A romantic version of the parable of the house that was built on shifting sands
MARGARET CULKIN BANNING
MARTHA just happened to have that kind of home-spun name. Her mother, poring over society columns which did not include the birth of her child, reading lists of debutantes with shy, secret ambition, saw that the privileged names usually seemed to be the simple ones. There was a picture of an unknown Martha in a wedding gown, with a veil of lace that had aged with family marriages, a healthy, happy, rich-looking girl with a confident chin. That was where thp name had come from.
But though the name belonged to Martha, it never expressed her. She was not one of the domestic and industrious who prefer to wash the dishes while the conversation is going on. Nor was she one of those unpowdered, walkingshoe, always reliable Marthas who have built such a firm tradition for the name that a stage star rarely assumes it.
She gave it a twist of her own, took the sober lining out of it, gave it the connotation of vivacity, the cleverest thing to wear, the most amusing thing to do, of plenty of allure, of getting what she wanted. By the time she was twenty
she had made it a name for a girl who could make or break a party because she could get men, especially Sam Boling, jumping through hoops if she liked. She needed rather a profusion of men to cover up the fact that the Kenyon social position was nebulous.
It hadn’t been easy for Mrs. Kenyon. Her husband had certainly made more money than she had expected, but he made it by slow progress in the management and ownership of a small creamery, and it was never enough to startle the millionaires of the city, nor sufficient to make their wives see anything interesting in Mrs. Kenyon herself. Still, when Martha was thirteen, the Kenyons moved away from the suburban neighborhood and the friends who thought them people of consequence, into the midst of those who didn’t think of them at all. They bought an ungainly house on the fringe of the most expensive residential district and Martha went to the right school, a school so very right that it was sometimes embarrassingly lonely for her parents to attend functions there. Later on she went away to be
finished, and the boarding school was chosen more for classmates than curriculum.
Martha was handling her own career by this time. She was always ready to contribute more than her share of gaiety, for she was still trading for position. She got along because she did not really care whether the girls liked her or not if only she were not left out of things. She did not make close friends, but everyone knew her. There were those who didn’t like her, but even to them it was often easier to include than to exclude a schoolmate. Their parents were generous to Martha in the same way. Also Martha played in luck. She was of debutante age during the winter of 1929, when there arose a strong and chastened feeling about expensive debuts. Many girls didn’t have them, and if Martha Kenyon also missed one it was not too noticeable that in her case the lack was not due to the depression.
When the Friday-to-Saturday dances were organized along in early September of the next year to relieve the
dreary lives of young women in hard times, Martha was on the list. There had been some question about that first.
“I don’t know why we should have Martha Kenyon,” said Barbara Lent.
Iouise Parker felt the same way, more strongly. “She’s really not a close friend of any of us and there’s nothing much to her. I thought this was just to be a small crowd of the girls we’ve always known the Somerset lot—with plenty of extra men.”
“Martha went to Somerset. And there may not be so many extra men if you don’t have her. Sam Boling won’t come.”
"Can’t Juliet handle him?”
Juliet Rand looked sceptical. She was chairman of the invitation committee. People always liked to have her run such things Ixcause, as now, it meant that there wouldn’t be any trouble. She was wearing the coat she’d worn last winter, the same red one with black fox, and it was a little too short. But the Rands, who owned mining property, were in financial difficulties and everything about them was more or less short.
"Don't expect me to guarantee Sam,” she answered. “I’m just one of his childhood memories, and gents don’t take those to dances.”
Sam was now a graduate engineer and had been taken into a local contracting and building firm. 1 le was helping to build roads and bridges and put in foundations. He and Juliet had always Ixrn friends, but so had their parents.
“If Martha comes,” said Iouise, "it will be her party."
"We re not as flat as all that.”
“Anyway it’s only a dance.” Juliet reminded them, taking excess drama out of the rising discussion, “and you've got to admit that Martha keeps the stag line from paralysis and will show us all what we'd wear if we had the figure for it. Better send her a card.”
MARTHA wore sky-blue satin with a little cape that might have been ermine and probably wasn’t. Her combination of molded lines and old-fashioned tippet, redgold hair and curled eyelashes was enough to keep Sam Boling completely concentrated. Martha came with him, but slie did not return his absorption. For she met Cory Redfern that night for the first time.
Rerllern was new in town. He had come as architect for the Music and Art Building. That was to be a very modern structure, and needed an architect who worked under the new dispensation of lines and angles. Cory Redfern not only tilled that requirement, but he was in addition young, jxTsonally agreeable, and ]x*rsuasive enough to convince the more conservative backers of the project that there is nothing necessarily immoral in geometrical designs and graduated plans. Later he was called in as consultant on the plans for the new hospital, when the architects got in a jam with the citizens’ committee on account of costs. Redfern straightened that matter out. and made everylxxiy, except a few architects and a disgruntled builder or two, satisfied. After that, Mrs. Richard Milton asked him to submit plans for her new house. With such a foothold, and because the Chicago firm with which he was connected was having a reorganization, it was not unnatural that Redfern should decide to o|X*n an office in the city which had treated him so well. But though the clubhouse and hospital and Milton house were well under way. he had not met Martha until the Friday-to-Salurday party.
They danced together almost the whole evening. When Sam Boling, looking very much as if he would like to use his fists, cut in, he was promptly cut out again.
“Martha’s certainly putting her whole mind on Cory Redfern,” grumbled Louise Parker in the dressing room. "Wouldn’t you know she’d get the best Ixrt we’ve had in years?”
“W hy is he?” asked Juliet. She was trying to do something definite to a dress that had been made over and apparently didn’t like its new shape. Juliet ran a wet comb through the black curls of her hair and plastered on some lip rouge. "Who made that man our Future?”
"Well,” Louise went on. dabbing at her own face, "he’s clever. And he's sure to get on. lie's building a most heavenly house for Mrs. Milton. I never saw anything like it in this town. To think that Martha should walk off with him! Of course Sam may do him in first,” she ended with great g(xxl cheer. “1 le l<x>ks as if he’d like to.”
"Sam ought to control himself,” sa id Juliet. “All those emotions don't improve his face. A broken nose s|x>ils a passionate l<x>k
Louise was still prophesying. “I’ll bet any amount of money that Martha will marry Cory Redfern.”
Nolxxly bet against her. Nolxxly would who saw those two together, either that first night or in the weeks that followed. It was one of those romances which take the breath out of criticism and make people wish they’d done more with love when they had it in their power. He was dark, she was fair; and they both seemed to have found w'hat they wanted. They appeared at every party, proving it.
It was quite unlike Juliet to offer advice to Martha. She was, in fact, very hesitant about doing it and very awkward when she did.
“I think it’s wonderful.” she told Martha heartily, “but don’t you think you're rushing it a little, marrying so
quickly? You haven’t known Cory so very long. Nobody around here lias. How can you be so sure?”
‘‘Oh, I’m sure enough,” answered Martha. “I'm just as crazy about Cory as he is about me.”
‘‘Yes, but that wasn’t exactly what I meant. I meant that when you think about settling down and having a home, you have to know what it's going to be like, don’t you?”
“But we do know.
We’re going to build on Summit Place. On the very end. That little triangular lot.
Didn’t you know that?”
There was something like triumph in Ma r t h a’s tone.
Summit Place was as good an address as could be found for miles around for purix>ses of social living, for embossed letter paper and things like that.
“I’ve heard about your house. And, of course, you know what’s right for you.
Nolxxly else possibly could. But it always seems to me that a person ought to be so terribly sure of what g<x?s into marriage. Cory seems grand. It isn't that. But are you sure you like the same things?”
It troubled lier, in spite of Martha’s laughing reassurance. She didn’t feel that she had quite said what she’d set out to say, and, in spite of having known Martha for years, she seemed unable to be really confidential. Later on, Juliet mentioned something about it to Iouise and Louise answered caustically, “Of course they like the same things! Cory likes Martha.”
“Don’t be so mean,” answered Juliet.
Iouise was getting just a little acid because she was goodlcxiking and capable, and yet nothing happened to her. Juliet wasn’t having much happen either, but she stirred up some activity. She w'as busy doing the work that several servants used to do in her own house, and taking a course in landscape gardening by mail. She knew quite a little about gardening already. It was she who was responsible for teaching Mrs. Waley that there were other flowers besides tulips and nasturtiums. She was going to plan the little formal garden for the Music and Art Building, but, of course, she had to do that for nothing. They made her chairman of the committee to clinch the matter. It wasn’t so easy to earn a living, as Juliet was finding out. And she was exceedingly tired of the red coat. She would have had it dyed except that she was afraid it might shrink and be worse than ever.
She wondered on the day that she met Sam Boling, just IxJore Martha’s wedding, if he would act different if she had less of a last year’s kxik. She would really have liked to cheer him up, but he seemed just barely to know she was there. He had come in from the country, where he was superintending a highway job. There was a reddened, purpled, weathered kxik about him which didn’t make him handsomer but at least made Juliet sure that his flesh wasn’t pining with love, no matter what was happening to his spirit. He seemed older and much more disagreeable than he ever had before.
“You look unpleasant,” said Juliet. “Isn’t your jcb going all right?”
“Sure. Why shouldn't it?”
“I thought you might not be applying yourself," she answered. “Did you come in for the wedding?”
He growled. "What wedding?"
"The wedding of the humming birds.” she said. “Martha and Cory, who do you suppose? You know perfectly well what wedding.”
"No. I didn’t come in for that." he said as if the whole thing were her fault. “I came in to bid on a job, if I have to tell my own business. The breakwater job at the entry to the harbor. Out by the lighthouse.”
“Well, don't take it t<xi hard if you don’t get it,” advised Juliet.
"What does that dirty crack mean?”
"Look it up in the dictionary,” she suggested. "Look up sour under the S’s."
rT'HE wedding of Martha Kenyon was what her mother -*• must have dreamed of at her birth. The elder Kenyons learned the small parts assigned to them and went through them self-consciously and rigidly, but as the service was in a church and the reception at a club, neither they nor the ungainly house were much featured. Afterward there was a two-column picture in the society news of a beautiful, happy, rich-looking girl with a confident chin, called Mrs. Cory Redfern (Martha Kenyon).
In the meantime, the house of the young Cory Redferns went up as if it were in the hands of magic builders. Redfern was making a record for speed in its construction. In no time at all, salesmen began to tell their other customers about Mrs. Cory Redfem’s black and white walls, and the mirrors in her dressing nx>m, and the furniture for that small below-stairs front room which was to have a red lacquered bar. It was a dramatic little house, bizarre, impetuous, built for entertaining.
The house in which Juliet lived was also on Summit Place. It had been built forty years before, painted thirteen times, and certainly needed it again. To get into the city Juliet always had to drive past the new Redfern house. So did Sam, when he came into town in early January and surprised Juliet by calling her up and inviting her to go to a movie one night.
“What’s that place?” he asked as they drove along.
“Martha and Cory Redfern’s new house,” said Juliet.
Sam slowed to give it another look. It was very attractive with its bright, long windows and curious narrow outline. Juliet had a queer twinge of feeling. She didn’t know whether it was envy of Martha or pity for poor Sam. But she believed in being fair and not kidding herself or him.
“Lovely, isn't it?” she asked.
"How about that flat roof when the snow piles up on it?” enquired Sam.
“That’s not my problem,” said Juliet.
“It's a jerry-built house.” Sam told her.
“It looks very handsome.”
“I saw the specifications when they were getting bids on the excavation. They were in our office. We didn't bid. You can’t build a house like that on the amount of money they wanted to put into it and not cut somewhere. Houses aren’t stage scenery. And you can’t do it so quickly either. Building takes time.”
"Yes, think of the pyramids,” agreed Juliet, and got scowled at.
The small amount of cheerfulness Sam had brought with him seemed to be all used up. They didn’t go on talking about the Redfern house, but everything combined to make '*■ a messy evening. There was the stupid picture, clogged with renunciations of love, and the tire blow-out. and the fact that Juliet felt a rip in her satin blouse under the arm and so had to refuse to go anywhere to eat after the show.
“We got that breakwater job,” he said as they were on their way back to her house. “I’m to have charge of the construction."
“When will that start?”
“Right away. In fact, the pile driving’s begun.”
“In the winter? A job in the harbor?”
“It’s not in the harbor. It’s on the lake side. Of course, we started. We can haul rock on the ice very easily. I don’t suppose you want to go down and have a look at it?”
“Sure. I do.”
They drove down to the harbor, and left the car to walk out to the end of the pier. There was a moon drifting about the sky. but Sam paid no attention to it except to say that he was glad it wasn’t going to be too dark to see anything.
“There’s where it is. The breakwater is being washed away at the end, so we’re reinforcing it,” Sam told Juliet, pointing past the glimmering, revolving beacon in the lighthouse. “It will take about fifteen thousand tons of rock.” The lake was not frozen over, for the winter had been mild. A silver crust of ice clung to the shore, and beyond it black water swirled about as if it were in a perpetual bad temper. It seemed to Juliet an amazing and fascinating place to work.
“Nice little job,” said Sam. “With any kind of normal weather we’ll be okay and make money.”
Juliet was glad that he was so interested and had work that took his mind off Martha. But as he went on explaining, she wished that he’d put his mind on herself. She wore the red coat as usual, and it was not the proper garment for a pier in midwinter.
“Well,” he asked at length, “ready to go home?”
“If I can still move.”
“I thought you wanted to see this.”
“I do,” she shivered, “but still I don’t want it to be the last thing I ever see.”
He took her arm and held her close to his side.
“You should have told me you were cold.”
She knew it was warmth and not affection he was trying to convey as he practically put her inside his coat. They went back to the Rand house, and Juliet cooked some oyster stew, which was another thing she did well.
As a reward, Sam told her how he felt about Martha.
“Now that I’m going to be in town, I hope you’ll let me come out and see you once in a while,” he said.
“Come along any time. The front door bell doesn’t always ring, but you can come around to the back.”
He lit his pipe, and Juliet stirred the coals in the fire. They were very comfortable. Sam hesitated as a man does on the verge of a serious personal confidence.
“I've done a lot of thinking these past few months, Jule. I’ve got things pretty well worked out. You know how I felt about Martha.”
“I could make a shrewd guess,” said Juliet.
“Well, I’m not ashamed of it. I suppose every man has one important thing like that in his life, one woman who’s really the whole thing. Either he gets her or he loses out. I lost out, and I’m not going to do any kicking. I know I’ll never feel that way about anyone else. But I’m not grouching about that. And the world goes on just the same.”
“It’s a pretty steady world,” Juliet remarked in the dead centre of a pause.
“I don't want to forget it,” said Sam thoughtfully. “It was the big thing all right. But I just want to tell you that I’m straightened around, and I’ve got my feet on the ground, and I’m not eating myself up with a lot of jealousy. I don’t blame Martha. She liked this other fellow better than she did me. She did the only fair thing.”
"And may the best man win,” added Juliet.
“Say, are you kidding me?”
“I certainly am not. I’m very glad the temper tantrum’s
over. You show a loving spirit. Now you just go ahead and be their best friend-Cory’s and Martha’s, I mean.”
“You go jump in the lake. I wish I'd pushed you in,” he answered. “I don’t intend to hang around them at all. I don’t fit in with the gay stuff anyhow. Never did. I just went to a lot of places—”
"Because Martha wanted you to. Well, what do you mean to do with yourself now? Go be a friar? You’ve got the feet for a friar, Sam. Nice big ones. They'd look well in sandals.”
“Will you leave me alone? I’ll tell you what I intend to do. Work. Make a little money if I can. I need it. I'm going to do a few nice pieces of work if I get the chance. You know construction isn’t the game it used to be. It’s developing amazingly. If you’d keep still, I’d tell you something about it.”
The way they left it was that he was to come and see her when he liked. 1 íe wanted a friend. And Juliet knew that it was quite a thing to be a man’s friend, a great compliment to have a man’s respect, with emotion deleted. It was something to build on. But just what did you build on it, she wondered? Life couldn’t be all foundation. She thought of Martha and the lovely structures men’s imaginations must have built for her and themselves, and the charming and very real house that her husband had planned and constructed; and she wondered why some girls, not meaning herself, seemed to have all the luck. It wasn’t that Juliet had coveted Cory Redfern. She had never liked black hair that was so sleek it was almost slippery, and she did not aire for a flattering manner that was a blind alley. As for Sam, Juliet didn’t covet him either, or anything he could give her. She knew that left-overs had use and value and should not be thrown away, but she didn't confuse them with articles of greater worth or those she would like if she could have them.
AS IT worked out, she saw Sam very often during the next two months. Hostesses who asked either of them developed a habit of suggesting the bringing of the other. Not that Sam was always available. He was working hard and, as Juliet knew, against mounting obstacles and difficulties. Sometimes he would call up and come out to have dinner at the Rand house with Juliet and her mother. He would be too tired to talk much, or too absorbed to talk of anything except the job. There was drama in his work, in the management of a crew of forty men who worked in the freezing weather, swinging immense blocks of rock from the shore into the breakwater. There was a bad time when all the work that had been done in pile driving was ruined by a storm. The leather mittens of the men froze on their hands.
Juliet knew more than that about the job. She knew that behind the hardships was the other worry that pursued Sam, because in spite of every effort he was a little behind with the work and there were penalties for not finishing on time. His firm was pushed to the wall financially and had to put this job across if they were to stay solvent. It would be a feather in Sam’s cap if he could, and calamity if he couldn’t.
On Saturday nights there was sometimes a let-up and she and Sam would go to a party. It happened that on one of those occasions they found themselves in the little downstairs red room of the Redfern house. Juliet hadn’t really known the party was to start at Martha’s or she might have sidestepped it, but, having once promised to go. there was no way out. It was not the first time Sam had seen Martha since her wedding. That had been bound to happen before, at dinners and dances. But this was the first time Martha seemed to want to re-establish her old claim.
There was an unassimilated collection of people present; not one of the small friendly groups that make neatly fitting social boxes within social boxes, nor one of the crowds drawn together by common enthusiasm for anything. The only thing they had in common was gin. Everybody used first names very freely, but Juliet wondered if they all really knew what the last ones were.
Martha herself was lovelier than ever, thinner and somehow more deft with men, as if she shared secrets with all of them. She wore a queer fur-bordered green silk dress without a superfluous line. She wanted everyone to be gay, and so they were. Martha managed everything well except her husband, who had evidently been out of hand before the guests arrived.
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“It’s always happening,” said Louise to Juliet, "after he’s had a couple of drinks. And he’s always had a couple.”
“When men are tired it affects them more,” said Juliet, for there was no reason not to be generous.
“He ought to be tired—and worried -if he’s heard the things they are saying about him. The Board of Governors of the Music and Art Building are up in arms.”
“I’ve heard that. But was it his fault?” “Well, he was responsible for the award of all those small contracts. They say he got fat commissions on the side. That’s an original Perrin model Martha’s got on her back; I mean that she’s not got on her back. And the committee had no idea that he was getting them lined up with builders who’d skimp on materials or go bankrupt with the job half done. Now they haven’t got what they want, and they have to raise more money and do a lot of things over. It’s an 1 awful mess.”
JULIET looked at Cory and then at Martha, who was as close to Sam as an emotional appeal need be. The foggy, unassorted crowd shifted about the room. There was a big crack in the plaster wall. Cory Redfem was talking to one of his guests, defending something loudly. Juliet wondered why she hadn’t noticed before that there was something sly about his manner in spite of all his braggadocio. In addition to what Louise had told her. she had heard one of Sam’s builder acquaintances speaking his mind not long before about the way costs in the new hospital had been cut at the expense of good construction. Juliet remembered that Sam had said nothing at the time, perhaps out of loyalty to Martha.
Martha went over now and spoke to her husband. She evidently hoped to get him i away before he grew more excited. But he i gave her an irritated answer, and a flash of anger blazed between them for a second before Martha suavely got her way by ! getting someone else to make the start. It seemed to Juliet as if the flash had illumined something extremely ugly, something which
the Redferns kept in that house and had to come home to at night. She wondered if Sam had noticed anything. He was looking sour and took Martha with him in his car, so Juliet made an excuse to go along with Louise for the few miles to the hotel where they all were dining and dancing.
“Martha entertains well,” said Juliet.
“I suppose so,” agreed Louise. “The canapés were remarkable. But there’s something about the way they live that doesn’t seem to have three dimensions.”
“Cory’s crazy about her, isn’t he?”
“And crazy with her, some say. She’s a costly girl.”
Sam stayed by Martha that evening. He didn’t deliberately neglect Juliet, but she took herself off his hands. Juliet could always get along, and she didn’t see why she should interfere with Martha’s demonstration of owning Sam. There was a basis for it. She did hope that Cory Redfem wouldn’t start a row over it. But Cory didn’t seem to care what Martha did. He danced several times with Juliet and took a fancy to her that became annoying.
“Look here,” said Juliet, who was never tender with an insinuating arm, “hadn’t you better remember that you’re married?”
“Don’t you think a man should occasionally be allowed to forget that?” he asked.
Juliet was twenty-three and no innocent. She knew that plenty of people didn’t live happily ever after. But she was shocked. This was so soon after. She was shocked, too, because it had been a romance built before her eyes, and had been so tempting and attractive when it was finished.
“A man shouldn’t be allowed to forget himself anyway,” she said, and closed the conversation so firmly that there was almost a bang. She determined to say nothing about it, and hoped that it was just an ugly incident that wasn’t significant. She was sorry for Martha because she might have had Sam and would have been so much safer.
On the way home that night Juliet and Sam didn’t talk much. She guessed that he was thinking that the Redfems weren’t happy and what a mess it was.
“How’s the job going?” she asked at length, to prove they weren’t mutes.
“If the weather’s only normal this month we’ll get by,” Sam said. "You know it’s a pretty thing to see that rock pile up. I’ve got a Bohemian foreman who used to be a stonecutter. You’d think he was making a mosaic instead of handling thousands of tons of rocks. He likes to fit them in and likes the color of them. Funny what some men like.”
“Isn’t it?” agreed Juliet wholeheartedly. “You must come down and see how we’re getting along. I was thinking of getting some of the smaller pieces of that rock, the ones with a good deal of red in them, and putting them aside.”
"Make an awful nice foundation for a house,” said Sam.
Juliet was glad at least that the conversation stayed off Martha.
IT WAS March, and everybody knew that the young Red ferns, who had only been married the previous October, weren’t getting along very well. Hardly anybody had a good word to say of Redfern. He seemed to owe money on all sides. Mrs. Richard Milton had found that all the French windows fitted to her house didn’t keep out cold draughtsof wind. Nor were the floors sound-proof. When the roof leak appeared and was investigated by a local builder, he told her that under the smart tiles was the cheapest sort of construction, and that the architect should have warned her against it. The hospital people were having much the same experience. The Small House Decorative Company which Cory Redfem was trying to organize and finance couldn’t get backing and failed. Someone came back from a trip to Chicago and said that a chance meeting with an architect there had developed the fact that Cory Redfern had been let out of his firm. That was how he’d happened to leave it.
In the meantime, tons of rock swung into place and pattern at the lake and Sam’s work approached conclusion. One Saturday he took Juliet down to see it. He didn’t exactly brag, but pride showed all over him. Even the Government officials had been high in praise.
“We’re out of the woods now,” said Sam. “It’s too late in the season for another bad storm. I hope the weather holds as it is for just one more week. Look at that crane. Isn’t it a beauty?”
The great piece of machinery swung almost gracefully down.
“I like to watch it,” said Juliet. "I guess you’re a pretty smart fellow.”
“I’m not so smart.”
“Oh, yes, you are,” she assured him. “You’ve a lovely poet’s mind,” and he asked her if she hadn’t better stop before she got thrown in the lake.
She saw the job on Saturday, and the weather held until Wednesday. It was that day which loomed black and threatening, carrying a restless night into the morning. Louise appeared with a car, full of news, about ten o’clock.
“Have you heard about Martha?’’ enquired Louise.
“You mean the scene at the City Club?” “No. I mean modern history. Martha’s on her way.”
“To Reno, no less. She had a permanent yesterday, and was off on the night train.” “It must have been pretty dreadful.”
"I don’t know. Some say yes, some say no. But I think she played her own game all the way through. You know, Martha always was the girl for effects. She never cared, if she got the invitation..whether you wanted to ask her or not. She made her father mortgage his poor old creamery for her wedding; and he paid what was paid on that house which nobody will take off their hands now.”
“Where’s Cory?” Juliet asked.
“He’s gone in some other direction and left everybody whistling for their money. I don’t worry about either of those two, especially Martha. She’s prettier than ever. She’ll get the centre of the stage again, and
there’s always Sam. Don't you think Sam still cares for her?"
“Yes.” answered Juliet. "I do. But I don't know that it’s our business.”
“Why not? Business is really picking up for me,” said Louise, and went off to tell the news elsewhere.
JULIET stayed home. She didn’t want to go anywhere and face the inevitable conversation. She was working over seed catalogues, and planning gardens, and wishing someone would pay her something for some of her ideas, and feeling that a girl with a blue suit she’d worn three years and five obsolete evening dresses was going to j be singularly helpless to vie with spring, j She thought of Martha in Reno, shedding her failure, keeping her diamonds and her good clothes, coming back prettier than ever and taking Sam. He would marry her, of course. “Martha isn’t worth marrying, thought Juliet, “and I think I’ll tell Sam that she isn't. I’ll tell him what a fool he is.” Outside it stormed. She hadn’t realized how badly until she went to a window and saw whitecaps foaming on the part of the lake that wasn’t frozen. This wasn’t doing Sam’s job any good, she remembered.
She started to do a dozen things and abandoned them all. Then she did what she wanted. She put on some warm clothes and an old leather jacket and drove as close to the pier as she could. She couldn’t reach the excavations and the breakwater, because the gale would have swept her off her feet. But she could see the high tops of the derricks and cranes, and men moving about. The flare of a fire in the construction camp lit the grey afternoon. It didn’t seem like a warm or comforting fire down there almost on the ice.
Juliet thought of what wretched luck it was for Sam and was utterly unhappy. For as she looked she saw the waves rush at the breakwater, and a huge piece of machinery seemed to topple.
There was no way to help. She went back ¡ and left word at Sam’s house for him to call her up. At least, she found herself thinking, it would cheer him up to find out about j Martha. Martha was what he wanted and ; now he could have her. As she drove past the deserted Redfem house, she noticed that one of its chimneys had fallen untidily upon the roof. Then she had dinner with her mother and sat in front of the fire, trying to fix over a stubborn hat, and waited for Sam to telephone. It was after sundown before the storm began to abate, but the worst of it had passed by then.
He did not call her. She had begun to wonder whether that meant disaster or just plain unmannerliness and whether she j should be apprehensive or angry, when he finally appeared at the door.
“I just stopped in,” he began. “I saw ¡ your light and knew you were up.”
“Didn’t you get my call?”
“I haven’t been home. It’s been the worst day I’ve ever seen.”
He sat down and warmed his hands. They were red and cold looking.
“That biggest crane blew into the lake,” he told her.
“Stop thinking about it.” said Juliet. “I’ve some interesting news.”
He wasn’t very attentive.
“It will take a lot of repairing and of course that means loss of time. But I’m going to get a larger crew on tomorrow. At six o’clock in the morning—”
“Martha’s gone to Reno. She’s going to get a divorce. She’s going to be free.”
That startled him out of his preoccupation.
“You mean she’s really through with Redfern?”
“Absolutely.” said Juliet. She regarded Sam very soberly and felt a little sick. “And she’ll be ready for you. Sam. I think this time you’ll be the kind she wants.”
“Don’t you be so sure. You just go after her. Put your mind on it.”
“But my mind’s on something else,” said , Sam. “Good Lord, Jule, you don’t expect me to marry her, do you?”
“There’s no reason why not.”
I ‘But how about us?” asked Sam.
It was the first time Juliet had thought of that pronoun in just that way.
“Us? Why, Martha's the one you wanted to marry. You told me so. ”
“You ought to know better with all the sense you’ve got,” Sam said. “I don’t want to marry Martha. I haven’t even liked her much since that night at her house. After all. Redfern was her husband then, no matter what he may be a couple of months from now. Besides, I want to marry you. I was going to fix that all up when this job was finished. I thought we'd use some of that stone in the foundation for our house.
I’ve got a Bohemian foreman who’s a stonecutter—”
"Yes, I’ve heard about him,” said Juliet. “But you told me you never could care for anyone the way you cared for Martha.”
“I hope I can’t.” said Sam. “There wasn’t anything very much to that feeling, Jule. It wasn’t like this. You see, I love you. The other was just a jerry-built affair. It didn’t stand up.”
“Won’t it?” he asked, no longer trying to keep his hands off her.
“Well,” said Juliet, “I did some of the building myself. I tnink so.”