FICTION

Not Good Enough

ELISABETH SANXAY HOLDING December 1 1933
FICTION

Not Good Enough

ELISABETH SANXAY HOLDING December 1 1933

Not Good Enough

ELISABETH SANXAY HOLDING

VIRGINIA was distressed to be late. She had a genuine native courtesy, a polite, somewhat aloof little air, even with her friends; she was never tactless and never careless. Her engagement today was of especial significance. She was going to Miss Auscombe for the week-end, and Miss Auscombe had particular claims to consideration; she was elderly and she was important. The eleven-forty train, she had written; and at ten minutes after eleven Virginia was in the car, her bags in front with Minton.

Minton was a competent driver and what happened was not his fault. As he turned a comer he ran into another car that had suddenly begun to back. Virginia was thrown forward, striking her forehead against the front window.

The other driver was entirely to blame, and. for all his bluster, he could not deny it. But his car was such a shabby little car, and he himself, a thin man in eyeglasses, had so shabby and dusty a look. Minton got out. stalwart and grim in his neat uniform. He was speaking his mind to the man in eyeglasses. A little crowd had gathered, and a policeman came up with something of Minton’s air of unassailable competence. Virginia sat in a corner a darkeyed girl, slender, quietly lovely, with no sign on her face of her inward disturbance. But in her heart she was crying: 'Tm sorry. I’m sorry.”

A grimy little boy climbed on the running-board and stared in at her, his face pressed against the glass. She wished, she longed for Minton to come back. It was somehow horrible to be here in the superb car, in the midst of the curious crowd.

Then she saw Reggie coming, and she did not know if it were folly or if it were true that he should seem almost splendid. He was hatless, the sun shining on his fair hair. In the city street he had that open-air look, with his tanned face in which his blue eyes seemed a little pale, with his limber and easy gait. He was tall and so finely built that he looked slight, but in fact he was strong and tireless. In repose his face was almost haughty, but when he saw her he smiled, with a flash of white teeth something so happy about him.

"lx*t me drive you?” he asked.

"I’m only going to the Grand Central, thanks, Reggie.” ‘Tm driving all the way. Can't I take you?”

"All the way?”

"To Miss Auscombe’s,” he said. "I’m afraid you've missed your train now. Anyhow, you’d have to hurry too much. I’ll tell your man to shift your bags into my car.” She knew it was not his car. He had no car; he had nothing. It would lx* so stupid, so naive, ever to take Reggie seriously. But a glance at her watch showed her that she could scarcely make the train now.

"That’s wretched," she said. "Miss Auscombe’s frightfully rigid about being on time.”

"We can get there on time,” he said. “I’ll drive like a fool.”

HE SPOKE to Minton, and she let her bags be changed into the smart little roadster. And all the time she knew it was a mistake. It was a mistake to st« Reggie at all. For weeks she had been trying to avoid him. but he was always appearing in the most unexpected places, and even when she did not st« him she did not forget him.

“You’ve hurt your forehead,” he said. “There’s a bruise.” That was just his way, his line, that slight unsteadiness in his voice, that look of his defiant, reckless and miserable. Surely by this time she understood Reggie. He was nice to talk to, gtxxi looking, good-humored, but that was all. She must remember that that was all. He lived on his friends and lived well. I le made a little money at bridge, and he had some sort of ridiculous little job. Yet he lived in a first-class hotel, he dressed better than anyone else, he went everywhere -at other people’s expense. It was a mistake to have come with him today especially after Judy’s dance.

She thought she had made him understand then. They had had a dance together. He had been noticeably silent. and when she had glanced up. their eyes had met in a long look. His arm had tightened about her; he hadn’t said anything. But a light had sprung up in his eyes, and she had suddenly felt an immense exultation, so that she had laughed, an insolent and gay little laugh, as if it had been a duel between them and she the victor.

She had recovered herself quickly. When he had asked her to dance a second time she had refused, had said she was tired and then had danced with another man. That should have been obvious enough, and he had not asked her again. But with Reggie one never knew.

It would be better to talk to him a little now, not sit here beside him in silence while he drove adroitly through the city traffic. If she had made the mistake of coming with him. she needn’t make it worse by being awkward. It was a strange thing, this resentment she felt toward Reggie, such as her serene and gentle spirit had never felt toward another fellow creature. It was not right, not kind to feel so.

"Perhaps I’m really unfair to him,” she thought. "How do I know that he’s not trying to do something? Perhaps he has some sort of plan.” And when she spoke, her voice wras friendly. "I didn’t know I'd seen you at Miss Auscombe’s.”

"Judy got me the invitation,” he said.

HE SPOKE cheerfully, yet she felt sure that he meant to hurt her. And he succeeded. She had noticed before, with disquiet, how silly Judy was about Reggie. But Judy was such a reckless creature, anyhow. Virginia had hoped it was no more than a caprice. Too serious a caprice, though, if Judy were bringing him here. It was notoriously difficult to enter Miss Auscombe’s house; it was extraordinary enough that Judy, daughter of the swaggering, piratical Joe Kincaid, could ever have got a footing there. But that she should introduce Reggie . . .

It would be typical of Reggie to marry an heiress like Judy —and break her heart. Anyone who took Reggie seriously would end in heartbreak.

“Is this a new car?” she asked pleasantly, and hoped that might hurt him a little.

“Jake Whitfield’s,” he answered, perfectly unabashed. “I don’t quite run to cars, you know.” “Are you.....busy now?"

“Overwhelmed,” he said. “I have to work three hours a week, teaching manual training to the sons of the rich in a day school."

“Is it interesting?”

“You can imagine. We’re now finishing bookcases with scrolls on top -presents for our parents. That ends this, month, though. I must have done well. I've been asked to go to a camp in July and continue doing it.”

“Are you going?”

He shook his head, smiling again,

“Not good enough,” he said.

She was frightened by the pain that seized her. He couldn’t really be like this. He looked so much a man. There must be something behind his smiling carelessness, something solid and strong and honest.

“I suppose it’s hard, isn’t it, to find any sort of job just now?”

“Oh, no,” said Reggie. “If you have friends you can get a job. Thing is to find something good enough.”

“I should think anything would be better than nothing."

“It’s not,” he assured her. “I rather think that nothing is better than anything.” .

Stupid to try to talk candidly and seriously to Reggie; stupid and conceited. She couldn’t make him over. They were out of the city now. He kept his eyes on the road. He drove splendidly.

“You’d make a good chauffeur,” she said.

“Too unruly,” he answered.

The parkway was clear before him. He began to drive at breath-taking speed.

“I’ll get you out there as soon as the train,” he said.

She thought to herself that one little mishap, even a blowout, might get them—somewhere else. It didn’t matter. That strange exhilaration had come back to her. that she had never known except with Reggie. She didn’t care how fast he drove; she didn’t care what happened. The wind streamed against her face, her hair flew backward; she snatched off her hat and laughed to herself. She looked at Reggie and saw him smiling. He felt as she did: neither of them cared.

He had to stop at last for a light; and suddenly that fierce, vital joyousness went out of her. She smoothed down her hair and put on her hat, and somehow she felt as if she had been not exultant, but crying for a long time until she was exhausted.

“I’ll have to stop for gas.” said Reggie. “I’m afraid 1 haven't any change. Can you lend me a dollar?”

Her face flamed and then grew white.

“Here’s five,” she said.

That didn’t bother Reggie. He took the bill with an amiable "Thanks,” and put it in his pocket. At the filling station he got out.

"Want the change?” he asked.

"No. thank you,” she answered, still pale.

He stood beside the car, smoking, easy and handsome, with the sun shining on him. When the tank was filled, he got in beside her again and they went on. He made no attempt to talk, and she was glad of that. Facing the sun, he narrowed his eyes against the dazzling light. He had the alert, competent look of a sailor. She thought that if she were so unhappy it was her own fault, and that if she were disappointed she was a fool.

MISS AUSCOMBR’S HOUSE was a queer, obstinate old place -a big white house, ugly yet somehow charming, standing in shady grounds surrounded by a white wooden fence. It was as she wanted it to be. and everything in her life was more or less what she wanted it to be. She cared nothing at all for other people’s opinions, and little for the changes in the world about her. If any innovation suited her. she adopted it; if not. she ignored it. She had no teleohone. “What do I want with one?” she would say. “I have four women servants, a gardener and chauffeur. That ought to be enough for any emergency. As for life, I consider an invitation by telephone an insolence. It’s like catching someone by the arm in the street and demanding an answer then and there.”

Continued on page 26

Not Good Enough

Continued from page 15

But. though insistent upon formalities, Miss Auscombe was certainly not polite.

“It’s not necessary for a well-bred person to be polite,” she said.

She was in the garden when they arrived —a little, thin old lady dressed in black, her grey hair frizzed, her face weather-beaten, and with a look of affrontée] impatience as if she were for ever surprised by the boring stupidity of those about her. Judy was with her, standing beside her chair like a lady-inwaiting an amusing and lovely new pet cf Miss Auscombe’s.

“Virginia!” she cried in an exaggerated welcome, and led her friend to the presence.

Miss Auscombe liked Virginia, had always liked her. She greeted her with an air of amused understanding, as if she and Virginia belonged to a separate caste. Judy moved across the law n to Reggie.

“This man?” asked Miss Auscombe. “Who’s he? Judy’s been telling the most fluent lies about him. About his family and his brains and so on. But I’ve heard things. Young ne’er-do-weel, as far as I can make out.”

What could one say to that? What could one say in Reggie's defense? And how stupid it was to want to defend him. He didn’t want it or need it. Judy brought him up to the old lady, and he was perfectly easy and good-humored.

He got on well with Miss Auscombe; he made her laugh. And probably he didn’t see the faint contempt behind her laughter, or perhaps he didn’t care. Before lunch Miss Auscombe’s great-nephew arrived Mark Auscombe, a young lawyer, a quiet, good looking young fellow, with something a little melancholy in his fine face.

“My illusions are going,” he told Virginia, half-smiling. "I wish sometimes that I hadn’t chosen law. I hadn’t realized that human nature was so human.”

She always liked to talk to Mark; he was intelligent and sensitive. His manner to Miss Auscombe pleased her. He was not impressed by the old lady’s unaccountable authority, certainly not by her money. He was kind to her because she was old and alone, and he was courteous and kindly by nature. He amid never be ingratiating, as Reggie was.

It was better not to watch Reggie. The old lady was laughing a good deal. A buffoon. It was not unjust or cruel to think of him so. For all his debonair grace, that was what he was a buffoon, deliberately ingratiating himself with a wealthy old lady.

They had lunch in the dim, dining room, Miss Auscombe's classic lunch lamb chojis, green peas, an ice.

"Judy's suggest«! a picnic supper on the island,” she said. “We might try it.”

She treated Judy like a doll. She patted the girl’s sunburnt cheek; she ignored, with indulgent amusement, all Judy’s attempts to talk about what the others discussed. Judy talked at random in a nxkless, silly, charming way. Only when she looked at Reggie, her dark face was not gay but intent.

“I wish I hadn't come,” thought Virginia.

Judy would end in heartbreak, if she took Reggie seriously.

The old lady retired for a siesta, leaving the four young people alone, loiter she rejoined them, and they set off across the lawn to the stone jetty at the foot of the garden; Miss Auscombe first, leaning on her great-nephew’s arm, then Virginia and Judy and Reggie, followed by the chauffeur and a housemaid with hampers. They embarked in the motor boat, the chauffeur acting as pilot; the maid, timid and pretty, sitting a little apart from the others. Miss Auscombe-’s love for the water was well known; in her young days she had sailed her own boat, and even now' she liked to go fishing, sitting for hours in a boat, a battered straw hat on her head. She seemed different now, with the salt wind blowing in her face; not younger, but ageless, like a ship’s figurehead. She didn’t want to talk, and Judy and Reggie, her amrtiers, remained silent with her. But Virginia and Mark talked to each other. They were independent.

THE PICNIC was characteristic of Miss Auscombe. The shy young maid spread a cloth on the sand, and set out china and silver with precision; the chauffeur uncorked wine, carried up a bucket of ice. The sun was sinking in a wild and forlorn sky; the little island seemed desolate, with a quiet sea breaking on the beach; the white cloth and the glittering silver were like a gesture of defiance.

“We’ll have a fire,” said Miss Auscombe. “Millin, you must get driftwood. Which way is the wind?”

The chauffeur in his neat uniform began collecting dry wood. The maid sat apart until they should begin to eat, her rough little hands clasped, an ineffably lonely young figure.

“Where are my glasses?” asked Miss Auscombe. “I can’t eat without them.” They were not to be found.

“That’s a pretty state of affairs,” said the old lady. “Someone might have reminded me.”

“I’ll go back and get them, madam,” said the chauffeur.

“You stay here and attend to the fire,” said Miss Auscombe. “You couldn’t find ’em, anyway. Nobody ever seems able to find anything. Virginia, you come and help me look. Mr. What’s-his-name can run the boat.”

It seemed an odd arrangement, but no one questioned her tyranny. Reggie helped her into the launch, and would have helped Virginia but she did not look at his outstretched hand. He started the engine and they were off, over the water that was calm and translucent under the colorless sky.

“Know anything about boats?” asked the old lady.

“A bit,” said Reggie.

“What do vou do, anyhow?”

“Oh, one thing and another,” answered Reggie ch«‘rfully.

“Haven’t you any ambition?”

“In my own way, perhaps.”

"Doesn’t seem to have got you very far,” said the old lady.

It was dreadful to see how unresentful he was of her brusque impertinence.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve had rather a good time.” “Is that what you call an ambition?”

“I get just about what I want out of life,” he answered, still good-humored.

“I’m going to make you an offer,” said Miss Auscombe. “Judy asked me if I couldn’t do something about you, and I’m fond of Judy. You can have a job in my cousin’s office. You’ll start at a moderate salary, but if you’re any good you can get on. You can get on very well. I’ve spoken to my cousin about it, and he’ll take you. You can start on Monday.”

“Thanks very much,” said Reggie, “but I’m afraid it won’t do.”

“You’ve got something else in mind?” He was silent for a moment before he answered.

“I’ve never worked in an office,” he said. “I never will. I don’t want to be shut up all day. I don’t want to be diligent and punctual. I don’t want to earn money that way.” ‘And how do you think you’re going to earn money?” she demanded.

“Oh, little odd jobs,” he said. “Or a stroke of luck. If I can’t get it like that, I don’t want it. Money’s not worth working for.”

VIRGINIA had not spoken or stirred; she sat with her head averted, her profile clear against the pale sky. This was w'orse than anything. To hear him saying these things to the proud old lady, to hear him denying his own pride, his own value . . .

“Why must I care like this?” she asked herself. She knew the answer but w'ould not admit it.

“So that’s your point of view?” said Miss Auscombe. “You don’t want to work.”

“I don’t mind w'ork,” Reggie assured her cheerfully. “If it’s w'ork I want to do, and if I can quit when it seems to me time to quit. I worked on a rubber plantation once, and that was hard enough. But I liked it —for a while. I drove a bus once, for a real estate man.”

“Rolling stone,” said the old lady.

“That’s it,” said Reggie. “I’ll work, and work hard—when I want, and not when I don’t.”

“And suppose you starve?” said Miss Auscombe.

“I’d rather starve than grow fat,” said Reggie.

He brought the launch neatly up to the landing and made fast. Then he sprang out, with his effortless grace.

"Virginia,” said the old lady, “run ahead and look on the table in my room for those glasses. We’ll follow.” It was strange, it was humiliating, to Virginia that there should be tears in her eyes. She crossed the lawn. In the shadow of the old trees it was twilight and, she thought, it was growing chilly. The old house was chilly. It must be a sorry thing to be Miss Auscombe and live here alone, and be old.

The glasses lay on the table ; she brought them down stairs. The old lady was crossing the lawn slowly, and she was alone.

“I’ve sent for the gardener’s boy,” she said. “He knows how to run the boat.” “Isn’t Reggie—?”

“He’s gone,” said Miss Auscombe. “Here! He asked me to give you this. He said he owed it to you.”

She tendered the girl a five-dollar bill. “He’s gone,” she said again. “I tried to buy him for Judy, but he didn’t think the offer was good enough.”

“That’s a—horrible way to put it.”

“It’s just a plain way. I like plain speaking.”

They stood together under the huge old trees where it was twilight now. For a moment it seemed to Virginia as if she could see Reggie walking away—alone. He really was always alone.

“He’s not—” she began, and was dismayed by the tremor in her voice. She drew a long breath, and went on. “He’s not —just contemptible!” she cried. “There’s something in him. Miss Auscombe, I think you’ve been—very unkind to him. I think you’ve been -—cruel !”

“Glad to hear you say it,” said the old lady. “Glad to see that you’re not so ladylike. As for thinking Reggie contemptible, I never did. Too good looking, to begin with. But I saw you looking down your nose at him. That’s why I made this little trip. I thought I’d draw him out and let you hear. There aren’t many men left like Reggie — men who don’t like our notions of industry and caution, men who find the world as we’ve made it not good enough for ’em. Judy said the trouble was he hadn’t enough ambition. I’d say he had more ambition than anyone else. He wants freedom. And most of us have forgotten what freedom means. He didn’t want a job in an office. He didn’t want to marry an heiress. Someone has offered him a third-rate job in Honduras, and he’s sailing at daybreak.” There was a silence. The old lady rested her hand on Virginia’s shoulder.

“I—I’d like to —say good-by to him before he goes, Miss Auscombe. Will you please excuse me if I go now?”

“It’s too late, my dear,” said the old lady, with a curious gentleness. “But go, anyhow. It’ll be better.”

All the way on the train Virginia was saying to herself:

“I don’t have to plan what I’m going to say. I don’t really have to know how I feel. It’s just that I want to say good-by. Just that I don’t w'ant him to go—like this. There is something in him. I knew it. Miss Auscombe saw it. Judy saw it. He can make something of his life—if he wants.” She went to his hotel, and sent up word that she was waiting for him in the lobby. It was dinner time. Men and women in evening dress went past her; an orchestra was playing. Someone she knew might see her here, fatigued and dusty, waiting for Reggie. On impulse, she took the elevator and went up to his room, and when she knocked at the door she was frightened because she had done this strange thing. “Come in !” he called.

WHEN HE SAW who it was, his face grew white. He was in his shirt and dress trousers ; there were two bags open on the floor but very little confusion in the room. He travelled light. He could go anywhere at a moment’s notice. He didn’t care. Oh, that was cruel of him.

He did not ask her to sit down; he did not smile.

“I was just coming down,” he said.

She fought against the sobs that rose in her throat, the strange and dreadful emotion that shook her.

“You’re really going away, Reggie? For

long. Continued from page 26

Continued on page 28

"I never know how long,” he said.

He picked upa fold«] handkerchief from a pile on a chair, and dried her tears gently. His touch was gentle. She could not stop crying; she thought she could never stop. It was cruel of him to f>e SÍ) gentle.

“I left your five dollars with Miss Auscombe,” he said.

"She gave it to me. Why why did you borrow it from me when you had it in your pocket all the time?”

"To make you see.” he said.

"See what?”

He did not answer. He had not asked her to sit down; he did not say he was glad to see her. He stood beside her, yet it was as if he had already gone away. Such a small room, so neat even in the midst of ¡Kicking. Something so competent about him, as if he could get along anywhere, one place as well as another. She must be quiet as he was.

“I’m sorry you're going, Reggie. I’m sure that if you'll stay . . . Father has an

The Schneider combine also control the great Skoda works in Czechoslovakia. Now this means more than appears on the surface. for not only are the Skoda enterprises scattered all over Czechoslovakia, but the Skoda company also has factories in Poland (e.g. many of its airplane engines are made in Warsaw), and in Roumania. Indeed its activities might almost be said to extend to America, for Wright airplanes, as supplied to the American Government, are manufactured by the Polskie Zaklady Skoda. Quite a large family, is it not?

But it is a family affair in a more literal sense. You will find directors from Schneider’s sitting complacently on the boards of banks all over the world. On Japanese banks, Argentine banks, Turkish banks. Heaven knows in what banks you won't find a director from Schneider’s. Eugène Schneider himself, the chairman, is a director of the Banque cíe ['Union Parisienne, which finances the Banque Générale de Crédit 1 longrois.

Now listen! In case you are beginning to yawn over this, here is a little plot, ex¡x>sed for you, which is as villainous as anything in melodrama. You will find it unobtrusively printed in that sober and highlyhonored journal, the Manchester Guardian of December 14, 1931. The Guardian referred, as follows, to a s¡x*ech by Paul Faure, ex-M.P. for the Crcusot division.

"The Hungarian Government obtained a loan from the armament firm of Schneider at Le Creusot. (This loan was unknown until it was discovered the other day by the Finance Committee of the Chamber). When Schneider’s asked to be repaid the Hungarian Government could not produce the money. Thereupon the, French Government lent the Hungarian Government the amount necessary to repay the Schneider firm. This money was transmitted to Hungary by the Union Parisienne, in which the Schneider firm holds a controlling interest.”

Now listen again! You really ought to read that paragraph again, if you find your attention wandering. Will you, please? Thank you! Because, although all this sounds very faraway and foreign and remote and peculiar, it isn’t. Just translate it as we very reasonably may to America and England. How does the ¡xmi 1 lei read? It reads like this:

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation makes a loan to the British Government of $100,000,(XX). When the Bethlehem Steel Corporation asks for its money back, the British Government refuses to ¡xiy. Whereupon the American Government lends the British Government $100,000,000, to repay the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, and transmits this money to England, not by the Federal Reserve Bank but by a bank which Bethlehem Steel controls.

That is a literal parallel to the little devil’s game they are playing in Europe. What would happen if they played it in America? One hardly dares to think. interest in a shipping company. I’d be glad

to speak to him, Reggie. I’d like to, Reggie. I feel that I haven't been quite fair to you.” He took both her hands; they were cold. "I told Miss Auscombe,” he said, “that I couldn’t stand a steady job; that I couldn’t marry and settle down. I couldn’t make any girl I cared for, happy.”

Her fingers clung to his.

“If there'slove,” she said with a sob. "Not even with love,” he said. “I couldn’t make her happy. I can't be anything but me. I’d try and I’d fail. She’d want something in her man that isn't in me. Ambition; a steady purpose.”

"No!” she cried. "No! Only you.”

He held her in his arms, and she sobbed desperately, clinging to him.

“You see, Reggie, I’m throwing away everything pride, dignity ...”

He put her a little away from him, still holding her poor, cold little hands.

“You’re not to think that,” he said. "You’re not to remember it that way. You’ve thrown away nothing. You've just given me a royal gift. I’ll never forget. The first time I ever saw’ you, I knew there was no one like you—no one so lovely.” “Then, don’t go! Don’t go and leave me. Or let me come with you!”

I íe took both her hands in one of his and laid them against his cheek. He looked down into her upturned face.

“It's only right for you to know,” he said, “that I love you. I love you so, my poor, beautiful girl.”

“Then you can’t go awray.”

“My love just isn’t good enough. This will pass, dear girl. You’ll forget me. It won’t be much more than a dream. You'll scarcely be able to believe you ever thought you cared for me.”

"It’s the very worst thing in the world —

to lose a dream.”

He glanced quickly at her. For a moment he thought she understood. Her eyes were brilliant wdth tears; the marks of tears were on her young face. But she didn’t understand. She wanted to cling to him with her slender fingers ; she wanted to help him to a hill-top where he couldn’t breathe. He could see himself, a rich man's son-in-law, driving up to the country club . . .

He could see himself in a pith helmet, strolling into a bar for a sundowner. He could see a little tramp steamer coming into a tropic port, the captain hurrying ashore to the agent’s office. He could look at the steamer with a smile, knowing that, w hen he chose, he could board a ship and go somewhere else . . .

He held her tight to him, in a sort of anguish. She could never go somewhere else. He could not stay with her, and he could not take her wfith him. The day was inevitable w’hen he must leave her. Better now . . .

“Good-by, Virginia. Good-by, my own heart’s darling.”

“But you’ll come back? Reggie . . . Reggie ! It’s only au recoir?”

“Only au revoir, dear darling.”

When she had gone, he sat with his head in his hands. He was never coming back . . . Always going somewhere else, always free . . . And freedom has to be paid for.