Poor Old Married People
Which goes to show that a woman who sets men's heads swimming must he able to swim herself
BASIL G. PARTRIDGE
MOLLY GREER found herself about to quarrel with her husband for the second time th it morning—over money, or rather over the business of spending the plagued stuff.
Odd, thought Molly, as she stood with one hand on the open door of Richard’s roadster, the opportunity for quarrels that money could generate. In the days when money had been scarce—yes, even when it had been fairly plentiful, she and Richard had done little quarrelling. But then there hadn’t been three children and three children’s futures and friends to differ over.
And Richard could be such a confoundedly gilded visionary at times—invariably the wrong times. He was one now—an immaculately dressed, middle-aged ass !
Molly felt an almost unmanageable impulse to tip his serenely poised straw hat plop over his eyes—to ruin the inevitable perfection of his bow tie. After seventeen years of married life she knew better than to expect sanity in a man before breakfast, but surely afterward he might be reasonable.
Idiot, idiot, idiot! shrieked Molly inwardly to Molly. Aloud she said: “For goodness sake be sensible. We can’t afford it.”
“Why not?” said Richard Greer stubbornly, “we’ve got the money.”
“Not enough money to throw away five or six thousand on a summer abroad. And that’s what the trip will cost us if we take the children. Oh, I know what you’ve got in the back of your head—tourist third cabin. You’re quite mad.”
“When we went over on our honeymoon we didn’t have accommodations as good as tourist third today,” said Richard rebelliously; “and that was wonderful.” Molly Greer bit her lip and stifled an exasperated: “But we were in love then, you sawny.” She felt this wouldn’t go so big. She said: “We were young and we
didn’t have to keep up with the Joneses. If you go ocean voyaging, me lad, you’ve got to voyage the way your clients do—and you needn’t cry ‘piffle!’ because it isn’t piffle. Furthermore, you can’t let your children down. You can’t encourage them to make friends with the children of people who ride on the Empress of Scotland and then make them travel tourist third cabin. Where’s your sense of the fitness of things?”
“Damn the fitness of things,” snapped Richard. “I’m craving a bit of fun myself. We can leave the children in camp.”
We could, but we won’t, with a capital W, thought Molly to herself. Aloud she said: “You’ve never complained about summering at Cap Paradis before . . . all the golf you want, when you want it, on the Manoir links, the Manoir pool to swim in, trout-fishing at your elbow, and no one to look sidewise at you if you want to avoid the dolled-up circle and wear a flannel shirt and an old pair of pants ... all the tennis you care to play . . . only half a day to the factory if anything pops up . . . less than that to Montreal . . . and the children adore Cap. They won’t be wanting to summer with us very much longer, remember.”
“Uh!” grunted Richird.
“Besides,” Molly went on, swinging the roadster’s door to and fro as the next best thin to boxing Richard’s ears, “you know perfectly well that Dr. Farrington will glass over his outdoor pool if you’re there on the spot to play with him. And if Farrington does so, Winnie de Long will put up the glass ‘lean-to’ back of her
cottage just to keep in the swing. You won’t have to work for the stuff. It’s manna from on high dropped right into your lap.”
“These blamed Americans are crowding us out of Canada,” grumbled Richard.
“Oh rot!” Molly slammed the door to. “Boston people are more Canadian than Canadians. And if they want you and yours to build their conservatories and greenhouses and to glass over their pools, and you can have a lot of fun doini it, why throw away money that we can use?”
Richard Greer slapped his hand down on the horn. Molly’s eyes blazed. “Don’t be rude, Dick.”
“Sorry,” grunted Richard untruthfully. “Money isn’t everything, Molly. Personally I’m fed up with working like a nigger for money and then squabbling over what we’ll do with the confounded stuff. Here we are, I’m forty-seven, you’re forty-four. We’ll be hobbling on canes next. Let’s step out and enjoy life before senile decay gets us. We don’t need to wander all over Europe throwing money away. Let’s just go to Paris—have a second honeymoon.”
Exasperation got the better of Molly Greer then. “Heavenly day! won’t you ever grow up, Dick? There’s no such thing as a sec nd honeymoon. Things only happen once. Where’s your sense of anticlimax?”
“That may be your way of looking at it,” said Richard, extremely dignified on the instant. Her unsentimental directness acted on his nerves like a file on soft metal.
“Well,” said Molly brutally, “what else could you call it . . . dragging the children around to see the places where we spooned, years and years ago, giving L’Hôtel Louis Quatorze an exhibition of the perfect Canadian family on tour.”
“I was thinking,” said Richard coldly, “of hunting up that old pension where we stopped.”
“You would,” Molly flung out the words like a handful of needles; “you’re that kind of a person. And it would serve you right if I agreed and went with you. Do you think at this late date that you’d enjoy straw mattresses, or the bugs in them, or the atrocious coffee? You who are fussy as an old maid about bed linen and comforts. And what about the children? They’d think you were crazy. Do for goodness sake get your feet on solid ground, Richard. Live in the present. I detest sentimental journeys.”
By way of answer Richard put his foot down hard on the starter. Molly bit her lip. She knew wh ,t he was thinking to himself. A woman can’t live with a man seventeen years and not know. Richard had it on his tongue to say that she hadn’t given him very much incentive to live in the present.
Molly was the more angry with him because he didn’t speak out. If he would only blow up once, swear at her, instead of swallowing his wrath and brooding over it to himself.
Richard reached for the gear shift. “All right,” he said thickly; “make your plans f r Cap Paradis. You win.”
Molly stamped her foot on the gravel roadway. “Oh, why don’t you say what you think!” she cried. Every time I won’t give in to your foolish sentimental whims, you wish you’d married Lillian Forde. I can read it in your eyes. Well, you’ve got nothing on me, I wish you had, too.”
Richard’s answer was to roll swiftly away round the driveway out of sight.
BUT out of sight, however, isn’t always out of mind.
Molly Greer discovered this for the nth time when she sat down to her morning mail. These quarrels gave her a queer taut feeling in the pit of her stomach. She drank a second cup of coffee on top of the first, which was not her practice.
By that time she had got over wishing Richard had married Lillian Forde. Probably Richard would have forgotten it himself in another hour. But the same programme was due to be repeated the next time they got hot under the collar. They’d both wish it again. The amazing thing was that the sore healed so quickly.
Some people, Molly reflected, made an art of quarreling, an unending business of wild temper and amorous forgiveness. That sort of thing was impossible to Molly Greer.
Yet she was not without her sentimentalities. These were buried deep, that was all second honeymooning, for instance, seemed to Molly almost sacrilege. If you had cherished memories, let them flourish like the green bay tree in their own green pasture land. To go around dragging out their honest bones for other people to smile sidewise at, nauseated Molly. It was neither decent nor sensible. The children would make their own memories for themselves when the proper time came.
Richard’s notions were worse than absurd at times. They were mawkish.
Richard, Molly mused, might better have married Lillian Forde. Lillian was a tall, graceful brunette with eyes like a doe’s and a great deal of money. It was an overdose of properness -yes, that was the word rather than pride, that had caused Richard to flee from the chance to live on Lillian’s money. Molly had got him on the rebound. He had told her all about it, and Molly had found the whole business rather amusing because she herself had just been jilted by a philandering male.
Lillian’s life had been sheltered. She had been educated in a convent and had made an exceedingly bad marriage, to be widowed mercifully soon by a timely train wreck. Lillian lived in Victoria. Molly and Richard had stayed with her several weeks while Richard had been testing the possibilities of western business,
two years back. Molly had always thought—though a trifle ashamed of her thinking—that Lillian had been as much the lure as business possibilities.
Lillian still corresponded with the Greers—through Molly. And Molly had to applaud the idea when secretly she thought it tosh. Lillian was old-fashioned and didn’t mind being told so. Lillian was sentimental, delicate, sensitive. Her skirts ended several inches below her knees. The bobbed-hair era had made no impression on her crown of glorious hair; hair that was neither copper, chestnut nor gold, but held hint of all three.
“A graceful, willowy prune,” said Molly savagely to the empty room. “Not much like yours truly. I’m built for service.”
With an impatient shrug, Molly went to her room to dress. The lovely Oriental lounging pyjamas seemed suddenly irritating to her skin. They were Richard’s gift. But Molly never wore them with any pleasure. They were made for people who could wear vivid colors— people who could lounge. Molly couldn’t. Her body was hard, athletic, sun-tanned. The outdoors, not the boudoir, was her habitat. Now Lillian Forde could have worn those pyjamas to perfection . . .
Unshed tears made Molly’s eyelids smart suddenly. Probably Richard had been subconsciously thinking of Lillian when he bought the pyjamas. Said Molly: “I must get hold of myself.” She finished dressing and began on the neglected mail. The first envelope . . . she knew that paper . . . she sniffed it . . .violets. It was from Lillian Forde, the first in months. Molly ripped the envelope open.
“Dear Molly,” Lillian wrote in her beautiful copperplate hand, “I’m afraid I’m a very poor correspondent, but the fact is I’ve been sick—that wretched ’flu which has been everywhere. The doctor has ordered me a change of air—imagine anyone leaving Victoria for a change of air. I suspect, my dear, that what he means is a change of scene . . . and so I shall be a neighbor of yours, this summer. I’ve taken Drumtarle. As nearly as I can gather it is in the curve of the Baie. How far would that be from you by road? Some four miles,
I imagine. My near neighbor, I am told, is Dr.
Farrington from Boston. Do you know him? Though, of course, you know everyone after all these years ...”
“Blah!” said Molly suddenly, and stuck out her tongue at the wall. She laid down the letter, feeling a trifle dazed. Lillian Forde in Drumtarle . . . right next to Dr. Farrington. Richard going over to Farrington’s frequently to look after the glassing over of the doctor’s pool. Manna from Heaven. “Ugh!” said Molly with a little shudder.
GRANDMA GREER put in a petition to have the children for a couple of weeks ’ere, as she put it, “they went gallivanting to that out-of-the-way place all summer;” and Molly was truly grateful. Out of decency, and before Richard could ask her, Molly had invited Lillian Forde to spend her first week at the cottage before settling down in Drumtarle for the summer.
Molly’s plan had been to inaugurate a threesome along the lines of the Three Musketeers, “all for one, and one for all;” but Lillian upset the applecart by treating Molly as an old friend and Richard as a former acquaintance. There was no guile, merely delicacy, back of this attitude, Molly admitted to herself; but she had small relish for the business of seeing Richard getting acquainted with Lillian all over again, treating her as a new and interesting experience.
“How,” thought Molly to herself one short hour after Lillian had entered the cottage, “could I ever have liked this woman? She is far too good to be true.” At that moment Lillian turned from an animated conversation with Richard and remarked: “My dear, you’ve no idea how much gray hair becomes you !”
“Do you really think so?” said Molly smiling, but with murder in her heart. To be told she was getting gray was a trifle. To be told so in front of Richard, who would never have noticed the fact unless prodded into it, was not. Molly had been surveying those same gray hairs in the mirror only that morning, wondering why somebody couldn’t hit on a hair dye for outdoors people ... a dye really proof against the ravages of sun and water.
Lillian’s hair wasn’t gray. Richard eyed it with approval. “Thank goodness you didn’t bob your hair,” he said approvingly; “it would have been a crime—though, of course, bobbed ' hair does improve many women.”
One to me, thought Molly, and a doubtful one at that. She was thankful when Lillian declared for bed and the need for being polite ceased to exist.
“Talk about the fountain of youth,” said Richard when ths guest had left the room, “she has certainly found it. Nota gray hair, no wrinkles, and she’s as old as—he was about to say “you,” but changed to— “well, she must be every bit of forty-three. What hair—alive with tints of fire. Marvellous!”
Molly’s mouth opened on a protest, but what was the use? Everything and everybody in Richard’s intimate circle was sacrosanct. He knew that henna existed, but never dreamt that it might energize the hair of women he admired. Crime, vice, folly might exist, but not among his close friends. If he knew a woman, a politician, a churchwarden personally, then he believed right up to the point of indisputable and utterly damning evidence that each one was above reproach.
This disease of selective innocence sometimes awakened in Molly Greer a feeling akin to awe, at other times a decided peevishness. At the moment it was a mixture of both. Yet, thought Molly, if it works out to my disadvantage, I’ve not a leg to stand upon. I’ve made myself an open book to him—suffocatingly reliable. I can’t start hennaing my hair and posing at this stage of the game. It would be too poisonously Continued on page 38
Continued from page 11
obvious—and after all is there truly anything to worry about?
The first week certainly passed evenly enough. And at the end of it Lillian Forde’s limousine and chauffeur appeared, and off she went to Drumtarle. The car and chauffeur proved frequent visitors during the next week. Molly found her life turned all around. Where she longed for the kiddies, and Richard, and long morning swims, she had to spend long afternoons on Lillian’s strip of shore, filling in time—or so it seemed to Molly— until Richard came along from Doctor Farrington’s or Winnie de Long’s—for true to Molly’s prophecy both the “glassover” and the lean-to had sprung into being and needed supervision.
“Thank Heaven it’s her car coming after me,” mused Molly, who dreaded that her friends might think she was playing a sort of gilded detective in view of Richard’s undisguised admiration for Lillian Forde.
What in the world does he see in her? Molly wondered to herself one afternoon. Lillian and she had just come up from the water, Molly shaking herself like a dog, Lillian wet merely to the knees. The doctor, it seemed, had forbidden swimming. “She’s a fraud.”
Yet Richard was not the only one. The law of contrasts, of supply and demand, was having an innings. Lillian was a novelty, entirely different from the sun-bronzed, athletic women atevery hand. She had a languid grace they lacked entirely. She sang well. She ignored all dances except the waltz which was made for her. And she undoubtedly played the piano brilliantly. No one else at Cap Paradis had ever won a reputation by playing three Liszt Rhapsodies one after another; but Lillian did so one evening, when the silver moon was working overtime, to the united applause of the cream of the male colony. And her performance completely took the edge of Charley La Tour’s eighty-nine on the bunker-and-trap-laden Manoir Golf Course.
Richard, who could carry only the simplest of tunes in his head with difficulty, came home raving about it to Molly who had pleaded a headache.
“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself so much, dear,” said Molly sweetly. After all, she could afford to be generous in view of the large male attendance; and the incident would have passed without qualms if Richard had not remarked out of a long, thoughtful pause: “Lillian’s so womanly.”
“Yes?” invited Molly softly.
“Her views, for instance,” Richard went on and stopped.
“Tell me,” cooed Molly.
“Well,” said Richard, “her views on dress. Lillian doesn’t like short skirts. She thinks the longer skirt is more—er— more womanly.”
“She does tolerably well with her own,” Molly repressed a sniff. “Not that I blame her. She has the best looking pair of knees at Cap, this year.”
“Naturally she has to follow the fashion,” Richard protested.
“Oh, quite,” agrïed his wife. Clever this attitude of Lillian’s. Acquiring a halo of protesting innocence. Anybody but a fool like Richard would see through such rot. “I’m hanged if I’m going to let her worry me,” declared Molly determinedly to herself. But her qualms came back twofold when she saw Lillian on the beach next day, slim and undampened, curled up underneath a coppergoldish beach umbrella, her long hair in a cascade down her back.
With the advent of the umbrella Richard acquired an aversion to sun on his head. He quite openly sought the umbrella—and Lillian. Molly, as far off as she could go without attracting notice, knew as accurately as if she had seen it that Richard’s fingers were playing with that glorious hair. How could they do otherwise with the trap so cunningly laid? There was nothing out-of-the way about Lillian letting down her hair. Every woman on the beach with hair to let down did it—just to show the cropped-heads
that woman’s “crowning glory” was still on the job.
The umbrella, however, was too much for Molly. She went back to her morning dips and afternoon golf. Richard remarked on it once, then said nothing more. He had taken to dropping in at Drumtarle two or three afternoons a week on his way back from Dr. Farrington’s. “Got to be neighborly,” he’d say. And then ceased bothering to tell her. “Give a calf enough rope,” thought Molly. “He’ll get weary of her in the long run when he discovers she’s a dub at games. He’s been too busy for much playing—but soon . . .”
And then came the bombshell. From the tee of the ninth hole, one afternoon, Molly saw a bright scarlet motor boat headed west for Dr. Farrington’s landing. “Giddy colored outboard,” said Molly to her companion. Quite casually she mentioned it to Richard later.
Richard stirred—was it uneasily? “It’3 the Paradise,” he said. “Lillian’s bought it. Convenient and all that. Brought me across the Baie at tea time. Jolly thoughtful of her. Beastly dusty motoring. We need rain.”
“Oh,” murmured Molly, “I didn’t know Lillian was long on such things.” “As a matter of fact,” Richard replied, “she’s taking quite a keen interest in outdoor life. You’ll probably see her on the links before long. I understand she’s going to take some lessons from the pro.”
IT CAME hard to Molly Greer to admit that she was jealous. She’d always prided herself as being above such smallness. Now she realized that she was no more immune than anyone else. Richard simply hadn’t given her cause to be jealous before.
What would another woman do in my place? wondered Molly. She tried to reason it out. Should she ignore the business? Treat it as an amusing and inevitable sidelight? The more Molly thought about it, the more unhappy she Continued on page 40
Continued, from page 38 became—and Richard was dropping in at Lillian’s practically every afternoon, now, for tea.
Molly Greer was eminently fair-minded. She was willing to admit, even now, that neither Richard nor Lillian Forde meant any harm. They were merely rank sentimentalists—especially her husband. But there was a limit to sentimentalism. If they journeyed too far along this route they might lose the way home again entirely. That delicacy of Lillian’s might in the long run prove as dangerous as guile. It would require stabilization. And that meant Richard—for herself.
Outside the cottage it was pouring rain. Molly glanced at her watch—four o’clock. Surely Richard would be home for tea today; but at that precise moment Richard was entering Lillian Forde’s cottage. He did so without knocking, and was met by Lillian with her hair streaming down her back. Lillian’s cheeks were flushed by the heat of the open hearth. She was alone. It was the maid’s day off.
“Oh!” exclaimed Lillian. “I ... I didn’t expect you. I was washing my hair. If I’d known you were coming . . .” All the blood in Richard’s body seemed to be throbbing through his temples at that moment. “You knew I’d come,” he cried hoarsely. “You darling—you wonderful, wonderful darling.” He caught her in his arms and kissed her passionately.
“No, no, no!” cried Lillian. “Dick, you mustn’t.” She turned her face away from his greedy lips, buried her head against his shoulder—and clung.
Richard Greer picked her up in his arms. The big, upholstered chair in front of the fireplace took them both to its heart. Richard held her tight against his breast, burying his hot face in her lovely hair, kissing her lips, her cheeks, her eyes, the tip of her nose, her neck—over and over again
Neither of them spoke for minutes. The crackle of the fire, the rain windblown against the cottage, these were the only sounds. And then, quite as suddenly as it had begun, the roaring in Richard’s head ceased. He felt chilly in spite of the fire. He let her go. He stood up.
“I must think this over,” he said huskily ... I’d better go . . . I’ll . . . you’ll . . . you’ll let me come back tomorrow, though ... at this time.” He strode off without another word into the pouring rain. When he finally arrived at his own cottage he was soaked, silent, morose.
“I shall crack up if I have to stand much more of this,” thought Molly.
TN THE morning came Lillian Forde’s chauffeur with a letter. “For you, madame,” he said with a smile. The letter was unsealed. She evidently has complete confidence in her chauffeur, thought Molly. The odor of violets coming faintly from the paper made Molly Greer shudder slightly. She glanced down at the paper:
“Dear, you had better not come this afternoon . . . had better not come at all, alone . . . unless . . .”
Molly turned over the envelope in her hand quickly. The note was addressed to Mr., not Mrs. Greer . . . the chauffeur had been stupid. Above, on the staircase, coming down, Richard’s step sounded. Like a flash, Molly slipped the note back into the envelope.
Richard’s step halted, turned upward once more. He had forgotten something. Molly went swiftly to the table and put the envelope on his plate. “A note for you from Lillian,” she called. “The chauffeur just brought it.” Then she went on to the kitchen. Richard came down the stairs without loss of time.
When Molly came in, Richard was buried in the paper. But the look on his face was sufficient for Molly. He was 1 going to see Lillian—perhaps a bit un-
certainly—but he was going. Presently, without speaking, he rose and went out. When the noise of his going had ceased, Molly stood motionless, lost in thought. Suddenly a great surge of relief swept over her.
“After all,” she murmured half aloud, “he was her property in the beginning. He’s steeped in sentiment and so is she. It was the merest accident that he came to me, and if he doesn’t want to live with me, I’d be a fool to eat my heart out trying to manoeuvre ways and means to hang on to him.”
And in the same breath: “Curse her!” said Molly savagely. Then she laughed— just a wee bit hysterically. Then she got out an old envelope and began figuring on it—money of her own at the bank— income from certain stocks. It amounted to about two thousand dollars a year; and Richard would give her a generous allowance to live and to educate the children. His business was growing every year—and Lillian was wealthy in her own right.
“The main thing, as I see it,” said Molly thinking aloud, “is for me to say ‘God bless you, my children’ cheerfully; and now I might as well go and play golf. I think for the good of my soul that I’ll walk over to the Club today.”
Good resolutions! But they nearly went to the four winds when she came face to face with Lillian Forde after a round. “Oh, are you through?” said Lillian smiling. “Come along and play nine holes with me, then we’ll have lunch together.”
“I have no luck at all,” groaned Molly to Molly. Out of sheer curiosity she agreed—and got considerable compensation out of the realization that Lillian’s golf was far from approaching her piano playing. “She won’t improve either,” said Molly. “She’s a born dud.”
After lunch there was bridge for an hour. Lillian glanced at her wrist watch. “I’ve some people coming in for tea at four,” she said to Molly, “but I’ve plenty of time to run you over to Drumtarle in the tub, and Henri shall take you the rest of the way.”
“Making sure I won’t drop in, eh?” was Molly’s thought, “you artful baggage.” Aloud she said: “That’s awfully good of you.”
The passionate-colored outboard proved, as Richard had said, “no trouble at all.” Mighty fragile, thought Molly. Indeed it was just a light, flat-bottomed boat. “I’ve heard it said this Baie is full of rocky spots,” said Molly. “I suppose they gave you a chart with the boat.”
Lillian laughed, just a trifle nervously Molly Greer thought. “Gracious, no. I never have any trouble. This is so different from driving a car. I’m no good at that. With a boat you don’t have to keep on the road. There’s the entire Baie to navigate in. We’ve a little time today, so I’m taking you farther out. Thought you’d enjoy it.”
“Urn! Thanks,” murmured Molly. She leaned back with her eyes closed— and then it happened. Lillian Forde’s scream and the shock of collision were simultaneous. Molly Greer was thrown sidewise. Right under her feet, wood splintered viciously. At once her feet and ankles were wet. Molly caught at the edge of the boat. Looked down.
A piece of jagged rock, sharp as a razor, part of a submerged reef had driven through the thin planking. The water foamed in. The Paradise began to settle; stopped.
Lillian Forde, her face the color of chalk, her eyes wide with terror, halfcrouched, half-stood in the stern where the water was deepest. “Stand still,” Molly cried sharply. “We’re wedged on the rock. If you move around we’ll probably sink.”
“Help, help!” Lillian’s voice rose shrilly.
“You might as well save your wind,” said Molly. “We’re too far out to be seen from the road and everybody’s either
golfing or having forty winks. Nothing for it but to swim in. It’s only threequarters of a mile and the water’s fairly warm.”
“But I can’t swim,” Lillian protested plaintively. “I’ve always been afraid of the water.”
“So you lied about that, too,” Molly could not hang on to the words to save her soul. Rage and resentment ran riot in her. She longed to plunge sternward and push this woman over into the deep, dark-green, water; to put a foot on her head when it came up. Ugh! The force of her emotion made Molly Greer tremble. Her mouth felt parched. There was a haze before her eyes. And then the fit passed, or at least the worst of it.
“Get out of your duds,” she said thickly to Lillian; “and don’t wallow round while you’re doing it. If you do you’ll never get ashore.”
“But . . . but. . .”
“If you tell me again you can’t swim,” said Molly between her teeth, “I swear I’ll leave you ... You can float, can’t you? . . . I’ll do the swimming for both of us. Don’t stand there with your mouth open. Get out of your clothes while you’ve got solid footing under you.” Molly was out of her clothes, naked as the day she was born, in two minutes. She watched Lillian awkwardly disrobing. “I hope to goodness there aren’t any bystanders on verandahs with field glasses,” thought Molly. “Even if I am past the flaming youth stage I prefer to appear in public with at least a few clothes on.” “This is awful,” Lillian began. Molly cut her short. “Tie your clothes in a bundle, the way I’ve done. And take down your hair—I want it to hang on to you by. Now stand very still; I’m coming over to you. Steady.” They stood side by side. The boat shifted slightly.
“Hang on to these clothes like grim death,” said Molly. “If you let go of them I’ll let go of you—and do try to keep them out of the water. We’ll sit off the deep end. Keep your head and you’ll be all right. A mouthful of water won’t hurt you. Breathe in through your mouth quickly and out through your nose. Ready? Now!”
IT WAS a long three-quarters of a mile to Molly Greer, but it ended finally without casualty to either of the principals. But, oh their clothes! Molly’s were bad enough. Lillian’s were a total wreck. Her ultra-smart sports frock was a smear; her hair an inglorious sopping mess.
Molly Greer actually found herself being sorry for Lillian. “Skin along the beach. Chances are no one will see you. Five minutes will take you home.”
“I’m so ashamed,” wailed Lillian. “What will Richard think of me being towed in by the hair.”
“Richard be hanged,” said Molly shortly. “I shan’t tell him. Give him a towel. He’ll get a big kick out of drying your thatch . . . Sorry, I didn’t mean to say that—but I’ve had all I can stand for one day. Vamoose, scoot, move!” Lillian fairly ran.
“What a joy to be rude,” grunted Molly as she wrestled with a shoe lace. “I wonder how long Dick will stand her when he really wakes up? Well, anyway, I’ve done my best for them both.”
She got the wet laces into place finally, straightened her clothes as well as she could, and stood up—face to face with Richard. On his way to Lillian’s and tea, of course. Molly’s heart was like a cold stone in her breast. She did not look directly at her husband or she would have noticed the tense look about his eyes.
“Taken to swimming with your clothes on?” enquired Richard, trying to keep his tone even and quiet. “Is it any of your business how I swim?” retorted Molly savagely.
Richard took a step ' forward. “See here,” he said in a higher pitch, “you can
Continued on page 42
Continued from page 40 at least give a chap a civil answer to a civil question.”
“Oh, can I?”
“Yes, you can,” replied Richard angrily. “I’m in no mood for nonsense after all I’ve been through.”
“Well, you won’t have to take it much longer,” said Molly icily. Richard’s eyes blazed. His control vanished.
“Don’t you be rude to me, you vixen— don’t you dare.” He was very close now. Molly didn’t give ground an inch. She looked right up into his face. “Will you please,” she said insolently, “oblige me by going straight to the deuce.”
Immediately things happened. Molly felt as if she had tumbled into a dough mixer for the space of a moment. She sat down thump on the sand when Richard took his hands from her shoulders.
“Oof!” said Molly and remained very still, eyes closed, feeling exactly as she had one evening in an amusement park after stepping from a giddy device called the “Devil’s Whirl.” Things cleared a bit. Richard’s voice, frightened, was saying: “Molly, open your eyes. I swear I didn’t mean to shake you so hard.” Molly’s answer was to topple over sidewise. A body flopped down beside her. Richard’s voice, extremely scared now, was saying: “I didn’t mean to be so rough. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Strong arms gathered her up against a warm shoulder.
“You haven’t . . . hurt me . . . any,” mumbled Molly dizzily. She leaned against the shoulder. It was an exceedingly comfortable shoulder. “Darling, darling,” Richard cried close to her ear. Molly opened one eye. “I don’t really think you’d be happy with Lillian,” she murmured.
“Never mention her name to me again,” said Richard tensely. He hugged Molly tighter. “I was up on the bluff. I saw the Paradise hit. You’re a mighty coolheaded and brave little woman, Moll.” Molly opened both eyes. The giddy feeling was taking wings. “What a joke! Lillian would have the pip if she knew.” “Lillian can go and chase herself,” said Richard. “I’d forgive her turning me inside out like an old shirt with her parlor tricks. But this—this last business —was criminal. She lied about being able to swim; she might have drowned you, Molly. I tell you I died a thousand deaths those first few minutes—too far away to help. I swear my heart turned over until I saw how surely you had things in hand. I’m doggoned if I don’t think you’re wonderful, Molly.”
He bent his head quickly and kissed her on the mouth.
“Pooh!” said Molly happily, nestling closer. “It wasn’t anything. Give me another kiss—one I can feel right down to my toes.”