FICTION

HUMILITY

ELISABETH SANXAY HOLDING November 15 1931
FICTION

HUMILITY

ELISABETH SANXAY HOLDING November 15 1931

HUMILITY

ELISABETH SANXAY HOLDING

The love story of a man who couldn’t see the truth, and a girl who could but preferred to be blind

A GUST of wind sent the rain dashing against the window like hail.

“Don’t you think that perhaps you’d better not go out this morning, dear?” said Mrs. Grey.

“Oh, no, mother darling,” answered her daughter. “This isn’t anything to stay home for.”

“Well,” Mrs. Grey went on, “perhaps with your rubbers and your tweed coat— Has that little tan hat come back from the cleaner’s, dear?”

“No, it hasn’t, mother.”

“Then I don’t see— You can’t wear the black one, can you, in this weather? It’s too bad you gave away that pretty dark green. That would have been just the thing. Let me see ” She brightened. “I believe Dot left a

hat here the night the Drama Club met. I’ll go—”

“Please don’t bother, mother. I’ll wear the black.”

"You’ll ruin it, dear. I’ll just run up and look on the shelf of my closet.” And she rose—a nimble little lady, dark and

Mr. Grey laid down his newspaper and looked at his daughter with a smile.

“Office can’t run without you, eh?” he asked.

"Certainly not,” she answered, smiling back at his kindly face. And in her heart she was ashamed of the irritation that filled her. They were so kind and dear, so interested in everything about her, so proud of her. It was cruel to feel as she did; it was selfish, horrible, to think of no one but Martin.

But she could not help it. Day and night she was haunted by his dark, tired face. This morning, when she had awakened and heard the rain, she had thought of him striding through the downpour, his hat pulled over his forehead, collar turned up, not caring how wet he got, not caring for anything but his idolized business. He would go back to his dismal, dusty little office, and sit there smoking until the

air was blue, figuring, writing letters, talking vehemently with Harrison, his partner. She had seen him like that one day when she had stopped in there.

“Just to see how you’re getting on,” she had said ; and had known the first moment that it was a mistake to have gone there.

She had done nothing but make mistakes since she had met him. Six months ago she had finished her secretarial course, and had got a job with Ferris and Ferris. Martin had been there then. He had had to show her how to do things, and she had let him see that she admired his quick, vigorous intelligence. When he had asked her out to lunch, she had accepted at once.

The housemaid came in with a fresh plate of hot biscuits.

“Ha!” said her father, pleased. “Now then, Connie. You haven’t much time, m’dear.”

She took a biscuit, but all the old schoolgirl zest was gone.

“I don’t believe Martin ever eats a decent meal now,” she thought. “He’s getting thinner.”

It seemed to her intolerable that she should be here, in this comfortable old house, with her devoted parents, with servants to wait on her; that she should have everything and he nothing. Martin didn’t care. He had given up a good job to go into business for himself; he was sure he had

a wonderful future before him, and he was always dreaming about that. He didn’t care about today.

Once a week he telephoned to her and asked her out to lunch. Once she had tried to insist upon paying for herself, but he had not liked it.

“Things aren’t as bad as all that,” he had said.

He would ring up and ask her if she could “manage" to meet him at such and such a place at a certain time, and she always could. Then, at a table in some restaurant, always better than he could afford, she would ask him about business, and he would tell her. His dark face would become alight. Whenever there was any good news, a new order, he would ring her up and she would be as happy as he. But when things were going badly, he never wanted to tell her. She would know, however, as soon as she saw him. and would ask questions until she found out everything.

She knew how much her faithful friendship meant to him. He had no one of his own left. It was always to her he turned, certain of her interest. And if that was the way it had to be, she must be satisfied.

“Now then, now then,” said her father. “Taxi's here. Connie.

CHE rose, and as she went into the hall her mother came running down the stairs carrying a little felt hat in her

“Try this, dear.” she said.

“No time for trying on bonnets,” said Mr. Grey.

But because her mother looked so eager and anxious, Connie put on the hat.

"Oh!” she began as she glanced in the hatstand mirror.

“Won’t it do, dear?” asked her mother. "Mary, you'd better run upstairs to Miss Connie's room—”

“No, don't bother,' said Connie hastily. For, after all. what did it matter? She put on her coat and rubbers, and hurried after her father to the waiting taxi which always took them to the station in bad weather. They caught the usual train; they saw and spoke to the other people who always took the 8:23.

Her father was a familiar and respected figure in the suburban town, and Connie was respected because she had chosen a business career instead of amusing herself at home. No one knew about Martin.

Looking at herself in the mirror of the office dressing room, Connie marvelled at her folly. She was a tall girl, slender and well developed, with a lovely color in her cheeks, clear blue eyes—a pretty young creature who all her life had had plenty of exercise and good food and fresh air and rest; with sound nerves and an attractive air of cool good humor. Yet, beneath that poise, so heart-sick, so foolish.

All morning, while she worked, the thought was in the back of her mind that today surely he would telephone. Eight days now since she had heard from him, and he rarely let more than a week pass.

"Perhaps he's sick,” she thought in a sudden panic. “If I don’t hear this afternoon, I'm going to call him up just

She went out to lunch early, and when she came back there was a message on her desk.

“Mr. Jarvis called.”

She rang him up at once, but he was not in his office.

She was drafting a letter when the telephone rang and a voice which she did not recognize asked:

“Miss Grey?”

“Is that Jack?” she asked, purposely using the name.

'It's Martin,” came the answer somewhat curtly. "I'vegot passes for a picture this afternoon. I wondered if you'd care to go.”

“I'd like to." she answered.

“Then if you can manage to meet me in the lobby of the theatre at two-thirty ...”

At two-thirty she was there, and saw him waiting, smoking a cigarette, lean and dark, with that indefinable grace about him, that careless, impatient charm that had so drawn her from the beginning. He saw her. and. throwing away the cigarette, came toward her with his faint smile.

“What in the world could induce you to stay away from your business for an afternoon?” she asked.

“Just at present there’s very little business to stay away from,” he answered.

They went into the theatre, sat side by side in the darkness.

"I look hideous in this hat,” she thought. “He only asked me because he hasn’t anything else to do and someone gave him the passes.”

He scarcely spoke at all. That was not unusual, yet today it seemed to her almost unbearable. When the picture was over, they went out into the lobby again.

“Do you feel like staying in town and having an early dinner with me?” he asked.

She did not wish to if his business was so bad.

“Thanks, Martin,” she said, “but I've got an engagement. Let’s just have tea somewhere."

They went to a tea-room where they had been before and sat down at a table in a comer. It was dark now. Through the glass door she could see the lights reflected in the glistening black streets.

“You look tired,” she said.

“Oh, I'm never tired,’ he answered with a quick frown. “Only this business of ours ”

He fell silent; and she, too, did not wish to speak just then.

“I’m sorry,” he said abruptly, “that I can’t take you anywhere decent. But our business needs all we can give it just now—time, money, everything.” He paused. "I can’t even think of—marriage, or anything like that—for years.”

‘ I 'HE words were like a blow. For a moment she could not draw a full breath. Then anger came rushing over her. She turned to him to speak with scornful bittemess. And she saw on his face a look she had never seen before, an expression of pain and anxiety.

“Why?” she asked, laughing. “Has anyone been proposing to you?"

She saw how much relieved he was by her tone. He laughed himself, yet he was still troubled.

“No,” he said. "But—” He was silent for a moment, then he went on with an effort at nonchalance: "You didn’t recognize my voice when I telephoned, did you? Thought I was someone named Jack?”

“It won’t hurt him td think there’s someone else,” she said to herself. But she could not let him be anxious and unhappy.

“Oh, Jack’s a very old friend,” she said. “He’s almost like a brother.”

"I suppose there are plenty of others,” he said.

She sat for a long time, looking at her plate. Then she glanced up and their eyes met.

“No; there isn’t anyone,” she said quietly.

When they had finished their tea he took her to the railroad station. There was something new in his manner now, something gentle. He bought her a magazine and a bar of chocolate, and when they parted he took her hand.

“I’ll see you soon, Connie,” he said, and it was the first time he had used her name.

This was the beginning of a new phase in their relations. It was evident to her that he was much happier, now that he felt he had made the situation honorably clear. It was out of the question for him to contemplate getting married for a long time. They were to be friends. And if she had fatally given herself away, admitting that for her there was no other man, he did not care to admit that to himself. They were to be friends, happy and easy together; without one word or one glance to acknowledge what lay beneath the surface.

She was willing to have it so. In her love for him, her great compassion and tenderness, she was glad to give him what solace she could. It seemed to be very little. She saw him harassed, strained, overworked, and all she could do was to meet him when he had time to spare and let him talk

She never asked him to her home, for she felt that the sight of that solid and dignified comfort would only hurt him. He thought so much of things like that. He would never take her to a cheap restaurant, he would never let

her pay for anything, although he knew her father was wellto-do. Time and again she had tried to make him realize that she did not care; but he was adamant. She should have the best or nothing.

No one at home knew anything about him. She never spoke of him to anyone but Lois, and not much even to her. Lois was her oldest and dearest friend. They had been at boarding-school together, she had been maid of honor at Lois’ wedding, and she had been the only one of their little set who was not sorry or scornful about Lois’ marriage.

"Nothing matters if you love each other," she had said to Lois.

Other people were shocked that a girl like Lois, intelligent, college-trained, should relinquish her career before it had begun, to marry Don Larrimore. a young newspaper man without a cent. They had a bungalow in a cheap suburb and a baby now, and Lois was as good as dead to her old friends. She had no money, no clothes, to keep up with them. But she didn't care. From time to time she would come into the city and lunch with Connie, and sometimes Connie went to her home for a week-end. And Lois' life seemed to be beautiful—young, joyous and vital.

Connie mentioned Jarvis two or three times to Lois; said she liked him.

“Bring him out some time,” said Lois, “and let’s see him.”

More than once Connie was on the point of suggesting this to him, but she never did. He was too preoccupied now; his time was too uncertain.

"You’re working yourself to death. Martin, she told him, sick at heart to see him so strained and fatigued.

“Well, once we get the business on its feet . ” he said.

But the business was in a bad way. Jarvis and his partner were desperately worried, grimly determined. Often that summer they sat in the little office until late at night, smoking, making plans for saving their cherished enterprise. They must have more capital.

Jarvis told Connie all this. He would telephone her and she would meet him. He would arrive, pale, tired, unsmiling, and tell her what they were doing. Sometimes he was hopeful, sometimes he was angry, and, worst of all, sometimes he was despondent.

“You’ve got the temperament of an opera singer,” she told him. laughing.

He flushed a little and glared at her.

“I’m sorry, Connie,” he said. “It's not fair to bother you with all this. But some day, when things get better

Very carefully she broached the suggestion that he should approach her father about his business, suggest his investing

“No, thanks,” said Jarvis, and his dark face was mulish.

He would not let her help him.

HER people at home were beginning to grow uneasy now.

She would make no engagements in case Jarvis should telephone that he had a few spare hours. She had no heart to go out and amuse herself when she knew he was in his little furnished room, figuring, writing letters, scheming how to avoid the failure that stared him in the face.

“There’s someone she’s interested in,” Mrs. Grey said to her husband.

"What?” he said, startled and dismayed. “But— well, why don’t you ask her about it?”

“No,” said his wife with an attempt at her usual brisk, pleasant manner. “She’ll tell us when she’s

But she was leaden-hearted about her child, and Connie knew it. She knew how cruelly disappointed they were about her vacation, which they had thought she would spend with them in the Berkshires. Everyone was talking of holidays then, and one hot day Jarvis asked her, as casually as he could, when she was going to take her vacation and where she was going.

“I’m not going far," she answered. "I’m going to stay with Lois."

He said nothing to that. Probably he knew that she was doing this for him. Very well, let him know. Let him know that his faithful friend would not leave him in his bad times.

Early in August Connie went to I-ois’ house. She had thought she would lx: happy there, but she was not. It was just the same in the cheerful little house; the same worry atout him, the same waiting for him to telephone.

"He’s willing to go on like this for years," she thought. "Even if he gets the capital he wants, that won’t be enough for him. He’s to go on. overworking, not eating enough, with no one to look after him, and I’m just to look on and wait. For years. I can’t bear it. I want to help him. We could get married now if he’d only see it."

She determined that she would make him see it. She telephoned and asked him to come down to lunch on Sunday.

“I want you to meet Lois and Don," she said.

He was obviously reluctant to come, but he agreed. Lois was profoundly interested, She made unusual preparations for their guest; all morning there was a stir of preparation in the house.

"There he comes!” said Connie.

Continued on page 38

Continued from page 22

Lois joined her at the window.

"He looks nice,” she said.

"He’s just working himself sick,” said Connie, with a tremor in her voice.

She opened the door for him and held out her hand. She wanted to meet him gaily, even a little carelessly; wanted him to feel at once the friendly nonchalance of the little house. She was wearing a sleeveless blue cotton dress like Lois’. She wanted him to see her at home here.

The sitting room was dim and cool and decked with flowers. Lois was at her best, pretty and lively. They sat there talking until the baby began to cry.

“She hardly ever cries,” Lois explained, rising hastily. “She’s such a good little thing; not one bit of trouble.”

But she cried enough today. The little house was filled with her indignant protest; and when Lois brought her in, her little face was tear-stained.

“It’s the hot weather,” said Lois.

Connie glanced at Martin with a certain anxiety. She had so wanted him to see the baby at her best. Though even now she was a lovely little creature, in her fresh white dress, with her gossamer hair and her shy smile. As she sat on her mother’s lap, they made, Connie thought, a touching and charming picture.

While they were talking, the front door opened and Don came in stealthily with two big paper bags from the delicatessen. Surely there was nothing amiss in that; yet, glancing again at Martin, Connie wished that he had come in at the back door. And Don made matters worse by coming out to the sitting room and saying he had just stepped out for cigarettes, as if those paper bags were somehow disgraceful. Connie could understand it, as evidently Lois had told her husband it was important to make a good impression upon Connie’s young man. A mistake. Don, so careless and cheerful and witty, was guarded, a little uneasy now.

Lois took far too much trouble with the lunch. She was in the kitchen so long; she looked flushed and tired when at last they sat down at the table, daintily set with her wedding silver and her best blue linen lunch set. All the gypsy gaiety and ease were gone.

Yet surely Martin could see the beautiful thing there was in this house; the love, the valor, the happiness.

“Of course, he never says much,” she thought, looking at his dark, unsmiling face.

He was very polite; he tried to talk; once she saw him touch the baby’s gossamer hair with a gentle hand.

“He must see . ” she thought. “He

must realize now that people can be happy without money.”

Lois had put up a little supper for them, and after lunch they set off for a beach.

"Have a good time,” Lois called after

HEY went down the path in silence. “It’s an awfully nice little house, isn’t it?” said Connie presently.

“Yes, it is,” said Jarvis politely.

“And Lois is so happy,” she went on. “She's a lucky girl.”

“Lucky?” said Jarvis.

A chill despair came over her at that tone.

“Yes,” she said sturdily. "She’s got Don, and the baby, and her home

“Can we take a taxi to the beach?” he interrupted.

“Let’s not. The train—”

But he insisted upon a taxi, and when they got into it he began to speak.

"You see,” he said, "I know too much about that sort of life. My parents were

^“Weren’t they—one bit happy?” she asked unsteadily.

"Well, yes.” he said. "They were because they didn't mind. But that lifethe makeshifts, the worry about bills, the meanness of it. I know fellows who married like that, on nothing. They’re shabby, they and their

wives; they live in cheap little flats or houses—always worried, no margin of safety. It's hell.”

“It’s not!” she cried. “Not if they care for each other.”

“Don’t you see that that makes it a thousand times worse," he said vehemently. “If a man really loves a girl, he wants to give her the best—not a little, mean life like that.”

She said nothing. She sat looking out of the cab window with an odd look on her

“It’s no use,” she thought. She had to see now that the life which would be beautiful to her was horrible to him.

They went in swimming at a public beach; then, when they were dressed again, they walked a long way, past the crowds, to a deserted little strip of sand between two breakwaters, and sat down there to eat their supper. The sun was sinking; the sky was softly bright, the sea came running up on the sand with scarcely a ripple. When they had finished, Martin lit a cigarette and leaned back, looking out over the water. She sat beside him. She glanced at him, saw the tense fatigue in his face, and turned

“See here, Connie,” he said. “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to get back early to see Harrison. We’ve got to talk things over.” He paused a moment. "There’s a fellow I’m going to see tomorrow morning. If that’s no good— if we can’t get more capital before the end of the month—we’re sunk. I’ll have to start all over again; take a job somewhere.”

She could not speak just then. Her throat was constricted; her eyes had filled. Then, in a moment:

"I’m sorry,” she said. “I wish I could help you.”

"You do,” he.answered. “Only—you see how it is.”

She glanced over her shoulder; there was no one in sight.

“Martin !” she cried. “I don’t care.”

He looked at her. not understanding, then their eyes met. He caught her in his arms, and she clung to him, weeping.

“I don’t care, Martin.”

“I don’t care either,” he said, holding her tight. "I love you so, I want you so. I tried not to tell you—yet. But now I don’t care. If you’ll marry me now ”

He stopped, silenced by the look in her

“Connie, what’s the matter?” he asked anxiously.

“No,” she said, trying to draw away from him. “It can’t be like that.”

But he would not let her go. He held her tight, kissed her averted cheek.

"It can! Connie, I want you so. I love

“No!” she cried in despair. “Let me go. We’ve got to forget this. And just go on— as we were.”

“You don’t want to marry me, Connie?”

“No,’ she answered. “Not now. No. We couldn't be happy.”

He let her go then. He lit another cigarette and strolled down to the water’s edge, and she sat where he had left her, looking after him. Better to spend all her youth in heart-sick waiting, better even to lose him, never to see him again than to marry him now—like this, against his judgment, his will, taking advantage of this moment when his passion had mastered him. It would be a sacrifice on his part, and he would regret it.

XJE STOOD there for a long time, sil -*■ houetted against the paling sky; and she sat looking, with a half-bitter wonder. Why was he so dear to her?

At last he turned and came back.

“Where can we get a taxi?” he asked with an effort at a friendly tone.

“We don’t need a taxi. The train’s good enough.”

“It’s not!” he said vehemently. “That’s just the trouble. You’re too easily satisfied. You don’t demand enough of life. You're too humble.”

Without a word, she began to walk in the direction of the road, and he kept at her

“Connie, ’ he said. "Connie, dear, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

‘ You didn’t,. Martin,” she said, instantly won by his unhappy tone.

“It’s just that this hot weather makes me irritable.”

“Tell me about this man you’re going to see tomorrow morning,” Connie said.

He could not resist that.

“It looks pretty hopeful,” he said. “Of course you never know —but if he does come in with us, then in two or three years we ought to be making real money.”

He stopped a taxi on the road and they got into it.

“Connie,” he said, "you don’t know how I feel about you. I 'm not much good at talking about it. But the first time I met you -you’re such a thoroughbred. Everything about you is—so lovely. Your father’s given you whatever you wanted all your life. That’s vvhat I mean to do.”

“You don’t even know what I want,” she thought, and sat in silence, with tears in her eyes, listening to him. He told her what he wanted to give her. “A fine, dignified life,” he said; "travel, the right sort of friends, and a wide horizon.” And it seemed to her that when she asked for bread he wanted to give her a stone. That it was a precious stone made no difference; it would give her no solace. She was to stand aside and watch him working too hard, living with reckless disregard for health; she was not to help him, only to wait.

It was dark now. The windows of Lois’ bungalow were lighted when the cab stopped and they descended. Such a cheap little house in so meagre a garden. How, Connie thought, could she ever have thought that this life would touch him? They walked up the path side by side. She wanted to say something encouraging and cheerful to him before he went away, but she could not.

A leaden depression weighed upon her. They mounted the steps of the verandah, and she paused, stood motionless.

’’I’ll just step in and say gixxl night,” he began, but she did not stir or answer him.

“Connie,” he said.

"Look !” she cried.

STARTLED, he moved to her side and looked through the window into the lighted room. Don, in his shirtsleeves, a pipe between his teeth, was sitting at a

table, glueing a mane on a little wooden horse, while the baby stood between his knees, watching with grave interest. Lois was stretched out in a deck chair, hands clasped behind her head, looking at them with a smile on her worn young face.

“I see,” he said doubtfully. “You mean I’d better not disturb them? Well, I’ll ring you up tomorrow, Connie, and tell you about that business.”

“Your business!” she cried:

He was too startled to speak for a moment. “Connie,” he said at last. “What do—” She turned to him. The light from the window was on her face, and he could see her blue eyes shining with a strange anger.

“Too humble!” she said. “Does Lois look humble? Did you ever see anyone who looked prouder? And why shouldn’t she be proud? She’s got the most expensive things in the world—love and a child and a home. You don’t know what they cost. The things you want are cheap. Anyone can buy them, just with money.”

“Connie!”

“No. You called that ‘a mean little life.’ ” "Connie, I didn’t mean—”

“Oh, yes, you did. And I tried to think as you did. But you’re wrong—about everything—every single thing.”

“Connie,” he said with a sort of awe. “Is that really what you want?”

Lois had heard their voices, and she opened the front door.

“Come in, you people,” she called cheerfully.

Connie turned toward the door, but Jarvis caught her arm.

“Please, just one moment,” he entreated. She halted, and Lois closed the door. “Connie,” he said. “I didn’t realize—I’m sorry. All I want is for you to be happy. I’m so sorry—for everything.”

His voice was unsteady, he was looking at her with desperate anxiety. And she knew very well what she ought to do with this self-willed, difficult lover of hers. He was terrified at the thought that he might lose her, that perhaps he had disappointed her irretrievably. She had the upper hand now, and, with a little diplomacy, she could keep it.

"Even as things are now, I could afford a house like this,” he said miserably. “If you’ll let me—if it would be good enough for you—”

Folly to relent now. Her anger had served her well, had done more than all her patience, her faithful kindness. Let him wait in anxiety, let him sue longer for her favor. It was wise and good that his obstinate pride should be a little humbled.

But she had none of that wisdom; she did not want him humbled. She flung away all her advantage.

“You wouldn’t be happy!” she cried with a sob. “You wouldn’t like it.”

He caught her in his arms and kissed her. He assured her earnestly, fervently, that he would be happy, that he wanted that life more than anything in the world.

'Tve been a fool,” he said. “Connie, I beg you to marry me.”

"No, Martin.”

“Connie, if it’s good enough for you, I -can give you a home like this.”

Always, even while he entreated her, it was what he could give her. And he would never in his life quite know all that she would give to him.

"Oh, I don’t care,” she said with a little laugh and, drawing down his head, kissed him on the temple.

“I don’t understand, Connie,” he said, puzzled.

“Darling, you never will,” she thought.

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