Folly for Two
LESLIE GORDON BARNARD
AT TWO O’CLOCK in the morning, George Witherspoon stood at an intersection which the more respectable
hour of two p.m. would have seen full of a fine activity. Just now the coner was shared with George by a stout policeman who watched him with a suspicious eye; an inebriated gentleman who leaned against a friendly lamp-post and assured George in a hoarse monotone that he wasn’t really drunk: and a lean cat which appeared from nowhere and rubbed itself against the nether portion of George's evening clothes.
Of these four. George's countenance, though by all odds the handsomest, was the most cast-down. The inebriated gentleman occasionally glowed with some bibulous incandescence; the policeman, though invested with a suspicious dignity, was at least neutrally minded; while the cat purred at the feel of George's trousers. George, though naturally kind to animals as a child he had won a prize for an essay, “Be Kind to Little Kitty”— bunted the cat with a patent-leather toe and walked away.
The lights of a restaurant down the street caught his eye. There was something to be said for the Frenchman who wanted to know why love should ever interfere with the appetite. Were they not two separate things? Love? George muttered to himself. Well, anyway, if Tommy wanted to make a cheap little f;x)l of herself, let her do it. The more determined he was on this, the more vigorous became his footsteps; but opposite the restaurant lay the vast emptiness of a public square where, unhappily for George's determination, a large yellow moon looked at him through the leafless branches of the trees.
EARLIER in an evening intended, through the hospitality of Myra Scudder, to be devoted to the enjoyment of life. Tommy and he had watched the moon rise. From Scudder's verandah it looked like a huge cheese appearing out of some mysterious rim of blue to offer itself to the city. Tommy, who, for all the masculinity of her nickname, was as feminine as furbelows, held George’s hand tightly, and both stood registering eternal felicity again in such a silence as only newly married couples are supposed to enjoy. Then Tommy sighed; "Isn’t it gorgeous, dear?”
From behind came an unmistakable voice: "Well, folks, this is Jerry P. Wilks announcing. Our local moon is now coming out of its comer. From up here in the rafters—but we will now' transfer you to the ringside ...” Tommy let go George’s hand. He was annoyed that she laughed. George’s opinion of Jerry’s brand of humor was not printable, though eminently quotable.
“Jerry,” cried Tommy, “you are one of the world’s chief fools. Do you know it?”
"Don’t applaud,” said Jerry. "I know my owm value. Need I remind any of those present that what Jerry P. Wilks undertakes is supremely well done. Take dancing, for instance—if you care to step inside, George, you will be favored with an exhibition of the most modem steps. Come along, Tommy, the dance awaits us.”
Tommy went with Jerry, laughing. Anger at Tommy lasted only long enough for George to recollect that she couldn’t know much about Jerry. Jerry had a reputation more sinister than that of being chiefest of fools. George decided he would tip his wife off, gently, decently, after this dance.
He went on into the house. Myra’s floor was cleared; her assortment of guests -always a queer, zoological lot, he thought — were draped around the walls on chairs or cushions, watching. Jove! the fellow could dance—and so could Tommy. For an instant George thought, “Go to it, kid. You’ve got them popeyed.” He wanted the crowd to like Tommy, and this was a publicity to help. Tommy was small town, but she’d taken dancing lessons from a good teacher. Now, seeing her in Jerry’s arms, seeing the look on Jerry’s face and on hers, George was stung. This atmosphere was no good; it was going to Tommy’s head.
When the music crashed to a close and the dance ended, shouts and applause greeted the pair. George slipped in and drew Tommy away. He knew he was a fool to be irritated, but he couldn’t help showing it. He got her out on the verandah.
“Look here,” he said. “I don’t like that kind of thing. We’re going home.”
Tommy’s eyebrows arched. Her piquancy almost maddened him when she did that.
“We?” said Tommy.
“That's what I said.”
He was flushed. So was Tommy, first from the dancing, but now from other reasons.
“Oh.” she said in a queer voice. "Why didn’t you give me a slave bracelet then, instead of a wedding ring?”
“Tommy !” he cried. He had a remembrance that, sitting somewhere by the sea. Tommy had declared solemnly, not two weeks ago. that they would be different; they’d never quarrel.
It didn’t seem an opportune time to remind her of it.
“Do you still propose to go home?”
"Yes.” he said stubbornly.
“Then,” said Tommy sweetly, "I shall take up Jerry'’s invitation.”
He hardly realized her words. When he interpreted them fully he hurried in. But it was too late. Myra Scudder took him aside.
“They've gone off,” she said. “Jerry and Tommy. No. I don’t know where. You should look after her better, George. Jerry’s a dear in many ways, but ...”
MYRA HAD quick little ways; her look, the arch of her eyebrows, were only half-humorous. George, completely at a loss, chagrined, uneasy and above all, angry, flung himself back into the party, dancing furiously with the eldest Hobart girl, who was dark and piquant and famed for her rhythmic . abandon. “But, George,” she said breathlessly, “I never knew you could dance like that.” She tried to fix it so he’d see her home, but this conquest was bitter in his mouth, and he escaped rudely while the ladies were upstairs, finding his lonely way into the street, walking blindly until now he was here, the moon high above him, and a clock somewhere uttering the brazen warning that it was two o’clock in the morning. The moon holding no comfort for him, he turned on his heel to enter the restaurant. For a bent nickel he’d pick up a dame himself, he told himself furiously, and walk with her under the moon.
The more he flirted with this mad idea—for George was, of all young men. staid and respectable about such things, and his single fealty had been so recently sworn to at the altar the more it found kinship with his uneasy anger against Tommy. Tit for tat, he thought. How dare she—a newly married woman, his wife, the girl he had spent his honeymoon with—go off with a man who could become so quickly objectionable as Jerry! Tommy, who ordinarily was so fastidious. Alarm spread in him. Was there, then, truth in what people—older people, cynical, disillusioned—predicted about the married state? He and Tommy had scoffed at all this. “We’ll be different,” they had promised, and the jeremiahs had looked at them with eyes that said: “You’re both so very young and inexperienced. Wait and see. Just wait till the glamor wears off.” Good lord ! Was the glamor worn off already?
George stood there in front of the allnight restaurant, a disillusioned man. The sudden and complete realization of this began to excite him. There was something very man-of-the-worldish about it. His mental picture of Tommy —piquant and maddeningly pretty, the arch of her brows, the incredible sheen of her hair for a moment as she had apjx-ared to him in the moonlightwounded him; but he took refuge in his new rôle. He braced his shoulders, tossed away his cigarette and made for the swivel door. By Jove, he thought, the first girl who gave him any encouragement and looked half attractive he’d cosey up to. A pick-up. Where better to find one than in an all-night restaurant?
"THE SWIVEL DOOR, revolving I rather too easily on greased bearings, swept George into the restaurant. The sudden light made him blink. His eyes, however, for an instant roving about the place, came to focus. The object of George’s arrested glance was a girl sitting alone at a table. To George’s immediate satisfaction, she seemed to be in some sort of urgency or distress. Their eyes met. George smiled nervously. A moment later he had taken a seat opposite her. He sparred for an opening. “Fancy meeting you here!” he said.
Her eves questioned him, a little bleakly.
“It's your fault,” he said. “You signalled me.”
“If it was unconscious,” said George, “you should manage better control at the sight of youth and beauty. Handsome creatures like myself are seldom safe.” He smiled ironically. “Do you— do you happen to go in for pick-ups like this much?”
George was beginning to enjoy this. If she had given in at once and welcomed him, there would have been less teeth to the episode. But he could see her waver between capitulation and antagonism. Her mouth, which he had to admit was very pretty, curved a little.
“If you don’t like the idea, there are plenty of other tables.”
George looked about, wide-eyed.
“Why, so there are. But let the play go on. Who am I? Your brother Jim who was to meet you here, your cousin Rodger who made his money in oil, or just the boy friend? Because”—he gave a faint inclination of his head—“the blonde beast over there in the tropical suit has his suspicions. I fancy he doubts the moral ground of our meeting. It would be well to know the basis, don’t you see? But suppose we order. Hungry?”
She melted a little at the word.
"Any money?” His eyes regarded her shrewdly.
"A dime,” she said defensively. “I was about to order coffee."
“I thought as much. Don’t you know these marble palaces are only for plutocrats? Look, the blonde lx*ast has gone into a huddle with the lady cashier. They figure I've picked you up. and they’re trying to work out the catch-ascatch-can rules of the place. I’ll fix that."
She smiled faintly.
He signalled the hovering waitress, at the same time taking a letter from his pocket and tossing it across the table. It contained the bill for his tennis club dues.
“Read the latest from Aunt Martha.” he said. “You remember Proddie Jones? He's married. Bacon, rolls, coffee, griddle-cakes and maple syrup, for one." he told the waitress. “And a fillet mignon for the lady; mushr;x)ms, French fried, coffee.”
'The waitress withdrew.
“You took advantage of me.”
"How?” George asked.
"Ordering that way. Haven’t I a right even to choose?”
"Beggars.” George reminded her quickly, "can’t be choosers. Didn’t I order well?”
“Perfectly. I can’t imagine how you guessed so well what I like, Mr.—Mr.—”
"You may call me George,” he said graciously. “It’s a useful handle. Neat but not gaudy. As for you. I shall call you Gretel. You’re something out of a fairy tale.” He waved a hand. “But to matters of business. May I ask how you got here a. shall we say, lone and practically penniless female in a marble palace?”
SHE GLANCED quickly at him, then
He said gravely now:
“Did your -ah—boy friend let you down?”
"Uh-huh.” She bit her lip.
“He was. He—”
“You don’t have to tell me.” said
George. "I know the type. I had to deal
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Folly for Two
Continued J rom page 11 *---
with one tonight. I’ll bet two doughnuts to a buttercake they’re the same kind. The one I mean walked off with my—my girl.” Her eyes flicked to his.
"Or she with him,” said George sternly. “If you only knew it, meeting you here is saving my sanity.”
The waitress brought food. George watched the girl opposite him cut daintily into the steak. Then she glanced up.
“Is it worth salvaging?”
“We were talking about your sanity.” “vou win,” he said. "Do you always do chat kind of thing on a first bite of steak?” “If the subject embarrasses you,” she said coolly, “there is always the quarrel.” “Quarrel?”
“Yes. With your—your girl. Was it quite an affair?”
“Oh, tremendous. No noise. Very grim and silent. Just a few passes on each side and the mischief’s done. You see”—he leaned forward—“it was at a party; a junkety sort of an affair. I stood just so much and that was all. It’s tough, you know, seeing the girl you—you care for— making a dashed young fool of herself. She went off with this other guy. So, later, I walked out on the rest of ’em, and here I am. Funny, you know, meeting you this way.
I was just about ready for anything.”
She balanced food delicately on her fork. “Don’t let me stand in the way.”
“Oh, no. Not at all. I suppose it wouldn’t mean anything to you if I did.”
“Why should it?”
“Well,” he said, “there’s something in that.”
He ate moodily now. Occasionally his eyes, speculatively, went to the girl opposite him. She was eating steadily, a little nervously, he thought. He didn’t want her too assured; it left him less in command of the situation. Politely, presently he pressed upon her the desirableness of dessert. She shook her head, then looked at him.
"What do you mean,” she asked, “to do —about this girl of yours?”
“Have you any suggestions?” He lit a cigarette jerkily, tossing the match away. “Oh, no.”
“Aren't you a sarcastic sort of person?” “Only when driven to it.”
They were silent. She watched the curl of smoke from his cigarette. Her eyes were a little distant.
“So you mean to—-to punish her for— for being a little fool?”
“Suppose she’s punished enough already?” Her eyes hardened a little; she turned away. “I should worry,” she said. “It’s up to you. Thanks so much for the food. I guess I’ll be going.”
She looked suddenly tired, as if behind the repartee were an emotion that had worn her out. George looked at her. having good opportunity while her face was in profile to him. He stood up.
“Get on your wrap,” he said decisively. “Oh. Do you—do you like giving orders?”
“Sometimes. I’m going to take you home.”
She smiled at him a little wearily.
“Do you always take your restaurant pick-ups home with you?”
“Suppose I won’t go with you?”
He regarded her steadily, silently.
“But you will.” He added: “Won’t vou?”
She nodded. He paid the checks. The swivel door received them.
“The blonde beast and the lady cashier still hold to their first opinion,” said George. “Here, taxi.”
A PROWLING CAB accommodated them. Her shoulder touched his. but he made no overtures. The night air, full of the scent of fallen leaves, came in to them, and the moon made patterns against façades mellowed and silent in the night. The perfume about her mingled with the smell of leaf decay, arousing scores of vivid memories. He glanced half surreptitiously at her. Her head jerked once or twice, then settled down on her shoulder. She was asleep. Her cheeks were still shadowy with a beauty not quite mature. He thought suddenly how young she looked, and pale and fragile. Once or twice, as they drove, the tracery of branches against the moon fell on her face in a moving pattern.
When the car stopped outside a small apartment house, he touched her shoulder. She opened her eyes, smiling faintly at him. He put his latch-key to use and they entered together. The light, snapped on, revealed the pleasant interior.
He looked at her. He said politely:
“Shall I take your wrap?”
“And do have a chair!”
She sank into one, fluffing up her hair, swinging one slim leg over the other. He noticed again the concavities of her cheeks, where shadows clung like a soft bloom.
“Do you—like my apartment?” he asked.
“It’s very nice. Do you make a custom of picking up ladies in restaurants and— bringing them here?”
“Only after quarrels.”
She got up and restlessly went to the window.
“What a nice view you have,” she said. “Isn’t it.”
He came and stood beside her. Beyond the residential area, tall buildings lifted incandescent tips like glowing plinths charting a dubious sea. The moon was declining now, but still bright. It brought to the city a sense of vast mystery. George put his arm about her. She spoke suddenly, in a low, subdued voice.
“The same moon that—that looks down on both fools— and lovers.”
“Yes,” said George, “and on stray cats, and drunks, and policemen, and on lady cashiers and blonde beasts in tropical suits who whisper about people who have the luck to meet in restaurants.”
“And on lovers who quarrel—and those who forgive?”
She looked up at him. George caught her passionately in his arms.
“Tommy,” he cried. "Tommy, dear !”
Artificial Cooling of Buildings
ALREADY, theatres throughout the / \ country are “refrigerated,” railroad diners carry their own equipment to keep the temperature and humidity at comfortably low figures, entire passenger trains on the Baltimore and Ohio Railway manufacture their own inside weather and some office buildings do the same, while experiments are now being carried on to determine the effectiveness of such equipment in resi-
dences. The systems vary from one which is essentially a current of air blown through a spray of water, to those using gas in a manner somewhat like that of the gas refrigerator and the latest one for trains which utilizes steam from the locomotive.
There is a practically untouched field for the expansion of this industry, and the demand is limited only by the cost of the equipment.—Scientific American.