The Better Part

The love story of a lady who looked like a diving Hermes and a studious gentleman who acquired his suntan out of a bottle

EUDORA RAMSAY RICHARDSON July 1 1931

The Better Part

The love story of a lady who looked like a diving Hermes and a studious gentleman who acquired his suntan out of a bottle

EUDORA RAMSAY RICHARDSON July 1 1931

The Better Part

The love story of a lady who looked like a diving Hermes and a studious gentleman who acquired his suntan out of a bottle

EUDORA RAMSAY RICHARDSON

ALLEN had been watching the girl all morning. First of July it was in a strange city, and it might have been inordinately dull for Allen if he had not spied the girl. Jock Hamilton, whom he had known at university, had put him up at the country club.

“I’ll see you in the evening,” Jock had said. “Keep as cool as possible. You’ll be comfortable though bored.” Allen, however, had not been bored—at least not after he caught sight of the girl on the tennis court. As she swung that wicked racket of hers, Allen would not have been in the least surprised if she had suddenly soared through space. She looked like the Winged Victory—no, like Hermes about to carry a message to the gods.

Allen was a little ashamed of the simile. Was he getting poetic over a girl whose name he did not even know? He would probably never get nearer to her than he was at that moment. He was that way about girls; had had to be all through college and law school because there had been no

money for the frills. He thought that a girl who could propel a ball with the velocity of a cyclone would despise a fellow who was not at home on the tennis court.

For five minutes Allen took stock of himself. There were no assets. He had majored in Greek during his four academic years. Therefore, it was natural, even while he made of himself a single-track student, that he should hold the classic ideal of a sound mind in a sound body. Now it seemed to him all of a sudden that the body was vastly more important than the mind. The fingers of his left hand massaged the muscles of his right arm. Soft. That’s what he was—half a man in spite of the university honors he had won. He was tall enough but stooped from bending over law books. He remembered that years ago old ladies had said rather nice things about his blue eyes and the wave in his dark-brown hair. Bosh ! It couldn’t make any difference what kind of eyes you had if they were hidden by hornrimmed glasses. His teeth were not so bad; even by the

grace of Nature and white through his own efforts. Still, that girl would be interested in a man like Jock Hamilton, with a football letter above the hair on his chest, a man who could beat her at tennis and make her like it. The fellow she was playing with now was no match for her. Oh, yes; Allen knew all about girls. They liked men who were worthy of their metal. Allen sighed. Though he was perfectly comfortable and not at all bored, he was far from cheerful.

“Game,” called the girl, “and set. Let’s rest a while and have a swim before luncheon.”

“Great stuff!” the youth agreed. “You’ve certainly left me gasping.”

The pair swung past Allen’s bench in the gallery. The girl’s cheeks were the color of the red ribbon that bound her red-brown hair. That Allen stared like a fascinated animal didn’t matter at all, for the girl seemed not to know that he was anywhere near her. Shamelessly he hurried over to the swimming pool to be in time for the exhibition.

Allen saw her half an hour later as she emerged from one of the dressing rooms. Her bathing suit was green, her body slim and muscular, her legs and arms tanned by the sun. Maudlin or not, he had been right about that Hermes simile. She was not running across the sweep of lawn; she was flying, lighting on the diving board, cutting into the water and up again, swimming with long crawling strokes. Allen rose quickly and returned to the club. He couldn’t stand it; couldn’t stand watching her swim beside another man, could less have stood swimming with her with his silly side stroke and his weak, small-boy overhand.

So he went to his room and cursed the fraternity key that evidenced his four years of plugging at college. He cursed the law degree and the magna cum laude that had won for him an enviable connection with the celebrated law firm of Eddington, Smith and Eddington. He wanted to beat that girl at tennis. He wanted to outdistance her in swimming, to execute fancy dives that would leave her gaping with admiration. Oh indeed, Allen knew the kind of man who would win a girl like that, and he also knew that he was not that kind.

A LLEN had hoped that the girl would be having luncheon ■LA. at the club. He did not find her in the dining room, however, or in the sunroom or on the terrace. First, he hoped that she would be dancing at the club that evening, and then he grew cold with fear that she would. When you know certainly that something is not for you, it is just as well to have it out of sight, even though it can never be quite out of mind.

Allen left off his hom-rimmed glasses that night. If the girl did happen to come, and if Jock did happen to know her, Allen preferred to look as little like a moth-eaten student as possible.

The girl came. Allen saw her as she entered the ballroom. She was not with her tennis opponent of the morning. Well, thank heaven for that. Rot! Why thank heaven for anything? The escort of the evening was the typical hero of the cinema. He had curly black hair and a steely beard line bisecting his cheek bones. Of course he was an athlete.

Allen starèd across the room gloomily. She wasn’t Hermes now. She was Helen of Troy, with the face and figure to launch a thousand ships. She was no longer a slim boy,

playing at sports, but a Grecian lady in a sheath of an evening gown of soft, flowered silk that fell to the tops of her rose satin slippers. Her face was Grecian too, chiselled like a marble Venus upon whom lights and shadows played incessantly. Allen shook himself angrily. How had he happened to start all this metaphorical nonsense? "Who is the girl?” he enquired of Jock. “The beautiful one with the red-brown hair. She was playing tennis at the club this morning.” “Patricia Hamilton, my cousin,” Jock replied. “We’ll sidle up when the music stops. I’ve told her you’re here.” Allen felt that he should be sorry, but he knew that he was glad. It would have been foolish to seek an introduction to the girl, but there was comfort in the inevitability of the situation. At the end of the dance Jock and Allen overtook Patricia on the terrace. “I saw your tennis game,” Allen said a few moments later. “Then I saw you too,” Patricia smiled. “Only I didn't realize it was my whole gallery that Jock was bringing to meet me. Weren’t you wearing big glasses that made you look different?” “I use them in the sun,” Allen replied equivocally, and decided at once to tell a good lie while he was about it. “Can’t stand the things often. Don’t need them, of course, except now and then. May I have this dance? The music is starting again.” Dancing with Patricia, he was glad she could not see his eves for they were surely a bit haggard by this time. No

man could spend hour on hour poring over law books and not need glasses badly enough for his weakness to be detectable. Patricia deserved a Greek disc thrower, an Apollo incarnate. Imagine Apollo in glasses! Imagine Helen of Troy wasting a second glance upon a Paris who squinted ! “You swim as well as you play tennis,” Allen continued by way of making conversation. Patricia threw him an upward smile. “You didn’t stay long enough to find out,” she said. “I thought you’d be coming back in your bathing suit. Why didn’t you?” “Haven’t one with me,” Allen admitted, “but I’m going to remedy that at once.” “I know you’re a tennis player, too. You looked so intelligent while you were watching the game. Jock’s told us all about your brilliance at sports.” “Quite all?” “Well, maybe only the half has been told, but it’s enough to dazzle the feminine mind. I was afraid you’d be pedantic and boring and not at all interested in sports.” “Oh, I’m interested in sports all right—tennis, golf, swimming—all of them. I’d like to swim with you and take you on in a tennis game whenever you say.” “You’ll have a chance this week-end. You know Jock is sending you in his place to my house party at the beach? Going away on business and can’t come himself.”

Then someone broke, and Allen lost Patricia Hamilton. He was alone on the terrace before he quite realized what he had let himself in for. In what could only be described as an intoxicated moment he had asked this girl to swim with him, had talked as though he expected to beat her at tennis. If it were not for that week-end party he could stall with excuses. Of course, for some time to come he would be busy adjusting himself to the new law office. When, however, Jock had mentioned the house party at his aunt’s cottage, Allen had accepted with alacrity. Now Patricia would not only see what a poor stick of a fellow he was, but would also discover his false claim to a prowess that could never be his.

Jock arrived soon, bearing a partner for Allen. He was a conscientious host. During the evening there were other girls, of course, but none who could

dance like Patricia, none who did not bore Allen with their chatter. Though he broke Patricia often, he could never keep her long. Every member of the stag line seemed to be watching for a chance to dance with her. And this was the girl who had the power to turn Allen hot and cold at the same time; this girl who would some day marry not half a man but one up to par in everything !

“Mother told me to invite you to dinner tomorrow night,” Patricia said at the end of the evening. “Since Jock is to be out of town, we’re going to take care of you. There’ll be another couple in, and we’ll play bridge, I suppose. Just old time auction. Bill doesn’t like contract.” Like the fool he had become, Allen entered no demurrer. “What am I going to do?” he asked Jock a few minutes later. “I can’t play.”

“There’s only one thing you can do, idiot. Admit you haven’t had time to cultivate your lighter side and get them to teach you. It makes a great hit with a girl to let her teach you bridge.”

Well, maybe Jock was right about bridge. But Allen knew very well that Patricia wouldn’t feel the same way about swimming and golf and tennis, especially since he had declared his interest in the sports. Heaven must send some way of escape. Allen was young enough to believe that heaven would.

The first day at the office was dull but not difficult. Allen knew, of course, that he would have to serve his apprenticeship at deeds and wills; so he buckled down with all the determination of a beginner and some of the enthusiasm. He was a lucky dog to get this connection. Indeed

he would make the most of it, and win the steady promotion that had been promised him. Jock had said that Mr. Eddington was the sort of man to push endlessly a young fellow in whose ability he had confidence. Those years of plugging would serve Allen well. Just a few more like them, and he would be in a position to cultivate the lighter side he had perforce neglected. Though his conscious mind was upon his work, there was always an undercurrent of thought that had to do with Patricia Hamilton on the tennis court, in the swimming pool, and on the dance floor with men who had not spent seven years lashed to the academic galley.

"PATRICIA in her own home that evening was lovelier L than at the club. The russet dinner gown enriched the sunburn on her neck and arms and intensified the reddish lights in her hair. Genuine—that was Patricia, thought Allen; wholesome, natural, charming in any setting. It was a gay little dinner in the cool candle-lit dining room. Patricia’s father and mother were as Allen might have known they would be. Gay Dearborn, who had come with Bill, the curly-headed giant of the night before, was a good sort, too. The only marring note was Bill. Allen simply did not like Bill. It was perfectly clear, moreover, that Bill liked Patricia very much. He was the typical college rah-rah boy, Allen decided, who lived by brawn and not brain. It infuriated Allen to hear Bill call Patricia, Pat. Had he no sense of fitness? Couldn’t he see that the lovely long name suited the girl infinitely better than the crisp monosyllable?

After dinner, at Mrs. Hamilton’s request, Patricia sang, playing her own accompaniments. Allen had never known a girl before who didn’t insist for a full hour after meals that she had no voice. And how she could sing ! Patricia Hamilton was a dilettante in nothing.

“She’s been taking music all her life,” Mrs. Hamilton explained to Allen. "Even through college she found time for practising, and last winter she studied in New York. We think there’s a real future for

Allen agreed enthusiastically. His thinking, however, carried a provision. If Patricia married that silly Bill Denny, the cards would be stacked against her. If she married a man with sense enough to be proud of her—a man like himself—there would be no end to

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The Better Part

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the things she would be able to accomplish.

“It’s remarkable,” he said to Mrs. Hamilton, “how well she does everything. So many people with talent are one-sided.” Patricia’s mother smiled appreciatively. “And it’s such a pity, isn’t it? Patricia tells me that you are interested in sports, too. Jock, of course, has told us about what you did at college and we feared you’d be all student. Graduating with so many honors, editor of the Law Review—oh, we are impressed, Allen Trowbridge!”

“All student.” Allen shrugged. “Very little, I’m afraid. I don’t know how I’m going to stand grinding in an office days like this, when there are golf links and tennis courts outside.”

“But week-ends come often,” Mrs. Hamilton reassured. “I’m glad you can be with us at the beach, Sunday.”

Patricia put an end to the tête-à-tête by bringing out the cards.

“You’ll have to teach me,” Allen admitted. “Bridge seemed about as good as anything else to leave for my old age.” “That will be fun,” said Patricia. “Shall we start at the very beginning?”

“Cheer up, old man,” Bill consoled. “All of us have had the experience and lived through it.”

Allen inwardly resented the fellow’s patronizing manner. As a matter of fact, he was doubting Bill’s right to life.

“I have always thought of bridge as rather sedentary for an active man,” he

As he followed Patricia’s directions and drew for partners, he was thankful that Jock was not present. How amused all his varsity friends would be to hear him scoffing at sedentary pursuits—he who had never had time for any other kind for seven long years! College seemed far away, however. Nothing was really near to him except Patricia and the person he would like to make of himself in order to be acceptable to the girl who did everything surpassingly well. With Patricia across the table expounding the points of the game, there was no reason to think at all of Bill’s condescension. Having determined to apply his legal brain to cards, Allen did very well.

“Fine!” Patricia approved. “I’ve never had so apt a pupil. Soon you’ll be conducting classes for the rest of us.”

“I’ve never seen an honors man who didn’t think he was called to teach the world,” bantered Bill.

“They’re probably right at that,” added Patricia.

Her merriment was reassuring. Whatever had made Allen nurse that inferiority complex that had developed yesterday at the club? He could hold his own with a nit-wit like Bill any day, morning or evening.

So the card game was satisfactory enough —except that the spots would blur before Allen’s eyes. He simply could not bring himself to wear those disfiguring goggles in the presence of Patricia.

“We’ll all meet at the beach. Saturday,’*

said Allen in parting from her and her friends.

Indeed, his bravado was working. To a man frankly in love, two days with the girl could promise nothing but happiness. That night he dreamed that he vanquished Patricia on the tennis courts, beat her in a swimming race, and then took her in his arms with words of sweet consolation on his lips.

BEFORE Saturday Allen achieved two other dates with Patricia. They were in the evenings, and consequently without golf, tennis, and swimming hazards. She played and sang for him when he asked her to, and sat with him on her cool porch, not chattering as most girls did but talking about matters that interested a young man who had spent seven studious years at college. Twice she mentioned the fellow, Bill. She had played tennis with him one day, had swum with him another, it transpired.

"Bill’s rather too good for me,” she admitted, “but it’s fine practice, playing with him. As long as he doesn’t mind, I don’t apologize for being beaten most of the

As long as Bill didn’t mind ! Allen gulped audibly. He mumbled something about a man’s minding anything Patricia did.

“By the way, Bill wants to drive you down to the beach tomorrow afternoon,” Patricia said as Allen took his leave Friday night. “Mother and I are going early to open the cottage. Your Mr. Eddington is coming down Sunday. Father thinks it will be good for you to meet your superior on a social plane.”

“Fine!” said Allen insincerely.

Of course, he couldn’t say that he would just as soon not ride with Bill. Some day he would have a car of his own and be independent of such patronage. Pretty soon, perhaps, for he was making a good start at the office.

Nor was he thrilled at the thought of being thrown in with Mr. Eddington. The successful lawyer still awed him a little, and he was far surer of himself at work than away from it. He looked at Patricia and gulped again. He also blinked and squinted, perhaps because the sight of her dazzled him, perhaps because his eyes were missing the hom-rimmed glasses through which they had looked these many years.

Half an hour later, in his room, which was now in a boarding-house and not at the club, Allen stood before the mirror in his union suit, studying his physique. Entirely unmotivated by the Narcissus complex, he scowled disapprovingly. A pretty sight he would be in a new bathing suit. Manly muscles should stand in ridges on his shoulders, strong sinews should make little hills and valleys on his chest and back. His was a case of misdirected activities. His father’s failure in business had converted him into a student when he would probably have been happier as the college athlete, a man who could dazzle a girl like Patricia with his exploits on the gridiron. He pinched his arms and legs inquisitively. The vestigial muscle was still there. It could yet be developed. When he squared his shoulders and threw out his chest, he was still far from a weakling. But that white skin! Patricia was beautifully browned from the summer sun. The boys would be brown, too, to the very edge of their bathing suits.

Then, in one inspiring flash, Allen remembered advertisements he had read concerning a preparation that might be used in lieu of the sun’s rays. He would purchase a bottle and prove that, unlike the Ethiopian, he could change his hide. Somewhat reassured, Allen fell asleep to dream again about feats of physical valor.

WITH all the necessary equipment neatly packed in his suitcase, Allen rode to the beach with Bill Denny the next afternoon. Patricia ran to meet the car— Patricia in her white tennis dress, swinging a racket.

“You’re late,” she said. “The others are on the courts at the club. Get into your tennis togs. There’s time for one set before

we swim. We're putting you two together in the front room upstairs—specially reserved for the distinguished.”

“That means you, Trowbridge,” said Bill. “I’m just the old shoe around here—worn but still trustworthy.”

Allen followed Bill into the house without replying. The fellow sounded disgustingly sure of his status with the Hamiltons. Ten minutes later, clad in white ducks, the boys walked with Patricia to the club.

“We’ll play a set of doubles—we three with Gay,” Patricia announced blithely. “I want Allen as partner. I can see now that he means business with that shiny new racket.”

“Had to get it. Left my old one at home, ” said Allen, but he did not explain that the old one, which had not been used since the days of his extreme youth, now possessed not a single unbroken string.

His heart was sinking with every step. In high school he had played tennis fairly well, but at college and law school he had scarcely put foot on a court. If heaven was not going to help him out of this predicament, then his own brain must.

Gay waved her racket in greeting, and the others hurried to join her. Allen took his place at the net. Patricia, at the back line, served a whizzing ball. Bill returned it ferociously, and Allen, leaping to hit it in the air, tripped and fell.

“Oh, you’ve twisted your ankle,” said Patricia. “Is it sprained, do you think?” Allen rose stiffly and limped a step or two. He believed that he had managed his fall rather well. No one could guess that it was his ingenuity and not heaven that had saved him.

“Just a strain, I think,” he replied casually. “I’ll watch from the sidelines for a while.”

“You’ll do nothing of the sort,” Patricia protested. “Gay’s car’s here. I’ll drive you home and see that you get some hot water and liniment. We won’t have your weekend spoiled by a swollen ankle.”

Allen put up an argument which he feared sounded rather pale. In the end he let Patricia drive him home. He even leaned on her a little as he limped into the house and up the stairs.

"I’ll send you some liniment and adhesive tape,” she said. “After you’ve run scalding water over the ankle, perhaps you’d better strap it, to be on the safe side. Then, when you’re ready, slip into your bathing suit and come down. The sun on the beach is a cure for whatever ails you.”

Allen followed only one of the first-aid injunctions. He strapped the ankle as a safeguard against the morrow’s tennis game. Then he got into his bathing suit, anointed his body painstakingly with the sun-tan lotion, and went down to meet Patricia.

“Until the others come,” she said, “we’ll sit on the beach ‘to talk of many things: of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.’ ”

In his utter contentment Allen almost forgot to limp.

“ ‘It seems a shame, the walrus said, he quoted glibly, “ ‘to play them such a trick; after we’ve brought them out so far and made them trot so quick !’ ”

But conscience was not troubling Allen as he stretched his so recently sun-tanned limbs on the beach beside Patricia.

“ ‘It was so kind of you to come,’ ” he continued, ‘ ‘and you are very nice.’” Patricia pointed to the bandaged ankle and puckered her face in mock seriousness “ T weep for you, the walrus said,’ ” she quoted again, “ T deeply sympathize.’ ”

So they lolled on the beach and played at conversation. Allen was so utterly happy that he quite forgot the hazards yet to be encountered.

It was more than an hour before the rest of the crowd descended upon the beach.

“Is the maimed hero equal to a plunge?” asked Bill Denny with the sort of smile that often leads up to a tragedy.

“No more maimed than a hero,” Allen replied cheerfully. “Let’s go!”

The boys and girls joined hands rnd ran to meet an oncoming wave. This was easy

enough. Allen could stand cold water and splash with the best of them. Then, as a wave receded, Allen looked with consternation upon his legs and arms. Brown rivulets were streaming down his body. The sun-tan lotion was not waterproof!

He squatted low, plowed farther out, rubbing himself frantically. Certainly pallor was preferable to a mottled skin. Until the crowd started toward the cottage, he remained in deep water. Finally, when backs were turned, he ran fo ■ his raincoat, shrouded himself as completely as possible and sprinted for safety.

“You showed a great deal of speed for a man with a sprained ankle,” Bill remarked while Allen struggled with the bath towel. “Aren’t you paler than you were before you took the dip?”

Allen replied with an evasive grunt. He could see that Bill’s eyes were upon the bottle of sun-tan which had been carelessly lef on the bureau. He dressed hurriedly and left the room. The sooner out of Bill’s sight, the better for all concerned.

AT THE Casino that evening Bill Denny •**-was in high spirits. He laughed a great deal while he danced, and the girls laughed oo. Allen guessed that Bill was making the most of the sun-tan incident and was not cheered by the obvious deduction. When Gay teased him about it, he managed a hollow laugh and made no denial.

“Don’t pay any attention to Bill,’’ Patricia comforted. “He’s a practical joker and can’t help it.”

Nevertheless, Allen’s spirits sank lower and lower. As hostess, Patricia would be kind, he knew, hiding whatever justifiable scorn and amusement she felt. Altogether, Allen spent a miserable evening and a wretched night. While Bill snored by his side, he writhed in mental and physical agony. Not only had he made a fool of himself but he had blistered his tender arms and legs in the sun. Burning with fever, he tossed through the long hours.

When the sun was still low in the East, he put on his bathing suit and went downstairs ready for the fishing trip that was to feature the dreary morning. Patricia was already on the screened porch, packing sandwiches into a hamper.

“Hello,” she said. “You’re just in time to help.”

As she looked at Allen, her eyes, still misty with sleep, opened wider.

“Oh, you’re blistered.” she said. “Poor Allen ! I have something in a tube that will cure you almost at once.”

“Let me rub it on for you,” she added. “I was just that way last spring and I know how it hurts.”

A soft hand patted the burning shoulders; gentle fingers touched the anguished legs. Allen closed his eyes and forgot his troubles.

“There’s no one like you in the world,” he whispered.

“That’s because I'm being a mother to you,” Patricia smiled. “Now bring those pickle and olive jars and the can opener, and wedge them all beside the sandwiches.”

Allen obeyed happily. He was thinking only of himself and Pa ricia together in the early morning calm.

Then someone rang a bell and the others scampered down. Coffee and toast, bacon and eggs, and then off to the motor boat that waited close inshore. The whir of an engine, the dashing of spray, the little boat cutting merrily through the waves, rocking, careening; boys laughing, girls squealing. An anchor dropped into the deep blue ocean.

“We ought to get a big catch on a day like this,” said Patricia.

The whizz of Bill’s reel. A fish drawn in to a chorus of admiring exclamations. Allen worked with the toy someone placed in his hands. He had never thrown a reel in his life. Patricia showed him how it was done. He practised without notable success, then watched the others. Perhaps in the general excitement no one would notice the insignificant part he was playing. But he did not want to be inconspicuous with Patricia so near him. He wanted to shine. He wanted every one to know he was there.

No, he wanted just Patricia alone to know.

“It’s time for a swim,” said Patricia at last. “Let’s go overboard.”

Without waiting for a reply, she was in, with a long graceful dive that cut the air and water like a green rainbow. Allen followed, slapping the ocean pancake fashion. In a moment boys and girls vere circling the boat with strong crawl strokes. Allen tried the overhand. It was weak, slow and atrurd. His side stroke was no better, his breast stroke much worse. Finally he climbed back into the boat. The others came in a few moments, all but Gay who was swimming out farther than the rest.

“Gay ought not to take so many chances,” said Patricia. “She isn’t a particularly good swimmer.”

A scream cut the ai\ loud and piercing above the quiet water. Gay’s bright cap was no longer visible. Gay had gone under. In a flash Allen was overboard, swimming desperately toward the spot where he had last seen Gay. A bathing suit flashed near him. Allen grabbed it and started to fight toward the boat. Arms tight about his neck, water over his head. Struggling, fighting. Up, then down, always caught in that terrible grip. Salt water rushing down his throat, strangling, burningly bitter. Then darkness . . .

Allen opened his eyes wearily. The bed was cool, and fragrant with the scent of dried lavender. The room was blessedly dark. There were people around him—a man, a woman, a girl—a girl with hair and eyes that brightened the darkness. A moment ago there had been unhappiness deep within him. There had been fear of ridicule. There had been water and a desperate struggle. Where was it all now? Where was he? Slowly his mind became clear. He remembered. He knew the people about him—Patricia, Mrs. Hamilton, Mr. Eddington, the great man of his law fi m !

“Where is Gay?” he asked weakly.

“She’s fine. Came around right away,” said Mrs. Hamilton. “You'll be fine, too, if you’re quiet for a while.”

“For heaven’s sake, do as you’re told,” growled Mr. Eddington. “Here I spend the best part of my life trying to find a young lawyer like you, and when I get him he tries to kill himself in a week. Boy, I tell you the business can’t stand a setback like that.”

Allen tried to smile. Everyone was being kind. People usually were, though they might see through the bluff behind which you were hiding. Patricia knew him now to be a brawnless grind who couldn’t even pull a drowning girl out of the water.

“Go out, both of you ” Patricia was saying, “and let me stay with Allen. He doesn’t need to have people fussing over him now.”

Mrs. Hamilton and Mr. Eddington obeyed without a word. Patricia sat on the bed beside him and laid a hand on his forehead.

“You were wonderful,” she said. “While the rest of us stood gaping in the boat, you reached Gay. You kept her up. All we had to do was to start the engine and pull

“But you know now that I can’t play tennis, I can’t swim, I can’t do anything but pore over law books. I tried to make you think I was different because—because I love you—and because I know that a girl like you couldn’t love anything less than a real man.”

“You’re right,” Patricia smiled. “I couldn’t. Instinctive bravery is what counts most of all. It took bravery to lay aside everything but work while you were at college. It took bravery to jump overboard today without even stopping to think. You —you just chose the better part first.”

New strength flowed through Allen’s body. His arms reached about Patricia and drew her toward him. Her cheek pressed soft against his.

“I love you,” he said with a voice that was no longer weak and far away. “Say it, Patricia. Say it just once.”

"I love you,” Patricia whispered close to his ear.