talk, sat Jeff Bone, and she could not very well avoid his eyes. Pretty soon she asked him if he still believed in dynamite.
“More than ever,” he said. “It’s the one thing that always makes a way.”
Jacqueline took that for a threat. She realized that Jeff Bone, least subtle of the three, was the only one who suspected that under her delightful, half coherent gaiety and in spite of the raging color in her cheek, she was afraid. Yes, she had been afraid for three days. She’d wakened Tuesday morning, perfectly shocked at the idea of a girl giving a bachelor dinner. It had seemed charming the night before. If she’d only known how to get telegrams back. On Wednesday, she’d all but given up and asked Payne to get her out of it. Payne always got her out of things. But she’d been too ashamed to ask him. So she had to carry on with it, and, though everything was all right so far, she was still afraid.
Jacqueline’s memory of that night was so drowned in its culmination that it always recurred to her in episodes, moments that seemed to come about by accident and without reason. Forgotten, were all the details of this course and that at the dinner table, the cynical toasts which Peter drank to her chance of married happiness, Valley’s promise to be her first co-respondent. Once, when Jeff Bone was out of doors giving instructions about his car, Valley excused himself to make an important ’phone call. She was left there with Peter.
It seemed quaintly familiar, all the little tables in all the funny little places where she used to go with Peter. A warming touch of her old tenderness came back and she reached over and patted his hand. “We were sweet, weren’t we, Peter, when you were in love with Art and I was in love with you? Please don’t forget all about it.”
But Peter was telling her about a play, a great play he’d written. “Inspired by you, Jacqueline.”
She clapped her hands. “Oh lovely! Can I act in it?”
“If ever I can get the money to produce it,” he said sadly. “It takes money. How I hate the stuff.”
“Oh don’t worry about that, Peter. I’ll ask daddy. He has lots of it.” But somehow the coziness of their intimacy was gone. She could not bring it back. ‘Like a pink bubble,’ she thought, ‘after it has burst.’ She almost was glad when Valley and Jefferson Bone rejoined them.
On the way into the library for coffee and liquers, Valley held her back while the other two men went on. That was a moment, too. There was a deep lounge in the hall and Valley drew her down there beside him, almost like the old Valley. It was not unlike one of the lounges in the saloon of that steamer in the Adriatic. No, it was Valley who was different. “Of course I was nothing but an adventurer then,” he said earnestly. “You made me want to do something worth while. Of course I’m only beginning with these bonds. You know about bonds? Your father buys hundreds of them.”
And he never knew that bonds meant nothing to Jacqueline, whereas adventurers did. But Valley, the adventurer was no more. Was it all illusion? Had she ever trembled inside his arm, the two of them the last to leave the deck? Maybe the water of the Adriatic didn’t really turn to silver at night. Maybe that was illusion, also.
Jacqueline was called to the telephone. It was her father and he sounded entirely too gay. “I’m ashamed of you, daddy. You come straight home. What? They put Payne to bed an hour ago? Oh, you’re a disgrace, the lot of you. I’ll certainly not marry a man with a headache. No, I don’t care to hear about it—”
There was more than an hour after that, the four of them in the library, the warm colored book-lined walls, the big leather chair beside the reading lamp where her father always sat. It seemed ludicrous for Peter to be in that chair. He was too little and turbulent. Jeff Bone was examining the pipes on a smoking table. One of them was Payne’s. She’d seen Payne standing there just like that.
But he was so unlike Payne, Jeff Bone. There was a vastness about Jeff, the feeling of rugged country. His perfect dinner coat faded out of her picture of him and in her mind he was again in boots, corduroys, and flannel shirt. It didn’t matter what Jeff Bone wore. He was the same. Of the three men, Jeff Bone was the same, suppressed, threatening, thrilling. She remembered his ‘dynamite,’ and, for that moment, Jaqueline was more in love with him than afraid.
She thought of it again when Valley and Peter left. Valley was driving Peter back to town. The door closed upon them, Jacqueline’s door, and when she turned back into the hallway there was Jeff Bone.
He put her hand through his arm. “That air felt good,” he said. “Can’t we go out? You’ve got over being scared of me, now.”
Jacqueline laughed. How silly of her to have been afraid of Jeff, just because he was big. “I wasn’t scared of you, Jeff.”
“No,” he agreed, “you weren’t. But you thought you were. You thought it was fear. But it was something else. Remember in Ecuador I told you that you would never forget? When your wire reached me all the way to San Francisco and back, I knew you hadn’t.”
Jacqueline found a white silk scarf in the coat closet and put it over her shoulders before they went out through doors at the back of the hall into a walled garden. There were flag stone walks and stone benches and flower beds in orderly rows. How odd and black were the silhouettes of flowers in the moonlight! And she was trembling with the tension, the adventure, which went with the touch of Jeff Bone. He had come back to life. He wasn’t illusion and she listened to the deep tremor in his voice and loved him again.
She was glad; for it was a fulfillment. It was why she’d thought of having a bachelor dinner. She had wanted that, just once more, and then, to-morrow, she would marry Payne who was never any more to her than just—Payne, a man she knew all about. And Jeff was dynamite. She knew what he meant by dynamite when he kissed her.
But she only thought she knew what he meant by it. At first, she didn’t understand, him. “So I’ve come to get you, Jacqueline. We’d better go now. There’s a place, only six or seven miles from here, the estate of a friend of mine. We can be married there, to-night, if you wish. The chauffeur is waiting with my car. Come on!”
When she rose from the stone bench where they’d rested, he thought he was ready. He couldn’t see her face, or he might have known. A stream of light from the door they had left open into the house cut through the garden again. A figure must have moved aside from that door.
“Are you ready?” Then in the light he saw her face.
Jacqueline was white, terrified. “Oh no-no,” she said. “I have to marry Payne. Don’t you understand? I couldn’t marry anybody but Payne—”
“I don’t understand. You said you loved me—”
“Yes—yes, I did say so. I do, Jeff. But don’t you see that I’d lose him. It’s been decided always about my marrying Payne. No—don’t touch me. I’m afraid of you, Jeff.”
“All right,” he said. “You’ve got cause to be. I’m going in there for my coat. Think it over for that minute. When I come back its—dynamite. That always wins. You’ll go willingly or I’ll carry you and wait for the willingness later.”
AS SOON as he’d passed through the door, Jacqueline ran down the flag stone walk. She was frantic. Some wild thought of climbing the wall was in her mind, but when she reached it she could not reach the top. And then from behind strong arms lifted her from her feet. How could he—how could he get back so quickly.
Jacqueline hadn’t the breath to cry out. She wanted to faint. The silk scarf was wrapped about her eyes and she was being carried. Near the house was a gate, and she heard the catch open and close again. She heard his boots on the concrete driveway and then the low hum of an idling motor, opening and closing doors.
She was still held tightly in his arms while the car careened down the driveway. She felt the turn and the quickening speed. She was weeping now. “Please— please take this thing from my eyes. I can’t see.”
“No. Not until we get there.” Even his voice was strained and unrecognizable. She knew now that Jeff Bone was mad He must be mad.
They rode on madly for ten minutes, up hill and down, swinging wide at corners. Jacqueline was collecting herself for an effort. “Jeff? Please take me back now.” And after a moment without reply: “Is it because you believe I love you and not Payne? Listen, Jeff, I’ve loved Payne since I was fourteen and I never did or will love anyone else. You don’t understand me, Jeff. Neither do I. But all my other loves have been sort of on top of my love for him. I’ve gone just as far as he’d let me. But, without him, I guess I’d die. I’d never tell him, Jeff. But I’ve got to tell you. Please, Jeff.”
There was no answer. The car sped on, swaying. Jacqueline was weeping again into the silk scarf. The car started up a sharp incline and halted suddenly. She struggled feebly and then allowed herself to be lifted out. She was carried up stone steps; a bell rang; there were murmurs when the door opened and she was carried inside, quite a distance.
She was put into a chair and for the first time the tight grip of those arms relaxed. But it was minutes before she dared to move. She hadn’t strength to take the scarf from her eyes. She was afraid to do that, too. What would she see? ‘Jacqueline!’ That wasn’t Jeff. Who was it?
She snatched away the silken blind and sat up straight. She was in a long warmly colored, book-lined room. In a big chair, under a reading lamp was Big Jack Harner. By the smoking table, filling his pipe, was Payne Trenchard. “Did you enjoy our ride?” he asked.
Jacqueline gasped. “Where? Where is he?”
“Who? The Dynamite Kid? I don’t know. He spent a half hour locked in the coat closet. Got tired of it finally, I imagine. So he kicked down the door and went home. Nice fellow that.”
“Payne—if you ever refer to what I said in that car, I’ll divorce you. Promise?”